And so, as another year draws to a close, it’s time for us to reflect on the events of the prior year and what they mean to us. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe you found a better one. Maybe you got married or had a child. Maybe a dear family member passed away or you ended a relationship. Maybe absolutely nothing happened and you ended the year in the same state you started it. I wouldn’t know, of course, but whatever happened to you, I hope it was good or that you’ve recovered from it, if only because you’re reading this, and as such, anyone who likes what I’m doing here I’m generally pretty okay with.
Anyway, my year can charitably be described as “not so good”Â, so let’s move on.
So apparently, I’m told that there are a few of you out there who are actually reading these things. I’m… baffled about that, I guess, but I’m also happy to hear it. Not that I wouldn’t be playing terrible games either way, you understand, but it’s nice to know that a decent amount of someone’s out there seem to enjoy my pain, as perverse as that concept actually is. As such, I’m intending to spend more time actually getting these columns done next year, and while evidence indicates that this is possibly an empty promise (I completed a whopping six, along with two fillers, last year), I intend to keep to that promise as best I can. So, hey, hopefully I’ll have EIGHT done this time next year!
Anyway, as of this point, our rankings look like this:
Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust – Microsoft Xbox 360
Universal Studios Theme Park Adventures – Nintendo Gamecube
ALF – Sega Master System
Miracle Warriors: Seal of the Dark Lord – Sega Master System
Evil Dead: Hail to the King – Sega Dreamcast
Robinsin’s Requiem – Panasonic 3DO
WCW Thunder – Sony Playstation
Deadly Towers – Nintendo Entertainment System
Dinotopia – Microsoft Xbox
Beyond the Beyond – Sony Playstation
Aquaman: Battle for Atlantis – Microsoft Xbox
Ephemeral Fantasia – Sony Playstation 2
Alone in the Dark – Microsoft Xbox 360
Slaughter Sport – Sega Genesis
You will note that there are, at present, no numerical values associated with the games themselves. This is because the top three games, if we want to refer to them as the “top”Â of anything, are all basically at war with one another for the Number One (or is it Number Two, hur hur) spot, because they’re all very terrible and, on any given day, any one could easily be “The Worst”Â at this point. Anything below the first three can be considered to be wholly terrible, but simply not terrible enough to be amongst the Mount Olympus of crap, as it were. There will come a point, eventually, where some sort of a definitive decision will be made as to which of these is truly the worst, but for the record: the top three are truly the ones to beat if you’re looking to nominate something TRULY painful.
The current schedule of write-ups coming looks something like this:
Monster Seed – Sony Playstation – Thomas R
Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions – Nintendo Gamecube/Sony Playstation 2 – Bunasaurus ROAR
Budokan – Sega Genesis – J. Rose
Batman: Dark Tomorrow – Microsoft Xbox – Me
The list, obviously, could use a few more entries, but on the plus side, I actually have all of the games on it at this point, having acquired Wreckless and Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem a couple weeks ago (and on a side note, WHY DID I HAVE TO PAY LIKE TWENTY DOLLARS FOR ALIENS VS. PREDATOR REQUIEM I MEAN COME ON NOW), so we’re prepared. All that’s left is the playing, which I’m presently working on with Monster Seed, so we can expect to start trying to get back into a routine schedule on or around the week of January 11th. I’m trying to actually reduce my review workload in an attempt to commit more time to writing up columns, which, while it might not mean that I’m consistent with the “every two weeks”Â deadlines, should allow me more opportunity to work on writing about bad games, so hurray and such.
Once again, for those who are new to this whole shitshow, the concept goes as such: you nominate terrible games for me to play, and eventually, I make fun of them. Not too hard to wrap your head around, right? But before you nominate a game, be aware of the following rules:
1.) This gets done when it gets done.
2.) No hard to find or overly expensive games.
3.) Probably no sports games.
4.) No Japanese adventure games or RPG’s.
5.) No low-budget indy games unless they had a major retail release.
6.) Nothing from before the NES era, no exceptions.
7.) No PC games that won’t run on Windows XP or DOSbox.
8.) My word is final.
So, no, I’m not going to add I Wanna Be The Guy or an NFL game to the list, and if you nominate some $50 POS, expect that it won’t get done any time soon. Cool?
Now, normally I would finish this whole column up with a recap of some terrible game, but today I’d like to talk about what I would say is a fairly important event, insofar as anything relating to my gaming habits is concerned.
I bought a PS3.
I’d like to say that I bought it because the system had a stellar year, but frankly, the only exclusive that came out this year that I was impressed with was Demon’s Souls, and while that was a part of why I decided to get the system, it was far from the deciding factor. I’d like to say that next year’s exclusive list has me chomping at the bit to own the system, but of the four main system exclusives coming next year,
– God Of War III promises to be a pretty and violent game with a god awful story – and seriously, God of War II had a shit story, people; Kratos ran around playing the avenging hero in what amounted to Greek fan fiction, but it was impossible to sympathize with someone in his position when 1.) the only reason he was in that position was because he was acting like a gigantic jerkass and 2.) he was trying to avenge an army of pederasts – and Bayonetta will probably be just as good if not better;
– Heavy Rain looks pretty, but if Indigo Prophecy taught me anything, it’s going to have a million active time events and the story will fall apart in the third act; and
– The Last Guardian will be beautiful, like Shadow of the Colossus, will be exceptionally ambient, like Shadow of the Colossus, and will play like a bear… like Shadow of the Colossus;
Leaving White Knight Chronicles as the only game of the lot I’m not approaching with what amounts to tentative interest. I’d like to say that Sony actually managed to sell me on the console, but frankly, the only Sony-backed game I bought for the system was Demon’s Souls, a game Sony thought so highly of that they left Atlus to bring it to America because they were too busy backing Gears of Tomb Raider – er, sorry, Uncharted 2.
No, I bought a PS3 because my job gives away Visa gift cards like tap water to top performers and I am rather good at my job, so I essentially got the system for free.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a grudge against Sony, nor to I have a hard-on for Microsoft. I’m not saying this because I have a vested interest in convincing you one way or the other on what system you should want to purchase. I’m saying this because I’ve been quite happy to acquire pretty much every system I’ve purchased with my own money over the years. I bought the PS1 with money I saved up working part-time after high school. I bought the Saturn the same way. Ditto the Dreamcast. I bought the PS2 with money from my full time job. I bought the Xbox with my first credit card. I asked for the Gamecube for Christmas the year it came out. I stood in line outside of a Best Buy to purchase my Xbox 360. I picked up my Wii the night it was released at my local Gamestop. All of these systems I was all too happy to ask for as a gift or pay my own hard-earned money for, without complaint or issue.
The only reason I purchased a Playstation 3 was because it was essentially free.
The fact that it came with a three foot long charging cable, DID NOT come with an HDMI cable, and isn’t backwards compatible with my PS2 games despite costing nearly as much as my 360 did when I purchased it more or less cements that this was the correct way to feel about the matter.
The fact that most estimated sales figures say that the 360 has outsold the PS3 in the US by two to one more or less tells me that I’m not the only one that feels this way.
On the other hand, this year was a pretty fun year, gaming-wise, for me. Between what I reviewed and just played to play it, I’d say I played somewhere between one hundred and fifty to two hundred games this year (shut up), and most of them were at least tolerable. Demon’s Souls is a blast so far, even if I’ve died like fifty times at this point. Ghostbusters was great fun and I’m probably going to try and play through it again in the next few weeks. Dragon Age: Origins is still mighty entertaining and I’m hoping to devote some more time to it before Mass Effect 2 comes out in a few weeks. Resident Evil 5 ate way more of my time than it had any right to and I’m openly anticipating the expansion pack that’s coming in the next couple months. Tekken 6, while not a great single player game, is still an awesome multiplayer game, and I’m having a lot of fun trying to re-learn Christie and Asuka while trying to pick up Bob, if only because HE IS HILARIOUS. The Dark Spire is a game I come back to every so often to try and make more progress in, and if I had more time to myself I’d probably have beaten it by now, but hopefully I’ll have it done in the next, oh, year or so? Melty Blood: Act Cadenza and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 have also swallowed a good bit more of my free time than I’d have liked them to, the former because it’s a fast-paced fun fighting game, the latter because shooting people is fun. Oh, and of COURSE Batman: Arkham Asylum was a surprise hit that I loved immensely and had a lot of fun with, although the announcement that the sequel is coming out in 2010 has me a bit worried for the future of the franchise, though if anyone can pull it off, Rocksteady seems to be the company to do it.
On the other hand, Leisure Suit Larry: Box Office Bust and The Path came out this year, so the sheer suck from those two games is liable to throw off ANY year, really. I had to play Alone in the Dark and Aquaman again… and The Ring: Terror’s Realm… and Evil Dead: Hail to the King… and… well, you get the point. So, those were kind of low points on the gaming scale.
Oh, and my car died five times this year and I had to work on Christmas. So there’s that.
…y’know what? Fuck this year. 2009 was lame.
Well, on that sour and somewhat depressing note, I think it’s time to bring the column to a close. I’m going to put a good bit more time into Monster Seed over the next few weeks with the intention of seriously having it done for the second week of January, so here’s hoping I can actually keep on schedule for more than two columns! See you all in a couple weeks and have a happy (and safe) new year!
What, you’re still here? Look, I don’t have a bad game ready.
No, seriously. I don’t.
Look, don’t give me that look. It’s been a crappy year and…
Sigh. Alright, alright. Lemme go dig something up, hang on a second…
…okay. Here we go. Don’t say I never gave ya nothin’.
PLAYING THE LAME, VOLUME 21.
Name of the offending title: Alex Kidd in High Tech World.
What system was this forced upon: The Sega Master System, and if someone at Sega gets drunk and stupid enough, probably the Virtual Console sooner or later.
Who was responsible for this crap: Oh, this was all Sega baby.
Date this abomination was foisted upon us: Sometime in 1989. I received it for Christmas that year and cried myself to sleep for a week. Okay, maybe it was only two days. I was ten, I can’t be expected to remember all the significant details.
A BRIEF LAYOUT OF “ALEX KIDD IN HIGH TECH WORLD“Â:
So, back in the 80’s, Sega was desperately trying to compete with Nintendo on a level playing field, despite the fact that they were seriously at a major disadvantage from the word go. Nintendo had numerous developers behind them that were either unable or unwilling to work with Sega, and Nintendo also had the market advantage, having released the Nintendo Entertainment System some several months prior to the Sega Master System. Sega desperately wanted in on the success Nintendo was experiencing, but they lacked the exposure and the support of third party developers Nintendo had, leaving them to basically try to build a fanbase with their own developmental talent and what little marketing they could muster.
As history has shown, they were not very good at it.
Now, obviously, with a lack of third-party support and a lack of momentum, Sega had to get creative with their efforts, some of which were more inventive than others. Buying the rights to publish Double Dragon and a surprisingly playable version of the Activision Ghostbusters game, along with solid console releases of arcade properties like Outrun and Shinobi helped the console a little bit, but it really needed its own games to succeed, and Sega tried, OH HOW THEY TRIED, to make some. Not that some of them weren’t good; Spellcaster was a surprisingly large amount of fun, as was Zillion, and of course people remember games like Phantasy Star and the various Wonder Boy titles, but the big star, at least at first, was Alex Kidd in Miracle World. As Sega’s answer to Super Mario Brothers, the game was surprisingly fun and involved, featuring all sorts of interesting mechanics that made the game its own interesting and unique product, and it seemed like Sega was betting on the big-eared martial arts master to carry the company as their platforming hero, so to say.
And then Sega threw him under the bus.
We’ve touched on why Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars was a weak sequel, but it wasn’t so much BAD as it was not worth your time, so let us simply say that it was an uninspired effort and move on. Well, Sega wanted to dump out another game featuring the character, but they lacked any actual Alex Kidd games to bring out, so they decided to borrow a tactic from the Nintendo playbook and release a completely unrelated game with Alex’s face attached to the cover. Now, when Nintendo did this, they decided to repurpose a game called Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic and call it Super Mario Brothers 2, which actually turned out well enough since it was actually STILL a platformer, and not a bad one at that, so it wasn’t a terribly embarrassing idea. Fine. Sega, on the other hand, decided to repurpose a Japanese SMS title called Anmitsu Hime: From Amakara Castle, which was not so much a platformer as it was equal parts bad adventure game and worse platformer-like thing, so, as you might expect from that description, the results were not quite the same.
To say that the game was an abomination would be putting it kindly.
WHY THIS GAME SUCKS:
The trouble with continuity is that inevitably you’re going to shit on it. It’s a fact of life. The longer a franchise goes on, no matter the medium, the more likely you are to do something that contradicts something you did before and pisses off the fanbase. It’s just how things are done. Most companies try to avoid this whenever possible, either by allowing the same creator to make every component of the property or to at LEAST be an advisor of some sort somewhere in the writing process. Other companies try to hire fans to consistently be a part of the development of the product, or failing that, they reboot the franchise or try to make every part of the franchise into a disconnected story that’s directly unrelated to the prior part. Sometimes these tactics work, like with Zelda and Doctor Who; other times they fall apart, like with Spider-Man and… well, okay, a lot of comic characters have this problem, actually.
Shitting on a franchise, while less inevitable, is still likely the longer the franchise goes on. Something comes out of it that is simply HORRIBLE in new and exciting ways, everyone hates it, hey, that’s life, y’know? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was apparently not very good at all, the Star Wars Christmas Special is apparently a massive franchise loaf, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness almost redefined the concept of shitting on a franchise, The Clone Saga in Spider-Man put a good many people off of comic books entirely, and the list goes on and on. If you name a franchise, no matter its chosen media, SOMETHING in it probably sucked. That’s just the nature of things: eventually, someone somewhere has a bad idea, and the end results are passed along to the fans. It’s life.
Well, leave it to Sega to decide to not only employ both of the above concepts in one game, but to DEFINE both of the above concepts in one game, because Alex Kidd in High Tech World simultaneously manages to be what shitting on continuity AND shitting on a franchise is to what dysentery is to actual shitting.
And I’ve used up my poop metaphors for the year, so let’s move on.
Now, the thing is that Alex Kidd had a somewhat well-established continuity prior to this game, thanks to Alex Kidd in Miracle World and, to a lesser extent, Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars. We knew that he had a father who was presently MIA, he had a brother Egel, or Egul, or Igul, or however the hell you want to write it. We knew his brother had a fiancée. We knew Alex had a female friend of some sort, from The Lost Stars. These are established parts of the character’s existence. To take these parts and ADD to them, that’s fine, so long as you retain the original parts of the character’s existence. Continuity demands that we retain the history of the character and build upon it, because disposing of the character’s history disposes of the character itself.
This game does the exact opposite of that. It essentially takes the continuity of Alex Kidd’s world, stuffs it into a canon, and fires it into the sun.
For those wondering about what point, exactly, the experience goes off the rails and completely dumps on the continuity of the franchise, the answer is “pretty much as soon as you start”. The game starts asking all sorts of ridiculous questions from the moment it starts up that it has ABSOLUTELY no intention of answering, and it really never stops asking these questions until the end of the game. For instance:
– Okay, so in Alex Kidd in Miracle World, Alex’s castle was a fairly basic looking blue brick castle, not unlike what you’d expect to see in some sort of old medieval fantasy. So why, in Alex Kidd in High Tech World, did his castle suddenly morph into a castle out of ancient Japan?
– For that matter, why is pretty much everyone in the case but Alex and his tutor dressed like they fell out of the Sengoku period of Japan? The last two games strongly implied that the world Alex lived in was a semi-futuristic world with motorcycles, pedal copters, and so on, so the sudden shift to an ancient Japanese landscape seems a little asinine, doesn’t it?
– Why is Alex’s dad suddenly hanging around? Didn’t we establish that he’d disappeared some time prior to the first game?
– Who are all of these people in the castle? The game acts like we should magically know who Rockwell and James and Mary and John are, because they never bother to explain who these people are or what their function in the game is, and yet, here they are.
– WHY are these people in the castle? I mean, really, why? The game makes no effort to even explain WHO these people are, but it makes EVEN LESS effort to explain WHY they’re in the castle in the first place. Who is Rockwell and why would we call him? Who is Barbara and why does she exist at all? Who is this gigantic fur-faced guard at the gate, how is he preventing Alex Kidd, master of Shellcore, from leaving the castle, and oh yes, WHERE WAS HE WHEN JANKEN INVADED AND TOOK OVER THE LAND IN THE FIRST PLACE?
And on and on. Anmitsu Hime, presumably, had all of these characters in the anime itself and thus didn’t need to explain their existence, but Alex Kidd in High Tech World has no such luxury. Fantasy Zone 2 and Zillion 2 paid appropriate lip service to the prior games in the series, and hey, so did Alex Kidd: The Lost Stars. This game simply pretends the prior games didn’t even exist, which is awesome because, you know, the only reason it exists is because of the mild popularity of the prior games.
“Oh,” you might say, “but Super Mario Brothers 2 did the same thing! Why are you willing to forgive that but not this?”
Well, the simple answer is “because that was a good game and this isn’t”, but it also comes down to the fact that Super Mario Brothers 2 did the whole “reskinning a completely different game” mechanic RIGHT, and this game does it WRONG WRONG WRONG. Super Mario Brothers 2 works conceptually because we, as the players, are willing to believe that a completely different set of environments might exist on whatever planet Mario lives on, and that these environments might contain new and exciting villains for him to face. So long as the elements that have already been introduced remain the same, we can forgive the introduction of NEW elements because THEY’RE NEW and thus require significantly less explanation. If Mario were teaming up with a bunch of random nobodies, then we might need some kind of clarification on what’s going on, but he’s teaming up with Luigi, Toad and Princess Peach, and hey, WE KNOW THEM. They were in the last game. Batman has lots of villains, so it’s reasonable to believe that Bowser doesn’t have to be the only bad guy, and there are multiple continents on OUR planet, so who’s to say there aren’t multiple continents on HIS planet? The questions presented, in other words, are easily answered by our minds, and we can accept the new elements because nothing significant has been changed. Alex Kidd in High Tech World, on the other hand, changes every single element of the existing games in such a way that the stories of the two titles are completely disassociated from one another. Alex’s castle is different, his family is different, his friends are different, and the ONLY thing that is the same is our hero.
This is like opening up the newest issue of Spider-Man and seeing him working as a secretary for a local legal firm in Baltimore Maryland as he manages his relationship with his girlfriend Maggie Benson in between suiting up to direct traffic at the local mini-mall. Which, in retrospect, makes about as much sense as opening up the newest issue of Spider-Man and seeing him as an unemployed single loser who lives at home with his aunt and hangs out with his formerly deceased best friend and a bunch of people you’ve never seen before, so… I don’t really know what I was trying to say there. Sorry.
Moving on, the gist of the game is that Alex’s friend Paul (who?) stopped by to inform you that a hot new arcade, High Tech World, had opened nearby. It seems that the arcade is filled with the hottest new Sega arcade games (of course), and anyone who’s anyone is racing out there to check it out. Alex, of course, wants to check the place out himself, but the only map to the arcade has been ripped up and spread around the castle, by Paul, of course, and it’s up to us to find the pieces and get to the arcade before it closes at 5PM. The fact that, hypothetically, we could find the pieces of the map one day and travel there the next is, of course, never brought up, because arbitrary limitations were all the rage in old video games. It’s also great that the game starts off immediately with the first character you meet being a gigantic jerkass, but on the plus side, Paul’s involvement in the story from this point forward is exactly nil, so it’s not like you’re given any time to actually resent him or anything. He apparently lives in the house with Alex’s family, you will note, and with no explanation for this provided by the game itself I am forced to conclude it is because Alex’s parents are stupid and no one else would take him in, as it’s the most believable explanation available.
The first section of the game is all about finding the eight missing pieces of the map within a reasonable amount of time, as well as finding a way out of the castle so that you can escape off to High Tech World. Since this is a console version of an 80’s adventure game, that means that
1.) you have to solve a bunch of tenuously related puzzles that are disconnected from the plot and only serve to impede your progress,
2.) you’ll find a ton of items to collect, of which two will be of use,
3.) there are a whole lot of useless locations to explore and a bunch of people to meet who you’ll only talk to once, and
4.) the game can end immediately for no adequately explained reason,
which all comes together to make the beginning half an hour of gameplay SO MUCH FUN. Some of the map pieces are simple enough to find, like the piece you get from your father by talking to him twice, or the piece you find in a wastebasket, while others, like the ones you receive from your tutor for passing her multiple choice quiz or the one where you have to guess the names of the six sisters based on hints strewn around the castle, are annoying and pointless. There are characters who randomly appear in locations with no indication that such is the case, characters who give you plot-important items with no indication that they should fulfill this role, and items hidden in far-off corners of the castle that no one in their right mind would ever find without massive OCD or a strategy guide, AND THIS IS IN THE FIRST HALF HOUR OF PLAY, so, y’know, it’s every annoying mechanic of old-school adventure games crammed into one game. Eventually, you turn up the eight pieces of the map, find a hang glider locked up in a safe in the castle tower (…what.) and sail off into the woods to officially begin your journey to High Tech World.
This brings us to the platforming sections of the game, which are as frustrating as the adventure sections of the game, but for entirely different reasons. The platforming sections are entirely linear, and consist of Alex running through the forest, jumping along the trees and such, and throwing ninja stars at the large groups of ninjas spread out across the forest for… well, no reason, really. They’re just there to make your life difficult. On the plus side, the ninjas are set up in obvious and consistent patterns, so you can eventually memorize their locations to fight them off. On the minus side, you’ll certainly be able to memorize their locations because HOLY WOW DO YOU EAT IT A LOT in these sections. Death is constant, between Alex’s floaty controls, the delay on throwing multiple ninja stars, the spotty collision detection that makes jumping between branches next to impossible and landing on lily pads in the river an epic challenge, and the fact that the ninjas you face are placed in awkward locations that make them hard to kill ON PURPOSE, thus turning a five minute long sequence into half an hour of profanity and retries.
There are also various gold coins you can collect during this first sequence of the game, but as we will see in a minute, much like most of the things in this game, there’s no purpose to doing so.
Completing the first horrible platforming segment brings you to the forest checkpoint, which is essentially a small town that acts as another adventure segment. Your objective this time: acquire a travel pass so as to move forward. Before we discuss this wonderfully bullshit puzzle, I want you to see this:
Now, most of this game wasn’t even translated in the strictest sense of the concept, okay? The plot was more or less re-written from the ground up to incorporate both Alex Kidd and the arcade he’s trying to visit. Many of the concepts were retained, sure, but we can safely say that a good portion of the plot, dialogue and descriptions were re-written, rather than translated, for this game.
I want to point that out because apparently the guy who wrote out the game, and anyone involved in the quality control of the product beyond that point, think that “humburger”Â is an actual word.
So, let’s talk about the travel pass. Okay, Alex can’t leave town unless he turns up a travel pass, which begs the question “But isn’t he the prince of the land, and shouldn’t he thus be able to pull rank and get through without one?”Â, which would be answered by hearty laughter and a middle finger. Fine. The game presents three possible ways for the player to acquire one, of which only one actually works.
The first method is to go bother a sleeping samurai in his house until he tells you to turn over a Letter of Introduction to the rice shop owner, who will then sell you a travel pass for fifty gold. For those wondering why I just told them that collecting gold in the prior segment was useless, well, part of that comes down to the fact that a mere twenty gold will buy you a backscratcher from the Antiques Shop that you can then sell to the Pawn Shop for a grand, and you’re likely to end up with twenty gold BY ACCIDENT. Oh, there’s also the matter of the fact that this travel pass is discovered to be a fake and will get you arrested, thus ending the game immediately. Thanks for playing, try again!
The second method is to go to the Antique Shop and buy a printing press for two hundred gold, then buy a book at the Book Store for one hundred gold, and finally visit a shady dude in his house, who offers to help you out with anything you need. For fifty gold he will print you up a travel pass, which considering the cost and the effort involved you would THINK would work. Yeah, no, you get arrested again and off to jail you go. Thanks for playing, try again!
No, the only CORRECT way of earning a travel pass is, I shit you not, PRAYING ONE HUNDRED TIMES AT THE TEMPLE UNTIL GOD GIVES YOU ONE.
Okay, this requires a bit of explanation, I imagine, so here you go: there’s a Japanese custom that says that if you pray one hundred times at a temple, the gods will grant your wish. The whole process is long and involved, and can take a significantly large amount of time, which makes sense as an actual real-life tradition, because you SHOULD have to work to have your wishes granted. This is problematic as a game mechanic for two reasons. First, running back and forth on the same screen ONE HUNDRED TIMES, remember, is about the worst thing you could make a player do, because IT IS VERY TEDIOUS AND BORING. Okay? This is about ten minutes of moving the character back and forth across the screen and scrolling through the same text bubble over and over until the game decides that I have suffered enough just to progress the game forward. This is a gigantic fuck you to the player. This is incredibly lazy time wasting design that, even at ten years old, I could see without question. That said, the bigger problem is that this is, as I noted, a JAPANESE custom, and I am an American.
Back when I talked about Deadly Towers, Pulse Glazer asked me to think about how a small child would feel, knowing this was the only game they would get for a while, and realizing the game sucked hardcore, since the game came out back in the age when game reviews were sporadic and not always available for games on the market. Well, says I, imagine that you are a small child and this is the only game you would get for a while, and you’ve spent six months repeating this exact same section. You’ve played it over and over and over, DESPERATELY trying to figure out what it is that you’re missing, because this is long before the age of the internet, long before the time when anime would be as common on TV as regular cartoons, and long before you’d have any idea how to solve this problem by thinking outside of the box and realizing that the developers are irrational assholes. In desperation, you call Sega, and after some basic fumbling about, they tell you, “Oh, you have to pray at the temple one hundred times to get the travel pass”Â as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and you’re left to sit there in numb silence as you try to wrap your brain around this bizarre and, at the time, obscure Japanese ritual in your American game cartridge that you would have never figured out on your own, thus leaving the game as a fifty dollar paperweight.
I hope that gives you some perspective.
Anyway, after turning in the travel pass, you get to play another platforming stage, which is about three times as long and ten times as frustrating as the last one, before Alex finally makes it to High Tech World. The final shot, of course, is of Alex having fun playing a GOOD game and the narrator informing us that our adventure with Alex Kidd is at an end. So, in closing, the final realization you come to as you watch the ending play is that you just spent multiple hours playing a terrible game all so the main character could play a good game.
So, if you were wondering why I do this, well, pretty much that.
The reason why I keep coming back to SMS games for these columns, aside from the fact that I grew up with them, is that most of the time they were bad in ways most NES games could never touch. I mean, yes, most Acclaim games were often aggressively bad, no one can deny that, but the fact is that when you explain to someone why, say, Total Recall was bad, the description amounts to describing the shitty controls and ugly graphics while making a joke about the midget in the back alley a hundred times. While I’m not going to say that the game isn’t atrocious, I ask you: how can you compare that to a game where the objective is to play a bad game so that the main character can play a good game and one of the primary puzzles is to figure out that you have to spend ten minutes praying before you can make forward progress?
Having said that, Alex Kidd in High Tech World, though bizarre, unenjoyable, messy and terrible in nearly every possible respect (the music isn’t the worst), doesn’t really compare to a lot of the games on the list, if only because someone with no concept of who Alex Kidd and a walkthrough handy might have a few minutes of fun with it if they want to figure out the puzzles. Yes, the game was an amazingly bad idea, and yes, everything about the game is awful, but removing the months of trying to solve the travel pass puzzle when I was ten from the equation, the game is simply messy, uninteresting, and bland, and doesn’t QUITE agitate you often enough or long enough to really be the worst game ever made. It still deserves its place on the list, of course, as it still sucks a whole lot, but it’s unlikely to make you take a hammer to your game controller, so it doesn’t quite make the grade.
Anyway, it being New Year’s Eve and all, I’m now going to spend the rest of my evening getting drunk, so one more time, I’m Mark B and you’re not, and I hope you walk into 2010 very happy about that. Cheers!