NFL Blitz Turns 20

By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

From the first time I played the arcade version of Midway’s NFL Blitz at a movie theatre arcade, I was hooked. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the release of the colorful, over-the-top football game in arcades. And yes, that makes me feel old too.

Before there was Madden, there was Blitz if you were an NFL fan and gamer. Blitz wasn’t as technical and stylized as a year of Madden, but it was just as fun and competitive to play with your friends. When Nintendo 64 released Blitz, the game was so different than any other football game on the market.

Blitz had a blown up exaggeration to it with the humorous violence when you tackled an opposing player. The explosive crunching sounds and the streak of light behind the ball when you threw it deep elevated the gaming experience. The graphics and play popped off the smallest of television screens.

The “late hits” after plays were a bit much; so much so, it’s one of the reasons, along with some of the graphic collisions, the NFL almost offered to refund Midway’s licensing fee. I’m sure the NFL was pleased when they saw the early numbers of units sold.

Everyone I knew who had a Playstation or Nintendo 64 system owned Blitz. Like Madden or Goldeneye, playing Blitz was a happening at a friend’s house. I can’t count how many times in high school I participated in an NFL Blitz tournament. No money was ever involved, but a friend had to wash my Jeep after I humiliated him in a rout.

On weekends, I would play an entire season (usually with the Cowboys or Broncos) in a single day. And I loved the pitch play. My go-to-play was always “Da Bomb,” or the pitch to my running back down the right sideline. The reverse pass play was always a must on a difficult drive as well.

As much as I’ve enjoyed years of Madden, I think I have fonder memories of playing Blitz. It wasn’t as formal as Madden, but the action was just as enthralling and challenging. When you scored a touchdown against a really good opponent, it was just as gratifying as when you scored in a competitive Madden duel. And, I would know, I’ve played against some exceptional Madden players.

Twenty years ago, Midway created one of the most enjoyable football games ever. It still holds up, and when I play it, I’m flooded with bittersweet memories of close wins and crushing defeats.

I hope, somewhere in a lively arcade, kids are still playing and discovering a version of NFL Blitz.

source: The Arcade Flyer Archive

 

Superman 64: The Worst Video Game Ever Made

By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

When I was a kid, I was so ecstatic when I read that Nintendo 64 was releasing a Superman game. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it and play it.

Fortunately, my friend down the street bought Superman 64 before I did. I was lucky enough to never spend a dime on the controversial game made by Titus Software.

Superman 64 begins with Lex Luther telling you “You will never find your friends in this world…” That confused me. The game isn’t set in Metropolis, it’s set in Luther’s “virtual world.” You would think that the natural setting for a game starring Superman would be Metropolis. Too many cooks in the creative kitchen at Titus Software perhaps?

The dumb, unimaginative plot of the game has you (as the Man of Steel) go through a simple maze in Lex’s “virtual world” to save Superman’s friends. All you do for most of the game is fly through an unbearable number of rings that get tedious after ten seconds. Why did anyone think that this would make for an appealing game? It has the kiss of death for a console game: it’s boring.

It’s incredibly hard to control Superman’s course of flight at times. If you have Superman at the centre of your game, you would think developers would’ve had a surplus of ideas that they could incorporate into the game to make it exceptional. The game was released in 1999; there were a lot of back issues of Superman for them to pull appealing ideas from.

At one point in Superman 64, you have to pick up a police car and carry it to the end of a street…real exciting stuff. During one mission, you have to blow random tornadoes away with your super breathe. And yes, I just wrote that sentence.

“LEX WINS.” I got so sick of “LEX WINS.” And you hear Lex do some creepy, stoner-like chuckle every time he wins. Then, in all of that excitement, you have to fly through more rings. There are no instructions for how to fly or breathe your super breath. There are moments in the game where you have a timer, and then, during other stages, there’s no timer at all. It also takes a long time for Superman to get back up when he is knocked down. That was frustrating, and nothing about Superman’s ability to take a punch should be frustrating.

There were moments during Superman 64 where you would get stuck in corners of the game and it would take a moment to find a way to fly again. When I played this frustrating game, I had no idea that Titus Software hadn’t actually finished it. I found that out much later. But just from the confusing game play and the strange, green haze in Lex’s “virtual world,” it was obvious that Titus developers had a little trouble in the developing stage of Superman 64.

If flying through rings surrounded by a green haze sounds like a fun gaming experience, you may enjoy Superman 64? As a huge Superman fan and gamer, this game was a big disappointment. Titus should have never let this game see the light of day.

 

How a Mario Kart Movie Could Work

By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

Nintendo’s Mario Kart 64 was one of my favourite video games growing up. I played the racing game regularly after school and on weekends with my friends.

2008’s Mario Kart Wii and 2005’s Mario Kart DS are two of Nintendo’s top selling video games; roughly 60 million in combined sales. With sales like that for just two versions of the iconic game, you would think a film adaptation of Mario Kart would be in the works by a film studio. But most films based on video games have failed miserably at the box office and with critics.

I wish I could erase my memory of seeing the confusing, badly edited Assassin’s Creed adaptation that was released last December.

A Mario Kart movie could work if handled correctly. Movies based on video games have always taken themselves so seriously; especially the Resident Evil franchise. If a director or screenwriter did something fun with the world of Mario Kart, like what Phil Lord and Christopher Miller did with The Lego Movie, it could be a really entertaining film. It would have to be animated and the humour would have to be smart for kids and adults.

Although, a live-action Mario Kart could be hard to get greenlit by a major studio because 1993’s Super Mario Bros., with Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo, bombed magnificently at the box office. But an animated version, perhaps even a Lego Mario Kart, could be successful if the right filmmakers who know the Mario Kart world write a clever, original script.

A Mario Kart film about a single race through several stages could be interesting if the characters are fleshed out. The game’s world is vast; there’s a treasure trove of situations and conflicts that could make for a fascinating film.

Until then, I’m sure another instalment of Resident Evil is in the works. The franchise has made $1.2 billion worldwide. The last film was The Final Chapter… sure, we’ll see about that.

 

Super Nintendo Empire: The Vader Challenge

By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

Darth Vader is such a fascinating film character. He goes away for a while, and then he comes roaring back into our pop culture conscience, better than ever.

After the spectacularly imaginative ending to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Vader is once again as popular as ever. There is something gratifying about seeing people of all ages wearing Darth Vader t-shirts again.

Like the original film trilogy, Super Nintendo’s The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1993, was the best of the Super Star Wars game series.

If you were a talented enough gamer to ultimately advance to Darth Vader, he was very difficult to defeat. That’s what made the game so good. Vader was a challenge, and battling him as Luke Skywalker was really a treat when I played the game as a kid.

Empire has the best lightsaber duel of the entire Star Wars film franchise. And I don’t care what anyone says, the Empire duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in Empire is more dramatic and thrilling than their final duel in Return of the Jedi. Just because it’s the coda of the original trilogy doesn’t make it the best lightsaber battle; satisfying, yes, but not on par with the duel that leads to Cloud City’s central air shaft.

image source: Pinterest

The lightsaber battle in the game is very similar to the one at the end of the 1980 film. However, Vader is a lot taller than Luke in the game; he’s almost giant-like compared to the young Jedi. As a child gamer, I found Vader’s height to be a little intimidating.

I spent many entertaining hours fighting Vader; to a point where I would keep track of how long it would take me to defeat him…if I defeated him. Vader’s not messing around at the end of the game. My friends and I called it “The Vader Challenge.” It was an ideal way to reenact the battle at the end of one of my favourite films.

The rest of the game action is enjoyable, but nothing is as testing and exceptional as the duel with Vader. Battling the AT-AT Walkers on the planet Hoth is really fun as well. The graphics are exceptional and the degree of difficulty adds a layer that makes this a game young Star Wars fans should try playing if they can find a Super NES copy.

It’ll stress you out a few times, but “The Vader Challenge” at the end is worth the anxiety.

 

Why Isn’t There An ABBA Pinball Machine?


By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

Aerosmith, KISS, AC/DC and Metallica all have one. The Rolling Stones and Guns N’ Roses have one too.
Why doesn’t ABBA, who has sold more than 375 million albums and singles worldwide and been offered a rumoured nine figure deal to tour again, have a pinball machine on the market?

It’s hard to believe that Stern or Jersey Jack Pinball haven’t thought about obtaining the licensing rights for the Swedish super group that produced huge hits like Mamma Mia and SOS from 1972 to 1982.

Take a Chance On Me and Dancing Queen seem like perfect extra ball or bonus points sound cues for a pinball machine.

A DJ friend once told me, “There’s two types of people: those who love ABBA and those who love ABBA and don’t admit it.”

Some have called ABBA tacky; I think they were pop kitsch. And in all of that bubblegum kitsch, the music still brings joy to a great deal of people globally. Pop kitsch is ideal for an attention grabbing pinball machine.

An ABBA pinball machine would appeal to a large spectrum of music lovers. ABBA is a cross generational band. Ages range from teenagers to grandparents who love Dancing Queen. And the Meryl Streep film ‘Mamma Mia’ has strengthened people’s affection for a group that parted ways thirty-five years ago. However, ABBA never officially broke up.

I can just imagine a group of young people at an arcade or bar putting coins into an ABBA pinball machine, hearing Dancing Queen as their first game ball drops for play, “having the time of their lives.”

 

Alien 3: Okay Film, Great Game

By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

David Fincher’s Alien3 divides many fans of the Alien franchise, which is on its sixth film with Alien: Covenant. I’m not counting the Alien vs. Predator stinkers.

Alien3 was one of my favourite games when it was released on Super Nintendo. It was your basic action platform game as you played Ripley saving the convicts before they would get impregnated by the face huggers, and at the end of each level you had to fight against a big Xenomorph who would spit acid at you.

The graphics were exceptional and the face huggers were always the hardest to kill with their low, stealthy attacks that you could forget about while freeing prisoners and fighting off the large Xenomorphs. And, as you advanced to higher levels, the face huggers became more aggressive and harder to destroy.

The game for Super Nintendo was more like James Cameron’s masterpiece Aliens, but with an Alien3, prison backdrop. In Alien3, Ripley is never running around the prison complex with a gun. In Alien3 there are no guns (one of Sigourney Weaver’s requests). However, there were scissors, which I always thought was ludicrous. In the previous film, Aliens, there’s a platoon of soldiers who have an arsenal of guns and explosives, and almost all of them die by the end of the film. But in Alien3, a pair of scissors will apparently save you?

Ripley’s jumps in the game were awkward. And when you would finally destroy a large Xenomorph, they would always explode in a choppy way. The prison design was well made, but every advancing level sort of looks the same with just a slight graphics change.

I played the game so much; I can still remember how frustrated I would get when the face huggers would drop from the ceiling. They would always diminish my energy supply. When I was younger, I loved it when games were difficult, and Alien3 was pretty difficult. I would never play it unless I knew I had a few hours to spare.

Alien3 is probably one of the best basic action platform games behind Ghosts & Goblins and Double Dragon II. The Xenomorphs looked stunning and they’re movements were very much like they are in the films.

I’m sure the makers of Alien3, especially Fincher, who never talks about the film, could care less if the film produced a memorable game. The film has some beautiful shots and the films score, by Elliot Goldenthal, is perhaps one of the best scores of the franchise. The writing is a little sloppy. Why do you kill the great Charles Dance halfway through the picture?

With the game, you control the story; when you’re watching the much maligned film, you’re in the hands of the filmmakers.

image source: just-gamers.fr

 

GoldenEra: An Intriguing Documentary

By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

Why did former Beatle and rock legend George Harrison give the British comedy troupe Monty Python $4 million dollars to go off and make Monty Python’s Life of Brian? Because he wanted to see it. Eric Idol, of Monty Python, said,” It’s still the most anyone has ever paid for a cinema ticket.”

While listening to a sports radio show, I heard that a film company in Australia was crowdfunding for a documentary about the Nintendo 64 classic game GoldenEye 007, called GoldenEra. I thought to myself, I’d really like to see that.

I have never participated in a crowdfunding project, but there was something about a documentary centred on the phenomenon and legacy of GoldenEye 007 that changed my mind. Also, it being the 20th anniversary of the groundbreaking first-person shooter (FPS) game, made contributing money to the project even more alluring.

I went onto the Indiegogo campaign page and became a backer. For my first time, it was kind of exciting.

In high school, my friends and I would play GoldenEye 007 constantly. We called it Bond for short. There’s no telling how many times, after classes, my friends would say, “Let’s play some Bond.” It was a bonding experience for all of us, and it came in handy when we were broke on weekends.

Once, when two of my best friends almost got in a fistfight over something foolish, I made them settle it over a game of Bond. I deterred violence with some fake, simulated violence. And after some split screen multi-player action, they had forgotten what they were upset about. My girlfriend, during my freshman year of college, was better at Bond than I was. She had her own N64 console back home and she really schooled me at times.

I have so many fond memories of playing Goldeneye in high school and college. Sure, we were sitting on our rumps playing a video game for hours, but playing Bond was something that we shared that brought out our competitiveness; and it was a nice relief from stressing about your grades and other teen pressures.

Who ended up beating who didn’t matter and the scores were quickly forgotten, but having something fun that we all enjoyed doing together was rare and ultimately important; even if we weren’t aware of it at the time.

I’ve never played any of the other popular first-person shooter games that followed GoldenEye. I have never played any of the Halo games. I think if I ever played one of the many versions of Halo, I would be comparing it to GoldenEye the whole time. GoldenEye made that much of an impact on my gaming.

I hope the project reaches its crowdfunding goal. The filmmakers are aiming for a 2017 release. If it makes it a more entertaining documentary, perhaps they should wait to release it when they think it’s perfect.

source: GoldenEra on IndieGoGo