Cinematech Episode 241: “Race for Mediocrity”
An ep with an unusual montage devoted to mediocre kart racing games.
Timecode: 8:09: A montage of clips from Sonic & Knuckles from the Sonic Mega Collection, which was an anthology of classic Sonic the Hedgehog games for the PS2 and other consoles, along with some trivia.
- Knuckles is an echidnaEchidnas are mammals that lay eggsJust like the platypusThey are both found in AustraliaMan, Australia is !#&!&%@ weird
Right after that, in a classic Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, they show a gray title card that says, “KNOWLEDGE [-] The Anti-Hitler” while a woman sings, “You can count on us, m-hm”.
11:22: The moment you have all been waiting for with breathless anticipation: The Race for Mediocrity! They begin by showing brief clips from the game and quoting one of the words from their titles.
- FreakyExtremeMadFuriousFantasyWILL RACE
The montage starts with Mad Dash Racing (Xbox, Eidos, 2001), which has a very strange opening cutscene that I still wonder as to whether or not it was tampered with by the CT staff. It shows an obvious bad guy and wizard known as Hex explaining the requirements and the reward of the on-foot racing tournament he is hosting:
- Hex: ”For the one who brings me back all seven gleaming red meteor chunks, I will give to you, in reward... a brand new pig!”Chop: “D-Did he say pig?!”Hex “Forget the pig.”Sid: “What's up with the pig?”Hex: “There is no pig!”Bandaged Weasel: “When I get this pig...”Hex: “Son of a—”Chop: “Pig?”Bandaged Weasel: “Pig...”Sid: “Pig!”Hex: “There is no—”Chop: “Pig?”Bandaged Weasel: “Pig—”Hex: “Pig!”Sid: “Pig!”Hex: “Pig!”Sid: “Pig!”Hex: “Thumbs up!”
- Hex: [rolls eyes] “Not regarding the pig.”
- Hex: “Great.”
See what I mean? Either CT intentionally tampered with the cutscene, or the game YouTube Pooped itself. How unusual. Anyway, the game itself is an on-foot racing game with weird little mascot characters. Someone else tried a similar idea with Running Wild on the PS1 a few years before, and MDR similarly sank without a trace. It just doesn't seem like gamers really like the idea of racing on-foot very much.
Next up, from the “Why?” category of licensed games, Antz Extreme Racing (2002, PS2/Xbox/PC/Game Boy Advance, Empire). This came out years after the Antz movie and had “Extreme” in the title—this game couldn't have repelled gamers more if each copy came with a personalized rant from Jack Thompson. This game apparently has on-foot racing as well as kart racing.
Next comes Furious Karting (Xbox, 2003), which has teams of kart racers going up against one another. It received mediocre reviews.
Next, Bomberman Fantasy Racing (1998), a cutesy PS1 kart racing spinoff of the multiplayer-focused Bomberman series. It has a very cute anime intro, at least. In this game, Bombermen race atop of assorted cute animals. Unlike the usual Bomberman games, this was not developed by series creator Hudson. In North America, the game was published by Atlus. Woo, Atlus!
Next up, Smurf Racer! Yes, the exclamation point is a part of the title. In Europe however, the game was known as 3, 2, 1, Smurf! and got some horrible ratings. And wouldn't you know it, Caddicarus reviewed it years after its initial release. He found it quite average, and undeserving of the one out of 10 it got from the Official PlayStation Magazine UK.
Finally, Midway's 2003 multiplatform game Freaky Flyers ends this death march. This may be a bit of a cheat on the kart racing theme because this game is about flying airplanes instead of driving karts around. I remember Electronic Gaming Monthly ribbing this game a bit for its stereotypical characters in a sidebar titled, “Leady to Lace?” which was kind of socially conscious of them, at least. A website later considered the game #11 on its list of the 11 most racist video games.
Finally, I did play this game on a demo disc, and yeah, it was pretty forgettable.
15:54: Another brief, insane clip featuring a text adventure that I am unable to recognize due to the size of the font and an overall lack of familiarity with the genre. They quickly cut away from the game to flash a title card saying, “Cinematech Promotes Illiteracy”, set to that “You can count on us” song again.
16:44: A montage of clips from the original Alone in the Dark game for the PC. This was a landmark adventure game with a paranormal horror theme where you could choose one of two characters (Edward Carnby or Emily Hartwood) who attempt to crack the mystery of a mansion filled with zombies, zombie dogs, and other unusual monstrosities. Sound familiar? This game does have quite a few similarities to RE1:
- Realtime polygonal characters contrasted with predrawn backgrounds
- Horror theme
- Puzzles to solve and combat involving weapons and health that you need to conserve whenever possible
- Monsters including zombies and zombie dogs, one of which bursts through a window, predicting one of the most iconic scenes of RE1
But in fact, a video comparing the beta version of RE1 to the final version shows that scene was originally going to have Giant Spiders in it instead. Brrr. Which is worse? You decide!
It would seem that RE1 was influenced by Alone in the Dark and also Capcom's earlier Sweet Home, a Famicom game based on a movie. The game seems to be more popular than the movie it was based on. RE1 is practically a remake of Sweet Home, but with an undead theme instead of the supernatural theme.
According to Web Video/Retsupurae, the Alone in the Dark games have not aged very well. They riffed on longplays of all three early games in the series, poking fun at how dated they are, various absurdities, and how much reading there are in the games (amusingly in line with the “Cinematech Promotes Illiteracy” scene from earlier in this ep). However, this feature kind of predicted how future games would supplement their storylines with bonus reading material like diaries, notes, (if you want to continue the horror theme, Silent Hill is an excellent example) and even audio and video logs.
17:30: “NEEEOOO CONTRAAAA OH-OH YEAH, OH-OH YEAH”... Oh, boy, is the intro theme song for Neo Contra cheesy, yet awesome. NC was a 3D Contra game for the PS2. The intro for the game is kind of awesome and shows ugly tough guys Bill Rizer and Genbei "Jaguar" Yagyu killing and blowing up enemies. One way of showing how tough they are is the display of a memorial wall where the dudes etched every single one of their kills into it. When a giant mecha busts through the wall, Jaguar and Bill attack it with multiple rocket launchers that they already had set up in the dirt. Jaguar and Bill share the last rocket launcher, which dispatches the armored assailant at last.
Big, ugly tough guys; ridiculous-yet-enjoyable theme songs; and a seeming lack of willingness to take the game totally seriously – it's like if Capcom made a Contra game! Despite everything that has happened with Capcom in recent years, I... I kind of want to see what that would be like. As long as Konami does not charge $40 for a glorified demo of the game, of course. Or makes the Konami Code DLC! [shakes pathetic, puny fist]
Some fun facts: The game's North American and European box art was drawn by comic book artist and gamer Jim Lee, and the game had several big names in its voice cast (for voice acting, at least), including: Bob Buchholz, Beau Billingslea (Jet Black, Cowboy Bebop), the late Bob Papenbrook (father of Bryce Papenbrook [Rin Okamura, Blue Exorcist; Henry, Fire Emblem: Awakening; Tiz, Bravely Default; Adult Asbel, Tales of Graces]), Kirk Thornton, Wendee Lee, and Steve Blum. It's like an impromptu Cowboy Bebop reunion!
21:18: One last clip from AitD showing Carnby trying to fistfight a zombie dog. Okay, well, it's more like Carnby is bitch-slapping it. With the relatively tame subject matter and the retention of the game's original music, I feel like they were trying to make fun of the game and how dated it seemed at the time with this clip.
They followed this clip with a title card showing Hitler, mushroom clouds, and piles of books and the phrase “KNOWLEDGE [-] WE WEREN'T KIDDING.”
Linkies Full of Knowledge!
The first parts of all three of Retsupurae's AitD riffs:
- "The Origami Thriller" (Alone in the Dark)
- "Pirates of the Carnby-ean" (Alone in the Dark 2)
- "Cowboys vs. Polygons" (Alone in the Dark 3)
- Just for the heck of it, the "Mansion's Basement" theme from the so-called "director's cut" of RE1. Enter the Survival Horror... of this song.