Friday, December 30, 2011

Season's Greetings

Christmas is behind us and New Year's Day beckons.  We'll ring in 2012 with Chrontendo Episode 43.  It might be a while, however, as Ep 43 will be the biggest episode yet, with a butt-numbing 20 games.  This will take us through March 1989 in its entirity.

Until then, with what can you slake your desire for entertainment?  Well, there's a new episode of Generation 16 for starters.  Also... how about a new movie review from Harry Plinkett? And it's a review of  Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull(Note: the video contains one very loud and disturbing sequence inappropriate for viewing in the presence of co-workers or family members) It's the perfect Christmas gift!  Do you remember that warm feeling of nostalgia that washed over you when you saw Crystal Skull?  Sure you do, but that wasn't nostalgia for the '80s and watching Raiders for the first time. No, it was nostalgia for 1999 and watching the Phantom Menace for the first* time! Skull brought those same sensations of excitement, hope, confusion, denial, disappointment, anger, and betrayal flooding back to you. 

If anything Plinkett goes a little easy on Crystal Skull; he seems far too accepting of Shia LeBeouf's performance in the film, for one.  Honestly - has there ever been a less engaging action "star" than LeBeouf? How many actors can duplicate his lack of charisma and screen presence? Jim Belushi, maybe? Spielberg and Lucas almost seem to be making fun of LeBeouf in the movie. The first shot of him in Skull shows him dressed up in 50's biker gear, drawing an obvious (and hilarious) parallel to Marlon Brando in The Wild One.  It almost seems to state, "Sorry kids, actors like Brando are hard to find nowadays.  Here's the weenie-ish 21th century equivalent. Yes, we know he looks like a kid playing dress-up, but look what we had to work with."

He's just like Brando, minus the cool and interesting part.
This sense of ersatzness pervades Crystal Skull. Even the plot revolves around fakery.  Instead of legendary objects such as the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant, Indy is searching for "Mayan" crystal skulls, which in the real world are 19th century forgeries, probably German in origin, sold to gullible collectors.  The film is like that; a fake Indiana Jones movie, foisted upon its unfortunate viewers.  Anyway, the Plinkett review is not quite as amazing as the Star Wars prequel reviews, but it's still pretty entertaining.

Okay, this post really didn't have much to do with video games.  Next time, I'll elaborate on my theory about Rock Operas.

*And probably only time.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One Last Episode for 2011

Hello folks. Things have been going a little slowly over here at Chrontendo HQ.  I've been subjected to a seemingly endless series of Christmas parties and events, delaying the new episode considerably. But the wait has finally ended and Chrontendo Episode 42 is now available.  You probably know what to do by now. For the dazzling 60 frames per second version, head over to, and for the slightly grody-er streaming version, check out Youtube.

You might be relieved to know the delays have not been Skyrim-related (at least not yet.)  I have just started Arkham Asylum recently -- and yes, that's Asylum, not Arkham City.  I prefer to pay $17 for a video game over paying $60.  Thus, I sometimes wait on new games. It's a cool little game, but... DAMN, is that voice work on Harley Quinn annoying!  Not being familiar with the Batman cartoons, I don't know anything about the character.  Is she really supposed to have this ridiculous Brooklyn accent? I half expected her to shout, "Cheese it! It's da coppers!" when Batman shows up.

In other news, Greg Sewart has finally launched his Genesis chronogaming video series, Generation 16. It appears the episodes will be a bit shorter than Chrontendo, and also a bit more professional looking; which is to be expected from a legitimate games journalist like Greg.

About Chrontendo 42: it consists of February 1989 in its entirety,  17 games all told.  Namely, Tecmo Bowl and a bunch of crap fine selection of games which are very interesting from a historical perspective.

One significant fact about Tecmo Bowl is that it was Tecmo's first game aimed squarely at the US market. It debuted in the US in February and didn't receive its belated Japanese release until a year and a half later.  While Tecmo Bowl was not the first football game we've seen for the system, it is certainly the best, and one of the most enjoyable NES sports games.  It is the polar opposite of EA's 1988 computer game Madden FootballTecmo Bowl's simplicity and intuitive controls are its major strengths.

What else is good in Episode 42? Well...


....  there's always Namco's Wagyan Land.

Upon starting up Wagyan Land, you'll be most struck by its visual style.  Bold, flat colors, simple geometric shapes -- there are very few Famicom games that look like Wagyan Land. I just wish the game itself were better.  The main culprit is the boss battles.* Remember how Alex Kidd had rock/paper/scissors boss battles?  Wagyan Land takes that one step further and gives you word game boss battles.  Yes, you need to defeat each boss in either a memory game or a word chain game.

Not quite as flawed, but less ambitious is the Konami/Ultra Games NES port of the 1982 arcade game Q*bert. Konami (or whoever ported this for them) were able to produce a reasonably good Q*bert facsimile.  The colors are not as bright, and the controls are not as responsive, but it's still heaps better than the crappy ports for the Atari 5200, Commodore 64 and the like.

While not in the same league as Tecmo Bowl, Konami's Ganbare Pennant Race! is a decent and slightly unusual baseball game. You read that right, Ganbare, as in Goemon.  One month after Ganbare Goemon 2, Konami stuck him in a baseball game.

What else is there in this episode? How about:

Friday the 13th

Another one of those games hated by the internet game critics crowd, this LJN release is not as bad as you would expect. At this time LJN's games were being handled by Atlus, who was then contracting out some of the development work.  Its not clear who was actually responsible for developing Friday the 13th, but it does bear a noticeable structural similarity to LJN's Jaws.  Both games take place in a relatively small game world, in which you may wander around freely.  The objective is simply to defeat Jaws/Jason in battle. This is done by moving around the map, killing low-level enemies, collecting items and building up strength. Jaws/Jason also moves around randomly on the world map, and you will encounter them from time to time, but you can't truly defeat them until the last stage of the game. Both games are pretty non-linear and sort of resemble a much shorter and more simplified RPG. Also, they both suffer from "what the hell am I suppose to be doing in this game?" syndrome.  They don't really resemble any other game in the NES library other than themselves.  Friday the 13th is not a very good game - it's terribly repetitive- but it is not nearly as awful as you have been lead to believe.

Roger Rabbit/Bugs Bunny Crazy Castle

The first entry in the horribly confusing Crazy Castle series, which made the jump to the FDS to handhelds with the second game. Remember Kemco's Donald Duck, which was called Snoopy's Silly Sports Spectacular in the US?  The same thing happened with this game. Kemco released it as a Disney-related title in Japan, and as a Bugs Bunny game in the US. Later entries managed to add to the confusion by throwing in Garfield, the Ghostbusters and Wood Woodpecker. 

Famicom Jump Eiyuu Retsuden

Bandai and Tose combined forces with the manga periodical Weekly Shōnen Jump to create this game, which tosses in tons of manga characters into a middling action RPG. Characters from Fist of North Star, Dragon Ball, Saint Seiya, City Hunter and many others make appearances. Famicom Jump stands, along with  Konami's Wai Wai World, as one of the first fan service video games.

Tom Sawyer no Bouken/Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Ye cats! Someone made a Tom Sawyer video game? Not unexpectedly, Seta chose not to adapt the novel, but instead used a dream sequence set-up in order to inject Tom into a standard sidescrolling platformer.  The terrible graphics, music and level design sink Tom Sawyer to the level of kusoge.

Oh, and for those of you who notice that I occasionally add in-game appropriate music during the game's intro segment -- no, I did not use Rush's "Tom Sawyer" for this game.  Because "Tom Sawyer" is a terrible, terrible song, Geddy Lee's charmingly dated synth drones notwithstanding.  Does anyone have any idea what that song is supposed to be about? "Today's Tom Sawyer/He gets high on you/And the energy you trade/He gets right on to the friction of the day." Does this mean anything at all? What exactly is the "friction of the day" and how does one "get right on" it? Did Rush write this song by stringing together a bunch of random five word phrases? (Probably, yes).

Oh wait, never mind.  This is a Rush song, so it's probably some Ayn Randian nonsense about how society oppresses the Übermensch.

The Rest

Can you believe it? More Japanese adventure games!

Yamamura Misa Suspense: Kyouto Hana no Misshitsu Satsujin Jiken

More cherry blossom intensive murder mystery excitement from Taito and Tose.  This is the second game in the series, and improves upon its predecessor by adding in a dynamic action bar.  That is, instead of always showing the same actions (talk, move, etc) the action bar is context sensitive. Only the useful icons will appear at any given time. Progress, I guess.


Yet another game based on yet another historical Chinese conflict. This time, we have an adventure game, taken from some manga you've probably never heard of.

Also, RPGs!

Hydlide 3

The orignal Hydlide is one of the most widely derided games on the NES.  Hydlide 3 could be considered a bit of an improvement, since it offers such things as character classes, towns, shops, NPCs, and so on.  Later in 1989, it was released for the Mega Drive/Genesis as Super Hydlide. I've always felt Hydlide had a worse reputation that it deserved.  The original computer Hydlide was one of the very first JRPGs, so it can be forgiven for a being a bit primitive. The US release was severely delayed, however. In fact, it came out only a few months before the US version of Super Hydlide.  By mid-1989, it must have seemed incredibly archaic.

And in case you're wondering, Hydlide 2 never had a console port.


An ugly, supernatural themed RPG.

Wizardry II: Llylgamyn no Densetsu

It's called Wizardry II, but this is really a port of Wizardry III.  This version is not as soul-destroying as the original US computer Wizardry III, but its still not exactly a lot of fun to play. Unless you like spending hours wandering down many, many identical corridors inside maze-like dungeons, fighting lengthy turn based battles every four steps.


Bandai Golf Challenge Pebble Beach

Yet another generic golf game.  This one distinguishes itself by being a US only release. Developed by Tose.

Tama & Friends - 3 Choume Dai Bouken

A simple sidescroller based on a cute kitty cat. Later, there was also a Tama & Friends anime.

Space Shadow

The pack-in game for the Hyper Shot, a machine gun shaped light gun from Bandai.  The gun is cool looking, but the game is incredibly boring. It simply involves shooting aliens, one at a time, with each alien taking about 20 shots to go down.

Flying Hero

Here's an odd one. Developed by Aicom (Amagon, Legendary Axe), Flying Hero is an inferior looking remake of the earlier Sega Master System game Megumi Rescue.   We saw Megumi Rescue in Chronsega 6, but if your memory fails you - it was an Arkanoid style game in which you rescue people trapped in a burning building.

OK, that covers it. With any luck, Episode 42 will cram in all of March, so it'll be a bit longer than normal.

And to soothe any hard feelings for you Rush fans out there, I'll leave you with some video footage of a prog-rock drummer is actually very creative and interesing. Perhaps you can eventually wean yourself from the empty showiness of Neil Peart.

Until next time, don't forget to check out Chrontendo 42 on Archive or Youtube.

*To all you would-be grammar Nazis: it's called synesis. Look it up.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Very Soon....

December is here and it time for my annual catch-a-cold/sore throat thing.  I was hoping to finish the voiceovers for Episode 42 today, but I'll have to wait until my voice is a little less scratchy. Then of course, we're off to Episode 43, and then... probably some more Chronsega and Chronturbo.

This is probably a sign of getting old, but for the last week I've felt the urge to listen to some classic rock live albums during my commute to work.  Currently I've got The Who's Live at Leeds and Deep Purple's Made in Japan in rotation on my car stereo. I've come to a realization lately: I don't think that Tommy is exactly the Who's best work.  Sure, there are some cool songs, but in spots it drags a bit, and the story doesn't make much sense.  Even live, it drags a bit in spots, and I'm starting to question whether there ever were any really good "rock operas."  Composing a rock opera is one of the early warning signs of a band's artistic decline (e.g. The Kinks,) if you ask me.

Anyhoo... I've been thinking about buying Skyrim at some point. Expect production delays if this happens.  For the immediate future, however, we should be seeing Episode 43 pretty soon.