Been a Long Time…

My goodness, it’s been a while. The last time I posted on here was back in September of last year, when I covered the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros. This year, I’m going to make an attempt to blog more, either about video games or photography (perhaps both, which would be best).

I’ll see you all out there on the blogosphere soon. Hopefully, very soon. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

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E.T. Came Home… Sort Of

The debate over a decades old (now I feel old) legend has just been laid to rest. Remember the old tale about the scores of unsold copies of the Atari game E.T.: The Extraterrestrial being buried in a landfill out West? Turns out the story is actually true.

Look, a phone. Photo comes from wikipedia.com

I’m getting to this a little tardy, so pardon me, but we’re always a tad behind schedule here on the Chomp. Recently, some workers for an upcoming documentary film on Atari found the mythical lost games after digging them up in a desert within Alamogordo, New Mexico. The film, directed by Zack Penn, is set to be released on Xbox consoles later this year.

Wow. I’m kind of speechless but that’s what typing is for. I’ve heard about this story several times during the course of my existence and I’ve always believed it was true, but that I’d never actually see it proven. It was just one of those things you talk about happening that never does, like (previously) Duke Nukem Forever coming out or the Cubs winning another World Series.

Two out of three has happened, so maybe my Cubs are due soon, right? Well, at least they won today. That’s a step in the right direction. Until next time.

Peace and Pixels

Superman’s Video Game Debut

As many geek culture aficionados know (and I embarrassingly just found out), Superman turned 75 two months ago to the day. A lofty milestone indeed, considering that the character is still active, his latest exploit being the film Man of Steel, which currently dominates the worldwide box office.

There are a few other anniversaries the Man of Steel has or will be celebrating this year. The black-and-white Superman serials turned 65 this January; the Richard Donner film Superman turns 35 in December; the film Superman III turned 30 yesterday; the animated 1980s Saturday morning cartoon show Superman turns 25 in September; and both the comic book storyline “Reign of the Supermen!” and the television show Lois & Clark will turn 20.

But this being a video game blog, interactive electronics are the topic of the day. Not only can Superman celebrate his comic book debut this year, the character can also celebrate his video game debut which took place thirty-four years ago.

In 1979, Atari published the game Superman for the Atari 2600. Designed by John Dunn, the game featured the titular hero as he attempts to repair a bridge by damaged supervillain Lex Luthor. Using his powers of flight, super strength, and X-ray vision, Superman must apprehend Luthor and his associates, then become Clark Kent and return to the Daily Planet in the shortest amount of time possible. Luthor thwarts Superman by spreading Kryptonite–the radioactive pieces of Superman’s homeworld Krypton — throughout the city of Metropolis. If hit by Kryptonite, Superman loses all his powers and can only replenish them by kissing Lois Lane.

Superman features a two-player mode in addition to it’s single-player campaign; one player can control Superman’s left and right movement’s while the other moves Superman up and down. Such a control scheme likely caused a riot during family time (especially if you had any bad cousins come visit; not that I know such a fate).

I’ve never personally played Superman, but thanks to the glory of the Web, I found this gameplay footage.

As you can see (and hear), it’s… rough, but this game was released over three decades ago. Interestingly, the game does try portraying both Superman and Clark Kent as figures, which doesn’t happen often in gaming. I wonder what the latest Batman title would be like if you had to play as both Bruce Wayne and Batman in the same game. What if you had to investigate the threat of corporate espionage within WayneTech and then go on patrol as Batman knowing your business may be compromised by a possible mole?

Perhaps I got a little beside myself there…

It’s a miracle that any comic book character can exist for 75 years and still be profitable. Here’s to 75 more for Earth’s favorite alien, and hopefully some better Superman games!

Peace & Pixels

Summer Olympic Video Games

The 27th Summer Olympic Games begins today and to celebrate, I thought we’d look at a few Summer Olympic related video games that have been released over the years. From a hurdle leaping toddler to a beloved blue blur, the following games represent some of the best and bizarre in Olympic gaming. Let’s get to it!

 Olympic/Microsoft Decathlon (1980)

Released by Microsoft and programmed by Timothy W. Smith, Olympic Decathlon is one of the first video games based on the Summer Games. As its title suggests, players participate in a ten event decathlon which included competitions such as the 100 meter dash, discus throw, and pole vault.  Olympic Decathlon first debuted on the TRS-80 computer in 1980, with a subsequent release on the Apple II computer 1981 and finally on IBM PC in 1982 under the title Microsoft Decathlon.

Atari Olympics (?)

Here’s an obscure title that might cause Tim Allen to deliver a grunt capable of befuddling the Richter scale. Released on Atari’s ill fated XEGS platform, Atari Olympics features some Summer Games staples such as the 100 m dash and pole vaulting. However, it’s the game’s playable characters that make the title unique. An old man, a robot, and diaper wearing kid make up some of the very unorthodox playable contestants available in the game. Fascinating. I actually don’t know very much about this title; even its exact release date escapes me. Still, this game is a worthwhile, albeit quirky addition to the list.

Track & Field (1983)

I’d be remiss if this title wasn’t on the list. Originally released in the arcades, the game has appeared on several platforms, including the NES, Atari 2600, Game Boy, Xbox Live Arcade, and even mobile phones. The original arcade game was played using two run buttons, (later in its life, a trackball was due to the abuse the buttons took) and a button used to alternate characters. The game features six Olympic based events: 100m Dash, 110m hurdles, long jump, javelin throw, high jump, and hammer throw.

Each event features a qualifying time that needed to be met in order to reach the next event. Failure to qualify meant the loss of a life, and after three lost lives the game was over. The arcade game features multiplayer for up to four human players; if fewer than 4 humans were available the remaining spots are filled by the computer. During the track events, the computer was very fast, leading to players constantly smashing the run buttons in order to win.

Daley Thompson’s Decathlon (1984)

Daley Thompson was the man in the 1980s, taking gold in the decathlon at both the ’80 and ’84 Summer Games. Thompson’s athletic prowess and popularity lead to this Ocean developed title, which was available for the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, and the Sinclair Spectrum. True to its title, the game features a decathlon with events split evenly throughout a two day period. On the first day, players compete in the 100m, long jump, shot put, high jump, and 40om. Day two consists of 110m hurdles, pole vault, discus throw, javelin toss, and 1500m. The game is infamous for causing players to destroy their joysticks due to the rigorous wiggling of the device required for some events.

Stadium Events (1987)

A game well known amongst many video game collectors, Stadium Events is probably more noted for its market value than its actual game play. Developed by Bandai for the NES, Stadium Events is the second title (the first being Athletic World released earlier the same year) of a two part game series named Family Fun Fitness. When the game was initially published in the US, it carried the FFF brand, and could be used with a separate two-sided accessory called the Family Fun Fitness Mat. After Nintendo licensed the game however, the title was renamed World Track Meet and the pad was renamed the “Power Pad”. It is believed that about 2000 copies of the original game were manufactured and about 200 complete copies actually hit retail. Thus, the game is quite rare and sought after collectors who often pay tens of thousands of dollars for it.  For more information Stadium Events, read D.S. Cohen’s article on the title.

So how does such an expensive game play? Stadium Events focuses primarily on track and field competitions, and featured the long jump, 100m dash, 110m hurdles, and triple jump. The game was played with side B of the map accessory, (to simulate running) while the controller was used for navigating menus.

Olympic Gold (1992)

This title has the distinction of being the first video game to be officially licensed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Developed by U.S. Gold, Olympic Gold debuted on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive, Game Gear, and Master System. Olympic Gold featured seven events from the Summer Games (100 m dash, archery, hammer throw, spring board diving, and freestyle swimming) along with athletes from eight countries (France, UK, Unified Team, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan and the US). Each athlete had individual strengths and weaknesses, which effected how each athlete would fair in certain events (for example, one character may be weak at diving but strong in hammer throw).

Team USA Basketball (1992)

Developed by Electronic Arts, this title is based on the basketball tournament of the 1992 Summer Games, which featured the eventual champions Team USA. Also known as the “Dream Team,” Team USA featured several of the NBA’s superstars, including Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, and Magic Johnson. Team USA Basketball featured playable versions all of the country’s that participated in the 1992 tournament, as well as each country’s national anthem. The game features the same engine as some of EA’s early basketball titles (like Bulls vs. Lakers), which allows for large sprites but sluggish gameplay. Team USA Basketball is officially licensed by the United States Olympic Committee, and remains the first and only video game entirely dedicated to an Olympic basketball event.

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games­ (2008)

A union once thought improbable in the 1990s, video game legends Mario and Sonic finally teamed up for this sports title released on Nintendo’s Wii and DS platforms. Officially licensed by the IOC, Mario & Sonic  features 24 events in eight categories (archery, swimming, gymnastics, table tennis, shooting, rowing, and aquatics) each based on actual Olympic competitions. Alternatively players can participate in “Dream Events,” special competitions set in locations from past games from the Mario and Sonic universe. In addition to Mario and Sonic, players can choose from 14 characters from both the Mario and Sonic games, while facing off locally or online via Wi-Fi.

I’d like to wish a safe games to all of those who participating Olympics this year. As a DePaul University alum, I have to send a special shout out to coach Doug Bruno who is an assistant for USA’s Women’s Basketball team. Get ’em coach!!

Peace & Pixels