Kickin’ It Old School – What the @#%* Were They Thinking?!?!

Have you ever rented or bought a game and, after playing it, wanted to send it back to the publisher with a note reading something along the lines of “What in God’s name is the matter with you that you released a game this crappy to the public?” I sure have. I’ve played some real stinkers in my relatively short life. This week, we’re going to look at some of the worst games, and one entire console, that either could have benefited from some more time on the drawing board, or should have stayed on the drawing board entirely. Some of them you probably can guess, others, maybe not. So, with no more ado whatsoever, here are some of the worst and/or stupidest abominations in video game history.

Virtual Boy (1995)

The only console on the list makes its appearance right at the top. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but in execution, it didn’t exactly live up to expectations. At all. Myself, I was pretty pumped for it. A portable 3-D system? Sign me up! Then I had the opportunity to play one that my friend had on the school bus one day, and it went right off the Christmas letter to Santa.

Where to begin? First of all, it wasn’t “portable” in the sense that the Game Boy was portable. Sure, you could bring it anywhere, but the way it was set up – goggles on a big tripod – didn’t quite lend itself to portability. It was big, heavy and difficult to see around while you were playing. Secondly, the graphics didn’t help anything. The games were in red and black, which was even less aesthetically pleasing than the Game Boy, and reportedly caused headaches and eyestrain. Most importantly, the games…well, sucked. Outside of Virtual Boy Wario Land, a sequel to the first Wario Land game, the games either suffered from poor controls, poor graphics, poor storyline, or any combination of the three.

Despite its unique premise, its clunky graphics and controls, expensive price tag ($180? Not worth it), and horrible game library led Nintendo to cease production of the Virtual Boy within a year, after only 19 games had been released, 14 in the U.S. The good news is, Nintendo fans only had to wait a few more months to play games in 3-D when Nintendo 64 was released, which promptly washed the awful red and black taste out of their mouths.

(Dis)Honorable Mention goes to the Sega 32X, for also being kind of a good idea in theory, but sucking in execution. Who thought it was a good idea to extend the life of one console while you’re introducing a better one?

The Philips CD-i Zelda Trilogy (Philips CD-i – !993-1994)

Oh, how could I have a column about the worst in video games without mentioning these…things? These games were developed without the input of Nintendo, following a fallout between Philips and Nintendo on a CD-ROM add-on to the Super Nintendo. Nintendo had already licensed some characters, including the Zelda characters to Philips, and thus, the series of games some fans refer to as “the Unholy Triforce” was born.

Link: The Faces of Evil, in which Link travels to the nearby country of Koridai to free it from Ganon’s clutches, and Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon, in which Zelda travels to the nearby country of Gamelon to free Link from Ganon’s clutches, were released in 1993. Zelda’s Adventure, released in 1994, is essentially the same thing as Gamelon, except taking place in Tolemac, “Camelot” spelled backwards. What creative geniuses.

Faces of Evil and Wand of Gamelon were sidescroller’s like Zelda II, while Zelda’s Adventure had a top-down view and had live action scenes as opposed to the others’ crappy FMV animations. I guess this made Adventure a little cooler than the others, but still, a step above “absolute crap” is still “crap”. These games are largely ignored by Nintendo and Zelda fans alike.

(Dis)Honorable Mention goes to Hotel Mario. Come on Philips, you get the rights to make a game with the biggest video game star ever and you make a game about closing doors? Seriously?

WCW Backstage Assault (Playstation – 2000)

It was bound to happen sooner or later, but the other aspect of my nerdosity, professional wrestling, finally peeks its way into the School. This game was rather unique. You see, wrestling games at this point were praised for such features as being able to go backstage, where all manner of international objects were waiting for you to use to bash each other repeatedly, just like on TV. Capitalizing on this popularity, the matches in WCW Backstage Assault take place entirely in the backstage area. Much like everything WCW was doing at this time, it was a huge, embarrassing failure.

The list of wrestlers in the game was extensive, although a lot of popular guys were only available as unlockable’s. The graphics were a definitely a step backward, appearing blocky and primitive when compared to its predecessors and contemporaries. The biggest knock against this game was its hook: it was a wrestling game that didn’t take place in the ring. Even people like me and my friends, who often went backstage in such games immediately after the bell rang, stayed away from it.

(Dis)Honorable mention goes to WWF Betrayal, a beat “Ëœem up style game in which the object is to save a kidnapped Stephanie McMahon. What was our motivation for that one, exactly?

Blaster Master Boy (Game Boy – 1991)

Didn’t see this one coming, did you? Well, this one’s kind of a personal choice. Anyone who read this column would know that Blaster Master is one of my favorite games ever. So, when I became aware of a sequel released for the Game Boy, I was all over it. Oh, what a naïve child I was.

Blaster Master Boy, much like the aforementioned WCW game, focused on one popular aspect of its predecessor’s gameplay, namely the ability to leave the tank and destroy robots and mutants in underground caverns. Once again, Jason is tasked with destroying radioactive monsters, only this time he doesn’t have his tank to rely on. Already, this game sucks.

You, as Jason, go around the cavern, blowing up rocks and looking for a key. The key opens up the next room, where you repeat the process, until you reach and defeat a boss, and then you start the process over again. Essentially, it’s Bomberman. In fact, it is a Bomberman port. The graphics are pretty detailed for a Game Boy game, but that’s about the only good thing about it. The music gets annoying, as every single level has the exact same song, over…and over…and over. Damn. Bottom line, if they wanted a Bomberman port, they should have just called it Bomberman, because that series is kind of cool by itself. Don’t muck up my favorite game with a crappy sequel.

(Dis)Honorable Mention goes to Blaster Master: Blasting Again. No real reason, I just hate it.

Mega Man’s Box Art (NES – 1987)

Not the game, it kicks ass, but this:

Come on. Really? Where did they get some old guy in Max Moon’s old costume wielding a freakin’ LASER PISTOL from Mega Man, about a little robot who destroys evil robots with a laser cannon, the Mega Buster, coming out of his arm? And why is there a post-apocalyptic dystopia in the background, when the game took place in cities controlled by the aforementioned evil robots? I was 8 months old when this game came out, and even I said “Oh dear Christ, Mommy, what is that thing?”

(Dis)Honorable mention goes to Mega Man’s X4-X8, for sucking so bad and ruining what would have been a perfect trilogy. Who the hell is Axl, anyway?

Custer’s Revenge (Atari 2600 – 1982)

This game makes the Hot Coffee mod look like an episode of Barney. You take control of General Custer, sporting an erection that’s bigger than his head (seriously, count the pixels), and run across a field amid arrow attacks towards a nude Native American woman tied to a post. When you get to the woman, Custer…cleans her pipes, if you will (I am so sorry). This depiction of intercourse with a bound Native American woman made some groups denounce this game as a rape simulator. Now, where would they get that idea? That was sarcasm, by the way. Let’s just move on, this game is freaking me out.

Shaq-Fu (1994 – Genesis, SNES, Game Gear, Game Boy)

It’s Shaquille O’Neal in a fighting game, what more is there to say? Well for completeness’ sake, I’ll go into a little more detail. So Shaq is in Japan for a charity basketball game, and while touring the city goes into a kung fu dojo, where an old Japanese man conscripts him into going into a parallel dimension to rescue a boy named Nezu from the clutches of Sett-Ra, a mummy.

He fights his way around the dimension in very crappy battles, in between such gems of dialogue as “Where is Sett-Ra? Your magic can’t hurt me, girlfriend!” Sick burn! The gameplay sucked, the graphics sucked, and the story was like something out of a sci-fi movie that even MST3K wouldn’t touch. Every copy of this game should be locked in the vault containing every copy of the Star Wars holiday special. And then the vault should be nuked.

One more, then we’ll wrap this up.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial(1982 – Atari 2600)

Quite possibly the worst game ever. This game was created in response to the extremely positive reception E.T. garnered at the movies, and Atari hoped that interest would have people chomping at the bit for a game based on the movie. They spent millions to make the game, rushing to produce of millions of copies of it. They actually sold a rather respectable number of copies, for an Atari game, but so overproduced it that they lost a lot of money over it, contributing to one of the worst periods for video games ever.

The object of the game is to move E.T. around various scenes from the movie in order to obtain pieces of some kind of machine that would enable E.T. to phone home. The pieces are found in little wells dug in each scene. Elliot can be called to give E.T. some Reese’s Pieces for extra energy. That’s it. Sounds exciting, no? The gameplay was bad, the controls were bad, and the graphics were bad, even for 1982 Atari. There’s nothing else you can really say about this game. It sucked. Hard. It’s good for nothing except bankrupting companies. I wouldn’t even use this game as a paperweight.

So what have we learned? Sure it’s a gamble delaying a game for a little extra development, but some companies could have benefited from someone saying, “Maybe we should tweak this game a little bit,” or someone to say “Are you sure we want to make this game?” Why can’t they hire me? That would be the easiest job in the world.

Anyway, Next Week: Well, I have lots of finals and essays and stuff but…I don’t want to do that, so in between all that nonsense I’ll churn out a column for Beyond Oasis. We’re getting into Genesis games now. Yay, expanding horizons!