Wall Street Kid Opening

Title: Wall Street Kid
Year: 1990
Platform: NES
Publisher: SOFEL
Developer: SOFEL

Mike went to a pretty wild flea market over the weekend, returning two NES carts richer: Monster Party, 8-bit horror classic and one of my favorite platformers, and, uh, Wall Street Kid…? 

That’s a name I hadn’t heard in almost a decade.

Wall Street Kid is a game I had when I was very young, one of those used three bucks NES cartridges kids buy because the picture looks mildly entertaining (or just because we couldn’t believe there was a game about being a “wall street kid”). It was a game my brother and I would play very rarely, and only for ten minutes at a time, one of the games that seems like it might be funny to play for a bit, then quickly becomes too tedious to be novel.

Casino Kid (NES)

Casino Kid (NES)

It’s one of the few old games I never returned to as I got older, looked at it with new perspective. Would it charming, humorous, or just awful? Would it be worthy of my kind of “weird NES game” seal of approval? 

The game was developed by SOFEL, a Japanese communications company that dabbled in Famicom and apparently Game Boy games before fading into obscurity. Their first title, Casino Kid (or $1,000,000 Kid: Maboroshi no Teiou Hen), which is based on an unpopular manga, was released in 1989, with a sequel, Casino Kid II, released in 1993. The sequel was a very late NES game, but rumor has it the game was supposed to be released in 1990 and titled The Prince of Othello…!

The games were obviously shoddy casino simulators, but had cool “JRPG walking around” segments, which I’m a sucker for. Mediocre sprites, but still cool. The garish checkered floor is to die for.

The US Wall Street Kid was released in Japan as The Money Game II: Kabutochou no Kiseki, and it was a sequel to SOFEL’s earlier game, The Money Game. The game’s scant Wikipedia article has this to say:
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Steven
covered in ketchup and mustard
grassy motherfucker with crab’s claws
claws and grovels into the dirt behind the abandoned
contemporary art building
the old El Nido Triangle,
unburies his – 100th bible – while
buskers and babes watch from the misty sidelines
moaning and sighing in sign,
moist waffles, moist in the puddles of mud–
Steven Howard Jr., now Sony
executive Dr. “Crab” Spencer,
freelance child psychologist,
who reduced his whole train staff into
biblical pages, paces around the office,
its sandy beaches vacant and holy,
hangdog
et al. Read More

Monster Party.000

Title: Monster Party
Year: 1989
Platform: NES
Developer: Human Entertainment
Publisher: Bandai

Oh, boy. Here we go.

Monster Party was released for the NES by Bandai in 1989 in the US, developed by Human Entertainment (of Kabuki Quantum Fighter fame, maybe). For whatever reason, Bandai never released the game in Japan, and this only adds to the obscurity and mystery surrounding the game.

Monster Party isn’t like most other NES games. It holds something of a cult status among retro gamers and collectors, both due to the game’s mysterious history and for its…aesthetic. While remaining in its average NES platformer obscurity, Monster Party saw a rise in its cult status after a series of Japanese Famicom prototype screenshots surfaced in the early 2000s on the internet. 

Let this be said first: Monster Party is a very strange game, a creepy, mystical video game. It’s tough to gauge how popular the game was initially (apparently it received a 6.25/10 from Nintendo Power), and I can’t comment on how the game would be remembered if the prototype screenshots never showed up, but I can say this much: the few, grainy Japanese images revealed that Monster Party was originally much darker, bloodier, visually complex, and more pop culturally-oriented than the already completely strange game we played when we were younger.

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Jim Power - The Lost Dimension in 3D (USA).001
Title: Jim Power: The Lost Dimension in 3-D
Year: 1993
Platform: SNES, MS-DOS
Developer: Loriceil(s)
Publisher: Electro Brain

Someone on a game forum recommended this to me and I hadn’t heard of it, so I wasn’t sure at first why he recommended it. The topic of discussion was frustrating SNES games, but there are frustrating games that are difficult but satisfying, there are overly obscure games, unforgiving games, and sometimes games with just awful design. Which one was Jim Power?

Jim Power: The Lost Dimension in 3-D is I guess a misleading title. It recalls to mind something like beloved The Lost Vikings (1992) or Virtual Bart (1994), video game narratives that feature time travel or virtual realities, narratives that have no rules. Jim Power promises 3D, as well, whatever that could mean on the SNES (Star Fox?). 

Jim Power - The Lost Dimension in 3D (USA).008

The game was developed by French developer Loriceil, who came out with a handful of Commodore 64 and MS-DOS games in the 1980s that probably not a lot of people have ever heard of and a few hits like Golden Eagle (1991) on MS-DOS. Eric Chahi, who later designed Another World (1991) had his start at Loriceil, so the studio isn’t too obscure. 

In 1992, the studio came out with what seems to be their biggest hit, Jim Power in Mutant Planet, which was co-developed by Digital Concept, and features music from the incredibly talented Chris Hülsbeck, who worked on the Amiga/C64 version of R-Type and sci-fi run and gun Turrican (1990). A year later, The Lost Dimension in 3-D would be released.

Wikipedia seems to go to great lengths to make sure its readers are aware that Lost Dimension is not a sequel to Mutant Planet. The two have the same first level, though Mutant Planet looks, sounds, and maybe plays much better. Hülsbeck’s music can be heard in Lost Dimension, but it gets a bit garbled in the translation, though I might be biased. The first level’s theme is my favorite, and it’s pretty rockin’.

Jim Power - The Lost Dimension in 3D (USA).032

Both games have a striking resemblance to Turrican, both in terms of gameplay and sound. It’s funny to think that Loriceil wanted to make a Turrican-clone and actually went out of their way to get Hülsbeck to do the sound, but I’m just speculating. 

According to this, publisher Electro Brain actually packaged stereoscopic Nuoptix 3D glasses with the game, which would make the parallax scrolling backgrounds appear 3Dish. I can’t even imagine this. I felt so sick after playing it for about three hours and went straight to bed.

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Chris Klimas talks a bit about Twine, his program for making hypertext games, and the early days of IF.

What drew you to interactive fiction back in the ‘90s? What was the scene like back then?

I was intrigued by playing IF while I was growing up in the 80s — mainly the Infocom games. I think what I liked most about it was the feeling that the world of an IF game was so vast. I was pretty awful at the puzzles, so my experience of playing was an overwhelming sense there was all this content just out of reach. In a way, the content of the games existed more in my imagination than actual code. But that, to me, isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Anyway, once I got access to the Internet a decade later, I somehow found my way to ftp.gmd.de — the predecessor ofifarchive.org — and from there I found Inform, and fell a little bit in love with it. I liked the idea of building the vast world people chipped away at puzzles to reach. Of course, I learned that there were a whole other set of challenges once you’re on the other side.

By the time I started tinkering with IF, the community had at least established itself, though it grew a lot while I participated in it. Even so, it was not tremendously big, but there was a sense of progress to it, and room for enormous experimentation. The day before the IF Comp felt like Christmas Eve.

There was also an air of mystery to it, same as with any online interaction back then. You didn’t really know exactly who it was behind the newsgroups posts or the ifMUD accounts. It was a smidge surreal, meeting many of these folks many years later at the IF suite at PAX East 2010, and discovering they really were living breathing human beings and not eldritch presences on the net.
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Kickle Cubicle.075
Title: Kickle Cubicle
Year: 1990
Platform: NES
Publisher: Irem
Developer: Irem

I first heard of Kickle Cubicle a few years ago when Mike McCabe included it on his list of favorite games. I was surprised that A. an NES game with alliteration in its title had eluded me for so long and B. that there was an Irem NES game released in North America that I had never played.

Irem, known for their R-Type horizontal space shooters, had a small output of excellent NES games, including Deadly Towers (1986), The Guardian Legend (1988), Metal Storm (1991), and apparently action-puzzler Kickle Cubicle.

Kickle Cubicle.026

From what I can gauge, Kickle Cubicle is based on a Japanese arcade game called Meikyūjima, or “Labyrinth Island,” which is also its Japanese Famicom name. The game looks a good deal like HAL’s Adventure of Lolo (1989), a series Nintendo should revisit one of these years (Lolo confirmed for Brawl?), with its tile grid-based, block-pushing puzzle action.

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“Can you spell that? I can’t
Think today…” so the receipt girl
Tears a receipt and writes ZANZIBAR
On it, warning me it only works sometimes

I leave a Hello Kitty visual cue on the table
As per the rules of having your coffee and
Drinking it too but Boy #2 seems to not notice
And the code doesn’t work and I rode

The number 2 bus all the way here and my
Sexual desires are comprehensively reviled
And I probably find myself revolting My only
Remaining option is to send hand-drawn

Pictures of my ballsack to some kid’s Gameboy
While I’m driving oh! if only I had a car so
Please, Please let me have another chance
I’ll even do the whole interview again

I swear it’ll go better this time I
Swear I am Fresh to Death I swear