Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hey, You Guys Like Bad Games, Right?

I certainly hope so, because Episode 30 is going to have 'em. We are talking the real stuff, like, Hokuto no Ken bad.

But first of all, I'd like to point out that Chrontendo commenter Ruben Kraken, has created a Chrontendo Episode guide! I was thinking at some point I should put some kind of index up of past episodes, but this is even better, as it has icons, notes on specific games, etc. It can be found here:


Fantastic job, RK.

On the other hand, sometimes game companies don't always do a fantastic job. Sometimes they do a very bad job. And by "they" I'm referring specifically to Bandai, SNK and Toho, the perpetrators behind Kamen Rider Black, Ikari Warriors II and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

For folks outside of Japan, Kamen Rider Black is the least well known of these three. I was quite surprised to find out it was developed by Human*, since most of their previous work has been pretty competent. But, remember in the past I mentioned an interview from GDRI where it was revealed that the development of one particular Human game was done in about 4 weeks? I can only assume something of that nature occurred here, since Kamen Rider Black is one of the most minimalistic attempts at a video game I've seen so far. Barely the faintest hints of of level design, hit detection or even the slightest thought given to playability are to be found in this game.

They forgot to give this guy feet.

SNK and Micronics once again combine forces in order to bring you a substandard port of an arcade game. In the case of Ikari Warriors II, the results are just a wee bit below substandard. Impossible to deal with controls, laughably unintelligible speech samples, some really ugly graphics, and what appears to be loading time when switching to your inventory menu. How do you get loading times on a cartridge game? I sort of liked the NES Ikari, but this sequel is just... awful. Again, a certain minimalist touch is present, especially in regards to sound effects.

From screenshots alone, this game doesn't look that bad. Don't be fooled.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, was the second Famicom game from film studio Toho -- the first being the Compile developed Touch -- has developed a reputation as one of the worst NES games made. Partly this is due to some high profile ranting from the Angry Video Game Nerd and Something Awful, but unlike, say, Deadly Towers, this one really is a terrible game. Naturally, Bandai picked it up for US release.

Don't worry, Episode 30's not all bad games. We've also got two (or three, depending on your disposition) really great games coming up. Not to mention more military strategy games based on Sengoku-era warlords.

*More accurately, Sonata, as they were called prior to morphing into Human.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Chrontendo Springs Forward

It seems that spring has hesitantly arrived here on the west coast, about two months after it it was scheduled to start in March. Likewise, we have reached spring 1988 in the Chrontendo universe, and Episode 29 is finally here.

After featuring Contra and Dragon Quest III last episode, this one is bound to be a bit disappointing. But don't fear! We have our usual collection of good, bad and weird games; and at least one fondly remembered NES title.

Our special feature this time around is a little look at Taito, the folks who pretty much kicked off the video game craze in 1978, but by 2005 had reached the point where they got gobbled up by Square Enix. At which point I can imagine Yƍichi Wada informing everyone at Taito that from now on, Taito's main focus will be producing reworked versions of their classic games for handheld platforms. Hey, it worked for Square!

If I were to summarize 1987 for the Famicom, I'd say it was year that RPGs infiltrated almost every aspect of Japanese video games. Just was we saw a huge wave of RPGS hit the Famicom all at once, we now encounter a mini-tsunami of military strategy games. This will continue into Episode 30 and beyond, culminating with the August release of Famicom Wars from Nintendo themselves. Soon, even the RPG genre will be infected with the military bug, with Fire Emblem hitting shelves in 1990. Which leads us to our game of the month/episode:

Nobunaga no Yabou/Nobunaga's Ambition

This! Title! Screen! Is! AWESOME!

Koei makes its console debut in the most ambitious manner possible. In 1988 they brought a genre that had been previously been restricted to computers to the Famicom, established an office in the US, then translated and released NA for the NES. Today so many Japanese publishers are hesitant to take any risks when it comes to localizing games for the West. Yet in 1989 Koei rolled out a US release for a game in a completely untested genre that was about frickin' medieval Japanese history. And named it after a guy that approximately 0% of the NES user base had ever heard of. You have to admit, that takes serious balls. If they have a couple to spare maybe they could lend Sega some? While its hard to play Nobunaga nowadays, after haven been spoiled by modern strategy games, this game certainly has its place in NES history.

The Runners Up:

R.C. Pro-Am

Wait a second! Little tiny toy cars can't go that fast! Something's fishy here....

Another fine game from Rare that I don't personally care for. I just have some natural disinclination towards top-down, or in this case, isometric, racing games. As I mentioned a while back, in 1988 Nintendo of America began relying less on Nintendo Japan for games, and focused more on producing US only games developed by western companies. R.C. Pro-Am is one such game, and would be followed up by Anticipation, also by Rare, towards the end of the year.

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode

Chicks don't dig on Duke Togo for his scintillating conversational skills.

A bold, surprising, and very flawed release from Vic Tokai. Yes, this is the game where your character rather famously gets laid in a cut scene. Nintendo of America's censors must have been asleep at the wheel when this one came down the line. It walked off with a Seal of Quality despite containing graphic, bloody violence and sex. Golgo 13 is a bit ahead of its time with its use of cut scenes and highly varied game play. For example, in one sequence you are required to perform a hit from a helicopter using a high powered sniper rifle. The rest of the game mixes in side scrolling beat-em-up action, Hogan's Alley style shooting sequences (sans light gun), underwater levels, and first person mazes. This would make a fantastic game -- if only the action sequences were better handled. The first person mazes, in particular, get singled out as exercises in tedium and frustration. Of all the games this episode, Golgo 13 is the one I really wish turned out a bit better.

Arkanoid II

Another very competent and faithful port of a Taito game. Though its appeal is somewhat limited by it needing the special Arkanoid controller to be played properly.

And now the bad games:


Yep, flying predator heads.

Yikes! Another movie tie-in from Pack-in-Video, the same guys who brought you Rambo. Just like the Rambo game, Predator bears only the slightest resemblance to the movie it was supposedly based on. Among the highlights: walking though walls and then falling through the ground to your death; the fact that your weapons will vanish every time you begin a new level; and a battle with the Predator, whose attack consists of shooting out a group of four flying mini-Predator heads.

T&C Surf Designs: Wood and Water Rage

The first of not one, but two NES games featuring characters from surfboard manufacturer T&C Designs' line of T-shirts. I assume LJN was looking for something even more ridiculous than a paint gun toy to base a game on. Despite being a product of Japanese developers, it seems to be inspired by the California Games school of video game design.

Tsurikichi Sampei: Blue Marlin Hen

A fishing game from Victor Interactive, based on an anime/manga. That pretty much tells you all you need to know. Victor has put out some terrible stuff so far. Their troubling legacy continues when their next release turns out to be a port of Ys, handled by the infamous Advance Communication.

Nazoler Land Dai 3 Gou

The fourth Nazoler Land game from Sun Soft. And, thankfully, the last.

Also, lots of ho-hum stuff this time around:

Wardner no Mori

A decent little platformer arcade game gets a less than impressive port to the FDS. Taito, a little behind the times, will continue supporting the FDS a bit longer than the other big arcade companies, until early 1989.

Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf

This SNK golf game was given the dubious honor of being mentioned in Game Revolution's list of worst video game names, for reasons I don't really understand. I can think of plenty of worse names. From last episode alone, we have Replicart and Fire Bam. And don't even get me started on Stick Hunter. At any rate, this is around the ninth golf game we've covered, and ir really brings nothing new to the table, aside from the likeness of Lee Trevino.

Omoikkiri Tanteidan Haado Gumi - Matenrou no Chousenjou

This guy is supposed to some sort of master thief. But how hard can it be to catch a guy making a getaway in a hot air balloon?

Oddball, vaguely Goonies II styled game based on a Japanese TV show. The most notable thing is the antagonist wears a terrifying gold V for Vendetta type mask.


I love what you did with this room. You must give me your interior decorator's number!

A port of an British computer game from Firebird. The original game was clearly inspired by Gauntlet, but I guess Jaleco picked this up for Japanese release because they could pass it off as a Zelda clone. It features a Druid who shoots fireballs and can summon a Golem. I suppose a Spaceballs quote would be appropriate here?


Something I never expected to see on the Famicom: a port of LucasArts' first game. It's sort of like soccer played with landspeeders.

19 - Neunzehn

Our most mysteriously title game this episode. But we've already heard about this game last post.

Napoleon Senki

Yet another title with a mix-up on its Wikipedia page. The author seems to have conflated this Irem/Lenar game with L'Empereur, a different Napoleonic War game from Koei.

So I hope to have Episode 30 out in a more reasonable time frame. And after that... Chronsega 5! Until then, head on over to Archive.org and check out Chrontendo Episode 29.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It's All About Strategy

Things have been slow down here in the Chateau d'Chrontendo. One would naturally think that being laid off would free up more time to work on Episode 29. But, having been laid off once before, I knew this wasn't going to be the case. I think this may have something to do with the fact that since I know you have lot of free time, I tend not to use that time wisely. It's amazing how quickly the day can just disappear....

Regardless, Episode 29 should be ready before too long. One little hitch -- I somehow miscalculated the number of games this episode, and then realized I still needed one more. And that game was Golgo 13 ! (ugh!). If you don't know the game, then you're in for a treat. It's an odd combination of freshness/innovation and questionable game design/frustration.

But the real stars of Chrontendo Ep. 29 are the military simulation/strategy games. I mentioned when covering the SD Gundam game a few episodes ago that 1988 was going to a big year for the genre; and it's starting now. Out of nowhere, three military simulation games pop up! In order from simplest to most complex, we have:

19 - Neunzehn

This game seems to have a reverse case of "Nosferatu, vampire" in the title. One challenge for developers of these early military games was to find a reasonable way to depict the confronatations on the battlefield itself. Whenever opposing forces met in SD Gundam, we were treated to a ridiculous little action sequence involving robots running around shooting each other. 19 - Neunzehn handles battles somewhat like that - battles take place on a separate screen in which three units from each army move around and try to attack each other using an odd combination of real time and turn based moves.

Napoleon Senki

Unlike 19, this Lenar developed title from Irem takes a much more epic approach to warfare. The game traces Napoleon's career from early victories in Italy up through Waterloo. The main overworld maps use real time movement, as opposed to 19's turn based movement. The battles themselves once again take place on a separate screen, and let you control reasonably large forces, including artillery, all in real time. In cases where you feel the outcome of a battle is certain, you can even choose an automated battle option, where the computer simply plays the battle for you and gives you the results.

Nobunaga no Yabou/Nobunaga's Ambition

Here's one you might recognize. The first console game in Koei's long-running series, Nobunaga's Ambition is the only game here to be released in the West. Whereas 19 & Napoleon Senki are technically military tactics games, Nobunaga is an honest-to-god strategy game. Aside from maintaining your army, you'll also get to grow rice, build dams, form alliances with other daimyo, and raise or lower taxes. Out of these three games, it's certainly the one that the most time and effort went into, and the one that most resembles modern Civilization-type games. Expect to see more historical Japan themed warfare games soon.

As for Episode 29, while I can't promise anything, I expect it to be ready in a couple days.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

One Last Thought on Tatio

Here's a link I should have put in the last post: a former Taito employee's recollections of working for the US office, specifically during the localization/reworking of Power Blade. This fellow obviously has a bit of an axe to grind, but he does describe some rather strange decisions on Taito's part.