Champion Pro Wrestling

ChampionProWrestling

           How dare you insult the rich bold flavor of Dr. Pepper!

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Sports

RELEASE DATE: 1985

 

Champion Pro Wrestling is a jabroni, a loser of a wrestling title that makes its predecessor, Champion Boxing, look like the People’s Champ by comparison. You play an average gnarled face wrestler, while the computer plays a mighty luchador (already the game is unfair). Lower the luchador’s stamina bar by performing powerful moves on him, then pin him and advance to the next Challenge rank. Your moves are delivered not by complex button and joystick inputs, but from a move list – an element recycled from Champion Boxing. This move list is where Pro Wrestling takes a chair to the face. Once you select and execute a move, you will no longer have a move selected. Your move may have struck your opponent or you may have wiffed. Either way, the move list will turn blank, and you will not be able to execute a move unless you select it again. This forces you to constantly re-select your moves, when the move should be highlighted for as long as you want to use it. The computer has no trouble keeping the moves going, but trust me when I say re-selecting your moves feels awkward and takes precious seconds away from the match. Strangely, Champion Boxing never did this. If you selected an Uppercut, your boxer would Uppercut punch until you chose a different move.

Champion Pro Wrestling (Japan)000

                                Here’s a screenshot of me losing.

 

Some of your wrestling moves – particularly the simple ones like the chop and the kick – are worthless anyway unless you’re standing on top of the luchador. Your best bet for winning matches is to spam your two best moves, the drop kick and the pile-driver. This will be difficult, though, since the luchador is much stronger than you. He can take several drop kicks to the head and rise back up, no problem, but your boy will be dizzy on the ground for a few seconds after one similarly placed kick. Unless the luchador’s stamina is less than fifty percent, you won’t be able to pin him, but unless you pound excessively on the buttons, he’ll pin you after a few well-timed hits, regardless of how high your stamina is.

Champion Pro Wrestling (Japan)001

The ref’s face is priceless. But what’s with his orchid purple shirt?

 

The computer’s excessive strength combined with the unintuitive controls knocks Champion Pro Wrestling out cold. Like an obnoxious gimmicky wrestler whose premise should have never made it past the development stages, Pro Wrestling could benefit from a cold shower and a group re-think.

D

Zaxxon

Zaxxon

          The Zaxxon fortress would have been a cool Lego set.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: 1982 (Arcade); 1985 (SG-1000)

OTHER ENTRIES: Super Zaxxon (Arcade, 1982); Zaxxon 3D (Master System, 1987); Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000 (32X, 1995); Zaxxon Escape (iOS and Android, 2012)

 

Zaxxon was a lot of “firsts,” both for the arcade industry and for Sega as a company. It was one of Sega’s first big worldwide successes ever – crazy, considering they’d been making games for about sixteen years at this point. Zaxxon was the first game to employ axonometric or isometric projection which gave it a pseudo three-dimensional look. Because isometric projection forced the player to view the game from a third-person diagonal angle, Zaxxon has also been labeled the first “diagonal” shoot-em-up. Finally, Zaxxon was the first arcade game to ever be advertised on television. Home video games had received commercials before, but many of them were bare-bones affairs, content only to show people playing the game at home. Thanks to Paramount Pictures stake in Sega at the time, the Zaxxon commercial had a healthy budget: $150,000, which today would be close to $370,000. The money was well worth it.

 

 

The 3-D might be laughable by today’s standards, but in 1982, it was so good Sega didn’t need to show the game. Watch the commercial again. The only time you even see Zaxxon in action is at the nine second mark when the camera briefly turns to face the arcade screen.

Brilliant marketing and technical trickery may have made Zaxxon a hit in 1982, but graphics aside, the game has not aged well at all. Your space craft is stiff and cumbersome to control, and your firepower is often too slow against the threats of the enemy fortress. Even with an altitude meter that allows you to adjust the ship’s height, navigating through the fortress – comprised of brick walls of varying heights, turrets, missiles, and electrical barriers – is a nightmare. Unless your ship is at the highest point it can go on the meter, or the ship’s shadow can be seen on the surface of the fortress, you won’t know how high or low your ship is flying. While you’re trying to survive the fortress’s contours, you also have to blow up fuel drums to re-fuel your gas-hungry spacecraft. As if flying through Satan’s convoluted space lair wasn’t enough! After you escape from the fortress, you have to attack groups of enemy space craft from varying altitudes. This portion of the game is pure luck, but you can’t pass on to the next section without defeating a certain number of craft. Eventually, the levels will just repeat with slightly different layouts and more fire power directed at you.

 

1049595534

So pretty and terrible (thanks to arcade-museum.com for the screenshot)

 

I expect older arcade games to have difficulty curves, but Zaxxon‘s difficulty stems less from its generic gameplay and more from its ground-breaking viewpoint. Had Zaxxon just been a standard horizontal or vertical shump like Sega’s earlier Star Jacker, the game would be a lot easier to control – and a lot less interesting.

The SG-1000 port of Zaxxon slightly improves upon the game’s foundation, even as it’s unable to replicate the graphical achievements of the arcade. Although the SG-1000 does an adequate job of recreating the isometric perspective (unlike the worthless Congo Bongo port from two years prior), the scrolling is choppy and might be considered atrocious, if it didn’t allow your ship to fly through the fortress with a greater amount of ease. Whereas Zaxxon arcade focused more on piloting your ship through a compact and tightly woven space fortress, Zaxxon SG-1000 is about destroying as many fuel drums as you can. The surface of the fortress isn’t filled with nearly as many elements as it was in the arcade. Homing missiles are gone, thank God. Turrets and electrical barriers remain, though they’re not as difficult to navigate through. Most importantly, you’re never left wondering what altitude your ship is in the SG-1000 version. Because of the sparse fortress surface, your ship only needs to be settled directly on the surface or high above the brick walls; only when you encounter an electrical barrier do you need to place your ship’s altitude in the middle.

 

Zaxxon (Japan)000

                  Now you’re playing with… power?

 

The problem with the SG-1000 port is that it becomes stale quickly. The levels are essentially the same, and the goal of destroying enemy space craft before advancing has been eliminated. Revel the prospect of blowing up legions of fuel drums and going through electrical barriers ’cause that’s all this version of Zaxxon has to offer. The port remains a marginally better take on the arcade, but without any significant challenge to frustrate or gee-whiz special effects to distract, Zaxxon is yet another example of how limited the SG-1000 actually was.

 

Zaxxon (Japan)001

     American Airlines takes a wrong turn into a space battle.

 

As the commercial foretold, Zaxxon remains an outstanding example of style over substance. Take away the arcade game’s colorful “three-dimensional” depths and there’s the SG-1000 port, infinitely more playable, but ultimately shallow. Play Zaxxon in the arcade, as intended, and you have a game that stuns your senses – even as it robs you of your quarters.

 

Arcade: D

SG:1000: D+

Sega Does Podcast Episode 7

You know the drill by this point. New podcast, download here, right now!

Home Mahjong, Lode Runner, Safari Race, Champion Boxing, and Champion Soccer all go under our sharp critical knives today. Sam is still disappointed that I don’t love Orguss more, and I can’t believe he scored goals in Champion Soccer.

If you have any feedback or suggestions, let us know in the comments. We’re always looking to improve… within reason.

 

 

1984 Othello Multivision Games

 

TsukudaOriginal

 

Even though the Multivision model FG-1000 didn’t sell well upon its 1983 release, Tsukuda Original still saw fit to release the FG-2000 in 1984. The newer model had blue keys instead of red, an additional controller input, and a D-pad in place of the joystick, but was otherwise the same. Five additional Multivision-branded games were released in 1984, as well: Sannin Mahjong (sometimes referred to as 3-jin Mahjong), Challenge Derby, Okamato Ayako no Match Play Golf, Space Armor, and 007 James Bond. By 1985, in light of continued poor sales and Sega’s decision to focus attention on the Mark III, Tsukuda Original abandoned the Multivision to the four winds of destiny: Amazon, eBay, retro game stores in Japan, and the trash. Today, the system remains incredibly hard to find, and is a finger-wagging reminder of why companies shouldn’t make a clone of a system that isn’t selling well.

To learn more about the Multivision, click here. Otherwise, on to the games!

 

SanninMahjong

Tiles, tiles everywhere, so let’s all waste our money.

San-nin Mahjong (Japan)000

                                          In it to… win it?

 

Remember the time I reviewed Mahjong? How about Home Mahjong? Of course you remember those sparkling wells of excitement! Two mahjong games should be plenty for a short-lived console like the SG-1000, right? Well, here’s Sannin Mahjong to prove you mahwrong. “San nin” means “three people” in Japanese, and indeed, every match is a battle between two computer opponents in the quest for mahjong glory. Three-player mahjong is apparently quite different from four-player or two-player mahjong, but I couldn’t tell from my time with this game. I’ll admit, there’s a good chance I was playing incorrectly because I didn’t take the time to learn the subtleties of three-player mahjong. Based solely on my lacking Western perspective, though, Sannin Mahjong looked and played just like the others, sans the sparkle.

C

 

ChallengeDerby

           Just like riding a merry-go-round.

Challenge Derby (Japan) (40kB) (Othello Multivision)001

                            Go, little fruit snacks! Go!

 

Challenge Derby celebrates the exciting world of horse race betting. Up to eight people can bet extravagant amounts of yen on the horses by passing the unwieldy Multivision console back and forth (don’t forget, the controller is built in to the console). When the races begin, watch in amazement as the multi-colored stallions race to the finish line. Watch hard, because you can’t actually control the horses. At least in Challenge Derby, horse racing is a purely spectator sport. If you’re not yelling at jockies while wearing a floppy fisherman’s hat, gray and brown clothes, and a five o’clock shadow, you’re not spectating properly.

D

 

OkamotoAyako

                  I’m with the bird on this one.

Okamoto Ayako no Match Play Golf (Japan) (Othello Multivision)000

                 Okamoto lines up another hole-in-one…

 

You may not know who Ayako Okamoto is, but rest assured, she’s better than you at golf. Okamoto Ayako no Match Play Golf pits you against the legendary female golfer in – you guessed it – match play (or stroke play, if you’re a wuss). Unlike Sega’s broken Champion Golf, Match Play Golf seems like it’d be a decent golf game if one could understand how to swing properly. The swing meter has a mind of its own, depending on which club you choose. Sometimes the meter won’t move at all prior to your swing, other times the meter will shift violently to the opposite end, ruining your form. Of course, Okamoto understands how to swing properly. You don’t win sixty-two tournaments in a lifetime without busting a few unruly swing meters.

C-

 

SpaceArmor

                     Like an Action 52 reject.

Space Armor (Japan) (v2

Surely this is more garbage slime than game.

 

Like Tsukuda Original’s Space Mountain, Space Armor blazes unforeseen trails of terrible in the shoot-em-up genre. Ostensibly a Xevious clone where one attack is air-based and the other attack is ground-based, Space Armor barely functions under its own limited power. The sound effects interrupt the repetitive droning music. The graphics are a mixture of black space and poorly rendered hexagons. The vertical scrolling is the slowest I’ve ever witnessed in a shoot-em-up. And there’s no pause feature. Space Armor might not be challenging, but the production reeks with a pitiful self-loathing, as if the game can’t even bear to acknowledge its own existence. I hate Space Armor and so should you.

F-

 

007JamesBond

Connery looks pretty dap and dry for being submerged in the ocean.

James Bond 007 (Japan) (Othello Multivision)002

Watch out for the diamonds in the sky. They’re kinda forever, you know?

 

007 James Bond is a port of the 1983 Parker Brothers’ game of the same name, which might explain why the game is so much better than every other Tsukuda Original title. Control James Bond in a shape-shifting boat/car and navigate through scenes from “Diamonds Are Forever,” “For Your Eyes Only,” “The Spy Who Loved Me,” and “Moonraker.” Whether traveling by boat or car, Bond has the ability to fire shots upwards at aggressive helicopters and satellites, or fire missiles downwards at underwater agents, water mines, and angry sea urchins. Though both vehicles have slightly different mechanics, 007‘s pitch-perfect controls will navigate you seamlessly through a steady barrage of air, sea, and land attacks. Like all the great Bond films, each level is filled with over-the-top setpieces and consistently thrilling action. All that’s missing are the silhouettes of naked women with bouffant hairdos.

B+

 

All games were published and developed by Tsukuda Original in 1984.

Girl’s Garden

GirlsGarden                              

                                     You crazy for this one, Yuji Naka.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Arcade

RELEASE DATE: 1984

 

Girl’s Garden is a cornucopia of whimsy, an exploration of childhood love in pixelated form. Or, from another perspective, Girl’s Garden is anti-feminist propaganda that celebrates girls as creatures who exist solely to give boys pleasure. I’ll be honest, my eyes roll back into my head when I ponder the latter point. I constantly question whether critics should read so deeply into games, period, let alone a thirty-year-old SG-1000 game. But as much as I think certain aspects of the gaming landscape have become overanalyzed in recent years, both interpretations of Girl’s Garden could be argued reasonably. Given the game’s lighthearted disposition, I doubt Sega intended players to view Girl’s Garden as a strictly chauvinist experience, but that doesn’t make the sexist undertones any less unnerving.

In Girl’s Garden, you control a young girl named Papri. Papri must collect a bouquet of flowers to take to her boyfriend, Minto. If Papri doesn’t get the flowers to Minto in time, he will leave her for another girl, Cocco. The flowers are collected in a large field that also teems with bees and bears. Bees are your allies and will often drop pieces of fruit worth bonus points, extra lives, and even pre-made bouquets of flowers. Bears, however, get aggravated when they see you, and will not hesitate to maul you unless you give them some honey. Once bears see the honey, they are distracted and you’re free to move near them for a limited time. You start the game with five honeypots in tow, but these will not last long unless you use them sparingly. Honey is only-reacquired when you begin another level or if you collect a bee that’s pollinating a flower. Flowers in the field come in one of three types: pre-bloom, full bloom, or dead and wilting. Only the blooming flowers count towards your bouquet; if you collect a budding flower, it adds nothing to your count, and if you collect a wilting flower, it eliminates half of the flowers you’ve already collected. Once you’ve collected enough flowers, you take them to Minto’s house. He accepts them with joy, the field magically blossoms with rows of flowers, and your love becomes an undying love – until the next level when Minto demands another bouquet of different flowers.

Girl's Garden (Japan)000

Minto can’t even bother to spell “Welcome” right. What a jerk.

Let’s analyze what Girl’s Garden asks Papri to do: risk her life to collect flowers for a guy who is moments away from leaving her for another girl. Notice the “time bar” at the top of the screen. Papri the valiant warrior-ess on the left side, Cocco the mistress on the right side, Minto the douchebag in the middle. As Papri collects flowers in the level, Minto walks slowly towards Cocco on the time bar. But when Papri delivers the bouquet to Minto in the level, Minto in the time bar comes sprinting back towards her (the less time it takes him to sprint back to Papri, the more bonus points you receive). Minto doesn’t love Papri at all. He loves the flowers and the attention. Whether Papri knows this or not is unclear. But as the game continues and Papri continues to collect flowers with an oblivious smile on her face, it’s clear she’s unwilling or unable to face reality.

Yes, Girl’s Garden doesn’t show relationships in the best light, but it’s important to remember that Papri, Minto, and Cocco are young kids, probably no more than ten. Relationships at that age usually involve nothing more than talking at recess or holding hands (or delivering bouquets of flowers?), and often end quickly. As for Papri’s exploration of the bear-infested fields, how often do kids intentionally seek out danger or get themselves into danger without thinking? If Papri likes flowers herself, there’s a chance she would risk wandering into the field even if Minto wasn’t in her life. If nothing else, Girl’s Garden shows that kids are gonna kid. I wonder if Sega would have portrayed the relationships as harmless as they did if the characters were adults.

Girl's Garden (Japan)003

So this is what God meant when He said we would toil in the field…

I’d like to deem Girl’s Garden as a wholly innocent kids game, but the final product feels more like a demented Disney film. Underneath the cheerful coating and chipper music is a dark, depressing story of a young girl who doesn’t want to give up the love of a jerk, even if it means her death. No element of the game is on poor Papri’s side. The bees are enablers, helping her to collect flowers so she can prolong the inevitable break-up. The bears are trying to maul her for being in their space. Minto only cares about what he can get from Papri. Cocco isn’t thinking about Papri at all. Sure, Papri and Minto could live happily ever after, surrounded by thousands of suffocating flowers. But Girl’s Garden only ends when Papri is no longer able to defend herself with honey. After the fourth stage, the game repeats with unbelievable amounts of bears, and the fields become that much harder to navigate. Papri is forced to collect flowers for Minto until her inevitable death. I wouldn’t call Girl’s Garden anti-female by any means, but the actions of the characters don’t paint the game’s intentions in a good light.

Taken as just a game and not an exploration of controlling male-female relationships, Girl’s Garden is one of the best experiences you can have on the SG-1000. The graphics and atmosphere are bright and colorful, the controls sublime, and the flower-collecting gameplay, though not wholly original, feels like a breath of fresh country air compared to the SG-1000′s typical monotonous dreck. Also, troubling themes aside, how many games at the time – heck, even now – allowed you to play as a girl and a little girl at that? One gets the sense that Sega’s heart was in the right place with Girl’s Garden, even if their execution was misguided.

As a SG-1000 game in 1984: A-

If Girl’s Garden was released as an indie game in 2014: C

Girl's Garden (Japan)002

The love affair that withstood twenty bears.

Flicky

Flicky

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Arcade

RELEASE DATE: 1984 (Arcade); 1984 (SG-1000); 05/01/91 (Genesis/Mega Drive); 03/18/1994 (Mega-CD); 2/28/1997 (Saturn)

 

Flicky was a brief flash of inspiration for Sega, and up until 1984, the closest a Sega-developed game had come to mimicking Nintendo’s colorful character-driven style. Flicky, the Piopios, the Nyannyan cats, and the Choro Iguana designs burst with life and personality. The story – help Flicky rescue her baby birds from the perils of the outside world – was heartfelt and relatable. Most importantly, Flicky‘s short bursts of addictive gameplay coupled with its wonderfully-rendered characters gave the game a well-rounded depth unlike any in Sega’s catalog up to this point. Flicky isn’t quite a masterpiece, but to my mind, the game heralded a new wave of creativity in their arcade output, while also foreshadowing their future mascot rivalry with Nintendo.

In Flicky, you control the blue bird Flicky around different levels of an apartment building. Her babies, the Piopios, are adrift and must be collected by Flicky and taken to the exit. The birds amass behind Flicky in a single-line formation and will stay behind her unless they’re disrupted or taken to the exit. The more birds you deliver to the exit at one time, the more bonus points you’ll acquire; extra points are also given for beating the level quickly.

Flicky (UE) [!]000

                     To the exit! To freedom! (Genesis)

The Nyan cats emerge from litter boxes to stop Flicky from her exodus. If the cats pounce on Flicky, she’ll die, but if the cats pounce on her birds, they will disperse away from Flicky, forcing her to collect them again. The Piopios with sunglasses have rebellious minds of their own and will run all over the place if touched by a Nyan, while the goody-goody Piopios without sunglasses will always stay close to where they were displaced from Flicky. There’s miscellaneous debris – telephones, flowerpots, teacups – scattered around the level that Flicky can throw at the cats to make them disappear for a brief window of time. Later stages add in Choro, a fast-crawling iguana who never stops running across and around the entire stage.

There are forty-eight levels in total, each one consisting of a wraparound screen that gives the illusion of greater space. Unlike one-screen games where the action is bound to what the player sees, wraparound screens enable the action to move on a continuous loop. Flicky can move forever to the right or to the left, bounding from platform to platform, but she’ll never get away from the Nyan cats until she delivers her birds to the exit. For some players, the wraparound screen can make navigating the levels confusing, but Flicky‘s levels are never so complex as to get you lost; give the game time and your mind will adjust. After you beat all forty-eight levels, the levels will repeat with slightly different elements. Repeating levels were a standard element in the majority of arcade titles at the time, but in Flicky, the implication behind them – that Flicky’s war to free her babies is a never-ending one – is quite sad.

Flicky

I don’t remember any guns from the game. Those Nyans will stop at nyan-thing…

Flicky (Japan) (Rev 1)000

Flicky? Is that you behind those dead soulless eyes? (SG-1000)

While the arcade version of Flicky is cute and colorful, the SG-1000 version is drab and barely playable. Gone are any details from the arcade version. The vintage wallpaper from the apartment has been replaced with monotonous green and blue backgrounds. Flicky, the Piopios, and the Nyan cats are all bizarro stencil copies of their former selves. Graphics aren’t everything, sure, but in Flicky‘s case, they’re a huge part of the game’s appeal. The wraparound screen effect remains, but the platforms, once so carefully spaced apart, are closer together and nearly impossible to jump on. There seem to be invisible barriers surrounding the edges of each platform as well, forcing Flicky to make pitch-perfect jumps in order to reach the platforms. Another bizarre change: the cats fall from the sky instead of appearing from litter boxes. This change might sound trivial, but when you’re about to complete the level and a cat falls out of nowhere on to you, expletives will emerge with a maddening fury.

Flicky

The birds with shades are hilarious, but every other aspect of this cover is wrong.

Flicky (UE) [!]002

Who do those snooty birds think they are? Roy Orbison? Ray Charles?

Flicky for the SG-1000 is harder, uglier, and not at all representative of what the system can do, but the Genesis/Mega Drive version released in 1991 is a wonderful arcade port. Almost every element from the arcade game (save for the slightly wonkier music) is recreated flawlessly, as one would expect for a seven-year-old title. No wonder, then, that the Genesis version of Flicky would later be placed into damn near every Sega collection, including Sonic Mega Collection (where I had my first experience with Flicky), Sega Genesis Collection for PS2 and PSP, and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection for PS3 and Xbox 360, among others.

Game No Kanzume Vol. 1

                   Sega games sure can.

GAME CAN Vol

   That elephant really ties the room together. (Mega-CD)

Sega Ages Memorial Selection Vol. 1

                                 One of many volumes to come.

flicky saturn

           Flicky meets her attackers head-on. (Saturn)

In Japan, Flicky also saw two additional re-releases for the Mega-CD and Saturn in the compilations Game no Kanzume Vol. 1 and Sega Ages Memorial Collection Vol. 1 respectively. Both versions of Flicky on the compilations look and play like the arcade, though the Mega CD version only plays music upon the beginning and completion of each stage. The Saturn version, however, has improved CD-quality music throughout the entire game.

Sega never honored Flicky with her own sequel, but her legacy lives on in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, and particularly in Sonic 3D Blast. In earlier Sonic games, Flickies would appear out of robots that Sonic destroyed and scamper off into the distance. 3D Blast – otherwise known as Sonic 3D: Flickies Island in Europe and Japan – brought Flickies into the forefront, playing less like a Sonic game and more like an expanded version of Flicky with Sonic as the main character. Sonic rescues the Flickies, they follow him in a straight line, if he gets hit they scatter, and he has to bring them to the exit in order to move forward. My opinion? Traveller’s Tales, the makers of 3D Blast, weren’t interested in making yet another 2D Sonic game (what would have been the fifth in as many years). The developers obviously had fond memories of Flicky, but Sega, keen to maintain their hard-edged 90s image, probably wouldn’t have allowed Traveller’s Tales to construct a cutesy straightforward Flicky sequel. Thus the subversive 3D Blast, a Sonic game in name and characters only (Tails, Knuckles, and Robotnik make brief appearances), was born. 3D Blast wasn’t really a good Sonic game because it eschewed the series’ typical lightning-pace for isometric levels that forced you to explore. As a spiritual sequel to Flicky with Sonic playing the role of the mother and the Flickies as the Piopios, however, 3D Blast has its charm.

I haven’t played much of Sega’s arcade output pre-1980, but most of what I’ve played feels hollow and lifeless compared to Flicky. Games like Borderline, N-Sub, Safari Hunting, and Champion Baseball are all forgotten now because they lack any sort of personality or defining qualities. As such, I consider Flicky a turning point for the company, a game that’s remembered as much for its considerable charm as its addictive gameplay.

SG-1000 Version: D-

Genesis/Megadrive Version: A-

Mega-CD Version: B+ (where’s the carnival tunes?)

Saturn Version: A-

Cheers to SegaRetro.org and Hardcore Gaming 101 for their invaluable information on Flicky.

Sega Does Podcast Episode 6

Finally, Episode 6 is here to tickle your ear buds, then leave without saying goodbye. Cold-blooded and honest, this episode is.

This time, Sam and I discuss the Othello Multivision, Q*bert, Guzzler, Space Mountain, Golgo-13, Orguss, and Pachinko II. The games are a cornucopia of mediocrity, but at least one of them inspired mine and Sam’s first ever vehement disagreement. Which one, you ask? Click here to download and listen.

Have any comments, questions, concerns? Leave them below and we will address them within the next couple of episodes. Thanks for listening!

Hustle Chumy

HustleChumy

For a sewer mouse, Chumy has quite the paunch.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Compile

GENRE: Arcade

RELEASE DATE: 1984

 

Hustle Chumy! If you’ve seen “American Tail,” you already know the story: in a poverty-stricken sewer system, a sewer mouse named Chumy has to collect food to survive. He doesn’t have a Eastern-European family and he isn’t as cute as Fievel, but dammit, he’s hungry. Each level is strewn with different types of food, like apple cores, half-eaten hamburgers, and, uh, ribbon candy. The more food Chumy eats, the more he bloats, which is surprisingly realistic. While bloated, Chumy moves slower, putting him at a risk for getting caught and killed. Thankfully, he has a high jump that can vault him over the majority of his foes. Eat all the food in the stage and hop/walk slowly back to the entrance of the sewer to do it all over again in the next level. Starvation averted, at least temporarily.

Hustle Chumy (Japan)000

The Spearmint Sewers beckon to Chumy’s empty stomach

Of course, not every sewer denizen wants Chumy to have his cores and eat them too. Five types of enemies litter the hard-knock sewer streets: bats, gators, snooty cats (expensive looking ones too – did a drunken rich person flush them by accident?), ninjas, and mecha-dinosaurs. Sounds like a lot of crazy for one mouse to tackle, but Chumy can spew fireballs; strangely, this makes him the second fire-flinging mouse after Pop Flamer to appear on the SG-1000. Each enemy, with the exception of the gator, has specific movement patterns designed to kill Chumy. Mecha-dinos can’t be killed by fire, only slowed, and they constantly block your path. Snooty cats creep along slowly, but they also hyper-jump at random. Ninjas are fast, aggressive and will chase you without stopping – until Chumy hits them with three fireballs. Bats seem harmless at first because they’re unable to touch Chumy’s body when he’s on the ground, but woe be to Chumy if he tries to jump or climb a ladder while they’re flying overhead. Because the majority of the enemies are designed to take advantage of Chumy’s vulnerabilities, the combination of all the enemies in motion together makes for quite the satisfactory challenge.

Hustle Chumy (Japan)001

The ninjas in the upper-right hand corner do not resemble ninjas in the slightest.

Despite being in the vein of other mice collect-a-thons like Mappy and Pop Flamer, Hustle Chumy has a tightness that the latter games lack. Chumy begins each level at the bottom of the sewer, but has to climb upwards from there to four horizontal planes in order to collect food. There are always three manhole entrances to the upper four planes, though one of them is usually blocked off (only the Mecha-dino, with his manly mecha arms, can open and close manholes). All of the planes are connected by ladders, and the very top plane has a pipe that transports Chumy back down to the bottom surface. With the exception of bats who flutter where they will, the enemies typically keep to their own planes: the Mecha-dino at the bottom, the cat and gator in the middle, and the ninja at the top. Later levels find the enemies moving out of their usual regions and working together to stop Chumy, making for quite the enemy clusterfluff. Hustle Chumy‘s one-screen levels initially feel restrictive compared to the open realms found in Pop Flamer, but the lack of on-screen space keeps the action more concentrated, forcing you to pay attention to every enemy movement while Chumy gathers his eats for the day.

 

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When Chumy’s red, he’s full. But that doesn’t mean he can’t cram an additional six cupcakes down his throat.

Hustle Chumy‘s structure and attention to detail are much better than the SG-1000 typically receives (or deserves – that’s right). The game took some time to sink in, but the more I played, the more I appreciated its simple depths. The graphics could be richer and the music less tinny, but even with these slights, Hustle Chumy is one of the best games on the SG-1000.

B+

Champion Soccer

Champion Soccer

One day, Champion Soccer… pow! Straight to the garbage can!

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Soccer

RELEASE DATE: 1984

 

Perhaps you have an obsession with football/soccer. You’ve watched every single game in the 2014 World Cup, even the ones that haven’t aired yet. Twice. You’ve memorized every player name on every team. In the last week, you went to work in a soccer uniform and were promptly fired for not changing into proper work attire. As you were dragged off the premises by security, you thought to yourself, “At least I have soccer. Soccer understands me.” You turn to your collection of soccer-themed goods for solace. Amidst the signed soccer balls, the stuffed dolls, the stacks of FIFA games, you find Champion Soccer, an old Japanese video game with a sweet soccer-fueled cover. You plug it in and play. Within moments, tears of anger run down your face. Champion Soccer is a betrayal of the game you love, an unplayable whirlwind of chaotic nonsense, and a really crappy way to end your already crappy day.

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Sid and Marty Krofft were the lead character designers on Champion Soccer, apparently.

Champion Soccer is an early sports game, so the requirements to play are minimal. You won’t choose different teams or perform fancy acrobatics. Instead, you’ll attempt to guide the ball around the soccer field with a group of erratic Muppet soldiers. Running with the ball isn’t difficult, per say, but the choppy player movements make the in-game action hard to discern. Imagine poorly-rendered stop-motion that your eyes can’t focus on without considerable effort. The opposing team runs faster than your team, as well, so even if you grab the ball away from them, they’ll always manage to take it back. Both teams will often get into what I call “kicking ruts.” One team kicks the ball high across the field, then the other team, then back and forth until you allow the computer to start running with the ball. Scoring a goal is impossible because the computer will never let you get that far, even on the Amateur difficulty level. The computer’s not overly cheap, they’re just aggressive, and your players aren’t allowed to match their levels of aggression. “What’s going on?” and “Why am I not allowed to score?” are two questions that should never be asked during any sports game. Champion Soccer not only raises said questions, but leaves them unanswered. Sega at their laziest.

F

Champion Boxing

Champion Boxing

Punching someone while getting hit yourself is quite the accomplishment.

 

PLAYERS: 1-2 simultaneous

PUBLISHER: Sega

DEVELOPER: Sega

GENRE: Sports

RELEASE DATE: 1984 (SG-1000/Arcade); 1985 (MyCard)

 

There are no prize-fighters in Champion Boxing – no Jake LaMotta, Rocky Balboa, or Little Mac. You’re a no-name boxer from a (presumably) dead-end town fighting an opponent who’s just as poor and hungry as you. You have three attacks to your name: jab, straight, and upper. Jabs knock your opponent off balance, straights are punches with a kick, and uppers derail teeth, if you can land ‘em. Wittle your opponent’s life bar down to nubbins before he knows what hit ‘im, but don’t let him do the same to you. This latter point is imperative because you don’t have a very good hold on defending yourself. If your opponent gets into a swingin’ groove, he could pummel half your life before you’re able to strike back. Usually, it takes a couple tries to knock him completely out of commission. There are three rounds for you to take him out. I’ve never seen a match go into overtime – one of you will be pulp before the bell rings at the end of the third.

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                             Oh! Right in the kiwis!

Knock out your opponent and Champion Boxing rolls back to the start screen. Yes, one fight and the game decides you’ve had enough. There are five levels of difficulty to choose from, but every level has the same opponent, just slightly quicker and cheaper. Whether you win or lose, a match will be completed within a few minutes because each of the three rounds only lasts for ninety seconds, then it’s back to the start screen. After you’ve played a handful of matches at various difficulties, you’ve boxed all there is to box. Whatever appeal Champion Boxing had when you fought your first match will be quenched by mindless repetition.

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                          Don’t cross a Muppet…

Champion Boxing wasn’t the only boxing game to emerge in 1984. Punch-Out!! by Nintendo made its arcade debut in 1984, as well. The two games couldn’t be any more different: whereas Champion Boxing tried to simulate the intricacies of a real boxing match, Punch-Out!! focused more on timing and rhythm. Opponents in Punch-Out!! always gave visual cues before they were about to strike. The player then memorized the cues and attacked accordingly. Punch-Out!! also had six opponents one could fight against, made use of two monitors that displayed stats on top and action on the bottom, and had absolutely beautiful graphics. Champion Boxing is paltry in comparison.

Perhaps it seems unfair to compare a cutting-edge arcade game to an SG-1000 title, but consider that Sega released Champion Boxing into the arcade in 1984 after releasing it for the SG-1000 (were they really that proud of the game?). The difference in versions? Very little. In the arcade, if you defeat your opponent, the difficulty levels naturally progress upward. Otherwise, graphics, sound, and gameplay are completely the same between versions. If Champion Boxing seemed slight on the SG-1000, imagine how it looked in the arcades next to Punch-Out!! That’s like standing Glass Joe up against Mike Tyson and calling them both boxers: technically true, but still laughable.

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Told you not to cross a Muppet. They took Manhattan, I think they can handle a boxing ring.

No, Champion Boxing wasn’t the epitome of virtual pugilism when it was released in 1984, but the game did usher in one of Sega’s future stars. Yu Suzuki – he of Virtua Fighter, Outrun, After Burner, and Shenmue fame – was hired as a programmer at Sega in 1983, and Champion Boxing was his first coding project. I’d like to say there are glimpses of Suzuki’s future greatness on display here, but besides the occasional graphical details (the bobbing faces in the crowd! Pengo holding the K.O. sign!), Champion Boxing plays like a slightly more advanced Urban Champion. You might not be fighting for street glory, but the lack of options and the repetitive jab-punch-jab gameplay is largely the same.

C