One does not imagine that Mike Tyson has ever spent a significant amount of time actually playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, though doubtless he has played it at least once, on camera, for publicity purposes, if nothing else. But the image of Mike Tyson spending hours learning the patterns and perfecting the timing required to beat each of the racial stereotypes that stand before you as obstacles on the path to a bout with Mike Tyson himself is rather preposterous. He did, after all, have an actual boxing career in the real world to concentrate on, which you’d have to assume would take precedence. Read the rest of this entry »
Category Archives: 1987
As established previously, the Nintendo Entertainment System in Europe was not quite the all-conquering behemoth that it had been in the US. But that is certainly not to say that it could be reasonably described as a failure. So while the NES and its storied catalogue of games may not be the primary focus of this blog, we certainly won’t be ignoring them entirely. So, Zelda.
Like Mario before them, Link and Zelda transcended the bounds of their console home and became a part of my NES-less childhood anyway, through the medium of cheesy Saturday morning cartoons. “Well excuuuuuuse me, princess!” and all of that. Wonderful stuff. And it’s not like I had no idea that this cartoon had anything to do with video games. I knew that there were Nintendo consoles, and that there were games that I could not play because I did not have a Nintendo console, and that one of those games was The Legend of Zelda. Despite knowing very little about the game, I certainly loved the idea of Zelda, though I don’t recall ever being remotely upset that I had no chance to play it. I don’t think it really occurred to me that I might ever have any influence over the existence of a Nintendo console in my household. Not having one was simply the way the world was.
The first thing that immediately stood out to me about Bubble Bobble, compared with every other game we’ve looked at so far, is how very expansive it is not. (Well, no, the first thing that stood out was the music, which will now be stuck in my head until approximately the end of time. But putting that aside, lack of expansiveness.) By which I mean that thus far, every game has existed within an implied world outside the confines of the screen, whether they let you explore it or not. Mario might not be able to go left in Super Mario Bros., but this is, presumably, due to his insatiable determination to rescue the princess, and not because the Mushroom Kingdom is erased from existence as Mario travels through it. But in Bubble Bobble, not only is the action confined to a single screen; the screen wraps. If you fall from the bottom, you will re-emerge at the top. We are not looking through a small window into a larger world. What we are looking at is, in fact, the entire world of Bubble Bobble.
Let’s talk for a moment about the nature of competition. A competition between two participants requires its players to employ a laser-like focus on achieving a single goal. Anything less than total dedication to this task constitutes an outright rejection of the structure of the game. There is no nuance here, no shades of grey. You play to win, or you don’t play. You’re with us or you’re against us. Those are the options.
Now, it’s not that there is no way to have fun with either of these options. The thrill of victory is, clearly, an intoxicating reward. There is a reason Pong caught on as well as it did, after all. And finding a way to reject the conflict that the game demands of you has its own anarchic appeal. For example, instead of trying to score points on your opponent, why not work together to try to achieve the longest Pong rally you can. In this way, you shift the paradigm of the competition; no longer is it two human players working against one another. Instead, the players work together against the computer which is wholly dedicated to the task of defeating them. Humanity rejecting the heartless machine that seeks to impose its authority on them, that seeks to pit them against each other. Read the rest of this entry »
And so we come to the first title that was entirely unfamiliar to me, prior to the commencement of the project. I’d never actually played Dizzy before, but I played most of its sequels a whole lot, so it had a generally familiar shape, if perhaps slightly distorted. But with Wizball, not only had I never played it before, I’d never even heard of it.
So, allow me to present a summary of my first experience with the game; there is a ball. The ball bounces up and down, in some sort of industrial landscape. By pressing left or right, you can compel the ball to start spinning clockwise or anticlockwise respectively, and upon contact with the ground, the ball will immediately begin hurtling along in the direction you pressed at a breakneck speed. Altering the ball’s spin at this point will have absolutely no effect until the next time it hits the ground, at which point it will, depending on your command, either continue hurtling along at a breakneck pace in the same direction or start hurtling along at a breakneck pace in the opposite direction. This continues until, invariably, the ball collides with one of the spinning jacks that litter the sky and explodes.
So, apparently the idea that video games are art is the topic of some debate, so let me go ahead and make my position on this question completely unequivocal: are video games art? Of course they fucking are. Many of them are bad art, certainly, and I’ve no doubt that we’ll be running into plenty of those over the course of this project, but bad art is still art. And a few of them are, in fact, transcendentally beautiful art, on which note, let’s talk about Head Over Heels.
In Head Over Heels, you play as two characters, Head and Heels, alternating between them at will. Two spies from the planet Freedom, infiltrating the evil Blacktooth Empire, Head and Heels begin the game in the same room, but separated by an impenetrable wall, and the player’s initial goal is to reunite the pair by navigating a series of platforming puzzles. Once this task is completed, the pair may proceed to liberate the four worlds enslaved by Blacktooth, and finally Blacktooth itself, before returning to Freedom to live out their days together as heroes. Read the rest of this entry »
In 1985, or so I’m told, Nintendo saved video games. Until the great hero NES strode into toy shops in a Trojan robot and changed everything, most people had dismissed video games as a passing fad. The bloated fool Atari had brought video games to the brink of destruction, and the massive success that Nintendo achieved in the wake of this was nothing short of a miracle. That’s the story I hear all over the Internet.
But this is not my story. It is an imported history that bears little to no resemblance to anything that actually happened in this country, albeit one that is hard to escape. It’s rarely acknowledged that the Great Video Game Crash of 1983 was a purely American phenomenon, because, Japan aside, it’s rarely acknowledged in gaming circles that any part of the world outside of America exists. Here in the UK, the video game industry didn’t crash in the early 80s, because console video games had never really taken off in the first place, or at least, not to the extent that home computer games had. When I was a child, they were always “computer games”, not “video games”, and for much of my parents’ generation and older, they probably always will be. And I didn’t play them on a NES. I played them on a Commodore 64. Read the rest of this entry »