Tag Archives: midway

FGC #287 Pac-Man (Gameboy)

So I figure there are two ways we can go with this article. One, we could take a look at this:

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And laugh uproariously at this primitive attempt at a portable Pac-Man. It’s super tiny! They couldn’t fit the entire maze on the screen! There isn’t an attempt at “new” mazes, despite the fact that Ms. Pac-Man was released years before. There’s no color!

Or, second choice, we could address Pac-Man for Gameboy as the most important game that was ever released.

Let’s go with that second choice.

I did not purchase, new or used, Pac-Man for Gameboy. I did not have a legit Gameboy as a child, and the few games I purchased for my Super Gameboy were significant and precious. Pac-Man was never even in the running. Pac-Man, even by the release of the Super Gameboy, was fairly played out, and, if we’re being honest, primitive. OG Pac-Man had like one maze and four directions. There wasn’t even a jump button! I want to say that I didn’t consider purchasing a Pac-Man game until The Age of the Download, because, seriously why bother? Besides, ol’ Paccy seemed to pop up often enough in other, more complex games. So, ya know, screw it. If I want to get lost in a maze, I’ll just play god-damned Fester’s Quest again.

No, I did not ever think to purchase Pac-Man for Gameboy. This game was inherited. This game once belonged to my grandfather. And that’s kind of important.

According to Pokémon Go (this is how I do research), the local arcade was founded in 1976. Pac-Man, according to Wikipedia, was released in the spring of 1980. Given my grandfather notoriously enjoyed Space Invaders since its initial release two years earlier, I’m guessing the man first played Pac-Man in that arcade. Here, for reference, are the two “original” Pac machines still floating around that arcade, nearly forty years later:

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You’ll notice that OG Pac-Man is not pictured. That’s because the old man got tossed sometime around when The World’s Largest Pac-Man Cabinet showed up. Then again, it may have gone to the dumpster well before that, as Ms. Pac-Man has always, no questions, been better than her hubby. It’s a Pac eat Pac world, and even Junior can conquer the old man. Regardless, I’m going to ahead and assume Pac-Man was first played by my ancestor somewhere around that general area pictured above.

Or maybe I’m completely wrong. Pac-Man, despite being a boring old man compared to the rest of his family, was ubiquitous for nearly a decade. In my youth, I saw Pac-Man cabinets in every restaurant lobby, hotel, motel, and Holiday Inn in the country. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a few of the sit-down Pac-cabinets in doctor’s offices. Pac-Man was everywhere for a while, and I could see my grandfather first playing the game at any of those locations. He was a dedicated husband and father, but my mother has always eaten about as slow as a particularly anemic snail, so I could easily imagine my grandfather sneaking off to a diner Pac-Man cabinet to munch pellets faster than his daughter could devour potatoes. … Or maybe I’m just confusing my own childhood with his adulthood…

Regardless, I can tell you one place my grandfather did not play Pac-Man for the first time: his living room. It’s hard to even imagine now, but gaming used to be exclusively an outside activity… or at least outside the home. You could not play videogames in your living room, you were stuck going to any of those (many) locations listed to get your gaming fix, because the technology just wasn’t there. Did you see those arcade cabinets? No way anything like that would fit in your bedroom.

But when you did get something home…

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It might not have been so hot. That’s Pac-Man for the Atari 2600. I know for a fact that my grandfather owned that game, because I played “his” Atari roughly 28,000,000,000 times as a kid. But I didn’t play Pac-Man that much (Combat, man, Combat), because, even as a toddler, I knew a compromised port when I saw it. And my grandfather agreed. In the same way one might have a cherished memory of an elder telling a tale of a bygone age/lemon tree, I can distinctly recall my grandfather sitting me on his lap, and saying, “Bobby, let’s save this game for the arcade.” And we did. And it was good.

Looking back, it’s obvious why Atari Pac-Man was so terrible. We didn’t know the numbers at the time, but the Atari literally had 32 times less memory than the Pac-Man arcade board, so trying to get ol’ Pac going “perfectly” on an Atari was about as likely as running Windows on the Sesame Street Cookie Counter. But back in the earliest of 80’s, the message seemed to be that, no matter what, we were never going to get “arcade realism” on the humble home console. I’ve spoken of this phenomenon before, and, yes, it even applied to games where the hero is a yellow circle and no participants even have recognizable appendages. Regardless, it seemed like that would be the status quo forever, and “home computers” would never be advanced enough for something so complex as a yellow pizza man.

The originalAnd then… they were. Whether you want to point to the Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, or even the later Atari 5200, we did eventually get an “arcade perfect” port of Pac-Man (or close enough to forget that that earlier Pepto-Man ever existed), and Pac-Man actually could be enjoyed at home. We made it! What could be better?

Well, Pac-Man anywhere you want, of course.

Pac-Man had a few portable iterations in his heyday. I’ve never seen one in person, but google the Tomy Tronic Pac-Man if you ever want to see the glorious old days of pac-portability. And the Coleco portable Pac-Man “cabinet” had a similar, early portable styling in that whole “light up blocks” a number of people remember from the Tiger Electronic portables. Oh! And those Pac-Man electronic watches! I hear people have died over those things. All of those whacky devices technically provided a portable pac-perience, but if Atari Pac-Man was a compromised port, this was an excuse that was somehow even less. I’m pretty sure you could get a more robust experience out of a damn wall mural than those stupid watches.

But then the Gameboy came, and Pac-Man was good.

And, sure, there wasn’t any color, and sure, you had a choice between teeny tiny graphics or actually, ya know, seeing the whole screen, but it was pretty damn Pac-Man. All the cinema scenes are here, and I’m pretty sure the ghost/power pellet times are arcade accurate. All the little intricacies of Pac-Man are available on the go, even if it’s kind of difficult to tell Blinky from Inky. And, while it seems obvious to say that people notice details, it’s those little things that separate atrocious Atari ports from the kind of games that can pry Tetris from that lone, precious Gameboy slot.

So, yes, today, Pac-Man for Gameboy seems primitive and, frankly, kind of sad. This is a version of Pac-Man that is meant to be played on a screen barely larger than an Amiibo base. But then again, that’s kind of the point: when Pac-Man was released, it could only be contained in an arcade cabinet that weighed hundreds of pounds and cost hundreds of dollars. But, in just a decade, Pac-Man could gobble down ghosts while being powered by a mere four batteries.

Yeah!And my grandfather always had those four batteries available. Essentially. He suffered from a stroke around 1999, so, being partially paralyzed, he didn’t really keep up with videogame advances. But one image I’ll never forget would be from about two years before he died (incidentally, roughly ten years after the stroke). He was sitting at his computer in his wildly disorganized “office” (a place my grandmother never visited), and he was chatting with his brother. My grandfather lived in New Jersey, and his brother of some eighty years lived in Florida. They were chatting via a messenger service (probably AOL), and my grandfather had somehow jury-rigged a modern webcam to a tripod from roughly 1956, and there was his brother on the screen, chatting away, and likely with some similar piece of makeshift webcammery on his side. They were talking, or, to be more particular, my grand uncle was talking, and my grandfather was listening. And, while my grandfather was listening, he was playing a game of Pac-Man in the other window. It’s not hard to play a videogame with four buttons with one hand. But I’ll always remember that scene: two men from the early 20th Century, talking across miles and miles as if they were in the same room, and one is still nursing a case of Pac-Fever.

Pac-Man came a long way, and technology came with him.

And that’s always going to be important.

FGC #287 Pac-Man (Gameboy)

  • System: I have got to find a better system than making the system part of the title and then denoting the system directly below the title. Also, I should say “system” less.
  • Number of players: Two! Via link cable! I have no idea how that works, because I never saw a second Gameboy with Pac-Man in my youth… but it’s probably lame. I mean, this ain’t Pac-Men.
  • Further Photographic Evidence: I wasn’t kidding about the Gameboy screen being the size of an Amiibo Base.

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    Also, for the record, that Gameboy is playing my copy of Pac-Man, you just absolutely cannot see it. Oh well.

  • Two in one stroke: I’m also going to claim that this article covers Atari Pac-Man, so that way I never have to touch that one again. Yes, I did also inherit that “beloved” childhood memory, too, because of course I did.
  • Did you know? Yes, I live in a town where I can still walk to an arcade. Multiples, depending on the season.
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    And, yes, at least one arcade has OG Pac-Man.
  • Would I play again: Pac-Man, yes, Gameboy, no. I have respect for the first decent portable system in history, but respect doesn’t do anything for eyestrain.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Persona 5! Or maybe he didn’t choose it at all, and I just feel like writing about a game I played for a hundred hours. Who could say? You get Persona 5 either way. Please look forward to it!

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FGC #283 Paperboy (N64)

Welcome to HellWhen I was a young boy, my father forced me to get a job. There weren’t many places that would hire a child, so I became a paperboy. Thus, for two years, I had to wake up at the crack of dawn, bike down to the newspaper office, pick up a stack of papers (that was easily heavier than I was), and deliver papers all through the neighborhood. There was no way to enjoy this. If I failed to deliver to the right house on time, I was punished. If I delivered to the wrong house, I was punished. And, of course, if I was late to school because of some stupid dog or a particularly chatty old lady, I was punished there, too. Every morning, in the scorching heat or the freezing cold, I was out there delivering papers, while my contemporaries slept, cozy and unemployed in their beds. “Surely,” I thought to myself for two endless years, “This job must be Hell.”

In time, I grew older, and finally graduated to a job that could at least be done inside and at a reasonable hour. And, while I may have cursed his name for a number of reasons over the years, I suppose my father’s lesson did pay off, as I learned I never, ever wanted to have another job outside performing manual labor ever again. I went to college. I got degrees. I became a white collar professional, and, while I may have had to step over a few broken bodies to attain excellence, I eventually found myself quite content with my station in life. And, if I may say so, watching print media slowly die did offer me some small amount of schadenfreude, even if it meant I couldn’t push my own children into the same “cycle” my father started. I suppose that may have been a good thing.

Though I guess I didn’t do enough good things, as, upon my death, I found myself in Hell.

And, with no explanation whatsoever, I found myself back on that same bicycle, back in that same neighborhood, back with those same papers. I was a boy on his paper route, again, and damned to be one for all of eternity.

WIN!At first, everything was pretty straightforward: I pedaled down familiar streets, delivered papers to expectant subscribers, and then, when I was done, I was forced back to the newspaper office to start the process all over again. Sometimes the weather would change, sometimes I would be told different homes were my targets, but, more or less, it was what I remembered. Then… things started to change. The first major switch-up was that the newspaper office outright disappeared. I suppose some infernal demon realized I could actually take a whole five minute break while I was picking up fresh papers, so, nope, I’m stuck pedaling forever, my calves growing more swollen by the day. Now I have to pick up new bundles of papers from the streets themselves, and, should I run out, I’m chastised just the same as when I miss a house (or damage a window or pedestrian… I admit I may have initially tried to… rattle the chains of my captors). What’s more, the “hazards” of my childhood have all come to revisit me continually, so I am faced with marauding dogs and vicious neighbors. I am nearly mowed down by an errant car every other minute. What’s more, I am beset by dangers I only imagined in my mundane childhood, like statues that spew flames, or the specter of Death himself. I know… in my rational mind… I know that I am already dead… but still… that pale, ghastly visage continues to haunt me.

But this… even this I could get used to. The punishments, the monsters… it did become what was simply my life (or my afterlife, as the case may be). I’d bike down the same streets, deliver the same papers, and that was it. It was Hell, but it was my Hell, and I expect that could be enough.

But this is Hell. They found a way to make it worse. After fifteen years, I was inflicted with the greatest punishment they could imagine: freedom.

OwieMy route had always been a straight line. I would pedal down endless streets and deliver endless papers. It was distressing, but, after a while, I learned that it required very little thinking. I’d keep my eye out for my targets, and if I missed, that was that. I did everything I could, after all.

But now… now they decided to grant me autonomy. Horrible, mind-destroying free-will.

I realized the change almost immediately: I could now pedal in any direction. I could turn around. I could visit the other side of the street. I could… jump. At first, I was elated. “Finally,” I thought, “Someone thinks I’ve paid my dues. I might still be stuck down here, but I’m not stuck in that awful, robotic rut. I can do whatever I want!” But, no, the reality of my unreality quickly caught up with me. I still had to deliver papers. I still had to dodge homicidal dogs. I still had to do everything I did before, but now I was granted the teeniest, tiniest taste of independence… only to be doomed to never enjoy it. I still had a strict, condemning time limit. I could leap my bike over ramps, feel the wind in my hair, and enjoy my existence for once… but if I did that… If I spent too long on pleasure… then the pain… the punishments would be even worse. And then I would have to start the whole route over again, knowing full well that the “fun stuff” was there and available, but experiencing it again would mean… I don’t want to think about it.

Hell… Hell had become more hellish.

Might as wellAnd they taunted me even more! Where once I was constrained to my old, familiar neighborhood, now I was forced to deliver papers in more exotic locales. A trailer park might not seem like anyone’s idea of a vacation, but the smell of barbecue and kids playing outside while you’re stuck pedaling and pedaling is… cruel. And then I was forced to deliver at a camp ground! And the beach! When I eventually found myself in a dark, monster-infested town, complete with Frankenstein’s Monster and a vampire or two, I thought someone was just plain running out of ideas. But I didn’t have time to think that for long, as now I was being chased by dogs with three heads. And then I was back to my old neighborhood again, forced to relive the loop of changing neighborhoods until I delivered enough papers.

But it’s never enough. I can never satisfy the quotas. I can never escape this Hell. I will be here… I will be here forever.

I am the paperboy now, and that’s all I will ever be.

FGC #283 Paperboy (N64)

  • System: Probably N64. Let me check here… Yep! N64.
  • Number of players: There can be only one paperboy.
  • Or Papergirl: Oh, yes, the game does offer you the option of being a papergirl. It’s kind of weird that most of the Papergirl’s canned voice clips compare herself to Paperboy, though. Eat your heart out, Paperboy, indeed.
  • LaboratoryMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: It’s an attempt to make the original Paperboy more of a “modern” (circa 1999) game, but… it doesn’t really work so well. The original Paperboy is basically a shoot ‘em up with an unusual premise and perspective, and attempting to add collectibles and “free roaming” is about as effective as making a Gradius game that plays like Mario 64. This actually may have been an impressive concept back in the bygone past of the 20th Century; but nowadays, it’s right up there with Atari revivals like Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure. Oh, also, it’s ugly as hell.
  • And there are bosses: Yes, there are bosses in a game about delivering papers. Yes, the bosses are simple “throw papers at the weak point” affairs. Yes, it is completely boring and flimsy.
  • Favorite Neighborhood: Pelican Beach has friendly dolphins! Or it should!
  • Did you know? Neither Paperboy nor Papergirl wear a helmet while delivering papers. This is dangerously unsafe.
  • Would I play again: I compared the game to an eternal hell. What do you think?

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Drakengard 3 for the Playstation 3! Let’s drag this dragoon into fun times! Please look forward to it!

FGC #248 Cruis’n USA

CRUISE IT!Nothing ever changes.

There are always controversies in the videogame world. They’re generally about as “controversial” as someone preferring Dr. Pepper to Coke, but they’re there, and they’re constant. And you’d be forgiven for assuming these controversies are inventions of digital writers in need of the next big headline, or marketing companies desperate for any press, good or ill, that is going to get their name out there; but, no, these same controversies have been going on for decades. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the strange case of Cruis’n USA.

You may remember Cruis’n USA as “that racing game for N64”. It was featured in a lot of Nintendo Power coverage, saw a lot of play at the local arcades, and was lauded as “a game that isn’t Mario 64” for your brand new Nintendo 64 64-bit videogame system. It used partially digitized graphics to simulate a real race across the United States, and, unlike many racing games that were constrained to tracks or Mushroom Kingdoms, Cruis’n USA featured real locations like Golden Gate Bridge or the Redwood Forest. Of course, it was all about as real as a walking tour of Zebes (fun fact: the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore are about 15 hours apart from each other, not two minutes), but it’s all fun enough, and even “fake-real” racing was a change from the standard of the day (we were still a few years away from Gran Turismo).

But Cruis’n USA had its fair share of problems, practically from its inception. For instance…

THE DEMO IS A LIE!

Dead presidentsCruis’n USA saw release on the home consoles in 1996, but it was an arcade game released upon the public in November of 1994. The summer before that, it was first demoed at CES. It didn’t exactly set the world on fire, but it was a stimulating experience for everyone involved, and there were many excited reports about Midway’s latest racer. This was the company that revolutionized the fighting game genre with Mortal Kombat a few years earlier, so, hey, maybe they’re going to strike gold again. Who doesn’t like hot cars and hotter venues?

But more important than the game itself was the announcement that Cruis’n USA was running on Ultra 64 hardware. The N64 was still two years away, and any information on the upcoming Nintendo system was like precious mana from Miyamoto. Cruis’n USA was running on the same tech as the successor to the Super Nintendo? Damn, son, that means the next Nintendo system is going to be off the chain! Did you see those digitized trophy girls? Or those sweet rides? The N64 is going to obliterate that silly Sega Saturn! Sony Playstation who?

Except… it was a fake.

Cruis’n USA was not running on Ultra 64 hardware. It was revealed that Cruis’n USA was made well before the U64 development tools were released, and only Rare, Nintendo’s super best friend 4eva, possessed said tools at all. Cruis’n USA was built on pretty typical arcade hardware of the time, and, shockingly, when the game was ported to the N64 two years later, it looked like your typical, downgraded “arcade port”. It was recognizable, but… not the same. Not quite the system seller everyone expected. Oh, and speaking of selling systems…

DELAYED AGAIN!?

Let's rollHere is a comprehensive list of Nintendo 64 launch titles:

  • Mario 64
  • Pilotwings 64

And that’s about that! Now, of course, there were more games to come, but to call the launch anemic is kind of an understatement. This was the first Nintendo system with native four controller support, and there wasn’t a single game available that offered more than a one player experience. Did anyone notice that? There literally was NO reason to purchase a second N64 controller at launch, left alone another two. Yes, we would eventually see a few fighting games and maybe some Wave Racing, but the initial N64 launch was… well, let’s just say they got lucky that Mario 64 was one the best games of all time.

Cruis’n USA was originally intended as a launch game… but it didn’t happen. And it’s a shame, too, because it really could have cleaned up and sold the N64 as a truly next generation, “adult” experience. This was the age of the rise of Playstation, when all the kids that had been weaned on blue robots and chubby elves were now teenagers and desired “maturity”, “real life situations”, and maybe “spine ripping”. The N64 launched exclusively with kiddy ‘intenda games when the gaming public was raiding the metaphorical liquor cabinets and looking for the hard stuff. It might not have made much of a difference, but Cruis’n USA could have at least said, “hey, you’re getting your driver’s license in a few years, let’s hit the road, cool kids!” as opposed to a line-up that asked, “wanna bake a cake?” Oh, and Cruis’n USA was two player, too. Might not have been a reason to buy a full four controllers, but at least it’s a fine excuse to show your new system to your friends. Spread the good word of Nintendo.

But Cruis’n USA didn’t get many good words, because…

CENSORSHIP!

PurpleAs a point of fact, I am a friend to animals. I like most animals, dogs and cats in particular, more than I like most people. If a human is mad at me for no reason, I assume that human is an asshole. If a cat is mad at me for no reason, I douse myself in tuna and purchase an excess stock of laser pointers. I like all the little critters of nature, and, when I’m driving, I will deliberately swerve to avoid a goose, turtle, or any other wayward creature that wanders into the road.

In Cruis’n USA for the arcade, however, you can mow down wildlife at your leisure. Cows and horses wander into the road, and you can transform them into bloody chunks for your amusement (though it does slow down your car). For some reason, this was removed from the home port, presumably because no one wants to explain the full ramifications of the phrase “bloody chunks” to a kid that just finished finding a tiny dinosaur on the roof of a magical castle.

And, thinking of the poor children, there were additional edits to make Cruis’n USA dramatically less sexy. In the original, first place earns you a trophy and a woman in a bikini top to go with it. On the N64, she put on a damn shirt (albeit one that appears to be painted on). And speaking of sex appeal, the arcade version ends with Bill Clinton in a truck-hot tub with a couple of 90’s babes atop the White House, while the N64 version only features your car on the roof (though there are still a few Secret Service dudes milling about… and a cow, for some reason). And, most ridiculously, the final leg of the Washington DC race features a tunnel made of giant hundred dollar bills on the N64, but the arcade version features those bills with Hillary Clinton smoking a cigar instead of ol’ Ben. I.. uh… guess that’s political commentary. And, good news, it’s somehow relevant and saddening twenty years later! Hooray?

Naturally, people noticed this overt editing (the arcade version saw two years’ worth of credits prior to home release, after all), Purple againso the fans inundated Midway and Nintendo with letters regarding this clear violation of freedom of speech and ludicrous censorship. We want to see our half-naked ladies, dammit!

Sound familiar? Nothing ever changes, folks. The gaming industry has been pulling the same tricks and making the same “mistakes” for decades, and they’re going to keep doing it. Next time there’s some gaming controversy, remember that it’s not the first time, and those issues are just gonna keep on cruis’n.

FGC #248 Cruis’n USA

  • System: N64, and arcade, technically. It’s also on the Wii Virtual Console. Or it was, at least.
  • Number of players: Let me tell you, back in the day, I routinely played my N64 on a screen roughly the size of an iphone. You do not want to know how difficult it was to play two-player split screen races on that. We still did, mind you, it just probably permanently marred my vision. Squinting 4 life!
  • Favorite Car: I don’t know… the red one? I’m not much of a car guy.
  • Don't know whyFilthy Cheater: Oh, wait, I do have a favorite car! It’s the school bus that you can only get through entering a secret code. In keeping in the theme of this article, I’ll note that if this game were released about fifteen years later, that bus would now be impossible-to-access DLC.
  • Did you know? I want to say that this was the first game I ever played that made saving to the N64 memory pack standard. Couldn’t spring for a damn save battery, Midway? Screw you guys.
  • Would I play again: I loved this game when it was first released. And… I don’t think I’ve touched it since the release of Final Fantasy 7. Think I’m going to keep that up.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Ogre Battle! Get your chess pieces ready for an epic battle that nobody fully understands! Please look forward to it!

FGC #232 War Gods

Let's get ready to be War Gods!I never fault a videogame for being formulaic. Okay, that’s probably a lie, I’m sure some of my loyal readers are anxious to remind me of all the times I’ve mocked a game for being predictable. Heck, I’ve got that “plagiarism” tag going for a reason. Regardless of whatever I said last week, though, I am aware that videogames require an awfully high number of moving pieces to simply produce a playable experience, and, if you’re already experimenting with a new graphic style, plot, or even just an interesting gimmick or two, then why reinvent the wheel? People liked the last game that did x, why not do x, but this time with, I dunno, dogs or something? People love dogs! Why don’t we make a Zelda game, but starring a dog? It’ll be a best seller!

On the other hand, every once in a while, a developer decides to throw any and all creativity to the wind, and just make the same game twice.

Hey, kids, did you like Mortal Kombat? Well get ready to love War Gods!

War Gods is, initially, a good idea. It’s a fighting game, and it’s of the faux-3-D variety like Mortal Kombat 4 (really like MK4… we’ll get to that). This is a fine excuse to start a “new” fighting game franchise (or it was in 1995, at least), and, frankly, “war gods” is a great concept. Gather up the most… angry looking gods from throughout history, determine which ones aren’t immediately owned by Marvel Comics, and then toss ‘em all into a fighting ring, and see who wins. In a way, it’s not too far off from Darkstalkers’ approach to “what monsters we got?” but with, you know, gods. And gods have a built in identifiable appeal. Guile and E. Honda were basically just “USA Soldier” and “Sumo Wrestler” before later Street Fighter games shaded in the details, so you could totally hit the ground running with “Egyptian God fights Japanese God”. Oh, and like Eternal Champions, the “gods” concept allows for a lot of cross-time hijinks, so if you want to throw a Terminator or Nuclear GI Joe in there too, then have at it. The heavens are the limit!

Unfortunately, that was the last original idea that ever festered anywhere near War Gods.

FATALITY... seriously?War Gods is a fighting game. The buttons are High Punch, Low Punch, Low Kick, High Kick, Block, and a “3-D” button that allows 3-D movement. If you crouch and press high punch, you will perform an uppercut. If you press back plus low kick, you get a sweep. Back plus high kick is a mighty roundhouse. At the end of every bout, the winner is told to “Prove yourself!” and, if you enter the right combination of buttons at the right distance, you will perform a fatality. And, to be clear, that isn’t a “No Mercy” or “Death Blow” or whatever other euphemisms are available out there in fighter land, this is straight up called a “Fatality”. And if you decide to tackle one player mode, you’ll fight through a tower of other opponents, a mirror match, a battle against a boss ogre with insane proportions, and then a final boss that presides over the tournament. And then it’s time for an ending that shows like one happy render and some text about a plot that may or may not make any sense at all.

Thanks for playing. Thanks for playing Mortal Kombat.

And this one is a really unusual case of plagiarism. Midway, producer of Mortal Kombat, is responsible for War Gods, so at least it isn’t full-blown IP theft. On the other hand, Boon and Tobias don’t seem to be anywhere in the credits, so thanks for the gameplay concepts, dudes. Additionally, while there may have been some level of crossover if War Gods were ever successful, it seems like WG has been completely dropped from the Midway pantheon. While even the worst Mortal Kombat game seems to see random rereleases throughout the generations, I want to say War Gods never saw the light of day ever again. Despite being a Mortal Kombat game in all but name, this god game is ignored so we can experience yet another port of Pit Fighter. Nobody has ever wanted to play Pit Fighter!

RAWRAnd, to be absolutely clear, this is not a situation wherein War Gods borrowed a few control schemes or gimmicks, but otherwise presented itself as a totally new game. As an easy example, Anubis, the Egyptian God of Getting Biz-ay, has three unique special moves: a charging ram (that somehow allows him to impale an opponent on his widdle doggy ears), a “pyramid net” that works exactly like MK3’s Cyrax’s net, and a teleporting uppercut that is straight out of Smoke’s repertoire. It’s… blatant, and makes you wonder why they didn’t just decide to release a 3-D Mortal Kombat with all the same, familiar characters. Or did they decide that Kabuki Jo would be that much better than Jade at impaling a dude on a stick and calling it a fatality?

And, even weirder, Mortal Kombat 4 was finally released two years after War Gods, and, despite claiming that there were focused attempts to “learn from War Gods”, absolutely nothing was changed by the time MK hit the 3-D plane. Mortal Kombat 4 is easily the worst of the Mortal Kombat games (even gray scale Gameboy Mortal Kombat had the decency to at least seem like a MK game), and… it’s worse than War Gods? I mean, they are still practically the same game, but MK4 decided to go the extra mile and include voice-acted cutscenes that are, even today, legendary for their terrible dubbing. At least War Gods knew that nobody wanted half-assed movies at the end of their silly fighting games.

Big ol' bellyAnd I think that’s the moral here. War Gods was lauded as a graphically amazing game at its release, but it was also quickly forgotten and forsaken for practically every other fighting game available at the time. When Mortal Kombat 4 was released, it aped War Gods’ “3-D” dynamics, and, even though practically nothing was changed between the two releases, Midway somehow expected MK4 to do better. It didn’t. Mortal Kombat 4 crashed and burned as badly as War Gods, and, when Mortal Kombat “came back” a generation later with Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance, it barely resembled Mortal Kombat at all. War Gods could have been a fun experiment to test what would work for Mortal Kombat in the 3-D world, but it wound up being a lame copy that was then lamely copied to the “real” franchise.

In the end, War Gods failed as an experiment, and was superseded by the game it copied in the first place. There is no place for War Gods in our modern world. War Gods is dead.

FGC #232 War Gods

  • System: N64 technically for the review, though all my dates and suppositions about releases were based on the arcade version/timing. War Gods wound up being practically a simultaneous release with Mortal Kombat 4 on the consoles. Oh, and it was on Playstation, too.
  • Number of players: Two gods enter, only one is worshipped.
  • Why I remember War Gods: Vallah is a Valkyrie War Goddess that is clad in a pink/purple battle bikini. And a hat. And I’m not sure if her battle boots count. She appeared in roughly in 12 billion Gamepro advertisements, and I think even Nintendo Power gave her a pretty sizable spread during their coverage of the game. I was… right about the right age to notice that kind of thing.
  • Burn!Favorite fighter: Tak, a big rock golem, seems to indicate that this game might have had a playstyle slightly different from the “everybody is the same” of early Mortal Kombat games. He’s more… Goro shaped than everybody else, and his walking and idle animations make him appear to be more like a classic Grecian wrestler than a Lin Kuei assassin. He still winds up playing like every other War Gods/Mortal Kombat character, but there’s the tiniest promise of something different there.
  • I don’t even know if this is racist: Voodoo is the one Caribbean on the roster, and he’s simply named “Voodoo”, not “Lao” or any other “voodoo god” name that could have been uncovered after ten seconds of research. And he has weird, elongated fingers. Is… is that like a tarbaby thing? Is it racist? I have no idea. Oh, wait, he has a special attack that is named “pimp slap”. There. That’s racist.
  • Did you know? Like Mortal Kombat games of this era, there’s an “easy fatalities” code on the console versions. I never quite understood the point of such a thing, because, if you’re already acknowledging that fatalities are a pain in the ass to enter, why not, I don’t know, just make them mandatory or easier? Is memorizing some archaic button sequence that much of a sign of Kombat mastery?
  • Would I play again: With God as my witness, I shall never worship these false idols again.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bubsy 3D for the Playstation. ROB, seriously, did I do something wrong? This has been your worst batch of picks in forever, and I’m frankly concerned for you. Did that ditto break up with you? Why are you choosing the worst games? Why, ROB, why? Oh well, please look forward to this inevitable and unavoidable suffering.

What?
And I’m not even going to address… this.