FIFA Street 2, XBox

I do enjoy a game of FIFA Street 2 on my XBox from time to time. It doesn’t have all the pompous dramatics of a regular FIFA game, although it does have the players.

Developed by EA Canada and published in 2006, FIFA Street 2 is the sequel to the footballing experiment where they combined star players with 4-a-side street football. So you get top-class players like RonaldoRonaldinho, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henri, and even Franz Beckenbauer playing on dirt roads and in caged-off urban pitches. To win you’ve got to score goals using tricks, or by scoring within a set time limit.

There’s a single-player career mode called “Rule the Streets” where you create a character and build him up by beating a succession of increasingly talented teams across the world. It’s pretty absorbing for a football game and there are quite a few unlockables, such as classic ‘legendary’ players, like Zico, Carlos Alberto Torres and Abedi Pele, so plenty to play for.

More: FIFA Street 2 on Wikipedia

FIFA-Street-2-XBox

Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy, Atari Jaguar

Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy was released for the Atari Jaguar in 1993. It is a side-scrolling, ‘bullet hell’ shooter, and it is awful.

Why is it so bad? Well, firstly: the graphics are rubbish. They are unimaginative, pre-rendered, SG workstation visuals that look very dated in this day and age, and they don’t gel well together in my opinion.

Secondly: the gameplay is dull. There is actually little to make Trevor McFur stand out from the competition. The asteroids and enemies that come at you are bland. The backgrounds are bland. The music is bland. The power-ups are bland. The boss battles are bland. Even the use of animals in a planetary ‘war’ situation seems like a hackneyed attempted to copy what Nintendo did with Star Fox.

If Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy has an upside it’s that it’s inoffensive and could probably entertain a child for an hour or two. Otherwise: it’s a bit of a joke on the shooter scene. And another terrible Atari Jaguar game rushed to market, lacking detail and polish.

More: Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy on Wikipedia

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Atari 2600

This notorious 1982 release for the Atari 2600 was – at the time – the most expensive movie license ever acquired by a video games company ($35 million dollars it apparently cost), and it also undoubtedly hastened the demise of Atari Inc. as a company (as it was back then), and was also a major contributing factor in the video game market crash of 1983.

Yes: pumping out games as bad and as cynically-rushed as E.T. was created a significant fall in consumer confidence – particularly in North America where the effects of the crash were felt most strongly.

And none of this was the fault of the programmer, Howard Scott Warshaw, who took some persuading to actually take on the project in the first place. Warshaw was given only six weeks to create a finished game from scratch, when normally an Atari 2600 game would take between six to twelve months to program. But complete the game he did, and it was then marketed by Atari some six months after the film had been released (ie. late; when people where starting to become fatigued by the film). Also, Atari suits at the time inexplicably decided to manufacture six million E.T. cartridges in anticipation of high sales. And – while E.T. did sell more than a million copies initially – a lot of the people who bought it were not happy and returned the game for their money back. Ultimately  – after returns – Atari sold less than ten percent of the cartridges they manufactured for E.T. and infamously buried hundreds of thousands of them in the New Mexico desert in an attempt to hide their embarrassment.

Throughout the decades there have been numerous instances where upper management at a video games company have made calamitous decisions, but those made by Atari management in the case of E.T. must rank as the greediest, most cynical, and most stupid of all time. Again: no real blame can be placed on the shoulders of the programmer, but the people who pushed him to make the game in six weeks; and the ones who thought that $35 million dollars was an acceptable price to pay for the E.T. video game license, are nothing but fools. Fools who brought the video games industry to its knees with their blindness and greed.

As for the game: it’s dogsh*t, of course. Of little or no redeeming value. It bears little resemblance to the film, or the characters in it, and few people who play E.T. have got anything positive to say about it.

E.T. on the Atari 2600 is an interesting story, but unfortunately one that highlights the very worst of the video games business.

More: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial on Wikipedia

Chuck Norris Superkicks, ColecoVision

This 1983 action game sees you playing as Chuck Norris – the infamous action hero of the 1970s – and it really is quite bad.

Chuck is on his way to an ancient temple and must fight off various opponents who attack him in order to get his black belt and gain access to the temple… This game really is as bad as it sounds… Which is a pity really, because Chuck Norris deserves better. Or at least he deserved better back then… He was the guy who took on Bruce Lee in the Colosseum in Rome (and lost), in the 1972 classic Way of the Dragon. He was the guy who made chest hair fashionable in action movies… He was the ginger assassin… Unfortunately Chuck is no longer with us (he died in 2001), but he did leave a considerable legacy. I’m not sure, though, if he’ll ever be remembered for this game…

I read the original manual before playing Chuck Norris Superkicks properly and had to laugh at how it tries to make the game sound more involved than it actually is. I mean: a big part of the game involves walking up a path, and you get penalised for walking on the bloody grass for God’s sake! Yes: Chuck walks up a path (avoiding the “tall grass”) and every now and then a fight breaks-out, cutting to a beat ’em up section.

The fighting sections are unsurprisingly lame. Chuck can block, kick, punch, and do a somersault jump. Beating opponents is a case of timing blows correctly, and also avoiding the shuriken they throw your way. If Chuck is hit by a throwing star he gets sent back to the last checkpoint with a time penalty. Beat your opponents and you are awarded a new belt (indicated by the colour change on the info bar at the bottom) and can continue walking up the path. Run out of time and it’s game over.

I’d almost put this into the same category as E.T., in that: there really isn’t much of a game in there, and what there is is pretty pathetic. It certainly doesn’t do justice to Chuck Norris  – or the ColecoVision – in any way shape or form.

Developer Xonox was a subsidiary of K-Tel and was one of the many companies to go bust during the big video game market crash of 1983. With games like this on their roster, it’s no surprise they didn’t survive it.

More: Chuck Norris Superkicks on Wikipedia

SimCity, Super Nintendo

The 1991 Super Nintendo version of Will Wright‘s classic SimCity was developed by Nintendo themselves, so is somewhat different to previous versions. It’s actually one of the best versions of SimCity around.

SimCity is about city-building, land/power/transportation management, taxation, and dealing with natural disasters. Basically: keeping your growing (or maybe even declining) population happy.

The viewpoint is overhead, and you build your city by clearing land and laying tiles on the scrolling landscape. You build roads, rail tracks, residential areas, industrial areas, and commercial areas – not to mention your own house – and must attract people to come live with you. When you reach a certain size you can then build more advanced structures, such as airports and sports stadia. Of course, you need power stations and police departments, and maybe even a port if you’ve got some coastline.

Nintendo‘s involvement added a lot of nice touches to SimCity on the SNES that aren’t in other versions, not least of which is a Bowser attack on Tokyo! Aping the Godzilla attack of the original game… Or the golden Mario statue awarded for reaching a half million population. Or the special buildings that are awarded for reaching certain milestones, such as casinos, amusement parks, and expo centres. Some of these ideas were incorporated into SimCity 2000 later, so it was prudent of Maxis to approve Nintendo‘s own development of their precious game, in exchange for new ideas.

A regular game of SimCity is an open-ended ‘sandbox’ affair, where you choose a random map and just build on it until you run out of steam. There are also six different disaster scenarios to “beat” – earthquake, pollution, crimewave, nuclear meltdown, coastal flooding, and the aforementioned monster attack.

Not as boring as it looks, SimCity is a classic SNES game and still a lot of fun to play.

More: SimCity on Wikipedia

Rolling Thunder 3, Megadrive/Genesis

Rolling Thunder 3 is a Sega Megadrive/Genesis exclusive. It was developed by Now Production and published by Namco in 1993. It did not appear in arcades, like its predecessors did.

This time you’re playing a different member of the Rolling Thunder team, a guy called Jay who wears blue trousers, as well as the usual gun holster on his chest. Jay is on the hunt for the Geldra gang second-in-command, while Codename Albatross and Leila go after the big boss – this is supposed to be happening at the same time as the events in Rolling Thunder 2, you see…

Unlike Rolling Thunder 2, Rolling Thunder 3 only has a single-player mode, which is a bit of an oversight. The Megadrive has two joypad ports by default, so I don’t know what they were thinking there… This would have been a great chance to combine what made the first and second games good – the ‘feel’, tempo, and graphical style of the first game, and the simultaneous two-player mode of the second… Oh well.

Jay operates similarly to Albatross – he can run, jump; leap up to an overhead platform; enter a door, and fire a variety of weapons. Gameplay is similar to the arcade original as you’d expect – some enemies get back up after being shot, so must be shot more than once; enemies come out of doors randomly so you have to be careful when you enter them; and each type of enemy has characteristic behaviour. Learning how to deal with individuals is a must in order to make it through a level – unless you know the game very well you’re not going to rush through it. Like the original: it’s challenging.

Features new to this game include: special weapons – selectable from a total of nine at the start, including three types of hand grenades; crosshairs lining up to fire on you if you take too long to complete a level; two fire buttons – one for special weapons; new enemies; checkpoint restarts; boss battles; and motorbikes!

In spite of there being no two-player mode, Rolling Thunder 3 is still an exceptional run-and-gunner. The graphics and gameplay are a nice re-imagining of the original and in this third instalment you can finally shoot diagonally! Back o’ the net!

Tip: Enter GREED as a password to play as the hidden character Ellen.

More: Rolling Thunder 3 on Wikipedia

Rolling Thunder 2, Arcade

Rolling Thunder 2 continues on from the classic Rolling Thunder: it’s secret agent “Albatross” against the sinister agents of “Geldra”, except this time you can play the game as the rescued Leila (from the first game) from the outset. Or, you can play two-player cooperatively with a friend, which you definitely couldn’t do in the original.

Playing Rolling Thunder 2 simultaneously with a friend is a blast, and the single-player game isn’t too bad either. The game doesn’t quite have the exceptional ‘feel’ of the original, though. Nor the same graphical style. It’s faster than the first game, but the character animation isn’t quite so good as seen previously. The colour scheme is also a bit ‘bright’ in places. It’s a pity Namco‘s developers didn’t go for a more subtle look, but it is what it is.

That said: Rolling Thunder 2 is still great fun to play – especially two-player. The time limits are quite harsh although they are designed to encourage players to put more coins into the machine, because you can continue where you left off if you have credits in. So playing it through in MAME shouldn’t be too difficult.

Rolling Thunder 2 is a decent sequel to a great arcade classic, and it’s good to see a female lead available to play alongside the usual all-male hero.

A third Rolling Thunder game was released for the Sega Megadrive in 1993.

More: Rolling Thunder 2 on Wikipedia

Tales of Phantasia, Super Nintendo

Tales of Phantasia is an RPG developed by Wolf Team, and first published for the Super Nintendo by Namco in 1995. As JRPGs go, it’s quite memorable.

It’s a time-travelling, party-based adventure with real-time, random combat. Yes: real time combat. Which is quite rare in this genre. The combat sections play like a side-scrolling action game, with your party being attacked from either the left or the right, and the direction of attack dictating who’s closest to the enemy. So you learn to put your more vulnerable characters in the middle! The real-time combat system in Tales of Phantasia is a refreshing change from the usual style of turn-based JPRGs and is I think what gives this game its unique appeal.

That said: there’s more to Tales of Phantasia than just the combat. The story isn’t bad, and neither is the dialogue, and the six playable characters available for recruit are all fairly interesting. There are lots of great little touches too, like the ripples and reflections in the water. There’s a ton of stuff to see and do in this game and it’s frankly more than worth the investment of time.

A Game Boy Advance remake was released in 2006 and was the game’s first official English translation. It’s somewhat different to this, though, with a widescreen display and larger character graphics during combat. Background graphics and gameplay are the same though.

More: Tales of Phantasia on Wikipedia