RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Nov 22nd 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (bombatomba)
Posted under Arcade ports, console, NES, Nintendo, maps, translate, weather


Once upon a time, the strongest desire of most gamers was to duplicate what they played in the arcade on a home console.  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 debated, especially in the playgrounds and hallways of schools.

Today I submit three more titles for your enjoyment; two I truly love more than the arcade originals, and one that I would rather suffer (another) head injury than play on a home console.





These are not deep cuts.  Thought I would come out and say that a the beginning.  I don't think it's the list (I still have quite a few games left), rather maybe not enough sucky ones.  I mean, I certainly played enough crappy games, just not many of them are actually ports of arcade games.  I may have to revamp the list structure if I want to do this again, maybe not relying so much on memory and nostalgia (which is hard, but doable).  I'll have to figure it out, though I am certainly open to any suggestions y'all might have.  Of course, as many of you no doubt know if I would have grown up on the other side of the pond, I wouldn't have this problem,.  I think our European friends of a certain age group can attest that there are a large number of substandard arcade ports on home computers not regularly available in North America, some of which are hilariously bad (such as Pit Fighter on the ZX Spectrum).


Game #1 "The Safe One" - Section Z


The Arcade Original - I don't remember when I encountered Section Z in arcade form, just that I did, so that when I was heavily emulating anything I could download, I recognized it immediately...  and moved on without a word.  See, this game isn't terrible.  Heck, it isn't even bad.  Just forgettable.  Unremarkable.  The half-frozen 7-11 microwave burrito of arcade games.

You control a "space ranger" who has to navigate through a series of stages (called sections) that are alphabetically organized, with the ultimate goal being Section Z.  You can see the letters on the bottom of the screen as you pass, or on the progress indicator at the top-left.  Outside of that you won't notice as they pass by, until the screen stops auto-scrolling for a moment, then you will get a notification (and congrats) as you progress to the next section.  That is a minor annoyance, but where the game really falls flat is the controls.  There are two buttons: One being for shooting and the other for turning.  Playing the game really has to do with mastering the controls, which isn't anything new (arcade games are, after all, designed to eat your money), but for some reason these specific controls really get on my nerves, much more than any other I can think of at the moment, which in the lightning-fast world of arcade games makes Section Z nothing more than a uninspired shooter with an unusually small character sprite.


The Home Port - Really, there isn't too much to say about Section Z on the NES, save that I really dig it.  Where the arcade tripped on its own mediocrity, on the NES it truly shines. Gone are the frustrating controls, replaced with a sane two button scheme, with the "B" button firing left and the "A" button firing right, leaving you to maneuver around the screen with the D-pad, which feels very natural and fluid, like an arcade game or something

While the different controls certainly catapult this port over the arcade original in my mind, the real fun starts with the level arrangement.  They are still the same as the arcade (meaning stages are called sections), but now each section is an entire stage rather than two or three screens, and there is a binary choice at the end of the section on where to go.  This adds a bit more to the game, as you have to either map or memorize the maze.  I highly recommend the former, as there are "instadeath" routes and even routes back to earlier stages, which has garnered critical crowing.  One thing though, for some reason the port now refers to the sections by number rather than letter.  Very odd, but whatever.  Section Z sounds a lot better than Section 26.

All in all Section Z on the NES is a much better game than the arcade original. With its improved controls, range of power-ups, and twisty maze, I would rather play the port than the original, any day of the week.


Game #2 "The Controversial One" - Strider


Hiryu in the arcade may glide into enemy territory like a secret agent...

The Arcade Original - Strider in the arcades appeared at a very special time.  At this point, the NES had been released almost everywhere, and was called by many (outside of Europe, mind you), the death knell of the arcade.  Of course those of us on the ground knew better, and the first time we saw Strider we knew arcades weren't dead, not by a long shot.  While simple at heart, Strider had a fluidity that we knew no home console could duplicate.  With the the crazy way the sword sliced and the way Hiryu (the title character) smoothly soared with every jump Strider became, at least for me, a go-to game when talking about video game graphics.  While few could say that Strider would be flagship title for developer Capcom, it certainly cut out a very nice little niche into the hearts of those that had a chance to experience it.

So, confession time:  I don't like this game.  I know, sacrilege, right?  When I first saw this game at one of the local arcade hangouts (maybe Caeserland or Mainstreet) I thought it looked great, maybe even awesome.  But after playing it I began to see that while it excelled in visual style and boss designs, it lacked any depth, and seemed inappropriate for anything other than an attract screen.  Okay, fine, it does look really cool when Hiryu is gliding into some city whose name is written in Cyrillic, but the enemies are predictable and easy, Hiryu seems to content with slowly walking through levels, and it always felt to me like a some great visual ideas wrapped over some very basic action and platforming.


... but Hiryu on NES transports down from a spaceship shaped like a bird-of-prey!

The Home Port - Of course all of us knew that Strider would eventually be ported to the home market, so that everyone, from Japan to South America, could play it on their own television.  I could use up entire paragraphs dedicated to the pros and cons of the various home ports, but when I think of Strider, I only think of one game:  The Nintendo Entertainment System port.

Technically speaking, it really isn't a port as it has pretty much nothing to do with the arcade original, save the main character's look, weapon, and name.  But this is my list, so Tongue.  Instead of the bog-standard arcade-style side scroller dumbed down to the home console, Strider on NES is a Metroidvania-style game, which along with Clash at Demonhead and Metroid, represents my favorite games of that genre on the NES.  There is a certain amount of "jank" to the Strider, so that graphics glitch quite a bit, enemies spawn immediately after scrolling off the screen, and the triangle jump mechanic is infuriating until mastered, the charm of the title always helps me look past it.  Why?  I have no idea.  It could for the same reason many of us loved supposed "inferior" games; we were young and just didn't have a choice (play the game or go outside).  Still, even with all the issues and the cacophony of people hating on it, I would rather play the port than the original, any day of the week.


Game #3 "The Garbage One" - Alien Syndrome


The Arcade Original - Few that played this game in the arcade hated it.  While many arcade games get by on their accolades and place in history, Alien Syndrome remains a fun and playable title, just as it was when released in 1987.  Originally talked about as a gross-out game in my small circle of arcade playing friends, we soon knew it as a extremely competent and enjoyable two player alien and monster shooter.  I think the draw for us was the size of the individual levels and the tension (time limit, comrades to rescue, and waves of aliens in your way), which gave the game a sense of freedom that may arcade games I felt lacked.  Sure, it was kind of easy, and a couple of experienced players could beat it on one credit in less than fifteen minutes (which it why it never seemed to last in smaller arcades), but the speed, tension, and awesome weapons kept us coming back for more.


The Home Port - Much like Victory Road in my last "Port" article, I distinctly remember being super excited so play this game, and like Victory Road, the NES port turned out to be a bitter disappointment.  Kind of a bummer really, as even the shape of the cartridge was exciting, it being the wedge-shaped Tengen carts, which made me feel like I was playing some sort of import, or maybe even a pirate cart.

Personally, I can look past graphics and sound issues when dealing with arcade to home ports.  After all, I hold no illusions that a $50 port released on a $200 home system will be anything close visually or aurally to a $2000 arcade game.  Basically as long as the spirit of the game survives, I can deal with anything else.  But the problem is the NES port suffers from a lack of spirit.  It is terribly slow, so that the characters plod around the screen from place to place, shooting their little pee-shooter guns at what could be aliens, but could also just as well be jello molds and broken kids toys.  The action is no longer fast, as the gameplay focuses on saving all of the hostages, which also emphasises the time limit.  I really think Tengen would have been better copying what was done on the C64, which despite its limited colors still play fantastically.

This game, more than many others, showed me that the only way game consoles were going to survive another game crash would be to move away from the trying to make "perfect" arcade experiences at home, and instead be know for originality (at least until console tech got better).  Just thinking about this port has been feeling nauseous.  Personally, I would rather slam by hand in a car door repeatedly for ten minutes than to play this port over the original, any day of the week.

Well, that is that.  Like I mentioned earlier, I have more in the bag but may have to change formats.  What is next?  Maybe non-NES ports?  All good ports?  Only time will tell.

Thanks for reading!


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Comments
 
A lot of arcade games were about the graphics and sound to attract you to play meaning the bland gameplay could be hidden. Convert it to various home ports like the C64 and the game was found out. Strider was an excellent example.
 
I didn't play Strider or Alien Syndrome in arcades, so in a way I think they allowed me to enjoy the ports more. I played a lot of the NES Strider, and liked it, but I didn't really get anywhere with it. It didn't seem to tell you much about where to go or what to do and I gave up fairly quickly. I didn't even know there was an NES version of Alien Syndrome until I got older. My dad, brother, and I played a ton of the SMS version, and loved the heck out of it. I remember really liking the grossness of some of the weirder alien boss designs, and we all thought the sound of the lady hero screaming when she died was absolutely hilarious, just because it was so crappy.
 
@FatherJack: True, true.  Unfortunately there were a lot of games like that.  Maybe not all bad, but enough to spoil the pot for a lot of people.  I think a bigger crime was the way game media piled on "the perfect" arcade port, so that many of us were not only fooled into getting the games, but actually began drinking the Kool Aid and defending them tooth and nail on the playgrounds of the day.  Of course, this was much worse for you dudes across the pond then for us in North America.  The sheer amount of available gaming platforms and magazines available in Europe during the 80's still boggles my mind.

@zophar53: There are a ton of games on the NES that I didn't know were ports of arcade games.  BreakThru and Double Dribble are two (off the top of my head), and a lot I guess weren't anything more than straight ports, but I loved the "console" treatment that a lot of them got.  Rollergames was a great example of that.  The arcade was really nothing more than a roller derby game, but on the NES it is a pretty fun action game with some light platforming.

Hey, I didn't know the SMS had an Alien Syndrome port until now.  Wonder why Sega turned it into a single screen scroller.  Hmm.
 
Strider was conceived as a multimedia project. Home and arcade games, manga, and I think they wanted to make an anime as well as possibly other things. The NES game was actually the first project started and was intended to be more adventure like, but it wasn't released until after the arcade. So technically it isn't a port and it isn't like Bionic Commando and Rygar that were changed significantly for the home ports.

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