Inside Pulse 12

Retrograding 02.12.03

Man, what a busy week it’s been. Only an Advance and mailbag column from me last week! I must be slipping.

Actually, I’ve been exceptionally busy with real-world stuff. Dealing with White Wolf, Games Workshop, Eden Studios, and WotC in terms of things I’ve written, and also conducting two interviews for upcoming Retrograding columns. One with a member of the UK Xbox team, and the other with singer, voice actor, and all-around talented guy, ERIC STUART. He’s the guy from Slayers, Pokemon, Shadow Hearts, and Valkyrie Profile. So look for those after next week’s tribute to the Shining Series. As well, I’ll let Bebito tell you in his next column about the ‘Sakura Taisen’ incident that came that involved me actually flagging down people in Sega of USA and Japan to get a straight answer out of all the rumours going around. (And after all that help, he and Ron act like all I play are RPG’s. Makes me wanna cry. Sadly though, all this work for future columns means there’s been a week of quiet. But I’m back and ready to roll!

This week, I’m taking a different approach. This weekend saw my fiancee, playing Final Fantasy 8, and swearing about it constantly. How you can’t turn off the Guardian Force animations, the lack of being able to save a game when you want to instead of playing for 1-2 hours and still not encountering one, the massive amount of random battles, the complete lack of AI, and how the characters may be pretty but move like puppets. Okay, I said the last one. But she likes Final Fantasy games, even though she complains about how crap they are. Just like she enjoys Muppet Monster Adventure, even though she swears at the game constantly. She can’t say why she enjoys it even though it’s obviously more stress than fun, but she holds true to that statement.

With that, this week I thought that topic would make an interesting columns. Love-hate relationships with games. And besides the Final Fantasy series, I think we can all name a few games like that off the top of our head. Horrible controls, shitty graphics, poor gameplay, annoyingly bad story, yet we feel compelled to beat the game and can’t seem to junk it out of our personal collections. Many people seem to have this with Tomb Raider, although they tend to be overweight acne-ridden virgins, I’m going to cover ten of my that fit into this category and I’d love to see lists from you as well.

FESTER’S QUEST (NES, Sunsoft)

Yeah, a lot of these will probably be Nintendo and Atari games. But man, was this game the most bizarre use of a license since the “Let’s kill all the X-Men” game run on the Doom Engine. You play the part of Uncle fester from the Adams family and you run around with and there’s not much of a story. Strange monster/alien things kidnap Wednesday and Pugsley and Uncle fester builds a weird gun to go blow the beasties away while running through the town and saving people left right and center.

Okay, besides the fact the gameplay is atrocious, the graphics are poor even for a Nintendo game, and most of the time you’re just wandering around wondering, ‘What the &^%&%& do I do next?’ there’s the obvious plot problem. You see, the Addams Family would probably sit on their roof eating popcorn and laughing at monsters terrorizing normal people. Gomez would say something like, ‘This reminds me of when Uncle Crudley tried to make Swiss Cheese come to life. I kept telling he was using Edam though.’ Weird stuff like that. The thought process one would have to stretch to see members of the Addams family do anything heroic is too hard to actually fathom. This game just sucks in every form imaginable. Yet, I still get the craving to play it. Maybe I just like my bald blob of sprites zapping black balls of stuff at monsters that appeared to have come from Master Blaster.

X-Men (NES, LJN)

Now I’m not much of an X-Man fan. I liked Excalibur and that was it. I generally find the X-Men series to be “super heroes with the personality of teenage Goths.” But I like this game even though it’s one of the worst games ever made. Yes, even worse than the Sega Genesis X-Men game.

You can play as Storm, Iceman, Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler and Colossus. Now it’s just a top view beat ’em up level game where you run through a level, fight and boss and go back. The problem is that the game is ugly with graphics that are often times unclear. It also doesn’t help the manual tells you nothing about how to play the game and the only way you figure out what to do is by trial and error. An example is with Nightcrawler. The guide says “Press B to activate special mutant power.” And you’re thinking “Okay, Nightcrawler teleports.” Press the button and he ‘Bamfs’ only to reappear in the exact same spot. Only by dicking around do you learn that you actually hold the B button down and use the D pad to direct where Nightie will appear. But each step takes health from him. So yeah, you can go through walls, but you have to watch it. As well, Iceman and Storm can slide across the screen instead of plod at a horrible rate of speed like the other x-men, but again, you have to find that out for yourself. Wolverine heals as he should, which makes up for punching, as it tends to hurt you because touching enemies and monsters hurts your own guy thus meaning Colossus who has no ability other than punching is quickly dead, as he is in the comics. And the boss fights seem to make no sense, with the White Queen, Magneto, And Juggernaut running around the screen not aiming or doing anything other than what appears to be an epileptic fit. I swear this game was made only to cash in on a Marvel license, which is very common in console games. It also brings us to my next game I’m ashamed to admit I enjoy.

Captain America and the Avengers (Sega Genesis, Data East)

Here’s the two-fold reason why I like this game. One the Arcade game version of this is incredible. It’s the best Marvel game ever made, but rare as fuck, so if anyone knows where I can buy one, let me know. It’s just awesome. The second reason is that I mark out for Captain America like Work Rate freaks drool over Benoit/Angle matches. And I think that the combination of those two bits of Nostalgia are why this game is still in my collection.

See, it has the same plot as the Arcade game, and the same playable characters, but that’s where the two games stop having anything in common. The control is horrible in this game, where even with a new joystick, the video game seems to get mixed up as to what buttons you are pressing. And when I was 16 I exchanged my first Avengers game to make sure it wasn’t just that one copy. But now, the gameplay control is that horrible. As well, the graphics are Amiga worthy. You can’t make out really who any villain is. Only because I have a damn near photographic mind could I tell who was Whirlwind, the Mandarin, and Crossbones (a truly underrated comic villain).

But what is worst is simply the dialogue. With lines like:

Hero: Don’t try to escape.
Villian: You will be the one escaping!

Or

Hero: Thank you Wonder Man!

It makes you wonder if Capt’s Super Soldier serum is running low. Because I know some of you will run out and get this game because of this article, I won’t ruin how stunningly bad the end scenes are. However I will tell you this: MASSIVE GIANT NAZI ROBOTS!

Batman: Vengeance (PS2/GC/Xbox, Ubi Soft)

I’m getting the three super hero games out of the way right now. And this is one that probably a lot of you have seen/own. I hate the camera angles on this game. I hate the crappy play controls, how slowly you can shift between weapons, and the fact it’s like every other platformer on the planet with running back and forth, hitting stuff, pulling levers and filled with puzzle dead children could solve. And of course the repetitive voice acting with the bosses saying the same 2-3 lines over and over again until you reach for the mute button. Especially Mr. Freeze. Blah blah blah, yap yap yap.

But it is the story here that I enjoy the most. I like the Animated Batman series, although it’s nowhere as good as the 60’s Batman. Don’t start on me, there is no better Batman than Adam West, no better Joker than the Great Caesar Romero, and so on. Great actors stuck with hokey scripts and plots. But this is one of the few games I own for the cut scenes and story alone. I know I talk about story being the most important aspect of a game, but sometimes the story is hidden underneath horrible controls and you give up before you even get a taste of it. But still, with the fact the Game Cube version is prone to freezing, and that if you die you have to go back to the beginning of the level on the vehicle scenes, Batman: Vengeance gets so annoying that you find yourself cursing Ubi Soft on what has to be a rare occasion.

Tales of Destiny 2 (PS1, Namco)

And defenders of this game are going to come out of the woodwork because I put this on my ‘Games that I’m embarrassed to admit I enjoy list.’ See, the game has an INCREDIBLE story. So good, I bought the anime from Japan because I enjoyed the characters so much. It also has come fun mini-games, from an Iron Chef style game to a version of Whisk.

The problem is the actual gameplay is so horrendously bad, especially compared to the first two games in this series. Combat here in annoying as hell. If you go for a special, it MIGHT do the right move, but it also might trigger one of the other special moves you have Reid programmed with. You see, you can have four different special attacks at one time. One set by hitting the 0 button. One set by 0+up, one set by 0+down, and so on. Often though, the game mistakes which you go for, and you do a move that instead sets you up for an ass kicking instead of Neosonic Swarm of Demon Twist. It’s as if you were playing a SF game where you attempt a fireball and get a hurricane kick instead.

Another problem comes with the enemies. They tend to knock you down. A Lot. You NEVER knock them down. If they get off a special attack, they can’t by hit while doing it. You rarely complete a special attack as they can continue to assault you during it. You also tend to get turned around when they hit you. VERY annoying as it makes no sense and you waste valuable seconds trying to turn around. This is especially bad in Boss fights, where you tend to be the only person attacking.

Finally, you have a hard time running. It’s very Looney Tunes, where you run and try to stop, watching Reid skid past his opponent and then get bitch-slapped.

The graphics too are a problem. This would have been a kick ass 16 bit game. People would be raving about the graphics. But it’s on a 32 bit system. ToD2 just isn’t that pretty. Even the CGI sequences leave you disappointed, and that’s not good. Monsters are badly drawn and human characters have faces that are basically blank. No emotions. No features of any kind. And when you hit select to call up a hint, the graphics there are jaggier than a PS2 game.

ToD2 is one of those games people will only pick up if they’ve played the first two games, and even then it’s a huge disappointment to those that have. I just wish the Anime would have been longer and covered the whole plot of the game so that others could enjoy the great potential buried in a crappy game.

Snoopy vs the Red Baron (Atari 2600, Atari)

I know, none of you have probably ever heard of this game before, not only because it is an Atari game, but even for that system, it was rare. Ah me, an obscure game since the diapers. Anyways, the concept is this. You’re snoopy riding his damn dog house and you shoot the Red Baron silly. Only he never dies, there are no points, and occasionally the Baron drops food for Snoopy to pick up that has no noticeable effect. The AI is also so bad you can be right next to the WWI fighting ace and he does not bother to shoot. He just keeps flying. I have yet to figure out the point to this game 20 years after buying it for the first time.

The graphics are average for an Atari game, and it has no real control problems, other than it uses an Atari joystick. It just has no point, no goal, and you’re playing as a dog with a scarf and goggle set. It’s so surreal, you gotta love it, no matter how bad it is. What other Peanuts games are there anyways?

Brain Dead 13 (PSX/Saturn, Readysoft)

To be fair, this is the best out of the Readysoft Trilogy (Space Ace/Dragon’s Lair/Brain Dead) and Brain dead has the best stories, the best characters, and the best graphics. The problem is that the controls are absolutely crap. Even for the Readysoft games. You have to press the button or direction as the millisecond the game wants you to, or you die such a terrible death it’s funny. Funny because you get great death scenes. Then annoying because you’re sick of dying. Then funny again because the game is so bad in terms of play control you can’t stay mad. Then you write ‘No beer and no TV makes Home something something’ and your college dorm buddies find you have eviscerated your Korean exchange student roommate and you’re slurping up his intestines saying ‘Asians do make good Ramen.’ That wasn’t a true story. Really.

Brain Dead 13’s plot is simple. It makes fun of every horror movie cliché in the book. Your character comes to repair Dr. Nero Neurosis’s world destroying device. Nero is a brain in a jar with eyes BTW. You fix it then they send Fritz, Nero’s hunchback slave with claws for hands, to kill you. And you have to make it through the building alive and save the world form a Vampire Hairdresser, a Modern Prometheus who can’t figure out what professional sport he wants to play and a pair of one eyed witches. How’s that for insane. The game is just so surreal, I’m glad it was actually made. But it’s only for the masochist at heart to try and beat.

Crazy Vampire Dracula (GBC, Dreamcatcher)

Okay, this is on my list for one reason. No one else seems to know it exists. I even resorted to Gamefaqs to find someone who has played or even heard of this game. And no one has! It’s not even on Ebay, and that’s scary! I picked it up in Fargo, North Dakota for 10$ new because it was a Dreamcatcher game. You know, the company that made Necronomicon and the excellent Dracula: The resurrection?

Now here is the admittance. I can’t get past the first level. The book doesn’t tell you how to do anything. And the things it does mention are invariably wrong. It says when you have stunned a victim, you can suck your blood. No, if you try, YOU take damage! You can throw bats at people too, but the speed is slow and a guard dog can bite you 5 times in the time it takes to fling one. And there doesn’t seem to be a way out of the castle, even though there are 5 other levels. I seriously can’t find a way out. It’s bad enough he game just starts and doesn’t tell you what to do. The book implies you have powers at the beginning of the game, when in fact you do not. You have to run around the castle to find a witch who will make you the throwing bat if you find her missing potion. So you run around looking for it, eventually being lost, until you finally find it, near death as you can’t defend yourself…and then you realize you don’t know how to get back with the potion.

After the zillionth time you play this game and you do manage to crawl back to the witch and get the throwing bat, nothing happens. You get it, but from there you are given no idea what to do or where to go. You’re doomed to wander the castle hoping for something to do other than die. What a great game! And the kicker? It’s rated E for all ages! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

Anyways, this game remains in my collection simply because no one else seems to have heard of it, played it or knows anyone who has. If you have, email me just because it would be kick ass to find someone else who has been forced to play this pile of crap. Someday, I will find a way out of the castle…

Walt Disney Magical Racing Tour (PSX/DC, Eidos)

Now here’s the thing. This is an Eidos game that actually doesn’t suck. It’s the fastest, most intense cart game I’ve ever played, complete with the horror of playing ‘Gray grinning Ghost’ and ‘It’s a small world’ ad naseum as you race through Disney inspired worlds that go by so fast I know someone who gets car sick IRL and thus can’t play this game. And again, it’s rated ‘For all Ages.’

The graphics are okay. But it’s Disney, and I’ve always hated Disney. From the time where I headbutted Pluto in the groin when I was 7 in Epcot center to the horrible mockeries of classic literature they put out as film (Treasure PLANET?) or out right plagiarize from other companies and don’t bother to even acknowledge the original source (Lion King vs. Kimba the White Lion from Japan people. Watch the anime that was out LONG before the Disney movie.), I have hated Disney. Except for Duck Tales, a great cartoon and video game. But I have this game for the speed of it. The control is like most cart games: abominable. The graphics are okay with the DC version obviously being superior. But what sucks most of all, is except for Chip, Dale and a certain Cricket, there are no marquee name characters in the game. All the rest are Disney characters made just for this game. (Although Gizmoduck is unlockable in the DC version). Out of 12 characters only 3 are real Disney characters! What is up with that? That’s like buying a WWE game and getting X-Pac, Justin Credible, Albert, Just Joe, and an unlockable Brooklyn Brawler as the characters you can play with! Even Disney fans should be insulted by the fact Eidos can’t even use actual Disney characters in their game. It’s just sad a game using a license in any way is allowed to go out without ACTUALLY USING THE LICENSE!

Still, it’s fast!

Revelations: The Demon Slayer (GBC, Atlus)

Okay, again, this is a game only super hardcore people would have heard of. You see, this is a SHIN MEGAMI TENSEI game. You know, #2 on my list of greatest RPG’s of all time. Persona, the Velvet Room, Nyarlathotep? The whole shebang? Well, this game is one of the few ones in English, and Atlus rightly decided to pull the Megami name from this GB pile of crap. The only game I have ever played that is worse than this for the GB is WWF Betrayal.

See, the concept is good. It’s Persona meets Pokemon. But everything about this game stinks worse than gigantic piles of rancid whale feces. First, it’s not in modern times. It’s a Medieval setting. Second you set out along with a really big jerk and a monster loving pacifist to save the world from Lucifer by getting demons and monsters to join your side. Again, not a bad concept until you play it. For example, the way to get the chick to join your team? Kill her pet monster! Because of course that makes a demon lover decide to side with you and be your best buddy and go out and kill things with you!

As well, the entire story is written in Engrish. Yes, ENGRISH. Reading the dialog is like sitting through a marathon of “What’s Happenin’ Now.” You will go and commit suicide less than 1 hour into it.

Let’s see…what else is wrong with the game? Oh I know! The way you get monsters to join you? Something was lost in the translation as here’s an example.

Tree Monster: Do you like Trees?
You: Yes?
Tree Monster: WRONG ANSWER! (Hits you twice before you can attack.)

Now, maybe it’s just me, but if I was a living tree, I’d want people to like Trees! And it just gets so silly, persuading things just becomes a matter of luck and guessing instead of any actual brainpower.

Combat is slow, boring, repetitive and usually just involves you doing the same attack until the creatures are dead. It’s just a pile of suck in every way that a pile of suck can BE a pile of suck. Run from this game if you ever ever see it. It’s up there with Bible Adventures for the NES, Final Fantasy 8, and Sewer Shark on games that should come to live and eat their creators in some sort of divine karmic retribution!

So why do I own this game? Because I’m a Shin Megami collector. Just like I own the awful Sakura Taisen Online games that have nothing to do with the series at all and went out of my way to make sure my copy of SW3 had the Music box with it instead of a pink memory card. That’s the kind of freak I am. So don’t be like Alex. Write Atlus a nasty note saying, ‘WHY THIS? WHY NOT SOUL HACKERS? WHY NOT SOUL HACKERS???‘ So yeah, don’t play this game.

That’s it for this week kids! Enjoy, and email me with your crappy games that you can’t seem to get rid of. And of course tell me why. I’ll end this column now by letting Ron know that I’m not afraid of my games being scratched. Except Radiant Silvergun and Shining Force 3, Episode 2. Don’t touch!