Tag Archives: vampires

FGC #572 Night Trap

It's a trapThe sooner you internalize this simple fact, the happier you will be: Nobody knows what they are doing.

Let’s talk about the game so bad, it nearly destroyed everything. Let’s talk about Night Trap.

It is reasonable to assume you have heard of Night Trap. But do you know what the game actually is? It is interactive fiction! It is a playable movie! It is a game that ostensibly tries to be a “videogame” (as opposed to, like, one of those “games” you can play with a DVD remote), but features real, human actors. Night Trap has “graphics” on par with your average Marvel movie, which was practically unheard of at the time. In fact, “practically” nothing, Night Trap was approved for production in 1986, and filmed (with the intention of being released shortly) in 1987.

1987! That was the same year as Castlevania: Simon’s Quest, R-Type (1), and Final Fantasy (1)! Can you imagine a videogame having such amazing fidelity in 1987! And it isn’t Dragon’s Lair! This could have revolutionized gaming as we know it!

Heavy emphasis on the “could have” there, though. Years before the release of Night Trap, a murderer’s row of people that were ostensibly successful in the western videogame development world of the 80’s (Nolan Bushnell! Even my beloved videogame-shunning wife knows that name!), gathered together to create what would be this infamous title. Within this group, Tom Zito produced a device by the name of the NEMO. NEMO (considered so valuable, its acronym literally stood for Never Ever Mention Outside) could use VHS technology to create “movie-based” gaming through playing four video tracks. This technology was used to sculpt a proof-of-concept prototype, Scene of the Crime, which clearly displayed how one could enjoy a “murder mystery” type game. Clue was a fruitful property, right? Well, someone at Hasbro agreed, and NEMO was on its way to powering Night Trap.

What else is on?It is probably worth noting at this point that the brilliant minds that had previously been responsible for videogames as we know them maybe did not have a great idea of what people wanted from videogames. I have written about this phenomenon before, but the first twenty years of gaming were practically defined by people realizing that something would be a cool idea for a videogame (detective work!) and then just completely blowing it with an execution that was about as fun as watching an adorable puppy choking on your math homework (passively watching monitors for maybe something to happen!). The same generation of genius programmers that brought us the likes of Asteroids and Pitfall settled on the “gameplay” of Scene of the Crime being little more than meticulously watching a movie. Nobody wants to hold a controller in their hands and quietly wait for something to maybe happen. But Scene of the Crime, excellent tech demo or not, is just that, and Night Trap would not be much better. You may have been responsible for the whole of gaming in the 80’s, guys, but that didn’t mean you had a damn clue what would make a fun videogame.

And speaking of people that did not know what would work, let’s get back to Hasbro. Hasbro was ready to fund the production of Night Trap (one of the first videogames to include live actors, “movie” directors, and a director of photography that would go on to shoot Forrest Gump), but there were a few notes. Unfortunately, Hasbro was a toy company, so they were downright afraid of any lawsuits that may arise from violence that could be copied by an impressionable child. So the “vampires” intended to be Night Trap’s antagonists weren’t allowed to actually draw blood, and they had to use some manner of grabby-arm trash collector to ensnare their victims. This meant everything slid precipitously into the “goofy” category. Additionally, Hasbro eventually learned of the cost of producing the NEMO system game console that would actually play Night Trap (MSRP in 2021 dollars? About $630), and decided that, grabby vampires or not, Night Trap was literally not worth it. Hasbro purchased and funded the NEMO and its attendant games, but dropped ‘em like a hot potato(head).

Kind of a small dungeonAnd Hasbro in the 80’s really did know toys! They produced Jem (of the Holograms, natch) who once outsold Barbie. They won a lawsuit that allowed them to sell Transformers, or Go-Bots, or something that was a robot that could turn into probably not a robot. They purchased a children’s furniture company, and improved its profitability from millions to billions. And Hasbro was right on the cusp of being responsible for Barney the Dinosaur of Infinite Love/Money. This was a Hasbro that was hugely successful and poised to become the number one toy company in the known universe.

Yet, they could not foresee that new technology would be costly. Nor could they foresee that vampires using zoo-equipment might have unanticipated legal consequence. Brilliant toy company, stupid videogame producer.

But, like a vampire hobbling through the suburbs, Night Trap would not die. Rob Fulop, one of Night Trap’s designers, would call it a day at this point, and go on to be responsible for Petz. But Tom Zito purchased the rights to the NEMO games, and eventually founded his own company in an effort to make an appeal to Sony and its forthcoming Super NES CD-ROM system. That was a dead end and a half, so Zito migrated over to the only decent CD-based platform in town, Sega and its Sega CD.

So, six years after being conceived and five years after being filmed, Night Trap was finally released for the Sega CD in 1992. And, at this point in time, it was only a spectacular failure.

Get 'emHasbro may have been divorced from the project, but their changes remained. A game that was once supposed to feature ninja gradually morphed into something that included vampires, and now neutered vampires were scampering about. But it would be disingenuous to simply blame Hasbro for this debacle. Those ninja were replaced with vampires in the first place because it was determined that too much darkness would play poorly on modern television screens. So a game that was initially designed to be cloaked in shadow had to step out into the harsh light of poor illumination. What’s more, the one interactive bit of Night Trap, that the player could activate traps that would eject or otherwise harm the villains of the piece, necessitated some extremely awkward behavior from the stuntmen playing these malcontents. So our Draculas had to be reduced to “henchmen” that skulked along like Renfields that had been forsaking the blood for far too much hooch. And, as one might expect, those “real live actors” involved in the filming of Night Trap had no real idea what they were doing. To be clear, they were likely consummate professionals, but this was a new medium, and its not like a director can direct when they do not even have a full picture of what the final product is going to be. In short, Night Trap was a mess, and practically every corner of it exuded b-movie shlock.

And, oh yeah, the gameplay was frustrating, obtuse, and demanded a lot more dedication than Night Trap should have ever required. Do you know what color code is required at Minute 4 in the bedroom? No? Well get ready to watch someone die, stupid!

Actually, watching someone die repeatedly might make an impact on an impressionable player… Huh, I wonder if anyone else noticed that? Anyone like, you know, the entire United States Senate.

NERDS!Night Trap saw release in 1992, and it is cited as one of the chief reasons we had the 1993 Congressional Hearings on Videogames. Night Trap and its tremendously more popular cousin, Mortal Kombat, were cited as the primary motivating factors in this series of hearings, but, make no mistake, videogames had been a popular scapegoat for years. In 1982, Surgeon General Koop claimed that videogames could be affecting children’s health, as apparently Pac-Mania had infected the general populace. And, as Hasbro was well aware, this was the era when “won’t someone please think of the children” escalated to the point that you could barely have a dude in furry underwear bully a skeleton without someone shouting about kids hitting each other with homemade nunchucks. And, as we all know, once you involve the welfare of children, you know there are predators that are perfectly happy to profit off that fear, whether that be through actual profits or an eternal campaign bullet point.

In the fullness of time? These congressional hearings did have a good outcome: the creation of a ratings system for videogames. Considering the same had existed for movies for years, this was an excellent innovation for a medium that was still in its fledgling stages. But beyond that? This whole hearing was nonsense from top to bottom. The likes of Joe Lieberman and Herb Kohl were obviously punching down on a medium that did not yet have the clout to resist such a slanderous public hearing, and certain companies took the occasion to hurl accusations at their most prominent competitors. Howard Lincoln says Sega hurts kids that Nintendon’t. Yes, there were probably some genuinely concerned people involved in these hearings that frequently showcased clips of “videogame violence”, but it seems like the biggest names in gaming and politics were mostly just there to advance their own agendas (and Captain Kangaroo, too, who had reasons known only to him).

She's basically dancingAnd this was and continues to be terrible. Ever hear about Seduction of the Innocent? It was a book published by a psychologist in 1954, and it eventually led to Congress launching an inquiry that neutered the comics industry for decades. In short, Fredric Wertham called Batman gay (not an exaggeration, true believers), and that snowballed into the giants of the comics industry corralling guidelines into a path that incidentally promoted the very comics that those industry giants were selling. And if you weren’t one of those giants? If you were publishing horror and/or horny material? Sorry, you are out of business. Literally! And this meant that the Western comic book medium became regarded as the domain of children for (apparently) the rest of time. Want to see what an American “manga market” could look like? Too bad! We had Seduction of the Innocent and a bunch of gold-diggers pushing their own superheroes forward, and now all we get is Iron Man, Iron Man: Civil War, and Iron Man: First Sip.

And it could have happened to videogames, too! Actually, it absolutely did. Thanks to ESRB regulations and conservative retailers, videogames were not sold in many brick and mortar stores if they ranked as an “Adults Only” title. And considering that physical stores were all that existed for a long time, we didn’t see anything that could even prod at that AO rating until three console generations later. And while no one is exactly lamenting a lack of Senran Kagura on the Super Nintendo, it is hard to say if something like the entire Suda51 or Yoko Taro oeuvre would have been allowed in the wake of 1990s videogame panic. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, gaming needs more voices in its chorus, and we would be missing out on some very distinct tones if we universally outlawed android butts.

But that was the sad reality of videogames for decades. All thanks to a pack of opportunistic senators. All thanks to some very imprudent videogame directing. All thanks to very fearful toy manufacturers. All thanks to some ill-advised hardware consideration. Going back years, damage was done to the videogame medium for decades, all thanks to a series of ostensible pillars in their respective fields making the wrong choices.

Love this guyAnd what can we learn from this? Well, at every step in the process no one really did anything objectively wrong. Wanting to drop brutal ninja for fantastic vampires is not wrong. Wanting to protect children from the horrors of violence is not wrong. Wanting to revolutionize gaming in new and exciting ways is not wrong. But the end result? Night Trap scarred gaming for decades, but it was the men (I’m going to go ahead and assume it was mostly men here) in charge that made the repeated decisions to somehow make this product and its legacy worse and worse. No one did anything wrong, but they made the wrongest decisions possible. And, as a result, Night Trap became a game so bad, it nearly destroyed everything in its wake.

Kind of makes you wonder what would happen if these people were in charge of something actually important

FGC #572 Night Trap

  • System: Despite objections from 1990s Nintendo, Night Trap is now available for the Nintendo Switch. Amazing! It is also available for the Sega CD, Sega CD/32X (long story), 3DO (such a cursed system), and, eventually, the Playstation 4/Vita (also significantly cursed).
  • Number of players: No way you could play this with anyone else. Ever.
  • Port-o-Call: The Sega CD is a bit of a… let’s say the graphics took a hit. Not all recordings are created equal. Or at a resolution above 10 x 10 pixels. But the 32X version is a significant improvement. And the modern versions actually look like the game is supposed to look. That said, it’s all the same terrible game, so don’t get too excited.
  • What us even happening?Let’s talk about the plot: A lot can be said for how the gameplay is terrible, and the acting is horrendous. But one thing that is often overlooked is that, whether it’s because the writing has to account for multiple characters that may or may not be kidnapped, or simply because no one knew what they were doing, the ostensible protagonists are wholly forgettable. You are supposed to be saving lives here! And the only character that even seems worthy of having a name is the secret vampire ham-man! Everybody else is just horrible, and that is likely a contributing factor in Night Trap being about as fondly remembered as polio.
  • So, did you beat it? Naw. Went ahead and watched a “full” run through on youtube, but there is no way I am going to take the time to carefully map out exactly where “I” have to be when. The whole thing is just exhausting for the payoff of having watched a complete movie.
  • For the Sequel: Everything about Night Trap/Scene of the Crime would eventually “work” in other games. Scene of the Crime’s concept of detective work would eventually be adapted into the hugely entertaining Phoenix Wright franchise by finding the right level of interface for solving a murder, and the basic gameplay of Night Trap would later work as the Five Nights at Freddy’s series. So, in other words, what the NEMO needed was more whacky lawyers/animatronics.
  • Did you know? The other game that was supposed to launch with the Hasbro NEMO? Sewer Shark. Now there’s a system seller for the ages!
  • Would I play again: Not for all the wannabe vampires in Castlevania. This game is a bear in every conceivable way. And not a cuddly bear! One of those bears that leaves you generally dissatisfied with your current organ count.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bowser’s Fury! Or Furry! It’s one of those! Please look forward to it!

It's out of control
Any version that doesn’t include a Genesis controller is not real.

World of Final Fantasy Part 05

Chapter 15: Mako Reacting
Initial Stream: 10/14/20



BEAT is missing, so guest commentator Abby Denton has joined us for the night as we raid a Mako Reactor.

2:30 – Spoilers: This game may or may not eventually tie into the one and only Xenogears in the exact same way that Xenosaga tied into the one and only Xenogears. Or maybe it won’t. It is a mystery.

12:00 – Apparently there is a Lupin III Sega Saturn game. It’s not Fighter’s Megamix, though, so that is a point against it.

21:00 – This dungeon is mostly a throwback to Final Fantasy 7’s initial “bombing run” level. That said, if you were expecting it to end with a FF7 cameo, or something from its extended universe (Shelke is apparently still here), you’d be disappointed, as the finale features the Black Mages. Er… to be clear, that is the black mages of Final Fantasy 9, not the musical group.

26:00 – More anime that is weirdly CG-based, while we discuss Plumed Knight during one of the few chapters where she doesn’t appear.

29:00 – BEAT steps in to point out Funko Pop sex is terrible (and so is this game)

What actually happened in the plot: After regaining their powers thanks to irrelevant Dirge of Cerberus Guest Character Shelke, the twins venture through a Mako Reactor (which, incidentally, is later named by Edgar as a discovered, unknown technological area called “Midgar”). Apparently the reactor is being protected by a group of black mages led by Vivi. After attempting to capture Vivi in a pokéball, Vivi “awakens”, and then leads his black mage buddies to destroy the reactor. This frees Figaro, which leads to King Edgar offering his thanks and an apology for the whole “tossing everyone in a dungeon” thing. Vivi was also apparently holding onto the Earth Key, so now we’ve got half the necessary elemental macguffins in this world. We’re told the next key should be past the Big Bridge, so we head off there after Bahamut makes an ominous, split-second appearance.

Chapter 16: A Bridge Too Boring
Initial Stream: 10/14/20


1:46 – Eiko appears, and she introduces a bridge that is fairly big. It’s apparently this world’s Alexander summon all bridge-ified, so I guess we should be thankful we get a summoner that is at least marginally related to Alexander’s big Final Fantasy 9 moment.

5:40 – Some great animation here right before the second summoner in this game gets kidnapped while the heroes aren’t paying attention.

15:30 – GIG-AN-TAUR!… is at least something to brighten up this boring dungeon. It’s a straight line from toe to tip.

26:00 – Let’s talk about the Super Mario Bros movie while nothing happens and I get lost. Apparently I was supposed to trigger a cutscene somewhere up at the top of the bridge, but I missed that, and now I’m stuck wandering around like an idiot. This happens a lot this night.

34:00 – fanboymaster provides a detailed explanation of How Final Fantasy 7 hidden characters could have worked. I for one welcome a Yuffie that is impossible in every way.

38:36 – Finally back to plot. It’s Buttz and Boko!

45:00 – Abby explains that she was the person who originally named all the Pokemon. This story may or may not be accurate.

55:00 – Talking about voting opposite Gilgamesh showing up. Will we be streaming on election night? I have no earthly idea. (Spoilers from the future: nope!)

What actually happened in the plot: The Big Bridge was apparently summoned by a jiant some time ago, so that’s probably another oblique reference to the mysterious and missing mother of the twins. Eiko is keeping track of the bridge, but Plumed Knight (who has some enigmatic connection to mirages) fights and kidnaps the tiny summoner. As a result, the twins have to cross the bridge on foot, and they meet Bartz, who is searching for someone who is posing as him. Apparently it’s Gilgamesh, and he’s not so much posing as Bartz as just shouting “Bartz!” over and over again while causing mayhem. Did people think he was a Pokémon? Regardless, Gilgamesh is banished from the bridge, Bartz retires to parts unknown, and the team moves onto a dark area that hopefully holds the next key.


Chapter 17: THE TRAIN GRAVEYAR- WAIT A SECOND! YOU CAN’T BE HERE! YOU WEREN’T EVEN IN THIS VIDEO!!!!
Initial Stream: 10/14/20
As relayed by BEAT



You know, when I yelled at Gogglebob to let me do this one, I hadn’t realized that the video was an HOUR AND A HALF LONG WHAT THE FUCK GOGGLEBOB WE TALKED ABOUT THIS OH MY GOD.

00:00 – So I haven’t watched the prior two videos and only caught enough of the stream to get SUPER PISSED OFF at the idea of Funko Pops Fucking, so I’m not 100% sure on how the anime teens found a train to Halloweentown. I’m just gonna roll with it.

01:00 – Up till this point, both Anime Teens have been completely devoid of anything resembling personality, so it’s kind of equal parts refreshing and shocking when the girl completely loses her shit and swears one thousand times revenge on the Halloween train’s Cactuar Conductor.



And like, it comes out of literally fucking nowhere, and has actual effort and CRAFT put into the animation, while adding literally nothing to the plot? When was it established that her personality is ANGRY GIRL? What the fuck just happened?

06:00 – The murder attempt aborted, The anime teens and their horrible mascot ride the train to some Parthenon looking building called… TOMETOWN OF THE ANCIENTS. Anyways some vampires threaten them, but then some dork who uses too much hairspray (Editor’s Note: it Cloud) shows up and saves them I guess whatever.

10:30 – Cloud takes the kids to Celes, who’s wearing what APPEARS to be the Funko pop version of Cammy’s outfit from street fighter. Also a CID, but it’s not the Cid who likes rockets and swear words, so it’s the WRONG CID. Anime boy is racist against robots. Anime girl has interesting ideas about English syntax.

19:50 – So I seriously thought it was gonna be a LIBRARY DUNGEON, but instead the official dungeon for this area is some kinda train graveyard. I genuinely like the visual design, with the misty blue backdrop of rusted, decaying train cars in stacks hundreds of feet into the sky. as far as places to wander around and accumulate XP go.

21:00 – Fanboy takes the very reasonable stance that the Train Graveyard in FF7 isn’t in his top 10 locations from the game. Abby calls his bluff, which was a mistake because Fanboy never bluffs.

34:20 – I zoned out for awhile during my listening session, so I’m honestly not sure why the commentary crew is suddenly talking about public urination. I’m willing to concede that the commentary crew is probably right on the basic point that you could learn a lot about someone by how they react to uh.. that. But also, what the fuck no stop.

45:00 – I’m learning a lot about a Magical Gay Vampire Queen? And her cotton candy girlfriend? Good for them.

1:04:20 – The following exchange has been preserved with only minimal editing.
PAST GOGGLEBOB, IN THE VIDEO: I could make a political Joke right now…
PRESENT BEAT, LISTENING TO THE VIDEO: Don’t you fucking dare.
PAST GOGGLEBOB: …but it would be way too obvious.
PRESENT BEAT SIGHS AND THEATRICALLY WIPES HIS BROW IN RELIEF.
PAST FANBOYMASTER:
So let’s not.
PRESENT BEAT: Thank you Fanboy I knew you were my realest friend for a reason.
PAST ABBY: We’re all gonna die, go for it.
PRESENT BEAT: What the fuck Abby, I trusted you!
PAST GOGGLEBOB: "The democratic party…"
PRESENT BEAT: NO! NOOOOO!!!!!
PAST GOGGLEBOB: "…is hoarding its Elixirs"
PRESENT BEAT ASCENDS TO HIGHER LEVEL OF RAGE, SCREAMING FIE AND DAMNATION, SWEARING VENGENCE.

1:04:54 – Gimmie Gimmie!

1:07:45 – This game’s cutscenes keep getting ALMOST good and its FRUSTRATING.


Like I keep going "WAIT SHIT IS THIS GAME… GOOD?" and the answer is always "NO" and it’s starting to get on my nerves.

1:10:00 – Time to kill a vampire I guess.

1:13:20 – For like a good 3 minutes I really thought they were just gonna say "Hahah good thing we killed the vampire before you had a chance to turn since we established that killing him would restore everyone he turned 3 cutscenes ago." That would have almost been clever. Instead they had her turn in the post fight cutscene, and then the vampire is stabbed immediately afterwards, and she turns back. I have NO IDEA why that whole runaround was in the game at all.

1:19:00 – Tometown is much more visually appealing when its not full of vampires.

1:26:10 – "LOVE YOURSELF, BITCH!"

What actually happened in the plot: The anime Teens ride the Halloween train to Library Land, meet the MOST POPULAR FINAL FANTASY CHARACTER EVER (And Celes (And a fake Cid)) and conclude that it’s time to hunt a vampire. After like an hour or so of dungeon wandering, the sister gets kidnapped, and turned into a vampire for exactly 30 seconds. Then they kill the vampire and she’s fine. Then they go back to library land and get the exposition. Editor’s Addition: And they also obtain the Key of Darkness, bringing the total magical key count up to three out of four.

Next time in World of Final Fantasy: You gonna get wet.

FGC #524 Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2

Note: This article will contain spoilers for Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2. And maybe a few for Curse of the Moon 1 while we’re at it. The spoilers will be kind of dry, but there is discussion regarding the final boss, so you have been warned.

Aw, my blood got stainedToday, we’re going to talk about comradery, and wanting to jump in a bottomless pit when your buds aren’t around.

Previously on Gogglebob.com: I played Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon (1), and declared it the greatest thing since the invention of the magical whip. It took the basic concept of Castlevania 3, refined it to more modern sensibilities, and created an experience that was at once familiar and entirely new. What initially looked like a simple retread of an 8-bit title quickly blossomed and revealed itself to be so much more. And a significant factor in that bombshell was the general surprise of how all the characters could be utilized in wildly different ways. Miriam could be an expert ally with amazing agility and attack range, or you could sacrifice her on the end of your blade and gain a new attack. Your choice! And the levels were designed for any and all choices, so you could technically tackle the tower with a Zangetsu flush with companions or little more than a piddly sword. Play on Casual Mode if you stick to only the sword! You’ll thank me later!

Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 could have repeated the (exemplary) pattern of its progenitor. This could have been another expertly crafted game where you have a choice between joining some pals, going alone, or forfeiting friends for even greater abilities. Maybe throw in an extra boss for some particular “runs”, and call it a day. Zangetsu is a generally aloof protagonist, anyway, so even after his “real story” was released, a tale of Zangy equally joining or rejecting a dog in a mech wouldn’t be seen as a departure for the character/franchise. And the only reason we got B:CotM2 was because B:CotM1 was unbelievably well-liked, so a sequel that is “more of the same” would be wholly acceptable.

But no, Curse of the Moon 2 distinctly sets itself apart from its predecessor. CotM2 is a game about friendship, and relying on others.

Buzz buzzThe first difference here is obvious: you can’t not have a buddy in Curse of the Moon 2. Whether you want her or not, Dominique is going to be joining your quest after the first level. Robert is enlisting after a fight with Princess Toadstool. And Hachi the dog is going to be your constant companion after punching a train. These are your cohorts, and you’re stuck with them for the adventure. And that’s good for the player, ultimately, as the obstacles of CotM2 are built for a full party. It’s not just about Robert’s gun or Dominique’s spear being useful on occasion, it’s about how all the allies can work in concert to reach new and unexpected areas. Dominique uses her pogo jump to reach a high wall, Robert clings to the side for a moment, and then Hachi horizontally hovers to a valuable powerup. We’re all buds working toward a common goal! CotM1 seemed built for different characters to clear different paths, but challenges were generally constructed for allies working separately (give or take some transitive spells). Alfred’s fire shield could get you past a barrage of arrows, but Miriam, Gebel, or Zangetsu would be completely flummoxed by such a barrier, and be effectively useless. The same question in CotM2 could have multiple answers (Robert’s crawl, Hachi’s invincibility), so it seems the designers decided to add additional “challenges” to the same problem. Now you’ll need Hachi’s berserk mode, but then quickly switch to Dominique’s pogo spear to avoid taking a hit from another opponent. Everybody is working together so well!

And that is probably a big influence on why losing a comrade in CotM2 leads to some very… deadly situations.

Watch those tentaclesBoth CotM1 and CotM2 have the same “lives” system. In normal mode (Veteran? We’re calling it that? Am I old?), losing a “life” while playing as a particular character does not mean your precious life counter depletes, it simply means the impacted character is taken off the board. In order to lose an entire life, literally every character has to perish. In many cases, this is an ideal setup, as simply losing a companion means you can respawn somewhere close to your death (rooms aren’t all that big), while an entire lost life means being set back to a candle that resets a full third of the level. And losing a companion isn’t hard! Alfred or Robert both have health meters that would qualify as uninsurable preexisting conditions, and practically every character has issues with knockback. It doesn’t matter if you’re navigating those haunted corridors with perfect precision, if the wrong bird bumps into you at the wrong time, you’re going down in the drink. And that’s it for your chosen buddy!

But, while the systems in both games may be the same, the worlds of CotM1 and CotM2 couldn’t be more different. CotM1 was built for one hero at a time, but CotM2 continually introduces challenges that encourage cycling through your entire repertoire. One hallway is filled with frogs that require stomps from a robo-dog, the next room is lousy with axe knights that could stand to be introduced to a rifle, and then you need the spear of a nun to take out rows of wannabe zombies. You are continually and constantly thrust into situations where you have to use the full party in CotM2. But what happens when you don’t have a full party? Well, it gets dicey. When you need a ranged attack, and all you have is a sword that could barely qualify as a letter opener, you’re going to have a bad time. When you can see a high path overhead, but your bounding beauty is otherwise engaged with Death, you’re stuck knowing you missed out on a We're working togetherbetter route. And then, ultimately, what’s the point? Your favored companion is gone, it is going to be a pain in the ass to make it across these chandeliers as Robert, why not end it all? Just toss yourself in a pit and be done with it. You might lose a little progress, but you’ll be reunited with your friends in death.

And it seems like a terrible moral, but that seems to be the point of Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2.

There are four chapters in CotM2. Each “chapter” is basically a run through the same levels (give or take a little variability for the final level/boss), and is lengthy enough that it would be considered an entire game back in the olden days. The first chapter sees Zangetsu’s initial assault on demon-kind, and, as the levels progress, he gains new companions and skills. At the end of this initial chapter, one of his new friends is devil-napped, and the remaining group decides to venture through Chapter 2 to perform a rescue. This creates an interesting situation wherein you now have 3/4s of the party from the start, but, since one companion is missing for the entirety of the chapter, said ally’s absence is continually felt as early as the second level. And, depending on if Zangetsu is diligent in using his current allies to find fresh, hidden paths, it is entirely possible Chapter 2 will be a complete failure, and then Zangetsu will be forced to tackle a third chapter with an entirely different host of partners. These new buddies (or old buddies, as they are the cast of CotM1) offer many different options to separate them from their metaphorical descendants… but they’re still not the same companions you’ve been utilizing for the previous two chapters, so situations where “oh, Robert would be great here” quickly erode into a feeling of “Aw, I miss Robert”. Finally, after all that, the final chapter is unlocked, and now you have the option of using the entire party of both games, but you have to pick and choose who you’re going to “rescue” from each level before tackling the final challenge. You miss Hachi? Well, go get ‘em! You could have a full party of everybody, or simply make a beeline to the finale with only your trusty sword to guide you. Hey! For the first time in CotM2, you have a choice! It took a while, but we’re back to the freedom of CotM1!

Except… you don’t have a choice. You never had a choice.

It's too hot todayThere’s something else new in CotM2 that hasn’t been mentioned yet: between every level, there is a brief scene between the current members of Zangetsu’s party. In snippets of life that only take seconds at a time, we initially see reluctant associates begrudgingly tolerating each other between battles. Then, when one is taken from them, the remainder mourns, but resolves to see the situation (and their hearts) mended. When Zangetsu is reunited with the familiar cast of his first adventure, they spend their downtime laughing and jocularly carving ice sculptures (as you do). And, finally, when everyone has convened to build a spaceship to fly up and murder the moon, conversations between the assembled hunters seem fun and lighthearted. Everyone fights evil across multiple dungeons, yes, but they actively become friends during that time. To ignore the bonds that have been formed would be as unbecoming as ignoring how many shortcuts Gebel can use when he transforms into a bat.

But even if you do ignore the obvious fact that Alfred is going to invite this whole gang to his wedding, you can’t escape your companions. Since the option finally becomes available during the final chapter, you may assume that taking Zangetsu alone to the final battle would result in a unique, albeit lonely, ending like CotM1. Unfortunately for all the dedicated loners out there, that does not happen. Zangetsu may approach the finale of CotM2 alone, but his companions will return for the ultimate battle, and they will assist Zangetsu whether he likes it or not. In the end, whether you decide to retrieve the best pup (and the rest of those hangers-on) doesn’t matter: the bonds you’ve formed are going to be there regardless.

This is familiarSo maybe it’s appropriate that losing an ally during a level feels like a setback every time. Maybe diving into instant death to retrieve a buddy is right in a game that puts such an overt emphasis on friendship and comradery. Maybe the fact that you absolutely have to rely on your party, one way or another, is the most distinct way Curse of the Moon 2 chose to distinguish itself from its predecessor. This is your traditional “8-bit sequel” that reuses monsters, characters, and other assets; but it also found a new and interesting way to present its franchise. Curse of the Moon 2 is its own animal with its own moral about the importance of friendship and the necessity of relying on others.

… Or you can just unlock solo mode, and ignore the whole thing…

But still!

FGC #524 Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2

  • System: Looks like this one is on the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Steam. Did it make it to the Vita this time? No it did not.
  • Number of players: And just to add to the friendship, this game is two-player simultaneous. I would really like to try that sometime! Apparently it even allows for a Tails-esque “mascot” second player! They got my letters!
  • BiteyFavorite Character: I really want to say Hachi the Dog. He’s awesome, and his hover and nigh-invulnerability is always useful. That said, Robert seems like the most unique member of the cast (more so than the dog riding a robot? Really?), and his crawl, rifle, and wall jump are all extremely…. I guess “interesting” would be the right word. I didn’t use him as much as the rest of the cast, but I wanted to figure out where he would work best, and that means a lot in this well tread genre. He’s new and different, so the Mega Man X character gets second place. … Or maybe I’m just partial to Bobs
  • Favorite Boss: Once again, the official website apparently names most of the bosses. And they’re pretty neat! It seems like the “sub” Bloodstained games put a lot of macabre thought into their monster messes. Titankhamun, the giant mummy, wins my vote here, as he’s responsible for a frantic battle that rewards Robert’s participation. Projectiles can come in handy when your opponent is filling the screen with ‘em!
  • Boss Rush: Speaking of which, unlocking the Boss Rush after clearing the advanced versions of the bosses on parade like four times, and then starting the actual challenge with the “original” bosses is… a little confusing. I literally don’t remember the first chapter at this point! How was that dragon supposed to work again?
  • Begin Again: Is there ever an explanation for why the ever-changing gang has to retreat back to the first stage for every new chapter? I mean, aside from it being an excuse to play through the whole of the game again? It seems like that volcano would be a pretty safe place to rest and regroup…
  • I can hear these blocksGoggle Bob Fact: I wasn’t planning on reviewing this game after the original Curse of the Moon. This is mainly because I feel like I review way too many Castlevania games as it is. … Or… almost Castlevania games. Regardless, the friendship factor was pretty interesting, so congratulations to the Curse of the Moon 2 staff on actually making something new and interesting for the franchise(ish).
  • So, did you beat it? As if you can’t tell from the spoilers-abound, yes, I beat every last route and option within said routes. However, I’m not going to tackle the freshly updated higher difficulty levels, because this game is hard enough on Veteran mode. Zangetsu can barely survive this horrible night to have a curse as it is!
  • Did you know? With current technology, it is impossible for a Welsh Corgi to pilot a robot. I’m sorry.
  • Would I play again: It would be pretty fun to see how Ultimate Zangetsu completely wrecks house through Chapter One. Hmmmm…..

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Parodius! Is… Is that the franchise, or a particular, never-localized game, ROB? I have to figure something out? Okay, fine. Stupid robot. Guess we’ve got Parodius up next, somehow, gang. Please look forward to it!

Good dog
Third best commute I’ve ever seen

MKK: Drahmin & Moloch & Mokap & Nitara

Look out!

Drahmin and Moloch are a couple. To be specific, they’re a couple of oni. Oni are a specific “breed” of demon in the Netherrealm (home to Scorpion, Quan Chi, and Adolf Hitler). They have a codependent, Jay and Sadistic Bob-esque relationship. Their place in the story was that they assisted Quan Chi in escaping the torture of Scorpion, but were left behind when Quan Chi actually made his way out of that literal hell. Shang Tsung, ever scheming to have a backup plan (because he fails so often), decided to keep the oni on speed dial, and turn their feelings of betrayal against Quan Chi should the need ever arise. Of course, Shang Tsung is an equally awful employer, so he just kept Drahmin and Moloch in the basement, waiting for a revenge that ultimately would never come. Sorry, guys. Other than tossing Scorpion into the Soulnado during their lunchbreak, Drahmin and Moloch didn’t do much for anybody, least of all themselves.

Drahmin is the more mundane of the two oni. Apparently he was born a human, but became the most hated of all creatures in this or any other realm: a landlord. He was damned to the Netherrealm for holding people’s homes as a commodity, and eventually mutated into an oni. He wears a magical mask that restores rational thought, but if he removes the mask, he becomes a mindless, vicious monster that posts on Reddit about the graphical fidelity of high-definition consoles well into the morning hours. He also has a spiked club permanently bonded to his right arm, and is constantly circled by a swarm of demonic flies. He has a tinder profile, but no one ever swipes right.

He's got a ball!

Moloch is the “monster” sub-boss of MK: Deadly Alliance. Like Goro, Kintaro, and Motaro before him, he is meant to be a brick wall before facing the real final boss(es) of the title. Moloch was born an oni (I have no idea how that works) and he has a gigantic stature, three eyes, blue skin, and a wrecking ball that he holds in the palm of his claw. As of this writing, he is the last “giant monster” sub boss that was introduced in the franchise, as future games either used gimmicky humans (like a team of Noob & Smoke), reused previous big bosses (say hello to Goro again forever), or saved their big guy for the real finale (behold the glory of Blaze).

Drahmin and Moloch both return for MK: Armageddon, but no one bothers to explain where they’ve been since MK: Deadly Alliance. I guess they just hung out in the basement when the temple exploded? Or they went back to Hell for some… Hell snacks? Whatever. The franchise doesn’t care, and neither do I. Drahmin and Moloch both seem to exist as an excuse to wedge some more visually interesting kharacters into the roster, but there isn’t much there beyond “Hell’s enforcers”.

He lost his ball!

Mortal Kombat 9 and onward seems to agree with me, too. Moloch and Drahmin are beheaded at Quan Chi’s behest in the MKX comics. This might be kanon, as Moloch’s severed head is tossed out as an opening taunt by Quan Chi during some Mortal Kombat X intros. But Moloch’s corpse also appears in Goro’s Lair in Mortal Kombat 11. And he’s got a head! This is so confusing! Maybe that’s just some other, somehow less interesting oni. Though I don’t see how any creature could be less interesting than Moloch…

Oh, wait, my bad. There is a kharacter less interesting than Moloch. Here’s Mokap.

Flawless

Mokap is a motion capture (get it?) actor that is inexplicably pulled into Mortal Kombat tournaments. He’s the super-secret kharacter of MK: Deadly Alliance, and he’s pretty much just there as a goof. Apparently he’s a tribute to Carlos Pesina, the motion capture actor for Raiden in the original MK Trilogy. This is kind of amusing, as Carlos is the brother of Daniel Pesina, the actor who played Johnny Cage (and Scorpion/Sub-Zero), who became such a persona non grata at Midway, the writers revenge-killed Johnny Cage like sixty times in two games. Oh, dang, I guess this trivia does make him more interesting than Moloch.

Regardless, Mokap is technically, kanonically present for two Mortal Kombat games (MK: Deadly Alliance and then MK: Armageddon), but he doesn’t actually impact anything. Given he doesn’t seem to be dead, he probably didn’t actually fight anybody, and just got the heck out of dodge once he saw a dude chuck a fireball across the arena. Smart guy.

Anybody left in Deadly Alliance? Hopefully somebody actually interesting? Oh! I remember now! The vampire lady!

ORB!

Now, this is entirely conjecture, but I’ve always had the floating theory that MK: Deadly Alliance was originally conceived as a Vs.-style tag-team fighting game. I’ve never seen any real evidence of this being the original intent, but it seems like nearly all of the fighters have thematic or general reasons to be paired up in duos across the roster. To wit:

· Shang Tsung and Quan Chi are the titular Deadly Alliance
· Kung Lao and Kitana are the “good” opposite numbers to the Deadly Alliance
· Johnny Cage and Raiden are the other obvious heroes in Liu Kang’s absence
· Sub-Zero and Frost are master and student
· Bo’ Rai Cho and Li Mei are Outworld buddies that wind up as master and student
· Sonya Blade and Jax are Special Forces comrades
· Mavado and Hsu Hao are the Red Dragons
· Kenshi and Kano are both being hunted by the Red Dragons
· Drahmin and Moloch are the oni duo
· Mokap and Blaze are the secret fighters
· And Reptile and Cyrax are the “masterless” wanderers that have teamed up at the behest of a vampire

These pairings account for the entire roster save two kharacters: Scorpion, the eternal loner (until he becomes un-undead later in the series), and Nitara, the vampiress that has successfully tricked Reptile and Cyrax into doing her dirty work. Do Scorpion and Nitara have anything to do with each other? Not in the least. Am I implying that there should have been some contrived reason for these two to team-up? Of course not. But what I am saying is that if Nitara did have a partner in some way, maybe she’d be part of the MK mythos for more than about thirty seconds.

ORB!

First of all, Nitara is definitely a vampire. It’s her race. She’s got wings, she drinks blood, and the Sun of Earthrealm will kill her. But she is allowed to wander around Outworld’s purple haze with impunity. Unfortunately, she’s pretty much stuck in Outworld, because her home realm, Vaeternus, was conquered some centuries ago. But there is a way out! Apparently some glowy orb hidden in lava is the only thing keeping Vampire World tethered to Outworld! If Nitara could find a way to shatter this orb, she’d be able to return to Castlevania with impunity. And Nitara had a plan for that! She just needed one robot, and a lizard man to help control the robot. Where was she going to find one of those…

Luck smiled on Nitara the day she found Reptile. She bribed the cold-blooded warrior with a sword of his ancestors (she actually found the thing in a Cracker Jack box, and Reptile knew this, but he was just happy to receive a gift from anybody), and demanded he incapacitate Cyrax, a robot man that had wandered into Outworld in pursuit of something to do. Reptile obeyed, and this left Cyrax damaged and without a way home, so Nitara made a deal with the cyborg: retrieve this orb dealy in a lake of lava, and I’ll send you home. Cyrax trusted Nitara completely (robots and vampires always get along [it’s in the Bible]), performed her task, and was sent home without so much as a kiss on the robo-cheek. Nitara destroyed the orb, her realm was instantly separated from Outworld, and she awoke back on the (presumably not at all sunny) shores of Vaeternus. Happy ending all around!

Nitara then found an excuse to return for Mortal Kombat: Armageddon, as she had to defeat Ashrah, a demon from Mortal Kombat: Deception that was making it her job to kill anything demonic or demon-adjacent. Apparently vampires qualified. Nitara set off to defeat Ashrah, but, like everybody else in MK:A, she died in the melee. And she didn’t even get to be revived in the new Mortal Kombat universe or comic book. Her last known whereabouts involve MK11 Erron Black casually noting that they used to date. Hey! There would be a good tag-team partner!

Oh, and that orb thingy? Turns out that was the incubation “egg” for the revival of the Dragon King. When Nitara broke it, she freed her realm, but she also released a spirit that possessed Reptile and transformed him into Onaga, the Once and Future King of Outworld. How did that work out? Well…

Next time: Onaga and his favorite idiot.