99. Revenge of the ‘Gator

Revenge of the ‘Gator
HAL Laboratories
Game Boy
1990

Once, long ago, the Balls wronged the ‘Gator. The specifics are not important. It is enough for us to know that the ‘Gator could not let this affront go unaddressed. The ‘Gator plotted and schemed and eventually a plan was hatched. A beautiful plan. Over the course of many months a trap was built, a giant machine elegant in it’s convolution: A weapon completely inefficient, yet perfectly suited for these particular enemies, his spheroid tormentors. A Pinball Machine. Vengeance would be his.

He lured all three Balls into his trap. Now, all he would have to is launch them into his Rube-Goldbergian death-gauntlet. One-by-one, they would careen randomly about the Machine, until gravity had her way. Unpredictably, but inevitably they would drain into his open, waiting jaws.

But what madness is this?! He has plunged the first of the accursed Balls into his Machine, but every time it nears the gutter, it is deftly flipped upward into the higher levels of the table. In fact, the upper level flippers rarely allow the Ball to get anywhere near the gutter. Meanwhile, the score grows and grows, a prolonged slap in the ‘Gator’s long, toothy face.

At the time, it had seemed a good idea to include the flippers. They gave the machine an authentic touch. Now, the ‘Gator rages at what his obsessive attention to detail has allowed. The ‘Gator had foolishly believed Pinball to be a game of luck. It is only now that he has realized the dark truth: Pinball is a game of skill.

Still, even the most skilled of opponents make mistakes. The ‘Gator would bide his time. Eventually those Balls would drain, and he would have his revenge. He would win in the end.

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

99.Revenge of The ‘Gator

Revenge of the ‘Gator
HAL Laboratories
Game Boy
1990

Once, long ago, the Balls wronged the ‘Gator. The specifics are not important. It is enough for us to know that the ‘Gator could not let this affront go unaddressed. The ‘Gator plotted and schemed and eventually a plan was hatched. A beautiful plan. Over the course of many months a trap was built, a giant machine elegant in it’s convolution: A weapon completely inefficient, yet perfectly suited for these particular enemies, his spheroid tormentors. A Pinball Machine. Vengeance would be his.

He lured all three Balls into his trap. Now, all he would have to is launch them into his Rube-Goldbergian death-gauntlet. One-by-one, they would careen randomly about the Machine, until gravity had her way. Unpredictably, but inevitably they would drain into his open, waiting jaws.

But what madness is this?! He has plunged the first of the accursed Balls into his Machine, but every time it nears the gutter, it is deftly flipped upward into the higher levels of the table. In fact, the upper level flippers rarely allow the Ball to get anywhere near the gutter. Meanwhile, the score grows and grows, a prolonged slap in the ‘Gator’s long, toothy face.

At the time, it had seemed a good idea to include the flippers. They gave the machine an authentic touch. Now, the ‘Gator rages at what his obsessive attention to detail has allowed. The ‘Gator had foolishly believed Pinball to be a game of luck. It is only now that he has realized the dark truth: Pinball is a game of skill.

Still, even the most skilled of opponents make mistakes. The ‘Gator would bide his time. Eventually those Balls would drain, and he would have his revenge. He would win in the end.

98. Quarth

Quarth
Game Boy
Ultra Games
1990

This is a terrible game that isn’t any fun to play at all. Even so, I applaud the idea behind it, which was to combine a falling block puzzle game like Tetris with a top-down shooter like Galaga. And while the unfortunate result of that idea turned out to be Quarth, there was still a genuine moment of inspiration behind this game’s creation.

When you think about it, puzzle games and shooters are two genres that actually have quite a bit in common. They’re both based on score attack, they both have a simplicity of gameplay, and the both tend to become increasingly frantic as the game progresses. While Quarth is a game fit only for people who hate fun, the creation of this abomination shouldn’t have closed the book on the larger concept. There is certainly room in this crazy world of ours for the freakbaby offspring of Tetris and Galaga, or of Panel De Pon and Ikaruga. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and Chou Aniki would probably have to adopt.

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

98. Quarth

Quarth
Game Boy
Ultra Games
1990

This is a terrible game that isn’t any fun to play at all. Even so, I applaud the idea behind it, which was to combine a falling block puzzle game like Tetris with a top-down shooter like Galaga. And while the unfortunate result of that idea turned out to be Quarth, there was still a genuine moment of inspiration behind this game’s creation.

When you think about it, puzzle games and shooters are two genres that actually have quite a bit in common. They’re both based on score attack, they both have a simplicity of gameplay, and the both tend to become increasingly frantic as the game progresses. While Quarth is a game fit only for people who hate fun, the creation of this abomination shouldn’t have closed the book on the larger concept. There is certainly room in this crazy world of ours for the freakbaby offspring of Tetris and Galaga, or of Panel De Pon and Ikaruga. Dr. Robotnik’s Mean Bean Machine and Chou Aniki would probably have to adopt.

97. Operation C

Operation C
Game Boy
Ultra Games
1991

The “C” stands for motherfuckin Contra. Super C and Operation C both dropped the ontra after some hijinkery in Iran gave the word negative implications. So this game was titled in code. That’s kind of stupid, but not as stupid as the fact that in Europe these games were called Probotector and all the people were replaced by robots, which were deemed more shoot-in-the-faceable than humans.

Violent intolerance toward robots was nearly omnipresent in the popular children’s entertainment of the 80′ and 90’s, a fact that seems shameful by today’s standards. While we’ve made progress since the days of Probotector, we still have a long way to go.

Fuck, I love me some Contra, even when it is monochrome and on a tiny screen and euphemistically labeled. I love it even when it is encouraging man-on-robot violence. It’s still fuckin Contra.

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

97. Operation C

Operation C
Game Boy
Ultra Games
1991

The “C” stands for motherfuckin Contra. Super C and Operation C both dropped the ontra after some hijinkery in Iran gave the word negative implications. So this game was titled in code. That’s kind of stupid, but not as stupid as the fact that in Europe these games were called Probotector and all the people were replaced by robots, which were deemed more shoot-in-the-faceable than humans.

Violent intolerance toward robots was nearly omnipresent in the popular children’s entertainment of the 80′ and 90’s, a fact that seems shameful by today’s standards. While we’ve made progress since the days of Probotector, we still have a long way to go.

Fuck, I love me some Contra, even when it is monochrome and on a tiny screen and euphemistically labeled. I love it even when it is encouraging man-on-robot violence. It’s still fuckin Contra.

95. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Game Boy
Nintendo EAD
1993

This is my favorite Zelda game, not counting the first one, which isn’t really a Zelda game. In Link’s Awakening you assemble an eight piece orchestra to awaken the Wind Fish from the giant egg nestled on the peak of a mountain. If that doesn’t sound like the best Zelda plot ever, we want different things from life. Also you can set dogs on fire.

I love this game’s goofy charm. From the mysterious forest that is helpfully labeled “”Mysterious Forest (a little bit mysterious)” to the children who will break the fourth wall to tell you, the player what buttons to press on your game boy, and then qualify their tips with “don’t ask me what that means. I’m only a kid!”, this game has a silly sense of wit that distinguishes it from the other entries in the series. It also features weird cameos by Princess Toadstool, Kirby, Will Wright, and many others.

Despite all the humor, at its core, Link’s Awakening is a very melancholy game. Link hits the tiny island setting of this game like a hurricane. The way things are presented in this game, I didn’t feel like a hero, saving a world, I felt like an interloper bringing chaos to world of peace. And then, about halfway through the game a bombshell is casually dropped: If Link awakens the Wind Fish, the world may cease to exist.

Since this is a Zelda game, “fuck! I better not do that then” is just not an option. As Link, I continue my quest, falling into the familiar rhythms of exploration and dungeon-solving. And as I beat the bosses, they each, in turn, warn me that I’m dooming everyone. Despite these warnings, I don’t slow down because I am Link and Link is born to quest. It is all he has in him.

In the end, The Wind Fish is awakened and the sleepy little island of Koholint is eradicated. I watch as the locations I visited and the friends I made are overtaken by bright white of nothingness. I have beat the game. I will move onto other locations and bleed dry their dungeons, and then I will move on yet again.

Link is no hero.

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

95. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Game Boy
Nintendo EAD
1993

This is my favorite Zelda game, not counting the first one, which isn’t really a Zelda game. In Link’s Awakening you assemble an eight piece orchestra to awaken the Wind Fish from the giant egg nestled on the peak of a mountain. If that doesn’t sound like the best Zelda plot ever, we want different things from life. Also you can set dogs on fire.

I love this game’s goofy charm. From the mysterious forest that is helpfully labeled “”Mysterious Forest (a little bit mysterious)” to the children who will break the fourth wall to tell you, the player what buttons to press on your game boy, and then qualify their tips with “don’t ask me what that means. I’m only a kid!”, this game has a silly sense of wit that distinguishes it from the other entries in the series. It also features weird cameos by Princess Toadstool, Kirby, Will Wright, and many others.

Despite all the humor, at its core, Link’s Awakening is a very melancholy game. Link hits the tiny island setting of this game like a hurricane. The way things are presented in this game, I didn’t feel like a hero, saving a world, I felt like an interloper bringing chaos to world of peace. And then, about halfway through the game a bombshell is casually dropped: If Link awakens the Wind Fish, the world may cease to exist.

Since this is a Zelda game, “fuck! I better not do that then” is just not an option. As Link, I continue my quest, falling into the familiar rhythms of exploration and dungeon-solving. And as I beat the bosses, they each, in turn, warn me that I’m dooming everyone. Despite these warnings, I don’t slow down because I am Link and Link is born to quest. It is all he has in him.

In the end, The Wind Fish is awakened and the sleepy little island of Koholint is eradicated. I watch as the locations I visited and the friends I made are overtaken by bright white of nothingness. I have beat the game. I will move onto other locations and bleed dry their dungeons, and then I will move on yet again.

Link is no hero.

94. Kirby’s Pinball Land

Kirby’s Pinball Land
Game Boy
Hal Laboratory
1994

The vast majority of people who have played Super Mario Bros. have never beat it. In fact, based on my experiences playing Mario with civilians, I’d wager that the majority of people who have played Super Mario Bros. have never used the run button, which is akin to playing Monopoly without collecting sets of matching property.

People who don’t normally play video games love the crap out of Mario, even as they suck at it. They suck at it hard. There is something deep within us that goes gooey at the prospect of making a cartoon dude or lady move from left to right, jumping on or over simple objects. Take that aspect of Mario, and give it a much more gentle slope of difficulty, and you have the mainline Kirby series. I get that. The result are pretty bland games, but they are games that fill a useful role in the cosmos.

The platformers make up about half of the games in the Kirby canon. The other half is a longstanding legacy of random goof-ass games. Some of them have weird control schemes, using tilt controls, or a stylus. Others are miscellaneous puzzle games where the window dressing is basically incidental. A common theme is for Kirby to stand in for a traditionaly non-sapient ball: Kirby as a golf ball, Kirby as the ball in Breakout, Kirby as a yarn demon-that-happens-to-be-round, and, naturally, Kirby as a pinball.

I love the insane unpredictability of the Kirby side-project games. Near as I can tell, HAL Laboratory encourages designers to pitch oddball games that have questionable mainstream appeal, and then they slaps their pink Brand Recognition Monster onto them. Which is a pretty noncommercial way to be shamelessly commercial. Some of the end results even turn out to be pretty awesome games. Not Kirby’s Pinball Land, but some of the others.

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

94. Kirby’s Pinball Land

Kirby’s Pinball Land
Game Boy
Hal Laboratory
1994

The vast majority of people who have played Super Mario Bros. have never beat it. In fact, based on my experiences playing Mario with civilians, I’d wager that the majority of people who have played Super Mario Bros. have never used the run button, which is akin to playing Monopoly without collecting sets of matching property.

People who don’t normally play video games love the crap out of Mario, even as they suck at it. They suck at it hard. There is something deep within us that goes gooey at the prospect of making a cartoon dude or lady move from left to right, jumping on or over simple objects. Take that aspect of Mario, and give it a much more gentle slope of difficulty, and you have the mainline Kirby series. I get that. The result are pretty bland games, but they are games that fill a useful role in the cosmos.

The platformers make up about half of the games in the Kirby canon. The other half is a longstanding legacy of random goof-ass games. Some of them have weird control schemes, using tilt controls, or a stylus. Others are miscellaneous puzzle games where the window dressing is basically incidental. A common theme is for Kirby to stand in for a traditionaly non-sapient ball: Kirby as a golf ball, Kirby as the ball in Breakout, Kirby as a yarn demon-that-happens-to-be-round, and, naturally, Kirby as a pinball.

I love the insane unpredictability of the Kirby side-project games. Near as I can tell, HAL Laboratory encourages designers to pitch oddball games that have questionable mainstream appeal, and then they slaps their pink Brand Recognition Monster onto them. Which is a pretty noncommercial way to be shamelessly commercial. Some of the end results even turn out to be pretty awesome games. Not Kirby’s Pinball Land, but some of the others.