MocBucket62's Top 10 Games of 2018

Welp, 2018 is almost over. As far as how 2018 was when compared to 2017, it certainly doesn’t seem to have as many significant titles as the past year. Certainly this year we got games with amazing receptions such as God of War, Red Dead Redemption 2, Marvel’s Spider-Man, Monster Hunter World and so on. But it feels like the grand sum of 2018’s catalogue of games won’t be a memorable as 2017 where we had Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey, Nier Automata, Horizon Zero Dawn, PUBG, Cuphead, Persona 5, Resident Evil 7 and many more games that garnished amazing receptions and changed the landscape of the video game market to this day. Weirdly enough, it’s a bit telling the most popular game in 2018 is a game that started in Early Access from 2017 (Fortnite).

Of course I don’t want come off too harsh on 2018 as I think on its own its a very strong year for the industry. Certainly PS4 and XBOX 1 owners got to enjoy some amazing 1st and 3rd party titles. Coming from a Switch owner, it was a let down year from Nintendo as their first party output had loads of enhanced Wii U ports and there weren’t that many entirely new Switch games from Nintendo this year. Thankfully the indie scene for the Switch (and overall this year) was amazing as most of my time was spent playing great indie games. Not too mention third party support is also getting better for the Switch and there were a few solid 3rd party games that I really enjoyed. Sure if I had a PS4, it would be great to get a chance to play games like God of War, Hitman 2, Spider-Man and Tetris Effect and those titles would greatly affect the list I currently have. However, I’m still very happy with the list I got and can say from experience these are my 10 favorite games from 2018!

Though quickly before I get into the top 10, I want to make some quick shoutouts to some old games I played this year. Last year I had my own write-ups on these old games and why I enjoyed them so much. This time to save energy, I’m going to just have a bullet list of old games I’ve played and a little note about each. So here we go:

  • Steamworld Heist: Secretly one of the best Turn Based Strategy games out there. Its like a 2D XCOM but you are in control of your aim, not a random %.
  • Gorogoa: A beautiful and innovation puzzler. Would have been in my top 2017 games.
  • Sonic Mania: A good Sonic game finally. Also would have been on my 2017 list.
  • Breath of the Wild: Need to play this more, but I respect the heck out of its design and the freedom it gives the player.
  • Hollow Knight: 5 hours in and would have played more of it had it not been for one of 2018’s games.
  • DOOM: Early, but seems good on Switch
  • Mario + Rabbids: Also super early but it seems solid.
  • Lumines Remastered: I may not have Tetris Effect, but I have the precursor to it and Lumines is dope.

I’ll also bullet note 2018 games are basically honorable mentions:

  • Wizard of Legend
  • Jackbox Party Pack 5
  • Crossing Souls (This one I got super late and still playing)
  • Mario Tennis Aces
  • Donut County
  • Bloodstained Curse of the Moon
  • Shapeshifting Detective: OK, this one I want to talk about a bit because its technically #11. The ability to transform into different suspects to squeeze out essential info to solve a murder is novel. However compared to another FMV game Contradiction, getting info by pretending to be the suspects is just not as satisfying as spotting a lie where it feels good to call out the suspects’ fallacies. Though the performances from mutual Contradiction actors Rupert Booth and Anarosa De Elizaguirre Butler are great as well as the rest of the cast. Its certainly worth a shot or two (there are different murderers in every playthrough) just to see the story and the cast's endearing performances. Though a special shout out goes to Esmonde Cole for his portrayal of the smooth but creepy Zak Weston.
There's Jenks right there! Well, Chief Dupont actually but its Rupert Booth still.
There's Jenks right there! Well, Chief Dupont actually but its Rupert Booth still.

And without further ado, here is my top 10 games of 2018 which consist of games I played on the Switch except for one.

10. Dragon Ball FighterZ:

I've grown to love Majin Buu from playing DBFZ. He turns people into chocolate!
I've grown to love Majin Buu from playing DBFZ. He turns people into chocolate!

Weirdly enough I was never much of a Dragon Ball fan and I’ve casually enjoyed the Marvel 2-3 style of tag fighters. Wasn’t expecting this game to make it onto my list (or even come to Switch before E3) but here we are. I have the game that stars 4 Gokus and 3 Vegetas in my top 10. Arc System Works certainly know how to make some lookers as they applied their graphics engine from the Guilty Gear Xrd games for Dragon Ball. The iconic anime transitioned perfectly from 2D to 3D while still maintaining the Toriyama art style. Not to mention the game feels very accessible for a tag fighter as you can land auto combos at ease and be able to land supers frequently. This was all done on Joy cons too, which work surprisingly well. Certainly the best way to play this game is online multiplayer as you bring your best team and see if you can best your opponent. I’m not good at this game. I’ve lost almost every single fight I’ve fought in yet I still had a blast playing. I’ve only won 2 online games total. One was on a nail biter where I chipped away at a win by Dragon Rushing a Goku with Vegeta. I used a light combo to earn the KO with a sliver of health left with everyone else knocked out and it felt amazing!

DBFZ would be higher if its story mode was much better. I don’t mind the actual story as I enjoyed watching the cutscenes and found myself enamored by Dragon Ball’s English voice cast. But man, the gameplay part is a drag. Having to constantly beat up fodder clones gets tiresome and the fact that the game will have you do tutorials at the start of some matches over and over made it worse. Despite my qualms with Story mode, Dragon Ball FighterZ is still a great fighter and hopefully licensing won’t kill it in the pro scene.

9. Mega Man 11:

I could just stop here and say MM 11 is on this list for Tundra Man alone, but I digress.
I could just stop here and say MM 11 is on this list for Tundra Man alone, but I digress.

Remember Mega Man? A classic Capcom franchise that got its birth on the NES that many people had been clamoring for a modern entry for years now? Well Mighty No. 9 was supposed to fill in the gap back in 2016 and MAN…that is one of biggest PR and gaming fiascos ever. 2 years later, Capcom decided F it, you Mega Man fans will finally get a modern game. It won’t have 8 bit graphics like 9 and 10 but rather a new visual style where its 3D graphics on a 2D plane. Guess What? Capcom did the Blue Bomber justice. All 8 stages for the robot masters are memorable as they have strong level design that’s perfectly themed to the masters’ gimmicks. Each also have some classic Mega Man challenge that will get some people stirred up, but will remind long time MM fans of the classics. It even changes things up with the Gear system, which while some claimed it was unnecessary; I actually found the system effective. Speed Gear is a God Send for having to speed past obstacles (Torch Man’s creeping fire wall NEEDED that Speed Gear) and the Power Gear complements Mega’s weapon arsenal if used smartly. Speaking of which, while the Metal Blade from Mega Man 2 remains the best Mega Man weapon, almost every weapon in this game (excluding that crappy Acid Barrier) has a strong case being on a list of top 10 Mega Man weapons. The Block Drop was my favorite as it can take out enemies far away within the screen and even decimate mini bosses or Spiner Joe Walkers swiftly. The Tundra Storm is also great as with the Power Gear it can clear a room of enemies but it eats lots of juice. I even managed to beat the game 2 times with the first being on Casual difficulty and then Normal to get more of a challenge. Mega Man 11 is a nice return to form for the super-fighting robot and hopefully Capcom can build on 11’s pros for an improved sequel.

8. Dead Cells:

Slashers are the absolute worst, but it feels great killing even a non elite one.
Slashers are the absolute worst, but it feels great killing even a non elite one.

It’s weird with my connection with Dead Cells. I haven’t been able to beat it nor I’m not sure if I’ll get good enough to beat the game in any run at all. Yet I find myself revisiting the game over and over mainly because of how much fun it is running around as some animate corpse killing undead armies. Dead Cells is definitely one of the best feeling games I’ve played, as the combat feels so fluid. It always feels satisfying when you get a speed boost after garnishing a streak of kills on any poor zombie or archer that got crushed by either a back stab from an Assassin’s Dagger or from a stomp attack. Plus all the weapons and traps are so much fun to toy around with. You might do ok using a Blood Sword with a Cross Bow-O-Matic that causes bleeding or an Oiled Sword with a Wolf Trap and Fire Grenades to scorch foes at higher temperatures. You progress through each level by collecting money from your victims and use whatever weapons you buy or find on your way to the next stage. You’ll also get cells, which serve as the most important source of economy as they can unlock perks such as improved healing flasks, new weapons and mutations that you use to alter your approach of clearing a run. Plus the daily challenge is certainly a frustrating but a nice addition to the game as you can really test yourself to see how far you can go before some stupid Slashers spot you and slice you to death. Plus replay value is high as you can explore new levels in new runs to find Runes that also enhance Dead Cells Guy in the current and future runs. Dead Cells is not an easy game and you will die a lot. However the way it handles progression is very satisfying as you maintain any runes from past runs and gain access to the weapons and mutations you unlocked. Even if I haven’t perfected a run, I’ve occasionally came back for more just to unlock new stuff and see how far I can go.

7. Yoku’s Island Express:

Natural area within the island.
Natural area within the island.

Perhaps a game that couldn’t be more of a stark contrast to Dead Cells. One is an action roguelike (some call it a metroidvania but I disagree) where you have to kill hordes or enemies on a 2D plane to slay an evil leader or you die. The other merges pinball and metroidvanias into a colorful and adorable marriage of genres and you can’t die. Yoku’s Island Express is one of the most unique games I’ve played, as you are a chipper Dung Beetle named Yoku who becomes a mailman for this tropical island. Problem is that there is a demon called the God Eater whose consuming the souls of the Gods that power the island. While the job situation appears to be stressful, this is actually quite a chill game. As you try to save the island, you explore the island in a metroidvania manner but much of the time you’ll find yourself inside a pinball table that the island has a rich supply of that is smartly interwoven with how you traverse the land. There’s also little penalty in failing a table as you’ll lose some fruit (the game’s economy) and then you try again. You need to find the 3 cheiftains of the island who can help save the remaining god, but you are also doing your job delivering mail to the locals in the meantime. Yoku travels the island with a white sphere that’s attached to him and flippers will fling around the ball to collect more fruit or help Yoku explore the map. It’s been awhile since I played pinball, but the pinball physics in Yoku feel spot on. Also the game has some fun upgrades ranging from a party whistle that can break objects that hold fruit (best upgrade of 2018) to a slug vaccum that sucks in explosive slugs and you can use their explosions to launch Yoku onto a higher platform. It’s certainly not a long game to beat, but I was at 50% when I beat the main story and did plenty of side quests and activities afterwards. Yoku’s Island Express is a charming game with lovely artwork, characters and music. But it shows how talented a studio like Villa Gorilla is by creating such a strange combination of genres and excels at mixing those 2 into an outstanding gem!

6. Wandersong:

You can sing whenever you want. Its a great game.
You can sing whenever you want. Its a great game.

Going further on charming, colorful indie games that are very lax in design but somewhat intense on story, we have Wandersong. This is an adventure and music game hybrid where you are a bard and have a dream where you’re told the world is ending, and he is not the chosen hero to fulfill a prophecy to end the current universe and start a new one from scratch. Even if you’re not the chosen one, you are still determined to save the universe not through strength or guts, but through the power of song in a joyous but fairly easy adventure. Its very much an adventure game on a 2D plane as you will talk to numerous NPC’s to learn about them and do quests that will feel reminiscent of Point and Click adventures (minus the pointing and clicking). But the singing mechanic is crucial and it gets lots of mileage throughout the game as you use the right joy con stick to move in 8 directions with different pitches. You can sing in a pattern to scare off ghosts that are haunting a town. You can create songs on you own to help shopkeepers sing a marketable jingle. You can even sing out responses in conversations or just sing to someone as they are talking to you. The singing itself can be crucial for platforming-ish puzzles such as using singing to get a plant to grow and help you reach a far away ledge. It’s astonishing that there’s such a variety of ways the singing mechanic is utilized throughout the game. Not to mention the game has a colorful Paper Mario atheistic with adorable characters and witty writing throughout your journey. Combining all of these elements together made me feel like I was actually playing a musical or moreso a play. You are enjoying the music and the singing of the bard but you actually get quite invested in a game where its message is to stay positive to fix problems, even if things are looking grim in the grand scheme of things. Its truly one of the most criminally underrated games of 2018 and I say if you like adventure games as well as music games, Wandersong is worth a look.

Oh and two more things. One, for a game that specializes in song, the soundtrack is quite good. Secondly, it has a dedicated dance button for the bard to perform various dances at any time. More games need this feature.

5. Octopath Traveler:

My beautiful dancer boy Cyrys is gonna help the team slay this Hell Beast!
My beautiful dancer boy Cyrys is gonna help the team slay this Hell Beast!

I’m someone who has little to no experience with JRPG’s. I’ve certainly played a lot of Pokémon when I was young and got into turn based strategy games and Tactical RPGs on the GBA such as Advance Wars and FF Tactics Advanced. But I can’t say I’ve dived deep into many JRPG’s until I played Octopath Traveler. This is a gorgeous game for the Switch where it evokes a classic SNES JRPG look with sprites walking around in a 3D plane that makes this game look like a pop up book. Not to mention this has an incredible soundtrack that really puts OST’s from other SE RPG’s (DQ 11) to shame. Man, Decisive Battle 2 w/ Tressa and Grandport are so good. But thankfully the gameplay was what got me hooked due to the job system and the combat. I started with H’iaant the Huntress as her initial job has her do special bow based attacks and provide team perks such as increased aim (and she alone can attack enemies with captured animals). She and the other party members can get a second job and I gave her the Cleric job for her to heal a battered team. The combat itself is plenty of fun as each enemy and boss has their own weaknesses. You need to test out which weapons and magic are strong against those enemies to break their shield and stun them and then decide to buff your team or finish off the foe. The path actions are also really fun ways. They can give you advantages such as having Theiron the Thief take a chance to steal a strong weapon or have Tressa the Merchant buy that weapon in a noble manner. Sometimes they can be used to learn about the NPC’s such as Alfyn’s Inquire action. Also each character has talents that can make the experience more enjoyable. Cyrus’ “Study Foe” talent determines one weakness of a group of enemies before the battle begins, making things a little easier. Now I heard people were disappointed with the lack of interaction and the individual stories not being all that memorable. I agree there should have been more party member communication besides the optional banters, but other than certain chapters (Tressa’s chapter 4 was a wet fart of a plot conclusion) I rather enjoyed my time playing through many of these individual stories. It made for optimal short play sessions from 30 to 90 minutes. Weirdly enough this is also my most played game of 2018 as I’ve clocked in 60 hours and beat 3 individual stories. Some JRPG experts will scoff at my playtime but I don’t care. I think that despite its flaws, Octopath Traveler is a fantastic RPG for newcomers and veterans of the genre.

4. Super Smash Bros Ultimate:

Everyone remembers that moment in Donkey Kong Country where Ken from Street Fighter Uppercuts King K Rool.
Everyone remembers that moment in Donkey Kong Country where Ken from Street Fighter Uppercuts King K Rool.

What can I say? I love Smash Bros. I’ve enjoyed playing this series with family and friends since it started on the N64. While this Smash Bros might be missing modes from past games (No breaks the targets? AND NO BOARD THE PLATFORMS STILL!?!?) I’d say this still lives up to the Ultimate title. This game brought back EVERY. SINGLE. SMASH. CHARACTER. FROM. EVERY. ENTRY. Those madmen brought back freaking Pichu from Melee! They got Snake to return from Brawl! Everyone is actually here! Plus the game offers its own new characters ranging from the tricky but powerful King K Rool to the whip and ax wielding range of Simon and Richter Belmont. It also has 103 stages from Smash’s history and countless amounts of music from different game franchises. It even has a surprisingly fun single player mode with World of Light. This mode has you fight a series of puppet fighters that each has a spirit of non-playable characters with specific references to that NPC. One of these fights could be against a Ken fighter with a Dan spirit and Ken will constantly taunt at you. You can even unlock these spirits and use them in your favor when fighting. I can finally have Kirby, Rabbids and MGS together at last by having Kirby as my fighter but attacked with a Rabbid Kong spirit and a Hal Emmerich support spirit just to get a beam sword.

But Smash Bros shines as always with Multiplayer. Smash has always been a game my brother and I have played since its start in 1999 and this interaction has some fantastic options. You can still play local Smash fights with Stock, Time or Stamina modes (but c’mon, Stock is THE MODE) but the new multiplayer modes add so much more to the multiplayer. Smashdown is awesome to play as a specific character once and then move on to a new person so you aren’t force to stick with your main. But Squad Strike is my favorite as you pick a team of 3-5 characters and take out your opponents King of Fighters style and force your foe to fight as someone else after one character is KO’d until one team wins. It’s a great reminder on why I’ve loved the Smash Bros series since I was young. While some modes are missing, this game lives up to the “Ultimate” moniker and its certainly been a game my brother and I have played nonstop once again.

3. Return of the Obra Dinn:

The first of many deaths that you have to study extensively in Obra Dinn.
The first of many deaths that you have to study extensively in Obra Dinn.

Here it is! The one NOT-Switch game that cracked my top 10. But for real this is one of the most unique and meticulously crafted games I’ve ever played. Return of the Obra Dinn is a game where you are an insurance adjuster and you see that a lost East India Trading Company ship named the Obra Dinn has been sighted near England. You are tasked to find out what fines need to be determined on the 60 man crew of the Obra DInn. However, some worse stuff had happened to that crew 5 years after it left England and you have a compass that lets you time travel to a victim’s exact moment of their death. Here you have to study the cause of that person’s death, who that person was by name and job title and who or what killed them. From the first corpse you see, this turns into a very intricate puzzle game where you need to study almost every detail of the scene of the death to find out who died at that moment and how. You need to study the area of where they died. You need to examine the lines of speech before you get to the scene of death to see if you get the name of the victim or a witness of the death. It’s also highly recommended to listen to the voices of these people as this ship had many different people from numerous countries and sometimes they could speak their native language or speak in an accent. There are so many details to analyze while you are figuring out the fates of all 60 people on this ship that has gone thru literal Hell. Plus the way it tells its story is very unconventional, but effective as it shows you one of the major climaxes of the tale very early on. Heck, you’re given a book where you determine the fates of the 60 people and the first body you find dies in the final chapter of the book. Plus this game has an incredible sense of style as it’s a 3D game using 1-bit graphics that is meant to evoke classic 1980’s Macintosh gaming. The Music definitely doesn’t sound like a 1980’s Macintosh game, but the score has a nautical and haunting sound to it that it soon becomes music that won’t leave your head. Though don’t come into this thinking it’s a horror game because you will witness plenty of gruesome deaths, but you are never in danger of being killed yourself. Still, Return of the Obra Dinn is one of the smartest and masterfully designed games I’ve ever played and highly recommend it to anyone who loves detective or puzzle titles.

2. Into the Breach:

No Caption Provided

The best roguelite game I’ve ever played and also one of the best strategy games ever. It’s also a really good puzzle game if you treat the layout of the 8 by 8 tile grid like a tile puzzle game. Anyways, Into the Breach freaking rules. Its got such an addictive gameplay loop where you have to use a set of 3 mechs specialized in different forms of combat and defense, clear a set of islands and see if you can destroy the hive of the building hungry Vek to save what’s left of civilization. Unlike most other strategy games where the objective is to kill all the enemies, you need to prioritize saving the buildings to keep the power grid up. You’ll need to figure out how to keep the buildings safe by not only killing any Vek, but pushing them away from their target since the Vek always choreograph their attacks for the next turn after their initial attacks. There area also Bonus objectives that aren’t mandatory, but you’ll get rewards that will help you in a run you’re trying to compelte. Plus your mechs are extremely versatile in doing this job depending on what you use. The Electric Mech was my favorite as that with the building chain core can chain all the Vek (and allies if in the chain) near buildings and can decimate the Vek while the buildings are unharmed. The Jet Mech is also good for just dropping a bomb on an enemy and smoke dispenses to cancel attacks. There are plenty of different Mechs and teams to choose from and are worth the experimentation on which teams you like the most or even customize your ideal squad of 3 mechs. Plus the pilots play an important role of leveling up as they could give mechs more health or increase grid defense (which is uselessly incredibly low). Pilots also have their own skills that can change up the strategy and approach to the missions you undertake, such as Camila Vera’s immunity to the Vek’s webbing and she can attack in smoke. Vera and the Electric Mech are like Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup and so is Archimedes in the Spartan Mech. The gameplay loop is so engrossing you’ll never get sick of common missions like defending trains or island specific ones such as the RST Corp.’s Terraformer mission where you use a Terraformer to turn grass into desert that kills any nearby Vek. Many playthroughs can really tense and you might have to leave it to chance to see if you have one last chance. One playthrough of mine had 2 turns left on the final mission and I cleared or pushed away all the Vek except for one alpha scorpion. I had to end my turn and hope the pylon would resist the scorpion’s attack or the Vek win and in that rare moment it resisted! I managed to take care of business on the last turn and saved the world in such a lucky but earned victory. I haven’t been this enamored by a strategy game since XCOM Enemy Unknown and I certainly think Into the Breach is worth your time!

1. Celeste:

No Caption Provided

Where to start with this one. The funny thing is I’m not that well versed in Splatformers and tend to play less intense platforming games like Super Mario and Ratchet and Clank, but I latched onto this one throughout the year. Celeste is a game about a girl named Madeline who wants to climb the real world mountain in British Columbia, Celeste. The mountain is more than just actually climbing it, as it’s also a journey of Madeline trying to overcome her anxiety issues that have plagued her for most of her life. Totally not something that can happen on the actual Celeste Mountain, Madeline has a dream where she explores this eerily Castle and her self-doubtful and pessimistic side manifests into a real being and does whatever she can to convince Madeline that she's not a mountain climber. That sounds ridiculous, but it makes the story work as a tale of someone who’s fighting herself over accomplishing lofty goals and Madeline’s tale is never delivered in a ham fisted way. But what makes this tell of overcoming anxiety effective is the gameplay is designed to accommodate the story. Celeste is a hard game, and there’s an old lady who warns Madeline of how she’s not ready to see things on Celeste Mountain. She’s right as the levels are filled with death traps that are going to require a good number of experimentation for you to pass. Deaths will tally quickly. You might get stuck in one room and you might start doubting yourself if you don’t have the patience. But the game is such a joy to play despite its difficulty as the controls are very tight but your moveset is simply just running, jumping, climbing and air dashing. You’ll also find lots of level specific gimmicks that make the levels fresh such as the space blocks you dash into in order to fly over a pool of spikes. Later on there are thwomp looking blocks that you dash at one side and they go against the direction of your dash for you to reach a different area. Not to mention this game’s presentation is top notch. You get cute artwork of Madeline and the small cast of characters in this game such as selfies of Madeline and her photographer friend Theo. The music is just phenomenal as it fits the tone of what’s going on in the story but also its an OST that I can't keep count of how many times I've listened to in 2018. Go listen to Confronting Myself and the Good Karma Mix of Celestial Resort and thank me later.

As much as I enjoyed my play through of the base game, me completing the B-Sides and C-Sides made me love this game on a whole new level. These are far harder levels as they throw in more difficult ways of you to navigate through. I spent my time with the B-Sides from April to September while bouncing off different games. But throughout the year I wanted to beat these levels as a goal for me to achieve a difficult task. It’s certainly not as daunting as climbing an actual mountain, but I mostly never get into “Hard” portions of games and yet I wanted to beat the B-Sides. I got stuck in certain rooms more often than in the main game's levels which all felt easy after playing these. Sometimes I put assist mode on B-Sides to get through some brutal rooms, but I still got the thrill of clearing these levels after so much trial and error.

I wasn't kidding. I was committed to beating the B and C-Sides and it paid off! Oh I collected a couple of golden strawberries too.
I wasn't kidding. I was committed to beating the B and C-Sides and it paid off! Oh I collected a couple of golden strawberries too.

Than there are the C-Sides, which are much shorter than B Sides but have very hard levels nonetheless. I decided to take on chapter 1, 2, and 4’s C-Sides and yes I died over hundred times on those levels, but I shocked myself by beating all of those in one day. I kept going and managed to actually beat all of the C Sides (without assist mode mind you), but chapter 7 is the toughest. In fact, chapter 7’s C-Side is the hardest video game level I’ve beaten. The last room is where you are going to fail plenty as you have double dashes but you have to dash through a sea of blue spikes with either jump boards or dash diamonds scattered around the level to replenish your dashes. You also need to time your dashes impeccably because the spike canals are narrow and one off timed dash is a death. It took me a total of 3 days to beat that level as I’ve tried to figure out how to conquer it. First day I got as far as the middle of the room and then stopped. Next day I got farther but still didn’t beat it. After dying 1521 times from those 3 days, I took a brief break. Afterwards I got back and I managed to beat the final room of that C-Side in one run (and I didn’t fall for the falling ledge part too). The old lady shows up and she sums up the efforts of beating the game and this level perfectly saying we get attached to our struggles. Funny thing is I almost failed at the very end. I accidentally dashed off the cliff but dashed back up to the cliff. Then I tried doing 2 upward right dashes to the heart but only got my dashes replenished by touching it. Then I dashed up and right missing it again, got the dashes replenished and then finally got the heart. Interestingly enough, my struggle with that level is symbolic to Celeste’s message in general. When you are trying to achieve a tough task, it won’t be a cakewalk and you’ll likely make mistakes. You’ll probably get anxious too and you might doubt yourself on whether you’re actually capable of achieving the goal. But as long as you keep going and reassure your frustrations with yourself, you are capable of being victorious.

Celeste was already one of my favorite games of this year at that point, but not many games had me compelled to complete its hardest levels like this game did. Beating these C-Sides really elevated Celeste as one of my favorite games of all time. Alongside the beautiful music, lovely artwork and a touching story, Celeste is a platformer masterpiece and I don’t regret all the hours I spent on it!

Enjoy the Game of the Year pie Celeste cast! Have a Happy 2019 to every too!
Enjoy the Game of the Year pie Celeste cast! Have a Happy 2019 to every too!

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How Freedom Planet 2 is Becoming a Niche Cuphead (AKA A Promising Indie Title that Got Announced Too Early)

A recurring problem with video games is that certain games tend to be revealed or announced way too early. Normally this is when the publisher and/or the developer makes an announcement for an upcoming game, whether it’s a new IP or a new entry in a series, and the game comes out 3-5 years after its initial reveal. Kingdom Hearts 3 is an example where it got announced 5 years ago, but it is expected to release this year (we’ll see). It’s a problem because these games tend to be announced way ahead of they’re development schedule and are in a work in progress. It forces an interested customer to wait for years for the final product or giving them doubts about the game coming out at all.

One game that was often ridiculed for possibly never coming out was Cuphead, which was revealed in an indie sizzle reel at Microsoft’s 2014 E3 conference. It grabbed everyone by surprise for basically looking like a playable 1930’s cartoon. Yes this game finally came out last year, but it made for a very painful wait for those who were incredibly eager about it. There is another indie game that was revealed way back in 2015, but I’m dreading it has a similar Cuphead problem of being revealed way too soon. Its called Freedom Planet 2, a sequel to the Kickstarter funded Freedom Planet that maintains the original’s sense of speed, 2D platforming and focus on combat that was revealed in 2015. Now since we’re in 2018, I’m still waiting for a full release of the sequel to one of my favorite indie games. I’m going to go in depth to compare the similarities I’ve noticed with Freedom Planet 2 and Cuphead’s too soon reveals as well as how both developers have updated their games before their release. Though let me make it clear that this comparison is between a pretty mainstream indie hit in Cuphead and a sequel to a cult indie hit that will likely develop a niche audience when it releases. There’s also some differences between the two games’ development cycles and cross promotions each game has in other titles that came/are coming out before Cuphead and FP2.

How both updated interested customers (Cuphead):

Footage from the 2014 sizzle reel that never made it to the final game.
Footage from the 2014 sizzle reel that never made it to the final game.

So as many of us remember Cuphead’s reveal, it was a rather unceremonious disclose for a game that had quite a distinct artstyle that hasn’t really been done in video games before. As I said earlier, Microsoft had a sizzle reel of all these indie games that were planned to arrive on the XBOX One. You saw some notable titles like Mighty No. 9 (back when people still cared for it), Superhot, Rivals of Aether and Inside. But it was Cuphead that caught everybody off guard from the montage. The reason was plain and simple, it appeared to be a playable max Fleischer cartoon set in a boss rush mode format, and it had people dying to play it. We wouldn’t here much about Cuphead until the next E3, where this time is was one of the indies that was pushed front and center as the Studio MDHR developers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer talked about their game. Then they showed a brand new trailer that revealed more footage of Cuphead fighting bosses as well as the game's plot, where both Cuphead and Mugman lose a bet to the devil and must collect the souls of the devil's debtors in order to be spared. Then it promised for a release date of 1936, which really meant it was planned for 2016 but they played with the 1930’s theme by saying it was coming out in ’36. Then we get to 2016 and many people were expecting to play Cuphead, but it never came out in 2016. At E3 2016, Cuphead was in its third Microsoft show but got similar treatment to its initial reveal where it was just included in an indie sizzle reel again. A little more footage was shown and it had a playable demo in 2016 (also in 2015) as well as learning it would have platforming levels. However, we didn’t get any confirmed date for 2016. Soon they announced a delay for 2017 and some people were relieved that the devs were taking their time to complete Cuphead. Others felt annoyed that despite seeing this game over and over at E3 that maybe it was never coming out. People feared that Cuphead was certainly a beautiful looking indie to showcase but maybe this turned into a Scalebound situation where development was too hectic and then somehow gets cancelled. People were even mocking Cuphead for being a constant E3 attendant as if its stuck at Microsoft’s E3 shows and never get a final release date.

Then at E3 2017, another Cuphead trailer was revealed. Already it was being mocked as a visually stunning game that would never get an official release by streamers who watched Microsoft’s conference live. Then at the end of the trailer, we finally got a release date of September 29, 2017. People were still hesitant if the game lived up to the promised date, but it did. Cuphead did come out on the XBOX One and Steam on 9/29/2017 and after all these years of being a showcase title at E3, it finally came out as a full fledged video game. Turned out the long wait was worth it as it got rave reviews across the board and won countless awards from different publications. Awards include best graphics, best indie game and best XBOX One game. It even sold over a million copies within 2 weeks, making it one of the biggest critical and financial success stories of 2017 video games. It was a game that probably shouldn’t have been revealed so early in 2014 as it got plenty of people to wait an incredibly long time for the official release. Perhaps the wait would have been less excruciating if its initial reveal was set in 2015. But despite the long pause, Cuphead lived up to the promise of being an artistically crafted game that replicates cartoons from a bygone era while also providing a tough and fun run and gun experience that’s similar in the vein of Contra.

Look at these guys! Friends and enemies gathering together to celebrate their game going Platinum!
Look at these guys! Friends and enemies gathering together to celebrate their game going Platinum!

Freedom Planet 2:

So what does Cuphead have to do with Freedom Planet 2? Well in terms of direct connections, not much. Both game are relatively different to one another. Cuphead is a hand drawn action side scroller that has countless bosses to fight as well as a few platforming levels in between the boss fights and it’s an original IP. Freedom Planet 2 is a sequel to Freedom Planet, which pays tribute to Sega Genesis classics like Sonic the Hedgehog, Gunstar Heroes and Ristar but uses those components to form its own identity. The first game is an incredible platformer that has very unique puzzles within the levels and plenty of its own tough and amusing boss fights. The sequel is looking to build on what the first game got right as well as correct any errors that rubbed some people the wrong way (long levels being shortened, boss life bars, etc.). But the parallel I find between the two games is that both have a very similar development cycle where they tend to update any interested customer with a substantial update on a designated time of the year and both have the problem of being announced way too early.

The first game came out on Steam (PC, Mac) in 2014 and then got a Wii U release a year later. While Freedom Planet was delivered to backers of the title and got a little bit of attention in 2014, it seemed like it had its lunch consumed by Shovel Knight, which that became the nostalgic tribute game that became a big hit that year. FP did get more publicity thanks to the Wii U launch and eventually specific Youtube channels gave it more exposure by having Let’s Plays of the game. Even though FP got a stronger fan following a year after its release, not many people were anticipating a sequel. But low and behold on Christmas Day of 2015, GalaxyTrail dropped a surprise announcement trailer that they were in fact making Freedom Planet 2. Even though the trailer was simply an anime styled animation describing the game’s story, there was lots of information released about FP2 afterwards. One of which is that the game has a drastically new art style than that of the first game, as the cast looks way different than their Sonic inspired counterparts in FP1:

Promo art in Freedom Planet 1
Promo art in Freedom Planet 1
Promo Art in Freedom Planet 2 to compare
Promo Art in Freedom Planet 2 to compare

Also there was all this information about some new gameplay components, such as being able to land parries on enemies, using items to give your characters buffs and having a revive system where when you lose a life, you can mash all the buttons to get back up to gain temporary invincibility and a sliver of life while finishing a level or a boss you almost beat. They even managed to get Christian Whitehead (from Sonic Mania) on board to work on the game’s physics. Also the game was originally targeting a mid-2017 release.

Ever since that first trailer, there weren’t any huge updates on FP2 until December 2016, where it launched the first of the character specific trailers starring the main protagonist of the series, Lilac the dragon lady. Basically this trailer showed off what you could do with Lilac while traversing through the levels and her abilities like using her dragon boost both on the ground and in the air. Then weeks after the Lilac trailer, we got trailers for other characters such as Carol (a motorcycle riding wildcat), Milla (Basset hound that can shoot green blocks as projectiles) and a new playable character Neera Li, who was a mid boss in FP1. Neera Li might be the most combat oriented as she has a variety of ice themed attacks, but is slower than Lilac and Carol. Then eventually Galaxy Trail announced that there is a sample version of the game that you can download on the game’s webpage for anyone to try (more on this later).

Hmm, Cuphead had you fight two Frogs, but FP2 lets you fight 2 robo birds at the same time.
Hmm, Cuphead had you fight two Frogs, but FP2 lets you fight 2 robo birds at the same time.

Afterwards unless you went on Galaxy Trail or Stephen Diduro’s (head of Galaxy Trail) twitter accounts for getting new sprite animations or dev log updates, not much was updated about FP2 between January 2017 (Neera Li Trailer) and Dec 2017. Then on December 19, 2017, there was a brand new trailer that showed off more levels, new attacks for the characters and a new game mode called the Battlesphere, which provide the player access to a variety of challenges. There’s a Ratchet and Clank-style arena mode where you fight off waves of enemies. One of them is a boss mode that can let you fight 2 or maybe more bosses at the same time. There’s a race challenge where you have to speed run through the level. Finally, there’s the Home Run mode, where you character literally rides on a giant baseball that’s hit by a humongous bat and the ball will destroy any targets to get a high score. Sadly no date was revealed for the game so now people like myself still have this anxious wait for FP2, but the game does look even more amazing with every new trailer we get.

So FP2 is similar to Cuphead in that both follow a pattern of choosing a specific time of the year for the developers to give any interested customers a new trailer to reveal new footage and promote the game. For Cuphead it was E3 that was its big time to shine as for 4 years, it was very prominent in Microsoft’s E3 shows. Galaxy Trail makes December its huge month for Freedom Planet 2 as for 3 straight Decembers; there has been at least 1 new trailer for the title. Also I don’t want to make this article seem like I’m begging for Galaxy Trail to finish FP2 as fast as possible and I want them to take their time in finishing FP2 in the best state. However, maybe they should have announced FP2 later so the wait wouldn’t be so long. Now has FP2 been ridiculed of never coming out? Well there have been a few people who've made snarky questions to the developers regarding the issue on twitter, but that's about it. Keep in mind that the Freedom Planet series is NOWHERE near as popular as Cuphead. The first game developed a niche fan following and the sequel should be successful enough to do the same, but don't expect FP2 to sell a million copies within two weeks (though I'd love for it to be a mega hit). Not to mention while the trailers won’t tell you the release date, Galaxy Trail’s website states that FP2 is planned for release in either Q1 or Q2 of 2019. Again, take your time to make sure the game is in a great shape and don’t rush development. However, it seems rather odd to post that on your webpage and not put that info in your most recent trailer. That way fans of FP1 can at least have a better idea on when this game is coming out. While Cuphead promised a date and then delayed it until 9/29/17, at least Studio MDHR seemed more vocal about when their game was going to release. Galaxy Trail stated that they targeted a 2017 release, but they never proclaimed 2017 as the official year of when FP2 comes out.

Differences in how both developers (and others) promoted their games:

Remember when Cuphead and Mugman's heads appeared in THPS5? No? Of course not, 5 is a bad game nobody played.
Remember when Cuphead and Mugman's heads appeared in THPS5? No? Of course not, 5 is a bad game nobody played.

Now when I’m drawing the parallels between both games’ development cycles and timing of announcements, the way both have handled the anticipation and promotion for their titles are vastly different. Cuphead had its game promoted in some rather bizarre ways before release. In the XBOX One version of THPS5, you could customize a skater by having heads of characters like Cuphead, Mugman and the Sunset Overdrive trailer guy. Yes weirdly enough, 2 years before Cuphead came out, this indie game got somewhat of a marketing push from a AAA game. You’d think maybe Studio MDHR was pumped that their characters’ heads showed up in a Tony Hawk game, even if THPS5 sucks. In Cook Serve Delicious, there was this Battle Kitchen DLC that promised 24 indie characters that you can feed at your restaurants, one of which was Cuphead himself. It was certainly nice for Studio MDHR to know that other games wanted to promote their game in some way by having Cuphead and Mugman show up for cameos in others games.

I know that this is a story cut scene from Cuphead, but I actually see this image as somewhat symbolic to Studio MDHR's gamble for Cuphead. Only difference is Cuphead loses his bet and Studio MDHR succeeds.
I know that this is a story cut scene from Cuphead, but I actually see this image as somewhat symbolic to Studio MDHR's gamble for Cuphead. Only difference is Cuphead loses his bet and Studio MDHR succeeds.

Though for Studio MDHR, the pressure was seriously on them to deliver on their game. With Cuphead being shown for 4 straight E3’s at Microsoft’s conference, it was being touted for the longest time as one of the great indie games you can play on the XBOX One. So I believe Microsoft probably did what they could to support Studio MDHR, but they certainly wanted that game out to improve digital sales. Not only that, but Jared and Chad Moldenhauer, had plenty of real life troubles that were tied to Cuphead’s development. Shortly after E3 2017, Chad and Jared revealed that after E3 2015, they were ready to fully commit to delivering on what they promised with Cuphead as well as take into account of some feedback, like requests for 2D levels. Sadly in order to achieve these goals, they had to quit their jobs and remortgaged their homes so they could expand on the team. They initially had a cut scope game planned with a 3 man development team that soon expanded into 20 people. They made a huge gamble in increasing the scope of their game to not only nail the 1903’s cartoon aesthetic, but create a quality video game. So before release, you’d think everyone at the development team was nervous about the games’ launch and whether it would get good reviews that would push sales. Thankfully as Cuphead sold 1 million copies within 2 weeks, the gamble paid off.

To my knowledge, nobody at Galaxy Trail is under any financial pressure where they quit some other jobs or remortgage their homes to focus solely on the development of FP2. There also isn’t any first party publisher that’s making FP2 a flagship indie that they can play on their console as the game is planned to release on Steam (PC, Mac and Linux) first and then consoles. Galaxy Trail tends to make these announcements on Youtube and their twitter accounts and they are certainly catering to their fanbase, but only a few major publications like Destructoid get word of a new FP2 trailer. Lastly, the only cross promotion I’ve seen for FP2 is that Lilac is a playable character in the upcoming Indie brawler, IndiePogo. She’s based on her FP1 design, but she will have her FP2 outfit as a skin. Though I don’t recall seeing Lilac or Milla's heads as customizable options in an AAA game. Galaxy Trail has had a rather different path in promoting their game than Studio MDHR and other developers did for Cuphead.

YEAH! My bike is stuck on this bush and I'm touching a robot's blade! I'm totally not going to die, right?
YEAH! My bike is stuck on this bush and I'm touching a robot's blade! I'm totally not going to die, right?

Now again back in 2017, Galaxy Trail did release a sample version of FP2 where you play only one level, but it lets you play as all 4 of the playable characters. You also have different difficulties to play the game as well as customize an item layout to implement your strategy to beating the level. You can either equip items that can aid you like using elemental shields or make it intentionally harder such as using brave stones that have negative attributes but you get rewarded with more crystals if you get past the level unscathed. Galaxy Trail has also updated the demo with new features from giving characters new attacks to including a photo mode where characters can do goofy poses. It’s an incredibly fun demo that establishes a good feel on what the final game should be: A fast-paced, combat focused platformer that improves on many components on the original with lots of content. Not to mention while Galaxy Trail has had this demo at PAX South shows, you get just get it online or on Steam for free, which is super nice. The only way for you to play a demo of Cuphead before release was at E3 or PAX, but no free demo was released to the public. If you have any interest in FP2 at all, I’d highly recommend picking up the sample version if you haven’t already.

Conclusion:

Yes the promotions and development cycles between Cuphead and Freedom Planet 2 have their differences. However, both do have a similar problem of maybe being announced too early and forcing anybody interested to wait years for the final product to come out. For Cuphead’s case, it was worth the wait as critics and the public were very happy with the final product and became one of the big hits of 2017. Even though we’re likely going to wait in 2019 to see FP2’s official release, there’s no doubt in my mind that it will be one of the best indie games of that year. It probably won’t be as big as Cuphead since that got a big E3 push for years and its art style helped sell the game. FP2 has a neat, 32 bit Sega Saturn sprite look, but it’s an art style that doesn’t stand out as much as looking like a 1930’s cartoon. Plus it hasn’t been shown at E3 shows to help its marketing. If anything, FP2 should be a huge improvement over an already great game that will develop a strong cult following. But man, the feeling I get for waiting on FP2 is a lot like those who waited on Cuphead, because having to wait between Christmas in 2015 to early 2019 is a hefty amount of time. It honestly would be a less painful wait had Galaxy Trail maybe announce this in 2016 and then show off those character specific trailers to hype up FP2's release. If anything Galaxy Trail, you teased the first FP to come to the Switch, so get a dang dev kit to port it over to hold us over!

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Dragon Ball FighterZ and Old Spongebob PC Games: How Both Transitioned 2D Animation to 3D

Dragon Ball FighterZ has been making major waves in the fighting scene and for good reason. Arc System Works created a 3v3 fighter starring the cast of the Dragon Ball series that feels more like a spiritual successor to Marvel vs. Capcom 3 than Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite ended up being. While Arc Systems is known for creating technical and complex fighting game systems, this seems to be its most accessible fighter yet as people who aren’t too into fighters are having a blast. This is probably wise to make it accessible considering that Dragon Ball is what I consider to be one of the few “mainstream” animes out there. But one reason why the game has gotten so much attention is because of how dang good it looks. Building on what the developers created in the Guilty Gear Xrd series, Arc System Works created yet another beautiful fighter that looks almost identical to Dragon Ball Super. The graphics are polygonal, but you could easily mistake the look as 2D if you saw pictures and clips from a distance. Arc System Works put the time and effort to nail the look of the Dragon Ball franchise and masterfully transitioned a 2D anime into a 3D format.

As much as Dragon Ball FighterZ looks just like the anime, its actually not the first game to adopt an iconic animated series from 2D to 3D. I’m probably the only person on the planet to say this, but I’ll say it anyways, “You know what Dragon Ball FighterZ’s graphics remind me of? Those old Spongebob Squarepants PC games from 2001-2002!”

“Huh?” That’s probably what many of you are thinking right now after I typed that quote. To clarify, there were a couple of Spongebob video games that were exclusive to PC that attempted to transition the 2D look of Spongebob into a 3D, cel-shaded format, 17 years prior to Dragon Ball FighterZ mastering this art. The two games; Operation Krabby Patty and Employee of the Month, are actually completely different to each other and you probably never heard of them because they were games aimed towards kids ages 7-11 like me at the time. However, they both had these pre-rendered, cel-shaded cut scenes that tried present a Spongebob cartoon in 3D. While neat for its time, they…haven’t aged well. Actually some of the pre-rendered footage probably never held up anyways. But it tried to do something that Arc Systems is being praised for this generation, and that is changing a 2D source material into a polygonal look while maintaining the source material’s art style.

Is Yamcha startled at the Saibaman...
Is Yamcha startled at the Saibaman...
...or is Yamcha freaking out seeing how Drunk Spongebob looks?
...or is Yamcha freaking out seeing how Drunk Spongebob looks?

So as weird as this sounds, I’m going to evaluate Dragon Ball FighterZ as well as these two Spongebob PC games and see how well they mimic their franchises look in 3D.

Dragon Ball FighterZ:

Whatever I’ll type for Dragon Ball FigtherZ has basically been said already, but Arc Systems really killed it in essentially creating a 3D Dragon Ball anime. All the characters look incredibly identical to those of the show(s) and manga. Many of the animations the used match how the characters power up or attack like throwing fireballs in the Manga and anime. In fact, they even went as far as recreate notable moments from the different Dragon Ball Sagas. Admittedly I was never much of a Dragon Ball fan growing up and seeing footage of this game makes me want to watch all the different sagas. What would probably be best to show off this is to put the Jump Festa trailer for Dragon Ball FighterZ, which compiles a bunch of big moments from Dragon Ball and are animated in Arc System Works’ sweet, wonderful engine:

They must have spent plenty of time to replicate Trunks' Burning Attack gestures.
They must have spent plenty of time to replicate Trunks' Burning Attack gestures.

Perhaps the best thing about the graphics is that its not just the cut scenes that have these graphics. That’s just how the game looks period. In the 3v3 fighter, you can see your favorite Dragon Ball characters (in the roster) duke it out on what looks like a fantastic, hand drawn fighter at first. But the character models are in fact 3D and are fighting on a 2D plane. They even change camera angles to show off the fact that these models are 3 dimensional whenever somebody does a launch attack or a special move. The impressive graphics to this game is definitely one of the key reasons why more people are replaying FighterZ. They certainly want to have practice and find out which 3 characters are best for their team. However, they have to be delighted seeing these characters land their attacks and specials in all these awesome animations.

Another comparison gif. FIghterZ Goku looks flashier, but the animation still looks identical.
Another comparison gif. FIghterZ Goku looks flashier, but the animation still looks identical.

What’s also worth noting that there is a story mode that has all these cut scenes in between the fights. The cut scenes are similar to how they were done in Guilty Gear Xrd where it really was like watching a 3D anime. Some people may not like how choppy the animations may look in the cut scenes, but that’s also the point. Anime has always had this type of style in animation and one of the reasons that makes it stand out when compared to other forms of animation. Plus Dragon Ball fans are going to love the callbacks and jokes the characters give to one another during the story. From what I can tell, the tale itself has Android versions of the heroes and villains are trying to take over the world and the Z Fighters and bad guys are trying to stop the invasion. Also Goku has amnesia at first? What’s different between this and Guilty Gear is that you actually have some fights to play around with while GG just told a story with no gameplay. To showcase some of these story cut scenes, here’s a series of clips where Cell burns everybody with insults:

Bandi Namco knew exactly what they were doing when they got Arc Systems to make a new Dragon Ball game. B-N own the Dragon Ball video game license and have developers with strong fighting game pedigrees like Harada and Project Soul. However, they clearly saw what Arc System Works did with Guilty Gear and hired them to make an amazing looking Dragon Ball fighting game that looks almost just like the anime. ASW has mastered making gorgeous anime fighters that will fool you in thinking they’re 2D games, but are actually polygonal.

Spongebob Squarepants Operation Krabby Patty (OKP): The first of these Spongebob PC exclusives, it was released in 2001, published by THQ and developed by now defunct Florida based developer Awe Games. If you want a quick resume of what Awe Games is known for, they’ve made other Nickelodeon based video games and a series of Agatha Christie point and click adventure games. Operation Krabby Patty was a mini game collection where you had 5 different mini games that are based on activities that Spongebob does in the show. There’s a mini game based on Jellyfishing. There’s one on boating school. There’s even a mini game based on the “Hooks” episode, so the fan service is decent. Yes there are only 5 mini games, but there are two different episode plots similar to how a Spongebob episode is formatted that rearranges the order of those games to play. You also get to play as different characters based on the episode, but there aren’t really that different to one another. Plus because this game is aimed towards young kids, its dirt easy and even as I kid, I just played through it both episodes once or twice and didn’t touch it again.

But onto what we’re really talking about here and it’s the cut scenes. For 2001, AWE Games definitely tried what they could to literally recreate Spongebob in a cel-shaded format. However, its honestly indicated that this might have been rushed and also the base engine has aged like a freckled banana bought from the grocery store. Here’s all the scenes if you wish to see, well, some zealous smut let’s say:

Hey Bob, lay off the weed
Hey Bob, lay off the weed

So yeah, did you see Plankton get turned on by the developer’s logo? Funny right… Yeah okay that was a strange and lame joke to throw in before seeing the majority of cut scenes. So as you can tell, there were some super rough spots in OKP's footage. If the base engine wasn’t cringey enough, you had moments where Spongebob had a rather stoned look whenever he was suppose to sound excited. When he was saying his trademark “IIIIIIIIII’M READY!” catch phrase, he has those sleepy eyes when he should look exhilarated. Also in Squidward’s dream, Squidward is laughing at Patrick after he trips and falls, but his face doesn’t animate like its laughing but rather stays still. Squidward even unreasonably looks at the viewer with a scary dead look just for an excuse for him to collide with a pillar without him looking. I mean, 10 year old me was sort of into this at the time because I bought into the fact that this did look like the show, or at least at first. But even then I noticed the weird, faulty animations like Spongebob’s weed eyes and well, the unsettling animations of many of the characters. Also the in-game mini games don't look much like the cut scenes. You might get a few enemies or NPC’s that have the cel-shaded look, but the playable characters don’t maintain their pre-rendered versions in the core gameplay. Its not like Dragon Ball FighterZ where there’s a consistent look between the cinematics and the gameplay. Operation Krabby Patty’s in game character models were actually more accurate (and less scary) recreations of the Spongebob Cast and those pre-rendered graphics are only in the background of the levels.

Mr. Krabs is also on that reefer madness, or maybe he's just sleepy.
Mr. Krabs is also on that reefer madness, or maybe he's just sleepy.

I want to emphasis the fact that for a small, PC exclusive Spongebob game that got little to no marketing in 2001, I commend the developers for trying to recreate Spongebob into the 3D space, especially in ’01. However, the game’s cut scenes just look poor as certain animations don’t match the character’s emotions and it’s just haunting to watch now. And while its unfair to make this comparison to poor AWE Games’ work since they were a smaller studio, Final Fantasy 10 came out in 2001 as well. Now that was a game in that year that revolutionized how pre-rendered cut scenes should look.

Spongebob Sqaurepants: Employee of the Month:

THQ and AWE Games had another Spongebob PC exclusive that released a year after Operation Krabby Patty. It was Employee of the Month, which was a point and click adventure game set in the Spongebob universe. Story is Mr. Krabs gets two tickets to a theme park called Neptune’s Paradise and then decides to give them to Spongebob as a reward for being employee of the month at the Krusty Krab. Spongebob invites Patrick to join and Spongebob goes through all these point and click puzzles to get to Neptune’s Paradise. You know what, I remember this being an alright adventure game. Its not a genre defining experience like Grim Fandango nor as good as more comtemporary adventure games like Thimbleweed Park. However, for an adventure game set in the Spongebob cartoon, it was a lot better than it had any right being. Or at least I really enjoyed as a kid, but then again I was kid. It apparently got nominated for best adventure game of 2003 in Computer Gaming News, only to lose to a game called Uplink.

That said, the same cinematic engine used in OKP came back with a vengeance in Employee of the Month. Though I need to give credit where credit is due by saying there are major improvements in the cut scene animations when compared to the previous game. Spongebob is much more expressive in this instead of being a mostly sleepy eyed figure. In fact, many of the characters’ facial expressions match the dialogue they’re saying this time. Some of those expressions are, frightening, but they are still better than OKP. There’s also a few instances where some of the animations actually nail the look of specific characters. Its definitely no Dragon Ball FighterZ where the attention to detail is so near perfect that the almost look like the characters from the show, but they don’t look bad. I have to give props to AWE Games for actually taking the time to improve the quality of the animations in their pre rendered cinematics.

That's a decent looking Patrick all things considered. Also the reason why this looks weirdly cropped is because I screen capped this one video that had their logo to the right and I didn't want to include it.
That's a decent looking Patrick all things considered. Also the reason why this looks weirdly cropped is because I screen capped this one video that had their logo to the right and I didn't want to include it.

Even if I’m praising the developers for improving their cut scenes, they are still far from perfect and at times are still jarring to look at. There aren’t as many in cut scene glitches as OKP, but they are still present. There’s a particular scene in the game where Sandy Cheeks has a rocket ready for Spongebob and Patrick to get to Neptune’s Paradise. Not only does Spongebob have squinting eyes for no reason, but the camera turns to Patrick and he literally turns into Baraka from Mortal Kombat. Patrick’s even twitching his eye for a brief second. That scared me as a kid and makes me wonder, did AWE Games intentionally put that there to frighten the kids who were playing this or was that just a major oversight that they didn’t fix? Also that picture of Drunk Spongebob with Larry the Lobster that you saw earlier, that was from Employee of the Month. Here are the cut scenes for this game if you want to see (Go to 20:03 to see Baraka Patrick):

The logo I was describing.
The logo I was describing.
AWE Games' take on the logo.
AWE Games' take on the logo.

Admittedly, I feel a little bad about bashing AWE Games' 3D takes on the Spongebob cartoon. The reason why is because I can sense that with Employee of the Month, the developers actually cared a lot about their animations. I can’t find a link to it now, but I remember there were behind the scenes videos you could unlock while playing the game and saw how these pre-rendered or in game graphics were made. They even went as far as use the cut scene engine to recreate an early Spongebob Squarepants logo where all the characters are huddling around the show's title. I get the sense that the developers were actually pretty excited about their engine and the developers told themselves, “Wow this technology is great! We can create a Spongebob cartoon in 3D!” Sure it was ambitious for its time and their second game made big advances after how jarring the first game was. But ultimately these are only somewhat fascinating to go back to to see how this developer used the technology to recreate the cartoon and doesn't completely hold up as one of video game's greatest pre-rendered cutscenes. Especially compared to what Arc Systems is doing with their games currently.

Brief Comparison and Conclusion:

I mean, it’s a no brainer. Dragon Ball FighterZ is the best looking game of the 3 and also the one that best replicates its 2D source into 3D. Arc Systems clearly had the advantage in the first place since they were able to master this engine back in 2014 with GG Xrd, 12 years after THQ published Spongebob Sqaurepants Employee of the Month. Also its telling that Arc System Works certainly cared big time for FighterZ and had both the budget and the talent to make sure the attention of detail was spot on. The characters look great, they have sweet animations and the game might have some of the greatest production value to a licensed video game ever.

The old Spongebob PC games made by AWE Games should get some recognition for trying to do something that ASW is currently being praised for because OKP predates Dragon Ball FighterZ 17 years ago. However, while the animations look better in the second game, the overall engine just feels very arcane and nowhere near as polished and clean as ASW’s latest fighter. Plus think about those weird animations in the Spongebob games and how they might look in Dragon Ball. What if Vegeta looked all droopy eyed when he performs a Final Flash? That wouldn’t look right would it? That’s how I felt whenever Spongebob in OKP was excitingly shouting something despite having a sleepy-eyed look. But perhaps the folks who were at AWE Games have moved on and maybe got better with their graphics design in other games. Maybe they got better and soon got hired by Arc Systems to work on the graphic code for FighterZ. Kidding, but again the former AWE Games folks are hopefully on to better things.

To cleanse the palette of seeing those Spongebob cut scenes, here are some sick Dragon Ball gifs
To cleanse the palette of seeing those Spongebob cut scenes, here are some sick Dragon Ball gifs
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No Caption Provided

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MocBucket62's Top 6 games of 2017 and Top Old Games I Played

What a year 2017 was for video games. Many are drawing comparisons between 2017 to 1998 and 2007 as people are seeing it as one of the best years for video games ever. It’s honestly been such a good year for video games that it even got me to get way more invested in video games again. In case of anyone is wondering what I mean by my last sentence; I’ll admit that I haven’t really been super active in playing video games in this generation. I’ve been a faithful Giant Bomb follower since 2011 and by the time it reached 2014, I started to slowly move away from actively playing video games. I’d still go on the website a watch quick looks and watch premium videos because I love Giant Bomb and I still wanted to get caught up on video game news. However, I never felt super compelled to buy an XBOX One or PS4. Last year however, I decided to finally get a Steam account and purchase a couple of games that I felt like I’ve been missing out on. Also in November, I finally decided to say screw it and bought a Nintendo Switch.

This year to me felt like a re-awakening in my interest in video games. This year is being championed as being one of the best years in video games and honestly I wasn't going to miss out. Full Disclosure, my top 6 games and top old games were played on either the Nintendo Switch, Macbook or IPhone. So don’t expect any major game releases on the PS4, XBOX One and/or PC on here such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Cuphead, Resident Evil 7, Nier Automata, Persona 5, Horizon Zero Dawn and Wolfenstein II The New Colossus (I’m eyeing that Switch version though). Actually, don’t expect many AAA titles to be listed. All that said, I still adored my time playing the games I got to play and have no regrets buying any of the listed titles. Without further ado, here are the lists. I’ll start with a list in no order of old games that stood out to me and then get to the tiered list of my Top 6 games of 2017.

Some Old Gems:

Contradiction: Spot the Liar:

I don’t I need to add much to this game, right? I mean, we all saw what was effectively a Contradiction Endurance Run (Or Let’s Play) back in 2015 when Vinny played through all of the game through the quick looks and Premium videos with Alex and Austin by his side. OK, for those who aren’t in the know, Contradiction: Spot the Liar is an all-video Adventure game where you play as Inspector Jenks, a British Detective who is assigned to investigate a death of a college student, Kate Vine. The murder site is a small village and Jenks has to interview a list of suspects in order to solve the mystery.

Have you seen one of these GAMES before? Well around these parts, yes.
Have you seen one of these GAMES before? Well around these parts, yes.

Ever since I saw Vinny play through Contradiction, I have long desired to play the game myself. Certainly one of the reasons was the games’ charm with the game using FMV for teh cutscenes and gameplay. Ever performance the actor brings to the story is over the top, but also incredibly endearing. Contradiction is also like most point and click adventure games in that you can can collect items that can be used to access new areas or used during interviews. But another reason I wanted to play this was to test out the Contradiction mechanic, something that isn’t really seen in most adventure games with the possible exception of the Ace Attorney games. Honestly, this mechanic is way more satisfying than I expected. Being able to look back at your past responses while interviewing suspects just to call out your suspect for inconsistent answers feels gratifying. One Contradiction can get you closer to solving a murder mystery and seeing the reactions can not only get you more evidence, but the performances by the actors when they’re called out for lying is the icing on the cake. Seeing characters like Ryan and Paul Rand, the family in charge of the village’s business college program called Atlas, react nervously to you pointing out their fallacies is one of my favorite moments of video game dialogue. Even if you’ve only seen the Giant Bomb videos for this game, I still recommend playing it to experience solving the mystery on your own.

Grim Fandango: Remastered:

Grim Fandango would have won Best STYYYYYYYYLE if the award existed in 1998.
Grim Fandango would have won Best STYYYYYYYYLE if the award existed in 1998.

I bought this game when it was 75% on Steam and man, I totally see why Grim Fandango is such a beloved adventure gem. It tells the compelling tale of Manny Calavera, who leaves his travel agency job to find a former client who accidentally got a bad package in a 4 year journey to the Aztec underworld while also discovering the corruption tied to his old job. Artistically there really is no other game like Grim Fandango as it masterfully blends the style of Film Noir with the Aztec belief in Afterlife. The game also has some of the best audio in any game I’ve ever heard. From the soundtrack that contains South American folk music and big band music to what might be the best voice acting in any video game (Sorry Uncharted) Grim Fandango is a delight for your ears. Because I played this on my Mac, I only played this in the Original Graphic Mode so it could run at a steady 60 FPS, but its nice playing the game as it looked back in 1998. The gameplay itself is also pretty fun as its always super rewarding to figure out a puzzle that moves the story forward. Though I’ll admit some puzzles were too infuriating to the point that I had to look up videos to solve them. Still, I enjoyed Manny’s venture and understand why many people point to this as one of the reasons why 1998 was the best year in gaming.

Medieval II: Total War:

Aztecs are the best. I had a battle where they demolished a Scottish Army in the Snowy Swiss Alps.
Aztecs are the best. I had a battle where they demolished a Scottish Army in the Snowy Swiss Alps.

Again, I own a Mac, not a PC. There was a time when the Total War game series was maybe my favorite game series out there. I sadly don’t have the desire to put the money into getting or building a strong gaming PC to play the Warhammer: Total War games, but I’m fine playing the old Total Wars on Mac. Rome TW is one of my favorite games of all time as I absolutely loved finding ways to conquer different settlements to expand the Roman Empire and it also made me much more interested in Ancient History. I didn’t play as much of Medieval II, but I wanted to revisit it on Steam and you know what, if you have the patience to play a Total War game you’ll love it. Normally with any Total War, the big draw is the campaign where it combines Civ-like Turn based strategy by moving armies, diplomats and other units across the map to achieve specific missions while combining real time battles. But for me, the fun I had was simply with its Custom Battle mode, where I could create any insane Medieval Battle I wanted. That mode is like the Strategy equivalent of Super Mario Maker. You want to see who’d win in a fight between English Knights and Aztec Jaguar Warriors in Egypt covered in snow? Sure. What about a battle that’s strictly between Moor Camel Gunners and Timurid Elephants in a Castle siege? That’s possible. Being able to create your own alternate historical battles to me is one of the reasons that I not only enjoy Medieval II: TW, but why the I believe Total War series rules.

Freedom Planet:

This gif is a near-perfect representation of how dope FP is.
This gif is a near-perfect representation of how dope FP is.

Freedom Planet is a tremendous love letter to Sega Genesis games. The sprite work is certainly inspired by games like Sonic the Hedgehog, even though I believe the game use 32 bit sprites rather than 16 bit. The music itself doesn’t sound like a Genesis game, but is still super catchy in its own right. The gameplay also takes some cues from Sonic having loops and jump pads, but also blends into combat elements of Treasure action games like Gunstar Heroes. FP’s levels might be too long for some, but they are still extremely well made that include different gimmicks. One level might have you run around in a casino/mall hybrid full of slot machines and dance floors and the next might have you board 3 enemy airships to stop a bombardment on your vessel. FP encourages the player to either speed run the level or let the player take his/her time to explore the level and find multiple paths to progress as well as finding secrets. Also it has great replay value since you have 3 distinct playable characters. Lilac is great for those who want to speed run the game, but there’s Carol whose a motorcycle driving cat that can ride up walls and ladders and there’s Milla who throws green blocks like they’re SMB2 turnips. All of these characters allow you to approach levels a little differently and their move sets are incredibly fun to use, especially for the fierce boss fights. This game is so good even the swimming controls are pleasant. If you’re interested in playing FP, I recommend Classic Mode to strictly play the levels. There is an Adventure Mode that adds a story and fully voiced cut scenes in between the levels, but don’t expect Grim Fandango quality from FP’s cinematics. The only benefits I can think of for Adventure Mode is that you can cause bloopers in the cut scenes and characters have different idle animations in the levels. Freedom Planet is an excellent 2D platformer and now I eagerly await its sequel in 2018.

Rocket League (Switch):

One day I'll get a Dalorian.
One day I'll get a Dalorian.

I thought about including this onto my best of 2017 list because for the Switch, this is a 2017 release. However, Rocket League debuted on other systems in 2015 and because it’s a port of a 2-year-old game, it belongs in the old game section. Still, I have finally exposed myself to the exciting, mobile ball handling greatness that is Rocket League! Panic Button ported RL on the Switch and did a decent job porting it over. In handheld mode the graphics look a bit muddy, but it still runs at 60 FPS and the controls feel very tight. If you ask me, Rocket League looks light years better in docked mode. It’s also nice to see this version have the various play modes besides such as Hoops, Hockey and other modes that spice up the package. But the core mode of Soccer is addicting and is the main draw of the game for good reason. Playing against computer A.I. is good practice to get used to the controls. It’s also great if you want to take all the glory and try to hit that ball into the goal and then get promptly rewarded with the ball exploding. There’s a wondrous feeling when you accelerate towards the ball, get the first touch and jump at the right angle to knock in a perfect goal within 2 seconds. But honestly, Rocket League stands out for the multiplayer and my brother and I have been constantly competing with each other in one-on-one games. The last time I recall having hotly contested matches in a local multiplayer game w/ my brother was in Super Smash Bros Brawl. Rocket League is without a doubt one of the best sports games of this generation and as a Switch owner, I’m happy w/ the port.

My Actual Top 6 of 2017:

6. HQ Trivia (IPhone):

The next Bob Barker
The next Bob Barker

Should this game count? I think so. Its an app where you and countless other app users play an online trivia game hosted by none other than the Scott-ster, the Scott-2018 New Year’s baby, the Scott Rob Roy at 9 pm, Scott Rogowsky. It’s a pretty simple game where you try to get 12 questions right in a row to win an amount of money depending on who else got all the questions correct. Do the best you can on the trivia, but the key reason to play is for Scott himself. He’s incredibly charismatic and adds so much character to the show that even if you get eliminated, its fun to see Scott present the questions and go over the answers. The other hosts are fine, but Scott is HQ Trivia. This little app is pretty basic, but its fun to go in and see how many questions you can get right.

5. Thimbleweed Park (Mac):

No Caption Provided

As you can probably tell, me playing Contradiction and Grim Fandango got me much more fascinated in point and click adventure games. I’ve honestly haven’t been this interested in the genre since I was young and played Putt-Putt. Also Thimbleweed Park is the only 2017 game that ran incredibly well on my Macbook. Thimbleweed Park is an adventure game where a murder occurs in a town and two FBI working together to find the murderer. There's also plenty of other strange things that are happening in the town of Thimbleweed Park as you have 3 other playable characters that have their own mysteries to solve. This was a game crowd funded on Kickstarter back in 2014 and was developed by Terrible Toybox, led by adventure game veterans Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick. TP is both a solid homage to classic LucasArts adventure games as well as a fresh gaming experience. The game looks like a natural evolution from Maniac Mansion as the character designs take inspiration from the said game but with a more polished look. TP also brings in a very quirky sense of humor that both makes fun of the 1980’s and has some fun 4th wall jokes thrown in too. As a game, it manages to make an old system like the SCUMM inventory system new again by letting you hold an infinite amount of items and perform actions from talking to NPC’s to using items to solve puzzles. There are also some contemporary game design decisions that allow TP to be more accessible for those who don’t play many Adventure games. These include a map to let you fast travel and an objective notepad to keep in track on what puzzles and goals you’re suppose to accomplish. If you are fan of the genre and/or have a soft spot for classic LucasArts adventure games, I highly recommend Thimbleweed Park.

4. Battle Chef Brigade (Switch):

The cooking sections get much more tense later on.
The cooking sections get much more tense later on.

This was a game that sort of came out of nowhere for me. I saw Ben play it on UPF and seeing that it combined 2D Brawler combat with Match 3 puzzles seemed really interesting. Plus by concept, the core game is a fantasy themed version of the Iron Chef TV show but you have to hunt monsters and forge plants to create a meal to impress a line of judges. Battle Chef Brigade was a game I never knew I wanted, but it turned out to be an amusing and unique hybrid of genres. There’s a story mode where you play as a girl named Mina Han, a chef who leaves her family’s restaurant job to pursue her dream to join the Battle Chef Brigade. The Brigade defends their world from monsters and hunt for their ingredients to create cuisine that feeds the society. Plus the dialogue is pretty lighthearted as you meet a bunch of characters that for the most part, act like good sports when you defeat them and some become your best friends (Ziggy’s rad). The combat itself lets you land melee combos on the monsters as well as using magic projectile attacks to fight from afar. The puzzle aspect is more intense as you put your ingredients in a pot and each ingredient has a mix of Earth, Fire and/or Water gems and you have to line up 3 similar gems to improve your dish. Perhaps my favorite part is seeing what your dish looks like, as seeing you win with a a dish like a BBQ Dragon Shank feels fantastic. There are some light RPG elements with not only the items and combat skills you can buy, but the side jobs you take in between matches in order to make more money. Pro tip, get the Slow Cooker if you want a high scoring dish! BCB also has additional modes like Break the Dishes, a time trial mode where you bash a # of dishes as fast as possible and a puzzle mode where you have to arrange the gems in a certain order. The mode I’ve been going back to is the Daily Cook Off, where you are challenged to cook a dish with a random assortment of items and skills and make the best dish w/ what you’re given. Overall BCB is absolutely worth a try as it surprising blends two widely different genres in Beat-em ups and puzzles into one satisfying title.

3. Golf Story (Switch):

Oh Coach.
Oh Coach.

I was maybe one of the few people who knew something about this game before it released. I saw the first trailer to Golf Story back in May and it truly looked like a sequel to Mario Golf for the GBA in which it had a Golf/RPG hybrid campaign. Golf Story definitely delivers on the premise where you play as an unnamed protagonist who has a childhood dream of becoming a professional golfer. He gets away from his personal issues in life such as a divorce and goes on a fun yet zany path to fulfill his dream. How zany is it? Well what other golf game lets you fight an army of skeleton minions by hitting golf balls at them? You can also play golf in a snow-covered course. That’s how wacky this game gets. The golfing itself is relatively simple as it uses the Mario Golf two button system, with the first button for distance and the second for the aim. You can also have precision shots to aim at a particular part of the course. Even with basic mechanics it feels exhilarating whenever you get a very rare Albatross or Hole In One. Plus the RPG progression feels rewarding as you level up, you can improve your power, accuracy and slice and earn cash to buy new clubs. But one of the main draws of Golf Story is the plot and dialogue as its an over the top comedy. There’s a moment where you’re helping your coach with a date by distracting his guests with herb picking while your coach overcooks a roast in a microwave because he doesn’t know how to cook and tries too hard to impress. Gold Story is the type of Sport/RPG mixture that aren’t often released these days and for a first game by Sidebar Games, its nails the combination of genres.

2. Steamworld Dig 2 (Switch):

No Caption Provided

I have never played the first Steamworld Dig nor have I been much of a Metroidvania type of person. I was deciding between this or Sonic Mania as the next Switch game to purchase. Ultimately I chose Steamworld Dig 2 because it was on sale and heard that this is a better Metroid than Metroid Samus Returns. Turns out I made the right decision because man this is one well-designed video game. Steamworld Dig 2 has Metroid style exploration but blends in elements of Dig Dug as you are finding yourself digging deeper and deeper into different mines to collect ores and clearing objectives. It’s an oddly relaxing yet amusing experience as you dig for collectables. You play as Dorothy, who’s on a quest to find her friend and protagonist from the first game, Rusty. As Dorothy searches for her pal, she can explore the mines to again, collect ore to sell and earn some money. You can even go into secret rooms to find artifacts and cogs. Artifacts can help you unlock potential perks you can choose to upgrade while the cogs activate those perks whenever you are digging. There’s a really strong balance between you collecting ores and being rewarded with cash and using it to get the upgrades you believe will serve you best. The main story is pretty short as I beat the story missions in 6 ½ hours, but there’s still some many places to explore to find secrets that its worth going back to 100% the game. You also find different weapons and tools in a Metroid style room and these utilities ranging from the sticky bomb to the jet pack all felt simultaneously enjoyable and handy to use. Steamworld Dig 2 certainly made me a fan of the franchise and has me intrigued with Image and Form’s other titles.

1. Super Mario Odyssey (Switch):

No Caption Provided

What essentially became the reason I bought a Nintendo Switch. I love this game so much that I bought it twice; first time for myself and the second time were to give as a Christmas gift. Super Mario Odyssey is a masterfully crafted 3D platformer that utilizes the focus on exploration to its fullest. In every kingdom you go to, there are countless secrets to find where you can find more moons. Its an extremely rewarding game that awards the player for seeking out all the nooks and crannies in the kingdoms with a moon. Plus all the kingdoms have a ton of personality ranging from the Metro Kingdom that’s inhabited by photo realistic humans to the Seaside Kingdom, which contains a sea filled with Sparkling Water. Some moons may be a little too easy to obtain, but there are still lots of challenging tasks just to get one moon. Plus the capture ability is a real game changer letting Mario control enemies, inanimate objects and NPC’s. You can capture Cheep Cheeps to make swimming in the game the opposite of a drag. You can become a slab of meat and jump around while maintaining Mario's trademark hat and mustache. You can, yes, capture the mind of a human for the sole purpose to direct an RC Car. The captures also add to the exploration of Odyssey as they can permit Mario to access new areas to get a moon. Though don’t think the captures are the only elements that stand out as the core platforming is as good, if not better, than the best 3D Mario games.

Giant Bomb is right. Pokio da best!
Giant Bomb is right. Pokio da best!

Not to mention the game pays fun tributes to Mario’s history. The 2D sections add a nice change of pace that applies OG SMB art and mechanics to collect more moons or get to different points of the kingdom. There’s also appearances from Mario characters that haven’t been utilized in past Mario games in years. Bringing Pauline from Donkey Kong back as the Mayor of New Donk City is really clever and considering how many times Bowser has kidnapped Peach, Pauline knows security MUCH better than Peach. She’s canonically the lead voice for the best video game song of 2017 too! Going further on the music, the soundtrack has a great mix of new original songs and remixes of classic Mario Tunes. Ben's right though, Steam Gardens has superb music!

Though one mode that I had too much fun with was the photo. From the filters to all the different camera angles, there’s a lot of mileage in taking really dumb yet amusing pictures. I have over 200 photos in my Switch album and the grand majority of those pictures come from Odyssey.

Super Mario Odyssey is the best 3D Mario I’ve played and could be tied with Super Mario World as my favorite Mario game. The game is joy incarnate and it oozes with charm ranging from those captures to dressing Mario up in any outfit you want. There's no doubt in my mind that when we look back at video games in 2017, Super Mario Odyssey will be one of the prime examples that defined 2017 as one of the best years in games ever. Now I need to go get Zelda and other quality exclusives since I'll admit I'm still a little behind.

One of my pictures...Happy New Year Everybody!
One of my pictures...Happy New Year Everybody!

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13 Predictions for what will be revealed at The Game Awards

On December 7, we are about to have The Game Awards, or TGA’s, broadcasted online and people will see which games win certain awards. But perhaps the real reason why people turn in is not so much the awards themselves, but for the world premieres that Geoff Keighley tends to hype up. This year in particular Keighley has announced that there will be 13+ world premieres at this show. There have been some solid reveals in the past ranging from the Uncharted 3 during the Spike Days to the Psychonauts 2 crowdfunding announcement. People are starting to get eager about what the premieres are this year. Though one reveal that Keighley already confirmed that we’ll get World Premiere footage for the desert map in PUBG. I mean, it’s a big deal for PUBG players to finally see this desert map in action. However, the fact that one of the reveals Keighley is pushing is a map might get people’s expectations in check thinking we may get more world premieres for DLC rather than actual game announcements. While I'm expecting a fair amount of DLC premieres, I think there’s still some room for some monster game announcements as well as some meaty gameplay footage for some big 2018 games. Here I’m going to make 13 predictions on what game, DLC, remasters and ports and gameplay footage reveals I think we’ll get at the game awards. Also I'll update on this blog to see how right and wrong I am (I'll probably be mostly wrong, but we'll see).

DLC:

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle will reveal a new DLC pack with Rayman as a new playable hero: So first things first, this DLC is going to be announced when Kingdom Battle wins best strategy game. Normally the Game Awards do this by giving one the awards to the winner in a rather unceremonious way. Then they transistion to a World Premiere that's either tied to the game or with the game's publisher/developer. Honestly I’m sure all the other strategy nominees are quality games, Kingdom Battle ended up being this strange crossover that got massive attention and frankly I think its a lock to win Best Strategy Game.

Rayman's only appearance in a Nintendo game was in the latest Smash Bros. Maybe he'll shoot Rabbids alongside Mario?
Rayman's only appearance in a Nintendo game was in the latest Smash Bros. Maybe he'll shoot Rabbids alongside Mario?

As far as the DLC itself, this was actually leaked back in late November, but it wasn’t too descriptive on what it was going to include. It did state there would be 16 new weapons, 8 new challenges, 5 co-op missions and a brand new world with a new playable hero. When this serviced, people were predicting characters like Wario, Waluigi, Rosalina, Daisy and even Pauline as being one of those potential new heroes. As much as I’d love any of those characters to be playable, I’d think they’d have a Rabbid variant and the DLC mentions 1 new hero. The character and world I see is not even Mario themed. Instead, I think we see a Rayman crossover out of this with Mario and Rabbids going to Rayman’s universe. It’s plausible since Rabbids started off as Rayman characters but they spun off into their own franchise and honestly it would be a missed opportunity to not have Rayman and Mario in the same game

Destiny 2 DLC: I was going to say this was going to be another one of those DLC announcements after a certain game wins a award. However, looking at Destiny 2’s competition in the categories its nominated for, I’m not so sure if Destiny 2 will bring home any awards. It will lose best multiplayer to PUBG and maybe lose best action game to Cuphead. Maybe it wins best audio design? Either way, I think we’re going to get some new Destiny 2 content revealed in some fashion. I’m not sure what the content will be if its going to be additional single player content or a new multiplayer mode. I just have a sneaking feeling we’re going to get Destiny 2 DLC announced at the Game Awards. If not, PSX would probably be the likely place for it.

The collaboration was already announced back in Games Con
The collaboration was already announced back in Games Con

Assassin’s Creed Origins DLC will be FF15 themed: So this is getting some suspicion from players that have found something hidden that hints at DLC. Players have found a secret room that hints at potential DLC that might be tied to Final Fantasy 15. The room has some squares on the bottom of a wall that look like the squares from the SquareEnix logo. Not to mention there are Egyptian engravings of FF15 characters like Noctis. Then if you walk through the wall in front of you, there is a blue dungeon that leads to an empty alter. However, people are speculating that once the DLC is complete, it gives you access to Noctis’ sword or other Final Fantasy weapons. All this talk about an AC/FF crossover may come out of nowhere for some, but if this is leading to FF15 inspired DLC, this isn’t the first time these two franchises crossed over. FF15 had a Assassin’s Creed themed festival where you can have AC themed mini games and missions so it makes sense that AC would get FF content into its game soon.

Legend of Zelda BOTW DLC Pack 2 Release Date: So Nintendo confirmed that the second DLC pack for BOTW is suppose to come out around Holiday season in 2017. If Nintendo wants to make up their own word, they should release another trailer for the DLC pack at the Game Awards. This might be another trailer that will come from BOTW winning one of the awards (Maybe for Best Switch game) We’ll see more footage than what we saw in the E3 Direct and finally get a release date. In fact, I think this will be one of those trailers that will have a “you can get the game NOW” messages. It might be available after the show, but this would be a good way to end the wait for Zelda fans wanting to play the second DLC pack.

Game Footage of Already Announced Games:

Anthem will reveal some more gameplay footage: Oh EA, you could really use some positive coverage right now huh? 2017 might very well be EA’s worst year not only in this generation, but perhaps ever. First Mass Effect Andromeda was a buggy and poorly acted disappointment and then they closed Vicseral, the makers of Dead Space. Later NFS Payback was underwhelming and now Star Wars Battlefront 2 has gotten in so much trouble with microtranactions that it got the attention of both the government of Belgium and the state of Hawaii for possibly condoning gambling with a Star Wars theme. Oh and the beta for EA Sports UFC 3 is suppose to be another microtransaction/loot box mess according to .

Anthem is probably the best thing going for EA right now. Its being developed by Bioware and it’s a new IP where its an online multiplayer role playing game. It lets players take over mech suits called Javelins which all have different weapons and have jet packs that look fun to control. We haven’t seen anything from this since E3 and I think at some point, this game will get extended gameplay footage to be revealed. Perhaps we’ll see what the multiplayer interface would look like and see an expedition between 2 players but in a different world. We saw a jungle environment in the E3 gameplay reveal, so maybe a desert or snow environment instead?

Psychonauts 2 will get new footage: Its been 2 years since Psychonauts 2 got announced and fans who loved the original did what they could to crowdfund the sequel. Its been a while since we’ve seen anything on this game and honestly, I think the time is right that we’ll get a new trailer at the Game Awards. It won’t be a full on gameplay reveal as I think we’ll see a supercut of some of the game’s cutscenes seeing where the plot has gone since the events of the original. However, we’ll see gameplay as we’ll see what knew psychic tricks Raz can do ever since the original. We’ll also see what the “mental worlds” will look like and give Psychonauts fans a release date for 2018 to end the trailer.

Del Toro and Kojima are confirmed to be presenters for The Game Awards, but maybe they have something in store?
Del Toro and Kojima are confirmed to be presenters for The Game Awards, but maybe they have something in store?

Hey guess what? We’re getting another Death Stranding CG trailer tease: Geoff Keighley has confirmed that Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro will be at The Game Awards to present one of the awards. Not to mention that there are Twitter pictures of Hideo and Mads Mikkelsen spending time together. It could just be Hideo sharing pictures with him and Mads, but people are getting exciting hoping for more Death Stranding footage. You know what, I think we’ll see more. I don’t know if we’ll see any actual gameplay since the game itself seems far from even being 40% complete, but we might get a new actor reveal in another bizarre trailer.

This actually might be one of those World Premieres to end the show on.
This actually might be one of those World Premieres to end the show on.

Red Dead Redemption 2 will get a meaty gameplay video: Hey remember when Rockstar announced RDR2 for 2017? Well they decided to delay it until 2018 which surprised nobody because Rockstar games never meet their initial release date. We haven’t seen any footage of this in a while and I feel Rockstar should have something in store either for The Game Awards or PS experience. I think its more likely to be The Game Awards where we’ll see a 2-5 minute gameplay reveal as well as an official release date for when it coming out next year. I can see this being shown if RDR2 wins the most anticipated award. Also seriously Rockstar, Spring 2018 isn't that far away. Rockstar PR are normally masters at hyping up audiences for their upcoming games. I'd be shocked if RDR2 isn't shown off at all either here or PS experience.

Remasters/Ports:

Blizzard will announce porting one of their games onto the Switch…and it will be Hearthstone: With the Switch being such a runaway success, it has gotten plenty of third party developers/publishers to show support. Bethesda has shown massive support with Skyrim, DOOM and Wolfenstein II on the way, EA has released FIFA and even Rockstar released L.A. Noire onto the Switch. Blizzard is one of the few big developers that hasn’t released anything yet, but I think we get a reveal for one of their games going over to the portable home console. As their first Switch port, they’re going to bring Hearthstone over.

On one hand, I think many Switch owners would hope for something higher profile like Overwatch heading over, and the hearthstone announcement could disappoint some. I can even write a whole article itself on how much sense an Overwatch port on Switch would make. Lower the graphics for the system, amiibo support for Nintendo themed costumes (Dedede Reinhardt and Wario Roadhog would be the best), maybe a Nintendo guest character like Samus or an Inkling if Blizzard is willing to play ball. But Honestly I don’t think Overwatch will get ported on the Switch and instead, Blizzard will port Hearthstone over. It makes perfect sense porting a mobile card game on a system that lets you play games on the go. Hearthstone would also make the first Blizzard game to be on a Nintendo console since Starcraft 64. Yes Blizzard has not been supportive on Nintendo’s hardware for years, but I think Blizzard will be willing to test the waters by porting Hearthstone over and see how that version sells.

Seeing characters like Goro and Tom in HD might be Shenmue Remastered's sole blessing.
Seeing characters like Goro and Tom in HD might be Shenmue Remastered's sole blessing.

Shenmue 1+2 Remastered Collection: A very small amount of people are wondering if we’re going to see Shenmue 3 at either the Game Awards or at the PS experience. We did get a, well, emotionless trailer of Shenmue 3 earlier this year, but I don’t think we’ll see anymore footage in 2017. As a way to make up for the lack of Shenmue 3 news, I think the time is right for Yu Susuki to come out on stage or give permission to Keighley to announce a Shenmue 1 and 2 HD Remaster collection. Listen, knowing what we saw of the Endurance Run of the first Shenmue, I don’t think this is an entirely good idea to Hd-ify one game that’s a hot mess. However, it makes perfect sense to announce this to hype up Shenmue 3 and perhaps give this generation of gamers a chance to play these games that are deemed by some people as classics. Of course, this would only happen if Sega allows it.

Actual Game Announcements:

Those were the days. Back when Yoda and Darth Vader were guest fighters in Soul Calibur. Better than Teras Kasi.
Those were the days. Back when Yoda and Darth Vader were guest fighters in Soul Calibur. Better than Teras Kasi.

Soul Calibur 6 will be announced after Tekken 7 wins best fighting game: Honestly looking at the fighting game award this year, there may be 5 nominees but its really between Injustice 2 and Tekken 7 for the award. So here’s what I’m thinking, they give the Best Fighting game award to Tekken 7 and then Harada will hint at another classic 3D fighter of Namco’s that will return. This then cues a short, 30-second CG trailer with Siegfried and Nightmare fighting each other and we get a voice over saying “Soul Calibur 6!” There’s actually been some leaks going on about SC6 that is it planned to be announced at some point whether its going to be the Game Awards or E3 next year. Honestly this is the show for Namco to announce SC6 since Sony recently stated that Namco is going to be a No Show for PS Experience. But honestly, I think they show an announcement trailer at The Game Awards and then some footage later in 2018. We'll probably get guest characters on the way, but that will be too early to reveal. If Injustice 2 wins, then we won’t get the SC6 announcement and instead get footage of TMNT in Injustice 2.

A New Indie game will be announced: This one is admittedly vague because I don’t know what studio is announcing what in particular. I do think that we’re going to see a reveal of a brand new indie IP at the game awards from a pretty prominent indie dev. Whether its Digital Devolver or Yacht Club, I think we are going to see something new but no particular release date will be shown. If I have to be super specific, I'll say Digital Devolver will show a rather outragous new game where you play as a commando alligator and its like Metal Slug but aesthetically is a mix of Talespin and Natural Born Killers. It will be called Chomp-mando. Wait for me to be super wrong with this one.

Real question is: When's Uncle Amiibo's time to shine as a fighter in Smash Bros?!
Real question is: When's Uncle Amiibo's time to shine as a fighter in Smash Bros?!

New Super Smash Bros for Switch or Deluxe version will be announced: Nintendo was giving away free tickets to the game awards to any lucky fans out there. This could be a hint that maybe either BOTW or Odyssey is going to win GOTY, but it could just be Nintendo being nice to its fans by giving them a chance to attend the show. Plus I think Nintendo is giving away tickets because they might have a special reveal ready for the show. The potential DLC announcements aren’t gonna be enough. Some people are saying Metroid Prime 4 will show up at the awards, but I think that title is still so early in development that they’re waiting until next E3 to show Prime 4 off. I gut feeling tells me there is going to be a new Smash Bros game that will be announced for the Switch. OK, maybe not an entirely new game because I think it might be Smash Bros for Wii U Deluxe. Still, its been rumored for a while that Smash Bros is coming to the Switch and I think if there’s anytime to announce a new Smash or an upgraded port, it might be the Game Awards. The game will probably show familiars like Mario, Link, Kirby, Marth and the Villager fight each other, but I’m thinking we’ll get some new character announcements like an Inkling, Spring Man from Arms and/or a third party character (maybe Snake returns).

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An Increasing Trend in Indie Games: Platform Fighters (Or Smash Clones)

Say what you will about Super Smash Bros, whether it’s a fighting game or not. If there is something that is undeniable about the series’ legacy, is it has created a local multiplayer experience that feels unique to its own. Its already a big draw amongst Nintendo’s IP’s because it has an increasingly large roster of either Nintendo icons or other game characters battling each other to no end. But the gameplay is what gives Smash its identity as a blend of a fighting game and 2D platforming. People have claimed Smash Bros is responsible for creating the genre platform fighters. Each character has a distinct fighting moveset that they can use, but the stages are normally set up like a platforming level rather than a traditional fighting game arena. This gives players opportunities to explore and even use to their advantage. There’s also an emphasis on beating up on the opponent because while there’s not a health bar in default Smash, you can pound on your rivals for a higher % to create a better chance at knocking them off the stage. Of course there’s items if you want to create some chaos, but you can always disable those if you’re not in the mood for an assist trophy like Waluigi hitting opponents with his tennis racket. But overall what makes Smash such a distinct game is that it pits Nintendo and other well known characters in a free for all fight to see who will survive in a platforming/fighting game hybrid. Other AAA titles have tried to capture that Smash magic like PS All Stars Battle Royale and the Japan Only Dream TV World Fighters. But many have failed to replicate the same experience that Smash delivers to Nintendo fans.

While AAA games haven’t live up to Smash status as platform fighters, Indie developers have been hungry to create their own takes on the genre for years. Whether they are borrowing gameplay elements of Smash itself or putting their own ideas in, many different Indie studios have either produced their own platform fighters or have games that are currently in develepment. Some are simply trying to create their own Smash Bros gameplay wise, but others are throwing in their own ideas to the genre to make their games stand out. I’m gonna take a look at many different indie platform fighters, released or not, and looking at exactly how they play compared to amongst themselves and to Super Smash Bros.

Lethal League:

The first game on this article is perhaps the most different to Smash out of all the games that will be included here, but it definitely has hints of Smash in its gameplay. Developed by Team Reptile, Lethal League actually started out as a flash game, but soon eventually got an official downloadable release in 2014 on PS4 and Steam (Windows and Linux). It’s a multiplayer fighting game where its set in a futuristic urban setting and players could choose between 6 characters. The goal is to hit a ball at the opponent within an arena. The match keeps on going until the ball knocks out someone and then the next round starts. It’s like Smash by allowing the player to freely explore the environment by walking and jumping around. The big difference is the ability to slam the ball to use it as a projectile and the opponents can hit the ball back if they time the counter correctly. Anytime the ball is hit, it goes faster bouncing around the arena and will continue to bounce until someone falls victim to a hit. It feels like a game of tennis with the continuous ball hitting, even though its taking inspiration from batting in baseball. Each player has a life bar for each player and it keeps going down whenever someone gets hit.

No Caption Provided

Lethal League is widely regarded as some of the better local/online multiplayer games to come out this generation. It takes elements from others games to create its own satisfying formula mixed in with an artstyle that looks like a long lost spinoff of the Jet Set Radio series.

Indie Game Battle:

OK, this game is the antithesis of Lethal League. When Lethal League took minor inspiration from Smash and included its own combat system to make itself feel distinct, Indie Game Battle didn’t try to make itself feel special. This was an early access title on Steam created by Blob Game Studios that was meant to be the indie answer to Smash Bros. Many elements from Smash Bros were used in this game such as the percentage-hit system, the 2D platform stages, summoning round shields and even similar launch attacks. There was even a character that had a carbon copy of Kirby’s inflatable mid air jumps. Though with it being an early access title, you’d think they would add new modes like an adventure mode or online to this, right? Turns out there were very little additions done for this game as the only new things added were new characters and stages. Sometimes they removed characters from the game as well and there was never any fixes on the A.I.

Hmm, yeah this doesn't look familiar.
Hmm, yeah this doesn't look familiar.

Now what about the roster? With this being an Indie Smash like was there any big name indie characters that gave the game a draw? Well, eventually it got characters like Dust from Dust: An Elysian Tail, Captain Viridian from VVVVVV and the Goat from Goat Simulator. But those are probably the best-known characters I can pull because mostly everyone else was either a character from a little known Blob Game or from other indie games that have small followings. Also this title eventually got canned for getting hate as a Smash clone and for the developers not providing the necessary changes in its early access cycle.

Rivals of Aether:

Ben Pack provided a great quick look about Rivals of Aether as well as covered the game's updates in the most recent West stream. But if you want to read about it here, sit down. Developed by Dan Fornace, Rivals of Aether is a platform fighter that takes some inspiration from Smash Bros from the hit percentage system to the fact that you have to knock your opponent off the stage to win. But what makes it different from Smash is one, the characters are all unique and Aether actually has its own story mode and two, there’s a greater focus on stage control and you can’t block and grab opponents. For the stages, Smash’s stages have always varied in size going from Battlefield and 64 Dreamland to Hyrule Castle and New Pork City. Rivals of Aether has relatively small stages that pressures the player to control that space whenever possible. Also, being prohibited to perform blocks and grabs forces the player to be on the offensive rather than playing a defensive game. Not to mention Aether has a mode called Abyss Mode, which is like Multi-Man Brawl in Smash where you fight countless enemies, but also incorporates horde mode elements by giving players specific challenges and tasks to the hordes of foes you face.

That Lion is messing that Orca up.
That Lion is messing that Orca up.

Plus with the exception of Ori from Ori and the Blind Forest being a guest character, the roster is rather small but full of unique characters with their own movesets. I mean, Smash doesn’t have a 4 legged Orca who uses puddle teleportation, do they? Does it have a rock beetle that can summon stone pillars from the ground? What’s also worth noting is that this game was in early access back in 2015 but is officially out now. So the developers have taken the time to get feedback from players to improve the game.

Brawlout:

The Zangief of Frogs
The Zangief of Frogs

Much like Indie Game Battle before it, this is an Early Access Platform Fighter that isn’t shy of taking elements from Smash Bros. That definitely seems like the intention of this game as the developers want to create their own take on the genre. However, they have told sources that they are trying to strip out the superfluous elements of Smash Bros to give it more of a fighting game. There are no items in Brawlout and it doesn’t sound like developer Angry Mob Games has any intention to add them in the future. Also you can’t block attacks with a shield and instead must learn how to dodge or counter attacks to give yourself a shot to stay alive. Like Aether, the stages are small but only one of them has any stage hazards. It’s also like Aether in that it stars an original cast of characters, from a luchador frog to a walrus that fights with a penguin as a companion. They also have a guest character in the Hyper Light Drifter being playable, but everyone else is original. Also if you can tell from the gif, this is a polygonal Platform Fighter rather than a sprite based one compared to Rivals of Aether.

EDIT: Brawlhalla:

The future of football
The future of football

Whoops, this one slipped under my radar when I was originally writing this article. Well, now its time to give some attention to Brawlhalla. Developed by Blue Mammoth Studios, Brawlhalla is a free-to-play platform fighter that was first shown at PAX East in 2014 and later went into an Open Beta in 2015. The game officially came out 4 days ago on STEAM (PC and Mac) and PS4. Like some platform fighters listed on here, the goal is to knock someone off the stage. But unlike Smash or even Rivals of Aether, the damage system isn't displayed as hit percentage, but rather the icon of the player going from white to red. As the character icon gets more red, that make the opponent easier to knock off the arena. There's a standard free-for-all mode in Brawlhalla, but the game has plenty of unique local and online multiplayer modes such as 1v1 Strikeout, where one player picks 3 characters with one stock each and arranges an order for their team and faces off against another team of 3 fighters. There's also plenty of different custom multiplayer modes too, such as Brawlball which is like football but it normally composes of two teams of 2 and each team must run the football to the opponent's end of the field.

Brawlhalla currently has 34 characters, or legends, that are playable and each can start off a match with 2 primary weapons out of 10. Weapons range from Katars which are best used for melee combat to a Rocket Lance which can let players traverse across the stage. Weapons can also fall into the stage and they can also be thrown at opponents to knock them off. Players don't have to fight with a weapon as they can choose to be unarmed and use attacks that all characters can perform. To me, Brawlhalla seems like the opposite of Brawlout where the weapons are a MAJOR focus in the combat. There also seems like a complex movement system as players can perform up to 2 dodges on the ground and in the air, they can either perform 3 jumps, an air dodge or fall faster, like you would in Smash. I feel kinda silly leaving this out earlier since this game has over 53,000 reviews on STEAM, hence that this game is popular.

Icons: Combat Arena:

There have been some interesting developments surrounding this game in particular. This is being made from the people behind the Project M mod for Brawl. For those who don’t quite know about Project M, it’s a mod that is meant to make Brawl play more like Super Smash Bros Melee. Why? Melee has been the ideal game in the Smash series for competitive play and when Brawl came out, there were a few things that made Brawl feel less competitive. Melee was a faster game that drew competitive players to this iteration above others. Brawl also had less of an emphasis on combos and included things like tripping which would happen randomly to startle someone whenever they were walking. Project M was made to bring back the faster paced action of Melee within Brawl’s engine and make Brawl a more competitive game. The mod also has things like skins for specific characters that you couldn’t get in vanilla Brawl as well as changed movesets, such as Wario fighting more like he did in the Wario Land games.

Look, its Madam Marth!
Look, its Madam Marth!

Wavedash, the new name for the makers of the Project M mod, is making Icons: Combat Arena. Judging by simple screenshots, it appears to be a separate game from Smash with visually distinct environments and characters. But if you see the trailer, it kind of looks likes a blatant ripoff. There’s a sword character whose moves look virtually identical to Marth’s. There’s a goat guy who literally has Fox’s Up Smash and dash attack. It feels like this could be to Melee what Paladins was to Overwatch, a game maybe taking too much inspiration where characters play too similar to another source. Hopefully this won’t be the case since this game is far from done and maybe the developers can put more originality to the character’s move sets. But we’ll see what the future holds for this Free to Play platform fighter.

Crowdfunded Darling 1- Bounty Battle:

Neat, I can have the crusader from Darkest Dungeon fight Fish from Nuclear Throne
Neat, I can have the crusader from Darkest Dungeon fight Fish from Nuclear Throne

Believe it or not, there where not 1, but 2 platform fighters that recently got crowdfunded. Both of which are taken inspiration of Smash’s roster by creating a fighter that has an all star cast of indie video game characters. The first of these that I’ll break down is Bounty Battle. This is a game being developed by French developer DarkScreen Games and was funded on FIG. As far as the roster goes, its a pretty respectable selection of characters. There are characters that come from franchises like Guacamelee (Juan), Darkest Dungeon (Crusader), Axiom Verge (Trace), Owlboy (Otus), Psychonauts (Raz) and others. Sure some people are complaining about the lack of other indie characters like Shovel Knight of someone from Hotline Miami, but overall I’d say the roster top to bottom is pretty decent and will likely get updates before the game is out. Though this needs to be stated: Jay and Silent Bob, who you might know from almost every Kevin Smith movie, could be playable. Why? Well there was a Jay and Silent Bob game FIG campaign that got funded last year, so like Friday the 13th, another Indie game based on movies?

Juan is getting WRECKED!
Juan is getting WRECKED!

Now what about the gameplay of Bounty Battle? Is it a direct Smash clone or does it have its own ideas? Well it’s a multiplayer game up to 4 players where players are encouraged to rack combos on their opponents until their health bar goes down. The stages themselves seem to be more like PS All Stars stages where there are platforming sections, but they all feel pretty compact spaces and judging from alpha gameplay, you can’t launch somebody off the stage. Plus there is an emphasis on resource management where you can earn a source of currency called Bounty Points, which are rewarded to you for landing combos or destroying enemies. You can then use those Bounty Points to summon Minions, which seem like they are like the PokeBalls and Assist Trophies in Smash, but with you having more direct control. Lastly, the developers are promising a pretty meaty package as Bounty battle will come with a Challenge Mode and Story mode. This game managed to only get funded over its goal of $30,000 without reaching stretch goals. However, bounty battle looks like a promising platform fighter by creating a Smash like roster for Indies but having its own ideas for combat. Its slated to come out anywhere. PC, PS4, XBOX 1, Switch, Mac, you name it.

Crowdfunded Darling 2: Indie Pogo:

The strategy may just look like jumping on someone's head, but characters can attack each other.
The strategy may just look like jumping on someone's head, but characters can attack each other.

This game was actually funded a week ago on Kickstarter (not on IndieGogo despite the name). If you are reading the title right, its actually quite explanatory to what this game’s gimmick is. Indie Pogo, which is currently developed by Orlando Dev The Lowe Bros., is a platform fighter starring a bunch of indie game characters that are constantly jumping around. The constant jumping mechanic is by far this game’s most interesting factor since it forces players to not stay still. You’re constantly on the move and this makes you much more aware of your surroundings because you’ll never know when your enemy will attack. The stages themselves ranged from being compact to open spaces and the objective is to beat up your opponents until their live reaches zero or if you can knock them off the stage. The movesets of the characters appear to be relatively simple where each character has their own unique attacks and a special attack. It got funded with over $41,000 with a $25,000 goal and only reached 1 stretch goal, but it’s a PC and Mac game for now with no plans to get to consoles at the moment.

As far as the roster goes, here's the link to the roster (not final). I can't put it here for some reason so here's the list of characters:

  • Tesla Kid (TeslaGrad)
  • Zorbie (Titular character of his game)
  • Captain Viridian (VVVVVV)
  • Fishy (Shutshimi)
  • Commander Video (Bit Trip Series)
  • Lilac (Freedom Planet)
  • Blockman (The Blocks Cometh)
  • Orcane (Rivals of Aether-heh, a character from one Platform fighter is in another)
  • Jack the Reaper (Titular character)
  • Shovel Knight
  • Stardrop (Stardrop Blaster)
  • Velocispider (Titular character)
  • Downwell guy
  • Penepole (The Next Penelope)
  • Voltar (Awesomenauts-yes I know the roster shows 3 of them, but the developers have said Voltar is the one they're leaning towards)
  • Octodad (Octodad: Dadliest Catch)
  • Dust (Dust: An Elysian Tail)
  • Gunvolt (Azure Striker Gunvolt)
  • Bullet-Kin (Enter the Gungeon)
  • Kick (Divekick)

Now the first thing you might notice is that this game has a mix of characters from franchises that have developed fan followings over the years and some characters that seem to come from little know IP’s. Here’s the thing with IndiePogo’s development: It was initially revealed last year on Steam Greenlight and back then the roster was mainly made up of mobile indie characters (Stardrop Sprint, Zorbie and Velocispider), and VERY little known Steam or Windows Indies (Next Penepole, Jack the Reaper and Shutshimi). Eventually its got some attention for its core gameplay mechanic of constant jumping and soon the developers were able to negotiate with other Indie devs to get more notable characters like Commander Video, Lilac and Shovel Knight in there. Then when the Kickstarter finally got started, the developers were having polls letting people vote for Indie characters they want in the game and that’s how characters like a Bullet-Kin and Kick got in. The devs have also gone out of their way to ask for permission from other developers to see if their characters could join IndiePogo (how Octodad joined They have talked with developers like Derek Yu (Spelunky), Chucklefish (Stardew Valley) and Psyonix (Rocket League). Yes you are reading this right, they are trying to get a Rocket League car playable in IndiePogo, and I’m all for it. With a roster that is far from complete, it seems like the devs are trying to create a roster that contains some notable Indie characters as the main draws while including obscure characters to give them some exposure and perhaps help those games become more popular. I mean, Bounty Battle is doing the same for games like Rad Rodgers and Super Comboman.

They even did prototypical sprite work for the Octane vehicle from RL. This could be the Hornet of Indie Pogo if Psyonix gives them permission.
They even did prototypical sprite work for the Octane vehicle from RL. This could be the Hornet of Indie Pogo if Psyonix gives them permission.

Also weirdly enough, I’m finding myself more intrigued by IndiePogo than I am Bounty Battle. While I think top to bottom Bounty Battle has a more recognizable roster, I’m actually more drawn to the character choices of IndiePogo. As someone who’s greatly enjoyed Freedom Planet and Divekick, I love the fact that Lilac and Kick are gonna be in the same game together. Also the constant hopping mechanic has me really curious to see how that translates to actual gameplay, and lucky gaming youtube channels who got the demo early seemed to enjoy it. But we’ll see how the public perceives both IndiePogo and Bounty Battle when those two come out?

Now if either developer for Bounty Battle or Indie Pogo is reading this now, there is one character I really want to be in either game. He's obscure in most places, but is beloved here at Giant Bomb. I'm talking about this man:

Inspector Jenks from Contradiction: Spot the Liar! I want to attack Shovel Knight by poking him with devil horn hand gestures and Atlas masks!
Inspector Jenks from Contradiction: Spot the Liar! I want to attack Shovel Knight by poking him with devil horn hand gestures and Atlas masks!

Honorable Mention: Runbow:

So there's a reason why I don't really talk about this one. Yes this game has an all star lineup of Indie Characters and yes it has platforming in it. But its really more of an indie platform racer than a platform fighter. Still, it will be acknowledged as sort of being like Indie Smash but if it Smash was a 2D Platforming racing game.

Still an good roster for a Smash Indie clone
Still an good roster for a Smash Indie clone

In conclusion, its really interesting that many indie developers are trying to have their own take on Smash's fighting game formula. Of course games like Lethal League and Rivals of Aether have incorporated some unique ideas to successfully make their own game stand out from Smash in certain ways. Though hopefully games like Icons don't join the leagues of Indie Game Battle of being blatant knockoffs. It will be really interesting to see how Bounty Battle and Indie Pogo are received since both have some interesting ideas while they're both trying to create "THE ULTIMATE INDIE COLLABORATION FIGHTER".

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Mario Characters' History with Other Humans: Sports

About four months ago, Nintendo held a press event where it not only provided details for the now released Nintendo Switch, but revealed some new games for the system too. One of the games that caught everyone by surprise was Super Mario Odyssey. The game appears to go back to the gameplay style of Super Mario 64 and Sunshine where the levels are enclosed worlds and Mario is open to wander these levels to complete trials anyway the player desires. One thing that caught many viewers off guard was seeing Mario run around in one of these levels, New Donk City. The city is inhabited by realistic humans in a realistic setting that made for a stark contrast to not only Mario levels in the past, but Mario himself to regular looking people. Viewers made either 2 comparisons: one would be making comparisons to Sonic Adventure and/or Sonic ’06 when Sonic the Hedgehog walked around in human environments. The other comparison is a clip from one Simpsons Treehouse of Horror episode where Homer enters a 3 dimensional world from a wall of his home and through shenanigans, accidently goes into the real world. As I watched the reveal I was shocked to see Mario run around with realistic humans. However, I thought back to when Mario had hung out with regular looking humans before. Did we all forget about the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe transforming into Mario to get to the Rio Olympic ceremony on time? Was it not Mario who was a referee for some of Mike Tyson’s fights?

What is I told you that Princess Peach played basketball with Shaquille O'Neal!?
What is I told you that Princess Peach played basketball with Shaquille O'Neal!?

Leading up to Super Mario Odyssey’s release, I'd like to start a potential series on Mario and friends' history interacting with other humans, realistic looking or not. This article is gonna focus in on both the Mario sport spinoff games and other sports titles that Mario and Company appear in as well.

Mario Golf (and other Golf games with Mario):

Mario has quite a long history with golf even before Mario Golf became a franchise. His golfing days actually got started in the days of the NES. One game that some claim star Mario is the NES game simply titled Golf. This NES title has you play as a somewhat chubby, mustached golfer who also seems like the only character in the entire game. Many have claimed that this is Mario himself, but I just don’t see it. Sure the character has some features that resemble the plumber out of the Mushroom Kingdom, but he looks a little too realistic and tall to actually be Mario.

The real debut of Mario’s golfing career was NES Open Tournament Golf, where Mario and Luigi are rocking some pro-American outfits (even if they are Italian). For other humans that are in this game, Peach appears to be Mario’s caddy, but there’s another blonde woman who’s Luigi’s caddy. It turned out that in official art, they redesigned this lady’s appearance to look like Princess Daisy, but was Daisy originally a blonde? There is one more human that we see in game where he gives the player the run down on the course as well as lets you pick your character. His appearance matches up with the style of how Mario and Luigi are designed as he too has big eyes and a big nose like the Mario Bros. Although the game appears to take place in the real world as courses are called the U.S. Open and the U.K. Open, so a cartoonish take on the real world?

The first game to be called “Mario Golf” was Mario Golf for the N64. Take a look at the roster screen for this game. You have your main stays for Mario spinoff games such as Peach, Yoshi, Wario, Bowser and so on. But do you see anything else strange about the roster? Who are these people?

Who's Plum?
Who's Plum?

Why are they golfing with Mario characters? I have an interesting theory as to who these characters were actually supposed to be before they were in Mario Golf. The developer of this game is Camelot, who is responsible for developing the first Hot Shots Golf game for the PS1. If you look at the character designs of the first HSG to the original characters in Mario Golf, they don’t look all that different. I believe these were either rejected character designs for the first HSG or planned characters for Camelot’s vision of HSG 2. Simply put, once Nintendo bought Camelot from Sony, these not HSG characters found their way into Mario Golf with Nintendo’s permission rather than an actual HSG game. What is weird is that the courses all appear to be within the Mario Universe, yet you have these random humans show up.

There was also Mario Golf for the GBC, where it had a single player mode where you create your own character and build that character’s stats up like an RPG to be the best golfer out there. You compete with other characters in order to unlock them, but many are original characters or not HSG characters. Though Mario himself is the final boss and he’s praised throughout the campaign as his golfing skills are on par with Tiger Woods (Pun not intended). The world itself is pretty cartoonish with essentially every character being human and the courses have Mario references to them. For instance, if you hit a golf ball into water, there's an animation where a Blooper will pop out and get mad for hitting the ball at him.

There was also Mario Golf: Advance Tour for the GBA which was very similar to its GBC predecessor. You have a few Mario Characters that are playable, but there’s also that single player mode where you create a character and build that character up. That game also lets you play against the human characters from the first portable Mario Golf. These people have more of an anime appearance when compared to that one golf guide from NES OTG. However, it can be argued that these are what other humans looked like in the Mario Universe.

What? These are totally Mario Characters. Right?
What? These are totally Mario Characters. Right?

Mario Tennis:

Mario Tennis on the N64 was different to Mario Golf in that the cast was all Mario characters and there were no HSG looking humans in sight. For original characters, it brought the world Waluigi for better or worse. However, you could get some different characters from Mario Golf on the GBC and with a transfer pack. Guess what, they’re human and sort of have an anime appearance. So while Mario Tennis for the N64 was meant to have a cast entirely made up of Mario characters and has courts that are based in the world of Mario. Yet the GBC version of the game is almost an entirely different story.

Definitely Mario Characters on the right. That one girl is next to Waluigi.
Definitely Mario Characters on the right. That one girl is next to Waluigi.

The GBC Mario Tennis was like the portable version of Mario Golf in that you got a small number of Mario characters in the initial roster, but you have a similar single player campaign. You customize your character’s skills and build that character up to be a better tennis player. You also play in an area that is far away from the Mushroom Kingdom and play against and unlock different human characters throughout the game. You can play either singles or doubles in the campaign and the ultimate goal is to play good enough tennis that you get invited to the Mushroom Kingdom to take on Mario in a game of tennis.

There's also a GBA game called Mario Tennis: Power Tour, which was again, very similar to the GBC game. You have your share of Mario characters and original characters to play as, but the story is a little different. You play as a student of a tennis academy, but there are masked challengers that come in and defeat the champions of the academy. Determined to seek their true identity, your character builds themselves up by beating every other student and get good enough to find and face these masked tennis players. It actually turns out that Mario and Friends were the masked challengers, and you have to beat them at the end.

I can say what I want about how these characters don't quite match the Mario aesthetic. But again, at least Camelot established a consistent art style as to what other humans looked like in the Mario Universe. Then suddenly Mario interacting with other humans got a whole lot weirder in the late GC era.

Gamecube Versions of EA Sports Big Games:

Before I go further, there needs to be some context that has to explain this segment. During the PS2/XBOX/GC generation, the Gamecube was the only console to not support online multiplayer for their games (unless you count Phantasy Star Online). With the GC not letting customers play games online, third party developers felt obligated to add extra content in their GC titles. This was clearly meant to give GC owners an incentive to buy their titles and make up for the lack of online play. For example, the GC version of Mortal Kombat Deception was the only console game that allowed people to play as MK’s most iconic boss characters, Goro and Shao Khan.

Now how does this relate to Mario? Well, EA Sports Big wanted to make up for the lack of online multiplayer by literally including Mario, Luigi and Princess Peach as playable characters in two of this games. These are games that feature either real people or realistic people within each game’s roster. They’re both set in the real world…Why did no one reference these games in the Odyssey reveal?

The first of these was NBA Street V3, which was the third installment of the NBA Street series. The Gamecube version had Mario and friends as a playable team called Nintendo All Stars. You can look at this gameplay clip to see how uncanny the Mario Bros. and Peach look when playing basketball against real NBA players. Yes, there’s a game where Mario and Kobe Bryant can go toe to toe in a game of hoops! They even have their own court that uses art that is inspired from the Mushroom Kingdom, but the court looks pretty realistic. Plus, the audience for this court are not Toads, Koopa Troopas, or any other species that resides in the Mushroom Kingdom. They're just plain ol' looking humans.

Wait a minute... Is this New Donk City?
Wait a minute... Is this New Donk City?

The other EA Sports Big title was SSX On Tour, the fourth installment of the SSX series. EA got the same Mario characters from NBA Street V3 into this title to have them crave up the most pragmatic looking snow environments for its time.

Here's a regular snowboarder in SSX On Tour...
Here's a regular snowboarder in SSX On Tour...
And here's Luigi in the same game.
And here's Luigi in the same game.

I can understand why EA got these characters into their games because they wanted Nintendo’s biggest icons to be linked with the GC versions of these titles. It also sends a firm statement that this is what you’re getting on the Gamecube. But at the same time, its just bizarre seeing Luigi stand next to somebody like Kevin Garnett. Maybe if it was NBA pros of SSX characters dressing up as Mario characters (which is also strange), that might work better. The fact that Mario characters are outright playable in this mostly realistic games is odd. However, its evidence that Mario has had contact with realistic people long before we saw Mario in New Donk City for the first time. What’s stranger to me is that Mario wasn’t playable for the Nintendo published snowboarding game, 1080 Avalanche. Or the Nintendo published NBA Courtside on the GC.

As a bonus, the GC version of Fight Night Round 2 had its own Nintendo exclusive content. One of which was unlocking a fighter that’s supposed to resemble the SNES Punch Out design of Little Mac, but its such a horrifying character design that it makes Jeff in EA Sports UFC look natural (Actually, UFC Jeff is uncanny but in a good way). You can also unlock Super Punch Out from the SNES in Fight Night Round 2 though, which is cool. Speaking of Punch Out…

Punch-Out:

This is another Nintendo series that a couple of Mario characters have made cameo appearances in before. It’s nothing new considering that Mario is often referenced in any other Nintendo IP like Kirby, Animal Crossing and Pokemon, but it was one of the first to do so.

Most noticeably in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out, Mario playing the role as the referee is one of the most memorable cameos that featured the red hated plumber. As everyone knows, Mario is the referee for every bout Little Mac is involved with starting to the Minor Circuit w/ foes like Glass Joe and Piston Hondo. Then its on to the Major Circuit fighting stalwarts like Don Flamenco and Bald Bull and later to the World Circuit featuring rematches as well as new fighters like Mr. Sandman. Of course, the real grand finale is fighting Mike Tyson, which is considered by many to be one of the toughest boss fights ever. Remember, Mario and Mike Tyson were in the same virtual ring together. A real boxing icon and a cartoon plumber! Not to mention that the other boxers you fight are from real world countries (except for King Hippo). Like NES Open Tournament Golf, Mario has traveled in the real world before as he had a short-term career as a boxing referee. Also in Punch Out for the arcade, Mario, Luigi, Donkey Kong and DK Jr. all appear as spectators in the crowd.

Punch-Out on the Wii was the only other game in the series to feature a Mario character to make a cameo appearance. Mario didn’t return, as the referee and Tyson had no chance to return as the hidden boss fighter. Instead, the developers got permission to use a different character to fill in Tyson’s shoes as both the hidden and toughest boxer of the game, and that was Donkey Kong. It was also a very overconfident and smug DK at that.

He's literally telling you to kiss his bum.
He's literally telling you to kiss his bum.

Sure, you could argue that DK family has been around humans before with supposedly Cranky Kong being the original Donkey Kong in the Arcade game kidnapping Pauline. But this time he’s fighting actual people in a boxing ring live in front of a human audience. Plus throughout the fight he's dancing in front of you, blowing kisses and even adjusting his hair. All of these cocky moves are bait moves for Little Mac to try to punch the tie wearing ape, only to miss. If DK beats you, he'll abduct Little Mac out of the ring as if he's Pauline from the original Donkey Kong game. DK is a pretty predictable guest character within the Nintendo universe to put into Punch Out, but this is quite a funny portrayal of him making him this smug boxer that knows he's gonna pound Little Mac.

It was originally planned that Princess Peach was gonna be a secret boxer for the Wii version of Punch-Out, but the developer Next Level Games dropped the idea thinking it would out of bad taste to have the player beat up a women. Good call. They even had plans to include other Nintendo characters into the game, but instead stuck with DK as the one guest character and wanted to expand the series' roster of characters instead.

Quick Notes on other Mario Sports Games:

  • There's the long running Mario and Sonic Olympic series where it does take place in real world settings, but all realistic humans are replaced by Mario and Sonic characters. What happened to mankind?
  • Mario 3-on-3 Hoops is a Mario Basketball game for the DS that had a plethora of Mario characters, but also had a Ninja, White Mage and Black Mage from Final Fantasy as other playable humans. It also had a Moogle and a Cactuar since Square Enix made this game.
  • There was a NES racing series exclusive to Japan called Famicon Grand Prix where Mario was prominently featured in the advertising. He was also playable and raced against supposedly other people.
  • The Mario Strikers and Sluggers games pretty much include characters in the extended Mario universe.
  • Mario Kart has had Miis since the Wii and has Link, Animal Crossing Villagers and Inklings as human/humanoid characters in MK8 Deluxe, but that's it.

Conclusion:

Looking back at these different games, Mario has had, well, an interesting history in meeting different people. Mario has in fact interacted with the very best pros in the NBA during the 2005 season as well as ride through some mountain trails in SSX On Tour, but I don't think Nintendo fully acknowledges those games' existence. Perhaps Punch Out is an extended Mario franchise considering characters from the Mushroom Kingdom have appeared in the series' titles from its Arcade roots to the latest release. Camelot had a relatively uniform art style displaying how other humans were depicted within the world of Mario, even if those designs may or may not have been intended for a Sony IP. But with Super Mario Odyssey on the way, the developers probably just thought of rebooting the idea of how other humans are depicted in Mario and decided to make them appear down-to-earth, but Mario and Peach will stay the same. Plus Odyssey appears to have different worlds that have their own art style, so the realistic NDC is just one of the artistically unique levels in the game.

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Sonic the Hedgehog and The Oakland Raiders are Oddly Alike

*Warning, this is a really long read. If you want to skip to different segments, you definitely can. Don't feel forced to read the whole thing

Welcome to my second entry of this series where I draw parallels between two things you wouldn't think have much in common. And yes, you’re reading the title correctly. I’m going to compare Sonic the Hedgehog, a videogame franchise, to the Oakland Raiders, a football team. Why? Let me put it this way, these two franchises were incredibly relevant and popular back in the day. They were once known for having amazing games/teams that also revolutionized their separate businesses forever. But lately, both have gained a similar reputation of simply being shells of themselves. Recent Sonic games for the most part have had terrible receptions and we’ve grown accustomed to seeing Sonic as a bad video game IP. The Oakland Raiders have had a recent history where they’ve played horrible football and like Sonic in video games, fans expect the Raiders to suck. Basically, I’m saying that Sonic is DA RAAAAIIIDEEERS of video games. I'm gonna compare both to in terms of their early history and the last 13 years and how both went from being some of the most prestigious brands of all of entertainment to being laughing stocks. And then how they earned some prestige back and then squandering all their momentum to be laughing stocks once again.

And for craps and giggles, both have made, well, ambitious attempts at producing music to say the least, namely hip hop. Look man, you can enjoy these in a perverse way and I don’t call myself a rap expert, but this stuff doesn’t hold a candle to DMX’s “Ain’t No Sunshine”. Sure Ice Cube did a rap for Oakland, which makes sense since he’s a Raider fan and because of N.W.A’s ties to the team, but this isn’t his best work. The Raiders in their prime inspired better songs for Cube and N.W.A. And the team did a rap in 1986 if you want to see embarrassing music.

The Clear Differences:

  • Sonic is a much more colorfully franchise than the Raiders. The fact that Sonic himself is blue alone proves the games are more colorfully than the Silver and Black team out of Oakland, CA.
  • The Oakland Raiders have been around much longer than Sonic the Hedgehog. The team was founded in 1960 and Sonic’s debut was in 1991.
  • Sonic’s character design and image has been redone over the years. The Raiders’ logo and uniforms have gone through change, but the modern Raider uniforms haven’t had any drastic changes since the 1960’s.
  • Professional Football is a way older business than the video game industry.
  • Sonic and friends are fictional, and the Oakland Raiders are real people.

Early History: Lets think back to the early 1990’s for Sonic and think back from the late 60’s to the early 80’s for the Raiders. These were both earlier periods in each respected franchises’ histories as well as when they peaked.

Sonic was initially being conceived in 1990 as a potential mascot for Sega to use for the Genesis console to compete with Nintendo’s SNES and Mario. Shortly after the European and American launch of the Genesis, Sonic the Hedgehog came out on 6/23/1991. The game was praised for the sense of speed it gave players and for how beautiful and colorful the game was at the time. It was also noted that Sonic’s character had an attitude that was not the norm for Nintendo’s characters, where instead of being the stoic hero, Sonic was a cocky protagonist. Many people know that if you refuse to move Sonic in the first game, he taps his foot and eventually jumps off the screen, refusing to work with an inactive player. The game would become instrumental in the Genesis’ success around the world and solidified Sonic’s status as the mascot of Sega.

Soon, things got better for the Blue Hedgehog as more and improved titles came out for the Genesis and Sega CD, including Sonic the Hedgehog 2, CD, 3 and Knuckles. Looking back, Sonic beat Mario in the 16-bit era when it came to the quantity of main-line platformers on consoles. Though Super Mario World is the greatest platformer ever, no question. In the early to mid 90’s, Sonic was on fire, as it became the flagship franchise for Sega going forward. The over-confident attitude of Sonic’s character also went in line for Sega’s attitude in their marketing motto, “Sega does what Nintedont”.

No Caption Provided

The Oakland Raiders didn’t quite start off as smoothly as Sonic did, but much of their earlier history is when the franchise was at its finest. The franchise was founded in 1960 (originally called the Amigos, believe it or not) as one of the founding members of the rival league to the NFL, the AFL. In their first three seasons, the Raiders had a combined record of 9-33. That all started to change when future owner of the organization, AL Davis, became their head coach, and from 1963-1965, the team won a total of 23 games. Shortly after the NFL and AFL merged into one league, the Raiders would appear in the second ever Super Bowl, only to lose to the Green Bay Packers 33-14.

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Things got much better for the Raiders during the 1970’s as John Madden, yes the man whose name is on EA's football franchise, led the team to glory. The team won 6 of 7 divisional (or regional) titles from 1970-1976, reached the postseason 8 times under Madden’s tenure, and won Super Bowl XI (11) against the Minnesota Vikings, 32-14, making it the franchise’s first SB win. When Tom Flores took over as coach in 1979, things got better. Under Flores, the Raiders won two more Super Bowls, which were SB XV (15) against the Philadelphia Eagles 27-10, and SB XVIII (18) against the Washington Redskins 38-9 (when the team was in LA). If you were a player for the Raiders during the 70’s and 80’s, you were feared by the rest of the league. Many of the NFL Greats were Raiders, including Ken Stabler, Marcus Allen, Fred Biletnikoff and Bo Jackson. Also like Sonic, the team developed this swagger attitude that wasn't seen by other teams. Both Davis and the players did whatever it took to win a ballgame, even if it was ugly. The motto in the 1983 season was “Just win Baby” and became the team’s official motto. Though the Raiders were known for playing dirty, and that rubbed many people the wrong way. One incident was defensive back George Atkinson knocking out Steelers WR Lynn Swann by using his forearm to hit the back of the head. Defensive end Lyle Alzado ripped helmets off of players in 1982, hence creating the rule to not take opposing players’ helmets off.

Fast Forward to 2002, the Last “Great” Year for Both Franchises: Ok, this is where the timeline argument begins. 2002 was arguably the best year for both franchises in the last 13 years. But as you read, you’ll understand why great is in quotes.

For Sonic, 2002 was an interesting year. 2001 marked the end of Sega Dreamcast console production and Sega became a third party publisher. Many of Sega’s games that were both released on or in development for the Dreamcast were ported to PS2, XBOX or GameCube consoles. For Sonic, its first third party console game was Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, a port of the Dreamcast title SA2 to the GC with additional multiplayer modes. People LOVE THIS GAME! The press wasn’t giving this game glowing reviews that other GC games like Metroid Prime or Animal Crossing got at the time. It did, however, gain a strong following from the public. Keep in mind; the original SA2 came out in the dying days of the Dreamcast, so it had little chance to save the system. When Sega announced SA2 Battle for the GC, Sonic fans were buying the GC to play the sequel to Sonic Adventure. For many who had exclusively played Nintendo consoles before, this was their first gaming experience of the blue hedgehog. The game’s legacy is noted for being the 8th best selling GC game of all time and many Sonic fans point to this as the greatest Sonic console title in recent memory. Admittedly, I played this game a few years ago and it doesn’t hold up well, though treasure hunting is slightly better only because I learned that you could kill omichaos. But again, this is one of the most adored games by the Sonic fanbase. Or they love it solely for the City Escape level or because of the Chao Garden.

As for the Raiders, the argument for them having a “great” year in 2002 is perhaps more valid. Under the coaching leadership of Bill Callahan, Oakland went 11-5 in 2002, had the #1 ranked offense, and was the last year the team won both the AFC West and the AFC Top Seed. Oakland would cruise to get to their 5th Super Bowl appearance, taking on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs were coached by former Oakland coach, Jon Gruden and had the top ranked defense. People were wondering if the Raiders were going to change their gameplan against the Bucs because it is ideal to change your strategy against the coach who once coached your team right? Jon Gruden came up with the Raiders’ plays that were still used in 2002 and you’d think they’d change their strategy to throw Gruden off. Turns out that Oakland did NOTHING to change their formula, and Gruden and the Bucs smothered the Raiders in SB 37. The score was 48-21 TB and this was Tampa Bay’s 1st and only SB victory.

Little did the Bucs know that their SB win would begin a curse in Oakland.
Little did the Bucs know that their SB win would begin a curse in Oakland.

Looking back, 2002 wasn’t the best year for either franchise. But both were quite successful in their different businesses. A good number of Sonic fans will be as likely to point to Sonic Adventure 2 Battle as the last “great” Sonic console game as Raiders fans will point to 2002 as the last great season.

2003-2005, Forgettable Years Where Both Giants Began to Fall: The stretch between 2003-2005 was an unmemorable era for both Sonic and The Oakland Raiders. Sonic had a series of lackluster console games from that span and Oakland would begin their drought of playoff appearance in 2003. Yes for the purposes of this blog, I’ll ignore the Sonic Advance titles, even if those were the REAL best Sonic games of the GC/PS2/XBOX era.

In 2003, Sonic had Sonic Adventure DX released on the GameCube, in attempt to capture the same thunder they had for Battle, which was port the original Sonic Adventure with additional content. It ended up controlling poorly and was a mediocre package in general. 2004 had Sonic Heroes, which I’ll admit; there was a drive in me to beat this game, yet I found it despicable. What was wrong with me? And how do you play the game? You switch from 3 different characters based on a situation in a level and it was no fun. 2005 marked the release of Shadow the Hedgehog, a spin off title starring the then popular Wario and Vegeta rip off, Shadow. Never played it, but this game seemed like a mess combining Sonic’s sense of speed with weapon combat in attempt to get edgy, only to be lame.

This time span was a poor era for the Raiders, as teams in that span became one big disappointment after another. In 2003, Oakland went 4-12 and went from being defending AFC Champions to bottom feeders in the NFL. As expected, the team didn’t muster a #1 ranked offense that it had in 2002. Also in 2003, Bill Callahan was fired as a head coach and was replaced by Norv Turner, who also failed to “Just Win”. In Turner’s seasons, Oakland went 5-11 in 2004 and 4-12 in 2005.

Point of this section is to illustrate how both fell from grace since 2002. Now Sonic games still sold quite well around this span, but the quality of the product was deemed as sub par by most of the press. Plus, the Raider Nation was still a strong fanbase as Raider game attendance was in the top 10 in the league from 2003-2005. But again, the fans were watching games where their team was getting beat consistently, which was not seen in 2002.

2006-From Hopeful to Historically Bad: Its funny looking back at these two franchises in the first half of 2006 because both had plenty of hope and optimism to return to the promise land. When Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) was first revealed, fans and the press seemed genuinely excited. I remember seeing articles on IGN that were hyping up this title as Sega's grand rebooting of the franchise at E3 2006, or at least what they played looked promising. This was probably because even back in 2006, the idea of a next generation Sonic game was still thrilling to many people. What we got was an unforgettable experience, but not what Sega had in mind.

For Sonic 06’, what else can be said that hasn’t already? The game has reached Superman 64 levels of being an infamously awful game. It had terrible controls and level design, countless glitches, force-feeding players to play as Sonic’s no-fun gang, and a serious love plot between woman and hedgehog. The only other thing I want to say about Sonic 06’ is anytime I see it, it reminds me of those lousy live action cartoon film adaptations with awful CGI characters, like Garfield and Yogi Bear. The world has these realistic (albeit ugly) humans who seem totally okay with these freak, anamorphic animals co-existing with them rather than calling 911. Yeah the Sonic Adventure games had Sonic co-exist with humans too, but at least those games had anime looking humans that made Sonic fit more naturedly. And Dr. Robotnik’s design in Adventure was fine, but in 06...

ITS A LIVING NIGHTMARE!
ITS A LIVING NIGHTMARE!

As for the Raiders, there was also some excitement for them before the season started because the team acquired successful coaches and players. Their head coach was Art Shell, who coached the Raiders from 1989-1994 and had a 54-38 record. Al Davis commented on firing Shell in ’94 by calling it a mistake. The team also got former Saints starting QB Aaron Brooks, who had a respectable TD-INT ratio of 120-84 in the Big Easy.

What happened? The Raiders felt similar pain to Sonic where it was arguably their worst season in franchise history. Oakland went 2-14 in 2006 and not only came in last in their division, but had the worst record in all of the NFL. The only two wins came from back to back-home games against the Arizona Cardinals and the then defending SB champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers. Then they lost 9 straight. The weird thing about this team was that despite the dreadful record, the team wasn’t entirely horrid. The one decent aspect about the ‘Raiders was their defense. It went from being the 27th ranked defense in the NFL in 05’ to being ranked 3rd in 06 and only once did they allow an opponent to score over 30 points (SF over OAK 34-20). The problem? The offense is perhaps the worst offense in the past 10 years in the NFL and about as unbearable as playing a glitch filled Sonic 06’ level. The team scored 168 points the whole season, which it petit compared to the Indianapolis Colts’ 451 points in 06'. The 2 starting QB’s, Aaron Brooks and Andrew Walter, only scored 3 TDs each the whole season. Football analysts may not bash this team as badly as the gaming community has panned Sonic 06’ when it comes to being called “The Worst Ever”. However, if you type in “Worst NFL Offense Lists” on Google, I’d be shocked if the ‘06 Raiders were not on those lists.

2007-2009-More bad years, but not quite like 2006: Going forward into this timeline, there is only one year coming up that will be comparable to how dismal 2006 was for both Sonic the Hedgehog and the Oakland Raiders. It won’t be any of these upcoming years, but all continued the each brand’s failing trends.

Sonic next console game came shortly after 06’, which was called Sonic and the Secret Rings for the Wii. It came out on February 20, 2007 and apparently takes place in the book "Arabian Nights". Many actually didn’t think the game was completely terrible as people enjoyed the on-rails levels. But the game forces the player to do boring missions like killing a set number of enemies that bog down the experience. 2008 marked the release of Sonic Unleashed, the infamous title where Sonic turns into the Werehog. Shame about the game because from what I’ve heard, the 3D speed levels were some of the best levels Sonic’s had up to this point. But Sega still found a way to mess things up with the many werehog levels. Finally in 2009, we have Sonic and the Black Knight on the Wii. The game takes place in the world of King Arthur and Sonic is given a sword now. The game itself is mainly just a simply swordplay action game that was considered by many as an incredibly easy yet dull game.

Symbolic
Symbolic

The Raiders would not have a year as bad as 2006 in the 2007-2009 span. However, each year in that span was incredibly forgettable to many Raider and football fans alike. 2007 marked a year of serious roster changes for Oakland as former HC Art Shell was replaced by former USC offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffen. New players on offense included the #1 overall draft pick QB JaMarcus Russell and former Colts Running Back Dominic Rhodes. This only led to little improvement going from 2-14 in 06’ to 4-12 in 07’ and the offense scored 283 total points. 2008 was marginally better record wise as the team went 5-11 and didn’t come in dead last in the AFC West. Though Kiffen got fired from Oakland and Tom Cable took his place. The moment that got Kiffen fired was making a call to kick a missed 76-yard field goal. 50-yard field goals are already tough tasks for kickers. 2009 was more of the same for the Raiders for literally the past 7 seasons. It was another record that maxed at 5 wins. It was another season where Oakland ended up in the bottom half of the AFC West (3rd in 09’) and for the 7th straight year, no playoff appearance.

And here is the Raider equivalent of a Sonic glitch.

2010-2011- Years of Improvement: When compared to the previous years, this was when both franchises were at their best. After years of mostly terrible Sonic games and horrid Raider seasons, both finally showed signs of improvement. Yet despite the upgrades in quality, neither reached the goal of gaining the relevance they once had.

In 2010, this marked the release of Sonic Colors for the Wii and the DS. There was reasonable doubt for Colors considering Sonic’s lackluster resume of the Wii, but it turned out to be one of the best Sonic games in years. General Consensus for Colors was quite positive as it was praised for utilizing Sonic’s speed appropriately with decent level design and the little alien power ups were a nice little touch. While Colors was praised, it was an overlooked platformer in the press’ and public eyes in favor of other 2010 platformers. Mainly other Wii Platformers (Super Mario Galaxy 2, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, DKC Returns) and Indie Platformers (Limbo, Super Meat Boy) captured more love. 2011 also had a quality Sonic game released but this time on different platforms, which was Sonic Generations, which was released to celebrate Sonic’s 20th Anniversary. I’ve played a bit of this game and was impressed with how it handled the different level styles with classic 2D Sonic and the faster, modern Sonic levels. But again, despite the positive buzz in reviews, that game was overlooked and platformer nominations and awards went to games like Rayman Origins, Super Mario 3D Land and Outland.

Kind of like Sonic in making some steps to improvement, the Raiders would have some of their best seasons in the last 10 years in 2010-2011, only to still disappoint their fans. 2010 was a strange year for Oakland. The team won all 6 of their Divisional matchups that year, including a 59-14 road win against the Broncos. Technically the Raiders should have won the AFC West by beating everyone else in the division. However, they went 2-8 against non-divisional teams and went 8-8 overall. The 2010 Raiders made history by being the 1st NFL team to win all their divisional games and missing the playoffs at the same time (KC Chiefs won AFC West in ’10). The season did bring some hope for Oakland fans because the Raiders finally didn’t have a losing record. This was Tom Cable's last year as the Oakland head coach because he had allegations of violence against women and was accused of beating up assistant coach, Randy Hansen (he now works as an assistant coach for the Seattle Seahawks, believe it or not). In 2011, there was sincere belief that Oakland could finally make the playoffs. Oakland for the most of the 2011 season had a winning record and by the end of week 12, was 7-4. But they lost 3 of 4 from weeks 13-16 and had a divisional game against the San Diego Chargers to determine the AFC West champion. All Oakland had to do was win and they’re in. Unfortunately, the Chargers maintained a lead throughout the game and the Raiders lost 38-26 and went 8-8 again. It would be the Tim Tebow led Broncos who won the tiebreaker over both the Raiders and the Chargers to earn the divisional crown and playoff berth. This was the closest Oakland has gotten to getting a postseason shot in a long time, and they left their fans heartbroken that they couldn’t seal the deal. Oh and they had a new coach called Hue Jackson who they should have been given a second chance, but was fired after one season and later seasons proved the move to be a mistake.

2012-2013-Years of Decline: While the last two years were seen as high marks for each franchise, the following years would show that both would start to go back to their underwhelming ways. And no, Sonic All Stars Racing Transformed will not be brought up because it’s not a proper 2D/3D Sonic game.

Instead, Sonic the Hedgehog 4 Part 2 is the default choice for this essay. There was already Part 1 that came out in 2010 and was criticized for being too easy and having iffy physics. Part 2 came out in 2012 and included Tails to pander to fans of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and was used to have co-op maneuvers. While most people praised it for correcting the errors of Part 1, Part 2 was panned for having lackluster level design and some boring boss battles. 2013 had Sonic Lost World for the Wii U. I will say that it is a bit unfair to compare this Sonic game to the other Sonic titles and the terrible Raider seasons. Its because this game was praised for trying to do something fresh with Sonic by slowing him down to focus more on exploring levels. This was Sonic Team’s attempt to make their Super Mario Galaxy. However, despite people appreciating the new ideas implemented, the game still got bashed for a frustrating control scheme and questionable level design anyways.

Ouch! Poor Raiders
Ouch! Poor Raiders

Oakland would begin to enter familiar territory from 2007-2009, as the team would begin to win 4 games a year in 2012-2013. Dennis Allen would become the new head coach in 2012 and this came from new team owner, Mark Davis, wanting to start a new era for the Raiders and felt Jackson couldn’t lead the team in the era. Mark Davis is the son of former owner Al Davis. Mark took over shortly after his father unfortunately passed away in 2011 (RIP). Despite Mark’s efforts in bringing in fresh faces for coaching and the team, the team underperformed coming in 3rd in the AFC West, only ahead of the 2-14 KC Chiefs. 2013 was another disappointing year going 4-12 again and came in dead last in their division. To me, this is why firing Hue Jackson was a mistake. While his team choked at the end of 2011, he had an 8-8 record and showed potential to improve the team. Dennis Allen’s record as the Raiders head coach was 8-28 and proved to be an inferior head coach. We don’t know if Hue Jackson would actually lead Oakland to a winning season, but I believe he’d be better than Allen.

2014-A Year that is Somehow Comparable to 2006 in Terms of Sheer Awfulness: Boy, 2014 was incredibly unkind to both Sonic and the Raiders. This year was a complete disaster for both, as both would experience debacles in their quality that is almost as bad, if not worse, as 2006 was to both.

For Sonic, Sega had created a massive multimedia campaign to reinvent Sonic the Hedgehog, called Sonic Boom. The campaign promised video game releases exclusive to Nintendo systems that tied into a CGI cartoon of the same name on Cartoon Network. People got a little hope for Rise of Lyric when it was announced that a developer composed of former Naughty Dog employees, BigRedButton, was in charge. When the game was released, Rise of Lyric was panned across the board and even has the lowest Metacritic score of any Sonic game (32). The game was reviled for repetitive level design, rotten graphics, dump truck loads of bugs (Many of us saw High Knuckles) and the characters preaching about bounce pads and rings. Some of these criticisms felt like parallels of what made Sonic 06’ a notorious blunder. And if you were thinking that at least this game sold well like other Sonic titles, you’d be wrong. This title only sold 620,000 copies as of May 11, 2015, making it the lowest selling Sonic game of all time.

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

And where to start with Oakland? Let me present all these facts to show how bad 2014 was for DA RAIDERS. Dennis Allen got fired after starting 0-4 and Interim coach, Tony Sparano, took over for the rest of the year and soon got canned. Dating back to 2013, Oakland had a 15-game regular season losing streak that started last year. The Raiders were the earliest team to be officially eliminated from the playoffs since the 2004 Dolphins, after losing to San Diego in Week 11. As you can tell, Oakland became the last team to earn their first regular season win in 2014 after upsetting the Chiefs in Week 12, 24-20 and even then found ways to almost lose. That was Oakland's first win since winning against the Texans on 11/17/2013, and the Chiefs game was on 11/20/2014. They would later win two more games to go 3-13. Oakland played close yet lost to playoff teams this year, including 24-13 to the Cardinals, 30-24 to the Seahawks, and 16-9 to eventual SB champion, the Patriots. Yet managed to get shackled by mediocre teams, such as my Dolphins 38-14 and the St. Louis Rams 52-0.

Oh and you may be wondering, sure Rise of Lyric and the 2014 Raiders sucked last year, but at least Oakland didn’t do any weird tie ins with any cartoons right? Guess what, they have. In 2013, the organization revealed a new mascot for NFL Play 60 events in Oakland, which are the NFL’s child fitness programs. It also tied-in with the cartoon called NFL Rush Zone. The show is about these aliens who resemble all 32 teams and work with kids to defend these shards of power that are found in every NFL stadium from invaders. THIS AIN’T NO NFL FANFIC, THIS IS REAL! And so Oakland’s mascot is suppose to represent the Raider alien and…well… its garbage.

Hi Kids! Wanna get tackled by MY FACE?!
Hi Kids! Wanna get tackled by MY FACE?!

What's worse, Roid Knuckles or this?

Conclusion and What the Future Holds for Both:

Sonic the Hedgehog and the Oakland Raiders were once proud franchises that revolutionized each of their industries. Both were innovative in their separate businesses and have gained strong followings mainly due to their legacies. But recent times have hit Sonic and the Raiders hard and with the horrible, modern track records both have, we’ve gotten used to expect the worst from these 2 franchises. Oh and you may of noticed that I named every head coach the Raiders had in the span from 2002-2014. That’s because the Oakland Head Coach change is about as frequent as the changes to gameplay for a Sonic game in these last few years!

As for the future for both, time will tell. For Sonic, 2015 doesn’t look like the year of redemption. We’ll have another Sonic Boom game coming out for the 3DS called Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice, and the only console game that has Sonic tied to it coming out (in 2016 actually) is Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Though Sega stated that they felt they’ve betrayed fans in recent years and hope to be relevant again. That may also mean that they have plans to try to bring Sonic back in a meaningful way yet again, but we’re not sure. Oakland is making strides to improve their team down the line. They have young offensive talent now w/ 2nd year QB Derek Carr and rookie WR Amari Cooper is being hyped as being the next Calvin Johnson, meaning he could be the best WR in years to come. Oakland got humbled in their week 1 matchup this year against the Cincinnati Bengals, 33-13, but just upset the Baltimore Ravens in week 2, 37-33. Defense doesn’t look good, but the offense could have potential (Oakland ended up with a 7-9 record in 2014). The NFL season is still young and we still don’t know how the Oakland Raiders, or any team, will do throughout the season.

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Kirby and Ratchet and Clank are oddly alike in many ways

Welcome to a new writing series where I try to explain how two things you wouldn’t think are alike actually have a lot in common. As you can tell I’m going to compare the Kirby video game series to the Ratchet and Clank series. Of course, I’m not going to claim that the games an identical to each other. I’ll highlight a few similarities between the games, but I ain’t no fool, they’re different. I’ll mainly go through other similarities that each franchise has.

Now what has gotten me to write on this topic? There were a couple of comments made by both the GB staff and the community that actually reminded me that these two IP’s are literally in the same position for Nintendo and Sony. For Kirby, I remember watching the Rainbow Curse quick look and I remember Jeff saying that he really likes Kirby and wishes that Nintendo did more with the brand. I was a little confused when he said that because in the past 6 years, there have been 6 related Kirby titles released in that span. But now I understand Jeff’s statement because it doesn’t feel like that Nintendo gives Kirby this giant marketing push that it would for Mario or Pokémon.

As for Ratchet, I remember the UPF where the crew was looking at N64 3D platformers due to Yooka-Laylee killing it on Kickstarter. Ratchet was brought up amongst 3D platformers that were done right. One community member stated that he wished that a new R&C game would come out. After reading his comment, I couldn’t help but reply to that member and tell him that a) Its rumored that a new R&C game may get revealed at E3 this year and b) if he wanted a new R&C game, go check out Into the Nexus on the PS3. I wanted to tell him that because kind of like how Nintendo has treated Kirby, Ratchet has been an ongoing franchise, but gets very little of a push by Sony for people to know about its upcoming games. I felt like that one member was an example of someone who didn’t know. These a both first party IP’s that are actually a lot alike in falling under the radar with game releases, box art policies, similar themed titles that came out from 2011-2014 and their efforts into other media.

The clear differences: I’ll just get the clear differences out of the way:

  • Kirby is traditionally a 2D platformer while R&C is traditionally a 3D action platformer.
  • Kirby’s main ability is to suck in foes near him, where’s Ratchet has his wrench.
  • Kirby games are generally meant to be about as easy as lifting a 2 lb weight, while R&C games have more of a difficulty curve.
  • Ratchet has Clank alongside as a pretty rad sidekick. While Kirby may get a partner on occasion, Kirby don’t need a permanent sidekick.
  • Unlike Ratchet, Kirby’s spinoffs do not include him having tower defense gameplay or have you play as a secret agent, say, Agent Meta Knight.
  • Unlike Kirby, Ratchet’s spinoffs don’t include a full-on racing game, the characters turning into yarn, or having a re-skinned Puyo-Puyo game.
  • Kirby is 10 years the elder of Ratchet and Clank.
  • Kirby games are so adorable they make bunnies look like Medusas. Ratchet games are cartoonish and funny, but I wouldn’t call them “cute”.
  • R&C games have a tradition of having sexual innuendos in their titles, while Kirby doesn’t, unless to read “Mass Attack” or “Triple Deluxe” as innuendos.
  • Ratchet and Clank have no personal vendettas towards trees, but Kirby does.

The few similarities in games:

While both franchises are incredibly different in terms of how they play, I can find a few similarities when it comes to the characters. Both Kirby and Ratchet are aliens who have been isolated from their own species. And while Ratchet has done more of this, both have a history of traveling to different planets and realms to save the day. Two characters from each franchise that also share some similarities are King Dedede of Kirby fame and Ratchet and Clank’s former rival Captain Qwark. Both are public figures that try to put a good label on their names, but really hide their support for some dastardly plans whether its intentional or if they don’t know better. Plus, both have a history of going back and forth being antagonists or allies to the protagonists.

To sum up the games’ few similarities, they’re both very colorful franchises, both have many spinoff/experimental titles (Kirby has more), and both take pride in letting the player defeat enemies in absurd ways. On that last statement, Kirby will suck in enemies to take their ability. Some are common like the Sword and Beam abilities. But soon Kirby gets unique abilities where he can land a sick suplex on a fool or, in Kirby 64, get ice and spark powers to fight as a refrigerator! Ratchet does it through having a large arsenal of weapons to buy. While given standard blasters or bomb gloves at first, you eventually work your way up to weapons where you turn foes into farm animals and even shoot missiles with the 1812 Overture playing in the background.

What other video games let you do this?
What other video games let you do this?
Or this?
Or this?

Lack of Marketing Despite new games coming out:

I remember back in the 2000’s there seemed to be a solid amount of TV advertising for both IP’s. For R&C, there were those commercials where all those idiot bros toyed with the games’ gadgets. Sony wanted R&C to succeed alongside Jak & Daxter and Sly Cooper to usher in a new generation of mascot games for the PS2. For Kirby, I remember even seeing commercials for games like Kirby 64 and Canvas Curse on mostly every TV channel I watched.

My question now is, if these IP’s are still up and running, where are those commercials now? While Nintendo and Sony continue to let Hal Laboratory, Insomniac and other developers make games for both series’, they don’t seem to do much of a role in making their audiences aware that a new game is coming soon. In the world of the Internet, it would be ideal to give Kirby or Ratchet a little side ad on a webpage or have a Youtube ad to increase awareness of an upcoming title. But from my experience, I haven’t seen any ads. It is kind of weird how these two don’t get much of a marketing push, but it could be worse. Kirby could have ended up like F-Zero or Earthbound, where no new games for those series’ have came out in the past few years. If Kirby was in that position, the only software released associated to it would be either Mario Kart 8 DLC, Super Smash Bros or Virtual Console re-releases. Ratchet could have ended up like Parappa the Rapper or Medievil, where besides PSN downloads or Playstation All-Stars, no new software would be released. Fans of each IP should feel thankful that new games are coming out. We may not always know, but they are being released.

Though admittedly, if there is any advertising for these games, it would probably be on either a webpage devoted to Nintendo or Playstation or commercials on kids’ channels like Nickelodeon because these games are aimed at younger audiences.

It’s almost like if I had to compare these IP’s to WWE wrestlers, they’re basically Nintendo and Sony’s Dolph Ziggler or Cesaro. Like how these wrestlers are well liked and consistently perform on live shows, both Kirby and Ratchet are liked and consistently had 1-2 games come out every 1-2 years. But also like these wrestlers, it doesn’t seem like Nintendo or Sony will give them that main event push. Mario is Nintendo’s John Cena, and Sony’s Cena… I don’t know, but Uncharted has become their Brock Lesnar. Why? Because like how Brock is a part time talent who makes PPV's or RAW's special when he shows up, Uncharted games don't come out every year, but its a huge deal whenever its seen at either Playstation press events or when a new game is out.

Similar Box Art Policies:

So this is an ever-relevant topic when it comes to presenting a game to different cultures. Generally video games will have a unique box art in somewhere like Japan or Europe to that of its North American box art to appeal to various audiences around the world. Both Kirby and R&C have a long history of this with their North American box art and Japanese box art.

Kirby is perhaps better known on the subject matter. Since 2002, Kirby has been shown as happy, innocent or neutral in the Japanese box art of his games. In North America, he tends to look grumpy.

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

There are a few exceptions to this rule, such as Epic Yarn and Rainbow Curse, but for the majority of Kirby games since 2002, the box art has changed based on the region. It’s believed that it is to cater to the cultural differences of each region. So Nintendo lets Kirby be his joyful, cute self in Japan because if the game is cutesy, that’s gonna be known to the Japanese audience. But for North America, they probably feel like Kirby will sell better if he looks angry because they think North Americans want their heroes tough, even if Kirby’s an adorable pink ball.

Ratchet and Clank have also gone through a similar box art policy, or for a time. The original trilogy of R&C games had box art that looked way different in Japan than that in North America. In NA, Ratchet and Clank either had cocky smiles or serious faces but in Japan, they were generally seen as happy and stoked. In the NA Up Your Arsenal art, it has both Ratchet and Clank looking at the sky with grimacing looks. In Japan, both protagonists are falling through the sky, having the time of their lives.

Happy Ratchet and Clank are gonna land on tense Ratchet and Clank!
Happy Ratchet and Clank are gonna land on tense Ratchet and Clank!

This practice was extended to their PSP games like Secret Agent Clank (also below) where you have a 3D Clank rocking a tux and a sketchy, 2D Ratchet smiling with a black and white prisoner outfit. Unlike the NA version, which just has Clank in a tux.

No Caption Provided
No Caption Provided

Clearly it seems that R&C has its box art changed for a similar reason to Kirby. Sony probably wants the heroes to look tough despite the cartoonish appearance to appeal to the Western audience. The exaggerated cartoon look in Japan will cater towards the Japanese crowd. This practice seemed to continue until 2014, where in Japan, the Ginga Saiyko Tristar Pack was released, which bundled 3 PS3 R&C games. The box art used artwork from the NA box arts of Full Frontal Assault, Into the Nexus and Quest for Booty with Japanese title fonts.

From 2011-2014, a recent trend of similar ideas in titles were coming out:

So this sort of jumped in my mind when comparing these two franchises. From 2011 to 2014, these games had similar themes in certain game releases that came out in each year. In Fall 2011, both Kirby and R&C would release an exclusive on the Wii and PS3 respectively that put a major emphasis on 4 player co-op play, which was a first for both. Kirby had Return to Dreamland and R&C had All 4 One. Kirby also had Mass Attack for the DS in 2011, but that won’t be compared. Both games could be played solo, but both titles encouraged the player to play with up to 4 players. Though RTD plays more like a Kirby game than All 4 One plays a Ratchet game, according to reviews. Also, look at the A41 NA box art compared to the Europe RTD box art and look at how similar the styles are!

Yes, the NA Box art has Kirby angry.
Yes, the NA Box art has Kirby angry.
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In 2012, both franchises had an anniversary collection released. Yes R&C had Full Frontal Assault which was basically a tower defense game with Ratchet and Clank, but that won’t be discussed (this might be the first time you’ve heard of this game, either). There was the Kirby Dream Collection, which celebrated Kirby’s 20th Anniversary, and the Ratchet and Clank Collection, celebrating R&C’s 10th Anniversary. Sony also released Jak and Sly 10year collections in 2012. I got the R&C collection and the games are great and definitely hold up. But its super lean on extras as the only extras worth noting is trophy support and the Sly 4 beta. Much like Ratchet, Kirby’s collection has Kirby’s earliest core platformers, ranging from Dream Land to Kirby 64. But unlike Ratchet, there are plenty of extras thrown in, like a Challenge Room using the RTD engine, a 45 song soundtrack, and a museum feature looking at all of Kirby’s history and believe or not, three episodes of a Kirby anime (we’ll get to that soon).

While the next two games weren’t released in the same year, they were both returns to traditional gameplay for each IP. In 2013, Sony published R&C Into the Nexus on the PS3, making it one of the last PS3 games before the launch of the PS4. After having Ratchet in a 4-player co-op game and a tower defense, Into the Nexus was marked as being a return to roots for the R&C series. The gameplay harkens to those of the original trilogy where you collect bolts, buy new weapons and gadgets and complete missions. There were some new gimmicks like the 2D Clank levels to add some variety. In 2014, Kirby also returned to his roots after having some experimental titles released (RTD could count, 1st 4 player co-op Kirby game). Kirby Triple Deluxe for the 3DS had gameplay that resembled something like Kirby’s Adventure where you suck in enemies, get power ups, and complete a series of worlds. It also brought in a few new tweaks to make it different, like the Hypernova ability where Kirby will literally eat everything in front of him!

Though the streak of oddly similar releases by concept will come to an end. Nintendo just published the clay-mated sequel to Canvas Curse, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. Unless the new R&C game has claymation or has the player draw lines for a ball-form Ratchet, this streak will be over. It sounds all but confirmed from E3 2014 that the new R&C game is based on the upcoming movie, which both will try re-tell the original game’s story. Speaking of which…

10 or more years after being exclusively video game franchises, both IP’s have had/will have their crack at animated entertainment:

So believe it or not, both Nintendo and Sony have approved letting different animation studios produce animated entertainment based on Kirby and R&C respectively. Though Kirby already had his chance. In 2002, the Saturday Morning Anime, titled “Kirby Right Back at Ya!” premiered on the former FOX Saturday Morning program, the FOXBOX. It was dubbed by 4 KIDS Entertainment and it had King Dedede deal with the final boss from Kirby’s Adventure to make a monster to destroy the E.T. known as Kirby. Kirby would then get a power up from the games to save the day. I remember watching this as a kid and I didn’t like it. Kirby was not the problem though. Beside making his cute sounds, he was a silent, hungry protagonist who would always claw his way to victory. The problem? Every other characters' voice acting was a grind to listen to, like Dedede talking like some redneck. It was a pretty silly show as expected and this series had 100 episodes aired on TV.

More than 10 years after being just a game series, Ratchet and Clank will also have animated media released soon, though in the form of a movie. In 2013, it was announced that Rainmaker Animation and Blockade Entertainment were working on a Ratchet and Clank CGI animated film originally set to release 2015. It had two teasers, one on the day of the announcement and the other at E3 2014. No news popped up about the film until on May 13, when the film was delayed to release in theaters on April 29, 2016. The news also stated that celebrities are lending their voices to the film, including Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Rosario Dawson and Sylvester Stallone. Don’t worry! The games’ voices actors for Ratchet, Clank, Qwark and Dr. Nefarious will all reprise their roles for the movie. So if you were thinking that Stallone was voicing Clank, which could either be great or terrible, its not happening. It actually was shown to international audiences not too long ago at the Cannes Film Festival, where all that news was announced. Honestly with the delay and hearing that the writer for the R&C series, TJ Fixman, is behind the screenplay, it sounds like they’re trying to make a decent movie while staying true to its source material. Fingers crossed.

Yes both forms of animation are completely different to each other. But this is proof that both Nintendo and Sony gave different animation studios the thumbs up to let their respective properties be turned to animation media. Plus, Kirby Right Back at Ya was set in the earliest games of Kirby’s series, being Dream Land and Adventure, and the upcoming R&C movie is set in the first game. So both have the similarity of taking place in the earliest games. Also, like how the upcoming R&C movie has a game coming out alongside, Kirby had a game in Nightmare in Dream Land released shortly after the anime premiered, which was a dope GBA port of Kirby’s Adventure.

So basically, Kirby and R&C have way more in common than you might think. New games come out for each series even if the marketing doesn't seem to be there. They also have a similar history in changing box art in Japan and North America, having similar themed titles come out and one having a crack at animated entertainment while the other will have its chance in 2016.

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Spill.com's Cyrus apologizes about Ryan Davis joke and I have my own apologies.

I did not know about this until today, but Spill.com had a Daily Spill show yesterday that involved Ryan Davis again. If any of you don't know what Spill.com is, Spill is a movie review website owned by Hollywood.com. The crew usually has reviews of movies in both podcast form and animated video form. They also have another podcast show called the Daily Spill, where two of the critics on the site choose whichever big news stories to talk about whether they are about movies or something else. At the beginning of yesterday's Daily Spill show, there was an apology by one of critics, Cyrus, for he choice of words when joking about a scenario of how Ryan Davis died back on the July 9 show.

So the background on this, on July 9, both Cyrus and his co-host, Korey Coleman, decided to talk about the sad death of Ryan Davis. They were definitely sorry to hear about this loss and the consequences surrounding this news. Then they talked about maybe how we should live a better lifestyle so we don't die so soon and make ourselves live longer, which came from them thinking that Ryan might of died from health issues when looking at his shape and and that nerd culture does not allow much time to work out. Then at the end of the podcast, there was a joke that Cyrus said that I initially thought was not needed that maybe his new wife stabbed him to death.

What happened after that podcast was some negative reactions to how the Ryan Davis story was managed, myself included. Some of you may know that I already wrote a blog about my overall reaction to how Spill covered this story. While I did appreciate them taking the time to talk about this, I expressed disapproval of them going into a discussion of staying in shape and Cyrus' joke about Ryan's wife.

So at the beginning of yesterday's Daily Spill show, Cyrus apologized for making that joke about Ryan's wife killing him. He said that while he meant no harm to anyone when stating it, he realized that it was of poor taste and acknowledged that there was an audience who would of taken offense to the joke. He then said that making jokes about someone's death is never easy to do. He even said that he looked at both the comments of his site and even read my blog about this, saying he read a mutual Spill member's essay on the podcast and that joke on Giant Bomb. I'm thankful that Cyrus apologized for this, for even though I've gotten to believe that the joke was really not meant to offend anyone since writing the initial blog, Cyrus probably should of taken into account that a joke like that could be offensive to a specific crowd. Its good to know that the Spill crew acknowledges audiences out there who wouldn't take that joke lightly. I even commented about that to Cyrus saying thanks for apologizing. I also explained my mentality when first hearing that joke, saying that as a long time Giant Bomb fan, it would be easy for me to get sensitive over that.

Then he got to one thing that he did not apologize for. This is in reaction to my blog and the comments from both my blog and Spill, but Cyrus said that he was not going to apologize for the discussion of keeping yourself healthy in connection to Ryan's death. He felt justified to advice everyone out there to make an effort to stay in shape or else you might die at an unexpected time. Initially I did not approve of that discussion because they might of speculated of how Ryan died because he was large in shape and I thought that was disrespectful to Ryan. But again, the Spill crew meant no harm in discussing this and they're right that we need to maintain our health to live longer lives. I should of mentioned in the past blog that on the July 9th podcast, Korey and Cyrus made fun of themselves and their own shape during the Ryan Davis talk, acknowledging that they too need to be healthier. They talked about how a game of Racquetball between themselves would go, having them laugh at each other for how gassed out they'd be in the first few minutes. I got to respond to this too as I apologized for finding their health discussion disrespectful and should of gave them more credit for addressing this. Even if some of you may think that discussion was insulting to Ryan, they never meant to disrespect the man by any means. I should not of made the Spill crew's discussion on health look bad as they were more than right on how we can live better lives and I apologize for making that a bad thing in my initial blog.

I also want to apologize to you guys for the overreactions of the first blog. When first hearing that podcast and listening to Korey and Cyrus' comments on this, I wanted to make this blog to express how I felt about how they managed it and wanted to hear what you guys felt about it too. It was really a mixed bag of response types saying "Fuck Spill.com for disrespecting Ryan Davis" or "They are right about how we should watch our health, you know" or "I'm sure they meant no harm, don't overreact to this" or "This blog was pretty unnecessary, whether the Spill crew approached this story poorly or not." The last three types of responses hit me harder than the first, I probably should of kept this to myself instead of writing a blog about it. Much like the Spill crew when talking about Ryan, I did not mean anything bad when writing my blog, I just wanted to get my thoughts out there on this, even if I was critical of the Spill crew. So if I made that blog into an overreaction, I apologize. Next time when I might find something offensive or stupid, I'll try to let it go by and not bother me. Think from now on, I will make blogs that don't have negative responses, I'll try to be more positive.

I also want to make a shout out to @jouseldelka for some very wise words about how we should stay in shape and having Ryan as his inspiration for a healthier life. Great message man.

So yeah, thanks you again Cyrus of Spill.com for acknowledging how we responded to your joke and podcast, and next time, I'll be more positive when making blogs. Have a good weekend duders!

RIP Ryan Davis

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