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.


Zaygne Torkmar said...

Aw man, this is awesome. I'm pulling an all-nighter to finish my final project for a film-budgeting/pre-production class tonight, and an episode of Chrontendo will surely help me make it through the wee hours of the morning.

And on the matter of Rush, I used to like them quite a bit- to the point that I saw them live for my 16th birthday in fact (which even in retrospect, was still a pretty great concert). However, as I got older their adolescent quasi-baroque over-indulgence (and terrible lyrics) and poorly thought out Ayn-Randian sympathies became too much for me to bear.

As I understand it, "Tom Sawyer" is supposed to be a reimagining of Twain's character as an 80's corporate-culture hyper-individual Reaganaut... which is sort of baffling on a lot of levels.

Anonymous said...

According to Wikipedia, Capcom's later game "Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru," much better known to us as the infamous "Yo! Noid" was based on the Wagan Land engine. Comparing the titles side by side, it seems almost certain. Besides the obvious graphical similarity, the downhill/sliding sections of Wagan Land and the non-fight bosses were remade for Hanamaru/Noid.

Interestingly (or not), the Hanamaru character and some of the bosses from his respective title appear in Capcom's quiz game "Hatena no Daibouken," released around the same time. It makes me wonder if Hanamaru was meant to be pushed as a new mascot, or if it was a simple cross promotion.

If anyone's curious, a group from the Something Awful boards has translated a ton of episodes of the show Game Center CX, including the Hatena no Daibouken episode in which the Hanamaru characters appear.

flip said...

Thanks for another great episode of Chrontendo goodness!

As far as 'aka' vs 'seki' is concerned: kanji characters have multiple possible pronunciations in Japan. Often when several kanji are combined into one word, the Sino-Japanese pronunciation is used, so in this case 'seki' instead of 'aka'. If you were using 'red' as an adjective, it would indeed be 'akai' 赤い, and the character is often pronounced 'aka' in other compound words. My guess is they actually went for 'sekiryû' on purpose because the game/ manga is set in China and the pseudo-Chinese pronunciation fits in better with the theme.

Anonymous said...

Wait wait wait.
During Hydalide 3 you said you wouldn't be giving it a lot of attention because eventualy you will be covering the Genesis version.
i know we have Chronsega, is that going to continue past master system into Genesis?

GarrettCRW said...

It should be noted that the Japanese version of Tecmo Bowl has an updated roster. While the US game had a roster largely derived from the 1987 season (which is why Walter Payton is in the game two years after his retirement), the Japanese release is based on the 1989 season.

Also, some copies of Tecmo Bowl replaced Colts running back Eric Dickerson with Albert Bentley because of Dickerson's disputes with the league and the player's association.

Anonymous said...

You wrote in your blog "Konami's Goemon Pennant Race! is a decent and slightly..."
The name of the game is Ganbare Pennant Race! Konami didn't make the game all about the Goemon character after all.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Alysandher - We all have terrible music in our past. I used to be a huge Frank Zappa fan in Junior High! And while that interpretation of Tom Sawyer is probably correct, I don't see how anyone could figure that out just by listening to the song. Of course, 99% of rock lyrics are gibberish...

Apparently Wagyan developer Now Production also did Hanamaru/Noid, which raises an interesting question. Did guys like Now work strictly as guns-for-hire or did they hold the rights to the code they wrote? I assume Now owned the Wagyan game engine themselves if they used it in a Capcom game. It will be interesting to see if it turns up in any other games.

Yep, I had the title for Ganbare Pennant Race! wrong in the blog post, but correct in the video, thank goodness! I've corrected it and also added a screenshot that I forgot to put up earlier. Thanks for the heads up.

Flip - that makes perfect sense. So it's a kun'yomi/on'yomi thing, I guess?

Last Bird Week I Gave You My Heart and the Very Next Day, Megami Tensei said...

Yeah I mean, Friday the 13th is a pretty crappy game, and more or less unplayable by today's standards, but it's pretty much on par with the majority of NES games from that period that weren't made by Capcom, Nintendo, or Konami. It wasn't a total unplayable mess like that NES X-Men game, which I believe actually came out AFTER Friday the 13... I mean, yeah, it definitely did because I don't think it's appeared in Chrontendo yet.

Knurek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Knurek said...

Thank you for another great episode.

Just a tiny question, since you're nearing April of 1989 - will Chrontendo be going portable as well?

Not that I really want to add another 1200+, mostly crappy, games to your plate, but then I wouldn't mind them being covered as well. :)

joedick said...

I think the good Doctor has said in the past that he will likely cover the 16-bitters but the portable games will be a bit much. Sorry if I am misquoting!

The Professor said...

My god...first he slams Rush in the main post, then I come to the comment section and he's ragging on Frank Zappa! Boo, I say.

Great episode, though.

Doctor Sparkle said...

I remember years ago reading an article about Zappa in which the author stated that you stop liking Zappa once you reach the age where you're cooler than he is, which for most people is around 16. Harsh words, to be sure, but Zappa's sense of humor works my nerves to the point where I find him impossible to listen to. With the exception of some late 60s, Hot Rats era stuff. Though nowadays if I'm in the mood for proggy-jazzy music I'd probably put on some Soft Machine or Henry Cow before turning to Zappa.

I do love me some Captain Beefheart, however.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

Oh, and as the aspiring resident Japanese aficionado, I can help you with your confusion over "Red"'s pronunciation.

In brief,
Japan had its own language prior to adopting the Chinese Character system (much like Korean), and thus it's own pronunciations.
When Japan recieved the new writing system, however, certain the approximation of the Chinese way of saying the characters also weaseled its way into the language.
Thus, today it is common for a certain character to have at least two pronunciations: the Japanese way, and the Chinese way.

How can you tell when to read it one way or the other? When a Character (Kanji) is paired with another, typically both are pronounced in the Chinese way. When the Kanji is used on its own, it is typically pronounced in the Japanese way. There are, however, exceptions.

In this case, "Aka" (あか) is the Japanese way, and "Seki" (せき) is the "Chinese" way. Here it is "Seki," because "Dragon" and "King" are both in Kanji form as well, and make a three character phrase which is very "Chinese."

That clear things up?

to make it more confusing, though, most Kanji have more than just two pronunciations, due to phonetic flow in different words, or due to the various pronunciations by Chinese chronology and geography.

English has a similar issue, truthfully, with our amalgam of prefixes, suffixes, and roots, that all depend upon the linguistic and etymological origin.
like, for instance, the plural of "Octopus."

Thanks for the episode! have a merry christmas.

Qun Mang said...

Thanks for keeping up on this- it really is entertaining to watch you going through the game history of this console (as well as TG16 and SMS). An interesting read in the comments section too between Rush and the Asian characters.

I have decided to start forcing 4:3 resolution on these videos by the way. Why? Though it makes the non-gameplay sections like the box art look wrong, the original games were stretched onto a 4:3 screen. Since the majority of each episode is gameplay video I thought this would be an appropriate way to watch it. Now if only the video player came with a mame-esque HLSL filter to simulate a CRT television screen...

Kevin "k8track" Moon said...

I am truly saddened to learn that, after having viewed your latest episode, I will have to undergo several painful laser removal sessions to modify my "Octopi 4-Ever" chest tattoo. It's a good thing I opted out of the scarification route.

Happy Hi-Fi Christmas and a Swanky New Year!

Anonymous said...

In Wagyan Land, I believe that what you took to be Dr. Devil's extremely tight pants were actually goat legs. The Devil is often depicted with the hind legs of a goat and, if you look closely, you can see that he has cloven hooves.

Also, I might be wrong about this, but isn't Tecmo Bowl's sequel, Tecmo Super Bowl, the one that is fondly remembered as the greatest NES sports game? It's certainly the one I loved (and still play).

I assume that the confusion is caused by the fact that most people shorten the title to "Tecmo Bowl" when they are talking about Tecmo Super Bowl. However, you are not the only source that cites this game as the much beloved version, so it is possible that I am the only one who liked Tecmo Super Bowl.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Anon - Perhaps my enthusiasm for Tecmo Bowl got the most of me, since I probably should have called TB one of the best "series" rather than best "game." Most people would consider the sequel to be even better than the first, though I'm not sure which game was more successful at the time. Tecmo Bowl was released near the height of the NES' popularity in the US and Tecmo Super Bowl was released after the SNES was out.

As for Dr. Devil's legs, I really don't know. They don't really look like goat legs to me, but the graphics aren't detailed enough to say for sure. Maybe he'll turn up again in the sequel.

Jonothan said...

If I'm not mistaken, it's standard for Japanese hard hats to have a cross on the front.

doctorx0079 said...

Just a quick comment here. Both for Doctor Sparkle and you other guys. Have any of you actually read any Ayn Rand? If not, you don't know what she wrote about or what her writing is like. It's not that hard to just read it for yourself. Please don't insult Ayn Rand by trying to blame Rush on her. Their album 2112 was vaguely inspired by one of her novels, but that's all the connection there is between Rush and Rand. They had a few great songs but a lot of them do suck. Tom Sawyer being one.

Sean C said...

I've read Ayn Rand. Don't ask me about Rush though. And Imthoughly reject her objectionism philosophy. I read Atlus Shugged and part of the architect one. ( the title is eluding me right now.). While on a certain level I enjoyed the story or Atlus Shrugged, the whole philosophy of that book turned me off. Especially the John Galt manifesto. I find most people who like Rand to be very egotistical, and selfish. The whole "money is the root of all good" thing is what is wrong with the world today. I'm not socialist or anything but I do believe in checks and regulations on the hoarding of wealth. And that to live in a functioning society requires that we at least take care of those less fortunate. Also as a strong supporter of unions I didn't really like the anti union rhetoric. In a business, all the workers deserve their fair share not just the CEOs. Yes ideas count and should be protected but you can't do everything your self. And those that build your ideas with you deserve eir share as well. And in Atlus shrugged especially they present a scenario that is far from reality. Last time I checked our government wasn't in the business Nationalising companies or dictating whose steel you have to buy. Ad some of the companies built on ideas are doing quite well, Apple for instance. And Google. Ad the truth of the matter is that most people with lots of money are not as virtuous as those presented in her books, but rather would do whatever it takes to make another buck no matter what the cost. We only need look at the turn of e century with its unchecked capitalism and rampant poverty to see where Ayn Rand like thinking would get us. Where those who had the money kept all the money, not because they where the idea makers, but because though cronyism and monopolys new innovation was stifled and kept those in power in power. I guess I believe the old saying that it takes money to make money is very true and I support a more level playing field for all people until its not.

Doctor Sparkle said...

Great, I step out for a little bit, and now people are discussing Ayn Rand on here?

I'm sure part of the reason people hate Rand so much is that she is a pretty terrible writer. She has a tin ear for dialog, her characters are ideology-spouting cardboard cutouts, and she never hesitates to use 100 words when 10 would do.

As for the whole objectivist thing - it just seems like watered down Nietzsche reconfigured for the era of crony capitalism. I don't think she tackles any issues that hadn't already been covered with more thoughtfulness by Nietzsche, Hobbes, Rousseau, and Adam Smith.

Her main strength seems to be describing a dualistic world in which individuals are either godlike elites or mindless slaves; all the while implying to the reader, that "You, dear reader, by the very act of reading this book and agreeing with everything in it, have proven yourself to be one of the intellectual elite described therein!" In that sense, she's sort of like a 20th century right-wing Chernyshevsky.

Sean C said...

Ya... I like your answer better. You put your thoughts into words alot better than I did. I guess it would help if I actually studied philosophy sometime. Especially the polarized nature of the charachters being godlike intellectual elites or scummy selfish leaches on society. The problem is that when alot of people read it, they do feel that emporerment and agree with her. I found myself getting lulled in myself until the ridicuolousy long John Galt sppech taking what like 13 pages? The I realized this is a bunch of bullcrap. My Superviser at work thinks its the best modern book ever written. He also thinks that the government seizing our 401k retirement plans is eminent too. Thats the kind of loonies I have to deal with who read Ayn Rand. Anyway, does this mean the new episode is near?

Doctor Sparkle said...

13 pages? More like 70! The exact page length varies from edition to edition.

Lucifer said...

Haha I must be one of the few who really enjoys Friday the 13th. When it came out I used to rent it all the time as a kid. I was attracted by the whole creepy/spooky mood of it I guess. In retrospect I think it's a bit of a survival horror and open world game. Just a bit lol.
That part in the cave when you we're looking for Jason's mom, you need the flashlight to see some entrances in the wall. And you need to light up all the fireplaces to get the flashlight.
Anywho, I started watching over a year ago and I'm slowly catching up, keep up the good work!

Greg said...

I also enjoyed Friday the 13th as a kid. It freaked me out when Jason popped out with the "DUN DUN DUN Dunn" sound in the field. (Although there are pretty strong indicators when this is about to occur ... I was pretty dumb back then.)

Not a great game by any means, but it had quite a few nice aspects (maps, item inventory, slightly different character types, etc.).

I would peg it as one of the first console Survivor horror games,

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised no one has pointed this out yet, but you were in fact "doing something wrong" when playing Space Shadow.

Since you're meant to play the game with some kind of submachine gun, you can simply hold down the trigger to fire at a much faster rate. You don't have to pull the trigger for every single shot like in most previously released light gun games. This makes killing enemies a lot faster. It introduces another problem though: the screen turns black so frequently that it makes the whole thing kind of hard to watch and almost seizure-inducing.

It's not a great game by any means, but I can see how it would be really tedious and boring playing it the way you did.

Good episode though. I hope the Chrontendo series will continue soon.