Keyboard Geniuses

Steamboat Willie

Book It!

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By Matt Gerardi • November 8, 2013

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

Nintendoes What Disney Does Too

Earlier this week, Anthony John Agnello provided us with a For Our Consideration essay that illuminated some of the parallels between the histories and evolutions of Nintendo and Disney Animation Studios. Anthony believes Nintendo is making some of the same mistakes as latter day Disney, particularly the artistic rough patch the company went through in the ’80s. Charlotte Grote agreed but thinks Nintendo’s stagnation is more like the Disney of the ’70s:

Unlike ’80s Disney, I feel as if Nintendo’s M.O. isn’t that different from that of the video game industry as a whole. In the ’80s, Disney found a new competitor in Don Bluth and Amblin animations, who came up with new lucrative hits such as An American Tale and The Land Before Time while Disney was still wallowing in its pre-Little Mermaid stage. Disney was tepidly stepping toward the future with movies like Oliver And Company and The Great Mouse Detective, but both of those seemed rooted in that same old Disney mentality, and the studio ultimately wouldn’t recognize the next stage of its development until it looked towards Broadway and realized it should move its movies more toward classic musicals than half-assed pop ballads.

Current Nintendo, on the other hand, seems to be in the same boat as most of the popular video game industry at the moment, relying on their franchises for new hits instead of expanding beyond and looking toward new properties. Between Grand Theft Auto, Call Of Duty, and the like, the video game industry is still for the most part stuck in the past, and their isn’t a Don Bluth type who is making new popular ideas on their own. I would say Nintendo is currently more like ’70s Disney, in which they were also shamelessly preserving their legacy while refusing to move forward (just look at the animation recycling in Robin Hood and The Aristocats alone) but were also in a position where they had no competition. The stagnancy is real and here, but I don’t think the need for innovation has arrived yet.

Elsewhere, caspiancomic brought up the way Nintendo has even sequelized and standardized the more experimental entries in its main series:

What’s especially interesting, or sad depending on your outlook, is how even the wacky, experimental titles eventually get turned into repetitive series. A cursory glance at Mario’s various adventures might turn up titles as aesthetically diverse as Mario Galaxy, the Paper Mario series, and the handheld Mario RPGs, but even these deviations eventually get standardized. The Paper Mario series, rather than being an anarchic splinter series off of the main Mario branch, has become another franchise in its own right with a corporatized uniform appearance. The once revolutionary Wind Waker aesthetic became “Toon Link,” an exploitable sub-Link who could be inserted into handheld titles that didn’t have the budget or time to develop their own unique conception of the character.

I don’t mean to necessarily frame this as a purely negative thing—it’s refreshing to see any amount of deviation from a canonical model from a company as monolithic as Nintendo—but it is a little tragic seeing a company exhibiting a slightly broader than usual comfort zone with its characters, only to very rarely explore new territory.

A Novel Idea
Worlds Of Power books

This week, we received word, from one John Teti, that someone was looking for volunteers to help revive the old series of NES game novelizations, Worlds Of Power. That someone, Philip J. Reed of Noiseless Chatter, stopped by the comments of our story to talk about the project and let us know how someone could possibly write a book based on Bases Loaded:

Evidently they invented a whole slew of characters and turned it into a novel more about baseball than about the video game. I haven’t read that one (though I intend to…because I hate myself), but I’ve heard that it’s one of the better books. That would make sense, because they’re writing about actual characters and not beholden to just turning pew-pew-pew into a narrative.

And Carniverous Ruminant gave us a taste of that narrative absurdity via a scene from the novelization of Metal Gear:

I owned a copy of Metal Gear that I probably read 30 times as a kid. I remember that Solid Snake’s strategy for getting past the superheated floor trap was to eat enough rations that it would raise his body temperature to a point where the radiant heat wouldn’t kill him. Even 10-year-old me thought the science behind this was dubious.

Gameological commenters were quick to throw out suggestions for NES games they’d like to see turned into novels. Cloksbook-to awful game-to book adaptation of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde is particularly inspired:

Chapter 1: The Jekyll-ous World Of Mr. Hyde:
Mr. Hyde was an innocent sort of man, the sort of man that has a certain air of innocence. He wasn’t known for rapidashidly (note to editor: Pokémon reference, possible future tie-ins?) performing surgery on any unsuspecting victims, especially not as a villain named Dr. Jekyll. That all changed when—insert 25 cents to continue

But Xyvir’s campaign for a novelization of The Cheetahmen, the best (but still not good) game in the horrid compilation Action 52, really got me thinking. An adaptation of Action 52 itself is the ultimate Worlds Of Power challenge. It would have to be a collection of 52 short stories, most of which would be practically identical and star spaceships. Then, in the very last story, it busts out an unexpectedly well-conceived and detailed Ninja Turtles ripoff starring anthropomorphized cheetahs. Get to it, creative writers!

Well, folks, that does it for another week in Gameolological. Thanks for reading and commenting. We’ll see you all next week.

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57 Responses to “Book It!”

  1. Carniverous Ruminant says:

    Who knew that my all-consuming childhood obsession with NES games and terrible novels (I still have my collection of dog-eared Dragonlance books) would one day lead me to this triumphant moment? Certainly not my parents!

    “What the hell are you talking about?”
    -Papa Ruminant

    • PaganPoet says:

      Truly an auspicious day for us all!

    • TreeRol says:

      I think Dragonlance holds up. There is plenty of repetition (how many times can the phrase “crooked smile” show up in 1000 pages?), but the characters actually have multiple facets to them, and change throughout the series. Look at how Tanis or even Sturm change through the course of the Chronicles.

      I dunno, I still like them.

      • Chum Joely says:

        To answer your question about “crooked smile”, I’ll get hold of an electronic edition of the Song of Fire and Ice series and run some analytics. Should be able to provide some interesting data on “as grease dribbled down his chin”, “or near enough as makes no difference”, and a few others.

        • TreeRol says:

          It should also be noted that when I read the three Chronicles books (as I do every 3 years or so), I do it over about a 2-week period. Any sort of repetition is going to seem amplified by that.

    • beema says:

      Heyyy Dragonlance are not terrible novels!

  2. stakkalee says:

    Will this be the weekend that Gameological returns to the ooze which spawned it? Has Matt Gerardi won his struggle with the dark forces arrayed ‘gainst him? Is John Teti strong enough to resist the corrupted heart of Power that is the Senior Editor’s Desk? Sorry, I’ve been on a fantasy-novel kick the past week. Our most-commented article of the week was the first article of the week, Drew’s Out This Month column, which spawned 230 comments; WAYPTW hasn’t quite broken 200 yet this week. And now for the Top 5 Most Liked (non-KG) comments:

    1) @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus gets 32 likes for cheating on us with that tramp Kotaku!

    2) @Mr_Glitch:disqus gets 24 likes for this brilliant idea.

    3) With 22 likes @Philip_J_Reed:disqus is so damn gracious.

    4) And a tie for fourth! With 21 likes each @conditionals:disqus waxes poetic while @The_Helmaroc_King:disqus pitches a new site feature.

    And we finally have some new inductees! @Philip_J_Reed:disqus and @CarniverousRuminant:disqus, welcome aboard! I have a feeling you’ll fit right in around here. As for our returning members, @Charlotte_Grote:disqus gets her third stud, @Cloks:disqus gets his 11th (and manages to piggy-back off of his own earlier comment, netting him an assist as well!) and @caspiancomic:disqus gets his 26th stud, and is now threatening @Spacemonkey_Mafia:disqus ‘s third place Keyboard Genius ranking!

    Finally, it’s Linkdump: Archive edition! As part of their Timothy Leary archive The New York Public Library has collected the video games that he developed in the 1980s, some of which will even be playable (a Leary/Byrne/Gibson team-up on a Neuromancer videogame? drools) And the Internet Archive has launched the Historical Software Collection, which is their attempt to start archiving some of the history of the video game medium, including the ability to play a lot of the software in in-browser emulators. Their spotlighted item this week is Karateka! Fuck yeah. So there goes another week. Enjoy your gaming, and remember to keep it scintillating!

    • caspiancomic says:

      *spikes football*

      Also, I think Girard was mentioning the Internet Archive’s attempts to archive things on the internet not too long ago. It definitely piqued my interest, but I haven’t experimented with it much yet.

      • PaganPoet says:

        Jeals. I haven’t made a KG in months. Granted, I haven’t been very active lately, and what I have posted of late has been insubstantial. I guess I stopped having stuff to say about things.

        • Jackbert says:

          I’m with you, bud. It’s been a long while. I blame all this educamation I’m going through.

    • Chum Joely says:

      Apple IIc-era Karateka in a browser. Amazing. This was pretty much the first video game I ever played, folks. I remember when we had the day off of school, my mom would bring me and my sister along to her job at a university library, so I would spend large chunks of the day playing Karateka in the computer lab. Can’t remember if I ever actually beat it.

      On the other hand, I can get as far as starting the game but then it doesn’t respond to the keyboard controls. Gotta try this one from home. I’m a little disappointed that there doesn’t seem to be any sound, either.

      • stakkalee says:

        I had a cracked copy of Karateka on my C64; I’d play it for hours. I had the same problem with the controls not responding but with enough keyboard mashing the emulator eventually started responding correctly. The lack of sound bummed me out too but otherwise it played just like I remember.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      You like me! 22 of you like me!

    • Girard says:

      I have a weird question, mister Disqus-API-hacker… Is there any way (or anywhere online – I haven’t found one yet) that lets you easily browse/search through one’s old Disqus posts (the same way lets you easily go back through your Facebook posts by bypassing Facebook’s restrictive UI)? I find sometimes I want to go back and find something I said about some game at some point in the awesome convos had here at Gameological, but Disqus’s crumminess makes Google searchability unreliable at best.

      • ProfFarnsworth says:

        One random way I would try is:
        1. If you remember your comment a bit try using a search engine (like google) with “Gameological + [something from your comment]”. I have found a few of the posts I was looking for this way.

        2. If you remember the article you can do the same as above but replace [something from your comment] to [something from the article]. Oddly, Google is pretty accurate at finding them for me.

      • stakkalee says:

        Among it’s many, many crimes, nuDisqus switched to an iframe to display comments, which basically killed any outside search engine optimization, but if you access your Disqus dashboard you should be able to search your comments from there, as well as any replies to you. Beyond that I haven’t seen any scripts for comment searching on any of the script sites so if you want to search someone else’s comments you’re SOL. But that’s Disqus for you – I’m not sure that the site admin portal even includes a way to search the text of a comment.

  3. Newton Gimmick says:

    Alright, we’ve waited for Spacemonkey Mafia long enough.

    Renegade Weekend Prompt

    What’s your favourite book/comic adaptation of a video game?

    For me, it’s unquestionably the comics that used to run in Nintendo Power.

    • ProfFarnsworth says:

      Good. I was about to post something similar to this! Mine is probably Pokemon. They did such a good job mixing everything together that I have a hard time telling where I saw what and it makes playing the game very, very immersive. I like doing that with some of my games. Seeing/reading something then actually doing it in another form. Pokemon does that really well in my opinion.

    • Philip J Reed says:

      Do you mean the ones that would play out over several issues? (I remember adoring a Super Mario one…maybe it was based on World but I can’t be sure of that.) Or do you mean Howard and Nester?

      …I guess it doesn’t matter. Because either way I agree.

    • Girard says:

      The NP Mario comics were ultra goofy. My favorite was the weird one-off where Wario turns out to be the always-second-banana former best friend of Mario, who served as the oblivious, kind-of-accidentally-jerky best friend who always got his way, and drove Wario to madness. (Part1 (PDF) | Part 2 (PDF))

      I remember thinking the old Valiant Mario comics were good as a kid but I suspect they’ve aged poorly.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia says:

      Right on. Great question. I apologize, but child care has severely cut into the time I’d normally spend the rumination over and posting of video game questions.
      I don’t know of any decent comics based off of games. I think I may have to agree with you that the old Nintendo Power, namely the Zelda comic was likely the best. Well drawn, and not so clinched protecting intellectual property as to stifle some exploratory weirdness with the characters.

    • Sarapen says:

      The KOTOR prequel comics were actually pretty good up to fairly late in its run, I think it fell apart thanks to corporate mandated crossovers or the like. Revan is never fully shown but Malak is there pre Dark Side. The story is about a character who never appears in the game and the plot is all about the war with the Mandalorians so there’s lots of narrative leeway.

    • caspiancomic says:

      For years I read Archie Comics’ dizzyingly long-lived Sonic the Hedgehog series, and loved it. It didn’t have all that much in common with the games, except for a few of the characters (Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Robotnik) and the basic premise (Robotnik is a jerk, beat him up.) From a story and tone perspective it had a lot in common with the show known as “SatAM.” Early in the comic’s run it was mostly a light hearted “foil Robotnik’s evil scheme!” story of the week set-up, but eventually, inevitably, it became a heavily serialized and increasingly dramatic story. I partially blame SatAM and the Archie series for Sonic fans being so friggin’ weird and self-serious about the franchise. Still, the first 50 issues or so have got some pretty fun stories in them, including adaptations of Sonic games into a more story-driven comics medium (the Sonic & Knuckles, Sonic CD, Knuckles Chaotix, and Sonic Triple Trouble adaptations were my favourites), and some neat standalone “special issues” that told some pretty cool stories (“Mecha Madness” featured robo Sonic and robo Knuckles fighting each other, which to my ten year old self was the coolest thing imaginable.) I still have a few of these issues buried somewhere in my house, and Archie has been re-releasing the classic stories in pocket-sized compilations for the nostalgic. Apparently the series is actually still going strong, though I haven’t read in issue for nearly ten years now.

      • Drinking_with_Skeletons says:

        Man, I used to love that series! I particularly loved the relatively short-lived Knuckles spin-off, which ditched just about everything from the games and other media and was straight up a product of the writers. Cybernetic cults! Immortal god-kings! A hidden, hyper-advanced civilization! Plus virtually every issue was part of a multi-part story, so it didn’t feel as slight as comics so usually do.

        Ah, nostalgia.

    • Jackbert says:

      Metal Gear Solid Digital Graphic Novel! Two and a half hours of Tactical Espionage Action on a sexy moving backdrop of Ashley Wood art!

      • Destroy Him My Robots says:

        I have the old-fashioned paper version of that. I agree that the art is cool and everything, but something about its storytelling confuses me in ways the game never quite managed.

    • PaganPoet says:

      I’m not sure I’ve ever actually read one.

      So, in that case, I’ll have to go with this cartoonist’s alternate Mass Effect 3 ending:

      The best part is Kaidan and James getting gay married. =]

    • feisto says:

      There was an incredible trilogy of Japanese gamebooks written in the 80s that were based on The Tower of Druaga. They had mappable dungeons you could freely travel, optional secrets, some really creative puzzles, and great, atmospheric writing that really put those Fighting Fantasy books to shame. (Historical side note: Gamebooks were really popular here in the 80s, and pretty much every major NES title had at least one gamebook adaptation.)

    • aklab says:

      Huh. For someone who has been guzzling comics, books, and video games daily for roughly 25 years… I don’t think I’ve ever read a book or comic adaptation of a video game. I feel culturally impoverished now!

    • Chewbacca Abercrombie says:

      I recently read a translation I found online of the Silent Hill 2 novelization. I enjoyed that one quite a bit, especially the ending. It was a pretty cool idea that I had never thought of while playing the game, but it makes a lot of sense.

    • Carniverous Ruminant says:

      As mentioned above, I was an all-consuming gelatinous cube when it came to fantasy novels, so I’m going to say Pool of Radiance, based on the TSR game of the same name. I’m sure it doesn’t hold up at all, but it had everything that I was looking for in a Forgotten Realms book as an adolescent.

    • Pgoodso says:

      Red Vs Blue.

      The play of that opening guitar strum always put a smile on my face, hehe.

  4. JokersNuts says:

    I must have read that Blaster Master adaptation five times.

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