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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The Bad Game Hall of Fame on Patreon!

For those interested in supporting the Bad Game Hall of Fame monetarily, we’ve just launched our page on Patreon! I’m still working out what sorts of perks and rewards are worth putting up and providing, and the logistics of how best to deliver them, but please know that I will always remain wholly committed to providing on promised goals and incentives.

Also, to be clear: I don’t intend to gate new articles behind a paywall, or hold back finished content for any length of time. The Patreon simply exists to provide a way for people to support the site, if they’re so inclined! Continuing to grow the site is still a priority, and I don’t think I’m going to be able to accomplish that by locking away and hiding the site’s core content.

Thank you for your time and consideration!

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Top Five: Best Books About the History of Video Games

In case the nature of my very own overly-long writing wasn’t something like a giveaway, I’m big into books — specifically those of the non-fiction, historically-oriented sort of variety. If a book can cover that criteria and do so in a way that’s entertaining and narratively engaging, that’s all the better. And naturally, being the dweeb that I am, a number of the books on my digital bookshelf pertain to the subject of video games, and the history of their development / the industry itself. I’m sorry if that’s all, like, super predictable of me?

I believe it takes a certain skill set to be able to write about video games in a fashion that’s actually compelling or entertaining. Maybe one day, it’ll be a skill I actually pick up for myself! But until that day comes, I suppose I’ll have to settle for just recommending some of my favorite books on the subject of video games. Obviously, I haven’t yet read every last book there is about games, and I’ve currently got a queue that’s pages-long in itself, so I’m not calling this list “concrete” or “definitive” anything; It’s all just my current personal preference, folks.

Oh, and because I can’t help myself, I also went and tacked on one “Honorable Mention” and one “Dishonorable Mention.” And boy howdy, lemme tell you: The latter of those is a real doozy.

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