Friday Flashback Five: Week of June 19, 1994

Time for another edition of the Friday Flashback Five!  Every Friday, we take a gander at this week in gaming history, and specifically look at five titles that came out.  Some games left a lasting mark of enjoyment and fun, while others left a lingering bas taste.  A few left nothing behind at all.  This week, we’re cranking the Wayback Machine for the far-flung week of June Nineteenth, ‘Ninety-Four.

A small assortment of games came out this week, though most of them will only be remembered today by fans of their series or fans of retro-gaming in general.

As usual, this isn’t a “top” or “bottom” list of any sort, and as such it’s not ordered in the slightest.  It’s just a look at five random games, and what effect they may have had—if any—on the hobby we all love.

Spider-Man and X-Men: Arcade’s Revenge
Gamers wanted to love this game.  We really did.  We just—couldn’t.  We should have known something was up when the box art didn’t match the actual game.  Take a gander here, and compare the screen shot in the center to the image of the box on the left.  The box art had undoubtedly been tweaked to reflect the then-popular ‘Nineties cartoon.  On its own, that’s fine—but the game itself wasn’t given the same treatment.  However, being the young or at least young-at-heart nerdlings we were back then, we brushed off any misgivings that may have given us and plunged right in.

The plot was as simplistic and nonsensical as the main villain—Arcade traps the X-Men in his theme park (while Spider-Man is off disarming random bombs or something), interestingly named “Murderworld”, and the protagonists have to fight their way out.  It mixed two staples of that era in gaming—platforming and beat-’em-ups.  It just didn’t do either much justice.

Then you have the title—Arcade’s Revenge.  It would seem to imply that there was a previous game in which he—a third-tier villain (and that’s being generous)—was trounced.  Well, no such luck.  So you have a random villain in a game advertising vengeance for—pretty much nothing.  On top of that—as if it weren’t enough—while the playable characters had a level or two themed pretty much around them (Spidey in the city, for example), the levels were—bland.  They didn’t have anything really going for them other than to let the player control (badly and jerkily) the characters.

On the whole, it was a game in that grey area between forgettable and simply bad.  Interestingly, a masochistic intrepid and dedicated gamer created a Let’s Play of the game.

Super Street Fighter II
The Street Fighter series is more than merely prolific—it’s insanely extensive.  There are dozens of versions to date, many including the words “Turbo” and/or “Super” in the title somewhere.  It was also in direct competition—both in the arcades and in homes—with the Mortal Kombat franchise, though the two franchises were different enough to let people choose a “side” but be comfortable in it.

Super Street Fighter II was actually the fourth game, and a sequel to the Turbo and Championship editions.  It boasted four new characters, each with their own stages, and while there wasn’t much difference between this version and the S.N.E.S. version, though the Genesis version looked like it had more frames in the opening cinematic.

The only thing to really say is that it was a Street Fighter game.  It had all of the hadokens and Tiger Uppercuts you could want.  Out of the four new characters introduced—T. Hawk, Fei Long, Dee Jay, and Cammy, only Cammy would become a regular and recognized part of the series.  The other characters had all of the moves from the previous titles, though a few received new ones—namely Ryu got his Fire Hadoken, Ken got his Flaming Dragon Punch, and M. Bison got his Devil Reverse.  It really wasn’t terribly innovative, it didn’t challenge gamer expectations, or anything else—but, here, that familiarity was the best thing about it, and ensured it would be a financial success.

Taz in Escape from Mars
The Tasmanian Devil has had a long and sometimes disappointing history.  First introduced way back in ‘Fifty-Four, he was initially conceived as “merely” an eternally-hungry antagonist for Bugs Bunny.  They quickly dropped his intelligence, and he’d pop in now and then to pester Bugs for the next few decades.

In the early ‘Nineties, he got his own cartoon show, Taz-Mania, which ran for only two seasons.  Still, it was a large part of many young (and, admittedly, not-so-young)  kid’s after-school viewing.  He’d retained his inability to speak coherently, though everyone else in his family did, and it was often a running gag.  He’d be asked a question, take a full minute of grunting, blowing raspberries, and other carrying on, only for someone else to “translate” it as “He said, ‘No’.”  Classic stuff, that.

Though short-lived, the cartoon was popular, and brought his older appearances back to the young public’s consciousness.  The game was more based on those older appearances, and, well, it pretty much offered what it said on the box—Taz was trying to escape Mars, from the clutches of Marvin the Martian.  Well, that’s what it offered for the first level.  Taz succeeds in his escape after the first boss fight.  From there, he visits other worlds.

It was a fine enough idea, but a bit lackluster in execution.  The level design was a bit—erratic.  It was more like the developers were either under a huge crunch to get the game out or they just weren’t sure where they were really going with the over all idea.  On the other hand, Taz himself was easy enough to control, so that was one less irritation for the gamer.  On the whole, it was one of those games that could have been better, but—wasn’t.

Dragon’s Lair
Unfortunately, this one‘s more or less fallen by the wayside, and the series as a whole hasn’t fared too much better.  It’s a shame, actually, since the game was so innovative.  It was the second to be based on the LaserDisc system, and the first to be animated.  Interesting, it was animated by a team of people who used to work for Disney.  It was as much a movie as an actual game, and if you take the disc and play it in a normal player, you can watch the entire thing and hardly realize it was a video game.

It was also one of the first arcade games in which you didn’t necessarily control the protagonist as much as directed him.  While a difference that seems at first glance to be merely a case of close semantics, it was actually an important difference.  Basically, you watched Dirk the Daring for a few moments, until he came to a choice, then you’d be given a split-second to push the joystick and/or press the button.  You could push the stick in any direction, but only some were “right” directions.  Choose a “wrong” direction or take too long, and, well—see for yourself.

The arcade game is a study in history, and a part of that history is the 3DO game.  Interestingly, it also came out on the Sega C.D., but that alone isn’t the interesting part.  What is the interesting part is that the order of the scenes was a little different, with a few missing altogether from the 3DO version.  This left a hint of an incomplete feel to the game, though it wasn’t really noticed enough to be a real hindrance.

Those who remember the game are sure to look back at it fondly, even if they didn’t beat it.  It was so—different.  So odd, unusual, and in a very Don Bluth way, so incredibly fun.

For the curious, here‘s a bit about Bluth and the development of Dragon’s Lair.

The Addams Family
The characters have a rather interesting history.  Created by Charles Addams as a comic strip for The New Yorker, they were a macabre yet humorous twist on family life.  In ‘Sixty-Four, they moved to the small screen, where they got their names for the first time.  From there, they eventually got their own cartoon, and almost two decades later, they finally hit the big screen.

For almost two full decades, they starred in numerous video games, though the one that debuted this week was the version for the Game Gear.  It loosely followed the plot of the first movie, and by that we mean that it mostly just had the Addams Family as characters.  As Gomez, the player searched for the rest of the family by combing the mansion.

It wasn’t really a terrible game, but it was indicative of why none of the titles all that stellar—it relied on brand recognition more than game play.  This game was a basic side-scrolling platformer/beat-’em-up, and though the characters looked marginally better than the console counterparts, it wasn’t by a huge margin.  This was one of the games that, solely as a game, almost deserved its fate of being left by the wayside, but as odd and interesting as the Family itself was, it also deserved to be better.

                        *                        *                        *

That’s all for this week, folks.  See you on Monday, when we continue our discussion on Final Fantasy!


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