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Tag Archives: platformer

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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Seiklus1

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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Title: Super Mario World
Platform: SNES
Publisher: Nintendo
Year: 1990

supermarioworld1

There are over seventy user reviews on GameFAQs for this game, most of which are 9/10s and 10/10s. These reviews break down the game into controls, sound, graphics, and replay value, as per typical game review format.

Obviously, the game’s controls are some of the tightest on the system, the graphics spectacular (the game’s sprites are so brightly colored and well animated and that dense world map…< 3), and the music memorable and completely whistle-worthy (every time I or anyone in a video beats a stage, I find myself whistling that end level melody). Only trolls don’t like the game and while there are a large number of people who find Super Mario Bros. 3 to be the best of the series, there are still countless others that claim Super Mario World to be the best Mario game.

Great.

But what is so special about this game? Why do I think it’s the best Mario game? On paper, it’s essentially a reiteration of its predecessor with updated graphics and controls. What is it that makes this game feel…so immense?

When the player starts up a new file, he’s given the option of either going left or right on the world map. Those familiar with the game (and who are not doing a speedrun) will go left first, as that is the path that leads to the first switch in the game. There are a handful of hidden switches on the world map that cause blocks to appear in a number of stages, making them easier or even possible at all. These switches represent one of the biggest changes from Super Mario Bros. 3: the world is no longer broken up into smaller world maps separated by video game logic.

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