Friday Flashback Five: Week of August 26, 1996

Here we are at the end of the week, and you know what that means—time for another Friday Flashback Five!  Every Friday we take a look back at five random games that debuted that week in history.  Some games in our history have been stellar, others rotten, others still lukewarm., yet they’re all a part of the hobby that’s become such a large part of our lives.  This week, we’re heading back to the week of the Twenty-Sixth of August, Nineteen Ninety-Six.

A rather large number of games debuted this week, spanning almost every platform available at the time.  They ran the gamut from fantastic to forgettable, though many would be memorable no matter where on the spectrum they fell.

Now for the two usual notes: For starters, this isn’t a “top” or “bottom” list.  It’s just a look at five games picked at random, with a peek into what made them interesting, horrible, fun, bland, or whatever else.  Secondly, when possible I’ve included Let’s Plays or game play videos, and the usual disclaimer applies—many might well be thoroughly infested with vulgarity and profanity.

With those out of the way, let’s get this party started!

Age of Rifles
When someone talks about the “war” genre of gaming, people usually think of the plethora of first-person shooters that are typically set in World War II, such as Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, or Battlefield.  Gamers can be forgiven for this, as the relevant companies have dumped beau coup money into those games, and the first-person shooter genre as a whole is arguably the most popular genre right now, anyway.

Back in “the day”, there were more attempts at showing different settings, at trying different types of interfaces.  Age of Rifles was one of those attempts.  It was a turn-based strategy game that was deceptively deep.  It gave players as much control as they wanted—or as little as they wanted.  The control was one example of the game being simple yet elegant.  Through the classic “drag-and-drop” interface, players commanded different types of troops, gave them a variety of orders, and a host of other things.

Now, the artificial intelligence wasn’t the best, and campaign games weren’t quite as deep as the core game itself.  Still—you could make maps and create custom missions and campaigns, and you can design and create each individual unit if you so chose.  There was so much to offer, it’s almost a shame it likely won’t be remembered too well these days.

Some game play footage of a campaign can be found in these three videos—here, here, and here.

Monster Truck Madness
the monster truck sub-genre of racing games is a notably small one.  For every twenty “customize an import and race around” title, you might get one that lets you get behind the wheel of Grave Digger or any of the other big names in monster truck racing.

Monster Truck Madness brought more to the table than just monster trucks.  Where most monster truck games of the era were you, your truck, and a line of cars to squash, and that was it Madness gave you that plus actual tracks to race along, and a good variety of them at that.  There were plenty of shortcuts and other opportunities to ignore the actual track itself, so you could always find your own way.  The voice-work of legendary monster truck rally announcer Army Armstrong only sweetened an already saccharine-filled deal.

Some footage of a circuit race around a figure-eight track can be found here.

The Elder Scrolls: Chapter II – Daggerfall
There is certainly no dearth of R.P.G.s in the video game world.  Throw a rock in a video game store, and before the employees can chase you out, you’ll hit five R.P.G. titles.  That’s true now, and it was almost as true then.

What made The Elder Scrolls: Chapter II – Daggerfall different was that it was a throw-back to older role-playing games, both earlier video games and pen-and-paper games.  On its own, that’s nice enough, but what helped propel the title into the popularity it still enjoys today was how incredibly in-depth everything was, from the character creation forward.  You had a large number of “classes” (for those unfamiliar with the concept, think of them as “jobs”, more or less) to choose from, but you could even make up your own.  There were numerous other ways to customize the character—or, for those who weren’t really into such things, they could let the computer fill it all out for them based on a few morality-related questions.

Then you get into the story itself—it was incredibly long, incredibly complex, and everything you did—down to the things that seemed inconsequential—had some impact.  It really made you feel part of a bigger story, and not just walking through a world made solely for the player’s use.

The best part?  It’s free to download.  You might need a program like DOSbox to run it, however, but that (and similar programs) are free to download and use.

A play-through of the game can be found here.

Tekken 2
The two most popular fighting game franchises are, I dare say inarguably, the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat franchises.  They war with each other for the top spot, but they aren’t the only ones around.  Numerous other franchises have tried to nip at them, to try and slip by to the number-one slot.  The first Tekken was one of the most serious contenders.

Tekken 2 brought everything the first one did and added more on top.  More characters, more moves, more backgrounds.  Better yet, it was one of those with a simple control scheme, allowing even newcomers to the genre the chance to get into the game.  The simplicity of the control scheme let one more easily adapt to the complexity of the combat itself, where one could pull off a dazzling assortment of moves and counter-moves.  Also, even by today’s standards, the game is surprisingly fluid, creating a nice visual experience, as well.  While the series has moved on since then and started to wane in popularity, Tekken 2 had been the series’ strongest fighter in the war for most popular fighting franchise.

A Let’s Play can be found right here.

Crash Bandicoot
At this point in history, Mario was just about ready to break into the third dimension with a vengeance; everyone had been talking about the demos and previews in magazines and everything else.  When Crash Bandicoot was announced, previews published, et cetera, the comparisons were inevitable.  Unfortunately, Crash just couldn’t fill the shoes of a plumber.

Sure, Crash Bandicoot was a three-dimensional game—but it almost couldn’t have been more on rails.  It was pretty much a straightforward A-to-B-to-C progression, with no real exploration, as such.  As for the plot—it was barely there, and not exactly anything you’d call “deep”.  Crash’s girlfriend is kidnapped and you have to rescue her.  Interestingly, another game play concept that in no way was related to Mario’s side of the shelf—collect a hundred apples and you get an extra life.

Now, that said, it did hearken back to older platformers, especially since jumping really was the name of the game.  Crash had more ways and styles of jumping than some modern have guns.  Still—there were better three-dimensional games out there, even before Mario’s excursion.  It was an attempt to be a part of the blossoming movement into three dimensions.  It just wasn’t as good of one as it could have been.

A Let’s Play of it can be found right here.

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That’s all for this week.  See you on Monday, and have a good weekend!


2 Responses to “Friday Flashback Five: Week of August 26, 1996”

  1. Elisa Michelle Says:

    I could never get into the Elder Scrolls stuff. A lot of my friends did, but if this was 1996, I was only 5 (well, 6 at the end of the year, but still). Crash Bandicoot I was more into, but not this version. They came out with a Game Boy one, and I grew up on Game Boy.

    • Elder Scrolls was a time investment a lot of kids wouldn’t have been expected to really invest. Daggerfall—it would have taken someone a very long time to really go through.

      I have to confess, I don’t believe I’ve played the Game Boy version of Crash.

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