Boy, its been a while since the last episode of Chrontendo. But, Episode 27 is finally here, and can be found on Archive.org!
A couple notable things about this episode: for one, it includes the first 7 games of 1988, with frequent Famicom publishers Namco, Bandai and Konami charging out of the gate. But something a little unexpected also happens in January '88, with the release of Nintendo's Ice Hockey. Older NES fans will probably remember this game - one of the better Nintendo sports titles. In it you build your hockey team around players with three different physiques.
While preparing the video of Ice Hockey, I realized something. Up until this point the majority of Nintendo developed titles were released in both the US and Japan. These games made up the core of the US NES library - titles like Super Mario Bros, Zelda, Metroid, Punch-Out!! and so on. While many great third party games were also released, a steady stream of internally developed games from Nintendo was indispensable to the NES in the United States. Strangely, this tradition virtually comes to an end with Ice Hockey.
Over the next couple years, we'll only see two Nintendo developed titles released in the US. Granted, those games are major releases: Super Mario 3 and Tetris. But from here on out, most of Nintendo's own games will be Japan only titles. Nintendo will continue to publish games in the US, but these will be developed by outsiders, such as Rare. Maybe this is due to Nintendo's increasing interest in adventure games and RPGs. Perhaps NOA felt these sorts of games, with their reliance on lots of text, would not interest US gamers. Either way, Nintendo Japan and Nintendo of America embark on almost entirely separate paths for a while.
For the moment, however, let's turn our attention back to late 1987, and this episode's gold medal game.
"Metal Gear! At last I've found yo- Wh...what?"
Konami finishes up "the greatest week in gaming history" with a port of Hideo Kojima's MSX2 stealth game. In a weird twist, Chrontendo does sort of a dual-review of both the MSX2 and the Famicom game. While the console version was somewhat bungled, its still a pretty cool game . I suppose I'll collect my thoughts on Metal Gear for a post in the near future.
Other fine games this episode:
The last, and perhaps best, entry in the FDS sports series from Nintendo and Pax Softnica. The genius in this particular entry lies in the use of three distinct player types. Lanky, Pee Wee and Fatso (a little unkind - he's more like "Sturdy") each have their own set of attributes, much like the four characters in Super Mario Bros 2.
Konami Wai Wai World
Konami's first game of 1988 is an oddball mash up featuring characters from several of their more popular titles. Konami Man, Simon Belmont, King Kong, Ganbare Goemon, Vic Viper, Twinbee and others join forces to... defeat some aliens, I guess. Sadly, Wai Wai World was not as cool as I hoped it would be. Despite the interesting cast of characters, it's really just a standard platformer with middle-of-the-road level design. One nice touch that I do like a lot is the way the music changes whenever you switch characters.
Finally! A decent game from Sunsoft! Oh sure, this is a normal Japanese adventure game, but compared to the horrible stuff Sunsoft's been releasing, it's a godsend. Ripple Island's charming graphics and catchy music can only mean one thing: it was developed with Tokai Engineering. Their name will turn up later on such Sunsoft titles as Master Blaster and Super Spy Hunter. Perhaps Sunsoft's darkest days are behind us now.
SD Gundam World - Gachapon Senshi Scramble Wars
Completely out of the blue comes this game from Human and Bandai: the first strategy war game for the Famicom. If 1987 was the year console RPGs took off, then 1988 will do the same for strategy games. While SD Gundam World isn't exactly fantastic, its long reaching influence on such series as Advance Wars, Fire Emblem and Langrisser should be noted.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have these duds:
Are you telling me this guy lives in Metropolis and has never heard of Superman?
I'm sure it's not easy to make a game about a character who is virtually invincible, super strong, and super fast. Imagine Super Mario Bros with Superman. You could simply fly to Bowser's Castle at the speed of sound, smash through the castle walls, and plow right through Bowser himself. The game would last 10 seconds. Kemco's solution to this dilemma is to turn Superman into a super wuss. Yep, Kemco's man of steel can he harmed by bullets, can't fly more than one block and needs to use the frickin' subway to get around Metropolis. Beyond that, the game is notable for such things are seriously nutty hit detection and off the wall commentary from NPCs.
Sukeban Deka III
We've already seen one Sukeban Deka game for the Sega Master System. But SD III, based on the third series of the long running Japanese live action TV show, is another beast entirely. In fact, SD III marks the triumphant return of Toei and Shoei System/Bear's, the same team behind Hokuto no Ken. This is kusoge at is most craptacular.
Attack Animal Gakuen
You say you didn't like Tobidase Daisakusen/3D Worldrunner because you felt is was just a low budget Space Harrier rip off? Then you're not going to like this game either. Attack Animal Gakuen adds "wacky" enemies and panty shots into the mix, and manages to be much worse than Square's game.
And now the rest:
Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium '87
This is a little shameful, Namco. Family Stadium '87 is very slightly altered version of the first Family Stadium game. Even back then publishers were finding ways of making you buy the same game twice.
A top down racing game from Namco, with lots of menu options. The first game released in 1988.
GeGeGe no Kitaro 2
Bandai's sequel to the pretty dreadful 1986 game known in the US as Ninja Kid is actually quite decent. Naturally, Bandai modernizes the gameplay at bit: Kitaro 2 is about 1/2 Zelda and 1/2 Dragon Quest. It does benefit from better production values than you would expect from a Bandai game.
Magnum Kiki Ippatsu: Empire City - 1931
A decent port of this 1986 arcade game in which you shoot gangsters. It's like a light gun game, without the light gun!
Wizards and Warriors
Rare, despite being British, were apparently not familiar with the correct usage of "hath."
The first original NES release from Acclaim, and the second NES game designed by Rare. As you might expect, the music is good; the game is not so good. At least this one doesn't feature Fabio on the box art.
Family Trainer: Totsugeki! Fuun Takeshijou
The release of this title from Bandai means there are now inexplicably two Famicom games featuring Takeshi Kitano. At least we can breathe a sigh of relief now. There won't be another Family Trainer game until around Episode 34 or so.
Satsui No Kaisou: Power Soft Satsujin Jiken
Someone at HAL Laboratory had the remarkabley fresh idea of making a text adventure game in which someone is murdered, and you have the solve the crime. Its undoubtedly that sort of innovative thinking that got Satoru Iwata to where he is now.
What's next for Chrontendo? A couple things are in the works. First and foremost is the first episode of Chronturbo, which will cover the PC-Engine/TurboGrafx-16 in chronological order. Yes, this is really coming out; I've already started working on the first episode. The TurboGrafx is a great system with a lot of high quality titles that are not very well known, so I'm quite excited about the series. Episode One will feature games from October 1987 to September 1988.
Until then, head on over to Archive.org to download or stream Chrontendo 27.