Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas From Chrontendo

Hey, Everyone! I've been busy during the last week, but I just wanted to take a moment and wish everyone Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. (Are we allowed to start saying "Happy Holidays" again? We no longer have to fear incurring the wrath of Bill O'Reilly for uttering those hateful words?)

The 00's have been a pretty rough decade, and 2008 and 2009 in particular have been hard years for many of us. Let's hope the next decade is filled with less war, disaster and economic meltdown.

Until then, if you're a Christmas celebrating sort of person, I hope yours is safe and happy, and that Santa gets you everything on your list. I personally asked him (or more realistically speaking, my wife) for a MAC chef's knife. Oh, how I long to get rid of my crappy old knife!

And, of course, Chrontendo will be offering up a new episode before too long. Next up: Metal Gear! And, uh.... Superman. And after Episode 26, the first episode of Chronturbo!

Note: Super Mario ornament image above is from Super Mario Bros HQ.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Greatest Week in Video Gaming History?

Wow, Chrontendo Episode 26 will go down as one of the longest delayed in recent memory. But, it is now available to download or stream at Was it worth the wait? That's for you to decide.

Episode 26 is a big, big episode, featuring both Mega Man and, the other game in our December 1987 RPG showdown, Final Fantasy. Not to mention some weird, interesting, and just plain pointless releases. Also, for bonus content, we have a brief look at that Famitsu Top 100 games list. And when I say "brief," I actually mean it this time. Episode 26 is right in the middle of the 1987 holiday rush, and as a result, it covers 15 games in a mere 11 days, from December 11 to December 22.

December 1987 turned out to be a huge month for launching successful franchises: Final Fantasy, Mega Man, Phantasy Star and (next episode), Metal Gear. Even more amazing - these games were all released within six days of each other! Has there ever been another week in video game history that can boast a lineup like that? I officially declare it to be the greatest week in video game history.

This Episode's MVP Game:

Errr... nice codpiece, dude.

No surprises here, it's Final Fantasy, the game that launched Square's gazillion dollar multimedia empire. I've already discussed it at some length in an earlier post, but suffice to say, Square took big bloody chunks of Dragon Quest and Ultima III, added a much deeper combat and magic system, a more involved plot, cooler monsters and ended up with the best Famicom RPG so far.

Our Runner Up Game:

What else could it be... but Mega Man? Capcom's Famicom history up to this point has consisted of a handful of arcade ports and a mahjong game - not exactly the stuff legends are made of. With Mega Man, Capcom suddenly and surprisingly entered the ranks of great console game producers. If this this game is any indication, 1988 is going to be a very interesting year for Capcom.

Other Fine Games:


After a year and a half of producing moderately interesting titles for the Famicom, Data East kicks it into high gear with this very playable port of their 1987 arcade game. As mentioned earlier, Karnov makes an interesting contrast to Mega Man; Data East's game being an exemplar of the older Ghosts 'n' Goblins style platforming, and Capcom's being the first example of a new, more sophisticated style of platform game.

Taito Grand Prix

We've seen a few racing games in Chrontendo and Chronsega that flirt with the idea of letting you upgrade your vehicle by winning races. However, Taito moves beyond flirting and heads straight to 3rd base with this ahead-of-its-time little gem. Tatio Grand Prix is virtually Dragon Quest on wheels, as you drive from town to town, win races, collect money and experience, and then level up your Mini Cooper. Sadly, the actual racing isn't quite as good as you'd hope, with Grand Prix playing like a slightly substandard Rad Racer/Out Run clone.

Ginga no Sannin

It turns out Squall Leonhart isn't the biggest douchebag in video game history!

Not a fabulous game, but Ginga was the distinction of being the first RPG published by Nintendo themselves. The bizarre thing is: it's a retitled port of an old Enix computer game. Aside from this, the game sports some intriguing names in the credits. The art is by Go Nagai and the music by YMO drummer Yukihiro Takahashi.

Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

Barely playable by today's standards, this ASCII published port of Sir-Tech's pioneering computer RPG is remarkably faithful to the original version. Long dead in the US, the Wizardry series continues to survive in Japan, making it perhaps the longest continuously running video game franchise in history.

The Bad:

Ultraman 2 - Shutsugeki Katoku Tai

You've got to hand to Bandai. They could have simply rehashed their first crappy side scrolling action game based on Ultraman. Instead, they chose to completely switch things up, making a crappy game in an entirely new genre.

Stick Hunter

Shouldn't the yellow team be wearing pants?

The official entry in the "worst Famicom Hockey game" category, courtesy of Micronics and KAC. Also a contender for "most inappropriate-sounding title."

Mezase Pachi Pro: Pachio-kun

Hot-B finally has some competition in the terrible name department. The hideously monikered Coconuts Japan makes its debut with this weirdo pachinko game. Mezase Pachi Pro introduces Coconut's would-be mascot, Pachio-Kun, a human sized, living, talking pachinko ball who apparently likes to play a lot of pachinko. One mystery surrounds this game: the name "C-Dream" in the credits and on the cover. Who exactly were C-Dream? I have no idea, but the similarity in names has led to some confusion with Color Dreams, the US based producer of unlicensed NES games. In this episode, I bitch about Wikipedia and GameFaqs listing Color Dreams as the developer of the most famous Pachio-kun game, American Dream. I don't suppose anyone out there is a Wikipedia editor type who can correct this?

And the rest this episode:

Yamamura Misa Suspense: Kyouto Ryuu No Tera Satsujin Jiken

Taito breaks into the adventure game genre with this entry, based around the popular Japanese mystery author Misa Yamamura.

Exciting Boxing:

The sole Konami game this episode is an odd one. Exciting Boxing came with an inflatable balloon shaped like a boxer. The game is played by hitting the balloon; sensors inside the balloon would register your hits. Strange but true.

Family Tennis:

The latest in Namco's Family sport series. This time it's Tennis.

Tetsudou Ou: Famicom Boardgame

This dB Soft release is the first console game in the railroad-themed board game genre. Believe or not, there will be more.

Gokuraku Yuugi: Game Tengoku

This episode's most pointless title, another bingo number/dice throw generator type game, much like the second half of Santa Claus no Takara Baka.

Nazoler Land Special!! Quiz Ou Wo Ikuse

The third game in Sunsoft's shovelware series. This time it's all quiz questions.

That's all for this time. As always, this episode can be found at Hopefully, Episode 27 won't be so overdue.

Errata Update: Naturally, mistakes were made. In the segment about the Famitsu Top 100 list, I mention Chrono Trigger being in 26th place. That should be 28th place, as the caption states. Also, in the Nazoler Land Special segment, I refer to a game where you control a little train full of people and animals as a blackjack style game. Clearly, I meant to say roulette, not blackjack.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Chrontendo 26 on the Way

Sorry for the long delay, but episode 26 should be posted in around 24-48 hours. All that remains is some QA and then uploading.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Chrontendo has List-o-mania

While we're waiting for my voice to recover, I guess we can spend a little time discussing something touched on in the upcoming Chrontendo 26. Namely, the vast disparity in the tastes of Japanese and Western gamers. No one would be surprised that folks in Japan, with their undying love for talky RPGs, Visual Novels, Dating Sims, and straight-up porn games, don't always see eye to eye with gamers in the US (who love First Person Shooters, PC Strategy games, and sports games). But there must be some points on which gamers on both sides of the Pacific agree; everyone loves Mario and Zelda, right?

And while, yes, that is true, Japanese gamers do tend to view the canon of "Great Video Games" a little differently than we do. The jumping off point for this discussion is a reader's poll undertaken by the Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu in 2006. Famitsu is the most widely read, prestigious gaming magazine in Japan; there's nothing quite equivalent to it in the US. So I'm going to assume Famitsu's readership is pretty representative of the Japanese geek population: mainstream enough to be interested in the big, popular games Famitsu promotes, but hardcore enough to actually bother reading a video game magazine.

Famitsu's readers voted on the all-time best video games, and the magazine compiled the results into a list of 100 titles. Looking at the top ten is quite revealing.

1. Final Fantasy X (PS2)
2. Final Fantasy VII (PS)
3. Dragon Quest III (Famicom)
4. Dragon Quest VIII (PS2)
5. Machi (PS/Saturn)
6. Final Fantasy IV (Super Famicom)
7. Tactics Ogre (Super Famicom)
8. Final Fantasy III (Famicom)
9. Dragon Quest VII (PS)
10. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

Damn! We know they love Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest in Japan - but SEVEN out of the top ten? Apparently the best Playstation, PS2 and Super Famicom games are all Final Fantasy titles? And for those who are wondering, Machi is a visual novel from Chunsoft, and Tactics Ogre is a tactical RPG from Quest.

We are the champions.

And the next ten games on the list? Six more Square/Enix RPGs, two games in Sega's dating sim/RPG series, Sakura Taisen, one Hudson RPG... and Street Fighter II. Entries 21-30 contain another seven Square/Enix RPGs.

One of the striking things about the list is just how monolithic it is. RPGs completely dominate. Aside from the Square/Enix games, we'll find such series as Ogre, Megami Tensei, Tales, Mother, Mystery Dungeon, Grandia, and Fire Emblem.... Yet certain series are completely and inexplicable locked out: Capcom's Breath of Fire, Sega's Phantasy Star and Shining games, Konami's Suikoden, and Game Art's Lunar. Most baffling of all is the exclusion of series from the otherwise over-represented publishers, namely Enix's Star Ocean games and Nintendo's Mario RPGs.

For comparison, I picked out a couple random top ten lists from English language sources. First up is a very recent list from GameSpite's readership. The site has somewhat of a retro/Japanese bias, so one would think there would be some points of intersections with Famitu's list.

1. Super Metroid (SNES)
2. Chrono Trigger (SNES)
3. Final Fantasy VI (SNES)
4. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
5. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
6. Mega Man 2 (NES)
7. Final Fantasy Tactics (PS)
8. EarthBound (SNES)
9. Super Mario World (SNES)
10. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS)

And from a somewhat more mainstream source, here's IGN's list from 2005.

1. Resident Evil 4 (GC/PS2)
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)
3. Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Chaos Theory (PS2/XBox)
4. Chrono Trigger (SNES)
5. Half-Life 2 (PC/XBox)
6. God of War (PS2)
7. Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater (PS2)
8. Soul Calibur (DC)
9. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2)
10. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)

These two lists have more in common that is immediately obvious. Super Metroid, Final Fantasy IV and Symphony of the Night all place very high in IGN's list, just below the top ten. And Ocarina of Time and MGS 3 made the top 20 of GameSpite's list. Both lists share numerous titles, including, interestingly enough, Suikoden II.

Suikoden: Weirdly popular in the West

After scanning enough of such lists, a cannon of classic Japanese video games emerges: Zelda and Super Mario 3 for the NES. Super Metroid, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI and Link to the Past for the SNES. Symphony of the Night, Final Fantasy VII and Metal Gear Solid for the Playstation. Super Mario 64, Goldeneye 007 and Ocarina of Time for the N64.

Oddly, with few exceptions, these games aren't topping Japan's list. Chrono Trigger checks in at #28, Link to the Past at #31, Metal Gear Solid at #50, and Super Mario Bros. 3 at... #99! Super Metroid, Symphony of the Night, Goldeneye 007, and Super Mario 64 do not make the Famitsu list at all. Crazy, huh?

Mario is Missing

When the chips are down, it seems the one game both East and West can agree upon without reservation is Ocarina of Time. I guess it has just the right amount of action, exploration, RPG elements, cuteness and ease of use for everyone.

A few stray observations. Out of the top 40 games on the Famitsu list, 29 are either Square, Enix or Nintendo.

US gamers like Sega RPGs more than Japanese gamers. If its not
Sakura Taisen, it's not on the Famitsu list.

Sega consoles are under represented on the
Famitsu list. Only three Genesis games make the top 100.

US lists tend to give equal space to both Western and Japanese games. The
Famitsu top 100 contains only three Western games.

Saga series rates much better than Seiken Densetsu/Mana on the Famitsu list with only Secret of Mana at #97.

Loved the world over.


A few other Western top 10s.

EGM, 2005

1. Super Metroid
2. Tetris
3. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
4. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
5. Super Mario 64
6. Soul Calibur
7. Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
8. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
9. Final Fantasy VI
10. Super Mario World

GameFaqs, 2005

1. Final Fantasy VII
2. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
3. Chrono Trigger
4. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
5. Super Mario Bros. 3
6. Super Smash Bros. Melee
7. GoldenEye 007
8. Metal Gear Solid
9. Halo
10 Final Fantasy VI

Edge, 2007

1. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
2. Resident Evil 4
3. Super Mario 64
4. Half Life 2
5. Super Mario World
6. Zelda: A Link to the Past
7. Halo
8. Final Fantasy XII
9. Tetris
10. Super Metroid

What does every Western top 10 have in common?
A Link to the Past.

Some pics ripped from GameFaqs.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

About That Episode 26

It's coming, eventually. Thanksgiving is over and done with, but I had no time to work on Chrontendo. Even though this episode contains Final Fantasy and Mega Man, those games aren't what's holding it up - they were finished some time ago. The only things that still need voice overs are Wizardry and a couple minor titles. Unfortunatley, I came down with something the day after Thanksgiving and have lost my voice. Hopefully, it will be back to normal in a couple days and work will resume. Thanks for your patience.

Wizardry, by the way, is not the prettiest looking RPG for the Famicom, that's for sure. It's also not the easiest to play. But along with Ultima, the 1981 Apple II release of Wizardry laid down the guidelines that most RPGs still follow to a certain extent. You can definitely see its influence on the original Final Fantasy. In this screen shot here, everyone in my party is either paralyzed or dead - something you'll see a lot in FF.

FF did make some adjustments to some of the more frustrating aspects of Wizardry. In Wizardry almost every treasure chest dropped by a monster is booby trapped. You can try to disarm them... but its not uncommon to open a chest, obtain 10 pieces of gold and, as a bonus, get paralyzed: a status effect that costs 100 pieces of gold to cure! In other words, life is not fair in this game.