Genki has been lucky enough to sample the Neo Geo AES. Having played the
fine Super Famicom a little too much previously, the sheer scale of the sprites
was stunning. Dominating the screen, the giant proportions of bare chested
beefcakes came up against nimble descendants from the Ainu folk, who originally
inhabited the north island of Japan in Hokkaido. Such was the balance of the
play mechanics that even the petite Northern Flower (with an admittedly fierce
eagle) could take down the barrel chested bruiser. Teaching Western gamers that
perhaps big isn't always best.
Samurai Spirits did indeed capture the traditional cultural aspects of
Japan: the dramatic, Noh Theatre style opening complete with falling sakura
blossom symbolising 'mono no aware.' This is a belief that beauty is made more
beautiful by the fact that it is short lived. So the cherry blossom, whilst
looking incredibly stunning in its own right, may also look more beautiful by
the fact it will soon drop to the floor and decay. The chanting is like one of
Buddhist nature and the fire and brimstone level is like a version of Buddhist
hell. The drumming permanently cranks up the tension and atmosphere. Which
newspaper said games weren't educational..?
Due to the prohibitive costs of new carts, trading carts proved the best
option. Purchase decisions were based on limited info from the fanzines on
offer and play videos, which in the pre-internet era excitingly showed actual
gaming footage. Magazines did have some coverage, but due to the cost it was
more focusing on its niche nature in a tabloid style. Not until the early
editions of Edge was it more seriously looked at. Genki loves SNK's take on the
genre it was tackling: be it the dramatic feel to Super Spy as players take on
the role of a pair of hands as viewed from the screen. The Spy's adversaries
perhaps lacked a little bit of modern day PC, but the cliched look made it
clear who the bad guys were.
Few titles can be as well set as Nam 1975 with the whole title screaming
Apocalypse Now. It must be the closest film tie that was never actually tied
in. You could almost hear the insects chirping around you as players got in
role by gradually themselves going a little crazier with each level as war
descends to madness.
The post-apocalyptic feel to the setting of Last Resort made this R Type
style shooter well worth the admission fee. Opening with a scene like a steel
factory in the rain with greys and a sense of further impending doom, Genki
would savour the atmosphere as much as the shooting action to get through to
see more of this R Type En Grey.
The simple platform adventures of Raguy filled a missing genre for the home
system, yet perhaps lacked the budget of its big brother arcade titles due to
it being relatively hard to set up a system of coins per play.
Fatal Fury Special had its stunning railroad battle on
the back of the express train. Not that other levels lacked its attention to
detail including a Duck stage that felt like a Hong Kong nightclub meets
eighties acid house party.
Finally footy fans lapped up the superfluous celebrations of Super Sidekicks.
Tickertape celebrations would greet the most simple of goals turning every
moment into one of those Sky Sports HD montages. But beneath the over the top
presentation lay a game like many of its Neo Geo ilk. Simple pick up and play
mechanics keeping true to its arcade roots, but with hidden depth and moves
allowing the coin-op king to pull the pants down of the newcomer and nutmeg
them at the same time. Sadly it seems a long way away since the days of such a
niche console. But its glorious memory lives on.