I must admit, thinking back through part one of my gaming history it’s become apparent just how much time and how many games I’ve played through. It would take an age to mention all of the decent titles I’ve played but I could write a bible sized book on the guff I’ve also wasted my time on.
I think really I’ve picked through some of the key moments in my life where games have had a profound effect on me, some positive, some, damaging. I still have my NES and controllers, and with it, bite marks on the pads from various games. One game in particular that made me want to pull the skin off my face, was Bayou Billy.
From the outset Bayou Billy looks like a winner. You’re a hardy, outdoorsy, Crocodile Dundee lookalike who mixes it up with the wrong people and has his girlfriend snatched by a local crime boss. Luckily for Billy, the crime boss not only tells you where to find your girlfriend but also asks for nothing in return, so basically he just wants a good shoe in.
So off you trot, into 10 ball achingly hard levels to reach said crime boss, at his estate. The game is split into six brawler levels, in a similar style of a Double Dragon title. Two driving levels and two shooting levels. No amount of cola, biscuits or coarse language got me through this game. I’ve heard accounts from other gamers about the final boss level and even then they had been using the Game Genie, which I imagine was near melting point at the amount of cheats it had to throw at the player to help them defeat it.
It got to the stage where I would be playing through the first level and if I had been hit in the first five minutes, I’d have to restart and play again. You only had one chance at this, no bonus’s, no extra lives. Just smack, shoot and whip everything that comes at you, taking as little damage as possible.
The simple NES pad with its A and B buttons obviously limited the amount of moves you had as Billy, to defeat around two hundred enemies you have…Right punch. Right kick. Jump and kick.
Enemies come at you from all angles brandishing, whips, wooden sticks, rocks, knives and guns…if it wasn’t for the fact you could pick up these weapons and use them against the enemy, this would be undoubtedly the hardest game ever made.
The shooting levels, which utilised the NES’s light zapper, involved shooting a myriad of armed men in the woods. This was a chance to relieve some of that stress from the brawler levels…BUT!, get your counting caps on because armed with your trusty pistol you’ll need to watch your limited ammo because at the end of the stage, you’ll have to take out a helicopter. Yes a fucking helicopter, armed with guns and rockets and all this time backed up by infantry with assault rifles.
In between these levels, Billy would jump into his jeep and you’d have to drive him to the next location. It’s no leisurely drive though, Oooh No…you’ll be throwing grenades out of the window with one arm and shooting henchmen in vehicles with the other, foot planted to the floor, along dirt roads, in case you found the chopper a doddle.
What exactly had Billy been up to previously, to deserve this kind of punishment? You have to begin to question the guys past, perhaps I am the bad guy?
So, with the new breed of games console around, came new challenges and new ideas…all of which weren’t helping anger or patience issue’s as a child but I certainly knew now what were the foundations of a good game.
The age of the 8bit was coming to an end, there was a lot of talk of some new machines on the horizon, that were going to blow the past consoles out of the water.
At this time, I had been borrowing a Sega Master System, from a friend which had been a nice change of pace from the Nintendo library.
Alex Kidd was a game built into this machine as was the Snail Maze, which surprisingly a lot of owners didn’t seem to know about it. Don’t worry if you owned a master system and never found this game, Snail Maze was no Pac Man…it was as the title reads. It’s a snail, in a maze.
It was in fact, Sega’s second best console of all time, selling 13 million units worldwide…this was only beaten by the Megadrive. Technically it was superior to the NES but perhaps the game library (300 titles against Nintendo’s 500+) was the reason it did not outsell the Nintendo. Alex Kidd was the unofficial mascot for the Master System and also its bestselling game. It appears, looking back on these platform games, to compete with the likes of Mario, you have to out-weird the competition.
Despite how weird this game was, I much preferred it to the jumping plumber. Alex is a happy go lucky kid who resembles a monkey with downs.
Not only can Alex punch and flykick through bricks with his bare hands but he rides a motorcycle and ‘peticopter’, basically a helicopter/bicycle you can pedal to fly around on. He lives in a land called ‘Miracle world’ and that’s quite an apt word for the place, as a miracle is what was needed to navigate through this place. One jump wrong (this happens often) and you’d be wanting to fly kick your projection box into next Tuesday. You are told that Alex is an orphan who has been taught some special techniques for fighting enemies and when an evil fella, named Janken comes to town and kidnaps both the prince and princess. Alex sets out on a rescue attempt.
But whether it was the funky little tunes in the game or the cute graphics, I really enjoyed this game. Despite the fact you had to play the game with a D-pad that cut your thumb to shit and the game made an annoying unforgettable ‘whoo whoo’ noise when you died, Alex Kidd holds a place in my heart as the reason I fell for Sega.
There were many titles on the Master System that were given a sequels and for good reason. The Master System was the first machine that I played an RPG (role playing game). Namely, Phantasy Star. The general theme of these types of game at this time, is that you wonder around a fantasy world in a top down view, with nothing more than a positive outlook on life and a piece of bread, when all hell breaks loose in the land you live in and you have to fight to save it.
The stories were very immersive, made all the more challenging because you literally had to remember everything everyone has said to you, because there were no menus with objectives and way points, if you really wanted to do well you’d have to write this shit down yourself. I still remember drawing out maps for areas with my dad for Phantasy Star, so not to get lost in a cave, only to have to fight a mega demon wearing a level one piss pot helmet, wielding a dagger a fairy gave you.
I invested a lot of time into the 8bit realm of gaming. I still hum the tunes to myself today. I often wonder if this is because they were the work of a musical genius or whether it was because these games were so brutally hard, the tunes are scarred onto my grey matter like a first language.
Coming in part 3. I play with a whole 16bits of power. Chop lifter returns in 3D..in Iraq! And how you lose friends playing Sonic the Hedgehog.