Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up

TMNT Smash Up is everything that’s wrong with fighting games in the modern era. It lacks any sense of cohesiveness, more content with slapping characters on-screen to flail around without a sense of pacing or flow.

Trying to discuss motion controls in a fighting game is pointless. They simply shouldn’t exist. That said, even with the classic controller Smash Up is awful. Jumping is floaty, creating a disconnect between the player and the character. The lack of d-pad controls are unforgivable, making the already loose movement nearly impossible in terms of preciseness.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

That creates an additional issue when attempting to complete the mini-games, forced on the player whether or not they simply want to continue in the arcade mode… twice. Asking for any accuracy in a game with so little is absurd, yet that’s what Smash Up’s mini excursions are designed around.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

An atrocious tutorial is a simple video, not one tailored to your chosen control scheme. The mechanics, such as ninja powers, are never explained. It creates a learning curve that forces the player out before they can be drawn in, something that makes a supposedly accessible melee brawler out of the reach of many.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

Mirage artists craft cinematics tailored to mimic the art style of the original comics, but also clashed with the in-game visuals capitalizing on the recent animated cartoon film. The comic drawings also appear rushed, with oddly proportioned characters and limited detail.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Smash-Up - Nintendo Wii

If Turtles fans will gain anything, it is a set of voice actors who instantaneously create familiarity with the Turtles. They fit, even if the rest of the game does not. Smash Up doesn’t even seem to be a case of rushed development. There is not a game here that could have become anything besides a sloppy melee fighter. The end results are nothing short of disappointment.

NBA Action ’95

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NBA Action ’95

To its credit, NBA Action ’95 was revolutionary. While EA was tinkering with a 3/4 view for their NBA series, Sega loaded NBA Action ’95 with then unheard of features like create-a-player, trades, injuries, and more. In 1995, it was the most feature-packed sports game ever made.

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Unfortunately, all of that time spent developing those bonuses led to a hysterically funny basketball game. Situated in an illogical overhead view (where the players still appear as if viewed from the sides), every player was a force on the court. Chicago Bulls center Will Purdue could lead a fast break down the court every time, and the game’s total lack of defense meant he was an offensive powerhouse.

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Lay-ups and dunks were missed more than jumpshots, and an absurdly high levels of foul calling meant you spent extensive time at the line (and made it even harder to play defense). Glitches (or a total lack of acceptable animation) results in players warping from the top of the key to the basket when dunking. Stepping out of bounds was only a problem when the referees decided it was.

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NBA Action ’95 was so terrible, it contained a weird charm. There was (and still isn’t) anything remotely like its bizzare combination of simulation aspects and broken arcade gameplay. A level of complete unpredictability happens during every game, but that doesn’t mean its a classic, or even acceptable. On the bright side, Marv Albert’s now unintentionally funny, “Serves up a facial,” commentary may be the best aspect of the actual gameplay.

Mega Man 9

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If Capcom was so intent in keeping Mega Man 9 in an era of NES classics, why are we paying for downloadable content? All of that work to keep this firmly planted in its roots is wasted if you can unlock secret characters with cash instead of skill. ~Matt Paprocki

Mega Man 9

There’s something wrong with Mega Man 9: It doesn’t fit. That’s not necessarily a knock against the game itself, but purely a poor design call by Capcom. Why have we went back all the way to Mega Man 1 and 2, when the last game was on the PlayStation and Saturn?

MegaMan 9 - PS3

The true 8-bit stylings run deep through this retro revival, in the truest sense. This is a NES game, right down the flicker. The music is phenomenal, the pixel art excellent, and boss design mostly interesting (Galaxy Man looking a little too much like the obscure Japanese monster Guilala).

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Here’s the problem though. Mega Man 9 is hard, and any fan of the series should expect that. However, Capcom has taken that mentality and multiplied it, creating some absolutely absurd level designs that even die-hard masochists will frown upon. While past Mega Man games relied on memorization and precision, Mega Man 9 requires a higher level of both. You can almost hear the level designers laughing at how devilishly difficult certain segments are.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

It’s certainly up for debate whether or not this is an attractive feature or a reason not to buy. Regardless of where you stand, you have to agree that a certain level of fun is still necessary for this game to succeed, and much of the difficulty saps that away.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Part of the problem is the original 8-bit style, and that means true original 8-bit. Even though Mega Man 3 introduced the slide move and Mega Man 4 brought us the Mega Buster, Mega Man 9 has neither of those. If you can get past the graphical downgrade which doesn’t let this game fit into the timeline, not including these classic maneuvers really messes with your head.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

That’s not saying the visuals are bad. In fact, they’re wonderful, especially just to see the style brought back (the dragon mid-boss is arguably the highlight). The problem is in calling this Mega Man 9, it’s following a 16-bit and 32-bit entry. Making a Bionic Commando sequel that looked like this would have made far more sense given that franchise lived and died on 8-bit hardware.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Also, if Capcom was so intent in keeping this in an era of NES classics, why are we paying for downloadable content? All of that work to keep this firmly planted in its roots is wasted if you can unlock secret characters with cash instead of skill. This is such an authentic experience, you can’t switch weapons with the triggers. You need to enter the pause menu. Yet, we need to pay more for a complete game.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

From a pure play perspective, Mega Man 9 is fine. It’s the same game any true gamer should have played numerous times before. The platforming is spot-on, as are the controls. The bosses maintain their own attack patterns, acquired weapons do extra damage to the right enemy, and the final castle stage is an absolute nightmare to pass.

MegaMan 9 - PS3

Had this come out and been called Mega Man 7 on the NES, it would have been slammed by critics for being more of the same with nothing new to offer (much like Mega Man 6 was). However, the passage of time has gave way to warm nostalgia, which Mega Man 9 tried to bring back. In most cases, it does, but it more or less limps its way into your nostalgia-fueled mind instead of Mega Busting it.

A Call to Restore FMV Games

It’s important to remember and acknowledge our culture, even the stuff we’d like to forget. These “games” existed, and should not be held to their awful encoding forever. ~Matt Paprocki

A Call to Restore FMV Games

Full motion video games sucked. None of them approach even the simplistic playability of modern mobile titles.

prizefighter FMV game

But, there is a fondness for them. The black & white footage of Prize Fighter, the dopey Top Gun knock-off attitude of Tomcat Alley, a wild Mike Ditka barking orders in Quarterback Attack, or a friendly prospector in Mad Dog McCree still made these inherently dumb games nostalgic.

However, these games look awful. Baked onto the miserable 64 colors of the Sega CD or burned out on sub-VHS MPEG-1 compression on the 3DO, the visuals are forever marred by technology that is nothing short of archaic to modern eyes. Look at this emulated run of Prize Fighter:

Dragon’s Lair (and its sequel & spin-off) has been restored. You can play it on Blu-ray in a dazzling restoration. The colors are brilliant, the sharpness is impeccable, and the detail stunning. Originally released on Laserdisc, Dragon’s Lair looks better now than it ever did in its original incarnation.

Dependent upon their source, any one of these weirdly enjoyable titles could undergo the same revisionism, provided the hardware was capable of actually running them. Some of these games were likely shot on tape, a limited resolution format that condemns the footage to a lifetime of sub-HD quality. Others, especially the professionally crafted efforts like Wing Commander IV, could have utilized 16mm film, or maybe 35mm. The resolution potentially awaiting those titles is still unavailable in the home, but even at the current standard of 1080p, they could be dazzling.

It’s important to remember and acknowledge our culture, even the stuff we’d like to forget. These “games” existed, and should not be held to their awful encoding forever.

Yes, it would be illogically expensive, certain never to make a profit no matter the platform. In the scheme of things, as a side project for someone with the materials and a studio willing to take a risk, it’s worth it just to see this quirky piece of digital history preserved.

Who’s up for it?

 

Pining for the Days of Weird Video Game Football

Let’s remember back to when Madden NFL had competition. No, not just 2K. Before Sony’s NFL Gameday too. Let’s roll back to the wild football grounds of 16-bit, and dabble a little in 8-bit as well.

You didn’t always need a license to sell your football game. It was merely a bonus to see logos, teams, and players. You could be Capcom for instance and release a football game with your namesake, ignoring the NFL license you carried with Capcom MVP Football. Maybe you could ignore most of the team and just sell your game on a position: Pro Quarterback. The latter didn’t work so well, so it was upgraded to Troy Aikman Football which made an appearance as the Atari Jaguar’s only true football title, in addition the usual SNES and Genesis arenas.

ESPN Sunday Night Football

The single player licensing must have worked. John ElwayEmmit Smith, and Sterling Sharpe all had their moments of cover honor in video games.

What of the outliers who had nothing? Sammy tried appeasing kids with the simple Football Fury (great music in that one) and SNK arcade’d it up with Football Frenzy. Sega pumped out a great NFL series that began with Joe Montana, and even Nintendo had to try with three iterations of Play Action Football (NES,Game BoySNES). Sports Illustrated decided football wasn’t enough, and crammed their game with baseball as a two-fer.

NFL Quarterback Club 98

This still doesn’t scratch the surface. Mike Ditka Football (oh dear), Super High Impact (a predecessor toNFL Blitz), Konami NFL Football (an unplayable mess), NFL Quarterback Club (Acclaim’s flashy contender against Madden), the Tecmo Bowl series (which greatly expanded on 16-bit), ABC Monday Night Football (a mode 7 nightmare), or ESPN Sunday Night Football (all tech, no style) all had their own approaches to the sport… and that’s off the top of my head.

Mike Ditka Ultimate Football

The point is each of those titles stood out. Whether they had a license or not, they all tried something. Some took advantage of the hardware, some took some goofy chances, and a handful were uniquely identified by their quirks. Whether or not they were good didn’t matter (most weren’t); they all brought something to the table to influence the others.

Super Playaction Football

Now we only have a few outliers. Backbreaker Football and BCFX (to a lesser extent, the enjoyable Backyard Football series as well) are effectively it for this generation. Publishers avoid anything sans license, and thus, we’re stuck with only a handful of options. While few would want to relive the likes of the SNES Monday Night Football, doing so reveals an interesting mechanic that lets players break free for huge gains in a 2D, button mashing mode. Mike Ditka tried stopping gameplay while the QB selected a receiver. Pro Quarterback gave a shot in the arm to visuals via digitized sprites.

Capcom's MVP Football

Each time you put one of these outliers in, you ended up with something different. While most would try a third-person, behind-the-QB view after Madden took off, most did something weird with the passing game. Maybe they toyed with the perspective, or became creative in their presentation. Whatever the case may be, each time you plunked a cart into the system, the experience was certain to be unexpected.

ABC Monday Night Football

When was the last time we could say that about our modern licensed sports games? The start of the PS2/Xbox generation saw Gameday collapse and Microsoft give up their underrated NFL Fever franchise to draw EA onto Xbox Live. Sega tried with NFL 2K, and I assume we all know how that turned out. It’s hard to remember anyone else trying to give the football genre a shot in the arm. The few times it has happened recently, the results were obvious: Backbreaker added physics, 2K created the presentation standard.Madden has since upgraded both.

Imagine if Madden was taking heed from all comers. Where would the core NFL franchise be today?

Batman Forever: The Arcade Game

Batman forever

Batman Forever: The Arcade Game

Many will not-so-fondly remember the “other” Acclaim Batman Forever game, a disaster of imprecise controls, illogical level designs, and visuals so sub-par, it was hard to make out what you were doing. That mess found its way onto countless game consoles, including the lowly Game Boy, the last place it should have ended up.

Batman forever

However, on the PlayStation and Saturn, Acclaim published the arcade version (ports by Iguana), hence the title Batman Forever – The Arcade Game. Instead of falling into the platform genre, The Arcade Game was a simple beat-em-up, but one completely lacking in direction, logic, or thought, in addition to the problems of 16 and 8-bit platformers.

Batman forever

The games co-op play only made things more confusing, as the muddy, pixelated digitized visuals caused Batman to blend with the background, and Robin to somehow look like some of the more colorful enemies. Instead of establishing a flow or pacing, BF – TAG just tossed everything onto the screen. Power-ups are everywhere, and the game randomly seems to stop as the superheroes suck in their the newly found abilities. Other times, it stops so either can explode into an explosion of lightning (?) to clear the screen. Various combo counters took up valuable areas of screen real estate, making an already difficult to see game even worse. Of course, they can also shrink (??). Why, for what purpose, is anyone’s guess.

Batman forever

Controls are impossibly slippery, while limited animation makes it seem as if characters are skating around the backgrounds instead of walking on them. For the record, they are. Everything moves so fast (the complete opposite of the other Forever game), it becomes impossible to grab the basics of punching or kicking. The epic and certainly expensive soundtrack is culled from the films, unintentionally hilarious considering the absurdities occurring on-screen.

BF – TAG is a Batman game with zero focus, an attempted showcase of the advancement of digitized visuals, which when done well, could work in favor of the developer. When done poorly, you end up with this, a game where the budget is so squarely focused on the graphics, nothing was left for the gameplay.

Rival Turf

Rival Turf

We promise to make no mention of this game’s classicly terrible box art in this post… oh wait.

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Anyway, upon release of the Super NES, Final Fight was a big deal. While Capcom’s port was impressive in a number of ways, it was missing multi-player and third playable character, Guy. With Streets of Rage drawing attention in the Sega department, Jaleco decided to fill the two-player beat-em-up void on the SNES with Rival Turf.

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Rival Turf isn’t terrible, but it’s generic and brutally difficult. The two characters, Jack Flack and Oozie Nelson (seriously) patrol the streets in levels that are nothing short of blatant knocks on better games. Enemies are the real issue, coming in with names like Skinny and Butch. They’re incredibly overpowered, laying on unblockable combos at will.

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Collision detection is sloppy, and the cheap animation doesn’t help matters. The game would spawn two sequels, including the far better Brawl Brothers and moving back into sloppy territory with The Peace Keepers, all SNES exclusive. Rival Turf is easily the worst of the lot, and while not the most painful beat-em-up experience on the system (Bebe’s Kids, we’re looking at you), it’s utterly amazing how a game could sell well enough to spawn a sequel purely on multi-player aspects.

Eternal Champions

Eternal Champions

Eternal Champions

Killzone was supposed to “kill” Halo. Despite Sony playing avoidance with regards to sparkly magazine hype, covers began to explicitly plant Killzone as Sony’s hyper contender against an unexpected Xbox juggernaut starring armor-clad Master Chief. Killzone, as many would realize upon its PlayStation 2 release with a system-taxing engine, was not even set to punch Halo, let alone kill it.

Oddly, we didn’t learn from history. As Street Fighter II perched up arcades and sanctioned head-to-head competition with Midway’s ferocious Mortal Kombat, it was Sega who would potentially “kill” Street Fighter II.

Eternal Champions was their weapon.

Eternal Champions

Video game magazines, never one to shift shelf space to blitz sensationalist, exclamation point-filled text (GamePro’s embarrassing run of multi-issue Bubsy exclusives never matched), primed Genesis owners who were long deprived of Capcom’s Street Fighter IIEternal Champions would tilt the console war, or rather, we were told it would. EGM’s December, 1993 issue came complete with dual covers, declaring the title, “Truly amazing!” before a four person review team scored it 8,7, 5, and 5 in the next monthly installment. EGM would reset the cycle a few months later, declaring dinosaur rumbler Primal Rage better than Mortal Kombat 2.

Eternal Champions

In many ways, Sega and Sony both charted analogous pathways: Each first party were stout believers they had something. Sony continues to stress Killzone as a tentpole PlayStation franchise, and its improvements with each subsequent entry show growth amidst dominating first-person competition.

Sega drifted Eternal Champions from its Genesis origins onto a glossy Sega CD update, complete with grisly fatalities sprawled onto the disc with eerily smooth animation. Gangster era enforcer Larcen would be shrunk to clumsily occupy space on Sega’s handheld, the Game Gear, via Chicago Syndicate. A final gasp, an unplayable multi-verse in X-Perts, signaled a franchise collapsing in on itself. Sega’s dreams of elaborate spin-offs and knock-out financial competition with Capcom and Midway (and indirectly Nintendo) would die there.

Eternal Champions

Eternal Champions would plunder its time faring gimmick from 1992′s Time Killers, a sickly exploitative brawler that pitted past & future in blood splattering conflict, enough to make Mortal Kombat whimper. Sega’s headstrong fighter would eschew colorful, explicit ferociousness, partly due to subdued hardware capabilities. Locked to 64 colors (the Sega CD port finding itself a rare 256-color mode user), Eternal Champions ran with enlarged sprites to make Super Nintendo Street Fighter characters appear trifling in comparison, yet meek with dried up purples and browns. With system exclusivity allowing for peak fidelity, Champions would still fall prey to lackluster splash in an era where saturation was an attention hook.

Eternal Champions

Sega tried, creating a strategic fighting landscape with limitations on spammy projectiles, and in turn, forced spacing. Sega instead locked themselves out, explicit in their trendiness as they grabbed for something other than Street Fighter’s blast of uppercuts and fireballs. Unfortunately, without familiarity, Champions was instantaneously off-putting and uncomfortable (literally when conjoined with Sega’s Activator peripheral), while publicized violence – especially on Sega CD – was something executed on random timing or luck.

Eternal Champions

For its inarguable clumsiness, Champions is locked to Sega hardware, exhibiting design ideals which aimed older in order to pick away at an aging Nintendo audience, game playing landscapes maturing as they entered ’90s. Nintendo would learn their lesson. Fixating on a grungy campaign of illicit fonts, technological gains, and wonky TV ads, Nintendo’s spirited attitude would splice itself into Sega’s methodology.Champions, while a lesser influence in that drastic marketing modification than censored Mortal Kombatports, remains a historical relic. Released as the two console companies became embroiled in heated competitiveness, Nintendo was still playing nice as Sega reached for a teenage jugular.

Amazingly, it’s still happening. Microsoft’s glowing pink cavalcade of Covenant weaponry in Halo trots out playfulness against Sony’s bleakly visual saga of inter-species warfare in Killzone. Indirectly, the war begun by Eternal Champions still plays out, only with different combatants.