Tuesday Treasures: The King of Fighters ’94 Turns 20

We’ve got a good one for you today, folks. As some of you may know, yesterday marked the 20th anniversary of SNK’s classic arcade fighting game, The King of Fighters ’94!

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Happy Birthday! Pic comes from giantbomb.com.

Released in Japanese arcades for SNK’s Neo-Geo MVS hardware on August 25, 1994, The King of Fighters ’94 is the first game in SNK’s long running King of Fighters series. Unique for its time, KOF ’94 features eight teams consisting of three fighters from around the globe. Matches consist of battles between two teams of three fighters, instead of the more common two rounds between two fighters matchup. Matches are over when one team has all of its fighters knocked out first.

The game’s plot centers on Rugal Bernstein, a notorious criminal who holds the “King of Fighters” tournament in order to seek out the world’s best warriors. Of course, he does this to have a good ‘ol evil time, but is opposed by heroes such as Kyo Kusanagi and the Japan team, as well as brothers Terry and Andy Bogard (of Fatal Fury fame) from the Italy team.

KOF ’94 features characters from a number of SNK’s franchises such as Psycho SoldierArt of Fighting, and Metal Slug. This was an innovative practice at the time, and Sega and Nintendo both would later follow suit with Fighters Megamix and Super Smash Bros. respectively. However, some characters, specifically series hero Kusanagi and villain Bernstein, were created especially the game. If you’re interested, you can see some of these characters in the intro to KOF ’94 (respect to Ferdaus Ahmad Zaki for the upload), which is embedded below.

KOF ’94 was a hit upon its release, leading to the start of an enduring franchise of video games that had a new title released each year for several years. The series has been successful in merchandise (including comic books and action figures), and has even been adapted into to an animated series and live action movie.

I remember the first time I saw KOF ’94. It was in an Aladdin’s Castle arcade room at Harlem & Irving Plaza here in Illinois. Upon first glance, I wasn’t exactly sure what the game was. Although it was a 2D fighting game, it didn’t look like Street Fighter (KOF’s sprites were much bigger) and it didn’t look like any of the Mortal Kombat games either. However, from the moment I saw Kyo’s hand burn his invitation to the KOF tournament in the game’s intro, I became intrigued. It may not have been clear exactly what I was witnessing, but it was something serious. After some hesitation, I finally decided to give the game a try.

I hated it.

Perhaps it was my familiarity with Street Fighter that prevented me from initially enjoying KOF ’94 , but most likely it was due to my lack of fighting game skill. Still, Street Fighter provided the foundation for what I knew about fighting games, mostly because I had not played SNK’s previous fighting games often (I may have played an Art of Fighting game once at the most).

Some of the things I learned from Street Fighter– namely the quarter-circle forward punch command for that game’s “Hadoken” special move– actually worked in KOF ’94, but only with certain characters. Since I was unfamiliar with the game’s mechanics, I spent much of the match just jumping up and down while kicking. If you hadn’t guessed, the game’s A.I. whooped me.

Despite the rough beginning, there were things about the game that I did appreciate, first of which were its graphics. Like many SNK games, KOF ’94 had colorful, large, detailed 2D character sprites, really some of the best of its time. Furthermore, the game had great sound effects, especially evident in the hits characters delivered. Every blow sounded like it came out of a martial-arts film, providing a great sensation of damage.

It wasn’t until my adult years that I learned to really appreciate KOF for what is, though ironically enough, that appreciation came through a Capcom fighting game, 2001’s Capcom vs. SNK 2.

Cvs2

Pic comes from snk.wikia.com

This game was a collaborative effort between Capcom and SNK, and included characters from both companies’ games. CVS2 features a tutorial I used to take time and actually learn many of SNK’s characters, an effort that served me well in playing the later games in the KOF series.

That about does it for this segment. For a nice tribute to the KOF series, do check out Game Art HQ’s site for a number of great illustrations by fans of the series. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

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See Ya, HoH

As the old saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.” Here on the Chomp of course, we realize this well after said thing has ended.

Normally around this time, I was watching “House of Horrors,” a weekly internet program broadcast by GameSpot on Twitch.tv. The show, made by GameSpot’s Australian branch, featured hosts Jessica McDonell and Zorine Te as they played through various horror games, ranging from classics such as Resident Evil 2 to more obscure titles such as The Cat Lady. For the past year and a half (even while football was on) HoH held my attention.

Unfortunately, HoH was canceled last week, and all of GameSpot’s live shows save for “The Lobby,” “Now Playing,” and the new “On The Front Line” are gone too. This is the result of a major restructuring that GameSpot’s parent company CBS is doing which has also caused it to cut several jobs. Hopefully all those who are out of work will find something soon if they haven’t yet.

Sometimes goofy and always entertaining, House of Horrors was one of the best internet shows I’ve seen. Not only did viewers get to see a wide variety of video games, they were also treated to the humor of highly likable hosts McDonell and Te. McDonell was prone to excited outbursts and copious swearing while Te was more reserved and straight-faced. It was an excellent pairing of personalities that made for a number of hilarious moments.

One of my favorite moments from the show was when the duo recorded Te playing the remake of the original Resident Evil, which is set in a mansion. Te was being chased by a zombie on one of the mansion’s upper floors, when a viewer told her she could drop down from the balcony to the floor below. It seemed to be sage advice, since players are able to this in Resident Evil 4 (although not some of the earlier titles).

Te followed the viewer’s advice, but when she went to the edge of the balcony, she found she couldn’t leap down. Of course, the zombie gained on her, causing McDonell much distress. She told the viewers not to take advantage of Te’s kindness, whereas Te herself said, “This is why we can’t have nice things.”

Occasionally McDonell and Te were joined on the show by some of their GameSpot colleagues. Ed Tran and Dan Hines from GameSpot Australia were on a few shows, and they always provided their own type of humor. Ed was somewhat similar to McDonell, providing sudden (and sometimes profane) outbursts when things got hairy while Dan was usually as deadpan as a Norm McDonald joke. Seb Ford, funnyman from GameSpot’s UK office, stopped in once to play with his mate McDonell.

If you ever want to see what the show was like, GameSpot still has some episodes of the show archived on its Twitch channel. Also, do check out Te’s personal blog, Forevergamie, which is here on WordPress.

That does it for this segment. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Edit: Apparently GameSpot has a new live show called “On the Front Line,” which I didn’t know about when this article was first published. That show’s been added in now.

The Sega Genesis Turns 25

Oh we’ve got a good one for you, folks. So good that no excuse about how the Chomp’s been (or hasn’t been) over the summer can keep this post from getting uploaded before midnight. Twenty-five years ago to the day, the Sega Genesis debuted in the North American market!

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The first North American Genesis design.  Photo comes from wikipedia.com

Boy, do I feel old.

Technically, this post can be considered as being almost a year late, since the Mega Drive, the first incarnation of what would be the Genesis, was first released in Japan on October 29, 1988. Since I didn’t do a post on the Mega Drive, I’ve decided to celebrate the Genesis’ 25th on the day it debuted in the North American market. Without further ado, let’s get into some history.

For much of the 1980s, Nintendo’s Famicom (released as the Nintendo Entertainment System here in North America) dominated the home video game console market in Japan and the world since its debut in 1983. Sega had previously entered the home video game market in 1983 as well with the release of the SG-1000 and the Sega Mark III (known as the Sega Master System abroad) two years later. Even with the Master System’s success in Europe, neither console was able to put much of a dent into Nintendo’s total worldwide sales.

Despite the mostly lukewarm returns from its previous two efforts, Sega decided to jump back into the home console market. The company had a battle ahead of it, as Nintendo’s dominance had only strengthened. In 1987, NEC released the powerful 16-bit PC Engine (known internationally as the TurboGrafx-16)  gaming system in Japan to much acclaim. To keep pace, Sega decided that its next effort should have more horsepower, and Masami Ishikawa (who had previously worked on the SG-1000 and Master System)  was selected to lead a research and development team to create the company’s next project, a 16-bit console of its own.

Dubbed the “Mega Drive”, Sega’s new console was to be powered by the Motorola 68000 processor, and used a motherboard similar to the ones used in the company’s arcade machines. A top-loading cartridge based system, the Mega Drive was built for performance, and was capable of running home versions of Sega’s arcade offerings at the time.

Upon its release in 1988, the Mega Drive failed to get much of a foothold in the Japanese home console market, coming in third behind the PC Engine and the still top-selling Famicom. In January of the following year, Sega announced that it would be releasing the Mega Drive in North America.

In the North American market, Sega got aggressive. It upped the fire with its advertising campaign, and came out with guns blazing from the jump. Due to a trademark dispute with the American company Mega Drive Systems, Inc., Sega renamed its console the “Genesis.”  The company boldly got after its rival Nintendo, leading to the now classic (and infamous) “Genesis Does What Nintendon’t” ad campaign (video uploaded by SegaCDUniverse).

From the time the Genesis hit the North American market in 1989, its rivalry with Nintendo sizzled. Nintendo increase the heat itself with the release of the Super Famicom (AKA Super Nintendo) in Japan the next year and in North America and the UK in 1991 and 1992 respectively. For much of the early to mid 1990s, Sega versus Nintendo was the talk of the video game world.

Around the mid-1990s, Sega began to focus its efforts on its upcoming 32-bit console, the Saturn. Sega sold the Gensis until 1997, when it turned over the licensing of the console to Majesco. In 1999, Majesco ended discontinued sales of its Genesis units. While on the market, the Genesis was estimated to have sold around 40 million units worldwide, making it Sega’s top-selling console.

I remember the first time I played the Genesis was at a shopping mall (remember those?) back in the early 1990s. The original Sonic the Hedgehog was loaded up in the console, and every kid within earshot of it was captivated by the system.

When it was my turn to play, I was immediately floored. After playing the NES for a few years, the leap from its 8-bit gameplay to the 16-bit experience the Genesis offered was huge. The gameplay, graphics, sound and music (especially the music) were all mind-blowing at the time. I nearly got motion sickness playing as Sonic because he was so friggin’ quick. He moved across the screen in a fashion different from any other character seen before, and it was amazing.

The Genesis was my second video game console, the first being the NES. I received it as a gift on Christmas in 1994, and I still have it, box and all, to this day. My console is the Sonic the Hedgehog 2 bundle, which consists of that game, a controller, and the Model 2 version of the Genesis system.

Thanks, mom.

Thanks, mom. Photo comes from Amazon.com

A few years later I received a 32X, one of two add-ons for the system (the first being the Sega CD) for my birthday, and I honestly enjoyed it. I had a few games for it, namely Virtua FighterVirtua RacingT-Mek and Star Wars Arcade (which according to YouTube, is not impossible to beat). Video game history may not be entirely kind to the 32X, but it was given with love and I still love it.

It was cool to me. Photo comes come from Segaretro.org.

Some of my best memories of gaming as a kid come from playing Genesis games. It was the console that allowed me to play the first copy of a Street Fighter game I ever owned, in this case Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition. For that alone, it’s special. Hard to believe that Sega’s out of the console business, its last one being the Dreamcast which deubted in 1999.

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Guile (L) brought the sonic but M. Bison (R) brought the boom. Pic comes from Giant Bomb.

That about does it for this segment. For more on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, do check out the redoubtable Jeremy Parish’s article on the system from last year, and SegaRetro.org for general Sega info. Happy 25th Genesis! Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

 

 

RIP Robin Williams

As I have said far too many times before on this blog, there is no news like bad news. I’m getting to this a bit late, but in case you haven’t heard, the bad news is the death of one of entertainment’s greatest artists, Robin Williams.

Photo comes from forexlive.com

The news of William’s death dropped like a hammer on Monday, and its stung ever since. Williams, who was born in Chicago, was found dead in his home in Tiburon, California. He was 63.

A tour-de-force of energy, Williams was a star of stage, television and screen. He could make you laugh, cry, and laugh some more. A brilliant stand-up comedian, Williams went on several tours in the 1970s and won a Grammy for a recording of his work. His fame further blossomed in television when he portrayed the alien Mork in the 1978 television show Mork and Mindy. Williams would find even more success on the silver screen, going on to star in a number of movies over the years, among them Good Morning, Vietnam, Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Hook, Good Will Hunting (for which he won an Academy Award) and the Night at the Museum films

Williams was one of my favorite entertainers. He was just so much fun to watch, and brought so much energy into his roles. Even in his interviews he was a riot; the jokes would just pour out of him. He was just incredibly gifted at making people smile.

Despite all of the sad news regarding Williams, we gamers do have something cheerful about him to look forward to. An avid gamer himself, Williams played a number of titles, including The Legend of Zelda (more on that later). To honor Williams’ presence in the gaming community, World of Warcraft member Jacob Holgate started a petition on Change.org to ask WoW creator Blizzard to create an NPC (non-player character) in honor of the late artist. Holgate and the petitioners requested that this NPC tell some of Williams jokes at World’s End Tavern, a locale in the game

The petition was a huge success, garnering over 11,000 signatures in 24 hours. It attracted the attention of Chadd Nervig, a game designer at Blizzard, who tweeted that the company will be “taking care of it.”

As mentioned earlier, Williams was a fan of the The Legend of Zelda, and even named his oldest daughter, Zelda Rae Williams, after the game’s title character. Not only that, he made some commercials for a few Legend of Zelda games:

Ocarina of Time 3D (Uploaded by EliteGamer)

Four Swords (Uploaded by MellyBeanGamer)

And Skyward Sword (Uploaded by ZeldaSkywardSword)

We’ll miss you, Robin; you were one of the best. Until next time, folks.

Nanu Nanu

 

 

Meet the First Woman to Run a Major U.S. Pro Sports Union

Times are changing.

TIME

“I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about breaking a glass ceiling,” says Michele Roberts, the new executive director of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA). She went ahead and shattered one anyway.

Roberts, who was named union chief early this week, is the first woman to head a players union for the top four U.S. pro sports leagues (basketball, football, baseball, hockey). Given the outsized impact of sports business on American culture, the importance of this appointment can’t be overstated. “Michele will inherently be a role model for girls and women aspiring to leadership roles in all sectors,” says Kathryn Olson, CEO for the Women’s Sports Foundation.

Roberts’ resume was too attractive to turn away. She was a star Washington litigator; Washingtonian magazine once named her the “finest pure trial lawyer in Washington.” Throughout her career, which began in the D.C. public defender’s office in 1980, Roberts showed…

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