Monday, January 14, 2008

Chrontendo Episode 5 - So very, very late.

Wow. I have now amazed even myself with the incredible amount of time it took me to get Episode 5 ready. Especially considering it was "60% finished" two months ago. Unfortunately, the holidays and illness resulted in Chrontendo being put on hold for the last two months. But the new episode is now ready to download and it is a hella rad one.

Episode 5 covers August through November of 1985. A few major events in the lifespan of the Famicom occurred during those months and are discussed in Ep. 5. And of course, 15 more games are played.

Our MVG this month is:

Super Mario Bros

Really, what other choice could it have been? SMB is sort of the turning point around which the history of the Famicom revolves. It was not only hugely successful and influential but also a shining example of a damn fine game.

Other games worth mentioning:

Challenger - Strange, interesting, Frankenstein monster of a game from Hudson Soft. Unusual for its time, it features a large overworld, horizontal and vertical scrolling and a rather lengthy quest to rescue a Princess. The same basic idea would be vastly improved upon by Nintendo in Legend of Zelda.
10 Yard Fight - Early football game from Irem.
Pooyan - Uber-cute port of the Konami arcade game. Pigs versus wolves.
Battle City - Tanks roll around and shoot other tanks. More difficult than it sounds.
Ninja Jajamaru Kun - Decent spin-off of Jaleco's Ninja Kun. This ninja is so hard that after killing a monster he then goes after the monster's ghost.

Games worth mentioning due to their awfulness:

Kinnikuman Muscle Tag Match
-- Cheap, ugly tie-in to manga series/toy line, designed by the stealth development company Tose. Perhaps the worst Famicom game so far. Amazingly, this sold huge numbers in Japan. As the first game on the Famicom based on a comic book/cartoon/TV show, this paved the way for countless terrible games featuring licensed properties. Thanks, Kinnikuman! Also, this was one of the very first third-party developed games to be released in the US.

Onyanko Town -- Mother cat wanders around town, looking for lost kitten. This is what happens when a record company start making video games.
Pachicom -- It's a Pachinko game. You watch imaginary ball bearings bounce around in order win more imaginary ball bearings.

Also this episode: Sky Destroyer, City Connection, Mach Rider, Pac-Land, Route 16 Turbo and Hyper Sports.

This episode documents the beginning of an exciting time for the Famicom, when it was making the transition from its infancy to maturity. In the wake of Super Mario Bros, a number of games will appear featuring SMB-like features: rudimentary plots, lots of scrolling, and larger, more defined "worlds" to traverse through. Intriguingly, these sorts of games began appearing almost immediately after SMB. Such titles as Challenger, Obake no Q-Tarou AKA Chubby Cherub, Thexder, and Goonies would all hit the Famicom shortly.

We'll also see a slow increase in the number of games created specifically for the Famicom. Prior to this, there were only two non-Nintendo Famicom titles that were not based on an earlier arcade or computer game. This episode will see six more, including the first Famicom-only game from an established arcade giant, Taito's Sky Destroyer. For better or worse, the displacement of game designers' primary focus from the arcades to home consoles begins here.

Chrontendo Episode 5 may be downloaded here.


Chris Sobieniak said...

In it's first year, one problem that happen with the Famicom was a faulty chipset that occured in the earlier releases of the console in '83, so while Famicom went off on a rocky start, 1985 seems to have been a big year for the amount of games present on the system.

Nope, I've got nothing!

Love this! I see Hudson Soft reprogrammed this for the Famicom, and felt they did a decent job on it (I could assume they probably had the licensing rights from Konami to develop this game for home consoles at the time). Back when Konami made some pretty unusual but cooky games (Amidar is another pig-related one I can think of people outta check out). But yeah, it was the end of an era for this type of games in the arcade.

Classic. The Arcade's music was a little more niftier, but it's close here on the FC/NES version. You have to press "up" while jumping to try to get to the top ramps on the game. Another classy Jaleco game with a nifty anime-like design motif on the cover. When you finish the round in the FC version, you get a cute shot of the girl with "Now, you have driven all the highway!!" message. This gets replaed in the NES version that changes the blue-haired girl (named Clarise) for a blond-haired dude (wonder why?). Webster was somehow a big TV show in Japan at the time so that might be why the song was used.

Kinda miss the old Konami logo here that would get changed by '87. The later "Track & Field" release would remove the logo for a standard FC/NES graphic font in place for the backgrounds of the stadium.

Interesting use of placing the lettering at a slight tilted way. At least they spelled "Congratulations" right than on a previous computer release of "Stop The Express" (of course that hasn't stopped Engrish from continuing to creep into further games).

While it is true the cartridge pin arrangement is different between the FC and NES carts, someone figured out how these earlier start-up titles on the NES made use of a converter for several games that were merely FC chip cards with the converter attached to them. If you cracked the NES cartridge shell open you can use these converters to play many FC games on an NES console apparently. Too bad I didn't know of it then.

Also of interest is the design motif of the NES's start-up titles and the way they went for the blocky look of the sprites/gameplay as if that would attract your attention (which I guess it did, if not for the boxy design of the NES itself, but it was the 1980's and the boxy look was so "in"). I was never a fan of the package art personally, and whis they simply ignore that nowadays and opt for the FC originals and act like that's what we had!

You can never discount the legend the NES was and how it help to put console gaming on the right track over here.

Never did have a Sega Master System though, but remember thinking the colors were a slight improvement.

Chris Sobieniak said...

Appears to be the first manga/anime property adapted as a Famicom game (let alone to be released in the US in a slightly different game). And yes, Bandai didn't make great games for the system. Kinnikuman never found a decent release in the US until the later "Ultimate Muscle: The Kinnikuman Legacy" was release for those little pink figurines Mattel had released.

Noticed this game was put out by Pony, who later merged with "Canyon Records" to become Pony Canyon (under the FUjisankei Communications Group, a conglomeration in Japan that owns a number companies including Fuji TV). Looks like a pretty silly game given the look and approach.

Noticed Toshiba EMI put this one out (they were the music subsidiary of Toshia but later became EMI Japan today). Pachinko can be boring indeed. I'm reminded of a pachinko game for the Odyssey2, albeit, not nearly exact as a real pachinko machine works!

While it is nice to see this ported to the PC, I can't help but wish the graphics weren't too tiny the way the sprites are shown. The later PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16 edition was a nice improvement and pretty close to the arcade original.

Andy said...

You may already know this, and I realize this is hilariously late considering when the original video went up, but about the swastika room in Route 16 Turbo, you may note that the swastikas are facing left, not right like a Nazi swastika does, and the swastika is a pretty important symbol in eastern religion, so it's not entirely surprising to see it appear in a Japanese game (nor is it surprising that that game wasn't released in the U.S.).

serene.velocity said...

I know this video is many years old now, but I think it is worth noting that which games were actual launch titles in the US is a hot topic of debate. Although all the titles you listed were probably part of the launch window, the exact launch titles were not properly documented and it is possible that even Super Mario Bros was not a launch title.
I really like the 'blown up sprite' style of the NES black box games. If you look closely you can see that they are actually paintings (The ones I have anyway, I haven't seen all of them).

The author seems unfamiliar with a lot of Japanese references (hench the swastika comment). I am going through watching from the beginning so I hope the video and information improves.