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Friday, October 10, 2014

NES Replay: Devil World

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: July 1987

Shigeru Miyamoto has made a lot of his games in his storied career, and the most amazing thing about his career is how consistent his games are. He’s arguably only ever had one unmitigated stinker (Stunt Race FX), and every other game has some redeeming quality to it. We’re lucky he’s still around, and we should hope that he's around for a long, long time.

However, there’s one Miyamoto game that those of us who live in the United States have never had a chance to play. Why didn't it get to our shores? Was it too hard to translate? Was it too complicated for audiences in the US? Was it just not cost-effective to bring it here?

Well, try this one on for size: The game that never made it over here was called Devil World. It was a game where the main character picked up crosses to shoot enemies and pick up pellets, and picked up bibles to close up portals where demons would come out of. A demon at the top of the screen directed the gameplay.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

NES Replay: Side Pocket

Developer: Data East
Publisher: G-Mode
Released: June 1987
Like many other mildly physical activities, I enjoy playing billiards even though I’m not good at it. While this is a running theme among pretty any much any sport that exists, I’ve spent enough time playing billiards to know that Side Pocket is a really, really good interpretation of it. While there are a few minor quibbles, there are a few things that Data East absolutely nailed.

Before we talk about Side Pocket, let’s do a quick run-through of the history of video game billiards. As near as I can tell, the first video game to attempt billiards was Video Hustler, which sounds like it should be something else. Anyway, it was released as an arcade game in 1981, and it was competent, if nothing special. After that, there was silence until Lunar Pool was released in 1985, then Side Pocket in 1987.

Some sports, like baseball or soccer, had lots of video games right from the start. So why weren’t there a lot of games about billiards? Most arcade machines were purchased by bars in the early days, and let’s face it: If you were going to play billiards in an arcade, chances are the arcade had its own billiards table. What would be the point of playing a billiards arcade machine when there was a table right there?

Monday, September 22, 2014

NES Replay: Mighty Bomb Jack

Developer: Tecmo
Publisher: Tecmo
Released: May 1987
A good-sounding name can get you pretty far.

Like, say you have a name like Max Fightmaster. With a name like that, you could walk into any security agency or dojo and immediately have a job, or at least lackeys. With a more nebbishy name, like, say, Lee Evans, you’re lucky if you can get people to read articles you’ve written about NES games.

Mighty Bomb Jack is a great name for a game. I mean, just say that name out loud! It rolls off the tongue, and it sounds like excitement personified. A game with bombs! Mighty ones, at that! How could it be anything but awesome?

Tecmo has been profiting off that name for years. Every time Nintendo opens up one of their Virtual Console services on a new console, Mighty Bomb Jack is one of the first games for sale. Someone has to be buying it, and I’ve almost been tempted a couple of times just because the name is so cool. That's the power of a good name.

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.