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Popularity can be tough to come by.  As with most things in life, it was much easier as a child.  Everything was easier to figure out.  Flirting was simple.  Throw a rock at a girl and ridicule her, it means you like her (that doesn’t work after twenty, trust me.)  Bring Lunchables to school; you own the cafeteria that day.  Bring a Game Boy or, gasp, a Game Gear, and you were the king.  However, bring a Lynx and you were mocked and ridiculed.  Most likely to this day.


Sometimes, popularity can take too long to achieve, and for others it may never happen.  Being in the latter group, I can safely say that at a certain point, it’s never going to happen.  Actually it could, but that would mean not wearing Froot Loops t-shirts, reading comic books, or watching cartoons.  Also, no eating string cheese, as I’ll be damned if that is anything but an aphrodisiac.  In my case, that’s not going to happen; so rather than fight it I choose to revel in it, and not hide my excitement when I discover a 7-11 that sells cans of Chocolate Soldier.


As I mentioned, never achieving acceptance and popularity isn’t always the case.  After a while, it can happen.  Given time, your merits and good points can shine through, and slowly but surely build your good reputation.  Unfortunately, if time is a pressing issue, this long wait can be too much to bear.  Nowhere is this more prevalent than in the entertainment industry. 


I don’t even think going from the “entertainment industry” to talking about video games is any sort of proper segue.  I suppose I am somehow trying to give some form of glamour to a hobby that mostly revolves around being alone and eating Triscuits, by relating it to Hollywood. 


Anyway, in almost all aspects of entertainment, you need to get attention and get loved…soon.  Movies, music, video games, even books…all of these have unfortunately gained a “like ‘em and leave ‘em” stigma.  That is usually the best that can be hoped for, being liked at all.  Longevity is not usually the minds of many CEOs, so long they get the money in the first place.


Video games are even harder to get attention for.  I blame the fact that their target market is made up of 86% Mountain Dew and 14% sexual frustration, which has resulted in a miniscule attention span.  You could produce a great game, and by the time word got out, your company could be bankrupt.  Seeing this potential downfall, lots of companies skip the attention getting step, and simply buy a popular name through licensing.  This occasionally leads to a good game.  Unfortunately, it usually just results in sheer disaster


Many have tried valiantly, but no system will be more guilty of unleashing pure, unadulterated garbage on the public than Atari.  Don’t get me wrong, Atari was a ground breaking system.  It had Pitfall, Frogger, and some other games I don’t feel like talking about at present time.  This is because no matter how many good games the system had, the scale was always toppled over onto the “Crap” side.


Atari worked under the simple motto, “none of the games make any sense or have any form of working controls, so why not just polish the crap by adding a licensed character?”  Sheer genius.  It’s impossible to disagree, sadly enough this tactic worked…over and over and over.  Either the buying public in the early 80’s was just really desperate for games, or really stupid.  I’m figuring a little of both.


Case in point: The A-Team game.  Actually, I’m going to consider that to not be an absolute “case in point,” or the rest of the article would be a complete exercise in redundancy.  Let’s start over.


First off, we have The A-Team.  The show itself would lead to a good game, if done right.  It had action, explosions, and van chases.  So Atari took this concept of action and excitement, and flushed it straight down the toilet.  Instead of giving us the entire A-Team, they gave us one of the characters.  Or, more accurately, 10% of one of the characters. 


The game revolves around controlling Mr. T’s head, as it flies around the room like an autistic child after eating seven bags of Sixlets.  Just like in the show, Mr. T shoots lightning bolts out of his mouth to kill what appear to be aroused jesters and a pimp in a green suit.  The worst part of all of this?  This is one of the best Atari games ever made.  The controls function, and fairly accurately, or as close to accurate as could be expected. 


From hit TV show, to hit movie, we move onto Atari’s next venture…Alien.


“Alien” was a great movie.  Like The A-Team, it had action, excitement, and suspense.  As hard as it would be to compete with the A-Team, what with it containing Mr. T and all, “Alien” came close… by employing giant, scary, acid-spewing black beasts.  So I guess they're both pretty similar.  Again, Atari found a good thing to license, and again, royally screwed it up. 


When a movie revolves around a space ship, finding a giant nest of weird alien eggs, and as a result, being hunted on their ship, would you expect some of this to come into play in a game based on the movie?  If you would, you are a fool.  We’re talking Atari here.  Instead, what we were offered was an inane Pac-Man clone.  I haven’t bought the DVD of “Alien” yet; and I can’t wait for the deleted scene where Ripley runs through the ship’s corridors collecting pellets, all the while being chased by little dragon creatures, which may or may not be voiced by Sean Connery. 


I also am looking forward to the unveiling of the new Easter M&Ms colored aliens.  Since the movie came out in the 70’s I would think I would have heard about these new creatures before, but I suppose Atari wields more industry magic than I. 





The cartridge for the game brags that the game contains “4 Levels of Play.”  I am assuming they mean that by playing this game, you will be delving more than halfway into the seven levels of Dante’s torturous inferno.




While it isn’t fair to pick on Atari exclusively, there needs to be one more game mentioned.  A game which is indisputably more horrible than any game that came before it, or any game that will ever be made after it.  So horrible was this game that the majority of the cartridges sold were immediately sent back, and had to be buried in a giant landfill.  That is no joke.  It takes something special to be so bad that the only solution to the problems it causes is to bury it.


This game was E.T.


For all the praise it gets, I think the movie "E.T." did more harm than good.  It brought product placement into popularity, it introduced Drew Barrymore, and it resulted in this.



Look at that smug little bastard.  Smiling like an infant with a dirty diaper.  Why is he so happy?  He knows what lies beyond this introductory screen.  He knows the horror you will endure… the horror he will put you through.


The game revolves around walking around a field of grass, wandering until you fall into a hole.  In these holes you are supposed to find something.  I don’t even know what you’re supposed to find.  Pieces of a space ship, a bike, or maybe finding out whatever happened to the career of the kid that played Elliot.  Whatever it is, it is a miserable search.  For when you fall into one of these holes, you will, unfortunately, need to get back out.  This involves stretching ET’s neck out so he can float (huh???) to the top of the hole, and get out.  You will be doing this for a long time, as this is the most frustratingly impossible task to perform.  However, it needs to be done in order to move on in the game.  Although if you’re smart, instead of playing this game you will play “Atari CEO,” by going outside and burying this game in your own little landfill in the garden. 


Time was not good to licensed games, as better technology did not lead to better games in this department.  Determined to put out a new game at a rate of about once a day, the NES wound up with a LOT of bad games in their repertoire. 


As everyone knows, Superman is impervious to anything on earth.  The only thing that can defeat him is the green ray of the dreaded stone Kryptonite.  Possible the sound waves of the song of the same name could cause him damage, but that was never mentioned in the comic.   Although I assume yes.


The Man of Steel is far different in the comics than he is in the NES game.  This Superman apparently gets the “super” in his name the same way you tell a retarded child he did a “super” job by only falling twice while running to first base.  The game makes no bones about it, this Superman is dumb.  How often do you walk down the street, forget your name, but feel too ashamed to ask so you wait for someone to flat out tell you?  If you said “never,” then you’re just not super enough to star in this game.  Superman here not only has to keep track of the fact that he’s Superman, but also that he’s Clark Kent.  No way is it possible for him to juggle tasks like that.  Luckily, he can always turn to the out of proportion Statue of Liberty for assistance.



Even around the office, his co-workers know what a moron he is, so they have to constantly remind him of who he is talking to.  If I knew he had such a memory problem I’d be telling him I was his favorite friend also.  I’d also tell him today was my birthday so hopefully he’d cut me a check out of sheer embarrassment of forgetting. 



So far he’s not looking so super.  He’s dumb, short, and has different colored hair depending on what he’s wearing.  But at least he is a master of disguise, and no one will ever know that Clark Kent is really Superman.  Well, maybe they won’t know if he would only stop doing thirty foot vertical leaps around the office.


Luckily, the flaws of the character aside, the game is a lot of fun.  Wait, I mean it isn’t.  At all.  The game consists of running around, jumping and punching.  The designers of the game took a formula as tested as that, and managed to go completely wrong. 

At least the game was well researched, and every minutiae of the Superman story was replicated, right down to his place of employment, the “Daily Planets.”  Ugh. 


Maybe comic books aren’t the way to go.  So from the poorly drawn to the poorly acted, we go a different route: the movies.  Horror movies, to be exact.  Like I mentioned with Alien, horror movies lend themselves to being a perfect video game.  Not that I consider Alien to be a horror movie, I’d say more science fiction.  Although please ignore those last couple of sentences, as my coolness grave continues to be shoveled even deeper, so I don’t need more evidence against me.


What a great setup for a game.  A story that could be completely fabricated, in order to make a decent game since the actual game wouldn’t really matter, as the excitement would center on the main villain:


That’s right, Jason.  My favorite movie monster of all time. 


He’s got it all; he’s silent, scary, mysterious, and wears a Mylec goalie mask.  It takes serious guts to step in front of a tennis ball wearing one of those, let alone stalking and murdering people in one.  He does have some tough competition, such as other big time baddies such as Freddy Krueger and Leatherface. 




But Freddy is better in theory.  He really doesn’t have anything to make him cool.  He wears a lame emo sweater, is skinny, and wears a fedora but isn’t a detective.  His only claim to fame is his hand with knives on them, but that’s pretty stupid anyway.  Give me a machete or a chainsaw any day.  Well not really, I have no use for either; I just meant I’d rather have those instead of knife fingers.  Plus he stalks people in their dreams, what a sissy.  Do your menacing in the woods like a real man. 



A real man like Leatherface, who had a mask made of pieces of other peoples faces sewn together.  That might sound highly grotesque, but old LF had class out the ass.  He had a face mask with full makeup on, for nights on the town and for gala ballroom events.  Ordinarily, cross dressing would put LF down with Freddy in the sissy department, except he rocked out in other ways.  He was an expert interior decorator, what with his chairs made out of bones.  He didn’t even need to leave the bone sofa to find victims, he had such magnetism that they were drawn to his house.  He was a real man’s man, his chainsaw skills were unsurpassed.  Even though at the end of the first movie he wound up cutting himself with his chainsaw, that couldn’t stop him having the movie end with him dancing in the streets, swinging away with his mighty blade. 


Back to the original point: Jason.  Like all theories going into making a video game, the game couldn’t go wrong based on the premise.  That premise being Jason.  No matter how bad the game was, as long as you knew you would see Jason, you would play it.  And oh, how they tested the limits of making the game bad. 


You had to wander around the camp, as one of six losers, three guys and three girls.  They had names, but there is no way I am going to look them all up.  The brunt of the game involved wandering around the camp, going in cabins, and looking around.  Looking around at nothing, as 99% of these cabins were empty.  While outside, zombies would appear out of the ground, and you would throw rocks at them.  Already they are doing a good job of capturing the suspense of the Friday the 13th series.


It doesn’t matter, because pretty soon you will know just what fear is.  Soon you will come face to mask with Jason himself.  Pretty soon you will…. What???  What is that?  I never remembered Jason being so… pastel.  How hard is it to color him correctly?  Grey body, white mask.  What possessed them to make him purple and teal?  I'm pretty sure this game wasn't released around Easter.  The failure of this game to live up to it’s promise of horror and fun is like going to a Gwar show, only to find out they are doing an acoustic set, out of costume.  

How appropriate that the game has already done their best to describe people’s reaction to playing it.  Look in the upper left hand corner, that’s pretty much an exact summary of this game, had you ever asked me for it through AIM - :( 


This isn’t even close to describing all of the bad games for the NES.  I just have to stop out of fear of permanent damage to myself.  Fortunately, some of the games go without needing a description of how bad they are:



As we’ve seen so far, better technology doesn’t mean better games.  All it means is bad games where the bad characters look somewhat clearer.  Looking forward to newer systems, we are free to erase the old games from our memory.  We’re gonna need that space in our minds, since the 16 and higher bit systems were just itching to churn out crap to fill that space up.



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