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Thursday, April 27, 2017

In search of GOTY for 1986

Oh my god, as if to make up for the dearth of games in 1985, 1986 can be pretty much considered a gamer's paradise (if you were rich) of the 80s. The Famicon Disk System launched in February and pumped out some mega hits including Zelda as a launch title. Meanwhile, the PC Master race was not to be outdone either with tempting titles from both sides of the Pacific.

As for the Famicon, it's still firmly in the camp of arcade style games that are designed to make you want to murder somebody, for example fucking Goonies. Now I loved the movie primarily cause of the smart Asian kid with the gadgets but the game not so much. I played a bunch of the Famicon games released in 1986 like Goonies and Kage no Densetsu much later with that shady 100 games-in-one cart Korean console and well, needless to say, I wasn't impressed.

Fuck this game, fuck it to hell
As for me, besides some odd titles I've played on other people's expensive PC hardware (C64, etc.), this was the start of my childhood nostalgia rose-tinted glasses of the mighty Master System. While early shooters are kind of dated now, at the time I played the SHIT out of Astro Warrior. That and of course Space Harrier are the games of 1986 that made up my childhood. Now, I didn't have/rent these games IN 1986 (duh, these are Japanese release dates) but these are the games I grew up with probably around the late '80s. Yeah, pre-orders and scummy resellers weren't really a thing in the golden age.

As for Space Harrier, while the vanilla arcade port came out in 1986, I believe I must've had the later 3D version cause I remember killing my eyes with those glasses. Come to think of it, that might have something to do with why I can't see shit anymore. Ah, the good ol' thrilling days of rampant lead paint and potentially life-threatening toys before all this Obama death panel government interference!

We used to wear these while licking lead off GI Joe figures.
Yet, we're still not as dumb as SJW millennial kids nowadays
However, I'm not a dumb kid anymore and have far more sophisticated tastes, so let's see which games have the best boobies... er... I mean have the best expression of gameplay aesthetics... and... interactivity... and stuff....


Family Disk System


Metroid? Pfft, wrong blog
There's a lot to like in the FDS's offerings in 1986 that are obvious contenders for GOTY, mainly Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, and Metroid. I don't have much insight to add to these games that have been talked about to death already. I'm sure they were amazing, genre-defining games for the time but since they're super mainstream and not really my type of thing, I'm going to pass on GOTY. To be honest, I don't even like Castlevania, I'd much rather play Astro Warrior.

However, I am planning on trying an adventure game called Dead Zone. While it looks entertaining, I doubt it will be able to compete with the strong lineup this year but who knows? I'll update this post later if I'm proven wrong. (Update: Nope, it was just ok at best)


Zeta


I feel like 1986 is a good year to check out Champion Soft's lineup. Even though they have a couple games going all the way back to 1983, it's a bit too dated even for me. Zeta, on the other hand, is a very interesting idea of bundling a magazine with software in probably one of the earliest if not the first example of virtual idols. The software even has a contest for favorite idol conducted by sending in a postcard from the magazine (it might be a tad bit late to send now). The Disk Magazine was published biannually until 1987 with a total of 5 volumes. Considering the big cultural impact virtual idols have had in Japan from the likes of Hatsune Miku, Love Live, etc., Zeta is definitely a noteworthy game for GOTY just in historical terms.

This is vol 1, issue 2, the only picture I could find online
If you've never heard of Champion Soft, you may have heard of their brand AliceSoft, which by the way, is a TERRIBLE name for a brand. Champion Soft is still around and is the developer responsible for AliceSoft, which itself is NOT a company name. So definitely a lineup to keep an eye out for in terms of Jhipster gaming history.

Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter


It seems Sierra On-line is still the dominant pioneer in the English-speaking adventure genre and boy, did they knock it out the park with the hilarious new series: Space Quest. Yeah, they also released the rather simplistic licensed game The Black Cauldron and yet another King's Quest but Space Quest is one of the series that I actually played and loved growing up, playing with my friend on his (rich) parent's Tandy on EGA graphics or whatever.

I loved the premise of Roger Wilco's anti-hero persona as you play a loser janitor on an accidental adventure to save the universe. As a bullied nerd, this was the perfect game to release some stress, er, I mean if I WAS a bullied nerd. Of course, as a super popular stud surrounded by chicks, I can only guess but I bet some poor nerd would have really enjoyed this game.

One of the best premise for an amazing series of adventure games
I would say in almost any other year, Space Quest I would be a no-brainer for GOTY but alas, 1986 is not just any year and there are some heavy contenders this time around. However, it at least deserves an honorable mention.

Alpha


Not to be outdone by the competition, Square released Alpha this year and so far I would rank it as their best Adventure game by far. Leagues ahead of Death Trap and Death Trap II, it features probably some of the best graphics (boobs) on the PC88 and it's not just ONE picture like Enix's scammy Zarth. In addition to some nice puzzles (boobs), it has a decent story (boobs), a nice OP theme song (boobs), and even a bit of animation. This definitely would have been a contender for GOTY if it came out in weaker year.

Like one nipple away from GOTY


Dragon Quest


While I gave the Famicon a lot of flack for being a mediocre platformer/action home console, there is one major exception. Even though all the cool games such as Metroid and Zelda were being released on the Famicon Disk System (ported later to NES with some downgrades but better load times), surprisingly Dragon Quest came out on the regular ol' Famicon.

Reading on the Famicon? What is this? FDS wannabe??
There are countless "articles" written by some nerd in his mom's basement about how JRPGs are really CRPGs and how they are more linear because of story or some bullcrap. However, at least for our good ol' pervy friend Horii, anybody who's played Karuizawa Yukai Annai can see where Dragon Quest's roots came from.
Pfft, so much for those Reddit/Kotaku/Polygon JRPG history "experts"
The final RPG portion of Karuizawa Yukai Annai is not so much linear, but better described as extremely primitive. You have to fight enemies in a certain order as the game balance is extremely tight and restricted. While DQ, being a full fledged RPG rather than just something tacked on the end, obviously has a lot more leeway in terms of balance, it still requires you to go to certain places in a certain order and weapon upgrades become available just when you need them.

I really enjoyed the tight balance and simple linear gameplay but I think it was more a product of simplicity and time constraints rather some stupid cultural bias as some dumb "JRPG vs WRPG" blogger would like to think. The fact is, with more ambition and budget, the next two sequels, especially 3, become much more open-ended as soon as you get the boat. Personally, it's why I hated 2 and still slogging through 3 because exploring without a clear goal with random encounters ain't so much fun when you're a busy adult. I'm sure it's great for kids to waste time on the ONE game they're stuck with for months, but no thanks, I'll stick with the good ol' simple DQ1.

While I played the SFC version, which has better graphics and music, I don't think that really matters so much for this type of game. I bet the original still holds up today as a solid RPG and I would be very surprised if I find another game that would top this as 1986's GOTY.

Other games of note


VR remake candidate?
177
While I didn't try this game myself, 177 is a noteworthy game for perhaps being the first example of the Streisand effect in gaming. Though since no internet, the effect was a mere golf clap, this pretty simplistic and frankly bad game has the notorious distinction of being the first adult title discussed in the National Diet. No idiots, it's not some new diet fad, I'm talking about Japanese politics.

Apparently 177 is the law concerning rape and you basically just chase down a woman in the park and well... 177 away. According to Wikipedia, this game was practically pulled from the market after the Diet got wind of it. Pfft, silly politicians, I guess they didn't even know about Tenshitachi no Gogo released a year earlier, where one of the menu options is "rape". Due to the increased notoriety and the subsequent ban, this game is supposedly now a rare collector's item. Way to go collectors!

Suishou no Dragon
The other Square developed game in 1986, published by DOG. Maybe because it was crippled by not being on PC master race hardware, I thought it was just so-so.

Valis: The Fantasm Soldier
I played the PC Engine remake which was pretty good but the original 1986 release looks pretty rough.

Games I plan to try later

Murder Club J.B.HAROLD SERIES #1
道化師殺人事件
コスモエンジェル
King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human
マドゥーラの翼 レイラ

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