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Defunct Games Vs.
Defunct Games vs. Nintendo Vs.
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on February 05, 2010   |   Episode 5 (Show Archive)  

   

Let me introduce you to Defunct Games Vs., our first new show of 2010. Actually, that's not entirely true. While we just came up with the name and created the Defunct Games Vs. archive, we've secretly been testing the show for the past year. Back in June of 2008 we introduced you to Defunct Games vs. Ninja Gaiden, a look at every single Ninja Gaiden game released on any console or format. Six months later we looked at Defunct Games vs. Tony Hawk. Of course that led to a big thing called Defunct Games vs. Video Game Movies, which brought us to the bone-crushing Defunct Games vs. Final Fight. The whole thing spiraled out of control and I was forced to spin it off into its own show.

To celebrate the official pilot of Defunct Games Vs., I thought it would be fun to review all of the games for the Nintendo Vs., the arcade cabinet that inspired the name. Between 1984 and 1990 Nintendo released a surprising amount of arcade games, mostly consisting of NES ports and upgraded versions of existing arcade cabinets. There were (from the best of my knowledge) 29 games released for the Nintendo Vs. in the United States, including classics like Tetris, Super Mario Bros., Castlevania and Gradius. There were also a few surprise games, such as the amazing (yet completely forgotten) Wrecking Crew and Freedom Force.

After more than a quarter century, are these arcade games still worth playing? I decided to give these games another shot and see if they were still enjoyable all these years later. The good news is that there are a good deal of Nintendo games worth playing. Unfortunately I was forced to sit through a few of the worst games ever created in order to pick them out. Either way, I am proud to not only introduce you to Defunct Games Vs., but also reintroduce a series of arcade games that are worth remembering. No matter whether you vividly remember the Nintendo Vs. arcade cabinets or are learning about them for the first time, get ready to experience Defunct Games vs. Nintendo Vs.

Vs. Golf
[ Release: 1984 - Company: Nintendo - Genre: Sports ]


Nintendo's Golf may not be as deep or detailed as Electronic Arts' Tiger Woods PGA Tour series, but that's not going to stop you from having a great time on the links. Believe it or not, golf is one of the few sports that the 8-bit NES was able to get right. While sports like soccer, football and baseball always required you to control too many people at once, golf was all about you lining up your attack and hitting it properly. It was you against the greens, the way real golf is played. Perhaps that's why this original 8-bit Golf holds up so well today. Oh sure, the graphics are outdated and nobody uses the triple-tap swing mechanic these days, but the game is charming enough to keep you going long after you've completed the one course. It's interesting to see how easily the basics of golf could be summarized in this ancient sports simulator. This may not satisfy gamers looking for dozens of hours of replay, but as far as old school golf games go, Golf is a winner.

Vs. Wild Gunman
[ Release: 1984 - Company: Nintendo - Genre: Light Gun ]


Wild Gunman always reminded me of another old school Nintendo game, Punch-Out! While the two share very little in common, there's an art style and a goofy sense of humor that links these two games together in my mind. Wild Gunman is about timing and very little else. It's not hard to hit your target with the NES Zapper; we're dealing with characters that take up a good chunk of the screen's real estate. The challenge of this game involves you knowing the exact time when to draw your gun and shoot. Unfortunately, the game only has a few different characters to shoot, so you'll quickly run out of targets and get sick and tired of the animations. The difficulty increases as you play, but there simply isn't enough depth here to keep you plugging quarters into the machine. Of all the games on this list, I would love to see Nintendo do something new with Wild Gunman. Who knows, maybe Nintendo is way ahead of us on this one. In the 2015 world of Back to the Future Part 2, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) plays an arcade cabinet of Wild Gunman. Could that be our future? I definitely hope so!

Vs. Pinball
[ Release: 1984 - Company: Nintendo - Genre: Action ]


Pinball makes a lot of sense as a home console game. After all, pinball cabinets are cool AND expensive. But why would you release a virtual pinball game into the arcades? If a gamer can find this arcade machine, surely they can find the real thing. This 8-bit game offers one table, a far cry from today's pinball compilations that feature 12 or more tables on one disc. The table spans a couple of different screens, which helps to break up the action and give gamers something to shoot for. Unfortunately there's not enough variety in the table to pass as a real pinball game. There aren't a lot of hidden passages, the bonuses are pretty weak and you can't even bust into a multi-ball. It's all very basic and a little too simple. It also feels grossly out of place in an arcade. If we were talking about the home console version of Pinball I would have no doubt given it a higher grade, but there's no justification for this as an arcade cabinet.

Vs. Hogan's Alley
[ Release: 1984 - Company: Nintendo - Genre: Light Gun ]
Hogan's Alley is like Wild Gunmen without the effort. While I have my issues with Nintendo's other light gun game, they pale in comparison to Hogan's Alley. This is a simple-minded exercise that is built around the idea that shooting bad guys is fun. It's true, shooting bad guys is indeed fun, but instead of animating characters or creating real backgrounds, Hogan's Alley just tosses 8-bit recreations of cardboard cut-outs. There are bad guys and hostages; none of them animate and once you've shot them they disappear. That's it. That is the whole game. It's hard to believe that this half-assed project came out the same year as Wild Gunman. There's absolutely no reason to go back to Hogan's Alley, especially given the huge advances that have been in the last 26 years.

Vs. Balloon Fight
[ Release: 1984 - Company: Nintendo - Genre: Action ]


Think of Balloon Fight as a weird combination of helium and Joust. Unfortunately I hate Joust and I hear that huffing helium is hazardous to my health. Perhaps that's the reason I could never got into Balloon Fight. Then again, now that I've gone back and played Balloon Fight again (26 years later) I'm of the mind that this was never a very good game, not then and certainly not now. In Balloon Fight you play a kid who is flying over the surface trying to take down enemies with balloons. Beyond the fact that this plays almost exactly like Joust (which is certainly a knock against it in my book), Balloon Fight really doesn't make any sense. Wouldn't a dart gun be a more effective weapon to combat the evil balloon men? And why do I have to mash on the buttons to move my character up? You're using balloons; shouldn't you float without mashing the buttons? Like Soccer and Urban Champion before it, Balloon Fight is an early Nintendo title that deserves to be left in the past.

Vs. Tennis
[ Release: 1984 - Company: Nintendo - Genre: Sports ]


I know I'm going to get a lot of mail about it, but I had a great time playing Tennis. Oh sure, this 1984 arcade game is nowhere near as sophisticated as Top Spin or Virtua Tennis, but I love the way this game manages to strip away all of the excess content and boils Tennis down to a simple game of back and forth. You don't need to use more than two buttons and the game is only marginally more complicated than the original Pong. Yet, this is the type of game where you and a non-gamer can have an incredible time without worrying about a steep learning curve. And as far as I'm concerned, that's exactly what you want in an arcade sports game. What I appreciate about Nintendo is that they took what was fun about this original Tennis game and introduced their own characters of the years. You can still buy relatively recent versions of Tennis, only now it uses Mario, Luigi and a whole host of funny characters. If I was in an arcade and saw this game for play, I wouldn't think twice about sinking at least 25 cents into it.

Vs. Baseball
[ Release: 1984 - Company: Nintendo - Genre: Sports ]
Let's face it; baseball is a far more complicated sport than either golf or tennis. That doesn't make it better, but it certainly dates this horribly archaic sports simulator. I appreciate that, like Nintendo's other early sports games, this baseball title doesn't try and get too deep into the nuance of the sport. Yet, while that's great for beginners, the somewhat complicated controls (which curiously forgoes some much-needed baseball techniques) takes a little getting used to. I would argue that no 8-bit game managed to get the baseball controls right, and even today companies like 2K Games and Electronic Arts are toying around trying to find the perfect set-up. Maybe there isn't a perfect control scheme and we're doomed to live out our lives disappointed by every major baseball game. Regardless of whether that's true or not, this original Baseball game never captures the fun and excitement of the real sport of baseball.

Vs. Duck Hunt
[ Release: 1984 - Company: Nintendo - Genre: Light Gun ]


Duck Hunt is one of those games that everybody remembers and everybody loves. And it's true, as the B-side to Super Mario Bros. it was a fun diversion that showed off the potential of the NES Zapper. Unfortunately, as a stand-alone game, Duck Hunt was not worth wasting your bullets for. We all know the story; Duck Hunt is a target practice game where you either shoot at clay pigeons or real ducks. You are there all by yourself, shooting up at the sky while your dog waits for something to do. The problem is, that's just not enough to sustain a game for more than a few play sessions. What's even more frustrating is that this game proved that people loved the NES Zapper and target practice could be done on your TV screen. Yet despite the overwhelming proof, Nintendo never gave us a Duck Hunt 2. They weren't concerned about making a better light gun game, so we're left with this barely adequate pack-in game. Duck Hunt is fine for awhile, but I definitely want more out of my old school light gun games.

Vs. Clu Clu Land
[ Release: 1985 - Company: Nintendo - Genre: Action ]


On the surface this game looks like a simplistic Pac-Man clone, however upon closer inspection the game has very little to do with Namco's influential dot gobbler. Instead of fussing with a maze, you (and your sea urchin-thing) go through gates looking for hidden gems and dodging enemies. The concept and execution is simple, but it's also surprisingly challenging. On the other hand, the graphics are understandably simple and the controls are just a little too sluggish for my tastes. Clu Clu Land was one of Nintendo's early gems, but it's hard to go back to this frantic puzzler. What frustrates me is that I've gone back to this game dozens of times since its 1985 launch, and no matter how many times I play it, I can never figure out what is fun about this exercise in frustration. I'm sure that there once was a time when Clu Clu Land made a lot of sense, but I can't for the life of me remember when that was. I love Pac-Man and have no problem processing deceptively simple puzzlers, but Clu Clu Land just isn't worth playing.

Vs. Mach Rider
[ Release: 1985 - Company: Nintendo - Genre: Racing ]


Sometimes you have to play the odds. I know from experience that most games based on Saturday morning cartoons are going to suck. I know that I can avoid most games turned into movies. And I guarantee that the next Sonic the Hedgehog game will, yet again, outrage the community. These are all good bets, just like it's easy to bet against an 8-bit racing game. I went into Mach Rider hoping for the best, but deep down I knew that the best I could hope for from this 1985 arcade game was a headache. Like OutRun, Rad Racer and every other 8-bit racing game, the sense of speed and 3D feels a bit off and the controls are all over the place. Here you play a motorcyclist ... with a gun. While that definitely sounds cool, the fun is hampered by the fact that everybody else is fully loaded and you can die without even knowing you were being shot at. The whole experience is frustrating and choppy, a bad combination. I tried hard to find the fun in Mach Rider, but this game is far too outdated for my tastes.

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