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Friday, September 19, 2014

NES Replay: Ikari Warriors

Developer: SNK
Publisher: SNK
Released: May 1987
The NES port of Ikari Warriors starts out with a couple of strikes against it.

Strike one? It’s one of SNK’s first arcade ports. As we will see, SNK’s first couple of outings on the NES were problematic, as SNK struggled to get their frenetic pacing that worked so well in the arcades to translate to the NES. Strike two? Ikari Warriors wasn’t a very good game in the arcades to begin with. There were other games that were doing what Ikari Warriors did, and better.

So, could the NES port of Ikari Warriors overcome those two strikes? The answer may surprise you.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

NES Replay: Castlevania

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: May 1987
The NES was marketed to children out of necessity. We've discussed this before: By marketing the system to children, they could get into toy stores, which enabled Nintendo to bypass the taboo against video game systems that existed after the Crash of 1983.

Due to this fact, most NES games, at least on the surface, looked like colorful children's games. They had plumbers stepping on turtles, colorful characters floating with balloons, and goofy wrestling characters. Even the darker games, like Ghosts N' Goblins, had the main character running around in his underwear if he got hit.

Castlevania was different. It was cool. No goofy colors, no happy enemies with smiles on their faces, just you and a trusty whip against the whole of Dracula's castle.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

It's been four months since my last NES review, and some astute readers may be wondering what happened. No, I didn't die, and no, I didn't give up the reviews. I just went through the most monumental change I've ever had in my life, and I thought I'd share, briefly, what's happened.

Monday, May 26, 2014

NES Replay: BurgerTime

Developer: Data East
Publisher: Data East
Released: May 1987

Kurt Vonnegut, the late, great famous author, told a story about his brief time at Sports Illustrated. His first day at the magazine, he was assigned to write a story about a horse that jumped a fence and tried to run away. He stared at the paper for about a half an hour before finally typing, "The horse jumped over the fucking fence," then left.

That's how I felt while I was trying to write about BurgerTime. "The cook walked over the fucking burger."

In BurgerTime, you play a little cook that has to walk over pieces of a hamburger, which drops them down to the lower levels of the screen. Completed burgers earn you points. Meanwhile, food items are following you around the level and trying to kill you, and attacking or killing them only stops them for a second or two before they respawn. It's like Guy Fieri's fever dreams come to life.

Monday, May 19, 2014

NES Replay: Track & Field

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: April 1987
The arcade cabinets for Track & Field took a beating.

Track & Field is a collection of small minigames based on the Olympics, and you control several of them is by pounding on the buttons as fast as possible. In the arcades, players tried to come up with various ways of doing faster button presses, so they used stuff like golf balls and metal rulers to get an edge. Even when it was a popular arcade game, it was very hard to find working Track & Field machines in the wild because of all the abuse they took.

The NES port retains this gameplay, and that makes Track & Field a game that you can only play for a short time. My family used to play Track & Field II together, and after a while everyone had cramps in their wrists. It's hard to keep up such a furious attack on the controller.

Monday, May 12, 2014

NES Replay: Rush'n Attack

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: April 1987
For our younger readers, I have a question: Do they still do duck-and-cover drills in school?

If they don't anymore, here's what they were. For years, the US was terrified that the Russians (or Soviets) would destroy us in a nuclear war. For some reason, they decided that the best way to protect kids was by having duck-and-cover drills. We would hear a siren, and all the kids would get underneath our desks and cover our heads so that in the case of a fiery death by nuclear bomb, we would be protected by the nuclear-resistant coating on the school desks [citation needed].

This is what it was like in the US for 50 years. We knew, just KNEW, that the godless communist Soviets were going to blow us up with a nuclear bomb and then launch a full ground invasion so we had to be prepared any way we could. In reality, the vast majority of Russians were just trying to keep their head above water in a horribly corrupt system, but the citizens of the US had no way of knowing this. To us, the Russians were a technical powerhouse and we had to fight them however we could.

Monday, May 5, 2014

NES Replay: Volleyball

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: March 1987
I love playing volleyball in certain environments. Basically, if no one's keeping score and all of my friends are just having a good, relaxed time, it's the best game in the world.

Something happens every single time I play volleyball: Someone starts keeping score. Then, that person starts trash talking, and then someone else does, then my old, familiar competitiveness kicks in, and then I have to quit because I get too angry. Even just thinking about it makes me mad.

Why do I get so frustrated? Because volleyball is meant to be fun. It's played in sunny places, on the beach, with people throwing frisbees nearby. It's not supposed to be a hyper-competitive trash-talking game. If you're playing volleyball and you don't have a Corona with a lime wedged into the rim of the bottle waiting for you on the sideline, you're playing it wrong.

Understanding this about volleyball is key to understanding why Volleyball is such a waste. Volleyball is supposed to be fun! Getting hit in the face with a volleyball while someone screams through a net at you isn't fun.