Tag Archives: arcade

FGC #625 Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone

Microtransaction time!It is important to remember that sometimes the bad guys do lose.

Today we are looking at Double Dragon 3. Appropriate to the title of the franchise, Double Dragon 3 has two generally distinct versions: Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone, which was the arcade version that was ported to a couple of different systems (like Gameboy and Sega Genesis), and Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones, the Nintendo Entertainment System title that had the same overall concept, but significantly different gameplay. What was the difference in gameplay? Well, the NES version wasn’t constantly trying to fleece the player.

Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone is, superficially, the same beat ‘em up experience that the franchise had always delivered. Yes, we now have a situation wherein the Lee Brothers (now with a third bro! Because someone welded a third controller to the cabinet!) are going to go on a world tour to collect rocks with the eventual goal of being the best rockers on the planet or something, but the general minute-to-minute is unchanged. You have a collection of random mooks per stage that you are required to punch into submission, then the big boss shows up, you punch him (inevitably him) but good, and move on to the next stage. It doesn’t matter if you are in a generically grimy city or tumbling through a coliseum in Rome, this is the Double Dragon we all know and generally tolerate.

But there is one significant change in Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stones, and it’s right there on the first screen of the first level…

I hate everything about this
Technically this is the shop from the finale, but whatever, okay?

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the shop. A shop just like this one appears in 80% of the levels of DD3:TRS, and usually at the start (the only exception is the final level, where it is the start of a boss gauntlet). Like in many games of the era, you can purchase a number of helpful items at said shop. You can top off your health points! Buy weapons for dealing additional damage! Or maximize your fists’ power to just do extra damage without the need of a sword! Or purchase “secret techniques” so you can perform flying kicks and throws! And the extra special cherry on top: buying extra “lives” not only means you purchase additional life bars for your protagonists, it also allows you to play as entirely different characters with marginally different offensive styles (or at least different hitboxes). Basically, if you want a new Double Dragon experience, it is all tied to the shop. This is the biggest difference between Double Dragon 3 and its predecessors (well, other than that direction-attack button thing from Double Dragon 2 being dropped), and it is all available for a few credits in the shop.

Oh, and I do mean credits, as Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stones’ shops are all fueled by real, American quarters.

Damned treesLet us look at that shop’s inventory from a different perspective. Powering up your fighter? Well, that is going to save you quarters, as a dead enemy takes off a lot less health. Weapons? Also going to save your life, because it means you do not have to get any closer to hazardous fists. Speaking of life, having more lives is obviously going to put you further from having to insert another credit. And even the special moves are all jump based and obviously modeled after the most effective ways to survive in previous Double Dragon titles. In short, if you have any familiarity with Double Dragon (and, at this point in the existence of arcades, why wouldn’t you?), you are going to make a beeline for those items. Sure, it all costs real money, but those same quarters would be required to recover anyway. You’re practically saving money!

Or you would be, if Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stones was a remotely fair game.

As an officially licensed beat ‘em upologist, I can say with some authority that the first two levels of DD3:TRS are about what you should expect from a beat ‘em up as far as challenges go. There is an unstoppable army of dudes, but you will defeat them, because they have basic patterns, and local traps and tricks can be utilized to blaze a trail straight through to China. But once you hit approximately level 3, the bullshit comes fast and furious. It is hard to say if it is deliberate or just poor programming, but any given fighter on your side has some significant lag after being stunned, so being essentially “stun locked” while battling a boss becomes the standard for many fights. Regular enemies gain some moves with absurd range so you can’t so much as jumpkick a tree without an across-the-screen interruption. And the final boss? By Anubis, she has the ability to toss your Bimmy across the screen from across the screen. She can just spam the same “death move” over and over again, and your only recourse is hoping the A.I. shows some modicum of mercy so you can maybe land a punch. The point here? You need those powerups to survive, so even if you “buy your levels” to maximum right from the get-go, you are still going to be down a few more dollars by the end of the adventure. Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stones is unapologetically balanced to bleed your wallet dry.

And nobody liked that.

This sucks hardRecords of top grossing arcade machines from 1990 are difficult to find, but we can see the legacy of Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone in its own descendants. This arcade title premiered in America, but, by the time it migrated over to Japan six months later, its whole shop system had been hastily excised. Any and all shops in the game are now boarded up and inaccessible, and the first level that seemed to be designed around emphasizing the opening shop was “scrolled forward” permanently so you would never know there was such an embarrassment lurking around the corner. And, without the shops, weapons are now free and lying around, “secret techniques” are accessible at all times, and a player can spontaneously select any of the characters right from credit one. And, while you cannot spend a quarter to power up your punches, all of your opponents mysteriously do about a third less damage on their hits. Gosh! Put it all together, and it sure seems like the original version was balanced entirely around a player that spent about two dollars on bits and baubles! And that was dropped from the next version because nobody actually did that.

And then we finally get to the NES version. Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones was reportedly developed in parallel to the arcade version, but it was also released a year later, so it clearly had some foreknowledge of how things went in the arcade. In this case, some of the fun aspects of Double Dragon 2 that had been dropped for Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone returned in the NES version (you can always enjoy a hair grab). Additionally, the concept of multiple playable characters was adopted from the arcade, but now you do the more traditional NES thing of beating bosses who eventually join your team (Mega Dragon 3). And, like the Japanese arcade version, the shops are completely gone, and there is not so much as a points system to simulate the “joy” of purchasing weapons. Actually, you do get “limited ammo” weapons naturally with each of the selectable characters, but, with no way to refill your reserves, they are extremely situational.

Oh, and it is probably worth nothing that this version of Double Dragon 3 bombed, too. Like, Water World for Virtual Boy bombed…

What even happened here?Why? Well, NES DD3 has its own share of problems. For one thing, in one player mode, you only have one “life” for like half the game, and the concept of continuing is not introduced until Level 4. For another thing, while this whole experience feels a lot less janky than its predatory arcade counterpart, it is still pretty dang cumbersome for a 1991 NES title that should really know better. This was released the same year as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 3: The Manhattan Project! A beat ‘em up that is fun from start to finish! DD3 doesn’t even have the good sense to include a pig with a mace strapped to his head! Oh, and the translation/story is nearly incomprehensible, with a hatchet job of a “let’s include the girlfriend again” plot that somehow transforms Marion into an Egyptian death goddess. Granted, that may not make a huge impact on how a beat ‘em up is received, but the narrative was so unintelligible that not even glowing Nintendo Power coverage could polish this turd. And they successfully made Final Fantasy Legends seem sane! Between that and likely seeing a game over without exiting the first screen, it is easy to see how this beat ‘em up sequel did not leave a good impression.

And that's fineAnd despite the fact that Double Dragon then went on to headline the second videogame movie ever made (!), this is the game that killed the franchise. A “real” Double Dragon 4 would not be seen for decades, and the best the Lee Brothers could hope for for beat ‘em up action in the meanwhile was starring opposite some amphibians (and not even the popular amphibians!). It sure looks like, whether through apathy or dedicated protest, the public did not appreciate the rapacious Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stones, and it poisoned the franchise for years. And, given we never saw such predatory models in Double Dragon or another beat ‘em up ever again, it seems like even the videogame companies learned to avoid these terrible microtransactions.

So the bad guys trying to squeeze extra money out of their audience well and truly lost. We now live in a glorious future where…

I hate everything about this, too

Oh dammit.

FGC #625 Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone

  • System: Let’s claim that today’s article is based on the arcade version exclusively, and the NES version is a weird footnote. The arcade version was distinctly ported to a number of systems, like Gameboy and Sega Genesis, but each of those had to include odd concessions to account for credits system. You mostly got virtual coins for “whatever”, so the shops still kinda worked without demanding you install a quarter slot on your Amiga. Also: not at all worth playing.
  • Number of players: Three in the arcade, two at home. Note that there is a special move you can only use when you have two players available, so that is yet another way this damned thing bleeds cash out of its players.
  • What the hell!?Favorite Fighter: It is abundantly clear that the arcade characters are not balanced as well as the Lee Brothers, and any given giant playable character is all vulnerable hit box and no reciprocal power. And Chin… man, we’re not talking about Chin. So I guess the default Lees win by default. Hooray for normalcy.
  • Favorite What The Hell is Happening: There is exactly one puzzle in the arcade version, and it is a “challenge” to walk across the right floor tiles to spell out “Rosetta”. You are also being chased by a gigantic alien monster the entire time. This creature is then never seen or referenced again. I… feel like this should be acknowledged.
  • An end: The NES version offers a customized epilogue for each of the characters, but the Famicom port only provides an ending for characters that are still alive. I guess this implies any of your defeated fighters are actually dead-dead, and Billy might be an only child if no one ever hits start on a second controller. Meanwhile, the ending for the arcade version is simply Billy rolling around in a pile of plundered gold. Thank you, Karnov.
  • Did you know? The NES version is the source of the infamous “Bimmy” mistranslation that misnames Jimmy to a name closer to his brother’s. However, like the arcade version, the American version came first here, and it is likely this is less a translation error as a programming error that only appears when the opening crawl has to name both players (it is completely absent in one player mode). So blame the computer nerds, not the language nerds.
  • Would I play again: Never. Other Double Dragon games are better than this. Yes, even that Double Dragon game. It’s better. You know it.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Kirby and the Forgotten Land! Here is where I use the prerequisite “it’s going to suck” joke! Please look forward to it!

This ain't Clone High

FGC #624 Food Fight

There's gonna be a fightLet us examine our relationship with food.

Food is a difficult subject for many people. We all like food, but between corollaries like cholesterol, blood pressure, and general weight, there is a lot to consider before you stick something down your mouth hole. You can’t quit food, and, given how often you have to interact with the stuff, it would be a shame to spend the rest of your life eating something you hate. But some people are forced into this situation by genetic predispositions, poor eating habits, or just the fact that someone thought it was okay to eat nothing but cheese sandwiches for a solid 25 years (it’s on the food pyramid! It should have been fine!). Regardless of how it happens for someone, it can mean that a simple meal will no longer be simple for the rest of their days, and something as simple as “gimme a burger” can transform into a gauntlet of questions and substitutions that reinforces how you should have just gotten a salad in the first place. And you hate salads!

But you know who doesn’t hate salads? Alucard. Solid Snake. All the protagonists of all the videogames that can and will eat anything, because food is life. Going straight back to Pac-Man, eating whatever you can find and gobbling down as much of it as possible has always been the way of games. Give or take the odd Metal Slug or Fat Princess out, food is a universal good, and the challenge is often not that you are getting too much, but that you must ration that wall meat in preparation for dangers ahead. Rogue-likes often make food one of the most valuable resources you can ever measure, and even Mike Haggar has to search barrels across the land to stay fueled for those piledrivers. Even when food is not literally life in a videogame, it is still an unquestionable good for your hero.

So can food ever be a bad thing in a videogame? Well, here are a few examples from the early days of gaming that posit food is not always as pleasant as it appears…

Food Fight
Arcade, Atari 7800
1983

YummyLet’s get this out of the way first: Charley Chuck has a perilous relationship with food. Charley lives only to consume ice cream, and his singular goal is to eat as much ice cream as possible. This is not something that any child should aspire to, and, if any young’uns are reading this article, please, put the cone down. Like so many old school games, food is the goal of Food Fight, but do not try this at home.

But food is not only for consumption in the world of Food Fight. Everything that is not ice cream is fair game in this eating contest, and it has all been transformed into a bevy of projectiles. Charley Chuck lives up to his name, and chucking food at all comers is the only way he can get to his goal unmolested. And who is trying to stop Charley? Why, four chefs who are responsible for this feast, of course. Oscar, Angelo, Jacques, and Zorba are the four antagonists that want Charley to slow his eating roll, and if Charley doesn’t utilize the food stores to defeat these chefs, they’ll never die and become Pac-Man’s quartet of antagonists (possibly headcanon).

So, in this case, whether you are consuming or throwing it, food is good. Food is your goal, and food is going to keep you alive. But the people that make the food? They are the enemy. In the world of Food Fight, chefs are apparently greedy, violent monsters that want to protect their precious ice cream at all costs. If they are beaten by food, they will rise again, damned forever to protect their sweet bounties. In short, the lesson of Food Fight seems to be that food and gluttony is good, but those that make the food are bad. A strange moral to be sure, but by about the 80th time a chef comes out of nowhere and blasts you with a banana, you better believe you’re going to be hating these nutrition gatekeepers.

But if you want to see the other side of the coin, look no further than…

Burger Time
Arcade, Atari, NES
1982

I'm getting hungryChefs are not our enemies, they are our heroes. Intrepid Peter Pepper has to assemble a series of giant burgers to prepare for some manner of titan-based lunch rush, but there is a bit of a problem. Some of the ingredients are not going to just lie there and be walked all over, so they have gone on the offensive. Buns, beef, lettuce, and tomatoes are cool with being enormous and docile, but Mr. Pickle, Mr. Egg, and the sandwich-ambiguous Mr. Hot Dog all would rather commit murder than wind up as common components. Peter Pepper only has two options: toss some pepper in their (lack of) eyes for a stunning escape, or carefully manipulate his foes between buns for an added taste of flavor. And if neither of those opportunities are available, well, looks like lunch is going to be late.

In Burger Time, we are finally seeing a situation wherein food is not your friend. Peter Pepper is preparing delicious burgers, but every “undesirable” ingredient has it out for him. Is this meant to be a metaphor? Eggs and hot dogs can certainly smash a cautious cholesterol diet, but what is the problem with pickles? They don’t have the same nutrients as a slab of lettuce? Too much sodium? Too… ethnic? Maybe the designers just had a bad Big Mac? Whatever the reason, at least now we have a situation wherein food can be both good and bad, which is much closer to how a “real” Peter Pepper would have to live his life. The brave men and women that make your massive cheeseburgers have to worry about their health, too, ya know!

And speaking of chefs that are in mortal danger…

Panic Restaurant
Nintendo Entertainment System
1992

I am super hungry nowLike in Burger Time, Panic Restaurant features a heroic chef. But there is also a Food Fight-esque antagonist chef, and this nefarious Chef Ohdove (it was a mistranslated hors d’oeuvre pun, if you’re curious) has conquered valiant Chef Cookie’s dream restaurant! Now Cookie must fight through a full course meal’s worth of levels to defeat Ohdove and reclaim his livelihood. But it won’t be easy, because Ohdove has been cooking up evil, and now everything in the restaurant is trying to kill Cookie.

Seriously. Like…. Everything. The first boss is a friggen’ popcorn maker, and it is extremely fatal.

Cookie may be a chef, but this is a game where food is consistently the enemy. Cookie doesn’t even cook a single thing! There is the occasional minigame that involves gathering simple ingredients (eggs, fish, bombs), but beyond that, Cookie must constantly be on the defensive around food. Pizzas are rolling boulders of death, egg whites blob along to attack, and french fries become machine guns of salty death. Aside from some inexplicable lawn chairs, literally every adversary (before finding humanish Ohdove) is a food item of some kind, and it is all living for revenge. No one is certain why an onion wants to make Cookie cry, but here we are.

And, if you are curious, the bosses are a mix of appliances & food, sometimes simultaneously. A killer ice cream cone or burger is unpleasant, but the wok that blasts shrimp all over the arena is its own level of Hell. And the obstinate oven that absorbs chickens only to eject roasted runners? There is something metaphysically wrong there tinged with a unique flavor of evil. And speaking of which, it is difficult to parse Chef Ohdove. He is purple! What has he been eating? Why does he remind me so much of Waluigi? What happened here?!

Get forkedAnd just in case this situation isn’t obvious: Cookie might be all smiles and joy with his dream of having a restaurant that isn’t murderous, but his weapons are exclusively built for taming food. A collection of pots, pans, spoons, and forks is his armory. This means one thing: food is the enemy, and man has created tools to conquer this hated adversary. All food must be stopped, and, as the final master of monsters, their maker must be punished, too. Ohdove needs to get forked.

So what does it all mean? It appears that there are some games out there where food is not your friend. And when food is the enemy, it looks like bad things happen. So remember, kiddies, eat your greens, lay off the fats, and be good to food. Because otherwise, you might wind up on the wrong end of a malevolent hot dog.

FGC #624 Food Fight

  • System: Originally released in the arcades, but then appearing on the 8-bit Atari 7800 three years later. It is available on a number of Atari collections, including one for the Evercade.
  • Number of players: It is two player alternating, but the way that all the chefs and Charley have the exact same capabilities and goals makes me think that this could have been an early, successful battle royale four-player title. Or at least something interesting wherein one player tries to grab the ice cream, and other controllers aim for keep away. There are options here!
  • PIE FIGHT!Favorite Food: The different foods actually seem to have different properties, further cementing how Food Fight feels like a game out of time. This was so close to being NES quality! Anywho, I’m never going to say no to a pie to the face, so that is the first item I go for.
  • Legal Eagle: Food Fight comes compliments of General Computer Corporation, the very same company that produced Ms. Pac-Man. They were also responsible for creating that “hack” kit that would speed up Atari Missile Command cabinets. Atari sued GCC as a result, and, after a settlement, GCC started making games for Atari. So, basically, there are good odds Food Fight was created by people being whipped into submission by Atari’s lawyers (legal disclaimer: this is a joke).
  • Burger Time Fact: I always think I’m going to enjoy Burger Time more than I ever do. It looks like a fun Donkey Kong-alike… but then I’m reminded it is just walking around and hating how a burger bun doesn’t fall any further than you’d like because a pickle moved too quickly. I realize that sentence sounds like the ramblings of a mad man, and I am holding that against Burger Time, too.
  • Damn friesPanic Restaurant Fact: Yes, this is one of the most expensive NES carts out there. Yes, it is drastically changed from the Japanese version, and you’re looking at a totally different protagonist that is much more averse to headbutts in America. But is it any good? Meh, it’s an action platformer from the late NES days. It ain’t bad, but it really isn’t all that special, either.
  • Did you know (back to Food Fight): Food Fight was revolutionary for including a replay feature that triggers when you “just made it” to that ice cream cone. Unfortunately, the “replay” was technically a literal, automated replay of the game, and random factors could lead to accidental death during the uncontrollable replay. Later versions at least corrected the fact that this could mean a lost life, but can you imagine blowing a quarter on simply watching an AI incorrectly ape your moves?
  • Would I play again: This is a surprisingly fun Atari game. It’s also an Atari game. Maybe I will hit it if I am locked in a room with an Atari 7800, and the only option is to eat ice cream until my inevitable escape. It could happen!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Double Dragon 3! Let’s go, Bimmy! Time to grab those Rosetta Stones! Please look forward to it!

He's so cute
Okay, Panic Restaurant has some expressive sprites

FGC #623 Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja

DUDE TIMEThe president has been kidnapped by ninja! Bad Dudes is a cross-country romp for two generally not good fellows who have to beat down an entire army of evil ninja on their way to rescuing President Ronnie. And, while the opening narration notes that ninja crime is on the rise, and not even the White House is safe, it doesn’t answer one important question: who, specifically, kidnapped President Ronnie? The Secret Service is calling in the Bad Dudes as soon as Ronnie is kidnapped, but where were they for the actual event? Who had the wherewithal to sneak into the White House and commit this heinous ninja crime?

Let’s look at the bosses of this evil ninja cartel, and examine who had the gumption to kidnap the eternal President of the 80’s. We will start at the top, with…

Dragon Ninja: The Big Boss

The Big Guy

He Did It: This is the big boss of the ninja organization, and the final boss of the game. By the finale, he has President Ronny in his private helicopter, and he can only be fought after venturing through an entire Ninja Factory that includes zombie versions of every boss that has come before. This is very much the big man in charge, and he has President Ronnie right there. This must be the culprit!

He Didn’t Do It: Yes, Dragon Ninja was ultimately responsible for this kidnapping, but he did not do the deed. Can you see this guy? Wannabe kabuki ass flipping around with an army of dogs at his beck and call? I know security was more lax in the 80s, but there is no way this dude got anywhere near the White House. Bro couldn’t get into a Smithsonian food truck, left alone the most secure building in town. No, Dragon Ninja was handed Ronnie at some point, but he likely never left his Ninja Factory. One of those henchmen has to be the culprit…

Devil Pole

Spin that pole

He Did It: Given his placement as the penultimate boss that guards the cave leading to the Ninja Factory, one would assume that Devil Pole is Dragon Ninja’s second in command. Dragon Pole also fulfills that all important ninja position of being the bald guy with a stick that can absolutely wreck everybody, regardless of opponents with tremendously more lethal weaponry. It worked for Daredevil! So this “Stick” is likely the man for the job whenever Dragon Ninja needs to get down to the dirty work.

He Didn’t Do It: He’s just not ninja enough for the job. Devil Pole is absolutely some manner of martial arts master (have you ever seen a bad dude survive his spin stick?), but he also doesn’t fit the description of “ninja” that is so important in this caper. If Devil Pole was responsible, then the CIA would be putting out an APB on Liu Kang. They know it was a ninja, and Devil Pole doesn’t look like any ninja I’ve ever seen.

Akaikage

Watch the chain

He Did It: This is a ninja’s ninja. He fights bad dudes atop a moving train while wielding what appears to be a kunai on a chain. That scores an obvious ten out of ten “believe it”’s on the Naruto-Boruto Scale. He is also wearing a mask to obscure his face in the event of crimes, and his jumping abilities are beyond the pale. In short, if you are planning on kidnapping a president, Akaikage is probably the first guy you call.

He Didn’t Do It: My rudimentary Japanese and knowledge of 1985 arcade games tells me that “Akai” means “red”, and “Kage” means “shadow”. But this “ninja” is only wearing the tiniest red bandana, and mostly green and black for the rest of his outfit. And don’t claim this is for camouflage purposes, as there ain’t anything green about this moving train. So the obvious conclusion? Akaikage is some kind of wannabe that chose his name because it sounded cool. Couple this concept with the fact that abilities like “jump” and “throw chain” are not exactly rocket science, and it is likely Akaikage isn’t a ninja at all, but just some dork on the train that wanted to help out his “nippon friends”. It is possible Akaikage is the real deal, but it is also very likely that, on and on, he is just another weeb in the wall.

Animal

I know that guy

He Did It: No. Not even entertaining that option.

He Didn’t Do It: Should we just ignore that this is a real person? The official, canon name for this guy is “Animal”, and, oh yeah, he looks an awful lot like a grayer version of the World Wrestling Federation star Joseph Michael Laurinaitis aka Road Warrior Animal. He was pretty popular! Hung out with Road Warrior Hawk! Has nothing to do with the KISS Army or Gwar! And here is this pixelated “Animal” just stopping around the forest like he owns the place. This is blatant copyright infringement at best, and identity theft at worst! This indignity will not stand!

… But, uh, anyway. Joe never kidnapped the president, so we’re going to assume this Warrior didn’t, either.

Kamui the Multiple Ninja

Maddrox?

He Did It: Another extremely likely suspect. Kamui appears to be a traditional ninja, but he has the ability to create “real” duplicates of himself in seemingly infinite quantities. That must be a significant boon for espionage missions, as being able to sneak into, say, the White House as one dude, and then instantly produce an army could solve a lot of problems. And Kamui here seems to be invincible while his duplicates are present, so conquering any kind of security should take about seven seconds. Keep shooting at the shadow clones, dummies, while Kamui sneaks off with Ronnie in tow.

He Didn’t Do It: The only real evidence that Kamui is not Public Enemy #1 is that he is the boss of the sewer level. If one of your top, powerful ninja lieutenants successfully accomplished the most daring kidnapping in history, would you assign him to sewer duty? He may be laying low by literally laying low, but the most likely explanation is that Kamui is not our perpetrator. A proper Ronnie-napper would not smell like a ninja turtle.

Iron the Claw

Don't get tetanus

He Did It: Another ninja’s ninja, Iron is covered in shadow-encouraging purple, and equipped with a metal claw that can grow to twice his size. He is the boss of the convoy stage, so you know he’s got some status in the organization, and his complicated spinning jumps and claw attacks can tear a bad dude to ribbons.

He Didn’t Do it: President Ronnie is like six feet tall and full of burgers. There is no way on Hattori Hanzo’s green Earth that Iron could successfully heft the president up and out. At best, he would need about three other Minis to carry that weight, and, at that point, your stealth rating has dropped to zero. No way Iron is getting out of there alive.

Karnov

THE MAIN MAN

He Did It: Of course he did it. He’s fugging Karnov!

He Didn’t Do It: Nope, he did it. Karnov can breathe fire when fighting a bad dude, but we all know he can also wear all-seeing masks, produce ladders, and even fly if he decided to bring along the right powerups. And, while Karnov looks less like a ninja and more like a chubby Russian guy, you better believe that, in a world where Karnov exists, if he decided to join a ninja gang, it would be national news. When you are the king of a fighting tournament and known for never wearing a shirt, you better believe the paparazzi knows all your affiliations. And who else could get close enough to President Ronnie? Karnov is an international treasure! Anyone would let him in!

Yep, case closed. It was Karnov. Go get ‘em, Bad Dudes.

FGC #623 Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja

  • System: The arcade version was used for this article, and played on an Evercade cartridge. But the NES version is pretty well known, and at least one of these versions is currently available on the Nintendo Switch (maybe both?). Beyond that, you have a lot of random systems from the era, like the Apple II or Commodore 64. Also, the Zeebo had Bad Dudes at some point. Look it up!
  • Number of players: Two is the greatest number of Bad Dudes any one game could support.
  • Great place to fightMaybe actually talk about the game for a second: Bad Dudes is a rudimentary beat ‘em up, and an obvious quarter killer (the final boss can knock out a life inside of two hits!). That said, the arcade version absolutely nails the sensation of digital punching, and every defeated ninja feels like an accomplishment. Much like Smash Bros. years later, Bad Dudes seemingly put all of its R&D budget into perfectly replicating big, meaty hits, and it adds a memorable, visceral quality to the whole adventure.
  • What’s in a name: It is Bad Dudes on the NES, but DragonNinja in Japan and Europe. So, one way or another, it is named after the protagonists or the antagonist. The official arcade title uses both sides, so everybody is happy.
  • Favorite Weapon: None work like nunchucks.
  • Sexual dimorphism is a scourge: Traditional zako ninja are all assumed to be male ninja, because the Kunoici female ninja are very much presenting any and all feminine signifiers. Is there a reason any ninja needs fishnets and a short skirt? Mobility? Maybe?
  • An end: The infamous “let’s go out for burgers” ending only appears in the American version. The Japanese version gets some Masonry Dudes building a statue of the Bad Dudes, and, more importantly, “credits” for the enemies of the game. (Almost) Everybody gets a name! This article would be impossible without that! Or at least more confusing!
  • Did you know: Chelnov, star of Atomic Runner Chelnov, appears in Bad Dudes Vs. DragonNinja as a spraypainted tag proudly displayed on the train of Level 5.

    Everybody knows him!  RIGHT?!

    Chelnov would later go on to be the final boss of Fighter’s History 3 (Fighter’s History: Mizoguchi Kiki Ippatsu!!), meaning the atomic runner not only appeared in a game with Karnov, but finally got to fight the big galoot a few years later.

  • Would I play again: This is the ideal arcade game in more ways than one. If I ever see a Bad Dudes cabinet again, it is probably getting at least a buck. But if it is only available on a system competing with many, many other games… Well… I will probably play those first.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Food Fight! Keep your fork, there’s pie! Please look forward to it!

Some hot ninja

FGC #615 Cruis’n Blast

Let's go cruis'n!Being cool is overrated.

Let’s get something out in the open right now. Cruis’n Blast is a racing game that uses real cars. This is not Mario Kart, this is not a “racer” that includes shooting magical bolts at your opponents, and this is absolutely not a title wherein you can be a hedgehog at any time. Some of these real cars race through some fantastic situations, but those situations happen at legitimate locations. There is nothing imaginary about driving a 1959 Corvette through San Fransico, as that is absolutely something you can do (with some tens of thousands of dollars). And to drive that point home, here is the Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that I use to score trophies in Cruis’n Blast…

Shiny

And here is… my wife’s car.

Also Shiny

Now, to be clear, this is my wife’s… how do I put this… toy. It is a car. She can drive it to work, to play Pokémon, or whatever you normally do with a vehicle. But it was also a gift. It is a car that will never be “traded in” for any reason. If it catches fire tomorrow, I am moderately certain my wife would be more upset than if I was lit ablaze. It is her baby, and something I will literally never understand about the person I love. I do not own a “toy” car, I just have whatever currently gets me to work. I drive a car that will get me to the videogame store and back, and if it is brand new or an old clunker, it does not make a difference to me. My wife gets excited when she has an opportunity to “take out” her Camaro. I get excited when I have an excuse to not touch my car for a week. That whole quarantine period a couple years back? Man, did I enjoy a complete lack of driving…

VROOOMBut this is not to say that I have dodged coolness splashback. Those in the first five aisles of the dolphin show may get wet, and, if you have a sweet green Camaro in your driveway, you may temporarily be regarded as cool. Do you know how many contractors, electricians, and plumbers have, unprompted, begged me to discuss engines, chassis, or whatever the hell “torque” is? It is a surprisingly high number. And, while I have been consistently confined to the passenger seat, I can tell you that the average drive through jockey is a lot more likely to compliment your coffee order when your vehicle has some “sweet lines”. And the cops that are pulling you over with regularity! Nobody ever immediately assumed I was involved in drug dealing when I drove my old Honda!

And this is all curious to me, because if I had my choice, this would be my ideal vehicle:

Less shiny

That dinosaur is, by all objective measurements, not cool. But damn do I love that scaley little monster.

Let’s take a step back a few decades. When Cruis’n USA came out, I was eleven. If you have managed to forget those halcyon years of your youth, let me remind you that when you are eleven, there is nothing more important than being cool. And Cruis’n USA was a chance to be cool! A driver’s license was still six years away, but you could pretend to drive with Cruis’n USA and its unique cabinet that simulated a driver’s seat. You could drive a Corvette! Or Ferrari Testarossa! And you could race each other to prove which of you would become the greatest driver ever (in half a decade). Back in the mid 90’s, my social circle was fond of hitting the arcades, and Cruis’n USA (and later, Cruis’n World) was always a lock. It was the coolest thing a pack of pre-teen boys had ever seen.

… Except I still wanted to play arcade Bomberman. Guys, can we play something else? Please? Okay, back to the car game…

WeeeeeNow, I want to be clear that I am not trying to claim I am some kind of unique, anti-establishment snowflake. I did enjoy playing Cruis’n USA, and I am also well aware that Mario Kart 64 sold something like a quadrillion more copies than the “real” car racing game. I prefer silly little cartoon people, and I am 100% certain I am not alone in this preference, if only because no one is begging for “A Chevy” to be the latest fighter in Smash Bros. Cars are cool, but it was Walt Disney that created his own Florida magical kingdom, not Henry Ford.

And when you look at the direction of Cruis’n Blast, you can certainly see that the nerds won. Cruis’n Blast features a wide variety of cool cars, but it also features available “vehicles” like helicopters, UFOs, unicorns, and the aforementioned triceratops. And none of these options actually fit the gameplay of C’B. Helicopters are known for the fact that they can fly, but rotors rev and move forward just like a landbound car. Unidentified flying objects don’t do that “F” thing, and do not even get me started on attempting to “chrome out” a unicorn. The “extra” vehicles stretch the definition of “vehicle”, and they all are meant to function like basic, mundane cars. In practically every case, these absurdities do not slot into the universal customization options, and, 90% of the time, they look downright goofy while racing around the track.

But goofy or not, it is pretty damn fun.

Cruis’n Blast probably should not be objectively ranked as a good racing game. It is a remarkably straightforward “drive in a line, remember to drift” racer that seems to lack even basic AI competition. Winning those nightmare cups is not difficult because you were outsmarted by an expert opponent, but because you did not get a boost at literally every opportunity. If it was not for the ability to “wreck” opposing cars, there would be no reason for anything other than time trials. But wrecking other cars? That’s fun! Speeding your car/helicopter/dinosaur over a ramp above a collapsing highway and twirling all the while? Absolutely fun. And, yes, my favorite dinosaur looks about as properly animated as moving an action figure around a Hot Wheels track, but you know what? That was fun when I was five, and it is fun when I’m -current age deleted due to buffer overrun-.

HERE COMES TWILIGHT SPARKLEAnd being cool? That sure seems overvalued. I guess it is cool to cruise around in a hot car that is turning all the lady’s heads (even if the car is owned by your favorite lady). But it looks like I will take goofy and nerdy any day of the week. Cruis’n Blast should not be considered better than Gran Turismo or its ilk, but I know which game I would rather have on my Switch when quarantining on another continent (not that I am speaking from experience here). Racing silly cars around silly areas in a silly game is fun! And there isn’t a soul I have to impress! You hear that, 12-year-old friends who I thought were so much cooler than me in junior high! I’m over it! And doing fine! And you had big ears, you jerks!

My wife has a cool car. I drive a virtual dinosaur, and I just unlocked a shark.

It's a shark!

I am feeling so cool it isn’t even funny.

FGC #615 Cruis’n Blast

  • System: Released initially, what, five years ago in the arcades? If, however, you have never seen an arcade in your life, it was released in 2021 for the Nintendo Switch.
  • Number of players: Four! I called dinosaur already, so you can’t have that.
  • So shinyFavorite Tour: The original arcade game only has five tracks. The Switch version expands that a bit, but, by and large, it simply reuses the old tracks in new ways. But they are reused in fun new ways! The Storm Tour, for instance, adds a tornado, rain, and yetis (not a weather phenomenon) to the proceedings. Couple this all with Neon Tsunami across Tokyo, and I like how this tour works.
  • Favorite vehicle that actually has wheels: There is something weirdly nostalgic about racing across the world in a big yellow school bus. Maybe you can pretend you are playing a juvenile version of Crazy Taxi? Whatever gets that bus to do some sweet jumps is okay with me.
  • Unlockable: Many of the vehicles are obtained by collecting keys scattered across the various tracks. Normally I am not down for this collectahon nonsense in a racing game, but when I consider that the alternative in this day and age would likely be paid DLC… well… let me just check if there is a FAQ to find all these doodads…
  • Did you know? Apparently the arcade version had multiple Lamborghinis available, but they did not make it to the console due to licensing issues. Dang! That could have been the cool car I always wanted!
  • Would I play again: This is absolutely an ideal game to play when I have a few moments to kill in portable mode, but no desire to play a game “forever”. It is bite sized! Like an arcade title! Funny how you don’t see that much anymore!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Axiom Verge! And maybe Axiom Verge 2! Let’s deal with a few rogue dimensions! Please look forward to it!

Attack Helicopter
If this is a reference to that gender joke, I am returning the game