Bionic Commando (1988, Capcom)
Based loosely on an arcade game by the same name, Bionic Commando for the NES is a platform game with a fun hook—and we mean that literally. The character, Ladd Spencer, is a commando whose shtick is a bionic arm with a grappling gun, which he can use to climb and swing. It’s a good thing he has it, too, since (for whatever reason) he is unable to jump. In the original Japanese version, the plot involved Nazism and was steeped with Nazi imagery, all of which was purged for the English localization. Of course, it was the swinging mechanic that grabbed all the attention from gamers and critics, who felt it brought something fresh and original to what was quickly becoming a saturated genre of platform games.
Castlevania (1986, Konami)
Castlevania is a side-scrolling platformer with a dark, Gothic theme. The player controls Simon Belmont, a vampire hunter with a penchant for bullwhips, which he can use to kill bats, pumas, ghosts, and other creatures, as well as burst candelabra to get the goodies underneath. He also must face off against horror-themed bosses like Frankenstein’s monster and mummies. The game launched a franchise that is still ongoing.
Contra (1988, Konami)
The game that would come to define the “run- ’n’-gun” genre began as a 1987 coin-op arcade game, before the developer decided to port it for various home computers and consoles. They produced the 1988 NES version inhouse, making some subtle and not-so-subtle changes, including removing the time limit of the arcade version. Gamers loved the tight controls and fast pace, as well as the polished levels and two-player functionality. This was also the game that helped make the “Konami Code” a meme among gamers.
Crystalis (1990, SNK)
Although lesser known than Legend of Zelda, Crystalis is a solid action-RPG game that has become a cult classic among aficionados of the genre. Unlike Link, the hero of this game can move diagonally, but the plot is similar in structure—find the four elemental Swords of Water, Thunder, Fire, and Wind, and combine them to form the mighty sword Crystalis and defeat the despicable Emperor Draygon. There’s also more role-playing in this game and its dialog. Allegedly influenced by the Hayao Miyazaki classic Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Crystalis was called God Slayer: Sonata of the Far-Away Sky in Japan. The excellent music greatly enhances the mood. Unfortunately, a later version released for the Game Boy Color was inferior to its predecessor in almost every way. Stick to the original.
DuckTales (1989, Capcom)
What kid growing up in the 1980s didn’t love Disney’s DuckTales cartoon? We bet you can sing the catchy theme music even today. Capcom did a great job adapting the property into a fun and satisfying platform game, with an irresistibly cutesy aesthetic—this is definitely no duck-blur. Considered the gold-standard of NES cartoon-based games, DuckTales is a solid platform game for fans of the television series or just platform games in general. DuckTales Remastered, which remade the game in high definition, was released in 2013 for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Wii U. Ooh ooh!
For more on Vintage Games, read this fascinating article in The Guardian.
Excerpt from Vintage Game Consoles by Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group. All Rights Reserved.
About the Book
Vintage Game Consoles tells the story of the most influential videogame platforms of all time, including the Apple II, Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, Sega Genesis, Sony PlayStation, and many more. It uncovers the details behind the consoles, computers, handhelds, and arcade machines that made videogames possible. Drawing on extensive research and the authors’ own lifelong experience with videogames,Vintage Game Consoles explores each system’s development, history, fan community, its most important games, and information for collectors and emulation enthusiasts. It also features hundreds of exclusive full-color screenshots and images that help bring each system’s unique story to life.Vintage Game Consoles is the ideal book for gamers, students, and professionals who want to know the story behind their favorite computers, handhelds, and consoles, without forgetting about why they play in the first place – the fun!