Pacing the Cage

All about old-school video games. Reviews, lists and more.

Archive for July, 2008

Madden before the monopoly

Posted by ptcgaming on July 28, 2008

It’s that time again! Time for all Madden enthusiasts to come out of the woodwork in order to grab the 20-year anniversary installment of EA Sports’ NFL franchise! OMG! I’m so excited! Oops, that was all just sarcasm on my part. Even though I have a recent version for my Nintendo DS, I usually wait until about six months after the game comes out and the excitement wears off. And still, despite all the bells and whistles that come with today’s Madden games, my favorite is still the one that came out 16 years ago.

John Madden Football ’93 is by far my favorite Madden title and one of my two favorite football video games alongside Tecmo Bowl. EA didn’t have any exclusive licenses then, so there were no team names or player names. (In fact, the Raiders were “Oakland” before even moving back there so “L.A.” could be the Rams, and the Jets were “New Jersey,” which was fitting since that’s where they really play). However, all the players had their correct numbers, so deep down inside we knew who they were. I remember running all over defenses with “Thurman Thomas.”

Madden ’93 was actually a groundbreaking addition to the series. There was the introduction of “Maddenisms,” little cheesy sayings J.M. would fire off after some plays. This was much better than the play-by-play commentary we get today (Thank god you can turn it off). This game also introduced eight classic teams, including the 1976 Raiders and 1985 Bears, among others.

I used to get quite a kick watching the two teams warming up on the title screen. There were also elaborate touchdown celebrations and injuries. But the one thing that amazed me the most was in Playoff mode (You couldn’t play a season, but you could play a playoff bracket). At halftime and after your game, there would be a scoreboard ticker that would scroll scores from other playoff games. Then, the computer would show you the last minute or so of another playoff game in progress, all on its own (Early NHL titles from EA did the same thing). Can today’s developers remove some of the other senseless options from the game and put this back in? Thanks.

Overall, this is probably my favorite football video game, ever. Even though the graphics aren’t top-notch compared to today’s Madden installments, they were quite fresh at the time. If you can get your hands on a copy, do it. You’ll be glad you did.

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Retro Game Review: Hit the Ice

Posted by ptcgaming on July 24, 2008

Screenshot retrieved online. Hit the Ice stressed what many of us love about ice hockey.

Platform: TurboGrafx-16
Released: 1990
Developer: Williams, Taito

Background: It’s Arch Rivals on ice! It’s everything many of us love about hockey – beating your opponent into a bloody pulp and the dream of driving that goalie right through the net! The Video Hockey League features the most insane hockey game you’ll ever play! It’s 3-on-3 (one forward, one defenseman, one goalie), and nothing’s really barred. Slashing, punching and kicking are all OK – actually I think it’s encouraged. I owned this title many moons ago for the TG-16, a console I always despised for only having one controller port standard.

Graphics: 5/5
Other than an insanely-humongous hockey puck, this game is pretty crisp. The graphics on this game are so good you can tell how petrified the referee is (and bald, too). All of the players have unique facial features, and the playing screen as a whole is crisp.

Sound: 2.5/5
The biggest sound on the game is when the crowd roars after a goal is scored. Other than that, nothing to write home about.

Controls: 3.5/5
TG-16 controllers are designed just like NES controllers with a standard turbo control for the two action buttons. On offense, the action buttons allow you to pass and shoot. On defense, they allow you to wreak havoc on your opponent. Loses credit for that one controller slot issue.

Gameplay: 3.5/5
At first, this game rocks. It’s awesome. But after awhile it can get boring doing the same things over and over again. While the “super shot” that sends the goalie into the goal is cool, this is one of the first times I’d seen what’s become a bad trend in sports games – Captain Comeback AI. If a team gets far behind and grabs the “super drink,” they become all-world in order to catch up. Sports games today seem to be going in this direction, a trend I don’t like.

Overall: 3.625/5
This game looks great, as does many TG-16 titles. But a lack of depth and because all of the players featured in the game only differ in the way they look make this a game you’ll put down quickly and seldom go back to.

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Top 10: 5 to stay away from, 5 to replace them with

Posted by ptcgaming on July 23, 2008

Whether or not you like a game is completely up to you. However, there have been some games that have come out that were universally bad, or just bad ideas for that matter. So today’s Top 10 is a combination of 5 games I think you should steer clear of at all costs, and some you may want to try instead. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Don’t play: The Adventures of Bayou Billy (NES). Being from Louisiana myself, this game actually offends me (kind of like the movie “The Waterboy” does). I don’t know if it’s the bad Cajun accents or the having to beat alligators with sticks or what. This game is just bad.

Instead, try: Double Dragon II (NES). This is, in my opinion, the best game in the NES DD series. If you like beating up bad dudes (Hey, that’s a good game, too!), this is a great title to try.

Don’t play: Sonic Spinball (Genesis). Sonic the Hedgehog is supposed to run really fast, go around loops and jump on and over enemies. He’s not meant to be confined to a pinball machine.

Instead, try: Pokemon Pinball (Game Boy Color). At least there’s an actual ball involved. Or if it’s a taste of Sonic you’re after, try any one of his side-scrolling adventures.

Don’t play: Battletoads (NES). I give this game a lot of grief, but I feel it’s justified. It’s about as impossible to complete as Contra with just three lives. For more on my grief, click the link above.

Instead, try: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game (NES). This is one of the best titles for the NES, and that’s saying a lot considering the hundreds of games for the console. Gee, I wonder where the idea for a group crime-fighting toads came from?

Don’t play: Pac-Man (Atari 2600). This port is bad – really, really bad. It’s so bad in fact not a single one of the numerous other Pac-Man ports look even remotely close to this one. There is only one board to the entire game, and it repeats over and over again.

Instead, try: Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 7800). This is a right-on version of the arcade game, right down to the title screen and (cheesy) cut scenes in between. It’s a much better option if you happen to own a 7800.

Don’t play: Pro Wrestling (Sega Master System). This is not – I repeat not – the same as Pro Wrestling for the NES. This game features four tag teams who look like bobble head dolls. So don’t make the mistake of buying this game thinking it’s the same.

Instead, try: The other Pro Wrestling (NES). No, there still aren’t any real wrestlers in this game, although I’ve read they’re modeled after real ones (I heard King Slender is modeled after “Nature Boy” Ric Flair – Whoooo!). Anyways, this is a great title, even though it also has a limited number of wrestlers. Their bodies are proportional, and the in-match action also includes a referee and cameraman.

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Inside the 8-bit Zelda universe

Posted by ptcgaming on July 22, 2008


Screenshots from Wikipedia. The original Legend of Zelda (top photo) utilized a top-down overhead perspective throughout the game except in secret passageways, while Zelda II: The Adventure of Link utilized side-scrolling screens for battles, towns and palaces.

There have been about a bazillion posts online about Shigeru Miyamoto’s masterpiece, The Legend of Zelda, and the numerous sequels that have followed, so I’m not going to bore you with more history about how the game came to be (Miyamoto is my hero in the gaming world). But what I am going to do is break down what I like and don’t like about the two 8-bit titles released for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the original Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. So let’s get started:

The Legend of Zelda
Released in North America: 1987
Developer: Nintendo
What I like: The Legend of Zelda was a groundbreaking title. It was the “anti-Mario,” designed around the same time as Super Mario Bros. Where Mario’s quest was completely linear, Zelda was exactly the opposite, allowing you to roam Hyrule at your own pace in your own way. Even though there were nine dungeons that had to be conquered to complete the game, the side quests and numerous secrets added hours of playing time. The graphics are good all-around, and some of the enemies and bosses look really good for an 8-bit title. The sound track is unforgettable, as it introduced us to Zelda’s main tune. Controls are very fluid, but it can be difficult to throw the boomerang diagonally using the D-pad. Overall, this game is a classic and still fun to play today.
What I don’t like: I know the system limited the number of sprites developers could use, but you can go cross-eyed looking at all those same trees in the forest. I know they are different colors in different regions of Hyrule, but come on. And when I defeat a Darknut, can it please stay away forever? Those things are hard to kill!

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link
Released in North America: 1988
Developer: Nintendo
What I like: Not much, really. Being able to visit different towns, interact with the folks there and collect items from the locals is nice, and it’s been used in Zelda titles ever since. And the expansive use of magic is unlike anything found anywhere else in the series. It’s actually a refreshing addition to the game, although you have to search high and low to find all the spells. And the expanded map of Hyrule is a plus, too. Lastly, the music is different from the original, but it’s not bad.
What I don’t like: It’s the game in the series that doesn’t feature the phrase “The Legend of Zelda” in its title, so no wonder it’s considered in some circles as the black sheep of the franchise. This game is a combination of Super Mario Bros. and Final Fantasy put together to create a single game. The fact that enemies suddenly ambush you from three sides would be great if I were playing Final Fantasy. And the side-scrolling battle and palace scenes are great for Super Mario Bros., but they don’t work here. Wasting a button on an already limited controller for Link to jump just doesn’t make sense. And since there are only a few different backgrounds for side-scrolling levels, they get old fast. Last, but certainly not least, can Link please get a bigger sword!? Sending him into battle with the equivalent of a Bowie knife is like storming the beaches of Normandy with a Nerf gun!

Ultimately, both titles were groundbreaking, with the original installment ranked among the greatest video games of all time, and rightfully so. I still play the Japanese Famicom version of the original regularly and still pick up Zelda II from time to time, trying to force myself into liking it (I AM ERROR). Still, I think the guys at Nintendo agreed with those who frowned upon Zelda II’s gameplay since the 16-bit SNES classic “A Link to the Past” went back to the original style of gameplay in a vast world that rivaled the size of Zelda II’s.

Agree or don’t agree with this blog? Feel free to leave comments if you like.

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Top 10: That’s Not Really Fair!

Posted by ptcgaming on July 10, 2008

While these tasks are not completely impossible, they certainly had many of us wanting to throw our controllers and consoles through the TV. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome.

10. You mean I have to destroy this city again? Rampage is a classic, and everyone who was a gamer back in the 1980s played it at least once. The problem with the game is, while it does actually have an end, it’s after you’ve played somewhere around 128 levels. That’s right, 128 levels of doing the same thing over and over again. After about Day 50, you begin to ask yourself if it’s really worth the torture.

9. Glad the updated version has a save feature. Super Mario Bros. 3 is a NES masterpiece, and still to this day one of the greatest games ever made. Too bad the original version didn’t contain a save feature. If you didn’t take advantage of the whistles that allowed you to warp ahead, you’d after three hours of game time still be stuck around World 6. The Game Boy Advance port I have of the game, thankfully, has a save feature (All of you purists can cringe now).

8. Emeralds? What emeralds? I thought those boards were for getting continues! Sonic the Hedgehog, the speedy hero’s debut on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, was just the right mix of fun and challenge. But all that fun got thrown out the window the first time you destroyed Dr. Robotnik only to find out at the end of the closing credits you really didn’t finish the game. Why not? Because you didn’t find all six Chaos Emeralds located in the Bonus Stages. What was really tough about getting them was you were limited on how many times you could try based on the number of levels in the game. At least in Sonic 2 you didn’t need them to actually finish the game.

7. This shouldn’t be so hard to do. WWF Wrestlemania for the NES had everything Pro Wrestling didn’t (even though the game itself was inferior) – real wrestlers, their music and some signature moves (sort of). What it didn’t have was an easy way to climb the turnbuckle for some aerial action. For those of you who actually could climb the ropes, good for you – you also knew you could only climb the two at the bottom of the ring, like the others were on fire or something.

6. Bo knows Tecmo Super Bowl. You couldn’t tackle him. Enough said.

5. What do you mean I have to start at the beginning? With all due respect to Fester’s Quest (which is my Honorable Mention pick for this blog), Zelda II: The Adventure of Link gets my award for “Game With Dumbest Rule That Says You Have to Start From the Very Beginning After Every Continue.” I know you can create some shortcuts on the overworld map as you go along, but having to fight your way every time you want to reach a temple gets quite tedious after, I don’t know, the first 300 times! And usually by the time you reach the temple half your energy is gone… and don’t get me started on the heart container/life meter argument!

4. I actually think I did break my controller because of this game. Ever played Battletoads on the NES? Ever think the game was some kind of sick joke being played by companies like Sega who hoped you’d throw your NES through the wall and purchase one of their systems? I hate this game – I really do. And I thought the air bike part, with more than 100 obstacles to duck, dodge and jump was impossible until I saw a guy on YouTube finish it.

3. You can really complete this game. You just have to try harder to not go mad over it. Many blame it for the video game crash in the 1980s. There are tons of them buried in a western United States landfill. And it was developed in something like a month or so. But E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial did have an ending, contrary to what others may say. The key was figuring out what you were supposed to do before giving up on the game. In fact, you can beat the game in about 10-15 minutes if you know where all the pieces to the phone are off-hand.

2. So let me get this straight: If he hits me once, I’m toast? The Punch-Out!! series for the NES gave us two of the most brutally-hard bosses in gaming history in “Iron” Mike Tyson and Mr. Dream. What single human being would be harder to beat? If they hit you once, you were Michael Spinks on the canvas! And for the entire first round, all you could really do was tuck your tail between your legs and hope to not get grazed by a punch. Then afterwards, you had to figure out how many times he’ll swing based on the number of eyes he blinks? Like we had time for that?

1. Commando-style action-adventure? Check. Pea-shooting rifle? Check. Three lives to complete the game? Uh, what? For the five or so people who tried completing Contra without using the “Konami Code,” let me offer you a nugget of advice: It ain’t happening. Especially in a game where one hit and you’re dead. The code is there for a reason, and that is because even the best gamer most likely isn’t going to finish this game with just three lives and a limited number of continues. I’ve tried the three-life way several times, not advancing more than one level without continuing. It would be more realistic of there wasn’t that “one shot and you’re out” rule, but I guess the folks at Konami wanted to give us a challenge no one in their right mind can complete. I guess it could be worse – you could have to continue from the beginning each time.

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Top 10: Baddest Weapons From the Past

Posted by ptcgaming on July 9, 2008

For those of us who have been playing video games for the past century or so, we’ve encountered some great weapons we’ve been able to use (See this list) and some really not-so-great ones (The yo-yo in Star Tropics for the NES. Really?). And here’s a list of weapons I’d like to have if I ever have to put together an arsenal to take on and topple, well, pretty much anything. If you feel differently or that I”ve left something out, your comments are welcome.

10. The Gatling-style gun in Wolfenstein 3D

It shootin’ time! Remember when you threw open the door at the beginning of the final stage of Wolf 3D’s first episode only to find that guy behind it holding two of these? It was good to know you had one too, and if ya didn’t there was one hiding behind a wall. Even though this gun drained ammo like it was going out of style while mowing down enemies by the truckload, without it Wolf 3D may not have been as much fun.

9. Kuribo’s Shoe – Super Mario Bros. 3

I remember wondering what the heck this was the first time I stumbled upon it. It was a strange, new enemy, and it left its shoe behind after I stomped it. What a pleasant surprise it was to learn I could take Kuribo’s Shoe for a ride, err, hop. The folks at Nike should find out what this thing’s made of, too, because even spikes can’t mess it up!

8. Simon Belmont’s whip – Castlevania

If the vampires attack, you must whip them! If they come back again, you must whip them! OK, I know, that’s not what Devo really sang, but if Simon’s whip is strong enough to slay Dracula then sign me up for one! By the way, isn’t this one of the most visually appealing games ever on the NES?

7. Gilius Thunderhead’s golden axe – Golden Axe

You’ll notice that on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive version of Golden Axe Gilius Thunderhead’s weapon isn’t golden – it’s silver (or chrome, if you’d prefer). But one thing’s for sure: If a little old man came running and jumping at me swinging an ax that big, I’d be running for the hills. His magic is the weakest of the three heroes in the game, but he makes up for it by wielding a big stick.

6. Hammer Bros. – Super Mario Bros. 3

It’s always great to give the bad guys a taste of their own medicine. Nintendo gave us all a chance to dish out a little payback in SMB3 by letting Mario or Luigi don the Hammer Bros. suit, which could easily destroy pretty much every enemy in the game. This was great, especially since those hammer-throwing baddies have been making me want to throw the controller through the TV since 1985!

5. Spread gun – Contra

Ask anyone who has played Contra, and they’ll be sure to tell you this was by far the best weapon in the game. What other gun allows you to take out several enemies on different levels at one time? And best of all, the Spread went from vertical to horizontal during the two “Base” stages.

4. Ken/Ryu’s fireball – Street Fighter II: The World Warrior

I someday hope to have the ability to channel my own “Ha-dou-ken” and launch fireballs at others. I believe my friends would be impressed.

3. Bionic arm – Bionic Commando

Radd Spencer doesn’t jump, which make his bionic arm all the more important. But what brings it to super-cool status is that it can do so much more! The arm can grab some items and enemies. It can also deflect bullets! Can anything Batman packs do that?

2. Force – R-Type

Not to be confused with “The Force” of a certain series of George Lucas films, the Force in R-Type is a glowing sphere with three levels of power. The levels of power feature different beams and waves. What makes this weapon rank so high is that it has the ability, when used properly, to gradually destroy some of the game’s bosses on its own. You just have to survive long enough for it to do its work. It’s also used as an indestructible shield.

1. The Master Sword – Introduced in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

There may be some out there, but you’d be hard pressed to find a weapon as synonymous with a game as “The Blade of Evil’s Bane.” The scope of the Master Sword’s role in its various appearances throughout the Zelda series has been slightly varied, but for the most part is essentially the same – kill Ganon. The ability to destroy evil in general is what made this weapon No. 1. No machine gun or fireball can do that!

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