• Friday the 13th

    “If Jason Manages to Defeat All the Children, the Game Ends.”

    “You see, Jason was my son, and today is his birthday…”
    Good-timey camp time art by @Spalooncooties.

    The games industry doesn’t have all that great a reputation for licensed releases based on horror films, does it? Sure, there have been some great horror games that have taken cues from cinema — your original Resident Evils and Fatal Frames and whatnot. But when it comes to actually adapting licenses, something always seems to get lost in the translation. Whether it’s failure to fully realize a film’s unique concept in video game form, inability to instill fear in a player, or straight-up bad game design, so many horror movie games have come out feeling so lacking.

    For my money, there were three games that managed the feat in the 8-bit era. The first is 1989’s A Nightmare on Elm Street for DOS / Commodore 64, which actually does a surprisingly decent job of capturing the spirit of the Dream Warriors installment in the film franchise as a top-down action game. The second is probably a somewhat “controversial” pick on my part, as I actually genuinely enjoy 1987’s NES take on Jaws as published by LJN. At the very least, you have to admit that compared to sitting down and watching Jaws: The Revenge, it’s a far better way to spend a couple hours of your life. My final pick is another possibly controversial one, and it’s another one published by LJN: 1989’s Friday the 13th, as developed by Atlus. (Yes, that Atlus)

    Friday the 13th has taken on something of a reputation as a hated game, likely thanks in no small part to the Angry Video Game Nerd’s take on it. There’s also the matter of it not necessarily being a wholly faithful translation of the movies’ premise, taking all manner of creative liberties — such as inexplicably tossing in zombies, for some reason. But you know what? I’d argue that despite all that, Friday the 13th on NES absolutely nailed the spirit and ever-present tension of the film franchise in a way that very few horror movie game adaptations have, before or since. It’s definitely not a game without its flaws, but I’m going to make the argument that it gets more flak than it deserves.

    Yes, folks: Today, I am going to try and sell you on the game that dressed Jason Voorhees up in a purple hoodie and gave you a handful of rocks with which to stop him. But first, we’re going to have to put things in perspective a bit by taking a quick look at some prior attempts at translating horror films to video games, including an even earlier attempt at cashing in on our favorite hockey mask-clad killer. With those frights fresh in mind, we’ll reveal the evil within the accursed NES cartridge. And finally, we’ll investigate the devastation it left in its wake, and briefly check in on the current state of slasher flick game adaptations.

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    Venetian Blinds

    “A Fully Operational Venetian Blind.”

    “Conceived and designed by Activision.”
    (Mock-up box art re-created by me)

    Hey folks, have you heard the good news? No more video games! Eyup, it’s been a long time coming, but they’re all gone now and they’re never coming back. So, go ahead and pack it up; nothing to see here, end of an era, so on and so forth.

    Sike! April Fools! Boy howdy did I have you tricked there for a minute or what, huh? That’s why they call me “Cass the Master Prankster,” folks: You hang around me long enough, you’re gonna end up getting bamboozled, boy I tell ya’…

    Okay, so I don’t actually have any sort of jokes or stunts planned for April Fool’s day. Truth be told, I actually kind of find the whole “mess around on your website on April 1st” gimmick a little played out. So, I’m gonna take it in a different direction on the Bad Game Hall of Fame: Instead of writing joke articles about regular games or something like that, I’m going to write regular articles about “joke games” — titles which themselves were intended as pranks, novelties, or outright hoaxes. That being said, today’s subject was perhaps designed with a more unique intention: Pettiness.

    Today we look at the most realistic windowsill simulator ever committed to an Atari 2600 cartridge. It’s honestly something of a stretch to even call it a “game,” as there’s no real objective to reach or entertainment to be had with it. In fact, I can pretty much sum up it’s whole functionality in a single sentence: You can open and close a set of blinds in front of a window. Needless to say, this was never intended as an actual retail product to be bought and sold… until someone had the gall to do exactly that. This is the story of the making [and eventual monetization] of Venetian Blinds.

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    Castlevania Judgment

    “Oh, You Know Who I Am… Musta Got Pretty Famous, Eh?”

    “I will give you the greatest of pleasures.”
    Delightfully devilish art by Neesh.

    As a diehard fan of the franchise, I take no pleasure in having to cover bad Castlevania games on this website. But the way I see it, when life gives me lemons like Castlevania: The Adventure and Haunted Castle? I’ve gotta make long-winded essays about them — the proverbial “lemonade” of internet content, if you will. So, here I am to squeeze another lemon dry… presumably.

    You see, I’ve never actually played Castlevania Judgment for myself. I’ve had the means and the want to, but I just never wound up getting around to it. It’s not even that I was dissuaded from doing so by the negative reputation surrounding it — that much should be obvious from the fact that I run a website dedicated to the very subject of maligned video games. But hey, now that I’m running said website, I reckon that’s just about as good an excuse as any to scratch this one off the list!

    So, a Castlevania fighting game, huh? You know, it’s really not all that terrible an idea on paper, if you ask me. There’s certainly a large enough roster of established characters to pull from; spanning dozens of entries in the series across multiple centuries of convoluted canon. All you need is to whip up (pun intended) any weak excuse for them to inhabit the same space at the same time, and you’re off to the races! But of course, fighting games cannot subsist on premise alone: You’ve gotta back it up with some hard-hitting gameplay.

    But Castlevania Judgment was never given so much as the benefit of the doubt that it would turn out to be anything other than awful. From the very moment it was announced to be a fighting game, an uproar began the echoes of which can still be heard to this day. Hell, I don’t even think folk got nearly as mad about those “erotic” pachinko machines! Which begs the question: Could the sheer volume of this fan backlash have drowned out what is possibly an underrated game? It’s up to us to pass judgement.

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    Interview: Andrew Bado

    “Behold, the Master of the 99 Dragons.”

    “Nothing can stop me now!”
    Soulful art by Nina Matsumoto.

    Today, I am happy to bring to you an interview with Last Dimension‘s Andrew Bado! With over fifteen years of games industry experience, he’s had a hand in all manners of the business — between his duties as a QA tester, pixel artist, programmer, and now running his own independent development studio. But this interview will take us back to the beginnings of his career in games software, to help shed some light on one specific title.

    Between 2003 and 2005, Andrew was employed as a member of Majesco’s “Quality Assurance” team, and tasked with testing a variety of titles in their prototype forms. One release in particular serves as the primary focus of today’s interview: Drake of the 99 Dragons. Even after publishing our article attempting to examine the history and legacy of the title, I still had a number of questions about the much-maligned release. And luckily for me, Andrew had the answers.

    This interview should hopefully serve to dispel a couple of long-standing rumors surrounding the game, provide some interesting insights into the game’s development, and to help illuminate the role that QA is meant to play in the production cycle of a video game. So, please to enjoy our first “Industry Interview” here on the Bad Game Hall of Fame!

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    Drake of the 99 Dragons

    “I Doubt I’ll Ever Be Done Feeding the Undying Dragon.”

    “Let’s just say I’m done believing in ghosts.”
    Undying art by Nina Matsumoto.

    Dreams really do come true. Yes, as the President [and still sole member] of the “Drake of the 99 Dragons Fan Club,” I just about fell out of my chair when I heard the news that my favorite guilty pleasure game would be making its way onto Steam in 2018 — a surprise announcement which came just a day after the surprise release of Chrono Trigger on the platform. But while the version of Chrono Trigger currently on Steam would seem to serve as a hugely disappointing conversion of a beloved game, Drake of the 99 Dragons has no such high expectations to meet: It was a game critically reviled on its release, and whose legacy has remained one of infamy for the better part of fifteen years.

    It’s been an uphill battle trying to convince people that Drake of the 99 Dragons has gotten a bum rap. Without it being readily accessible anymore on Xbox or PC, it was all that more difficult to convince folk to actually give the game a shot for themselves. But now seeing it land on the largest games digital distribution platform in existence, I know the time has finally come. The story of Drake’s revenge and redemption begins now, and I stand beside him as a devoted member of the 99 Dragons Clan. I may not have the firepower to back him up, but I like to think that the pen can be mightier than the sword.

    Today on the Bad Game Hall of Fame, I will legitimately attempt to defend what some have referred to as one of the worst games of all time; a title which has earned itself a permanent home on Wikipedia’s “List of video games notable for negative reception.” And before we get started, I feel compelled to state that my love for this game is in no way ironic: I genuinely love this flawed little game for what it is, and my hope here in writing this article is to convince you, dear reader, to consider giving Drake of the 99 Dragons a chance for yourself… with a major caveat. But more on that later. For now, it’s time to rock the dragon.

    UPDATE (3-11-18): We also have an interview with a QA tester for the game available here on the site! It corrects a handful of details / guesses I made in this article, as well as providing fascinating insight into the development.

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