Tag Archives: NES

Podcast 12: Best Ever Console Round 1

It begins. The already legendary 101 Video Games Best Ever Console Contest! Or Competition! Or Thing! To be honest we’ve not properly agreed on a title.

Anyway, listen as Lewis and Ian discuss, debate, argue, call each other names and play rock paper scissors stone through 12 rounds of red-hot console on console action. And if you think that sounds dirty and disgusting you should have been at the recording.

 

Lewis and Ian's debate over whether the Amstrad 6128k is better than the PS2 becomes heated.

 

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Podcast 12 Best Ever Console Round 1

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WARNING – We do swear a bit in this podcast. The debates we had became very passionate and strident and we sadly couldn’t stop our language occasionally reflecting that. Plus we drunk quite a bit of beer and got a bit silly. Sorry.

We want to hear your thoughts (please let us know you listen and you like us, pleeeeease). Do you violently disagree with any of our judgements? If so, really? Violently? Just calm down, it’s only video games. But do tell us, we’d love to hear from you! As always the best comment wins a 101 Video Games pencil.*

* N.B. Still no pencils available.

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Filed under Podcast

#59: Battletoads

Format: NES Genre: Fighting/Platform Released: 1991 Developer: Rare

Battletoads was one of my favourite games on the NES, second only to Super Mario Bros. 3, although I have to admit my recollections of how it actually played are hazy at best.

I read through a few internet reviews before I started writing this post, and almost all of them mentioned how incredibly difficult Battletoads was – something that I don’t remember at all. That either means I’m an amazingly skilled gamer or my memory isn’t up to much -  I’m guessing it’s the latter. Most reviewers bewailed the teeth-grinding difficulty of the hover bike bit on level three, and after watching a clip of the level on YouTube (see below), painful memories of thrown joypads and screamed curse words gradually began to float towards the murky surface of my brain pool. Obviously Battletoads caused so much trauma to my poor teenaged brain that the delicate organ has suppressed all memories associated with it.

Punching out the robots let you use their legs as a weapon.

There's nothing more satisfying than beating up cartoon enemies with bits of other cartoon enemies.

Battletoads was obviously a thinly veiled attempt to cash in on the mania surrounding the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles at the time, and I seem to remember a whole crop of these rip-offs emerging during the nineties (anyone remember Street Sharks?). I never really ‘got’ the Turtles though – even as a ten-year-old I thought they were one of the stupidest ideas I’d ever seen, and my position hasn’t changed much in the intervening years. Having said that, the Turtles video games were generally pretty good (my favourite was the original Game Boy one) – but Battletoads was in a league of its own.

"It's too orangey for crows." Not sure how the Kia Ora crows ended up in Battletoads.

"It's too orangey for crows." There was no explanation as to why the Kia Ora crows made an appearance, nor what they had against anthropomorphic toads.

One of Battletoads‘ best features was its sense of humour – something that its po-faced beat ‘em up cousin Double Dragon lacked. All the cartoon violence staples were there – the character’s foot turned into a giant comedy boot to give enemies a final kick off the screen, and some enemies could be pounded into the ground, leaving only their heads showing. It was like watching Tom & Jerry but with ‘attitood’.

Comedy-violence fans rejoice! The first appearance of the Big Boot.

These comedy-violence tropes were just one example of the imagination that really set this game apart, but the variety of gameplay styles was another. The second level saw the gameplay change completely as you abseiled down some sort of multicoloured mine shaft, and then of course it all changed again on the third level with the introduction of the infamous hover bikes. My favourite bit was probably the end of level one, which saw you face off against a giant robot boss, but from the robot’s point of view – a fantastic idea that I don’t think has been used since (please correct me if I’m wrong). Skip to the end of the video below to see what I mean.

Oh, and did I mention that Battletoads looked utterly amazing at a time when most 8-bit games made do with monochromatic backgrounds and barely functional animation? No? Well consider it mentioned.

The insanely hard hover bike bit on level three – one mistake and you were sent back to the beginning.

Lewis

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Filed under 1991, Fighting, NES, Platform, Rare

#10: Super Mario Bros. 3

Format: NES Genre: Platform Released: 1990 Developer: Nintendo

Well of course Mario had to find his way onto the list somewhere.

super-mario-bros-3-box

Super Mario Bros. 3 is one of the best selling video games of all time*, and with good reason – I can’t think of many games that managed to steal away my spare time so effectively and ruthlessly over such a long period. In fact, I think I could safely say that this is the first game that I was ‘addicted’ to: my sister and I could become utterly transfixed by it for hours, only stirring to take on sustenance and perform essential ablutions.

As a sequel, it surpasses the previous two games in every respect, not least graphically. I mean, compare this:

008_smb3_screenshot1

with a screenshot from the original Super Mario Bros.:

super-mario-bros-1

and I’m sure you’ll agree there was a huge improvement all round.

Another innovation was the map screen. Gone was the old spectre of linear game progression – now you could choose the route you took through the game (well, to a limited extent anyway). Further innovations included the raccoon suit, which enabled Mario to fly (obviously) and added a certain verticality to the level designs. This was just one of the many guises Mario adopted though – my favourite was the level where he climbs into a sort of green clockwork sock, which allows him to cross spikes.

Yes, that’s right, a green clockwork sock. If there’s one thing Mario 3 isn’t short of, it’s imagination.

009_smb3_screenshot

I think my favourite part of the whole game was World 4 – Giant World, where everything was huge (natch). A simple concept yes, but there was something endearing about jumping on giant Goombas and battering walls with enormous Koopa shells.

011_smb3_screenshot

Then there were the flying ship levels that cropped up throughout the game, culminating in a giant flying ship at the end and an army of wooden ‘tanks’ – more examples of the nuggets of imagination that flew out of this game like money flying out of an Icelandic bank.

003_smb3_screenshot

However, there was one big problem with Super Mario 3 – the lack of a save game. This was rectified in the version released as part of the Super Mario All Stars game on the Super NES, but in the original, once you turned off the console, that was it. In a game as complex and huge as this one, it was heart-breaking to flick that OFF switch and know that next time you played you’d have to start all over from the beginning.

This meant that it was almost impossible to complete the game, unless you used the ‘warp whistles’ to skip several worlds. I remember that once my sister and I tried to finish the game in its entirety – we played for hours, taking it in turns to finish each level, but we still ran out of lives before we reached the end.

I think this kind of sado-masochistic gameplay is indicative of the ethos of many games at the time – it was almost accepted by gamers and game designers alike that the player would be punished for failing, but that they would keep coming back for more anyway. Of course, the lack of a save game was partly due to technical reasons – the NES console had no save memory of its own, so cartridges had to be built with ‘battery back-up’ in order for a save function to be included, and many publishers sought to avoid including this costly extra in their games. Even so, you’d think Nintendo might have wanted to push the boat out a bit for this particular game – I mean, considering it was one of the best-selling games of all time, you’d think they could at least afford to include one little battery in the cart.

solar-jetman-box1

There were other ways around the save game problem too. Many games, such as Solar Jetman, used a password system to let you skip to the last level you played with approximately the same amount of lives that you finished with. Of course, it meant having to carefully keep various lists of passwords on scrappy bits of paper – lists that were often prone to being ‘tidied’ by overzealous mothers – but it was better than having to start at the beginning every time.

It’s very different nowadays of course, and even the idea of a game that you can’t save seems faintly ridiculous. More than that though, the ethos of game design has moved away from punishing the player to constantly rewarding him or her. Even the concept of ‘lives’ is becoming old hat; ‘lives’ were originally implemented into arcade games to limit the amount of time the player could use the machine before inserting more money, but this makes no sense for console games. Indeed, many games, such as the new Prince of Persia, have now abandoned the concept of ‘dying’ completely, and seem no worse because of it.

super-mario-galaxy

This is something that the designers of Super Mario Galaxy (Nintendo Wii) seem to have realised – the player is showered with so many extra lives that the whole concept of even having ‘lives’ seems pointless. It wouldn’t surprise me if the next Mario game does away with the idea of lives altogether.

Anyway, despite the possible overtones of sado-masochism (see above), Super Mario Bros. 3 was, and still is, a delight to play. Click on the video below to see the first level in action and I guarantee your eyes will glaze over with nostalgia as soon as you hear the first bar of that music…

Lewis

* SMB3 sold 18 million copies, being surpassed only by the original Pokémon games. Technically, the original Super Mario Bros. is actually the best selling game of all time, but since it was given away free with the NES, it doesn’t really count. Hey, them’s the rules.

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Filed under 1990, NES, Nintendo, Platform