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 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.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Nintendo Weaves A Hit With Kirby's Epic Yarn

Nintendo has a knack for taking characters that should only appeal to little kids and dropping them into great games that appeal to gamers from all walks of life. They've been doing it since the early 80s, and I honestly don't see it slowing down anytime soon. Even when they've come under fire for abandoning its core audience in favor of casual gamers, Nintendo answered back with games that could be qualified as classics. 2010 has been an interesting year for Nintendo with the release of several big games for their console, all aimed at turning around that casual games image that Nintendo was stamped with early in the Wii's life. The latest of these games is Kirby's Epic Yarn, and I can honestly say, this games is an absolute joy to behold.

The game starts off with a great cutscene that starts in normal cartoony style, and as usual, Kirby is hungry. His hunger leads him to eat a tomato that belongs to a sorcerer. The sorcerer casts a spell on Kirby that pulls him into a tube sock hanging around the sorcerer's neck. This sock, strangely enough, is a portal to a world called Patch Land. when arriving in Patch Land the new art style kicks in, and makes the observation that the ground "feels like pants". Kirby also realizes he can no longer use his traditional vacuum ability in this new world. He can, however transform into a multitude of vehicles and animals, which he immediately does to rescue Prince Fluff from a monster. Fluff explains that the same sorcerer that trapped Kirby is the same one that has stolen the magic yarn, therefore unraveling the pieces of Patch Land. Kirby agrees to help, and this is where we take over.

Epic Yarn is as old school inspirit as you'll find in a modern video game, and it ranks with New Super Mario Bros. and Battle Kid as one of the better modern platformers around (writer's note: you owe it to yourself to play Battle Kid. It's a great reason to buy an NES, but man is it tough.). With the exception of having to occasionally tilt the Wii Remote to aim a projectile, it pretty much works like an NES game. During the game, Kirby will encounter some inventive bosses, which must be tackled in different ways. Getting to those bosses is a blast with Epic Yarn sporting some of the best level design in a platformer in a very long time. There are a variety of hide and seek challenges, where you'll have to navigate a level and find a hidden character at the same time, collecting unlockable content, and some great level manipulation involving the patchwork arts and crafts game design that all blend to make this game a lot of fun to play whether in single player or two player co op.

If I had any gripe with Epic Yarn, it would be that the game is a bit on the easy side. You never die during a level, but you will lose beads, which will cost you in terms of completion percentage. the lack of ridiculous difficulty did not diminish the game's overall appeal, though. I mean, if I wanted to feel pain on my Wii in a great game, I'd play Sin and Punishment: Star Successor. All in all, Kirby's Epic Yarn proves that even in this day of Modern Warfare and Halo. The Wii has had a lot of solid releases this year, and this one can be added to the list.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bionic Commando: A True Swinger

I recently discussed the immense differences between the Arcade and NES versions of Strider, this wasn't the first time Capcom altered the source material of an Arcade game to flesh it out for a home console. Most folks may not remember the Arcade version of Bionic Commando, but it was a brutally hard platformer, while it's NES counterpart contained the same play mechanics, but also featured a map component that gave players specific objectives for certain missions. The NES version has been considered a timeless classic, with a remake, entitled Bionic Commando: Rearmed, being released a few years ago. This remake was developed and released in conjunction with a sequel to the NES game that was released on PS3, Xbox 360, and PC. Almost as expected, nostalgia won out, and Rearmed was praised by critics and gamers alike, while the sequel, simply titled Bionic Commando, received mixed reviews. Most gamers who trace their roots in gaming back to either before or just after the crash of 1983 can remember games like Bionic Commando with great fondness, mainly because this was a time when game manufacturers could not afford to waste money on bad video games. It was a time when consumers were better informed about video games they spent money on (which is ironic considering how many different "experts" are on the Internet now). I advise folks who aren't old enough to remember Bionic Commando in its earliest forms to give it a try, and get to know your roots.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Strider: One Story...Two Completely Different Interpretations

The late 80s was a great time to be a gamer, especially in arcades. Capcom was undoubtedly one of the best publishers out there, and their arcade division was no different. In 1989, Capcom released one of it's great triumphs in arcade gaming, Strider. the player controls Hiryu as he attempts to defeat "The Grandmaster" and free the world from his tyranny. This game featured tight controls, a great soundtrack which featured speech from different languages, which gave the game a truly international flair. Strider proved to be one of Capcom's biggest hits, and it received multiple ports to home consoles. Then there was the puzzling decision that led to one of Capcom's most polarizing game ever.

The NES version of Strider started out as three pronged effort between Capcom and Moto Kikaku. This effort included the NES version which specifically followed the storyline of a manga, the arcade version, and the aforementioned manga(for the uninformed, manga is pretty much a Japanese Comic Book. Most anime starts it's life as manga.). Since the NES version seemed to follow the plot of the manga more than the arcade version did, and since the manga never saw American shores, most gamers were confused as all hell as to what was going on in the NES version of Strider. A lot of confusing backtracking takes place in the game, along with a lot of item collection that turned fans of the arcade game off. In my opinion, the NES version of Strider wasn't necessarily a bad game, it just strayed so far from the arcade game that it ended up turning a lot of gamers off.

The NES version is simply a distant memory for most gamers now, and the arcade game is as popular as ever, especially with Capcom's reissue of it as part of their "classics collection" series. Strider is easily one of the games that put Capcom on the map, and without a doubt both versions should be experienced by anyone who can hold a controller.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Mappy: A Good Game Just Because...

Namco was responsible for a lot of legendary arcade games during the "Golden Age", but one of their most charming, endearing, subtly tough, and downright fun games was a little platformer named Mappy. Namco didn't released it to US arcades, that was handled by the late great Bally/Midway, but their inclusion had no impact on the greatness of this game. You didn't need a game to do a whole lot in those days to be great, and Mappy took the few things it did and it did them well. it didn't need to be ultra violent, nor did it need to hold a player's hand. That's why a game like Mappy has a hard time surviving in this day and age, most gamers need some sort of gimmick to draw them in. Whether it be motion control, being attached to some "hot at the moment" IP, or being ridiculously bloody for no reason. Games like Mappy would struggle today because the only gimmick is that it's a solid video game. For some reason, Namco never ported Mappy to the NES, though there was a version on the Famicom, but then again, they did the same thing with Dig Dug. For what it's worth, Namco did make a console only sequel called Mappy-Land, and Taxan published it in the US. Based on personal experience with Mappy-Land, I can't really say that was a good thing though. Thankfully, the original game is available in a lot of places now. You can track down Mappy on the various versions of Namco Museum, on assorted plug and play joysticks, and on Nintendo's Virtual Console. Mappy is a dope game because it didn't need to do anything else but be a dope game. If more developers could apply that same philosophy to their work, I'm sure far less shovelware would exist on current consoles.

Red Faction: The Revolution Was On PS2

I know most of my readers have seen Total Recall, The Arnold Schwarzenegger movie about a revolution against oppressive rulers on Mars. It is truly a Sci Fi classic. The video games attached to it, not so much. For a long time there really wasn't a console game that took the spirit of Total Recall and made it feel new, fresh, and evolved for folks who weren't fans of the movie. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Volition develops a Martian masterpiece, and THQ publishes it. That game was Red Faction.

The plot of Red Faction centered around a guy named Parker who went to Mars after being sold on a new start by the Ultor Corporation. Instead of riches and adventure, though, folks were shoved into mines, beaten and experimented on by the good folks at Ultor. Slowly but surely, the miners began to plot an overthrow of those in power, and that's when Parker got tangled up in the whole mess.

Red Faction, in a lot of ways reminds me of the original Half Life, especially in it's completely cinematic feel, but that's where those similarities end. Red Faction's "Geo Mod" technology gives that game a deeper feel because of the ways a player can manipulate the environment to avoid groups of enemies. Also, the variety of vehicles and weapons in Red Faction is a pretty good for a FPS in that day and age. If that multiplayer on the console version wasn't local only, it would've been a true pioneer, but as it stands Red Faction paved the way for a lot of story driven games in the FPS genre. It's a great game, and since it came out in 2001, it's dirt cheap. You kinda owe it to yourself to give this pioneer a try.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Let's Get This Clear...Video Games Are Art!!

There has been an ongoing debate about the status of video games as works of art. For some reason, film critic Roger Ebert has long cited that video games are not art, but I, along with many other gamers contend that if they aren't, then motion pictures cannot be considered art either. A big problem with the "video games as art" argument is that most of the folks on both sides of the argument are only looking at a game's aesthetics as the basis for declaring or disputing a game's status as art. I've taken a bit of a different path in my assessment and would like to share a few games that I personally consider works of art.

Out Of This World-Delphine Software-Interplay: I remember playing this for the first time on the SNES. I rented it because they didn't have Super R Type at the video store I went to, but I'm glad they didn't. This game was and is still beautiful both in gameplay and graphics. It reminds me of a painting, with several colors blending together almost effortlessly to create the game's backdrops. It also handled well, as character animations were extremely lifelike for the time and controls were very responsive. Had the sequel, which was created despite there not being any involvement from Eric Chaci( the original game's creator), not been subpar in terms of gameplay, I could have said the series as a whole.

Rez-United Game Artists-Sega: Sega has done some remarkable things with rail shooters before(Space Harrier and the Panzer Dragoon series), but nothing they did with those was as utterly awesome as Rez. Tight control, a visual style that beautifully blended polygon graphics with almost vector looking wire frame graphics, and one of the best Techno/Electronic soundtrack I've ever heard in a game all blended together to make complete magic. A game called Children of Eden was announced for Xbox 360, and after watching that demo during E3, I can say that one may be even more of a museum piece than the original.

Killer 7-Grasshopper Manufacture-Capcom: One of the "Capcom Five", Killer 7 was probably the most controversial of those games. It was hated by critics who couldn't get around the strange play mechanics, but it has indeed become a cult classic, and one the most stylized games of the last decade. It also helped make Suda 51 a household name among hardcore gamers.

Okami-Clover Studio-Capcom: Okami is as fun as it is beautiful, and it was one of the few games from the last system generation where the outward beauty(graphics, animation, etc.) is matched by the spot on gameplay.

Fable(series)-Lionhead Studios-Microsft Game Studios: Peter Molyneaux's breakthrough RPG series wasn't a work of art because it looked good, but it played wonderfully, and had some of the most open ended gameplay seem on a console game. The morality choices a player is faced with in this games are as far reaching as determining whether or not to have multiple families, killing livestock, and any other things that can be cooked up in a player's mind. Fable III is set to release later this month, and hopes are high that it contains every bit of debauchery as the first two games in the series.

There are many other more obvious examples of games that can be considered art: like Shadow of the Colossus, Bioshock, Snatcher, Portal, and Dragon's Lair to name a few. I mainly wanted to focus on a handful that I have observed to be museum worthy during my time as a gamer. Naysayers failed to understand that all things that are now considered art were once viewed as base, crude, and childish at one point or another. Video games have evolved in much the same way as Shakespeare's writing's or Beethoven's symphonies. This just proves that critics are built to dislike anything that isn't comfortable to them, but then again, most gamers are the same way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wonder Boy = Adventure Island...Or At Least That's How It Started

In the mid 80's Sega had a little game on the Master System called Wonder Boy. This game centered around the main character, Tom Tom's quest to rescue his girlfriend Tanya from Drancon. Now, This game wouldn't be at all important to video game history if it weren't for a very strange licensing agreement Sega had with original developer Westone. In the agreement, Sega retained the rights to the Wonder Boy name and the characters therein, but Westone kept the rights to pretty much everything else in the game. Meanwhile, Westone had a licensing agreement with Hudson Soft, which led to a knockoff of Wonder Boy being made. This knockoff was called Hudson's Adventure Island. After minor tweaks were made, Tom Tom was now known as Master Higgins in this new game while Tanya was now known Princess Leilani. For whatever reason, Adventure Island wasn't the original of the two games, but it fared much better commercially than Wonder Boy did. This was probably dude to Adventure Island being available on the Nintendo Entertainment System, while Wonder Boy appeared on the Master System, which was in far fewer homes. Sequels to Wonder Boy were quite different from the original, with some being essentially RPGs, completely steering away from the original hop and bop gameplay. Sequels to Adventure Island have pretty much stayed true to the original gameplay formula, and for the most part have been pretty successful. Sadly, the Wonder Boy series fizzled out after the early days of the Sega Genesis, while adventure Island continues to see sequels to this day. With the popularity of download services, the Wonder Boy/ Adventure Island series is sure to see even more sequels as technology gets better and the love of all things old school continues to thrive among gamers.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Barbarians In The Games: Knockoffs PWN The Original

Earlier this week, I considered writing about the Conan games that have come out over the years. The problem with that is they were all by and large horrible games, and two publishers released better Conan games the games actually based on the Conan stories. I'm sure the historically crazy Robert E. Howard wouldn't have wanted his hallucinations converted into horrible video games, but alas, they were.

Taito didn't screw up the barbarian mythos when they released Rastan in 1987. The game felt epic, even if it was simply a hack and slash platformer. The best part was that it never tried to do more than it needed to, therefore it did things well. All of the actual Conan games tried to do a whole lot more than they needed to, and that's where they primarily failed.

When Sega set out to make a barbarian themed arcade game, they actually seemed to draw direct inspiration from the 1981 Conan The Barbarian film. Golden Axe is honestly one the best series of games to directly draw from that line of stories. From the protagonists, who seem to be almost copycats of trio from Conan, to Death Adder's army, which is similar to Thulsa Doom's Snake Cult. Once Again, Golden Axe takes one thing and does it masterfully without leaving room for all the clutter found in the Conan games, especially that MMO.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Underground Games...Literally

So, I've been sitting here trying to decide what to write about today. Then I thought about the biggest news story in the world right now, and inspiration struck. Those Chilean miners survived over 70 days underground, but would they have fared as well if something was down there with them. Over the years, a lot of video game creators have used subterranean canvases to weave their digital tapestries. Some of my favorite old school games are primarily set underground, but their setting is pretty much the only thing that ties them together.

First up is Dig Dug, Namco's classic arcade game. The greatness of Dig Dug has always seemingly been overshadowed by Namco's other two major arcade titles, Pac Man and Galaga. Dig Dug is the only one of Namco's early arcade titles where you could create your own path to beating the assorted monsters in each level. The official world record for the game as recognized by Twin Galaxies is 5,136,150 points which was scored by Ken House in 2009. There is no official back story to Dig Dug, but the main character has been given the name Taizo Hori in assorted games in Namco's Mr. Driller series. He is even referred to as the father of the main character in the Mr. Driller games.

Next up is the spiritual successor to Dig Dug, Mr. Driller. This Namco created action puzzle game takes the best part of Dig Dug, navigating underground, and makes a great game out of it.There are no enemies to fight off, but the blocks overhead have to go somewhere, and that's where the challenge comes into play. Then there is the matter of players making sure they don't run out of air, and it can get tough to do so if when tackling later levels.

Finally, we have Spelunker the classic platformer from Broderbund. It takes the "find stuff, get points" gameplay of Lode Runner, and throws some solid, albeit difficult platforming. It's an oldie but definitely a goodie, and it's easy to find pretty much anywhere.

I'm sure there are other games where traversed underground caverns, but these are probably my favorites that take place primarily underground. I'm glad the Chili 33 got out of that mine, and I'm also glad they indirectly gave me inspiration. Next time you get the urge to play something, why not go underground.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Trackballs And Dribble Buttons: Konami Almost Got It Right

One day, while browsing through the website of an arcade distributor, I came across an interesting listing. Basically, two of the games the guy had up for sale were Blades of Steel and Double Dribble. Being a kid who was primarily exposed to video games early on from the home console standpoint, I was kinda surprised. After actually getting to spend time with them, I'm glad things were switched up for the NES versions.

Blades of Steel was the first I'll look at, since it was, for a long time, the best hockey game on any video game console.The controls were crisp and the action was fast. The arcade version wasn't quite the same experience. Instead of using a standard joystick for control, Konami opted to use a trackball for player movement. the result tended to feel kinda clumsy, but it added a slight feeling of realism to the game. The trackball gave the illusion of sliding across the ice. It was an interesting control mechanic that didn't quite work out.

As for Double Dribble, the game called by many the best basketball game ever released on a home console, the arcade version was a slow, plodding mess. This is contributed many to one major bonehead idea. The Arcade iteration of Double Dribble has a dribble button to a player must constantly tap on offense to avoid being called for dribble. So, amateur trivia buffs, that's where the name came from, a penalty for not constantly mashing a button. Without the dribble button, Double Dribble is easily on of the most complete basketball video games ever. it has a real time game clock, full in game stat tracking, multiple full color animations for the variety of dunks a player can perform in game.

Fact is, Double Dribble and Blades of Steel were the two best sports games released for home consoles. Too bad their arcade counterparts had one huge, unavoidable flaw that kept them from being great also.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

NES Bible Games: So Bad They're Sinful

Disclaimer: This post is in no way an attempt to disrespect anyone's faith. In fact, you honestly might find this informative

For as long as they've been around, people have been trying to figure out ways to use video games to trick kids into learning. Christians are no different, as there have been many video games published that focus on teaching kids about different parts of the Bible. The primary company that published these games was Wisdom Tree, and they are amazingly still in business. Wisdom Tree started off as a small part of Color Dreams, a video game publisher who made unlicensed games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Nintendo pretty much forced unlicensed game publishers out of business by threatening to not send official NES games to retailers if they sold unlicensed games. Color Dreams, in an effort to stay in business, started Wisdom Tree and began producing Christian themed video games. These games primarily sold at Christian Book Stores or through mail order. this ended up being quite lucrative to the point were Wisdom Tree has outlived it's parent company. The games were essentially conversions of Color Dreams' games that fit the biblical theme. The games were generally panned for their poor gameplay, and parents drove their kids further away from the church by only allowing kids to play these very bad video games. The first game released by Wisdom Tree was actually a three game multicart called Bible Adventures. The game took three stories from the Old Testament: Moses being rescued from the river, Noah collecting animals for the Ark, and David fighting Goliath, and shoehorned them into bad copies of Super Mario Bros. 2. This, however was the best of the NES games made by Wisdom Tree, which has to be some sort of crime. Exodus, a game based on the Israelites journey through the "wilderness", was a conversion of an old Color Dreams game, which was a rip off of Boulder Dash. The difference was that Boulder Dash was actually fun. Spiritual Warfare, was a bad Zelda rip off. Joshua was another Crystal Mines rip off, and so on and so forth. The games were notorious for freezing and having numerous glitches, as well as having horrible collision detection, controls and sound effects. They just weren't very good games, and they didn't sell well outside of the uber religious. This has led to these games being rather rare. If you aren't interested in actually owning them, you can play them on the Wisdom Tree website. I'm not a fan of judging folks, but the original intention for this sad cash in company was far from noble. I'm sure the folks behind these games had to have committed some kind of sin here.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rappers Starring In Video Games: Some Of You Need To Quit Both Jobs

Besides being a gamer, I'm a Hip Hop junkie. I probably listen to more Hip Hop music on a daily basis than I play video games. Fans of both art forms have seem many instances where the two have melded well together, but that mostly correlates to assorted rappers having music in a video games' soundtrack. Every now and then, though, Hip Hop is made a prominent part of a video game, and the results vary from incredible to atrocious. Today, I want to touch on some examples of both.

Rap Jam: Volume One - Motown Games - Super Nintendo: If ever a bad idea was had among a group of Black people, this was it. This game was a bad NBA Jam clone with the visages of assorted rappers thrown in for no reason. None of them played differently, and even though her sexuality has come into question a lot over the years, there is no reason that Queen Latifah should look exactly like Coolio ANYWHERE! I saw this "thing" on Ebay yesterday, and saw that someone called it a rare game. That's because nobody wanted it then, and they don't want it now.

Def Jam Vendetta - EA Sports BIG - PS2, Gamecube: When WCW went out of business in 2001, Electronic Arts was left with a partially completed wrestling game they couldn't sell. What does a good video game company do? They get their hands on a new license for the game, change character models, and publish one of the best wrestling games in a long time. Vendetta features a roster of at the time popular rappers from Def Jam Records, but again, the gameplay is ripped straight from Wrestlemania 2000, which is always a good thing.

Wu Tang: Shaolin Style - Activision - PSOne: EA wasn't the first publisher to do what they did with Def Jam Vendetta. Activision was set to publish the fighting game Thrill Kill, but when that game was cancelled by developer Paradox development, a plan had to be concocted. Enter: Wu Tang Clan, a Hip Hop collective who's main influences were vintage Kung Fu movies and Eastern culture in general. Each member of the group was given a specific look and fighting style, and the game was given a polish to reflect the new change in title characters. It wasn't a bad game, but for whatever reason it never really sold well.

Get On Da Mic - Eidos Interactive - PS2: Take all the hot music from a point in Rap's history, censor the hell out of them, and make it a karaoke game, and you have the premise for Get On Da Mic. Was it bad? When the developers of Def Jam Rapstar use your game as a "what not to do" tutorial, you've made a bad game.

50 Cent: Bulletproof - Sierra Entertainment - PS2, PSP, Xbox: This was bad. I know a 50 Cent diehard who didn't like this, and that guy liked 50's Curtis album. Bulletproof did have two things going for it: a good soundtrack and an okay story. Thankfully 50 redeemed himself with 50 Cent: Blood in the Sand. It was a great game.

These are just a sample of the huge mixed bag you get when fishing through games with rappers in lead roles. Some of them were good , some were bad, but most were amazingly blah. They offer nothing special, which can honestly be said for most popular rap music.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What Should Be On Your Radar This Month

Every gamer knows it can be hard delegating your gaming dollar in the right direction, so I wanna help you out. I got these release dates from, so if they're off, don't blame me. Also, these games are in no particular order of personal preference.

Fable III- Xbox 360- Release Date: 10/26/2010: I dig Fable. The Second game in the series was utterly phenomenal, and based on what I've seen of it, the third might be even better.

Fallout New Vegas- Xbox 360, PC, PS3- Release Date: 10/19, 10/21: Fallout 3 was an epic resurrection of a great RPG franchise. Hopefully, New Vegas will continue that trend.

Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode 1-XBLA, PSN, WiiWare, iPhone- Release Date: 10/7-10/13: A return to form for the much maligned Sega mascot is long overdue.

Super Scribblenauts- DS- Release Date: 10/12/2010: The critically acclaimed DS adventure puzzle game has spawned a sequel with even more great gameplay.

Splatterhouse- Xbox 360, PS3- Release Date: 10/26, 10/28: An amazingly gritty, beautifully gory reboot of Namco's classic action horror franchise.

Medal of Honor- Xbox 360, PS3, PC, iPhone- Release Date: 9/30-10/14: EA, taking a cue from primary rival Activision, takes their storied FPS franchise from World War II to modern times. Let's see if their new Medal of Honor can translate into the commercial success that Modern Warfare did.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow- Xbox 360, PS3- Release Date: 10/5/2010: Taking cues from Dante's Inferno,Lords of Shadow is pretty much a God of War clone with Castlevania story elements thrown in. Hopefully that will translate into a decent game.

Kirby's Epic Yarn- Wii- Release Date: 10/17/2010: It almost seems like Nintendo is trying to give fans a major franchise every 6 weeks or so. Hopefully this game is as good as most want it to be.

there's no need to discuss the annuals and almost annuals, because folks who are going to get them already have them on radar. I am intrigued by the idea that Rock Band 3 has a guitar with actual strings on it. That kinda gives Prince no excuse for not having his music in that game. This month marks the end to the "slow season", and with so many big titles coming out, it may have been worth sitting through that dry spell.