Artistic Discussion – The Good and Bad of Gaming Box Art: 3/13/2012

Good – Dragon Buster (Arcade, Namco)

Wow, I say – this was done in the gaudy, over-neoned ’80′s?  This is an astoundingly beautiful gaming poster in an era where such words rarely combined together.  The colors, the mood, the cool details in the foreground and background…this person should have gotten more work.

Bad – Bust-A-Move 2 (Saturn, Acclaim/Taito)

Oh my god EYEBALLS

Gah, I can barely even look at this monstrosity without feeling a bit queasy.  And that does NOT sell video games!

(honestly, I can’t analyze it.  I am afraid I may spew.)

Artistic Discussion: The BAD BAD BAD of Gaming Box Art – 12/5/2011

It’s been a little while since I just ripped on some atrocities for the eyes that once graced store shelves, so let’s get on the bandwagon for some fun-making.

Rocket Ranger (NES, Kemco-Seika)

Aside from shamelessly ripping off The Rocketeer (look at that hero and compare it to Billy Campbell’s outfit), this cocky man can breathe outer space’s oxygen-free air with ease (as can his girlfriend, who has funny cleavage and a strange juxtaposition of her legs), hold on to his lass with his slightly elastic arm, and make his fingers drip milk with a smirk!  The villainous entourage behind him need to hire a better assassin to fire those lasers – at that range Mr. Smug should totally be blasted by that bizarre stream of lasers that (beyond being lasers) are impossibly shot.  And I guess they’re flying over the moon, yes?  Our hero’s trying to shred it apart with his oddly pointed blaster.  *sigh*

As a fun barely on-topic sidenote, Grace misread the title as “Pocket Badger”.

Super Bust-a-Move (PS2, Acclaim/Taito)

Acclaim would sully the good name of Bust-A-Move more than once – this is merely the first example I’ll be sharing.  What a baby in shades blowing a red bubble has to do with Bust-A-Move (beyond the red bubble) is beyond me, and it’s actually sort of gross seeing that bubble, as it looks a bit bloody, like the baby’s got some internal bleeding problems. XD

Planetscape Torment (PC, TSR/Black Isle)

If my memory is correct, Planetscape Torment is sort of like a sci-fi Baldur’s Gate.  This actor encased in blue makeup and awkward dreads (with photoshopped beads!) doesn’t really sell me on that potential.  It’s one of those boxes that fail to properly show what the game is actually about, instead hoping for whatever they slap on the box will be cooler or something.  Hate to break it to you, but it didn’t work.  That quasi-(really) human in front of decidedly unalien structures colored orange does not intrigue me at all.  And that equates to apathy.

Strider (NES, Capcom)

Man, Hiryu did not catch a break in his early days.  His Genesis box was terrible, and the NES adventure doesn’t try to top it – it may even be worse!  Strider at least looks a little more ninja-esque than his 16-bit counterpart, but that’s about the only compliment I could give.  His face is not proportionate, his outfit is awkwardly drawn, the pose is weird, and his Russian adversary is dorky and disproportionate throughout.  Who wears a deep sea fish finder on their belt?  The backdrop also fails proportion 101, with the tower far left looking more ice cream than Russian architecture.  The best part is the sword swing – Strider’s cypher looks kind of cool with the streaks flying from its blade…but that does not a box art save.  Piss poor again, alas.

Wildcat’s NES Memories Part III

Other Memories of the NES:

Part IPart IIPart IV

I have another 20 games slotted up for a trip back down memory lane.  I’ve included some games I REALLY don’t like this go-around, as well as some of my fondest, so it ought to be interesting!  Enjoy!

A Boy and His Blob (Absolute Ent./Imagineering)

This is a very confusing game.  Heh.  I remember trekking around in the underground caves, gathering up the jellybeans needed to fly to space, and then being horribly lost as to what to do from there.  Curse those marshmallow things!  I think WayForward’s stab on the franchise is much better, to be honest.

Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest (Konami)

Another baffling game – Simon’s Quest may be the progenitor of the later Metroidvanias, but damned if it’s difficult to know what the hell to do! With poorly translated dialogue (Flying Omelette has choice quotes here), figuring out where to go and what you need to do there is a frustrating task.  However, the experiment is a worthy piece of Castlevania’s history, with grand music, tense gameplay and, if you can figure out what to do, an enjoyable adventure.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math (Nintendo)

WORSE GAME NINTENDO’S EVER MADE.

I believe this without any doubt.  It’s a poor idea (let’s make DK Jr. climb up his vines to select numbers for math!  That’s the ticket!), marred by inadequate concepts (i.e. climbing the vines slowly to solve anything) and an awkward two-player mode.  Gah.  No need to revisit this one.

Final Fantasy (Nintendo/Square)

Final Fantasy is the one that got away from me.  By that, I mean that I had the final boss, Chaos, in my grasp.  I lost to him, so I turned the game off to try again later.  Alas, either by my failing to hold Reset or faulty batteries, my save went “POOF” and vanished from this world.  The time I had spent working my way through the game was now lost.  I wouldn’t mind giving the game a second chance, but it sure as hell will not be my NES cartridge that gets the privilege.  As for the game itself, it’s probably the finest RPG on the NES that I’ve played (which is not all that many, to be truthful).

Mega Man 5 (Capcom)

I bought Mega Man 5 from KB Toys on clearance, and when I first played it back in Utah, I loved it.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered that MM5 is the weakest of the NES line (with MM4), and that I will likely not replay it any time soon.  The Charge Shot ruined the series.  It really did.  I much prefer MM2 and MM3′s blasting compared to the slower, charged-up firing in the later three games.  Music is good, though!

Nintendo World Cup (Nintendo/Technos)

I have not played Technos’ biggest NES game, River City Ransom, but I have tooled around with some of their sports games.  World Cup was entertaining when I was young, and is likely the best soccer game for the console, but after the joys of International Superstar Soccer for the N64, I don’t think I can come back to this.

Super Dodge Ball (CSG Imagesoft/Technos)

I rented this once and got to the end somehow.  I had a blast with it, but I really wonder if I’d feel the same today.  It’ll be one of the first Virtual Console games I buy if I ever hook up the system to the Internet.  What I remember was elation, though, so I hope I do still enjoy it.

Pro Wrestling (Nintendo)

A Winner is You!  Pro Wrestling gets a lot of fondness, but it didn’t really resonate with me.  I do think Starman and Amazon are some of Nintendo’s crazier designs, though.  I support either inclusion into the next Smash Bros.

Battle of Olympus (Brøderbund/Infinity)

I think this is far superior to Zelda II.  It’s similar in its gameplay, but the world seems more exciting, the gameplay is tighter, and the interaction with the Gods is much more intriguing than Zelda II’s glut of villagers.  Wish I remembered more about it, though – it’s been too long.

Caveman Games (Data East)

Data East took a page from Epyx’s playbook and created their own kooky derivative of their Games series, focusing on the antics of the caveman.  While not quite up to that pedigree, I do recall renting this more than once, so I don’t think it was an absolute failure if I liked it enough to try it again.  Would like to see if the memories hold up here.

Adventures of Bayou Billy (Konami)

An early blender of gameplay styles, Bayou Billy is most likely heralded for its music moreso than anything else.  The game wasn’t all that polished for a Konami title, in my opinion.

Ghosts n’ Goblins (Capcom)

When I was a kid, my dentist had this title on the NES meant to entertain children waiting for their dental work.  Made the horrific check-ups better!  The arcade original is much better, but I do hold a bit of softness for my time spent with the NES port, even though it wasn’t the finest.

Gumshoe (Nintendo)

One of Nintendo’s weirder games, it’s a platformer controlled by the Zapper.  Blast Mr. Stevenson to make him leap, and shoot down all the obstacles flying his way to keep him safe.  I tore into it once for a Neomega article, but I don’t think it’s a terrible game these days – just odd.

Home Alone (THQ/Bethesda)

I am a stalwart supporter of this game – it’s one I want to replay very badly, because I remember being awestruck with its quality (which is very bizarre, considering its publisher and its license).  Controlling Kevin as he laid traps, scampered about his house avoiding the burglars, and hid in special locales was a tense but pleasurable exercise.  May not be to everybody’s tastes, but I consider it one of the best early attempts of stealth in gaming.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (THQ)

The sequel to Home Alone blew, sucked, and can be any other term associated with a “shitty product” you can think of.  Horribly programmed, THQ’s decision to make the game into a platformer over revisiting the stealth of the original is a unfathomable one to me.  There’s nothing redeeming or likable about this.  Avoid it like the plague.

Mighty Final Fight (Capcom)

I wasn’t impressed that much with Mighty Final Fight.  It grew tedious to me in a hurry.  I don’t know what I would have done to improve it beyond suggesting a 2-player mode, but I was quite bored tackling this game’s slow, sluggish levels.  Not for me.

RBI Baseball (Tengen/Namco)

Between this and Baseball Stars, you’ll find the cream of the NES baseball crop.  I don’t own this anymore (I’m not huge on baseball, personally), but I did play it considerably when I was younger, and think it’s a well-executed stab at the sport.  The graphics are sort of cute, too.

Zelda II: The Adventures of Link (Nintendo)

I’ve shredded Zelda II enough on LVLs. – I’ll just say that this may be the most disappointing sequel I’ve played.

Tiger Heli (Acclaim/Toaplan)

I really loved this as a kid, even though the port was handled by notoriously bad developers Micronics.  I’d love a revisit to see if I should be recalling this so well. :p

Super Mario Bros. 2 (Nintendo)

The first game I bought myself, Mario 2 may not have been quite as good as its predecessor or successor, but it’s well worth remembering as a fine platformer and the origin of some of Mario’s more awesome enemies.  Imagine Mario without Shyguys, Pokeys, Bon-Ombs and Birdo.  It’s a little hard, isn’t it?

I’ll be doing one last article with another 10 games, plus some other aspects of the NES era.  See you soon!

Wildcat’s NES Memories Part II

Other Memories of the NES:

Part IPart IIIPart IV

After a brief break, it’s time to return to my NES memories! I’ll cover 20 more games, good or bad, and share what I remember most about them.

Note – I cleaned this article up some since my initial post.

Wizards and Warriors (Acclaim/Rare)

Kuros’ first quest is one I remember playing at a friend’s house when I was rather young.  I don’t recall a ton about it, beyond wandering around in the woods you see in the screen above, finding it fascinating to leap around like a superhero.  I’d like to retry this and see if I still like it.

Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers (Capcom)

One of the first games I distinctly recall playing a decent ways through.  I don’t remember if I conquered Fat Cat or not, though.  I have to imagine I’d breeze through the game now – it’s not regarded as the hardest thing the NES ever saw.

Dragon Warrior (Nintendo/Enix)

I’ve reached the end of this game and have beaten the Dragonlord once.  I don’t remember how old I was when I did so, though. XD  The later games in the series are much, much better, but I did enjoy playing through this first effort when I was a lad.  I did join the Dragonlord, too, but that ending was…well, sucky. XD

Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout (Kemco)

Before being laid off, I replayed this gem of a licensed hit and was about to write an opinion for it.  It’ll be coming later than planned, but I have a lot of happy memories about this game.  It’s a very vibrant looking game, with catchy music and straightforward gameplay.  It’s also a little harder than Ducktales, and has a lot more meat to it.  Solid stuff.  Kemco’s finest moment, perhaps.

Balloon Fight (Nintendo)

As I’ve mentioned in my Looking Back – 1984 piece, I really dig Balloon Fight.  I didn’t get the chance to play it until I got my hands on Animal Crossing, but it’s got some great mechanics and takes the Joust-style gameplay to interesting new places.  That dastardly fish is the second evilest one I’ve tangled with, too.

Arch Rivals (Acclaim/Rare)

Before NBA Jam, this arcade port played around with crazy basketball.  It allowed their pugilists to throw punches and pants the opposing players, making it a rather violent title.  It’s not bad (especially considering Acclaim published it), but it’s fairly dated.  I sold mine off a little while ago. Woot British Knights Woot - I never wore those shoes…but the blatant amount of advertising of their product was one of the first cases of in-game ads that I can recall.

Batman (Sunsoft)

I am liking this game a lot.  I just played it for the first time last month for more than a few minutes, and I had a really great time.  Batman’s walljumping is nigh-perfect, and the stages offer a lot of opportunity to utilize that talent.  Enemy spawning is a touch cheap, but all and all I think this is another excellent effort from Sunsoft.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (LJN/Rare)

I played this multiple times as a kid, and once I managed to reach the end and was a little confused as to how to subdue the final boss.  Not a bad game (one of the better licensed titles of the era, in my view), but it’s one of those where having a bit tighter script writing would have been fabulous for it.

Blades of Steel (Konami)

It’s now hockey time, with the two champions of the NES duking it out!  Blades of Steel is an exquisitely developed game – the controls are tight, it has clear graphics, fun sidegames like fighting and the Gradius bonus that occasionally appears between periods, and stands as one of the best sports games made for the console.  Good stuff.

Ice Hockey (Nintendo)

In the other side of the rink is Nintendo’s effort, which is simpler than Konami’s.  Regardless of that, it’s a very effective take on the sport.  I like the three types of player you can develop teams with, the responsive controls, and the charming music.  If you have to pick, Blades of Steel is the better choice overall, but I like them both.

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! (Nintendo)

I’ve never done all that well at Punch-Out!!  I think Piston Honda is my nemesis, as I’ve never passed him.  I haven’t played it in a long time – I wonder if I’d do better now…like to hope so.

Demon Sword (Taito)

Once, I had the chance of trying this game out, and it seemed fun, if a little confusing.  I wasn’t quite sure where to go or what to do, but the gameplay was adequate enough.  I’ll have to give it a second chance.

Deja Vu (Kemco)

While I’ve not played the more famous Shadowgate, I have dabbled with Deja Vu, and found the experience to be pretty cool, from what I recollect.  It was more adult than I had experienced before, with its heavy subject matter and mystery-noir approach, and I played it as a kid, so I think I lost out on a lot of its charms back then.  Wouldn’t mind another stab at it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Konami)

Initially, I was atrocious at this game.  I have beaten it (with or without a Game Genie, I don’t quite remember), so I overcame my terribleness, but it’s easily the worst constructed of the Turtles games Konami put out that I’ve played.  The enemy lineup was minimally license-appropriate, and it had some oddball design decisions (instant K.O.’s of Turtles hit by a van?  The underwater bomb defusing?).  It’s okay overall, but it’s not one I’d like to revisit.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (Konami)

This, on the other hand, is a great port of the first arcade game.  It’s not as pretty, nor can four players tackle it, but Konami put in two extra stages with new bosses to compensate, and they are fun, which is good.  Another early frontrunner for in-game ads, with Pizza Hut prominently displayed everywhere.  Well worth it for beat-em-up fans.

Excitebike (Nintendo)

I spent most of my time with the Track Editor.  I found the main game to be a little dull, but the Track Editor was awesome as hell.  Inventing crazy ramp combos with boosts, or making a tough-as-nails course that the CPU had difficulty running through was joyous.  The game’s mechanics are good, too.  But the custom tracks is what made it special.

Gun.smoke (Capcom)

One of the better shooters on the NES, this arcade port seems to flow better than its original to me.  Maybe it’s because I’ve gotten farther in it.  Regardless, I like this cowboy-infused take on the genre, and recommend giving it a shot.

Metal Gear (Konami)

This is another case where better localization would have done wonders.  The game’s text has infamous lines like “I FEEL ASLEEP!”, which sort of ruins the whole espionage vibe the game’s going for.  As for me, I’ve never done well at Metal Gear.  I don’t think I got much further than this screen from the early-goings.  It’s one I need to try again now, though.

Wario’s Woods (Nintendo)

Wario’s lone NES appearance is this quirky puzzler, which falls well outside of my likes.  The game itself is mechanically sound, but I wasn’t wowed by it much.  Eh.

Popeye (Nintendo)

This is one of the first games I played as a kid, and revisiting it recently showed me that it’s fairly dated.  It’s still a fun arcade game, but it’s also not all that deep or fascinating.  Dodging Bruto and wandering the three stage’s unique maps is entertaining, but I sort of wish I didn’t have to wallow in each stage so long.  Maybe if what Olive dropped was halved…

I’m not through yet!  There’s plenty more NES titles for me to tackle, which I’ll try to cover next week.

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