Wednesday, June 11, 2008

"...I mean, seriously, Asia? You framed an Asia poster? How hard did the people at the frame store laugh when you brought this in?"

Best Video Games of 1990s (Part One, #25 - #13): Now, I know I've dorked it out here before, but this is probably taking it to a whole 'nother (not particularly cool) level. (But how great is that picture?)

I'll freely admit that this list skews heavily towards sports games, but, if I'm being honest, I spent the bulk of the 90s playing...sports video games, so that was probably inevitable. On that note, off we go:

T25. Name: Jones in the Fast Lane (PC, 1991)
Why it's on the list: I won't lie, this is a truly inspired pick...and the only game on the list that fits on 1.44 MB floppy disk. I always thought this game--described by Wikipedia as The Game of Life crossed with Monopoly, which is accurate enough but doesn't quite capture the quirky humour of the game--was lots of fun and, though I don't have a shred of evidence to back up this assertion, I firmly believe that JitFL is responsible for the Sims-craze of the early 00s. There, I said it.
Favorite moment: racing though university and landing a plum job as a result. That I haven't been able to do this in real life should in no way be held against this game.
Biggest flaw: inexplicably, a bar is not one of the venues in the game.
Unanswered question: What the heck happened to Sierra Entertainment? In the 90s, they released the Police Quest games, Space Quest, King's Quest, and the incredibly filthy Leisure Suit Larry series. Now? Nothing.
Neither here nor there: Go on, download the midi version of the theme music and tell me it's not delightful. I dare you.

T25. Name: Pete Sampras Tennis (Sega Genesis, 1994)
Why it's on the list:
super-simple gameplay (A = lob, B = normal, C = topspin or slice) and--gasp--a tour mode that was actually good, incorporating the four majors. Compare this Virtua Tennis 3, which came out last year for the PS3, and was fun to play, but included a comically thin world tour mode (including a "Wimbledon" draw with 8 players, first to three games wins--weak).
Biggest flaw: I suppose it got a little repetitive after a while, but my biggest beef is with the game's namesake who...was just wayyyy too fucking good. Look, it's bad enough that he was the only professional player in the game, but isn't it a bit of a dick move to put yourself in the game and then be unbeatable? Dirty pool.
Unanswered question: How is it possible that this was the best realistic (thus excluding Mario Tennis, which was fun, but too goofy) tennis game on any console for nearly a decade? I find that almost laughable.

24. Name: Tomb Raider (PS1, 1996)
Why it's on the list:
For anyone under the age of, say, seventeen reading this (a demographic which, I think we can safely surmise, is rather close to zero): yes, kids, before it was crappy film franchise, it was a video game franchise that was kind of awesome...before, admittedly, becoming crappy at that as well. It's probably a stretch to say that this game kicked off the current trend of highly cinematic (complete with cut scenes and original soundtracks), but not a huge one.
Favorite moment: The T-Rex scene. Abjectly terrifying (h/t) when it happened, and still among my top five coolest gaming moments (list does not include moments involving the Tomb Raider nude code, or "nude raider").
Biggest flaw: Not really fair to the first TR, but it's hard not to look at this series as a colossal disappointment, since, while TR2 was ok, it went pretty swiftly off the rails after that.
Fun fact: the original game's plot is so labyrinthine and openly expository that it makes Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull look like a Drabble strip in comparison.

23. Name: GoldenEye 007 (N64, 1997)
Why it's on the list: I don't have to explain myself to you, dammit! Oh, sorry. It's here because it's probably (along with the Madden series), the defining game of my generation. It would, undeniably, be higher on almost any other person's list. But I never really got into it, so here we are.
Favorite moment: when everyone got tired of playing GoldenEye and I knew we could play Mario Kart. (Note: this almost never happened).
Biggest flaw: I sucked pretty hard at this game, partly because I didn't have an N64 (PS1, thanks) so I only got to play at friends' houses, partly because I'm generally pretty rubbish at first person shooters (most common in-game lament from yours truly: "I can't see my body! This is so confusing!!" This was immediately followed by me winning "Most Cowardly."). Also, though I remember nothing from the single-player campaign (did it follow the film's plot? I think so...) I recall it paling in comparison to the multi-player experience.
Quirky fact: 1. According to Rare (the game's developer) the multi-player feature was added as an afterthought, with the majority of the code being written by one guy (Steve Ellis) sitting alone in a room, sustaining himself on Mountain Dew Code Red and Doritos for three months (ok, that last part was made up).
2. My buddies (Bryce, Phil, Jeff, and I'm blanking on the fourth) got so good at multi-player mode and became so concerned that people were "cheating" (i.e. looking at the other three quadrants to figure out where the other players were on the map) that they made what can only be described as a cardboard plus sign that could be fastened to the screen in order to block off sightlines, an invention that, by all rights, really should've been patented by the four of them. (Though it does beg the question: exactly how close did they have to sit to the TV for this device to be effective? I'm guessing somewhere in the 12 to 18 inch range...which would've been a sight to behold (feel free to make your own "12 to 18 inch/sight beholding" joke at this juncture.)

22. Name: You Don't Know Jack Movies (PC, 1997)
Why it's on the list: it's a(n) hilarious game, that somehow never (or, at least, rarely) repeated questions.
Favorite moment: a tie between the game ending Jack Attack (a word association puzzle) and successfully "screwing" someone (forcing them to try to answer a question they don't know--which you could attempt once per contest).
Biggest flaw: none of the other games in the series were nearly as good this one, an out and out irreverent gem.
Fun fact:
the answer to the trivia question in the bottom left hand corner of the this post's screenshot collage is, I believe, #3. And, yes, this will be the only time I mention The Paper Chase here.

21. Name: Top Gear 2 (SNES, 1993)
Why it's on the list: A relatively straightforward racing game--except I'm convinced it was impossible to beat--Top Gear 2 is my lone SNES inclusion--though, if I were ranking the top 400 games of the 90s, StarFox in the discussion--is here because, simply put, it was wildly fun.
Favorite moment: saving your nitro boosts until the last half of the last lap and then chaining them together to vault from 14th to 1st. Very satisfying.
Biggest flaw: see concerns re: it not being beatable above.
Unanswered question: They couldn't have incorporated nitro boosts into the Gran Turismo series? Really??

20. Name: Sid Meier Alpha Centauri (PC, 1999)
Why it's on the list: By all rights, this spot should be reserved for any one of the following: SimCity 3000, Civ II or III, or Railroad Tycoon II--but, for whatever reason, I always enjoyed SMAC (best understood as "Civ III in outer the future...when all the world leaders have gone mad with power and/or created a cult in their own image"--I don't want to get too bogged down in the details, but suffice to say that one victory condition was "transcendence," so...) much more. This was largely because the game at a real atmospheric (not a pun) quality to it, not to mention some kick ass concepts (controlled singularity, temporal mechanics, digital sentience, etc.) and a strong soundtrack to boot.
Favorite moment: Right around when I bought the game, my parents and brother went away for a week and I decided to spend the week drinking beer and playing this game in (in the dark, no less) in my room. I think I played for something like 30 hours over three days. Good times.
Biggest flaw: I may not have played it after that 72 hour rush...which suggests its replayability wasn't exactly off-the-charts.
Unanswered question: How in the world did they not make a sequel to this? And how was this game not a bigger hit? (Yeah, yeah, the latter--which I suspect had something to do with the story being a little too "out there" for some--explains the former, but the Civ games, more grounded in reality than SMAC but also far more tedious, were massive hits. Puzzling.)

19. Name: NBA Jam (Arcade Version, 1992)
Why it's on the list:
the game that kicked off the over-the-top pro sports video game craze (you could make an argument for Arch-Rivals, but, no, it wasn't licensed), NBA Jam, in its original form, was all kinds of fun. 2-on-2 basketball with real NBA players, actual commentary, crazy dunks, being on fire, and ridiculously cheap AI resulting in something like 98% of all games coming down to the final possession? What more could a 13-year old ask for? (Aside from, you know, a girlfriend...)
Favorite moment: March Break, 1993, our competitive basketball coach decided to bribe some bar owner for the use of his NBA Jam system. He agreed (I've always wanted to know how much he gave them) and thus the game ended up in Dave Kuzmanovich's basement for one glorious week. Needless to say, I lived there (literally, I think--it was a week-long sleepover) for that March Break and...played the shit out of that game. Good times.
Biggest flaw: just not as satisfying on a console (in my case: my Sega Genesis). I'm sorry, it wasn't. I recall walking down to MicroPlay with Viktor the day and came out and we were both so psyched. But it never quite matched the arcade version. Also, it was kinda lame that you couldn't substitute in the arcade version (this is especially important when you consider point #3 below).
Unanswered question/Matters of Intrigue: A few things here:
1. apparently, Midway wasn't willing/able to shell out the money needed to get MJ in the game, so, to compensate, they decided to make Scottie Pippen (who was in the game) absolutely-fucking-amazing (like: really, ridiculously good), which I always found amusing. Seems reasonable that, if you were, say, a European child and your first exposure to the NBA was this game, you'd be inclined to think that Pippen was the greatest player that ever lived.
2. The arcade version had Shaq (then with Orlando) and Barkley (Phoenix), while the console version did not. (In Barkley's case, this was because of Barkley: Shut Up and Jam, an almost impossibly bad game that was like some sort of side-scrolling basketball/fighting/RPG--I know!--that sold, unsurprisingly, approximately seven copies. Wise move on Chuck's part, I think we can all agree.)
3. Curious, I decided to look up the original rosters. In an amazing turn, Dallas's team consisted of Derek Harper (meh) and someone named Mike Iuzzolino. Now, not only had I never heard of Iuzzolino prior to yesterday, but--were it not for his entry at'd be certain he never existed. I'll bet you a thousand dollars he has the arcade game in his house, as it has to have been the highlight of his life. Worse still, if you check out Dallas's roster for the 1992-93 season, aside from Jim Jackson and Sean Rooks (both rookies that season), Iuzzolino almost looks like a sensible choice. I mean, my God, how did that team manage to even win...11 games? Wait...they went 11-71!?! That's like the second worst single-season record in history! (Comically, it seems as though the team overachieved, as the Pythagorean calculation--which looks at total points scored and allowed for the year and then determines what their record should have been--says they should have been 8-74. 8-74!)
4. Apparently, the original game actually called goaltending (unless you were on fire), which, I swear I don't remember at all.

18. Name: Ape Escape (PS1, 1999)
Why it's on the list: simple idea (you're a weird looking kid contracted out to retrieve 100 apes who, having been equipped with special helmets are made super-smart and can travel through time--ok, maybe not that simple), combined with increasingly cool trapping devices (the Time Net, Stun Club, etc. ), and terrific level designs. Basically, it's the opposite of Project X (funnier too!).
Favorite moment: one of the monkeys in the game is named "Kubrick." SCEI, I tip my cap to you.
Biggest flaw: very (too?) challenging in places.

17. Name: NFL Blitz (Arcade/PS1, 1997/1998)
Why it's on the list: The definitive bar game (that's right, suck it Golden Tee), Blitz is also the rare arcade game that lost little in transition when ported to consoles. (The PS1 version, in particular, was great.)
Favorite moment: Hmmm....not sure if have one. Sacking your opponent three straight times (and thus creating a preposterous 4th and 65 situation) was always pretty satisfying. Misha and I used to play this game quite a bit and we were very even most of the time, except when I played as the Vinnie Testaverde-led Jets, and I was (for reasons that are still unknown) absolutely unstoppable. These games would always conclude with me obnoxiously chanting "J-E-T-S. J-E-T-S. J-E-T-S. Jets! Jets! Jets!"and then Misha smashing his controller (which, since it was my PS1, was, I'll note, actually my controller) onto the ground. Yes, those truly were the golden years.
Biggest flaw: Directly contributed to me being horribly anti-social at any bar that had the game. Also, this may seem especially nitpicky (given that it was a hardcore arcade game), but the field goal kicking mechanics were a little wonky/borderline unfair. And, finally, the original game had too many money plays.

T15. Name: Hardball 5 (multiple consoles, but I played it most on the PS1, 1996) and Bottom of the 9th (PS1, 1997)
Why they're on the list:
Hardball (lots of depth and a stathead's dream; it also had classic teams and classic stadiums, which was unprecedented at the time), BOT9 (comparatively shallow, but very easy to play, with easily the best batter-pitcher interface for years).
Memorable moment: After spending countless hours updating the H5 rosters for the current season, Misha then (too?) quickly pointed out that I couldn't get mad at him because, weeks earlier, I had inadvertently deleted his NHL '96 season, which he was something like seventy games into.
Biggest flaw: Baserunning, which was way too hard in Hardball (advancing multiple baserunners at once never seemed to work like it should) and way too easy in BOT9 (we used to deliberately get into rundowns, since the defensive team would invariably screw up, and you could easily grab an extra base).

14. Name: Super Mario Brothers 3 (NES, 1990)
Why it's on the list:
Because it's the defining first-gen side-scroller, had interestingly themed levels, and was an all-around fun game to play.
Favorite moment: In the spring of 1990, Jon invited me over to his parents' place for a sleepover, with the major selling point being that he had just purchased a copy of SMB3. I, only owning a Sega Master System at that point (and it was actually my dad's, as he'd received it for his 40th birthday) and growing weary with Quartet and Out Run jumped at the chance to play some Nintendo. Anyway, I get there and Jon loads up the game, and proceeds to take the first turn. Fair enough, it was his after all. I'll play after his game's over. Except he keeps playing. And playing. And playing. Despite my best efforts--"boy, I sure would like to play this new Mario game!", "I think your mom is calling you," and "hmmm, you seem to have an enormous bladder for the typical 11-year old" among them--I never got to play. I can't even remember if he beat the game. All I can recall is sitting on his bed, increasingly perplexed but also really into the game, and watching him play for something like eight hours straight. And then, in the morning, we had pancakes.
Biggest flaw: was prominently--awesomely, at the time; hilariously, now--featured in The Wizard.
Unanswered question: why was Jon such a dick that night? I'll be honest, I don't really have any, so let's just bag on The Wizard a little bit longer. Gay movie poster or gayest movie poster? Those are your only choices. Has any movie released in the last twenty years aged worse than this one? I've thought about it, and while both Wayne's World movies (and, if you don't believe me, check out WW2 next time it's on cable--it's painful), the Austin Powers franchise, and Karate Kid II (which, you could argue, was never good and thus not eligible) are all in contention, The Wizard is still a cut above.

Roger Ebert has a pretty hilarious review of The Wizard up on his site, where he points out that, for a disturbingly large portion of the movie, the kids are placed in a series of precarious situations (hitchhiking through the desert and loitering outside a Vegas casino, just to name a couple) completely without adult supervision (or even the mere mention of adult supervision...which suggests the film tacitly endorses all of this).

Personally, I'll always remember this movie for Lucas, the video game bully who intimidates Jimmy by wielding not one, but two Power Gloves. Given that I've actually experience the sheer suckiness of the Power Glove firsthand (an experience so disappointing that it's probably worthy of its own post), I think it's safe to assume that the Director's Cut includes a scene where a disgusted Lucas, flummoxed by how the imprecise controls sucked all the fun out of Mike Tyson's Punch Out, throws both of his Gloves on the ground and hops on them repeatedly (not unlike a cartoon character).

13. Name: Bill Walsh College Football (Sega Genesis, 1993)
Why it's on the list:
Because it was the first game to feature college teams (technically, Super Play Action Football on the SNES--a game so flawed from a design perspective, it must be noted, that Misha, Kolin Jones, and I could only complete a full season by calling fake punts for every offensive play--featured college teams, but it only included the team names and made no effort to incorporate actual college players) and because it was one of the first games to feature a "deep" (ok, maybe not by 2008 standards) playbook. Also, when I bought it, my game came with index cards for all the teams in the game (complete with player ratings and info about the schools)--very cool.
Memorable moment: note that I don't say "favorite" here. Some Saturday night in early '94, Misha and I were playing an intense back and forth game (what can I say? We were hella cool) and I engineered a miraculous last minute drive to take a 3 point lead with 0:04 to go. I kicked it deep--for reasons I'll explain in a second--and, to my horror, Misha returned the kick for a touchdown to win the game. This was extra painful because, to that point, we'd assumed that returning a kickoff for a touchdown was flat-out impossible (even returning one past your own 35 was comparatively rare) and, in fact, it never happened again. This led me to believe the game was rigged against me (a come-to-think-of-it-kind-of-creepy delusion that would rear its ugly head at another point--see part two). I think I needed an angry nap after that one.
Biggest flaw: 1. OK...the play balancing wasn't, you know, the best, as certain players--notably DE #99 (aka Hugh Green) for Pitt 1980, RB #30 for Nebraska 1983 (Mike Rozier), QB #22 for Boston College 1984 (Doug Flutie), and QB #17 for Florida State 1993 (Charlie Ward)--were virtually unstoppable.
2. Index cards aside, the game shipped with player numbers but (as per NCAA rules) no names. Now, in 2008, this may not seem like a big issue (though: more on this in sec), but in 1993 this was actually a major problem. Eventually, I had to go out and buy a sports almanac just so I could figure out who the hell these guys were supposed to be. Part of me now thinks that, had the Almanac route failed, I would've taken to cold calling SIDs.
Unanswered question: Not that I blame BWCF for this at all (since, more than anything, this can be pinned on the NCAA), but since it was the first game to do this, I must mention it: how can it be that, fifteen years on, developers aren't allowed to use players' names? The numbered players are obviously modeled on the real players, so why not go that extra step? You're very obviously cashing in on the student-athletes' likeness regardless of the inclusion of their given names. What a farce.

Part two to follow...


Ryan Ward said...

Hey, I've been reading your blog ever since the Lost post, and love your lists! I certainly hope that Super Mario World cracks the top ten, because it's probably one of the best games ever.

RT Murphy said...

Cross Country Canada better be on the Top Ten- or Oregon Trail, since you're an unabashed 'Americanophile', which incidentally happens to be the exact opposite of David Bowie.

Jan-Marie said...

Great post! More sports games than I expected, but they seem appropriate since you're able to back them up with funny stories.

I remember you and Misha playing Hardball 5 and Bottom of the 9th and you guys, not unlike what Jon did to you that one sleepover, wouldn't let me play. But, it was still pretty fun to watch you guys play.

I'm taking partial credit for Top Gear 2 being on your list since I reminded you that it's worth including. And let the record show, I have actually beaten the game. The game wasn't as simple as you remember, because you had so save up cash to buy a new engine, faster nitros, and better brakes, to name a few, to stay competitive in the later races (which was part of the reason the game was aweosome, because it allowed you to upgrade your car). Also, it was necessary to save up to buy a stronger frame, since this is the only car racing game (that I can remember) where bumping into cars wears down your armor, and thus, slows you down (something the ultra-realistic Gran Turismo still doesn't do). Anyway, great inclusion.

That being said, it's the only SNES game on your list!? How is that possible? To name a few that were inexplicably omitted: Super Mario World, Super Mario Kart (better than the 64 version), Donkey Kong Country, Street Fighther II.

Now, if you're going with the approach that the games need to be both good and influential or original, then it makes sense to include Super Mario Bros. 3 (even though, technically, the first Super Mario Bros. is the defining first-gen side-scroller, but it was released in the 80's) and not Super Mario World. But, this one typically infuriates me with lists since SMW is actually the better game by far. This is the same reason for why I think AFI's top 100 movies list is stupid, because what they truly mean to call the list is the 100 most influential movies of all time, and because Citizen Kane (a movie from 1941, and is probably considererd the most influential movie since it was maybe the first movie to include sound! Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating.) should not be #1, since no one born after 1970 would truly rather watch this on any given night than a more modern good movie (if you hadn't seen either, would you be more excited to see Citizen Kane or Fight Club?).

And following Ryan's lead, you should also include All the Right Type, Mario Teaches Touch Typing, and Hodge-Podge from the Socrates (although, these might all be from the 80's).

Great list. I'm looking forward to post #2.

Mark P said...

As a film major, I first need to comment on the previous comment. Citizen Kane is miles better than Fight Club, which (for my money) is the most overrated movie of the last decade. Just so Jan-Marie and I can stay friends later in life, I totally agree with the point that SMW and the original Mario Kart were horrible omissions. Super Mario World, for my money, is the best video game ever made besides the crack-like addiction that is Tetris.

The other 'screwing' method in You Don't Know Jack games is somewhat more blatant. In games when I was leading by a billion points, during the Jack Attack, Eric and Dave used to tackle me while Trev buzzed in wrong answers under my name. It was Tonya Harding-esque.

RT Murphy said...

First: while CCC was released in '91, and is appropriate for the list, I will mea culpa on the fact that I was off the mark by about two decades with Oregon Trail. That's what I get for going out of my way to make a Bowie joke. BOWIE!!!

Onto the 'peat and momatoes' of the list...

Games I certainly hope are in the Top Ten: Mario Kart (64, preferably but only for its relationship-rupturing reverse-Toad's Turnpike), Smash Brothers (any will do), Perfect Dark (my choice over Goldenye for the best N64 multiplayer), Pilotwings (either) and perhaps a Silent Hill game for the sheer art and experience. Yes, most of these are Nintendo.

Goldeneye: Everyone I know made a 'privacy plus' at some point, once you get past a certain level of dedication. Missing war stories: historical accords not to use Oddjob or Mayday, one-hit-kill throwing knife dogfights in the Temple.

Top Gear 2: Loved it for the little speech bubbles that accompanied nitro use. Although, according to J-M above we now know why you found the game unbeatable.

Alpha Centauri: Hands-down my favorite Civ type game as well- nails the 'speculative fiction' atmosphere while being original on top of it. I found it replayable but more over the span of years- it has been installed and deleted more than any other software I have ever had. No sequels, but had a good expansion pack. Great soundbytes accompanying the tech discoveries- Superstring being described as 'a brave little theory' still sticks with me today. Also, it had a manual that you had to be careful not to knock over onto a household pet lest you crush its skull. Lastly, it was the reason I had to buy a new monitor that could handle the then-mindblowing 800x600 resolution the game required.

NBA Jam: Three words: Jam. Tee. Eee. Repeat menacingly as desired.

As far as baseball games, I preferred the NES Little League Baseball and Basewars, the latter of which you could super-stack a clean-up hitter to always rake in the dingers. Plus you could drive over a guy with your centaur-tank if he tried to steal bases- a feat I have sadly failed to replicate in my adult life.

Jon Arnett said...

Seriously...goldeneye, the 4th person escapes you?? Obviously that was me…I used to skip 5th period (until I dropped it completely) to play at Bryce’s nearly every afternoon, what’s wrong with you??

Regarding the top gear 2, it’s sacrilegious that you mentioned putting nitro boost into gran tursimo…the whole point of gran turismo (and in the actual title) is “the ultimate driving simulator”. They made the whole need for speed, nitrous factory games for arcaders like you.

How I have never heard of that Alpha Centauri game from you, or anyone else is also attacking my mind right now. This sounds like a game I would have obsessed over equally (well okay, not 30 hours straight in the dark obsessed or anything, while no doubt listening to the Radiohead – ok computer album on repeat).

And where is syndicate, or syndicate wars, possibly the best games ever made, which shockingly do not yet have modern console of PC recreations…coming soon I hope.

For the super Mario 3 record, I would like to mention, that you did in fact get to play once that night; albeit a short game, because you hadn’t yet mastered the controls, and I believe promptly fell into a hole because of learning the new physics of how hard and when to hit the jump button. As far as I know you only got to play after I finally did use the bathroom (damn you 2L coke bottles!). If it makes you feel any better, Colin Butler could recount the exact same story, although replace Super Mario 3 with Megaman 2.

For other games I believe should have been included, although might not have been your cup of tea:

1)Wing Commander 1 & 2, and all the stupid add-on packs This one was awesome, because to install the entire game required approximately 2 days effort, and was literally on around 16 floppy disks, and several hours of infuriating command.sys configuration to make the sound work properly. Computers back then had normally less than 0.4% of the ram they do now, so you usually had to pick, good graphics or good sound, mutually exclusive unless you were an uber-nerd dos guy (which I shamefully was). It’s rumored they’re bringing this back on the 360 & PS3
2)Syndicate 1 & 2 (mentioned above)
3)Hardball 3 for the PC Only for the fact that it was the first game ever on pc that featured voice through the pc speaker, and would say what we eventually figured out was “here’s the pitch”, in what sounded like a man talking through a sock, into a megaphone, that was then broadcast through a subway PA system while a train went by…under water.
4)Hard Drivin’ Wow, I remember playing this at the arcade when I was about 11, (released in 1989), and I remember thinking it was exactly how a real car must be to drive. This was the first game with force feedback ever made, and it had 3 pedals, and a shifter. Do you know how confusing working a clutch is for an 11 year old…I know Kyle does, because he’s almost 30 and still can’t
5)Dragon’s Lair This was by far, the worst game ever made, in the arcade, or on any console. For anyone that didn’t play it, the basic concept was that you watched a sort of animated sequence (which was impressive at the time, looking like a cartoon rather than blocks and lines), and you would then take control of the guy (sort of) and move in a certain direction…I think. The problem is that no one really knew how to play it; as I recall there was one button, and a controller stick, and you never really knew what the hell to do, no one did. It was clearly designed by some intensely evil genius after several years of deep psychological testing, and no one should have ever played this game, but the god damned demo that played constantly at the arcade looked so awesome, that it had to be attempted several times at every arcade visit. I literally never made it past the second screen. And I still bought the home version when it came out. Piece of shit.

Jesus Christ said...

What the fuck is my mom reading this for?

Kyle Wasko said...

Part two should be up by sometime Saturday.

Responses/Apologies/Rationalizations to part one comments coming soon.

Kyle Wasko said...

Ryan: glad you're enjoying. To my everlasting shame, SMW isn't on the list at all. Looking quickly at its Wikipedia entry, I can see now that I should've included it instead of SMB3, but then how could I have made all those Wizard jokes? You see the bind I'm in.

Truth be told, I don't really remember playing World much at all. Could someone briefly explain why it was so much better than 3? Could you save your game? That alone might be enough.

Ryan: I'll never understand why Perfect Dark wasn't a bigger hit. From what I recall, it had better graphics and a better story, yet wasn't a tenth as popular as GoldenEye. That said, I think I only played it once.

As for Pilotwings--or, as I refer to it, StarFox Jr., I can honestly say that I've never tried it. Was it actually really good? Surprising.

A fellow SMAC fan! (And, boy, do I hope that reads better than it sounds...). I thought I was the only one.

Cross-Country, I had to look this one up. It sounds...awful (and, for what it's worth, anything that you may or may not have been forced to play in your school's computer lab--which, at my public school, consisted of a single 386 on a desk in the back corner of the room--is automatically disqualified). Is there a patch for CCC2 where you can lobby Parliament (or, failing that, whine to CNN on a daily basis) for a pay raise due to rising gas prices? It's never too young to teach kids about the dangers getting a sub-prime mortgage.

Basewars, Little League World Series (and, for the heck of it, let's toss in RBI Baseball and Baseball Simulator 2000...which had the dreaded "stop and start pitch"--so devastating it had be made illegal in our circle of friends) were all good, but didn't quite rank on my list. Also, I think you're forgetting how impossible LLWS was to beat unless you played as Chinese Taipei (which no democracy loving 10-year old would do)--see my LLWS running diary from last summer. I do have a baseball game in my top five...and it's a doozy. Stay tuned.

Finally, as for NBA Jam: TE, it was, as we discussed, pretty awesome (just being able to substitute players was shit cool), but the hotspots almost ruined it for me. Nothing worse than working hard to build up a ten point lead only for the computer to decide that it was entitled to a seven-point three pointer. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Also, I seem to recall a full game of TE costing $4 (instead of $2 for the original)--sons of bitches.

Shuk: The SNES Mario Kart thing has really thrown me--I address it in part two--but I'd argue that the N64 version is more worthy of inclusion simply by virtue of the decision to enclose the utterly execrable Rainbow Road (God, I hate that track in the original version!)

The most overrated movie of the last decade thing has distracted me for the past five minutes. American Beauty (which is very good, but not the outright gem that people remember) and Spider-Man would definitely be in my Top 5.

I expect better of Trev and Eric. Dave, on the other hand...

More to come.

Kyle Wasko said...

Taylor (aka Spaz, aka Jan-Marie: you were supposed to you the money in Top Gear 2 to upgrade your car? Oh, man, I blew it all on cyber-high class prostitutes and bling! No wonder I couldn't beat it! I'm kidding, of course--I think it was around Greece or India, that I simply ceased to be competitive (too many tight turns). But, yes, full marks to you for mentioning the game (I think that playing it on the Sisnetts' 60 inch TV probably helped).

SNES Mario Kart: give me three reasons why it's better than the N64 version. There was no four-player mode! Could call with DK--I always enjoyed that. But SF2, I know for a fact that you didn't play it. I thought about including Tekken 3 as my token fighting game, but it just missed the cut.

Socrates! What a reference. (Also acceptable: Where in America's Past is Carmen Sandiego?.) There's $250 mom and dad will never have back. You know, you can actually buy this on eBay-- Reserve price? $24.99. Nice. All of that said, it came out in 1988 and--I'd actually forgotten this--had a wireless keyboard and two wireless controllers. That's...kind of impressive.

Jon: my apologies about the GoldenEye snub. For some reason I had you working at Adventure Electronics during that phase.

Gran Turismo: "the ultimate driving simulator...except it's impossible to damage your car!" Syndicate I never really got into (you and Phil tried to show me how to play once, but I wasn't having it).

re: my Mario 3 playing prowess--> my official response is that my muscles had atrophied too
severely to play properly.

Re: your list. Literally, the only thing I remember about the Wing Commander series is what you described about the installation process. By the time it had finished, I'd resigned myself to the fact that, if it wasn't the greatest game ever made, I'd refuse to like. (It wasn't.)

Oh, original Hardball announcer--whatever happened to you after you were unceremoniously dumped for Al Michaels? We'll never know.

You leave my non-standard driving the hell out of this, Jon!

Don't think I ever played Dragon's Lair (I still don't understand...did you really think the home version would be any better? Maybe that cut-scene hypnotized you), but I'd always heard that the E.T. movie tie-in game was the worst game ever.

JC: "Hey, hey, hey, bitches is runnin' wild, man."