Itís 1993 and Iím 16 years old. Iíve got a fancy 9600 baud modem attached via a serial port to my dadís IBM Think Pad. The World Wide Web doesnít exist yet, but that doesnít mean thereís nothing to do. Iíve discovered the nerdy underground of local BBSes, where enterprising young geeks with second phone lines swap pornography and shareware games.
These little digital dictatorships with unusual names - Sluggoís Domain, The Pyramid, Rusted Shut, The Graphics Connection, Beavis Beavis, The Wicked Garden - pump new video games onto my dadís computer a few times a week. Most of the file sizes are tiny, even by the standards of the time - a Space Invaders clone here, a simple Tetris clone there. What else can you expect when the fastest modems anyone has pull down a whopping 9600 bits per second?
On this particular day Iím on a BBS I donít usually go to. One that doesnít have a daily usage time limit, which is a real plus. Iím looking through their file offerings when It catches my eye. A game so enormous, it breaks a barrier Iíve never seen a video game break - it is a colossal megabyte in size.
An entire megabyte.
Sure, if I think about it, which I donít, there are probably games I have on disk or cartridge that are already that big. But Iíve never, ever seen a game for download at a BBS that was so immense, so unapologetically decadent with its data size. What on earth could be contained in a game that breaks the megabyte barrier?
Itís 2013 and Iím 36 years old. Iíve got a fancy Apple Airport Extreme thatís attached via WiFi to a 27-inch iMac. The World Wide Web is a phrase you rarely hear anymore, and most of the time thereís nothing to do on it. But my wifeís out of town and Iíve decided to use a service I donít typically use: I pull up my Steam account for the first time in over a year and look around for a free video game to download.
Since I have a Mac, the choice of games is a bit limited on Steam. So I settle on Lord of the Rings Online. Itís a good fit for my mood right now. Iím definitely a Tolkien fan, I havenít tried an MMO in a while, and, perhaps most importantly, the price is right. Itís totally free. A few clicks and the progress bar starts moving. 1 and a half hours until completion. Perfectly reasonable for a game thatís about 17 Gigabytes in size.
Thatís the name of the game that breaks the impossible megabyte barrier.
What could such a game be? I am aware of a ninja rabbit character already - Usagi Yojimbo, the rabbit pal of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Could it be a game about him? Maybe a Beat-Em-Up in the vein of the Turtlesí own classic game?
Wasnít he a samurai, though? Or a ronin? I'm not totally sure what the difference is, actually. I should look that up. On a BBS.
One thingís for certain, it must be a beauty of a game. It must have all the colors a VGA monitor can output if itís that large.
A few clicks and the progress bar starts moving. Estimated time to downloadÖ 14 hours.
Yes, it takes 14 hours to deliver Ninja Rabbit over a telephone line that was probably originally connected to my Victorian-era home in the 1940s. But thatís the cost of modern technology. What choice do I have? I set the connection up, piddle around for a while and then go to bed.
Itís an hour and a half later and Iíve just stuffed a burrito into my stomach. Steam tells me Iím ready to play Lord of the Rings Online. Sounds like a reasonable way to spend a lonely evening.
I hit play and the Lord of the Rings Online login screen pops up. Looks promising, until I notice a progress bar here, too. Oh, so thereís more loading to do. Patches and stuff. Fair enough.
I go about my business for a while. Check a few forums. Waste a little time. When I get back, 45 minutes have gone by. The loading is still zooming along.
Then something catches my eye. "Downloading file 2489 of 21566.Ē There are over 20 grand of patches and Iím barely a tenth of the way through? Youíve got to be kidding me.
Clearly, I will not be slicing up orcs tonight.
I wants it. MY PRECIOUS!
I wake up. Itís probably been about 14 hours since I set up the download of Ninja Rabbit. I have to be attentive because my parents or sisters might pick up the receiver on the phone, spoiling the download. Thankfully itís a Saturday morning and everyoneís sleeping in. I sneak into the kitchen. Ha ha! Just a few minutes left. Everythingís going according to plan!
My mind races with possibilities. A game so large has to be epically good, right? You canít just dump that much data into a game and not know what youíre doing, right? Ninja Rabbit has to be something Iíll remember forever. Right?
Well, here it is. The fruit of my waiting.
Behold: Ninja Rabbit.
What a load of ugh.
In fact, as you might notice right away, it should rightly be called ďNinja RabbitsĒ. Plural. But to this day itís still singular in my mind as this detail was not included in the original description on the BBS. Itís also made by a company called MicroValue. Any time a developer unabashedly uses the word ďValueĒ in their company name, it isnít a good sign.
You might also notice that Ninja Rabbit is horrible. Maybe thereís a layer of irony here, but for a game that combines two stereotypically fast things - ninjas and rabbits - itís unbelievably slow paced. The controls are stiff and delayed. And it frankly just looks like crap. There may technically have a lot of colors, but itís really just a huge brown mess. The spewing blood might be a little novel during this Mortal Kombat era, but even that just feels more inappropriate than tantalizing. It doesnít feel dangerous, despite the gore. It just looks and feels stupid.
At the risk of sounding spoiled or entitled, I gotta say: Even for free, this is a ripoff. Itís a waste of time and anticipation. I play it for a few minutes and then dejectedly delete it off of my dadís computer.
What a boring game.
What a boring night.
I plop down in front of my TV. Should I play a few levels of Super Mario 3D World on my Wii U just to kill a few hours before going to bed? Nah. Iíve been playing that with the wife and itíd be a shame for her to miss anything.
Maybe Iíll just look around the eShop for a while.
Iím looking through Nintendoís online offerings when It catches my eye.
Kung Fu Rabbit.
There is another game that mixes rabbits and the martial arts. And Iíve discovered it on tonight, of all nights.
Somehow this game found me at just the right time. Iím already thinking about how LOTR is turning into a Ninja Rabbit experience, and this game seems delivered to me, in sympathy, from the benevolent ghost of my beloved 9600 baud modem. I can almost hear it whispering in my ear.
ďIím the Ghost of Computing's Past. You have no choice but to download Kung Fu Rabbit, tonight.Ē
Itís quite a bit larger than a megabyte in size, but times being what they are, and even with LOTR steadily patching in the background, Kung Fu Rabbit is delivered to my Wii U in just a few seconds.
Finally, I have something new I can play tonight.
Ok. This isnít a full review of Kung Fu Rabbit. Itís an impression. A quick look. A few paragraphs from a tired writer too lazy to finish a new game.
Whatís Kung Fu Rabbit? Itís a highly stylized action platformer where you use your abilities to jump and stick to walls to wind your way through carefully attenuated levels in a search forÖ look, I can put it even more simply: Itís a Super Meat Boy clone, okay.
Is it any good? UhmÖ itís all right. I donít regret picking it up. It entertained me for a few hours before going to bed. But I suspect if youíve put a lot of time into Super Meat Boy (which I havenít) youíre just going to wish you were playing that game, instead. It doesnít strike me as a Meat Boy Killer.
Granted, Super Meat Boy isnít available on the eShop, so if youíre looking for a game that scratches that sort of itch but you want to stick to Nintendoís platform, Kung Fu Rabbit will probably suffice. But would I recommend it from my first impressions? Probably not. Right now I'm feeling the gravity of my favorite phrase for when I want to damn something with faint praise: Itís diverting enough. And it is. It has a nice art style, decent music and itís certainly playable. Itís no classic, but itís no Ninja Rabbit, either. I got what I came for.
There are flaws, of course. Control is so loose Iíve taken to calling the main character ďFloaty the RabbitĒ. The sound design is ok, but the mixing is terrible. Thereís a gurgling sound you hear whenever youíre near a tar trap thatís highly irritating and just way too loud. And itís relentless. Youíre going to hear this ďsomeoneís at the end of their milkshakeĒ sound every few seconds while playing this game. In fact, I had to go to the settings and turn sound effects down because I got so tired of hearing it. Been a long time since I had to do something like that.
But I'd still say it has more virtues than vices. There are better choices on the eShop, even for the price, but if you're looking for a game like this, well then this is the game you should buy. (I should squeeze that sentence into every review).
That's my impression at the end of an underwhelming night. I turn off the Wii U and roll over in the bed.
As I blink off to sleep, it occurs to me that I might have had a better time if I'd simply gotten drunk on the money I spent on Kung Fu Rabbit.
Itís the next morning. Iíve got the whole day to do whatever I want. And LOTR Online is finally ready to go.
I launch it.
ItísÖ incredibly past its heyday. The controls arenít fun, the graphics are outdated and the whole place is a ghost town. I play for an hour and only ever see one other player. And it occurs to me pretty quickly that I donít want to play with him.
So I kill bats in a cave for a few minutes and then delete it off of my computer.
Then it occurs to me. Times may change. Standards may change. Games will balloon in size. But one thing is true:
Interesting way of writing impressions, Kris. Good read.
I had a few issues of Usagi Yojimbo as a kid, and I loved it. It used to have some other sweet comics like Sam & Max in it as well, so I always picked up one of the mags whenever I could, which sadly wasn't too often. Usagi was a ronin, I'm pretty sure; a ronin is essentially a samurai without a master if I recall correctly.
Usagi Yojimbo always confused me as a kid. I think he was my first introduction to the crossover, except I had no idea that crossovers were a thing, so I was like wait, what is going on here? He is in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles but he is also kind of in his own stuff? For awhile my mind dealt with the perceived contradiction by assuming that there were two completely different ninja rabbit properties that both settled on Usagi Yojimbo as a name yet had nothing to do with each other. Kind of like the Ghostbusters and Real Ghostbusters shows.
The daimyo were indeed powerful rulers in feudal Japan (I'd never heard that word before, I don't think, so thanks for improving my general knowledge), and the ronin were samurai that had lost their masters or their privileges to serve one. Apparently the term ronin can also be used to describe someone who is inbetween jobs, so from now on I want you all to refer to me as a ronin, 'cause that sounds so much cooler than being a useless bum.
Also, speaking of samurai, you should all watch Takeshi Kitano's movie Zatoichi, if you haven't already. It's awesome.
Awesome read! At first glance I thought this would be about Raving Rabbids but I should have known better. This is KrisWright! I think its safe to say we've all downloaded a Ninja Rabbit before. Especially one with killer bouncing golf balls.
Haha, an entertaining read, Kris! Ninja rabbits are here to stay, for sure. Interesting parallels between your recent LOTR experience and playing Ninja Rabbit for the first time. That game looks... bad, indeed.
Usagi Yojimbo was awesome. As a TMNT fan, I was just as confused as @Zero.
And good impressions of Kung Fu Rabbit for the Wii U. I will post a link to this article in the official Kung Fu Rabbit discussion thread! I definitely agree about the annoying gurgling sound effect. Now that you mention that there is an option to lower that sound effect, I will do so ASAP.
Control is very loose, sure, but I still felt much in control of the little guy. I'm having fun with the game, so there's that. I've never played Super Meat Boy, so I have no idea how that game compares with this.
And in case anyone is wondering where the 'kung fu' portion of the game comes into play, the hero can use some martial arts attacks to kill enemies, which are performed automatically (like when you touch an enemy when they facing away from you, for example).