Wednesday, July 25, 2012

TRON games, Atari 2600, 1982.

Though contemporaries describe the Tron game spin-offs (for once, wholly justified) as the only redeemable byproduct from the colossally flop-py movie, and despite the timelessness of the Light Cycles (Surround) gameplay (TRace ON indeed), the movie has aged somewhat more gracefully than its game adaptations. Let's face it -- if your graphics engine can't even handle depicting the filled-vector aesthetic it's intended to display, you probably won't find many adherents today. (Maybe TRON - the roguelike?)

The film's ascension into cultish elder statesman status isn't such a surprise -- there is a lot in it to like. Me, I'm especially fond of Wendy Carlos' original soundtrack (Daft Punk don't hold a candle to her!) Of course, my parents are fond of recounting the story of toddler me spelling out the movie's name (well, T-O-R-N -- close enough!) in my letter blocks, so perhaps I'm nostalgically biased. The movie can be admittedly pretty dopey, but that was just a harbinger of dopiness to come in summer blockbusters hitherto undreamed-of!

The awesome MCP is taking over another computer! Only this time it's your Atari(r) 2600! Only you can stop him!

TRON Deadly Discs, Adventures of TRON

Call it a paucity of imagination on my part, but not only can't I imagine what MCP would do with the awesome horsepower of a VCS at his disposal, I can't even imagine how he would get in. (Was it the 2600 that had some sort of PLATO interface cart?) This ad isn't even shilling for any of the A-list TRON games (hello, Light Cycles again), but the clean depiction of a Recognizer means I don't care. I haven't played either of these (the 2600 is one of my lost generations), but visually Adventures of TRON is immediately reminiscent of a Broderbund game I played at a friend's after school, entitled DROL, on one of the plethora of incompatible systems of the day. The sneakernet sure was difficult to perpetrate when your TRS-80 CoCo didn't speak Commodore 64-ese with your friend's home computer. C'mon -- BASIC is BASIC, right? They're both written by Microsoft! Well, sorry, but no. But -- ah, I digress!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"Tekken 3", PlayStation, 1998.

This is not a great ad. The uncanny valley quality of the photorealistic artwork is impressive, but what that tells us isn't that the in-game graphics are great but that an artist made one great still image for use in the ad. Tekken laymen such as myself don't see this portrait and go "Holy spit, CEO Heihachi Mishima, the toughest Objectivist badass in Namco's whole ludography, is back in another game to advance the heartbreaking family soap opera tale of his clan! This'll be awesome!!!" We go "Hmm... this game features a character who is an old man who has adapted Asterix's winged helmet motif into his hairstyle. Fine, but why should I care?" His face alone perhaps isn't worth a double-page advertising spread.
Expository text is considered extraneous (is this picture worth a thousand words?)
The face of fighting.
Tekken 3

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fellow Traveler supplemental - Star Wars radio adaptation, 1981

Yes, Star Wars in the theatre was exciting. But what next? Initially the film wasn't even framed as part of a series -- that "Episode IV" business was shoehorned in after the initial release revealed that there was some money to be made making more of these. Meco's disco version of its theme song would take a while to record and release on 8-track, and no one was pessimistic enough to anticipate the Star Wars Holiday Special around the corner!

Well... there's always the radio adaptation! Using the greatest technology of the early 20th century to tell this futuristic tale of, well, "a long time ago", we can gather a couple of the actors around a microphone and invite the audience to use their imaginations to reproduce ILM's unprecedented special effects. (In this one, let's blow up FIFTY Death Stars!)

How do you reach the Star Wars fans? In comic books, naturally. This was a couple of years after Mark Hamill's injury but it looks like his reference shots were made right after his car accident.

Sorry for this odd artifact and its video game irrelevance. Next post, back to the game mines!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising", Game Boy Advance, 2003.

Advance Wars was a strategy series I have heard only raves about, regrettably tied to a handheld console I never owned. This brilliant and subdued ad emphasizes this platform-exclusive coupling, selling the Game Boy Advance as much as the game. When Nintendo makes mistakes, it makes big mistakes, but it consistently gets a lot right -- especially in the wake of the Nintendo 64, now that having defeated their rival Sega they can't afford to share its fate and get thrown to the sharks at Sony and Microsoft. No matter -- Nintendo has been in the games business since the 1800s, originally a playing card manufacturer for yakuza. They're not going anywhere. On some level I see them doing what America did during the World Wars -- waiting for the current superpowers to bludgeon themselves into dust, so it can come back in full force and sweep up.

Ah, I digress. But what I digress from is extemporizing on the subject of a game I've never played, so you're not missing much. Military strategy on a handheld? Sure, if Nintendo wants to resurrect commercially defunct gaming genres for a niche market, they're welcome to. And if they profit obscenely in the process, that's their business.

Roll out the heavy artillery.

Mobilize your ground force over all-new terrain, mount a massive aerial assault against new enemies and coordinate a campaign designed to shock your enemy. You are the commanding officer. Let the relentless bombardment begin.