Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Emperor's New Groove (GBC) Review

Written: October 9th, 2014
(As played on Game Boy Player)
Year: 2000 | Developed by: Sandbox Studios | Published by: UbiSoft | Distributed by: Disney Interactive
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  Let's talk about The Emperor's New Groove=)
In 2000 Mark Dindal directed the 40th animated Disney feature for theatres which was about a young emperor's coming of age story where he learns to be selfless after going on a long adventure after being transformed into a llama.  To say that the animation strayed from the normal formula would be an understatement, but it didn't matter since the movie was a lot of fun to watch thanks to its witty script, humorous villains, fourth-wall breaking, and sometimes lack of making sense.  Even the movie itself acknowledges some of its nonsensicality, which makes it all the more enjoyable and doesn't necessarily ask to be taken seriously.  =)  It's a movie I loved when I was little and a movie that I still like watching once in awhile.
Then in 2005 came the made for TV sequel Kronk's New Groove where instead of focusing on Kuzco it focuses on the former villain turned good guy Kronk who used to work for Yzma, who now has a happy life working as a cook until his life is turned upside down when his father Papi decides to come visit, desperately wanting to get his approval which he's been seeking since childhood.  This sequel/spin-off has gotten an especially negative reception from critics and was deemed a major step down from the first movie, and it's not as witty and this movie may be quite derivative......
..................I mean, very derivative.  Shameless, you could say; hell, it even cannibalizes many of the jokes and lines from its predecessor.
Oh, c'monD=<  This is, what, Disney's umpteenth time that they openly referenced their own iconic scene from Lady and the Tramp?!?  It wasn't bad enough when they did it in 102 Dalmations, Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure, and that one episode of Shake it Up?  I don't know why, but any time I see the spaghetti scene happen outside of Lady and the Tramp the more I personally find that it loses charm; makes me wonder what charm I saw in it in the first place when I was younger.  =(
Uhhh, as I saying it may be derivative of other well-known scenes from other movies or series, but I don't think it's as bad as people make it out to be (doesn't really deserve that 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, in my opinion, as I've seen worse), and it's got some good things going for it... maybe?  The animation is for the most part good and a bit similar to the first movie's, reprising the voice cast was a good choice (Patrick Warburton is still excellent as the title character), and as cliché-addled and cutesy-wootsy as the story can be the tale of the son trying to get his father's "thumbs up" does have its merits... sort of?
It's not The Emperor's New Groove, but it's far from the worst Disney DTV sequel I've seen (I still contest that it's The Hunchback of Notre Dame II).  And if you can overlook its at times creepy undertones and try to resist the "name that reference" game (whether it be lines of dialogue or notable scenes) that lingers throughout the movie you'll be fine.  And besides, when else do you have an opportunity to hear Tracey Ullman's voice in a Disney DTV feature?  ......  Just mute out her voice whenever she calls Kronk by his pet name... trust me.  <={
Image from Wikipedia
And while I'll concede that Kronk's New Groove can be a bit pointless at times, it's nowhere near as pointless as the 2006-2008 Disney animated series The Emperor's New School.  A spin-off of the first movie Kuzco, being kicked out of his palace due to his "lack of sufficient knowledge" must attend Kuzco University (ego trip, much?) and pass his courses in order to become emperor again; meanwhile Yzma (posing as Principal Amzy) plots to make sure he doesn't succeed so she can become empress.
First of all, why is this an issue now that he didn't have enough education to rule an empire?  Secondly, wasn't there another Disney show that had the main character go to school in order to succeed (*cough* the midquel series Hercules perhaps *cough*)?  While it does have its moments it still borrows jokes and lines not only from The Emperor's New Groove but Kronk's New Groove as well (only it's nowhere near as derivative), but this time around it feels cheap and heartless.
Patrick Warburton and Eartha Kitt still rock it as Kronk and Yzma, and while Disney reqular J.P. Manoux provides a serviceable Kuzco I have a very big issue with the series as a whole.  Remember the ending of the first movie where Kuzco learns that being selfish is not the way to go?  Well screw that lesson because Kuzco's now a selfish brat again; it's like he went through all that stuff in the first movie only to learn nothing.  Even Kronk's New Groove maintained the characteristic that Kuzco learned to be selfless and caring.  >_<  How do you suppose Sting reacted when he found out about the series with Kuzco?
Image from; burst bubble written by me
For those of you who don't know it was Sting (the end credits singer) who convinced the writers of The Emperor's New Groove to have Kuzco keep his lesson about being selfless towards others intact as well as living on the hilltop neighboring Pacha's after disapproving of the originally intended ending where it didn't seem like he learned anything.  Also, obvious Dune reference is obvious.
So congratulations, The Emperor's New School!  You made Kuzco's quest in the first movie completely pointless, you absolutely pointless series!  >=(  If you like the series, that's fine; I personally am half and half about it, less favorably than Kronk's New Groove I might add.
"Make sure this place is
spotless by the time I come
back, hmm?  'kay thanks,
But this isn't about the made for TV sequel or the spin-off series.  It's all about The Emperor's New Groove; and because it was a huge success in theatres this of course meant that upcoming video game adaptations were inevitable.  When I was little I was happy to get the opportunity to play it on the Game Boy Color; not only that but I also got to play the PlayStation One version as well.  I haven't played the PlayStation One version since I moved to America from Italy, but I do remember having gotten far in it; since the Game Boy Color was not region-blocked I of course could play the handheld whenever I pleased, and what better company to handle this adaptation (alongside Sandbox Studios) then the very company who gave us the limbless hero Rayman (UbiSoft)?  I still like the movie that started it all a lot, but what about the game version?  Is it worth playing?
"Think fast!"
A long time ago there was an empire during Incan times ruled by Emperor Kuzco, a young cocky, self-loving and selfish bastard that cares for no one but himself.  On the eve of his eighteenth birthday Yzma, his ex royal advisor, plots to kill Kuzco so that she can become empress as payback for him firing her for trying to do his job and for sitting on his chair.  Since Kronk accidentally switched the poison for llama extract, Kuzco turns into a llama instead.  Yzma asks Kronk to dispose of him so that she'll become empress, but the plans backfire when the bag Kuzco's in accidentally falls on top of village chief Pacha's cart on the way back to his hilltop.  Pacha, surprisingly okay about it in this version considering the young emperor threatened to destroy his village in place of Kuzcotopia earlier, decides to help Kuzco get back to the palace so that he can become human again.  There will be lots of obstacles along the way as Kuzco peruses the village, forests, cliffs, the city, Yzma's secret lab, and finally the palace where he reigns.  Will he be successful and learn that selfishness is not a good thing?
In the early areas you'll find
scrolls that instruct on certain
movesets and controls
The visuals are fairly solid and standard.  The title has been replicated well (sans its animation), plus all the colors are well-chosen and really shine vibrantly on the screen, especially the color red (Kuzco's fur, specifically speaking).  =)  Each area looks well-designed, and they all have details which make it their own; in the village there are huts with roofs made out straw.  Some areas have got simple yet neat backdrops of hills farther in the distance; the forest area is all blue, dark, and sinister; Yzma's lab looks like an appropriate setting for a laboratory, and in one segment there is a neat star-studded sky at night.  Nice!  Whenever a scroll pops up there is a neat map-like design going for it (which is appropriate, actually), and anytime the game mentions which area it is (whether it be the first, second, and third level) there is a still-shot of the movie, an--wait a minute!
Did this game's cutscenes retain the movie's 1.66:1 aspect ratio?
Holy crap, it did=O  Granted, they squished it up a little to fit the words on the dialogue box, and sometimes the still-shots range from dark to light or even grainy... still, I'm impressed that the developers managed to cram such movie-esque detail onto a tiny screen when the game called for it.  Kudos=D
"Hey, no touchie!"
Kuzco's animation is really beautifully fluid considering it's the Game Boy Color, whether it be when he walks, when he ducks, when he runs, when he charge attacks, when he does his idle animation, and even when he dies.  He's fun to look at when you play as him.  Everything else though is hit and miss in this regard.  Like was the case in Super Mario Land, some characters and enemies have outlines while others don't.  Those that lack the outlines comprise of bats, jaguars, snakes, Yzma, and Pacha (to name a few).  Those that do have outlines consist of enemy llamas, scorpions, guards, eagles, and Kronk (to name a few).  Some animate really well while others are of the choppy kind.  When Kuzco becomes human again it looks... okay; but don't even get me started on Yzma (maybe it's just me, but she seems like she's naked to me, ewww).  XoX
"I can't believe I'm doing
The Emperor's New Groove for the Game Boy Color is a 2D platformer where Kuzco can do his set of moves.  There's the regular moves (walking, jumping, ducking) and then there are others that will help you progress a long way (headbutting, charging, charging to get enough air time after you jump when it comes to large gaps, and spitting).  From time to time there are pathways that are blocked by a door(?)/sarcophagus(?  I don't know, I can't tell) which will open itself after Kuzco spits towards a spittoon (the only problem is that he spits upwards so you have to judge the trajectory properly).  Once that happens you only have the allotted amount of time (judging by the beeping sound) to get to the pathway; once you go through the door will remain open forever and be activated as your checkpoint.  Bear in mind that your spit is limited to six, but fortunately there's a floating spit icon that Kuzco can reach in certain spots to refill his...  I don't know, it's the game's logic.  <={
Gee, that enemy attack
doesn't look familiar!  =|
But spitting not only will activate the spittoons but they can also be used to stun enemies (or defeat bats and eagles) as well as dissipating fire on torches temporarily because... saliva is known for doing that?  Enemies can be knocked out of the way by simply pressing the B button against them, but should there be enemies who are lethal at the front (snakes and scorpions) then your best option is to knock them out from behind.  Along the way there are vases scattered about, and in them are either a red heart (which will replenish one of Kuzco's four heart icons) or a yellow heart (which will earn you a life); but remember, once you get the heart it will no longer pop up to help (unless you start the whole area over again).  Control-wise it's quite good and a bit responsive to a fault, even if it can get a bit loose at times.
"Yeah, this scenery is nice
and all, but can we get back
to me?"
Sound-wise it's okay, even though none of the music in the game shows up from the movie.  The title theme is a bit muffled but the theme is audible.  Each area consists of three levels, and they each have the same music right in that order.  The first level themes sound a bit ominous and pressing, the second level themes sound less stressful and more bouncy, while the third level themes sound very adventurous and relaxing.  But then after the third level the cycle starts over with the first level of the subsequent area.  There is a theme that plays during a Jaguar boss fight (or lack thereof) which sounds threatening and menacing.  While the songs are okay and well-composed they do get a bit redundant after awhile due to their brevity, and while I normally don't condone the option to turn off the music of the game (because, well, it makes up the game's atmosphere), just listening to the sound effects themselves doesn't seem like such a bad idea this time.  Speaking of, the sound effects are very decent (including the knocking sound when Kuzco knocks someone out and the static for when Kuzco gets hurt by a lethal fronted enemy).
"Don't worry, Your Highness,
you're safe now!"
The difficulty of the game is rather moderate.  It's easy, but not mindlessly easy, but there are moments that will seem very hard at first.  Part of that might attribute to the fact that the worlds are not very large but due to the small screen it crops out a lot of the world, which would lead to the initial impression that the areas are big.  There are some moments when Kuzco has to jump from tiny platform to tiny platform, or from medium to medium-sized, as well as moments that demand that you make a great leap of faith (some of which involve going through small gaps which can only be entered by charging through).  Most enemies can be disposed of while others will remain no matter how much you stun them with Kuzco's spit.
"Oh, don't mind me, Your
Highness, I'm just doing a
fist pump as I await your
Another thing to keep in mind is the distance between the spittoon and the potential door/potential sarcophagus.  The moment the spittoon is activated the clock starts ticking, and when it stops before you reach the gateway it will be blocked again, so you'll have to go the route all over again if you get there too late.  The timer is actually based on the distance; for example if the gate is closeby the timing will be short but if it's far away (or requires a bit of maneuvering) then the time will be extended a bit further.  Sometimes the pathway leading there will involve going from platform to platform or even charging through, maybe even requiring that a leap of faith to be made.  It gives the game a central bit of challenge, but everything else is easy.  There are three files to choose from, and thanks to the battery save it will pick up which area you were in should you get a game over.  If you load from your previous progress, it will start you at the first level of the area.  Once you beat the game there's no meaningful ending; in fact once you defeat Yzma this will pop up.
Nothing like going through the whole game expecting a proper ending than to be told that you won while looking at a pissed off Yzma.  Afterwards you're given one of the most boring-looking white-background credits ever (which can be skipped) while Kuzco is walking in the bottom part of the screen.  The game really just stops.
Yes, you see Kuzco become human (with that very awkward stationary pose) but other than that that's it.  You don't even see Yzma get her comeuppance in the end.  =(  I don't expect perfection when it comes to video game adaptations of movies, but... really, you couldn't even have put in an epilogue?  Though I suppose I shouldn't complain: to its credit, at least the game had the decency to actually show the main villain in it, unlike some other movie to video game adaptation where the main villain was never once seen at all (*cough* Hercules for the Game Boy *cough*).
Jumping ahead
The Emperor's New Groove suffers from a few issues, and one of them is a sheer lack of replay value.  After you beat it, you must wait awhile in order to play it again.  The paths are easy to follow (but they're the same no matter how many times you play), the areas are maneuverable, and the game as a whole is rather short.  The scrolls show you the moves, but you may realize upon playing another time it that they can be used without reading the scrolls.  Though if I were to be perfectly honest, this is actually (from what I played, at least) one of the better movie to video game adaptations that you'll find on the Game Boy Color.  It's by no means great, but it's not awful either.  It is fun to play in short bursts, and while it lasts it's rather harmless.  I just wish that there was more to it.  But it looks pretty, and that much has got to count for something, right?
What, no chimp and the
bug reference?  =(
I liked the Game Boy Color adaptation a lot when I was little, but as I got older and wiser its flaws became more noticeable.  When I was younger I got about halfway through, and it wasn't until I was in my late teens (when I felt like playing it again) that I managed to beat it.  It's decent to play, and some challenge is provided, but it could've used a lot more depth.  Still, I don't regret having played it.  If you liked the movie like I did and wish to experience a handheld video game adaptation of it then this one is not bad in short bursts.  If you're expecting a lot, then you may want to lower your expectations.  For what it is, it's not bad; but if you want to have the best of both worlds then watching the movie that started it all is your best offer.  It's funny; the movie and game's been around for almost fifteen years, it's incredible.
<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
P.S. You know what else happened in 2005?  Chicken Little was being directed by Mark Dindal, who also directed The Emperor's New Groove, and saw a theatrical release.  =D  It all adds u----no it doesn't.  I just wanted to bring that fact up.  =3
P.S. 2 Since I brought up the movies: I miss John Fiedler.  =(  Not only did he provide a great voice to Piglet, but he also lent a great voice to the first and second movies' old man Rudy, I felt.
P.S. 3 I also miss Eartha Kitt as well.  Her Yzma was the best.
P.S. 4 Screengrabs of The Emperor's New Groove and Kronk's New Groove both from my Region 1 DVD of both movies, respectively; property of Disney.  I'm actually rather astonished that the made for TV movie had a wider aspect ratio (1.78:1) than its theatrical predecessor (1.66:1).  ...  I'm such a techno-nerd; and a proponent that movies and TV series should not be cropped (pan-and-scan) and be watched in their intended aspect ratios.  =<
P.S. 5 If you are considering to watch Kronk's New Groove, stick to the end of the credits; it'll be rewarding.  Or,... if it makes you feel happy you can pretend you never saw it.  Whatever works best for you.  ........  Yeah, I'm pretty mixed on that movie.  =\
Thank you for reading my review, please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought.  Take care!  =)

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