Let’s set the tone for today’s column with this:
That got your attention. Today, we’re going to discuss “cute” games. Specifically, those games that are often overlooked by the casual gamer simply because they have cute characters, or feature bright colors, etc. It’s a shame, because many of these titles have surprisingly deep gameplay, or are just plain fun. That’s what a game should be, right?
We’ll begin with the biggest whipping boy of the group, Pokémon. I don’t think any video game series has been shit on for no reason more than this one. The core games (not the spinoffs) have one of the best (if not the best) RPG engines out there, with more depth than any Final Fantasy or other mass market RPG. Don’t believe me? Even the original Pokémon games on the Game Boy had 151 playable characters with a nearly infinite combination of attacks and abilities. How many other RPGs, especially ones from that time period and system, can make such a claim? Later games literally offered unlimited replayability, with nearly 400 playable characters, ongoing challenges after completing the game, and non-player characters that actually grew in skill and personality over time. No other RPG can do that.
Next up, we’ve got the Hamtaro games. I’ll be the first to admit that the cartoon the games are based on is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen in my life. If it was any more syrupy-sweet, I’d twitch to death. However, the games released on the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance are actually quite good, and even RPG-ish in design (Ham-Ham Games being the exception). Not only that, the graphics and animation are quite impressive. And if you’re looking for some excellent Track ‘n’ Field-style gaming, look no further than Ham-Ham Games. Cutesy? Sure, but still engrossing and entertaining.
Moving on, we’ll take a look at the Kirby series. Originally, Kirby appeared in a relatively generic platformer on the Game Boy Color, Kirby’s Dream Land. Once he moved to the NES, though, he gained what would become his true gimmick: the copy ability. Kirby could inhale his enemies, and take their powers as his own. Subsequent games made use of this, giving us some of the most unique platformers found on the NES, SNES, and Game Boy systems. But…Kirby’s pink. That right there is a huge turnoff for the insecure teen FPS crowd. And his enemies aren’t soul-eating demons or half naked chicks; they’re cute fluffy monsters, or royal penguins, or giant eyeballs surrounded by a cloud. Still, as I’ve said, Kirby’s adventures were way ahead of their time, and breathe life back into the genre. Even now, his appearance on the Nintendo DS in Kirby Canvas Curse set the bar higher for innovative platforming.
Last but not least…we’ll go with one that may surprise you: Mario. Yep, that fat Italian plumber has been relegated to “kiddie” status. This is far beyond ridiculous, as just about every gamer grew up with Mario and Luigi in one way or another. Yet in the age of GTA and Halo, a guy who eats mushrooms and jumps on turtles seems to have no place. And this is a plumber who plays all manner of sports, has had RPG adventures, drives go-karts…you name it. Yet for some reason, morons out there decry it as “kiddie,” due to the bright colors and lack of blood. Give me a f*cking break.
Now…with the exception of Mario and possibly Kirby, a overwhelming majority of those who piss on “cute” games have one glaring flaw in their arguments: they’ve never played the games. Sorry, watching someone else play, or spending thirty seconds with a demo of Pokémon Snap! doesn’t count. It’s almost laughable to see these “tough guys” pitching a fit about “cute” games, when they have absolutely nothing to back up their arguments, since they’ve never played the games in question. If you have played a game, and don’t like it, then that’s certainly your opinion, and an informed one at that. But don’t go yelling “Pokamon’s rpg system is nevar as deep as KOTOR!!!1!11”, because it makes you look like an ignorant jackass.
Does it really matter what your friends think? Who cares if you play a wide variety of games, including the “cute” ones? Leave your ego at the door, and give some of the games a fair shot for once. You might just walk away surprised.