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World of Final Fantasy Part 03

Chapter 7: He’s Not Family
Initial Stream: 9/29/20



1:00 – I tried to get the “futzing around in menus” out of the way before the stream started, but I also wanted to capture the evolution transfarring of BURDIEE… but it was a lot more underwhelming than I expected. And then I proceed to spend ten minutes futzing around in other menus. Dammit!

8:25 – Okay! Actually back at Soronia! This area is loosely based on a town besieged by conflict in Final Fantasy 3, so let’s discuss why maybe Final Fantasy 3 sucked. It has something to do with swamps…

14:00 – Betrayal! A villain makes an unexpected appearance (in front of a painting of Kain Highwind?), but let’s just talk about Space Adventure Cobra instead.

20:00 – The Knight in the Golden Mask has a secret identity. Is he Cloud? Zoneseek? The heroes’ father? Everybody guesses it’s that last one.

25:00 – And the chapter ends abruptly after brainstorming the best way to go back in time and destroy Pitfall.

What actually happened in the plot: This was supposed to be a simple meeting with Refia’s uncle, the thane. However, the city of Soronia has recently fallen under the thrall of the Bahamutian Army (Empire?), and things aren’t great for anybody. Worst of all, the thane has been replaced with a seemingly immortal Bahamutian soldier, and he’s backed up by the mysterious Knight in the Golden Mask. Our party barely survives the encounter, but they are rescued by Sherlotta, who has the ability to transform into a kitty cat that can shoot fire. Sherlotta imparts a magical monocle on the party that reveals that all conquered cities are literally shackled in place by (normally) invisible chains. With Soronia a bust, Refia stays with Sherlotta, and the twins venture forth to find a boat to reach other shores.

Chapter 8: This World Brought to You by the Letter Arrr
Initial Stream: 9/29/20



1:00 – This chapter is mostly dungeon, so we kick it off by discussing How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell. This was apparently made into a movie fifteen years ago! Maybe you should watch that!

4:00 – This dungeon is all dire docks, and cannons launching our party across rising waters seems to be the main gimmick of the area. Cannon travel sure seems popular in a number of videogames, eh?

8:00 – Dungeons are great for discussing tangentially related nonsense. We encounter a mimic chest, so let’s look to Gogo, the best mimic of all. Want to segue into Chrono Trigger from there? Sure!

15:00 – There is some confusion over Mini Flan capturing. At this point, I’m confident in calling this a flaw in World of Final Fantasy: you’re often given precise instructions on how to capture a mirage (like “do physical damage”), but sometimes that doesn’t activate immediately, and you’re left scrambling to a FAQ to determine whether there is some additional condition, or if you’re doing something wrong. Or you send BEAT on a quixotic quest for that info. You know, whatever works for you.

24:00 – Funkos in flight! Maybe these creatures are closer to keychain charms…

28:00 – Star Ocean: The Second Story is apparently a lot more interesting than I ever expected, as fanboymaster explains its counterfeiting system here. Also, reading books written by your friends, which I’m going to claim takes us back to the book discussion at the top of the chapter.

36:00 – After a discussion of Final Fantasy 7’s Godzillas and Wutai, it’s time for moogle pirates to attack. They’re Kupirates. I annihilate their adorableness.

39:00 – Syldra and Faris make us all happy… until it turns out to be a scripted battle. And BEAT is never happy, so I guess this was a wash.

43:00 – Faris inevitably aligns with our heroes as we discuss Playonline and the aborted plans of the Final Fantasy franchise.

What actually happened in the plot: Reynn and Lann tried to steal a boat from pirates, but Faris the pirate fought back with a gigantic sea monster. Luckily (kinda), the fake thane from the last chapter followed us, and, since this revealed the twins to be enemies of the Bahamutian Army, Faris turned her considerable power toward obliterating the real monster. After that general was swabbed off the poop deck, Faris (or at least one of her moogles) provided an additional segment of the prophecy that claims the heroes have to fetch four keys and ascend to the heavens. We’re off to a “valley of fire” to find key numero uno!

Chapter 9: Red Turtle Rafting
Initial Stream: 9/29/20



1:20 – Quistis?! Why are you here?

4:45 – We take a quick break to check in on the “home dimension” and see how those side stories with Final Fantasy heroes work. They’re apparently moderately interesting. Tales of Symphonia narrative bullshit is noted.

14:00 – Talkin’ ‘bout Die Hard Arcade while upgrading monsters. During this downtime, please enjoy this article I slapped together a few years back on Dynamite Cop.

17:00 – Back to the real plot, so let’s talk about Ms. Marvel and the Avengers.

20:00 – Anime out of nowhere! For the first time since Chapter 1, we get a brief cutscene that is fully animated. While that is happening, we contemplate whether either of these characters actually have a personality. They’re at least distinct from each other…

25:00 – We save a wee turtle in honor of our hero, Italian Elon Musk.

28:00 – Rikku makes the scene in her Final Fantasy 10-2 treasure/sphere hunter incarnation. After World of Final Fantasy started off with Warrior of Light, Princess Sarah, a Crystal Chronicles cat, and a Final Fantasy 3 kinda-character, we’re now going fast and furious with the recognizable cameos. And we will have a Final Fantasy 7 heroine before the end of the next chapter! Which is coming soon!

What actually happened in the plot: Quistis provides a submarine (compliments of the Final Fantasy 8 demo disc)… which we crash, because apparently this world is a series of loosely connected floating islands. Barring the ability to do literally anything else, we save a little turtle, who reveals itself to be the child of a great big turtle. Said giant turtle offers us a ride, and we’re off to drier land.

Editor’s note: the following part is written by esteemed streamer of World of Final Fantasy, BEAT

Chapter 10: MORE LIKE FUCKO POPS AM I RITE?!?!?!
Initial Stream: 9/29/20



WAIT A SECOND YOU’RE NOT GOGGLEBOB!

0:00 – OH SHIT IT’S BEAT. That’s right dorks, I’m writing up this video! I’ve retained literally zero knowledge of this game’s plot or mechanics, and only barely paid attention to this steam while I was guesting on it. Call the cops I don’t give a fuck.

1:20 – In my infinite wisdom, I immediately derail the conversation into a discussion on how Final Fantasy Ecks Too was the sexy one, and how Final Fantasy’s attempt to appeal to teenage boys has tragically resulted in this game trying to make those horrible little funko pop people HOTTT. Fanboy is less than pleased.

05:00 – I try to recall a dumb gag from 8-bit theater. Fortunately my internet is actively trying to kill itself, so you’re all spared my evil… until a minute later when I share it anyway. We then pontificate on the cultural impact of sprite comics the joy of Gamer Dilbert, and the terrible tragedy of regular Dilbert.

06:10 – The party makes it a desolate stone wasteland, a nightmarish valley of razor sharp spires jutting out of the earth and into an uncaring grey sky. Nobody on the call seems to notice.

14:30 – Fun fact, we streamed this on the night of the first Presidential debate! That way, none of us had to watch the debate! Fuck Trump. It’ll be so cool when he dies.

21:30 – Fanboy gives us all a history of Square Electronic Arts, a very good business partnership, that lasted a very long time and created many excellent products.

29:00 – After approximately 11 million years of random battles, we finally reach what I assume is the area’s boss, Cerberus! It doesn’t look like a dog, and two of it’s three heads just float in the air. It’s not even the size of a house! This Cerberus sucks, you guys. Eventually Gogglebob captures it in a pokeball, and names it Vinnie- WAIT!

FUCKING WAIT!

ONE OF VINNIE PAZ’S STUPID NICKNAMES IS "BIG LOUIE DOGS!"

CERBERUS IS (KIND OF) A DOG!

IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW!!

35:30 – The Boss is beaten, but we’re still in dumb rocky land what the shit.

SEPHIROTH!37:00 – Gogglebob’s anime siblings now have the ability to summon Sephiroth, who summons meteor and then does the whole walk into the fire thing. It’s awful. It rules. I hate it. I love it.

40:00 – Hey, remember Advent Children? No? Me neither.

44:15 – I don’t know why Gogglebob named this horrible deformed dragon thing "104." And you know what? I’m at peace with it.

45:10 – Oh okay NOW we’re at the boss. I guess Cerberus was just a midboss or whatever. Everybody is a dick about how anime boy tastes.

47:45 – Oh shit it’s cowboy Tifa. Hi cowboy Tifa. I hate the funko pop outfit version of her sexy cowgirl Halloween costume almost as much as I hate her voice.

51:20 – Tiny Midgar is in sight! It’s adorably hellish, and contrasts nicely with the adorable little town right next to it, which is also surrounded by lava pits for some reason.

53:50 – A random NPC mentions Cactuars, which is the ONLY THING any of us care about seeing.

55:00 – We make it to tiny Midgar Nibelheim. It’s Nibelheim now. You thought it was Midgar, but it’s Nibelheim. Tifa’s here. I still hate her stupid outfit. STREAM OVER!

What actually happened in the plot: the gang rode a giant fucking turtle… somewhere. They go into a giant stone hellhole, where they fight a dog and then a dragon. Funko Pop Tifa shows up out of nowhere, and guides the teens out of the boring rock quarry. She guides the Anime teens the town of Agarthir, which is right next to the futuristic dystopia of Midgard, which is actually Niblehiem for some reason. Tifa’s there I guess. Whatever.

Next time on World of Final Fantasy: Gonna take you for a Rydia.

FGC #519 (Super) Smash TV

Let's Smash!Am I a good parent?

Wait a tick… Of course I’m not. I don’t even have kids. But I deal with kids on occasion, and I’d kind of like to work out my….

Wait, let’s take it from the top.

So my best friend had a birthday the other day. Given this birthday was a big, round number (he’s an even 6,000 years old), under normal circumstances, there would likely be a surprise party involving everyone that has so much as sneezed in his general direction. Unfortunately, we live in an age where sneezing is forbidden, so the big, “blowout” party consisted of a whole five adults drinking various kinds of alcohol on an outside deck. There was a cake that was also alcohol, but it was still a cake. I understand this has become a meme of some kind? Please enjoy this edible barrel.

It's a lie

But this quintet of musty old people was not the full extent of the guest list. The birthday boy had managed to sire some brood in his 11,000 years on this planet, and they had to be occupied with… ya know… something. It turns out children aren’t fond of sitting around and discussing the works of Proust while sipping Cabernet Sauvignon (okay, we may have actually been just gossiping about dorks from high school while chugging whiskey… but still!), so they were banished to the basement to entertain themselves. Of course, the kids do not see my basement (affectionately referred to as “The Gameatorium”) as anything approaching a punishment. That’s where the Transformers live! And the videogames! And that robot that keeps shouting out the titles of random videogames! That’s always a fun curiosity! So, yes, the children spent their father’s birthday surrounded by more games than they’d likely ever see in their lives, and that was the last they saw of their parents until around 1 AM.

Now, despite the fact that the kids in question were surrounded by literally thousands of videogames, I didn’t have to worry too much about their virgin eyes seeing the horrors of some games in my collection. Children have energy in droves, but the trade-off is that their undeveloped brains are remarkably lazy when more immediate enjoyment is available. Nobody has time to figure out how that whole “Sega Saturn” thing works, so they’ll just stick a slab of cheese in the disc drive, wait for me to find that six months later, and move on to a more familiar system. In this case, there was a Nintendo Switch, so that seemed like the way to go for finding some familiar fun. And, since the Nintendo Switch is a rat, I can relay exactly what they played. Apparently Smash Bros was their first choice, so good job, children. Fortnite was tried, but I hadn’t updated that game in a dog’s age, and nobody felt like waiting through a gigabyte download. ARMS was next on the list, and it seems that and Snakeybus were played for a whole 20 seconds before moving on to Splatoon 2. That saw some more use, but it didn’t last forever, likely because the two kids had to share a controller to play against others online. They’re… not great at taking turns. This apparently prompted the eldest to search through my collection for something that was 2-player co-op. Presumably utilizing signals beamed directly into his brain by generally bored space aliens, Elder Child found a game that would involve not only co-op, but lots of shooting.

NEONAnd that game? Neon Chrome. “A ruthless twin-stick top-down shooter”.

Anytime I see a kid playing a game that is described as “ruthless”, I grow concerned.

If you’ve never played Neon Chrome, you are missing out on a fun experience. It’s a procedurally generated rogue-like twin stick shooter that offers a number of offensive options and opponents. It was originally released on Steam in 2016, migrated to the consoles, and eventually found a home on the Switch. This is the ideal final form for practically any rogue-like, as the “simple” top down shoot ‘em up nature of Neon Chrome and the need to grind (either to unlock new options or to just “git gud”) seems to work best while also burning through episodes of Gotham in parallel (Batman stomping around as a surly teenager while The Riddler and The Penguin make out? Sign me up!). It’s not a game that is ever going to set the world on fire, and I’m glad I picked it up on a random sale, but Neon Chrome is certainly a game that is in the top 30% of titles on my Switch, which is a pretty impressive feat, considering some of the other luminaries on that system.

And, as I was the only adult sober enough to do such a thing, I checked on the children during their Neon Chrome journey. Neon Chrome actually surprised me, as it led to these two brothers actually cooperating and working out techniques unique to 2-player mode. While I may have been concerned about heated shouts of “You’re supposed to cover my right!” the fact that they collaborated for (literally) hours seemed like a minor miracle unto itself. Usually there is crying, yelling, and at least one kid explaining to his parents how the other kid is not being “fair” or “helpful” or “won’t stop summoning Bizlackowaq the NEONDeath Bringer”. In this case, the brothers were simply sitting downstairs, playing the same game, and enrapt the whole while. This is unusual! This is a miracle! It allowed us adults the freedom to have wild bacchanalian activities until well into the morning (or at least have one uninterrupted conversation about bookshelf placement), and we all have Neon Chrome to thank.

And my only concern is that Neon Chrome is rated T for Teen, and every time when I checked on the kids, there was inevitably a blood-splattered corpse on the ground.

(Uh, to be clear, that corpse was in the game. There was very little Cain and Abel roleplay happening that night).

Now, I have played videogames all of my life. I have enjoyed videogames all of my life. And, likely as a direct result of that, I have always been sensitive to the controversies over videogame violence. I was there for Mortal Kombat, Night Trap, and Ballz. I may or may not have held a lifelong grudge against a certain senator for stirring up anti-videogame rhetoric. I was in high school opposite Columbine and the “Doom controversy”. I have spent the last thirty years of my life entrenched in a thousand debates on videogames, violence, and whether or not that has any real impact on the players. I have always, always maintained that even the smallest children know the difference between fantasy and reality, and claiming otherwise is absolutely a bad-faith argument. We no more need to shield children from violent videogames than we need to block the nightly news and its usual parade of viciousness. Get over it, Joe, videogames are cool, you should just chill out.

NEONBut here I am, gawking like a yokel, starring at a pair of kids causing blood fountains on the screen, and contemplating whether or not I should leap in front of the television and demand they go back to playing Oscar’s Trash Race this instant, young man. Have I changed my mind? Since I’m now dealing with actual children I care about, have I altered my beliefs? Will I soon be shrieking about why won’t anyone think of the children?

And then I thought about my own childhood, and, coincidentally enough, playing videogames with the father of these wee ones.

As mentioned, I have been friends with Birthday Dad for a long time. We didn’t start hanging out with each when we were as young as his kids are now, but, in the grand scope of things, I would still look at our respective younger selves as “children” (granted, this also means I interpret almost all JRPG protagonists as children now, but that is just a side effect of being one of The Olds). And when we were kids? We got an early build of MAME going, and went to town on every arcade game that had ever dared strip us of our quarters. Battletoads arcade was on there, and Rampart saw an endless two player mode. And, of course, we had to conquer the old standby that many thought was impossible to finish: Smash TV.

(Hey, 1,400 words in, and we finally hit today’s featured game. That might be a new record on meandering!)

Smash TV is a quarter-killer from 1990 that sees the player taking on the role as a contestant on a hit game show in the far-flung future of 1999. Here, violence and maximum carnage rule supreme, and you have to guide a little dude with a helmet and no shirt through a series of arenas that generally contain an unhealthy number of mutants, robots, snakes, and jerks with baseball bats. Your ammo is unlimited, but your poor avatar can only take a single bullet before keeling over, so you have to be equal parts nimble and brutal. There are also a handful of bosses that exist to showcase the finest graphics that 1990 could ever hope to offer with the added bonus of mercilessly depleting every last extra life you had earned over the course of a level. Smash TV is an excellent twin-stick shooter that only requires approximately ten million credits to complete.

EYEBALL!And, if you hadn’t guessed from the subject of this article or that one screenshot where a dude is exploding into a puddle of eyeballs, Smash TV is very violent game. In this case, it’s not completely random violence, it’s something akin to Robocop or other hyper-violent movies from the 80’s that glorified violence while using it as a statement on society’s continual glorification of violence (… wait a minute). Smash TV is a game show where a contestant can win a million VCRs or “dream vacations”, but it’s all a farce, because that contestant likely won’t live to see a single tape on that brand new VCR. It’s a striking indictment of capitalism, as playing Smash TV for five minutes is just a microcosm of spending your life working for “fabulous prizes” that you will never enjoy because that work managed to break your back over the years (actually, that might just be a Billy Joel song). You might not be zapped into x-ray mode by a turtle-bot’s laser, but Smash TV is using its absurd violence to comment on the general irrationality of the modern grind. It’s violence with a point, dad, it’s not just some snuff game!

And my birthday pal and I used to play this game constantly. We hadn’t quite mastered save state technology, so we had to play Smash TV at home over and over again. In fact, I had made a similar attempt with a neighbor when I was younger with the Super Nintendo version. But the “arcade original” allowed for some USB controllers with actual twin sticks, so unlike that credit-limited earlier attempt, we were going to beat Smash TV if it killed us. And we did! This surprisingly lengthy arcade title was finished on a Friday evening otherwise mostly spent waiting for our drummer (if memory serves, we eventually had to drag him out of a Denny’s). It only took time, practice, virtual quarters, and absorbing hours and hours of the ol’ ultra-violence. No harm done!

FACE!And if their father and I turned out to be fine, upstanding citizens after witnessing so much carnage, shouldn’t the children be alright? I’m not certain which “parent trap” I’m falling for here. I’m recoiling at the thought of children seeing violence because I had a visceral reaction to two kids on a beanbag chair (it is a very large beanbag chair) gleefully laughing while a bloody corpse sputters into oblivion on the screen in front of us. On the other hand, isn’t “we turned out fine” the same kind of knee-jerk reaction to an issue? “My dad beat the crap out of me, and now I’m a perfectly normal human being that can’t achieve orgasm unless my car is plastered with 70 bumper sticks regarding treading and its relationship with me” is the kind of sentiment that is seen over and over again, and I’d hate to think I’m being so similarly shortsighted because I caught a whiff of the issue at hand being so close to my heart (did we just cover all the senses in one metaphor?). Is there an answer here that isn’t some warmed over musing that is as old as time itself (which, reminder, would be slightly younger than the boys’ father).

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a clear answer here. Yes, I played violent videogames as a kid, but did they affect me? It would be crazy to think they didn’t! I might never have actually physically hurt anyone when I was a schoolboy, but I can confirm that I had fantasies of whipping out a Baraka-esque armblade to scare off my more menacing and persistent bullies. I can safely say that little bit of imagined violence wouldn’t have ever been in my head without playing another game by John Tobias for hours on end. Am I a violent person? No. But I know there’s a part of me that thinks roundhouses can solve problems, and I’m willing to blame an entire gaming genre for that issue. Am I afraid these kids are going to stalk the halls with a machine gun like in Neon Chrome? Absolutely not. But I do know that a part of their brains is now perfectly okay with seeing a digitized dead body. Their lives aren’t over, but a small chunk of their innocence is. This wouldn’t have happened if they just stuck to Snakeybus…

Now clapAnd, really, I feel that gets to the crux of this issue. Even if I’m not a parent, am I doing something wrong by allowing a child to play a videogame that glorifies violence? No. I’m confident in saying that (taking the bold position that I judge myself as a good person). But did something happen here? Was some damage done? Yes. I feel that’s accurate. This wasn’t necessarily “bad”, but it happened. I’m not going to send everyone involved to therapy, but I might throw a few “child protections” on the Switch next time. I’m going to make sure there’s an environment where any game can be played (okay, not any) but the children are also aware the adults are handy, and happy to talk about whatever is going on. This “loss of innocence” might be inevitable, whether it’s thanks to a budget e-shop title or not, but at least the kids will be aware that they have parents (and parent-like creepy adults that have basements full of Transformers) that are there for them.

And then we’ll all play Smash TV together. Because my skills have gotten rusty, and I need to blow up Mutoid Man but good.

FGC #519 (Super) Smash TV

  • System: Arcade, and then practically every platform of the 80s and 90s. But not today! Presumably thanks to Midway crumbling to dust, this hasn’t seen an arcade compilation since Midway Arcade Treasures in the Xbox/PS2 era. It was on Xbox 360 with online play for a hot minute, but that seems to have faded into the ether as of 2010.
  • Number of players: Two contestants enter, possibly two contestants leave. It kind of depends on your income.
  • These guysPort-o-Call: Do not play this game on any consoles before the advent of the actual “twin sticks” for this twin stick shooter. Smash TV is practically unplayable on the NES, and the Super Smash TV iteration that appeared on Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo isn’t much better. And there’s a Game Gear version? Not even going to test that one. This is one arcade game that requires something approaching its original hardware configuration.
  • Favorite Boss: Scarface is a giant, hovering face that is eventually very scarred. This is in sharp contrast to Mutoid Man, who I’m not certain ever mutoids at all. And Die Cobros? That’s just German for The Cobra Bros. I think. Yes, Scarface is the best balance of name and boss in Smash TV, so he’s my favorite.
  • Favorite Powerup: This is one of those games where being invincible also means mowing down your opponents by simply making contact. That’s always the best, so give me that glowing green circle any day of the week. Hell, one might be able to ascribe the success of Smash TV to getting the best powerup (at least temporarily) every time you drop in a quarter. Sweet dopamine rush…
  • Sage Advice: The messages that appear in every room…
    This is not a lie

    Can get a little weird. I’d rather hear about fabulous prizes, announcer, not impending turtles.
  • Influencers: Lest you think the connection between Robocop and Smash TV is imagined, the host of Smash TV will occasionally utter the absurd catchphrase from Robocop’s bad future, “I’d buy that for a dollar!” This presumably means that Smash TV Dude will be the next Mortal Kombat guest kharacter.
  • SnekDid you know? The Pleasure Dome, the final bonus area in Smash TV which requires ten keys, was mentioned in the original arcade releases… but wasn’t actually programmed into the game. Apparently the designers thought players would never get there anyway, so who cares? However, arcades apparently complained on behalf of disappointed players, and a later update finally implemented the actual Pleasure Dome. Is it any wonder this company eventually went on to create fake hidden kharacters in its most popular franchise?
  • Would I play again: Smash TV is a weirdly long game, and I’m an adult that is over this whole superviolence thing, so I doubt I’ll ever play the game for an extended period of time again. I might play Neon Chrome with the kiddies, though…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… X-Men: Children of the Atom for the Sega Saturn! Watch all the X-Men fight for the right to fight Juggernaut! Please look forward to it!

MEAT!

Wild Arms 2 Part 27: Lilka and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Previously on Wild Arms: Ashley got blasted into the past… more or less… and now we’re trying to get him back to the future.

But before we get to that bit of business… New intro!

And may the crows feast on your eyes!

Or whatever that thing is… we’ll come back to it.

So, incidentally, this is all scored by another song that, in the original Japanese version, had lyrics and vocals. Here, it’s just a guitar and harpsichord(?) replacing the vocals, but a trumpet kicks into the lead around the halfway point, and that’s the best.

Now back to… Dracula?

FGC #392 Rocko’s Modern Life: Spunky’s Dangerous Day

FGC Day is a very dangerous dayWhen I started this blog, I told myself I would not be another “angry gamer” that rants and raves and mocks bad videogames. I genuinely believe that every videogame has something to say, and, even if there are some flaws, there’s always something “there” there that is worth celebrating. I have slipped on a few entries (look, Dragon Warrior made me mad, okay?), but I have, more or less, done my best to stick to this self-inflicted credo. Maybe not all videogames are good, but you can always find some goodness.

But a funny thing has happened over nearly 400 FGC entries. I’ve played at least three different videogames a week for at least a half hour each (and often, much, much more time), and, after a while, I’ve started to have a different standard for good. By and large, nearly every FGC game is a game I have played before “playing for the article”, but, even when I’ve reencountered games I know I don’t like, I’m able to see the developer intent. It might not be a game I enjoy, but I can see how someone could enjoy this game. In this way, I feel like my own feelings on certain games (Turok sucks) have softened (Turok is misguided), and I’m now even more likely to see the “good” in a game.

All that said? I cannot see how anyone could ever enjoy Rocko’s Modern Life: Spunky’s Dangerous Day.

He's going to be very cleanFirst of all, to be absolutely clear, I love Rocko’s Modern Life (the animated series). I loved it when I was a kid, and now, even as an adult, it is a show that I can revisit and laugh my tail off. It was the first Nick Toon to follow the original bumper crop of Doug, Rugrats, and Ren & Stimpy, and it arguably tried to ape some of the success of that latter’s “gross out” humor. But it wasn’t just about the scary looking eyeballs, Rocko’s Modern Life was true to its title, and was basically the story of a young adult male attempting to navigate “modern life” and all the pitfalls one might find in something as mundane as getting a gym membership. In many ways, Rocko’s Modern Life was like the “no continuity, characters in a million different roles” cartoons of the golden age of animated shorts, but, in many other ways, there were characters and arcs you could hold in your hands. Filbert grew and changed from a random comic book nerd to a loving, married father, while Chuck & Leon were repurposed for any nefarious scam they needed that week. And it all worked! Rocko’s Modern Life was a tour de force of humor for children and adults, and, to this day, we must all remember that the cheese is the best character on the show.

So, given Rocko’s Modern Life is so great, you might assume that Rocko’s Modern Life: Spunky’s Dangerous Day is so bad because it somehow doesn’t follow the source material. After all, according to production sources regarding the creation of the game, RML:SDD was designed before the show was officially released, and all the game’s staff had were a series of character and episode outlines. That’s enough to sink any ship, especially one that started before the source material had even premiered. What do the fans want to see? What do they enjoy? Who the heck knows, the fans don’t exist yet. By the time RML:SDD was released, Rocko’s Modern Life had only been on the air for six months and thirteen episodes… and we all know it takes more than six months to release a videogame.

NaaaaaakedBut even if Viacom New Media had a firm grasp on the fanbase, I don’t think anyone would have claimed they wanted an unending escort mission with the slipperiest controls imaginable.

Rocko’s Modern Life: Spunky’s Dangerous Day is, at first glance, a 2-D action platformer. And that makes sense! This was the 16-bit era, and everyone had 2-D platformers! I’m pretty sure Ren & Stimpy had six across seventeen different consoles! And this was the grand age of the mascot platformer, so even if Rocko the Show was a dud, it was entirely possible that a decent 2-D platformer could drag the character into the gaming hall of fame. But RML:SDD contained a fatal flaw: the entire game is crap. Wait, sorry, that’s not right. The flaw is that the entire game is an escort mission. Spunky, Rocko’s dog, is constantly, uncontrollably waddling forward, and you must guide the mutt to the safety of the end of the level. Along the way, Rocko must utilize different tools, levers, and rafts to make sure Spunky doesn’t walk right into an angry sailor bird or drown in a puddle of toxic goo. If you’re good, Spunky will reach the golden fire hydrant, and you can proceed to the next Spunky-based challenge course. If you fail, you’ve just killed your dog, you monster.

And there’s probably a good game somewhere in that concept. An escort mission doesn’t have to be horrible, and a game entirely based on that concept could at least be… passable. And RML:SDD does avoid the pitfalls of many escort missions, as it allows you to interact with the “escort” target in meaningful ways (like turning the pupper around), or restoring health for when the lil’ dude’s AI has done something particularly heinous. And, considering the escort mission focus, there are a number of items and events that make the escort gameplay bits more interesting. A clogged garden hose that will launch Spunky into the air would be little more than a “jump block” in a traditional platformer, and it’s great that the nature of escorting gets the player to pay more attention to an otherwise easily ignored environment.

WhoopBut, for all the fascinating ideas on display, RML:SDD controls like a Suck-o-Matic. Rocko is naturally slippery, and the camera refuses to zoom out far enough to account for those mighty wallaby jumps that might ram square into a hazard. Rocko picking up Spunky is completely required in a number of situations, but lining Rocko up perfectly to perform that all-important pickup is a challenge all on its own. And, worst of all, a number of the devices for helping Spunky along have very particular hit boxes, so, if you jump on the trampoline du jour at an inopportune moment, it will not assist Spunky, and will instead give the impression that you’re on the wrong trail. That didn’t help at all… maybe I’m supposed to go somewhere else? Nope! You just didn’t use the item exactly correctly, and now you’re going to search the stage for an alternate solution that doesn’t actually exist. Good luck, humble player!

And, to be clear, none of these issues are based on the (then fledgling) property itself. The enemies and areas that do appear are delightfully animated, and feel like “real” Rocko’s Modern Life characters. Important (first season) characters cameo all over the place, and the levels are, one way or another, based on actual episode situations. Even if the stages are very samey in their various tools and opponents, the actual set design seems eclectic enough to keep the player’s attention. Despite the whole game flying fairly blind on the appeal of Rocko’s Modern Life, everything feels like Rocko’s Modern Life, so it’s an excellent tie-in product from that singular perspective.

Turtle!But the actual gameplay? Terrible. Awful. As someone that has played a lot of videogames, I literally cannot believe anyone has ever had a fun time playing this game. Every last bit of every level is tedious and frustrating, and, when you finally “win” a stage, it feels less like an accomplishment, and more like you just managed to eke out a victory thanks to a random enemy sprite not spawning fast enough. Even with just four levels comprised of four stages each, this title feels overly long… And does so before you see your first goalpost.

There might be fun to be had in Rocko’s Modern Life: Spunky’s Dangerous Day, but it would take a really, really big man to see even a glimmer of it.

FGC #392 Rocko’s Modern Life: Spunky’s Dangerous Day

  • System: Super Nintendo exclusive. This is clearly what won the console war.
  • Number of players: It would be interesting to hack in a mode wherein a second player could control Spunky. It might be the only way to pry some fun out of this whole enterprise.
  • Other odd choices: O-Town is level three. Either start or end with the home location, guys! And then the final level is a Laundromat? Did you think that would be exciting for anyone?
  • So, did you beat it? Yes, and the “final boss” is a series of four drying machines. At least you can’t say that about most games…
  • Favorite Rocko’s Modern Life episode: It may be more saccharine than the typical Rocko fair, but I really enjoy the Christmas special. Is it entirely because of a cybernetic, laser-spewing robot Santa? Maybe.
  • Did you know? Joe Murray, creator of Rocko’s Modern Life, was once asked by a Nickelodeon executive to add “a professional woman, someone with a good hook.” So we got Dr. Hutchinson, a female dentist with a hook for a hand. God, I love this show.
  • Would I play again: Never, ever again. Terrible, terrible game.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Punch Time Explosion XL for the Nintendo Wii! From Nickelodeon to Cartoon Network! Let’s see if there was any improvement in licensed properties in the intervening years. Please look forward to it!

Doggy!