Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Knowing Is Half The Battle: G.I. Joe Games

G.I. Joe has been around a long time, and much like any toy line, cartoon, etc. that was big in the 80s, there were video game tie ins. Some of them were piles of crap, but there were also some beautiful gems too. I'm going to try to catch all of them.

G.I. Joe: Cobra Strike - Atari 2600 - 1983: Most 2600 games kinda required the player to have a vivid imagination to see what you're supposed to be dealing with in the game world, but there is no question in Cobra Strike what your objective is. Instead of fighting "Cobra: The Enemy", you fight a GIANT COBRA! In addition, you have to protect hostages from the giant cobra's attacks while you fire shots at it. Not a good look for Hasbro, who was pushing the new G.I. Joe cartoon series at this point.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero - Commodore 64, Apple II - 1985: This is a weird one, as it is basically a one on one shooter. You pick an opponent, then you pick your member of G.I. Joe, then you run around a single screen arena like an idiot shooting at your enemy. Once the battle is over, you repeat the process. There was no ending to the game, and it hasn't aged well at all. It is better than Cobra Attack, though.

Action Force - Amstrad CPC - 1987: In Europe, G.I. Joe is known as Action Force. This game was only released in Europe, and I'm glad it never touched down here, because it proved to be an utter turd. most Amstrad games featured some butt ugly graphics and sound effects. It's on par with a lot of stuff on that system though. I'm not a fan though.

G.I. Joe - NES - 1991: Two publishers made G.I. Joe games for the NES, this one was published by Taxan, and they did a damn good job with it. quality run and gun platforming right here.

G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor - NES - 1992: Capcom handled this one, and it was quite nice. The gameplay is quite on par with Taxan's G.I. Joe game, but the levels are much bigger, and there is a good deal of exploration involved. Definitely a must buy.

G.I. Joe - Arcade - 1992: The 90s belonged to a few publishers when it came to arcade games, and Konami did licensed games better than most in the arcades in the 90s. This G.I. Joe game always felt like an expanded version of the over the shoulder levels in Contra. If you ever stumble across an arcade that has this, you owe it to yourself to give it a go.

G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra - 2009: This one was attached as a tie in to the movie of the same name, and sadly, it was just as mediocre. It reminded me a little of The Red Star for the PS2. It could have been a classic run and gun action game that ended up being blah.

That was pretty much every video game adaptation of the G.I. Joe license. Some were good, some not so much, but at least they fight for freedom wherever there's trouble.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Tony Hawk vs. Skate: EA vs. Activision Round 9 Million

For a long time, there really wasn't a really good video game that encompassed what skateboarding was. I mean, Skate or Die is a classic, but let's face it, it didn't pull in non gamers. A few games popped up here and there, but none of them were really good skateboarding games. This changed when Activision released Tony Hawk Pro Skater for the Sony Playstation in 1999. That game became the new high water mark for all action sports games, but in the process it's success kinda doomed it. You see, the folks at Activision are always in constant competition with the other "biggest publisher in video games" in Electronic Arts, and much like EA, Activision tends to fall into a state of complacency with their games. That ended up happening with the Tony Hawk series. While Activision did make a fundamental change in game engine with Tony Hawk's American Wasteland, there wasn't enough in the way of improved gameplay to satisfy gamers who grew bored with the long stale play mechanics in the long running series. With Activision down, EA decided to strike and they released what could be considered the grandchild of Skate or Die, EA's 1986 multiplatform skateboard classic. EA released Skate in 2007 on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 to critical and commercial acclaim, and sequels for pretty much every available console were released. One thing Skate and it's sequels did differently than Tony Hawk was that it consolidated the origination of most tricks to the right analog stick and most grabs are assigned to shoulder buttons. This control scheme made playing Skate an inviting experience to those who became put off by the fighting game like button combos that were required to do tricks in the Tony Hawk games. by contrast, Activision has started to look at their popular line of music games for the direction their series would go in. Tony Hawk Ride was released in 2009, and featured a skateboard peripheral that would allow players to control their on screen character without using a traditional controller. Ride was met with very negative reviews, and received several worst game of the year awards. Despite the negative reception, Activision released a followup to Ride, entitled Tony Hawk Shred. It is notable that Shred received negative reviews as well, and only sold 3,000 units in it's first week. Conversely, Skate 3 released to positive reviews, though sales haven't been as strong as Skate 2 were. It remains to be seen if EA's Skate franchise will become as stale as Activision's Tony Hawk franchise, but if it does, rest assured that one thing is certain, and that is that Ubisoft's Shaun White Skateboarding poses no threat to either right now.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Spy Hunter: The Best Car Chase I Ever Played

We've always been fascinated by secret agents, most notably the concept of a "Super Spy" like James Bond. So, video games afforded players the opportunity to assume the roles of such characters, which sometimes didn't go well, mainly because the games never really focused on one part of the experience and did it well. That was the case at least until Bally Midway saw fit to focus on the best part of most action movies in general, the car chase scenes. Using car chase scenes as inspiration, Midway developed and released Spy Hunter in 1983. The original cabinet came in two flavors, upright and sit down, and featured fast paced gameplay. The player assumes control of the G-6155 Interceptor, and must take out enemy vehicles while avoiding civilians. Each one of the cars weapons (missiles, smoke screen, oil slick, machine gun) are allocated to individual buttons. Perhaps one of the biggest selling points of Spy Hunter was the use of the theme to Peter Gun as the primary soundtrack to the game. Spy Hunter proved to be a hit for Midway, and spawned a sequel as well as a pinball game and several ports to the original game. Spy Hunter is so popular that it even popped up as an "Easter Egg" in the initial release of Microsoft Excel 2000, and it ended up being the last "Easter Egg" included in Microsoft's non gaming software. The arcade sequel, Spy Hunter II, was released in 1987, and I can say with great honesty that it isn't anywhere as good as the original. Meanwhile, on the home console front, Sunsoft, who released the NES port of Spy Hunter, developed and released their own followup titled Super Spy Hunter. That followup was much more in the vein of the original game than Spy Hunter II, and it proved to be well received. From there, the spirit of that game lay dormant for many years, until the retro gaming revival of the last console generation. Midway, who was at this point a full fledged console game publisher, decided to revive Spy Hunter, and they did a pretty good job of it, at first. The reboot of the franchise, simply titled Spy Hunter, was released on PS@, Xbox, and Gamecube to some good reviews, and sales were solid. Then Universal Pictures acquired the right to Spy Hunter, and began pre-production in 2003. At the same time, Midway began working on a video game attached to the film. The film has been delayed since, but Midway decided to release the game instead, but they probably shouldn't have. The game was lambasted by critics, and sold horribly. Sadly to date that was the last game in the Spy Hunter lineage, but the good thing about being a gamer, is being able to circumvent to bad parts of a franchise's history to relive it's glory days. I recently picked up Super Spy Hunter, and will get the NES port of the original soon if for no other reason than to hear that awesome soundtrack.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Few More "What Ifs"

It's a slow day, and I have severe writer's block, so I figured I'd cook up a few more "What Ifs" for you guys

What if Bungie never signed that deal to exclusively make games for Microsoft's Xbox console? Let's be real here, The Xbox brand probably wouldn't have lasted past that first system cycle if it wasn't for Halo being exclusive to the first Xbox.

What if EA ignored better judgment and released NBA Elite 11 anyway? That honestly would have been the worst basketball video game released on a home console since NBA Starting Five for the PS2. EA Sports as a brand would've recovered, but nobody would have trusted their basketball games again.

What if Nintendo's consoles flopped, and Sega's prospered? If this happened, a bigger deal would've been made about Sonic's 15th birthday than Mario's 25th, We'd still be getting new After Burner and Space Harrier sequels, and all those bad Sonic games we've gotten since the Dreamcast died...they would be Mario games.

What if Metal Gear Solid didn't catch on as strongly as it did? Without Metal Gear Solid's success Hideo Kojima may not have had the freedom to work on more creative fare like Boktai for the GBA, and the Zone of the Enders series. We're still waiting on followups to those, by the way.

What if Uwe Boll's film's weren't so derided by gamers? If that were the case a few things would happen, The director wouldn't have tomato cans to spar with, most of his films wouldn't be hidden at the end of the Netflix queue on Xbox Live, and and he would probably still not be as appreciated as directors who haven't screwed up video game film adaptations.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My 10 Best Pickups Of 2010

2010 has been a good year for my personal game library, but with the year about to wrap up, I figured I should tell you guys about the 10 best games that became a part of my library this year.

Honorable mention: Metroid: Other M

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Ninja Gaiden: Hardest Of The Hardcore

Tecmo has spawned some great things over their existence, but nothing has been as great as Ninja Gaiden. The exploits of Ryu Hayabusa have been documented in video games since 1988. What a lot of young gamers don't know is the brutally hard Team Ninja creation started life as a slightly below average beat em up that featured the grimiest continue screen in arcade history. That original arcade Ninja Gaiden was popular enough for Tecmo to develop and release completely original trilogy of games that surrounded Ryu Hayabusa and his quest to protect the world from Jacquio, Ashtar, and their quest to destroy humanity. Three things characterized the Ninja Gaiden trilogy: tight control, revolutionary, for their time, cutscenes, and some at times brutal difficulty. All three games were highly heralded through gaming circles as high water marks for platform action games. The original Ninja Gaiden Trilogy was released as a compilation cartridge for the Super Nintendo, and while it's extremely rare, it wasn't the best port of Tecmo's high water mark. This marked the last time Ninja Gaiden appeared on a console for almost a decade, but it's protagonist, Ryu, would appear in the highly popular fighting game series Dead or Alive. This led to speculation that Tecmo was working on a reboot to the Ninja Gaiden series. in 2004, the reboot came, and boy did it make a splash.

The modern imagining of Ninja Gaiden takes the beat em up action of the arcade game, and combined it with the speed and weapon based combat of the NES games to great effect. The result was a visceral masterpiece, and something that put Tecmo back on the map in a huge way. This new series takes the series vaunted difficulty and turns it up to 11. It's truly a game for the hardcore, and gamers ate it up, with both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions selling quite well. The series has even found its way to the Nintendo DS and it has been announced that Ninja Gaiden sequels are in development for the upcoming Nintendo 3DS, Playstation 3, and Xbox 360.

For a long time, Ninja Gaiden was synonymous for hardcore gaming, and with this current imagining of Ryu Hayabusa's quest, Tecmo has reclaimed the hardcore action gaming mantle.

Author's Note: while there were ports of Ninja Gaiden for Spectrum ZX, Sega Master System, Sega Game Gear, etc., I focused on the more well known games with the Ninja Gaiden name. So, There was a reason I didn't mention Ninja Gaiden Shadow for the Game Boy actually being a Game Boy port of Shadow of the Ninja that was licensed by Tecmo, or that I neglected to mention the prototype of a Ninja Gaiden game being developed for the Sega Genesis.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shadow Of The Colossus or Lil Man Is Tougher Than You!!

I was supposed to be writing a post about Shinobi, Sega's 1987 Ninja classic, but I was hit with writer's block. The blank my mind began to draw was colossal...wait a minute...Colossus, that's it. My mind began to open up as the last blog post faded away, and this new one takes shape.

Anyways, I remember when I was introduced to Shadow of the Colossus, and how it started out as an afterthought. It was a few months after Hurricane Katrina, and I was still trying to piece together the normalcy of my life. I went into a Gamestop in Monroe, LA, and bought a copy of Katamari Damacy, so I could have this much needed distraction, and just before checking out I asked the guy at the register what they recommended. They started raving about Shadow, and being a gamer who will try anything once, I bought it as well. When I popped it into my PS2, I was blown away graphically. I also felt a strong bit of familiarity since this game was developed by the same team that created the incredibly beautiful and criminally underrated ICO. The game starts with an anonymous young man riding a horse into a temple. When he gets there, the young man, whom I will refer to from here on as "Lil' Man", he places the motionless body of a young woman on an altar. From here, a mysterious voice tells Lil Man that if he wishes to bring the girl back to life, he must defeat the 16 Colossi that make up ancient demon named Dormin. You are also informed that your sword will guide you to each creature. from here, you are sent on the way to kill each beast, but you are never informed of the size of each monster. When I saw the first Colossus, it literally made me go "oooo", it was that big. Since the object of Shadow of the Colossus is to kill the 16 Colossi that inhabit the game world, it isn't muddled down by silly little side quests or fighting enemies that don't really fight back, but your experience is nonetheless a fulfilling one. Shadow can feel quite linear, but when each Colossus is a completely different experience to fight, then it never feels stale. My favorite moment of the game had to be the first time I fought the "bird" Colossus. having to crawl across its back while avoiding your grip meter running out was a great challenge, not as tough as say, the "turtle" Colossus, but tough nonetheless. Of all the games I've gotten since I seriously focused on building my PS2 library a few years back, Shadow was probably the best use of minimal story I've ever seen in a seemingly story driven game. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Lil Man gets no power ups during his quest, save for eating fruit and lizard tails to build up health and grip. All he has is a sword, bow and arrow, and a horse named Agro. The battles get so epic at points that Lil Man has to be put on the list of great game heroes with names like Link, Simon Belmont, Solid Snake, and Kratos. The difference between him and other characters is that get lots of different supplies at their disposal, while Lil Man only has two weapons. So I say this, Shadow of the Colossus is one of the best games of the last decade, and Lil Man is the realest character ever.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Been There Shot That: My Problem With Modern First Person Shooters

I just got to put my hands on Halo Reach, and to be honest, I wasn't overly impressed. Now, before you get the pitchforks and torches, I'll say this, most First Person Shooters haven't given me a lot of stand up and cheer moments in a long time. That's not to say that Halo, Call Of Duty, or any of the other top tier shooters aren't good games, however, they just don't give way to a major amount of innovation. Most of the play mechanics found in the current gen FPS market can be traced back to two games: Unreal Tournament and Quake 3. As far as story goes, most of what you are seeing in single player as far as story progression is thanks to Half Life. I make no allusions about the perceived lack of originality in video games, but The current glut of FPS over the last decade is almost as bad as the "kart" racing overload of the PS1/Saturn/N64 cycle, or the fighting game overload of the 1990s. The problem arises when these games start to flood the marketplace and leave us in the same the same predicament that yearly sports games do now. Gamers continue to buy them, however, so the formula can't possibly be broken. I'm just saying, a lot of these sequels to existing FPS franchises are merely updated missions and weapons, so I take the same stance with them that I do with Sports and wrestling games. charge gamers who have the first game a nominal fee and make the new missions and weapons an big DLC pack. They've been doing virtually the same thing with PC games for ages, and with smart implementation, it can work in the console marketplace. You can like whatever you like, I'm just a little bit over the constant flooding of certain genres, and most of that is the fault of one dimensional gamers. If that's you, and you feel a particular way about my opinion, then please voice your opinion. I'd love to discuss this further.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Job Training Using Video Games: You've Come A Long Way From Space Invaders

Recently, a friend sent me a link to this article about employers using video games as training tools. Before I get into my take on it, you should read that article:

Study says training with video games can help you do your job better VentureBeat

As an avid gamer, I'm all for the integration of video games into seemingly boring activities to make them more enjoyable. Many studies have shown that gamers by and large have better hand eye coordination, problem solving skills, and a myriad of other useful abilities that non gamers may not be proficient in. However, information like this won't be covered by major media, mainly because they still think we all play those "rape games" that are big in Japan. Maybe video game based job training methods will catch on, and replace some of those painfully boring and outdated training videos shown at orientations around the country.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Portal: What Will You Do For Cake?

It started out as part side story to Half Life 2, and part stand alone puzzle game, but Portal has possibly become bigger than the game that spawned it. I mean, Portal is an amazingly minimalist masterpiece, but what great puzzle game isn't? Most of the gameplay revolves around using the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device or "portal gun" to create portals in different portions of a room. The player then uses those portals to solve puzzles, which will allow the player to exit a room and move on to the next. What drives your character, Chell, through this mind twisting gauntlet? A sadistic AI unit named GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), and it's promise of...cake. Yes, Chell is risking her very existence for cake. Well, as many clues suggest throughout the game, there is no cake. That makes me a little sad, but that's a story for another blog. Portal has spawned so much acclaim since it debuted in 2007 that there's more demand for a sequel to it than a followup to Half Life 2. With that in mind, Valve has announced Portal 2, and it should hit retail outlets in April of 2011. I won't speculate on what will be in Portal 2, but if it's anywhere close to the challenge in the first Portal, I'll be getting it on day one.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gauntlet: The Greatest Dungeon Crawler Ever!

I remember the voice and the phrases vividly. I also remember the ridiculous amounts of enemies. The game I'm referring to is not a rehash of the tired Dynasty Warriors series, nor is it Ikari Warriors. No, it is the legendary arcade game, Gauntlet. Gauntlet was released in 1985 by Atari Games, and was one of the first 4 player arcade games on the market. It was also the first class based multiplayer game, meaning each character controlled a different character type. The types were Wizard, Warrior, Valkyrie, and Elf. Each possessed different strengths and weaknesses, which made choosing the right character more of a decision based on your play style than anything. For example, the Warrior could take and dish out more damage than the Elf, but the Elf could fire his weapon faster and was a lot more agile. The enemies in Gauntlet were the most tenacious I've ever faced in a game. For one, they're spawned from monster generators which if not completely destroyed continue to pump out enemies. They also have a great knack for ganging up on players. It's not uncommon to be surrounded by no less than 20 enemies at a time. Then there's the friendly fire risk. If a fellow player isn't safe, he can whittle your health to nothing. Over the years, Gauntlet has spawned several sequels, with a reboot of the franchise coming through Midway in the late 90s, and the original was reissued as a part of the Midway Arcade Treasures compilation on PS2, Gamecube, and Xbox. The series as a whole has always been great, but for my money, the original will always be the best. There was always something about the tension of that countdown and how characters constantly lose health. Gauntlet was the true definition of a quarter muncher.Who knows if the series will continue, but an HD remix of the original Gauntlet or a special edition similar to Pac Man Chapionship Edition would be great. I do know that "Red Warrior needs food badly".

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My Take On Kinect

So, It's the time of the year where folks are scrambling to get that one great gift that everyone in the family will enjoy for whatever holiday they're celebrating. One of those possible must haves is Kinect, Microsoft's highly touted motion control device for the Xbox 360. I recently got to put my hands on Kinect, and while it has flaws, It will probably be a hit regardless. As far as details go, this is my take on the device.

First off, the Kinect makes interacting with your Xbox a new experience, especially considering that gamers can use a number of voice commands to initiate a lot of important functions. As of right now, there are only a few prompts that are recognized by Kinect and there's no time frame as to an update to the device's firmware.

Setting up Kinect doesn't seem as complicated as some would have you believe, but you most certainly will need a great deal of space when setting up and using Kinect. Kinect requires 9 feet of space to work properly, so those in small apartments will be quite frustrated with set up when all they want to do is play. Long story short, if you don't have a lot of room, you may want to skip Kinect.

The most important part of this whole thing is whether or not it plays as well as advertised. The only annoyance I can foresee is that every original player will have to be calibrated to the unit. If not, it won't read properly, and will result in quite an annoying experience. Once it's calibrated to each player, Kinect can provide a great experience for folks looking for a way to bring families together around the TV. Will Kinect be used for Gears of War 3 or Ninja Gaiden 3, right now, I don't see it, but the folks at Microsoft are probably hard at work on a way to use Kinect for more "hardcore" games. Does it justify the seemingly steep price tag? For me, it doesn't just yet, but it's still a great device and something that will provide lots of fun for gamers and their families.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sword of Vermilion: Sega Got Medieval On The Genesis

Of all the different game genres that I've gotten my hands on, RPGs were the most difficult for me to enjoy. I never understood why that was, but I could never get into the early Final Fantasy or Dragon Warrior games when I was younger. One really under the radar RPG changed that for me, and it was Sword of Vermilion for the Sega Genesis. The game follows the son of Erik V, king of Excalabria, on his quest to defeat Tsarkon and restore peace to his world. Sword of Vermilion was released in 1991, and for it's time was pretty cutting edge, utilizing a lot of the graphical innovations that made Phantasy Star II such an amazing game. I played Sword of Vermilion before I had ever touched a Phantasy Star game, and after playing Phantasy Star II for the first time, I can clearly see the similarities between the two games. honestly, the only difference is that Sword of Vermilion is entirely set in a medieval environment, while the Phantasy Star series is known for blending fantasy and science fiction to great effect. This was also one of those instances where Sega gave you every bit of info you'd need to finish the game if you were patient enough to read. Included in every copy of Sword of Vermilion was a 106 page hint book that clued gamers in on where they needed to go next. Hint books like this were a welcome surprise for any gamer thinking they would be flying blind through such a big game. The coolest part of this game was something that was rarely done well in RPGs to that point, with the only exceptions being the Phantasy Star games. The first person dungeons in this game are as fun as they are tense, and the added immensely to the overall gaming experience. Sword of Vermilion comes pretty cheap and it's pretty much available everywhere thanks to Virtual Console and the various iterations of the Sega Genesis Collection for different consoles.

Monday, November 22, 2010

WeaponLord: Yeah, That's Hardcore!!

I remember the first time I ever saw the terms "Namco" and "Fighting game" in the same sentence. It was an article in Gamefan magazine about a weapons based fighting game being developed by the future developers of Tekken and Soul Calibur. The game was called WeaponLord and it was being developed for the Super Nintendo and the Sega Genesis simultaneously. Everybody who heard about this game, including myself, were extremely excited about the potential WeaponLord contained. When it was released, it received great reviews, and sold well, but some gamers went into the experience of that game expecting something similar to Samurai Shodown, which was the other notable weapon based fighting game on the market. WeaponLord took a very serious approach to combo based gameplay, where there was literally no chance of success for gamers who tried to button mash through matches. This put off a lot of novice players, but was a great relief for those who took pride in mastering the strengths and weaknesses of each character. The only thing that kept gamers from getting a legit sequel to WeaponLord was the end of the 16 bit system generation. Namco still owns the rights to WeaponLord, and for all intents and purposes, we could see a remake of that classic game, with updated controls and graphics. There would be no need to mess with the combo system, especially since a lot of those mechanics are still being used in the game industry today.If you decide you want to go a few rounds with WeaponLord, you can find it online at a great price, in most cases, around $5.00.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

How Did Acclaim Last As Long As They Did?

Throughout the history of video games, we've been met with great mysteries, but perhaps the greatest of all of them was the amount of time Acclaim last as a publisher and developer of video games. It was always amazing to me how so many of their games were bad, and it never occurred that they were all by Acclaim because of the multiple labels they published games under a bunch of different labels during the 8 and 16 bit days. They did a lot of home conversions for Midway's arcade titles, and they did some good work with those. Even the stranger ones like Trog and Smash TV were pretty good, mainly because Acclaim worked around the system limitations without messing with what made those games so much fun. They also made a lot of games based on movies and TV shows, and this was where Acclaim suffered. Most of the film or TV tie in games were poorly designed, glitchy garbage that some love for nostalgia's sake, but if they look deeper, they'll find true garbage. Take Acclaim's NES port of the Schwarzenegger sci fi classic, Total Recall for example, The game sought to capture the action and intensity of the movie, but it only botched the process. The game had horrible control, bad graphics, and it felt rushed. The same can be said for all of the games based on Fox's long standing animated series, The Simpsons. For some reason, Acclaim was allowed to continuously churn out that garbage and gamers continued to buy that trash out of love for the show. I still can't play Bart vs. The Space Mutants without being a little mad at myself for doing so. Somewhere during the 16 bit era, we all realized the occasional gem wasn't enough to make us love Acclaim, and many gamers slowly started to turn and walk away, but Acclaim wouldn't give up, and they gave us Turok: Dinosaur Hunter on N64, and for a minute, we were okay with them, but then they made those bad BMX games, which culminated in the release of BMX XXX, which was the most tasteless things ever done on a console in America(I can't say period, because there's some messed up stuff coming out of Japan). They finally closed up shop in 2004 after years of financial struggles and questionable business dealings. I mean, they were trying to buy ad space on people's tombstones. Who does that? Anyway, not all of Acclaims games were crap...to be honest, they had a few gems. The published The 3-D Battles of Worldrunner in the US, and that game was a gem. They will never be known as the house that spawned classics like Midway, but Acclaim has a place in video game history. Many gamers look at them like the elderly look at Bernie Madoff, but at least every move they made didn't bring misery to the community.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Alien Hominid...The Little Flash Game That Could

If ever you log onto newgrounds.com, you may notice the visage of a naked yellow alien brandishing a green ray gun. That little alien is not just a random mascot for the site, but it is also the lead character in a flash game on the site called Alien Hominid. Alien Hominid was the brainchild of a two man team consisting of Tom Fulp and Dan Paladin. They initially created a one level flash game which had the Alien fighting waves of FBI agents and two boss characters. Over time, Hominid became a major hit, and after some talking, Fulp and Paladin agreed to begin work on a full fledged console version of the game. They also went into business together and formed The Behemoth. Alien Hominid was expanded from one level to 16, more power ups were made available, and a bonus mini games were added as well. Alien Hominid was praised by many in the video game industry for being something most big budget games aren't, nothing about Alien Hominid felt forced, the game never took itself too seriously, and it was defiantly old school in a business that seems to shun what is considered old for shiny new and 3d. Alien Hominid made me feel like I was playing a the spliced together spawn of Contra, Metal Slug, and Sonic the Hedgehog, and I have no problem with that considering how great those three games were incredible. Alien Hominid is probably one of the biggest independent games ever released, and it effectively made the video game industry realize that there are small developers who, given the right opportunity, can pretty much make the entire video game industry stand up and take notice.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Our Habits Might Kill Video Games!!

After years of playing video games, I've seen a lot of trends that have been beaten to death. I can vaguely recall some of the Pac-Man clones that reared their heads in the early 80s, and from there I vividly remember the knockoffs of Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, Zelda, and Street Fighter 2. I have also noticed an alarming trend in video games, but something that definitely didn't start in video games. A general lack of creativity has become par for the course, and many gamers are gullible enough to go along with it at every turn. There are very few original concepts in gaming to begin with, but our "fear anything we don't understand" mindsets have made it quite difficult to push a game that can be considered new or original in the slightest to the masses out of fear. Fear that their project will be pushed under the rug by retailers who are only selling the latest First Person Shooter or cartoon cash in. I can remember the last game I saw truly try something different, Mirror's Edge. At that point in video game history, there had never been a platformer where every moment of gameplay was in the first person. It didn't exactly go off without a hitch, but it was a solid game, and it was a step towards some semblance of innovation. 2005's Shadow of the Colossus wasn't a necessarily original concept, but it was executed in an original fashion. Super Mario Galaxy had some elements of Toejam and Earl thrown into it's core gameplay, but we didn't care because the experience felt new. Now, by no means am I beating up on the video game industry or those who buy games because in the end we are all creatures of habit. We like the familiarity that that annual copy of NCAA, Smackdown vs. Raw, or Call Of Duty provides. Most of us don't want to admit that Vanquish is a lot like Gears of War, which in turn wouldn't exist if it wasn't for Killswitch, and we will take to message boards spewing hate to defend our games. I'm just as guilty as anybody else of being a creature of habit when it comes to games. Remember folks, my favorite video game series since I got a NES has been Castlevania, and with the exception of a few games in the series, I currently own 11 games in that series, and if I had a GBA, DS, and PSP, it would be more. I'm by no means saying do away with the games you enjoy playing, but I am saying, break up the monotony. Put something out of the ordinary on your gamefly queue, try dabbling in a new genre of game every now and then. There's a reason why the variety we saw in video game stores when we were younger is long gone, and it's all our fault.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Sivak Games...The Future Is Old School

The homebrew gaming movement is a growing one, and some of the best homebrew games have been inspired by the venerable Mega Man series. One game that took it's inspiration from Mega Man with great success is Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril by independent developer Sivak Games.

to get more info on Sivak Games, check out these sites:




Thursday, November 11, 2010

Some Stuff I Want Under My Tree

A few days ago, I did a brief Holiday Buyer's Guide outlining some things you might want to check out. My personal tastes may be a little different, so this post will focus on stuff I want.

Neo Geo MVS cabinet - SNK: Those who say arcade and home Neo Geo consoles are completely alike are incredibly clueless. The arcade version, or MVS is a personal choice for me because you can get games for a great deal less than you would have to shell out for the home equivalent, and besides, King of the Fighters 98 feels so much better on an upright cabinet.

Nintendo World Championships reproduction cart - Retrozone: I may never own a real copy of this game, but thanks to Retrozone (http://retrousb.com/) I can get a high quality reproduction of that game, along with a lot of other great homebrew NES games.

Final Fight Double Impact Press Kit - Capcom: Video Game publishers are pretty good about how they treat the press that covers their games, and Capcom is very good to them. The press kit for Final Fight Double Impact was so awesome that it released to retail. Any collector who gets their hands on one of these will find one of the most collectible packages around.

Intelligent Qube - Sony Computer Entertainment: Most gamers remember this from the demo disc that came packed in with the PS1, but those who got their hands on it were keepers of one of the treasures for that system. If anybody has a lead on a complete US copy, I would be in your debt.

Resident Evil 4 Chainsaw Controller - Capcom: It was released when RE4 launched on GameCube and PS2, and while I probably would never use it as an in game controller, it would be great for my collection.

Samurai Zombie Nation - Meldac: It's not a very good game, but the utter strangeness of this game combined with it's rarity makes me want it even more. It would be quite the happy dance moment if this was in my NES collection.

A custom MAME cabinet: Everybody who knows me knows that this will be an upcoming project for me. The only thing I have left to figure out is will it have a built in monitor or not. Oh, and mine will be much cooler than the one in this pic.

That pretty much all the stuff I would want if my friends were all rich gamers and had no issue buying me games for Christmas.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What Would You Like To See?

I'm having a slight brain fart today, so I'm not necessarily doing a post, but I am asking you guys for assistance. I want to know what you would like me to talk about...I mean, part of the reason I'm doing this blog is to give you, the reader, information. So please, use the comment box below and let me know what you want to see in upcoming posts. If you would rather tell me elsewhere, hit me up on twitter. My Twitter name is, you guessed it, @8bitanimal.

I can't wait to hear from you guys...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

2010 Holiday Buyer's Guide...Because You Should Get Something Good Even If You Buy It Yourself

The Holiday season is upon us, and no matter what you celebrate, there will be some sort of gift giving involved. A known fact nowadays is that a lot of game systems are out there, and that means a lot of competition for your gaming dollar. Well, that's why I'm here to help you out. In this post, I'll sift through the crap littering the places where we buy video games, and give you my personal picks for the Holiday season. I'll break this up into the most important categories: price, console, and genre...then I'll tell you if it should be a part of your gift giving ritual this year.

Note: I'll also be recommending games for the assorted download services also...

Vanquish - PS3/360 - $59.99 - Shooter: Take the cover based gameplay in Gears of War, and make it a lot faster, and you pretty much have a general idea of what you get with Vanquish. Not to say that is necessarily a bad thing, because Vanquish is an excellent third person shooter.

NBA 2K11 - PS3/360/Wii - $49.99-$59.99 - Sports: Two things about this one: EVERYBODY was going to buy this game anyway because of Michael Jordan's presence, but the fact that EA cancelled NBA Elite 11 had to help this game's chances. All jokes aside though, this is an excellent NBA simulation.

Disney's Epic Mickey - Wii - $49.99 - Platformer: The most anticipated game featuring Disney characters since the first Kingdom Hearts game. Epic Mickey is equal parts Okami and Super Mario Galaxy with a splash of Fable's good or evil mechanic thrown in.

Super Meat Boy -Wii/360/PC/Mac - $10.00-$20.00 - Platformer: The first downloadable title in this guide isn't for everybody. It's old school and brutally tough. The difficulty is kind of what gives Super Meat Boy it's charm, and hardcore gamers should be able to appreciate this one.

Splatterhouse - PS3/360 - $59.99 - Action: This remake of the classic Turbografx 16 and Genesis series is quite possibly the bloodiest video game ever made, and they had to tone it down to get an "M" rating from the ESRB. If it wasn't bloody, though, would it really be worthy of following in the footsteps of the amazingly gory for its time original?

Playstation Move -PS3 - $29.99-$399.99 - Casual: The Playstation Move is going to be the big thing Sony pushes this Holiday Season, but the pricepoint may turn off non gamers looking to get into it slowly. The technology does show promise since a lot of upcoming PS3 releases are going to utilize the Move technology.

Kinect - 360 - $149.99-$399.99 - Casual: Microsoft's much hyped Kinect was released, and by all accounts, it's something that will push a lot of units. Right now, there aren't a lot of "gamer's games" compatible with the unit, but considering the launch titles, it's more for families who are looking for a way to play games together.

Nintendo Wii: Super Mario Anniversary Bundle - $199.99: In honor of the 25th Anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo has released a limited edition bundle that is sure to send collectors to stores nationwide. you get a red Wii console, red Wii remote, and two games, Wii Sports, and New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops - PS3/360/Wii/PC - $49.99-$59.99 - Shooter: Activision's acclaimed FPS series continues on after the departure of long time COD developer Infinity Ward. Based on reviews and word of mouth feedback, the game is stellar, and probably something you'll want in your collection.

NBA Jam -PS3/360/Wii - $49.99 - Arcade Sports: Nostalgia, and great gameplay combine for a great experience here. Even with a lack of online multiplayer on the Wii version, it's a great time for anybody who grabs a controller to play.

Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood - PS3/360/PC - $59.99 -Stealth Action: Brotherhood takes the familiar formula from the previous games in the series and adds co op and competitive multiplayer gameplay, which is a first for a genre that had honestly gotten stale.

I know there might be some stuff I left out, but hey, if you already know that, then you didn't need me to tell you. This post may be expanded later if I hear about something you need to have, so keep checking back.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sports...Not The Huey Lewis Album

Ok kids, we're halfway done with the NFL regular season, The NBA and NHL have both kicked off, and we just crowned new World Series Champions. I figured this would be as good a time as any to shuffle through a genre that everybody seems to love...except me. I've never been one to quickly buy a sports game, and that may not change anytime soon, but I can appreciate a good game, whether it's a simulation, or a quirky change of pace to the rules of the traditional game. Here are some of my favorite sports games.

As with many lists I do, this one is in no particular order.

John Madden Football 93: Championship Edition - Electronic Arts - Genesis: The first Madden title to feature throwback teams and All time All Madden Teams is probably the only Madden I really care about.

Ultimate Basketball - American Sammy - NES: take the stuff folks loved about Double Dribble, and add substitutions, individual player stats, and fully animated dunk sequences where you can defend against being a poster. it was like Pat Riley Basketball on the Genesis, but better.

High Impact Football - Midway - Arcade: High Impact is as basic a football game as you can ask for, and it works beautifully. I mean, the game has a joystick and one action button, what's not to love.

Baseball Stars 2 - SNK - Neo Geo: I can say with great honesty that even now, in the winter of 2010, that Baseball Stars 2 is WITHOUT QUESTION one of the greatest sports video games EVER.

NFL 2K5 - 2K Games - Xbox, PS2: $20 price tag, full ESPN, great gameplay...no wonder EA got NFL exclusivity when they did. If they hadn't, they'd have a serious problem on their hands.

NHLPA Hockey 93 - Electronic Arts - Genesis: Probably my second favorite sports game. Full NHL rosters, fast paced gameplay, and there were actually fights in this one.

Blades Of Steel - Konami - NES: No NHL license, no stat tracking, no problem. Konami took their great, but flawed Arcade hockey game and made it the measuring stick for hockey video games.

Tecmo Super Bowl -Tecmo - NES: Regarded by many to be one of the best football games ever. It took the basic gameplay of the first NES Tecmo Bowl and added a full NFL license to it. This game is so beloved that homebrew roster updates come out almost yearly for it.

Double Dribble - Konami - NES: Konami's hardcourt masterpiece is one of those games that has become something of a legend. It's magic and appeal among gamers may not ever be duplicated, and it's all because they got rid of that damn dribble button.

Run And Gun - Konami - Arcade: It was copied by numerous game publishers, but none of them could make a basketball game that was as balls out fun as Run and Gun was.

Super Sidekicks 3 - SNK - Neo Geo: SNK's futbol series was, in my opinion, on par with Baseball Stars 2. That was just how good Super Sidekicks 3 was.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Latest Donations To The Home For Wayward Video Games

My game collection has been called "The Home For wayward Video Games" because of the large number of games that have been given to me or that I've purchased for very little. This quick video is a rundown on the stuff that I've gotten lately.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

NARC: Wholesale Dopeboy Killing

As I was getting dressed to head to my day job, I saw something interesting. Just days after prop. #19 was defeated in California, DEA agents raided a warehouse in San Diego and discovered a tunnel leading to Mexico. In this tunnel was about 30-40 tons of Marijuana, and there was even more on the Mexico side. You may be thinking, what does this drug bust have to do with video games? Well, one video game focused solely on taking out a drug kingpin, and it was great. The game I'm referring to is NARC (the original game, not that trash that came out on PS2 and Xbox)

Narc was amazing when it released, because it was a game that literally could have killed the game industry because of the level of violence, characters, and of course the numerous drug references throughout. Playing as a DEA agent charged with taking down Mr. Big, players run into all manner of dope fiends and killers. from heroin addicts who throw needles at you, to child molester clowns, to anti government pot growers, this game had everything.

It was ported to several different systems, including NES, Amiga, and ZX Spectrum, and a lot of the ports received great reviews. The NES version was pushed with a highly anti-drug message attached to it, but critics of the extreme violence in the arcade version made sure Nintendo of America enforced restrictions on the drug references in that version of the game. The arcade version of NARC saw new life when it was a part of the second volume of the Midway Arcade Treasures series, which probably led to Midway deciding to reboot the franchise.

The reboot of Narc featured a controversial gameplay mechanic, giving players the option to either turn confiscated drugs in to the police evidence room, or keep them to either use or sell. This mechanic led to Narc being banned in Australia, but that wasn't a bad thing for Australia, because the game was pretty bad.

Narc had a simple concept: stop the drug epidemic by taking out drug dealers, but a lot of folks couldn't see beyond the violence in the game. Good game, simple message that most people can get behind, what's not to like. If more cops were like the ones in the Original NARC, we might not be looking at Mexico fall apart.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

California V. Video Games: The Final Battle

I've been kinda quiet about this Supreme Court case involving the video game industry mainly because I didn't want to say anything that could be viewed as a terrorist threat. to be quite honest, though, I pretty much don't care at this point. The law that Senator Yee is trying to pass has good intentions, but it was way too broad to properly implement. The state of California's definition of "violent" is so broad when it comes to video games that if it passed and was adopted nation wide, the only genre of games we would be allowed to play are puzzle games. Arguments for this case have been presented to the United States Supreme Court this week, and based on transcripts I've read, the main game their case is centered around is Postal 2. I'm sorry, but why is it every time somebody wants to go off about violence in video games, they pick a piece of crap to use as the scapegoat. Back in the 90s it was Night Trap way more than Mortal Kombat that was discussed, now Postal 2. I don't know 5 people personally who have ever played either of the Postal games. Hell, the only thing I knew about the first game was that Gary Coleman voice acted in it and Uwe Boll directed a film version. Another problem I have with this whole thing is that none of people arguing against it or judging it have ever touched a video game. Many of the Supreme Court Justices have no clue about video games after Pong. Their knowledge, however, isn't on trial, what is on trial is California's desire to circumvent the First Amendment to determine what is and isn't "violent" in video games, and if their are allowed to do so, this opens the door for the video game market in the United States to become as restrictive as the markets in Australia, Germany, and other countries where nothing beyond a Teen rating gets to store shelves. The ultimate irony in this situation is that the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, made his fortune and attained his fame by making movies that were incredibly violent, but movies aren't on trial here, it's video games. I honestly hope that the video games industry is ready to win this case, because if they lose, gamers nationwide may be screwed.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Konami: If It Wasn't For Them, Games Would Suck Now

If there was a listing for "classic hardcore gaming" in the dictionary, chances are you'd see a picture of almost every game released by Konami for the NES. This was going to be a historical post talking about Konami's history, but I'd much rather talk about what made them worth discussing, their video games.

My first experience with a Konami game was also my first experience with my favorite series of games. Castlevania had just come out, and a friend of mine had it. I had played Mario, Metroid, and Zelda at this point, and they were cool, but I wanted something a little grittier. Castlevania was right up my alley, with the zombies popping up out of the floor to attack me, the fish men patrolling any body of water I encountered, and those damn Medusa heads. Castlevania was one of the first games 10 or so games I played on the NES, and it stuck with me.

In addition to action games like Castlevania and Contra, Konami became known for shooters like Gradius, Life Force, Stinger, and Jackal. Jackal was different from the others though since the player controlled a jeep and had to rescue hostages. This one was every bit as hard as Gradius was, and if you weren't careful, you'd get the game over screen very quickly. Life Force was very similar to Gradius, but it took quite a different story arc from the Gradius games. Life Force, or Salamander as it was known in Japan, took place inside of a giant alien organism. Life Force became so popular that an anime based on the game was produced in 1988.

Another game that is synonymous with Konami is Contra. I shouldn't need to say a lot about Contra, because it gave us so much since it appeared in Arcades and on the NES in the 80s. Contra pretty much defined what an action game is supposed to be. I'll put it like this,If it wasn't for Contra, there would be no Doom, Halo, or any other action game that has been released in the last 20 years.

The great thing about Konami's games is that they stand up well to time...they never feel slow when compared to games that have been released recently. If you don't believe me, pop in a copy of Contra and tell me it isn't fast paced, tense, and incredibly fun. So, Thank you Konami for giving gamers genre defining greatness on the NES.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Sega Dreamcast: Bigger In Death Than It Was In Life

One's potential is only as good as the application of that potential. Whenever I think of that statement in terms of video game consoles, one name always sticks out in my mind, Dreamcast. Sega's final console was never a graphical behemoth, but it is considered a favorite among gamers. When Sega's final console hit American stores on 9-9-99, it was a hit, and players ate up the arcade perfect ports of Crazy Taxi and Soulcalibur, along with the almost Madden killing greatness that was the NFL2K series. They also enjoyed great original games like Jet Grind Radio, and Resident Evil Code Veronica, but something went wrong, and Sega was completely unprepared for the juggernaut on the horizon called Playstation 2. Sony had all the major licensees Sega lacked, and one other major edge, the PS2 also served as a DVD player. This made the Playstation 2 a must have piece of hardware. The Dreamcast, for it's early demise has become a lot like Tupac or Biggie, much more famous after it's death than during it's life. Sega's little white box of joy also originated several things that are now commonalities in current generation consoles. Dreamcast was the first console with a built in modem for web browsing and online play, a first for a console. It's online service, SEGAnet, is essentially an early version of Xbox Live, and players could get downloadable content for their DC by connecting it to a phone line. The homebrew and emulator communities have also gravitated to the Dreamcast because of the ease involved in developing for it, and several homebrew game engines have surfaced, allowing folks to build new games with great ease. One of the things that contributed to the death of the Dreamcast has also kept it alive to this day. it can be pretty easy for a gamer to make an "unofficial" copy of a Dreamcast game for their personal use, thus giving gamers access to the entire library of Dreamcast games. A few years ago, gamers were fed information suggesting that Sega was getting back into the console market, but sadly this was a hoax, and we never got that new Dreamcast. Sega's decision to leave the console market may have been painful for gamers to process, but their parting gift to gamers everywhere proved to be so far ahead of it time that it Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are just catching up.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Lost In Translation: The Good, Bad, And Ugly Of Localizations

Most gamers don't know this, but a lot of video games released in the US were something completely different in Japan. A few characters were changed and the games were localized for American consumption. A handful of these are pretty good games that were not hurt by the changes made to them, some actually benefited from the changes. Then there were a few that weren't good before, and they were still pretty bad after the tweaks made for the US market.

The two most well known of these are the also the two extremes of this practice. When Nintendo released Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Famicom, it was a tough game for Japanese players, so Nintendo figured the game would be too tough for American gamers. Nintendo decided to use a substitute game and call it Super Mario Bros. 2. Another game produced by Shigeru Miyamoto, Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, was chosen. The main characters were swapped out for Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Princess Toadstool, a splash of the original Super Mario Bros. soundtrack was thrown in, and Mario's strangest adventure was released to the public. American gamers wouldn't know the truth until the release of Super Mario All Stars for the SNES.

Another well known case of the swap was Yo Noid. For some reason, the folks at Domino's Pizza wanted their mascot everywhere, and tapped Capcom to make a video game. The game was a modified version of a Famicom game called Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru. This was one of Capcom's worst games on the NES, and it wasn't because of the localization. It was a bad game in Japan as well, and as the old folks say: "Two wrongs don't make a right".

Another example of major changes during localization was Taito's Power Blade. The original game was known as Power Blazer, and it was honestly one of the most blatant Mega Man rip offs ever conceived. To avoid that dubious tag in the US, Taito completely reworked the bulk of the game, moving away from the cartoony look of the original and giving the US version much better control. The game was so well received upon it's US release that it appeared on the cover of Nintendo Power magazine in 1991.

Rygar: Legendary Awesome

Back in the 80s, Tecmo was known for one important thing: vicious arcade games. One of my favorite Tecmo arcade games is Rygar. I honestly never knew of an actual plot for the game, because the storylines for the three Rygar games I've played(Arcade, NES, and PS2) was so convoluted, trying to follow and make sense of it made my face hurt. What is known is that Rygar is a "legendary warrior" who was raised from the dead to save Argool. The Arcade game was pretty straight forward, literally. You basically walk to the right destroying any enemy that gets in your way. It's kind of like building up your army early in a Strategy game and watching them mow down the enemy with little effort. When I saw the NES version in my local video store, I was kinda excited. Most NES games were pretty much the same formula as the Arcade version of Rygar, so I figured it lent itself well to the home market at that time. Then I popped it into my NES and realized what Tecmo did, and how infinitely awesome it was.

The NES version of Rygar was unlike any other home conversion at that point as it took the familiar gameplay from the Arcade version and tied it in a knot, then sprinkled a little Metroid on top. This reboot of Rygar required players to find items that allowed them to access new areas of the game, which resulted in a lot of backtracking. This was a hallmark of Metroid that made gamers the world over love it, and here it was in Rygar. The game world was expansive, character sprites were big and colorful, and the gameplay felt better than the arcade. The only problem with Rygar on the NES was a big one. There was no way to save your progress, and by no means was this a short game. This meant anybody planning on beating this game had to leave their NES turned on and the game paused for very long periods of time. This honestly kept a good game from being a definitive must have for the NES.

After Rygar on the NES we get nothing for close to 15 years. Then Tecmo released a long awaited retelling of the Rygar story. This time it was on the PS2. Rygar - The Legendary Adventure took the classic side scrolling gameplay and gave it a 3D boost. The gorgeous visuals were accompanied by a brilliant classical soundtrack, and the game had pretty good control. The major gripe about the NES version was corrected as there was a save feature included here. A new problem was created though, The pacing of this game felt way too slow. After playing something like Devil May Cry, it was hard to adjust to such a slow character, but that gripe was minor in reality, because again, this new Rygar was almost as good as the older versions. Sadly, the streak of good Rygar games was halted when Tecmo decided to shoehorn motion control to the PS2 Rygar game, the result was the Wii version of the game being a complete turd, condemned to languish in bargain bins.

Hopefully that Wii version doesn't keep Tecmo from bringing that franchise back again. I mean Ninja Gaiden is excellent, and I'm more than sure Tecmo's staff can cook up a new classic with the Legendary Warrior.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Random Gaming Factoids...This Stuff May Pop Up On Jeopardy

I was recently shuffling through IGN.com and came across a list they compiled of the top 25 game consoles of all time. I found it funny that the three current generation consoles were all on the list. I also found it peculiar that the Magnavox Odyssey, which is the first home gaming console, was at the bottom of the list, while the Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 were much higher. The fact that the Odyssey even exists should have it higher than say, the Atari 5200 was on this list, but what am I ranting about, at least the Odyssey was on the list, along with the Sega Master System, which felt superior graphically than the NES. I'm probably rattling off systems that many of you never heard of, so I guess I should do the right thing and inform you, the reader, on not only some systems you may not know about, but also give you some backstory on a few of them.

Before the Nintendo Entertainment System, Intellivision, or Atari 2600, there was the Magnavox Odyssey. It may have been nothing more than variations of Pong with screen overlays, but in 1972 when it released, it was truly something special. It beat the home version of Pong to market by three years, and the 1968 prototype of the system which is called "The Brown Box" now sits in the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum. So, if you're a gamer, you owe a debt of gratitude to Ralph Baer, the creator of the Odyssey.

When the assorted wannabes that would eventually follow Pong to market surfaced, one of the main producers of these clones was Nintendo. They released several Pong clones in their Color TV Games series before transitioning to Arcade games, the rest of that story is history.

Most younger gamers don't know this, but the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer(that was the official name of the system) was an attempt by EA founder Trip Hawkins to create one medium that the entire video game industry would adopt. That didn't quite work out, especially when The 3DO launched with an $800 price tag. Anybody who ever heard this story about Hawkins' attempt to monopolize the video games industry wasn't surprised when the juggernaut got exclusive rights to produce games using NFL teams and players.

Contrary to popular belief, Sega was not started in Japan, but Hawaii, and they created The SG-1000 and the Sega Mark III before the Sega Master System saw the light of day in America.

There was a second manufacturer of the original model NES. If you ever stumble across a Mattel version system, you have found of the truly gems in Nintendo history.

That's all I got right now. If you can think of anything else, let me know. Also, if any of my info is incorrect, let me know so I can find the correct answer.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Chairshots For The Cheap: Retro Wrestling Games

Today (October 26, 2010) marks the release of WWE Smackdown Vs. Raw 2011, and for some reason, I'm not excited. Sure, the game is getting good reviews from a lot of sites, but I'm not excited. The WWE Universe mode is the most immersive experience ever in a wrestling game, but I'm just not excited. The reason I'm not excited is multifaceted, but it's pretty much the problem I have with a lot of yearly titles. Why pay $50 or $60 every year for something that will be stale after a month of consistent play? For all the bells and whistles in most yearly titles, you rarely get an experience that feels deep and fulfilling. Sadly, the WWE games have fallen into this trap, and like Madden, there's very little legitimate competition in the marketplace. Earlier this month, Konami released it's own wrestling title: Lucha Libre AAA: Heroes Del Ring, but sadly, that game has received poor reviews and has been shunned by gamers who don't want to waste their gaming dollar. This seemingly makes THQ's WWE line of games the only ones in town, unless you have some older consoles laying around. Here are some of my favorites.

These are in no particular order...

Pro Wrestling - NES - Nintendo: One of the first wrestling games available on the NES, Pro Wrestling contained a great cast of characters and precise control. To me and many others, it still sits on the short list of best wrestling games ever made.

Power Move Pro Wrestling - Playstation - Activision/Yukes: This one was pretty much the PS1 equivalent of Pro Wrestling on the NES. It was also one of the first wrestling games to use polygon based graphics.The only thing this one was missing in my opinion was a create a wrestler mode and tag team matches.

Tecmo World Wrestling - NES - Tecmo: Released a few years after Pro Wrestling, Tecmo World Wrestling took that formula and mixed in Tecmo's ground breaking cutscenes for maximum effect. I mean, who didn't get excited the first time he pulled off a Power Slam or Back Brain Kick on an opponent and got a cutscene.

WCW Vs. NWO Revenge - Nintendo 64 - THQ/AKI: While this wasn't THQ's first N64 wrestling game, it was one of the best. The big rosters, cutting edge(for the time) graphics, tight control, and the seeds planted for the expansive character creation mode in their future games were all started here.

WWF Smackdown! 2 - Playstation - THQ/Yukes: The second Smackdown title from THQ was probably the high water mark until they released Here Comes The Pain on the PS2. The career mode integrated every character on the huge roster, even created characters, into the mix. I remember starting a career mode that involved Paul Bearer becoming the Hardcore Champion, Funaki winning the Royal Rumble, and all manner of other random occurrences.

WWF No Mercy - Nintendo 64 - THQ/AKI: The last N64 wrestling game from THQ was arguably the best of the genre. The gameplay was top notch, characters looked pretty good for the blockiness of the N64, and the character creator / editor allowed players to make up to 4 versions of their character.

Def Jam Vendetta - multiplatform - EA Sports Big/AKI: If WCW hadn't died while this game was in development, this would have removed the memory of WCW Backstage Assault from our memory. Alas, WCW was handed over to Vince McMahon, and with no wrestlers to use in their wrestling game, EA took a risk and got the rights to use members of the Def Jam records roster. The result was absolutely beautiful.

Fire Pro Wrestling Returns - Playstation 2 - Agetec/Spike: The only Fire Pro game released on a home console in the US, and only the third game in the series released stateside total, Fire Pro Returns has effectively kept me from buying a new wrestling game since I bought it in 2007. The gameplay, while taking some getting used to, was extremely deep. The look of the series hasn't changed in nearly 2 decades, and it probably doesn't need to. Finally, this and every other game in the series features the most expansive creation engine ever seen in a wrestling game. You can conceivably make any wrestler you want to in this game.

The beauty of wrestling games is that they are typically plentiful. Every game on this list is under $15, so if you have an old game console laying around and don't want to spend new game prices for your wrestling game fix, then get on Ebay and get to buying.