Game-related ramblings.

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History Lessons: Clash At Demonhead

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

The timeline for this series has been somewhat jumbled, as I kept expanding the scope and adding more games to the list that were released before other games I’d already covered. But that’s all sorted out as of the last entry on Final Fantasy II, which released in December 1988. Now, we move into 1989 with Clash at Demonhead, a game by Vic Tokai for the Famicom/NES. It released in Japan on January 27, 1989, and was localized for a US release in December 1989. I’d never heard of it before researching early examples of Metroidvania design for this series, but apparently it got referenced in Scott Pilgrim. I was intrigued as I fired it up.

History Lessons: Final Fantasy II

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

The very first game I played for this series was Final Fantasy. I had intended to play all the Final Fantasy games in order, to see how they evolved from the early games I remembered as a kid to the huge epics full of cinematic scenes they are today. But then I decided I should probably also cover the Dragon Quest series, which released first. And then I added a bunch of other Japanese-style role-playing games. And then some action role-playing hybrids. And then some Metroidvanias and Zelda-esque games. Now, after playing and writing about 30 games, I’ve finally reached Final Fantasy II, which Square released in Japan on December 17. 1988.

History Lessons: Blaster Master

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

My quest to play through early console role-playing games, action-role-playing hybrids, and Metroidvanias continues. I’ve got a nominal timeline, but I keep deviating from it as I add more games to the list. Now I’m finally catching up. The farthest I’ve reached is September 1988 with Spellcaster, before that was Exile in August, and before that was Blaster Master in June 1988 — a mere two weeks after our last entry, Cosmo Police Galivan. Since I’ve covered Exile already, Sunsoft’s Blaster Master is the last game on the list that predates Spellcaster; after this, I’ll be moving forward with the nominal timeline and entering the tail end of 1988.

I actually played Blaster Master as a kid. I never owned a copy, but a friend did, and we played it together on his NES. I don’t remember if we ever reached the end, but we did get pretty far. So it was a bit of a nostalgia blast (heh) to play it again now.

History Lessons: Cosmo Police Galivan

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

For those just tuning in, I’ve been playing through early console role-playing games, action role-playing hybrids, and Metroidvanias, but since I keep adding more games to my list the timeline has gotten a bit muddled. The farthest I’ve reached is September 1988 with Spellcaster, but since then I’ve gone back to fill in some games I missed. Most recently that was The Battle of Olympus. If I’d done things in order, The Battle of Olympus would have been followed by Ys II and Lord of the Sword, before bringing us to this post about Cosmo Police Galivan, by Nihon Bussan.

Inspired by Japanese tokusatsu television series Space Sheriff Gavan and Space Sheriff Sharivan, Cosmo Police Galivan was originally a 1985 arcade action platformer game. On June 3, 1988, a Famicom port appeared with drastically different gameplay. While still focused on platforming action, it added role-playing mechanics and nonlinear environments reminiscent of Metroid, that require protagonist Galivan to seek out new weapons and abilities in order to open up new paths. It was never released outside of Japan, but fortunately there’s a fan-made translation patch allowing English speakers to play it via emulation (I used the Retroarch frontend and Mesen emulation core, as usual for Famicom/NES games). It sounded interesting, so I decided to give it a go.

History Lessons: The Battle Of Olympus

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

I’m still rectifying the timeline for this series. After reaching September 1988 with Spellcaster, I realized I’d skipped over some games that should really be included, and went back to cover them. Most recently, that was Sorcerian, released in late December 1987. Thus we now enter 1988 once again. Following Sorcerian in the timeline should be Dragon Quest III, which I’ve already written about, and now The Battle of Olympus, which released in Japan on March 31, 1988, and was later brought to the US by Broderbund in January 1990.

I’d originally skipped over The Battle of Olympus because I’d seen it referred to as a clone of Zelda II, suggesting it had little of its own to offer. After reading more about it, I decided to include it anyway, and I’m glad I did. It does have a lot of similarities with Zelda II, but it manages to feel like its own game despite them.

History Lessons: Sorcerian

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

I’ve been playing early console role-playing games (and action role-playing hybrids, and Metroidvanias), nominally trying to go in chronological order. But I haven’t been very successful at that. The farthest I’ve reached in terms of the timeline is September 1989, with SpellCaster, but I’ve since gone back in time again to fill in some games I missed. Several of those are entries in Nihon Falcom’s Dragon Slayer series, including Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family (AKA Legacy of the Wizard), and my most recent entry about Faxanadu, a spinoff game based on Xanadu, the second Dragon Slayer game. If I had my timeline in order, the next game after Faxanadu would have been Hydlide 3: The Space Memories, followed by the original Final Fantasy (which was actually the first post I wrote for this series, heh) and Phantasy Star. After that, we reach the fifth Dragon Slayer game, Sorcerian, originally released in late December, 1987.

Sorcerian is notable as an early example of a game designed to support expansion packs. The development team was tired of having to write the code for a game’s engine and systems every time they made a new game, so they tried a new approach with Sorcerian: it shipped with one disk for the game systems, and another disk with a collection of playable scenarios. Then Nihon Falcom — or others! — could release more scenario disks, which players could collect to continue their adventures. This formula proved successful, and Sorcerian was ported from the PC-88 to other home computer systems as well as consoles like the Mega Drive and PC Engine CD. Later, Sorcerian saw enhanced re-releases for Windows, and the wide range of scenarios to play mean that there are fans still playing it today (interested readers may enjoy this comprehensive feature about Sorcerian for more details). Unfortunately for me, all of those releases are Japan-only, without even any complete fan-made translations. The only time Sorcerian appeared in English was a version for MS-DOS, brought to US markets by Sierra On-Line in 1990. Which means I’ve found myself in the strange position of using comparatively fiddly DOSBox emulation to play it, rather than the console emulation I’ve used for everything else in this series so far.

History Lessons: Faxanadu

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

For those just tuning in, I’ve been playing early console role-playing games (and some adjacent games) for this sub-series of my broader History Lessons series. I’m nominally trying to go chronologically by the original release date (which is usually the Japanese release date) but I keep expanding the scope to include more games, so I keep jumping back and forth. The farthest I’ve made it in time is SpellCaster for the Sega Master System, which released on September 23, 1988. But I’m currently on a trip back to 1987 to fill in a few games I realized I should have included. The most recent of these is Faxanadu, by Hudson Soft, which released in Japan on November 16, 1987, and was later brought to the US in August 1989.

History Lessons: Zillion

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

My detour back to 1987 continues. I’ve completely failed to be chronological in this series, because I keep expanding the scope and adding more games to my list, but the nominal timeline should be in late 1988, following on from Sega’s SpellCaster. But then I decided to go back and play a few of the early metroidvania games that I’d missed, starting with The Goonies II, then Rygar, and now Zillion, developed by Sega for their Master System console. I’d never heard of Zillion before, but my research turned up someone describing it as “Sega’s answer to Metroid“. Given that Phantasy Star could be described as “Sega’s answer to Dragon Quest“, and I was hugely impressed with Phantasy Star when I played it for this series, I found myself quite excited to play Zillion.

History Lessons: Rygar

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

For those just tuning in, I’m taking a detour from the nominal timeline of this series. I say “nominal” because I’ve completely failed to be chronological so far. While I started out focused on early console role-playing games, this quickly expanded to include action role-playing hybrids, and now early Metroidvania games (including Metroid and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest themselves). Having learned about some more early titles that experimented with this nonlinear open world platformer style, I’ve gone back to play a few. That means that of the 24 games I’ve covered so far, Rygar is actually the 9th in order of Japanese release date. It arrived in April 1987, almost exactly one month after The Goonies II, which I wrote about last time. It only took three months to get a US release, however, meaning it actually made it to the States about four months ahead of The Goonies II.

History Lessons: The Goonies II

Other History Lessons posts can be found here. If you’re looking specifically for console games, those are here. As always, you may click on images to view larger versions.

It was inevitable. Last time, I broke from my timeline to play Dragon Slayer IV: Drasle Family (AKA Legacy of the Wizard), a game I’d originally skipped over because I’d deemed the Dragon Slayer series to be too early, and too focused on home computer systems instead of consoles. When this blog series expanded in scope, I decided I should probably go back and play a few of the Dragon Slayer games. But with Dragon Slayer IV I didn’t just find a great melding of role-playing and platforming action, I found one of the games that helped define the Metroidvania genre, and a very impressive one at that. From there, I started reading about some other early games that built the foundations for Metroidvanias, and since I’d already covered Metroid and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, I figured I might as well go back and play these other early games too. I promise I’ll get back to my timeline eventually.

First up is The Goonies II, by Konami, which was actually quite early. Released in March 1987 (coming to the US that November), it slots after Esper Dream (also by Konami) in my timeline, and the only platformers I’ve covered that predate it are Metroid and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. That means it got in on defining nonlinear, exploratory platforming before Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest would add the “vania” to the Metroidvania genre. But that was also by Konami, so I guess they were just building on their own work. Perhaps the most interesting thing about The Goonies II, however, is that it combines platforming with first-person adventure sequences, much like Sega’s Spellcaster would do a year and a half later.

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