Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Halley Wars

Retro Game of the Day! Halley Wars

Halley Wars by Taito for the Sega Game Gear, released 1991. Man. Sega Game Gear. I love the portable devices that were not exactly "portable." This wasn't a system you could fit in your back pocket - hey, not even your fanny pack *cough cough*

So - as Jerry Seinfeld would say (and he surely would, because I can absolutely imagine him wearing a fanny pack with an oversized Game Gear sticking out of it) - "wha-at's the deal with Halley Wars?" Well, this is a, let us say, quaint little vertical shooter from the boys at Taito. Interesting enough that they even made a title for this system, and moreover that it was a shooter- They made Space Invaders back in the day, monumental enough, but then that was sort of it for them and the shooter brand.

An unassuming little title, one can sense from these screen shots, Halley was not much to look at. Certainly a butterface of videogaming if anything is. Not offensive, but not something that (even when it was released) that would make any gamer say "oh hey! This looks like something worth playing". Hey, the title screen logo is probably the fanciest graphic you'll see in the entire game. Yet - the game, for what it is, is not bad at all.

Standard issue plot - pilot the last fighter of the Earth in a desperate attempt to save our species from extinction. Blah blah blah. Pick up powerups. Kill aliens. Been there, done that. Still, this game does have a little "certain something" that keeps me playing. Not sure what it is. Mabe it's the relentless attack waves of aliens. Maybe it's the triumphant feeling that you get after getting a few powerups in your stable. Something.

Also unique to this game is what I like to call the "Feel-Bad Meter." The game is constantly displaying a percentage tally of how many aliens and comets have slipped by your single-ship defensive line - if that number gets to 100, then you've failed and Earth has bought the farm. That's right, the game is constantly keeping an eye on how much of a loser you are and at any given time you aware of this. It sounds a little after-thought but they've clearly (and cleverly) designed the game around this interesting mechanic. It's nice, I have never seen anyone else use it before.

Halley Wars is a forgettable little title that not more than a few hundred people had probably actually paid money for (and even then, likely some diehard collecters). But it is a shame, the game holds up and is a decent challenge and a fun one to boot. If you happen to have a GG, or at least enjoy emulating it, give this one a try!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Super Thunder Blade

Retro Game of the Day! Super Thunder Blade

Super Thunder Blade, by Sega for the Genesis - released in the States at the system's launch in 1989 (appearing a year prior in Japan)

So, then - Super Thunder Blade was the poster child for being one of "Those Games" released by Sega. You know the type I am talking about - truly impressive in the original arcade incarnation, more-or-less falling apart (by comparison) when it appears on the home scene. The arcade was a gorgeous contraption, absolutely unique in it's control and presentation (Sega loved to go all-out with their wild custom cabinets back in the day). Bringing the experience home in a case like this was always a noble effort, but..

The home version was dodgy - they were trying to play up their new 16-Bit system's abilities with a complicated looking game, and in screenshots it looked fairly well-executed - 3D perspective games were hardly a dime a dozen, so this was looking pretty sexy. You controlled a helicopter (a la Blue Thunder) and flew through environments blasting away at everything. Very similar to After Burner in some basic respects, but also fairly different (you could land any time, no missiles, obviously no afterburners!) The game would split each level into a 3D view and a then a top view (like 1943) where you'd take on a battleship or some other land targets. The whole game is very simply shoot-and-dodge.

It was alright, there were two glaring issues with the game - Genesis didn't have any scaling hardware unlike the original arcade board on which it was based, and it was so early in the system's life that the programmers hadn't been able to futz it out yet. So they faked it graphically, and lazily at that - the scaling effect was accomplished by sprite redraws, but looks choppy and sloppy. Though the graphics were detailed, the effect was hardly smooth. Still, the panning and general zooming of the terrain background elements (trees, buildings and things notwithstanding) were handled fairly well and gave you a nice sense of parallax that you wouldn't see on 8-bit systems. Overall this was bittersweet.

The other major issue here was the control of your helicopter - for some reason they added in a severe amount of inertia to make it feel "more like a helicopter," instead of the 1:1 swooping feeling in a game like After Burner. This felt strange and sluggish overall - after all these years I can't imagine it not playing this way, but I can appreciate how many gamers would be turned off by the effect.

Overall, the game is not a waste as many websites would have you believe - STB does have enough redeeming elements that the gameplay itself is still fun, and though you must fight with it at times to perform properly, there's enough polish and little touches here and there that I can appreciate someone in the development crew was trying to look out. The period music is strangely catchy despite being disgustingly rendered, and the constant firing/explosion sounds just sound like digital vomit - but yeah, there is something endearing about this game. See how you feel when you fly into a cave..

Monday, September 28, 2009

Development Blog #8

iPhone App Development Blog #8

Hi folks. Ron here with your weekly iPhone App Development Update. Let me slip on some KCRW and get into the writing mood...

Lots to relate, things have been extraordinarily busy. I'll try to break it down and hit all the beats-

- Last week was bittersweet in so many ways. Ben compiled a new build were most of the rest of the gameplay was finally implemented; the game "feels" very close to how it is supposed to in it's final state, minus all the bells and whistles of course. We have one major hurdle left (gameplay wise) to tackle and then we'll be done with that phase! Surprisingly it feels like there's a much lower count of bugs/balance issues at this stage that we will have to resolve. The game plays remarkably well, I can't put it down (no I am not just saying this!)

- The bitter part? Another game using OUR EXACT WORKING TITLE and EXACT UNIQUE GAMEPLAY MECHANIC that we invented ourselves, and kept secretive, was announced for imminent release. What? What, really? This was, at first just very unreal - after a day or so we both got kind of down (I mean, what were the odds?) After a little more investigation into things, it appears like this may be beneficial for us after all, for reasons I will get into at another time. As of this moment we need to struggle to come up with a new name (no easy task). In the interim, the project will be referred to as 180, not impossible that we may keep that name (but I kinda hope we can come up with something a little smoother!)

- I went out with my buddy Andy and he donated his old iPhone to our development effort. This is HUGE since I have been going without the entire time (and my girlfriend is getting pretty tired of me using her phone for constant testing). I haven't even got to the phase where I am jazzed about all the stuff I can do with an actual iPhone yet, I am too immersed in development to mind.. I had just started scouring Craigslist for something, but even then they get snapped up if they're cheap and otherwise, too costly for my broke-ass..

- IndieCade is this week - Independent International Game Developer's Conference, just up the street in Culver City, Thurs Oct 1-4. $20/Day or $50/the whole magilla. HcG will be attending on the first day, at the very least. Never attended before, so we will see how it goes. We will be demoing our current build of 180 to interested parties (send an email if you'd like to meet up!)

- Los Angeles iPhone App Game Developer meeting (last Wednesday of every month) is this week the night before IndieCade, contact me if you'd like to be involved - it should be a good time!

- Been very very busy, spending a ton of time developing our social network relations. If you are reading this and wondering who the heck I am, at this point you get the gist! Welcome to the fold!

There's the skeleton of what's up. Overall things are good and in spite of the speedbump, our spirits are strong and our game is so much fun. I am trying to get some video uploaded for the beta testers, if you would like to be considered for inclusion in the program than drop me a line!

Lastly, Headcase Games needs your help - if you are reading this far, then you have at least a little interest in what we are all about, and for that we appreciate it! As we are still quite young and growing, we are dependent on our fans to help spread the word. Word of Mouth is the most powerful tool we can use to get some traction, as we near release for 180 we'll start ramping that up. In the meantime, please tell your friends to hit up our site if you feel they would be interested in our Retro Game of the Day feature, be our Fan on Facebook, things like that. Every little bit helps - in return. we promise to reward you with some really great games! Stay tuned!


Retro Game of the Day! Buster Bros.

Retro Game of the Day! Buster Bros.

Yup. It is the Buster Bros (or Pang). A clear rip-off, to some degree (character-wise) of Mario and Luigi. No one cared though (or seemed to play it). Released in arcades by Capcom ( thought so!) and Mitchell in 1989, and ported to plenty of systems.

So what is this? Well, a single screen puzzle-shooter type game. Clear the screen of all bubbles without being touched/killed and you will advance through the rounds, sounds good on paper! You start with a kind of grabbling hook to stun, it's pretty weak - but powerups are the name of these games, and you get equipped with all manner of 'em (better shot, time freeze, etc)

The game itself isn't bad, looking at these screenshots (for the time) it was pretty well done - but some bonehead designer must not have wanted to go out and and promote his project so well, that I expect there's plenty of people who've not ever even heard of this.

Buster Bros isn't without it's flaws (let's face it, this is a strange game!) But a fun little romp, if you have the proper temperament and patience to play through a game like this!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Pac-Man (Atari 2600)

Retro Game of the Day! Pac-Man (Atari 2600)

Oh, Pac-Man. You will forever be maligned in the eyes of gamers everywhere, due to your tragic misstep in the very first home console port of your game. The 1981 Atari-published game by developer Todd Frye released on the Atari 2600, a year after the arcade machine showed up and took over the hearts of gamers everywhere, set fire to an industry, blah blah blah.

Alright, so look at this game. Look at it. I don't even have to bother showing comparison images of the original arcade machine for any gamer worth his salt to know there's more than a minor discrepancy here. History has not been kind to this little game - at all - and it is still the butt of several jokes and jabs, even nearly 30 years later. Is this constant abuse unfounded? Yeah, I think so. I mean, the game looks and plays like a heavily medicated version of Pac-Man, but still - it does play like Pac-Man. It is generally not mentioned much, but back in those days a console port of an arcade game was expected to be running on dramatically underpowered hardware than it's source material, and Pac-Man would be no exception. As a 6-year-old, seeing this game run on my friend Noah's color TV was nearly a religious experience! I didn't care that it wasn't a 1:1 facsimile of the arcade experience, it didn't have to be. You could play this at home, that was all that mattered.

Supposedly the one-man development team had about 6 weeks to put this together. Could more (skilled) manpower have produced a better effort? Certainly, it's been proven - but I don't know if it would have sold any more units. The game was a huge success aside from it's blasphemic interpretation of the game.

There's not too much else to be said of the game - it's Pac-Man - everyone knows the story here. I always found it humorous how the game's distinctive sound effects found their way into several TV shows for decades after the game released, symbolic of "cast member is playing a video game." I remember an episode of Roseanne where you saw the kid clearly playing a Super Nintendo and this noise was what was coming out of it. Those days are gone, the game still receives a lot of hatemail, but for my childhood, when I first saw this - it was where it was at!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Magician Lord

Retro Game of the Day! Magician Lord

Magician Lord by Alpha Denshi for SNK's Neo-Geo. This was a launch title for the "Oh my GOD!!!" Neo Geo megaultrasupersystem that debuted in 1990.

I remember seeing advance screens of this and other Neo Geo games in old gaming publications. My first thought was "Neo Geo? Why would they call a system such a bizarre name?" Followed quickly by "oh my WHAT - they are making home console titles that look this incredible? Forget the name!!" Mind you, this was still a year off before the Super Nintendo had even launched in the States-

From the get go, the gaming public was made aware that Neo Geo was going to be bringing bonafide arcade-quality titles to your living room in an unprecedented fashion - and by means of using actual arcade hardware! The carts were tremendous PCB bricks, no lie, that cost hundreds of dollars. This was not a casual gamer's system, this was for the diehard enthusiast who was willing to spend megabucks to own a system that looked better than any of it's competition would, for several years (no home console would really be able to match the Neo Geo's beefy specs until perhaps 3 years later (the 3DO system, which was a spectacular failure) and then not until 1995 when the first PlayStation released.

As for Magician Lord, this was a game which was intended to showcase the powerhouse abilities of the system - and it scored easily on that front. The graphics and sounds FX were lush and stunningly rendered, this looked pretty much on par with whatever other Shinobi/Rastan-styled arcade offerings you'd see in the arcades of the day. Extremely colorful, high framerates with smooth animation, tons of large characters moving around the screens, several levels of parallax multiplane scrolling, it was all in there and any gamer drooled at the thought of "I could play this at home!!" Though of course hardly any of us ever did, still it was fun to think about it (and could still be enjoyed at the arcade).

The game put you in charge of a sort-of silly looking Sorcerer fella, typical platformer (again, think Rastan/Shinobi) - running around and jumping, shooting energy bolts from your hands. The catch was that you could collect power-ups and metamorphose your form into a number of different characters, each with different offensive abilities (fire-breathing Dragon, Stealth Ninja, "Waterman," others). This was a relatively unexplored notion in many games, but appeared to limited expression in some notable cases (Mario 3, Altered Beast). ML really poured it on in that you could switch in/out rather easily, and gameplay didn't seem very dependent on it for the most part - and it felt very cool.

Unfortunately, the game was a little on the punishing hard side from the outset (SNK wasn't kidding when they hyped that this machine was for Serious Comers only!) and though the game was not badly designed, it did lack that ramp-up rhythm that makes a game a hit - and so you'd drop a couple of quarters in, get your ass handed to you in no time flat, give up and head to the next title.

Magician Lord is an important flashback to the history of the Neo Geo, and thus to the line between arcade gaming and home gaming - forever there was a huge gulf between the two, and with games like this it suddenly became (relatively) feasible that one could truly enjoy a high-range arcade experience at home.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Metal Gear (NES)

Retro Game of the Day! Metal Gear (NES)

Gear up! Metal Gear. See that ad a couple of images down? That was my introduction to this notorious title, the first in the acclaimed Hideo Kojima's flagship "Metal Gear" series for Konami. I saw the ad in 1988, the year the title released for NES. What did I think of the game? Well. Let me tell you.

To quote Mister Horse, "Well sir, I did not like it." The ad, again I refer you to - hmm, okay, this game looks interesting, my 13-year-old-self thought. Look at all these gadgets! This game must be like Zelda since it has all these great items you can equip - but it's modern day, so even better! Also, it's by Ultra, who's kind of got Konami's stink on them, so it might be pretty good!" Right? Right?

Before I go any further, let me reiterate that the only edition of Metal Gear I'd seen as a youth was the NES conversion of the MSX original. When this released, I'd never heard of an MSX (popular Japanese computer/gaming system). As for publisher Ultra Games - Nintendo was quite strict with how their licensing operations worked (too much detail to go in here, let's just say it was a stranglehold). Companies like Konami and Acclaim got fed up with being limited to only releasing 3 or so titles a year for the uber-popular NES console, as a workaround they'd splinter their label - this was what Ultra Games was. Though to us chillun's, we just perceived it as a different company altogether - and so my undertsanding of Ultra Games was "they were some wannabe company.."

Still, I was somewhat aware of the Konami connection - and K being one of the best devs out there, and also having recently released Contra and Jackal (two quite-good military-themed games, particularly Contra) - well let's say I had some expectations of this new Metal Gear game. They were not met.

So then, what was wrong with Metal Gear? The name sounded funny to begin with - I got my hands on it anyway, plugged it into my NES and.. whoa! This is not a militaristic Zelda! This is not even CLOSE to Contra! What the deuce? Apparently you sneak (awkwardly and non-sensibly) around.. THINGS which might or might not be "sleeping." Still they can wake up and chase you off-screen. You walk around, see a bunch of poorly drawn trees, same dopey characters always respawning in the same dumb places.

Okay I admit it - I feel like I have some license to whine about what is generally a cherished game experience, only because I do have this history with the game (I tried it!) and also the fact that the Angry Video Game Nerd recently declared open season on this garbage. Metal Gear, Kojima's baby might have been a good game - on the MSX. I will never know. Whoever ported this to the NES, Japanese Konami guy I am looking at you, thanks for nothing.

Anyway, I never got far through the game. I guess I need to at least clear one level before I start to talk some serious abuse about a game. If this released a year or so earlier, I would likely have been MUCH more interested. But yeah. No Zelda in Militaristsic theme here. No "gameplay that even slightly resembles Konami's huge hit Contra." Ah well. I just wanted to shoot at stuff. Running up and punching sleeping soldiers was not really my bag at the time. The horrible translation was offensive (the famous "Truck have started to move" and "I feel asleep" lines were not good impressions). The whole game felt glitchy and choppy whereas Konami's "other" games were usually pretty smooth and cleanly presented. A little good workmanship goes a long way!

Can't win 'em all..

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts

Retro Game of the Day! Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts

Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts by the Gods of Game Development at Capcom, though they were never failing in their efforts to wrap wonderful videogames with hideously terrible box artwork. Seriously, it's a wonder they ever sold anything.. This 1991 release on the Super Nintendo was the third in a series of some very prominent games, how does it hold up compared to the first two?

When the first Ghosts 'n Goblins was ported to the 8-Bit NES, it was an early platformer that could have given Mario a run for his money were the game not so difficult. Capcom jumped ship when they licensed the sequel Ghouls 'n Ghosts to Nintendo's rival Sega for their Genesis, and that was a pretty big deal for a top-rated game back in the day. Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts' singular appearance (it never again showed up on Genesis or any other 16-bit machine!) on the new Super Nintendo was kind of a return to form, then.
The game released close to the SNES' launch and so that meant two things: 1, the game would have unheard-of colorful and detailed graphics to show off, raising the series' standard to a higher benchmark - and 2, thanks to the SNES' crawly-slow processor, the game would flicker and slowdown all over the place. And that, it sure did.
And so, SGnG limped along, but at least it looked (and sounded) wonderful as it did. The control was smooth enough not to hamper things further - however, the game designers removed Knight Arthur's ability to shoot up/down and gave him a goofy-looking "heel-tap double jump" instead. Also, in my opinion the game felt a lot less inspired than the previous installment - the worlds all looked and sounded very lovely, but by now it was beginning to feel a bit stale, a bit also-ran - sort of like the dev team was told "okay, the last iterations of GnG sold - we will make another game!" but perhaps they weren't quite as hyped up at the notion this go-round.

Otherwise, I will say this about the game - like it's predecessor, it had some sticky points, but overall the whole ordeal was a massive degree easier than the original Ghosts n Goblins. #2 and #3 still get a lot of flack to this day as being somewhat difficult to complete - not so, and especially not compared to their fist. They are not what you would call a walk in the park, but any somewhat self-respecting gamer should be able to plow through this game (both quests) with no huge difficulty.

Overall, the game is impressive - they used some exploitative Mode 7 effects (spinning, scaling the screen, etc) for some gimmicks, nothing too heavy-handed however. I will still say the Apex of the series was with #2, style-wise and gameplay-wise - but this is a close second, and one that I'd love to see more games built like.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Metal Slug

Retro Game of the Day! Metal Slug

Metal Slug by Nazca, published by SNK. First appearance (and most famously) on the Neo Geo console in 1996. A true classic!

So what's the story here? Nazca, as the story goes, was made up of former Irem (R-Type) folks, this is evident in looking at the game In The Hunt (similar basic art style to Metal Slug). Furthermore, the Gun Force series (especially #2) looks like a direct ancestor to MS, both in graphical style and actual gameplay. Whereas Gun Force was more of a straight-take on the Run 'n Gun genre, MS opted for a much cartoonier style and theme-

MS is an homage to Contra through and through, lovingly hand-drawn and animated in a way that no game had been done before or since. Though they took a tired and somewhat out-of-style game convention, the new look and attention to detail completely reinvigorated this genre (if only for this particular series) and instantly made MS a staple for the gaming community. The audio is notable as well, jazzy and bouncy orchestrations that match the onscreen action (and style) note-for-note.

As noted, the game is a Contra derivative, you command a single soldier (or team up with a buddy) to take on the Evil Enemy Army and save the Free World. You are armed with a standard pistol, a knife (slash enemies up close), and a limited supply of grenades for long-distance damage. Very often you will rescue POWs who will grant you limited ammo super-weapons such as the flamethrower, heavy machinegun, or rocket lawnchair (the accent of the narrator's voice is hilarious!). Each super-weapon is likewise beautifully animated and gives the player a real sense of having a profound advantage against the endless barrage of enemy soldiers.

The game takes it's name from the Metal Slug - Super Vehicle 001, a tank that occasionally appears which the player can jump into - again for a distinct advantage over the enemy, the vehicle is scrappy and agile (it reminds me of the tank Bonaparte from the old manga "Dominion Tank Police") and it's very enjoyable to control. Further iterations of the game played up this whole "vehicle manipulation idea" with not just the tank, but also pilotable submarines, aircraft, spaceships, and camels (!)

Overall MS is a venerable series which has long outlasted the hardware that spawned it, while maintaining the same style which is has been famous for all these years. At this point the game has spawned 7 direct sequels (and a series of side stories) and we'll see where it goes from there!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Gauntlet

Retro Game of the Day! Gauntlet

Gauntlet by Atari Games. You know you loved this game. Everyone loved this game. It came out in 1985 to the arcades and was the height of videogame coolness. Suddenly D&D got respectable inthe arcades, courtesty of Mr. Ed Logg...

The shots you see are (mostly) of the 1987 NES conversion, which looks rather putrid when compared to the stunningly-rendered arcade original - but who cared? You could play Gauntlet, at home! It was still a blast..

To the uninitiated, the game pitted five warriors - barbarian, sorcerer, archer, valkyrie (amazonian goddess!), each with their own (simple) offensive and defensive strengths and weaknesses, against a neverending onslaught of foes through an seemingly endless series of dungeon mazes. Gauntlet, to be sure! Rendered in a top-down perspective, the player always had a fairly clear picture of where to go and what to do (as the design allowed) - though at times it could become very frustrating, if you (or your partners) didn't know what they were doing!

The game is famous for it's "creature generators," little devices which would pump out ghosts.goblins/ogres, etc to swarm at you. Destroy the generator and then no more monsters, but you could be sure there were armies of enemies around the next corner waiting to get a crack at you anyway. Also wel-known is Death, who is invincible (you don't wanna get near that guy!) The game is well-known for many things - everyone has a dorky fried who likes to imitate the arcade's digitized voice "Elf needs food badly!" But of all of these, the game's standout feaure would be it's 4-player simultaneous capability, at least in the arcade - you could battle alongside 3 other buddies, or take potshots at them and compete for treasures and food. The game was a total blast when you went at it with your friends.

Oh, Atari - how far you have fallen. People nowadays look at the brand mockingly, but there was once a time when anything they put out on the marketplace was not only a sign of great quality, but remarkable and game-changing innovation. Gauntlet is merely one testament to their legacy.

We need Facebook fans! Please support Headcase Games and become our fan on Facebook. We appreciate your support! Click on this link to sign up at our page -thanks, gang!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Development Blog #7

iPhone App Development Blog #7

Hello Caseheads. Good tidings to you.

Another warm night in Hollywood, and so I take a moment to say hello to my brothers and sisters, friends and enemies as we discuss all things iPhone development related.. and thereabouts...

Anyway, no big news to reveal. Development of our game is going along well, I received a new build of the working version last night (we do updates pretty weekly). It's coming along, Ben and I have had a lot of intense discussion trying to pick apart the finer points of the gameplay in our last few meetings. This game is significantly more advanced than our previous outing, and so it requires a lot more consideration on all the expected levels. I maintain that the game is very fun to play, though we are still only roughly blocking in some of the more important gameplay mechanics now - things which make sense in our heads, hypothetically, but once we've done the work to actually implement them into the program itself, we can see all the real ramifications of what we've wrought. It is exciting, sometimes humbling, often it's just opening up a can of worms. As a designer, you learn a lot about the politics of development - budgetary concerns, time and money and effort being chief among these in many cases. Without trying to sound like I am full of a bunch of hot air here, I will just say that it is advantageous to design things sparingly and simply, with a more subtle (but consistent) depth as opposed to loading on a bunch of features and seeing what sticks. Sadly, this (feature-load) is very much the order of the day in many development houses, and you see a lot of half-baked productions as a result without so much of the lasting replayability that games have long been capable of.

When I work on a game, especially if it is something where I am helping out in it's design, I want it to truly be timeless, not just some throwaway that is a means to an end. Yes it is a product designed to make a sale, but I believe that an integral quality playing to it's developer's strengths can go a long way to development of a title which has legs and can make a lasting mark - reputation, and economically - than another shallow, half-realized product that falls in line with "everything else under the sun."

This job is not easy, but it's not rocket-science either - one needs to be keen to many aspects of the general development procedures and the marketplace as well, bolstered with a strong vision of what lays ahead (and a sharp memory of what has come before) and things really do have a way of falling into place. I adamantly believe our forthcoming games will reflect this attitude.


Retro Game of the Day! Spider-Man vs The Kingpin

Retro Game of the Day! Spider-Man, for Sega Genesis

Spider-Man, that most timeless of action heroes, as American as apple pie (and until somewhat recently, owned by.. the French, I believe?) has appeared in a bevy of videogame titles over the course of his career. Many, many games, most of which this author has not played (though I have seen a fair share of them!) Like many comics-to-games, they are a mixed bag. Here is one I was particularly excited for, when it originally released (that would be 1991 I believe)

According to the Internet, this title was developed by a Sega-funded outfit known as Technopop (news to me!) The early pics of the game looked very enticing, and the enthusiast press coverage recalled Strider when previewing it (damn you EGM and your pack of lies!) Well - this game was prety far from that one, I will say that much.

So what was the web-head's game all about then? Mind you, this title released a good 10 years before Spider-man fever gripped the culture - comics were definitely big news at the time (the Michael Keaton Batman movies were in vogue) but the Sam Raimi Spider-Man films were a long ways off - same with the Spidey cartoons which many people who read this will think of. This was strictly a comic-based affair, which was fair enough.

The game itself was typical comic book Spider-plot - one of your enemies has hidden a bomb in NYC, it's up to you to locate and disarm it, avoid cops (you've been framed) , take pics for the Daily Bugle to earn money to buy webbing. A lot of interesting and unique story elements, added to some interesting character interaction (it was cool to make Spidey climb things, web-swing, walk upside down). However, this was an American-developed game which came about during an era when American developed games looked rather pale compared to their Japanese counterparts - specifically these console affairs. The game lacked a lot of polish that their Eastern cousins would enjoy, and though the game had some interesting and entertaining diversions, it never felt like "a very cool game" like you'd expect from the Marvel Comics world.

A lot of iffy/sludgy control hampered things, a disjointed art style (some of the character graphics weren't bad, a lot of the environment art was really drab and unloved). It was kind of shocking to pick up a game like Revenge of Shinobi (with a Spider-Man homage in it, no less) and then years pass and this appears on the same system, should have been the other way around.

In spite of the drawbacks, there was fun to be had with the game. What it lacked in TLC it did make up for with some interesting platforming and the maps were passable. This was a game which, though frustrating to play at times, was compelling enough that I felt I needed to see the whole way through, and I did do that in no short order. It was novel enough to have a Spider-Man game that wasn't trash (this several years before Neversoft came along and re-invigorate the brand on psOne) so for that I was happy. Apparently many others felt the same way, it seems the game sold rather well.

In summation - Spider-Man for Genesis, not wonderful, not terrible, not enticing enough for me to try any of it's follow-ups (Sega CD, Sega Master System, Sega 32X). Might be interesting to take for a spin one of these days, though I think I am more inclined to investigate the (unrelated) Japanese-developed Super Famicom one from the same period, personally. Any 16-Bit Spidey lovers out there?

We need Facebook fans! Please support Headcase Games and become our fan on Facebook. We appreciate your support! Click on this link to sign up at our page -thanks, gang!