Publisher: Nintendo Year: 1986 Genre: Static Platformer (Not to be confused with Super Mario Bros.)
We’ve already spoken of the origin of Mario and the glory that is Super Mario Bros., so it seems almost redundant (or ill-placed) that the prequel should come after the original, and yet – here we are, looking at Mario Bros., the game that introduced Segale’s digital doppelgänger to the world.
Publisher: Bandai Year: 1986 Genre: Fighting AKA: Tag Team Match MUSCLE M.U.S.C.L.E. is an awful, ungodly little wrestling game based on a line of tiny vinyl inaction figures based on some Japanese series that, as far as I can tell, is a parody of Mexican masked wrestling. I didn’t delve much deeper than that, so knowing how anime usually turns out, they’re probably actually magical schoolgirls who transform into tiny vinyl figures to time travel and do battle with a vile alliance of Mark Twain and James Joyce in a literary showdown to decide the fate of the world. Wow, that sounds vastly more interesting than this game.
The actual gameplay involves moving around on screen, attacking your opponent, and doing nothing whatsoever of substance or interest. Seriously, nothing about this game is fun, clever or well-made. If M.U.S.C.L.E. is a parody of Mexican masked wrestling, the game is a parody of video games.
According to Wikipedia, the original Japanese game had a Nazi character named Brocken Jr., whose finisher was called the “Nazi Gas Attack.” He was replaced with a native American character called “Geronimo,” presumably to keep the theme of genocide without celebrating the perpetrator.
John’s Score: 1.0 out of 5.0. This game is so shitty that it insults shit to call it shitty. Not to sound overly like the Angry Nintendo Video Game Nerd here, but the game is terminally bland, chronically glitchy and, even if everything goes according to plan, duller than watching paint dry.
The NES isn’t really well-suited for one-on-one fighting bouts as this game succinctly demonstrates. Mind you, the NES can do way WAY better than Karate Champ with its clumsy (at best) hit detection, its tiny generic move list and its unpleasant graphics. The controls, B to attack left and A to attack right, will be recycled in Double Dragon II, where they will not suck. This awful game didn’t deserve anything that useful anyway.
The game does not find any redeeming quality in the presentation. The sound and music are terrible, but in a forgettable way. The graphics are ugly, jerky and look rushed, like someone with some talent struggling to make something in a medium they have never used – just good enough to be annoying. Somewhere between adequate and inadequate.
John’s Rating: 1.0 out of 5.0. This is just awful. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the much better game Barbarian, which was sadly never ported to the NES. Except, where Barbarian features awesome swords and vicious bloodthirsty barbarians dueling to the death for bikini-clad babes (not to mention a useable control scheme with moves that were of varying utility), Karate Champ has a constipated old man watching people in bathrobes kick each other.
Publisher: Nintendo Year: 1986 Genre: Platformer / Zapper
Nowadays, when games experiment with control schemes, it falls into one of three categories: a gimmick, a disaster, or a generally enjoyable novelty. And, if someone does come upon a winner, everyone and their brother wants in on the action. Back in the Nintendo days, however, employing a novel control scheme was a risk that companies – even large companies like Nintendo, were more than willing to take. Frankly, it was one of the most obvious ways to make your game stand out in the crowd – you might not be able, for instance, to make a character as memorable as Mario or even the Battletoads, but you might be able to come up with a unique gameplay element, such as the novel flight control scheme of Joust, and end up being a commercial success despite the absolute absence of any memorable characters whatsoever. Which is why I won’t be too hard on Gumshoe, a game that at least tried to be original.
In Gumshoe, you control a detective who is looking for the “Black Panther” diamonds, apparently to ransom his kidnapped daughter from some sort of Italian mobster. I’m too lethargic to come up with a racially insensitive joke, so you can just use your imaginations. The diamonds just seem to be lying in street when you come upon them, but that doesn’t seem so important right now. What’s important is that the game is controlled entirely by the Zapper gun, either by shooting obstacles that appear on screen, or by shooting the main character in order to make him jump. There are no other controls. As you progress through the game, you pick up balloons to replenish your ammo, but unless you spam bullets throughout the whole thing, you’ll never get anywhere near running out.
John’s Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0. Don’t get me wrong, games with simpler control schemes have been popular even as recently as a few years ago, but, the execution, in this case, is wanting, not to mention the fact that the game digs well into Nintendo Hard territory, with little poison skulls often pressed so close together that there’s no reasonable way to get between them. You might try this game for the novelty or just to have it in your collection, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get my hands on it.
The 80’s were an exciting time in the world of space exploration. America (and all those other countries that don’t matter) spent absurd amounts of money on space programs. Why? Because space was the next frontier of warfare, of course! Basically, every superpower (all two of them) and all those other countries that don’t matter wanted to put more blinky metal things up in the sky faster than anyone else so that they could perfect the art of putting blinky metal things in the sky. If any of their little blinky things had been the glorious Warp Rattler from Gradius, the Cold War would have been cut mercifully short.