Archive for the ‘Rare’ Category
In what is easily the two hardest game titles to spell, we are going dark for this week’s Retro Game Night.
First up is user @NeoJakeMcC requesting one of the first ever rogue-likes from the Genesis/Mega Drive: Fatal Labyrinth.
Next up is the relatively rare hybrid between survival horror, first-person shooter, and adventure: Call of Cthulhu Dark Descent.
This week we post a little early and celebrate America’s Independence Day with patriotic video games:
First up is actually a Japanese game, Parodius Da! but it has quite the patriotic boss so it’s here because I love this game and found a connection:
Next up is a rare unlicensed NES game by Color Dreams entitled Operation Secret Storm:
Third on the list is a digital pinball game from the PS1 era, because why not right? Here’s Patriotic Pinball (please excuse my technical difficulties):
And last but not least we close the show with a game so American, so amazing, so awesome it was only released on one console (Xbox) and in one region (Japan). Yeah, you read that right. Since I have no way of getting my hands on it and don’t have a Japanese Xbox to play it on, here’s a great flashback of 1UP’s Broken Pixels show bragging about From Software’s 3rd person uber-American title Metal Wolf Chaos:
Hope you enjoyed those and have a safe and happy 4th of July!
If you’re not familiar with this Playstation 2 title it’s probably because it never came out. On our most recent podcast, we discussed the developer Treasure, responsible for a slew of great and popular titles but the company itself is quite lesser known to those in America. With a resume that spans almost every console from the 16-bit era on, there are some odd releases that Treasure is also responsible for, namely Tiny Toon Adventures: Defenders of the Universe (which will be referred to as DotU from now on and was also at one point Defenders of the Looniverse).
Conspiracy Games, a somewhat obscure publisher that is responsible for a bunch of licensed and lower budgeted projects on the PS2, Wii, and PSP, must have acquired the Tiny Toons license because it was and has developed a few games for the series. Conspiracy specifically works with developers that want to make a game but do not have the financial backing to do so. This title was to be a somewhat large collaboration that had Tetsuhiko Kikuchi (aka HAN), best known for the great Saturn brawler/RPG Guardian Heroes, as director and even its own web site: http://www.dotu.com. Very little is known about the development cycle, struggles, or overall issues about the development of this game, but what started as an early PS2 release in 2001 eventually was delayed 3 years into 2004 (according to IGN) and eventually canceled. Because deals with publishers and developers often result in delayed processes and forced decisions that the creative team does not like, it’s really anyone’s guess why this game spent so long in development and was eventually sapped.
Somehow, a prototype of the game was recovered and released on the Internet for all to enjoy. In order to play this “game” you need to either have a PS2 emulator on your computer (that runs marginally well) or burn the game to a disc and play it on a modded PS2. I have a modded PS2 so I check it out on the latter. Below is a video of the gameplay and pretty much the entire prototype (I was one or two screens from the end), which appears to be simply a demo. It’s pretty interesting that the game seems to support up to four players taking on each other in a hybrid co-op/competitive team game to save the Universe. DotU seems to harken back to the N64 days – at the time of initial development somewhere around 2000 this would make senses until a publisher comes in and explains that the N64 is dead and to release a game is far too great a risk and cost. I don’t even know if the 4 player multi-tap for the PS2 was out yet, but you can see where Treasure would have made great use of it. I wish there was more to this game – I’ve heard this is a nearly completed version, which sounds completely wrong since there’s only about half an hour of content on this disc and half of it is cutscene. Still, had they continued on and increased the dynamic of team play while also adding the challenges of beating the group, I could see this being one of those licensed games we discuss that was “ahead of its time.” As it stands the title remains unfinished and unreleased, lost to the annuls of history and just another holy grail of people like myself that want to experience as many prototypes as possible. If you have the capabilities to play it, especially with multiple controllers, you may want to check out this early knock-off of a Mario Party title. For the majority of you, here’s 18 minutes of a game that never saw the light of day.
Ah March, shmuppreciation is back and in full effect on Gaming History 101. If this is your first time hearing the phrase, shmuppreciation is for the love of the shoot-em-up genre (shmup for short) and is celebrated all March on the site. If you missed Shmuppreciation 2012 I highly recommend you check it out as we provided more than 30 articles dedicated to introducing you to genre specifics and the myriad of popular series in the most triumphant genre of all time.
This year we’re going past introductions and into the intermediate world of shmups, which requires more skill, dedication, and money than the games covered last year. While I would hardly call the games we will be covering obscure by any stretch, these titles are much less known outside of enthusiastic shmup fans. To kick it off we’re featuring the top 5 games worth importing. Shmups are of the most expensive games out there so you can expect a bit of sticker shock even with the games mentioned here. Just keep in mind that you’re currently dropping $60 for day one releases and sometimes even more if you’re into that special edition stuff. The titles in this list are unique because they have not seen a release, even digital, within the United States and thus require some sort of special circumstances to play today. There’s a great list of import games that have released digitally on PSN, XBLA, and Wii Virtual Console as well so be sure to check out our article on those titles as well. In order to play these games you have to either import them or get access to a digital service outside of your region. The links in each title will take you to the games’ review or video on our site.
5. Zero Gunner 2 (Arcade, Dreamcast- Japan Only):
While it’s not a traditional shmup by any means, Zero Gunner 2 is similar to Geometry Wars except that the arcade and Dreamcast title didn’t have twin sticks. In a 3D rendered world, it carries an aesthetic similar to that of Silpheed or Star Fox updated by the graphical prowess of the updated hardware. Ironically the game plays much like a traditional arcade game with a series of enemies attacking you on a single screen and you are taxed with taking them out by flying around the screen and firing in all directions. Now that I think of it, connections could be made to Asteroids without much of a stretch, but there’s no denying the addictive nature that is Zero Gunner 2. – Review with video coming next week.
This title can only be found in Japan but is easy to find in the import market. Dreamcasts require a mod chip or boot disc to load an import game. Typically the title sells for $80-$110 on Dreamcast and upwards of $500-$750 on JAMMA arcade PCB board. The PCB is high in cost due to the rarity and difficulty to emulate properly in MAME.
4. Espgaluda (Arcade, PS2 – Japan Only):
Not only is this title developed by prolific studio Cave, known for shmups of all kinds, but this danmaku title has been adapted to a more general audience. Since “bullet hell” shmups dominate the contemporary market today it is key to get good at weaving in and out of the bright beautiful bullets invading the screen in various patterns. Instead of getting a game over every five minutes in the traditional origins of the genre, Espgaluda is highly recommended because it’s adapted for a general audience. When you get ambushed by bullets, like you will, they slow down to allow easy maneuver between them and getting hit doesn’t net you a death. With a great cyberpunk setting, bright colorful sprites, and an adapted difficulty make this a must buy for those who want to get into modern shmups. I won a contest and received it as a prize, which at the time I didn’t realize how lucky I was. Now I know.
This title can only be found in Japan and is somewhat common in the import market. Playstation 2 requires a mod chip or a boot disc to load an import game, however boot discs can be frustrating due to various security methods in the console. Of course a Japanese PS2 is another (albeit expensive) option. Prices range from $50-$75, making it one of the cheapest on our list, however the arcade JAMMA PCB is more rare and valuable due to popularity and thus sells for around $350 (and much higher) in US import shops and at least 40,000 yen ($450) in Japanese stores.
3. Sexy Parodius (Arcade, PS1, Saturn, PSP – Japan Only):
I do love this title and despite what the name suggests, it’s not very titillating and the best installment in the Parodius series. A long running parody of Gradius, Konami released these games in every territory but the United States and why is anyone’s guess – although the original titles did mock American culture in some levels. As the only title in the series not released outside of Japan it’s a shame that more shmup fans haven’t been able to enjoy this great game, especially because most ports were nearly arcade perfect.
This title can only be found in Japan however it’s very common. Saturn can only play imports via Pro Action Replay cart (most modchips do not make it region free) whereas PS1 can use either a modchip or a boot disc with mild modification to the console. PSP can play imports naturally and this title is found in the Parodius Collection. All console versions sell for around $35-$60. The JAMMA PCB is also quite common and sells for around $100-$125 in US import stores.
4. DoDonPachi (Arcade, PS1, Saturn – Japan Only):
Cave’s most popular shmup of all time and partially responsible for the love danmaku is every bit as great today as it ever was. Despite its ramped difficulty, the game features amazing explosion animation and unlimited credits as an option in the console versions. It’s a point of contention as to whether the PS1 version and Saturn version differ much, but I can see that argument given the Saturn was designed around 2D sprites and the Playstation around 3D polygons. Personally I do feel the Saturn version is a bit better, however given the larger availability of the PS1 version it’s not worth the extra cost. Many consider this title to be the best shmup of all time and it’s among my favorite in my collection.
This title can only be found in Japan however it’s very common and even available on the Japanese PSN. Saturn can only play imports via modchip whereas the PS1 can use either a modchip or a boot disc with mild modification to the console. PS3s from any region can get a Japanese PSN account and with prepaid cards play the title off of the Japanese PSN PSOne version. At $75-$100 on both PS1 and Saturn this is a justified expensive import and the JAMMA PCB is quite rare at $300-$500. On the other hand the Japanese PSN version is a meager 600 yen ($7) and definitely the best option (it even plays on PSP and Vita if you go through the annoying process of setting up a Japanese account on it).
1. Battle Garegga (Arcade, Saturn – Japan Only):
Countless lists of best shmups of all time will rank Battle Garegga as number one and for good reason. It feels like the pinnacle of the airplane vertical shmup that was started by the 19xx series but with design choices that are appreciated by those that aren’t purists. It has fast paced action, modified bomb options, and is one of the few shmups from 90s that can be completed without memorizing the game after countless hours of play. It’s not a cake walk either, but Battle Garegga can be successfully navigated by twitch instincts, making it feel more “fair” like the classics. Furthermore the Saturn release, while one of the most costly on the console and in my collection, is arcade perfect and has special features that resemble contemporary shmup releases. If you’re going to get into the Saturn for its great library, especially as a shmup fan, the title justifies its ridiculous cost.
This title only released in Japan and is rare due to its print run and popularity. Saturn can only play imports with the use of a Pro Action Replay cart (most modchips do not make the Saturn region free) that is to this day available at various outlets for $30-$40. This title sells for a staggering $125-$175 average complete – I found mine for $75 at a retro convention in disc only format – and the arcade JAMMA PCB (if you can find it) has sold anywhere from $200-$500.
There you have it, five incredible titles tailor made for shmup fan consumption and almost $500 to collect them all. Still the entire concept of a shmup is that you play them over and over. When you think about it, any one of these titles can take months or even years of your gaming life if you let them. Keep in mind these are titles that never entered our country, never became part of a re-release or collection in the US, and never got released in digital format. When you think about it that makes them obscure and rare for all gamers worldwide and thus justifies the higher price tag. Stay tuned for more great shmup coverage and reviews on the three games we haven’t already reviewed on this list next week!
Instruction Manual: None released outside of Japan
Played it as a child? No
Value: N/A – No official US release, most versions are fan translations and prototype carts have no official price
Other Releases: Yes – This game was updated and re-released in Japan on GBA as Mother 1 + 2
Digital Release? Yes – Although technically not true. Digital fan translations to English are available but not really legal.
Thanks to a strong and devoted fan community and some odd ambiguity with Nintendo’s releases of this series, Mother (known as Earthbound Zero with most circles that play english translations) has got to be one of the hardest series to cover. Having never played Earthbound (Mother 2 in Japan) I did the traditional completionist thing and started with the original game, which is extremely dated by almost all RPG standards. Mother suffers from everything I dread about going into retro role-playing games: a ton of grinding (or “meat walls”), constant random encounters, no true direction as to where to go next, casual dungeons with incredibly hard boss battles, slow pacing, and a limited inventory system. Not only that, anytime you try to look up help on this game, everyone who’s written about it has played the game a million times and speaks so condescending of people who get stuck that you feel like an idiot. That’s because Mother has a small but incredibly devoted community that feels this game and its sequels are the apex of game design. Despite all these faults, the charm of the writing and what it was doing at the time was enough to keep me invested until the grueling end.
Mother tells the story of Ninten (I believe some translations name him Ness after the name for the character in Earthbound), a 12-year-old boy living in the late 1980s that discovers he has psychic abilities after a paranormal event occurs at his house. Subsequently an adventure unfolds where Ninten traverses several towns and dungeons completing several tasks from finding a girl in a graveyard to saving the world as we know it. Along the way he finds a few friends that join his party and by the end of the game it somewhat emulates the battle structure of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. Towns are named after holidays (or at least they are in the english version), what we know of as magic is “psi” powers, and careful attention to what is said must be taken to keep track of where to go and what to do next. Much like other JRPGs of the time period, the map is vast and there’s not much to keep you from exploring so you can get lost easily and die even easier. Since you can only save in towns, this can be problematic and typically the best solution is to grind like crazy and level yourself up. This makes continuing in the game’s relatively meager main plot drag as you consistently stop to grind for an hour or two after getting pummeled in a dungeon or new area. It’s not all bad, though, because just like Dragon Warrior you are simply returned to the place where you last saved and your money is halved, but all progress and items collected remain on your person. As I said before, this game is chock full of charm because of its non-fantasy setting, which makes for hilarious conversions of role-playing conventions. Instead of armor, you wear hats and coats. Instead of swords and shields, you pick up slingshots, baseball bats, and even boards with nails in them. Instead of traditional enemies you will confront hippies, smoking crows, and even weird alien life forms. You gain money for battle, like with most games of the genre, but instead of instantly receiving it you have to get it from your father at the ATM, who is a disembodied voice you only interact with on the phone. All of this ties together to be the ultimate mockery on modern culture: absent working father, mother who lets you risk life and limb to save the world, towns that just shrug off hostile zoo takeovers and zombie-infested graveyards with kidnapped kids.
This is only the beginning of Ninten’s larger adventure and once you start throwing in other factors like transdimensional travel, the game gets complicated fast. I did not play this with a guide, although I wish I had because much like a Sierra adventure game from the nineties, you can get stuck and upon looking up the solution discover that you’ve got a world of backtracking to do for one single item or quest. This is when the bare inventory system becomes a slog on your progress. Since Ninten can only hold six items from the start, holding a quest item along with a couple of healing items makes discovering anything new quite the chore. You will consistently need to store items in boxes scattered around the world (but only in towns, of course) and with the several reasons to be forced back into town (reviving teammates at hospitals, taking/leaving items, saving at the inn) the pace of the game slows to a crawl. It’s not surprising considering this game was developed by a famous Japanese writer, Shigesato Itoi, because the overall plot and dialogue seems well planned out and is entertaining while the gameplay aspects of this title make it hard to recommend. If you can, play this on a portable of some kind in smaller 30-60 min doses over the course of a month or so (it took me just over 35 hours to complete the campaign). I also must admit that I’ve read some things on Earthbound and even listened to a podcast or two discussing the plot and I feel that this game is extremely similar in terms of what happens: you need to find melodies in both, the cast seems to be identical, Gyiyg is the final boss (he’s renamed to Gyiygus in Earthbound). Knowing all that, I’m betting that Earthbound is just an overall better game that tells a similar story, so unless you’re a fan of the series there’s little need to play the first game. I’m sure there will be references, but I know for a fact that each game tells a story that’s self-contained.
Mother released in Japan in 1989 and by that time gamers had already experienced a couple of Dragon Quests and a couple of Final Fantasy titles as well, so it’s hard to say that Mother couldn’t have taken the lessons from these games and applied them to a better design here. This is probably best explained by the fact that Mother didn’t consider itself to have much in common with those games because it’s not taking a fantasy setting and definitely not trying to emulate Dungeons & Dragons. Additionally it was developed in-house by Nintendo (Shigeru Miyamoto was even the producer on it) and they had little experience creating an RPG so the fact that it turned out as decent as it did is admirably. Still, the game is a 10 hour experience begrudgingly stretched to nearly four times that size by backtracking, complicated quests, and endless grinding. Not only that but it feels like you can’t walk more than a few steps in certain areas without being constantly bum-rushed by enemies. There’s also a major balance issue and the fact that quite a few bosses have a gimmick to beating them that you don’t much time to discover. An example of this is a Starman, who is an early boss at the zoo: he can deal nearly fatal damage in one attack, doesn’t seem to be remotely concerned with your attack, and simply needs to be tied up with rope to beat. Unfortunately you may have not discovered the rope on your way to him or not had enough inventory slots to pick it up when you found it. You may not know to use the rope and you’d have to die a dozen times to figure this out. You may get killed by an instant critical hit before even getting a chace to tie him up first. Given the fact that the zoo is in a remote area and to travel to it and reach Starman can take up to 30 minutes each go, this can be an early example of why you would want to quit before too long (and it only gets worse from there). If you hang in there and eventually save the world, the extended ending from the english translation does nicely wrap the plot and feels quite rewarding. Oh well, it wasn’t the most productive mass of hours I’ve ever spent, but at least I can check it off of the “games I’m ashamed I haven’t played” list.
The Sordid Tale of Earthbound Zero
Mother is one of those anomalies that spawns from several frustrating decisions of Nintendo near the end of the NES console cycle. Mother was fully translated and localized by Phil Sandhop and slated for release on the NES in 1991. With the appearance of the Super NES the same year, Mother, which was named Earth Bound for the US, was permanently delayed in the interest of focusing on SNES releases instead. Similar considerations were made for Final Fantasy II and III, which would be SNES games in America and actually FF IV and IV, so just like Mother we never saw those later Famicom titles. It was probably a smart business decision too because Enix decided to ignore this precedence and release Dragon Warrior III and IV in the US after the SNES release and both suffered horrible sales. As a result, we never got Dragon Warrior (Quest) V on the SNES in America. Instead, Mother 2, which was developed by nearly the same team and talent, was translated and also named Earthbound (obviously with a slight title change) and released in America. This title was huge and sold with an equally large price tag of up to $100 on release, which is why it released in a huge box and included scratch-and-sniff stickers and a full game guide (which I’m told was definitely necessary). It also suffered poor sales and along with the comparatively larger fan population in America, the title sells for $200+ for cart only, more than $500 for a complete version and several thousand (as much as $10,000) for a sealed copy.
During the mid-late 90s when fans tried digging up copies of the original to translate for emulation in english, the prototype of the completed english title was discovered and released on the web. It was later confirmed that the copies of Earth Bound in english that were found were, in fact, translated by Phil Sandhop and not Demiforce, the hacker group that discovered the game. This is further backed by the re-release of Mother in Japan on the GBA has all the enhancements and changes from the english version. To help gamers and anyone who looked for the game from being confused by the same title, Mother has been renamed and is better known these days as Earthbound Zero. Of all the unreleased and prototype NES titles I’ve seen and researched over the years, Mother/Earthbound Zero is easily the most “ready to ship” title I’ve ever come across. You have to wonder what the market for this series would be like in America had Earthbound Zero been released. Perhaps more would have played the game and been turned off by the difficulty ramp and discouraged Nintendo from taking the risk to release the sequel. The more likely theory is that it would have celebrated success (it sold more than 400,000 copies in Japan) and more people would have purchased Earthbound (or whatever it would be called) and brought down the rarity from America’s $200 price tag to Japan’s much more appropriate $30-$40.
Released: December 1996
Developer: Sonic Team
Instruction Manual: It did not have one – manual of the original game should suffice
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $24.25 (used), $56.00 (new) (pricecharting.com)
Other Releases: Yes – A Japan only PS2 remake of Nights Into Dreams includes the Christmas content
Digital Release? Yes – included in the HD remake of Nights Into Dreams on XBLA and PSN, certain content removed (see below)
Christmas Nights Into Dreams is significant for several reasons, but most of all it’s one of the only Christmas themed games to ever come out. No, seriously, look through the vaults of retro console history, this is a holiday that is rarely celebrated save for games that focus on certain days (Animal Crossing, for example). In the winter of 1996 Sega was already in big trouble with the Saturn. At only about a year and a half old, Sony’s Playstation was killing it in terms of sales and there were few exclusive titles that generated any kind of buzz. Even Sonic, the faithful hedgehog that always seemed to sweep in and save Sega’s butt, hadn’t released a real game yet. Not only that, but this was the Christmas release of the Nintendo 64 and Mario 64 was selling out consoles nationwide. Nights Into Dreams was the only recent release on the Saturn that appealed to the typical gamer and with its colorful aesthetic, roots in platforming, and Sonic Team developer it was Sega’s best bet for the holidays. Under these circumstances Christmas Nights invaded the market in several forms from being a free pack-in with Christmas console bundles (that already included Nights), inside several magazines, a mail away/in store offer with certain game purchases, and even for rent at Blockbuster Video. This “sampler” title was everywhere, but only for about 45 days, and now it’s one of the more rare and sought after pieces of a retro gamer’s collection.
When you first boot it up, the game isn’t really much. You get to play as either of Nights protagonists Elliot and Claris in the Spring Valley level from the original game. Claris was the only character who could play this dream in the original game, so to be able to play Elliot complete with different item layout was somewhat of a treat. It’s a short run, only probably 10-20 minutes depending on your familiarity and exploration, which was as much a demo back then as it is now. The devil is in the details with this game, though, because it has a ton of hidden content to explore. Depending on the game clock you can get several special versions of Christmas Nights including a heavily adapted Christmas theme if your clock reads December, New Year’s and Halloween also receive special aesthetics, and playing on April Fools will let you play as Reala (Nights’ nemesis) instead of Nights when you change. You can also unlock a speed mode, sound test, and a few other extras like artwork and visual options. Probably my favorite unlockable is Sonic the Hedgehog: Into Dreams, which lets you play through the level as Sonic the Hedgehog without the ability to transform into Nights and the boss, Puffy, is instead Dr. Robotnik.
Sure, when you tell someone about this title, especially with online prices for this game starting around $35 and getting as high as a $100 asking price, it’s a tough sell. For those of us who picked it up when it was nothing more than a throw away demo disc, forgotten in the “no case” bin of your local FuncoLand or GameStop that was liquidating Saturn inventory, it was a robust find. I think I paid $10 for mine and I was surprised to find out about all the extra content years after picking it up. It’s not like the content is hidden by any means, I just had no interest back when I brought it home amidst a stack of games. If you happen to own the HD remake on 360/PS3, the Christmas Nights content does unlock after completing the game, although I’m not sure about the non-Christmas holiday motifs, much of the extra content has been stripped, and Sonic the Hedgehog: Into Dreams is gone as well. For fans of the original Nights that have about an hour to kill and get all festive in the holiday spirit, it’s a great Christmas Eve game. Given its high price and frankly unjust amount of content, I’ve created a gameplay video to show you what all the fuss is about. Merry Christmas!
I’m really into lucrative titles, especially when they are about Halloween or horror. For the most part these games are classic titles from the past that you have either never played or never had a chance to play. On the plus side, thanks to rom¹ hacks and translations, you can easily find any of these games to play on an emulator. While I don’t condone piracy, nothing in this list was released in the US save for one title so for a single play to see what you’re missing I feel there’s no harm, especially since you have no other option. I cannot link any of these roms directly, but feel free to search for “(title of game) rom” on Google and you shouldn’t have any problems. Without further ado, here’s the list of great Halloween games you’ve probably never played.
Sweet Home (Suīto Hōmu) - Famicom – 1989
Considered by some to be the original version of Resident Evil, Sweet Home is actually a licensed game based on a movie of the same name. It was developed by Capcom and produced by RE producer Shinji Mikami, who later admitted that Resident Evil began as a remake of Sweet Home. For many modern gamers, RE is a tough sell with its fixed camera angles, blurry graphics and tank² controls. If this describes you, then Sweet Home may be the outdated choice for you. Although developed on the Famicom there is a surprising number of similarities with RE on the Playstation.
When you change rooms the all-too-familiar door opening animation will escort you through. The inventory system and puzzles will ring extremely familiar for those that explored the mansion as Chris or Jill. In fact, the big spooky mansion is probably the most distinguishing similarity, although instead of a biological outbreak it’s merely haunted by the ghost of Lady Mamiya. And even though it’s technically a survival horror title, the game plays much more like a classic Japanese role playing game (JRPG) with random Final Fantasy-like battles. If you’ve always wanted to explore a haunted house JRPG style, check this one out, especially considering the decent english translation making the rounds.
Clock Tower (Kurokku Tawā: Za Fāsuto Fiā) – Super Famicom – 1995
You’re probably familiar with the Playstation title developed by Human Entertainment, but only in America is that the original. Human brought the eerie series to the Super Famicom first, loosely basing the game on the film Creepers (Phenomina outside US) by European filmmaker Dario Argento (a master of horror in his own right). What sets this series aside from others is the fact that there is no fighting back, only running and struggling. In this original, now subtitled The First Fear, the genre most closely resembles a point-and-click adventure where you control protagonist Jennifer through a series of investigations. Along the way you will encounter Bobby, a killer with the signature scissor-like shears, which will delay your progress or require certain actions to continue.
Not only is this game extremely tense and creepy, especially for a Super Famicom title, but the tension is incredible when you confront Bobby. To top it off, the game has 8 possible endings (and 2 more if you can get the glitches to work), which was definitely rare back then. Even more impressive is that the events in Clock Tower 2 (again, Clock Tower (PSOne) in the US) are compatible with all endings in the original. While it did hit the Wonderswan portable (Japan only) and PC at the end of the 90s, the fan translation on the ‘net of the Super Famicom version is the best way to enjoy this great horror game.
Splatterhouse: Wanpaku Graffiti (same in Japan) – Famicom – 1989
Lets face it, the Splatterhouse series seems tailor-made for Halloween and horror, but that’s not why this particular title is on the list. Nope, much like Sam Raimi’s famous Evil Dead trilogy, the second installment of Splatterhouse is a comedic homage to horror. Technically, especially as the US is concerned, the second title is the Genesis game Splatterhouse 2 but this second “offshoot” title in the late 80s was intended to put a cute spin on the horrific arcade game. Like the arcade title (or Turbografx-16 near-perfect port that came to America), Wanpaku Graffiti is similar in concept but drastically changes in execution. Think of the treatment that Final Fight got moving to the NES in Mighty Final Fight – Rick is now very cartoony, as are the enemies, with big heads and small bodies. There is blood, but its all portrayed in such a tongue-in-cheek way that you can’t help but disregard the horror aspects. This title also features many more platforming elements and enemies that require multiple hits (in the original, most enemies died with a single smack). Best of all, it’s funny. With comedic takes on everything from Michael Jackson’s Thriller (probably the first to do so) and even the fact that **spoiler** the ending reveals it was all just a movie, Wanpaku Graffiti is not intended to be taken seriously. At the same time the game is very difficult, but that’s not to say a little practice can’t net a solid victory. As with most others on this list, you can easily find a fan translation on the net to enjoy, but if you can manage to get your hands on a Famicom cart you won’t really lose much in translation.
Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (Akumajō Dracula X: Chi no Rondo) – PC Engine CD (Super CD) - 1993
The only title on this list that both was released (recently) in the US and has a reputation that proceeds it. Everybody has heard of this title and that you have to play it, but I don’t know about you guys, the hardware itself will run you a cool $200-$250 (at time of printing on eBay) and that’s assuming you know what you need, and the game itself still runs $100-$200 depending on condition and other variables (again, at time of printing on eBay). For a single game, and out of the difficult Castlevania franchise to boot, that’s a bit out of my psychotic obsession with rare video games price range. Fortunately over the last few years you can spend a mere $9-$15 to get your hands on this collector’s cache. It has been re-released on the Wii’s Virtual Console (near-perfect port) and PSP (in Dracula X Chronicles with varied opinions on the quality of emulation).
Boy am I glad Konami finally decided to do this because this game is truly amazing in so many ways. As a gamer who’s not too keen on the “metroid-vania” style but really dug the branching pathways of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse this was the perfect blend of both. I had heard that the SNES title Dracula X, which was definitely released in the US albeit quite rare, was the same game. Having played and beaten both, they are far from the same title and Dracula X is more of a classic-style remix. Unlockable characters, secret locations, an endurance round of boss battles and especially the ability to save the level you are on make this one of my favorite in the series. Again, although not as rare or difficult to find these days, I feel many gamers (even retro ones) have skipped this and it is definitely worth going back to.
New Ghostbusters II - Famicom/NES – 1990
Not to be confused with the Activision mess of a title, Ghostbusters II, this game only released in PAL (European) territories and Japan. Developed by HAL Laboratories this is a much better game than the trash we got, but thanks to license rights or various other decisions made by Activision (they published both) we never got it. It’s really too bad because this game is a lot of fun to play and may very well be the best Ghostbusters game to hit consoles. In it players control a lead ghostbuster and a secondary chosen character follows behind (computer controlled, but it falls in line with your movements). The A button activates the proton pack of the lead character and the B button slings out the trap of the secondary character. Think of it as a ghostbuster version of Zombies Ate My Neighbors and other isometric view titles of the 16-bit generation. With only a handful of levels, it’s still fun and difficult enough to keep you returning whether you beat the game or not.
Hellraiser - NES - 1989?
The most notorious of Nintendo games because, well, frankly no one is even sure it exists. Whether or not it was actually in development has never been revealed but an article in GamePro definitely seems to suggest it was in some form. From what I gather, a new cartridge type was being created by ColorDreams – the named ”super cart” basically contained a Z80 processor (same processor in a Gameboy) and additional RAM. This wasn’t anything new, expanded RAM was making better games all the time – the MMC5 being responsible for the great music of Castlevania III and the MMC2 allowed for the huge sprites of Punch-Out!! No matter how many searches you do on the web, several screenshots (I believe the one I have here is the actual one) and even potential roms will be available, but none of them can be verified and I’ve heard that none of the existing roms have programming actually capable of being displayed on the NES. This title is even more intriguing given the truly adult nature of the Hellraiser franchise and the odd concept of the licensed product being on the NES. Once it was re-acquired, ColorDreams’ projects, including this and a few Amiga ports, that didn’t adhere to a strictly Christian set of values was destroyed. Needless to say even if it ever existed in any form it was quickly destroyed in this “cleansing”. Still, a man can dream and I can only imagine how cool it would have been to play a technically astounding NES version of a Hellraiser game at the tender age of 8.
Common Retro Halloween Games To Avoid
This drives me nuts every time I see it – web sites that have either never played the following games (or at least not recently) suggesting them as decent titles from yesteryear. These games are essentially crap, you may just want to avoid them altogether. As a retro enthusiast I am tempted to suggest these games as well, but just like E.T. on the 2600 is a little less horrid once you know what to do, it does not excuse the fact that the games are useless to the uninformed player.
A Nightmare on Elm Street – NES
Friday the 13th – NES
Halloween - Atari 2600
Monster Party - NES
Torture Chamber – Arcade