Dr. Sparkle’s epic, Sisyphean journey through the entire library of the Nintendo Famicom/NES, Chrontendo is back! This episode has the subtitle, “The games will get worse until morale improves,” and is it ever fitting. Here it is, more about it beneath:
This episode presents ten games from June of 1990, well into the glut of NES games when many companies with no business being in the games business dipped in their toes, much as they did at the end of the Atari 2600’s reign. Even though Nintendo was supposedly guiding the library with their benevolent white-gloved hand, those of us who were alive then and lived through it know better.
Bandit Kings of Ancient China (a.k.a.. Suikoden): Dr. S has some fun with the opening of this one, where he confuses it with a different, much later, much prettier game called Suikoden. This one is another of Koei’s many historical sim strategy games, ports of computer games. These games aren’t actually bad, but they are definitely an acquired taste, and they’ll destroy you if you aren’t prepared. I wonder how these games look internally? There doesn’t exactly seem to be a huge Koei historical strategy sim romhacking scene. Internally I imagine them being a giant maze of 8-bit math routines and text tables. If NES-era JRPGs are anything to go by, lots of menu-based games like this are riddled with subtle bugs. Someone should look into that. Someone other than me.
Kickle Cubicle: Also not that bad a game, a fairly charming port of an arcade puzzle game. Someone should have told Irem that no one was making good NES games around this time, because this is a highlight of the episode. Sadly it’s not to Dr. Sparkle’s tastes, but he admits it’s not really that bad. (Apparently he got beat up by Koke the Eyepatch-Wearing Chicken.)
Moero!! Judo Warriors: A judo sim from Jaleco’s “Moero” series (which doesn’t contain Moero Twinbee as one might think or hope). Many of the Moero sports games got localized to the US under different names (the baseball one became Bases Loaded). It’s largely a redo of an earlier Jaleco judo simulation.
Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition: Agh, another of the avalanche of Rare-developed game show adaptions from the NES era. At least Jeopardy still exists today so you roughly know what’s going on, as opposed to the hates of Double Dare or Remote Control. No great shakes, no, but at least look at the spinning words “Anniversary Edition” on the title screen. Rare would often put that bit of unnecessary polish into their work. Despite their efforts though, this is not a game that plays well with a gamepad.
Cabal: an adaption of an arcade game, programmed by Rare. (But remember, there is no cabal!) You might call it an Operation Wolf-like, but with destructible terrain. On the NES it’s not a lightgun game, even though it looks like it wishes it were one.
Silk Worm: Another arcade port, on the NES is lacklustre side-scrolling shooter where you can play as a helicopter or a jeep. Keep in mind, as you watch the footage of this, that Super Mario Bros. 3 came out the year before in Japan.
Arkista’s Ring: the cover seems to promise at last the Zelda where you play as Zelda, but no, it’s not an exploration game at all. Not really bad, but not a system highlight. As Dr. Sparkle says, the game pulls a Ghosts ‘n Goblins on you, making you compete all the levels four times at higher difficulties. Hm.
Rad Racer II: Pretty much a track update of the original Nasir-developed Rad Racer, and Square’s last non-RPG game for a long time, as well as their last Famicom game. Rad Racer was a modest hit when Nintendo published it for the NES, so Square probably sought to capitalize on that with this US-only release.
Rocket Ranger: A port of the Cinemaware computer game. Cinemaware’s gimmick was making games that mimicked the experience of movies, and this one’s no different. In actual play it’s just a minigame collection within a simple strategy framework.
And as an extra, Dr. Sparkle presents his 1990 arcade round-up. Games covered are Sega’s Alien Storm, Moonwalker, GP Rider and Columns, Atari’s Batman, Race Drivin’ and Pit Fighter, Capcom’s Mercs, 1941 Counter Attack and Super Buster Bros., Konami’s Aliens and Parodius Da!, Namco’s Final Lap 2, Irem’s Air Duel, Williams’ Smash T.V., SNK’s Beast Busters, and-oh wow!-Seibu Kaihatsu’s Raiden!
Does it seem to you like there’s been a lot of Youtube videos here lately? It’s an unfortunate fact that a lot of the information and articles that once would have been in informative and quick-reading blog posts are now presented to the internet in a format that requires video editing software to create and 15+ minutes of your time to watch.
However, with Chrontendo it’s worth it. Dr. Sparkle’s epic-length tour through the entire run of the Famicom’s and NES’s libraries. Most episodes are an hour or longer, but you definitely get your time’s worth by watching them. And like U Can Beat Video Games, it’s nice just to have running in the background while you do other things.
We linked to Chrontendo #60 last June, titled “The Most Perverted Episode.” Sadly Chrontendo #61 doesn’t come with any titillation factor; it’s title is “Not really worth the wait.” It’s a series of games ranging from pretty bland to outright terrible. Covered are the months of May and June 1990, plus one game that’s a holdover from April. Within the video is footage and commentary on:
Castle Quest, which is not the same game as Castlequest in the U.S., which was a renamed localization of a game called Castle Excellent in Japan. It’s a turn-based strategy game that’s like Chess against a computer opponent, but with a random factor.
Snake’s Revenge, the disowned sequel to Metal Gear that Hideo Kojima didn’t work on, a game that some people like but Dr. Sparkle doesn’t. I’ll say it’s more polished than NES Metal Gear, at least.
Remote Control, a video version of a nearly forgotten MTV game show that couldn’t use any of the celebrity likenesses from the show.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, another of the Disney Afternoon tie-in games. Dr. Sparkle admits it’s not bad, and it’s probably the best game of the episode, but is only really interesting when played co-op with two players. There’s a fairly scandalous piece of Gadget fanart here, scavenged from the aptly-named halls of DeviantArt.
Rally Bike, a port of a Taito arcade motorcycle game with much less polish than the original. I note that this game was ported by one of my un-favorite developers, Visco.
Battle Fleet, another turn-based strategy game, with a naval theme.
Chrontendo is, of course, Dr. Sparkle’s great and long-lived journey to document and discuss every Famicom and NES game. He’s made a lot of headway! He’s also doing Sega and PC Engine/Turbografx games!
We avidly, and a bit obsessively, link every Chrontendo episode as it’s posted. But what about the many days which don’t see a new episode?
On those days, you’ll just have to console yourself with Randochrontendo, on both Twitter and Mastodon, which posts random images from Chrontendo, usually screenshots, every thirty minutes. Sometimes you just want to look at a random 8-bit video game, and when those times arrive, Randochrontendo has you covered.
Chrontendo’s back! Dr. Sparkle’s long-running journey through the entire library of the Famicom and NES continues. He’s been doing this for at least 15 years! Chrontendo got its start as a blog, then moved to a YouTube format, although every episode is also uploaded to the Internet Archive. Dr. Sparkle tries to complete the games he covers, meaning, sometimes it takes a very long time to construct an episode, especially when it contains a lengthy JRPG.
In addition to being generally watchable by anyone with even a passing interest in video gaming history, Chrontendo is a good series just to have on in the background while you do other things. What I’m saying is that it’s comfortable. Like Comfortable Doug! (warning: earworm)
Chrontendo 60 is subtitled “The Most Perverted Episode,” covers April through May of 1990, and features:
horse racing sim Kurogane Hiroshi No Yosou Daisuki! Kachiuma Densetsu,
a long section the original Fire Emblem and the series in general,
Rare’s PinBot, a very unique and interesting simulation of a real Williams pinball table with some unique video extras,
GameTek’s home version of the Nickelodeon game show Double Dare, which was also made by Rare,
the ludicrously-titled Dinowarz: The Destruction of Spondylus,
Imagineering’s Ghostbusters II,
Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road, by Rare,
a very long section on the epic Final Fantasy III, from and by Square, which Dr. Sparkle proclaims to be the best JRPG on the system,
Kagerou Densetsu, a “sorta action RPG thing” published by “Pixel,” but we’re not sure who exactly that is, and may have been intended, it is speculated, to be a kind of RPG-ish sequel to The Legend of Kage, and
Nintendo World Cup (forgive me for not typing out the entire Japanese title), that weird Kunio soccer game that Nintendo published under their own banner, just with all the story and setting removed. It’s a decent soccer game even so.
With this episode, Dr. Sparkle is declaring a dividing point for the series. Up until now has been the rise of the Famicom; the rest covers its fall, what he calls the “Byzantine Empire” phase of the system’s life. This doesn’t mean the series is almost over though. Far, far from it.
The third and last of the chronological platform cataloguing efforts is the longest-lived and most complete, Dr. Sparkle’s wonderful Chrontendo, going through the entire library of the Famicom and NES, along with sister projects Chronsega (Mark III/Master System and Mega Drive/Genesis) and Chronturbo (PC Engine/TurboGrafx-16).
Each of the projects I’ve presented have had a different style. Atari Archive does one game at a time, devoting from 8 to 20 minutes to it. Video Works tends to cover two or three times per video. Well, the various Chrons go for the omnibus approach: each entry shows from a dozen to 20 or more games. It also emphasizes gameplay footage, and also sometimes some side bits amidst the many games.
Chrontendo has been going since a while before 2010, and so there is a whole lot of material to catch up on. It also has the slowest rate of updating, with sometimes whole years between episodes. But each episode is its own little wonder, containing a solid mass of retro gaming information, including many games you probably won’t ever hear about anywhere else.