Friday Flashback Five: Week of May 01, 1994

It’s that time again, friends—time for another Friday Flashback Five, where we look at five games that came out this week in history.  We’ll take a quick peek at them and see what effect, if any, they had on gamers.  This week, we’re going back to the First of May, Nineteen Ninety-Four.

Interestingly, most of the games that debuted this week were for a Nintendo-brand system, and most of those were by far for the Super Nintendo.  Whether deserved or not, many of the games this week won’t be remembered by gamers, and in a few cases that’s actually a shame—but in others, that’s probably a good thing.

As usual, the list will be in no particular order; there’s no “top” or “bottom” to this list.  That said, let’s kick things off with…

Suzuka 8 Hours
This one is based on a positively brutal motorcycle race held in Japan every year.  Basically, the race runs for eight consecutive hours, and whichever team (composed of two primary riders and one alternate) completes the most laps wins.

The arcade game was one of the “gimmick” ones, in that it was one of the motorcycle games to have something you would actually sit on and lean left or right, like a real motorcycle.  This was around when arcade game designers were starting to realize just how much home console systems could compete.  While at this point in time, the home consoles weren’t quite as powerful as an arcade system, they were starting to get there, and the arcade couldn’t match the convenience of playing video games at home.  So they tried to draw in gamers with “gimmick” machines—driving games would have a large set-up you could climb into, for example.  By offering things that the gamer couldn’t—at least not anywhere approaching practically—get at home, they hoped to get more customers.

Using the Super FX Chip, which was a great innovation in most ways, meant there wasn’t really a great sense of speed in the Super Nintendo game.  The track was small, and it was difficult to do anything but crash.  The shoulder buttons were ostensibly similar to “leaning” on the arcade motorcycle rig—but they didn’t help too much.  It was a good attempt at capturing the arcade game for a home console, but it didn’t quite cut it.

ClayFighter: Tournament Edition
There were a few handfuls of games of that era that used real models in some fashion or another.  Mortal Kombat used real people as models, which was one of the things that made the game memorable.  ClayFighter: Tournament Edition was another one, though instead of people, the franchise used actual clay models.

It was a decent fighting franchise, but Tournament Edition was an especially good title.  Glitches were fixed, stages modified or re-created from scratch, and more game modes were added.  All in all a decent title, though one that would eventually be forgotten.

The Pirates of Dark Water
Based a Hanna-Barbara cartoon of the same name, the Super Nintendo version of the game was a side-scrolling beat-’em-up, playable by one or two players, similar to other games of the era such as Final Fight.

There isn’t a whole lot more to say about the game; like a lot of side-scrolling beat-’em-ups, you moved continuously to the right, fought waves of mooks, and at the end of each stage you fought a boss.  Occasionally there were hazards like falling rocks to contend with.  It really wasn’t anything different than other beat-’em-ups.  Whatever one may think of the cartoon, the Super Nintendo version of the game really wasn’t anything to write home about, though if one is curious there’s “long play” video of it over at YouTube.

Lamborghini American Challenge
This one can really be called a poor man’s Outrun.  A lot of what you could say to describe Outrun can be said for Lamborghini.  You entered races, dodged pedestrian vehicles, and occasionally tried to keep the police from smacking into you.

That said, it had a few interesting features.  It was more than just you against your opponents—there were actually different kinds of opponent racers, from other championship drivers to local drivers.  There were also a ton of tracks, and an interesting money system.  You had to “buy in” to enter races, and how much you earned if you won depended on a number of factors.  It never quite matched the popularity of Outrun and its ilk, but it wasn’t a terrible game by any stretch.

Mickey’s Ultimate Challenge
Most of the games featuring Mickey Mouse and his brood are usually a little “odd”, but in fun ways.  Ultimate Challenge is no exception.  Long story short, one day Mickey wakes up in a magical land that’s rocked by frequent earthquakes, and he embarks on a quest to figure out what’s going on.  That quest would take him through a series of mini-games, many of which were memory-oriented, tailored to suit the character giving the mini-game.

Interestingly, you could choose between playing as Mickey or Minnie, though there really wasn’t much difference between them.  After completing mini-games they would receive items that had to go to other characters, and it was up to the players to figure out which person wanted what item.  It wasn’t the most in-depth game, but it was certainly interesting, like games starring Mickey and company tended to be.


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