Category Archives: Games of my Youth

Sharks And Video Games – We’re gonna need a bigger boat

I am of the opinion that Shark Week on The Discovery Channel should be made into a national week of celebration. Festivals, shark-shaped snacks on sticks,  a concert by Toby Keith, fireworks, and all the inspired jubilation – because Shark Week is just that great.

Sadly, there’s not much for a gamer looking to “sink his teeth” (haha, Shark analogies haters!) for some virtual shark action, at least to my collective knowledge. The only games I do so happen to remember all have the Steven Spielberg’s Jaws license tied to them.

The first game, came years after the first Jaws, and was roughly tied to Jaws: The Revenge – the fourth and final Jaws movie.  Yet, this Nintendo Entertainment System game was simply titled – Jaws.

Jaws was published back in 1987 by LJN, a wonderful video game maker who gave us such fabulous movie tie-ins such as Back To The Future, The Karate Kid, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Videogame Adventure, and Friday The 13th.

Ahem… excuse me while I laugh to myself at that last sentence. (LOL)

Jaws for the N.E.S., is a rather short and kinda bland experience of a game. How so? Well, you can beat it in almost 6 minuets; give a couple of hours or so depending on how much the few first minuets bored you to death, walked away, and then realized that you left your N.E.S. on and picked up from there.

I don’t want to bag on Jaws too hardly though. I mean for a mildly interesting time killer the game is perfect. There’s nothing Earth-shattering bad about that either, but I  do kinda wish you could play as the shark.

Isn’t that the only reason why someone would pick up a game featuring a great sea-predator such as a shark, but to experience it’s mighty ocean-mastering power?

Thank goodness someone listened to our collective prayers years later, with the 2006 release of Jaws Unleashed for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

Unlike Jaws’ 2D side-scrolling nature, Jaws Unleashed is drastically different, and can be easily summarized as Grand Theft Auto with sharks.

The premise is that you take control of the original great white from the first Jaws film, and prey on the unsuspecting beach goers of Amity Island. It’s all open-world mission based; from taking down marine obstacles that poses a threat to your survival, or facing off against boats, divers, and other water-dwelling life.

Sounds like fun – and if not – at least a bit humorously (or horrifically) enjoyable if this game play video is any indication.

I’m pretty sure Jaws Unleashed, though with its bad camera problems, glitchy game bugs, and freeze ups, is well-regarded as a cult hit. So as Bob Barker would say, if the price is right, Jaws Unleashed is worth a go at.

If anyone knows of  any other shark related games, hit the comments, and share your experience.

Oh and Shark Week 2011 is only a year away! (I thought I should mention that because for no other reason is that Shark Week is kick-ass! Okay, okay, I’ll stop now.)

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Games of My Youth: King of the Monsters 2

SNK’s King of the Monsters 2: The Next Thing. If the first thing that comes to your mind is a giant fire-breathing lizard scraping tooth and claw against another mutant creature as they both lay waste to a city – then awesome – because that is what this classic Arcade game has to offer in ten fold.

But if you’re still scratching you head, wondering what crazy nonsense I’m spouting this time, then right now is the perfect place to humbly welcome you into the monster-filled world that is Kaiju. “Konichiwa!” as our friends from across the Pacific would kindly say. Greetings aside, Kaiju is a sub-genre of any Japanese live-action film or television drama that typically features beast-like monsters, the most famous of these being Godzilla.

In fact, the big-green machine himself made his first silver-screen appearance over fifty years ago, and has since then stared in 28 featured films. That is a lot of movies, and when you include the other Kaiju inspired works that have spawned since the age of the drive-in movie, the list is lengthy. From King Kong, to Ultraman, and that turtle-flying hero himself Gamera, there are a multitude of other giant creatures that have gotten their own big-screen title around the world.

The quality of these films, is yes, questionable, with the majority of which being right-down laughable. But for fans, including myself, we know that that is part of  the charm, the lovable whimsy of  such science fiction/horror films. There’s nothing more fun than watching mini-recreated city sets being destroyed by a guy in a rubber monster suit, explosions here and there, and dose of wacky sci-fi hi-jinks mixed in for good measure.

It’s certainly that same passion for the Kaiju sub-genre that is the basis for the King of the Monsters series when the first installment hit arcades in 1991. In King of the Monsters, you select any one of six monsters, each with their own set of special attacks and attributes, to do battle in a simple fighting/wrestling game. Really I should say that the game plays more like a wrestling game, which takes place in city-sprawled arenas, then anything else. More like “King of the Monster Wrestlers” to be fair.

You can grab your opponent and throw them against an invisible force-field that acts more like the ropes on a wrestling ring. Plus in order to win anymatch in King of Monsters, just like any wrestling event, you must pin your rival for the traditional three count. The game is pretty much no more or no less. And that would have been alright if there was never a King of the Monsters 2, which in my opinion offers some much more in presentation and gameplay. It’s night and day with each title thanks to a simple addition of another Arcade-genre staple.

King of Monsters Above, King of Monsters 2 below.


With King of the Monsters 2 a year later, SNK kept only three monsters and the combat system but added further depth by going the Final Fight beat-em up route. It’s that added style which gives the game a new layer of fun, keeping things from getting boring pretty quick unlike the first. That’s because you don’t have to pin down to win this time, just beat all that stands between you, including the level’s end boss.

In King of Monsters 2 you now have some neat details to help you on your way, such as power-ups that up your attack strength and special attacks. You can also pick up and throw buildings and assault vehicles now too. Something you would have thought would have been in the original, but wasn’t. Better late than never I guess.

Truthfully King of the Monsters 2 is just the better polished game over the first, and is the one that you should seek first. The music is livelier and the visuals  a tad bit more brighter and colorful than the original. I would say the only things that keep King of the Monsters 2 from becoming great are the grappling mechanics and stingy difficulty that can burn away any enjoyment.

While battling against your foes, the grappling gets messy and tiring. You have to forcibly tap the A button in order to get the upper hand, but sometimes it feels that no matter how much you do, the computer still has its way. That goes along with the harsh difficulty too. You will be eating up numerous continues after your character gets defeated – and I mean it. So if you are the type that doesn’t have the patience or neither the interest to begin with, then you might want to steer clear.

Those complaints aside, if concepts of controlling a giant monster and smacking the guts out of other monsters are enough to string you along for a good half and hour or so, which is alright by me, then King of the Monsters 2 is a recommended try.

Now how do you get a chance to play this game? Well it seems I have the uncanny luck, again, of picking games that are not available yet on any official download service. With King of the Monsters 2, that means tracking down a Neo Geo arcade unit or home  console. And unless you have the money and hours to waste on Ebay to do so, well I can understand going with emulation.

SNK, along with fellow Japanese game company Takara, did do two ports of the Arcade version, one for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, both having their own special traits. The Super Nintendo version is almost a carbon-copy of the arcade one with some graphical and sound processing down-scaling to help the game fit on the cartridge.

Super Nintendo version above, Sega Genesis below.

Meanwhile the Sega Genesis port ditches the beat-em up theme and goes back to the fighting game premise in the original King of Monsters. Now according to which ever message board you hang out on, the Sega Genesis is the above-all best version of the game. Notably because, the Genesis port has the right difficulty level and is a lesser nuisance when dealing with the grappling mechanics.

Personally, I say if you can try both, go for it. Find which version, either Arcade or Genesis, is best for you. In the end you’ll still come away satisfied in your need to smash buildings and fight off aliens from sizes big to really really big.

The Arcades of Japan Though Pictures

What is it about an arcade that just makes one come alive with youthful spirit? Is it the bright lights glaring off glass monitors. The buzzing and beeping electrical sounds that loop endlessly throughout the air, aggressive on the ear drums, but rememberable long after you leave. And oh yeah – the games are also pretty fun to play.

Arcades were the birth place of the gaming community, or at least where most people, myself included, who began their interest in videogames, started out. On a Friday or Saturday, you and a couple of your friends would journey on out to your local mall or pizza joint, and begin a long night of quarter-spending amusement. And whether that night ended with you wasting all your weekly allowance, or getting your rear-end beat thoroughly at Street Fighter II, it was still a fulling experience.

Turn now to 2010, and the Arcade experience is rare and limited one. Where the only places left to go seek such a thing is at a place that serves beer and buffalo wings. And even there the choices are slim pickings; unless you like racing simulators. (Of which I do, but that neither here or there.)

No, perhaps the only lasting presence of what a true arcade feels like is still kept alive by our friends in Japan. There, multi-storied buildings dedicated to spending your saved up quarters (or in this case Yen¥) on fighting games, 2D-based shooters, or whatever genre your heart’s desire are in quite abundance. You can play modern games to even classic machines, that should have their own display at a Smithsonian’ exhibit, are all there for your enjoyment.

In Japan, arcades populate in places where commuters are in high numbers. This is how the arcade scene there is kept alive, by people, who after a busy day at work, kill some stress for an hour or two before going home.  And while that trend today has been steadily going down hill, forcing some arcades to close in numbers, the state of things over in Japan are at least better than here in the states where arcades are pretty much extinct.

It sounds like a true gamer’s paradise, and it is, or at least that’s how it looks like. But sadly you have to either 1) Live in Japan, or 2) cross the Pacific just to take an active part in. Always a catch… always a catch.

Well thankfully a NeoGaf user, by the name of DCharlie, has uploaded a hearty sum of pictures he/she has taken of arcades in Japan, and has blessed us poor souls by sharing them with us. And when I mean a hearty sum, I mean it; this gallery has a large variety of images taken from Club Sega in Akihabara (Anime nerd central of  Tokyo, Japan) to the legendary Shibuya Kaikan Monaco arcade near the Shibuya Station in Tokyo.

What I love the most though, is that the overall collection of photographs isn’t just a slide show of arcades, but also of living life in a city as unique as Tokyo. So thanks to DCharlie for allowing us a peek into his world, and some awesome arcades too.

Collection: Arcades of Japan – DCharlie

The Stories From GameFan Magazine

During the time when I was but a young boy beginning his interest in videogames, there were only a few magazines my grubby hands would reach for. There was Electronic Gaming Magazine, GamePro, Tips & Tricks, and if I was still thirsty for knowledge, GameFan.

It was fantastic to just run to the newsstand section of my local bookstore and open any issue, skim through the boring text (hey I was kid, I didn’t know any better,) and glare lovingly at the videogame screenshots. With out the internet, publications like these were your only friend in finding out the latest news and information.

Now GameFan was a particular interesting magazine for me. Which is code for; I don’t remember much of it. I’m sure somewhere along the way I picked it up, gave it a good look through, and went on my merry way. Perhaps back then I personally just didn’t get a lasting feel form the magazine.

It wasn’t until I was older to retrospect, that I had found out how beloved GameFan was and the number of followers it had gain during its time. I also learned, unfortunately, of its insane behind the scenes tales that rivaled almost any story from a university frat house.

GameFan was started by both Dave Halverson and Tim Lindquist back in 1992 and it was originally called Die Hard GameFan Magazine. And to that extent, it was very much that; a magazine that served its hardcore audience well. It not only intensely covered domestic games, but Japanese imports too. The publication even incorporated some talk about the soon to be popular Anime culture.

One striking feature to the magazine, was the great quality of the paper used that produced crisp colorful screenshots of the games. The screenshots just looked so spot-on when compared to their actual on-screen sources. This was a testament of the staff’s deep passion to videogames, and could be easily felt when they held a Gamefan issue.

While those qualities above are special, and a good reason for GameFan’s loyal following, it’s not worth much anything if all you do is screw if up by making management gaff after management gaff. The most infamous of these within the industry, is a specific issue where an offending racial epithet was somehow printed in one of its reviews.

But that was only the tip of iceberg, at least not behind closed doors. When the publication wasn’t slacking off in the editorial department, like writing articles while on acid, it was stealing money from company payroll just to acquire a Sonic the Hedgehog statue, or most erroneously, have its staff work without getting hardly paid.

All these lovely (and I mean that sarcastically) behind the scenes stories, from actual former staff members of GameFan, can be read over at The Next Level Forum. There an ex-GameFan writer began a thread to gather up information for what was to become a Wiki-article about the magazine, but then quickly ended up as a slight pissing-on party for one Dave Halverson (the guy who stole payroll money to buy that Sonic the Hedgehog statue.)

Not all of the stories in the thread are degrading, in fact most have some interesting insights into the history of GameFan, such as the inaugural cover art. Some other stories will also have you laughing from your chair as they are just absurd and unbelievable to read.

Truth be told, it was mid-way through my reading that I felt a bit warmed by the stories being told. Yeah, some of the former employees sound quiet vengeful against a certain person,  but aside that, there is a youthful passion. I could tell that the former staffers of GameFan really had a strong love for videogames, and they wanted nothing more but to see their publication become something big. It’s just sad that an awful management had to ruin such a dream.

I’ve gone through the trouble of finding some of the amusing and outlandish tales for you above. But for others, I humbly request you try to read though the entire thread – it is a long read, but it’s worth it just for the enticing knowledge spread throughout.

The GameFan History Thread [The Next Level Forums]

Pictures credited to Wikipedia.

The King of Famicom

Today I believe I might have discovered a clone of myself living in Japan. How else could this video below, combining two gaming elements which I love dearly – The King of Fighters series and retro gaming, be created and executed to such extreme bliss.

Now, I’ve talked about The King of Fighters several times here; probably a bit too much that it’s driven away any readers we have left. (Heck, what am I kidding, we didn’t have readers to begin with.) Anyway, this video, posted by a Japanese YouTube user Bash4208, inserts a creative spin on that 3-on-3 fighting game series by blending in a who’s-who of Famicom (NES) stars. And what better name fitting for such a piece of media than calling it The King of Famicom.

Ooo… I can already feel my knees shake with anticipation. I won’t spoil it for you, oh-no! You’ll just have to check out for yourselves. See if you can guess each character’s respective franchise.

A much grateful thanks to GoNintendo.com for finding this gem.