Friday, January 28, 2011

LJN was not the Worst Publisher for the NES - these Guys were

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Money Wasted on this not Horrible but not Good Game #5: Baseball

It was a cold Christmas morning in 1987 and I awoke to the greatest gift possible for a twelve year old - a Nintendo Entertainment System.   My nirvana faded as I became aghast when I noticed that the NES my parents had picked was the R.O.B. the Robot edition that came with R.O.B., the Zapper, Gyromite, and Duck Hunt.  No Super Mario Bros. was included in this package.  In fact, I had never owned my own copy of Super Mario Bros. until nearly two decades later when I re-bought the Nintendo and amassed a new library.

What my parents did pick out instead as an "additional" game was Baseball.  Not Metroid, Kid Icarus, or Zelda but Baseball.  Their heart was in the right place.  They knew as much about video games as I know about Taco Bell's meat substitutes but they did know that I was a baseball fan (in my younger days) so they figured it was a safe bet.  And, to be honest, it was.  I liked the game when I was a kid.  I didn't have much choice seeing as Gyromite isn't even a game and Duck Hunt, while fun, gets a little old after awhile.

It would be no secret that after I had started to pick up other carts like Castlevania, Metroid, Rygar, Contra, Double Dragon, and the like that Baseball didn't see much time in my NES.  I believe at one point Tag Team Wrestling may have even seen more play time.  So, when I happened to be going through storage this weekend and came across some games I picked up a good ten years ago, I was excited to see that Baseball was included.  I was getting prepped for some nostalgic bliss.

I cleaned it up and threw into the NES.  It all came back to me instantly - the music, the word baseball made up of...wait for it...baseballs (very clever Nintendo).

Now, before anyone gets all crazy, I do realize that this was a launch title, it is a simple baseball game where strategy doesn't play a big role, and even admitted that I had a fond memory of the game in my youth.  I just wished that I would have left it in my memory instead of playing it again. 

I don't like to nitpick (hold back your laughter) but why didn't they give the teams names (I'm looking at you too 10-Yard Fight)?  I don't think that it would have taken too much programming prowess to pull this off and it certainly wouldn't have inflated the cart to exceed the maximum storage space, so why not just do it?  Anyway, I chose to be R (I could have been A, C, D, P, or Y as well) and decided to play against P.

The game started and it didn't look too bad.  It was the classic early NES title graphics and it didn't make me feel any ill will towards it.  I could even get past the whole "letters for team names" thing. 

The sounds were the classic NES beeps and boops.  Nothing remotely realistic to baseball but nothing outside of what was normal for that time period.  Thus far, doing ok. 

Then I started to play it and I remembered why I stopped playing it in my pre-teen years.  Not that it was horrible, hence the title, but it was below average in terms of game play.  It was maddening more than anything.  Whenever the computer would get a base hit, it would be traveling at basically the same speed as my infielders and they would just run next to it.  That happened repeatedly throughout the game.  The batting and hitting were simple yet inconsistent.  It just had some serious control flaws and being able to control the game you are playing is kind of important.

On top of which, it was boring.  Perhaps they were trying to give that "real baseball feel" but the game just dragged.  Did the pitcher need to shake off so many pitches each and every pitch?  Did the computer have to throw to the first baseman pretty much every time I got on base?  I hadn't stole the whole game, why would I choose to now? 

Overall, not a horrible game but not a good game either.  Graphics: ok for the time.  Sound: ditto.  Gameplay: sucks.  Realism: it is as boring as real baseball but not too much like real baseball.

Play it on Virtual NES:

More Money Wasted Reviews:
- Money Wasted on this Horrible Game #4: Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing
- Money Wasted on this Horrible Game #3: Platoon
- Money Wasted on this Horrible Game #2: Championship Bowling  
- Money Wasted on this Horrible Game #1: 10-Yard-Fight

Friday, January 21, 2011

Titan Warriors - a Killer Unreleased Shooter Lost in Space

When you look at the games that Capcom released for the NES in 1988, your eyes may enlarge at some of the titles: 1943; Bionic Commando; Mickey Mousecapade; Legendary Wings; Gun.Smoke; Mega Man 2.  But, that list is missing a game, Titan Warriors - a damn good overhead shooter.

A sequel to the freaking hard arcade game Vulgus, Titan Warriors conceptually has the 1942/43 feel but set in space with more cliché space-like enemies (think Xevious).  Vulgus should be noted for being the first game developed by Capcom in 1984 (arcade only but did port in the Capcom Generation 3 for PSI and Saturn and Capcom Classic Collection for PS2, XBox, and PSP). 

The reasoning for Titan Warriors being thrown in the scrapheap of unwanted NES titles is unclear. 1UP's Frank Cifaldi hypothesized it is because of Nintendo's strict, "no more than five titles a year" policy and Capcom was set to go with their five (while I can easily make a claim for Titan Warriors over Mickey Mousecapade and Gun.Smoke).  Perhaps they also felt they had too many overhead shooters (with Legendary Wings and 1943) and didn't want to become typecast as shooter-only company.

For whatever reason, it is a damn shame it wasn't released.  The following year saw a push back from shooters as RPGs, JRPGs, and adventure genres became prevalent - Dragon Warrior, Destiny of an Emperor, Willow, Shadowgate, etc.  And, as a side note, 1989 saw a whole lot of really shit games and accessories - PowerGlove, Jaws, Uncanny X-Men, Operation Wolf, Ghostbusters II (the last one didn't come out for the NES that year but it did come out in theaters and deserves a mention since that movie sucked so bad I was surprised I wasn't in it).

Perhaps I should prologue my love for classic shooters.  There were out of this world shooters on the NES (and don't even get me started on the Genesis and Super Nintendo).  Playing through this I found it to be graphically equal, if not ahead, of its time, the soundtrack is phenomenal, the bosses are a little cliché (how many skulls were used as a boss in the 1980's/early 90's?)  But, overall, a great game. 

Also - it is a tough game to boot.  I actually have only gotten to level 5 of 6 in it so I plan to finish it today or tomorrow but had time to do my review today and know I will be booked all weekend (did I mention that the Bears have to beat the hell out of the Packers on Sunday and that requires a minimum of two day's prep time for me).  If, by chance, the last level sucks horribly, I will come back and recant everything I said - but don't see that happening.  Give it a try via VirtualNES - you won't be disappointed.  Also, you can take a look at my post on playing VirtualNES with joystick support - if you like using your controller over the keyboard.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Play for Cash in the 90's - Color Dreams Scam?

I saw this when flipping through an old issue of EGM this afternoon and wondered, besides the amazing hair and shades, if this was just a BS scam from Color Dreams.  I am confused - was a game an instant winner when you bought it or did you play to get certain achievements?  And, there was a Hellraiser video game?  Help me out Internet, I have so many questions.

I'm Still Alive - And Other Musings

Where I Be
I have been a little M.I.A. lately prepping for my classes, doing a little side development work, reading, gaming, drinking, and being lazy.  But now that the new year is in full swing, I have dedicated myself to getting back to doing reviews of not only games but continuing on my 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die thing.  The last two days I wrote up Janis Joplin, Johnny Cash, Nine Inch Nails, and Bob Marley.  Good stuff.  Here is the link to the page -

Bears vs. Packers
Since I am discussing things that, more or less, have nothing to do with gaming or anything particularly geeky, I am looking forward to this weekend's Bears Packers game.  And, by "looking forward to" I mean I have been unable to sleep and have needed direct injections of Jack Daniels to the veins just to maintain some sort of sanity.  To say that I am a devout Bears fan is like saying Charlie from Always Sunny is a devout rat killer.  Anyway, here is something to get you in the mood, via Walter Payton's Facebook fan page.

Finally...Something Relevant
I guess I should have something that remotely behaves like anything that should be on this blog so here is the 3DS lineup trailer which just came out.  Looks pretty cool, too bad I can't see in 3D...doh!

Editors Note: Why is Hunter S. Thompson the large image at the top of this post?  Because he is freaking Hunter S. Thompson - how dare you even ask such a question!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Review: Survivor: The Living Dead - a Great, Free, Zombie Killing Adventure

I started to play Survivor: The Living Dead and it does pretty much everything right.  It takes on the concepts and the bone-chilling audio of some of the great zombie films; it has an entertaining and funny introduction; it has a complete retro, 16-bit feel; it is TOUGH.  I have played about an hour-and-a-half and have just moved past the first stage.  This is a game that presents itself as an action game but, in the end, comes off more as a puzzler. 

But, no matter how tough and simple in nature (there is really only one level, the house), I keep coming back.  I want to beat the whole thing.  I want to get all of the unlockables and play through both the story and endure phases. 

Hydorah (which I talked about earlier this week in my Al Unser Turbo Racing review ( is a tough, crazy, enemy infested, plague while this has a billiards playing, "how to set myself up best for my next move" mentality.  Both games, which are completely different (and free - see links at the bottom), are great retro throwbacks that bring fun back into the equation with gaming (as opposed to twenty minute cut scenes).

I listened to this week's NoobToob podcast (highly recommended - and they discussed what they think makes a game great and this would fall into, what they describe as, a game that I keep coming back to because I just need to beat it.  It may infest my dreams.

I think joystick support would be a MAJOR plus to the next upgrade but, outside of that (and can use Joy2Key (which I discuss here if need be), I really don't have too much in the complaint department.  A tough action puzzler that I will gladly write a follow-up...the moment I beat it (so don't expect it any time soon).  Overall, graphics - 16-bit good.  Audio - fabulous.  Fun - as hell.  Grade - A-.

Download Survivor: The Living Dead -

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Money Wasted on this Horrible Game #4: Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing

Al Unser Jr. Turbo Racing (or Turbo Racing as it would become known) is an incredibly dull racing game.  And, that is while being compared with some unbelievably bad racing games that the NES had to offer.  I suppose the racing game genre has always been lacking in the pre-fifth gen systems but this one just seems to slaughter my inner soul a hair more than some of its racing counterparts.

Instead of instantly focusing on what is wrong, let's take a look at some comparative racing titles for the NES (many of whom had been released years earlier than Turbo Racing) so that I can give a clear comparison so that it doesn't appear that I am picking on poor Al Unser and to show that the NES was capable of making a decent racing game.  I liked the R.C. Pro-Am games, Rad Racer, Super Sprint, Bump N' Jump, and Bill Elliott's NASCAR Challenge, all good games.

Turns from hell
What the aforementioned games did that Turbo Racing didn't was know the limitations of the NES.  As I was playing Turbo Racing I found myself not being able to control the curves because they would come out of nowhere.  It pissed me off immediately.  There I would be just racing along and be slammed into a hairpin turn that I didn't have the time to slow down.  As a side note, why did all of the racing games have a button for brake, does anyone ever actually use the brake button in racing games instead of just laying off the gas?

Why is my car the only one to go out of control?
I know that this is common in, pretty much all, 8-bit racers but for some reason, this aggravated me more than most as other cars would simply be within a pixel of me and I would spin out while they would just go merrily on their way.  Was my car made of paper?  I realize that I would have to wait another year, and enjoy my Genesis, for Road Rash but, for some naive reason, I wouldn't expect this from Data East - they made Bad Dudes, yet they were going to let me be pushed around like a little bitch.  I reiterate, they made Bad Dudes.  Any car that hit mine should have at least given me a fighting chance, or at least had us both go up in a horrifying inferno.

Why can't a racecar drive in grass?
If you miss one of the insanely quick turns and do end up off the road, your car will come to a standstill.  Apparently, a car capable of going 160 miles per hour has a very difficult time traveling over grass, unlike say a standard riding mower which can do that without problem.  At least I think that it is grass, it is hard to tell.  I noticed several reviewers of this game gave its graphics high marks and that is when I realized that the crack epidemic may have reached out to retrogamers because the game as a whole was graphically inept but not nearly as bad as the music (or lack thereof) but overall, not good.

It's hard because it sucks
As I played through (and I sure as hell am not going to lie to you and tell you I beat this, because hell no) I found myself getting more frustrated at the difficulty of the game.  Not that the game was difficult in a good way, say Super Meat Boy fun tough. No this was Silver Surfer and Adventures of Bayou Billy tough because the game developers fucked up and made a bad game.  I have been playing Hydora (check it out here - for the PC lately (a review will eventually follow I'm sure) and that game is tough as hell, but I keep playing it.  Why do I keep playing it?  Because it is a good game that is enjoyable to play. 

I realize there was a different standard back in the NES days when it comes to gaming and sports titles that got their title from sports figures would make high selling games (see John Elway Football - sad, sad, sad) and this just fell into the realm (kind of like games based from movies) where the dollar signs in the eyes of the publisher outweighed a good product and Turbo Racing suffered for that.  It would be hard to believe that someone could purchase Turbo Racing and then a year later purchase a Super Nintendo with F-Zero. 

Anyway, final analysis. Graphics: suck.  Audio: the music blows and the sound effects are your standard racing noise. Playability: boring and the controls make for less fun than castration.  Controls: think of the controls in Sunsoft's Platoon and now put that kind of quality in a racing game.  Realism: I can't lie, I don't watch racing.  I have never watched racing.  I will probably never watch racing.  Yet, just from seeing perhaps, 10 seconds of racing in my life, I can tell you this game isn't like racing. 

More Money Wasted Reviews:
- Money Wasted on this Horrible Game #3: Platoon
- Money Wasted on this Horrible Game #2: Championship Bowling
- Money Wasted on this Horrible Game #1: 10-Yard-Fight