Original image from modthesims2.com
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 rightThe Arcade Original
Game #1 "The Safe One" - Trojan
- 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
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 rightThe Arcade Original
Game #2 "The Controversial One" - Double Dragon
- 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 RoadThe Arcade Original
The arcade pic on the left is stretched and cutoff on the bottom, as it is a vertical-oriented screen
- 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
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!