Violence Fight: the quarrelers! (2 of 2)

After getting to know Bat/Bad Blue, Ben “Fierce Eagle of Nevada” Smith and, last but certainly not least, Lick Joe, let’s meet the rest of Violence Fight‘s colorful personalities, shall we?

Lee Chen - He has went over to the mainland of China in his child age for learning assassination ken (hands)
"Assassination Ken (Hands)"?!?

First, we have Lee Chen, the fourth and final playable character, who certainly looks representative of the 80s, with his mullet and pr0n moustache. :) I still don’t know what “Assassination Ken (Hands)” means; that’s the kind of phrase one would expect from an automatic translator, which would certainly explain a lot about the “Engrish” seen in this entire game…

And now for the bosses:

Ron Max - The owner of a stock farm. He has destructive power, and especially his head is so hard that it can destroy rocks.
Certainly a hard-headed fellow...

Out of San Antonio, Texas, here’s Ron Max. Boasting “destructive power” (unlike the constructive power shown by the other characters so far, of course), we are also told that “especially his head is so hard that it can destroy rocks”. I think he’s wasted as the owner of a stock farm, as he could instead have used his head (ouch!) to get ahead (groan!) in the world.

Note also the names of his two “mortal techniques”: health head butts and health blow. One wonders whose health he’s talking about. Does he gain health from head butting his opponents? Or do his blows diminish his adversaries’ health (again, unlike the blows of every other fighter, of course)? Inquiring minds want to know.

And, finally…

Tony Won - He is the don of 'Black-Will-O'. He has overwhelming power as a prospective winner of this great event. He is capable of doing anything to win.
With a name like this, he has already Won. (ouch! what was that for?)

… the big boss himself, Tony Won, leader of the poorly named “Black-Will-O” crime syndicate (which we suppose is the “Mafia” part of “Mafia, reckless drivers and general businessmen“). Other than his “overwhelming power” and being “capable of doing anything to win”, he seems to imitate Ron Max, with a technique called health claw. If you ask me, I think Ron should sue. “Hey, buddy, I’m the guy who came up with randomly adding “health” to technique names!” :)

Violence Fight: the quarrelers! (1 of 2)

With such a great plot, you’re probably expecting the characters in Taito’s Violence Fight to be (ahem) colorful, interesting characters, and I believe you won’t be disappointed…

Let’s start with the main character, mentioned in the intro:

Bat Blue - Street champion of the last year. Has a reputation for plenty of technique and it's sharpness.
Can you beat Bat's technique's sharpness?

Bat Blue (sometimes called Bad Blue) is, supposedly, the main character in Violence Fight. He’s the “street champion of the last year”, though we’re not told exactly what street he was champion of. Not only has he “a reputation for plenty of technique”, but all that technique is reputed for “it’s sharpness”!(1)

Bat/Bad isn’t the only playable character, though; three more of the fighters competing for “no. 1 quarreler” are also available to the player.

Ben Smith - Former marine. He is nicknamed Fierce Eagle of Nevada. He has strong jumping force.
"Strong jumping force"? Yikes!

Boasting “strong jumping force”, Ben Smith, a.k.a. the “Fierce Eagle of Nevada”, is the second “quarreler” trying for “the no. 1 place of the USA”. It’s not clear whether he’s black or a Native American, as his appearance is ambiguous. The only thing we can be sure is that he jumps higher than the competition. Hey, if it was good enough for Batroc the Leaper…

Now for the third playable character, and certainly a fan favorite (or he would be, if this game actually had fans):

Lick Joe - Former professional wrestler. His profession was revoked because he killed 13 wrestlers during playing. Although his bodily strength is very strong, his movement is slow.
In Soviet Russia, Joe licks YOU!!

Ah, Lick Joe. There’s so much to say about him and his introduction screen.

The name: how did a wrestler ever get the nickname “Lick”? I assume it’s “lick” in the (slang) sense of beating someone up, but still…

The fact that he was expelled from professional wrestling after killing 13 opponents. Sure, the first one could have been thought to be accidental at the time, and, stretching a bit, maybe even the second, but nobody did anything after the third? Or the fourth? Hell, they still let him fight after twelve dead wrestlers in his wake? Hello?!? Note that it’s a legitimate professional wrestling federation we’re talking about here, not the illegal Violence Fight competition that Lick joined afterwards.

Well, at least “his bodily strength is very strong”. That’s certainly better than his strength being weak, or his weakness being strong. Though I’m not sure how it would compare to a guy whose weakness is weak…

Next: the remaining playable character, and the two bosses. Stay tuned!

  1. yes, I know it should have been “its sharpness”, but… accuracy above all, folks. []

Best plot in a video game EVER?

Violence Fight - the story!
Violence Fight (Taito, arcade, 1989)

So much examples of utter brilliance here!

The fact that the competition portrayed in the video game was in vogue among “Mafia, reckless drivers (!) and general businessmen”!

That the game was a struggle for “No. 1 Quarreler”!

That fighters “were gathered from all parts of the USA speaking boastingly of their strength”!

That the “winner” (the quotes are important here, of course) was given “a lot of winning money as well as the honor”!

That Bat/Bad Blue, “in a downtown in L.A.”, along with his manager “Blinks”, “seek[s] for the winning money eagerly”!

“As a matter of fact”, can Bat — I mean, Bad “take the no. 1 place of the USA”?

P.S. – wait until you see the actual fighters quarrelers, in a future post… :)

Bad Comic Panels #10: “Just like a woman! […] you’re too scatterbrained and emotional!”

Just like a woman! Everything I do is for your own good, but you're too scatterbrained and emotional to realize it!
Source: Fantastic Four #23, 1964

Ah, Reed Richards. Few characters have been as consistently portrayed as sexist, in mainstream superhero comics. It’s probably because he and Sue were one of the first “real” couples in superhero comics: they were already dating in the very first issue, and were married in the third annual (1965). Therefore, all the “morals” of the late 50s and early 60s could be seen in their relationship; other couples typically came much later, and the moral zeitgeist had, by then, progressed.

Here we see another great example: Reed (and he isn’t depicted negatively, therefore Stan Lee seemed to agree, at the time) treats Sue as if he was a parental figure (instead of a boyfriend, which he was at the time), and insults her entire gender by saying that women are “too scatterbrained and emotional to realize” how, basically, men know best. In other words, according to this view, women should look up to men, including steady boyfriends and husbands, in much the same way as children look up to their parents, trust them implicitly, and obey them, because parents are adults and are, therefore, the only ones who can be rational and responsible.

And what’s worse is that, in the next panel… Sue agrees! Even though she challenged Reed in the previous panel (with, you’ll note, a childish retort: “go polish a test tube or something!”), after she leaves she admits to herself that Reed was right, that he really knew what’s best for her, and that she — like all women — only didn’t accept it at the time because she’s “too scatterbrained and emotional”.

The early 60s, ladies and gentlemen! :)

Laser Squad (ZX Spectrum, 1988)

Note: this post is expanded from one in my old blog, The Games of My Life.

From the mind and programming skills of Julian Gollop, author of Chaos, came this masterpiece in 1988: Laser Squad, quite probably the best and most popular turn-based tactical game in the 80s.

Laser Squad - the Assassins make their first move
The Assassins make their first move

If you weren’t around at the time, you may not realize the sensation that Laser Squad was back then. Even though it was a turn-based tactical game, it was, quite uniquely, accepted by many people who’d never touched a strategy game before. I was in school back then, and I remember the game being popular in my class, especially in its two-player mode — and I’m talking about kids (not that I wasn’t one, but I was always… kind of different :) ) whose favorite genres were sports and driving games. Even later on, in the early nineties, the game was still popular among my friends — and, again, most of them didn’t have any interest in strategy games (except, in a few cases, Chaos… you may be noticing a pattern here).

Continue reading Laser Squad (ZX Spectrum, 1988)

Bad Comic Panels #9: “Our Communist overlords will slay us if we fail in our mission!”

"We have no choice! Our Communist overlords will slay us if we fail in our mission!"
Source: Tales of Suspense #50, 1964

Since the Anti-Communism entries in the Bad Comic Panel series have, so far, been about the Soviet Union, I thought that such a “monopoly” would be unfair to our Chinese friends in the 1960s, who have been ignored so far. This, then, is the first of several panels I have already chosen to show that, when it came to crude anti-Communism, Stan Lee and Marvel were equal opportunity stereotypists. :)

The panel above shows four fearful Chinese military officers who have been sent to negotiate with the Mandarin, who, interestingly, was a Chinese super-villain but not a Communist; his demeanour and trappings were all from imperial China (at least, as seen by westerners in the 60s). We’ll be seeing more of the four — and the Mandarin himself — in the near future. Meanwhile, I couldn’t be compiling this list and not include such a delicious quote as “Our Communist overlords will slay us if we fail in our mission” — or, translation, Communist leaders are evil (hey, but aren’t you “commies” as well?) and regularly kill underlings for failing. Then again, that comes straight from the official Evil Overlord manual, doesn’t it?

Conversion Wars #1: Post Mortem

As I had mentioned before, the first entry on the Conversion Wars series (Out Run) revealed its format to be far too cumbersome; three long posts for a single game is simply too much.

So, the second entry in the series will be a single post (I haven’t decided on a game yet). After a short intro, there will just be a table with the several ports listed, their scores, a small screenshot (possibly linking to an YouTube video, but on the post it’ll just be an image), and an optional short (1-2 sentences) comment. All of this possibly followed by a conclusion. That’s it.

Any thoughts or suggestions, feel free to comment. :)

Conversion Wars #1: Out Run (part 3 of 3: console ports / scores)

(Note: please see parts 1 and 2 for the rest of the ports.)

Not many more to go, now. :) First, let’s look at the Sega Master System port:

We’ve already seen two versions (MSX2 and PC) that appear to be based on this one. All of these are colorful, fast and smooth, but the sprites are smaller than average, the roads seem a bit “empty”, and the music, while decent, isn’t as good as that of most of the US Gold ports. Still, in terms of “fun”, I’d rather play this port than any of the US Gold ones, except perhaps for the C64 one.

Now for the NEC PC Engine (Turbografx 16 in the US) version:

Now we’re talking. :) Have you noticed that, until now, we didn’t have even one Out Run port that looked and played like the original? Even on relatively powerful systems such as the Amiga? This one, however, succeeds. It’s fast, smooth, good looking, and really feels a lot like the arcade game. If there’s anything not great with it, it’s the music, which is again not as good as in most of the US Gold ports.

Considering that the PC Engine is an 8-bit console (though much more powerful than, say, the NES or the Master System, and able to compete with the 16-bit ones), this port, then, is easily the best 8-bit version of Out Run.

But what about 16-bit? Can’t such a machine do at least as good, if not better? Up to now, we didn’t really see it; the best 16-bit version so far would be the PC one, followed by the Atari ST port. Both of them are disappointing in different ways, and neither really looks or plays like the original. Fortunately, there’s yet another 16-bit version, this time for the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis for the USians), which can do this:

Great port, isn’t it? Fast, smooth, great looking, and plays like Out Run. It’s hard to notice, as it’s so close to the PC Engine version, but the objects seem to be more detailed, the frame rate looks a bit smoother, and there appears to be a little more graphical detail. It would be hard to ask for a better port. Only the music — again — could have been better, but this is probably related to hardware limitations.

No, it isn’t exactly the same game as the arcade, but it’s not that you’d expect such a thing in a home console at the time, right?

Well, in a few years, you would be able to expect it. You’d just need to have a Sega Saturn, and you could play Out Run like this:

This one isn’t really a great achievement, as the Saturn is far more powerful than the original arcade. But I’ve included it here just so you can see what kind of system would eventually be required to have a “perfect” version of an 1986 game at home. :) Also, it finally gets the music right. :)

Well, this is getting long, so here are the scores:

FaithfulnessHardware UseFun
ZX Spectrum332
Commodore 64254
Amstrad CPC221
Atari ST322
Commodore Amiga312
Sega Master System443
NEC PC Engine455
Sega Mega Drive455
Sega Saturn55 (*)5

(*) No, the Saturn isn’t used to the fullest, but, as mentioned in the intro, that’s OK as long as it’s a perfect port.

Time Commanders

Time Commanders - logo
"The stakes are high; battle is imminent."

Time Commanders - trying to reproduce the battlefield using blocksWhen I started this blog, one of the conscious decisions I made back then was to avoid the common “look at this cool thing I’ve just found!” posts. The reasons are several: because that tends to “date” posts (i.e. what’s novelty now will be old hat in a couple of months), because that makes a blog little more than a collection of links, and because tons of other blogs already do exactly that.

However, this time I will make an exception to the rule, as I’m “in love” with this thing I’ve very recently found about, and which is being a joy to watch (I have been watching the episodes in order, and I’m currently in the middle of the first season). Besides, it’s not exactly a “current event”, so it won’t really age.

Time Commanders - they've got elephants!Time Commanders is a BBC2 show that ran for two seasons, between  2003 and 2005. In it, four players controlled one army (two as “generals”, two as “lieutenants / captains”) in a classical era battle, with a preliminary version of the Rome: Total War engine (which wasn’t yet released at the time, so Total War fans were actually seeing the upcoming game for the first time, at least during the beginning of the first season). Interestingly, instead of players competing against each other (either solo or in teams), all of them were on the same side; their opponent wasn’t run by an AI, but was instead controlled by (unseen) technicians, instructed to use tactics similar to the actual ones used in that battle. Incidentally, the show took care to select players without video gaming experience, which I think actually makes things more interesting: they don’t see it as a “video game” they have to beat, but as an important battle that actually happened, some 2000 years ago. Which is exactly how one should look at it.

Time Commanders - overhead view of the mapBefore the actual battle, there were mission briefings (shown, again, using the R:TW engine) in which both the team and the audience were told about the historical background for the battle, the generals and forces involved, what was at stake, and which key troops both sides had available. The lieutenants / captains were also responsible for the initial scouting of enemy forces and positions, and for relaying that information to the generals.

Time Commanders - looking at the big screenMeanwhile, two actual historians and/or military instructors (one permanent, the other one rotating between several people from episode to episode) gave more insight on the battle, and commented on the team’s tactics, outside the hearing range of the players. Only after the battle ended would they tell the players what they did rightly and wrongly, and how the battle actually went, historically. Note also that quite often the team would lose the battle, and lose spectacularly; in a way, watching how much some of the players could “blow it” was one of the series’ most entertaining aspects. :)

Time Commanders - a lieutenant gives instructions to an operatorIn short, this show — sadly cancelled after only two seasons — combines four things I love: historyvideo gamesstrategy, and British humor. What more could anyone want? :) The episodes don’t seem to be available on DVD or Blu-Ray, unfortunately, but most of them, if not all, are currently on YouTube (just search for “time commanders“), and, of course, if you’re inventive, there are always other places to look for them. I’d still buy the series on DVD, if it were ever released, just to have it in better quality.

By the way, it’s really a shame that there aren’t more shows like this — interesting, not dumbed-down, and actually instructive and educational, but still focused on fun. For instance, even just sticking with this format, there could be shows based on other eras of history — medieval times, the Napoleonic wars, etc.. But, of course, I doubt it’ll happen.

Conversion Wars #1: Out Run (part 2 of 3: 16-bit home computer ports)

(Note: part 1 is here.)

Moving on to 16-bit home computer versions of Out Run, there are just three to look at.

Let’s begin with the one I believe came out first, the Atari ST version, released by US Gold in 1988:

Oh dear. As you can see… not very good. I’m pretty sure that this is the Spectrum / Amstrad CPC code simply ported to the ST, without using any of its more advanced features or any programming tricks. The game feels exactly like the Spectrum version, the roads are exactly the same, and so on; only the graphics are new (and pretty bad for an ST), and the game is faster simply because the CPU is faster (but still not as fast or smooth as the hypothetical “7 Mhz Spectrum”, which you can try by setting a Speccy emulator to 200% speed). Note also that the music is exactly the same as in the Spectrum version, which makes sense as both machines have the same sound hardware; however, the ST, because of its extra speed and storage, could have used samples (like many of its games did), and no such thing happened here. Or, you know, actually include the third song from the arcade, since there’s memory and disk space to spare. In short: another lazy port. It’s simply the Spectrum game running on a faster machine and with more color.

Now, for the Amiga version, also by US Gold, released in 1988:

Ouch! It’s the Atari ST version, with different music — this time, the sound chip is different, so they couldn’t just port the Spectrum tunes –, but, in my opinion, it also sounds worse — which is even sadder when you consider how good Amiga music often was. Also, again, it’s the same code as the ST version, with no Amiga features used — which means the game is even slower, as the Amiga’s CPU runs at a lower frequency than the ST’s; usually that was more than compensated by the Amiga’s co-processors, but it’s obvious that they’re standing idle, here. Once again, an incredibly lazy port.

Incidentally, the Amiga version allows sound effects and music at the same time, but the author of the video turned them off before starting the game, and with good reason: they’re terrible. Also, the game seems able to play only one sound effect at the time, so, for instance, when you’re skidding, the engine sound is actually temporarily turned off. On an Amiga. 😯

Finally, we come to the PC (MS-DOS) version, released in 1989 by Sega:

Much like the MSX2 version (see part 1), also by Sega, it’s closer to the Master System version, with little resemblance to the US Gold ports (which, except for the C64 version, all seem to share the same algorithms and maps). It’s fast, smooth and colorful, but the sprites are smaller, and the game feels “emptier”, both in terms of roadside objects and other cars (the smallness of the sprites probably helps). Being an old PC game, it’s limited in terms of hardware, supporting only up to EGA graphics (16-color, with probably the worst palette you can imagine) and PC speaker sound.

It’s probably the best of the three 16-bit home computer ports… but still not a very good one, in my opinion. To see one (if we don’t count the extremely playable but not very “Outrunnish” C64 port), we’ll have look among console ports, which is the subject of part 3.