10 Yard Fight

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10 Yard Fight

So far in the NES Sport Series, we’ve taken looks at both Tennis and Baseball with less than stellar results. Could this be the savior to ascend the series out of complete poopdom? Let’s open up another Black Box and sneak a peek at the system’s first ever football game, 10 Yard Fight.
10 Hard Fight
And who are the three guys in the back blocking exactly?
Initially released in the arcades in 1983, 10 Yard Fight was the brainchild of the good folks over at Irem who made their name from the classic Moon Patrol. This would mark it as one of the few early titles to be created by another company, yet published by The Big N. How did a team of Japanese programmers wrap their heads around American Football in enough time to get a game made you ask? Well, since 1971, Japan has had the X-League, their own version of the NFL complete with a championship game dubbed the (I’m not making this shit up) Rice Bowl.
The X-League also showcases some of the gnarliest team names ever witnessed such as the All-Tokyo Gas Creators, the Asahi Soft Drinks Challengers, and the Panasonic Electric Works Impulse. The Buffalo Bills doesn’t sounds quite as bizarre when placed next to those odd squads. I digress. Fast forward two years later and Nintendo was up to their ears trying to get games ready for the launch so instead of depleting the already limited manpower to create a new football title, they struck a deal with Irem to publish their established arcade hit.
10 Hard Fight
SEE?
For its era, 10 Yard Fight was certainly the most advanced available football game on the market. That doesn’t necessarily make it good. I’m sure if I was a castaway on a lonely island faced with the choice of either dung-beetle and squirrel for dinner, the squirrel will look like a 32 oz Porterhouse. The gameplay is 9 on 9, not automatic grounds for a game to be rated subpar due to Tecmo Bowl having the same limitation. No playbook is available as you can either lob the rock to a running back and call it a running play with the B button or pass to an open receiver with the A.
The problem is that you’ll find that unless you’re certifiably insane, you’ll never want to pass. The cornerbacks were all apparently cloned from Spider-Man and it is doubly bad as there was no depth given to the ball. That means if you throw the pigskin anywhere in the vicinity of these little bastards, its an instant interception. Running isn’t as broken but at times you’ll need the extra blocker to make his way into position which takes FOREVER. When I say forever, I mean you can probably get through a battle on any given JRPG in the time it takes the blocker to stumble to where needed.
The game clock is divided into two fast counting thirty minute halves, which I appreciate since I’d probably still playing the game of Baseball I began if I didn’t say to hell with it. The difficulty is ranked from high school to Super Bowl and is presented well with different uniform and endzone graphics for each. On a sour note, it gives the illusion that it is similar to a career mode, as any other team you defeat gives you the message “You are on your way to the Super Bowl!” but guess what? NESquester kicked the Super Bowl team’s candy asses before this review was started and was greeted by the screen below…
10 Hard Fight
…but…I…just…

THE FINAL VERDICT

4/10 Even giving the benefit of the doubt that it was 1986 like every game was given thus far, this just wasn’t a very good game then and is more than likely played in psyche wards to study how ADHD medication works now. Originally, it looked like a million bucks in the 1983 arcade market but already showed its age by the time the NES rolled it out. My friends and I were game critics in our own rights in 1986 on the schoolgrounds of Houston and while we could never quite agree on which He-Man character was the strongest, we were unanimous in the fact that 10 Yard Fight fucking sucked.
10 Hard Fight
But it sure made for one sweetass looking cabinet!

Mach Rider

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Mach Rider

Intros be damned! Today is a special day because I only have four words for you. The same four words that have become a personal battle cry anytime I spot a douchebag recklessly swerving between traffic on his little pathetic Honda. YOU. ARE. MACH. RIDER.

Mach Rider_NES
Badass in name only. YOU. ARE. MACH. RIDER. Sort of.

Mach Rider, as is the case with a few of the launch day NES titles, has curious beginnings. The name and concept debuted as a Japanese exclusive toy way back in 1972. Children were given the choice of a red, yellow, or blue car that was propelled at high speeds from a launcher that came with it. One of the rare instances where Nintendo didn’t create an intellectual property first, it was licensed from Hasbro and Nintendo distributed it. The toy itself was a bomb so around the time the powers that be at “The Big N” were looking for new titles to draw people into their debuting system, the Mach Rider license was bought on the cheap and re-packaged into the game we know.

Mach Rider_NES
Seriously, if you’re weaving between cars on some of the busiest freeways in the country and I catch you, this gets yelled in your direction full blast. For reasons unknown, I can’t help it.

In an uncharacteristically dark story for 1985 Nintendo, the setting is a post apocalyptic Earth in the year 2112 after an alien invasion of the evil Quadrunners. Whether the programmers were Rush fans or randomly picked that year is a mystery that may never be solved. Mad Max’s pixelated brother in spirit, Mach Rider, is the protagonist who rides like the fury of vengeance on the aptly named Mach Bike to different parts of the Earth. His main goal to begin with is simply finding a new spot to call home but along the way finds other humans that need assistance being liberated from the alien’s tyranny.

Mach Rider_NES
Dodge puddle. Shoot down both dirt bike riding aliens. Make turn. Don’t crash into barrel. Do Chinese algebra.

As with most early NES games, there are a few different modes of play. The main story mode is the Fighting Course, where you are presented with the troubles of the sector you are in and given the choice between two tracks to race on, giving it a feeling of variety which is pretty neat. “You are Mach Rider!” crawls across the screen before each mission and gets you amped for the upcoming hellride. The game itself has more advanced controls than most in this era of the NES as you can upshift or (if you are feeling suicidal) downshift all while firing a finite number shots at the Quadrunners who try to not only run you off the road but post-invasion, decided to litter the road with as much shit as they could find.. The feeling of speed is well executed here for the paltry 5 frames per second and there weren’t many mistakes on turns that I couldn’t recall the next time I tried and could correct my previous errors. The sound is great as a frantic tune accompanies the journey and the bike gives you a different sound when an upshift is needed as opposed to many games where you have to look at your dashboard while a pebble in the road somehow atomizes your entire vehicle. It really gets my goat when racing games do that.

Mach Rider_NES
Nintendo sure had a thing with all their games having weird score systems that noone took very seriously in the early days.

The difficulty of the bike’s controls and the Quadrunners themselves are decent, but the relentless amount of crap in the road can make things quite unforgiving at times. More often than not a little puddle of water will send you directly into a barrel on the shoulder which can’t be avoided or shot. When an obstacle is plowed into, you oddly break completely apart and pull yourself together not unlike a blocky T-1000. After a few hits, the game ends and it’s time to try, try again. My major complaint with this mode is that Mach Rider’s story is never resolved. If you beat the 10th sector (after a load of practice), you are transported back to the first sector to start it all over again. It would’ve been nice to know if the poor guy ever found a crash pad to live out his life.

Mach Rider_NES
Glitch Death!!!

The second and third modes are almost exactly alike. Almost. Given a set number of kilometers to make it to in a predetermined amount of time, the second mode, Endurance is basically Fighting Mode without the storyline and an infinite amount exploding/reassembling, only costing precious time required to advance. This mode was used personally as a way to practice for Fighting Mode, as it gives you a great feel for the courses and how to avoid certain ways to go kaboom. Solo Course is the same as Endurance except everything on the course has been removed, so once again, if practice is needed, this is the place to go if you’re struggling with some of the high speed turns. As with Excitebike and Wrecking Crew, the unusable Design Mode rears it’s ugly head. Recently, I’ve gotten messages about the Virtual Console versions of the Programmable Series now being able to save/load so that’s awesome. However, for the sake of the original carts being the ones I’m reviewing, it’s a disappointment we couldn’t do it over for 25 years.

Mach Rider_NES
Only 4 buttons to press and still couldn’t make heads or tails of how to design a course. Guess that’s why I’m just a lowly reviewer.

THE FINAL VERDICT

7/10 A really fun romp to kill a few hours with, the mastering of the controls can take a little while and even then there will be death, death, and more deaths. The premise is very Road Rash-ish and as great as I think this title could’ve been, there are a few control issues, like the puddles, and being read-ended to oblivion can make it seem more cheap than fun at some points. It does have the distinction of feeling very different than others of its era as a futuristic story featuring machine gun shooting biker vigilantes wasn’t standard Nintendo material at the time and is worth checking out for that alone. YOU. ARE. MACH. RIDER!

Mach Rider_NES
In the future, one man is bold enough to sport a Mario/Spider-Man hybrid color scheme, Road Warrior shoulder pads, and the fabled Excitebiker’s helmet. HE. IS. MACH. RIDER!!!

Sadly, the story of Mach Rider was never resolved even in the “Vs” arcade version released the following year. In interviews, it has been brought up more than once that the F-Zero is the spiritual sequel of Mach Rider and Captain Falcon has a few of the same traits our mysterious wasteland wanderer possessed. Still, one can only wonder what became of him. Did he find peace in a new home that we never saw? Did the looping sectors mean he was only destined to ride and avenge until his eventual end via exploding barrel? Seeing as we all say we love a mystery yet deep down don’t, I elect a revival of the Mach Rider franchise!

Excitebike

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Excitebike

A title fondly remembered by any and all who played it. Introducing the thrill of motocross to millions who were years away from even thinking about a drivers license is one of the most popular and beloved of the Black Box titles, Excitebike!

Excitebike
Excitebike, October 1985, Nintendo

Conceived in Tokyo late 1984, Excitebike was the first NES title that gaming gods Shigeru Miyamoto and Toshihiko Nakago worked on together. These two along with Takashi Tezuka are often regarded as Nintendo’s “Dream Team” and have worked together for over 25 years, developing titles you may have heard of like Super Mario Bros and Legend of Zelda.

Excitebike
Part of the Un-Programmable Series. Is this is first instance of the title screen not being black other than Mario? The less black on your splash screen, the higher the rating!

The story goes that Miyamoto wanted Mario to ride a dinosaur right out of the gate but neither one thought the NES was capable of producing the exact feelings of accurately launching off ramps at high rates of speed and attempting to right your center of balance in mid-air. Determined to create a game that proved the NES was one malleable beast, they gathered that the physics for motorbikes was similar to what they were trying to accomplish with the unnamed Mario dino and Excitebike was born.

Excitebike
Look Ma! And you said dropping out would make me become a nothing! WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!

The game itself is a time tested classic. The graphics are bright, the variety of colors seem well thought out, and the music is classic NES fare, especially the catchy title screen tune. There are a total of two modes and 5 tracks but the action never feels dull or repetitive for a second. The first mode is a time trial where you are given a par time and must best it while dodging obstacles, aiming for ramps that shoot you into the stratosphere, and keeping an eye on your temp gauge to insure you don’t overheat. Overheating is one of the first challenges to overcome as having to wait for your bike to cool off can add precious seconds to your time. What’s awesome is that while A is your normal speed and B is your high speed, the game makes it impossible to not want to lean on B the entire time. There is definately strategy involved as to when to haul ass safely to your next opening in the action and when to slow things down so your don’t wreck or have to sit on the sidelines pissed off for a spell. Icons are laid out on the track as a sort of “instant cool down” for your engine and blend into the ramps, dirtpiles, and water puddles in a way to keep things intresting. The mechanics are simply amazing for the time as you can lean yourself forward or back in mid-air and it just feels right. Call it a lazy description but that is Excitebike as a whole, it just…feels…right.

Excitebike
So…which one of you assholes played Road Rash?

The second mode is just as fun but three times the white knuckle inducing challenge. You play the same five courses, but now have other “Excitebikers” to contend with. Sometimes, if you do much as scratch them, you’re picking yourself and your bike up off the ground. In real motocross, I imagine even a tenth of a second worth of impact can be catastrophic for the racers so it adds a feeling of true danger to the game. It isn’t difficult in a way that feels cheap as much as it feels like the challenge dares you want to try again an hour after you turn it off, the mark of any great game.

Excitebike
WHY GOD WHY? This mode would’ve been the standard bearer for mods years before they became as popular as they did.

Design Mode is exactly what it sounds like. You get your own NES canvas and get to paint it however you like. Starting with a completely bare track, there are 19 ways to litter it with shit that would drive anyone who tested your tracks out insane. The only bummer here is that it required the Famicom Data Recorder to save and load the tracks, which was never released outside Japan.

Excitebike
“It isn’t that Nintendo didn’t want to make more games starring me, my Lloyds of London insurance agents were PISSED when they got a copy of the original!”

In the actual Excitebike manual, it states “Save and Load menu selections are not operable in this game; they have been programmed in for potential product developments.” Seeing as this isn’t part of the Sports Series of the Black Box titles and one of the Programmable Series, not having the peripheral that would’ve made an already epic game into an even bigger landmark title is kind of a let-down. Thankfully, the rest rules and eventually Miyamoto got to use the lessons learned here to create one of Nintendo’s top mascots of all-time, Yoshi.

 

THE FINAL VERDICT

9/10 A must have for every NES library, Excitebike is easily a title you can pop into the old grey box and still have a blast with. The physics are spot on, the fun factor is off the charts, and the challenge can go from beginner to ready to kick down walls. Good news is that Excitebike is one of the common carts, so this one can probably be found from $3 to $6 on average and worth every cent.

Excitebike
Ah, the classic Mario Excitebike we all piled into the stores for back in 1997 to add to our growing SNES collec…wait, WHATTHEUNHOLYFUCK???

The Excitebike series, for as popular and endearing to the fans as it was, laid dormant until 2000’s Excitebike 64 here in North America. HOWEVER, there was a little invention called the Sattellaview that hooked in through the Super Famicom in Japan (it would take all night to go into detail exactly what it was, think Sega Channel, but Nintendo), and in 1997, they released the most mind-blowing version of Excitebike ever.

Excitebike
Such an awesome find that I had to share two pictures from it. Hear that sound? That’s Nintendo still flushing money down toilets today for not releasing this publicly.

Excitebike: Bun Bun Mario Battle Stadium was a SNES port of Excitebike featuring characters straight from the Mushroom Kingdom! It is a fucking travesty that more people don’t know this game exists as the gameplay and all-around Excitebike awesomeness is 100% intact. This will be a first for me because I’m all about original carts but since this bad boy had no cart, I highly recommend emulating this unknown piece of history. Excitebike with updated graphics starring Mario characters? How they could pass up the millions of dollars this could have sold is way beyond me.

Stack-Up

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Stack-Up

Since 1967, there has been a major event held showcasing the latest in technology called the Consumer Electronics Show (CES for short). It was so popular in fact, that for awhile, the powers that be held two a year, one in the summer and one in the winter. In 1984, Nintendo entered the CES with flyers of a grey box flanked by out-dated looking Atari games boasting the slogan “The evolution of the species is now complete”.

Stack-Up NES

 

Inside that grey box was the Famicom, an institution in Japan for over a year at that point. Due to the crash of 1983, they couldn’t muster one single order at the event as consumers and retailers had zero to little intrest in risking one cent of hard-earned spending money on video games ever again.

Enter R.O.B., the greatest Trojan Horse in gaming history. At a time when noone was willing to part with their funds for a video game system, Nintendo unveiled the Robotic Operating Buddy along with the Zapper the following year and explained to retailers that it wasn’t a video game console, and instead marketed it as a toy robot and a toy gun. What kid didn’t see this and automatically start erasing shit off their Christmas list? They even went to the lengths of downplaying the televisions in the advertising to focus everything on the accessories.

Stack-Up NES
“Yes, I saved gaming by being unplayable. Suck it Atari!”

It worked and on October 18, 1985, the Nintendo Entertainment System along with 18 available games were launched in a few markets in New York City. The rest as they say is history. By the end of the first fiscal year, R.O.B. was discontinued and sole focus was put on the gaming aspect of the NES but by then, they had already sold one million units and blew the asses off of people used to Atari’s simple graphics and sound. The moment impressionable youth first popped in Super Mario Bros after spending precious and frustrating time trying to figure out the robot’s nuances, it was too late. North America was hooked. The following year, 3 million more units were sold and people never spoke of the robot again. The Zapper had legs however, but that’s a story for a later review.

 

Stack-Up NES
But…I thought the game was named…

How are the game themselves? Let’s start with Stack-Up, or as it is called in Japan and in the title screen, Robot Block. The reasoning the title on the splash differs from the name on the box is because Nintendo was trying to cut costs and instead of overriding the 10NES lockout chip with new code, they simply created an adapter so basically you had a Famicom game(60 pin circuit board) being converted into a NES(72 pin) game when played. The 10NES chip was the enemy of many collectors who wanted to play games shipped from overseas, so a good deal of R.O.B. games were bought and broken apart for the converter alone, making both titles in the series very collectible. While Gyromite was a pack-in game at first, Stack-Up wasn’t. Being marketed solely to children at the time would be another reason complete sets are hard to come by as God knows what the fate of many of the required pieces were.

Stack-Up NES
If you think this is too much extra shit for a gaming controller, wait until Gyromite.

It comes with five pedestals and five “blocks”, which resemble nothing close to a block. Think more along the lines of Tonka Truck wheels without treading. So, you turn R.O.B. into a deranged looking electronic star and sit the blocks in a pre-arranged pattern. From there, you control Professor Hector (for some reason they put Professor Vector on the box) and jump onto tiles instructing R.O.B. to place them into the pattern the game asks you to. This would be the earliest example of the NES using a digitized voice in a game as the Professor actualy says “up”, “left”, and the like. That’s where the all fun times end. To start, R.O.B. moves in such a lackadaisical fashion, you’d swear he spent all the time confined to his box hitting on the reefer. It takes about twenty seconds for him to turn right and grab something, not counting the time it takes for him to turn back around and put the blocks where they are supposed to go. That, by the way, NEVER happens because while R.O.B. does an admirable job of picking up the blocks, transporting them with any sort of balance where they need to be is lost on the poor fellow. You’re going to spend half your time getting up and picking these damned blocks up and the other half wondering how they thought this game was ever going to be playable. Oh wait, see above, they already knew R.O.B. was a total piece of shit.

Stack-Up NES
My first walkthrough for GameFAQS will be for Stack-Up and will read like this. “Press start. The end”. You read it here first foks!

Parents still bought it for their kids, who all eventually popped in a real game and threw R.O.B. in the closet forever. There is another mode where you play Bingo while trying to instruct R.O.B. what to do by avoiding eneimies and hopping on directional buttons but in all honesty, it’s even worse than the original game. With alot of luck, you might be able to get the robot moving once every two minutes or so. The weirdest part of this game isn’t even the controller, it’s the fact that there is no way for the Nintendo to know what exactly R.O.B. has accomplished so all you have to do is press start and you the level is complete. No bullshit, my 6 month old son beat a level of Stack-Up.

Stack-Up NES
To prove how hardcore R.O.B. was marketed, he is in this old UK advert not once but twice!

THE FINAL VERDICT

2/10 Well, it has barely better controls than my current bar for complete shit, DKJrM, which is saying something for that poor game. However, the game isn’t as unplayable and, not meaning to go out of order, R.O.B. is a little easier to use here than with Gyromite. A video game that operates on a trust system is a pretty worthless one indeed when we as gamers look for any and every cheat available to us to see the end. I can see this being played once if only to try out the awesome looking peripheral, trying out say, Kung Fu, or Clu Clu Land, and then never even recalling having owned it until a closet clean-up and an Ebay auction a decade later. No denying the little fellow has a cult following as he has made as many if not more cameos in gaming than just about any other character in the history of NES.

Stack-Up NES
“If my brother, Johnny Five, could see me now…”

 

Popeye

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You control the affable sailor throughout three repeating levels, catching whatever icons Olive Oyl throws your way. While she is dropping either hearts, notes, or the letters that spell out “HELP ME”, Popeye catches a set number while attempting to steer clear of Bluto, who was renamed Brutus here for reasons unknown. ~Mike NESquester Wright

Popeye

One of the most regonizable figures in American pop culture as well as the original premise for the game that became Donkey Kong, today we take a nice, long look at a game that was another arcade port of a Miyamoto smash hit, Popeye.

popeye
Unlike the many revamps other character go through nowadays, Popeye remains practically unchanged from his very first appearance.
Popeye began as the brainchild of writer/artist E.C. Segar. Making his debut in 1929 in the popular Thimble Theater newspaper strip, he was a minor character at the start. Popeye was just a sailor hired by Olive Oyl’s current boyfriend, Harold Hamgravy to captain a ship to an island to thwart an evil casino operator. His adventures were meant to end there, but readers took such a huge liking to the oddball that he was quickly brought back.
popeye
Popeye easily sported one of the most unusual, yet awesome supporting casts. Not just of his time, but ever.

As the years went on, the strip evolved as Olive left Hamgravy for the goofy sailor, a baby named Swee’Pea was introduced, and Thimble Theater quickly became the Popeye show. A plethora of weird shit began debuting as well such as Eugene The Jeep, the Sea Hag, and the burger hoarding Wimpy. The comic strip and the cartoon that followed had little in common as in the funny pages, Bluto was only featured once and spinach was a rare plot device. Both being commonplace for Popeye mythos shows how powerful the medium of television was at the time. The animated version was done by Fleischer Studios, the same crew who also created the most beloved of Superman cartoons right around the same time. Strangely enough, Popeye debuted in that form alongside the famous Betty Boop in 1933. To this day he remains a household name having his unique mug plastered on everything from lunchboxes, t-shirts, and even his own line of spinach. Robin Williams portrayed the live-action version in 1980 and to this day, the town built as the set of the movie stands tall and is one of the largest tourist attractions of the Island of Malta.

popeye

Should it be any suprise that Shigeru Miyamoto loved Popeye? Weird met weird to create awesome in the NES port of a 1982 arcade classic. You control the affable sailor throughout three repeating levels, catching whatever icons Olive Oyl throws your way. While she is dropping either hearts, notes, or the letters that spell out “HELP ME”, Popeye catches a set number while attempting to steer clear of Bluto, who was renamed Brutus here for reasons unknown. Later levels add the Sea Hag, who drops objects to make life difficult as well. Popeye is given a weapon the Marios and Kongs didn’t have at the time as he can swing his mighty fists at anything that moves with the exception of “Brutus”. To take that huge, burly tub of fatfuck down, there is one can of spinach per level that will make our hero red-dog mad enough to knock the big man halfway across creation. The stages are varied enough to stay fun and there is even a cameo by Swee’Pea. The music is excellent and when the third stage is clear, you are treated to the signature song, complete with the toot-toot, which is a nice touch and causes the ‘Quester to smile everytime. It is obvious that Miyamoto loved the source material and wasn’t going to create anything that didn’t have the same feel of the classic cartoons he grew up adoring. As with Donkey Kong Jr, this is another port that could’ve easily been made in 1986 and still been a hit.

popeye
You don’t always need to hide and re-load different styles of guns for a game to rock. A great songwriter said it best. All you need is love.

THE FINAL VERDICT 9/10 If that’s too high, then create your own blog and reviews and feel free to adjust as you see fit, but I appreciate this game even more now than I did as a kid. The graphics and tunes scream out Popeye and the challenge is balanced enough to make me want to play for hours instead of hitting the road block alot of the ports do where it goes from head-ache inducing to requiring the X-gene.

popeye
“That paycheck you cashed on the gorilla game was MINE!!!”

Thanks to Mason V. for seeing my post and contacing me about having a double, thereby saving my ass on this one! Folks like you are the ones I do this for. Fuck you Ebay! (Until you are the only place I am able to run to in the future. I’m an honest hypocrite like that.)

NES Baseball

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The worst part of this game, and the main reason is gets such a low mark is the goddamned fielding. The controls are just anarchy. Any fielder you control moves about the speed of a mudslide and the game has no concept of who is closest to the ball whatsoever. ~Mike “Nequester” Wright

Baseball

nes baseball

MLB: The Show, Ken Griffey Presents Major League Baseball, MVP Baseball, and Baseball Mogul. Over the years, there have been a few excellent baseball games that have stood the test of time. These revered titles can be popped in to this day and still retain some of the magic that made them a blast. That being said, the first baseball game released for the NES is clearly not one of them. Today, we take a peek at the initial rendition of the Summer Classic to grace us in 8-bits, the creatively named NES Baseball.

nes baseball
Baseball spelled with it’s namesake is pretty sweet. The title screen music is used for about 5 other games as well. Nintendo must’ve paid their composers per tune and not per usage.

This is normally where I throw some history for the readers to soak in but c’mon folks, it’s baseball! Other than MMA, my personal game of choice. 9 players hit the field, 4 balls is a walk, 3 strikes and you’re out, 3 outs and you switch sides. The rules are well known to almost anyone and in that regard, it’s an easy game to pop in and instantly get going. Did Nintendo faithfully translate “America’s Pastime” into an enjoyable experience for kids to lose themselves in? It saddens me to say, not even close.

nes baseball
“After carefully considering offers from A, M, G, and X, I’ve decided to take my talents to H! I can’t wait to be a major part in the H vs Y feud and plan to play here at least two long years!”

Let’s begin with the team names. Granted, when a publisher doesn’t have the license to use real MLB logos and names, they normally run with the city name and the uniform colors. Usually, from that, we automatically gather that if the team’s name is “Bos” and the colors they sport are red and white, good money is on them being the Boston Red Sox. Baseball said “fuck all that noise” and gave us the legendary squads of A, C, D, P, R, and Y. Further examination will reveal the teams as the Athletics, Cardinals, Dodgers, Phillies, Royals, and Yankees judging by the color schemes. Nowadays, we equate the Royals to a team that has had one winning season since 1993 and akin to the Pittsburgh Pirates of the NL, sort of a running gag. Seeing as this was launched October 18, 1985, Baseball was two days removed from George Brett and the Royals defeating Ozzie Smith’s Cardinals in the World Series, justifying their inclusion in this cart. What I don’t understand is if all 6 teams are EXACTLY the same with only uniform swaps, why couldn’t we just have all 28 teams at the time and add even one letter to the teams name so we could tell the Astros from the A’s? Also of note, did all the black and latino players go on strike before they hit the field? In these days and times, little details like that become rather noticable. One could attempt to argue that the game was made in Japan, however the MVP of the Nippon League in 1984, when Baseball debuted in the arcades, was Greg Wells, a black man.. 

nes baseball
Kansas City Royals, falling flat on our asses since 1993!

There is only one mode so anyone wanting a full season and deep stat tracking just had to make use of their noggin and create a custom schedule as well as track their own stats. One problem, you never knew who was up to bat. Every hitter has the same exact appearance and attributes, so it could be your catcher at the plate or your left fielder. There was no indicator as to who was 0-5 so far in the game or who had 4 homers, nor did it even matter.. Same with pitching as it made zero difference if you got rocked for 10 runs in your first inning, there are no substituions, the poor guy just has to deal with life and continue to get slaughterred trying to lower his 77.00 ERA futilely. Really, there should be a “swallow cyanide” menu option, because if there is anyone I feel for in this game, it’s the poor pitcher.

nes baseball
Throw so much as one pitch right down the middle and this will happen 90% of the time.

Other than frustration, the only other emotion this game can seem to conjure up is a deep sympathy for the pitcher. It truly is like Nolan Ryan on the mound with a gang of stoned sumo wrestlers in the background trying to field. Pitching is tolerable as you have 3 speeds to work with and the only complaint is after you hit A, he throws it pretty much whenever the hell he wants to. At times, it is instantly pitched to the batter and other times, he shakes off a sign and stands there mean-mugging the batter a few seconds before the wind-up, adding more time to an already long as hell game. 

nes baseball
That isn’t 3 left fielders, my fucking PITCHER is chasing a ball that far!

The worst part of this game, and the main reason is gets such a low mark is the goddamned fielding. The controls are just anarchy. Any fielder you control moves about the speed of a mudslide and the game has no concept of who is closest to the ball whatsoever. A routine pop-up was missed by my third basemen and instead of the game allowing me to control the left fielder and try to get to the ball, it makes my 3B run (more like freshly twisted ankle hobbling) after the ball all the way to the warning track. As if it could be worse, the fielder and the ball are often moving the same speed meaning you aren’t getting to shit until you make it all the way to the wall and pray the ball ricochets in your direction. Three fucking times a simple play was turned into something really damaging to my chances of a fair game. The routine groundball that rolled through my second baseman’s legs that turned into an inside the park home run almost costed me a controller.

nes baseball
I tried to exact revenge for the ’88 World Series but by the 2nd inning, I was getting spanked. Sorry Oakland, better luck next baseball review.

Hitting is easy enough. A baseball is hurled towards your batter and you try to hit A at the right time. Simple, yet effective, as is hitting in most baseball games. That is, until you actually reach first base. Even if you get the perfect slicer down the third base line for what should be an easy triple, your player grows fucking roots at first. I beat the everloving piss out of my buttons to no avail attempting to light any kind of fire under my players ass, yet all he could muster was to blankly stare at me and remain planted where he was. This game’s rules have no rules. The one time I got my guy to accomplish forward motion, it was by complete accident and I couldn’t get him to turn back around nor know why I even tried. Any semblance of strategy that might be thought up is just an exercise in futility. Your choices are pretty much limited to either knocking it out of the park everytime or having your ass handed to you on a silver platter. Good luck with option A.

nes baseball
When I think baseball, I think of these all-time great teams!

As for the sound, most titles of the “Sports Series” work extremely well without any background tunes, but this is one game that sorely needed it. Seeing as this was the only baseball title at the time, the poor consumer had to endure the rousing sound of nothing while the game was droning on. It’s as slow moving as it gets and I timed a full game at 58 minutes, far too long for the 6 or so sound effects to keep things intresting or me distracted from what a clump of 8-bit shit this is. As a matter of fact, when you are called out, it is the exact same sound that Punch-Out on NES gives when you press start and the boxing glove breaks through the screen. Noone can blame me for nstantly making me want to pop that classic in when I hear it. The tiny ditty when you hit a home run is also the theme when you win a fight in the arcade version of Punch-Out, giving a strange link to both versions of the greatest boxing game ever created on any console. Later for that one though.

nes baseball
If you’re one of those fans who just wish the Yankees lose everytime they hit the field, in this game all you have to do is play as them. Instant gratification!

 

THE FINAL VERDICT

nes baseball
Exactly how I’d have felt if I spent 50 bucks on this title on launch day…

3/10

Only slightly above Donkey Kong Jr. Math as an unplayable piece of NES history that should stay buried never to see the sun or be touched by civilization again. I spent 3 days mulling it over and trying like hell to give it the benefit of the doubt as the first baseball game and still can’t go any higher in good conscience. Nintendo squandered a great opprotunity here as launch day, noone knew what the hell an Ice Climber, a Clu Clu, or a Goomba was. We all knew what baseball was and, sadly, they completely dropped the ball. I’m sure the five superstar outfielders from Team Y is still chasing that bitch to the wall today.

Kung Fu

Kung Fu - NES
Kung Fu, October 1985, Nintendo

Kung Fu

Where can you find a game loosely related to Jackie Chan, All Japan Pro Wrestling, every major Neo Geo fighting game, freaky oriental threesomes, and Tiny “Zeus” Lister? Grab your dogi, throw on your favorite slippers, and strap yourselves in because we’re in for a wild ride today Nintendo lovers! Who’s ready for some good old fashioned Kung Fu?

Kung Fu - NES
I’m a sucker for digitized dragons. Game B is just a fraction tougher than A.

Originally released in the arcades as Kung Fu Master, this was one wildly popular game. If you were alive, had a spare quarter, and were able to hold a joystick in the early 80s, you played Kung Fu. Everyone of age who experienced the thrill of kicking three baddies in a row hauling ass towards you never forgot it. The things about this game we DIDN’T know are easily just as interesting to say the least.

Kung Fu - NES
Jackie Chan didn’t hit it big here until 1995’s Rumble In The Bronx but we had unknowingly played a game for years that featured him in it and noone knew!

Launched in Japan as Spartan X, Kung Fu was actually based on the 1984 Jackie Chan film of the same name. Martial arts legend Chan played Thomas, the protagonist of the movie and game, who is attempting to save his girlfriend Sylvia from the most generically named baddie ever, Mr. X. The movie was released here in the U.S. as Wheels On Meals. No, that isn’t a typo, they actually thought that title was going to bring movie-goers out in droves. What the goatfuck you ask? Get this, the last two films the Golden Harvest studio shat out were named Megaforce and Menage A Trois. The executives got the oogy boogies about their next venture starting with the letter M, so Meals On Wheels got flipped on its ass and became Wheels On Meals instead. I couldn’t make this insipid shit up if I tried.

Kung Fu - NES
RIP Mitsuharu Misawa 6/18/62 – 6/13/09. Never forgotten.

Excuse me a moment for an out of character pause. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the main theme for Spartan X was used as the entrance music for Mitsuharu Misawa, one of the greatest professional wrestlers of any era who tragically passed away in the middle of the ring in June 2009. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word and a true ambassador to the sport. Rest in peace Emerald Warrior. I miss you.

Kung Fu - NES
Tell me this screenshot doesn’t make you just want to pop this fucker in

Beat ’em ups seemed to be released every week in the late 80s/early 90s with some legendary titles like Golden Axe, Double Dragon, Streets Of Rage, and Final Fight at the forefront. These and every game like it owe everything they are to Kung Fu. The first of it’s kind, they made it count (unlike Dk Jr Math) and it spawned more games that ate quarters than can be mentioned in one review. The lead programmer, Takashi Nishiyama, went on to Capcom where he was the head of a little game named Street Fighter. He could’ve been quite content with his legacy left at that but the guy went on to even greater heights when he was hired by SNK and designed a cutting edge contraption called the Neo-Geo System Board. This mad professor of gaming could’ve stopped THERE but what did this under-appreciated genius do as an encore? He created every major SNK fighting IP as he went along. Yes, the head programmer on Kung Fu is responsible for all-time heavyweights Fatal Fury, Art Of Fighting, Samurai Shodown, & the epic King Of Fighters franchises. Quite the fucking résumé no?

Kung Fu - NES
“What you got on my 40 homie?”

Onto the game itself, this is definitely one of the better Black Box games. By today’s standards, it would seem pedestrian but if you look at it in the same vein you’d hear a garage band’s first album before they refined their sound, there isn’t alot to complain about. You play as Thomas, going from floor to floor kicking and punching your way to the level boss. The true innovation here was that no two bosses were the same, a feat even Mario didn’t pull off. They aren’t just lazy palette swaps either as one throws a boomerang, another resembles Deebo from Friday, and Mr. X himself looks like Deadpool unmasked to reveal an 8-bit Owen Wilson. Even more awesome is the way they will laugh in your face if you grind through the level only to be defeated at the end. Oh, will it ever piss you off proper until you have the sweet joy of handing them their ass. In my opinion, alot of games today are missing that type of motivation to move ahead. Could be just me, but I’ll lose sleep to beat you if you laugh at me for failure digitized or not.

Kung Fu - NES
“Hmm, then again, I’ve been trying to dump her for a month now…”

Some may cavetch the game is too short but it’s in the vein of quite a bit of the older NES games in that when you see the ending, it’ll just throw you back onto level 1, ramping up the difficulty until you can’t handle it anymore. Sure, it’s possible to save the girl within a day of first playing but try to save her 5 times and watch controllers explode through windows. There is only one music track as you plow through the level but it is note for note faithful to the arcade version and doesn’t distract from the hectic action. Only negative I can think of is the unevenness of the challenge. Stage 2 is twice as hard as any of the other levels. If you can survive the falling snakes that take a third of your life and disco balls that explode into a 5 way spread shot the 2nd floor offers, this game is your bitch.

Kung Fu - NES
The, um, intimidating Mr. X

THE FINAL VERDICT


8/10 All beat ’em ups should look up at Kung Fu as their granddaddy and shower it with the respect it deserves. Hell of a challenge (bite me stage 2), original bosses, and a fun factor that forces you to get that much further each time you play. There was a sequel released only in Japan as Spartan X 2, but it didn’t capture very much of what made the original so special. One measure of a game to me is the ability to pick it up and play it without having to memorize a moveset, read a long-winded manual, or spend hours learning the controls a la Clu Clu Land. You moved forward and fucked shit up until the stairs, climbed up, and commenced to fucking more shit up, which sometimes, is all the good dumb fun you need. After all, it’s meant to be a game, not a college course, and this one hit the new concept it brought out of the park.

Kung Fu - NES
Only disappointment follows this here title screen.
This one was for one of the coolest cats I’ve ever had the honor of working with. Good luck in your upcoming future endeavors Chivo!

Donkey Kong Jr. Math

donkey kong

Donkey Kong Jr. Math

Well, it was bound to happen. Time to review a stinker. Not just a stinker, mind you, but a post-Taco Bell chased by black coffee with a side of Taco Bell for dessert type of stinker. Light a candle and say a prayer because here is the unwashed skidmark of the Black Box games, Donkey Kong Jr. Math. Heaven help us.

donky kong
“I can either play this or a math game like it? Kiss my Huggies!”

First, a quick history lesson in what I mean by “Black Box” since there has been a question or two on the definition. The Nintendo Entertainment System launched in small quantities on October 18, 1985 in selected areas of New York City. Due to the video game crash of 1983 (thanks Atari!), noone was willing to entertain the thought of selling home game consoles ever again. Therefore, Nintendo, steadfast in their resolve, changed the name of the Nintendo Family Computer (Famicom) instead to an “entertainment system”. How this actually worked when it is obviously a game console, I’ll never understand. Anyway, on the day of the initial launch, there were 18 titles ready to go. They all came in a black box and in the lower left hand corner, they were marked with te type of game it was.

If you look at the Clu Clu Land and Super Mario boxes in my prior reviews, you’ll notice the symbol for the “Action Series” and “Light Gun Series” with Hogan’s Alley and so forth. Hence, “Black Box”. The NES had a true launch in February of 1986 with more titles and after that is when the third party publishers started releasing games and didn’t want to conform to the labels of their games, so the idea was scrapped. Hindsight 20/20, it was a good move, because what the hell could you label something with multiple genres in it like a Battletoads or Guardian Legend? One of the categories was “Education Series” and while it probably had good intentions and may have had some legs in future titles, it only had one game ever attached to it. Why? It sucked so fucking bad that it killed off the idea completely.

donkey kong
“I warned him if he starred in that goddamned math game, I’d disown his ass for Diddy Kong. Junior is dead to me. There is no Junior”

Which brings us to Donkey Kong Jr, Math. Seriously, all I want to type here is what a pile of shit it is, journalistic integrity be damned. But with heavy heart and mind, there is no choice but to roll my sleeves up and stick my hands deep into the doo-doo and pray I come out of it with a filth that can be washed away.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math
More like calculate how long before this game gets thrown into traffic.

The game sure looks like DK Jr. from the arcades but that’s where the similarity ends. There are 3 modes to “play” but the only difference between A and B are that B uses negative numbers. The gist of it is that Papa Kong gives you a number and you have to jump to a vine with a number (you can only hit one at a time), then travel to the mathematic symbol you want, then hop to another number, etc, until you have the total Donkey asks for. Example, Papa gives me the number 77, you have to jump to 9, then the times symbol, then 8, then hop your baby gorilla ass back to the plus sign, then back to the 5 and you “win”. That is IT. The game booklet never lets on that it is 2 player only so you have this poor, pathetic looking pink DK Jr. off to the right who dies when you complete a problem. What the shit is that? Be great at math so you can slaughter your own kind ruthlessly? Wait, maybe this game did teach a 1%er a thing or two growing up.

Donkey Kong Jr. Math
The unnamed pink twin of DK Jr tugs at my heartstrings. Math = genocide

The final game mode makes zero sense from any sane perspective. You choose the type of problem you want to do and then Kong presents you with one. Sort of. To solve it, all you need to do is push a block up past the Nitpickers who never seem to touch you and that’s the game! This mode can be beaten within 5 minutes and I cannot for the life of me figure out what it is supposed to accomplish. If I watch numbers be added for me, it will instill a photographic memory strong enough to always remember what these two numbers added up equal to?

Donkey Kong Jr. Math
No bullshit, this took me about 2 seconds to beat.

THE FINAL VERDICT
1/10 Widely regarded as one of the worst launch titles ever. Probably started out as a decent concept, but something seriously got fucked up in the development process. That or Nintendo had no beta testers at the time because this game just feels rushed and broken. It killed Donkey Kong Jr so dead that the only other appearance he made was in 1992’s Super Mario Kart for the SNES. The 1 point is for the decent graphic port but to go higher than that simply isn’t possible. The idea was for kids to want to mix games and learning, but who is going to pop this shit in when you have ANY other game laying around? Brain Age this isn’t. They couldn’t give this craptastic cart away. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a shower. I feel violated having played this…

Hogan’s Alley

Hogan's_Alley

Hogan’s Alley

Now these are the exact moments that make me glad I began this project. I went into this thinking there was no way this game was going to have any kind of history other than being a memorable Black Box title and left my research blown away. Ladies and germs, I present to you a game steeped in more links from the past than just about any out there, Hogan’s Alley.

Hogan's_Alley
Nice touch with the bullet in the logo.

Let’s dig into the history for a moment because it’s so damned captivating to me. The original Hogan’s Alley was presented back in the 1890’s and starred one of the country’s earliest comic strip stars, The Yellow Kid. The strip was written and drawn by the famed Richard F. Oucault and featured in the pages of New York World, owned by publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who is presently more well known for the Pultizer Prize, an award for journalistic excellence. Hogan’s Alley was popular enough to be on billboards and a ton of merchandise for the time but quite a bit of legal wrangling between Pulitzer and another famous publisher, William Randolph Hearst caused the Kid to quietly fade away.

Hogan's_Alley
An early strip feautring the original Hogan’s Alley. How many video games do you know with roots dating back to the 1890s?

Fast forward to 1920, two years removed from the World War I, and the FBI learned through a survey conducted throughout the major police departments at the time that marksmanship was becoming a lost art. Out of the all cities surveyed with over 25, 000 residents, only THIRTEEN had marksmanship programs. Obviously, this needed work so Hogan’s Alley was established at Ohio’s Camp Perry by the Army and the NRA.

Hogan's_Alley
Have a nice day indeed!

Beginning in 1924, there were national contests held at the camp for sharpshooters and the like. There was no blank ammunition laying around so instead they opted to use real live ammo on cardboard cutouts set up around their virtual city, hence why the game’s targets are presented as they are. World War II brought an end to the contest but in 1954, the camp re-opened and in 1987, they took it a set further and went absolutely batshit with the idea, creating an actual small town for simulated combat.

Hogan's_Alley
No. Fucking. Way.

But yes, there IS a game to discuss isn’t there? Hogan’s Alley was one of the first Light Gun games (or “Zapper” if you will) to be released and like most Black Boxers, was released to the arcades prior to the NES launch date. There are 3 modes you can get your Elliott Ness on with, which seems to be par for the course for the Zapper series, but who’s going to bitch when they could’ve easily put out one mode and called it good?

Hogan's_Alley
Shirtless gangsters on what appears to be the surface of Mars. MISS!

Game A is your standard 3 target shooter. This would be one of the rare times I enjoy no kind of musical track because if you’re an FBI agent trying to concentrate, the last thing you want is bouncy chiptunes blasting in your ear. There are 3 types of townsfolk in the sim you can shoot and 3 you can’t or else it registers as a “MISS!” and your game is over at ten. The tricky part is that the professor is colored just like a baddie and the grunt with the shotgun is colored like the stand-alone ‘stache sporting policeman, so it does take a bit of skill not to accidentally send Professor Sad-Shit to hell.

Hogan's_Alley
Seriously, look at the sour puss on that professor. Should we shoot out of mercy or not? Or do we shoot because he looks like Walter White and we really don’t know what a criminal looks like always?

My favorite was always Game B. It takes you right into Hogan’s Alley and feels trickier and better paced. Still a lack of music except for a groovy little number in between rounds which is fine by me. If you’ve ever played this mode, the words “fuck!” and “shit!” will enter even the cleanest vernacular after you just pumped poor Miss Nobody full of lead. Second verse, same as the verse, 10 misses and it’s ce la vie!

Hogan's_Alley
Game B FTW

The third option is lame compared to the rest of the awesome goings on. You simply try and bounce tin cans into a side wall with point values. Not too easy but not impossible either. When compared to the other 2 modes, this will be the one most likely to collect virtual dust.

Hogan's_Alley
About as fun as it looks. A solid 15 seconds of entertainment.

THE FINAL VERDICT


8/10 A really great launch title and on a personal level, I always enjoyed Hogan’s Alley more than Duck Hunt. Not the popular opinion, but three very distinct modes when DH only adds an extra duck and some clay pigeons make this one rise above. The controls seem a bit sharper here as well as there aren’t as many cases of “OH BULLSHIT, I SHOT THAT FOR SURE!” going on. Pile those onto a fascinating history and Hogan’s Alley is a title that shouldn’t have been looked over.

Hogan's_Alley
Nintendo and FBI mash-up!

For more information about the Yellow Kid and the origins of Hogan’s Alley, check out Brian Cronin’s INCREDIBLE blog at CBR here:
http://goodcomics.comicbookresources.com/2009/05/28/comic-book-legends-revealed-209/

And for the most surreal site I’ve seen in awhile here is an actual link to the FBI’s real life Hogan’s Alley. It exists to this day as a training facility and I’d sell my soul to Zarathos to walk through here one good time:
http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/training/hogans-alley

Clu Clu Land

Clu_Clu_Land
Clu Clu Land, October 1985, Nintendo

Clu Clu Land

Now here is an strange one. This is one you’ll either love to death and spend quality time daydreaming about how to conquer the next level or you’re going to throw this sumbitch right off a balcony and never think twice about it. Either way, let’s dig into this oddball Black Boxer, Clu Clu Land!
Clu_Clu_Land
Most of the early games have this sort of black title screen.
Let’s start with the box art. If you were a strapping young lad wishing to rent a new game, what the holy shitstain would you even think this one is about if you hadn’t seen it in the arcades prior? It looks like two Rupees in between a fried egg on the left and a first year graphic designer’s interpretation of Mr.Krabs holding a fried egg balanced Rupee while mentally talking to Professor Xavier via 1960’s psychic wave drawings on the right. In other words, no fucking clue what is going on on the box.
Clu_Clu_Land
Unlike the US version, the Famicom box art perfectly illustrates everything you need to know before popping it in.
Onto the meaty part of the burger. You’re a fish named Bubbles trying to collect coins while avoiding the Unira, a nasty type of sea urchin. Without the game manual, I wouldn’t have clue one that this was even a fish. She’s fairly badass in her own way because she has these extendable arms with claws that grab onto poles and turn however you grabbed them via momentum. Black holes can suck you in and bounce walls will send you eyeballs first to your doom but your main enemy in this game? The fucking timer. That’s right, you thought 8-1 of Mario forced you to haul ass through a level? This game is brutal with it’s timer and even if you die, the fucker doesn’t reset! Up the ass with Mobil gas I say! It’s biggest comparison would be Pac-Man but in reverse. Imagine Pac-Man’s mazes but instead of grabbing the power pellets, you need to uncover them while incapacitating the Unira. That’s the whole of it. Recover all the coins of a level (which usually creates a picture of some sort) and you move onto the next stage.
Clu_Clu_Land
We all live in a yellow submarine…
Graphics are nice and bright as they are in most of the launch games. There is never so much going on that you lose track of Bubbles and the Unira don’t blend in to the background in any way that would lead to cheap fishy-death. The sound is my favorite part about the game as it presents some catchy bittunes that  really get you bobbing in your seat like a kid again.
Clu_Clu_Land
One red, one green? Hmm, familiar 2 player color scheme there!
Bad news for those hoping for two straight 10 scores, these controls are the drizzling shits. I spent almost 90 minutes playing through and still had trouble making a simple left turn at times. The timer is a bitch and in some levels Bubbles moves normally, and some she smokes a fat bag of crank right before the level starts, so the pacing seems screwy. It looks simple enough becomes an untamed whoredoggie to say the least. The “sound wave” she shoots always hits it’s mark but ramming the Unira into the wall to kill them can take way too much valuable time. In other difficulty news, this becomes impossible around level 12, as you have to go over the coins twice to reveal them. I like impossible so stuck with it and was rewarded by having levels where if you uncovered the coin, you couldn’t touch it again or it flipped over and didn’t count. SADISTS!
Clu_Clu_Land
Is this Bubbles or Meatwad from ATHF?
THE FINAL VERDICT

6/10 This really wasn’t a bad game at all. The controls have a high learning curve and can run you ragged, but it wasn’t Kid Kool or anything (shudder). At times it was very addicting and you get a real sense of accomplishment when you uncover the picture of the level.

Clu_Clu_Land
Bubbles seems like she should’ve been more popular than she was. Cute as hell and just what NES fans seemed to love in their characters.

Those wondering what may have happened to Bubbles, she has popped up over the years in various places. The most well-known would be as a trophy in SSBM, but fuck, everyone from the Black Box era is represented there so no big surprise. Her most prominent role since Clu Clu Land was as a hidden character in the GBA game Donkey Kong : King Of Swing. Along with Ms. Pac-Man, she would be also be one of the first female starring roles in early gaming which makes me wonder why more people don’t know about this game? Oh yeah, goddamned box art.

Clu_Clu_Land
I’ll just say it, BRING BACK BUBBLES!!!

Super Mario Bros

Super_Mario_Bros
(Super Mario Bros, October 1985, Nintendo)

Super Mario Bros

Perfection. That is perhaps the only proper word created to describe Shigeru Miyamoto, Takashi “Ten Ten” Tezuka, and Koji Kondo’s realized vision of a sequel to the original Mario Bros. When it comes to the “Black Box” titles, none come close to this magical tale that whisked many a young mind away far off into a land unlike any we had ever seen before. Super Mario Bros. Perfection.
Super_Mario_BrosAll hail!

 What some don’t know is that SMB (as I will refer to it henceforth) was actually created as kind of a “goodbye” to the original Famicom system to make way for the Famicom Disk System, which was a huge motherfucker of a contraption that fit in underneath the original Famicom. The Famicom (FAMIly COMputer), for the uninitiated, is the Japanese version of the NES with little differences such as controllers hard-wired into the console and different sized cartidges. Little did they know that this platform/shooter they were working on (yes, a freakin’ shooter!) would become the landmark of a generation. Thankfully, we were spared “Mario With Big Muthafuckin’ Guns” as they could only map the A button to either jump or shoot the gun. Alas, cooler heads prevailed and a-jumping we all went!
Super_Mario_Bros

Who else makes the Mario face with these blocks?

As for the story, when you say it out loud, it sounds like you may have just left the Guggenheim with Tim Leary on enough LSD to kill a rhino. At the base level, it’s two dudes saving a princess from an evil dragon. That’s where the logic ends and the kick-assery begins. Aforementioned “dudes” turn out to be two plumbers who starred in the previous title (Mario Bros, apropos) who eat magic mushrooms, jump like Lebron on a sugar high, and throw fireballs. There were power-ups in games before but one that doubled your size? Another that shot fire out of your hands? One that turned you into an invincible Goomba destroying machine? Never before had anyone seen anything like this and it was just captivating. Every world has 4 stages, with the fourth being a castle controlled by a fake version of Bowser until World 8. The stages are greatly varied with only two stages being re-hashes of the previous ones. My personal favorite is what I called as a kid “The Void” because it was alot like 1-3 but all in black and white. It was the perfect adventure for young gamers, you ran through grassy plains, made your way through dark caves, swam to your next destination, and avoided flying fish and shit-kicking beetles the whole way.
Super_Mario_Bros
My personal fav, “The Void” 5-3

Let’s not forget the music. Holy mother of God, the music. Everyone, and I mean everyone knows the Mario 1-1 Theme (officially known as “Ground Theme”) created by Mr. Kondo. When you think that just his royalties on ringtone sales for that one theme alone have him set for life, it is staggering, considering he also did work on the soon-to-be reviewed Legend of Zelda. No bullshit, and I’ve done this, you can walk practically anywhere, start whistling the Mario Theme and people will follow suit. It is like a gamer handshake. We only think of it as what it is, but if you told me as a kid “Hey, that’s a Calypso beat with steel drums!”, you would’ve been looked at like you just puked on my feet while I was wearing flip-flops. Calypso my balls, that’s simply the Mario Theme.
Super_Mario_Bros

Firework mystery, talk of the playground.

The controls couldn’t be more spot-on. If you died, it was your own damned fault, pick your head up little soldier and try, try again. The magnificent part of it is that at the time, these guys were creating the mold as they went and did so in ways that would re-define gaming forever. Sure, you had Metroid, Zelda, Contra among others that were just as great in their own ways but there is something about Mario that is more than can be described but I’ll give it a go. You are CONSTANTLY doing shit in Mario. In just 1-1 alone, you meet the Goombas, Koopas, Mushrooms, 1-Up, Fire Flower, Star Man, break blocks to find hidden goods, keep watch on your coin counter, make sure you beat the timer, duck on top of every pipe to see if it will take you anywhere, and try to figure out how the fuck you just made fireworks appear after you grabbed the flag. THE FIRST LEVEL!!! That doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of unlocking the rest of the secrets that I had to test out after hearing about it at school due to no internet in the early 80’s. Secrets exist like the -1 World, an infinite water stage glitch that I never thought was real until I saw it in Nintendo Power. One of the funniest things I’ve read was an interview with Miyamoto about the Inifinite 1-Up trick at the end of 3-1. He was asked about the glitch and he replied that there wasn’t one. He purposefully put that there and couldn’t believe people found it. Honestly, I’ve done it and the guy that figured it out had to have accidentally pulled that off, I mean, how the hell would you know?

Super_Mario_Bros

Gaming’s first catchphrase!

The only negative I can even possibly find with this game is the 2 player. If you are Mario, you have to die in order for it to be Luigi’s turn. If the person playing Mario was good, go to the store, take a shit, balance your checkbook, develop a written language for Sea Monkeys, and make a LEGO fully functional house and THEN, it might be your turn. In one of those weird “I’d never think anyone else would do this but me” things, I used to boot up 2 player, immediately feed Mario to a hungry Goomba, and rock the whole game as Luigi. Recently, I spoke to two other people who did the same thing. Awesome.

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Oh, 8-3 how I hate thee.

In what will be I’m sure one of the longest reviews of a game, no other game deserves it more. SMB is the benchmark of the Black Box games to this day is beaten by me at least twice a year. In an era where acheivements were real trophys on your dresser, noone cared which voice actors were used, and “X Box” was more likely to be the name of a seedy porn store on Westheimer, Super Mario Bros was the king. It has been ported and thrown on more systems than any other game besides Tetris and shows no signs of slowing down.
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The first final boss I ever met. I heart Bowser.

FINAL VERDICT
10/10. No other way this one was going. This game is mandatory to play.
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THE JOURNEY WILL NEVER BE OVER!!!!!

Special thanks to N-Styles for the info about the gun. If you think it’s bullshit, there are original archived documents from Miyamoto himself! Check them out here: