Video Works by Jeremy Parish

The prevailing theme for NES games in 1988 has been multiplayer. From Contra to Life Force to Jackal, many of the best games for ’88 played best with friends. (That was probably also true for games that weren't published by Konami, even.) Fittingly, episode 88 sees not but three games that uphold that trend. First, there's Jackal, a widely overlooked but danged enjoyable co-op shooter, followed by two pretty decent game show adaptations by Rare Ltd. for the sake of newcomer GameTek. Don't despair, though: The NES has some fantastic introvert-friendly single-player titles coming up before long.

Video Works is a patron-funded project. For early video access, exclusive podcasts and mini-zines, and more, please support my work at patreon.com/gamespite — thank you!


The machines have risen, taking control of this trio of games and obviating humanity altogether. Well, almost altogether. R.O.B. at least demonstrates the value of mankind working together, hand-in-, uh, claw with its new synthoid overlords to defeat the vile Smicks in Robot Gyro. As for the other games, well, they're all about robo-kind's fight for dominance. If my performance in Honshogi is anything to go by, carbon-based life is doomed.

Video Works is a patron-funded project. For early video access, exclusive podcasts and mini-zines, and more, please support my work at patreon.com/gamespite — thank you!


Although I've previously covered The Tower of Druaga on Game Boy Works, this version precedes the portable rendition by half a decade and stands as the more towering achievement of the two. So to speak. Another solid arcade-to-Famicom conversion by Namcot, Druaga's move to consoles felt like a figurative as well as literal homecoming: As an arcade game, Druaga feels frankly unfair thanks to its harsh one-hit-kill combat and mandatory secrets hidden behind abstruse and unintuitive rules. As a home game, however, Druaga offered a more expansive role-playing-style adventure than had ever been seen on consoles, and its design comes off as far less punishing when you don't have to drop 100 yen into the machine every time you run out of lives (which happens frequently). I don't know that I'd recommend Druaga today, as many games followed in its wake that built and improved on its design... but would those games have had a design to improve on without Druaga? I say they would not.

Video Works is a patron-funded project. For early video access, exclusive podcasts and mini-zines, and more, please support my work at patreon.com/gamespite — thank you!


OK, this week we have the ACTUAL debut of Irem on Famicom, but it's hard to say TOSE's take on Zippy Race makes for a splashier debut than 10-Yard Fight would have. At least 10-Yard Fight had the benefit of not having been shown up by a conversion of the same game to technically inferior hardware more than a year earlier. TOSE also helps a second publisher make its debut here with Sunsoft's first Famicom release: A similarly underwhelming arcade-to-console conversion of the game Arabian. If you love Ice Climber's jump physics (spoilers: you don't), you'll love Super Arabian (spoilers: you won't). Finally, wrapping up the episode, we have another arcade port from Taito. Front Line more or less invented a genre, but does that mean this version has any value besides its place in history? (Spoilers: it doesn't.) Yes, it's dark times for Famicom.

Video Works is a patron-funded project. For early video access, exclusive podcasts and mini-zines, and more, please support my work at patreon.com/gamespite — thank you!


Well, I goofed on this episode—the production order list I work for ended up getting scrambled due a copy/paste error, and I accidentally covered Geimos and 10-Yard Fight out of sequence (they shipped right after Robot Gyro, not Robot Block). This means that 10-Yard Fight wasn't actually Irem's first Famicom! Since I was on the road when I realized this during final caption edits, I couldn't rework this episode. So please look forward to next episode, where I walk it back a bit. Overall, though, the details and sentiments here are otherwise correct—Robot Block is a waste, Geimos is interesting if derivative and shallow, and 10-Yard Fight's history largely holds true. Anyway.

Video Works is a patron-funded project. For early video access, exclusive podcasts and mini-zines, and more, please support my work at patreon.com/gamespite — thank you!


As we move deeper into the Famicom's history, its timeline begins to diverse further and further from the American console's. Witness this week's episode, in which all three releases remained stranded in Japan. (Well, OK, Road Fighter shipped in Europe in 1992, which is such a weird and unlikely turn of events it seems like we all probably hallucinated it.) All three of these titles also came to Famicom from other platforms—Road Fighter and Warpman from arcades, and Door Door from home computers. And! All three come to Famicom courtesy of some of the system's biggest publishers: Konami, Namco, and Enix. Wow!


Three—three!—consecutive vertical shooters hit Famicom in this episode. Well, for a certain value of "vertical." All three of these games about shooting things while moving up or down along the screen, but all three take a very different approach to it. Star Force is the most traditional of the bunch, while Elevator Action combines vertical shooting with the sort of platform-based character movement found in the likes of Donkey Kong. And Field Combat... well, I'm not sure that one even knows what it wants to be. But at least it's interesting.


Although the three games featured in this week's episode have already appeared in the vanilla iteration of NES Works, I promise that there's merit in revisiting them. All three titles—Nintendo's Wrecking Crew, Konami's Hyper Olympic, and Nintendo (not Irem's!) Spartan-X—hit differently on Famicom than they did on NES. Especially when one of the games came with its own controller designed expressly for the purpose of mindless hitting.


Sunsoft returns to Game Boy with a soul-crushingly brutal take on a movie that's about as close to being a cult classic as a major blockbuster can be: Gremlins 2 - The New Batch. It really captures the experience of being a small, helpless little fuzzy guy with stubby arms making his way through a skyscraper filled with raving murder-monsters. Although you'd think with Gizmo's gigantic eyes, he'd have better vision than the original Game Boy screen provides.

On the import tip, there's Pocket Stadium from Atlus, a curious baseball simulator... and by "simulator" I really do mean that it's a simulator. No timing or dexterity required!


You come at the king, you'd best not miss. In this case, they've come at Godzilla, the King of Monsters, and stolen his horrible little son Minilla. I personally would be happy to let Minilla languish forever in captivity, but parental instincts run deep even for a skyscraper-sized atomic-powered dinosaur... and the result is one of the best Game Boy puzzle action games to date. So, hey, thanks for existing, Minilla. I guess.

On the import tip this episode: Nekojara Monogatari, another of Kemco's reworkings of the Shadowgate engine into a role-playing adventure game. This one has a theme of kitty cats. It has never been fan-translated, a state of affairs I would love to see resolved; it's a pretty neat little game, from what I can tell.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more! Books coming soon.


Our shared journey through the SG-1000 library has been illuminating, and in this episode I attempt to encapsulate much of what has been covered here over the past year. This episode isn't simply a recap and recontextualization of the system, though—it's also an attempt to reconcile some issues in my coverage of the individual games.

Part of what I've learned since early 2021 has been how to properly record the SG-1000 color palette, something I struggled with all along whether I was recording from Analogue clone hardware or an actual SG-1000. The system's limited but distinctive color options are a big part of what defines it! Also, we have a MUCH better sense of the actual release order of SG-1000 games thanks to the work of Gaming Alexandria. So, this episode is one part recap, one part quick review of 70+ games in proper order with proper color.

From here, I'm going to take a brief Sega break before returning late this spring or early summer to dive into the Mark III and transition into the Master System. Stay tuned!


In this episode, we look at the SG-1000's 1987 release lineup in its entirety... and, with those two games, we also wrap up the SG-1000 library as a whole. That's it! Go home! From now on, it's just Master System and beyond here on Segaiden.

These two works are not necessarily the kind of thing you'd want to spend much time playing in the modern day and age, but they are very impressive from a technical perspective. Imagine playing games like Borderline and Space Slalom in the early days of the SG-1000, then ending up with a complete graphical adventure set in Victorian London with Loretta No Shouzou, or playing a sprawling dungeon RPG with The Black Onyx! No question about it, the SG-1000 went down aiming for the fences. Bless this mess of a machine.

Video Works is a patron-funded project. For early video access, exclusive videos and publications, and more, please support my work at www.patreon.com/gamespite!


By request of They Call Me Sleeper, here's one last Wonder Boy game until Segaiden gets to the Master System stuff: Adventure Island IV for NES. Or rather, Takahashi Meijin no Boukenjima IV for Famicom, as Hudson has never localized this one in any capacity. That's a shame, because Adventure Island IV belatedly but capably brings Master Higgins' island adventures in line with those of Tom Tom's, transforming the linear Adventure Island series into a free-roaming exploratory adventure. You know. A metroidvania. It's a fine send-off to the Adventure Island series (which would see only one more proper new entry before riding its dino pal off into the sunset), to the Famicom, and to the 8-bit metroidvania format until portable and indie games revitalized the genre a decade later.

 

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Production note: NES footage captured from  @Analogue  Nt Mini Noir. Arcade footage captured from MiSTer (special thanks to  @MiSTer Addons ). SG-1000 footage in this episode was captured from a combination of Sega SG-1000 II with (with Card Catcher; RGB amp mod by  @iFixRetro  ) and  @Analogue  Mega Sg with card adapter module and DAC. Video upscaled to 720 with  @Retro Tink  5X.


Famicom mainstay Hudson finally makes its American debut this week with two sizable hits from Japan. First, Adventure Island brings a little taste of Sega to NES by converting Wonder Boy with a thinly veiled graphical overhaul. Milon's Secret Castle goes a different route, abandoning linear action for a hunt-and-explore adventure inside a castle full of monsters and annoying hidden objects.

Both games share a single trait: They're designed to be obnoxiously difficult without cheat codes. Yeah, I Game Genied my way through this episode. I am very old, and there's just not enough time left in my life to deal with this nonsense.

Direct download: 087_Adventure_Island.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:05pm EDT

The penultimate set of SG-1000 games arrives as the system does its best to remain current and competitive in the medium's changing landscape with technology built around the expectations of an earlier generation of game design. Although the SG-1000 is woefully underpowered to hold its own amidst the new creative frontiers being explored on Famicom, Mark III, and in arcades, these final releases push the hardware well beyond anything its designers could possibly have intended or foreseen.

The Graphic Tablet peripheral and Terebi Oekeki cart bring the creative functionality of a personal computer to SG-1000. Wonder Boy brings Mario-esque scrolling action to the system. And Champion Billiards... well, you'll recognize it when you see it. You can almost smell the flop sweat as the hardware tries to keep up—but it tries, dammit, and that counts for a lot.


A brief break in the SG-1000's strong run of final releases with a set of titles that will remind you of the not-so-good ol' days when the console's library was generally pretty rough. This trio earns most of its points for effort from Ninja Princess, which converts an arcade game quite convincingly save for one massive technical hitch that has a hugely disruptive effect on the action. Unfortunately, it's followed up by Super Tank, a much less enjoyable game that basically uses the same basic shooter-action premise as Ninja Princess, but poorly. And finally, Champion Kendou, the final original "Champion" sports creation for this console. It's not good, but as a game about kendou, it has the novelty of being... unique.


The SG-1000 didn't have much going on during 1986, with Sega's attention focused primarily on the shiny new Mark III console, but what little did make its way to the older console was pretty strong. After an indifferent shrug of a vintage-style single-screen arcade-format MSX port with Compile's C-So!, we get to the good stuff: ASCII's The Castle and Compile's Gulkave.

The former, also an MSX port, is a game so demanding and expansive Sega had to bust out the cartridge format again. The Castle simply wouldn't fit onto a MyCard. And as for Gulkave, you may have trouble believing it fit onto the SG-1000, period. Definitely Compile's swansong for the platform, and the culmination of several years of development work for this hardware and architecture, and unsurprisingly a highly sought-after collector's piece.


A real sense of deja vu this week as we look at three games that have all appeared on this channel in other versions. I would like to say that these iterations are all the superior works, but Mom taught me not to be a liar.

Now, this version of Dig Dug is far and away the best 8-bit home version ever published, an almost arcade-perfect rendition that captures both the broad strokes and the tiny little details that made it a classic (vexing enemy A.I.! Musical walking!). And Flappy is much better on Famicom than it was (well, will be) on Game Boy, its one major downside moving that it moves more quickly to the point of almost being TOO fast.

Chack'n Pop, though. That's a tough one. In terms of looks and animation, this version is much slicker than the SG-1000 release. But in terms of gameplay, it's weirdly worse. The levels have all been redesigned in unfortunate ways, ramping up the difficulty quickly and demanding almost expert-level play right from the start. I suppose for Chack'n Pop pros, this would be the equivalent of Championship Lode Runner, but how many kids out there in 1985 were demanding a hyper-challenging variant of this game!?

Production notes: SG-1000 footage captured from a combination of Sega SG-1000 II with (with Card Catcher) and  @Analogue  Mega Sg with card adapter module and DAC. Vintage hardware mods courtesy of  @iFixRetro . NES/Famicom footage captured from  @Analogue  Nt Mini Noir. Video upscaled to 720 with  @Retro Tink  5X.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more! Also available in print: Virtual Boy Works Vol. I Hardcover: https://limitedrungames.com/collections/books-board-games-and-more/products/virtual-boy-works-book

Direct download: Chackn_Pop_NES.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Continuing on from last week, we go from Hang On II to just plain ol' Hang On. But this in no way feels like a downgrade; quite the contrary. With Hang On (and Teddy Boy Blues), Sega brings its home hardware into line with Nintendo's Famicom/NES, boosting the basic SG-1000 architecture with a monstrous upgrade to its graphical capabilities and essentially creating a new console in the process. The continuity created between Hang On and Hang On II offers a remarkably convenient way to compare the SG-1000's state of the art with the entry-level capabilities of its successor, and frankly, there simply is no comparison.

Also in this episode: Notes on the Mark III hardware (which will be expanded when we make it to the Master System's U.S. launch) and extensive rumination on the history of pop idol video games. We're not done with SG-1000, though, so we'll resume exploring Mark III/Master System once that little journey is complete.

Production notes: Master System footage in this episode was recorded from an FM/RGB-modded Mark III SG-1000 with region converter passthrough. SG-1000 footage captured from a combination of Sega SG-1000 II with (with Card Catcher) and  @Analogue  Mega Sg with card adapter module and DAC. Vintage hardware mods courtesy of  @iFixRetro . NES/Famicom footage captured from  @Analogue  Nt Mini Noir. Video upscaled to 720 with  @Retro Tink  5X.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more! Also available in print: Virtual Boy Works Vol. I Hardcover: https://limitedrungames.com/collections/books-board-games-and-more/products/virtual-boy-works-book


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