Tag Archives: Retro Games

The Black Tie Event Presents… Ready Player Two

Nobody likes a back seat driver. You build your success on your own or not at all. You think Steve Jobs really needed Steve Wozniak to form the empire that is Apple? Or that Emperor Palpatine needed Darth Vader to build the Death Star? No! They did it on their own. So why give the second player or “first loser” a place in the gaming world?

On today’s Black Tie Event presents… we look at how the gaming industry has cast Player 2 to the wayside without food or water begging them to battle uphill so that we can squash them again.

Single Player Games

The biggest slap to the face to Player 2 is simply not providing a 2 Player Mode at all. Most of these single player adventures are now cornerstones in the gaming industry. Games that new developers pray to for inspiration, guidance or maybe to create a cheap knock off. Games like Mega Man, the Legend of Zelda and Grand Theft Auto; these are the games that have become building blocks of the community. Anyone knocking these games will be destroyed by a vengeance of a thousand fiery suns.

They were too good. Too grand in their expectations that lead an onlooker in amazement wondering when it’ll be their turn to play. Never, is the answer. It will never be your turn, silly Player 2. We are just having too much fun. Just sit back and watch then grab me a drink from the fridge and pay the Pizza guy when he gets here.

Poor Sequels

Some of these once great single player games decided that it might be a good idea to add a 2 player mode to its sequel. Sadly, these sequels never match up to their predecessor. Not every series can be Empire over A New Hope (hell yeah! Two Star Wars references in one article!)

Let’s take for example, Tetris 2. Arguably one of the greatest, if not the best, game ever created. Developed by the Russians and stolen by the Japanese, Tetris even has its own accredited disorder known as the Tetris Effect. Players who were studied playing Tetris for long periods of time start to see different shapes in their thoughts, mental images, and dreams. Haunting, no? In a good way, I mean.

Fast forward to 1993, Nintendo releases Tetris 2 on the NES. One of its key features is a 2 Player Mode. Finally, you can play one of the greatest games with your imaginary friends in a heated head to head battle of shape moving and line building.

The main issue is… Tetris 2 sucks. Sure it takes some of the basic ideas from its older brother, but there’s a slight difference in gameplay. Rather than using adjacent type tetrominoes to compete, it instead uses colored tetrominoes to clear the board. This did two things to the gaming public: 1. By shifting the paradigm, players were extremely put off by the concept almost immediately and 2. it made any player who may be affected by a form of color blindness impossible to play. Now, I don’t know the statistics of the amount of gamers who are color blind, but even one is one too many to shun away from your game.

The real question behind this is why would Nintendo change Tetris so drastically for its sequel? Because they hate Player 2.

Alternating Turns

A more common concept in the yesteryear of gaming is making players alternate turns while playing. Usually this was spawned by the death of one player to shift to the other or finishing a particular section of the game.

The most common example would be Super Mario Bros. For the Nintendo Entertainment System. Selecting the 2 Player mode would allow for the second to play as Mario’s twin brother Luigi. For a gamer, this was great! A totally new character to play as that would otherwise be hidden if not for a second player. Sadly, Luigi was only a palette swap of Mario himself, giving him no differences or added abilities. Just a green Mario. A poor, insignificant green Mario.

I will admit that the alternating turns did give it one advantage. Since Player 1 always went first (and rightfully so) Player 2 was able to get a sense of direction as the first player made his/her way through the levels. Knowing where the first time through drops or traps, Player 2 could avoid these by learning from Player 1′s mistakes. Well played, Player 2. Well played.

The Right or Bottom Side of the Screen

As games progressed, they grew larger, more intelligent, and more mean. Jumping to the fifth generation of consoles, came the fighting juggernauts of the Nintendo 64, Sony Playstation and the Sega Saturn. All reaching and grabbing for everyone’s eyeballs, this generation really put the multiplayer concept to the forefront. The Nintendo 64 even went as far as having 4, count them, 4 controller ports to play simultaneously. But it wasn’t without its faults.

Playing more than two players at a time on one TV would create an issue for screen space. Usually this would mean that Player 1 would be on the left hand of the screen giving Player 2 the right. This would completely hide the far left and right sides of the gaming area. A big disadvantage for shooters by not seeing an enemy coming from your peripherals. Usually resulting in death every time. Thanks for nothing Player 2.

Let’s take a look at a true innovator in FPS’s: Goldeneye 64. Everyone’s favorite go to for the Nintendo 64. Let’s say you were only able to wrangle up 2 of your imaginary friends. Thanks to the addition of more players, you have cut your screen into fourths.

I think the thing that gets me the most about this set up is the fact that you have a perfectly empty square of blackness. Why the developers didn’t give player one the top half of the screen and the rest to fight over the bottom half I’ll never know. It’s like the game has to dumb down the view screen for everyone since there’s more than the supreme Player 1 gunning for video game action. At least they could have put “Sorry Player 1 for the screen. These A-Holes are messing things up.” in the blank square. I would have appreciated that.

The Fight for Guile

Some of you may know my love for Street Fighter II and the series already thanks to my rants on 1 More PodCastle and my review on “Review a Great Game Day”, but for Player 2 it’s a kick in the pants. And rightfully so.

First, by selecting the 2 Player Mode, you are subjected to the bland blue background of the character select screen. Gone are the days of the world map and the homelands of the fighting best. Thanks to Player 2, you are no longer worthy of such a commodity. No, we are now subjected to the “A Challenger Appears!” with only stats to look at. Like I care how many times I pwnd Player 2.

As a final flip of the finger (yes, that finger) to Player 1, Capcom was more than happy to NOT allow both players select the same character in a two player match. That’s right. Now, me growing up, the character to play was Guile. His cool hair cut, tight physique and love for the United States of America was the obvious choice. We always thought that Guile was the one who said “Winners don’t do drugs” in between the intro screens and we didn’t. Not if Guile was watching.

Starting the 2 Player Mode puts Player 1 as Ryu and Player 2 as Ken in the selection screen. It was now a race to see who could get to Guile the fastest. Luckily, Capcom was nice enough to make Player 2 have one more joystick stroke than Player 1, but if you weren’t paying attention, you could miss out on the glory that is Guile.

Then you would probably just be slated for E. Honda or Chun-Li. No one wants to be Chun-Li. And what does the “E” in E. Honda stand for anyway? Edward? Like in Twilight?! No thank you. Here’s your hundred-hand-slap.

Bang Bang, Now You’re Dead

My last example of game developers sticking it to Player 2, as it should be, is the notorious “Mode A/Mode B”.

One type of this situation is Double Dragon II: The Revenge for the NES. There were two modes of play labeled Mode A and Mode B. As many times I have played this game with my brother and others, I can never remember which one is which. One is torture and the other is commendable.

Torture came from selecting Mode A which allows both players to play nice together. None of the attacks from either player will result in lost health. What a pity that you can’t beat up on your imaginary friends. Mode B on the other hand was a totally different story. Selecting Mode B allowed you to dish out damage to your friend and even take their own lives after a righteous kill. Sadly, the downside being that Player 2 could do the same to you. Not like he/she would, mind you. They are, in fact, Player 2.

Let’s Be Real

Well, of course there are some great 2 Player Games out here. Games like Contra, Smash TV and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: the Arcade to name a few. Growing up with an older brother yielded me to always being Player 2. So I became close with those characters. I identified with Luigi, Jimmy and Lance “Scorpion” Bean. They were the characters I remember best. And it was great to see some of these characters, especially Luigi, really get a chance to shine in their own games. But let’s be real… being Player 2 still sucks.

The Black Tie Events Presents… Why Movie Licensed Games are Doomed to Fail

Is that tie looking a little ragged? How old is it? 2 maybe 3 months? Time to get a new one, my friend. You don’t want to be seen in public looking like that.

There are also quite a few games that have been released to the public that shouldn’t have been. Mainly, video games developed from popular movie franchises. These little gems make their way into our homes with innocent intentions designed to entertain.

Many, if not all, of these movie licensed games fail. Whether they be well deserved games with interesting aspects or not, these games have never seem to work out in a gamer’s eye.

Why, you ask? Lots of reasons. You’ll be surprised to find that some of these games are doomed from the beginning, or in case of our first entry, is actually a good game, but gets roped into being a bad game because of it’s movie tie-in.

Tighten that tie because it’s about to get classy.

Friday the 13th

Friday the 13th, released 1980 in America, is about a crazed lunatic that decides to take her vengeance out of a few teenagers who are working to reopen the abandoned Camp Crystal Lake. (For those who may not remember, Mrs. Voorhees, Jason’s mother, was the knife wielding psychopath in the first installment.)

The Nintendo Entertainment System installment was released 1989 some nine years after the first movie. That puts the game released around Friday the 13th VIII: Jason takes Manhattan. Rather than trying to convey a twisting plot around Mrs. Voorhees, Atlus (developer of the game) decided to go back to its roots and emerge the player into the nightmare that is Jason on the familiar ground of Camp Crystal Lake.

Friday the 13th for the NES is considered by many to be one of the worst games ever released. But underneath all of the hype, the game actually performs well in its constraints. Let’s take a look at some of the most common complaints.

Things aren’t all clear to you at first and you are left aimlessly wandering around the camp whacking zombies with your knife.

The game makes you learn how to survive by supplying the player with cryptic messages as you battle your way through the camp grounds looking for Jason. This is before the ever popular (/sarcasm) ”How To Play” tutorials that you find in most modern games. Most players don’t want the game to hold your hand. Instead they opt for “Learn as you play” techniques which include deciphering puzzling notes strewed throughout the game. Sounds like well designed game play to me.

See, everyone has split up so they can “cover more ground,” or something equally brainless, so they’re situated all over the encampment.

Anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie especially those deemed “slasher”, know that the first thing a group does is split up. That way the killer can take them out one by one. You run up the stairs not out the front door when the killer is in the house. If the group stayed together and the victim ran out the front door, the movie would end wouldn’t it? Why would the game, being based off of said movie, be any different? A video game is designed to bring the player into a world that doesn’t exist in their own reality. Making stupid decisions as a group is part of this reality.

The issue here shows that the movie series was already on its last legs before the video game was released. Atlus noticed this and decided to create a spin off of the movie rather than following a movie story line. This was to give the game a chance to burst past the movies. But as society will show time and time again, that if one bit is bad, it’s all bad.

Imagine how this game would have performed if it had a different title?

Street Fighter: the Movie — the Game

Sometimes, a franchise is so popular you really start running out of things to do with it. In the thoughts of the Street Fighter series, creating a movie with a very impressive casting list was a no-brainer. Or so one would think.

Street Fighter: the Movie will always be considered a terrible effort to turn a video game into a movie. An early attempt to cash in on a very popular video game franchise; the opposite of our first entry.

So, first, let’s get the idea confusion out of the way: this is a game, that’s based on a movie, that’s based on a video game. Get it? Hard to wrap one’s head around.

All and all, the idea was sound, take a popular video game turn it into a movie then allow the players to play as the actors themselves that played the characters in the movie who were portraying their video game counterparts. Wait… I think I just confused myself.

The biggest issue here was the movie didn’t fair well among viewers bringing in only a score of 13% on the TomatoMeter from Rotten Tomatoes. So the movie didn’t work. Why would anyone make a game based off a failing movie?

With a bad taste in our mouth, we headed to the arcade to play the first installment of Street Fighter: the Movie – the Game. With expectations all ready low, this game was doomed from the start.

But is the game that bad? Short answer: yes. But it was built upon a structure that, in my opinion, was already a failing attempt at game design. Mortal Kombat was one of the first games that became popular that used real actors for digitized images. Using this kind of technology limits the game to few frames for a proper animation. The moves look jagged or slow; unnatural at times.

Sprites themselves allow a programmer to make the motion fluid without taking up too much space or having an actor stand around for hours on end taking photos moving one inch and then another… and then another… Take a poor idea for a movie, turned video game, with some of the worst ideas for a head to head fighter, the game was pitted against itself and lost.

One thing I can say about this game… Akuma… super cool.

E.T. – Extra-Terrestrial

What’s cuter than a lonely boy to befriends an extra-terrestrial named simply E.T. that is stranded on Earth? Answer? Nothing. Pulling in just over $11 million dollars on opening night back in 1982 and stayed number one for six more weeks! Huge. Why wouldn’t the game be just as good? Right? Anyone?

E.T. for the ATARI 2600 is constantly cited as being the contributor to the video game crash of 1983. Developed and programmed by one man, Howard Scott Warshaw, was given only five weeks to have the game ready by the Christmas deadline. Talk about a raw deal.

But what he created was an extremely emotional piece of video game art. Not again will these styles be copied until the release of the popular Metroid for the NES.

Stay with me…

Warshaw decided to go against the grain and create something new with the title of E.T.: rather than bumping around as Elliot trying to help E.T. get back to his home planet, you play as E.T. On the quest to get there yourself.

Within E.T., you are pitted against your own solidarity, feeling helpless, abandoned. Around every corner is a man in a yellow suit and hat trying to capture you. You only have some much strength to keep going. Being on a strange new world, everything blends together making it difficult to plot your points and know if you are heading in the right direction or in circles.

When you cry out for aid, you have to incite the one who found you in the first place with candy before he will give you a piece of your planetary space phone. He holds the very key to getting you home but you have to bribe him with candy before he will comply. Taunting you with only 1 piece at a time until you bring him the necessary amount of payment. What a cruel world you are traveling through with E.T. You have no attacks, no power-ups, nothing. You are just a scared alien trying to get home.

After only struggling against the odds do you come out victorious in your adventure, your home planet’s ship comes to pick you up and are taken back to where it’s safe, where people love you, where you are no longer in danger.

A masterpiece…

Let us know what are some of your favorite movie licensed games that didn’t cut it with the mainstream but still holds a special place in your heart?

As always, stay classy.

The Black Tie Event Presents… Pointless Game Aspects

It’s that time once again to break open a nice chilled bottle of 2005 Château Pétrus and talk of the more important issues of life such as weather treating your yacht, how full lobster and caviar can make you feel after the annual “Saving the White Tigers” dinner benefit, or in this case, pointless game aspects.

It’s things in games that make you think “I’m… but…. wh… why are you here?” Yes, we see it all the time and what follows are just a few of these that really get my tie in a knot. That’s right, everyone, it’s another Black Tie Event!

“Why are you here?”

So you are cruising through town. Just got done slaying some monsters and you get a tip from a local that the enemy master mind is waiting for you. You followed a path that takes you to a nearby town looking for a chance to cool off, take it easy, and maybe get a clue for the next big adventure. Then you come across this person…

Now at first you may be thinking, “OK, sorry to bother, didn’t know you didn’t have any information. Sorry again. I’ll just be on my way.” But when it continues throughout the game… you have to think to yourself… WTF WHY ARE YOU EVEN HERE THEN?! And it’s a good question. Anytime I play an adventure game, I think the conversation starts by me walking up to a NPC and saying “Hello”. Has anyone ever in the history of the world answered a “Hello” with a “I know nothing”? Then why are you here? Why did the programmer think it was necessary to have a character that knows absolutely nothing would benefit the player? I know that in real life, sometimes people just can’t help you. But this is a game… a game. It’s pointless to have such a waste of code.

“Why did I just do that then?”

There are quite a few games out there on many a console that allow you to save your game under a recognizable name, traditionally your name. As an added bonus, the main character will also be referred to as your name. So instead of “Hey, weird looking guy who thinks he’s going on a quest to save the princess when we all know you are just going to die a horrible horrible death.” they will call you Jim, or Steve, or whatever your name might be. Things like this really bring you into a game by personalizing it. Then you have games that just don’t do that.

At the start of a game, you are asked to input your name… so you do. Then while playing the game, the characters seem not to care about the player’s input and decides to call him or her whatever they feel like it. If that’s the case, why did I have to put my name in? Now, I know that a few of you are thinking “Well, that way I know that it’s my saved game file and not someone else’s.” Especially on an 8-bit console, there’s typically no more than three (3) saved game spots. Sometimes only one. Are you telling me that you can’t remember if you are first, second, or third? Because that is ridiculous and I refuse to believe it. If you are not going to use what ever sweet unique “better than anyone else can come up with”-kind of name then don’t tell me input it… just don’t. Because I get my hopes up that someone is going to call me “Socks the Clown” and I get “Mike” instead.

“Why is that there?”

Heads up displays or HUDs are beneficial to the player so that they are aware of the most important things in the game: score, health, lives, current item selected, etc. And that’s it, right? Well not all the time. I would like to introduce: “Worthless attempt to cover up game screen for whatever reason!”

Here’s a prime example of “What the hell is that doing there?” At first I was thinking, “Oh, the programmers want me to know that I’m playing as a ninja.” Then I noticed that I’m the only sprite on the screen that’s dressed in black and looks like a ninja. Then I thought “Well… maybe it’s to keep track of my health. The more bloody and bruised he gets the less health I have.” Nope. That’s not it. So what’s it for? Nothing… absolutely nothing. It’s just there to be there. Maybe the programmers didn’t want to draw the rest of the screen, got lazy, then thought “Here’s how we cover it up so we can do less work!” And it does the trick, it really does. But, looking back on it, it makes me think “What’s behind the overly-large head of the ninja? Could it be candy?!” We will never know. But what we do know, is that it’s pointless. Utterly pointless.

I know there’s tons more out there in the video gaming universe. What bothers you? Leave your comments in the space provided below. And remember to keep it classy. We’re not sporting William Fioravanti Bespoke suits for nothing, am I right? Of course I am.