Tag Archives: preservation

FGC #398 Jr. Pac-Man

This is how reproduction worksIf you’re at all interested in videogames, you’ve probably heard of the horrors of game preservation. Videogames are, almost by design, ephemeral. They’re here on the current software, and, if a game is a hit, you can be sure you’ll see it return in the next generation (maybe with a HD remaster!). If a game is a “cult classic”, you might spy a few nerds getting really excited when it shows up on what passes for the next generation’s virtual console. But, if it fails to make an impact, and it fails to have a big name attached to it, then it is likely gone forever. There are literally thousands of games that have languished on their original hardware, never to be seen by an audience ever again.

And this is, without question, a bad thing. More than any other medium, videogames are iterative and absolutely rely on what has come before. Sure, we all like to look at “defining” games like Mario and Zelda to explain where gaming has originated (and where it’s going), but the failures are just as important as the successes. Krion Conquest shows us exactly how to make Mega Man wrong. Early Metroidvania titles (Goonies 2 comes to mind) exemplify what features should be left on the cutting room floor (like God damn birds that steal your items). And the early xeroxes of Doom and Final Fantasy 7 demonstrate exactly what can go wrong in a FPS or JRPG. A bad movie is generally just a bad movie, but there is so much involved in a bad videogame, that there is much to learn past “don’t do that”.

And then there are chunks of our history that are lost forever not because they were somehow unworthy, but because of the great equalizer of all mediums: the legal department.

Munching alongJr. Pac-Man is a Pac-Man arcade game from 1983. The title made it to the Atari 2600 in ’86 (four years after the initial, disastrous Atari Pac-Man), and DOS/Commodore 64 two years later. In other words, it made the rounds in its day. However, you won’t see Jr. Pac-Man past 1990. It did not appear on any of the “modern” consoles, like the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was not an unlockable in the arcade of Pac-Man 2. And, even today, when you score a Pac-Man collection on your platform of choice, it does not contain Jr. Pac-Man. The character of “Pac-Man’s son” might pop up from time to time, but his titular videogame is nowhere to be found. What happened?

Well, the answer to that is simple: Jr. Pac-Man never should have been born. Namco is the creator of the once and future Pac-Man, and merely licensed the property to Bally-Midway for release in the states. Then Pac-Man fever infected the nation… and Midway needed to sell more arcade machines. Everybody already had Pac-Man, and, thus, only arcade owners were raking in the quarters, not the arcade cabinet manufacturers. So, in a desperate bid to revitalize the Pac-Market, Midway released a slew of new Pac-Content. Ms. Pac-Man is the most famous example, but we also saw Baby Pac-Man, Professor Pac-Man, and the abhorrent Pac-Man Plus, a game that I’m almost certain is naturally haunted (not talking about the ghosts, they’re normal). And, from this bumper crop of Pac-Merchandise, we also saw Jr. Pac-Man.

So flashyAnd Jr. Pac-Man might be one of the best of the Midway Alterna-Pacs. It’s never going to dethrone Ms. Pac-Man, but it has some pretty interesting mechanics. For one thing, for better or worse, it’s the first Pac-Man title designed with a scrolling maze. This means bigger stages, naturally, but also a little more tension with monsters that could be doing anything when they’re off screen. And the bonus items now have much more of an impact on gameplay: an item (no longer just fruit, now we’ve got bicycles, trains, and… a cat?) will move around the maze of its own volition, and “fatten” the traditional pellets. A fat pellet will grant Junior more points, but they also slow this Pac down the tiniest bit… which can make a significant impact when there’s a ghost on your tail. But that’s not all! In a move that can only be described as a betrayal of everything a bonus item stands for, if an item comes in contact with a Power Pellet, both the item and the pellet will explode! And you’re down a Power Pellet! Oh, the humanity!

And, most bizarrely of all, Jr. Pac-Man decides to add to the Pac-Mythos. The round clear cinema scenes of Ms. Pac-Man showcased the pairing of two Pacs, and the attract mode of Jr. Pac-Man features the stork dropping off the new Pac-Bundle. Jr. Pac-Man scenes show another love story, but one between Junior and… a ghost! Yum-Yum is Blinky’s daughter, and it’s clear that he does not approve of these star-crossed lovers. Will Pac-Man Jr. run off with a tiny ghost with a bow in her hair (“hair”)? Play the game to find out!

Or don’t, because you can’t play the thing anywhere.

So verticalFor the sin of creating a licensed-but-unapproved Pac-Man title, Bally-Midway will no longer see any profits from the adventures of the second-littlest Pac. As a result, Jr. Pac-Man is not allowed to appear in any Pac-Collections, and, should you mention Jr. Pac-Man in polite company, the duchess shall be offended, and you will be asked to leave the premises. Jr. Pac-Man may be an interesting twist on the Pac-Formula, but it is nothing more than a redheaded step child to Namco, so it must be thrust out into the cold, never to be seen again (except maybe at Thanksgiving).

And more’s the pity.

Jr. Pac-Man isn’t the best Pac-Man game out there. It might not even be in the top three. But is it better than Pac-Land? Is it more of a Pac-Man game than Pac-Man 2? Does it have more to say about Pac-Play than Pac-Mania? There’s a clear “yes” to each of those questions. Jr. Pac-Man might not be an instant classic, but it’s unavoidably part of the Pac-Pantheon, and should be regarded as such. Jr. Pac-Man deserves a seat at the table, and that means someone born after 1988 deserves a chance to play it.

But it’s never going to happen, because of a licensing dispute from thirty years ago.

Videogame preservation is important, but it seems like the legal department is more important.

FGC #398 Jr. Pac-Man

  • System: Arcade, Atari 2600, DOS, and Commodore 64… and then never again. If you can’t tell, you’re seeing Arcade and Atari 2600 for this article.
  • Number of players: Two player alternating. Does this means the Pacs have two sons?
  • Attempted Preservation: In an effort to find some version of Jr. Pac-Man, I managed to turn up a random flash version online.

    Not wakka

    It is… not great.

  • Continuity Issue: Actually, Jr. Pac-Man first appears as part of Ms. Pac-Man (the game… man, the phrasing on that sentence is weird) being dropped off by the stork as part of a later cinema scene. But then he arrives at the start of Jr. Pac-Man, when the Pacs have a home? Which is it, Pac-Authors?
  • Favorite Item: The final released maze is the “beer maze”. Let’s just go ahead and assume that’s a root beer, and Jr. Pac-Man is not trying to get drunk with his bad-influence ghost girlfriend.
  • What’s in a name: The orange ghost of Jr. Pac-Man is known as… Tim. Maybe he’s a ghost wizard?
  • Did you know? Ms. Pac-Man was a Midway hack, too, but Namco liked it. Go fig.
  • Would I play again: I would like to, but there’s no way I’m fighting the Atari into playing this cartridge anytime soon. I suppose I could always drop a quarter in this guy, though…


What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Pocket Tennis Color for the Neo Geo Pocket Color! It’s going to be 399-Love here at the FGC. Please look forward to it!

FGC #078 NeoGeo Battle Coliseum

Everybody looks so friendlyThere’s a phantom lurking in video game history that I fear may disappear forever.

Emulation is, basically, the video game medium’s porn: nobody admits to it, but everybody does it, and there’s a stash on a thumb drive under your bed. People love to talk about how emulation is ruining video games, whether it’s destroying the gameplay experiences of yesterday, demolishing the resale value of classics, or terminating the lives of entire gaming systems. Yet, you’ll find a very healthy portion of the gaming population played Mother 3 without a GBA, or experienced a number of arcade games that never saw a quarter.

I just download the games for the articles. I was… just curious. I did it a lot when I was younger, but not anymore.

I myself have general ethical objections to emulation, and I’d be glad to rant on about the importance of adhering to the medium for which a system was created in the first place (particularly when you consider controllers of yesterday vs. today), and the minute you introduce save states, game genies, and other such tricks to a game from twenty years ago, you’re effectively playing a completely different game. Mind you, I agree with this assessment on the premise of judging a game by its own intentional methods, but, when I just want to have fun with a game (that I bought to have fun with), you better believe I’m whipping out anything that’s going to enhance my play experience, and not just leave me floundering on Level 3 until the end of time. But I know, really, that the reason I can take the moral high road on emulation is that I’m a man of means, so I can literally afford nearly any video game I actually want, and I have the luxury of space to store them all. I’ve got a copy of Panzer Dragoon Saga sitting in its box that I got for a steal due to almost miraculous luck, but when it came time to actually play the game, I decided to not risk any sort of damage to the valuable game itself, and pursue other avenues. Similarly, I’ve always been curious about the It's weird, right?NES title Panic Restaurant, but I wasn’t $300 interested, so… other avenues.

See? See the shame I can’t even excise for the purpose of this article? Emulation is gaming’s dirty little secret, the mistress you pray the wife will never know about. WiiU, baby, I swear she means nothing to me, she just… does things you don’t. Honey? Dear? I know how you feel about cheating devices, we don’t have to get into it right now…

But similar to how you’ll go to the grave never knowing about Grandpa’s secret family (yes, that’s why he always openly wept whenever there was a waitress named “Denise”), nobody wants to explore the history of emulation, and its full ramifications on the gaming community. There are too many back allies and completely illegal avenues involved, so even if you found the people behind that great PSP collection, and the no doubt interesting story behind how untold gigs of data were collected, you’d still be reporting on, essentially, a crime on par with a bank robbery, with untried criminals as your primary source. There are people, probably hundreds of people, responsible for your emu stash, and they’re not only anonymously uncredited, they’re probably literally hiding their illegal accomplishments.

Which, sadly, is more the pity, as emulation has had a tremendous impact on gaming and video game journalism. As I’ve mentioned before, I find video game preservation incredibly important, because you’re never going to get anywhere in anything without first knowing your past. And, while I grieve the loss of games like Gremlins 2, Goonies II, or Ghostbusters II to licensing issues that will guarantee they never see another legitimate gaming platform, I know that secretly, stashed in the back of your digital sock drawer, there’s those games, just as fresh and ready to go as ever with a USB controller and monitor. As I lived through it, I can safely say that around the early 21st century, there was a direct correlation between free video game roms floating around and the rise of retro gaming blogs like this one. I’m a little late to the party, but, geez, you can’t even fathom how many articles there are out there written by dudes just discovering So many handsMonster Party for the first time thanks to some rom dump. And, to be clear, I’m not saying this is at all a bad thing. If emulation had not propagated in the way it had at the time it had, I doubt we’d be seeing Super Mario making or Shovel Knight dueling Battletoads today.

Conversely, there’s the negative impact emulation has had on gaming. The PSP? The DS? Both likely gone before their time thanks to the fact that you could download their entire libraries weekly faster than the release schedule. The Saturn? The Dreamcast? If emulation was a little more relaxed, we might have a Sega designing game systems to this day, but, no, the Neptune is forever relegated to a ghastly Vita franchise. I realize the call of free Marvel vs. Capcom 2 is a siren song to many of us, but I’d be willing to shell out an extra $40 every six months or so if it meant a more robust gaming landscape. Much like how we’ve lost all the artists that never had a chance to reach your ears in the wake of Napster changing the music industry forever, emulation may be a chief reason AAA gaming rose to prominence: in a quasi-self-fulfilling prophecy, only the wealthiest, most stable companies could survive, and thus designed games with an emphasis on using the one resource they knew they had: money.

One company that didn’t survive was SNK. SNK was responsible for the Neo Geo, and much of the Neo Geo library. If you’re like 90% of the population, you never owned a Neo Geo, and, odds are, never even saw a single Neo Geo console in the wild. Maybe, if you were an arcade rat, you played a Neo Geo arcade cabinet or two, but even the odds for that are low, as the system never had a Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat. Fatal Fury, World Heroes, Your killing meKing of Fighters, and Metal Slug were all hits, and many made their way to home consoles like the SNES or Playstation, but I’m assuming that’s not where you played these games. Let’s not mince words, odds are good you emulated a number of Neo Geo games, you filthy emulator, you.

Another game you likely never played is NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, a “dream match” fighting game where characters from wildly disparate Neo Geo universes battle it out. Released in the arcades of Japan in 2005, NGBC features a host of characters from popular fighting games like King of Fighters, Art of Fighting, Fatal Fury, and Samurai Shodown, and then combines them with some lesser known heroes and villains from World Heroes, King of the Monsters, and The Last Blade. As is always the spice of “dream match” style games, a few characters that had never seen the fighting genre were imported, like Goddess Athena from Athena (not KoF), and Marco with his favorite Martian from Metal Slug. Toss in a pair of original characters that are just excuses to use a potpourri of Neo Geo references as offensive techniques, and you’ve got a complete fighting game with an amusingly eclectic mix of choices. It’s a 2v2 fighter, and it actually uses its huge roster to create a rather memorable one player mode that will see you fighting a huge chunk of the roster… if you’re any good. You’ve got five minutes to beat as many opponents as possible, and when that time is up, you fight a final boss based on your skill level. And no matter which final boss you fight, you’re battling a ranking member of the nefarious organization WAREZ.

Wait, where have I heard that word before?

Yes, NeoGeo Battle Coliseum and its creators were not subtle about its stance on emulation, and how it was generally believed that the chief reason Neo Geo / SNK failed was emulation eating the lunch of every man, woman, and child who ever worked on Mark of the WolvesFIGHT. At the time of the game’s US release, late 2007, I assumed that SNK was just being salty about the whole “going out of business, going into the pachinko business” thing, and was blaming everyone in the immediate area. Like Metallica before them, there’s a historical precedent for pointing at a bunch of criminals, claiming they’re the source of all your woes, and then sitting pretty in the knowledge that no one is going to take the side of the thieves. Come on, SNK, you guys were always the Hydrox to Capcom’s Oreo, just sit back and be glad you were ever as successful as you were.

But a funny thing happened in the years since I played NGBC: I don’t think I’ve ever met someone with affection for Neo Geo games that didn’t first play these games through emulation. I realize it’s purely anecdotal, and I’m sure someone is reading this and just simmering with anticipation to post the most scathing comment about actually playing the Neo Geo as it was intended… but, seriously? I don’t think anyone ever got past Metal Slug 2’s second level outside of the couch, and Geese Howard reigned undefeated over many an arcade. And, yes, I remember distinctly playing Fatal Fury and World Heroes in the arcades (God, I loved WH3: Jet)… but if I’m being honest, I don’t think I ever sunk more than a dollar at a time into either cabinet, and only truly mastered either game with unlimited credits and a controller that was just different enough from a Dualshock to avoid a lawsuit.

So, sorry Neo Geo Battle Coliseum, I misjudged you on first blush. You’re welcome to hate WAREZ all you want, as they probably are your mortal enemy. I’m just as guilty of putting Mr. Karate out of a job as anybody.

So PrettyAnd, maybe, it’s time we all admitted it. Look, I’m just a guy who posts about video games on the internet, I can’t grant amnesty to software pirates or bring the Dreamcast back from the dead, but I am someone who is interested in the history of video games, warts and all. If there’s a resource for this information available, please point me to it, but it is currently completely impossible to verify if emulation has had an impact on gaming… even though everybody who has ever seen a Mario sprite hack (anybody remember Wheelchair Mario?) knows emulation might be the most important factor in video game production.

It’s the biggest open secret in gaming that nobody talks about. Maybe it’s time we did.

FGC #78 NeoGeo Battle Coliseum

  • System: Arcade, Playstation 2, Xbox 360, and just this year, Playstation 3. You’ve got some options… and I bet you still never heard of the thing.
  • Number of players: 2, as is right and proper for a fighting game. Just to be clear, though, you do control two characters at a time, but tag team style, so there’s no way there’d be a four-player simultaneous mode like some of the wackier Capcom Vs. games.
  • Big Boss: There are a couple of different big, bad bosses for the game, but the most appropriate is the upgraded final boss of World Heroes: Dio has become… Neo Dio! I’m kind of disappointed that that name appeared before NeoGeo Battle Coliseum, though.
  • Get it?Favorite Contributing Series: Man, when ROB finally picks it, I have a lot to say about World Heroes. In the meanwhile, I’ll just have to satisfy myself by noting that this game chose the three safest reps from the series (its Ryu, Ken, and final boss), and one weird choice in the form of Mudman, the witch doctor of Papua New Guinea. That seems weird enough, but consider that this is a series that also features a sadistic mutant football player, pansexual Russian mystic, and cybernetic Nazi superman (who, incidentally, is pretty much straight out of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure). Point is, there were some other options there.
  • Favorite Character: The only representative of Aggressors of Dark Kombat is Kisarah Westfield, and if you told me she originated from some obscure dating sim or something, I’d believe you. She does hail from an actual fighting game, though, and, while I’ve never played it, I’m interested if only because of this one character. Yes, you’re welcome to play as practically the whole principle cast of King of Fighters in this game, but I’ll go with the school girl who possesses a super move based entirely on making her opponent fatally jealous. Heartbreaker.
  • Did you know? As mentioned, the two original characters created for this game are a boy and a girl that are both secret agents that possess super powers based on various SNK properties. They have very different personalities, though: Yuki, the boy, is a serious, no-nonsense agent that is only interested in results… though does have a goofy side when he goes full henshin superhero; conversely, there’s Ai, the girl, who is silly and bubbly and just Real Robot Bluesomg such a gamer you don’t even know, with the magical ability to summon characters from her Neo-Geo Pocket. … There’s probably some odious sexism going on here, but I’m just happy to see a dedicated gamer gal out of Japan that… wait a minute… she is literally fanservice! Dammit!
  • Would I play again: Everything about this game feels like Street Fighter 2 to a Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo that will never be. The whole thing is retro in the worst way, and really needs an updated version to utilize this fun cast and its absurd variety. Regardless, I do wind up popping in this game on occasion even without provocation from a random robot, so I’ll probably try it for a few rounds again within the year.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Bomberman for the NES! I’m sure that’s going to be a blast! Please look forward to it!

FGC #072 Hologram Time Traveler

JUMP JUMP SLIDE72 games into the Fustian Gaming Challenge, it may surprise you to learn that I am someone who cares about video game preservation.

It’s just an accident of my own birth, but I have grown up with the video game medium as we know it: the Nintendo Famicom was literally born the same year as myself, and, appropriately enough, my grandfather owned and loved the hardware offering of the “previous” generation, the Atari. Some of my earliest memories are of playing (horrible Atari) Pac-Man and, later, Super Mario Bros. I got into fights with my first real friend over what was the proper distance one could sit from the television while playing Duck Hunt. As I grew older, I remember sleepovers involving staying up to watch Saturday Night Live by alternating lives on Castlevania 3, and later having entire “parties” based around playing Super Bomberman. I’ll admit that, as a result of all this, my video game collection started not as a concentrated effort to build a video game library, but because I simply couldn’t “trade in” that copy of (the awful) Friday the 13th, lest I feel like a jackass the next time Jimmy comes over and wants to see if we can finally beat that axe-wielding maniac.

I want to say it wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I really considered video game preservation. At the time, the DVD format had just come in to its own, and it seemed like every “forgotten” hit of the 80’s was back in special edition form. Actually, when I think on it, I can tell you exactly when it happened: my college buddy Moko (owner of the tiniest TV in NJ mentioned in this article) was excited about the DVD release of Willow. Alright, truth be told, we were all kind of excited about it, but he was the one actually buying it, and I seem to recall we watched it with glee and made constant references to drunken brownies for the rest of the year. But you want to know what never saw a rerelease? Willow for the NES, a YOU'RE DEADCapcom Zelda-like game that sucked up hours of my life during my younger years. It was, frankly, awful for a small child to play, because it was about as straight-forward as a Charlie Kaufman film, and its various RPG elements made just about as much sense to a young Goggle Bob as Synecdoche, New York would have. That said, with my newfound appreciation for Willow the movie, I would have loved to play Willow for the NES again as an adult, but… no dice, unless I wanted to hit any given seedy emulation site. Even beyond that, there was Willow the Arcade Game, also made by Capcom, which I had never seen before in my life, but is a damn fun game, and never saw a home release in any form. And, given how licensing works for video games, the odds of ever seeing these games on anything outside of a computer monitor are pretty dang low.

I’m sorry, where was I before I got distracted by Bavmorda? Ah yes, video game preservation. So it was somewhere in my early twenties that I decided to build a true “video game library”, with the capability of playing any video game worth playing as easily as pulling a book of a shelf. I had never traded in or discarded a single game in my life, so I already had a head start with the collection I had grown since my childhood, but now I decided to use some spare income to jockey on EBay and fill my shelves with every game I had ever rented or even heard of (which, thanks to the likes of Nintendo Power and Gamepro, was more than a few games). Again, by sheer accident of my birth year, the first time I had some significant disposable income coincided with a period of time when the old games were more “let’s get clear out the attic” cheap prices than “collector’s item” valuables that many games have graduated to today. And, no, before you ask, I don’t have any (well, many) of the insanely rare games like Little Samson (my own personal holy grail), and I’ve never given much of a flip about boxes or instruction manuals (have ‘em if they’re available, but not going out of my way). But, all told, I set out with a “shopping list” of essential classic games when I officially started this collection around ten years ago, and that list has long since been completed. See you next mission, EBay.

SO NEONThere is, of course, a giant gap in my video game collection, and that’s the arcade games. Like Willow Arcade mentioned earlier, there are a great swath of arcade games of varying quality that have never seen a living room. Yes, I just reviewed another game that had something like twenty arcade games on one disc, and I’m always down to grab the latest Midway or Taito collection of arcade games (even though half the time I’m just buying the same games over and over again), but much of what I loved in the arcades is forever out of reach. I must have sunk thousands of dollars into 90’s Beat ‘em Up cabinets over the years, but it’s only within the last console generation that we saw home versions of The Simpsons and X-Men, and the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game is currently only available as a bonus on the PS2/Xbox/GC Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus game, as the download version of the game alone has been removed from the digital marketplace, presumably thanks to previously mentioned licensing issues. And that’s just the big guns, so good luck playing a game of Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder.

It’s a shame, too, because the arcades were, in their time, a shining bastion of creativity in the video game universe. Thanks to video game consoles, we tend to think of video game history as a straight, continually improving line for both graphics and gameplay, but in the arcades, amazing “playable cartoons” like Dragon’s Lair hit the arcades two years before “Jump Man” decided to save the Mushroom Kingdom. Police 911, an arcade light gun game that used motion sensors to allow the player to “dodge”, saw release in 2000, and while the consoles saw a gimped port, the arcade version pioneered the motion controls that would print money for Nintendo six years later on the Wii. The arcade was, for decades, a proving ground for new and exciting ideas, and anyone could take hold of the future for a few It is tempting...measly quarters. Now, those joysticks have long since gone to the scrapheap, and all those promised futures have been long since forgotten.

Hologram Time Traveler was a noble attempt to grasp one of those futures. The HTT arcade cabinet was a sight to behold: a short, fat machine that looked like something that could clean bowling balls squatted at a random corner of the arcade projecting a tiny digitized woman begging for rescue and quarters. Yes, HTT was one of the first games to use digitized actors to tell a story, and, more importantly, it projected the lil’ troop into holograms right there, with full voice acting and costumes appropriate for the time travel motif. Your hero was a cowboy, your princess was clad in space chic, and every time you died, there was some bonkers wizard waddling around and claiming to know what you did wrong.

I played the game once, and only once, in the arcade. HTT, likely due to the advanced technology involved, was an expensive machine, demanding at least fifty cents, maybe even 75. At a time when that sum could buy maybe a full five minutes of Ninja Turtles, I wasn’t quick to bite. It was also what I’ve always privately referred to as a “controlled” game, like Dragon’s Lair, Brain Dead 13, or practically the entire Sega CD library, that basically played a prerecorded video, and it was your job to press up, down, left, right, or shoot as is appropriate, pray you guess right, and make the video proceed unabated. Assuming you pressed the wrong button (or didn’t press the right button fast enough), a freaky skull would appear, and, bang, you’re dead. Unfortunately for the player, the game was built, from head to toe, to make you dead; and even went above and beyond the average arcade experience by including a slot machine “bonus stage” that was tremendously more likely to deplete your credits than increase your life count. Combine this all with the fact that there was an arcade game that featured Binky the Rabbit like right across the aisle, and, yeah, I wasn’t coming back any time soon.

But just because a game is terrible doesn’t mean it should be forgotten. We have the entire works of Tor JohnsonI hate you available, and I assume The Room is going to be a viewing staple for a generation. Despite the costly and huge arcade hardware involved, and the obviously impossible to replicate for the living room holograms, Hologram Time Traveler did make its way to the television during the PS2 era. Yes, the game is still terrible, and, given its concessions for home release, it has only gotten worse, but the whole package is surprisingly worthwhile. The game is crap, but the disc itself contains interviews with the creator and news reports from the time of the game’s original release, and it all adds up to a lovely time capsule of the early 90’s and the arcade arms race that lead to so much innovation (and, incidentally, maybe the entire fighting genre). And, best of all, the game allows you to simply “watch” the game being played in a perfect run, which, given the difficulty of the game, was probably something only six people had previously ever seen.

As I write this, I am in the shadow of my Playstation 2 collection, a pile of DVD cases stacked on shelving that nearly reaches the ceiling. If I lived in a more earthquake-prone area, the coroner would inevitably conclude that my cause of death was, “crushed by video games, Neo Geo Battle Coliseum lodged in brain.” Be the OCD you want to see in the world. But you know what? Games like Hologram Time Traveler do make it seem worthwhile. This isn’t some one-and-done affair, a game that was snagged thanks to prerelease hype and then forgotten seven seconds after it received the sixteenth “Game of the Year” accolade that year; no, this is a piece of gaming history, preserved by people who genuinely seem to care about the medium. Yer outI might not ever actually play the game again, but it’s good to know that it’s there, that it’s available, and I can learn from its mistakes as easily as popping in a DVD.

It might be a bad video game, but it is a good memory.

FGC #72 Hologram Time Traveler

  • System: Arcade, Playstation 2. Okay, technically this isn’t a PS2 game, it’s actually a DVD (like, movie DVD) that has been modified to the point that the usual menu navigation keys on the remote work like a controller. Technically, you could “play” this game as easily on any given DVD player as the PS2, but the PS2 does seem to offer a better response time. If memory serves, this makes the PS3 impossible to use, though, as its button layout for playing movies is different. Another poor example of backwards compatibility.
  • Number of Players: Two players alternating in the arcade, just one at home. No such thing as dual DVD remote controls… though that would make watching a movie with a five year old more interesting.
  • So, you’re an arcade rat? I basically grew up on the boardwalk. Here’s a beach cam so you can watch that very boardwalk right now. You may still randomly see me on that camera, too, as I am physically incapable of change. Anyway, the boardwalk was always arcades to me, and my grandfather was always happy to oblige with, in retrospect, what must have been hundreds of dollars in quarters. I think I “beat” every worthwhile arcade machine from 8th Street to 12th (that… is a much larger area when you’re ten). I’m sure there will be at least one article in the future that will just be talking about local arcades. It will be exclusively for my amusement.
  • Lookin' goodThe goggles do nothing: This game also comes with a pair of 3-D glasses so you can enjoy the 3-D effect of holograms in your own living room. Come to think of it, how has this game not been ported to the 3DS?
  • Favorite Time Period: I did wind up playing through the game for this article, and all the time periods are basically just “random dudes running around in costumes shouting”. It… loses something when you’re not being impressed by holograms. No matter, through it all, I preferred the “Magical” Time Period, as it allowed you to finally encounter that stupid wizard in a non you’re-already-dead setting.
  • A brief downer aside: It occurs to me only as this article is about to be posted that my grandfather, mentioned earlier as a source of Atari and infinite quarters, passed away exactly four years ago today. It’s a complete coincidence that I would be writing an article that reminded me of him today of all days, so, in the name of certainly-not-irony, this article on not forgetting the past, good and bad, is dedicated to my grandfather, who was a source of particularly good moments in my past. Also, general tip for everybody, if you’re going to die, do it on a day that is already nationally remembered.
  • Did you know? According to the news report included on the game, Hologram Time Traveler was the third best performing arcade game for 1991. While I can’t immediately find any sources for this, I’m going to have to go ahead and claim, based only on the whole of history, that Street Fighter 2, also released that year, was number one. Number Two? Uh… let’s say that was… errm… Was this the year you could play Super Mario World for thirty seconds in the arcade? Let’s go with that one.
  • Would I play again: No. God no. I’m still kind of upset that I blew nearly a dollar on this in the arcades. I want my money back!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Claymates for the SNES. Woof, get ready to be buried under a mountain of putty puns. Sculpt out some time in your schedule, and please look forward to it!

Make a wish
Early Shantae inspiration?