104. Kid Niki: Radical Ninja

Kid Niki: Radical Ninja
Nintendo Entertainment System
Data East
1987

Kid Niki: Radical Ninja. Let’s take a moment to enjoy the beauty of this game’s title.  It is a pure expression of a zeitgeist, a title where each of its four words multiplies the awesomeness of the other three to create a perfect name, a name that belongs to a single moment in time. This is a game that came that came in a pink box and sincerely believed itself to be all the more rad for doing so. This game belongs to 1987.

I want to eke as much joy out of the title of this game, Kid Niki: Radical Ninja, because having to play it the opposite of joy. This is an awful Generic Ninja Sidescroller. It has a truly charming art style, which almost redeems it, but the gameplay is just total and utter pants.  This is not a video game for having fun while playing.

Fortunately, not all games are for playing.  The mundane reality of the game itself cannot destroy the deeper beauty of what the game represents.  The game is a koan, meditating upon the nature of itself.  We are richer for Kid Niki: Radical Ninja having been made.

Of course, we can only appreciate Kid Niki: Radical Ninja through the warm distance of time.  At the time, it was just another bad ninja game, but now it is something special. A weird totem of a weird moment. I take great comfort in this knowledge, because it suggests that in 2035, Marcus Feenix of Gears of War will have made the transition from eye-rollingly lame to fist-pumpingly sweet.

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

103. Caveman Games

Caveman Games
Nintendo Entertainment System
Data East
1990

Some games are built around a a concept so wonderful that they can surpass the shittiest of executions. Caveman Games is “an Olympic-style minigame compilation…with cavemen!” That’s solid-gold.

I learned at the age of six that adding “with cavemen!” can make anything better. That was the year that Duck Tales added Bubba Duck to the cast. Bubba was a caveman duck adopted by a misanthropic quadrillionaire duck of Scottish ancestry who was using time travel to win a bet against a second, slightly-less-rich quadrillionaire duck. This was the single greatest story I had ever seen.

Sadly, on the Caveman Scale, Caveman Games does not get a Bubba Duck ranking. It doesn’t even score as high as Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 B.C. Caveman Games ranks right above Johnny Hart’s B.C. I’m talking the latter-day, Jesusy B.C.

In a post-Mario Party world, we take for granted that while a mediocre collection of minigames will probably be dull, it will probably be dull in in a mildly diverting way. With this in mind, you’d think a minigame collection with a caveman theme would bulletproof. No. The mediocre minigames of Caveman Game are just total poopbags. Unclear, unintuitive, and unfun.

It is too bad that Caveman Games is fundamentally unplayable, because the window dressing on this thing is crazy-awesome. The art nails the whimsy inherent in the concept, and the descriptions of the contestants are pretty amusing. I also appreciate that distance is measured in “foots”.

However, all of that aside, there is one thing that in this game that dwarfs everything else.During the NES era, Nintendo of America had infamously draconian standards and practices. You couldn’t drink beer, say “damn” or show blood in a video game. You couldn’t use the symbol of a red cross to indicate a hospital or a first aid kit because a cross is religious. You could not admit that Hitler was a dude that used to exist. And yet, in Caveman Games, Data East gave us a sporting event called “Mate Toss” where you play a male caveman who grabs a female caveman by the hair, and hurls her as many foots away as he can.

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

102. Abadox

Abadox: The Deadly Inner War
Nintendo Entertainment System
1990

I dig horizontal shooters, those games with a space ship steadily cruising forward, where you nimbly dodge enemies and steadily make your gun more and more ridiculously powerful. They’re like vertical shooters, but sideways.

There was a reasonably large crapload of these types of games released for the NES, yet this is the first one I’ve played for the 2600-360 project. That is because scrolling shooters suck on the NES. There is just too much crap on the screen for the Nintendo to handle and you invariably end up with game-breaking slowdown and flickering. Turns out, Abadox is no exception. What a waste of time. I think I need to play some Ikaruga to get the taste of Abadox out of my mouth.

Abadox suffers from the great sin of mediocrity. It isn’t a terrible game. Once upon a time, it was certainly playable. Hell, it might have even been good. Today, it falls far below the bare minimum of quality a game needs to be worth playing.

In my time playing old games, I’ve learned to hate mediocrity in video games. An awful game can be amusing, or fascinating, or otherwise engaging in its failure. And a game can be really quite bad but still have a spark of ambition or inspiration that makes the world a better place just by existing. A blandly competent game is just a horrible blank void, existing with no verve, no spark, no ambition other than to be a product.

Why would anyone waste their time with a workmanlike game? Obviously, some of us have bloody-minded and ill-conceived internet projects based around the playing of random crap video games. That is the only good reason to play a game that is okay, decent, or pretty good.

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.