Space Ace

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I’m sort of glad that we’re back to visiting these old games. There’s a part of me that feels like we’re digging into this old bin of artifacts left behind by a long-past, at-least-marginally-loved family member. Like a belligerent aunt, I guess. Or, at least, some sort of contemptuous cousin. These dusty (not literally) titles represent lifetimes (I really hope not literally) of treasured memories. I know – from the myriad comments that arrived years after we posted reviews – that my panning of titles people probably spent a lot of time with sometimes hurt their feelings.  At the very least, the amount of time and effort that went into building these games was likely non-trivial. We can only do so much.

Largely what we discover is that our marginally-loved family members were only marginally loved for a reason. They were probably weirdos. Or malcontents with stacks of newspapers all over. And when you get a box of stuff owned by a dead person you don’t care about mostly you don’t have any feelings for the materials within that box. They only serve as a grim reminder that you and all of your shit aren’t long for this world.

Anyway, fuck Space Ace.

I just want to point out that when games like this were released they probably retailed for like $90 Canadian. Or more. And at this time (hello, 1990s) the key demographic for Super Nintendo games was, I think, probably teens and/or young adults. You had to save for a SNES game. Or rent it, I guess. If I’d rented it, I’d have returned it. Space Ace is a game where the guy from DragonQuest and a space genie are fighting over a woman. Honestly, the space genie can have her. This guy’s no ace. It’s not even close.

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Here’s guy one. He’s our Space Ace.

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Here’s guy two. He’s our villain, I guess because he is a different color (spacism was alive and well, I see).

But when you get down to it, guy two is a man flying on a disc machine shooting lasers at guy one. You tell me which of those two guys sounds like a Space Ace to you.

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The game itself can be characterized as infuriating. You die when you get hit by anything. You die when you miss a jump (you will miss many jumps). Achieving a game over will put you back at the beginning of the game. It’s a good thing that no one can hear you scream. I “cheated” to get a little deeper and the second level featured mode 6 flying graphics and additional abrupt deaths.

No, thank you.

So, I’d like for you to imagine a 10-year-old boy who fucking loves space waking up on his birthday. He gets home from school and his parents tell him they’ve got a cool gift he’s going to love. It’s Space Ace. And he’s like, “I fucking love space, you guys”. That’s what he says to his parents. He’s crazy about space. And he puts this thing in and dies 5 times in a row in ways that are vexing and/or unfair and/or baffling. He does this for the better part of the week. He gets deep in the game, memorizing every misstep and movement. By the end of his childhood, he can play Space Ace in his sleep. He’s written stories about the titular ace and his adventures. He’s done drawings. By the time he reaches high school he’s moved on to some different games but his bar is low. He ends up working as a records manager at a local government office and dies alone, tragically, from a heart attack at 50 years old. You were his nephew. In his house, after the wake, you see these framed drawings of a man in a space suit and many paperback books about space adventures. You didn’t really visit him much. You say, “man, what a sad guy”. You find a dusty, still-working Super Nintendo in the corner. You’re sure you can sell it for a few bucks. And in the console is this game called Space Ace. “Ha ha… you say. Motherfucker loved space, that’s for sure.”

You play the game for 30 seconds… that’s long enough to die to the point where the game will rank you as a “Space Freeboid” and make you start over. You turn the console off. You look around and realize the impact this game had on his life. The drawings. The paperbacks. You get up and walk out of the house, and you never look back. Your dad sees you on the way out and says, “jeez, you don’t want any keepsakes from your uncle’s place?”

“Nah,” you say. “He’s given me enough”.

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X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse

You'd buy it. Don't judge me.

I bought X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse when I was but a small boy filled with wonder and hope. I spent all of my Christmas money on it. It was something like $105 at a Radioshack and I paid this because I’m Canadian and I make poor decisions. I took it home and was thrilled that I could play as a number of my favourite X-Men characters (but let’s be honest, everyone wants to play as Wolverine all the time and there’s so little reason to care about anyone else, at least when you’re 11).

And then…. I couldn’t make it past the second fucking level. I remember trying, certainly. I spent $105, afterall. The platforming was clunky and the enemies abundant. And, when you lost a character, you fucking lost that character. I remember thinking to myself at the time that I’d been suckered into buying a game I should have rented. But I saw the ad for it in Nintendo Power and it looked so good (those 4 screenshots in the ad really sparked my imagination!). I went for it. I took the plunge.

This is what one gets for taking plunges...

And this game….

I’ve previously written that I don’t have the patience for games that are pointlessly hard. I’m not even sure that this game is pointlessly hard. And, additionally, I’m afraid to play the game now only to discover that I was a simple child (this was maybe the case). But I can tell you that this game was a perfect example of the GameEnder Scenario.

The GameEnder Scenario

The GameEnder Scenario is when you play a game and are having a great time with that game up until a single point of failure. This failure could be the result of something you’ve done or something the game has done to you through poor design. This sounds like whining. Sometimes it is. So, you reach the portion of the game where you encounter this frustration that prevents you from moving forward in the game. You try a few times. You turn the game off. You maybe never play that game again.

I one put something like 30 hours into Chrono Cross, which was not a difficult game generally. I got to the a pivotal point in the game where I had to fight some significant boss and this boss beat me. The boss-fight itself was pretty long and the game didn’t seem to be especially compelling. I never touched the game again. Not once.

That’s likely an extreme case, but a great example of the GameEnder Scenario being my own fault.

An example of the GameEnder Scenario being the fault of the game itself would be Final Fantasy Tactics and the Weigraf battle. It’s notorious for being one of the toughest battles in the game and if you’ve either level built too much or not enough it can really ruin your day. I’ve known at least one person who suffered GameEnder in this way.  In this case, the issue often has to do with multiple save games. If you can’t win the battle, and you saved before the battle, and you didn’t have more than one save, you could very well be stuck on this fight some 15 hours into the game (or whatever) and be force to started entirely.

And so…

X-Men Mutant Apocalypse might have been my gateway to GameEnder Scenarios… a game that I played for a very brief time, got very annoyed with, and stopped playing altogether. There were probably lessons I could have learned from the process. I could persevered and learned something about seeing things through. Or I could have worked tirelessly to squeeze my dollars out of the purchase. Or, I could have done what I did in this case, which was get super frustrated, take the game out, toss it in the corner of the room and play some motherfucking Super Mario Kart.


Tetris/Dr. Mario

I sort of miss these old boxes.

How the fuck is a guy supposed to review Tetris and Dr. Mario? I mean, Tetris? Really? It’s fucking Tetris. Besides solitaire, what game is more broadly available and recognized than Tetris? Would you review solitaire (or ask that question to Tom Petty)? COULD YOU (if maybe you knew Tom Petty)? I suppose people have jobs wherein there are supposed to review a Tetris game specifically. Like, one iteration of Tetris. You could objectively say that one Tetris experience is better than another Tetris experience. Or, you might be so bold to suggest that a game that is nothing like Tetris is actually the best game bearing the name Tetris. (See: Tetris Attack)

But fuck, no matter how you gussy it up, it’s fucking Tetris! And this Tetris is the most fundamental of Tetrises (Tetri?).

Conclusion: Shut up, Tetris!

Ok, but Dr. Mario, yes. What I sort of love about Dr. Mario is that it never really changed. Tetris came with so many sorts of different modifications like bombs and different shapes and all sorts of things. Powerups! Whatever! But Dr. Mario really stuck with the formula, which is to say, solid puzzling. Also, Dr. Mario has way better music than Tetris, even if people could recognize Tetris music on the wind from miles away.

Uhh… but that’s it? I suppose the real shame is that maybe a lot of people will not have played Dr. Mario because a) it’s strictly a Nintendo product, and b) it’s not really all that prominent on consoles or cell phones or giant wrist watches or whatever the fuck we play games on these days. And that’s a goddamn shame.

Dr. Mario is clearly amazing.

Brief aside: I once claimed to have beaten Dr. Mario, which I can admit now is more or less impossible. But I felt at the time that making it past level 100 was as close as beating a game like Dr. Mario as any human can achieve and I stand by the “accomplishment”.

Test Drive II: The Duel

I know that I rented this game when I was a kid. I also know that, despite with my capacity for playing awful games at length, Test Drive II was an underwhelming experience for me even then. So check this out. You pick a car and a track. And you drive. Down a road. From a cockpit perspective. Sometimes a thing beeps, which presumably means that you are close to the police. The police might turn their siren on, but if you outrun them a man says “yeah!” and you’re in the clear (this is intuitive because it is exactly like real life, obviously).

That’s basically it? You can race another car if you like. There’s traffic to dodge. But that’s all the things. I suppose that maybe the graphics might have been impressive and that’s probably one of the most ridiculous things about reviewing old games. We’re never impressed by how they look unless they’re outstanding.

Just racin' the ol' car... no big whoop.

But also, “realistic” racing games in a post-Gran Turismo world? Unless it’s a kart game, forget it. You can’t even compete. It’s really hard to go back. You can’t go home again. And maybe that’s the real problem with post-nostaligic game reviews? It probably is. I mean, here we are in a world where Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit is playable on a phone that fits in your pocket. And then I boot up a rom of a 16-bit game that is completely unspectacular? So, I suppose, I write something witty (obviously not what I’m doing right now, but whatever) and move on to the next game, until I hit something I recognize and can write about with a little more authority.

Essentially, I feel sorry for these games. But what’s really neat about this is that I’m sure there’s a bunch of people out there who played Test Drive II: The Duel and loved the shit out of it. They made it into their own game and provided their own subtext. They imagined a situation where you were racing your arch rival across the country to win the heart of the girl you both love. Who even knows?

Fillin' up on ice so I can stay... uhhhh... superrrr... cool?

Tecmo Super NBA Basketball


Honestly? What’s so super about it? It’s licensed, I guess. That’s probably a Big Deal. I don’t even know anymore.

Can I just say, for the record, that nothing about videogame basketball makes me feel any differently about what I don’t like about basketball. Like, with Football, I thought it was boring but then stumbled across Madden, had a time, and started enjoying actual football. This isn’t happening with basketball. I can’t even figure out why there are so many guys on the court or what they’re for (and, keep in mind, I like sports).

Now, if life were anything like NBA Jam, I’d be fucking on board. People getting 10 points literally catching fire. Yeah. Yes. That.


Basketball. I’m not that into you. I’m sorry. Stop throwing yourself at me. I know some people think you’re super exciting. I know some people shell out dollars to play simulated versions of you on their televisions. It’s not this guy.

I’m unliking you on Facebook (you were never liked). Don’t poke me, either.

We’re through, basketball.

I'm sorry basketball, you never stood a chance.

Tecmo Super Bowl II

Holy fuck, enough already.

I know people love Tecmo Super Bowl. I know people love it so much. Bo Jackson was a force in it, apparently. Did you know that Bo Jackson’s pro career was basically ended by a degenerative hip disorder that threatened to prevent him from ever walking again? Bo knows the universe has a sense of humor. It’s not laughing with him.

But look, here’s the thing. Even if you haven’t played Tecmo Super Bowl (or had no idea that there was a sequel, like this guy), that doesn’t mean that you don’t know exactly what it is. It’s a football game. I’m not even going to boot it up…

No… look… I don’t care how much you.. fuck! NO! It’s not happening. I don’t care. It’s fucking football. I love football and all, I really do, but I think we’ve had enough. If I could convince Chuck Klosterman to write a review of Tecmo Super Bowl II, it would be great. He would have lots of interesting things to say. I am not Chuck Klosterman. Regrettably. I could have maybe gone for a long thing about Brett Favre’s penis getting sent to cheerleaders too. There was low-hanging fruit here. I simply refuse.

I have sampled the fruit of SNES football and I am stuffed. There is no more room for football in my retro-game stomach. When I cared about writing fresh reviews of old games, I wrote this.

I was not always this way.


T2: The Arcade Game

Any side-scrolling rail shooter where you don’t have the luxury of a gun to shoot and you just move a cursor around is profoundly stupid and boring. Any side-scrolling rail shooter where the excuse to the complete lack of environment is that “the environment was destroyed by robots” (while actually sort of cool when I say it out loud) is just as stupid and boring.

You’ve played T2 before. Or you saw your friend play it in an arcade maybe.Remember arcades? This game does them a disservice.

Normally when I play these games and I hate them, I try to play them until I die. I played this game until I noticed that holding the trigger down made my gun eventually overheat and shoot slower. How can I hope to defeat an army of meandering (sometimes they just walk by you while you glide around on your… I dunno? Segway?) killing machines if my gun is only useful for 10 seconds?

I hate this game so much. I hate it so much I can’t even bother to write about it wittily or creatively. That’s true hatred.

Let’s not question it.

I want to take a second to point out that if this is the first thing you see when you turn on a game, that's not a good sign.