In Thy Battle for the Kingdom Come, Arthur is Done

His Legend Would Live on through the Ages

Over the river and through the woods, to Morgan le Fay’s castle we go!
Regal artwork by @ihaveeczema.

“Don’t play this game.” ~ Andrew Park, GameSpot PC Editor[1]

Sometimes, four words are all you need to tell a whole story. In the early-to-mid 2000’s, standards and practices on the gaming news and review site GameSpot required that written reviews be of some minimum length. However, there was less regulation on the content of their video reviews at the time, allowing reviewers the creative freedom to present these games however they pleased (more or less). And so, when dealing with the absolute bottom of the barrel, sometimes four simple words were all they needed to get their point across: “Don’t Play This Game.”

The first game to receive the DPTG treatment on GameSpot will also be the subject of the first in our own series revisiting this collection of games: 2002’s Arthur’s Quest: Battle for the Kingdom, as published under THQ’s ValuSoft label. It is only one of two games known to be developed by 3LV Games, alongside their other 2002 release Mini Golf Master 2 (nope, they didn’t even have a hand in the first Mini Golf Master). The publisher ValuSoft was infamous for publishing straight-to-bargain-bin games, not beholden to the same level of quality control as THQ’s in-house developments. We are sure to see more of their products in the future of this website.

While four words may very well be more than enough to review this game, we’re going to delve a bit deeper, and give Arthur’s Quest it’s day in King Arthur’s court. Buckle up your bucklers and shine your swords, folks: Today, we venture into a land of low-budget fantasy.

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A Tribe Called Quest 64

Evil is Growing and Beasts Will Attack You

Talk softly and carry a big staff.
Magical artwork by @Drakkel.

The time is 1998. It has been two years since the release of the Nintendo 64, and the library of games for it has continued to grow slowly but surely. Nearly every genre is represented, save for one: Role-playing games. What the console needs now is a hero — a cartridge RPG to stand tall against the PlayStation, and show the likes of Final Fantasy VII what’s for!

… But such a game never really came, did it? In fact, there were barely any who even dared make the attempt. 2000’s Paper Mario is probably the standout example of an RPG on the N64, and while it’s most definitely an excellent game, it doesn’t quite fill the same hole as a Grandia or Xenogears now, does it? The SNES before it had been home to a bunch of depthful [2D] RPGs, featuring the likes of Chrono Trigger and Secret of Evermore (not to mention, a grip of Final Fantasy entries). But the N64 seemed to lend itself more towards “pick-up-and-play”-style action, arcade, and sports titles.** By that point in time in 1998, any RPG released for the console would have the opportunity to make a name for itself.

And so begins the story of Quest 64: An inspired attempt by developer Imagineer to bring 64 megabytes of role-playing to the masses. But like so many a great tale, ours shall start before the adventure itself begins, telling of the time prior to the game’s release. Once the journey is officially underway, we will make closer inspection of the title, revealing it’s true worthiness. Finally, we shall explore the aftermath of the adventure, and detail the impact it had on the industry. Get ready to lo and behold, dear reader: Our Quest (64) awaits us!

** No, you don’t need to remind me of adventure titles such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or collectathons along the lines of Banjo-Kazooie. Obviously, there were some very notable exceptions on the N64, as developed by studios willing to go the extra mile in pushing the 64MB cartridges of the N64 to its limits. But by and large, more substantial games of the era were made with 660MB PlayStation CD-ROMs in mind.

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More Bad Music for the Bad Game Music Hall of Fame

We’ve got a new group of uploads to the Bad Game Hall of Fame YouTube channel, featuring music from Cruis’n USAFire Fly, and Sonic Rush. I’m going to try and settle into a “once a month” update schedule for this little project, so expect yet more bad music in May!

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From the Arcade to the Living Room

The Technology That Changed Our Lives

Being a museum employee has its perks, especially if you happen to love visiting other museums. While visiting Long Island in late March, I took advantage of my credentials and checked out a row of museums on discount, and it just so happened that one happened to be running a “retro games exhibit.” And so, I stopped by the Cradle of Aviation Museum.

In addition to touring around a bunch of cool old planes and spaceship components, I found myself playing some of the vintage games on display. As luck would have it, this exhibit covered more than just “the classics,” featuring some games and consoles that you might not expect to get the usual historical artifact treatment. As a matter of fact, I recognized a few games and consoles as already being on my shortlist for content to eventually review on the site, as well as one that has received such treatment already! And so I figured, as long as I was there, I might as well document the experience for posterity’s sake.

This article will serve as a review of the games exhibit specifically, as well as a catalogue of the games that were on display when I visited. Hopefully, I’ll have opportunities to visit museums across the country in the future, and I can make this sort of thing a semi-regular feature.

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New Inductees to the Bad Game Music Hall of Fame

We’ve got a new batch of uploads to the Bad Game Hall of Fame YouTube channel, featuring music from Duke Nukem 3D [on the Sega Genesis], Sonic Spinball, and Tribes 2. With any luck at all, there are more uploads to come in the following days / weeks / months / millennia.

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Bad Street Brawler’s Baadasssss Song

In Victory, Malice. In Defeat, Revenge. Don’t Get Mad, Get Bad

I’d consider 1984’s arcade title Kung-Fu Master (Spartan X in Japan) to be the first true entry to the “beat ‘em up” genre. The design of this original arcade game would inspire the likes of such classics as Bruce Lee for Atari 8-bit computers, Karateka on the Apple II, and Renegade in arcades (Nekketsu Kōha Kunio-kun) — the last of which mentioned introduced so many hallmarks of the genre, I’d dare call it one of the most important video games of the 1980’s. Also, it would mark the beginning of the “Kunio-kun” franchise that would eventually bring us River City Ransom (Downtown Nekketsu Monogatari), so that’s reason enough right there to respect it.

By 1987, the genre was nearing the beginning of its “Golden Age,” marked by most with the release of the arcade version of Double Dragon in June 1987. Of course, with every Golden Age comes a wave of trend-followers and cash-ins, all looking to capitalize on the latest fad. One of the earliest was a 1987 MS-DOS title, which was successful enough to be renamed for and converted to the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum (and even unofficially to the Amiga) in 1988. By 1989, it was finally time to bring it to the Nintendo Entertainment System, where it could undoubtedly reach the largest audience at that moment in time. And if the game could also be used to peddle a “powerful” new peripheral that publisher Mattel was looking to market at the time, wouldn’t that drum up that much more anticipation for it?

A wise game once said “The first step on the road to wisdom is to understand that you might be on the wrong track.” That game in question is 1989’s Bad Street Brawler for the NES. But before we get into dissecting that release, we’re gonna need to take a look at the game of many names that inspired it, as well as the peripheral that would forever be linked to it. Only then can we take a walk down Bad Street, USA, and nail the no-gooders along the way.

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Catch a Game.com by the Tail

It’s About the Size of Four Pop Tarts, but It’s Got Power to Spare

Lay your bloodshot eyes on this baby!
Next-gen artwork by @agoodgoodboy.
(Full-color art can be found here.)

118.69 million. That is the combined number of Nintendo’s Game Boy consoles sold worldwide (including the original, Pocket, Light and Color models) since the line launched in 1989.[1] Roughly 54 million of those sales were made before the fiscal year of 1998 began. In the portable games space of 1997, the closest competition to the Game Boy was Sega’s Game Gear, which managed to move slightly over 10.62 million units[2] over the course of seven year run (ultimately being discontinued in April of 1997). The term “distant second” does not begin to describe.

To compete against the Game Boy in the late 90’s was a foolish endeavor. It didn’t matter if your portable’s hardware was a tad bit more powerful — just ask the Atari Lynx, Neo Geo Pocket, or Bandai WonderSwan how far that got them. To have even stood a chance against the Game Boy behemoth, you would’ve needed a combination of significantly improved system specs, massive third-party developer support, and a highly intuitive form factor. Also, having some trendy “next-gen” gimmicks on top of that couldn’t hurt.

To all of this, the Tiger Game.com boldly proclaimed, “One out of four ain’t bad, right?”

This is the story of a handheld that no one asked for, as produced by a company that had should’ve known better. It’s a tragic tale of corporate incompetence: Starring a piece of hardware that dared to dream, with a supporting cast of less than 300 thousand consumers who decided to ride the Tiger. We’re going to discuss what exactly the Game.com was, how it came to be, and whether or not it even had a chance.

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Bad Game Hall of Fame Dot Com

Welcome to the brand new BadGameHallofFame.com!

Earlier posts as seen on this blog are transfers from our original Tumblr blog, which was created in December of 2015. The goal with this new dedicated website and domain remains the same: To post essays on the games and game consoles often referred to as “The Worst of All Time.” Rather than just explaining what makes them bad though, we will try to explore the context of their creation and the circumstances that have lead to their infamy.

Updates are not currently subject to any set schedule: I enjoy having the freedom to write what I want when I want to, and believe that doing so results in better writing. In time, this may change.

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Dr. Jekyll’s and Mr. Hyde’s Hour of the Wandering Monstrosity (Give or Take 15 Minutes)

Stupid and Stubborn, and Therefore Dangerous

drjmrh01

“The less I understood of this farrago, the less I was in a position to judge of its importance.” ~ Robert Louis Stevenson[1]

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde began life as a novella, penned by Robert Louis Stevenson and first published in 1886. It is the case study of a seemingly good-natured Dr Henry Jekyll battling his inner demons, who turns to science in an attempt to purge himself of his immoral urges. A concoction he produces – meant to repress his darker thoughts – inadvertently causes his dark side to manifest itself in the form of a split personality, taking the name of Edward Hyde and generally causing problems for everyone in town. Eventually, this evil persona becomes his dominant personality, leading a temporarily sane Jekyll to take his own life in order to prevent himself from committing further atrocities as his uncontrollable alter ego. The novella was an instant success; soon inspiring stage plays beginning in 1887, film adaptations as early as 1908, as well as radio and television presentations as the technology became available. Of course, we’re he to discuss one piece of media in particular: The first video game adaptation of the story.

1989’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – or 1988’s Houma ga Toki as it is known in Japan – has earned a bit of a reputation for itself in recent years. Along with Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, it was a subject of James Rolfe’s early proto-”Angry Nintendo Nerd” game reviews. A relatively obscure game up until that point,** the rise in popularity of the Angry Video Game Nerd would lead to a rise in popularity of the game itself, earning it spots on “Worst Games of All Time” lists and appearances in many a copycat video review. James’ revisiting of the game some years later only served to reinforce his original point: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is most certainly, undoubtedly, one of the worst games of all time. I mean, if a completely exaggerated character who shouts at an animated pickle covered in feces said so, then it has to be true!

The story of the game’s development, like many Nintendo Entertainment System titles, is something of a mystery. With publishing / development credits given to both Bandai and Toho Corporation (credited as “Toho Cinefile-Soft Library” in the Japanese release), as well as Advance Communication Company, it’s difficult to ascertain who exactly had what part in the creation of the game. A lack of credits does not help matters, leaving us only with speculations as to the members of the team (such as composer Michiharu Hasuya, who is often credited for the soundtrack). There was enough faith and / or marketing budget behind the title to warrant a 15-second commercial spot for Japanese television, but the American release a year later seemed to go almost entirely under the radar, not warranting so much as a Nintendo Power review.

Perhaps Nintendo knew from the game’s reception in Japan that they had a stinker on their hands, and didn’t want to waste the time or money on promoting it? If that was the case, why go through the trouble of localizing it to begin with? Unfortunately, we don’t have the information available to solve that mystery. What we can do is take a look at the game itself, and see if it deserves its evil reputation.

** It did see a brief spike in popularity in 2000, as it was the subject of Something Awful’s first game review.[2]

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Top Five of 2016

5. Overwatch


Blizzard / self-published, 2016

Playing Overwatch without friends is an exercise in absolute misery for me: I seem to have the worst luck in the world when it comes to being paired with unreliable, irritating, or otherwise awful teammates. The implementation of loot boxes is despicable — forget about the excuse that it only deals in “cosmetic items.” And at times, it can be incredibly unbalanced to the point of complete confusion on my end as to how such obvious flaws could have been left in for so long.

All that being said, man oh man is it a ton of fun when you manage to get a couple of friends together. With good teamwork, it all comes together in one of the tightest, most entertaining class-based shooters I’ve ever played (nothing may ever top Enemy Team Fortress in my books). I get the feeling it will only get better with time as it gets more content; namely a better variety of maps and gamemodes. Also, I might be completely, hopelessly in love with Zarya. Sorry.

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