Thursday, February 18, 2021

Great Genre Crossovers in Gaming History - Volume One

Introducing the start of a new series of articles on SPC. Some games blur the line between pre-established genres, combining two or more to create one incredibly impressive game. They're the types of genre combinations that shouldn't work, but by some miracle, they actually do work. These following five games are what kick off this brand-new article series on SPC: Great Genre Crossovers in Gaming History. Essentially two different tastes they go together well, such as pineapple and pizza (search your feelings, you know it to be true), these games combine two genres with great results! After you've checked out SPC's freshman class of games with great genre combinations, let everyone know which games you'd like to see in future installments!

RPG/Fitness - Ring Fit Adventure (NSW)

A game that has helped many Nintendo Switch owners not only find a means to regularly exercise during the pandemic but also have fun while doing so, Ring Fit Adventure is our first game in Great Genre Crossovers in Gaming History. Cleverly combining the joy of playing an RPG with the feat of working out, Ring Fit Adventure keeps players motivated and moving throughout its lengthy story mode. Using a combo of the Ring Fit ring where one Joy-Con rests and a strap that goes around your leg where the other Joy-Con sits, you perform myriad movement and exercises to not only move along the vibrant vistas and paths of the game, but also to perform attacks on enemies in the turn-based battles. 

Different exercises work different parts of your body, whether it be squats for your legs or planks for your abs. Each exercise has its own attack power, its own range of attack, and a cooldown period before it can be used again. The better you perform each rep of a given exercise, the more damage you deliver onto a foe. When it comes time to defend, you best keep those abs firm and ready to engage the enemy's advances! 

With so many fitness games, including Nintendo's own Wii Fit, I found myself losing motivation rather quickly. With Ring Fit Adventure, the line between exercise and game is blurred so well. It's easy to forget when you're making progress in the story and playing for fun that you're also becoming healthier bit by bit. Between the adventure aspect of the game, the turn-based battles, the earning of experience, the gaining of levels, and unlocking new skills via the skill tree, Ring Fit Adventure successfully blends two different tastes together--the RPG and the fitness game--to craft one magnificent fitness package. 

RPG/Rhythm - Theatrhythm Final Fantasy (3DS, iOS)

Picking up where Ring Fit Adventure left off, we have another game that combines an RPG with a different genre. This time around it's the rhythm game genre and Theatrhythm Final Fantasy. Taking some of the greatest music in video games and mixing it with rhythm-based battles and gameplay makes for marvelous combination. All of the pieces of the RPG are present here: earning experience, leveling up your characters, and even item drops. This is mixed with rhythm-based gameplay coming in a variety of forms, such as side-scrolling Field music, Battle music, and Event music. Either type of scene you play, you're in for touch screen-centered tapping, touching, holding, and sliding of the stylus to hit every beat. Theatrhythm would receive two sequels as a franchise, such as Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call (pretty much making the original game almost redundant in some ways) and the Japanese-only Theatrhythm Dragon Quest. Recently, the Kingdom Hearts series got its own take on the Theatrhythm formula with Kingdom Hearts: Melody of Memory, essentially a Theatrhythm game in everything but its name.  

Platformer/Rhythm - Donkey Kong: Jungle Beat (GCN, Wii)

Never one to rest on its laurels, Nintendo opted to innovate in a big way in the GameCube era with its main monkey Donkey Kong. Not only did the GameCube receive not just one but two rhythm games using a special bongo drum controller with Donkey Konga 1 and 2, but it also saw a brand-new 2D platforming adventure as well. Donkey Kong; Jungle Beat featured Nintendo's great ape running, jumping, and launching himself through colorful fruit-themed worlds, with every action performed by hitting the bongo controller itself. Smacking either the left or right bongo drum of the controller moves DK in that respective direction while hitting both drums at once causes DK to leap into the air. Meanwhile, either clapping or hitting the rim of the controller results in a powerful shockwave attack to be unleashed. This combo of controls could be used to perform some truly insane stunts in levels. 

Not simply a platformer that you run and jump through levels, you can also do so with style and flair, taking on Jungle Beat like a score attack platformer, too. By collecting bananas, gathering beats, and increasing your combo multiplier by performing stunts in midair, you can rack up insane scores, which really showcases how excellently crafted and complex the level designs are. It's something you might not notice if you're just casually going through levels. Then, there are the boss battles, which put DK in either platforming contests against big bosses or one-on-one Punch-Out!!-like duels with fellow simian opponents. 

Donkey Kong; Jungle Beat would go on to receive a Wii entry that completely replaced the bongos of the GameCube original with motion controls. The Wii Remote and Nunchuk served as your left and right hand respectively, as if you were using drumsticks. Though not as enjoyable to play as the GameCube version, it's a competent port all the same, and for someone who lives with other people, it's at least a less obnoxious version of a game to hear for them!

Platformer/Puzzle - Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (DS)

The Nintendo DS saw a tremendous amount of innovative games throughout its life. Even Electronic Arts, a company that isn't too well-known for reinventing the wheel and getting out of its comfort zone, delivered some truly creative titles on the Nintendo DS. One of these was a stellar 2D platformer with a unique puzzle-based twist, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure.

Using the DS's dual screens, the top screen served as a platformer. When enemies are dispatched by our good ol' tea-swigging chap Henry Hatsworth, they are in turn moved to the bottom screen, turned into puzzle blocks. As time progresses, the blocks on the bottom screen slowly climb upwards, and if they reach the top edge of the bottom screen, they will return to cause trouble on the top screen. Only through engaging with the bottom screen in true Panel de Pon/Puzzle League style by sliding and matching three or more similarly colored blocks together can these blocks be removed. In doing so, these defeated enemies turn into energy that fills part of Henry's Super Meter, and depending on the color of the removed blocks, these can either increase Henry's attack, restore some health, or cause an adverse reaction. 

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure delivered equal amounts charm and entertainment, as equal as the combination of platforming fun and puzzle-based goodness. If you missed out on the game, if you still have a device that can play said game, and can track a copy down, you should definitely take a glimpse at this utterly creative and unique adventure.

Action/Simulation - ActRaiser (SNES)

Our final game takes us way back, all the way to 1990 with the Super Nintendo cult classic and fan favorite ActRaiser. The game was innovative back when it released, and still to this day it's hard to find games similar to ActRaiser. Starting with a pair of humans and little else, the simulation portion of ActRaiser sees you planning roads, creating miracles, and doing your best in the role of "The Master" to provide as much prosperity as possible for your newly formed civilization. This is in between the much more action-focused running, jumping, and slaying monsters and other enemies in side-scrolling levels that bookend the sim aspects of the game. Looking at the two screenshots provided above might make one think they're from entirely different games. The fact that they're not only from the same title but also have two vastly different gameplay styles that work so well together just shows how much of an impressive game ActRaiser was in 1990 and how impressive ActRaiser remains over 30 years later.

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