Tag Archives: Capcom

#75: Resident Evil CODE: Veronica

Format: Dreamcast Genre: Survival Horror Released: 2000 Developer: Capcom/Nextech

I have a love/hate relationship with this game. Love because it’s one of the best Resident Evil games out there, with some of the most memorable characters and storylines of the series. Hate because some IDIOTIC PUZZLE with an EMPTY FIRE EXTINGUISHER meant that I WAS UNABLE TO FINISH THE F**KING GAME. The memory still haunts me now, hence the extravagant use of capitals and self-censored swearing. I’ll explain…

In our student house at uni we’d often play through games together, or we’d play the same game but using different saves. Not long after I started playing Code Veronica, Paul, my housemate, began playing through it too. We’d swap stories about good bits in the game, and I’d drop excited hints about what was coming up next. All was fine and dandy until right near the end of the game, when I inadvertently uncovered a bug that made finishing the game all but impossible.

Tense, nervous headache?

Earlier in the game, Claire uses a fire extinguisher to retrieve a briefcase that’s stuck inside a flaming room, but for some reason she keeps hold of the empty extinguisher. This either means that Claire is a compulsive hoarder, or the game is subtly trying to tell you that there may just possibly be a puzzle later on that might – just might – require an empty fire extinguisher. Seeing as Claire generally isn’t the type to push around a shopping trolley filled to the brim with carrier bags full of knick knacks and shiny things she finds in the street, I placed my bets on the latter option, and kept the extinguisher to hand.

This guy was very creepy. Despite having his hands tied behind his back, he was still able to attack you using the organic broomhandles sticking out of his back. As you do.

A bit later on, Claire and her hapless companion Steve come across the chap in the pic above, who goes by the name of Nosferatu. History doesn’t relate how he came to bear this moniker – I’m imagining the label was thrust upon him after his unfortunate transformation, before which he was probably called Alan or Dave or Alfonse. Anyway, Claire makes no bones about swiftly dispatching poor Alan (or Dave or Alfonse) and we’re treated to a cut scene in which Alexia, the sister of antagonist Alfred Ashford, awakes from her long hibernation and unleashes the full force of the T-Veronica virus on Steve and Claire’s smiling, unknowing faces – the truck they’re driving is destroyed by one of Alexia’s handy new tentacles, and  control switches to Chris, who’s just pitched up in Antarctica on the hunt for Claire.

Alfred's twisted relationship with his sister Alexia was one of the most memorable parts of the game. Here the newly regenerated Alexia emerges for the first time.

I just want to jump in here for a second to say what a fantastic character Alfred is – definitely my favourite character of the series. Wesker is always held up as the series’  ultimate villain, but he’s so incredibly one-dimensional – there’s nothing really beneath the implausible hair and the Johnny Cash sunglasses. Alfred, on the other hand, has an interesting backstory, which the game goes to great pains to relate – from his possibly incestuous relationship with his twin sister to his penchant for dressing up in women’s clothing. You almost end up feeling sorry for him in a way – through no fault of his own he was born into an incredibly screwed-up family, was ruthlessly used by Umbrella and then ended up losing his mind. Having said that, I’d have a lot more sympathy for him if he stopped trying to kill me all the time.

Claire and Steve admire a digger. Whatever you do Claire, remember to take that fire extinguisher out of your pocket before you get in...

OK, back to the story. After the fight with Alan*, control switches to Chris, and the difficulty steps up a notch. The Antarctic facility is infested with various horrors, including a giant spider that has somehow managed to survive the freezing temperatures, and these fiends quickly take their toll on Chris’s ammo supply. As I limped to the final showdown with Alexia, I was down to just a few assault rifle rounds and a couple of clips for my handgun, but I was finding plenty of ammo for the magnum. So where could the magnum itself be hiding? Wait, there it is, behind that wall of flame. No problem, I’ll just fill up my empty fire extinguisher with that handy extinguishant refill device nearby… Hold on, the extinguisher isn’t in the space/time defying inventory box. Wait a sec, didn’t Claire have it in her personal inventory when she got whacked by that tentacle?

Bugger.

Don't worry, he's 'armless.

With no access to fresh weaponry, it was impossible for me to defeat the final boss, and instead I watched impotently as Paul went on to finish the game. I suppose I could have used one of his save games to go and fight the final boss for myself, but by that point I was so rankled by the whole fire extinguisher thing that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And anyway, I would have been finishing his game, not mine.

Yet, like a middle-aged man trapped in a loving but turbulent marriage, I still have a soft spot for Code Veronica, despite all of the seething resentment bubbling below the surface. It was denied the suffix ‘4’ by its creators, but in my mind the game stands proudly with its numbered brethren, and possibly slightly above them.

Lewis

*I’ve just found out that Nosferatu was actually Alfred’s father, who went by the name of Alexander, not Alan (or Dave or Alfonse). This is slightly disappointing in some ways (I would have preferred Alan), although I’d forgotten just how convoluted the backstory to Code Veronica is, particularly the history of the Ashfords. You can read about Alfred Ashford’s creepy upbringing here: http://residentevil.wikia.com/Alfred_Ashford.

(Screenshots from http://uk.gamespot.com)

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Filed under 2000, Capcom, Dreamcast, Nextech, Survival Horror

#31: Steel Battalion

Format: Xbox Genre: Mech Game* Released: 2003 Developer: Capcom

I saw the controller for this game before I knew anything else about it. I was doing work experience at CVG at the time, and a leaked internet photo of the extravagant twin joystick/pedal interface (see photo below) caused everyone in the office to gather round and gawp like idiots. Initially I thought it was some sort of joke, but an official press release from Capcom quickly followed – apparently they were serious about releasing a peripheral approximately half the size of the average Japanese living room**.

Steel_Battalion_Coverart

It’s obvious that the control system was dreamt up by some seriously nuts mech fanboys who wanted to take the mech game experience to its logical extreme – i.e. by recreating an actual mech cockpit***. But this is just what makes the game so appealing and refreshing – it’s fantastic to see someone coming up with such a frankly bonkers idea and then just running with it. I’d love to have seen the looks on the faces of the Capcom execs when the developers were pitching this idea, but huge kudos to the Capcom bigwigs for going with it – most companies would have run a mile when they found out how much the controller would cost. (The controller and game retailed for $200 in the US, and this was in the days before  expensive guitar and drum controllers were commonplace. Apparently the game broke even though, and they even made a sequel.)

steel battalion controller

The array of options on the controller is staggering – it features over 40 buttons, the most notorious of which was the ‘eject’ button, housed underneath a plastic cover on the top right of the console. If your mech (sorry, VT****) takes critical damage, the eject button starts flashing and you have only a few seconds to hit it before your VT explodes in a rain of fiery death. Failure to hit the button in time results in the death of your character and your save game being erased. Yep, there are no second chances in Steel Battalion – this game takes the notion of hardcore gaming to worrying extremes. I’m just surprised that the controller doesn’t give you electric shocks every time you get hit.

steel battalion screenshot 1

As you’d expect from the dazzlingly complicated array of buttons (you can read a full list of what they all do here), there’s a bit more to Steel Battalion than simple arcade-style shooting and dodging. The attention to detail is frankly ludicrous – there’s even a button that washes the camera on the front of the VT if it gets dirty during a fight (yes, that’s right, there’s a button for windscreen washers). Not to mention a fire extinguisher button and no less than 8 buttons that are used solely for starting up your VT (see video below).  Admittedly, going through all the rigmarole of pressing these various switches just to get your VT walking is quite entertaining the first time you do it, and adds to the experience enormously. However, I imagine that by the 50th time you play the game, this extended start-up sequence might start to lose some of its lustre… “Come on you bloody machine, start will you! I just want to shoot things!!!”

steel battalion screenshot 2

I say ‘I imagine’ because in fact I only ever played Steel Battalion once, at a friend’s house. (A friend with a very understanding wife who didn’t mind the fact that most of the living room had disappeared underneath shiny black plastic and flashing buttons. Having said that, he didn’t have it for very long, so maybe she put her foot down.)

“What?!”, I hear you cry, “How can you include a game that you only ever played once?!”

Well, I reply, for a number of reasons, chief of which is that this is my blog and I’ll do exactly what I like thank you very much. Hem hem. [Clears throat]

steel battalion screenshot 3

But more to the point, the whole ethos around this game probably gave me more enjoyment than my short time playing the game itself – from the buzz of excitement generated by the first pictures in the CVG office, right through to my friend excitedly telling me that he’d actually bought it. Laying my hands on that fantastically ridiculous controller for the first (and last) time was just the icing on the cake.

If you look at the shelves in any game shop you’ll see they’re heaving with ‘me too’ software – myriad copycat first-person shooters or film-licenced rubbish – so it’s good to know that there are some game companies out there with a bit of imagination and the conviction to try something new. Nice one Capcom.

Lewis

*I’ve listed this one as a ‘Mech Game’ – I was going to just put it down as ‘Action’ or ‘Vehicle Simulation’, but they’re such vague definitions as to be almost useless. I think mech games occupy a special genre of their own – a heady mix of cinematic action and unbelievably anal stat fiddling. See Armored Core For Answer for a recent example (incredibly, this is the thirteenth game in the Armored Core series – there must be a factory somewhere just churning them out).

**From an eBay listing of Steel Battalion:

I haven’t got the space for this – I only bought it a couple of days ago and my wife won’t let me keep it =(

I can just imagine the look on his wife’s face as he came through the door lugging a controller the size of a fridge. Priceless.

***I just found out that the controller was developed before they even started making the game (see here), which makes sense.

****Curiously, the two-legged metal behemoths are referred to as ‘Vertical Tanks’ or ‘VTs’ in the game rather than mechs.

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Filed under 2003, Capcom, Mech Game, Xbox

#30: Marvel vs. Capcom 2

Format: Dreamcast Genre: Fighting Released: 2000 Developer: Capcom

[It’s a Saturday morning in the year 2000. The scene: Ian and Lewis’s student house in Southampton. Lewis picks his way through the detritus of the living room, which consists mostly of discarded curry and beer cans.  After thumbing the Dreamcast ‘on’ switch, he groggily slumps into the hideous paisley settee and waits for the ancient television to warm up. Ian steams into the room with two mugs of tea. They are both in dressing gowns.]

<I’M GONNA TAKE YOU FOR A RI-I-IDE!!>

[The impossibly jaunty, oddly inappropriate pseudo-jazz soundtrack of Marvel vs. Capcom 2 blares from tinny speakers. Lewis and Ian prepare to choose their characters.]

marvel-vs-capcom-2-cover-art

Lewis: Right, no Cable, OK? Or Iron Man or War Machine.

[Choosing Cable is expressly forbidden under House Law. This is because he has a gun – several in fact – and this somewhat contravenes good practice when it comes to one-on-one fighting. Unless you’re Indiana Jones.]

[Lewis, ever the Capcom devotee, picks Jill Valentine, Ryu and Captain Commando. Ian, a Marvel zealot, picks Spider-Man, Venom and Hulk.]

Bring it on.

Bring it on.

[The first round begins. Ian immediately launches Spider-Man’s web attack, but Lewis has already used Jill’s ‘summon’ move, and the attack collides harmlessly with a shuffling zombie. Lewis quickly follows this up by summoning a crow, which hits Spider-Man in mid-leap.]

Ian: Why do you think this game is so compelling? Could it be something to do with the enormous range of 54 playable characters, sourced from an impressively diverse selection of Capcom games and Marvel comics? Admittedly, some of them are particularly obscure…

Lewis: The obscure ones are some of the best! As you know, my particular favourite is Captain Commando, who originally started out as a fictional cartoon spokesman for Capcom back in the eighties before appearing in his own arcade game in 1991. Ouch!

[Ian has switched to Hulk and quickly begins to gain the upper hand. Jill’s energy bar plummets alarmingly as she’s hit by wave after wave of Hulk’s ferocious attacks, which see him literally rip up the ground and throw it at her head.]

This is the exact reason why Cable is banned.

This is the exact reason why Cable is banned.

Lewis: Right, now taste the wrath of the Captain!

[Lewis switches to Captain Commando, whose flying kicks and lightning quick fireballs are no match for the sluggish Hulk.]

Ian: C’mon Hulk! Anyway, you have to admit that despite the generally excellent character design throughout, the game falls down heavily in terms of the final boss, Abyss, who’s by far the most poorly imagined and least interesting character in the entire game.

Lewis: Agreed!

Ian: Yet even so, the lure of unlocking extra characters and costumes is so great that it keeps us coming back to the single-player game again and again, even if it means facing the drudgery of Abyss.

[Ian changes to Venom and the fight starts to even up. The ‘Venom Fang’ special move proves particularly effective against Captain Commando’s flying kick, and the tide of battle slowly begins to turn. Lewis begins running low on energy and taps the shoulder button to bring on Jill for a heal assist. But disaster ensues – Ian pulls both triggers on his joypad to launch a super move. All three of Ian’s characters bound onto the screen to unleash a screen-filling ultimate combo that does for both Captain Commando and the unlucky Jill, who gets caught in the onslaught. Lewis is down to one character – Ryu.]

HULK SMASH!!!

HULK SMASH!!!

Lewis: Well played old boy! But I’m afraid you underestimate my skill with this old Street Fighter stalwart!

[Venom is caught in a hurricane kick, followed by a massive blue fireball, which takes him out. Hulk comes back on.]

Lewis: Going back to your original question, I think the secret to this game’s success is its sheer delight in being utterly ludicrous. Everything is just brilliantly over the top, from the enormous sprites, to the outrageous special moves, right down to the funk-jazz theme tune.

Ian: It’s almost as if the designers just thought, “Ah, to hell with it, let’s just put everything in!”

Lewis: Yes! It’s just so refreshing to see a game that doesn’t even attempt to take itself seriously – it’s just all-out fun.

Ian: And with so many characters and unlockables, it’s very hard to get bored. Damn!

[Lewis finishes off Hulk with a dragon punch and it’s down to Spider-Man versus Ryu. Both characters have just over half an energy bar each.]

The humiliation of being pounded by Tron Bonne.

The humiliation of being pounded by Tron Bonne.

Ian: This is it my friend, to the death!

[Lewis unleashes repeated fireballs, all of which are either blocked or neutralised by Spidey’s web attacks. Seeing his long-range attacks foiled, Lewis sends Ryu in for the old jump kick-sweep kick combo, a perennial favourite of all Street Fighter veterans, but ends up jumping into Spider-Man’s ‘Web Swing’ special move. Lewis recovers quickly and manages to pin down Ian in the corner with two successive hurricane kicks, but Ryu is running low on energy. Just then, Ian unleashes Spider-Man’s super combo, which sees the Marvel hero dart around the screen, inflicting kick after kick on the hapless Ryu as the background explodes into blue light and the announcer intones ‘SUPER COMBO FINISH!” It’s all over.]

Lewis: Good show sir! Didn’t see that one coming!

[The pair shake hands, then reach for their mugs of tea. Ian takes a sip and turns to Lewis.]

Ian: Best 2D beat ’em up ever?

[Lewis gulps down a mouthful of delicious tea, lets out a satisfied ‘Aaah!’ and reclines luxuriously onto the paisley settee.]

Lewis: Undoubtedly.

[After a brief pause, Lewis puts down his tea and leans forward expectently…]

Lewis: Fancy another go?

Lewis and Ian

(Screenshots from ign.com)

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Filed under 2000, Capcom, Dreamcast, Fighting

#28: 1942

Format: Coin-Op Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up Released: 1984 Developer: Capcom

Every time we went to holiday parks or the seaside when I was a kid, I would beg to be taken to the arcade. I think at first my mum thought I had a gambling problem, but in actual fact I didn’t pay the slightest bit of attention to the fruit machines  – I only had eyes for all those wonderful arcade games.

Although having said that I’ve always quite liked those machines with the sliding racks of 10 pence pieces – does that still count as gambling?

1942-arcade-cabinet

Anyway, going to the arcade was a real treat when I was young. There was a huge gap between the quality of games in the arcade and the quality of games for home systems, so seeing the latest coin-ops was like taking a glimpse into the future. It’s completely different now of course – if anything, home systems are actually slightly ahead of most arcade machines, and most arcades are completely dominated by the same old shooting and driving games. Add to that the fact that the cost of console games has come down while the cost of arcade credits has gone up (or at least stayed the same), and there suddenly seems to be little point in visiting the arcade anymore.

Still, back in the eighties it was all different, because a trip to the arcade meant you could play something mind-bogglingly amazing… like Out Run, Double Dragon, Shinobi, Chase HQ or 1942.

1942_screenshot

I always made a beeline straight for the 1942 cabinet whenever I went into an arcade. The other games I mentioned are all excellent in their own right, but for some reason I was totally hooked on this shoot ’em up.

I don’t even know what it is that I like about it so much – maybe it’s the simplicity, or maybe it’s the well-balanced gameplay. It’s a hard game, but it’s never unfair, so every time you die you know you could do better next time if you just moved that little bit quicker, or tapped the loop-the-loop (evade) button a tiny bit faster. The risk/reward ratio is just right as well – diving for the power ups is always worth it, even if it might end in a fiery death (and the loss of a 20p credit).

1942_screenshot-2

Having said that, it looks incredibly dated now. The graphics could be generously described as ‘dull’… I mean, just look at it – you spend most of the game staring at what looks like stippled blue wallpaper flecked with bits of green snot. Also, there’s hardly any variation in the enemies  – some planes are red instead of green (whoo) and sometimes a slightly bigger plane turns up (although these planes are usually green as well). Understandably, the gameplay gets pretty repetitive quite quickly. Also, the music was pretty damn awful, even by the standards of the time (just listen to the video below to see what I mean).

1942_screenshot-3

I haven’t played the original in years, but I found a remake (1942: Joint Strike) on Xbox Live Arcade that looked promising. It has the same repetitive gamplay but it’s still somehow compelling: I think this game – in all its forms – must generate some kind of Pavlovian response deep in the cerebellum that keeps your trigger finger twitching long after your conscious brain has entirely disengaged.

1942 – a flawed classic. But I’d still happily bypass all the Time Crisis and House of the Dead cabinets to play on it if I saw it in an arcade now. Especially if it still cost 20p.

Lewis

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Filed under 1984, Capcom, Coin-Op, Shoot 'Em Up

#21: Okami

Format: Playstation 2 Genre: RPG Released: 2007 Developer: Clover Studio (Capcom)

I’ve just finished Okami, after playing it for an astonishing 40 hours. The developers have obviously done something right, because games that can hold my attention for that length of time are very few and far between (thankfully, otherwise I doubt I’d get much done). Wow, 40 hours. When you write it down like that it seems like an enormous amount of time – nearly two whole days of gaming… And considering I only bought the game for a tenner, that’s some seriously good value for money.

Okami PS2 box

Without a doubt, Okami is one of the best games I have ever played. The production standards are amazing throughout, and the artwork is just stunning. The game is presented in the Japanese ‘sumi-e‘ style of ink painting, so each character has a bold, black outline that is juxtaposed to great effect against the dreamy watercolours of the scenery. However, the screenshots on this post really don’t do this game justice – in motion, the stylised art and fluid animation looks truly astonishing. Having said that, some of the static storyboard screens you are presented with, such as the dramatic image below, also manage to be breathtaking.

okami artwork

In fact, the game’s artwork is so good, its been immortalised in a coffee table book, and there can’t be many games that can claim that accolade.

The game itself plays a lot like The Legend of Zelda: the real-time action and simple combat makes the game instantly accessible but belies iceberg-esque hidden depths. Just when you think you’ve got the game licked, it throws out another twist, and the plethora of quests, sub-quests and collectibles provided me with hours of entertainment – and even after 40 hours playtime, there were still plenty of quests I had yet to complete and combat moves I had yet to unlock.

Okami Amaterasu

Speaking of combat moves, I have to mention my delight at unlocking the legendary ‘Golden Fury’ technique, which involves humiliating your opponent by – wait for it – cocking your leg and urinating on them (accompanied by a ‘tinkling’ sound effect). As of the time of writing, I have yet to amass the 2,000,000 yen needed to unlock the ‘Brown Rage’ technique, although I’ve got a fairly good idea as to what it involves.

Okami black tree

Whilst on the subject of the game’s humour, I have to mention the excellent localisation. All too often, the European localisation of Japanese RPGs falls a bit flat, with any nuances or humour in the dialogue either being totally bulldozed or sounding utterly ridiculous. Happily, the script for Okami is a delight, and Issun, your ‘wandering artist’ companion, gets some genuinely funny lines that still work despite the Japanese-mythology-oriented setting and characters (incidentally, the enemy characters in Okami have to be some of the most brilliantly realised and unforgettable baddies yet seen in a video game – my favourite being the Igloo Turtle).

Okami brush

The most memorable feature of Okami is your ability to affect the world around you by pausing the action and using your tail to draw sumi-e-style patterns. These patterns, or ‘brush techniques’ (which are unlocked as the game progresses), allow you to slice enemies in twain with a simple flick or conjure up a gust of wind at will, to name just two. As you unlock more and more techniques, the game throws up more and more ingenious uses for them, leading to some brilliant ‘Aha!’ moments as you finally figure out a tricky puzzle or use a new technique to access a hidden area in a previously explored realm.

Okami Battle with Orochi

For all these reasons, I cannot recommend Okami enough – it really is one of the best games I’ve ever played. The only downside is that with the demise of Clover Studio, a sequel seems highly unlikely… 

Lewis

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Filed under 2007, Capcom, Clover Studio, Playstation 2, RPG

#18: U.N. Squadron

Format: Super NES Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up Released: 1991 Developer: Capcom

Back in the day, I used to be a massive fan of shoot ’em ups (or ‘shmups’ as people are trendily abbreviating them nowadays). I don’t play them so much anymore, but there’s still something satisfying about a good shooter – the frantic button hammering, the screen-filling bosses, the feeling of constantly being no more than a gnat’s hair away from explodey death… yeah, there really is nothing like a good old shoot ’em up.

un squadron box

Having said that, I think you do need a special kind of gaming autism to really enjoy them: the hallmark of the genre is a level of difficulty that cultivates armchair-gnawing, joypad-snapping frustration in most gamers, but shmup players have developed the Zen-like patience/sheer bloody-mindedness to not only persevere with but enjoy these most unforgiving of games. In this respect, U.N. Squadron was a little more lenient than its peers, featuring – horror of horrors – an energy bar. Energy bars are like kryptonite to hardcore shoot ’em up players, who believe that they detract from the intensity of the shoot ’em up experience. For sane people though, they offer the opportunity to get past the end of the first level without retrying several hundred times.

un squadron first boss

Despite the energy bar, U.N. Squadron was by no means easy, although it was a lot more forgiving than some of its contemporaries, such as Gradius III. It also had the added bonus of featuring various paths through the game, something that we take for granted now but which at the time was fairly rare. This meant that it was rare to get stuck on one level, and the sheer variety of planes and weapon upgrades was a compelling reason to keep playing (and replaying).

un squadron chopper

Surprisingly, U.N. Squadron had a plot. I say ‘surprisingly’, because I’ve just found out that it’s based on an old manga called ‘Area 88’ – you can read all about it here. I’m always surprised when games like this have a plot – it seems so utterly unnecessary and ridiculous, like the ongoing plot of Tekken. I mean, in what possible situation would a single plane go up against an entire air force? I’m not sure where the U.N. come into it either – I presume that in this scenario the G8 have withdrawn funding, so the U.N. can only afford to send one plane at a time on peacekeeping missions.

un squadron stealth

Looking back at this game, it’s clear just how much gaming has moved on in the last twenty years, and I even remember thinking at the time that shoot ’em ups were ‘a bit old-fashioned’. The entire genre is based around repetitiveness, and any attempt at complexity rarely extends beyond choosing which special weapons to equip. Having said that, it’s hard to beat shmups for a pure adrenaline rush, and now that I have less and less time to play games, a quick five-minute blast on a traditional side scroller like this has more and more appeal. U.N. Squadron was certainly one of the better genre efforts, and it’s surely overdue for a revival.

UN Squadron clouds

Shoot ’em ups are a sort of prehistoric gaming genre that has somehow survived into the 21st century – like the Coelacanth, they keep being declared extinct, and then a thriving colony of them pops up somewhere unexpected. After all, a healthy clutch of shooters was recently spotted on PS2, and reports of new shmups being released on Dreamcast persisted long after the console’s ‘demise’. Here’s hoping that  U.N. Squadron will throw off its extinct status and resurface on Xbox Live Arcade sometime soon.

Lewis

(Screenshots from http://www.mobygames.com)

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Filed under 1991, Capcom, Shoot 'Em Up, Super NES

#3: Street Fighter II

Format: Super NES Genre: Fighting Released: 1992  Developer: Capcom

An obvious choice for this list maybe, but Street Fighter II had an undeniable impact when it was released, both on the games industry as a whole and on an impressionable young lad named Lewis, who’d just received a brand new Super NES for Christmas.

This is the US box - the UK version was spangly gold.

I remember that Christmas really well – I’d asked for a SNES for Christmas, but it was by far the most expensive Christmas present I’d ever received (it cost a whopping £150). Because of this, I wasn’t expecting to receive any games with it (except for Super Mario World of course, which came in the box), so imagine my surprise and delight when I found a brand new copy of the console game of the moment – Street Fighter II – nestling under the Christmas tree alongside a SNES-shaped box. My grin stretched until Easter.

Go Eddie!!!

I remember excitedly setting up my brand new console, only momentarily delayed by the search for a plug. It’s bizarre to think now that console manufacturers used to ship consoles without plugs – how tight is that? I remember when my sister got her NES – my parents didn’t realise that it didn’t come with a plug, so my dad ended up taking the plug off the food mixer instead. The congealed blob of cake mix on top of the plug casing stood as a testament to this fact, along with the dangerously exposed wiring.

Anyway, one of the reasons I was so impressed upon receiving SFII on that morning was that the game was so outrageously expensive – it cost £65 when it was released. Yes, that’s right, SIXTY-FIVE POUNDS!!!!!! Unbelievable. The manufacturers blamed the expense on a specially manufactured 16 megabit cart, but I’m sure that can’t be the whole story. £65 was, and still is, an exceptionally large amount of money to part with for a game, and it’s got me thinking about how the cost of gaming has gone down in general.

Back at the dawn of gaming, games were pretty cheap – cassette tapes were only a few pounds each – but as the consoles took over from the home computers, prices skyrocketed. Most NES games cost between £40 and £45, but some cost even more – Star Wars, for example, cost £50 and Maniac Mansion came in at a massive £55. The trend continued on the Super NES, with most games being released at around £45.

Of course, most games nowadays are still released at between £40 and £50, but a savvy consumer certainly wouldn’t pay that – you can buy most new games with around a £10 discount online, an option that wasn’t available back in 1992. Plus when you take inflation into account, the real price of games has actually fallen. Most importantly, there’s now a huge secondhand market for games that simply didn’t exist in the early nineties – Nintendo for one was vehemently opposed to the idea of its games being sold secondhand, and it was some time before the secondhand gaming market really took off. Taking all this into account, you can understand my joy at receiving SFII on that magical Christmas morning – at £65, it would have taken me literally months to save up for it.

It’s interesting that, while games have come down in price, consoles seem to have gotten more and more expensive. £150 for a SNES was expensive at the time, but it was nothing compared to paying £300 for the Playstation or, more recently, £425 for a PS3. I guess that you can’t really compare a PS3 to a SNES though: consoles are inherently more complicated these days, more like integrated entertainment systems or mid-range PCs than games machines.

Come on Zangief!!!

I realise I haven’t really said much about SFII in this post, but there’s little I can add to the countless columns of text that have been filled by this game already. All I will say is that it was, and still is, one of the best two player games ever made, and it’s a tribute to its brilliance that the design of 2D fighting games has changed little since its release.

Having said that, there’s nothing quite as frustrating as practising for hours, diligently learning all the special moves for all the characters, then being beaten by your little sister when she just mashes all the buttons together at once. Especially if she’s playing as Zangief.

Lewis

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Filed under 1992, Capcom, Fighting, Super NES