Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Another Long, Hard One!

...episode of Chrontendo, that is. What did you think I was talking about? In the annals of Chrontendo, few episodes have been as delayed as Episode 28. But it is finally here, so check it over on archive.org!

Still, this is one of the biggest delays Chrontendo has experienced. Part of this can be chalked up the the games involved: Dragon Quest III, Contra and Guardian Legend, all in one episode?!? Add in the death in the family, the double lay-off, and my mother almost going blind, and it equals a crazy month. (By the way, a reminder for all you folks out there to get your eyes checked from time to time. Glaucoma can lead to serious problems, including sudden, permanent blindness. In the case of my mother, it was caught just in time.)

A commenter, Kevin Moon, recently brought up the possibility of me getting discouraged or burnt out on the series. But at this point, I don't really picture that happening. When I first envisioned Chrontendo, I realized it was a huge, almost insane, idea. Yet I figured that with a bit of perseverance I would be able to pull it off. So I certainly don't foresee myself backing out at any point in the future. My one concern is that I' m not always able to pump these episodes out as quickly as I'd like. At some point in the future I should write about my motivations behind the series, but for the time being, let's take a look at the new episode.

I generally single out one game that stands out among the rest. In this episode, that proved to be difficult, so we give out a double gold medal this time around. Both games were already discussed a bit earlier.

Dragon Quest III

Ironclad logic at work: I don't know you, therefore you must come from another dimension.

From a Japanese perspective, this is the one: the old-school RPG to end all old-school RPGs. One of the biggest selling Famicom titles, and the game that elevated Dragon Quest from a piece of successful entertainment to a national obsession. But if you strip away the "you had to be there" quality, what is left? A very long, well-made, 8-bit JRPG that builds on the DQ II formula, in this case by adding a job system.


One of the biggest selling action games on the NES, Konami's genre-defining run and gun brought two player co-op to countless young gamers. Later games, such as Gunstar Heroes and the Contra sequels, improved on the formula, but the original Contra remains one of the most influential titles for the NES.

Other great games from Episode 28:

Guardic Gaiden/The Guardian Legend

Three-eyed skulls that shoot lasers? I guess that's pretty cool.

Successfully mixing genres has proven to be difficult: the history of video games is littered with failures (see Kamen Rider Club below). Few succeeded to the extent that The Guardian Legend did. This Compile developed game, a sequel to their 1986 MSX release, Guardic, manages to shoehorn shoot-em-up sequences into a Zelda-esque action adventure game. In addition, you play as a cute robot chick that can transform into a spaceship! Typically, Broderbund botched the US release a bit with some seriously unappealing box art, especially compared to the original.

Good: Robot chicks. Not so good: Giant faces with blue eyelashes.


Capcom digs deep into its vaults for this one - a port of the 1985 arcade game. Originally a follow up of sorts to Commando, Gun.Smoke is a vertical run-and-gun with an old west setting. Rather intriguing is Capcom's attempt to avoid legal complications over the name by using some non-standard punctuation. Would this have really worked, had the owners of the TV show Gun Smoke tried to sue? Could the Final Fantasy guy simply have renamed himself Final.Fantasy?

Donald Land

A video game based on a character from an advertising campaign? Why not? Data East's Ronald McDonald game has nothing to do with the more widely known M.C. Kids. Instead, it's a surprisingly well done platformer, in which Ronald rescues his McDonaldland friends from a terrifying wizard/clown with razor sharp teeth. Also notable are the slightly psychedelic enemies such as exploding purple jack-o-lanterns and kids in yellow raincoats who cry enormous, deadly tears.

Of course, every episode of Chrontendo has its share of crud:

Kamen Rider Club

I've already discussed this one a bit. Suffice to say, it's a platfomer/RPG hybrid that fails on every level.

Tetsuwan Atom

Even a cat can look at Astro Boy.

Once again, Konami and Osamu Tezuka join forces. The first time produced Hi no Tori; this time around, we have a game based on Astro Boy. Sadly, the result is a big, steaming pile. Probably the fact that an outside developer, Home Data, was brought in to work on this has something to do with the an ugly, illogical, and at times, almost unplayable, mess.

Paris no Dakar Rally Special

I wonder what CBS/Sony thought was even remotely "special" about this game. Definitely, the most mind-boggling example of kusoge this episode.


This game is mostly about phallic symbols.

An extremely odd release from Taito, Replicart is merely a clone of the old Snake/Worms computer game. In order to distinguish it from the million other Snake clones, they decided to give it an extremely awkward control scheme.

And the rest:

Fire Bam

"As we can see this sceenshot, Fir-- Auugggh! My eyes!! My eyes!!"

A less than stellar side scrolling action game from HAL, Fire Bam, features some of the most eye-bleedingly garish colors you'll ever see. Now that I think about it, this game really is quite bad. Maybe I should have lumped it in with Kamen Rider Club and the rest above.

Tantei Jinguji Saburo: Yokohama Renzoku Satsujin Jiken

Yep, the second game in Data East's Saburo Jinguji murder mystery adventure series.

Jumbo Osaki no Hole In One Professional

Another golf game from HAL, this time a slightly more challenging swing mechanic. Also, it's the first Famicom game have the name of a real life golfer attached to it.

Matsumoto Tooru No Kabushiki Hisshou Gaku

Not all Famicom games were aimed at children, as this release from Imagineer proves. Sporting one of the most boring video game covers ever, Matsumoto Tooru... is a stock market simulator crammed into an Japanese adventure game interface.

Exciting Soccer - Konami Cup

The final game in Konami's Exciting Sports series, Exciting Soccer is sadly no more exciting than Exciting Billard or Exciting Baseball. And I really had hope for this one!

Karaoke Studio Senyou Cassette Vol. 2

Another god damned Karaoke cartridge from Bandai and Tose.

I hope next episode will go a bit more smoothly. No games quite as huge as those here, but we will see the first game in a very long running series from Koei.

Until then, check out Chrontendo Episode 28 over at archive.org.


Reason said...

Just seeing a new episode of Chrontendo lights up my day!

By my own estimate, I figure Chrontendo will take at least 70 episodes or so. Chronsega and Chronturbo could take equally as long.

Of course if Chrontendo goes beyond the Famicom system, you might be doing this until you're a very old man indeed.

And I will happily watch every single moment. ;)

Jonothan said...

I like the actual art portion of the US Guardian Legend cover, it's pretty metal. The "huge orange boxes" portion, however, just plain sucks.

Gagano said...

Great episode Herr Doktor Sparkle, glad to see your keeping this going. I must say that I slightly disagree with you concerning Dragon Quest III, it's probably my favorite NES RPG. But really, that's a minor point, keep up the good work.

Kevin Moon said...

Hey, I finally made it into a Chrontendo blog! All right! I am very glad to hear that you are still going strong as ever. You have a very healthy constitution! I am downloading the latest episode at this very moment and am looking forward to viewing it as soon as possible. I enjoy every single one, as well as Chronturbo and Chronsega.

I know you mentioned that you didn't want to go "backward", but I would still love to see my favorite early 80s systems (Atari VCS, 5200, Colecovision, Intellivision) get the Chrontendo treatment. Perhaps such an undertaking could be justified by regarding them as "prequels"? You'd still be moving forward, chronologically, within that framework. And I'm sure Mezrabad (Chronogamer) would not consider that stepping on his toes. Of course, you have so much on your plate you probably couldn't even think of doing something like that, but I can dream, can't I?

Keep up the great work!

Kevin Moon said...

I also wanted to add that I am sorry to hear about the negative things that have been happening in your personal life lately. I'm sure we can all relate on one level or another, and understand the delays that would have caused. Take care of your family and life first, that's the most important! We're always happy to see the latest episode, no matter how long the wait--no worries.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Mezrabad -- now there's a guy who seems to going through some sort of long, dark night of the soul in regards to chronogaming. Hopefully, he's not going to pull the plug. It's a tough gig.

The cover to Guardian Legend looks "metal?" I guess it does have a sort of mid-80s Dio album cover feel to it. I never thought of it in those terms before.

About DQ III: You know, I like that game, but I can't seem to *love* that game. I do think the SNES version works a lot better.

fuxter said...

Дорогой товарищ доктор Спаркл!
i'm so glad to see new episode. actually i don't think you'd quit this job. people don't quit thier hobbies. and your hobby is not just doing somewhere, it's going somewhere. so you have direction, you don't just stop going.
pardon my russian.
ps: it's tough times. let's hold on.

qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

So, many people already have said something, so I feel kinda obligated to bring my thoughts to the folks: I think if there is one person, who will stay with Chrontendo, then it is the Doc. I love the show at the current state, and await eagerly every episode, but I am moving on in my life, and I don't know how long I have time to watch this in the future, but I have complete faith in Dr. S. to see the end of it. Even if it takes a decade.
You're the Doc, Doc...=)

fuxter said...

just wow! this episode is full of win!
even the kusoge games are strangely interesting. paris-dakkar, the guys with masks, insane colors game...
by the way the "exciting" montage was very touching and fun =))
thank you, doc.

Cornervizion said...

Gotta keep this short and sweet, but I must say that this episode is the best produced to date, loved the commentary by the way. And the Carpenters singing over the Exciting Sports "Tribute" was sublime. Worthy of repeat viewing!

qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

The 2 great games Mega Man and Final Fantasy in Episode 26 were a real handful, and made a great episode, but The Guardian Legend, Contra and Dragon Quest III not just in one episode, but IN A ROW, really melt faces. I have to agree with Cornervizion, this is one of the greatest ones yet, especially it had that clusterfuck game Paris-Dakar Racing...I think I will look for the ROM for that, just for the fun of it. I think every good Chrontendo needs at least one kosuge game (I hope I spelled it correctly, I am to lazy to look for the correct spelling right now), and better yet, it brought the Konami sports games to its grave. And, I think we will break the record in Comments for an Episode with this one... =)

CRV said...

I realized after watching that the driving/shooting segments on Paris-Dakar Rally Special are similar to Transformers: The Head Masters (FDS). They also share a font. I wonder if they're by the same developer (which is probably not ISCO).

Anonymous said...

Thrilled as always to have a new episode!!

Call me crazy, but I think Fire Bam is at least very appealing visually. The character designs and color are super fun and quirky. Now, the gameplay, not so much...

Doctor Sparkle said...

Well, I'll grant the various creatures found in Fire Bam are certainly weird and wild looking. But those colors! And FB has got to have the doofiest looking sword in any video game of that era. Obviously modern technology has allowed the folks at Square Enix to create far sillier weapons.

CRV - Everyone seems to assume that Transformers was done by ISCO. On their web page, they list both games. Do you think they subcontracted out to someone else?

qaylIS aka Nicolas Deußer said...

Okay, Fire Bam...I thought the game had some interesting mechanics, especially collecting fire as currency (I mean, what the fuck?!?), but the colors really hurted my head. Hey, if you Sergeant D like it, good for you, but I can't live with that colorpalette. And even with drugs that would increase the tolerance for crazy colors, I don't think I would like that...found that but the last time I watched Alice in Wonderland (Disney).
But the title alone, Fire Bam...a title you screem into a Microphone while hitting the podium, like at an conference. Fire BAM!

Helm said...

I enjoyed watching this episode twice. Thank you for all your hard work on these series. I hope your professional life moves towards stability soon.

CRV said...

@Doctor Sparkle Given ISCO's track record, probably.

Cornervizion said...

Sorry for the late-in-the day comment everyone, But having watched this episode last night. I think I can explain the reason why Contra went through some changes in Europe.

I know in the late 80's and Early 90's Konami's main European HQ was in Germany and due to a censorship law, games involving the killing of human characters was frowned upon. Also they felt the name "Contra" was a bit "Contra-versial" at the time. Hence the name "Probotector".

This wasn't the first or the last time this happened. For instance any reference to a certain 1930's Movement or their Symbolism was removed from War-Games and In Resident Evil the blood was changed to Green and blowing the Zombies' Heads off wasn't featured.

Despite this though, Some great, action-packed games came out from Germany and users of computers such as the Atari ST and Amiga enjoyed many titles like "The Great Giana Sisters" (For a while... until Nintendo saw similarites to their best known game and had it removed), "Turrican", "Wings Of Death", "Lionheart" and "The Settlers" amongst others.

Chris Sobieniak said...

RAH RAH ROOOOOO!!!! (sorry, got carried away!)

Noticed this hasn't showed up on the VC yet, if it ever does for North America, it would be nice if they'd give us something similar to the fan-translated version you used here.

Funny thinking Osamu Tezuka would die a year after this game came out. I still think it's rather sad he didn't live to see where animation would lead itself into the 1990's.

Rodneylives said...

One thing about Japanese Contra that you didn't mention is that it's actually much harder than the US version. In the American version enemies tend to fire one or two shots, then pause, then fire again, and repeat. In the Japanese version they'll usually lay down a steady stream of shots that's sometimes literally impossible to get through without dying. Fall into the water in the first level and see what I mean when it comes time to get out.

Doctor Sparkle said...

JohnH - Really? On the console version of Contra? I played the Japanese version for this episode and it didn't necessarily seem harder. But I guess it's been a while since I played the good ol' US Contra.