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Games we hope never get released on the Virtual Console

Posted by Kelvin Green

Only the churlish will argue with the assertion that the Wii's Virtual Console has been a great feature. Veteran gamers have been able to revisit their gaming pasts, while those newer to the scene can discover whole new worlds of electronic entertainment that they might otherwise have missed out on. On the Virtual Console Archive forums, I've seen delighted youngsters expressing their excitement at playing the mighty Streets of Rage 2, and even as a crusty old veteran, I've been surprised now and then, most notably by the excellent releases available for the PC Engine/Turbografx, which I never got to play the first time around.

But there is a dark side to this new age of gaming discovery. As we've seen with titles such as Urban Champion and NES Soccer, not every old game is a winner, and some are likely to endanger your very sanity with their sheer ineptitude. So here is the official Virtual Console Archive guide to games we hope to never see on the Virtual Console service. Get yourself a stiff drink and read on.

Rise of the Robots - Megadrive/Genesis & SNES
The latter half of the 16-bit era saw the rise of the beat-em-up, prompted by the runaway success of then-new franchises like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. Clones and competitors popped up every month; some were as good as the big names (like Sega's excellent Eternal Champions, which I do hope comes to VC one day), most were okay, and some, like Rise of the Robots, should have been shot into the sun before they were seen by human eyes. This atrocity was ported to pretty much every system of the day, so unfortunately its chances of appearing on VC are considerably increased. The game boasted cutting edge 3D rendered graphics, and, um, well that's about it really.

The gameplay was awful; game balance was non-existent, as some characters were far and away better than the rest, and the controls were embarrassingly limited with a small number of special moves simply activated with single button presses. Players were greeted with a choice of exactly one character and a fixed and unvaried sequence of opponents, and in versus combat, one player was forced yet again to play using the generic protagonist from the single-player game. And the soundtrack, widely advertised as being written and performed by Queen's Brian May, er, wasn't. Rise of the Robots was a horrible mess from start to finish, clearly rushed out to make money from the beat-em-up craze.

Heroes of the Lance - NES
Dungeons & Dragons has enough of a PR problem without stuff like this. Baldur's Gate is a fantastic game that also remains true to its D&D roots. Heroes of the Lance is a filthy monolith of suckitude that has only superficial links to its source material. If you were generous, you might give the designers credit for trying something different by taking a fantasy roleplaying game and turning it into a somnambulistic side-view beat-em-up of sorts. But I'm not generous. It's an absurd creative decision that strips out all the atmosphere of both the original pen and paper game and the novel, but even then, it might have been acceptable if the gameplay had not been so hideously broken. The game is full of absurdly tough enemies that respawn each time you enter a screen, which will happen all the time, because the game is a maze and all the screens look the same, and the enemies are made even more difficult to overcome by unresponsive and illogical controls that seem designed to kill off your characters almost as fast as they kill off your enthusiasm. Awful, awful game, but luckily, the Dungeons & Dragons licence means that this is probably more trouble than it's worth to bring to VC.

Rapjam Volume One - Megadrive/Genesis
Back in the 8/16-bit era, rap was the coolest thing ever. Not all that Jay-Z nonsense about how much money you've got, but proper political stuff from the likes of Public Enemy and Run DMC. Greedy games producers saw an opportunity for some cross-promotion, and you'd often see a hip-hop flavour to games. The resulting games were usually badly-programmed wrecks with some superficial nods to the concept, which did no one any good.

Back in the 8/16-bit era, basketball was the coolest thing ever. Greedy games producers saw an opportunity for some cross-promotion, and you'd often see a basketball flavour to games. The resulting games were usually badly-programmed wrecks with some superficial nods to the concept, which did no one any good.

Rapjam is the unholy bastard offspring of both of these misguided attempts at "getting down with the kids" and is as awful as one might expect. To recreate the horror, take the basic engine of the mighty NBA Jam, strip the finely tuned gameplay out, but as something of a compensation, swap the players for popular hip-hop artists of the time. Sell for $40-50 and hope that you make your money back before anyone notices the steaming pile of crap you just released.

Superman 64 - Nintendo 64
Notorious for being the worst thing ever to appear on the N64, this game was based on the excellent Bruce Timm cartoon series, but instead of being a top-notch superhero extravaganza, it was, um, well what was it? Well, it's a bit like Pilotwings, except on a more powerful system, and much, much less good. You're the greatest hero of them all. You can do anything. So what's the game about? Fighting villains and saving lives? Battling against epic odds to prevent the very destruction of humanity? Or flying through rings, in the fog, to get points? If you went with "rings" then you're right, which must mean you've played this pile of filth, for which I'm so very very sorry. The little gold Nintendo "seal of quality" badge has never been more meaningless.

Dragon's Lair - NES
The original Dragon's Lair was hugely ground-breaking and influential. Sadly, the ground was probably best left unbroken, as the game's influence led to trash like Night Trap and pretty much everything on the Philips CD-i. I'm not even sure you could call Dragon's Lair a "game", as "playing" it consisted of watching a few minutes of a Don Bluth cartoon, then pressing a button in order to key up the next animation. It was immensely popular, but my gosh it was rubbish.

Obviously a then-high-end arcade machine based on laserdisc technology was never going to scale down well to the NES, and if the producers had tried such a conversion, then no one would be surprised if it were awful. What is surprising is that turning the game into a side-scrolling platform puzzler more in keeping with the humble grey box's technical capabilities would also be awful. The controls could be described as sluggish, although that would be doing a disservice to slugs, and the game itself is almost impossibly hard, with instant death situations around every corner, including enemies which seem to be able to kill the lead character just by looking at him. Which would be fine if you could avoid said enemies, except you can't because the controls and timing are so broken, and so on, until you start trying to hop to the Sun, because that would be less futile an activity than playing this terrible non-game. The producers of this game did what few of their peers have managed over the years, and that is to scale down a coin-op for home consoles, and yet retain the original gameplay; sadly, the original gameplay was dire.

In all fairness, over the years, the systems that make up the Virtual Console service didn't see all that many truly horrible games, and the astute will pick up even from my very short list that the worst dross tended to come from third-party publishers and licensed properties. But there are other nasties out there too, and the success of the Virtual Console might lead to unscrupulous publishers trying to make a quick bit of cash off the unwary by sending their misbeggotten horrors out into the world once more. So be vigilant, and use the comments facility on this site and the Virtual Console forums to let us know what we should be particularly afraid of...

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User Comments (32)



Jaxathon said:

Lol I never even heard of most of these games other than the superman game.



Tides_of_Chaos said:

Great, now I want to buy these games just to know how bad they are. I shouldn't have read this.....



Keyz said:

Hah! I actually remember playing a demo of Rise of the Robots on 3DO!! Now THERE is a system I'd like to see games from on VC! "Twisted" was one of the coolest games ever (for a game show game). And "Killing Time" wasn't to shabby either.



Rainami said:

wow shaq-fu NEED's to be added IMO, other wise id agree with the picks



Johnny said:

I once played a game in my younger days for the snes called "killer instinct" that game was awesome, i'd buy it in a instant if it came out....




Shaq-Fu is bad....but not as bad as these titles. I especially hate Dragon's Lair for the NES. Now that was a worthless title. In my opinion, it's the worst game on the list.



deggs said:

heroes of the lance was attrocious... i was so hyped when i found it in a pawn shop one day (a game based one dragonlance? too good to be true)... it was true alright... i was pissed when it sucked sooooooo hard

One game that should definitely be added to the list is Ultima: Runes of Virtue for the original game boy. Now this game had the worst graphics of any game i have ever seen (including all of the colecovision and atari and c64 games)... the playable characters were stickmen. the game had no point, no discernable plot and was boring as hell... Runes of Virtue is proably THE WORST GAME I HAVE EVER PLAYED (that's saying a lot because I too did own ET for Atari)...



Eva said:

Some SNES ones I can think of...
There was a Simpsons game released towards the end of the SNES's lifespan, I forget what it was called but I remember bad reviews. I would say pretty much any film tie in as most of them were dire. Pitfighter was just plain wrong and George Foreman's Boxing was pretty awful too. A lot of rubbish Street Fighter clones around too.
American Gladiators was another bad 'un. Oh and Dirt Trax FX.



Kelvin said:

Deggs, not all versions of Heroes of the Lance were awful. The Master System one had great graphics and played quite well, although it was a really weird decision to do a D&D game in that style, whatever the console.

As for Shaq Fu, it was originally on the list, but I already had one fighter, and one basketball-themed game, so I left it out.



JustAGuy said:

I think that the glorious days of gaming consoles that were a cinch to program for really caused a huge amount of horrible games to be released.

The only game i've played onthis particular list is Heroes of the Lance (or basically the same game) on the PC. It was horrible and I don't think I've ever played a harder game in my life. It was rather easy to stay alive, but the only way to make anything happen at all seemed to be to throw yourself off of one of the bottom less pit ledges.

Some particularly frustrating games to me (in my aged memory) were Dr. Franken and Cybernator. I regularly avoided many games on the SNES though due to it's immense popularity, a huge amount of small developers, and a complete lack of knowledge as to what makes a game good.



Gypsie said:

Clayfighter....any of them, surely deserve places on the list? now there was a franchise of unrivelled arsedom.

id successfully scowered Rise of the Robots from my mind ..i mean....the robots moved stupidly slowly, had a really limited range of moves, had exactly 0.000 charisma and half of them made you feel like u were fighting the result of the designer giving his 4y.o a box of lego tecknic for an hour but



Demonic_St33V said:

I hate to admit it, but not only have I played Heroes of the Lance, I've beaten it. After struggling with mighty foes like sluggish controls and unbalanced NPCs, you encounter the easiest last boss in the history of gaming: A dragon that can be killed just by throwing your cleric's staff at it.



Graydon said:

The sad thing is that I played hours and hours of that superman game because I liked the idea of being superman. The flying through rings had absolutely nothing to do with being a superhero though. Overall it was a sucky game.



Oui_Oui said:

Batman of the Future for the N64 Should be there!
I got it.... it was all right.... but you'll probably hate it... I was 9 at the time....

You should make a list of the games you WANT to see on the VC, that are possibilities... And not in categories! Just a long list



Shadow said:

I'll admit to playing sups64. I must admit though, that I enjoyed it. But not because it was a good game. I enjoyed laghing at its patheticness. In a sence, its quite similar to the movie snakes ona plane, where it was soo bad that it was good.

now that my oppinioin is out, I expect all the flame i can get, so dont hold back.



sega_nerd said:

i am surprised that dr jekyll and mr hyde didn't appear on here but they should have put batman forever which it was one of the worst superhero games of all time along with silver surfer then spider man and the sinister six.



deggs said:

yeah, silver surfer for the nes... hardest game evarrrrr...

Gypsie, when clayfighter came out, it was fun... at the time, there were sooo many fighting games that took themselves way too seriously. at least clayfighter had a sense of humor...

but yeah, pitfighter... freakin awful. i have the Pitfighter port for the orgininal gameboy. that's up there with awful games alongside Ultima: Runes of Virtue...

one game that's made a lot of people's worst game list is Total Recall for the nes. I have to say, I owned it. It wasn't terrible. It wasn't great but it wasn't that bad either. It was pretty much impossible to beat though...



TBoneTony said:

Hopefully for newbies to the classic games that they will visit this site, so hopefully they will not waste their hard earned Virtual Console Wii points on these pieces of Garbage.

And also for the parents, a bad game is not always something with large amount of violence that Jack Thompson tries to tell you about, more often a bad game is just something that plays so horribly bad and no fun at all.



TheNintendoBoy said:

Not that it matters here but Heroes of the Lance was also released for the Master System.. and unfortunately I bought it back in the day Well the cover was great.



coorongcat said:

rise of the robots was SO bad, its hidden somewhere in my brothers room haha! it was a present from my cousins, along with their megadrive and other games like Another World, what a generous gift!!



morphballer said:

Yep, Rise of the Robots was one of the worst games I ever played. The other was Total Recall for the NES.



Marioman64 said:

My friend actually has superman at his house... (laughs) it's funny, when I played it with him we were each just two spaceship things and we shot each other. I saw no superman. In fact, I don't even remember seeing a title screen but that might just be my memory. Superman is only KIND of ENTERTAINING in 2 PLAYERS. cause i pwned my friend



sega_nerd said:

Another terrible game is zelda faces of evil then wand of gamelon from philips cd-i. i can't believe those games existed because they are beyond horrible. go to youtube and you'll find out why.



Elk810 said:

I've heard of Rise Of The Robots and I always knew it was bad. Sadly, I played Superman on the N64 thinking it was cool. Not only was the Flying Through Rings levels a terrible idea, but the graphics, excluding buildings, were like SNES Mode 7 graphics in F-Zero, Super Mario Kart, and TMNT: Turtles In Time. Those graphics don't work in N64, especially if they make the strees so small it looks like Superman is the size of Godzilla.

There is one good thing about CD-i Zelda games though: You make some hilarious movies with the normally distasteful cutscenes and audio from those games.

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