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.

 

Pinball Machines Almost Banned in 1978

Just like the pinball prohibition era in the US, an Australian council (Heidelberg, Victoria) took it upon themselves to ban pinball machines. This ABC TV report from July 13 1978 shows how close our silverball pastime came to being driven out of milk bars, cafes and fish and chip takeaway shops!

If this ban had gone ahead, we may have required the pinball wizardry of Roger Sharpe to reverse the ban order! Luckily cooler heads prevailed.


source: ABC TV

 

Atari Star Wars: Ultimate Arcade Game Based On The Franchise

Star Wars, the arcade video game may have just celebrated its 34th anniversary, but did you know how much it cost to make and what George Lucas thought of the game?

The Star Wars franchise has been going from strength to strength for 40 years and there is no sign of its star power going supernova. Atari may have waited a few years to make their awesome vector based coin-op game on the great franchise, but it was definitely worth the wait.

Released amid the American video games crash, Atari’s Star Wars (1983) was a godsend for operators and players alike. With its distinct sit-down cockpit and upright versions invading amusement centres, Atari’s Coin-Op division created a buffer from the wreckage of the industry around it. Starting out as Warp Speed, Atari’s Mike Hally quickly changed the game title to Star Wars once Atari secured the license – and the rest as they say, is history.

Looking at the Atari Star Wars bill of materials, it is unbelievable to fathom that the arcade unit cost was a mere USD$1,249 back in 1983, which is (approx.) USD$3,090 in today’s money, which is still damn cheap! The arcade version was given the seal of approval from Mr. Star Wars himself, George Lucas with a plaque that reads, “A special thanks for creating THE FORCE behind so much fun”. Once inside the cockpit, Lucas was smitten and the game went gangbusters, selling thousands of units, making Atari (or more accurately, Time Warner) a ton of money!

The FORCE will always be with Atari’s classic coin-op. Always!

Atari Star Wars – cockpit concept sketch (source: arcade blogger)

The bill of material! (source: atarigames.com)

Cockpit prototype (source: atarigames.com)

The finished product! She is (still) a beaut!

Atari execs watch in anticipation as George Lucas takes a test fly! He likes it! (source: video-game-ephemera)

George getting some game play pointers from Atari’s Don Osborne (source: arcade blogger)

Our preferred arcade flyer (via: the arcade flyer archive)

 

Crash Bandicoot: The Complete History

With the current N.Sane appetite for all things Crash Bandicoot, Slope’s Games Room’s Daniel Ibbertson thought the time was nigh to delve into the complete history of Australia’s favourite insectivorous marsupial.

So crash on your couch and watch this 40 minute Crash Bandicoot documentary – it leaves no stone unturned!


source: Daniel Ibbertson

 

Atari Panther: The Extinct Cat

In 1988 Atari Corporation’s Jack Tramiel ordered work to begin on the successor to the Atari 7800 and XEGS. Work quickly begun on the Panther and Jaguar consoles – yes, the Jaguar! The Atari Panther was being developed by Flare Technology (Flare One and Konix Multisystem) and was scheduled for release in 1991, directly competing with Nintendo’s SNES and Sega’s Mega Drive.

The Panther platform was going to be a mash up of the Atari ST and Transputer “Blossom” video card, once again blurring the lines of “is it 16 or 32-bit?”. For the record, the Motorola 68000 CPU was going to run at 16MHz (compared to the Mega Drive’s 8MHz and the SNES’ 12MHz) which was going to be paired with a 32-bit graphics card running at a whopping 32MHz! On paper, Atari was doing their math(s) right!

As the Panther and Jaguar were being developed in parallel, Atari Corp. started favouring the Jaguar as it was progressing quickly and presented far more impressive and superior technology. Atari eventually decided to scrap the Panther and forge ahead with their 64-bit console. The cancellation of the Panther meant that Atari had no hardware presence in the home console market between the discontinuation of the Atari 7800 in 1992 and the launch of their Jaguar in 1993. This gap weakened the Atari brand and likely contributed to the failure of the Jaguar console.

The cancellation of the Panther was poor timing, which in retrospect Atari wishes they had pursued it to market, as it would have given both the SNES and Mega Drive one hell of a fight!

The Atari Panther blueprint!

Looking good – front, back with nice sides!

The press release that got us drooling!

image source: Atari-Explorer via Wayback Machine

 

Neohabitat Reawakens Lucasfilm’s First MMORPG

It seems that we may have been living under a rock all this time! We are the first to admit that we aren’t massive fans of adventure or RPG style games, but when the C64 is involved, we always sit up and take note!

Now cast your mind back to 1986 when Lucasfilm Games (LucasArts) began previewing their new online game Habitat (developed a year earlier) in magazines of the time. If you are lucky enough to remember, you’d recall that the game looked bloody amazing, a cross between an adventure game and something akin to an online chat room. If your recollections are a bit fuzzy, then think of a multiplayer SCUMM game before Lucasfilm were anywhere near releasing Maniac Mansion! Then, the game went into a closed beta and didn’t see the light of day till 1988, when it was scaled back as Club Caribe. Ah, you would be forgiven in thinking that the game was lost to the sands of time. But wait, there is a new ending to this story.

Before we get swept away by the nostalgic tide, let us give you the good news – Neohabitat have reawakened the original Lucasfilm Habitat server, which is now available for anyone and everyone to play online – for free! How awesome is that! It will feel familiar to those accustomed to the SCUMM-like interface, complete with cross hairs with a modern twist, which ain’t a bad thing at all.

Who would have thought that we’d be playing an MMORPG in 2017 that was made over three decades ago! It is indeed a great time to be a retro gamer!

source: Bobby Blackwolf on YouTube

Concept art for the box cover of Lucasfilm’s Habitat game. Source: Wikipedia