I know what you’re thinking: “I didn’t made a game about young hip-hop producers for the NES!?!?” and unfortunately, I think that would be a more interesting premise for this game, almost as entertaining as a Making the Band video game featuring Sean “Puffy” Combs. MC Kids is a boring platformer for the NES loosely based on characters of the McDonald’s restaurant. The game totally rips off the mario format (although that argument could be made for practically every platformer of the 8 and 16-bit generations) and sort of pulls it off in the context of the time.

That being said, the only reason I chose to include Level 2 of MC Kids is because it bears a striking resemblance to a song produced by a local electronica band whose members I happen to be friends with. Now I hate electronica, as I have told my electro-inclined brethren ad nauseum, but I do have a special place in my heart for all the bleeps and blurts of old gaming music.

So, without adieu, level 2 of the infamous corporate shit-pile that is M.C Kids:

filed by Drew.

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Episode 2

01Feb10

Episode numero dos is now online and available for your listening to pleasure and/or harsh critique. You can either find it via the iTunes store or right here. Topics for this episode include retro plagiarism, games that rip off such retro classics as ZELDA, MARIO KART, and COMMANDO (among others), as well as reviews of Rendering Ranger: R2 (Super Famicom), Magical Pop’n (Super Famicom) and Exile/XZRII (Genesis) and other random retro tidbits. Check it out and let us know what you think!

Music for this week’s show includes selected music from:

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES/GENESIS)

Crusader of Centy (GENESIS)

Great Gianna Sisters (C64)

Heavy Barrel (NES)

Magical Pop’n (SFC)

Ducktales (NES)


It’s time to channel that dormant little shithead in all of us. We all have an impish bastard buried beneath the mire of office chairs, alcohol abuse, multiple choice questions and workforce malaise. Their cries of disbelief at the severe difficulty of LEVEL ONE, the entire dollar they had to pay for the added immersion of sitting in a chair to control a vehicle, or at the insistence that no they CANNOT have another two dollars haunts every bowling alley, pizza parlor, department store vestibule and dirty mall corner you can think of.

We all carry with us an annoying little brat who would beg for change with more shamelessness than a homeless person.

Adult cynicism aside, it’s hard not to miss that era. It’s difficult to avoid romanticizing a time when approaching the local mall arcade filled one with a near mystical sense of anticipation and wonder. One could enter it and discover some rare oddity never encountered again. You could gaze upon graphics that made home console efforts look like cave paintings. If you were good enough at a game like Street Fighter II or Killer Instinct a crowd of admirers could be attained. To a young kid, the arcade was a magical place even if it usually was shoved into the musty back rooms of the adult world.

That time cant be unearthed(and thankfully not the bastard fuckspawn screaming for money either), but many obscurities are to be found in the realm of the arcade. This series aims to focus on the lesser remembered(some deservedly so) titles. Tying in with this weeks podcast topic of clones and ripoffs, I examine a rather uncommon licensed effort released in 1987 by Data East: The Real Ghostbusters.

Ghostbusters in the arcade? Why the hell not?

I wouldn’t exactly call it obscure but its presence certainly wasn’t as ubiquitous as something like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The basic game is another in a long list of arcade games that liberally borrow from Capcom’s Commando and plays essentially the same. Being an arcade game, plot and faithfulness to the source material is eschewed in favor of straightforward action. The player controls an anonymous Ghostbuster who apparently spends most of his time policing other dimensions, as the majority of the levels look like ugly temples, deserts, or swamplands and not much like anything you would see in New York City.

The Ghostbusters going Commando.

Despite that, each level opens up with the Ghostbusters pulling up to an assumedly haunted building which looks vaguely like their firehouse HQ and is conveniently labeled Ghosthouse. I guess the GBs have gone from paranormal investigators to paranormal SWAT officers busting into rundown ghost projects and taking the poor tenants down, which makes me wonder if ghosts are the most powerless minority in our society.

Those fascist scientists are armed with their traditional proton packs, although now they shoot a basic bullet projectile as well as the standard proton beam. The projectile is fairly useless, but you are forced to use it as the proton beam has limited energy and is also the only way to capture ghosts, which give you points, lives, and powerups. You can also find Slimer, who here is given the creative name GREEN GHOST. If you manage to grab him he provides you with limited protection as a sort of shield, an option found in many SHMUP style games.

Yes, you can cross the streams. No, it doesn't do anything.

Theres no traps or anything else though…yep. Thats all you get. The ghosts are trapped by sucking them into your proton pack like a vacuum with the beams. This makes the game quite frustrating at times, since the beams are limited as mentioned earlier. You can collect powerups to replenish and upgrade your beam as well as the shot, but the shot is only decent when fully upgraded and you lose all upgrades upon death. If you were a wealthy young chap with a handful of quarters, however, you could pump them in for extra beam energy and lives.

This is where MAME comes in. As with a lot of arcade games, Ghostbusters is extremely difficult and litters the screen with death at every turn. Play it in MAME, fill it with virtual quarters and then play this game as god intended: proton beam only. It’s still hard to survive, but the beam rips through enemies a lot faster than the pathetic shot and provides a more authentic ghostbusting experience.

When viewed in perspective with all the other Ghostbusters game efforts, Data East’s offering isnt so bad. It’s quite monotonous, lacks replay value and won’t hold your imagination for long, but such is the nature of most arcade games. This is actually one of the few good Ghostbuster games, along with GB 2 on the Gameboy, New GB 2 on NES, and the current gen game released last year. Thing is, there is very little within the actual game to identify it as Ghostbusters. There’s the aforementioned changes to how the proton packs and trapping of ghosts work. There’s the fact that your Ghostbusters all wear extremely bright and colorful suits and look nothing like the cartoon renditions. Hell, the ghosts themselves all look like monsters, strange beasts or demons and only turn into ghosts once they have been destroyed.

Interestingly enough this game is known as Meikyuu Hunter G in Japan and has nothing to do with Ghostbusters at all. The level designs, weapons and enemies are all different. I assume that Data East just went ahead and slapped the GB license on it for the US after editing the graphics and tweaking the gameplay a bit. This explains why the game only feels vaguely GB like.

We aint afraid of no Meikyuu!

Considering that this game is fairly short and supports three player simultaneous play, its worth a glance. Its a quick fix of mindless blasting. Viewed as a Commando clone though, its only adequate. There isn’t much variety in the enemies, weapons, or levels and beyond it having a Ghostbusters theme nothing stands out. It received a few ports on home computer systems such as the Amiga and Commodore 64, but they were all quite horrid and should be skipped. The Real Ghostbusters certainly isn’t a timeless classic, but as a licensed arcade game from the 80s, its good enough.

filed by Eric.


Dude, I am so amped to hit those primo heavies at the pipeline! I’m gonna hit that barrel hard, ya know, get right up in that tube action and shoot the curl!

This is the heathen dialect of my most hated of “extreme” sub-cultures, the ungodly surfer. Part frat boy, part slacker, and all annoying, these carrot tops of the high seas will make your ears retract with their butchery of the English language. Thankfully, the 80’s surfer sub-culture has devolved into a hodge podge of posers and yuppies looking to add some extremity into their weekend. However, much to my dismay, this spirit of oceanic buffoonery is still alive and well in the world of Totally Rad for the NES.

I didn't know reptiles liked Hot Topic!

The first thing that jumped out to me when looking at this horrid box art was that this game was developed by Jaleco, the same company that brought us such classics as Tuff E Nuff and Pinball Quest (the first fantasy pinball game!). Obviously, I shouldn’t be expecting much, but let’s go ahead and start this digital torture. The first thing you see when you pop the game in (besides your NES flashing dozens of seizure-inducing colors) is this horrid creature: Zebediah the Magician.

I'll never erase this image from my mind

What follows is a painful conversation/plot setup that goes something like this:

Jake: Hey Zeb, whats with all this jogging?

Zebediah: Excercise will make your magic powerful, the legs are the first thing to go.

Jake: Sounds righteous dude, but i’m pooped

Ugh. I already feel like killing myself. First level, already this looks like your average “walk right and punch shit” NES game, the only real difference being that you shoot fireballs and other magic that also look like fireballs. You can also become a bird type creature, some kind of clawed creature, and Fish Boy. Trust me, it’s even less exciting then it sounds. Unfortunately, your magic will deplete very quickly and it doesn’t help that the purveyors of sadness and misery that made this game decided to litter every level with an ungodly quotient of enemies.

Yawn

So what about the plot? You’re Jake, you learned magic from a creepy, pedo-looking magician named Zebediah Pong and are subsequently forced to rescue your girlfriend from a “surprise”. Yes, you read that correctly, at the beginning screen of the first level the game tells you that Jake has been attacked by a surprise. I’m hoping the developers just started making the game and filled in the plot holes along the way, that’s what I would do if I were assigned to make this piece of shit game.

There you have it, the most cliche plot in the history of video games,  and this one definitely doesn’t attack me with any “surprise”. The gameplay itself isn’t bad, my only real gripe besides the monotony of it all is that your character controls like the game is set on the moon. The level design is abysmal and I was forced to stop in the 3rd level because there was a box blocking my path and I couldn’t figure out to destroy it/go around it without breaking my no cheating rule. Reaching the 3rd level was a grueling ordeal in itself, as I mentioned before every screen is littered with enemies. Pigs, soldiers, floating balls on string, every 3 seconds something is thrown in your face. This game can be called many things, but easy is not one of them.

Please, don't humor the child

It could be argued that within the context of 1991 NES games, Totally Rad isn’t totally bad, but thankfully we no longer live in that era of shitty mascots and grunge music and can see this game for what it really is: a mediocre Mega Man rip-off with some cool ideas that don’t really measure up in practice. I bought this game at my local game store for a whole $2 and still feel regret, so I would suggest that if you find this title for less than that and want a good laugh, pick it up. Otherwise, just say smell ya later to this turd bomb.

filed by Drew.


I know its cliche, I know you’ve probably heard it already, but I LOVE this song. The moon level theme from Ducktales symbolizes everything thats warm and fuzzy about the nes era, simpler times of yore when we didn’t know of ‘facebook’ or ‘google’ and all we had at our disposal was wit and possibly an issue or two of Nintendo Power. This song is a classic, and a perfect pick for our very first chip tune of the week!

filed by Drew.


It seems that nearly everyone i’ve met who fits into the category of “hardcore gamer” (whatever that means) is quite privy to playing SHMUPS, or “shoot em ups” for the uninitiated. I’ve never really been a fan of the genre, but it’s popularity dates all the way back to coin-op classics Space Invaders and Galaga, so I can certainly understand the almost cult status some shooters have today.

To put it simply, most games in this genre are hard, they require intense pattern recognition abilities and quick reflexes, two qualities that years of alcohol abuse have robbed me of. Beyond this glass ceiling of difficulty lies a strange creature, the person who is bored with the variety of standard SHMUPS available and decides to turn to a more difficult genre to fulfill their gaming fancy. What incredibly niche genre is this you ask? Oh wait, you already know because you read the title, *ahem* none other than bullet hell!

Oh the colors

the colors man

See all those colored bullets? They will all kill you, and if you couldn’t surmise how difficult it is to traverse the game environment without getting hit from the image, maybe you should see your optometrist. This bright idea of throwing even more shit in your face originated in Japan in the 90’s, we’re I could only imagine the taedium vitae the nation’s nerds of the time were going through. Thus, the trend of bullet hell emerged and secured the sub genre’s place in the history of extremely difficult games that are accessible to virtually no one.

Let’s see one of these ridiculously difficult games in action. This clip is from a Japanese game called Mushihimesama, try your hardest to ignore the annoying screams of what I can only assume is the pilot’s distressed girlfriend whose along for the ride.

So if you’re the type of person who loves spending hours memorizing bullet patterns, sound cues, and enemy spawn points, bullet hell might just be the genre for you. Be prepared to go hunting for some of these games though, as most of the notable iterations are imports. Thankfully you don’t need a translation to play, just point, shoot, and try not to die.

Castle of Shikigami

NOTABLE BULLET HELL GAMES

Perfect Cherry Blossom

Don Pachi

Deathsmiles

Castle Shikigami

Warning Forever

filed by Drew.


One of the bi-products of our technology-driven, consumer based society is the so-called rip off, a service or product that owes its ideas and presentation to something that came before it, whether unintentionally, or much more likely, intentionally with plans to distribute. This is common place today, especially in places like China that have such loose intellectual property right legislation that any company can totally imitate the goods, service, and even logos of their (usually western) counter-parts.

The phenomena of copying the look and feel of other games has been present in videogames for most of the medium’s existence. This was especially true in the arcade days where many of the games we look upon so fondly now, Pac Man, Space Invaders, and Robotron 2084, have a long list of imitators. Pak Pak Man? Puck Monster? The things we do for money…

OK, I know this is a japanese pac man game licensed by Namco. You don't know how hard it is to find "Puck Monster" box art!

That isn’t to say that all rip offs are bad, quite the contrary, and in this article I intend to highlight some quirky clones of classic games that can stand up reasonably well to criticism (once you look past their obvious plagiarism), as well as others where it could be argued that the accused are simply paying homage to a game or franchise they truly admire. Beyond the arcades, as we entered the new generation of sprites, bleeps, and blowing, we we’re introduced to a plethora of Mario-style platformers with increasingly ridiculous mascots. This was especially present during the 16-bit era where for every Rocket Knight Adventures we got a Bubsy, the conventional wisdom being that you needed a cute and/or badass mascot with tude to make it in the industry.  Whew, i’m getting ahead of myself. Let us start with a game we’ve all heard of, and most dyed in the wool hardcore gamers consider to be one of the better franchises in existence, The Legend of Zelda.

I can just smell the tude and mt. dew radiating from the computer screen

Legend of Zelda clones, or “Welcome to Ryhule!

Just thinking about the first time I popped in A Link to the Past gives me the fuzzy feelings of gaming nostalgia, that yearning for simpler times when 3D and virtual reality were the waves of the future. It symbolizes the best of the Super Nintendo and the 16-bit era in my humble opinion, and certainly my favorite game in the franchise (with Link’s Awakening coming in a close second). This is why the games I will be discussing in this segment were meant with disgust when I first laid eyes upon them, whether or it be last night or years ago, however i’ve grown fond of  a few them for various reasons. This is not the case with Golden Axe Warrior for the Sega Master System.

The legend of who?

Three hearts? Magic bar? Floppy hat? On a quest to retrieve mysterious and/or ancient artifacts to rid of the world of an evil guy? This game screams Zelda, just look at the box art description:

World peace is at stake! Death Adder, a wicked giant, has stolen the nine crystals from the kingdom of Firewood and has hidden them in nine labyinths that he has created. These nine magic crystals protected the people from evil — especially from Death Adder’s grasp. But now that the crystals are lost, the world is defenseless!

*Yawn* another world in need of saving by a young hero, whatever will he do? This game rips off the zelda format without discretion, you must traverse an open world and find the nine labyrinths, each containing a special item to help you on your quest and ensure you reach the next dungeon. The sprites also look incredibly similar to those found in Zelda, everything from the bushes to the pig monsters is essentially ripped off, the game even featured the skeleton warriors and annoying bats the Zelda series is famous for!  This game was decried as an imitator when it was released, although this was also at the beginning of the Nintendo/Sega rivalry, and fan boys quickly came to defend the title.

While some people still look back upon this title fondly, I cannot recommend it. The story is boring, the way the game advances is almost esoteric (you have to talk to random villagers to get ANY magic), and frankly it just doesn’t stand up as an enjoyable retro game today. This cannot be said of the next title I want to discuss however, as this title at least tries to build upon the foundation of zelda plagiarism, adding a hint of Earthbound-style aesthetics. Of course i’m referring to Gunple: Gunman’s Proof

The main village in Gunple. Can combining Zelda and Earthbound really be a bad thing?

I stumbled across this game randomly a few years ago while reading about Japanese games that never made it to our shores. Gunple: Gunman’s Proof was released in 1997 for the Super Famicom in Japan and was unfortunately never translated. However, thanks to the fine folks at Aeon Genesis, you can download a surprisingly good fan translation for free. You’re going to want to play this in English too, because the story is surprisingly quirky and bizzare (again, references to Earthbound could be made).

In the year 1880, two meteors crash down on Strange Island just off the American west coast. A short time later, strange incidents start occurring, monsters start attacking people in the village and leaving behind an odd crest that reads “demiseed”. One day, a curious teenage boy living in Bronco Village decides to sneak out of his house and venture out to investigate. During his expedition, a flying saucer crashes right in front of him. Two aliens come out of the craft and identify themselves as members of an intergalactic law enforcement agency. Space Sheriffs Zero and Garo explain that all of the problems occurring on Strange Island are due to Demi, an interstellar criminal that escaped from justice and is hiding out on Earth.

So the story goes, a little American boy in his typical small town sets out on a quest involving space sheriffs, still sounds oddly familiar. The gameplay is somewhat of a departure from Zelda and this is the area where the game really shines, you use guns instead of swords, a lot of guns. Pistols, Bazookas, Flame Throwers, and Shotguns, and you’ll of course get essential items from the eight dungeons along the way. Gameplay-mechanics wise, Gunple is somewhat similar to Commando or SMASH TV, with some action RPG elements and decently challenging puzzles .

The game is fairly short, especially considering that this came it in 1997 during the twilight years of the SNES. I completed the main quest in just under 5 hours, and the side quests are almost non-existent. If you are a Zelda or Earthbound fan however, I would definitely give this game a shot (no pun intended). The story is interesting and often funny, the twist and turns in gameplay will keep you playing, and despite looking much like A Link to the Past, this game can still carry its own.

The next game we will be discussing also looks and feels very similar to link to the past, however this one isn’t an action RPG on a console, but rather an MMORPG for PC. Now I know what you’re thinking, a “four swords” style online rpg? how could it possibly go wrong? Believe me, it can, and I know because I started playing Graal Online when I was a young lad near its inception. At its base, Graal Online is a MMO that looks and play exactly like Zelda, the only real difference being it is community driven and very customizable. You could tailor nearly everything to your specifications, from your character’s sprite to the way his weapon looks by simply designing a .PNG file, the game even came with a level editor when I first downloaded it. Keep in mind this was before the days of World of Warcraft where the standard for a good online RPG was still open to interpretation and people got creative.

look at those trees!

When this game was still new, free, and only had about 300 players, I loved it, wasting valuable hours of homework time everyday in it’s virtual world. I was also about 13 at the time, and was blind to it’s apparent flaws due to the overall coolness of the concept. Then, the creators decide to start charging $20 a month to play, twenty dollars to play a walking, talking copyright infringement lawsuit. I’ll never forget the in-game protest where everyone picked up a road sign and blocked hyrule–*cough–um, excuse me, Graal bridge. It sounds juvenile and lame in retrospect, but as a kid I was truly saddened this game I had enjoyed for the last 9 months was no longer free (after all, how was I supposed to get $20 a month?). Many subscribers left Graal for greener pastures, and the game’s originality dwindled at the behest of the vacant community that once supported it.

You can still find Graal Online and download a free trial, but the game is such a bastardization of it’s former glory that there’s really no point, and yes it still costs money.

For more information regarding retro plagarism, check out Episode 2 of Pixel Dreams for expanded rip-offerings.

filed by Drew.