A quick sidenote before I begin: I realized that I failed to make a distinction writing the last article that will heavily impact all of the lists. I’m going off of NA release dates, since that was (more often than not) when I was first introduced to a game. Otherwise, I’d have made some grave omissions from my 1983 list, like say, Super Mario Bros. XD
Well, I’d be a toddler in 1984, and I have a very hard time picturing myself playing games. XD The four games I’m nominating for my favorite of 1984 are all games I played later on in my life. They are:
Balloon Fight (Arcade, Nintendo)
Nintendo’s take on Joust, you take control of Balloon Fighter, popping your rival’s balloons by landing on them all the while trying to protect yours! Stage obstacles like sparks, flippers and a nasty fish add to the challenge.
Agent USA (C64, Scholastic/Tom Snyder Productions)
Meant as a educational exercise in teaching US cities and capitals, Agent USA manages to trump most modern edutainment titles with its tense gameplay. As the titular agent, you must travel from city to city, gathering crystals and avoiding rival agents to combat a terrible virus that could take over the country.
SonSon (Arcade, Capcom)
Capcom’s second game takes the Japanese Legend of the Monkey King as its motif. As Son Son (or Ton Ton in 2P), you’ll march along an auto-scrolling landscape, battling various enemies and devouring fruit.
Pirate Ship Higemaru (Arcade, Capcom)
Capcom’s first stab at the maze game, you control the sailor Momotaru. Knock out your fellow pirates by pushing barrels into them, all the while collecting fruit and fish to power up!
In my opinion, the greatest game of 1984 was…
Balloon Fight (Arcade, Nintendo)
I first played Balloon Fight through Animal Crossing, and was very surprised at how fluid everything felt. Your Balloon Fighter responds to your inputs extremely well, and the gameplay was a lot of fun. The simple graphics are charming, and the extra hazards add additional challenge to each stage (and become more plentiful as you get further along). I have to say that I never really understood how to play Joust until I fiddled around a little with Balloon Fight. When I got Midway’s Arcade Treasures and replayed Joust, I could do it without much difficulty. That may have to do with the fact that I was 6 when I first played Joust…and that I was 19 or so when I first played Balloon Fight. Big difference, there. XD But Balloon Fight has some amazingly fun arcade gameplay, and it’s well worth a try if you like Joust or similar games.
Some personal anecdotes:
That bloody fish is terrifying in Smash Bros. Brawl. XD He’s a terror in this game, too. Stay away from the water! More on this beast below.
I prefer the main game to the Balloon Trip, myself. It repeats after a bit, but I get a kick out of it.
…I don’t have a whole lot more to say, really. :p
Worst Game of the Year: Vulgus (Arcade, Capcom)
This may be a little hard on Capcom, since this was their first effort and all, but to me Vulgus was an incredibly bland beginning for the studio. Shooters were fairly early along in 1984, but I think Capcom didn’t really provide anything new to the genre with this game. Sonson and Pirate Ship Higemaru put some magic into the design process, but Vulgus lacked that crucial spice to make it stand out.
Best New Hero(ine): Agent USA (C64, Scholastic/Tom Snyder Productions)
Man, I would have loved some more adventures with this walking cowboy hat. A simplistic yet effective design worked wonders here, making him stand out from the rest of the crowd and was somehow kind of cool, too.
Best New Villain: The Fish (Balloon Fight, Arcade, Nintendo)
Pure terror personified as a gigantic, human-eating fish. What was truly great about this foe was its randomness; you never really knew when it would appear. I’m very happy Nintendo brought it back for the Ice Climber stage in Smash Bros. Brawl, because it remains as terrifying now as it was back then.
Best New Enemy: The Fuzz (Agent USA)
Agent USA only has one weapon to battle the fuzz threat: crystals. They’re fairly precious, and you need 100 of them to actually defeat the Fuzzbomb when you find it. However, you’re forced to spend them on the Fuzzbomb’s infected minions, who play a dangerous game of tag to propagate. When a ton of these foes surround you, no matter how well-stocked you are in crystals, it’s sort of like Robotron 2084. Just instead of a gun, you have to drop crystals and pray the fuzz runs into them and not you! And if you cure that one person, they can just as quickly be infected once more by another fuzz. Frightening times.
Worst New Character: Circus Charlie (Arcade, Konami)
Maybe I’m not too big on clowns, but Konami’s Circus Charlie didn’t really captivate me all that much. There’s something about him that seems off. Maybe it’s the fight I had with the controls? His enormous head? I’m not really sure, but I just know I didn’t care much for him.
Best Box Art: Dragon Buster (Arcade, Namco)
Holy crap! That is incredible art from any era of gaming. I wish more companies actually did flyers and posters like this all of the time. Kudos to you, Namco!
Worst Box Art: Impossible Mission (C64, Epyx)
I’d like to hope Epyx doesn’t win this award for more than a two year streak, but their box art designer really liked to let the ’80′s neon fly in their early days. This is slightly better than Jumpman, but only just.
Best Song: “Level 2″, Marble Madness (Arcade, Brad Fuller, Hal Canon)
Borrowed from a Song Highlights piece:
I can thank the Advantage for making me realize how awesome this song is, and a recent playtest of the game with Grace connected the two pieces together and made me go, “ah, so that’s where that’s from!” A nice piece of early arcade tunage. Go in a 1:50 to begin hearing the song in question.
I’m skipping Worst Song again, because I don’t know of one right off hand.
Back to 1983 – Forward to 1985