This Week in Nintendo History: May 31st to June 5th
June is upon us, which means May is ending. Have no fear, though. We’re still going through our look at Nintendo’s history. This week is jam packed with stuff from system announcements and tons of game releases. We’ve got one of the most requested RPG franchises getting its first and only release in America. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s not waste any time.
When you think of the worst games of all time, one of the games that is at the top of everyone’s list is Superman 64. This game was released on May 31st, 1999 for the Nintendo 64 by Titus Software. It was based off the Superman: The Animated Series and is always among the top contenders for everyone’s list of the worst games of all time. Lex Luthor has created a virtual Metropolis and traps Superman’s friends inside of it. Superman must fly through a maze of rings that Luthor has set up around the virtual city. The game is best known for it’s terrible visual style, completely broken controls and even worse plot. The game had a terrible draw distance and to mask this fact the developers created what Lex Luthor called the Kryptonite fog that diminished Superman’s ability making it so that he couldn’t see very far ahead of him. Superman 64 received terrible scores from nearly every person who ever played the game with one of the lowest being Gamespot’s 1.3. Despite being panned critically the game did manage to be the top selling game for the month of June in 1999.
June 1st has been an extremely busy day in Nintendo’s history. June 1st 1990 saw the release of Abadox: The Deadly Inner War for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This game took players to a place they had rarely, if ever been before; the intestinal tract of a giant alien. It was a side scrolling shooter, similar to games like Gradius or R-type and was best known for its difficulty. The game required players only be hit once with any projectile before dieing. This would then take you back to the latest checkpoint you reached before death. The enemies that you would encounter in the game were modeled off of other various internal organs in a body, such as the brains or the eyes. It was also one of the few games that would switch the side scrolling perspective to a downward perspective. Most games that were similar to this would scroll sideways and vertically. The music in the game was composed by Kyouhei Sada who had done the music for many other Konami classics, including Contra.
June 1st, 1991 saw the announcement of the Super Nintendo at the Consumer Electronic Show in Chicago. The system was the second home console released by Nintendo and has been considered by many to be the best console in the company’s history. The system saw the release of 720 games in its lifetime, including: Super Mario World, Yoshi’s Island, and Earthbound.
Yoshi hit the scene with the release of Super Mario World on the Super Nintendo in 1991. He would get the first game with his name in the title on June 1st, 1992 with the release of Yoshi on the NES. Despite having Yoshi’s name in the title you actually played the game as Mario or Luigi. This was a puzzle game similar to Tetris or Dr. Mario. Playing pieces fell from the top of the screen and filling two halves of a Yoshi egg would cause the green dino to hatch. Depending on how many other pieces were in the egg Yoshi’s size would change. The game received mix reviews.
There have been few games that have reached true cult status, but the one’s that do have hugely loyal followings. One of those franchises that has become a cult classic in North America is the Mother franchise. The series has seen only one release in North America, that being Earthbound, or Mother 2, on June 1st, 1995 for the Super Nintendo. The game became most popular for its parody of American culture. The game was designed by Shigitoshi Itoi through a joint effort of Ape Inc, and HAL Laboratories. Earthbound contains many traditional RPG elements including the control of a party of characters, overworlds, dungeons and experience points for dispatching enemies. Itoi decided to forgo the use of an overworld because he wanted everything to feel fluid and there to be no distinction between the world at large and the many cities you visited. There were a number of issues that arose during the development of the game including programming issues with things like the delivery man system. The game was also originally supposed to fit on an 8 megabit cartridge, but had to be pushed to a 24 megabit cartridge due to the amount of content in the game. Earthbound was hugely successful in Japan, but did not fare so well in North America with fewer than 140,000 copies sold on the continent. Despite that it is still one of many gamer’s most wanted game to be re-released or revisited.
Nintendo has become famous for the number of peripherals the company releases for all of their systems. The trend began with the release of the NES and the Zapper. It continued to Nintendo’s handhelds. On June 1st, 1998 Nintendo released two peripherals that worked on the handheld together; the Game Boy Camera and the Game Boy Printer. The camera worked with all of Nintendo’s handheld systems up through the Game Boy Advance. It took grainy black & white pictures that used the famous four colors of the original Game Boy. When it released it came in five colors and was recognized by Guiness World Records as the smallest digital camera, a record which has been broken many times over since. The Game Boy camera was used to create the pictures on Neil Young’s CD cover for Silver & Gold.
The device interfaced with the other peripheral released on that day, the Game Boy Printer. This device used thermal paper with an adhesive backing to print pictures taken with the Game Boy Camera. Additional packages of printer paper came with three rolls of paper of different colors, white, pale yellow and pale blue. Each of these rolls of paper could print 118 pictures. In addition to being able to print out pictures taken with the Game Boy, there were 33 games that would use the device. The device was discontinued in 2003 and paper is hard to find for the system, but you can use thermal paper that is 1.5 inches wide without damaging the unit.
The Legend of Zelda was originally released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It has become one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises and the game was re-released on June 2nd, 2004 as NES Classics: The Legend of Zelda.
Donkey Kong was the first arcade game released by Nintendo in the early 80′s. It’s be re-released, in some form, on a number of systems, including Nintendo’s Game & Watch line on June 3rd, 1982. It was part of the Game & Watch Multi-Screen series and featured two LCD display screens. Because the system could not display different background the game only featured the iconic girders and if Mario successfully reached the top he would catch a hook that would take him back to the beginning of the level to do it all over again. Failure would result in a fall to Mario’s death.
The Game Genie was a device, created by Galoob that would allow users to enter codes that would alter a game’s code to cheat the game into thinking something else was happening. Many times nothing would happen if you didn’t have the proper codes. Nintendo filed a lawsuit against Galoob on June 3rd, 1990 citing that the device created derivative works of copyrighted material and was in violation of U.S. Law. Nintendo would ultimately lose this case with the court saying that derivative works needed to be “concrete or permanent” in some form and that a finding of copyright infringement might chill innovations and stop the free flow of ideas. The court also found that the Game Genie constituted “fair use” under U.S. copyright law.
Traveller’s Tales released Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures on June 3rd, 2008 for the Wii and DS. This was the second franchise taken by the company and turned into the famous children’s building blocks. It followed a similar gameplay style of its predecessor, Lego Star Wars, with one or two players following the adventures of the first three Indiana Jones movies. The games are best known for their humorous takes on the franchises involved. Because the company wanted to make these games more family friendly they removed all references to the Nazi party and some of the more graphic scenes like the ending to Raiders of the Lost Ark where some of the characters melted away due to the power of the Ark of the Covenant. The game received generally positive reviews and has sold more than 7.9 million copies worldwide.
Many gamer’s favorite handheld system, the Game Boy, was announced on June 4th, 1989 at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. The system saw the release of 626 games during its life, including one of the most popular games of all-time, Tetris, as well as the beginning of the Pokemon franchise, which has become one of Nintendo’s biggest selling franchises in history. The system went on to spawn a number of successors including the Color, Pocket, Micro, and Game Boy Advance. The Game Boy allowed users to play many games similar to the ones played on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It featured a monochrome green & black color palette and Nintendo’s two button control scheme. It also was able to use many peripherals like the aforementioned Game Boy Camera and allowed users to connect multiple systems together via a link cable.
Flagman was the second Game & Watch game to be released and saw its debut on June 5th, 1980. The object of the game was to mimic the flag patterns given by Mr. Game & Watch. To do this you pressed on of four buttons corresponding the number being held up on the screen. You had to repeat the pattern exactly or would lose a life. The game has been re-released through a number of Game & Watch collections on various systems and as a stand alone product on Nintendo’s DsiWare service. It was also featured as one of the moves available to Mr. Game & Watch on Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
So there you have it folks. Another week in the books, but one filled with a ton of great information. Take it, amaze your friends with your Nintendo knowledge. If you know of anything we missed or is coming up soon feel free to leave us a comment, send me an email or head on over to our forums to let us know. Before we leave we have to mention the releases that make up the history outside of North America.
2003 – Pokemon Box (GCN, Japan)
2007 – Blazing Angels: Squadrons of WWII (Wii, Europe)
2008 – Death Jr. II: Root Of Evil (Wii, Europe)
2009 – Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days (DS, Japan)
2007 – Resident Evil 4: Wii Edition (Wii, Japan)
1993: Star Wing (SNES, Europe)
2005 – Donkey Konga 2 (GCN, Europe)
1992 – F-Zero (SNES, Europe)
1994 – Stunt Race FX (Sfam, Japan)
1998 – Game Boy Camera (GB, Europe)