bomba's House Of Flancakes

Posted on May 18th 2016 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under arcade port, console, NES, Nintendo, I do not care what anyone says Double Dragon is better on the NES

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Once upon a time, the most desired trait of any home console gamer was to play arcade ports.  In this fashion, one could say that arcades ruled the jungles of electronic video game entertainment.  While complete faithfulness to the arcade original was the holy grail, it was certainly not a requirement, though individual interpretation on the quality of the port was certainly in place, especially in the playgrounds and hallways of schools.

Once upon a time, I was among those that desired the "perfect" arcade port, having been a child in the jungle of electronic entertainment.  Yet, as I grew in years, complete faithfulness to the arcade original was only a concern, then less of a concern, then finally of little to no concern.  Don't get me wrong, I still love original arcade games, it just so happens that in my mind, certain games have been usurped by certain console ports, so that when someone says, "Remember how awesome xxxxxx game was back in the day?" and I say, "Yes," my mind isn't even remotely in the vicinity of the arcade original.  Curiosity piqued yet?

First, I would like to make sure that you understand just how important the arcade was to me back when I experienced it.  While the history books proclaim the death or the near total death of the arcade, most of us in Southeastern Michigan (circa 1986) would have never known.  Nearly every store here had at least one arcade cabinet sitting loud and proud.  From laundromats to car washes and nearly every grocery and convenience store, one could find games.  My personal stomping ground was the 7-11 convenience store by my house.  Taking advantage of wasteful drinkers of soda and other beverages, two or three times a week my compadres and I would troll the roads, ditches, and wooded areas for returnable bottles, wherein we might get a couple plays of whatever flavor of game awaited us.

Now I cannot tell you how my neighborhood friends felt, but in general, I saved console gaming for when I couldn't go and play arcade games or really go outside into the bright world.  And even then, I might still play with my G.I. Joes instead.  The console games were fun and still important to me, but in my young mind...UFO!...couldn't hold a candle to a couple plays of Double Dragon.  Fast forward thirty years and my, how things have changed.

And finally on to the crux of this article: I would like to share with you some of my feelings regarding arcade ports.  But not just any arcade ports mind you, but the ports that popped up after the debut of the NES.  See, I have this theory that the "death" of arcades has as much to do with the change in game content that happened during the mid-eighties in both arcades and home consoles as anything else.  Where once games focused on inherent difficulty and high score, they were now focusing on longevity through adventure elements and replay value.  And thus, you have the three types games that I will mention in this article: one "safe," one "controversial", and one "garbage."  Keep in mind that the list I chose from is very extensive.  I might, at some point in the future, dip back into that well and write about some more games.  Until then, on with the show.

Arcade original on the left, NES arcade port on the right

Game #1 "The Safe One" - Trojan

The Arcade Original - Capcom released Trojan into arcades back in early 1986, but my 7-11 didn't get it until late 1987.  And it didn't stay for long.  In fact, I had to fire up an emulated version included in Capcom Classics Collection Vol.1 on my PlayStation 2 to jog that particular memory loose.  Trojan in the arcades isn't a particularly notable game, though it isn't bad.  You control Trojan, a warrior sent to save the world by killing the evil Achilles.  It's one of those "walking" action games.  You know, you walk from left to right, slashing enemies with your weapon.  You get a shield, which you can use to block projectiles from different angles, which is pretty cool.  It kind of feels like Kung Fu, with its basic enemies mixed with projectile-throwing enemies followed by a end boss, though the end bosses are sometimes lame in Trojan, consisting of armadillo-men, jumping guys, and Roman-style gladiators that break out of walls.

The Arcade Port - Trojan on the NES is a fun game, and much better than the arcade original.  The plot and basic gameplay are still the same, but now there is more gameplay depth....and no giant flashing pads marked, "JUMP."  The port introduces hidden areas and power-ups, as well as a fun (but forgettable) two player versus mode, where you and a friend fight, Trojan against Trojan, to the death.  I remember spending hours on this game at a friends house, playing either the alternate two player mode or just passing the controller back and forth to see how far we could get without using a continue.  I would rather play the port than the original, any day of the week.

Something else of note is the hilariously worded overview on the back of the box.  It really has this great "Google Translate" feel to it, and to this day I like to think that the rear box information, as well as the manual, were simply translated from Japanese with no extensive re-writes...and I love it.

Arcade original on the left, NES arcade port on the right

Game #2 "The Controversial One" - Double Dragon

The Arcade Original - Double Dragon is arguably one best arcade titles ever made.  When it first hit one of my local 7-11 stores back sometime between 1987 and 1988, it was all us kids could talk about.  We went from chatting casually about cartoons and movies to aping moves we learned from watching and playing the arcade game.  While it wasn't the first side-view beat'em-up game, it was certainly one of the most well remembered.  It was so well received locally at "my" 7-11 that from that moment on, there was usually some sort of beat'em-up cabinet present, and the local arcade/eatery (Little Caesar's Pizzeria), always had games in this genre present. It was also the first arcade I saw the original Street Fighter in, and not the common one, but the crazy-big model with the giant punch and kick buttons.  Simply put, the influence of Double Dragon on the genre is unmistakable and undeniable.

The Arcade Port - There is something I think you should know about me:  I really like janky NES games, and this was one of my first I experienced. However, I initially hated this game.  I mean, no two player mode, no more than two enemies on screen at once.  It seemed that everything I liked about the arcade game was just yanked out.  But as time passed, the arcade port really grew on me, and as I played it and enjoyed the jank, I began to see other qualities that I liked, such as its very nice RPG tilt. While linear in nature, this feature still manages to be quite fun and unique, for what it was.  Plus, the music is better, and some of the animations (such as the roundhouse kick) just look cooler.  And two buttons are more than enough.  Jumping in the arcade without kicking was just foolish looking (although the same thing happens in port until you earn the jump kick).  I would rather play the port than the original, any day of the week.

Game #3 "The Garbage One" - Victory Road

The arcade pic on the left is stretched and cutoff on the bottom, as it is a vertical-oriented screen

The Arcade Original - While this game graced my local 7-11 for less than two weeks, Victory Road has remained in my slowly fading memory, one of my all time favorites, way up there with Rastan and Magic Sword.  Maybe it was the weird speech challenging you when the game starts, maybe it was the awesome rotary joysticks, or just maybe it was one of the few times the neighborhood bully and I bonded, period.  And the game?  Awesome.  A pretty strange idea for a sequel (to Ikari Warriors, that is), but I guess no more than Highlander II: The Quickening.  Instead of grass fields, streams, and hills, you stride across blasted alien plains, platforms floating in space, through mountains, and underground caverns.  You still use many of the weapons from the original Ikari Warriors, but you can now pick up a boomerang, a sword (that shoots bullets), or a flamethrower (that is the best).  I know that everything I wrote on Victory Road sounds a bit crazy, but trust me, this game was is the bomb.  Now if I could just get a set of those Happ rotary joysticks for less than $50...

The Arcade Port - I got Victory Road purely by chance.  My parents surprised me with Castlevania II for Easter one year, but they were pretty sure I wouldn't like it, so they immediately offered to take it back and let me pick my own game.  Never one to look to not look a gift horse in the mouth, I jumped on the idea, and it just so happened the first game I saw was Victory Road for the NES.  After I got home with my new game clutched tightly in my hand, I rushed down the street and told the bully what game I had and we rushed back to my living room to play it, probably high-fiving along the way.  But, it was clear within two minutes that I had completely wasted not only my money ($50!), but my time.  After the fashion of many gamers of that era, we did our best to convince ourselves that this game was as good as the arcade original, but after an hour, we just couldn't keep the momentum going.  I made a grave mistake picking this game, and would have to live with it forever.

So what is the game like?  It features garbled, but somewhat understandable digitized speech.  You can also buy items in shops as well as fight for money (which in this game are beating hearts, picked up from dead enemies.  Victory Road also has a rudimentary upgrade system for its weapons, though they only last as long as you do, meaning if you die, your upgrades are gone.  Oh, and you only get one life, so once that lifebar is depleted, game over.  And sometimes instead of taking damage from a hit you will just die, outright.  But at least the A-B-B-A code works, right?  Overall, I would rather eat three year-old hotdogs raw any day of the week than play the port over the original.

Well, that is it.  I had this idea kicking around for a while, and it was a lot of fun bringing it to life.  Like I wrote earlier, there is a larger list, so if there is demand I will do more...probably...pretty sure.

Thanks for reading!

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Nice read good sir!  I grew up in a small town and some of the local convenience stores also had a few machines that they would swap in and out.  A few that I remember distinctly were (like you) Double Dragon, the original Ikari Warriors, Bad Dudes, and Kung Fu Master. 

Though a lot of people claim that the Double Dragon arcade didn't age well, I have very fond memories of playing that growing up. Once you mastered the back elbow, the game became a little less of a quarter muncher (I played it a lot). I have to admit that I've never been a fan of the NES port and prefer DD2 over the original in terms of gameplay since it is more in the style of the arcade original (not DD2 arcade of course). I think I loved DD arcade so much, that a could never get past he disappointment; I should give it another chance for sure.

I never played Victory Road much, but boy did I ever play the hell out of Ikari Warriors in the arcade. The port to the NES was okay graphically, but without the rotating sticks, it just never had the same feel. Those sticks were so awesome and "revolutionary"... pun intended. I spent hours on Ikari Warriors and since my grandfather was friends with the store owner, I was lucky enough to just get handed a fistful of quarters every time I came in the door. Wink

Bad Dudes was another cabinet I played a lot of.  Not a great NES port, but still not the worst. 

Lastly, I have great memories of Kung Fu Master.  I loved the arcade version, but it seriously kicked my hiney.  You couldn't continue from where you died and each level had it's own special pattern that had to be memorized.  It wasn't until the NES port that I was actually able to beat the game. I always thought that though it suffered graphically, it wasn't too bad and the gameplay was pretty spot on with the arcade version.
Loved the arcades as a kid and teenager and would once a year in the summer for the day, take a train to the seaside to play the arcades. Good times.

Arcade conversion quality varied over the years especially on the C64 and other platforms at the time. Sadly the games were judged as conversions instead of the actual game itself and people would react accordingly. OutRun wasn't a bad little driving game but compared to the arcade it was judged to be poor. There were bad arcade games so you can imagine the result of the conversion like Cisco Heat. Other arcade games were about the graphics and sound with little gameplay and when these were stripped backed for the conversion then it could be a boring and a bad game like AfterBurner.

Some conversions did hit the mark and some that stand out on the C64 was Bubble Bobble, Operation Wolf, Ghost and Goblins and one of my favourites Buggy Boy. I never played Ikari Warriors in the arcade but the C64 version is one of my favourite games of all time and probably not playing the arcade version helped.
@singlebanana:  Thanks, Rich!  I think about the only thing that didn't age super well in DD arcade is the music, but I played the NES port sooo much that it passed the original in my mind.  Plus, I do loves me some jank.  I could do an article just based on NES game-jank. 
You know, I had no idea until almost 2010 that Kung Fu on the NES was an arcade port, and quite an excellent one at that.

@FatherJack: I really a lot of the C64 arcade ports, as I didn't really discover the system until recently.  I think Ikari on the C64 (specifically the Elite version) is actually pretty good, though far too hard for me.  Certainly not the best port on the computer (Commando is my current fav), but still pretty good.
Great article! I really enjoy reading up on stuff like differences between the arcade and home ports or even ports across generations or different consoles.

No mention of the TMNT game though? Graphics were lowered, 2 player only, but they did add in extra levels.
Any port in a storm I guess.

I'll let myself out.
@bickman2k:  Thanks!  Actually I drew up a fairly sizable list of ports, but picked three that I thought would draw fire, so to speak.  TMNT is definitely in there, though a friend of mine's parent bought the first NES TMNT thinking it was a port of the arcade game on accident.  He played it a ton regardless, but that is the thing we did with games back then.
Baseball Stars is great! Baseball is my favorite sport and has been for awhile. Its the one sport I still enjoy and can play at an amateur level.

Not sure if you tried MLB the Show but it is quite good. Its more of a simulator than Baseball Simulator 2000.

Thanks for this article, baseball gets called boring a lot these days, which in my opinion is not true
Sorry put my comment in the wrong blog 😞. I will see myself out as well
I might as well comment though, since this is a great article. I always have a hard time getting good at games I play on arcade machines. This is probably due to the cost of playing them, and I am always wanting to play multiple machines when I go to the arcade.

In other words the home ports always got more play, so I ended up liking them more or hating them more.

Double Dragon is stripped down but I think it adds to the challenge. Victory Road is a slog.

Great read
I was a purely console kid.  My parents wouldn't take me to arcades, so I never built my wrists and fingers up to withstand the rigors of true arcade play.  So, I tend to prefer console ports over arcade originals just on a comfort level.

Console ports would often add content to the arcade original, as well, and I enjoyed checking out this new content.  A good example is Crazy Climber.  The arcade original is great.  It's unique dual-joystick control makes for engrossing play.  It was ported to the Famicom where much of the core gameplay remains intact.  In fact, it came packed with adapters to turn the Famicom controllers into twin sticks (NES or AV Famicom players can substitute two NES Advantages to great effect).

However, the Famicom port also adds secrets and some limited side-scrolling platforming to appeal to console players raised on a steady diet of Super Mario bros. and Tower of Druaga.  While this breaks up the flow of the game, it also adds a new dimension of play as you try to hunt out the secrets as you contend with the usual challenges of the game.  It's a good way to make the technically-inferior port stand on its own rather than compete directly with the arcade original.

By the way, you can play an arcade-perfect port of Crazy Climber on the SNES with Nichibutsu Arcade Classics and two fight sticks of your choice.  Much easier than chasing down one of those rare-in-America cabs.
I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who prefers the NES port of Double Dragon to the arcade original!  I always felt the original didn't control that well, and while some of it may have been the broken down arcade cabinets I always got to play it on, the NES controls were responsive, the music (which you mentioned) was awesome, and despite there being only 2 enemies on screen at any given time, it's still a fun game with occasional intensity (especially when there are 2 Abobo's present!).  I always enjoyed the light RPG elements as well, as if fighting enemies and watching what they were doing somehow allowed you to learn their moves, or come up with ways to counter them, so it always felt natural to me.

As for Victory Road, I never played the arcade original, so perhaps my enjoyment of the NES game comes from my rose-colored nostalgia goggles, as I have fond memories of playing that at a friend's house during many a sleepover.  Sure, objectively it's not a great game, but there's still fun to be had, and the "janky" feel of it (as you mentioned) sort of gives it a bit of extra charm.  Almost like a B-movie that's so bad it's good, it can still be fun to play that game, once you get the hang of the controls.  I'll have to go back and revisit the arcade port of Trojan to compare.  I only recently acquired the NES cart, but a friend had it when we were kids, so I remember playing it here and there, and generally enjoying it.

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So I'm an odd ball. So I am usually the last to post on a blog/forum. So I only post about weird games on weird platforms. So I have a strange relationship with commas and parenthesis. So what? Hey, at least you don't have to car pool with me to work, right? So have a heart, eat a blueberry, and don't forget to drop the empties in the box on the way out. I get deposit on those.
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