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Six things I learned from old arcade games.

by Nathan - May 1, 2003

Lately I've been devoting a lot of my spare time to the playing of arcade roms. You see, I've recently come into possession of a substantial collection of them, and I have endless hours of amusement just randomly loading one up and giving it a whirl. Where did I get all these games, you ask? Well, let's just say that I 'found' two DVD-Rs filled with romly goodness. That's all.

However, playing through all these roms has made me come to realize that there is a lot of knowledge to be found within them. In the last seven days I've learned a week's worth of wisdom, and this is all stuff they don't teach you in your fancy classrooms and post-secondary places of education. No, no, this is undiluted truth.

And of course, having an outlet such as this website I would be remiss if I did not pass these gems of truth on to all of you. So it is with great pleasure I bring you part one of 12 Little Lessons, wherein are contained the first six.

1.)It's a hard life being a short man with a gun on your head.

Shown Here: Pistol Daimyo no Bouken

Pistol Daimyo no Bouken tells the story of a short Japanese man who flies, has paper fans on his feet, and apparently has a cannon stuck to his head. His life is filled with hardship as he travels from level to level, shooting down evil birds and frogs as he avoids ninja stars that are even larger than he is. Every so often he comes across a 'boss' type character, which can consist of anything from a Samurai with a tree growing out of his skull (seen above) or an odd flying whale with evil little men that hurl spears.

It really helps to put things in perspective when you experience the adventures of a man with a life as difficult as this. It's well and good to tell yourself that things could be worse, but it doesn't really hit home until you've seen what this poor Asian midget goes through. Unfortunately, all perspective you gain is tossed out the window when the little dude takes a hit, and for no reason does a naked dance.

The less said about this, the better.

2.)The Japanese, though largely polite, are perfectly willing to pursue extremely harsh legal action if necessary.

Shown Here: DoDonPachi

DoDonPachi is a good looking vertical shooter with utter loads of stuff happening on the screen at any given time, but that's not what impressed me. As you see here, this is a fairly standard warning that is displayed as the game finishes the boot sequence. Many games have something similar to this. But if you actually bother to read it, you will notice that it takes a pretty surreal twist about halfway through. "Violator and subject to severe penalties," it says, "and will be prosecutedt[sic] to the full extent of the Jam."

Full extent of the Jam? Obviously, the Japanese answer to some sort of system that is higher than the thing we commonly refer to as Law. This is a pretty scary thing, if you think about it. Being prosecuted to the full extent of the Law is already a costly and damaging procedure. I can only imagine what being prosecutedt to the full extent of the Jam is like. So remember: don't mess around with the Japanese legal system.

3.)The phrase WILL HELP YOU! is perhaps the greatest battle cry ever.

Shown Here: Kid Niki - Radical Ninja

The game describes the backstory thusly: "You are a totally rad Ninja swordsman. Princess Margo is being held by the Stone Wizard. Save Her! Good Luck Dude!" It then shows a short cutscene in which the Ninja witnesses a bird get struck by an arrow. Shortly thereafter he screams WILL HELP YOU! and leaps through the wall to go kill somebody.

But step back a second and take a longer look at his cry. I mean, he's a Totally Rad Ninja Swordsman. As far as I'm concerned, that means that he could kill anyone, anytime. This also means that he wouldn't ever need to bother to rescue anyone because he's so cool he can't be bothered to do that kind of crap. So when he flies into a rage, shouts WILL HELP YOU! and throws himself through a window, I for one cannot help but feel inspired and emboldened. He obviously means it, you know?

Besides, any battle cry good enough for a Totally Rad Ninja Swordsman is good enough for me.

4.)America used to have awesome advertisements.

Shown Here: Vigilante

Vigilante is the riveting tale of one man's quest to save Madonna, who has been kidnapped by Skinheads. For no apparent reason he must take the law into his own hands, and fight to save this international recording star.

It's well known that most 80's fighting games of this sort were based on true events wherever possible, and that game designers often used photorealistic scenery to heighten the sense of realism and tension within the game. The banners and advertisements that the character walked past quickly became of considerable interest to me, because being photo-realistic they were obviously taken directly from the streets of some major urban center in America.

The signs, though battered and worn with age even in the context of the game, point to a simpler time, and a golden age in the advertising industry. How can you not be motivated by such slogans?

A few examples from the game.

Unfortunately these ads have all but disappeared nowadays, and people no longer seem to remember the true meaning of them. But with games like this to remind us, we may yet experience a second renaissance, and return to this bygone era of brilliant advertising.

5.)Even the manliest warrior can become too attached to his weapon.

Shown Here: Nastar

Nastar is the saga of "...a courageous young man who has risen up against the evil group!" Yes, it takes a true man to take up sword and shield and head out to the killing fields to fight evil. It takes an even manlier man to do all that while wearing only a pair of boots and a speedo.

Unforunately, all that prancing about slaying the undead and such can take its toll on even the manliest of manly men. For the main character in Nastar, the mental fatigue shows up fairly early in the game, and he becomes...eerily attached, shall we say, with his sword.

Again, the less said about this, the better.

It taught me that one can become far too reliant and comfortable with one's posessions. It also taught me that fighting evil while 95% naked is totally uncool.

6.)Robocop's got vertical, yo! Damn!

Shown Here: Robocop 2

This game has surprisingly little in the way of a plot, but we all know what's going on anyway. He's a Cop, who's a Robot. He shots a lot of people and stomps around all menacing-like. However, in the movies we rarely (if ever) see Robocop leap around the way he can in this game.

Obviously, the point this drives home is that, like you've heard so many times, you should never judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, a resurrected police officer by his biomechanical exoskeleton. He may act like a slow, lumbering walking battletank - but when he gets it into his head to bust out with some acrobatics, you better look out.

And it is here that I will draw this article to a close. Look out for Part Two in the next while, where I will discuss the remaining six truths. And as a special bonus for enjoying the article thus far, here is a Super Bonus Download Pack (12.8mb) containing all six of the roms mentioned today! Enjoy, but only if you already own the actual games! Of course, you will need MAME to play them! Good luck!

-e-mail: monster-0@alucentral.ca

For info on how you can, er, "find" some MAME Rom DVD-Rs of your own, check this out.

related articles:

Moonwalker - The Arcade Game

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