What could be better than a urinal constructed out of old SNES carts? How about a new episode of Chrontendo! Episode 38 is now available in a variety of exciting formats on Archive.org, or in a fast, convenient, streaming version on Youtube. Unless you're like me, and your ISP also provides on-demand streaming video, in which case your Youtube download speeds may have become suspiciously slow lately.
This new episode can be divided neatly into four parts. The parts consist of: a) one classic NES games, b) a few "interesting" but non-spectacular titles, c) a bunch of crap, and d) the 1988 Computer Game Round Up.
I mentioned the Computer Round Up a few posts ago, so suffice to say that it's a reasonably long, high-level view of some of the highlights and lowlights of the world of computer gaming in 1988. It's a quick run through featuring adventure games, strategy games, "arcade" games, sports games, and role-playing games. It covers Western games only, and focuses on US computers, but a few British and European titles find their way in.
As for our "great" NES game this episode, it's none other than Tecmo's Ninja Ryūkenden/Ninja Gaiden/Shadow Warriors. Something I neglected to mention this episode was that, due to Europe's inexplicable dislike of ninjas*, the game was retitled Shadow Warriors over there. And apparently the idea of masked assassins doesn't go down in Europe, since Ryu was depicted as maskless and shuriken-less on the box art over there.
Ninjas in Europe are required by law to walk around without their masks on.
Playing the game in the cold, hard light of 2011 makes me realize two things - that Ryu is a terrible ninja, and that Tecmo has padded out a six level game with tons of cheap deaths. On the other hand, the much touted cinematic cut-scenes are still very impressive. Seeing them in the context of other NES games of the time makes them even more so.
A relatively peaceful moment in Ninja Gaiden.
Ninja Gaiden also confirms what we assumed about Tecmo after playing Rygar -- that they understand the differences between a good arcade game and a good console game. Ninja Gaiden stands next to Bionic Commando as the most successful NES reworking of an arcade title. Just like Capcom's game, the home version Ninja Gaiden is an entirely new game. This is because it was developed separately from the arcade version, by a different development team. The NES Ryu has been heavily wussified; his arcade counterpart was capable of performing the flying neck throw, a game breaking and conservation-of-momentum-defying attack. Additionally, the NES Ryu has been given an angsty back story involving the death of his father, and even falls in the love with a bouffanted CIA agent. The arcade Ryu is concerned with one thing only: handing dudes their asses. That and escaping the slowly descending saw blade, I suppose. Despite this, Ninja Gaiden's transformation from a relatively simple beat 'em up into an epic Castlevania clone resulted in a far more memorable game. By the time the sequel rolled around, Tecmo had ironed out most of the kinks.
It turns out blowing up secret fortresses is pretty effective as foreplay.
Beyond Ninja Gaiden, there are no other games in Episode 38 that that I can reccomend without hesitation. Still, a few titles are worth taking a closer look at.
King of Kings
Daisenryaku + an RPG + a deck of cards = King of Kings.
No, not the Wisdom Tree game, silly! This is an oddball military strategy game in the mode of Daisenryaku/Famicom Wars, except with elves and dragons replacing tanks and jet fighters. The title "King of Kings" is a bit strange, especially when you consider the main bad guy is named "Lucifer." Since the game was developed by Atlus, we can chalk this up as another example of their inappropriate use of religious figures in their games.
Godzilla: King of Monsters/Godzilla: Monster of Monsters
It always though that "atomic breath" should look more fiery.
Military strategy games were so popular on the Famicom in 1988 that Toho and Compile decided to make a beat 'em up that looked like a military strategy game. You move Godzilla and Mothra around on a hex based world map, and then play a short sidescrolling beat 'em up level for each space that you moved. It works quite a bit differently from most action games, since your character sprites are enormous, and taking tons of damage is unavoidable. Luckily you have huge lifebars, so you can just sort of smash you way through the levels. It manages to feel a bit "off," however.
Yet another military/strategic/RPG type thing, this time from Square. The game has a comedic slant to it, though the humor will be lost on anyone not literate in Japanese. Later titles in the series would be far more interesting, but a couple things are notable. Namely, the game's great Nobuo Uematsu score, and the Egg Monsters that you can use in combat. These would later find their way into the Final Fantasy series as Summons.
Believe it or not, the Master System version looked worse than this.
As with Fantasy Zone from Episode 20 , this is a Sega game published on the Famicom by Sunsoft (and later by Tengen in the US.) Somehow the Famicom Alien Syndrome manages to be better and more faithful to the arcade game that the Master System version.
Totsuzen! Macho Man/Amagon
You may have already seen this game in the preview of Episode 38 posted on Youtube earlier. If so, you know I don't really care for this game, despite the fact that this seems reasonably well made.
Kaettekita Mario Bros.
Nintendo pimps Mario out to an instant noodle company.
A genuine Famicom oddity, courtesy of Nintendo. This game, released for the Famicom Disk Writer, is a merely an improved version of Mario Bros. (originally seen back in Chrontendo Episode 1!), with some ads for Nagatanien noodle and rice seasoning products edited in. I assume the president of Nagatanien and Hiroshi Yamauchi belonged to the same country club or something. Even weirder, this version formed the basis for the Classic Mario Bros. game released in Europe a few years later.
In the category of less interesting stuff, we have the following:
A screenshot of Momotaro Dentetsu. Or maybe this is from Tetsudo Ou. I can't remember.
One of Hudson's longest lasting and most popular series, Momotaro Dentetsu (Momotaro's Electric Railway) is a take-off on Hudson's earlier Momotaro Densetsu game. Instead of an RPG, it's one of those train-themed board games, much like Tetsudo Ou, from Chrontedo 26.
Family Mahjong II
Another mahjong game from Namco, apparenty developed by Nichibutsu/Nissan Busan.
Great... the ice cream cone is humping the trumpet.
Another US release from Nintendo and Rare. This one's a "board game" in the style of Pictionary. If you're wondering how Rare cranks out games so quickly, part of it must have to do with the fact that certain assets, such as the system for typing out your answer using the d-pad, are borrowed from earlier Rare games -- Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! in this case.
Nakashima Satoshi: F1 Hero/Micheal Andretti's World GP
A weird and visually unappealing F1 racing game from Varie. These things never seem to get released in the US, but for some reason Sammy licensed the name and likeness of Michael Andretti (Mario's son) and gave it a whirl. I assume no one out there actually remembers this game?
Tantei Jinguuji Saburo: Kiken na Ninin
For the third Saburo game, Sunsoft used the same release tactic as Nintendo did for its adventure games. They split it up into two separate disks and released them about a month apart. For those who don't recall, the Tantei Jinguuji Saburo games are Portopia style mystery/detective adventure games.
Nankin no Adventure
Another adventure game, though this one is a humorous game from the obscure Japanese cartoonist Nankin.
Speaking of Rare, do you recall a weird old NES game called Taboo? We'll be covering that in around 5-6 episodes from now. In the meantime, this Jaleco release is sort of like the Japanese equivalent. It's a fortune telling game based on Chinese astrology.
Jaaman Tanteidan Matonarikumi
More crapola from Bandai, once again based on a kid's TV show. We covered its sister game back in Chrontendo 29.
We have now reached early December 1988, and in a few episode we'll finally get to 1989. We'll see a couple big name releases in late 1988, but before we do that we're going to switch gears for a second. The next episode up will be something that at least some of you have been waiting a while for.
Until then, check out Chrontendo Episode 38 on Archive or Youtube.
*See also: Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles