For the arcade game fan who plays arcade games at home,Jess Ragan's "MAMExpose" presents you with the many joys - andpitfalls - of emulation, specifically those found while using our favoriteprogram in the universe: MAME.
|In this edition of MAMExpose, we'll look at four seemingly unrelated games with one common bond: they all have a familiar brand of soda running through their veins. It seems that the world famous beverage Coca-Cola was such a popular cultural icon that several video game manufacturers, including Capcom, Tecmo, and Namco, included it as icons in their games. The can designs are simplified and thinly disguised, but the twisting white ribbon on the sides of the bright red cans makes it pretty clear just what brand of soda your character is about to drink. It's just as clear that the designers are fond of the beverage, because the pause that refreshes really will refresh your hero, boosting their strength or power. |
MAMExpose will examine three different arcade games featuring Coca-Cola, then rate them not only on their overall quality but the amount of product placement you should expect, how well the real thing is depicted, and the soda's importance to your character. Just one more thing before we start... I'm not getting paid by Coke to write this, as hard as that may be to believe. ^_^
In the early 1980's, game manufacturers made slight revisions to their most popular products, hoping to fuel players' continued interest in those games. Unfortunately, these slightly altered spinoffs usually had the opposite effect... players would quickly become frustrated by the increased difficulty in games like Asteroids Deluxe and Space Invaders II.
Of these games, Exciting New Pac-Man Plus was probably the most aggravating. It threw a bunch of nasty wrenches into the standard Pac-Man gameplay, including shorter blue times and unreliable energizers that left one of the four monsters unaffected. The player is cut a break by the fruits in the center of the screen... these now act as energizers too, and any monsters you eat after gulping down a fruit is worth double the points. There's just one catch... all the monsters will vanish briefly, making them almost impossible to track down.
So, what else is new in Pac-Man Plus? Well, the maze is a lighter shade of blue... that is, when you can see it (oh, I forgot to mention that, didn't I? You'd better memorize the layout of the maze, because you won't be seeing much of it in later rounds). Other than that, it's just a more sadistic version of Pac-Man. If the original isn't challenging enough, believe me, this will be.
GAME QUALITY: Six. It's really not much different from the original Pac-Man, and the few changes Midway DID make weren't necessarily good ones.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Seven. You won't down too many Cokes in this game, but they are offered as the first prize.
THE REAL THING: Eight. The soda can geniunely looks like a Coke, even if the word "col" is written on the side.
POP POWER: Nine. This soda packs even more of a punch than the energizers in the game, although it has the unusual side effect of making the monsters invisible.
I always felt cheated by the NES version of Ninja Gaiden. Sure, it claimed to be Ninja Gaiden, but it had absolutely nothing to do with the unique side-scrolling beat 'em up in arcades, instead borrowing many of its ideas from Castlevania. If I wanted to play Castlevania, I'd pop that into my NES, rather than settling for some cheesy imitation with a misleading title.
Well, it turns out that the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden wasn't all that great, either. As a teenager, I was blown away by this game... all the damage you could do to background objects made it a lot of fun even when you were playing it alone, and even more exciting with a friend (or just your brother). These days, all the shattered signs and splintered boxes in the world can't hide the fact that Ninja Gaiden's gameplay is repetitive and limited, even when compared to other side scrolling brawlers like Double Dragon. You'll love the game's moves, but there just aren't enough of them to go around. Worse yet, the collision detection is somewhat clumsy, so you can't always count on hitting your opponents with punches and kicks.
Despite this, the game has a lot more impact than its NES counterpart thanks to the interactive playfields. You're lucky to find something that breaks in other fighting games, but in Ninja Gaiden, it's just as rare to find an object you CAN'T destroy by throwing or kicking an enemy into it. Also, the game does a pretty good job of justifying the "Ninja" in the title, with levels that require acrobatic flips over heavy traffic and hanging from iron bars over deep chasms. This gives Ninja Gaiden the kind of variety you won't find in other side-scrolling fighters.
GAME QUALITY: Seven. This isn't one of the best side-scrolling brawlers released in the late 1980's, but I prefer it to Double Dragon because it's faster and has some really slick moves.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Seven. The ninja in the title never drinks any Coke, but there are plenty of red signs with the familiar white ribbon in the first stage. On the down side, they all read "Ca-Ca", which doesn't make the beverage sound particularly appealing...
THE REAL THING: Seven. Those signs look pretty authentic, even if they're advertising a pretty unappetizing drink. Speaking of unappetizing drinks, you'll also see round signs featuring a pretty obvious copy of the Pepsi logo.
POP POWER: Three. You can't actually drink any soda in this game, but the signs do contain power up items, including swords and revitalizing pills. Of course, sometimes you'll just get gems worth bonus points or even nothing at all.
Bad Dudes may have been popular back when it was first released, but it wasn't especially original. Comparisons to Irem's Kung Fu Master would be pretty easy to make, but there was another game, released by Data East itself, that was even closer to the gameplay in Bad Dudes. Express Raider featured a truly bad dude, a bandit who robbed moving trains. He rode on the tops of the trains as they rolled down the rails, punching out anyone who stood in his way. There were also gun battles that took place on horseback, but most of the rounds in Express Raider were amazingly similar to the second stage in Bad Dudes. That took place on the top of a very long semi trailer as it sped down the highway, a memorable moment in an otherwise dull, simplistic fighting game.
Bad Dudes lacks the depth of competing games like Double Dragon, with fewer attacks, less complex fighting action, absolutely no breakables, and a flat playfield that limits the player's movement. On the plus side, the straight side view takes the ambiguity out of combat... you'll know for sure when your punches and kicks strike the bad guys. Bad Dudes also gets points for its crisp voice synthesis and a couple of innovative touches... the ninjas have a handful of sneaky weapons, including handfuls of tacks that cut the player's feet if he doesn't kick them out of the way first. There's also an oddball cameo by Karnov, who must have finally realized that he was way out of his league competing with Mario and decided to try his luck starring in fighting games instead.
Data East didn't do a bad job with Bad Dudes, but the copyright infringing spinoff, Sly Spy, was a more well-rounded game, and a pleasantly familiar experience for fans of the James Bond movie. I will admit, however, that Bad Dudes is better than its cousin Two Crude, which really lived up to its name with clumsily drawn graphics and dumb humor.
GAME QUALITY: Six.
PRODUCT PLACEMENT: Eight. There are cans of Coke all over the place in this game... even the ninjas carrying them are dressed in red. Those cans of soda are also the only way you can boost your bad dude's health.
THE REAL THING: Six. The soda cans have a white ribbon painted on the side, but also a small letter "P" on the lower right hand side. It's a good indication that the drink will increase your power, but also weakens its association with the popular soft drink it attempts to imitate. It's even worse in the Japanese version of the game, where the cans are grey rather than red.
POP POWER: Eight. Need a pick me up? Well, Coke is it... you have no other options, unless you want to gnaw on that pair of nunchucks.
What happens when pinball and video games meet? We'll find out in the next edition of MAMExpose, when we review Baby Pac-Man and its geriatric counterpart Granny and the Gators.
A new "MAMExpose" can be found herearound the 10th of every month!
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