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Sun 20th Jan 2008

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rarson commented on Japan To Get Dracula X And Metal Slug Next Tue...:

Metal Slug is a great game but there's no way that I'm paying money for it again. Metal Slug has to be about as profitable as Mega Man, given the number of times it's been re-released. I think if you bought every single different release of it (including the uber-pricey original Neo Geo carts), you'd easily have spent over a thousand dollars.



rarson commented on Cruis'n USA:

Oh yeah, I didn't realize this until a few days ago but the original Cruis'n arcade hardware was actually a 32-bit Williams board.



rarson commented on Cruis'n USA:

"This isn't a good racing game; in fact I'd even go as far as to say it's one of the worst examples of the genre I've ever experienced in my long time as a gamer."

Yup, that's Cruis'n in a nutshell. By far, the worst part of the game is that it aged extremely poorly. The arcade game was passable when new but even by the time it had hit the console, it was extremely outdated.



rarson commented on Hardware Focus - Sega Megadrive / Genesis:

You can't mention Sega's marketing without mentioning "blast processing." Remember two vehicles with a TV in each one, one showing Sonic blazing by and the other showing Mario poking along? And then the Sega car would take off, while the Nintendo car would barely putt along?

And you can't forget the Sega scream, either! Sega's marketing in the early '90s was brilliant, and it was painful to see the way they completely bunked up advertising for both the Saturn and the Dreamcast in the years to follow. Sega made some iffy hardware decisions on both those consoles and some stupid launch decisions, but they could've overcome those factors had they been able to harness the marketing magic that they had in the Genesis era.

I won't lie, their marketing made me lust after Sonic. But other than that, most of the games I wanted to play were available on the SNES. In the end, Sonic wasn't nearly the landmark series (gameplay-wise) that Super Mario Bros was, so I really felt like I didn't miss out on much (and now I get to play them all I want on VC), but at the time it was practically torture.

The 16-bit era was a golden age for fanboys, but what it really boils down to is that it was a great time for gaming. No matter what the opinions, both machines were great consoles and both had tons of great games on them. I never knew anyone that was dissatisfied with owning either console. I wish that I could be so enthused about a current console that I would feel the need to get into such heated debates again. The Genesis played an important role in gaming history and really helped to show the benefit of competition.



rarson commented on Hardware Focus - Nintendo 64:

As Josh said, the N64 was released in Japan in '96, not '95. Also, The "surprise" Saturn launch came before the PSX launch, as it was a botched attempt by Sega to get the jump on Sony.

As for the N64's troubles, it's all about licensing costs. I remember reading in EGM a long time ago that licensing costs for a PSX game were only a dollar a disc, because CDs by that point only cost pennies to press, while a N64 cart cost somewhere around $32 dollars or so, each. Yeah, that's right, an N64 game clocked in at over 30 times the cost per unit to make. So even if the licensing costs didn't scare the publishers away immediately, they would soon realize that because of the huge costs, they could only sell their titles in smaller numbers, making less profit, and limiting the installed base because people are less hesitant to buy systems that have less support. It's a vicious cycle.

I also read later that Nintendo was able to basically cut the licensing costs in half, but the average cart was still clocking in at around 17 or 18 bucks a piece. Using the cartridge medium meant that it was completely impossible for Nintendo to ever get the same kind of third-party support on its system that Sony had.

I shared Nintendo's hatred of load times, and in fact I still do, as they don't seem to have gone anywhere in the last 13 years. At the time, I felt that the double-speed CD drives that Sony and Sega were using were too slow, and that Nintendo was barking up the right tree. Unfortunately, what both Nintendo and I failed to realize was that the costs of manufacturing and silicon at the time were far too great to overcome, and load times weren't significant enough of an issue not to compromise on. Nintendo may have publicly pretended to prefer "quality over quantity," but they would've made a ton more money had they used CDs (not that they needed it, they had Pokemon making money hand over fist).

Speaking of that quality versus quantity bull, Nintendo's so-called "Dream Team" wasn't, and they definitely weren't all overseen by Miyamoto. Nintendo didn't have any involvement in the third-party titles, like Turok (okay, you have to know that the "Dream Team" is a farce when Acclaim is a member... Acclaim!) or Mortal Kombat Trilogy. Half the announced titles didn't even come out (Buggy Boogie, from Angel Studios?). I think I still have photocopies of all the screenshots printed in EGM back in 1995 in a closet somewhere. The only "Dream Team" titles that were really critically accepted were Nintendo's first- and second-party titles.

I also have a bone to pick with Nintendo about the hardware. The SGI design utlized an R4300 RISC CPU which wasn't necessarily the best choice, and using a 32-bit data bus limited it somewhat (not to mention, called into question the accuracy of labeling it a "64-bit" system). But I can forgive that. What I can't forgive is that Nintendo made the same stupid mistake Intel would make years later, and bought into the hype of that overpriced garbage known as RAMBUS RDRAM. Nintendo could have saved money buy using more cheaper RAM and CDs. If cutting costs were such a concern, Nintendo shouldn't have tried to engineer every part of the system to use the most top-quality component they could find.

The Nintendo 64 was touted as being almost a miniature SGI workstation, about a quarter as powerful as one, according to Next Gen magazine (which might have been their January '96 issue, if I remember correctly). Well, SGI workstations aren't used for playing console games. My problem with the hardware is that it's less concerned with pushing polygons, and more concerned with making them look good. A noble thing, sure, and slightly off the path of the push-as-many-polys-as-possible approach Sega and Sony were taking, but the problem is that with the limited texture memory, those poly-prettying tricks are kind of going to waste. You can only make a muddy texture look so good, and I do feel that N64 textures were pretty darn muddy even for the time.

Then again, it introduced console gamers to some cool new stuff: z-buffering, MIP-mapping, and if I remember correctly, it was the first console to offer hardware antialiasing. And, of course, it's still got some great games, some of which will remain classics for years to come.

The N64 wasn't nearly the kind of gameplay revolution the first two Nintendo consoles were, but it really pushed Nintendo into the realm of 3D (remember, they HAD done 3D before, on the SNES, but not very much of it), and I think that they learned a lot from it, even though the Gamecube didn't do much better. It was a rough ride, but a learning experience for us all, and we still got many great gems along the way that are still, to this day, only playable on the N64. And like always, those games make it worth the price of admission.



rarson commented on Hardware Focus - Nintendo Entertainment System:

The NES was my second real console (the 7800 doesn't count because it was basically the same as the 2600 and I didn't get a C64 until much later). It was like a box of pure joy. I was lucky enough to get a Track and Field bundle, which came with 2 controllers, a Zapper, the Power Pad, and a cart that had Mario, Duck Hunt, and World Class Track Meet on it. Dazza, I'm going to have to disagree with you on the Power Pad, that thing was a LOT of fun (if a bit useless, as I only ever played the track game with it). My friends and I spent many tiring nights running track events. It was a great party game accessory, though I'll admit that if I had actually spent money on it, I probably would've been a little irked by its limited usefulness.

Let me also put into perspective the Nintendo dominance in America at the time. Sega didn't exist. Atari was defunct. TurboGraphX-16 was a small blip on the radar. I had never even heard of the Master System until years after the Genesis was gone. If you gamed in the 8-bit era, you had an NES. Sega really exploded onto the scene with the Genesis, and I credit that to some clever marketing and Sonic. But Nintendo was by far the top dog, so much that a lot of people that I knew waited for the SNES instead of buying the Genesis.

I also want to stress the impact of the controller. It must seem weird to people who have grown up with D-pads and analog sticks, seeing as how simple the controller is, but anyone who has ever played an Atari 2600 knows what a huge step forward it was. The 2600 was great, and it had several different types of controllers that worked well to change the way you could play some games (the paddle wheel for Breakout, for instance), but not only were you stuck with a joystick (digital, mind you, not analog) and one button (can you even imagine?), but most of the ones I came across were stiff and vague; sometimes you'd really have to crank on the stick to get it to move, or push really hard on the button, and there was basically no positive feedback to really know for sure that you had gotten the input you were attempting. Gaming on the 2600 was, at times, a battle. Back then, we were having too much fun to really care, but gamers today wouldn't put up with any of those problems (and rightfully so). The Nintendo controller was sleek, compact, innovative, comfortable, and best of all, accurate. And it had four times as many buttons as Atari's system had. And we can't forget the D-pad, which made gaming SO much easier (with the 2600, you could either use the suction-cup joystick stuck to the table, or the joystick that you would hold with one hand and move with the other).

I could probably write endlessly about how great the NES was, and still is, but I won't. Nintendo's business practices, which certainly wouldn't fly today, deserve credit for allowing Nintendo to bring console gaming back from the brink.

The NES is home to some of the greatest games ever, one particular stand-out being Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!. I still play it more than almost any other game. Another favorite of mine is Super Mario 3. As great as Super Mario World is, Mario 3 is still my favorite Mario game and possibly my favorite game ever. If you want to know what the absolute pinnacle of 8-bit gaming was, then play Mario 3. The worst part about that game is that it leaps so far ahead of the original SMB (which is still a great game) that SMB pales in comparison to it.

There are a ton of other more obscure games out there, like Blaster Master, and Bump 'n' Jump, that most people probably wouldn't have played unless they were given it for Christmas like I was, so the people my age, who were too young to buy games during the NES days, tended to end up with a strange mix of random games given to them by grandmothers and such. But a lot of these games are good, too! There are some notable exceptions, like Lethal Weapon and Total Recall, which I clearly remember sucking (movie games, go figure), but back then, it did seem like that Nintendo Seal of Quality meant something.



rarson commented on Hardware Focus - Super Nintendo:

The NES was a revolution compared to the Atari 7800 that it replaced (on my shelf, anyway), and the SNES itself a revolution compared to the NES. Alright, sure, I was limited by my parents' willingness to spend money on videogames, but honestly, I didn't own a Genesis because I felt I didn't need to. The NES was simply awesome all the way through its life, especially with games like Mario 3 that I could play over and over again without boredom.

But oh, did the magic happen the first time we fired up that new SNES. I don't think I've ever felt quite as blown away as I did the first time I saw the beautiful graphics of SMW or the vivid colors and enormous sprites of Joe and Mac. When I experienced the SNES, I almost instantly understood the gameplay limitations that had been imposed by the lesser hardware of the 8-bit machines that I had never noticed before.

Personally, I've always disliked the style of the US machine and when I first saw the Japanese console, I lusted after its sleekness. I never really understood why Nintendo changed the design, because the US design is a lot more clumsy and irregular, but I suppose they wanted to visually highlight the fact that games from different countries weren't meant to be played in US machines.

Perhaps I'm becoming a jaded old fogey (I'm not that old, but I did start out with a Pong machine), but I've never felt quite the same magic with a new console since. There has been some high points: PSX ushers in 3D games, Dreamcast becomes one hell of a glorious finale for Sega as a console manufacturer, Halo drops my jaw more than once, and some current games' attention to detail really impresses me. But nothing can match the magic of the SNES era, or even the NES era for that matter. It's not nostalgia, it's great gameplay from a time before controllers started including a million buttons and analog sticks, when games were easy to jump into (to be fair, some really great games have been made that would be difficult or impossible to play with such simplistic controls... try playing an FPS on Dreamcast, for instance).

Maybe I'm just stubborn, or maybe I'm losing interest in gaming, but complex control schemes (and definitely anything that requires configuring before playing) turn me off. This is one of the reasons I was attracted to the Wii, and sure enough, there are some great games for it too, but not much that I'm totally raving about (but then again, I haven't bought any games in a while, as lately I've been playing some classic adventure games on the PC). I use the Wii for VC much more than anything else.

So, I don't know, but for me, the SNES was the pinnacle of gaming. Perhaps because it was so good, the Nintendo 64's "failure" was that much harder to swallow (wasn't so much of a failure, but a disappointment, and a failure to live up to the hype that was generated), but Nintendo seems to have lost some of the magic from the SNES days. I think part of the reason why retro gaming is so popular is because it's so easy to get into. And you can have just as much fun (often even more fun, depending on the games) with older, "simpler" games. I think the SNES pretty much capped off the era of gaming where you could have loads of gameplay without overly complicating things for casual players.

Contra III, anyone?



rarson commented on Mario Kart 64:

Sure, this game isn't Super Mario Kart, but I have a hard time accepting how often this game gets dogged. It's not a bad game. Personally, I think that SMK is incredibly awesome, but there wouldn't be much point in making the same exact game with some different tracks. So for me, the fact that it IS different is a plus because it's not the same old stuff rehashed (although there are updates to some of the old tracks, for instance).

The weak part about this game is definitely the graphics, the character sprites especially, as they don't even transition smoothly. I don't know, perhaps it was the franticness of Mode 7 graphics that made it less noticeable in SMK, but in MK64, rotating a character sprite is like taking a snap-shot every 45 degrees, and I'm a little surprised that Nintendo didn't put more effort into it (though the sprites themselves look plenty good to my eyes). The tracks also do feel a little sparse, especially on some of the larger ones, but I do like the ramps and banking added by the transition to 3D and it gives a new dimension to some of the bonuses and shortcuts.

And rubber-band AI is always annoying.

At the end of the day, this game isn't as good as SMK, which just seems to have gotten so many things right. MK64 has some flaws and feels like maybe Nintendo rushed it out the door to help the thin software library of the N64. But it's still a good game on its own, and retains a lot of the good qualities of SMK. I just think that some people dislike this game because it's not SMK, which is a shame, because I always have a lot of fun with it. And right now, it's the closest we've got to SMK on the VC, so I'm glad to have it.



rarson commented on 1080 Snowboarding:

This is another one of those polarizing games. For instance, if you like this game, chances are you might not dig into SSX too much.

This game was designed to be a realistic snowboard game, and Nintendo deserves credit for doing exactly that without sucking the fun out of it. I know, the tricks are hard to pull off. That's part of the fun though. I can run down a hill in SSX pulling off all sorts of crazy tricks just by mashing buttons. It doesn't work that way in 1080.

The graphics were awesome when the game came out and I still think they're pretty good. There's not a whole lot to add to a snowboard game to make it look much better than this, aside from maybe more polygons. The small number of tracks is one of my few complaints with this game, but what you do get is enough to have a lot of fun, and the game is really more about mastering the tricks anyway.

So yeah, obviously some people aren't going to like this game. I think it still remains one of the best console snowboarding games ever, but if you're more into the arcade style of games like SSX, then you might want to skip it. As a snowboarder myself, I appreciate the fact that the game is pretty well-grounded in the real world.



rarson commented on Cruis'n USA:

Alright, I have to admit that I liked Cruis'n USA when it was in the arcade. At the time, the graphics seemed pretty good and it was much harder to notice the wonky handling when you were sitting in an arcade cabinet with a steering wheel (of course, playing it today, the game feels absolutely ridiculous). There was even some pretty cool novelties in this game, like hitting deer or driving a bus, shortcuts, etc. that helped make it feel like a solid, competent racer. At the time, I thought it was decent competition for other arcade racers, like Ridge Racer.

I also enjoyed the fact that you got another free race if you won, which I could usually do the first time around (after that, it seems as though the rubber-band AI would make it impossible to get another free race). And of course, I loved it for the fact that I was getting a glimpse at the next generation of Nintendo hardware, the "Ultra 64." I think that probably even skewed my bias in favor of the game a bit.

But here's the thing: by the time this game came out on the Nintendo 64, it had already been far surpassed by other racers, both in the arcades and on home consoles of competitors Sony and Sega. I'm not even kidding when I say that nostalgia was the only reason to play this on the Nintendo 64 (with all the delays of the N64, it really did feel like it took THAT long to come out). And even that wasn't enough to save this game, because it barely resembled the arcade version.

When you looked back at the arcade game, which seemed a lot more polished (and yet still not all that graphically complex), it really made you wonder about the difference between the hardware in your console and the hardware in the arcade cabinet (which was supposed to be pretty much the same) and why the Nintendo 64 couldn't even handle such a simple arcade arcade game. I chalk that up to Midway doing an extremely poor port job. The frame rate problems seemed odd given that the graphics were "dumbed down" to accommodate the obviously less-powerful console, so clearly the code wasn't optimized for the hardware. I bet that the "Ultra 64" arcade hardware was significantly different from the final N64 hardware which went through so many delays, and Midway just scrambled to get it done as fast as possible as Nintendo had an extremely small number of launch titles.

The handling was ridiculous. Even in the arcade version, the cars rotated as if they were on a pole (which was even more noticeable when taken out of the arcade and put into the home using an analog thumb stick). They didn't feel like they're interacting with the track at all. In more recent arcade sequels (I would never insert another Cruis'n cartridge into my N64 again after this fiasco), they seem to have sped the games up a bit, which actually exacerbates the noticeably bad handling.

There is no AI to speak of in any Cruis'n game to date, as far as I can tell. You can feel your rivals hovering behind your car in the air just in front of your TV screen, as if they are chained to your bumper. You know they are there, because at the slightest mistake, they will slingshot ahead of you. And of course, sometimes they are inexplicably slower or faster than you (for no reason other than to make the race "close"), and there's simply nothing you can do about it. Midway is notorious for this "rubber-band" crap, and apparently someone in an office somewhere thought it makes games more fun, but it's extremely aggravating to have an entire race of flawless driving ruined by one little mistake near the end.

The first Cruis'n was definitely the best, and if you liked the game, maybe it's still worth a quarter in the arcade cabinet, but I rented the N64 version long ago (after being dissuaded from purchasing it by poor reviews) and was extremely disappointed. I think you'd have to be nuts to pay $10 for this game, to be honest (especially if you already bought the cart years ago).

Here's the bottom line: the arcade game was a disposable racer with a few novelties thrown in, meant to showcase the Ultra 64 hardware. Even the arcade version didn't even withstand the test of time by the time the home version came out. Then, instead of adding depth, updating the handling, or basically improving ANYTHING, they rush out a glitchy, crappy port. I liked the arcade game a lot, but this version even ruined that for me. If you pay money to download this game, you are a sucker. Sorry, but that's the inescapable truth.

I apologize for writing such a lengthy comment.



rarson commented on New Wii Ware game announced - Gravitronix:

I don't know why more developers aren't jumping on the WiiWare bandwagon. Especially the smaller guys. It just seems like a really great way to get into the gaming industry and get name recognition. Anyone with a Wii and an internet connection- and that's a lot of people- can buy your product without even leaving the house.

I already spend a decent amount of money on VC games. If there was actually something worth buying on WiiWare ("Everybody Votes" isn't even worth downloading for free), I'd be spending even more. VC games are great, but I'd love to have NEW downloadable games available, too. What are the developers waiting for???



rarson commented on Metroid:

After watching the video, there should be a spoiler alert! They give away "Justin Bailey" as a password! And on another note, I can't believe NES sound was so much crappier than Gameboy sound! The game sounds pretty bad!



rarson commented on Balloon Fight:

I just watched the video... the game seems more annoying to me than anything else. Doesn't look like it's my bag. Oh well.



rarson commented on Zelda II: The Adventure of Link:

The gold cart ruled! I loved this game when it originally came out. I'm not as big an RPG fan as the average Zelda fanatic though. I really liked the side-scrolling. Definitely different for a Zelda game.

I never played the first Zelda much, but I liked Zelda II a lot better. I'll probably be downloading both on the VC (though I don't think II is out yet in the US).