Auld Lang Syne? Old Games Time more like! Um.

10 Years Ago This Month: January 2007

phoenix

Nintendo were indirectly involved with controversy and tragedy this month. The Wii was still in high demand, allowing the bright sparks at one California radio station to hold a contest over the sought over console. Their idea was Hold Your Wee For a Wii, wherein contestants had to drink as much water as possible and not urinate. The result was water intoxication for several contenders and one death.

As far as actual releases went, the DS had a strong pair of adventures. Phoenix Wright Ace Attourney was the western debut of Gakuten Saiban, a long running Game Boy Advance franchise in Japan. This was a spoof of courtroom dramas and murder mysteries, and had you poking around crime scenes to uncover evidence and pressing points in the courtroom to find contradictions and free the wrongly accused. There had been three games on GBA at this point, and this was a DS port of the first one with an added chapter that took advantage of the polygon pushing abilities of the platform. An excellent localization that fully brought over the spirit and humor of the original made for a great DS pick.

Lost Planet was a pleasant early surprise from Capcom.

Lost Planet was a pleasant early surprise from Capcom.

There was also Hotel Dusk, a more straight laced adventure. Pitting you as a bizarrely A-Ha ‘Take On Me’ inspired animated sketch of a PI, you had to dig around the mysterious titular hotel. With many games of its type, especially on DS, being fairly light hearted in approach, the more adult tone of Hotel Dusk made it a cult hit despite some iffy writing and curious logic when it came to the order you had to complete tasks.

On 360, Capcom brought a more action oriented adventure in the form of Lost Planet. A squad based shooter set in frozen climes and facing your crew off against giant alien bugs, this was a westernised spin on the Monster Hunter format that at this point was only popular in its native Japan. Despite some flaws here and there, it was generally well received. The problem was this led Capcom and other Japanese publishers to try and shoehorn western style big budget action into games that didn’t support their ideas particularly well over the coming years.

20 Years Ago This Month: January 1997

ff7

1997 started slow in videogaming. The Consumer Electronics Show had been superseded by E3 at this point, and games were not on the forefront of winter CES. That said, the future tech on display at the show, of broadband internet, DVD and high definition digital TV would all play a big part in the future of the medium.

There was a small release on Japanese PlayStation’s this month in the form of Final Fantasy 7. Having pushed the Super Famicom to its limits with its recent RPGs, Squaresoft had intended to bring Final Famtasy into polygonal 3D on N64. For its big budget CG cutscenes and 3D characters on pre rendered backgrounds though, Square wanted CDs. When Nintendo was steadfast in its decision to stay with proprietary cartridges for their 64 bit hardware, it created a rift between the two companies that lasted for the whole generation.

Nintendo’s loss was Playstation’s gain, and FF7 was a blockbuster, especially in the later western release where Sony helped push a rarely localised franchise to the masses. FF7 made long form Japanese RPGs popular to a broader audience than ever before, and created an undying desire for a remake that finally seems like it’ll come sometime in 2018. Perhaps.

Thirty Years Ago This Month: January 1987

zelda-2

A pair of big sequels dominated the landscape in Japan this month. On the Famicom Disk System, Zelda 2: Adventure of Link came just under a year after the original Legend of Zelda but more than six months before the first game headed west on cartridge.

Frequently Nintendo in this era looked to diversify with game sequels. While Japanese Super Mario Brothers 2 was little more than a level pack, the Doki Doki Panic base would make for a very different sequel in the west. Donkey Kong Junior had a very different feel to Donkey Kong though, and DK3? That was a shooter where you aimed bug spray up the gorilla’s backside for crying out loud.

Zelda 2 then was a big departure from the first game. It would abandon the top down viewpoint of the first game except for overworld travel and would take a side on platforming approach in towns and dungeons. Some may have thought that the action of this action RPG was being more heavily emphasised, but there were role playing items here that wouldn’t be seen again in the franchise. Link would gain experience and level up for one, with random encounters being a grinding opportunity if you strayed off of paths on the world map. This was if anything the strictest role playing experience in a Zelda game up to the forthcoming Breath of the Wild. It was an acquired taste (and fiercely challenging), but in an odd way, Zelda 2 stood the test of time better than many of its peers.

Dragon Quest 2 was more of an evolution of DQ’s role playing formula, but nonetheless made a heavy mark. Chunsoft had hopped onto working on a sequel for Enix before even the first Dragon Quest released, leading to a tight turnaround of just eight months between the two games. Its major alterations were found in the combat system, which was much more dynamic, and a party system cribbed from Wizadry. You had a party of three characters (originally planned to be six a la its inspiration) in a game significantly visually and technically improved over the first title. Despite the quick turnaround between the first two DQ games, consumers showed no sign of fatigue, and the game went on to sell 2.4 million units in Japan alone.

40 Years Ago This Month: January 1977

studio2pacman

RCA, the Radio Corporation of America, brought us the Studio II console this month. This was, strictly speaking the second ‘proper’ games console released; proper referring to the fact that games came on programmable cartridges, unlike Magnavox’s Odyssey, which had carts that physically bridged logic circuits on the console motherboard. The Studio II had some Pong like games built into onboard ROM, and also offered a small selection of sports, shooting and educational games.

Still, second place is first loser, and last year’s Channel F from Fairchild was technically far superior. With not much to distinguish itself from the host of Pong clones that had flooded the home market, RCA soon pulled the Studio II. Still, the console market was hungry for competition, which would arrive in a big way in October of ’77.

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Gamer, Educator, Writer of Stuff, wrestler of professionals (sometimes)