G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
Release Date 01/91
I can’t remember the last title Kid developer that made it stateside, but I can certainly remember the first game they ever made. Same too with Taxan, although they went out of business long ago, they gave us Burai Fighter, Mystery Quest and Fist of the North Star. Out of both companies games. G.I. Joe remains my favorite.
G.I. Joe remains one of the greatest 8 bit video games ever made. Hawk, Duke, Snake Eyes, Blizzard, Captain Grid-Iron and Rock N’ Roll are sent on a six stage mission to stop Cobra: a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world. Each character played quite differently from one another, and you were able to take out some very familiar enemies from weekday afternoon TV. Gone are the days of the classic 2-D side scrolling shoot ’em ups, which is too bad because even as late as 1996, I was still popping this cartridge into my venerable Nintendo Entertainment System and plugging away on Cobra Buzz Boars, Road Pig, and even Cobra Commander himself. Simple gameplay that still manages to be challenging even today. Damn that Destro! G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero proved that a licensed game could still be exceptionally well made and fun to boot. Kid would eventually get their follow up, G.I. Joe: The Atlantis Factor published by Capcom. Alas, it wasn’t as good as the original, but at least Storm Shadow was a playable character.
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
Release Date: 11/88
Castlevania II still remains my favorite of all Castlevania games. It was long, it was difficult, and it arguably the most open ended game for the beloved 8 bit system, seeing as Zelda still forced you to complete most dungeons in order and only gave you one ending.
Simon’s Quest gave you the chance to play as Simon Belmont once again. Whip, boomerang and flaming holy water in hand, Simon set forth to find the pieces of Dracula he has scattered to the four winds after slaying him in the first game. But wait? Why would a vampire hunter WANT to bring Dracula back? Well, before dying, the lord of the undead placed a curse on Simon, forcing him to spend every evening fending off horrible monsters and gruesome beasties. The only way to rid himself of the curse is to reassemble Dracula and slay him for a second time.
Until Symphony of the Night, Simon’s Quest was the longest and most intense out of the Castlevania games. It’s amazing it took nearly a decade for Konami to recapture the same magic it had with C2. Simon’s Quest is also one of the few games where the unhappy ending is considered canon for the continuity of the series, for Simon Belmont dies at the end of the game in two of the three endings. This was a huge deal for gamers at the time for the good guys always came through unscathed and got the girl. Here Simon just got a coffin and some worms. Sure if you got the “best” ending, Simon lived, but the best ending in the original Shadow Hearts isn’t considered canon for the series either.
Release Date: 1987
We’re going to ignore the very censored version that would eventually make it to the NES. Instead, we’re focused on the original and far beyond its time version only available on computers way back when I was just barely hitting the double digits category in age.
Maniac Mansion is one of the very first point and click games and it still remains arguably the best. It is bizarre, funny, depraved, and has one of the greatest plots in the entire history of video gaming.
Twenty years ago a strange meteor crashed into the house of the Edison family. Now the inhabitants, Dr. Fred, Nurse Edna, Weird Ed, and Dead Ted have become slaves (and just slightly batty) to the twisted tentacle that was trapped inside. In order to appease the murderous meteor, the Edison family must kidnap innocent teenagers and feed their brains to the alien rock currently on the intergalactic most wanted list via the handy dandy Zom-B-Matic. Dr. Fred made one fatal mistake though: he kidnapped alround popular diva Sandy, girlfriend of one Dave Miller. Now Dave, and two of his friends that you choose from a cadre of allies at the beginning, must brave the Edison household and free Sandy and thwart the schemes of the Meteor via numerous means, including such acts as blowing up a hamster in a microwave, finding your way past a deadly sentient purple tentacle, and/or forming a rock band with a more emo and certainly less psychotic tentacle, and editing the Meteor’s very poorly written novel so that publishers will touch it.
I told you it was a weird game.
Highly opened ended, Maniac Mansion never plays the same way twice. With a bevy of teenagers to choose from, each with their own personal strengths and weaknesses, saving Sandy never gets old or boring. Maniac Mansion remains one of the greatest games ever made, and the Revolution NEEDS to offer it as a downloadable so that future generations of gamers can experience and fall in love with it all over again.
Mutant League Football
Developer: Electronic Arts
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release Date: 1993
System: Sega Genesis
I can count the number of well-made games that EA developed on one hand. One finger actually. And this it. Granted though, EA took this bizarre concept and made it into the best American style football game I’ve ever played. How sad is it that 13 years later, EA has yet to make a sequel for it and instead churns out poorly made game after poorly made game like people would actually buy something due to a marketing blitz instead of focusing on quality. Oh wait…
Mutant League Football is just like any other football game. Except for the aliens as players. And the skeletons. And the trolls. And Robots. And genetically modified humans. Of course, we have those now via roids and various other enhancing compounds, but I digress.
The game is played like any other football game. You have two teams and you try to score touchdowns. Except in Mutant League, often people are brutally slaughtered. Or maybe they are knocked onto a mine or into deep space. Or maybe you’ll go for an interception and it’ll turn out the offensive team stuck a bomb in the ball and your plays dies horribly.
MLF managed to be funny yet playable. This was not a one trick pony that you’d laugh at once or twice and then grow amazingly bored with like a lot of satire games of the 16 bit era. If you wanted to play it without the killing farts or the ability to bribe the referee into calling crazy penalties against your opponent, you could. it could be played just like a normal football game. Just your quarterback would still look like it popped out of Ripley’s chest or something.
I was always best with the all alien team, managing to kick a ball and have one of my teammates get it before the opponent could. Speed speed speed. Ah good times, watching my alien plow through a skeletal opponent, or have a pack of my guys sack a troll quarterback and devour him. This my friends, was a good sports game and is probably my second favorite football title after the NES Tecmo Bowl.
Release Date: 5/19/1989
Without any room for debate, Baseball Stars is the greatest baseball video game ever made. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that EA, Sega, 989 and the like were even touching on some of the ideas first put into this game, and SNK made Baseball stars 17 years ago!
Baseball stars allowed you to create entire new teams from scratch. You could hire new players, but first you had to earn money. You earned money by winning games. Your characters could also become better players as the season went on. You could even make and play an entire team of ladies!
For its day, Baseball Stars had amazing graphics, and some fun computer generated teams to play against. There was everyone from the MLB’s most famous players all grouped onto one team to Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff being the stand outs of the all monster team. The controls, music, and atmosphere of the game was pure and simple fun. You could tell SNK put their heart and soul into this game and I’ve yet to see anyone who has picked it up not fall completely in love with it. It’s amazing that a venerable sports game like Baseball Stars still holds up against the modern franchises of today. That says something about the quality of today’s stuff or the quality of yesteryear’s gaming experience… maybe both.