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Posts Tagged ‘light gun

Operation Wolf (Arcade)

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Operation_Wolf_posterConsole: Arcade
Released: 1987
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Taito
Ports: NES (1989), Sega Master System (1990), DOS (1991), PC-Engine (Japan Only, 1992), Microcomputers (varies), PS2 (in Taito Legends, arcade version), Xbox (in Taito Legends, arcade version)
Digital Release? Yes – NES Version on Virtual Console (no light gun support, see below)

Operation Wolf is a game I can’t help but associate with Pizza Hut.  Taito’s introduction and unique take on the light gun shooter flooded the American franchise so much in the late 80s that I can think of no other place I’ve actually played the game.  Of course being a pizza franchise and not an arcade the difficulty was always cranked to the highest and I swear they timed the machine to play approximately half the time it took to cook a pizza so that families with two kids would each play one credit before the food was ready.  This title brought more realism to the light gun shooter as you play a member of special forces diving behind enemy lines in Cuba to extract five hostages.  Aside from the realistic violence of invading and destroying enemy encampments, this was the first light gun shooter to feature a plot and natural progression as well as a moving, scrolling stage instead of a fixed location.  Did I mention it was addicting too?

Operation_Wolf_cabinetMind you, we are still back in 1987, where arcade games were more about providing a specialized challenge with amazing graphics instead of explicitly drinking as many quarters as you’ll offer.  The cabinet had a large mounted Uzi machine gun that could only swivel slightly with forced feedback to emulate gunfire kickback, pretty nifty for games of that time.  At first glance it seems like a spray & pray title, but as you run out of ammo, die, and get captured you begin to realize you might need a slight bit of strategy.  If you die,  even if you have another quarter in the machine, you will still need to complete the current level from scratch (although you will now have full ammo and life).  Innocent people are thrown into the mix, which you should not shoot, and animals, which you should shoot, for bonus items.  Early on there’s not much penalty (as I prove in the video below) for blasting civilians or missing a vulture flying overhead, but by the final levels your screen will have a literal 50/50 spread of civilians and enemies with these animals being mostly your only source of ammo and power.  I only do one playthrough in the video, but in truth I replayed this game for a couple of hours of fun.  Unlike other light gun shooters before it, this game was less about accuracy and more used the gun as a placeholder for an invisible reticule.  This is why most home ports and conversions don’t suffer from controller porting and in truth this type of game has proven to be just as effective, if not more so, with a reticule and controller as opposed to a light gun (which I cover in the home ports below).

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 6, 2013 at 11:14 am

Hogan’s Alley (NES)

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Hogan's_Alley_CoverConsole: NES
Released: 1985
Developer: Nintendo R&D 1
Publisher: Nintendo
Difficulty: Easy
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Played as a child? Yes
Price: $2.00 (used) $500.00 (new)
Famicom Version? Yes, as Hōganzu Arei
Digital Release? No

HogansAlley_1There’s more to Hogan’s Alley than it originally seems.  If you’re doing a double-take and noticing considerable similarities (especially on the main screen) to Duck Hunt, that’s not a mistake.  Considering it was developed by the same studio, in the same year, and a launch title for the initial NES, this was the next logical step for a light gun shooter.  I was probably one of the few that picked this title up at its initial release but it impressed the hell out of me.  It was a surprising simulation of the FBI training program with cardboard cutouts for new recruits.  Basically, if you’ve ever seen a shooting range in a movie, this is the basic design for the program.  When Duck Hunt and Wild Gunman were the only competition, Hogan’s Alley (especially in the cityscape “Game B”) was a breath of fresh air and gave way to the more popular Lethal Enforcers and Crime Patrol series.

HogansAlley_2You have 3 games to choose from: one is a cardboard shooting range, one is a simulated town (complete with amazing music) where you take out the bad guys and spare the innocent, and finally a can shooting game that provides the most compelling gameplay of the mix.  The game was apparently named for the FBI training program, which I was unable to validate, but I can confirm it was part of a Special Police training school at Camp Perry pre-World War II and an actual training camp name at the Quantico FBI training camp.  While there’s not much else to say about the title, it’s just a fun time that demonstrates what we all love about light gun shooters.

Written by Fred Rojas

April 4, 2013 at 10:46 pm

Duck Hunt (NES)

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duckhunt_boxConsole: NES
Released: 1985
Developer: Nintendo R&D 1
Publisher: Nintendo
Difficulty: Easy
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Played as a child? Yes
Price: $1.74 (used)
Famicom Version? Yes, as Dakku Hanto
Digital Release? No

duckhunt_1Duck Hunt is one of those games that should need no introduction. On the other hand I speak with eager retro gamers every day that didn’t get started until the Playstation or N64 era and especially with modern HDTVs being incompatible with light guns, Duck Hunt is yet again just another classic title lost in the shuffle. Back when the NES released there wasn’t a console out that didn’t have a copy of Duck Hunt, usually in a hybrid cart with Super Mario Bros. This game is a light gun shooter that has you hunting for ducks, just as the name suggests. Additionally there was a skeet shooting alternative to blasting live ducks, which had increased difficulty and was PETA approved. Unfortunately there’s no getting around the fact that this title gets repetitive, and boring, fast.

Duck Hunt was designed as a launch title for the NES that would release concurrently with a light gun peripheral, the Zapper. While it had different goals and release schedules in Japan, making a light gun peripheral and game for the NES was crucial along with R.O.B. the Robot in convincing the United States that the NES was not a video game, but a toy. This is why Duck Hunt isn’t all that fun, nor is it all that complex, because everyone had it as a pack-in to convince Americans the NES wasn’t a video game. Duck Hunt was developed by Nintendo Research and Development (R&D) 1, a mostly hardware based department responsible for the Zapper as well. The producer on the project was Gunpei Yokoi, notable as the creator of the Game & Watch series and later the Gameboy, which helps to explain Duck Hunt‘s simple but addictive design. Duck Hunt released in 1985 but by 1986 it was packaged with Super Mario Bros. and offered in the holiday release “Action Set” as a staple for almost all NES console sales. It would later be included on the triple game cart Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet when both the Zapper and Power Pad became standard pack-ins for the NES.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm

For the Love of the Light Gun

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zapper2I can’t explain my love for the light gun.  It’s one of the oldest forms of interactive entertainment, dating back to the carnival days where you would fire air rifles at a metal bullseye to make an old man’s hat pop up or a dog bark.  Once the gun made the transition to video games it honestly became one of the most lifelike and violent gaming tropes throughout history.  Not to get deep with it, but you are pointing a gun at a target, usually alive, and shooting it.  There is not other gesture like it, you are shooting a modern device to kill something, virtual or not.  At the same time it also doubles as the most simple form of proficiency.  I don’t think anyone will claim that being good at Duck Hunt or Lethal Enforcers relates to being a good shot in a shooting range, but it’s got a much higher chance of significance than being able to get a headshot in Call of Duty.  Whereas the FPS emulates the concept of aiming and firing a gun with 1:1 responses from a controller, a light gun truly simulates the experience.

lethalenforcersLight gun games have been a niche genre, but that doesn’t prevent them from withstanding the test of time and being available on most home consoles and one of the most popular games, even today, in arcades.  I guess it’s because despite the maturity implied behind firing a gun, it’s one of the easiest concepts for us to pick up.  I’ve been on many adventures thanks to light gun games – whether it’s cleaning up the future in T2: The Arcade Game, battling zombies in a haunted house through House of the Dead, or enjoying some of the worst acting of all time in Mad Dog McCree.

It’s also significant because the light gun is a genre nearly impossible to emulate and doesn’t translate well in today’s technology.  While there are exceptions, you will have a hard time playing Crypt Killer properly on a PC running MAME and most HDTV technologies don’t support light guns from the past.  Authenticity is as important as the genre itself.  This month I’ve decided to dedicate to a timeless style of video game that I always make first priority when buying a new (or old) system: the light gun shooter.  Come join me to learn about some of the best, worst, funniest, and definitely weirdest titles to ever grace the hobby of video games.  Thanks to my huge CRT television and original hardware, I can even show you videos.

Written by Fred Rojas

April 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm