Retro/Classic Feed

Bart Simpson Just Wants To Play His Games

The SimpsonsHere's a fun blast from the past courtesy of @90sManiax on Twitter.  Acclaim published a series of poor-to-lackluster games based on The Simpsons in the early 1990s for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Super NES, Sega Master System, and Sega Genesis, and here we have an advertisement for several of the titles featuring original Simpsons animation as Bart tries to avoid his chore obligations in order to play.  The three games advertised here - Bart vs the Space Mutants, Bart vs the World, and Bart Simpson's Escape from Camp Deadly - were all semi-popular in their day based solely on the red-hot Simpsons license, but had little to recommend in terms of gameplay.  Even for NES games, these products were extremely basic with poor hit detection, grating sound, and unintuitive controls.  I rented both NES games at different times in that era based just on being a fan of the license and came away disappointed.  It wasn't until 1992's Bart's Nightmare for the Super NES that I finally found a Simpsons game worth owning, and even it isn't reaching its full potential.  It was in 2007's The Simpsons Game that the property finally succeeded in the gaming world, largely because publisher Electronic Arts brought in the writers and animators from the television show to work on it.  Now that's how you use a license!

(Image via Retromags)


The Terminator's Greatest Hits

Terminator 2The Terminator just won't die - both the T-800 killing machine and the franchise that it spawned.  The sixth film in the series, Terminator: Dark Fate is in theaters now and it tosses aside the newly established continuity from the fifth film, Terminator: Genysis, which threw away the continuity from the fourth film, Terminator: Salvation, which dumped the continuity from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (not to mention the television continuity of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles).  Thanks to the timey-wimey ball, all sorts of Terminator media has been disowned from its parent franchise.  These Skynet-style erasures from history do not impact the various Terminator video games because, like most tie-in media of their eras, nobody ever expected the games to officially tie into anything.  Luke McKinney at Den of Geek recaps the Terminator games spanning from the original film all the way up to Terminator: Salvation.  What I found strange was that the games based on the original 1984 film are not for Atari or contemporary hardware from its day, but hail from the early 1990s.  I had no idea there was a Terminator game for the Sega CD, for instance.

This isn't just the best original Terminator game, it's one of the best Terminator anythings. In 1993, this truly felt like future technology had been sent back in time to kick our human asses, and was so good at the job we enjoyed the process. It didn't waste then-revolutionary CD storage capacity on overlong FMV (Fuzzy Massive Video). It knew we were playing because we'd already seen a great movie and we wanted to kick ass. It filled all that extra space for explosions and rock music, and both blasted big holes in the timestream.

If this games' version of Kyle Reese had been in the movie, he'd have blown the Terminator apart, leapt over the pieces, slam-dunked grenades into Skynet's central processing unit, and carried Sarah Connor into a future where the only "road of bones" was their honeymoon. If John Connor had had this Kyle for a father in Terminator 2, the kid wouldn't have been such a wise ass.

Of the Terminator games I have played over the years, none of them captured both the essence of the films and a fun gaming experience.  I put more time than I should have into Terminator: Salvation for the Sony PlayStation 3 because I'm a fan of the franchise and the developer behind the game, the late lamented GRIN of Bionic Commando fame; plus the game awards nothing but gold trophies.  No bronze, no silver, just gold for completing each level.  Sadly, it's really not worth the effort.  The game is a grim bullet-sponge shooter with little to redeem it.  The strange thing is that I don't know why I own the game.  I don't remember buying it and it's not the kind of game I would purposefully acquire because of its poor reputation.  GRIN was already circling the drain by this point and purportedly rushed the game to shelves which explains its half-finished nature in places.  I didn't review it for Kombo according to my records.  It's just on my shelf without an explanation.  Clearly this is Skynet meddling with time again.  The futuristic AI has already erased one Terminator game from history.


Can You Survive The 8-Bit Nightmare?

Bloodstained: Ritual of the NightEach year on Halloween at PTB we take a moment to appreciate something from the world or lore of Konami's Castlevania franchise, but this year we're looking at something a little more Castlevania-adjacent.  Koji Igarashi's long-awaited spiritual successor to Castlevania, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, finally reached stores earlier this year and one of the hidden areas that players may overlook at a tribute to those original Castlevania titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  The 8-Bit Nightmare sends heroine Miriam into a side-scrolling level fashioned after the classic NES trilogy complete with legally distinct versions of ghosts, zombies, and bone dragon pillars originally made famous by Igarashi's previous series.  Kotaku tells you how to find the area (it's twice hidden as a secret room accessible from another secret room), but beware: it's a challenge!


Missing Pieces Of Sega History Reappear

Sega multimedia demoIt's funny how sometimes when you least expect it the answers to long-running questions suddenly just appear.  I remember eagerly making my way through an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly back in 1992 and coming across a quick blurb discussing Sega's upcoming CD-ROM peripheral for the Sega Genesis and how the company was working on a CD version of the then-upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog 2.  The article even had screenshots to back up the claim.  Of course, now we know that the CD Sonic project became Sonic the Hedgehog CD and was its own thing compared to Sonic the Hedgehog 2, but those screenshots of Sonic holding a CD that Dr. Robotnik wanted to take from him didn't turn up in either game and ended up as lost gaming lore.  The EGM piece states that the screens are from technical demo that may not end up as part of the final product, but now we know for certain that is the case as HiddenPalace.org has posted the original Sega CD demo for curious fans to discover.

Among the exhibits present at the show for the Sega CD was a technical showcase of what the Sega CD was capable of. The demo features everything that the Sega CD would be known for - full motion video, sprite rotation and scaling, a larger color palette, and CD quality audio, all presented in a neat five minute presentation running on actual hardware! This was one of the very first projects that the Sega Multimedia Studio would create before going on to create Jurassic Park for the Sega CD - a project that would end up taking over 20 months to complete. The demo features clips from then upcoming films such as Cool World, Batman Returns, and even a little clip from a Bugs Bunny cartoon (a clip from "The Big Snooze" no less)! While the demo is very sporadic with what it presents, almost seemingly random for the sake of throwing things on the screen, it's a nice demonstration of not only what the Sega CD could do, but what the Sega Multimedia Studio were capable of.

Unfortunately, not everyone present at the show was aware of what they were really seeing. Reports of a Sonic game exclusively for the Sega CD can go as far back as February of 1992 under the title "Super Sonic". With rumors of the upcoming Sonic 2 appearing at SCES 92, and the fact that expectations were set with the upcoming Sega CD, it's no wonder that the first instance of Sonic appearing on the Sega CD was misidentified as a new Sonic title. Each video game magazine at the time would take the same shots of Sonic (not of anything else from the demo, suspiciously) and would write how it was proof that the screenshots were of either an upcoming Sega CD exclusive title, a Sonic 2 port, or even a Sonic 1 port.

Of course all of the magazines of the day published articles "confirming" this demo as proof of a Sonic title for the Sega CD.  Sonic the Hedgehog sold magazines back in his prime, and word on a new (or even old!) Sonic game for the new hardware would draw much more attention and interest than an article drying explaining the contents of a five-minute demo reel that only included Sonic for an moment.  Today we'd call such articles clickbait, but back then it was just called "selling magazines".  And speaking of Sonic CD, HiddenPalace.org has also released a series of eight in-development versions of the game spanning from early work to nearly finished product, so there's plenty for Sonic fans to check out this weekend.  As a fan from way back who remembers reading about all of this stuff in magazines such as EGM, it's great to have a chance to see exactly what it all was and learn about its place in gaming history.


Mini-Review: Star Fox: Assault

Star Fox: Assault This article was originally published at Kombo.com on February 11, 2005. 

Whenever danger faces the Lylat System, General Pepper turns to the heroes-for-hire Star Fox team to eradicate the enemy menace and restore civility to the solar system. The Star Fox team's battles against the twisted scientist Andross have become stories of legend, primarily because each title in the series has some level of notoriety surrounding it: the original Star Fox brought us the Super FX Chip, Star Fox 2 is still considered "the one that got away", Star Fox 64 rocked our world with the Rumble Pak, and Star Fox Adventures received more attention as the first and last Rareware title for the GameCube than for the actual gameplay itself. Now Nintendo and Namco have teamed up to create the latest installment of the Star Fox saga, Star Fox: Assault, and for the first time Fox McCloud and friends have to stand alone without new technology or nostalgia covering their backs.

One year after the events on Sauria the last of Andross’s troops are attempting to regroup near the planet Fortuna when Cornerian military forces engage the enemy fleet. Andrew Oikonny, the nephew of the late Andross and former member of the renegade Star Wolf team, is attempting to lead his hired troops to glory in a plan to follow in his uncle’s footsteps. The Star Fox team arrives just in time to pursue Oikonny to the planet’s surface where, without warning, a large creature plummets from space and crashes into the would-be emperor’s ship, destroying it. This interstellar visitor is no friend, however. It is an Aparoid, a member of a species of insectoid-like creatures that are devoted to consuming the resources and residents of neighboring solar systems. As the Aparoids invade the Lylat System the Star Fox team springs into action, determined to destroy the enemy menace.

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Darkstalkers Are Not Dead! (Some Restrictions Apply)

DarkstalkersStreet Fighter may be Capcom's brawler bread and butter, but the company has other properties in its fighting game library.  Consider Darkstalkers, the game that sets unique character versions of classic horror movie monsters such as vampires, werewolves, and mummies against one another for our entertainment.  After making a minor splash in the arcades in the 1990s, the series has more or less been moribund outside of a compilation re-release for the Sony PlayStation 3 and Microsoft Xbox 360 and a daring promise from Capcom that "Darkstalkers are not dead!" except that, no, they totally are as the company has yet to follow up on a long-teased resurrection of the franchise.  If you're late to the monster party, Gavin Jasper at Den of Geek gives you the lowdown on the franchise and its anime and wester cartoon adaptations, while Hardcore Gaming 101 takes you step by step through each game in the series.  There are more Darkstalkers titles than you may think, but still not as many as they deserve.

At first, Capcom wanted to make a game based on the Universal Monsters, but the licensing fell through, so they just used more anime-style archetypes. Dracula became Demitri Maximoff, the Frankenstein Monster became Victor von Gerdenheim, the Creature from the Black Lagoon became Rikuo, and so on. Considering the play these characters would get as part of Capcom’s menagerie, it was definitely for the better.

Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors hit the arcades in 1994 and it kicked so much ass. On the surface, it was a Street Fighter clone, but it was different enough to stand on its own. It introduced air-blocking and EX attacks. The animation made Street Fighter II look stiff in comparison and everything was beaming with personality. Each character was distinct and popped with their mannerisms and unique animations.

Part of it came from the freakshow novelty of the early fighting games. Each game seemed to have a weirdo that stuck out and made you want to play them because of how different they appeared. Street Fighter had Blanka. Mortal Kombat had Baraka. Samurai Shodown had Gen-An. But Darkstalkers? Hell, almost the entire cast is made up of those kinds of characters. The most normal guys are a vampire and a succubus. And the succubus has literal batwings growing out of her back and head.

I fear that Darkstalkers true time to shine again was about ten years ago.  If the series returned today, it would follow in the modern Capcom fighting game mold of extensive paid expansions as seen in Street Fighter V and Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite.  No, a new Darkstalkers should have been the creative follow-up to Street Fighter IV.  With so many fighting games pushing to be premier events unto themselves that are either supported for years with additional paid characters to fill out the basic roster or do not sell enough to meet expectations and are dropped by the publisher almost immediately, I don't know where a modern Darkstalkers could fit into today's gaming environment.  That's a shame because the characters have so much personality and potential for storytelling.


Virtual Boy Strikes Back In Luigi's Mansion 3

Luigi's Mansion 3When a Nintendo game really wants to commit to a gag, it goes all out to ride that joke as far as it can go.  Chris Kohler at Kotaku raises the recent example of Luigi's Mansion 3 for the Nintendo Switch following in the footsteps of its predecessor titles by outfitting Luigi not with a Game Boy Horror from the original Mansion or a Dual Scream from the sequel, but with something much more red and failed.

Early on in the game, Professor E. Gadd gives Luigi a way to communicate with him as he trawls the many floors of the hotel. It’s his latest invention… the Virtual Boo.  Nearly 25 years later, the Virtual Boy still fascinates video game likers for its sheer ridiculousness; a “virtual reality” system that projected monochrome red graphics in a headset to create a rudimentary 3D effect. It was pure out-of-left-field Nintendo, but this time it was way over the foul line, and Nintendo had to discontinue Virtual Boy within a year of its release.

I absolutely love this.  The Virtual Boo!  It's perfect and I didn't see it coming.  Using the VB even shades the screen a familiar tint of red and headache and the upgrade cartridges for the device are shaped like the Virtual Boy game paks of days gone by.  It's fantastic when a long-time game developer and publisher isn't afraid to poke a little fun at itself and leave its more recent fans wondering just what the hell is going on.  The Virtual Boo gimmick feels like the culmination of a wonderful twenty-five-year-old in-joke and those of us who remember 1995 are in on the gag.


I Have Exactly One Sega Dreamcast Story And This Is It

Sega DreamcastToday is the twentieth anniversary of Sega's release of its final console (not counting reissued mini hardware), the Dreamcast, in North America.  It seems like everyone in the gaming community has a Dreamcast story to share today, and so do I.  In fact, I have just one Dreamcast story.  Only one.  And this is it.  1999 was the year that I graduated high school and moved away to the big city to start college, so by September of that year I was on a trajectory that took me away from video games for a brief while.  My main console was still the Nintendo 64 and the last game I'd bought for it was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time nearly a year prior.  I wasn't gaming much and even if I had been, I was a Nintendo gamer through and through at this point in my life, so whatever Sega was doing after the bombshell that was the Saturn wasn't really on my radar.  9/9/99 came and went for me without notice or awareness.

Skip ahead almost two years.  By 2001 I was catching up on the last few N64 games I'd missed out on such as Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo-Tooie with my eye on the upcoming Nintendo GameCube.  One summer weekend I was browsing around at the mall, killing time at FYE, when I saw a Dreamcast kiosk for the first time.  By now Sega had announced it was withdrawing from the console market, so I really don't know why FYE went to the trouble of setting up a demo station for the console, but nevertheless it was there and showcasing the recently released Sonic Adventure 2.  If any game during the Genesis years would have made me cross over to the Sega side of the street, it was Sonic, so I picked up the controller and took the game for a run.  Instead of a speedy Sonic level, my first experience with the game was the Dr. Robotnik mech shooter level at Prison Island.  The game caught me by surprise with its playable villains and emphasis on story in addition to action.  Next up was my introduction to Shadow the Hedgehog, a character that, for me, came out of nowhere and made me wonder just how much I'd missed in the post-Genesis franchise lore, but the sense of motion and twisting level designs had my attention.  This was fun!  It was a shame that this game was tethered to a dead console.  If only it was ported to GameCube, I would be able to enjoy it properly.  That was the end of the demo, so I put the controller down, walked away to the DVD aisles, and didn't really give it a second thought.

Sonic_182I'm sure you know where this story ends.  Sega brought Sonic Adventure 2 to the GameCube less than a year along with, shortly thereafter, the original Sonic Adventure, and eventually both games were made available on  a variety of other consoles and on PC, so there are no shortage of ways to play these games today with a variety of gameplay and visual enhancements compared to the original Dreamcast versions.  Everyone remembers how the Dreamcast was quirky, inventive, and trailblazing in its own way, but my only firsthand exposure to the system is bemused curiosity at a kiosk demo for a dead platform and idly wishing its marquee series would end up on a console I owned.  It seems to me that given all of the other Dreamcast titles that made their way to other platforms means that both legacies are valid.


Super NES Games Come To Nintendo Switch

Nintendo SwitchNintendo seems to have drained the well of worthwhile available Nintendo Entertainment System games to bring to its Nintendo Switch Online service judging by the past few months worth of lackluster releases, so now is a perfect for the company to switch gears and get to the truly good stuff: Super NES games.  Debuting today as part of the paid service, twenty games are available for play including some all-time heavy hitters such as Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Super Mario Kart, and Star Fox along with some obscurities like Stunt Race FX and Demon's Crest.  In fact, this is the first re-release for Stunt Race FX having skipped the previous three Virtual Console services and the Super NES Mini.  Check out the initial release list.

Nintendo Switch SNES games

I know there are the inevitable complaints in the gaming community that Nintendo is just serving up Super Mario World again and that these games should have been added to the service months ago, but they're here now, so let's all enjoy these classics and take the unfamiliar games for a spin.  The best games like these never get old!  Nintendo plans to add more games over time and there are plenty of all-star titles that I'd like to see included such as Super Mario RPG, the Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Chrono Trigger, EarthBound, and Kirby Super Star.  If you want to get into wishful thinking territory, there's always Star Fox 2 which so far has only appeared on the Super NES Mini and, for a deep cut of similarly unfamiliar proportions, there's Special Tee Shot which is the finished, unreleased game that became Kirby's Dream Course.  So much to play, so little time.