Author: Zachary Latour
When it comes to video games, there are many things that are responsible for making us want to play them, especially if it's a game we are unfamiliar with. Cover artwork is probably the #1 thing that can make someone want to impulsively buy or rent a game; if you look at Contra (NES), Turtles in Time (SNES), or Alisia Dragoon (GEN) the artwork alone is great enough to make one pick it out for a weekend rental without knowing what the game is like.
Just like the cover art, the title should pop out, draw you in, and stick with you. The title of a game is what will be remembered the longest. However, a terrible game can also have an amazing title and beautiful cover art, and yet still be terrible. Would a game by any other name be as great? Well, yes in fact, it would be. 'Metroid' would be just as perfect even if it was titled, 'Samus Aran and the Planet of Zebes'. 'Chrono Trigger' would be just as epic if it was called 'Defeating Evil Through Time: Did I Remember to Feed My Cat?'. However, the perfect title of a game is like the proper punctuation at the end of a sentence: it ties everything together in a nice package.
One of the most important things a title is responsible for is being able to keep a series together. Through the use of subtitles and/or numbering, sequels are able to be clearly identified as a part of a set, making it easy to find other installments. Let’s take a title like ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ and pick it apart. The first thing we are told by the title is the franchise that the game comes from, ‘Call of Duty’. Second, it tells us the series that the game comes from, ‘Modern Warfare’. Third, it says the chronological number where this specific release resides in the series, 2. There is no doubt that ‘Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2’ was released after 1 and before 3. There may be nothing special that stands out about this particular title, but it provides us with all the information we need to know.
Some series went in a different direction than the numerical naming pattern. Even though it was a sequel or a spiritual successor, the title was changed between games. This could be due to copyrights, being lost in translation, or the game diverging so the name didn’t quite fit. Let’s take a look at some sequels/spiritual successors that gamers might not know are part of more well-known series, because they used an unconventional naming scheme.
College Slam (SNES/GEN) – Spiritual Successor to: NBA Jam
NBA Jam T.E. took an already whacky amazing sports game, NBA Jam, and added an updated roster and new features to it. The new features included things like Hot Spots that would increase the points received for a shot made from a specific point on the court; Power-Up Icons that would power the player up when they collected them; and Juice Mode which sped the entire game up. All of these additions took a crazy look at basketball and brought it to a whole new level.
College Slam is the college basketball game equivalent of NBA Jam T.E., and it’s really the most refined game in the series. All the insanity of NBA Jam series, from the great announcer, the amazing dunks, and ‘being on fire’ carry over to the third installment. College Slam retains all the additions of NBA Jam T.E. and incorporates extras like being able to play an entire season, play only the final four, and being able to edit the team roster.
NBA Jam offers us the ability to play as most of our favorite players from the NBA during that era, but College Slam leaves player names out of the game completely, leaving position titles in place of them. I find this awkward as College Slam is an officially licensed college sports game. If it had to do with roster changes, well, there was no DLC in the 90s, so even NBA Jam rosters were only completely accurate during the time that the game was officially released. The names of the 5 positions on the team roster are able to be changed in College Slam as well as the stat points of said positions, including speed, dunk, pass, 3pt, etc. You are able to rename every position of every team in the game and adjust stats accordingly. Technically it is possible to make any roster, out of the 44 selectable teams, up to date even up to today in College Slam. (There is a maximum of how many points can be allocated in total to each position, so don’t think you can just max out your favorite team and completely wreck house every time you play.)
IMHO College Slam is the best game in the series and takes the already crazy NBA Jam T.E. to new heights of ridiculousness. What it comes down to is your preference between playing with NBA teams or college teams. Either way, these games are drenched with charm. NBA Jam will always be the household name that everyone remembers and loves, but that doesn’t mean that College Slam has to forever live in its shadow.
Total Carnage (SNES) – Spiritual Successor to: Smash TV
Smash TV is one of the best 90s arcade games that transferred perfectly to the SNES. Smash TV is a dual stick shooter about a game show where the contestants try to kill and blow up everything in separate linked rooms, while collecting VCRs, lifetime supplies of meat, and paid vacations. It’s loaded with different weapons and power ups that can be collected to help get you through the game. Beating the stage bosses, as well as trying to rack up a higher score than the other player, is the overall objective of Smash TV
Total Carnage takes Smash TV and brings it in a different direction while still keeping the same elements in play. Where Smash TV had divided rooms with a break in between killing waves of enemies, Total Carnage takes a more linear approach, with enemies coming at you with more of an even flow. Both games feature multiple ways you are able to progress through the game in order to get to the end of it; Smash TV has multiple exits from completed rooms which can bring you different ways each time you play, and Total Carnage has portals scattered all over it that will take you to different locations. One of the best things about the arcade version of Smash TV is that the graphically violent visuals are so well done, and unfortunately the SNES port loses a lot of the visuals due to hardware limitations. The death visuals in Total Carnage are pretty well done on the SNES port compared to its predecessor.
Comparing these two games is like asking, ‘Do you like your chaos organized or not?’. Super Smash TV is like having your dinner on a tray where the peas, potatoes, bread, and steak are all in their own separate sections where they can’t touch each other and you’re free to eat each section in whichever order you’d like. Total Carnage is like taking the same food, putting it on a plate, mixing all of it together, and having some of everything in each bite. Yes, both contain the same elements, but they will look and taste drastically different.
Smash TV understands that it is insane, and it really creates a perfect atmosphere where things like the funny game show host and all other quirky parts of the game just seem to work really well together. Total Carnage seems to throw its humor in your face so there's no way you can miss any of it. Unfortunately, the Total Carnage port suffers from slowdown whereas the Super Smash TV port does not. Also, the SNES version of Super Smash TV has a speed up code that makes the game double the speed and honestly about a million times more fun. Both games are very unique and at least deserve a try to find out which one you prefer, but the replay value, speed up mode, and zero slowdown of Super Smash TV make it unparalleled in comparison.
Super C / Operation C (Game Boy) - Sequel to: Contra
Given that the iconic ‘C’ is on the label of both games, this title isn’t the furthest stretch on a name change. Although, when I was a kid and I would go to Funcoland, they would have a newspaper that listed the game platforms, the game titles, and the game’s price. If I saw ‘Super C’ or ‘Operation C’ typed out on the paper with no screenshot or artwork, I would have had no clue that these two games had anything to do with Contra. Contra Force isn’t much like the core series, but due to its title, it would seem to me like that game has more right to the series than ‘Super C’ or ‘Operation C’ does. There’s no reason ‘Super C’ couldn’t have been titled ‘Super Contra’, and ‘Operation C’ couldn’t have been titled ‘Contra Operation’.
‘Operation C’ takes the formula that made Contra and ‘Super C’ excellent and applies it to the Gameboy. There are side scrolling and vertical scrolling levels in this game just like in the previous installments. Some of the power ups seen in this game are new, like the homing shot, and some have been left out that were introduced in prior games. The game is fast, fun, and feels exactly like a Contra game in every way; the downside is that it is only one player. Back in the day, if you wanted a portable version of Contra then ‘Operation C’ was pretty much all you could ever ask for.
It really is difficult to say which of these two games is better, because it’s like looking at a set of twins that have different hidden talents and choosing which one you like the most. One might make you laugh and one might make you cry, so either of these could be your favorite depending on what kind of mood you happen to be in. If you travel a lot, ‘Operation C’ might be your favorite. If you like hanging around the television, Contra might be more to your liking. I’m personally torn on which I think is better. Contra is a masterpiece, but ‘Operation C’ always blows my mind from the second I put it into my old brick Game Boy and slide the power switch to the right.
Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Author: Zachary Latour