Monday, October 31, 2011

Latest Pickups, Stuff I've Been Doing, and Crunch N Munch

make sure you check all of this stuff out:

Nerdgasm Noire Network Blog:

Nerdgasm Noire Network Podcast:

Character Select (latest episode):

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Now That Is A Tasty Burger: A Look Back At BurgerTime

In 1982, an inventive twist on the "maze game" genre made wildly popular by Namco's Pac Man was released in arcades around the world by Data East. BurgerTime introduced the world to Peter Pepper and his rather interesting means of preparing hamburgers. the game played like a cross between the aforementioned Pac Man and Nintendo's Donkey Kong. I make that comparison because of the way you have to avoid enemies on a ladder filled playfield. The major difference between Donkey Kong and BurgerTime is that Peter Pepper has a much harder time avoiding the enemies that chase him around, and his primary weapon, a pepper shaker, is only useful a few times per game unless a bonus item is picked up during a maze.

Advancing in this game is easy in theory, but tough in practice. You go through each screen making the individual ingredients fall until the burgers are completely assembled at the bottom of the screen, but you have to avoid the enemies that all tend to move around the playfield attempting to take you out. When all of the Burgers are completed, the screen is cleared, and you move to the next level. There are a total of six screens in BurgerTime. After the sixth, the game goes back to the first screen, but the enemies are faster and there are more burgers to make.

Over the years, a few spinoffs and sequels were released, but none of them matched the success of the original game. One of the most notable spinoff titles was the Intellivision exclusive Diner, which was developed by the same person who worked of the Intellivision port of BurgerTime. Another notable game in the series is Super BurgerTime. It features 2 player co op gameplay and a number of powerups.

We live in a society that frowns upon obesity, yet we celebrate fast food. By this logic, a game like BurgerTime probably wouldn't be very popular today. It does two things that are heavily disliked in portions of today's society: it celebrates a really good burger, and it doesn't hold your hand. Much like many games of the early 80s, BurgerTime kicks your in the butt until you give up or come back for more. It's also one of those classic arcade games that gets lost in the shuffle when gamers discuss the all time great quarter munchers. It's one of the great gems from a Publisher that while no longer in business, has a long healthy lineage of incredible games to it's credit.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How Much Is A Platinum Plated Clover Worth?

Every now and then, a developer comes along that produces games that are so much fun to play that they don't seem to be tethered to some monolithic publisher.Somewhere in the last decade we saw a developer gain life almost as an offshoot of Capcom, create some quality titles, then disband and resurrect itself in part as an in house developer with Sega. The developer I speak of is Clover Studio, which died in 2006, only to return as Platinum Games in 2007.

Clover started life simply as an in house developer who wanted more creative control, and as such they were given this control thanks mainly to the "Capcom Five". When Capcom decided to port their hit Gamecube title Viewtiful Joe to the Playstation 2, the port was handled by Clover Studio. From there, Clover was the primary developer of every successive title in the series. They also developed Okami, which earned Game of the Year honors in 2006. They were also responsible for God Hand, which proved to be their final game. None of Clover's games proved to be big sellers, however they received a great deal of critical acclaim. Many gamers assumed that this would be another promising development house that would die in this fickle video game market. This would prove to be a falsehood, as they would rise again a year later.

Capcom decided that modest sales figures and critical acclaim were not enough to keep Clover around as an autonomous developer, so they decided to reabsorb the company, but the employees decided it would be best to simply walk away. This led to Clover being shut down. A few months later, the former heads of Clover resurfaced as Platinum Games and announced a four game development deal with Sega. This deal has produced four well received titles with MadWorld, Bayonetta, Infinite Space, and Vanquish all receiving a great deal of praise as well as a strong fanbase. The success of Platinum Games' titles has caused their deal with Sega to be extended to include a fifth title, Anarchy Reigns, that will be released in early 2012.

It seems that through their short history, Clover Studio did two things: had a tumultuous history and created some exceptional video games. I contend that their track record has proven to be as good as some of the great developers of the late 80s. It proves that perseverance can lead to great success, and it creates some exceptionally fun experiences.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Grasshopper Manufacture: It May Not Make Sense, But You'll Love It

You've played their games, but probably never knew who they were right away. They have a history of pumping out quality products without a huge deal of mainstream fanfare, and lets not forget that the games they released in the US were some of the better titles released here over the last 5 years. The developer I speak of is Grasshopper Manufacture, and while the development house started by Goichi Suda, who is best known by the moniker Suda51, has built a reputation for creating cutting edge, attitude laden content for multiple consoles, they have also continued to keep a low profile in this current climate of big budget video games. Suda51 has been called the Quentin Tarantino of video games, because of the chances he's willing to take and the amount of sheer bad assery infused in the games.

I first discovered Grasshopper Manufacture when I stumbled upon their Wii masterpiece No More Heroes. I knew of Killer 7, but hadn't touched that amazingly quirky title yet, and NMH called out to me as I searched for a quality Beat Em Up on the Wii. As I started this game I understood why Grasshopper Manufacture and their head, Suda51, were so influential among other developers. Then I started doing research and I learned that Suda51 has had his hands in a number of projects for multiple consoles over the last decade. He started out working as a writer for Human Entertainment, which had him put his hands on the Fire Pro Wrestling series, and continued to make waves in the Japanese gaming market until well after he left Human in 1998 and started Grasshopper Manufacture.

Other than No More Heroes and Killer 7, Grasshopper Manufacture has developed Fatal Frame IV, Shadows of the Damned, Samurai Champloo: Sidetracked, and Michigan: Report From Hell among other titles released either worldwide or only in Japan. They are slated to release two games for XBLA and PSN in the coming months through a partnership with Hungarian publisher Digital Reality. Those titles, Sine Mora and Black Knight Sword, are a side scrolling SHMUP and a side scrolling action platformer, respectively. GHM also has a very bloody zombie killing beat em up on the horizon with Lollipop Chainsaw, which is slated for a 2012 release.

Between working on the Subspace Emissary mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, work with Hideo Kojima, and collaborating with Shinji Mikami(best known as the mind behind Resident Evil, Devil May Cry, and Onimusha), Suda51 has proven to be a busy man in the gaming business as well as one of it's greatest creative minds.

Grasshopper Manufacture has existed since the late 90s, and only entered the American gaming lexicon in 2005, but rest assured that Suda51's declaration of independence will continue to carve it's own niche while scoffing at the big budget snooze fests that flood the gaming market now.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Goonies On NES: Tougher Than Sloth

In 1987, Konami released The Goonies II for the NES, and it confused the hell out of American gamers. This game had Goonies in the title, but it seemed as though it was a sequel to the movie. The it was learned that there was indeed a game that followed the events of the movie. It was made by Konami and was released on the Famicom, but for whatever reason, it was never released in the US. While the first game remains true to the original film(in a sense), the second seemed like a blind attempt at a cash, but it was a good one. Goonies II felt like it was as big as Metroid, but many consider it to be as confusing as Castlevania II, with multiple doorways that send players to all manner of random locations. It's very easy to get lost and to lose sight of what you're main objective is.

That leads to the story, what exactly was the plot of the second game? Well, much like the first Goonies game, players control Mikey, but this time, you're charged with rescuing the other Goonies as well as a Mermaid from the Fratelli's. As we saw in the first movie, and in the first game for those who played it, the Fratelli's hideout sits on top of a massive cavern filled with branching caves and booby traps, but in Goonies II, that cavern is taken to an extreme, with different caverns seemingly taking you to different parts of the world. There are jungle caves, frozen caverns, molten pits and anything else that shouldn't be under an abandoned restaurant in the Pacific Northwest. That's just a case of game designers getting creative though, so it gets a pass.

Konami's "big single level with backtracking" game design that was prominent in Castlevania II is also present here, and it proved as frustrating for gamers with this title as it did the last time. This game simply did not feel like little kids should be attempting it, or some adults for that matter. I've always considered myself a bit of a masochist when it comes to some of my gaming choices, but some games were not meant to be played by a 9 year old version of myself.

Goonies II was a faithful continuation of the story portrayed in the first game and the film it was based on, but alas, it proved to be so hardcore that it drove gamers away. I recommend this one for those who want to take an old school RPG approach to their gaming. To beat Goonies II, you need to make maps, document item locations, and be a tireless gamer. It probably would hurt to have Chunk around to do the truffle shuffle either.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

A Brief Look At Really Rare NES Games

I don't fancy myself as much a collector as I do a person who adopts wayward video games, and as such, a few rare gems have landed into my meager game library. some are worth more than others as far as resell value goes, but some are priceless as far as sentimental value. In my wallet, my copy of Contra Force is worth much more than my copy of Anticipation, but since Anticipation was bought for me by my now deceased aunt, it is valued as much if not more than that copy of Contra Force. For many collectors it is merely about money though, and those gamers are always on the lookout for incredibly hard to find gems. Today I thought I'd mention a few of the hardest to find titles on the NES, and a few of them won't cost you more than a car payment. You may also notice a little trend with some of these titles.

Little Samson - Taito - 1992: Little Samson is a gem of a game, it controls well, has a decent challenge, and it looks and sounds as good as anything on the NES. It would have been one of the biggest sellers on the NES if not for one important thing: it was release in 1992 and many gamers had already jumped ship to the SNES by that time. it's been spotted on eBay for around $160.

Bubble Bath Babes - Panesian - 1991: Nintendo watched over the content on their 8-bit console like a hawk, and anything that was the least bit questionable didn't get the coveted Seal of Quality on the box. Panesian knew their adult themed games would never get over the hump, so they made pirate carts. Very few copies of their games ever made it into the wild and so they are highly sought after. copies of this one can run up to $1,000 but a reproduction cartridge is currently in circulation through .

Caltron 6 in 1 - Caltron - 1992: Today we see multi game collections all the time, and most of the games in those collections prove to be horrible. It was the same during the time of the NES. This may explain why pretty much all of the multicarts released on the NES were unlicensed. Caltron released this pile in 1992, a full year after the debacle that was Action 52. While this one fares only slightly better that it's 52 game counterpart, neither seems worth the money. These will set you back up around $300, so tread lightly.

Snow Brothers - Capcom - 1991: A great arcade port typically sold quite well on the NES, which makes the rarity of Snow Brothers even more peculiar. For whatever reason, though, the NES port of Snow Brothers did not sell, and now commands prices easily above $100.

and now a few more affordable NES rarities:

Contra Force -Konami - 1992: It wasn't really a contra game, and it was a bit mediocre, but Contra Force commands anywhere from $30 - $60 online.

Adventure Island 3 - Hudson - 1992: It isn't extremely expensive, but it can be hard to track down. Copies of this one run between $25 - $50.

Bomberman 2 - Hudson - 1992: The original game typically costs no more than $10, but the sequel came along much later in the NES life cycle, didn't sell as well, and runs between $30 - $60 online.

I know I neglected to mention a lot of very rare games, but I didn't want to bore you with a list of games that most folks know about like Action 52, Stadium Events, or The Miracle Piano. If you would like a more detailed list of really rare games, drop me a line and I'll be happy to pass you one.

If you didn't notice, most of the really rare games I mentioned were released at the end of the NES life cycle.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Remember When...Video Games Didn't Exist And Nintendo Made Playing Cards

I've always been fascinated by the origins of many of the gaming industry's most important companies. Many if not all of them were involved in other industries for decades before the ping and pop of video games came calling. Many already made carnival games, and assumed that video games would be another fad that they could ride until something came along. I mean, nobody could have predicted that Ralph Baer's "Brown Box" or Jerry Lawson's breakthrough with replaceable ROM cartridges could be enough to convince a vending machine company called Taito Trading company to release Astro Race in 1973, nor could it convince a small amusement machine company called Service Games to get into the video game business in the 1970s by manufacturing their own arcade games. It definitely would not have been enough to take a venerable Japanese playing card company into the "Family Computer" business.

Most of gaming's most iconic taste makers started out in other places, yet they all gravitated towards the video game industry, and they all succeeded at some level. Taito, which was started by a Russian guy in 1953, was making jukeboxes and vending machines until they got into the gaming business in 1973. They made game after game until 1978 when they created what many consider the most important game in Arcade history with Space Invaders. Space Invaders had such an impact on the fledgling industry that entire arcades were dedicated to that one game for years after it's release. While they are currently owned by Square Enix, the Taito brand still commands a great deal of weight and respect among gamers.

Service Games or Sega as it's more commonly known, started life as a maker of shooting gallery games, jukeboxes, and anything else that could occupy a soldiers mind on a military base. Over time they developed more products until they got into the video game industry and scored their first major hits with games like Pengo, Zaxxon, and Tac/Scan. While they have suffered a number of ups and downs over the years, a lot of what Sega brought to the table is still regarded as revolutionary.

The Nintendo Playing card company seems like a good fit to enter the video game market, but their entrance was not the most graceful. Prior to entering the video game market, Nintendo dabbled in everything from instant rice, to taxicabs, to a "love hotel". None of these ventures proved successful though, and in 1974, they obtained the rights to distribute the Magnavox Odyssey in Japan. Then Nintendo began to manufacture their own brand of Pong clones with the "Color TV Game" series, and things slowly rolled from there until a young game designer named Shigeru Miyamoto introduced the world to Jumpman, Lady, and Donkey Kong.

The three companies I mentioned in this post are just a microcosm of the rich histories of many publishers within the video game industry. Much like many of the people who have enjoyed their creations over the years, these companies all started out somewhere else, and through many different paths, they ended up being a part of the video game industry. While some have ceased to exist, many still do, and it is up to us as gamers to keep these companies honest, because without us, they cease to exist, and we are then left with less room for innovation and variety, and that benefits no one who grew up with a controller in their hand.