I thought I'd give a respectful nod to one of my hobbies, now that I have a little bit of free time. School's out for good, I've got my degree, and I'm on the verge of full-time employment, so I've taken to exploring the vast world of classic video games, commonly known as emulation. What fascinates me on a conceptual level is the theory, by which emulation operates, stating that any computer can emulate, i.e., perform in a similar, if not identical, manner to that of any other computer. Hence, although the ethics surrounding this technology are, shall we say, highly dubious, those interested have access to a virtually unlimited library of retro electronic wonderment. (As I cannot condone the unauthorized wanton transmission of copyrighted materials, regardless of their two-decade-plus ages, I shall only refer to games that were not commercially released in the U.S., to the best of my knowledge. Nor shall I link to any of these wares, but really, google-equipped kids, this junk’s not that hard to find.)
Forget that "respectful" stuff though. This piece is going to concern the absolute wretchedness that can befall the unsuspecting ROMs downloader. Shall we begin?
Transformers a.k.a. Con[/m]voy no Nazo Platform : NES 1986 I suppose I should admit that I had some baggage going into this one. Transformers was for me, as it was for countless other of my peers, the defining action figure and cartoon franchise of the 80s. While to my recollection it never dawned on me at the time, I now realize that seminal period was lacking something: an adaptation of the robot series on the premier platform of the day, the Nintendo Entertainment System. Now I know why I should be thankful for the omission.
How this game ever made it past any form of quality assurance I’ll never know. It nevertheless was thrust upon the Japanese market in 1986, perhaps to cash in on the craze as it peaked. Never did it reach American store shelves, which is somewhat surprising on the face of it, but upon playing the game one realizes the rare wisdom of the Hasbro company’s decision not to import this worthless, unpardonable defilement of a quality series. Why they never developed their own title for the NES, SNES, or Sega Genesis is anybody’s guess (or maybe there is someone reading this who’s aware of the legal issues concerning this situation... please drop a comment.)
Anyway, the game itself is indescribably bad, so I won’t attempt the impossible, beyond the perfunctory overview. Let’s begin with the presentation:
Title screen – Hrm, not too many options... Egad, press start and you’re greeted with an epilepsy-hazard flash of lights and colors. Cripes.
The music – well, they almost pull off the theme song. Almost. The five main notes are played at the title screen, but the designers decided to throw in an ear-piercing shriek at the end. Literally painful. And the single song that plays throughout the game is maddening.
The graphics – pretty bad, not exactly offensive, but close. There’s a looping background that appears behind the screen. Your character consists of what appears to be Optimus Prime, rendered by a half-dozen sprites. I suppose overall the graphical features aren’t particularly loathsome, but this mere sub-mediocrity does not salvage this cart from utter disrepair...
Finally, the gameplay – even if I could truthfully claim that the above two categories were spot-on perfect, the sheer sorrow of this department would still be overwhelming. Run, shoot your ineffectual gun, try to jump over enemies and their projectiles, die, repeat. Oh, and you can transform, causing your gun to fire upwards. Awesome.
I don’t know whom to credit – Hasbro, Nintendo Q/C, the Dalai Lama – for preventing this horrible excuse for entertainment from hitting the Blockbuster shelves, but it would have been quite a traumatic gaming experience that I am glad to have missed.
Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus Health Hero Platform: SNES 1995 Edutainment. What a noble concept. While one can’t think of any enormous successes* in this subgenre, but I suppose to be fair, one has to say that these well-meaning attempts have never done any harm either.
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
The frustration and visual anguish induced by this inept platformer, which was made to help educate kids with asthma, are liable to lead the unfortunate players to hurl their inhalers angrily at the screen. OK, I suspect that circa ten years ago, when this “game” went to market, generic hoppity-hop rubbish was so common that the youngsters would just roll their eyes and switch back to Mario Kart. Still, on principle, there’s no excuse for poor gaming, especially when it comes to little kids.
So, in the game itself, you play as a purple dinosaur (ach! Barney flashback! Make it stop, please!) who has to run around and avoid cigarettes and other lung hazards, and perform assorted awful tasks. In between activities, various screens inform you of proper inhaler techniques, descriptions of the human respiratory system, and somesuch. All in all, the thought behind this game was likely altruistic, but the execution was lacking.
As they say, the road to hell is paved with good-intentioned SNES games.
*(Maybe Carmen Sandiego, Math Blaster, and Oregon Trail qualify...) Apparently this game is one from a series, which is also comprised of: Captain Novolin (diabetes self-management) - SNES, 1992 Rex Ronan (smoking prevention) - SNES, 1993 Packy & Marlon (diabetes self-management) - SNES 1994; PC 1998 I’ll spare you the gory details of these other health-empowering titles. Masterpieces, I’m sure.
Sonic the Hedgehog Platform: NES and SNES (!!!...) 199? Back in the day, console manufacturers Sega and Nintendo were serious rivals, apt to take bitter shots at one another in their television ad campaigns. Sega, memorably trashed the SNES, claiming that the Genesis’ “blast processing” made it the superior 16-bit system, leaving Nintendo’s machine behind in the dust. That’s just what video game commercials are missing these days: slanderous pseudo-technical nonsense. But I digress.
Nintendo’s mascot was, of course, the fat Italian plumber (now there’s a heroic stereotype for the ages) Mario (Luigi got no love, and Wario hadn’t yet hit the scene), while Sega’s symbol was that blue, attitudinally-challenged rodent Sonic the Hedgehog. Each company released their own games for their own respective systems; Sega never once came within a dozen light years of considering coming with a Sonic game for the Super NES, nor would Nintendo have put out a Mario game on the Genesis if their collective lives had depended on it. Since then, Sega has abandoned the hardware business, and while Nintendo is still cranking out proprietary consoles and software, Sega-made games peacefully traverse the multi-platform (including Nintendo) universe, and all is good.
Yet the memory of the 1990s console wars remains, so upon the discovery of the Sonic the Hedgehog carts for the original NES and the Super Nintendo was a mind-boggling proposition for me. Would these games turn out to be miraculous throwbacks to a bygone era, or worthless conversions that never should have been attempted? (Do I really have to ask?...)
First let’s look at the NES game. OK, this is doubly-odd. It’s not a Sonic game, no, it’s much stranger than that. It’s Mario, implanted into the original Sonic template. There’re hacks, such as the stoner/racist/goth/turniphead/etc. tweaks of Mario, a wacky geek subculture in itself, and then there’s this, which seems to be a ground-up remake.
Right, so already it’s highly bizarre, and once you boot up the game, titled “Somari,” the technical craftiness of the hack makes it somewhat tempting to praise the sheer ingenuity of this creation, without a critical look at the actual gameplay. Folks, never blind yourself to blatantly awful level design; it’s always a crime. Don’t waste your time frustrating yourself with this imitation, filled with such video-game no-nos as spike pits from which the player cannot escape, a purgatorial shame. Sure, the metacultural value of something like this is rather high, but the core content is still nearly unplayable. More info on this odd case at these links: http://www.classicgaming.com/rotw/somari.shtml and http://atarihq.com/tsr/odd/pirate/somari.html.
If you thought that was painful... man, the SNES “port” of Sonic is an atrocity. First and foremost, this is not a Sonic game - you can’t do the trademark spin attack, simple as that. This is a sham; the script kiddies who unfurled this garbage upon cyberspace simply replaced assorted sprites from the Speedy Gonzalez game. Not cool. You couldn’t do the spin move in that one either, only a lame kick with your little feet. Piracy, copyright violations, and degradation of two beloved characters – all in one game!
I’ll try to check back in sometime after I return from Ocean City. We leave tomorrow, supposedly at 8:00 a.m. (anyone wanna bet? the over-under's at about 9:42 and 37 seconds...) and return in a week. I'll miss you, Nicole. posted by Steve
7/08/2005 06:44:00 PM
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