Category Archives: Editorials

Is Another Videogame Crash Around the Corner?

There has been a ton of speculation going around that another videogame crash like the one from the early 80s could happen again because of the oversaturation of the market.  There are others who say it’s impossible because the videogame market is simply too strong today.  While true the market is at an all-time high, people tend to forget their history.

The arcade industry went through two crashes and was never able to return to glory afterwards.  What caused the first crash was a combination of things, but mainly the oversaturation of the games available.  After all there are only so many different versions and clones of Pac-Man and Donkey Kong one can really enjoy.  The second crash occurred because of the strength of the home console market.  Why would gamers pay $0.25 a life when they could get an entire game for $60 that actually looked and played exactly the same on their home console as the arcade version did?  The age-old appeal of the arcades, where games were leagues better than they were at home in terms of audio visuals, was lost when the Dreamcast hit the market in 1999.  Players’ taste in games had already began to change thanks to the introduction of the Sony PlayStation in 1995, but the true nail in the coffin was the Dreamcast.

The first home console to offer better-than-arcade quality graphics.
The first home console to offer better-than-arcade quality graphics.

In terms of the home videogame collapse of the early 80s, that comes down to the same thing.  The Atari 2600 was the king of the old-school consoles, but the market became saturated with consoles from a wide variety of manufacturers including ColecoVision to Mattel’s IntelliVision, and many, many others.  Then there were the games, towards 1981 and into 1982 the market was being flooded with lackluster software, which combined with the wide assortment of consoles led to the infamous videogame crash of 1983.  To give some perspective, in 1983 the gaming industry hit a milestone of $3.2 billion in revenue, but by 1985 it had shrunk by almost 97 percent down to 100 million.  Thankfully Nintendo was able to bring the industry back with their Nintendo Entertainment System, but had the market not been so saturated it’s possible Atari could have kept their lead in the industry.

Just look at how many consoles were released in 1982 and '83.
Just look at how many consoles were released in 1982 and ’83.

Fast forward to today where the home console market is still thriving, but for how much longer?  Once again companies are looking to enter the home console market with flashy set-top boxes that promise to do everything, but everyone is forgetting their history, and you know what they say happens when you forget your history…you’re doomed to repeat it.

Amazon, Valve, Google, Samsung, and Apple are all expected to enter the home console market with set-top boxes within the next two years.  This is on top of a wide assortment of micro-consoles like the OUYA.  Then there are the big boys, Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft whom already have ‘next-gen’ traditional consoles out in the marketplace.  Given the wide assortment of systems poised to enter the market in the near future, it really makes you wonder where things are heading.

Then there’s the software.  Development costs associated with creating a AAA title have ballooned to Hollywood levels.  Games costing a few hundred thousand dollars now cost tens of millions.  This stifles creativity because publishers want to ensure success so more often than not they will copy whatever fad happens to be in.  Case in point, look at how many first-person shooters are available, it’s staggering.  By putting the focus on making money instead of creating unique and innovative gameplay experiences, we could repeat exactly what happened in 1983, too many consoles to choose from, and a dearth of quality software.

The problem of old could very likely happen again, where consumers lose interest because of oversaturation.  One need only look at the mobile market to see just how saturated the market has become.  For every good game there are countless clones, and filler titles that fail to make any money.  Should the same thing happen in the home console market we could very well see the collapse of the entire videogame market as we know it today.

I can truly see something like this happening unless something dramatically changes in the next few years.  What do you think companies can do to ensure gaming doesn’t fall from grace?

A Look at How I got into Arcade Systems

Over the past month I’ve been actively looking at ways to diversify the content we provide on YouTube and here on the site.  To be perfectly honest, the vast majority of our views/hits come from our successful YouTube channel.  This is what led me to start thinking outside the box, about how we could potentially offer viewers something they don’t see every day, yet stay true to our mission statement of providing content that gamers care about and are actively interested in.  Virtually everyone now has access to capture devices like the Elgato Game Capture HD, and because of that reviews we publish, while entertaining, are being done by tons of other people and are therefore not as special as they once were.  That doesn’t mean we’re just going to stop releasing reviews, it simply means they’re not overly unique unless we get early access to the game, or we cover something not too many people have access too.

It was this concept of talking about games that not too many have either ever seen, or have access too that lead me to rediscover the Neo Geo.  Our SEGA Saturn and Dreamcast reviews have done exceptionally well over the years, so clearly there’s a large demand for retro reviews, or features where we discuss retro games.  The Neo Geo was the perfect console that fit all the needs I was looking for.  It would scratch that retro itch people have, it’s not easy to get into collecting for the system, and there are tons of exclusives that aren’t available anywhere else besides the original hardware.  So I figured it would be great to mix Neo Geo content in amongst the modern day reviews we cover like South Park: The Stick of Truth.  What would happen next was a huge surprise to me.

I started participating on the Neo-Geo message boards and noticed the community was unlike any other I had been part of before.  These people were not hardcore gamers, they were omega gamers.  Some of the people on these boards have hundreds of arcade cabinets on top of massive Neo Geo MVS/AES collections.  Naturally the more time I spent on these boards, the more I started to see incredible deals on MVS games.  Every single MVS game I currently own (13) were all purchased from members of the forum, and the experience has been nothing short of amazing.  After a few months of getting to know specific members, a question was raised, did I own an arcade cabinet myself.  The answer is no, primarily because I don’t have any space for a full cab in a three and a half apartment, but then I heard a magical term I had never heard before: “SuperGun”.

This video led me to discover a fantastic site call Jamma-Nation-X, which actually create custom made SuperGuns.  So what’s a SuperGun, it’s basically a box with a bunch of connectors that allow you to connect an arcade PCB or system directly to your TV using a regular console controller.  Think of it like as the middle man between the original arcade system and your TV and controllers.  You can also get SuperGuns created with different video encoders allowing for S-Video, Composite or Component outputs.  In my case I decided to get an RGB SuperGun, which ended up saving me almost $200.  You see, all arcade systems have a native RGB output, which is the absolute best picture quality you can get out of older games, but the catch is that not everyone has access to an RGB SCART converter.  Thankfully I purchased a SCART-to-HDMI upscaler a short time back for my Saturn reviews, and I’ve been using it ever since.

So with my SuperGun ordered, it was then time to find some arcade games so I started with the site that had been so good to me already, the Neo-Geo forums.  There I found some incredible deals from some super nice forum members.  I won’t tell you which systems or boards I have because that’s a surprise video I plan to do in the next few days.  Not only can I continue to do periodic reviews of retro releases, and continue with brand new reviews for modern console, but now I’ll also have the ability to talk about real arcade games, which is a dream come true.  I’ve always wanted to talk about some of my favorite arcade games as they were meant to be played, on actual arcade hardware.  Some of you will be amazed by some of these games because several I have, have never been released on any other platform outside the original arcade hardware.

So that’s my story.  If all goes according to plan you can expect to see a video on my arcade systems in the next few days, and then I’ll slowly start to put together reviews sometime after that.  The SuperGun hasn’t arrived yet, but once it does I’ll try and have at least one review up per week on a classic arcade game.  I also plan to look at individual arcade systems and give those an overview/review because many people have no clue how arcade systems even work or what they look like.  My hope is that people find this content original, and enjoy it because there aren’t many people out there who have access to these unique systems.

A Look ahead at 2014’s Indie Releases

Over the past year I’ve personally reviewed DUX 1.5, Sturmwind, Redux: Dark Matters, and most recently Neo XYX.  What is it with the indie scene that I find so interesting?  Well for starters, I absolutely love how indie developers are free to do as they wish.  There’s absolutely nothing holding them back.  If they want to add vulgar language, or ‘mature-themed’ content they’re free to do so.  I just love that.  I also love how the indie scene harkens back to the old days when people used to make games in their basement, and they did this for fun, with no other reason necessary.  The same is true for most of the modern day indie developers.  Do keep in mind I’m only referring to console indie developers here, because on PC it’s a whole other ballgame.  Sure they want to make a little money at the same time, but for the most part is this a labor of love.

This year alone we shall see some truly excellent indie releases.  There’s Pier Solar HD from Watermelon Games, which will be released on Steam, PS3, Xbox 360, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and Dreamcast.  That’s right, Dreamcast!  Take one guess which version I’ve already got pre-ordered.  That’s right, the Dreamcast version, and the reason is because there’s something magical about opening up a brand new game for a system that died back in 2001.  Pier Solar HD is a reworking of the indie SEGA Genesis RPG of the same name, minus the HD of course.

Pier Solar HD isn’t the only new release.  There’s also Knight’s Chance for the Neo Geo MVS, which we will have the world exclusive for.  That’s right, we’ll be unboxing and reviewing this game before anyone else in the entire planet!  Not only is that very exciting for the site, but also for me as a hardcore gamer.  It’s actually the very first gambling compilation game ever released on the platform.  There are card games, coin games, and more.  It looks extremely fun, and I just love the art style.

Nightmare Busters is a brand new Super NES game that began shipping out December 2013, but I should get mine sometime this year.  It’s an action platformer that is bright and colorful, and is the first brand new release for the Super NES since 1998!  Can you believe that!?!

Hucast will also be releasing the excellent looking shmup Ghost Blade for the Dreamcast later this year.  Hucast are the fine folks that released DUX and Redux.  As we’ve come to expect from all Hucast-published games, you can expect fantastic gameplay and some lush VGA-compatible graphics.

I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting, but these are all highlights to be sure.  I’m very excited to get my hands on all of these games in the coming months, and hope more get announced soon.  Rumor has it NG:Dev Team, the makers of Neo XYX are hard at work on their next Neo Geo MVS release, and believe me when I say, I’ll be there day one for sure!  Which of these games are you looking forward to, or which ones have I missed that I should add to the list?  Let me know!

The Joy of Gaming Anticipation

In a little under 12 hours, as of writing this, the latest Pokémon will be released on the eShop on the 3DS. Naturally Steven has texted me about three dozen times reminding me of this fact, and commanding me to write an article about it. Since I don’t listen to him very well, I decided to write an article on what he’s experiencing right now, the joy of anticipation, that feeling we all get knowing our favorite series is getting a new game, or that a new console launch is right around the corner.

As I get older the anticipation and feeling of excitement has decreased quite significantly. I literally couldn’t sleep when Ocarina of Time was just a day away. I had dreams of how awesome it would be, and in the end the anticipation was well worth being excited over as Ocarina of Time was just awesome. When Skyward Sword was released though, I didn’t have that same level of excitement. It is most likely because the Wii just wasn’t that exciting of a console to me. Truth be told though, I haven’t been super excited about any videogame release in years.

PThere’s something magical about the feeling, that no one can deny. Right now Steven is looking for any excuse under the sun so he can lock himself away for the long weekend (it’s Thanksgiving in Canada) to play Pokémon X & Y, but he’s a grown man so it’s not as easy as it used to be. I’m sure you all have similar stories, even now, where that feeling comes over you and you want to drop everything so you can check out the latest entry in your favorite series.

Console launches are also special because of the mystery. Ever since I started COE I’ve lost a lot of the excitement around console launched mainly because of having the opportunity to play them so much earlier than their official release. This time around though things are different. I have yet to get my hands on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One, and I don’t plan to until I have my own systems. So for the first time since the PlayStation 2, GameCube, and Xbox launch I’m actually beginning to get excited for these new machines. Of all the games hitting in November there’s one in particular that I’m starting to get old-school excited for and that is…

So what about all of you? What stories do you have about console or game launches you were extremely excited about? Are you like Steven, losing sleep over tonight’s Pokémon launch, or are you more interested in November when the next-generation will officially begin?

The History of the King of Fighters – Part 3 (KOF ’94)

After the success SNK had with both the Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting series, they wanted to move on to something else. SNK had no plans to stop making new entries in either of those series, so they decided to do a crossover title that would attract fans of both series. The original idea wasn’t to make a fighting game at all, but rather a side scrolling beat ’em up. The prototype of the game was called Survivor, but that’s about all we know for certain. Apparently there was a location test version created that featured Robert Garcia and Terry Bogard as playable characters. Not much else is known about the prototype as development quickly switched gears. SNK really loved the idea of a cross-over game, but they weren’t entirely sure players would be interested in Survivor given how popular Capcom’s Final Fight was. In other words, they were a little worried this game would appear as another ‘me too’ type of game, much like what had happened with Fatal Fury. After what must have been some length internal discussions, it was decided that instead of a beat ’em up, the game would become a fighter, something they knew a lot about by this point in time.

KOF94Now that the development team had a clear direction, they wanted to expand the roster of playable characters beyond just Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. As a result the team dug a little deeper into the SNK vault and selected two extremely popular arcade hits from the pre-Neo Geo days, Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier and added some of those characters into the mix. Now they had a very diverse cast of characters, but it still didn’t feel original enough. Remember that in 1992/93 Street Fighter II was still the king of arcades, so they wanted to do something else to really separate it from the rest of the pack. For whatever reason it was decided the team mechanic from the beat ’em up prototype would be carried over to the fighting game. Thus the creation of a team-based fighter was born.

While in the process of creating the characters for each team, the development staff quickly realized they didn’t have enough diversity even with the additional characters from Ikari Warriors and Psycho Soldier. They knew they also had to add some fresh blood to the mix, and started creating all new original characters. What was supposed to be a quick dream match fighting game, turned into something much more. In the end there were a total of eight selectable teams, with three characters per team.

KOF 94_1Kyo Kusanagi was created to be the main protagonist of the series, however given the game’s inability to mix and match fighters from different teams, it was eventually decided that players would decide who the real ‘hero’ was. Kyo’s role would be greatly expanded in the next entry in the series, and from there on out.

In total, here’s a list of all the characters that made their way into the game from previous SNK games.

Terry Bogard – From Fatal Fury series
Andy Bogard – From Fatal Fury series
Joe Higashi – From Fatal Fury series
Mai Shiranui – From Fatal Fury series
Kim Kaphwan – From Fatal Fury series

Ryo Sakazaki – From Art of Fighting series
Robert Garcia – From Art of Fighting series
Takuma Sakazaki – From Art of Fighting series
King – From Art of Fighting series
Yuri Sakazaki – From Art of Fighting series

Ralf Jones – From Ikari Warriors series
Clark Still – From Ikari Warriors series

Athena Asamiya – From Athena and Psycho Soldier
Sie Kensou – From Psycho Soldier

Here’s a list of the brand new characters.

Heidern
Choi Bounge
Chang Koehan
Chin Gentsai
Heavy D!
Lucky Glauber
Brian Battler
Rugal Bernstein
Kyo Kusanagi
Benimaru Nikaido
Goro Daimon

KOF 94_3With the character roster complete, they had to decide on a name for the game, which likely came about very early on in development. After all they knew they were going to need some sort of tournament to bring all these characters together, and what better tournament than the one they’d already established in both Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting. So it was decided, this was be called The King of Fighters ’94. SNK was also very smart to point out this new series would take place outside Fatal Fury and Art of Fighting canon. This way they wouldn’t have to explain why Art of Fighting characters were young, and how other characters managed to find their way to this game. It was supposed to be a dream match anyways, so they figured not too many people would care.

The development team did add a story though, a rather simple one at first. Rugal Bernstein is a powerful arms dealer and drug trafficker, who also happens to be one kick ass fighter. He’s gotten to the point where he’s untouchable and so decides to test his strength against the best in the world, so he holds a team-based tournament with the best of the best. He sends out his secretary to travel all over the world and invite groups of three fighters from each region to represent a certain nationality. This helps explain why each team is based on a country.

When it came time to the core gameplay, the developers originally wanted to balance out each individual fighter, but with a roster of 24 characters, they didn’t have the time nor money to do everything they wanted. In the end the Art of Fighting characters are slightly more powerful than the rest of the pack. This issue would be fixed in the following release, and one must commend the developers for managing to expand the move sets of many popular characters like Terry and Andy Bogard.

KOF 94_2Each character plays as you might expect, with standard, special, and super moves. The button layout mimicked Fatal Fury Special, meaning weak kick, and punch, and fierce kick and punch. Players could use combinations in order to dodge incoming attacks, block, etc. This was all standard fair by the time the game released in August 1994. KOF ’94 also borrowed gameplay improvements made by both series it was originally based on. As such there’s a power meter in the bottom of the screen which fills as players block, or take damage. There’s also a way to fill it yourself, although it leaves you open to attack and requires three buttons be pressed at the same time. When full, this meter strengthens the attacks of all your moves and also grants you the ability to pull off your character’s super move. It’s possible to taunt other players to decrease their meter. When health drops below 75% it’s also possible for players to execute their super move.

Instead of selecting individual characters to fight with, players selected one of the eight available teams. From there they would select which character on the team they wanted to start with. Matches were set up one-on-one, but the only way to win was to down all three members of the opponent’s team. In the event one player was defeated, the next team-member in line would jump in to fight, and the standing character would regain a bit of health. It was also possible to execute support attacks from those teammates who were waiting for their turn to fight.

KOF 94_4Overall KOF ’94 was extremely innovative for its time. Players loved that one credit could potentially last five ’rounds’. It was also the first of its kind, and ushered in an entirely new way for gamers to play a fighting game. The King of Fighters is directly responsible for helping usher in the tag team sub-genre, which would officially kick off with Kizuna Encounter and X-Men vs. Street Fighter in 1995/6. While not a tag fighter itself, it was clear where things were heading with this team-based fighter. KOF ’94 was also the originator of the crossover sub-genre, which would gain mainstream popularity with X-Men vs. Street Fighter a few years later.

History remembers KOF ’94 as one of the most innovative and best fighting games from the early to mid-nineties. It was one of the most fluid and graphically impressive games of its time. In 1994 EGM awarded the game Best Fighting Game of the Year, and Best Neo Geo Game of the Year. It was extremely well received by fans, and would lead to the creation of yearly King of Fighters games until SNK ceased production of the MVS hardware in 2004. The last official release being The King of Fighters 2003 which was released in December 2003.

The Aliens Want to Know – Does Digital Downloading Games = Renting?

For years now PC gamers have had little choice but to download their games, and for many they’ve never thought twice about it. Console gamers usually act a little differently, and that’s mainly because they’re not used to downloading their games. They grew up buying, renting, or borrowing games from their friends. While it’s true PC gamers can claim the same; for many different reasons PC gamers are used to digitally downloading their games from services like Steam. The thing is though, when one downloads from Steam, what happens to the games they buy?

Valve, the company the runs Steam, will say that the games are yours forever, but read the fine print, Steam is essentially the world’s largest rental chain, that just so happens to have only one store. Whatever you buy from Steam isn’t technically yours. At some point in the future when the Martians invade and Steam’s servers disappear, those digital downloads you’ve purchased will stay on your hard drive. The question is, what happens when that drive is stolen by our intergalactic superiors? In all honesty, the games are gone for good, and that’s not taking into account the ones that require a check-in with Valve’s servers to ensure the games are authentic.

Listen to the man, he knows what's up.
Listen to the man, he knows what’s up.

This subject has always been one that has fascinated me because I own a large amount of retro controls, and I like preparing for the inevitable invasion. It’s nice to know that my NES, and Intellivision will be there to cuddle me when I’m placed in an incubation chamber awaiting my next probing. Sadly that won’t be true for many games moving forward. As much as I love the conveniences of digital downloads, I’m not oblivious to the fact that when I download something I’m essentially renting it for an extended period of time.

Let’s take Nintendo as an example, only because the 3DS was the first videogame platform outside of the PC where I actually downloaded a ‘large’ portion of games. I say large, but it’s more like six or seven. Whatever the case may be, what I’m getting at is this. What will happen when our new rulers arrive? When Nintendo no longer has an eShop for the 3DS up and running? Will my 3DS suddenly stop working, no, it won’t, meaning all the games I’ve downloaded to it will still work as well. Will I be able to download my games again in the event the aliens blast my 3DS XL? Sadly no, I won’t. So where does that leave me, and what does that mean about digital downloading in general?

Well it should be clear by now, but for some reason many folks don’t seem to get it. When you digitally download a game on a home console or on your PC, unless it doesn’t contain DRM and you’re able to make multiple copies of it, you don’t actually own anything at all. It’s just an illusion because one day, maybe soon, maybe many years from now, but one day that digital download will eventually be useless, unless the hardware it is downloaded to never breaks, seizes, or become obsolete. With the impending doom almost upon us though, that’s not exactly a guarantee.

Digital downloads may equal renting, but at least you don't have to have rooms like this...right?
Digital downloads may equal renting, but at least you don’t have to have rooms like this…right?

When you download a videogame, do you think about things like this? What would have happened to all the old Jaguar games had they been downloaded to the console all those years ago? That system bombed astronomically bad, so no one would be able to buy a used system and connect to their servers to download software. You’d basically have what was on the machine, if anything, and that would be it. Again, that’s assuming there was no server check-in required. What about systems like the PS2? Remember how faulty the original launch models were. Well what if that system had stored all the digital downloads on it, and it stopped working? With no PS2 servers still up and running, it would essentially be a useless platform.

So are we better off buying the physical format and lug around five thousand games every time we move? Is it better to have to wait in lines at midnight to get our hands on games when it’s minus fifty degrees out and pouring? Well when you look at it like that, maybe the alien invasion wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Don't piss them off!
Don’t piss them off!

Five Awesome Fighters Jarrod Loves

As usual, my biggest fan asked me to write an article talking about some of my favorite fighters of all time. So like any good idol, I said sure thing. I was going to do a top five list, but scraped that for a future article, then figured I’d list off my favorite fighters for each console, but found that kind of uninspired. In the end I decided to talk about the first five fighters that came to mind. That’s the way everyone should write, spontaneous and exciting! So let’s begin with a game you’ve all heard me talk about at one point or another…

Street Fighter II

If you’re old enough, you have a Street Fighter II memory; whether it’s playing the original arcade, or the various ports that have been released to virtually every system known to mankind. I mean there was a 3DO version. That says it all. I recently talked about my arcade experience with the game in a video I posted, so instead of talking about the exact same experience I’ll switch gears and talk about my good memories with the console version. My friend Anthony bought Street Fighter II: The World Warrior upon released back in summer 1992 and I’ll never forget it. Every time I went to his house this was our go to game, along with Super Castlevania IV and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time. We just loved all of those games, but especially Street Fighter II. Having played the arcade version for around a year earlier at our local arcade, both of us were already well-versed in the ways of the game. He was Ken, I was Ryu, and the rest was history. We must have invested thousands of hours into that game back then. Funny how no responsibilities allow you to do whatever you want, and instead of enjoying nature or other things, we were virtually kicking the crap out of each other. Good times.

Remember this?  Sonic Boom!
Remember this? Sonic Boom!

My brother picked up Street Fighter II Turbo sometime in 1993 and the madness continued. We played the living heck out of that game. It’s funny because while it added the bosses as playable characters, to us, the biggest improvement was the smoothness of the fights. I still remember cranking up the star rating on speed and going ballistic with Ryu. When Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers was released in 1994, we had moved on to another fighting game series.

Mortal Kombat II

MK II hit the arcades in 1993, and was released on home consoles in ’94. I can’t even begin to talk about how many hours I must have sunk into both versions of the game. I used to live at the arcades around this time period, and got so good at it that people used to actually pay me so I could show them how to play the game and teach them how to pull off finishing moves. It’s incredible how some people couldn’t be bothered to simply pick up the latest issue of EGM. What did I do with the extra money, simple, I kept playing MK II. Of all the fighters I’ve ever played, this is most likely the one I was the best at, alongside the original Street Fighter II. There was just something about it I loved. It improved on the original in every way, shape, and form. I loved that Sub-Zero was back, but also took a liking to Kitana’s fighting style. Eventually I got so good at the game that I used to challenge random people and allow them to select a character for me. Funny story, I actually went back to play the game a few days back at my brother’s place and wow I completely suck today, and also can’t believe how sluggish the game can feel at times. Street Fighter still holds up incredibly well even after all these years, and I think part of the reason is the silky smooth animation.

Classic.  I loved this stage years ago.
Classic. I loved this stage years ago.

It’s funny thinking back to these early days of modern fighters. People used to be so into this genre back then. It really was the golden age because fighters weren’t overly complex yet. MK II is perhaps the last of the simple to play, hard to master fighters. After 1993/4 fighters started introducing extremely complex combo systems, which sort of pulled me away from the genre, or at least enough that I wasn’t into them as much as I was before.

Virtua Fighter 2

Now let’s shift gears into the 3D realm for a sec. No other 3D fighter floored me as much as Virtua Fighter 2 did back in late 1994. I know some people were amazed by the original, but I always thought it was clunky looking. I became more of a fan when the Saturn version was released, but in terms of shocking me in the arcades, VF2 did it. I remember doing a double take look at the game when I first laid eyes on it. Here was a game that featured stunning looking visuals, and also had an incredibly deep, yet realistic fighting system in place. It was a breath of fresh air compared to the Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat series. Both of those had projectiles and far fetched moves, but Virtua Fighter was the real thing. You could pull off actual real-life fighting techniques, although a bit exaggerated of course.

From this...
From this…
...to this.  All in one year.
…to this. All in one year.

While I had similar feelings about Virtua Fighter when I originally played that, seeing VF2 made me realize that SEGA was on top of their game and that their forthcoming next-gen console would be king. This was light-years ahead of anything I had seen in arcades, or on home consoles. Remember this was before the dawn of the PlayStation, N64, and Saturn so this was completely revolutionary. In a matter of twelve months Virtua Fighter went from extremely basic and blocky polygons to a stunning, silky smooth powerhouse. I don’t think I’ll ever feel the same way about another fighter ever again. It was just so mind numbingly beautiful.

SoulCalibur

By 1998 I wasn’t spending nearly as much time in the arcades as I used to. The same can be said for virtually everyone out there who played videogames. Arcades were slowly but surely dying off, and a lot of it had to do with the fact that home consoles like the PlayStation, N64, and Saturn had caught up to the power of the arcades, or at least were extremely close. When SoulCalibur was released in arcades in 1998 I remember glancing over at it in passing. I thought it looked alright, although nothing amazing. It was the sequel to 1995’s Soul Edge which I thought was pretty cool, but again, nothing too amazing. I preferred the Samurai Shodown series for my weapon-based fighters, but that’s a discussion for another day, and who knows maybe in that article I’ll profess my love to Soul Edge. I remember enjoying the arcade, but was too involved with Virtua Fighter 2 at that point in time. Everything changed the day I opened up an issue of EGM and saw the first screenshots for a Dreamcast launch title, SoulCalibur. Could this be the same game as the one in the arcades?

Of all the SoulCalibur games released, this one will always remain my favorite.
Of all the SoulCalibur games released, this one will always remain my favorite.

We don’t give SoulCalibur enough credit in the press. This one game is what convinced millions of people to go buy a Dreamcast, and also single-handily killed arcades. This was the first time, or at least the first time I can remember, where the home console version actually looked, sounded, and played better than the arcade original. This game featured countless additional content too. Honestly if you owned a Dreamcast, chances are very high you not only played this game, but that it remains one of your favorite Dreamcast games of all time. It was just that good. To this day it floors me. Shame those damn Agetec Dreamcast arcade sticks cost so much money!

Garou: Mark of the Wolves

The last game I’m going to talk about is one of the last games I played at the arcades that I have great memories of. Mark of the Wolves was released to the arcades in 1999 and while I was barely going to the arcades, when I did go this was the game I played. It was part of the Fatal Fury series, the last one SNK ever made in fact, and looked spectacular. It was one of the nicest looking 2D fighters ever released, and had spectacular gameplay. The ‘Just Defend’ system was awesome, and once you got the hang of it, the system allowed you to block at the very last second and turn your block into a counter. It was awesome. The game also introduced the TOP system which basically granted extra attack power, life recovery, and a special attack. Overall it was the combination of excellent gameplay, refined graphics, and a stellar cast that made this game shine.

Still a great fighting game even today.
Still a great fighting game even today.

The AES version was released in 2000, and the Dreamcast port followed the following year although there were some audio issues with the port. If you own an MVS arcade cabinet, or an AES this is one game you really shouldn’t miss out on. It was one of the last great SNK fighters released for the Neo Geo platform, and looks outstanding for a game released some 9 years after the platform launched. Garou was released on Xbox Live Arcade, as well as the Neo Geo X Mega Pack Vol. 1.

That about wraps up everything I wanted to discuss for today. These are just five of my favorite fighters of all time. I could easily mention a Tekken or two, on top of the Street Fighter Alpha series or even Street Fighter III, but I believe you have enough for now. What are some of your favorite fighters, and why? I’d love to reminisce with you.

Why Nostalgia Can Be A Dangerous Thing

Nostalgia is awesome, it allows long-time videogame fans such as myself to go back and play through some excellent retro games. Take Earthbound as a recent example of nostalgia working in my favor. Game companies like Nintendo have been making millions off of gamers’ nostalgia for retro games. It’s one of the main reasons why the Virtual Console has been such an international hit, because people always hold certain vintage games in a certain light because of the nostalgia associated. This article isn’t about the pros of nostalgia though, no instead this article looks at how certain publishers are using nostalgia to cash in, when in fact their product is actually garbage. Case in point…

Say hello to Contra: Evolution, which is a complete reworking of the original NES classic by Punchbox and Konami. This is a perfect example of a publisher simply cashing in on players’ nostalgia of one of the best NES games ever released. This game is absolutely horrible as it is, yet looks awesome and is currently one of the highest selling apps on Apple’s App Store. It has sold well over 2 million units already, since being released in late June. So what gives?

For one thing, Konami knows if they price this thing at $0.99 people will buy it based purely on nostalgia, and that’s exactly what people are doing. The comments say it all.

“This game plays like complete crap, but for a buck why the F not.”

“I can’t even survive the first minute, but come on its an NES classic!”

Doesn't this look awesome?  Shame it plays so awful that you won't want to play for more than five seconds after purchasing it.
Doesn’t this look awesome? Shame it plays so awful that you won’t want to play for more than five seconds after purchasing it.

The list of comments like these go on and on for pages. So what kind of a message are gamers telling publishers when they purchase games like this? Well for one, that there’s no real point to put any effort into making a videogame based on an existing property. To make matters worse the in-app purchases are a complete joke. You can pay real-world money to purchase extra lives, continues, and even weapons. I mean, really?!?! What’s sickening is that the game is making millions for Konami!

Don’t think for a minute it’s just Konami either, oh no, all the big console and PC publishers have learned that people buying these games are completely clueless. Capcom released an all but unplayable version of Marvel vs. Capcom 2, EA released Battlefield 3: Aftershock which just might be the worst app ever released on the App Store, and the list goes on and on. So why are these smart AAA publishers doing this, because people are buying these dollar games like wildfire, which constantly pushes them to the top of the charts and as a result gives these companies no incentive whatsoever to try and make better products. In the end, they’re using our very memories of these classic experiences, or famed franchises against us.

As awesome as it sounds to play a classic game completely remastered, without having proper and precise controls there’s no way these games can hold a candle to their original versions, however people overlook these “minor inconveniences” thanks to the incredibly low asking price. This is one of the major reasons why dedicated portable gaming devices like the 3DS have been so successful, because publishers know they have to put a thoughtful product out there or no one will pay $40 or more for it. Dedicated gamers know this, and as a result are playing significantly better games.

At the end of the day people are to blame for what’s currently happening to the mobile gaming market, and I fear that one day this could spread to the rest of the industry. Once prices go low enough, and people start buying games without even thinking about what they’re buying, publishers stop caring about releasing a quality product. As it is now, I’ll gladly go buy Contra Rebirth on the Wii eShop for a few bucks more, knowing at the very least I’m getting a much better product in the end.

On Online Professionalism, Transparency, and Critiques – Phil Fish vs. Marcus Beer Debacle

So Fez II got cancelled and Phil Fish quit the industry due to a culmination of a hate parade on him throughout the years, finally pushed over-the-edge by one Marcus Beer of GameTrailers. In this video, I delve into my thoughts in general of what went down and how we should improve ourselves as game journalists and fans alike. Please note that while I’m not taking the favorable way of going completely against Phil, I rationalize why and do fault him for certain things he has done and said. I may not completely know the details of how this beef came to be and neither I do recite the events in full chronological order, but the vital parts are mostly there. Besides, it’s not about the details here; it’s more about how these people acted in public.

Steven and Jarrod’s Night on the Town

Sometimes you just want to let loose and have fun, and that’s exactly what Steven and I did this evening. We met up at our favorite discotheque and let the good times roll.

Dance1

Take a look at those eyes, you could tell crazy stuff was about to happen, and boy did it!

Dance2

Dance3

After we danced our butts off we decided to take a quick break from all the action. Dancing’s hard work you know!

Dance4

While we were sitting down relaxing a bit, we noticed that other party animal who was wreaking up the dance floor so we figured we couldn’t just let him dance alone.

Dance6

Dance5

Look at those moves! Once the clock struck 8:30 or so we decided that was enough. There’s only so much dancing you can do before your legs give out.

Dance7

This is how we ended the evening, just sitting down enjoying the beautiful moonlight.

Wii U Third Party Support Rules…in the Bizarro World

We all know by now that people typically buy Nintendo platforms to play Nintendo-made games. That’s the way it has been since the great fall of Nintendo during the N64 era. It’s the sad truth, but most don’t realize just how badly the situation has become for the Wii U. Sure we know third party support is currently lacking on the platform, but when someone puts a list on the table that highlights a bunch of games that have skipped the Wii U or are planning on skipping the Wii U things become much, much clearer.

Here’s a list of every single game I could find (from looking at around a dozen sites) showcasing Wii U games in development for release in 2014. Remember here folks, 2014, not this year.

Project CARS (Publisher – TBA)

Mario Kart 8 (Nintendo)

Super Smash Bros. (Nintendo)

Bayonetta 2 (Nintendo)

Monolith Soft’s X (Nintendo)

Human Element (Robomodo)

The Unlikely Legend of Rusty Pup (Gory Detail)

Tengami (Nyamyam)

Are there more games, yes there will be more games for sure. There are some Kickstarter games not mentioned here among others I’m sure, but I found far too many lists that were based entirely on rumors and whatnot, so I didn’t include those. The focus of the article is mainly to highlight one simple fact, virtually every single third party publisher in the world has abandoned their Wii U support.

We’ve already heard from key Wii U third party supporters who have voiced their concern on the lack of sales. Ubisoft’s Yves Guillemot said the reason Rayman Legends was pulled from being a Wii U exclusive was because ZombieU failed to turn a profit for the company. It should be noted that the game sold over 400,000 copies worldwide, which is far below their expectations of a million plus. He continued to say…

“We must find a way to ensure the creativity of those games could have a big enough audience,” he said. “We hope it will take off. At the moment, we’ve said ‘let’s do through Christmas and see where we are from there.”

EA’s Peter Moore also had some harsh words to say about the Wii U.

“We were there with four games for them [at launch]. It’s been a disappointment when you look at sell-through and, as a company, we have to be very judicious where we deploy our resources. The lack of online engagement that we see on Wii U [is troubling]. It’s so integral to what we do. They’re so small it’s hardly worth running the servers. It seems like a box that’s out of sync with the future of EA – which is one that gives a real social feel to our games. The Wii U feels like an offline experience right now.”

So what does this boil down to, pretty much what I’m about to highlight for you. Here’s a very small list of games that have already been released in 2013 that skipped the Wii U entirely.

Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel

BioShock Infinite

Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2

Crysis 3

Dead Island Riptide

Deadpool

Dead Space 3

DmC

Fuse

Metal Gear Rising Revengeance

Metro Last Light

Remember Me

Tomb Raider

While not all of these games were powerhouse achievements or stellar sellouts, they were big name games that the publishers felt weren’t worth porting to the Wii U. The biggest one here is clearly BioShock Infinite. Most media outlets agree it’s a contender for Game of the Year. Now let’s switch gears and highlight key games that are coming out in the rest of 2013 that Wii U owners will be missing out on. Keep in mind it’s not a complete list, just some of the bigger games I could think of or find.

Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2

Dark Souls II

Devil’s Third

Dynasty Warriors 8

Grand Theft Auto V

Killer is Dead

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII

Lost Planet 3

Murdered: Soul Suspect

NCAA Football 14

NHL 14

Prey 2

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014

Saints Row IV

South Park: The Stick of Truth

Splinter Cell: Blacklist

The Bureau: XCOM Declassified

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow 6: Patriots

Ultra Street Fighter IV

WWE 2K14

Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z

We also don’t know whether or not Call of Duty: Ghosts is coming out for the Wii U, but right now there’s about a 90% chance it won’t make it. The fact Grand Theft Auto V is skipping the Wii U is also a huge blow for the platform. I didn’t list all of the sports games that will also be skipping the Wii U this year on top of all these other high profile games, so as you can imagine the list would be quite a bit larger than it currently is.

Here’s a quick list of cross-gen games, meaning games that are currently in development for the PS3/360 and PS4/One, but not coming to Wii U.

Battlefield 4

Destiny

Diablo III

Doom 4

Dying Light

FIFA 14

Mad Max

Madden NFL 25

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

NBA 2K14

NBA Live 14

Need For Speed: Rivals

The Evil Within

Wolfenstein: The New Order

There are many other games I could have placed here, but these were the biggest ones. After all each of these games are likely to sell a ton of copies, and are highly anticipated.

Now we come to the last segment where we look at the recently announced (at E3 2013) next-gen games skipping the Wii U.

Cyberpunk 2077

Dragon Age III: Inquisition

Final Fantasy XV

Kingdom Hearts III

Mirror’s Edge 2

The Crew

The Elder Scrolls Online

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Thief

Tom Clancy’s The Division

Nintendo fans, myself included, can sugarcoat this as much as we want to, but just take another quick look through this article at all the games that have already skipped or will be skipping the Wii U and it’s very clear Nintendo might just have a Neo Geo 2 on their hands where only a handful of first-party releases hit the platform each year. Will that happen, no one can tell for sure, but this holiday season will be the final nail in the coffin as they say. Ubisoft has already said they will pull all Wii U support if their holiday releases like Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag don’t perform up to par with the other versions (keeping in mind the overall system sales of course). When asked straight up Capcom, Konami, Square-Enix, and many others pretty much say they have no plans to support the platform outside what’s already been announced.

The Wii U has yet to sell through 4 million units worldwide, even though it had passed 3 million by January of this year. Taken as a whole that is extremely disheartening considering six months of the year have already passed and the system was without any competition from the next-gen systems. The major factors against Nintendo have clearly been the lack of any true system sellers. While the rest of the 2013 line-up is extremely impressive including Pikmin 3, The Wonderful 101, The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker HD, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Wii Party U, and Super Mario 3D World the question remains whether or not Nintendo can sell through enough consoles this holiday season to sway publishers to their side. Never before has Nintendo had such little third party support, yes even including the N64 era. They must turn things around or as I mentioned before, it’s not a joke to say players could see around 15 games released for the platform every year, made solely by Nintendo.

At the end of the day you can never count Nintendo out until they’re truly out, but this situation certainly looks bleak as of now, and has only worsened in the recent weeks following E3. One of the key factors facing Nintendo now is direct competition from Microsoft and Sony’s next-gen platforms. While Nintendo has by far the best holiday line-up, they need people to pick-up their box to enjoy these games, and we certainly hope that’s what happens.

So where do you fit in all of this? As a Wii U owner I really dislike writing articles like this, but after doing a little investigative reporting, it’s clear this situation is much worse than I realized before going into this article. I knew third party support was bad, but I didn’t realize that virtually every single publisher in the world had already completely written the system off, and those that were supporting the system have given it until January to pick up sales or they’re pulling out as well. Would you be satisfied with a Nintendo-only system?

The Magic of Earthbound Holds Up Even After All These Years

It’s hard to believe that Earthbound (a.k.a. Mother 2 in Japan) was originally released in 1995. That’s 18 years ago!!! For one reason or another Nintendo has refused to give North American and European fans any of the Mother games since. We missed out on the excellent Mother 1&2 compilation for the GBA even though both games have official Nintendo of America translations. Naturally because we didn’t get that one, we also missed Mother 3 (also for the GBA). So I always thought we would never again see this series outside Japan. Imagine my surprise when, at E3 2013 Nintendo announced that Earthbound would indeed be hitting the Wii U Virtual Console sometime this year. Now imagine how shocked I was when I checked the usual news sites yesterday and saw that Nintendo had announced Earthbound was going to be released immediately. I quickly downloaded the game, stopped everything else and played for far, far too long.

Yup, searching garbage can is in.  You never know what you'll find!
Yup, searching garbage can is in. You never know what you’ll find!

This isn’t a formal review, I’ll save that for when I actually complete the game, no this article is simply going to look at how unique this game is, and why after 18 years it holds up surprisingly well. First thing’s first, let’s talk about what doesn’t hold up well at all, and that’s the fact that no Psi abilities are explained to you. In other words, when you go to select a Psi (magic) attack a box saying “causes fire damage” won’t appear, so you’re left guessing what each new ability does. For the most part the names of the attacks explain enough. Lifeup will heal you, Healing will cure you, etc. It does take some getting used to though. The other big problem is with weapons and armor. Normally when you visit a shop in an RPG you will see a dialogue box pop up showing your stats, so you know which weapons and armor are better. Here that box never appears, so you’re left to guess. I’ll tell you right now though, as you visit each new shop the chances are good that the armor will be better than what you’re currently wearing. As for weapons, don’t take the yo-yo or the slingshot, those weapons suck, stick to bats for Ness.

Listen to the police they offer tons of useful information, when they're not trying to kill you that is.
Listen to the police they offer tons of useful information, when they’re not trying to kill you that is.

That’s it for the negative stuff, everything else works perfectly. Clearly the absolute best aspect of the game is just how well the setting, story, and humor have held up. This was one of the first RPG series to take place in a contemporary setting. Kids play with videogames (only Nintendo games of course), have thousands of dollars in their bank account to do with as they please, fight local gangs (which use switchblades), and battle police chiefs, you know, the usual stuff kids do these days.

Don't screw with Teddy!  That's right, you can actually buy Teddy Bears to act as party members so enemies hit the Teddy and not you.  Classic!
Don’t screw with Teddy! That’s right, you can actually buy Teddy Bears to act as party members so enemies hit the Teddy and not you. Classic!

What makes Earthbound so great is that it doesn’t take itself seriously at all. A meteorite has crashed pretty much in the backyard of Ness’ house and he wants to see it with his own two eyes. After a quick talk with this mother, who says she might as well let him go and see or he’ll just sneak out anyways, the adventure begins. Little quirks like this are constantly dished out and they’re hilarious. There’s a reason this game has remained a cult classic for 18 years, it’s because the game is genuinely funny. I mean there’s a weird photographer that pops out of nowhere and says “Fuzzy Pickles” before snapping your photo and taking off. WTF is that all about? Who know, and honestly who cares, that’s what makes this game so awesome.

The vintage battle system works perfectly today, once you get used to the Psi abilities.
The vintage battle system works perfectly today, once you get used to the Psi abilities.

I stayed up to about 3AM this morning playing non-stop and I might just do the same thing today, after some chores. It’s super addictive, and you want to keep going to see what other silliness will pop up next. It’s a real shame Earthbound was never a hit when it first came out, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a hit today. I urge everyone that owns a Wii U to go buy this game immediately and drop everything else they’re doing and start playing right away. Like Final Fantasy VI, Dragon Quest V and VI, Chrono Trigger, and Super Mario RPG, Earthbound is one of the very best RPGs from the 16-bit era and one you can’t afford to miss out on. I’ll have a full written and video review for the game out as soon as I complete the adventure, which at the rate I’m going won’t be very long from now. Go have fun saving the world by vanquishing one Runaway Dog at a time!

Luida’s Bar – Taking Your Love of Games to a Whole Other Level

Ever wonder what it would be like to step into one of the inns from a Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy game? You know, as in actually walk up to the place and lay down some cash and rest for the evening. Well three years ago this very idea was pitched and a collaboration between Square-Enix and Karaoke Pasela formed Luida’s Bar, a real-life establishment in Roppongi, one of Tokyo’s major nightlife spots. For those unfamiliar, Luida (also known as Patty in North America), is a character in several of the Dragon Quest games that helps players form a party. She’s been featured in DQ III, V, VI, and most recently in Dragon Quest IX.

Earlier this year Luida’s Bar celebrated its third year in business, and I thought it would be neat to introduce our North American and European readers to what this place is all about. Think of it like a small resto-bar (seats around 25 people) that serves dishes inspired by the videogame series its named after. You can order Slime meat-cakes, there are Drakee alcoholic beverages and so much more. The staff cosplays, which is excellent, and the menu has all its prices in gold (1G = 1 Yen). Here’s a brief look at some of the goods, and the restaurant itself.

DQ literally decorates the walls of the resto-bar.
DQ literally decorates the walls of the resto-bar.
Welcome to DQ heaven.
Welcome to DQ heaven.
Classy, and awesome all at once.
Classy, and awesome all at once.

space

Now that's a menu.
Now that’s a menu.
Time to reach level 5!
Time to reach level 5!
Yes even the directions have a DQ flare to them.
Yes even the directions have a DQ flare to them.

Pretty incredible, wouldn’t you say? I know more than a few COE members would be up for checking out Luida’s Bar if one existed on our side of the ocean. I know I would be all over this place if I was ever in the area. It just goes to show how popular Dragon Quest is in Japan. Over here we’d have to have Cid’s Bar or something because unfortunately Dragon Quest just wouldn’t cut it. I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this, and whether or not you’d be interested in seeing other establishments that were based on games come to life.

Nintendo Goes Bananas Part II

A while ago I made the following video…

Today I would like to follow it up with another video/article discussing a couple of very important issues relating to Nintendo. So let’s begin with the video. Here it is in all its glory.

What the video mentions is exactly what this article will look at in further detail. Last week it was revealed that Nintendo would not allow the fine folks who setup the EVO Fighting Game Championships to stream matches of Super Smash Bros. Melee. It goes deeper than that though. EVO organizer and co-founder Joey Cuellar said the following in a recent interview:

“They were not only trying to shut down the stream, they were trying to shut down the event, the smash portion of the event. It’s their IP, they can do what they want and they didn’t present us with any options to keep it open.”

We all know that Nintendo switched their stance on this almost immediately after the story went public, but I’ve got to ask a very simple question. What the hell was Nintendo thinking? Are they that blind to what EVO is and represents? The most ironic part of all is that the Smash portion of the EVO live-streams was the most successful the event has ever had with over 130,000 people live-streaming at one point. I believe it’s time we all stop protecting Nintendo and take a cold hard look at what the company is doing and why it’s time we give them a serious wake-up call.

Nintendo, we are not going to put up with your crap anymore! It’s time you learned we’re your biggest supporters and you NEED US! Take one look at the trailer Capcom put together for their just-announced Ultra Street Fighter IV.

Ladies and gentlemen, that’s called fan service. Nintendo should have embraced eSports years ago. Imagine where Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, and Pokémon would be if Nintendo had officially sanctioned world championship events every year. I’m talking the full monty here, where they would stream the events on all their platforms, they would fly the top players to an arena where people could watch in person, etc. It boggles my mind that they don’t see the potential, even after events like EVO and the Pokémon championships. So I’ve got to ask, have they gone bananas?

The aforementioned Ultra Street Fighter IV isn’t coming out on the Wii U, and to be perfectly honest I understand why. The Wii U is about to crash and burn, and if things don’t drastically change in the coming months I don’t even want to know what will happen. Basically everything has come down to one game, if Super Mario 3D World can’t turn the sinking ship around, nothing will. Did I mention the game isn’t even online? Yeah, I know it’s pretty incredible since it’s getting released at the tail end of 2013, but hey, it’s Nintendo!

By embracing these community events Nintendo could change their fortunes almost overnight. It would show a renewed focus on community, something that Nintendo so desperately needs right now. While Miiverse is excellent, it’s just not enough. The problem is that it’s clear Nintendo has no idea what it’s doing right now. The corporate management is completely out of touch with the modern gamer. The very fact that Nintendo went after the EVO guys proves this. That’s nothing but free publicity. Then there’s the whole YouTube debacle where they were preventing people from making money off their “Let’s Play” videos, even on games decades old. Are you kidding me?!?! That’s completely and utterly unacceptable. At this point all the competition needs to do in order to completely crush Nintendo is sit by and let them keep doing their thing.

It’s time Nintendo wake up and realize games have changes, and so have the gamers that play them. We want to be connected to one another, we want to watch eSports, and we want to make videos about games we love. You should be embracing us, not throwing us to the curb! Ultimately Nintendo has to answer to their shareholders and if their financial situation continues to worsen you can bet changes will be made. The question is, will they be for the better?

So what say you about this subject?

Isn’t it Time the Erdrick Trilogy Return to North America?

Dragon Quest fans have had it rough over the years. First we were never properly introduced to the Dragon Quest series because the trademark belonged to the makers of Dungeons and Dragons so the series had to be named Dragon Warrior. Next, it took far too long for the translations to hit North America and as such the games started to look extremely dated next to games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and the like. Finally we missed out on Dragon Quest V for the Super NES, even after the translation work was all but finished (or extremely close to being finished), when Enix left North America back in November 1995 due to poor sales of the Dragon Warrior series. That’s what I call rough!

North Americans were SO close to seeing this back when it was new, but alas it wasn't meant to be.
North Americans were SO close to seeing this back when it was new, but alas it wasn’t meant to be.

Thankfully things turned around when Enix returned in 1999. Their first game was Dragon Warrior Monsters for the Game Boy Color. That was a great time for fans of the series because the company quickly announced that Dragon Warrior VII (PS1) would be making its way to North America shortly after the debut in Japan. In reality it took a year to arrive, but at least it was released. From 1999 to DW VII’s North American release in late 2001, fans were treated to Torneko: The Last Hope (PS1), Dragon Warrior I&II (GBC), Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 (GBC), and Dragon Warrior III (GBC).

While it was awesome to have the Erdrick trilogy on the GBC, it was far from ideal. Sure these remakes had tons of improvements over the originals, from expanded and fleshed out storylines, to additional classes in DW III, the biggest improvements made were to the core gameplay. Now players could talk to people, open doors, and do other super simple actions with the press of a button instead of always going into the menu system. Another major improvement was made to the core combat system. In the original games if players had two people attack the same Slime, for example, and the first team-member killed the Slime, the second member lost his turn. These remakes adjusted that so the second member would automatically attack the next enemy on-screen. We take small improvements like this for-granted, but go back and play the original games and you’ll see how cumbersome and archaic they feel.

Very few people even knew what this was when it was released, let alone give it a chance to succeed.
Very few people even knew what this was when it was released, let alone give it a chance to succeed.

The biggest problem with the Game Boy Color remakes is that they look extremely dated today. Thanks to the small screen real-estate, Enix had to make everything super tiny in order to fit what they needed to. Enemies don’t look anywhere near as detailed and smooth as they should. Also playing Game Boy games isn’t as easy as it once was. You have to go and pickup a Game Boy Advance SP (best GB ever created!), or a Game Boy Player for the GameCube. Most people would likely just emulate the games and be done with it. Even the original NES games are extremely hard to find, and ultra expensive. They have yet to appear on the Virtual Console for either the Wii or the Wii U, making them true collector’s items.

So what’s the big deal you might say, only that Dragon Quest/Warrior III is widely regarded as the best game in the entire series. While I don’t agree with that statement myself, the game has sold over six million units in Japan since it was released. That number includes the two remakes. Two remakes you say?! That’s right, the purpose of this article is basically to enlighten those that may not know, but there is indeed another, far superior remake to the Game Boy Color version, the ones released on the Super Famicom. See, there’s a reason why I mentioned Enix leaving North America in 1995 ;)

Dragon Quest I.II was released in 1993 for the Super Famicom, with Dragon Quest III hitting in 1996. These are the ultimate remakes, and have never been released outside Japan. While there are fan-translations available for emulators, it would be absolutely awesome to have Square-Enix finally release them in an official capacity. Today, DQ fans can easily purchase DQ IV, V, VI, and IX on the DS, and with any luck we’ll be able to purchase the DQ VII remake on the 3DS sometime next year. DQ VIII is also readily available for the PlayStation 2, and odds are looking good that DQ X will be released at some point on the PC. So with all these games available for fans to play, it seems a little odd to be missing the original trilogy, wouldn’t you say?

The pic says it all really.  The Super Famicom game looks even better blown up.
The pic says it all really. The Super Famicom game looks even better blown up.

Over in Japan the situation isn’t anything like it is in the rest of the world. Dragon Quest is their series. There’s really no equivalent in North America except maybe Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto, but even then it’s not exactly the same. The Dragon Quest series is part of their pop culture like you couldn’t even begin to imagine. As such they get remakes every single console generation. I won’t bother listing all the remakes they’ve had that we missed out on, but they’re numerous. The original trilogy remakes were just released as part of an ultra cool 25th anniversary collection for the Wii back in 2011, that the rest of the world completely missed out on. I never bothered importing it because it required an import Wii to play, or one that cracked the region blocking. Here’s a teaser of this incredible collection.

While I knew this collection would never make its way outside Japan, I’m now wondering if Square-Enix has plans to remake the original trilogy using the DQ IV, V, and VI engine, or the newly crafted DQ VII engine for the 3DS. I know each game would be a huge success in Japan, and would increase the odds of a worldwide release. The first two parts would likely be included together if only because of how very short the original Dragon Quest is in relation to all the others. I think it’s about time the rest of the world gets to experience these excellent games in a newly minted restoration, or at the very least via the incredible Super Famicom remakes. What do you think?