Tag Archives: NES

Video Game Franchises That Need to Come Back

9 Oct

Reboots aren’t only for movies. In the last few years we’ve seen new versions, or HD editions, of a number of classic games: Bionic Commando Rearmed, Twisted Metal, and Rocket Knight Adventures are only three examples. Coming up we’ve got Tomb Raider, XCOM, and DMC: Devil May Cry. Thanks to the ever-increasing love of digital distribution systems like Steam, Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network, reboots and remakes with similar game-play to their originals are easy to distribute and can be sold at a lesser price. Sure, some of them have failed – 2009’s Bionic Commando was a bit of a mess, equally so Golden Axe: Beast Rider – but there is hope out there for the forgotten franchises of gaming. Here’s a rundown of the series I would love to see return.

 

Road Rash

For years, the Road Rash games were my favourite racing games. Brutal, fast, exciting, and with a killer soundtrack, they were everything that a nineties racer needed to be. But, we’ve not had a Road Rash game since 2003, when Road Rash: Jail Break was ported to the Game Boy Advance. The original games are still a hell of a lot of fun to play, and have a real timeless quality. So, isn’t it time we had a bit of motorbike-based, road-racing, baton-smashing fun?

 

Streets of Rage

Speaking of brutal games, Streets of Rage was one of the best series on the original Mega Drive/Genesis. Taking on gangs of street thugs, Streets of Rage was part of that now-forgotten genre of the side-scrolling beat ‘em up. We had a sequel-of-sorts in Fighting Force on the original Playstation, a Streets of Rage update in all but name, but no actual update to the series. Given the recent resurgence of side-scrolling fighting games, such as Scott Pilgrim and the Final Fight rerelease, this is the perfect time to see a return for Streets of Rage.

 

Wizards & Warriors

Remember Rare? They were those totally awesome dudes who made titles such as Goldeneye, Donkey Kong 64, Killer Instinct, and Perfect Dark. Well, like I said in my last retro games review, they got started out on the NES. Wizards & Warriors was a series of very fun yet incredibly infuriating action-adventure games. Three were released on the NES, and one of the Game Boy. Since Acclaim’s demise, the rights now sit with Throwback games, but unfortunately they have no plans for a remake right now.

“Have at thee, evil moth creature!”

 

Flashback

Flashback is still one of the most stunning, immersive games around. A platformer with plenty of puzzle and action elements, it was one of the classics of the 16-bit era. Known for its absolutely fantastic, motion-captured visuals, people often forget just how brilliant this game is. We’ve seen a release of Another World, Flashback’s sister game, for iOS and Android, but it would be absolutely fantastic to see Flashback return to come consoles, either as a HD update or as a brand new game.

 

Heart of Darkness

Another platformer from the maker of Another World, Heart of Darkness was one of the best games on the Playstation. After your dog is kidnapped (or should that be dog-napped) by dark shadow beings, you go hunting after them. A simple, linear game, but plenty of fun and with a few gory moments, Heart of Darkness made big steps for cinematic storytelling on home consoles. Unfortunately, because of the in-fighting and fallout from the bankruptcy of Amazing Studios, it’s probably unlikely that Heart of Darkness will ever see another release.

 

Strider

Oh Capcom. You know I love you really. You’ve given us such wonders as Mega Man, Street Fighter, Resident Evil, Bionic Commando, and all those totally fucking awesome NES-era Disney games. But you should stop being such an incredible tease. Strider Hiryu is a playable character in the Marvel vs. Capcom games, so I know you haven’t forgotten about him.  Why not get him out of your intellectual property draw, dust him off, and let him run free with a new game? Oh, and while you’re at it, a modernised Mega Man game would be lovely, too.

Only total badasses are allowed in pictures as cool as this.

 

Arcanum

Sometimes I think I am the only person who played this. Published by Sierra, Arcanum is a steampunk isometric role-playing game released in 2001. Playing in a style similar to the Forgotten Realms RPGs or the original Fallout games, you play as the lone survivor of a zeppelin crash, forced to survive in a harsh world. The best thing about the game, though, is the magic vs. technology dynamic that vastly changes the game world. Given that steampunk is still seen as very cool by video game and geek communities (unless I am completely out of the loop), now would be a perfect time to bring back this universe.

 

Planescape: Torment

Speaking of isometric RPGs, Planescape: Torment is one of the best. Developed by Black Isle and using the same engine as Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale, it gives the player a strange, dark world quite different from the other Dungeons & Dragons universes. In spite of great critical acclaim at the time, Planescape: Torment has been forgotten about in the years since its 1999 release. However, Overhaul Games, the creators of Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition, have said that if that HD remake is successful, then other games from Black Isle’s back catalogue could get the same enhanced treatment. Here’s hoping.

 

Alfred Chicken

Originally released on the Game Boy, and then ported to the NES, Amiga, and Super Nintendo, Alfred Chicken is a puzzle-platformer where you need to release a number of balloons before being allowed into the next stage. Was there a plot? Damned if I remember. But it had surreal visuals, strange characters, and completely absorbing game-play. The last game released was in 2001 on the Playstation, but I think the world needs more bright red chickens solving puzzles.

You look as confused as I am, Al.

 

Toe Jam & Earl

Finally, two of the most hip and happening characters of the nineties. They’re all the way live! They’re the bomb! They’re out of this world! If you don’t agree, talk to the hand, dude! The first two Toe Jam & Earl games were brilliant. Both were co-op games but were incredibly different: the first being a top-down collection game, the other a platformer. What did they have in common? A sense of humour lampooning nineties culture and brilliant visuals and game-play. There was a third game released on the original Xbox, but surely it’s time for a bit of colour and a bit of humour to return to video games.

 

That’s all for now. Finally, you may have noticed a wee bit of a gap between this post and my last one. Let me just say that there are some interesting things afoot that will hopefully come to fruition soon.

Next time: another retro games review.

R.C. Pro-Am: Rockin’ Awesome Retro Reviews!

28 Sep

Hi there! Welcome back to Rockin’ Awesome Retro Reviews. The second game of my whirlwind tour through my video game collection is a personal favourite and is probably responsible for my continual desire to own remote control vehicles.

Awww yeah. R.C. Pro-Am. This game is a total beast. One of the big influencers for titles such as Mario Kart and Micro Machines, you take control of a remote control car and take part in fights to the death! Well, not quite. You race around little circuits against other remote control cars instead.

This game was made by Rare. Remember them? They made Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, and Goldeneye before kind of going off the rails a little. Well, they got started on games like this and Wizards & Warriors. R.C. Pro-Am was one of the first proper racing games on the NES and has, surprisingly, held up fairly well over time.

With an isometric style similar to Rock’N’Roll Racing, R.C. Pro-Am has a fair few bits and pieces that are now staples of the cartoon-style racing game. You can shoot your opponents with projectiles – in this case rockets – and you can damage cars behind you with little bastard-hard bombs. Both of these will put your rival racers out of action for a couple of seconds, giving you the chance to race away, laughing maniacally. Until, of course, they catch up with you and overtake.

Curse you, other cars!

Along with the aggressive power-ups, you can pick up the roll-cage – acting like the star power-up from Mario Kart – which allows you to cause other cars to spin into walls and survive hitting barriers and oil slicks. The miniature tracks of R.C. Pro-Am are lethal, as along with the slicks and automated blockades, you’ll have to deal with puddles, storms, and anti-power ups that deplete your weapon ammo. Plus, if you end up going off the course you’ll hit invisible barriers that bring you to a halt.

You get a little bit more help, though. You’ll sometimes find car upgrades along the way, such as upgrades to your top speed, acceleration, and cornering ability. Not only that, but each circuit has a letter on it. Collect them to spell out NINTENDO and you’ll find yourself driving a brand spanking new vehicle. It doesn’t alter the game play much, but it gives a nice aesthetic change. The first change, shown here, changes your tiny pick-up truck into a tiny jeep, but there’s a final change into one of those awesome off-road karts that were totally cool in the 80s.

One thing that always fascinated me, though, was that these were remote control cars for kids. So, who the hell has modded out these RC cars? They are, essentially, deadly weapons. I dread to think what happens when I shoot at one of the other cars and miss. I suppose you might end up beating the blue car because, although you missed the vehicle itself, your rocket goes on to hit little Timmy in the foot and blow off his leg. Not only that, but has anyone noticed that these cars are also able to regenerate any damage done to them? Have scientists been informed of this remarkable technology? What if it works on humans? We could become practically immortal.

Don’t worry, kids! No one was harmed in this horrific accident.

Right, serious stuff: R.C. Pro-Am, for something from the late 80s, looks fairly good. It’s pretty intuitive and you never feel as though you won’t know what something does. The little arrows on the floor are, obviously, going to make you go faster, and generally you’re unlikely to hit an oil slick and think ‘this is going to end well’. The presentation is good, too. You get a little trophy screen when you complete a race, showing your gold, silver, or bronze award and if you’ve got any special trophies for being a total badass.

The music is a collection of classic 1980s 8-bit themes, although the sound during the races is excruciating. My personal favourite is the theme when putting in your high score, which is eerily reminiscent of Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham!

Personally, I would have preferred Careless Whisper though.

And what about the game play? It’s fun, addictive, and more than a little frustrating, particularly in the later levels. But you’ll sure as hell want to keep playing. R.C. Pro-Am is a lovely little game. Unfortunately, its biggest flaw is a major one – it would have been fantastic if it had multiplayer. As it stands, the closest I can get to having a multiplayer R.C. Pro-Am experience is going to the park, strapping fireworks to a remote control car, and letting nature take its course.

Here’s the review in video format:

That’s all for now. Up next, a real bastard of a game. ‘Til next time!

Rob’s Rockin’ Retro Reviews: Super Mario Bros!

28 Aug

Hello, and welcome to Rob’s Rockin’ Retro Reviews! In association with the ruddy fantastic Retr0mance, I’m going to be playin’ and reviewin’ through my video game collection, from the NES era through to Xbox 360.

Let’s start with a real classic.

Super Mario Bros was the first game I ever played, and the first game a lot of my generation played. You know, we’re the old bastards who remember floppy disks and booting up DOS, recording songs off the radio onto cassette and having to rewind a VHS tape after we watched a film. Mario was our first look at the world of video games, and it taught us a lot of valuable lessons; that turtles are not to be trusted, that mushrooms are sometimes good and sometimes bad, and that you can survive being shot at by jumping on the bullet as it goes past you.

Neo ain’t got shit on Mario

Hell, without Super Mario Bros there probably wouldn’t be video games. After the video game crash, it picked up the industry, gave it a pat on the back and said “it’s all right, little one. There won’t be any more ET games. Here’s a fat Italian man committing acts of horrible animal cruelty”. And we loved it. I still love it. If it were possible, I would have sex with this game right now.

There are a few things I don’t understand though.

First up, those Goombas. The little evil mushrooms. Those guys apparently betrayed the other fungi sects in the Mushroom Kingdom. They teamed up with the Koopas to take down the princess and all those little brown-nosing mushroom dudes you see in the rest of the game. Toad ain’t called Toad after toadstool, people. He’s a bootlicker.

Anyway, what did they get out of it? Because as far as I can tell, they’re the grunt troops, told to walk in a straight line until they are crushed by a man in dungarees or fall off a cliff. They go at their job with such dogmatic fervour. What exactly did the Koopas promise them? Gold? Power? Fame? Little mushroom women? There are many unanswered questions.

Like these little guys:

Are they conjoined twins? Are they a little Goomba couple holding hands? I don’t know, but I do know that I don’t want to ruin their day. For all I know they’re off to Barcelona for a romantic getaway, or finally having the operation so they can function separately.

Mario, though, is a huge part of my formative childhood. I don’t remember the first time I played it. I don’t remember the first time I found the secret 1-up in the first level. I can’t actually remember a time when I didn’t know where all the Warp Zones were. Seriously. Like how I’ve always known the names of Star Wars characters when they’re not even mentioned in the bloody film.

Bossk is BOSS.

Anyway. As a kid, this game was hard. I’ll always remember getting stuck in the castles because of those goddamn rotating fire skewers of hot hot heat. You go back and play it at any other age though, say from eight and above, and you’ll probably wonder how you had such difficulty. Apart from me, though. I still suck. Damn turtles. Never trust them.

Point is, it was the first game we played. We were getting used to how video games even controlled. It was a long time before we got our mitts on Contra (or as I know, it Probotector – being a Brit is sometimes very silly), and a long, long time before we beat that game without using the Konami Code. Mario helped us adapt to a new form of entertainment, so even if it’s easy by the standards of the time, it’s good that it was easy. It helped bring a whole new mass market into gaming and for that I am eternally grateful.

I wouldn’t be the…erm…upstanding citizen I am today without video games.

Aside from that, what is there to say? The controls are nice and responsive, the game-play is fun, the graphics are iconic and the soundtrack is boss. You know all this already. It’s a great game, and a classic. The NES had a lot of duff games, but when it was good, it was great. Super Mario Bros set a very high benchmark to measure other games against, and for a long time it was unsurpassed in the platformer market. It’s incredible that a game from 1985, three whole years before I was bloody born, can still bring such joy. Super Mario Bros, you have my sword, my bow, and my axe. God speed.

Not only that, but this review is now available in video format!

Up next: some more horror movie-related guff. Until next time!