Archive for the ‘Arcade’ Category

Ridge Racer

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Some days when I went to my local arcade with the express intent of playing the sole copy of the Mega Man arcade game that I’ve ever managed to find, I’d only be greeted with a sign saying that it was out of order. In those cases I was pretty well obligated to play the other game in the arcade.

And, yes, I realize that an arcade with two games in it isn’t really much of an arcade, it’s more of a closet with a couple of games in it. But the sign above that closet said ‘arcade’, so that’s the nomenclature I’m going to use.

But, anyway, the other game in the arcade was a little game called Ridge Racer, which was a game that I had heard of before, but never owned any of the systems that the home versions came out on, and had never seen the arcade version of the game in person before or since. Ridge Racer is a racing game, but the hook is that it’s not your bog-standard racing around a track, it’s racing down streets while fishtailing wildly around the course… er, I mean drifting.

I’ve admitted that I don’t really like racing games in the past unless there’s some kind of hook. But the hook in this game is kind of lame.

Maybe I’m the weird one because I don’t find that keeping your car on the razor’s edge between in control and out of control to be a particularly compelling mechanic. It’s like you’re playing a game that consists of you driving a car with tires made of ice full speed around a track, also made of ice, but it’s not quite cold enough to keep them frozen, so there’s slippery water everywhere, which is slightly less control than I like.

Thankfully Mega Man rarely stayed broken for long.


Monday, July 21st, 2008

Galaga is one of those games that I don’t really remember the first time that I played it… or really much about my early experiences with it at all. I can only assume that I have played it at some point during my formative years, since when I saw it later I recognized it.

I never really was able to figure out if there was a story in this game, all I know is that you have a lone ship and have to take it up against wave after wave of what appears to be space-bugs. You, in your ship have three things you can do: move left, move right, and fire some kind of anti-bug blaster.

The enemies, though get all kinds of special abilities. They can move forward, backward, left, right, off the sides of the screen and onto the other, all while shooting you with whatever weaponry space-bugs have. The thing, though, is that the weird green boss-bug things have this tractor beam where they can suck up your ship to fight on their side. The kicker is, though, that if you kill the boss-bug at just the right time you get your ship back, which immediately gloms onto your current ship doubling both your firepower and vulnerable area. Quite the trade-off.

I think I didn’t play this game very often when it was in arcades because I perpetually had a lack of quarters, which is a side-effect of having a single-digit age. So I mainly just had experience watching the attract screen and learning what point values the different bugs had, and reading my ‘arcade game tips and tricks’ books to pretend like I was playing the game inside my own head. Which was a whole lot cheaper.

San Francisco Rush 2049: The Rock

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

At first glance you’d probably think that the San Francisco Rush games would be about straight up racing, and you’d be kind of right. It is a racing game, but it’s kind of a backhanded slap to your racing game sensibilities.

Now you could race around the tracks against the computer-controlled opponents, but that’s not going to do you much good. Your car, for some reason, is absolutely incapable of attaining the same top speed as your opponents, which makes the race kind of tough to win. To make any kind of headway you have to make exorbitant use of the shortcuts placed around the track. But the thing is, these shortcuts require ridiculous amounts of dexterity and a little touch of luck to successfully maneuver through them. That’s all assuming you can even find the things. The shortcuts are frequently placed in apparently inaccessible or in insane places to get to so you kind of have to race around the track a few times just looking for places to drive off the beaten path to find the correct combination of secret passageways that you have navigate with ridiculous amounts of skill to maybe not come in last.

Translated that means that this game is going to cost you a lot of money to get good at.

Yeah, you could race through the game and not hit any of the shortcuts and have a degree of fun with the game. But also in those shortcuts are these weird coins that you can collect. Collect enough of them and you get to unlock stuff like extra cars. Of course, it’s an arcade game, so there’s no way to save your progress, right?


This game asks you to put in a 10-digit PIN (like your phone number) to use when you’re sitting at that particular machine. And what that did was to track some stats on that machine. Which was actually pretty awesome. Once you go through the registration process one time, every other time you sit at that machine you could just throw in your phone number and away you’d go with your stuff unlocked that you’ve worked so hard to get. Of course that also meant that you’d be spending a lot of time at that particular machine unlocking everything, which was really only good for lining the pockets of the arcade owners. Which I was willing to do fairly regularly.

Super Mario Bros.

Friday, June 27th, 2008

Super Mario Bros. is the game that put millions of NES systems into homes and really made the Mario brothers household names. I understand that the game has sold somewhere in the neighborhood of forty million copies. Forty million! If I got one copy of the game per second, it’d take me just over 463 days to get that many. Not to mention the pile of cartridges in my back yard might be visible from space.

But do I really need to talk about a game with the kind of ubiquity that Super Mario Bros. enjoys? Absolutely!

Super Mario Bros. set the story for most of the Mario games to come after it. The princess is kidnapped by Bowser and the Mario brothers have to go rescue her. They do this by running (and sometimes swimming) to the right and utilizing their now world-famous jumping ability, and any powerups they can find along the way.

I’m going to assume that you’re familiar enough with this game, so I’m not going to feel any great need to go into too much detail about it.

But a lot of people regard this game as somewhat of a classic. You can hum a few bars of the main theme song and lots of people will immediately know what you’re singing, and probably sing along. Or they’ll tell you about how much fun that they had with the game. But if this game was released today, would it have the same status that it holds now? Would people have fawned over it and held it in such high regard.

I don’t think so.

But it was a very important game, and I think it’s aged pretty well. The gameplay still holds up. If you’ve never played the game before, it’s tough, but beatable. And, in fact, most times that your progress is impeded you can see where you screwed up, and are that much wiser for the next go ’round. Which means that when you start from the beginning of the game each time you get just a little further and a little further until you finish the game! Only to find out that there’s a bonus mode waiting for you where the game’s tougher and the enemies move faster, which is still fiendishly clever. And you don’t really get anything for clearing the harder mode other than the sense of accomplishment that you did it, but what do you want from an over-20-year-old game?

I think it’s probably out of cookies by now.

Killer Instinct 2

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

The story in the first Killer Instinct game was a little ludicrous, but I’m willing to overlook that because the game was actually kind of fun to play. But if you’re going to make a sequel to a game with a storyline that borders on insanity, it’s pretty safe to assume that it’s going to also be a little bit kooky as well.

See, once Eyedol, the two headed demon-thing that was the boss of the first game, was defeated a hole was ripped in the universe that sent Ultratech, the fantastical company behind the first tournament, and several of the combatants back in time. There, as it happens, another tournament is put on where the fighters have to defeat Gargos, some other demon that had been masquerading as the spirit that guided Jago in whatever discipline of martial arts he studies, and manipulated the tournament to free himself from some prison or other.

Or something like that.

Honestly, the story to this game doesn’t matter so much, and it doesn’t really explain why there’s heliports and medieval castles and a pirate ship in the far-flung past. So try to not think about it so much.

But, apparently, in the past the graphics are better, the music sounds better, the combos get a little more brutal, and the women characters’ breasts animate more realistically. Which is real important if you’re gearing a game to teenage boys.

But, really, it’s the same old game, just polished to a fine luster. It’s really, in my humble opinion, superior to the old game in just about every conceivable way. Some people will say that they like the plasticy look of the characters in the old game, but those people wouldn’t know good graphics if they bit them in the face.

I would end up playing this game easily as much as I played the first one, probably more. That shouldn’t be too big of a surprise, since I liked the first one so much, and this was the logical next step for the franchise. I played it so much that I was actually passably good at it, but the most memorable moment I have with the game actually happened to a friend.

There’s this character featured in the video above, Jago. It seems that he has a move that allows him to store a portion of his lifebar in kind of a ‘reserve pocket’. Once he goes down for the second time, and when most of his opponents think they might have won, he gets up with his sliver of reserved health for a last-ditch salvo. My friend did that particular maneuver in a match with an opponent who matched his skills fairly closely, but was unfamiliar with said move. So once opponent guy thought he won, he took his hands off the controller, and then my friend’s Jago stood up and then laid down some hurt.

Needless to say, opponent guy was a little miffed.

It was at that point that friend guy started to get a bit nervous. He told me later that he thought the guy was going to start a fistfight with him over it. Thankfully, he cooled off enough that he didn’t actually make any fist-cranial interactions, but friend-guy decided to not use that particular maneuver with his favorite character again. Unless he was playing with people that he actually knew personally. Which I thought was a particularly well thought-out course of action.


Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

I was a paperboy in my neighborhood for the better part of a year, and while I certainly weathered my fair share of hazards, there was nothing that quite compared to what I saw in the video game adaptation of my boyhood profession.

In the video game version of Paperboy you took control of some paperboy riding his bike on his route, and you have to deliver papers to your customers. And his route is just a straight, couple-of-blocks long street. Sounds pretty easy, right.

You don’t know how wrong you are.

Somehow this neighborhood is full of people, animals, and the occasional lawn mower all bent on keeping you from delivering the papers to your customers. Colliding with anything that’s not a bundle of papers (more on that in a second) and you’ll lose one of your chances. But you’re not completely defenseless, you can use your arsenal of tightly-rolled papers as weapons, refilling as you find paper bundles inexplicably strewn all over your street. Just make sure that you keep enough for your customers, they each need a paper on their doorstep, too. It’s actually a whole lot to think about.

You can also use your papers to break the windows and cause general destruction in the yards of the non-subscribers (hey, they’re not your customers, screw ‘em). If you do well, and you get papers to all your customers, then some of the non-subscribers will subscribe to the paper, but if you miss a few, you might lose a few customers, which means you get more windows to break. Kind of a win-win, really.

Of course, you also get to do this ‘training course’ at the end of each day’s route that’s, I guess, there to help you to hone your skills when you’re out doing your deliveries, but I just found that it was a way to liberate me from my quarters.

So, in short: this game is harder than a real paper route, and a little less lucrative.

Dragon’s Lair

Friday, June 20th, 2008

If you’ve never seen a Laserdisc, it kind of looked like a giant CD. And since folks had some kind of fascination with putting games on CDs that consisted of nothing but video clips, it only made sense that they could also use the Laserdiscs to make video games that were also made by stringing together video clips.

But why stop at boring regular live-action footage when you can have cartoons!

Dragon’s Lair is a fully cartoon-animated game that features you, not really playing as, but more like directing Dirk the Daring on his quest to rescue princess Daphne. But, it’s a little bit different from any game that I’ve really played before of since. You pretty well just kind of sit there and watch the movie unfold. Occasionally a glowing spot will pop up on the screen or Dirk’s sword will glow. This is your cue to move the joystick in the same direction that you saw the glow, or if his sword lit up, hit the ’sword’ button. If you do the move with the correct timing, then the movie continues, but if you get it wrong (and the timing window is ridiculously small), then you lose a life in a comically tragic fashion.

I would only play this game one time at my local arcade, and that wouldn’t happen until several years after it had left most other arcades in the country. It was only there for about a week before it disappeared again, so it kind of makes me think that the game was taken back to the owner’s personal collection.

But the time that I was there and was able to play it, I had a degree of fun with it… until the windows to input the actions based on the cues came too fast for me to react to them. Which meant that I’d have to, essentially, memorize the game if I wanted to succeed, and that wouldn’t be too big of an issue for me, but the game disappeared before I got the chance, so I guess I’ll never know how good I might have gotten at it.

But, in my brief stint in the video game industry I was co-workers with the guy that programmed the game. And that’s just about as good as mastering the game would have been. At least, that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself.


Thursday, June 19th, 2008

I kind of have an unhealthy affinity for one versus one games. I just kind of like having a one on one contest where the better person emerges. Oftentimes that ends up being the player that’s not me, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy them, right?

Rampart is a game about castles, wall building, and heavy artillery. You, and up to one of your friends (up to two in the arcade version) each take control of a castle with a wall around it (a rampart, don’t you know).

So, first, after you pick a castle, comes the ‘place your cannons’ phase, and then the shooting phase. Your goal is to use your cannons to bust up the ramparts of your opponents while they’re doing the same to yours. After a few seconds comes the rebuilding phase.

In the rebuilding phase you have a limited amount of time and some tetris-like blocks that you have to use to reconstruct your walls. Your goal is going to be to surround your cannons with a complete wall, but you can also extend your walls to claim other castles to use in your battles. More castles = more cannons at your disposal, but you also have to make sure you claim at least one castle, or it’s game over for you!

There’s also a single-player mode where you get to go up against boats controlled by the computer, but that’s way less fun.

I really had a lot of fun with this game. You really had to use your noodle a little bit to strategically destroy the wall in a way that the weird tetrimino-like wall pieces would have a tough time to fill. But you also don’t have a whole lot of time to do much in the way of scheming, the game just moves too fast for that.

But you have plenty of time for trash-talking whoever’s sitting next to you while you tear their walls down, which just kind of loses something if you do it over the Internet.

Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

For a real long time I never knew that Joust was an arcade game. I just figured that it was some game made specifically for the Atari 2600, since it seemed to fit in with them all so well. Well, that, and the fact that my local arcades never got in very many of what you might call classics.

But not only was Joust an arcade game, but it had a sequel. A sequel that’s a whole lot the same with a few minor differences.

You still have your mount and still have to fly around a mysterious landscape with mysterious floating rocks and have to mysteriously stomp on your mysterious opponents to mysteriously encase them in eggs that you have to then collect. That’s pretty much the same as the old game, but where this game differs is: your mount can transform and the battlefield scrolls upward as you progress.

Joust 2

Transforming your mount is really the main difference in this version. At any time you can transform your lithe flying ostrich into a lumbering clumsy flying Pegasus. The main difference is that the Pegasus is far less nimble but falls like a rock, injecting a little bit of strategy into the game. The other big difference, the scrolling screen, only comes into play when you proceed far enough, then the screen scrolls a little bit and reconfigures itself to make things a little tougher, but it’s nothing groundbreaking.

I actually probably wouldn’t have even played this game or even knew of its existence if I didn’t have some weird obsession with playing old arcade games and decided to pick up the odd collection on occasion. Of course, I didn’t get this particular collection for this game, I got it for a couple of the others. But that doesn’t mean that this game, filler as it is, wasn’t good. It was OK, and I’m a more well-rounded player for playing it… but given the choice, I’d prefer to play something else.

Mad Dog McCree

Saturday, June 7th, 2008

Several years ago I had way more fun that a person really ought to have shooting cowboys with a fake gun. But several years before that, while visiting the arcade at Holiday World (rides? what rides?), I played a game made by the same people filmed in what looks like the same place and with the same cheesy actors.

As far as the game goes, Mad Dog McCree is some kind of gang leader whose thugs have overrun some random town in the Old West and you, some guy with a gun, have to gun down them all before you can get at the Mad One himself. So what all that means, essentially, is that you are presented with a scene in the town and guys pop out of random spots. You have to shoot them before they shoot you. You shoot all of them, you go on to the next area. They shoot you, you go see the undertaker… Literally. He tells you how many lives you have left and then sends you back to the scene where you bought the farm.

I would only play this game one time, mostly because the only arcade I ever found it in was over 50 miles from my house and I didn’t feel like riding my bike that far. But that one time that I did play it, I had a little bit of fun. I was actually kind of impressed with the amount of variety in the game. You’d think that in a game that uses pre-recorded movie clips that stuff would unfold the same way every time, kind of like they do in Dragon’s Lair, but they don’t. In particular I was playing in some kind of barn area where some guy popped out from behind a hay bale and killed me (right in the face). But it was cool, I had one life left so I paid special attention to where the guy popped out from and was ready for him. Then some guy popped out of a different area on the other side of the screen and I didn’t have time to react and, well, I filled up another pine box.

I would have liked to have given this game another chance at some point, but have never seen it an any other arcade before or since. I’d even consider giving one of the home console ports a try, but I never owned any of the systems that it came out on, so that didn’t really work either.