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.

Community Profile: Meet A Gamer

Meet A Gamer logo
Meet A Gamer logo

Meet A Gamer

It has long been a criticism that gaming can and does lead to anti-social behavior. The vision of children and adults alike playing away for hours on end in a cold damp basement has caused many parents to cringe at the thought of letting their kids get into gaming. While it is certainly true that becoming too addictive to games can pull one away from other important aspects of their lives including social interactions, it has also been proven that many gamers have found their own community within the gaming world.

Just as there are those who flock to sports bars to find companionship with sports fans, the same is done with gamers. It started with groups of friends getting together to play games and expanded with the internet to forums, chat rooms and user groups. Today with the explosion of social groups and communication tools such as Ventrilo, Instant Messaging and Facebook, gamers can connect with other gamers in a way just a decade ago was not possible.

In our weeklong look at gaming communities we first wanted to discuss the growing social interaction between gamers. When one begins playing games they will quickly find friends they can play and communicate with through online lobbies and programs such as Xbox Live and Playstation Network. In addition with online groups and social media such as Facebook, gamers can find their niche be it FPS games, MMO’s or even classic gaming.

What about a social site that is just for gamers? Perhaps the next big thing in social media is not a general place where everyone can meet, but more specific places where people who share the same hobbies or likes can congregate. The question is can something like this work? As a former owner and administrator of many message boards I can testify to the difficulty of getting users to come to your forum with so many others out there.

However, the culture of gaming is different. A place where you know everyone is a gamer just like you might be a haven. Connecting with new gamers from around the world and being able to share everything from videos, to music to pictures could be very appealing.

Enter Meet A Gamer a social networking site where gamers can create a profile and interact with each other. You can discuss games, chat, and even meet up in your favorite game. Obsolete Gamer had a chance to talk with one of the owners of Meet A Gamer and we had some questions on what it was like to start your very own social gaming network.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meet A Gamer advert
Meet A Gamer advert

Obsolete Gamer: How did you come up with the idea for Meet A Gamer?

Nick: Well I was gaming with some local high school buddies of mine and after a while I felt like it was getting too boring and need new people to start playing with.  I slept on it and figured out there was no “social network” for gamers.  So making Meet a Gamer was the perfect concept to find new gamers to play with.

Obsolete Gamer: Can you give us an overview on why you created Meet A Gamer?

Nick: To expand people with new gaming friend.  Creating a way to be able to find the better group to play video games with and of course socially.

Obsolete Gamer:  How difficult was it to create and get the word out to gamers to join?

Nick: It has been very difficult of course, since people use Facebook/Myspace/Twitter etc.  They feel that they don’t need another social network to deal with.  But then when people give it a try they notice it is a great addition with the other social networks because now they can have facebook/myspace for personal use and have a MeetaGamer account for gaming!

Obsolete Gamer:  What did you want your site to bring to gamers?

Nick: I wanted the site to allow gamers to overcome the trash talking and become more social.  Giving gamers the chance to actually meet new gamers without being beaten in a game or harassed.

Obsolete Gamer: How important is social networking to gamers?

Nick: With the way social networking took a spin in the past 6 years it’s really allowing the gaming community unite and kind of give the chance to build a gaming experience they have never experienced before.

Meet A Gamer logo
Meet A Gamer logo

Obsolete Gamer: How has the overall response been to your site by gamers and non-gamers alike?

Nick: The problem I noticed the older generation that played Atari feel that if you only play Halo and Call of Duty series, you are not considered a true gamer.  We all know that is the most played multiplayer on the xbox 360 platform.  Definition of a true gamer is if you play video games, not what type of video games you play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obsolete Gamer:  What is your gaming background?

Nick: What is gaming?  Just kidding, I’ve been gaming since I was a really little kid started off playing Mario Bros series on the original Nintendo, when you had to blow into the cartridge of the game to get it to play.  And I was really addicted to Excitebike that game had me going for hours.  I finally moved on to Super Nintendo, Sega, and now the next generation consoles.  I am really into the Call of Duty series now.  I’ve tried out the Wii and Playstation 3 but it really isn’t for me.  Those two consoles are collecting tons of dust right now!

Obsolete Gamer:  What is your favorite classic games and why?

Nick: Excitebike has to be my favorite classic game because when I was little I would tell my parents I was sick so I couldn’t go to school.  And I would play that game for hours on end.  I am not sure why that game made me so addicted but it was a blast!

Obsolete Gamer:  What are you playing now?

Nick: Right now I have just been playing NHL 11.  I got bored of Modern Warfare 2 and Madden 11 too quickly.  I am really excited to see what Black Ops has in store for us gamers!

Obsolete Gamer:  In your opinion how important is the online community to gaming and gaming culture?

Nick: If the online community can adapt to the gaming culture it will allow an expansion of networking.  Giving the chance for developers to listen to the people.  If we can all somehow stomp our feet and grab the attention of gaming companies now just imagine what could happen in 5 years!

I would like to thank Obsolete Gamer for contacting us, it was a great pleasure!

Want to join this up and coming social site and connect with gamers? Then check out Meet A Gamer.