Remember Snow Day: The GapKids Quest (blog post #1, blog post #2)? Let the record show that there was also a chapter called School Rules: The GapKids Quest. I learned that through the blog of one Troy W. Finamore, who also helped with yet another series of Taco Bell promotional titles. It follows a familiar model: 4 different games revolving around a certain theme. They represented a tie-in with ESPN’s X-Games with the sports: Moto X, BMX, Inline Skating, and Skateboarding.
Today, I briefly revisited Dirty Harry for the NES. Here’s a screenshot of the start of level 3:
Unless I miss my guess, Dirty Harry is on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay (though I have not seen the movie, I know that Dirty Harry is supposed to be set in San Francisco). That would be the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, not to mention a little of Sausalito to the right of the bridge. Quite accurate. I really should make a category for games featuring San Francisco in some way.
And look! I even figured out how to jump (A+B). I reasoned that it must be possible to jump since there are some spots early in this stage where jumping is an absolute necessity lest you fall into the bay. And since there aren’t that many NES input options, that pretty much leaves the (A+B) combo.
The reason I made it all the way to level 3 is that I thought to open the ROM file and scan for plaintext strings. WildKard pointed out that this yields useful company data for certain games. I was dubious since, in my limited explorations, there is not a great deal of plaintext to be gleaned from NES ROMs (English strings can be encoded much more efficiently with fewer than a full 8 bits per character). However, for certain games — Dirty Harry included — there is some plain ASCII text, passwords in this case. Level 2 = ‘misty’, level 3 = ‘bird ‘ (with a space at the end). ‘clyde’ gives infinite lives. There seems to be a fourth password, ‘gunny’, but I’m not sure what it does. It’s not infinite ammo.
- Disney’s Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers 2
- Dirty Harry
- The Terminator
- The Untouchables
The South Park Season 10 DVD set came out yesterday. I finally got to watch the now-famous Make Love, Not Warcraft episode based on World of Warcraft. Strangely, the key point upon which I fixated was when Butters said he wasn’t playing WoW, but rather Hello Kitty Island Adventure.
In the real world, everyone else would be playing the former while I would be stuck with the latter, if only to get the record into MobyGames. In fact there are at least a few Hello Kitty-themed games, but no Island Adventure.
Still, this DVD set came with a free 14-day trial WoW disc. I wonder if I should devote the 2 full weeks to experiencing the modern marvel that is the MMORPG?
I finally have time to play games again, sometimes multiple games per night if they’re really simple and/or bad games. I’ve still got a bunch of loose ends up on my big whiteboard next to my computer. I want to clean it off completely before proceeding. That means entering a few games that I have heretofore been stalling on, and making sure all outstanding credits are entered.
To that end, I was entering the credits for the Saturn version of Black Dawn when I came across this curious block of names:
What are we to conclude from the number of Saturn QA staff vs. PlayStation QA staff? Perhaps:
- The Black Dawn programmers were much better at programming the Saturn than the PlayStation and the Saturn port did not need as much testing.
- The Saturn port simply didn’t receive as much love as the PlayStation port and I should not expect Black Dawn on the Saturn to be especially bug-free.
New games in the database thanks to the renewed efforts of this blog:
I have been clogging up MobyGames’ game entry queue for a week now, but the approvers have managed to work through some of the backlog:
- The Last Starfighter
- Mickey’s Safari In Letterland
- Fisher-Price: Firehouse Rescue
- Ninja Crusaders
- Ninja Kid
Okay, brace yourself. Remember when I mentioned that I knew of 10 movie-licensed NES games not yet in MobyGames? Today, I made it a goal to clear all of those out of the queue. I played 2 of the 10 in the last entry and another one was, upon closer inspection, already in the database (NES version of Home Alone 2: Lost In New York). So here come whirlwind reviews of 7 movie-licensed NES games which — surprisingly — are not uniformly reprehensible.
The first game of the lot, however, is dreadful: Beetlejuice. The only thing I recall about the movie is that it obviously did not make a lasting impression on me. The NES adaptation shall forever be seared into my brain as another rock-bottom movie license.
As I gave it my best shot, I was haunted by the knowledge that, had I rented this game back in my prime NES-playing days, I would have dutifully plugged away at it for the entire rental period as opposed to just one half of a very frustrated hour. But it likely would never have come to that since I never seemed to rent games based on movies that I either had not seen or didn’t like.
Next was Cliffhanger, the first of 2 Sylvester Stallone-influenced games in today’s entry. There is already a Genesis/SNES/Sega CD port of this game in the database. The NES version, however, appears to be substantially different, and simpler. It was still quite promising, jumping and running across slanted mountainscapes, beating up wolves and birds. Unfortunately, I could not figure out how to reach the plane in the first level in order to advance the game:
I think there might have been some controls I did not know about for climbing on cliffs. I don’t have the instructions handy and could not find them on the internet.
Conan: The Mysteries of Time (the official Nintendo NES PDF has that full title; the title screen does not)… let’s see, my notes from earlier today succinctly state, “this is bad.” I could not get very far in this game, only as far as the fire-breathing lion boss:
Fortunately, someone actually posted a YouTube video showcasing Conan’s gameplay. Unfortunately, the player got no further than I could. Same goes for this reviewer. There is really little evidence that any game content exists beyond the above screenshot.
It’s interesting to note that, according to Wikipedia’s Conan page, this game was a port of an unrelated (to the Conan brand) title called Myth: History in the Making. This is not surprising. This just feels like an old PC action game. And it dawns on me as I write this that I probably made a mistake by entering Conan as a new entry as opposed to a new platform port/alternate title for Myth. Actually, closer examination reveals that this game already exists as Myth for the NES. All it needs is screenshots.
Next up is Dirty Harry: The War Against Drugs (again, the full title is only seen on the official Nintendo NES release PDF). The game begins with a digitized sample of Dirty Harry’s catchphase, “Go ahead… make my day.” I hear more digitized voice samples in perusing these obscure games than I ever did when I used to play NES games.
This game isn’t too bad, and I want to like it more. It’s a bit smarter than the typical NES side-scroller, yet dumber in other ways. E.g., I can’t hop over a simple hole in the ground (falling through doesn’t kill me, I just descend into the sewer where I have to climb back out). Again, I get the feeling that I’m missing out on certain controls. The game features side-scrolling action on the outside of buildings; plus, you can enter buildings and explore rooms and hallways:
This guy in the hallway appears to be heavily influenced by Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal. But he seems harmless enough. Unlike the snakes (?!) that inhabit many of the individual apartments that I can’t figure out how to destroy or dodge.
Next up is Rambo, the second Sly Stallone-based game today. While there are, at the time of this writing, 15 titles mentioning Rambo, none appear to be the same as this game. So I plunge right in, only to find myself completely clueless. My Rambo character is dropped off at a military base somewhere. There are two guys walking around and you can talk to either. One is Ericson, and he is pleased that he will be working with you. The other is Col. Trautman, who tells you to quit wasting time and get to the hangar. By the looks of the air-worthy vehicles in the background, I would guess that I am already at the hangar.
Before all of this riveting action, Trautman visits you in military prison and asks you if you would care to take on this mission, or continue to rot in jail. You know how some games ask you yes/no questions but keep asking you if you answer the wrong way? (“Oh, but you must!” followed by question, repeated.) This game is strangely self-aware of the situation:
Interesting rendition of Sly, too. I wonder if his agent had to sign off on that? Still, I can’t figure out how to do anything with this game and I can’t find instructions on the internet. I wonder if it’s an action/RPG combo? You dialog with other characters and have an experience point meter. Weirder things have been published, like Rambo-licensed interactive fiction. Unfortunately, I have nowhere near enough information to enter into the database for this title.
Next on my alphabetical list is The Terminator… wait a minute– I thought this game never actually made it to market. A curious bit of NES trivia is that Sunsoft’s Journey To Silius started life as a Terminator license, but something went wrong. So Sunsoft retooled the game somewhat with new storyline and characters, but left the final boss looking suspiciously like a certain killer robot from a blockbuster movie franchise.
Lo and behold, the official Nintendo release PDF does list The Terminator, eventually published by Mindscape in December, 1992. It is worthy of mention that this release date is after the release date for Terminator 2 for the NES.
The game begins with the movie hero, Kyle Reese, battling through the future post-apocalyptic landscape littered with Terminator droids in order to go back in time. Terminator robots, it turns out, are ridiculous pushovers. The game, however, is balanced out by the fact that the player gets 3 lives and no continues. I think I dodged a bullet by not renting this game as a child which only would have greatly increased the necessity for anger management therapy later in my life.
So is this better or worse than Journey To Silius? Based on this walkthrough, the game tries to parallel the movie’s plot faithfully and also mix up the gameplay types. The graphics were also quite reasonable. I always thought that Silius was a mediocre effort, at least by Sunsoft’s standards from whom I had come to expect top-notch fare. Notwithstanding the limited chances available to the player, this game just might have been a better movie license than what I make of Silius.
All right, one more to go, and it’s The Untouchables. For once, I actually could find the (very thorough) manual. The manual makes the game sound quite interesting due to divergent gameplay styles. Unfortunately, while the first level has a very unique gameplay idea, it’s poorly executed and seemingly impossible to beat:
Your lawman starts out around the corner from the alley. Press the control pad to confront the alley. Blast the gangsters who pop through the windows. Your shotgun only has 2 rounds. When you run out, the character will automatically hide around the corner and reload. Repeat. You need to ice a certain number of baddies within the allotted time (always seems to be 25 seconds). First 3, then 5, then 7 baddies. I couldn’t make it past the section with 7. The gangsters only pop out for about 2 seconds and you have to use the gamepad to move the gun’s sights. And it’s slow. My best strategy was to focus on 2 windows on one side and hope that, statistically, I would bag my limit before time ran out. It could be that they pop out in a repeatable pattern, though.
After today’s playtime, it finally dawned on me that if I really care about getting to level 2 on some of these games, I should investigate the emulator’s savestate features. However, I am dubious if savestates would actually help with this shootout. They might, but it would be tedious.
Update; Anachronism alert: Those look like discarded beverage cans littering the alley of 1920s-era Chicago. I have been doing some cursory internet research and, while the details are a bit sketchy, the earliest records of beverage cans point to the time just after Prohibition.
- A followup for Dirty Harry where I actually figured out how to jump
- A look at a few more NES movie licenses