Tag Archives: tony hawk

FGC #600 Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes: Part 5

Finally, some gameplayMarvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes is an amazing, once in a lifetime game that brings together over 50 characters from wildly disparate worlds and franchises. So, in an effort to pay tribute to one of the games I believe to be the greatest of all time, please enjoy the final day of our five-part, 100% complete, generally alphabetical look at every fighter in Marvel vs. Capcom 2. Now let’s talk about the monkey girl…

SonSon

Go Go MonkeySonSon is one of four original characters in Marvel vs Capcom 2. Amingo, Abyss, and Ruby Heart were all created exclusively for MvC2, and they have not appeared in anything but cameos ever since.

Except SonSon is not an original character. SonSon is based on SonSon from the obscure 1984 Capcom arcade title, SonSon.

Except SonSon is an original character, because she is the granddaughter of that SonSon. She is not the SonSon of SonSon. She is, essentially, SonSon III.

Except SonSon I was not an original character, either. SonSon I was based on Sun Wukong from the 16th century Chinese novel, Journey to the West. SonSon is one of a thousand “adaptations” of this classic tale, with the original premise of Dragon Ball being one of the most prominent illustrations.

So, SonSon III is ultimately an original character that is based on a character that is possibly the least original character in the whole roster.

But, hey, at least she can turn into a giant monkey. That might be better than being a cactus.

Peter “Spider-Man” Parker

Its that guySpider-Man is Sailor Moon.

And, yes, both franchises subsist on several Young Adult fiction tropes, but very specifically for both cases…

1. The central “Marvel” conflict of Spider-Man was always that Peter Parker kind of sucked as Peter Parker, but excelled at being Spider-Man. Iron Man had his potentially deadly shrapnel that “made him” Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk had his man/monster dichotomy, and Spider-Man had the unbearable burden of having to be a good Peter Parker and superhero. He failed. A lot. Nearly everyone in Peter Parker’s life, from his adopted mother to his boss, thinks Peter Parker is a slacker that is never going to achieve anything, and this is primarily because Pete puts too much of an emphasis on saving the world. He was late because he was stopping a mugging. He missed Aunt May’s birthday because he was dealing with Galactus. It’s kind of a “nice guy” fantasy wherein your every failing has a big, important reason that no one would ever understand because it must be a secret for their own good. But, end of the day, Spider-Man is saving the day, even though J.J. would never believe Peter Parker can accomplish anything. In much the same way, Usagi, Sailor Moon’s “secret identity”, is the world’s biggest screw-up, and if you told her parents that she was destined to rule a thousand years of peace after banishing all evil witches from the land, they would likely die laughing. Very similar “secret identity hijinks” on both sides, with a heavy emphasis on simultaneously being super important but extremely poorly regarded by their friends and family.

2. Similarly, Spider-Man is…

FGC #562 Q*Bert

No colorLet’s look at the evolution of gaming/Q*Bert over the years.

In 1982, gaming was just taking its first, tentative steps towards Gaming as we know it. Pac-Man and Pong had blazed the trail with their joystick/wheely thing controls, but now we were seeing new and innovative ways to play. Kangaroo, for instance, was a game that was very similar to the likes of Donkey Kong, but added an all-important offensive action to its heroine’s repertoire. Kangaroo could punch out monkeys and apples alike, and one could argue this simple act was the start of “videogame violence” for years to come (sorry, dead monkeys, you gotta start somewhere). And speaking of offensive options, Dig Dug first started digging in ’82, and he had the ability to “pump up” his opponents until they popped. This had the dual purpose of inspiring a generation of bizarre fetishes and featuring a hero that always had the ability to turn the tables on his opponents. Unlike Pac-Man or Mario that had to rely on sporadically distributed powerups, Taizo the Digger was hunted and hunter all in one. This would become the norm for practically all of gaming to come.

But if one game presciently granted a glimpse of gaming of the future, it was Pitfall. Nearly four decades ago, Pitfall Harry explored a large world of tricks, traps, and treasure. Harry had much to do in his (certainly not Mayan) adventure, and, while his moveset was limited, it was contextually sensitive to all sorts of challenges. Harry didn’t simply jump over opponents, he leapt to swing across vines, or hopped over the heads of gators. Pitfall was a revelation for everything its protagonist (and by extension, the player) could do, even if this was still the era of extremely blocky dudes puttering around monochrome backgrounds.

Lookin' GoodAnd 1982 also saw the release of Q*Bert. Q*Bert only need move from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changes block colors simply by touching blocks, and his only “offensive option” is baiting a malevolent snake into a bottomless pit. Q*Bert does not have a bonus jump, “punch”, or other abilities. Q*Bert simply hops.

Ten years later, in 1992, the face of gaming had irrevocably changed. The arcade gave way to the domination of the console, and now Sega and Nintendo were battling it out. But there was the Personal Computer, too! Wolfenstein 3D had just been released, and the whole of the FPS genre was just starting to congeal into Doom (to be released the next year). For some, the “3-D” nature of first person shooters promised to be what “the future of gaming” was always expected to be: fully immersive fighting (through the legions of Hell/nazis, apparently).

But away from the monitor and back at the television, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was pushing the boundaries of the genre that had become known as platforming. Sonic could run, jump, and dash; but he did it at speeds that could not have even been imagined ten years prior. And this latest Sonic allowed for two player simultaneous play! Just like in those competitive fighting games that had been making the scene! And Mortal Kombat was the most prominent “new fighter” of ’92. Now there was a radical shift in gaming! Kangaroo might have punched out a monkey, but, for better or worse, she never tore the head off of an opponent. And look at all those buttons! “Punch” is a thing of the past: Sub-Zero had a variety of punches, kicks, and fireballs (well, snowballs) at his disposal. You didn’t just need an instruction manual for your average fighting game, you needed a strategy guide (thanks, Nintendo Power!).

Good bless QBertBut while we’re considering strategy, let us also consider Super Mario Kart. Mario had cameoed in a sports title here or there over the years (he got really good at Golf, apparently), but he mostly just starred in his own adventures that involved running and jumping. Super Mario Kart was a great success as a fun racing game, but it also showcased how a videogame mascot could shift all their normal “verbs”, but still be unmistakably that familiar mascot. Mushrooms can make you super tall, or they can give you a speed boost. Turtle shells can become projectiles divorced from their turtles. And anyone that has ever played any Mario Kart knows the difference between a Starman that allows you to mow down goombas and one that allows you to speed to the finish line. Mario Kart showed that even the most rigidly defined mascot could be anything, and paved the way for the Sonic Racing or unprecedented crossovers of today.

And then there was Q*Bert for Gameboy, and Q*Bert 3 for Super Nintendo, both released in 1992. Q*Bert only need move from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changes block colors simply by touching blocks, and his only “offensive option” is baiting a malevolent snake into a bottomless pit. Q*Bert does not have a bonus jump, six punch buttons, or other abilities. Q*Bert simply hops. Sometimes there are a variety of new colors and backgrounds, though. You know, at least on the system that has color.

Let’s hop forward seven years. By the time 1999 rolled around, the “mascot wars” of the previous console generation had concluded, and newcomer Sony was riding high with the Playstation and the serious, cinematic Final Fantasy franchise. This was the year we were finally going to see the sequel to Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy: Whatever, and it pushed the boundaries for what was expected of the JRPG genre. Have you ever heard of Triple Triad? Guardian Forces? Dog Missiles? If you haven’t, don’t worry about it, it was all only around for one game, but it did establish that you could have complicated battle systems that were only relevant for one title. Fight, magic, item wasn’t the only fish in the sea, anymore, let’s get ready to get some gambits up in here!

Go QBert!This was also a time when gaming was getting more serious… but “serious” as more of a teenager’s definition. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater allowed a “real human” avatar to perform intricate skateboarding tricks in a universe that apparently had unlimited and instant healthcare. Silent Hill allowed a player to explore the depths of the human psyche in a world that was going to be complete in a few years with the introduction of a certain pyramid headed fellow that really knew how to swing around half a pair of scissors. Or maybe you just wanted to be the Driver, and cruise around realistic (enough) cities? In a way, these games were just as big on the fantasy as Mario (no, you cannot drive a car into a building in reality and continue to have a good time), but they were a lot more “real” than anything Pitfall Harry ever did.

And if you wanted some fantasy, don’t worry, you still had the likes of Ape Escape or Donkey Kong 64 to hold you over. DK64 saw the collectathon at its most… collecty, and showcased all the different ways Kongs can run, jump, and shoot on their way to an ultimate goal of wringing out 12,000,000 (monotonous) hours of gameplay. And Ape Escape was no simple monkey game, it was a sneak and capture event closer to Metal Gear than Donkey Kong. Even visually “childish” games in 1999 weren’t so simple.

And then there was Q*Bert for Playstation. Q*Bert only need move from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changes block colors simply by touching blocks, and his only “offensive option” is baiting a malevolent snake into a bottomless pit. Q*Bert does not have a bonus jump, “punch”, or other abilities. Q*Bert simply hops. This time there was an adventure mode, but that was just an excuse to stick cinema scenes on either side of a world. Everything else was just Q*Bert hops.

BERT!The following five years allowed for a number of innovations in gaming. In 2004 we saw Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, which was the first Grand Theft Auto to feature extensive customization to its grand, open world. It also had planes, bazookas, and the opportunity for your C.J. to cosplay as The Notorious B.I.G. for the entire adventure. It is arguable that this Grand Theft Auto went too far into the whacky territory after its sequels eventually tried to rein everything back in with sad Russians in GTA4 and sad dads in GTA5, but the Saints Row franchise carried that whacky football straight to the end zone. Gaming had started goofy, become serious, and then migrated back to goofy all over again.

And speaking of marginally goofy, this was the year we saw Fable, which touted a rich morality system and a story that was different every time you played it. Did that actually happen? Well, not really, but it did seemingly start the trend of games that bet their whole asses on save baby/eat baby morality. It was no longer enough to run, jump, and punch; now you had to determine whether or not you were doing all those things while simultaneously becoming Mecha Hitler. Or Mecha Mother Theresa? You’ve got choices!

But on the simpler side of things, there was Katamari Damacy. This straightforward little game featured a protagonist that could only roll around a ball, but that ball could grow from the size of a paperclip to roughly the girth of a galaxy. And, more importantly than the gameplay, it was released for a whole $20, kickstarting the (now standard) belief that not every videogame had to be a AAA, 40 hour feature. Before internet connections fully graduated from 56K, Katamari Damacy showed us a glimpse of the future of downloadable titles.

Eat it!And speaking of downloadable, this year also saw an official Flash (RIP) version of Q*Bert. In a game that would be ported to “real” Windows a year later, Q*Bert only need move from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changes block colors simply by touching blocks, and his only “offensive option” is baiting a malevolent snake into a bottomless pit. Q*Bert does not have a bonus jump, “punch”, or other abilities. Q*Bert simply hops. At least this Q*venture was free.

Now we fast-forward a decade to 2014. What innovations did this year hold for gaming? Well, we wound up skipping the exact year for a lot of big’uns from this epoch, so we’re left with staring straight at Dark Souls 2. Did you ever hear about Dark Souls? It’s the Dark Souls of Bloodborne games. Love it or hate it, Dark Souls impacted gaming in more ways than we will ever admit, arguably revitalizing the general gameplay of the rogue-like and encouraging increasing your own personal gaming skills while marginally leveling up your chosen hero. In a similar manner, this was the year we saw Bayonetta 2, a shining example of the likewise “hardcore” stylish action genre. Gaming could be slow and methodical or fast and elegant, but, in both cases, it was a little more complicated than guiding a puck through a maze.

And if you still wanted the mascots of yore, don’t worry, they were represented, too. If you wanted to see everybody fight everybody, Super Smash Bros 4 WiiU/3DS was released in 2014. Smash Bros was always a shining example of videogame protagonists leaving their usual genre and sailing into something completely different (Star Fox left his ship!), but Smash 4 would eventually grow and mutate to be a veritable yearbook of every character that had ever mattered in gaming (sorry, Geno, you don’t matter). And if you wanted something new from “cartoony” characters, this was also the year that Shovel Knight proved Kickstarting retro platformers was wholly viable, and could have amazing, enduring results. Come to think of it, Shovel Knight was partially inspired by Dark Souls, too…

CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTERBut there was one game released that year that was not inspired by Dark Souls. Q*Bert Rebooted, seemingly rebooted to promote an Adam Sandler vehicle, was a game where Q*Bert only need move from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changes block colors simply by touching blocks, and his only “offensive option” is baiting a malevolent snake into a bottomless pit. Q*Bert does not have a bonus jump, shovel, or other abilities. Q*Bert simply hops. He also hopped to nearly every platform available, so this one is still downloadable on modern consoles.

And Q*Bert returned for the most recent time in 2019 for iOS. Do we need to review the gaming breakthroughs of such a recent year? Fire Emblem: Three Houses and its perfect blend of chess and dating simulation? Super Mario Maker 2 and its ability to grant the player full creative control over familiar gameplay? Untitled Goose Game and its goose? Whatever the hell happens in Sekiro? (I gather it is a photography simulator.) 2019 was an amazing year for gaming where we not only had all this, but also Q*Bert. And what did Q*Bert do? He moved from block to block in a generally diagonal manner. He changed blocks colors. He baited a snake into a pit. Q*Bert only knows hops.

He was Q*Bert. He is Q*Bert. The face of gaming may irrevocably change, but Q*Bert is Q*Bert forever.

@!#?

FGC #562 Q*Bert

  • Go lil buddySystem: I’m pretty sure the lil’ Bert appeared on nearly every console system, give or take a few outliers. Playstation 2? Sega Genesis? And I’m pretty sure he wasn’t on Atari Lynx, either. Other than that, there’s probably some Q*Bert in some form on your preferred console.
  • Number of players: One Q*Bert, but two people can take turns if they are so inclined.
  • Don’t make a sound: Q*Bert’s claim to fame has always been the bizarre recordings that approximate the sound an orange monster man might make when brained with a purple marble. Unfortunately, playing Q*Bert in the year 2021 just reminds me that I never want to hear from a belligerent orange creature ever again.
  • Hey, what about Q*Bert’s Qubes: The only Q*Bert to truly mix up traditional Q*Bert gameplay was… not all that different. It basically just added the idea of “rotating” cubes according to the direction Q*Bert hops (as opposed to one simple, all-purpose tap), and added a handful of new enemies (there may have been a crab). Other than that, the way it “separated” the blocks made the game a lot more difficult to visually parse, and there’s probably a reason this Q*title is generally forgotten and ignored.
  • Did you know? Q*Bert for Playstation started with a cinema scene based in Q*Bert’s blocky little world. Weird thing? His weirdass universe looks a lot like modern Minecraft. Did Steve colonize Q*World? Is that the secret origin of the franchise?
  • Would I play again: Q*Bert is great for a whole five minutes before you remember it’s just goddamned Q*Bert. I will probably waste those five minutes again in the future.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Wallachia Reign of Dracula! Or did ROB actually choose Bloodstained: Classic Mode? Actually, it’s both! We’re going to have a double header next! Please look forward to it!

GO FOR IT!

FGC #218 Skate or Die!

RadicalWhy is skateboarding cool?

Or, to be more specific, why did I spend a healthy chunk of my life thinking skateboarding was the coolest thing ever?

Looking back as an adult, I understand why I liked a number of my childhood obsessions. Dinosaurs are unruly behemoths the likes of which a five year old can only imagine, so of course they’re cool (and, while no longer technically a thing, the pterodactyl was always my favorite for that whole “avian threat” thing). Transformers are robots that shoot lasers and transform into cars and jets, so they get a pass. Voltron features a giant fighting robot made of brightly colored mechanical lions, and I don’t have to explain why that’s cool. I was starting to age out of the demographic by the time they became popular, but I can understand the appeal of the “teenagers with attitude” of the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were rude, crude, badical dudes that kicked Foot.

But I recently revisited the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles animated series (I was not nearly cool enough to read the Eastman Laird comics as a kid), and I realized something: these turtles are dumb. They’re barely a step up from clowns! Raph, the turtle known for his ‘tude, is, at absolute best, prone to occasionally mocking the childish antics of his brothers. These aren’t radical teens! These turtles are barely even mature enough for a trip to the roller skating rink. I demand to speak to a manager! Where are my “cool” Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!?

NOOOOOOUnfortunately, it seems the Turtles that I remember from my youth are not quite as badical as I had remembered. Okay, that’s fine, my dad has also somehow gotten shorter since I was five, I suppose a change in perspective is only natural as one ages. I can acknowledge that something I once thought was cool is cool no longer… but why did I think these mutants were cool in the first place? Ninja are always cool, so that has to be a factor. And… eating pizza? Is that cool? Was it something to do with the toppings? No, I think what really made these reptiles cool was skateboards.

Skateboards are cool! Bart Simpson has a skateboard, and he’s all attitude! Doug was kind of boring, but his radical dog Porkchop could totally shred. And, oh! Max from Goof Troop! His dad was a goofy loser, but, man, Max was tearing up the pavement. In short, if you wanted to know whether or not a fictional character was cool, you looked for the skateboard. Does he (inevitably he) thrash down the sidewalk, and grind those sick rails? We’ve got a cool kid on our hands! Bonus points if he doesn’t wear a helmet.

But that takes me back to… why? I don’t think I ever knew a kid with an actual skateboard. Wait, no, that’s not true. I wasn’t allowed a skateboard (my parents wisely ascertained that my general dexterity was somewhere below that of a flipped turtle, so I can probably thank them for having a few less broken bones than my contemporaries), but most of my friends had one… for all of five minutes. No, nobody else had parents that routinely limited outside activities thanks to falling out of a tree house one time, Mom; no, everyone that I knew with a skateboard eventually gave it up because it was boring. It’s like riding a bicycle! Except kinda slower! And with more effort! Maybe my neighborhood didn’t have enough hills? I know we didn’t have a skate park…

Radical?Maybe that was the problem? In my hometown (well, technically, the more affluent next town over… my hometown only has one golf course!), there is and continues to be a contingent of the population that wants to build a recreational skate park, but countering them is an even larger group of people that vote that skate park down every other year because it’ll draw out the hoods and the rascals and all the other undesirables that naturally skulk around skate parks. They might start dealing marijuana cigarettes! And, incidentally, I’ll note that this same stupid debate has been occurring in the same stupid town since the stupid 80’s. The generation that thought skateboarding was cool is just about in charge now, and now they’re the ones shrieking about thinking of the children. Skateboards: threat or menace!?

And I keep coming back to a simple truth: there are exactly zero skateboarders worthy of praise or derision in this area. The proposed skate park? It would be no different than the football field or baseball field that no one ever had a problem with. There would be kids playing there, and they’d all be dreaming of becoming Tony Hawk like the children on the football field aspire to be Paul Turner. Skateboarding is just another sport, and it’s not even a sport that encourages running into each other at top speed. And, in the meanwhile, most skateboarders are barely ranking above Donatello for coolness points. They’re not cool enough to know the kids that actually have drugs!

Ouch, againOf course, as I’ve already tangentially mentioned, there are skateboard stars. There’s Tony Hawk, and… uh… uhh… Look, I only know that name from videogames. I’m assuming there are other skateboard stars, but Google is all the way over there, and I was planning on looking at some centaur porn later, so I’m not switching out of incognito mode to wiki up some thrashers. And, yes, these stars of the sport seem to be cool, but, not, like 90’s Bart Simpson cool. They’ve probably never told their dad to not have a cow, man. And, what’s more, I can’t think of any prominent skateboarders before Tony Hawk. I’m forced to go back to my original source of cool: Saturday Morning Cartoons. Did Big Skateboard make sure every last animated cool kid had a board? Was this all reckless indoctrination to force an entire generation into loving the smell of pavement in the morning? Did Street Sharks cause the inevitable collapse of the coolness industry?

Ugh, now I’m even more confused than when I started.

Oh, one question more: Why did anyone ever think skateboarding in a videogame would be fun?

FGC #218 Skate or Die!

  • System: NES is the real version. But the other kids with Commodore 64s, Ataris, or Macs may have claimed to have played such a game.
  • Number of players: Technically eight, but I think two is a lot more likely.
  • Maybe actually talk about the game for a second: Okay, Skate or Die isn’t the worst thing in the world. As skateboarding sims for early systems go, it’s pretty good, and isn’t a complete waste of a day like a certain game featuring an idiot in a tiki mask. That said, the whole thing is an extremely limited experience, and I have no idea how the neighborhood kids and myself got approximately twelve billion hours of playtime out of this thing.
  • Hi, NateFavorite Event: Race is the one where you can whale on Lester, right? Joust feels too random, but Race allows you to straight-up punch your opponent in the face. That really spices up your average competition.
  • Shopaholic: What was the point of the “Skate Shop” where the game begins? Could you buy better boards or equipment in the computer versions? As it is, it’s just a dude with a Mohawk reminding you why venturing into a Skate Shop in the 80’s could be a distasteful experience.
  • Did you know? A modern take on Skate or Die was in the works around 2002, and its producers spent about a year on… a game that was never released. We got Burnout 3 instead, though, so… I guess that’s okay?
  • Would I play again: I don’t think I’m radical enough.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse! Couldn’t have picked that back when the movie was relevant, ROB? No? Fine, whatever, I’m always down to teleport around as my favorite X-Men. Please look forward to it!

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