Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chrontendo Episode 3, Now Available

Yes, Episode 3 is available for download. Covering the first half of 1985, we see Nintendo add a handful of new developers for the Famicom, including Jaleco, Konami, and Taito. A few very interesting games are released, but also, in my opinion, the first real duds for the system. Jaleco, in particular, produces a few barely playable titles, and the Taito port of Space Invaders is very disappointing.

On the other hand, we have some historically interesting titles. Will Wright, later of Sim City and The Sims fame, gets his first game, Raid on Bungeling Bay, ported to the Famicom. We also encounter Wrecking Crew, a virtually forgotten Mario Bros game which occupies the uncomfortable position in the franchise between the original Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros. There is also a brief history lesson on video games from the video game craze of the early 80s until the release of the NES in 1985.

The full list of games in Episode 3:

Raid on Bungeling Bay
Formation Z
Space Invaders
Championship Lode Runner
Yie Ar Kung Fu
Antarctic Adventure
Ninja Kun
Chack'n Pop
Dig Dug
Wrecking Crew
Spartan X (aka Kung Fu)

Download Episode 3 here.


Lynxara said...

Regarding the game Formation Z, there's an interesting reason that is very likely why it's so lousy in the particular way it is. The name Formation Z is surely meant to recall to Japanese players the title of the anime series Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam, often called Z Gundam by Japanese fans.

Z Gundam was a sequel am earlier series called Mobile Suit Gundam, which had an impact on Japanese culture comparable to Star Trek or Star Wars in America. The Z Gundam sequel had literally been about three-to-five years in the making, and the long hype cycle for Z Gundam's release meant it was widely known that in the series a robot called the Z (or Zeta) Gundam would appear. The Z Gundam would be the first Gundam that could transform from a robot mode into a jet mode, and had the same general profile as Formation Z's robot.

You mention that Formation Z came out in February, and Z Gundam began airing on Japanese television on March 2nd, 1985. It seems to me very likely that Jaleco, anticipating the inevitable popularity of Z Gundam, wanted to rush a console game resembling the property out onto shelves that could be sold long before any officially licensed Z Gundam title could appear. And in fact, the official Z Gundam Famicom game doesn't appear until well into 1986.

Bear in mind that Robotech (Macross to the Japanese)'s machines had a three-stage transformation from robot to jet and resulted in something that didn't look much like the robot in Formation Z. While Transformers would have been current in America in 1984, bear in mind that what Americans know as TF began with a Japanese line of toys that was re-issuing much older lines of transforming robot toys (and the Transformers brand itself didn't seem to have a lot of traction in the Japanese consciousness until about 1986).

The first robot toy known to switch from a jet mode to a human mode was based on the 1976 anime series Brave Raideen, which was developed in part by many of the same personnel who would go on to develop Z Gundam in the next decade. Jaleco was simply cashing in on the massive hype and excitement associated with Z Gundam finally coming out, which has to be why it's such a horribly primitive shooter compared to games that would be released around the same time. It was probably a total rushjob that was meant to do most of its lifetime sales in its first few months of existence.

Chris Sobieniak said...

I'd rather see video game machines in food marts again personally. I was part of that generation when that was all going on.

Aside from E.T., Pac-Man for the 2600 was another blow due to the limited time it took to program it in the first place, and an attempt to rush it out quick enough with less effort in putting out a decent part of the game. While the crash had happened, it hardly left a dent in Japan, where coin-op machines and consoles/computers still continued to thrive regardless of western lows.

Another Namcot game that didn't see a US release for the NES (either by them or through another licensor). I still liked Galaga myself, and often play it whenever I see that cabinet at a laundromat.

While this game didn't make it's way to the NES, a port was released for the ColecoVision in '84. The use of penguins as in this game became something of a thing for Konami that continued for a number of years.

It's true to argue that when later arcade ports came to the Famicom/NES in later years, the more we started to see of it's limitations when the 16-bit era came into place in the arcades.

Jason said...

This is a comment replying to Chris Sobieniak.It's highly unlikely that anyone will reply to this(being that this a 2 year old post.

Galaga was ported to the NES. It was distributed by Bandai, and the full title is Galaga:Demons of Death. I am a Nintendo Collector(with the NES being my favorite all-time console), so I know a lot (not all), about these games. I had to reply to your comment because Galaga was one of the games for the NES, that was played regularly in my household. Everyone in my family would take turns playing. This was one of the games that the Advantage joystick worked extremely well with.
By the way, nice site you have here Doctor Sparkle!

Adamant said...

Just discovered this video series, it's been a pretty fascinating watch so far. Always liked reading or watching articles or reviews of classic video games by people who know their stuff.

I feel you misjudged Exerion and Formation Z, though, games I've always found to be pretty good. Exerion's weapon system (which you oddly didn't mention at all) lets you alternate between a slow but easier to connect with double hot and a fast, but harder to hit with machine gun with limited ammunition. You gain ammunition by killing enemies, so you need to alternate between the two according to situation, requiring an interesting type of strategy that hadn't really been seen before this game. It's this system, not the parallax scrolling, that's the big draw of the game.

Formation Z... takes a bit of time to get used to, but once you learn how the different enemies move, and how to handle them, fighting as the robot isn't too bad. The game uses a weird system where the stages end faster if you use the jet mode, and enemy waves come in specific sequences rather than being based on where in the level you are, or WHICH level you're in, while also escalating in difficulty as levels pass. This makes it possible to stay in early levels and rack up points fighting lot of easy waves, or switch to the jet, make the level end quickly, and fight the early waves in harder levels. Using the jet to make the land areas pass faster means you'll need to spend more time in the next land area collecting fuel for the next sea area, though. It's pretty fun once you learn how it plays.
It's also one of the earliest games (and the first Famicom game) to have both bosses and an actual honest-to-god ending.