Retrospective Monday


Title: Seiklus
Platform: PC
Date: 2003
Publisher: Independent
Developer: cly5m

I had first learned of Seiklus a few years ago when I was over at the Hardcore Gaming 101 boards, inquiring about what everyone thought the lineage of Fez (2012) was. The topic quickly devolved into a message board boxing match (which is rare for those boards, so I must’ve really asked a bad question…), but before I made it out, someone told me to look up an old PC game from 2003 called Seiklus.

One of the main things that was brought up in that topic (aside from bloodshed) was the idea that there was an “original indie game.” While our excitable gaming media usually insists that Braid (2008) is the game that put indie games on the map, I usually cited Cave Story (2004) as the game that brought pixels and small development teams into vogue. The whole topic seems to cause an endless and bitter debate between hobbyist game historians, so I was glad to find a game that I think quells the issue.

Seiklus, which is Estonian for “adventure,” a tip I got from Wikipedia, was developed by a sole author, the somewhat elusive cly5m, in 2003, using Game Maker. From what I can gauge, this is the first time anything significant had been made in Game Maker, or any game making software targeted at novice computer programmers for that matter. In retrospect, in the history of video games, Seiklus is inevitably a big deal.

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Dynowarz - Destruction of Spondylus (U).026

Title: Dynowarz: The Destruction of Spondylus
Platform: NES
Date: 1989
Publisher: Bandai
Developer: Advance Communication Company

Another Monday and another NES game that haunts my past. Like The Addams Family, Dynowarz captivated and frustrated me in my youth. Both had strange, grating, memorable music, unforgiving and unforgivable gameplay, awkward controls, and both seemed much larger and more mysterious than they do in retrospect. Unlike the former, though, Dynowarz: The Destruction of Spondylus, whatever that means, never reaches any level of garishness, never gets strange or surreal. It’s a very ordinary sci-fi themed action side-scroller, and a mediocre one at that. Whereas games like the very weird Dash Galaxy in the Alien Asylum (1990) for the NES mixed up the sci-fi action platformer with Adventures of Lolo (1989) styled segments, Dynowarz is incredibly mediocre, and does nothing particularly notable.

Oh, except that players get to pilot a giant robotic dinosaur, punching other dinosaurs in the neck and then get to move around on foot to complete these marathon platforming segments. Wow, cool.

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Addams Family, The (U).002

Title: The Addams Family
Platform: NES
Year: 1992
Publisher: Ocean Software
Developer: Ocean Software

I guess Ocean Software was known for their licensed games in the early ‘90s. They had a handful of Rambo games, a Jurassic Park game with very strange spatial relationships, a game based on Cool World with Brad Pitt (remember that?), some Batman games, and a ton of games based on the Addams Family. According to Wikipedia, in 1988, Ocean was a runner-up for best 8-bit “software house” at the Golden Joystick Awards. Huh.

Based on the 1991 film, The Addams Family had several different versions, including a SNES/Amiga enhanced remake (it’s not the same game at all), and an inferior Game Boy game, which is notable for making Gomez’s sprite look like Hitler and for having a dense, irritating and droning 2-bit soundtrack. The Game Boy version also seems to be inspired by the Monster Boy series and has a surprising amount of weapons and skills for the lack of actual gameplay depth.

When I was young, my family used to buy a lot of NES games. I always found it interesting that with each generation of gaming, we would amass less and less games (NES>SNES>N64/PS1>Gamecube/PS2>Wii/PS3). I guess it had to do with the amount of information available for these games, more reviews and videos.

Back in the NES days, all there was was Nintendo Power, which made every game seem rad and extreme. Needless to say, we ended up with a lot of mediocre titles for the NES and SNES. I guess by the time we got an N64, we were older, wiser, and had access to more gaming magazines. Sometimes all you had to go by was the license, and I guess my older brother really liked the Addams Family (there are a lot of Addams Family games in my house).

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Kingdom Hearts1_7

Title: Kingdom Hearts
Platform: PS2
Year: 2002
Publisher: Square
Developer: Square

I had never played the original Kingdom Hearts when it first came out in 2002, which is weird considering I bought the second one and played that when it was released and enjoyed it quite a bit. That was almost a decade ago. I recently picked up the original Kingdom Hearts, and after having it sit there amidst my ever growing pile of unfinished games, I popped it in my PS2 and started playing.

Everyone I talked to told me how they have all these fond memories of exploring the vibrant Disney environments, befriending charming Disney characters, even fighting Sephiroth (!) in the Hercules-themed tournament. I also recall those flashy, hyper emotional commercials blaring Utada’s “urgent” “Simple and Clean” and tugging at gamer’s hearts every twenty minutes. Disney and Square? It was like Super Mario RPG on the SNES, this kind of dream concoction, but even better looking and with more hype and J-Pop. Who knows why I never picked it up originally (probably too busy playing Arc the Lad Collection in my basement…?).

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