Pacing the Cage

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

Archive for the ‘Arcade’ Category

The Evolution of Donkey Kong

Posted by ptcgaming on May 1, 2009

Clockwise, from top left: "Donkey Kong" (arcade, 1981); "Donkey Kong Junior" (arcade, 1982); "Donkey Kong 64" (N64, 1999); and "Donkey Kong Country" (SNES, 1994)
Clockwise, from top left: “Donkey Kong” (arcade, 1981); “Donkey Kong Junior” (arcade, 1982); “Donkey Kong 64” (N64, 1999); and “Donkey Kong Country” (SNES, 1994)

 

For the man responsible for such series as “The Legend of Zelda” and “Star Fox,” it all started with a carpenter, a damsel in distress and a very large ape. “Donkey Kong” (1981) was Shigeru Miyamoto’s first video game creation, one that has spawned several sequels and remains a Nintendo staple even today.
The premise of the original “Donkey Kong” was simple: Donkey Kong kidnapped a woman (now known as Pauline), and it was up to a carpenter named Jumpman (now known as a plumber named Mario) to save her. Two sequels were spun off the original: 1982’s “Donkey Kong Junior,” still to this day the only video game where Mario plays the villain, and 1983’s “Donkey Kong 3,” a game more practice for the Orkin Man than a platformer (You actually have to spray bugs with bug spray).
There was then a lull in new DK video game production until 1994, when “Donkey Kong Country” was released for the Super NES. DKC was the first game in the series not produced or directed by Miyamoto (it was developed by video game developer Rare), but was still revolutionary in its use of pre-rendered 3D graphics. Also, the series took on a new format by switching from a static-screen design to side-scrolling levels, more along the lines of the “Super Mario Bros.” series.
In 1999, Rare released “Donkey Kong 64” for the Nintendo 64, a full-3D platformer similar to “Super Mario 64.” This was the first game to require the N64’s Expansion Pak, which provided more RAM for enhanced graphics and environments.
In between DKC and DK64, several other titles in the series were released for both consoles and handhelds, including: “Donkey Kong Country 2” (1995); “Donkey Kong Land” (1995); “Donkey Kong Country 3” (1996); “Donkey Kong Land 2” (1996); “Donkey Kong Land 3” (1997); and “Diddy Kong Racing” (1997).

Posted in Arcade, Evolution, Game Boy, N64, SNES | 1 Comment »

Legend of the static arcade screen

Posted by ptcgaming on April 28, 2009

When you played games like "Galaxian," this is what you got: A single screen where all the action takes place. (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

When you played games like "Galaxian," this is what you got: A single screen where all the action takes place. (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

For those of you who didn’t grow up in the age of “Pac-Man” or the Atari 2600, the concept of all the action in a video game taking place on a single, static screen might sound strange. But if it weren’t for “Donkey Kong,” you might have never had “Super Mario Bros.” With no “Space Invaders,” “Galaxian” or “Asteroids,” you might have never had “Star Fox.” And without “Frogger” you might have never had, well, a dozen or more ports, copies or clones of “Frogger.”

Truth be told, many of the most famous (and even hardest) video games and franchises ever developed began as a game on a static screen. In “Donkey Kong,” you controlled Jumpman as he attempted to rescue the heroine from the giant ape’s clutches. Jumpman eventually became Mario, with a color palette swap his brother Luigi was born, and the rest is video game history.

“Pac-Man” was a staple in the 1980s, and anyone who watches “Seinfeld” reruns knows the importance of having the highest score in “Frogger.” (Just a side note: You couldn’t actually enter your initials on the high score list, and George’s score was way more than the actual “Frogger” world record.)

Sadly, I think that over the years these games have become less appreciated. High-end graphics, enhanced sound and universal controllers have put these games on the back burner. I do wish today’s gamer could experience the challenge of “Joust” or what Mario was like when he was just a plumber clearing out the sewers of New York City. I stayed up late many nights playing home console versions of static-screen staples such as “Space Invaders,” “Galaxian,”  “Donkey Kong Jr.” and “Centipede,” among others. And it was great, even without the 3D graphics and surround sound.

Posted in Arcade, Retro Gaming | Leave a Comment »

Do you miss the arcade?

Posted by ptcgaming on April 23, 2009

The lines to play "Street Fighter II" at the arcade were usually pretty long. (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

The lines to play "Street Fighter II" at the arcade were usually pretty long. (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

I remember many moons ago, while growing up, how every shopping mall had an arcade. There was even at one time a standalone arcade in the town I lived in. There was wall-to-wall video games and pinball machines (you know, those things young kids say grandpa played).  I remember lines waiting for turns at machines, and how you put your quarters on the console shelf to proclaim “I got next.”

Sadly, those days are just about gone, at least where I live. While the local movie theater has a few games, the nearest “arcade” is in one of those arcade/pizza party/goofy golf-type places a half-hour away. And I’d have to purchase a movie ticket to even have access to the mini-arcade at the theater!

So my question to you today is “Do you miss the arcade?” Answer the poll below, and leave any additional comments in the “Comments” area.

Posted in Arcade | 1 Comment »

Character File: Ryu Hayabusa

Posted by ptcgaming on April 13, 2009

 

"Gee, that looks really far!" (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

"Gee, that looks really far!" (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

First appearance: “Ninja Gaiden” (Arcade/NES, 1988)

So your dad has disappeared and now you have to seek revenge on those who may have done him wrong. What is a ninja to do? How ’bout slap on the ol’ ninja getup and start kicking some serious tail, of course!

From the beginning, Ryu Hayabusa’s adventures haven’t just been full of butt kicking and wall jumping. They’ve also been pretty hard. The original NES trilogy has been deemed one of the most difficult series of games ever developed for the console.

Ryu is definitely one bad… dude. Using his mighty sword and the occasional Spirit Clone, Ryu can literally defeat demons and darkness. The problem is once he completes one game-long mission, circumstances require another one to begin. Of course, this leads to great job security.

In fact, Ryu is still a video game staple today. While his roots began at the arcade and with the NES and Sega Master System, he’s still trouncing foes today via the Xbox 360. The 3D environments on the 360 of course allow his character to appear more dynamic and much more detailed. He’s also been featured in the “Dead or Alive” video game series.

Ryu fans who also like “Halo 3” should be happy to hear there is an unlockable armor called “Hayabusa” in the game. The pieces of armor are earned by collecting all hidden Skulls in campaign mode. The “Katana” body piece can be earned by achieving a 1,000/1,000 gamerscore.

Posted in Arcade, Characters, NES | 1 Comment »

Retro Game Review: Pit-Fighter

Posted by ptcgaming on December 22, 2008

What fighting games looked like before steroid testing.

Platform: Arcade
Released: 1990
Developer: Atari Games

Background:
“Pit-Fighter” was, well, I don’t know what exactly to call it – strange, risque, a cross between professional wrestling and a Jean-Claude Van Damme movie – I really don’t know. Strangely, though, this pre-“Street Fighter II” 2D fighting game was actually revolutionary – it featured digitized characters modeled after real-life actors. In fact, “Pit-Fighter” (gasp!) looks better than some of the latest fighters do. I remember first playing this game in a convenience store near the house I grew up in, and even then that guy in the leather mask seemed a bit odd to me.

Graphics: 5/5

I know, I know. But you have to understand I’m comparing this game to others that came out around the same time, so then it looks great. But the digitized character modeling, along with a crowd that actually looks like people, was the closest thing you got to realistic in 1990.

Sound: 2.5/5
There are a lot of generic sounds in this game. Otherwise, nothing much to write home about. While the graphics were top-notch, the sound was anything but.

Controls: 3.5/5

The arcade configuration was a joystick and three buttons (punch, kick, jump). Pressing all three face buttons at the same time resulted in your character performing a “super move.”

Gameplay: 3/5

You can pick from three fighters – Buzz, Ty and Kato (or Larry, Curly and Moe if you want them to be) – and each has its own fighting style. Then you have to fight eight opponents, capping off with a final match against the “Masked Warrior.” Meanwhile, people with knives or sticks would sometimes interfere with your match. And in a multiplayer game, all playable characters had to beat the tar out of each other to decide who fights the “Masked Warrior,” since only one person has the unfortunate opportunity – er, ultimate chance – to face the final match. By the way, don’t stay in the crowd too long – they’ll throw you back in!

Overall: 3.5/5

Using the composite of all the scores above to get this score can be misleading. Why? Because this game really isn’t that good. While looking back at how great it was for 1990, I still can’t defend this one today. I mean come on, have you actually played this?

Posted in Arcade, Reviews | Leave a Comment »

Retro Game Review: Pong

Posted by ptcgaming on October 24, 2008

Say what you want about how this game looks, but you probably wouldn’t have many video games to play at all had this not been created.

Platform: Arcade
Released: 1972
Developer: Atari Inc.

Background: Anyone who spends hours on end playing Wii Sports, Madden or NBA 2K can thank Allan Alcorn. Why, you ask? Because Alcorn developed “Pong” (even though Magnavox had earler developed a similar game and won a lawsuit in regard to it. Atari’s “Pong” is more well-known, anyway). Without this barebones (by today’s standards) video game, who knows whether or not the gaming industry takes off into the 1980s and becomes the multi-billion-dollar industry it is today? The instructions were simple: “Avoid missing ball for high score.” It was so popular, home console versions were also developed.

Graphics: 1/5
Let’s not kid ourselves here. All “Pong” consisted of was a group of white lines and dots on a black background.

Sound: 1/5
Nothing more than a couple beeps and blips.

Controls: 5/5
You moved your paddle with those famous round “paddle” controllers that were also popular with the Atari 2600 console. So easy the drunkest guy in the bar could figure it out (and I think that was actually the idea).

Gameplay: 3.5/5
“Pong” was hard: not “Mega Man” hard, but difficult enough. Your timing had to perfect to hit the ball right, and the ball bounced around at some funny angles.

Overall: 2.625/5
You’re not going to find yourself spending entire weekends in front of the TV playing “Pong,” but I hope you get an appreciation for it if you haven’t yet. Sure, it’s nothing at all to look at, but it does give a great example of how far video games have come. What were once nothing more than a bunch of lines and dots on the screen has evolved into realistic-looking games that narrow the line between what’s real and what’s just a game.

Posted in Arcade, Atari, Reviews | 1 Comment »

Retro Game Review: Yie Ar Kung-Fu

Posted by ptcgaming on October 21, 2008

My money is on the little guy.

Platform: Arcade
Released: 1985
Developer: Konami

Background: Yes folks, there actually were fighting games before “Street Fighter II” came along (There had to be an original “Street Fighter,” right?). Now truth be told, compared to SFII and “Mortal Kombat,” they weren’t that great. One of those early arcade fighters was “Yie Ar Kung-Fu,” a Konami contribution to the genre. You played as the fighter Oolong and had to defeat 11 other fighters over the course of two gauntlets. The fighters were faced in a set order and supposedly got harder as you went, but some of the middle fighters seemed easier to me.

Oh, and did I mention you only had three lives to do this? My bad.

Graphics: 3/5
It’s like watching Looney Tunes fight. OK, the fighters don’t look that much like cartoons, but they don’t look overly real either. The black outlines on the fighters’ sprites is so thick their movements look more like goo than anything. The backgrounds aren’t that bad, which saves this game visually.

Sound: 3.5/5
There is in-fight music, sound effects and a little bit of speech throughout.

Controls: 2/5
Don’t expect fluid movements while playing this. You can punch and kick, high and low, as well as jump. The problem is that when you jump, you don’t have much control over how high or how far. And kicking while in the air is difficult – scratch that – nearly impossible. The direction of your jump is shown by the little yellow arrow that follows your guy around.

Gameplay: 2.25/5
I’ll admit this game is fun to play – at first. But once all of its little quirks begin to come out, you’ll quickly become tired of it. And since it’s an early fighting game, the hit points on each character aren’t perfect, which means you might clock a guy in the head two or three times but only actually hit him once. I was torn between giving this game a 2 or a 2.5 for gameplay, so I settled for the middle.

Overall: 2.69/5
It’s no “SFII: Hyper Fighting,” but if you want to see how fighting games were in the early stages, check out Yie Ar Kung-Fu. You probably won’t be finding it in many arcades these days, but there are ported versions available on newer home consoles (Warning: the NES version is completely different from the arcade). It probably won’t dazzle you with top-notch graphics, sound and gameplay, but it’ll give you a good idea on how far fighting games have come.

Posted in Arcade, Reviews | 1 Comment »