Looking for a new perspective?
When you break video games down to their most abstract, they are essentially sets of rules. You interact with the game by abiding by and eventually mastering the rules in a way that lets you progress or otherwise have fun. Toodee and Topdee pushes that abstract nature of video games to the forefront by combining two styles of games into one, bringing with it all the rules and conventions that come with each. Ultimately, the game represents the nature of making games and the experimental ideas that spring from it. Much like any two-headed chimera born of forbidden science, the experiment largely succeeds, even if it comes with some resulting identity issues.
It's like some kind of Battle Revolution!
Blasting defines Custom Robo. In fact, Custom Robo takes blasting to a level beyond the literal and possibly beyond reason. It integrates blasting into its identity on a philosophical level. Custom Robo always aims its sights on the next thing to blast, resulting in a game that constantly blindsides you from around the corner, trapping you in its frenetic pace.
It’s fun to say the word blast over and over, but what I mean by this in normal human terms is that the game consistently assaults you with the next thing: from robot battles to plot developments. That aspect of the game stood out to me even as a child. I vividly recall spending an entire weekend playing the game almost non-stop until it was over. It simply never felt like there was a good time to take a break.
Tons of free time and no real responsibilities played supporting roles here, but even then games rarely ensnared me to that degree. As a kid you don’t really want to finish games that fast, you know? Yet something, perhaps everything, about these customizable robots compelled me to keep playing.
Watch Out Whispy Woods, Kirby Needs Paper
Kirby’s Dream Land is a perfect circle of a video game. What the heck do I mean by that? Prepare to earn your degree in Kirbology, friend. Maybe an art degree, too. I’m not a licensed educator, but I’ll sign something for you if you’d like.
Anyone can draw a circle, right? Well, if you’ve ever been artistically inclined, you’re likely aware of the trials and tribulations that come with truly drawing a circle. I’m not talking about simply drawing something round or round-esque. I’m talking about a genuine, honest-to-God circle. No misshapen curves or uneven symmetry. Pure, unfiltered roundness. Despite how simple it seems, drawing a truly circular circle takes some technique and a steady hand honed by practice.
Kirby games embody that principle, and not just because Kirby happens to be something of a circle himself. Kirby walks the line between being as accessible as drawing a circle while often burying greater challenges underneath the surface. That blueprint was clearly laid out as early as the very first game in the series.
The Mystery Game is Afoot
Usually when I get into a mystery story, whether it’s a book, show, or a video game, I go in expecting to be compelled by the mystery of the story. That’s reasonable, right? I’m no detective, but I suspect that might be the point. Yet, upon completing the recent Famicom Detective Club remakes, I found the mysteries provided by the stories to be the least interesting part. I mean, they were alright, I had fun. Still, they weren’t what stood out to me.
What stood out to me was the part of The Missing Heir where I knew the game wanted me to go to the cliffside at 5 p.m. because all of the characters were telling me I needed to go to the cliffside at 5 p.m. No matter what I did, though, I just couldn’t progress time forward to 5 p.m. Or the part where you call out into an empty forest and nothing happens, and then after fruitlessly examining every pixel of the environment, you call out again and this time someone shows up. I also enjoyed the part where you exhaust all of your dialogue options and the game doesn’t progress, so you try every single option again only to discover that one of the choices you already picked has a new line of dialogue. That part happens a lot.
Something about nonsense like this compels me in a way I find hard to describe. I need answers, so today we will deduce the truth: are there merits to the odd way these games are designed?
New Pokémon idea: Mewtwo with flipper hands. Think it over.
It’s not an exact science, but ideally spin-offs should aim to include both the appeal of the original subject matter as well as whatever that brand is being spun off into. A careful balance of the balls at play propels a spin-off to greater heights than simply slapping a brand name on something and calling it a day. Pokémon Pinball nails that particular trick shot. It has always stood out to me as a particularly brilliant spin-off, and much of its appeal lies in how well Pokémon and pinball bounce off each other.
Pokémon and pinball share a common philosophy: they lay out a distant objective and then let the players push themselves as far as they’re willing to go. Ultimately, both games are about smacking things with balls in order to be the best; whether that’s becoming a Pinball Wizard or a Pokémon Master. Yet, even if someone doesn’t get the high score or complete the Pokédex, they can still have fun simply interacting with the game. Just hitting a ball around with flippers is fun. Just catching some Pokémon is fun. Since the game styles complement each other, that makes it easy for them to build on each other.
It's a "novel" RPG. That's all I've got.
As we get older, we gain more perspective and understanding of the world around us. Decisions become more nuanced and morality grays. While this wisened perspective has advantages, it also makes it easier to overlook that often the simplest truth may be the best answer to our problems. Kids may not understand everything that goes on in the world, but they generally know what they want and what’s right. The Cruel King and the Great Hero crafts an experience based upon that straightforward, clear viewpoint of a child, resulting in a game that charms with its simplicity.
The Cruel King and the Great Hero embeds the art of storytelling into its very DNA, so I feel it would be appropriate kick things off by sharing an excerpt from the novelization of my review:
Squirtle isn't in this game, so it is bad
Legends yield insight into both the past and the present, but they come with a caveat: what gets passed down from one generation to the next gradually gets filtered through many personal lenses. As an idea continues to be passed down, what may have once been clear distorts into a mess of personal interpretations and expectations. As a large and ongoing series, Pokémon similarly captured peoples’ imaginations and subsequently became open to interpretation.
I bet nearly everyone exposed to the series has conjured up their own personal “legend” of Pokémon - what the games are all about and what the next game should be like. That makes talking about, and certainly working on, Pokémon difficult.
Does the series need major changes, or is it perfectly fine as is? Do the graphics need to compete with modern contemporaries? Should you be able to put tiny hats on your Pokémon, or is that giving the player too much power? What really matters at the end of the day? Questions like these undoubtedly led to Pokémon Legends: Arceus, which aims to tackle a commonly understood “legend” of an open-world game that Pokémon must eventually become.
Finally an excuse to post an image of Quint
If you’re anything like me, you may be wondering “when’s the next Mega Man game?” every waking moment of every single day. Mega Man 11 released in September 2018 - yeah, it’s been over three years already - and we still don’t know anything concrete about the next game in the series. What’s the hold up? Surely the good old days of consistent new releases are just around the corner, right?
Unfortunately, things aren’t so simple. Still, I believe 2022 may prove to be an interesting year for Mega Man. It may end up being one of the most important years in the series history; a year that determines the fate of the series for decades to come.