It’s been nearly a month since I added anything to my retro collection, but a trip to Stateline Video Games changed that on Monday.
In total, nine NES games, one game each for SNES and Genesis, and two PlayStation games were acquired. I had to make some tough decisions, considering how short on funds I am and with E3 just two weeks away, but here’s what I got:
Baseball (NES): Most people– NES fans and general video game fans– don’t like Baseball. It’s understandable. Players have no control over fielders, there are no stats, each team and player is essentially the same, and it’s a rudimentary game at best. Having said that, it’s also based on Nintendo’s little-known Vs. Baseball coin-op. I have fond memories of playing it in a couple of local arcades back in 1985. The premise of Vs. Baseball was to play as much baseball as you could before the timer ran out. The timer was boosted when players scored runs and lost a certain amount of time when the opponent scored. Unfortunately, the timer mechanic was removed for the home version, so players were left with a basic experience that lost a little something in the conversion process. Ah, well. I still like it.
Bump & Jump (NES): I actually played a port of this coin-op on my Commodore 64 when I was younger and never played the NES port until I picked this up. I either lost a lot of skill or this version is harder. My best effort is still under 30,000 points, so I have a long way to go. I like the mechanic of ramming cars off the road and jumping to clear obstacles is not only a neat idea… but it’s a required skill in spots. I’m a little underwhelmed after a few plays, but am happy that I added Bump & Jump to my collection.
Demon Sword (NES): This game plays a lot like The Legend of Kage, so it’s no surprise that Taito was the publisher. I haven’t spent a lot of time playing this just yet, but have determined that I’ll be reading the instruction manual at some point soon. There are a lot of things about the gameplay that I don’t quite understand, so I need to brush up before giving this game another go. Not sure I made a good buying choice here, based on first impression.
Double Dribble (NES): This is the first of five Konami games that I picked up in this haul. It was cheap ($3), and it’s a very simple game of basketball. This coin-op conversion doesn’t have the epic performance of the National Anthem from the arcade game, but it’s still fun to play in short bursts and no tokens or quarters are required. Obviously video game basketball mechanics improved after Double Dribble, and Konami would later go on to make some really enjoyable arcade-style hoops games including Run ‘N Gun (ARC), NBA Give ‘n Go (SNES), and NBA In The Zone (PlayStation). I like to look back on Double Dribble as one of the better early arcade basketball games, and am glad I found it cheap.
Jackal (NES): This was one of the tough decisions that I was talking about. I chose this over Super C, mostly because it was half the price. I’m happy with my decision here. Jackal is a bit easier to play and still carries shooting and action mechanics that are engaging and enjoyable. My first play was pretty successful, making it to Stage 3 without having lost a life. I think I’m actually better at the game now than I was back in the early 1990s. I know that I have to add some Contra games to my library, but until then, Jackal scratches my war-action itch.
Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition (NES): If you read this entry in my Countdown to 40 series, you’ll probably recognize this game as one of the first NES games that I ever owned. It was part of my big Christmas gift back in 1990, and when I saw it at the store on Monday, I knew I had to have it again. This game was developed by RARE Coin-It, who put together some great arcade and game show conversions for the NES along with some awesome original work. The answers here are a bit dated now, and my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. I’ve since forgotten what the correct questions are, but I used to have quite a few memorized as I played this game often. I’d even forgotten that ringing in to answer a question was done with the D-Pad instead of button input, which cost me some easy money chances early on. For what it’s worth, a Mark Twain question sunk my chances in Final Jeopardy!, which was kind of embarrassing. Anyway, moving on…
Kings of the Beach (NES): While Super Spike V’Ball covered the arcade side of beach volleyball, Kings of the Beach is a somewhat more realistic take on the sport. The characters aren’t as detailed or as large here as in Super Spike V’Ball, but there’s a greater need for strategy in this game than raw power. Rallies can be long, and positioning spikes properly is key to scoring points. There are some neat additions like arguing line calls and kicking sand after bad plays to lend character to Kings of the Beach, but more serious players will enjoy this game than casual fans will.
Rollergames (NES): If I told you that Rollergames was basically Double Dragon on roller skates, you’d probably laugh at the concept… but that’s exactly what this game is. Based on the short-lived roller derby TV series, Rollergames moved the action from the rink to the streets as players had to beat up bad guys and navigate pits and perils. It’s not a bad game, honestly, even if you’re not familiar with the source material… but it’s not unique enough to stand out among other brawlers from the period. The music is pretty good, though.
Tecmo World Wrestling (NES): I have Pat the NES Punk to thank for my decision to grab this. While watching a video of his NES collection, he mentioned Tecmo World Wrestling and cited it– along with Pro Wrestling– as the only wrestling games on the NES worth playing. I hadn’t played this before, and I really missed out. There are plenty of characters to pick from and the controls are pretty easy to learn. Seeing running commentary of the match is unique, and the graphics and sound are quite good. I’m looking forward to spending more time with this soon.
Batman Returns (SNES): When I played this game for the first time back in 1993, I was blown away. Sure, Batman Returns is an obvious Final Fight clone… but this clone has a strong license behind it and is supported by great visuals and a soundtrack that is still very impressive, coming from a cartridge. I can see where the complaints come from; enemies are too similar, the concept isn’t original, and there’s no co-op or multiplayer. At the same time, it’s a blast throwing enemies into benches or windows and breaking them. Grabbing two enemies and ramming their heads together is very satisfying. The boss battles are a bit trying, but Batman Returns makes me smile as much now as it did almost 20 years ago. This was the most expensive purchase of the day, and I ultimately chose this ($10) over the even more expensive Super Castlevania IV ($25). I may kick myself a bit for not grabbing Castlevania, but this has proven to be a worthy decision.
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX (PlayStation): Although I spent a lot of time playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (and its awesome sequel) on the PlayStation, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX was a surprisingly enjoyable alternative. The game’s trick modifier system allows for more possibilities than ever before in an “extreme” type of game. The ragdoll physics engine is amusing for crashes, too. Seeing your rider fold like a cheap tent after a crash or bounce along the top of a train after missing a jump doesn’t get old. A strong list of licensed music tracks complements the experience, and, at $2, it was impossible to pass up.
Demolition Racer (PlayStation): After Reflections left the Destruction Derby license behind, Pitbull Syndicate tried to fill that space with Demolition Racer back in 1999. While there’s some influence from Destruction Derby apparent in this game, certain mechanics were altered to create a different racing experience. A decreasing damage meter, dropping from 100 to 0, replaced Destruction Derby‘s point of impact damage system. In this game, location-specific damage isn’t relevant and the player can focus more on driving and less on where the vehicle can sustain further damage. Vehicle handling takes some getting used to, but the driving mechanics are fairly easy to adapt to after a few races. I wonder what Criterion could do with a Destruction Derby or Demolition Racer license.
There will be more trips back to Stateline Video Games after E3, and I’ll try to share some photos of my next visit. The owner and I actually have some pretty cool ideas that he may implement in the second half of this year, like local retrogaming meetups, possible high score competitions, and more. I think I’ve found my new local home store, and I’ll share a lot more about it once the E3 rush subsides.
I’m shooting for two new Armchair Analysis pieces to hit Popzara Press this week, and then it’s E3 preparation time. If there’s something that you’re interested in having me possibly check out at the show, feel free to drop me a comment. I can’t guarantee that I’ll see it or have access to it, but it’ll be interesting to try. I’ll be meeting with Zen Studios (Pinball FX2 for Xbox 360, Marvel Pinball for Xbox 360 and PS3, Zen Pinball for 3DS and PlayStation 3), to see what the developer is working on and hopefully get a sneak peek at Zen Pinball 2 for the PS3 and Vita while there.
The countdown is on: 2 weeks until E3!