Tag Archives: elevator action

FGC #346 Taito Legends

GrrrThere are plenty of reasons to deride the current “AAA gaming” philosophy. Micro transactions, incomplete games requiring patches, incomplete games requiring DLC, face melting, too many games where you can play with random puppers… it all gets a bit overwhelming after a while. And gone are the days when you could just “buy a videogame”, as this AAA environment has created a scary world wherein a “launch copy” might not even work without downloading a 40 GB patch, or the latest version of a beloved franchise now includes enough clothes ripping to legally consider it a porno. In short, the AAA environment has created a whole host of new and exciting problems.

But my main problem with the domination of AAA game development? It’s weeded out the weird!

Videogames used to be weird! They used to be weird as hell! Nowadays, even once you make it past the brown shooters, you’ve only ever got market tested, board of directors approved nonsense. I don’t blame companies for wanting to make money, but, come on, this is an industry founded on a chubby dude eating enough mushrooms to beat a lava turtle! Nowadays, the best we can hope for is a Yoko Taro release, and, even then, it’s pretty clear the marketing department got initial approval. I mean, come on, it must not have been that hard to sell Square-Enix on “sexy lady commits wanton violence” and “sexy lady commits wanton violence, but now with a cuter butt”. “Weird” is relegated to sidequests, and, even when you’ve got a talking cat, you still spend more time planning your daily schedule than fighting freaky monsters from the depths of the human soul.

But, according to Taito Legends, there was once a time not so long ago when weird ruled the roost.

Let’s take a look at the arcades according to Taito. Want to do this in chronologically released order? We can do that.

Jungle Hunt

Pitfall?On its own, Jungle Hunt isn’t all that weird. It’s the story of some random explorer dude saving his woman (Wife? Girlfriend? …. Mom?) from cannibals, as one does. However, what’s worth noting here is that Jungle Hunt itself was originally intended to be a Tarzan game, but someone noticed that that dude in a loincloth swinging along vines miiiiiiight just infringe on a couple of copyrights. So the noble Tarzan became Sir Dudley, and maybe a vine was transformed into a rope. And that’s it! Tooootally different, tooootally lawful.

But it didn’t end there! Because it was assumed that the children of 1982 were complete morons, Jungle Hunt became Pirate Pete in short order. It was the exact same game, just now with a pirate theme. Swinging from rope to rope became…. Swinging from rope to rope. Huh. Basically, with as little effort as possible, this title somehow became three “different” games. It’s an auspicious start.

Zoo Keeper

Bah?Again, we start with a pretty basic premise: Zeke is a zookeeper, and it’s your job to help Zeke keep all the animals penned up. However, someone decided to get some proto-Super Mario Galaxy action going, and Zeke…. orbits his zoo. And, somehow, as long as Zeke has his feet planted on the ground, the mere act of running will generate bricks (fences?) to trap rampaging lions. One would suppose this is some manner of “compensation” for the good old days of 80’s graphics, and the whole thing would be in 3-D if it were released today, but… It’s peculiar. Zeke’s zookeeper gravity is just plain weird, and gives the impression that Zeke’s Zoo is the literal center of his world. I… kind of feel bad for the poor guy. He’s not very good at his job, and it’s all he has.

Oh, and his girlfriend gets kidnapped by a monkey every three levels. But, hey, that kind of thing happened back then.

Elevator Action

Nothing is more exciting than elevators!

Bubble Bobble

We’ve spoken of this title at length before, but, since bubble dinosaurs have become normalized in society, I just want to note that, again, we’re talking about a pair of boys that were cursed to become dinosaurs that blow bubbles and hunt monsters in a 100-floor dungeon. Also, their girlfriends have been kidnapped by a giant wizard monster, and he must be defeated with lightning bubbles. There is not a single bit of this plot that has ever appeared elsewhere in human fiction.

Rainbow Islands

It’s the sequel to Bubble Bobble, but this time, instead of a dinosaur that shoots bubbles, you’re a human that farts rainbows. And your ultimate opponent is Dinosaur Death, the death that comes for all dinosaurs. It’s disappointing that the third Bubble Bobble title did not feature mutant giraffes that belch tiny suns at cosmic horrors.

Rastan

GrrrYou would think that someone learned from the whole Jungle Hunt thing, but experience is for quitters. Here’s Conan the Barbarian except… nope. It’s just Conan the Barbarian. Did Conan ever fight endless hordes of lizard people? Well, Rastan totally does. Maybe that’s new? I don’t know. I’m not a barbarianologist because, apparently, that’s not a real thing. Thanks a lot, Obama.

Battle Shark

No game could ever live up to that title. I’m not even going to… aw… It’s a submarine shooter? That is totally lame.

New Zealand Story

SqueakAnother tale as old as time: Tiki and Phee Phee are young kiwis in love, but tragedy strikes when Phee Phee and her phriends are kidnapped by a blue leopard seal (which is totally not a walrus). And, rather than go ahead and eat said kiwis like some manner of toothy mammalian horror, Phee Phee and the gang are stuffed into cages across various mazes filled with an oddly high number of ballooning monsters (that is to say the monsters are using balloons to travel, I don’t mean to imply the monsters are getting fat). Tiki is ready for battle, though, as he’s equipped with deadly arrows, and has the ability to steal weapons from the corpses of his defeated foes. Oh, and he can steal a flying swan balloon, too. Because it’s adorable, that’s why.

While this might all sound like basement level insanity (this isn’t even the only old school game to be based entirely on the deliciousness of kiwi birds), what really pushes this one over the top is the “New Zealand Story” angle. Yes, kiwis are indigenous to New Zealand. And, yes, after every stage, you get a real life map of New Zealand. And, as you progress, you will learn the geography of New Zealand, and which areas potentially include enormous, kiwi-eating whale bosses. Was this title made with a grant by the New Zealand tourism board? Or, more likely, did some random dudes in Japan just spin a globe, point randomly at the Pacific Ocean, and base a game on the first country that happened to appear? Which option is more sane?

Ninja Kids

Totally swoleBy 1990, you couldn’t cut it with bubble-based dinosaurs anymore, so it was time to give in to the times and release a beat ‘em up. Except… nobody at Taito had any idea how to make a beat ‘em up, so they made something that’s a little more Mega Man than Streets of Rage. You take damage for simply touching an opponent, ranged attacks are king, and most enemies go down in one or two hits. Despite the fact that the beat ‘em up genre was well established at this point, it almost feels like the long lost missing link between 2-D action games and Mike Haggar’s Big Day. It’s an amusing proto-beat ‘em up from way back when! Nothing weird about that!

Oh, except the fact that you’re fighting against a literally satanic cult.

And your main characters are puppets.

And every attack slices your opponents in half.

And it’s the source of this image

Every Sprite Comic Ever

And it’s kind of racist.

And… man, it’s just weird.

Games used to be really weird, guys!

FGC #346 Taito Legends

  • System: Taito Legends was released for the Playstation 2 and Xbox, but most of the featured games here are primarily arcade releases. Except Bubble Bobble, of course, which only appeared on the NES Classic.
  • Number of players: Two players allow for better quarter consumption than one. Four is even better!
  • GrrrFavorite Game (Compilation): Okay, technically it’s Bubble Bobble, because Bubble Bobble is love. But New Zealand Story is a close second, and there’s a part of me that feels like it should have been another Contra or alike that holds the run ‘n gun mantle for the early days. Or I just like fighting not-walruses. Could be one of those.
  • Shoot ‘em Up: There are a number of light gun games on this compilation, too (including the sublime Operation Wolf), but there is zero light gun support. And did this thing ever appear on the Wii? Noooooo.
  • Did you know? No, really, The Ninja Kids is racist as hell. The most general “thugs” are big-lipped African Americans that are about as powerful as kittens and are recklessly bisected by your favorite ninja. It is disturbing. And this is a game that involves a satanic cult!
  • Would I play again: Well…

What’s next? We’re not quite done with Taito Legends yet, as there’s one game on this compilation I want to give a closer look. Which game am I talking about? Well, please look forward to finding out!

Oh, the devil

FGC #064 Elevator Action 2

Feel the excitement“Elevator Action” has always been an oxymoron. Elevators are not for action, elevators are for waiting, for loading screens, or, in an easy way to identify a beat ‘em up, for beating a swarm of enemies while making vertical progress. Elevators are great for sitcoms and dramas, because you can “trap” two (or more) characters and force them to bounce off each other and/or resolve issues, but in reality, even the reality of a video game, elevators are always going to be boring. “Elevator Action” may as well be “Doorway Panic” or “Paint Dries Z” as far as exciting titles go.

Honestly, the original Elevator Action did nothing to dissuade the idea that elevators could be filled with action. It’s not a bad game, and I should probably give more credit to any game that is literally as old as I am, but it’s not exactly action packed, either. One screen, vertically scrolling along, and the best you can hope for is to open a door at precisely the right moment, assuming you can successfully enter a door at all. In a weird way, this may have been the first game to utilize “stealth” as part of the gameplay, so maybe we can trace Elevator Action to Metal Gear Solid and its many imitators.

Most recently, there was Elevator Action Deluxe, which I picked up during some PSN flash sale. It’s one of those “the same game, but with modern conveniences” quasi-remakes that you often see pop up with old coin-op titles. It’s basically the thirty year old game, but now there are different layouts and a few random switch-ups, like a high score and This is no fun“challenges” for each stage. Or maybe I’m wrong, I played it for like ten minutes, and then woke up the following morning disoriented and playing Bubsy for some reason.

So, when I received the request for Elevator Action Returns, I actually confused the requested game with Elevator Action Deluxe, and audibly sighed at having to wring something interesting out of that snoozefest. But a quick trip to Wikipedia saved me the bother of playing that digital NyQuil, and I found that Elevator Action Returns, aka Elevator Action 2, was an arcade game that was released in 1994.

Which… disqualifies it under the “no games I don’t own” clause. Lame.

Oh, wait! There was a Saturn version… but not in America. Never been a big fan of importing, as my belief is that, in the wholeness of time, every game ever made will be rereleased with an English translation, one way or another, Amen. So, back to square one.

But! Elevator Action 2 was included on the Playstation 2 Taito Legends 2 collection, and I own that! Yay! I can’t even remember why I own that game, though. Was it just for another copy of Puzzle Bobble? Qix? Or could I just not ignore the incredible draw of Violence Fight? No matter, I’ve got a copy of Elevator Action 2 to play, technically, so, for the first time in the FGC, let’s play a game I know absolutely nothing about.

Oh.WELCOME TO ACTION COUNTRY

Oh. This is good.

Is this… is this what joy feels like?

Alright, time to spread the gospel.

Ladies and gentlemen, Elevator Action 2 is a really, really great game.

First of all, there’s the overall aesthetic. For reasons that I can only begin to speculate, everything here hews pretty close to 80’s GI Joe, with a dash of Die Hard-esque action movie spice. The main characters are Edie (short for Edbecca) Burret, the action girl in camo pants with the fastest draw and some pyro tendencies; Kart Bradfield, a dandy, blonde-haired gentleman who has the best running speed and hair; and Rambo, back in action under the alias Jad the Taff. All three are loaded to the bear with not only their requisite weapons, but all manner of GI Joe flourishes, like those single-lens headset communicator things and three total kneepads spread amongst three people. And, of course, there’s nothing uniform about this elite squad: Rambo looks like he just stepped out of Smash TV, while Kart is wearing a kicky leather vest that is sure to make all the other commandos totally jelly.

GET IT!?Then we’ve got the stages, which start out Elevator Action shaped and then just go ahead and do whatever the hell they want. The first level, yes, is pretty much what you’d expect from the title, but level two brings the gang to a generally explosive airport that is predominantly horizontal, with only a few stories to explore all that elevator action. Stages continue like this, with a scant handful of areas where it really feels like there’s an emphasis on the titular elevators. What was focused on, however, is all the little things that I can’t imagine being even noticed in the noisy 90’s arcades. There’s graffiti everywhere, further adding to the “decaying urban” retro-futuristic 80’s aesthetic, and crumbling ceilings and dingy subways that really drive home the fact that Kart is going to hop right in the tub the minute he gets home. Even beyond the world-building, there are a number of little easter eggs hidden about, like elevatoring straight through an in-use bathroom amid one of the more hectic moments. Elevator Action 2 contains more detail than should be allowed in a game sharing floor space with Primal Rage.

But it doesn’t matter if it looks pretty, how does it play? Great news on that front, as this may be the most unbridled fun I’ve had with a FGC game yet. First, and most importantly, you’ve got a life bar, so no more instant deaths… though you will die instantly if you leap down an elevator shaft or stand beneath a descending elevator, but, seriously, do that, and you deserve to lose your credit. And don’t worry, while you’ve got some body armor, the majority of your enemies are going down in a hit or two, so it’s time to get all First Blood on the legion of bad guys. In fact, and this may be the greatest compliment I can give an action game, the whole experience feels vaguely like a deliberate, measured, and more forgiving Contra. Burn, baby, burnEven better than Contra (what an odd phrase), there’s even a number of different options in your toy chest, so if you’re not so much into riddling your opponents with bullets, you can stomp them with elevators, lure them into mines, or kick over those Michael Bay barrels for explosive results. And why not put away your pistol, and whip out a grenade or rocket launcher? The sky is the limit, which is convenient when you’re dodging mooks with jetpacks.

If I had to complain about anything about this game, it’s length. The game is a mere six levels long, which is ideal for arcades or someone who plays at least four video games a week, but I could see being a might disappointed if you shelled out for this game back in the Saturn days. I completed this game in about a half hour, and with, I believe, eight credits. Even using expensive tokens, that’s like a whole four bucks, so I would likely be a bit miffed if I paid ten times that in 90’s dollars for the home experience. Of course, I do own the game as part of a compilation of 38 other games, and I think I got it for a Jackson, so I technically paid… 51¢ for Elevator Action 2. I’d pay that for Jad the Taff alone!

Minor gripe aside, I have nothing to complain about. Elevator Action 2 puts the action back in elevators, and that’s something the world sorely needed.

FGC #64 Elevator Action 2

  • Radical!System: Sega Saturn for the real console port, Playstation 2 or Xbox for the compilation with the arcade version. Pick your poison.
  • Number of Players: And it’s two player! I know I’ve said this before, but I would really like to get some two player elevator action going to complete the experience, and see if it’s double the fun with a buddy. I’m guessing it’s at least 75% more fun.
  • Favorite Character: I wound up using Edbecca the most, as her ability to shoot the fastest is ideal in a game where you fire off about 10,000 rounds in response to a door opening. Conversely, Rambo is on notice, because he moves about as fast as a real life elevator. Going down?
  • 64th FGC Entry: And, for the first time in a while, the article has absolutely nothing to do with a N64 game. Poor planning!
  • Elevator Action Bloodlines: I want to say the final boss and head terrorist of Elevator Action 2 is supposed to be the disgraced “hero” of Elevator Action 1. Or, maybe not, and they just shop at the same tailor. Whatever the case, I simply cannot disparage a man in a red suit.
  • Missed opportunity: It’s a shame there’s no 90’s style commercial for this game. It would really complete the trifecta.
  • Violence Fight? It’s a real thing, and it’s as bad as you imagine.
    VIOLENCE!  FIGHT!
  • Did you know? Jad the Taff isn’t just some made up Engrish, it’s denoting that Rambo is currently disguising himself as a Welshman. There’s no such excuse for Edie Burret, which, presumably, has a pronunciation that sounds vaguely like “any bullet”. And the other guy, obviously, is named after Super Mario Kart, released just two years prior.
  • Would I play again? Hell yes. Want some elaboration? Please reread the article. I’ll wait.

What’s Next? M Yesa Aravena has chosen… “Clock Tower; any one in the series”. Huh. That’s not very specific… but I’ll see what I can do. Please look forward to it!

See you next mission