• GoldenEye: Rogue Agent

    “Why Save the World When You Can Rule It…”

    “Auf wiedersehen, GoldenEye.”
    (North American PS2 box art)

    The James Bond film franchise might just be the very definition of the term “problematic fave.” On the one hand; it’s impossible to overlook the rampant sexism, racism, and glorification of aggressive masculinity all on display in what are considered the classic entries of the series. On the other hand… well, there’s just something about them, isn’t there? They manage to present action movie shlock as polished art, and pass off some of the most objectively goofy of plots and premises as espionage intrigue. And so, it’s with some hesitation that I have to admit to being a fan of the film series, and to having watched [and re-watched] every last one of its currently twenty-four entries.

    But there’s more to the 007 brand than just the movies. Obviously, there’s the matter of the original novels that inspired the films in the first place, if written word is your cup of tea. Somehow though, I doubt you’ve come to this article for one of my book reviews. Yes, we’re obviously here to discuss the matter of James Bond video games, which have taken on something like a life of their own outside of the respective film series. Why, with software starring the world-famous spy starting to appear as early as 1982, you could argue that the history of the Bond games franchise is nearly as long and storied as that of the movie franchise! (For something like a look at pre-GoldenEye Bond games, might I recommend B.J. Brown’s article on James Bond 007 The Duel?) And of course – as is the case with any franchise as long-running as that – there are bound to be a few duds and misfires along the way.

    Today we set our sights on 2004’s GoldenEye: Rogue Agent: A title which dared to invoke the sacred name of the game franchise’s most cherished entry. Naturally, we’ll have to at least briefly discuss that particular bit of inspiration and what made it so special to begin with, as well as the range of releases that came in-between. Once we get all that sorted, we’ll be get into the messy business of dissecting what might well be the most reviled release in the 30-plus year history of the 007 video game series, and where exactly it went wrong. Do you reckon that’s enough material for one article? Well, sod that: I say the world is not enough for the Bad Game Hall of Fame, so we’ll also cover Rogue Agent’s handheld conversion too, and a bizarre bit of game franchise-crossover that came with that. As an on-screen comedy duo once quipped; “They always said the pen was mightier than the sword.” “Thanks to me, they were right.”

    Or twenty-five, if you wanna count Never Say Never Again. Hey, say what you will about it, but at least it’s not Live and Let Die.

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    “My Energy is Depleted… I’m Shaking!”

    “Suddenly, Tokyo began to shake and crumble!”
    (Japanese box art)

    If I might start this article off with something like a shameless plug: A couple of months ago, the Bad Game Hall of Fame launched a Patreon page, so that viewers like you could have a way to support the website if you so choose. Pledging as little as $1 gets you access to articles as they’re still “works in progress,” as well as some exclusive polls and other assorted nonsense to come. If you’re feeling particularly generous, a $5 pledge will see your named etched onto the prestigious walls of the Hall of Heroes. And finally – for those of you who are presumably as obsessed with bad games as I am – a one-time $20 pledge will allow you request a game for me to focus my efforts on in the form of a future article.

    Of course, I’m mentioning all this upfront for a reason; that reason being that today’s article is the first “pledger request” I’ll be fulfilling! With that in mind, I’d like to thank one Dustin Cooper (@GenioAugusti) for their contributions to the Bad Game Hall of Fame — and I’m not just talking about sending some of that precious paper my way, no siree bob. For one, Dustin has been a long-time reader and friend of the site, so I’m happy to try and give back in my own goofy way. In addition, they were accommodating enough to provide me with a handful of different suggestions from which to pick from, all in a similar vein: Japan-exclusive PC Engine / TurboGrafX-16 games. And while I’d like to keep the other two suggested titles secret for the time being – since all three games really did manage to pique my interest in different ways – I reckon you might be able to tell which release I ultimately landed on.

    So, here I am to cover 1989’s Energy: Released on the HuCard format for the PCE, as published by Masaya Games, and developed by the elusive Quasar Soft. Information on Quasar on the English-typing side of the web is both difficult to come by and inconsistent to boot, but by my guesstimation, they developed a grand total of five games before falling off the face of the earth. Curiously, this game is actually intended as a remake / conversion of one of their previous titles, so you could argue that they’ve only got four unique games to their credit? But perhaps the most confounding element in all of this is the fact that one video game can effectively demonstrate so much flawed design in such a small package. Of course, I reckon that means I’m just going to have to cover every last one of those flaws in painful detail, huh?

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    Medal of Honor: Underground (GBA)

    “Bonne Chance, Et Vive La Resistance!”

    “Join the resistance and battle the Reich from Paris to North Africa.”
    (North American box art)

    Remember when World War II first-person shooter fatigue was in full effect? For those of you who don’t, there was this nearly decade-long stretch of time that saw hundreds of largely interchangeable games released, all centered around the bonā fidē classic premise of killing Nazis. What finally brought this trend to an end wasn’t publishers kowtowing to upset alt-right assholes, or anything else similarly pathetic: All it took was the release of Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare to completely change the tides, and usher in a new era of largely interchangeable modern-day military shooters. Sure enough, it’s been nearly another decade since then, and now this new setting has seemingly run its course as well. Just recently (as of the time of this writing), Call of Duty: WWII has seen that series returning to its roots, as well as Battlefield travelling back to the 1940s for its upcoming fifth installment. You’ve gotta love how cyclical this goofy little industry is.

    But to what title do we owe that initial wave of World War II shooters, anyhow? Well, while it certainly wasn’t the first title of its kind, the credit for the fad is most certainly owed to the original Medal of Honor, released in 1999 for Sony’s PlayStation. With the involvement of one Steven Spielberg bringing with him a production value previously unseen in the genre, it was a game released to immediate critical and financial success; sure to inspire a slew of sequels, and soon at that. Sure enough, the next year would see Medal of Honor: Underground released for the same console, with a conversion slated to arrive two years later for… Nintendo’s Game Boy Advance? Well, surely, this would have to serve as a very different take on the source material. Maybe a top-down shooter, or some sort of action platformer? Hey, maybe even make it an RPG if you’re feeling — wait, what’s that? You’re telling me it’s still a first-person shooter, then? Huh.

    So, here we go folks: Our first foray into the fascinating world of Game Boy Advance first-person shooters. Yes, there’s more than just this one, and truth be told, most of them are actually pretty alright! But among this select group, Medal of Honor: Underground has the reputation of being the very worst. How can that be, though? For starters, any game about destroying Nazis can’t be all bad. And you know, that “Medal of Honor” branding used to be a real mark of quality — a title you could truly trust. Reputation be damned, I’m gonna give this game the benefit of the doubt going in. I mean, I reckon we’re gonna have to go ahead and ultimately compare the game against its source material, as well as to some of the other GBA FPS titles that preceded it; but I’ve still got a good feeling that the handheld Medal of Honor: Underground will stand the trials ahead of it! Le jour de gloire est arrivé!

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    Dirty Pair: Project Eden

    “Ro-Ro-Ro-Russian Roulette!”

    “You promised me that next time we went on vacation, we’d go topless and drive all the men wild!”
    Lovely angelic art by @SarahSSowertty.

    EDITOR’S NOTE: Howdy there, Cass here! I’m happy to introduce our first article on the Bad Game Hall of Fame written by an outside contributor: Fellow kusogē connoisseur and dear friend of the site, Ant Cooke from Gaming Hell! As part of a little “cultural exchange” between our two sites, I penned an article on the Genesis wrestling title Cutie Suzuki no Ringside Angel for their webzone, while they were kind enough to help cross Dirty Pair: Project Eden off my list. Make sure that you read both articles very thoroughly, piece together all the hidden clues, and mail in the secret code to the usual address!

    Of the just-under-twenty games on the Famicom Disk System based on licensed properties- from tokusatsu shows, manga, anime to boy bands, thirteen of them were published by Bandai. That’s more games than Taito and Capcom-published games on the system combined. It shouldn’t be too much of a shock that Bandai dumped a lot of trash on the FDS of course, considering their reputation for publishing inordinate amounts of licensed guff on other systems, but given the relatively small size of the FDS library, it does stick out quite a bit.

    They were busiest in 1987, releasing eight games, then four in 1988, and finally petering out with two in 1989, a few years before the FDS would wind down. There’s a smorgasbord of crappy license staples here, such as Kininikkuman, three Ultraman games and the obligatory SD Gundam title, but personally, the most interesting of these is Dirty Pair: Project Eden, as it’s the only video game ever based on the property. A property that the writer happens to be a fan of, so we’ve been assigned by Cass to talk about it. Ant from Gaming Hell, then, will be your guide to the Lovely Angels’ first and only foray into video gaming!

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    Captain Novolin

    “Check You Feet for Dry Skin.”

    “If only I had sufficient manual dexterity to consistently win…”
    (North American box art)

    As a member of a generation who grew up with video games as a constant part of our lives, many of us have memories of the “edutainment” titles from our childhoods: Those games developed with the goals of both educating and entertaining. And as games intended to be played during some of our most formative years, the memories of them can tend to stick with you. For me, the title that most continues to linger in my memory is The Secret Island of Dr. Quandary; and boy howdy, do I remember it vividly. Even though I had already encountered the likes of Doom by the time I got to Dr. Quandary, I still recall being deeply unsettled by what his secret island had on offer more so than any imp or cacodemon that might’ve caught me off-guard in a dark hallway. One of the very first visuals that a child is subjected to in the game is watching themselves get sucked into the mouth of a terrifying doll, as tense music plays and an old man maniacally laughs at them. Can you think of any better way to ease a young mind into learning and puzzle-solving?

    The early 90s were sort of an odd time for edutainment software in general, come to think of it. There was this sense that kids had such easy access to what I’ll call “non-educational” video games, it was something of a challenge to get them interested in games that were more obviously meant to serve as teaching tools. And so, you saw developers having to try slightly more subtle approaches: Straight up terrifying kids in the case of Dr. Quandary, ecasting recognizable characters as virtual teachers à la Sonic’s Schoolhouse, and sneaking anti-drug messages into otherwise straightforward genre games like Wally Bear and the NO! Gang. If you were a developer looking to hook kids into your edutainment game, you had to come up with some creative way to grab their attention, and convince them that they weren’t just in for an interactive lecture.

    And so, I picture in my head the creative team at Raya Systems sitting together in a boardroom, pondering as to how they might be able to interest kids in a game that would serve to educate them about the rather unamusing subject of diabetes. Just as they’re all about to call the whole thing off, one of them jumps out of their chair as they’re struck with a bolt of inspiration, and excitedly proclaims “Kids love superheroes!” The game practically writes itself from there, and the infamous end result is 1992’s Captain Novolin for the Super Nintendo. Today, we’ll be taking a crash course on the often-mocked release, and grading it on its abilities to both educate and entertain.

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