Documentary Review: Console Wars (2020)

Release Date: September 23rd, 2020
Directed by: Jonah Tulis, Blake J. Harris
Based on: Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle That Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris
Music by: Jeff Beal
Cast: various

Circle of Confusion, CBS Television Studios, Legendary Television, Paramount+, 92 Minutes

Review:

“Whenever you’re at war, you always hit the guy in the mouth as hard as you can. If you can’t hit him hard, you might as well not even fight. That’s the attitude in real war and it’s the attitude in business. You’ve gotta be prepared to take on the competition and win.” – Paul Rioux

When I was a kid in the early ’90s, I was all about Sega Genesis. Sure, I liked some of the games on Super Nintendo when it came out but Genesis was just my cup of tea from the speed, the graphics, the sound and the game selection.

However, I was also growing up and by middle school age, I wasn’t into the kiddie games.

This documentary tells the story of how Sega emerged as a video game powerhouse in the United States in a time when Nintendo owned the vast majority of the market share. Sega didn’t care, though, and they went all in, creating a system that was much more impressive than the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System and honestly, better than Nintendo’s rebuttal, which was the Super Nintendo.

There’s no hate here, though. I truly loved both systems but Genesis had the edge for me.

Anyway, this was well put together, well researched and it features interviews with the majority of the key players in this story.

Rivalries in business are great and for preteen me, this was the greatest business rivalry I could ever care about. Video games were a huge part of my life.

So seeing all these key people talk about this rivalry now is pretty f’n cool. There’s so much I didn’t know about the behind the scenes stuff because I was a kid and all I cared about was being entertained by the games I loved.

Well, I was also pretty thoroughly entertained by this documentary.

Rating: 7/10

Video Game Review: Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode (NES)

The first Golgo 13 for the original Nintendo is a game I used to love playing. But I hadn’t picked it up in years. Since I’ve been thinking about doing a deep dive into Golgo 13‘s anime series and movies, I figured I’d revisit the video games, as well.

This is still a lot of fun and I really liked games like this that didn’t just have one playing style. Here, you have a side scrolling shooter but then you get to use vehicles, go on sniper missions and also go underwater.

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode has a lot going on for it. Each stage of the game brings something fresh and unique and for a NES game, this is pretty long and takes a few hours to beat if you know where to go and what to do. Back in the day, I had to explore and figure out which steps to take.

For the time, the graphics are pretty good and the sound is great. However, it’s the story that makes this such a cool game.

This came out in an era where games didn’t have complex stories like they do in modern times. But this game took it to a level gamers hadn’t seen in 1988. This sort of has RPG vibes to it in how you talk to informants and other NPCs, get clues and directions and more pieces to the plot. While I think much was lost in the English translation, as was common with old NES games, the story still lured me in when I was a wee li’l lad.

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode is a neat game. It’s held up well and is still engaging and fun, even if all the first-person shootout sequences do become a bit tedious and annoying after awhile.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling shooters from the era, as well as the second Golgo 13 game and Rescue: The Embassy Mission.

Video Game Review: River City Ransom (NES)

River City Ransom was probably the first side scrolling beat’em up game that I played on a console after the Double Dragon ports.

This was also very obviously inspired by Double Dragon but the way you travel through the different screens was more complex, as you can enter buildings and go down streets to other areas.

Some of the locations look like generic recreations of sections of the first Double Dragon, though. Plus, the graphics in general aren’t as good and this looks a lot more cartoony and basic.

Overall, this is pretty mundane and it’s riddled with problems.

The first big problem is the controls. They’re shit. Often times they don’t even respond and with that, you get your face punched in.

The next problem is the fighting mechanics, which are pretty trash. In addition to that, some of the baddies you have to beat up forever. If you want to knock off Double Dragon, do it right. Knocking a thug on his ass twice should be enough to keep him there.

Another issue is the platforming aspect of the game. It is also trash. It’s hard to jump and if you jump into a ledge instead of over a ledge, you get knocked backwards because I guess humans in this game are made out of rubber.

The last problem I’ll bring up is that you can pretty much roam everywhere, however you want. But if you don’t kill the “bosses” in a certain order, you can’t enter the high school and advance. You literally just get stuck and have to start over.

In the end, this is a poor ripoff of a great game that tried to be a bit more ambitious but failed to execute anything in any sort of decent way.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: other side scrolling beat’em ups from the era.

Video Game Review: The Uncanny X-Men (NES)


I remember how excited I was blowing my Christmas money on this game at Toys”R”Us, the year it came out.

Then I remember how depressed I was after playing it for two minutes, once I traveled an hour back home with my mind set on conquering the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.

This game is absolute shit. It’s one of the worst video games I have ever played. It’s certainly the one that pissed me off the most after spending my own money on it back before I was old enough to even work.

Everything about this game is complete trash.
-The graphics
-The mechanics
-The controls
-The level design
-The generic, asshole enemies
-The sound
-The garish colors
-The second character’s AI
EVERYTHING

I figured I’d play it again, for the first time in decades, to see if maybe I overreacted back in the day. Nope. This is still, hands down, the worst original Nintendo game that I personally paid for.

At least those Sega Genesis X-Men games kind of made up for this one.

Rating: 0.5/10
Pairs well with: other terrible 8-bit Marvel games.

Video Game Review: The Punisher (NES)

This is a terrible game and it’s always been a terrible game.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t play the hell out of it when I was a kid because frankly, I loved Marvel Comics and this was the closest thing to the arcade game Operation Wolf that I owned on a home console.

Sadly, like most early Marvel games for the Nintendo Entertainment System, this just sucked. I tried to convince myself otherwise but the controls were dog shit and the game was hard as fuck, especially on the tedious boss fights.

The big problem with the difficulty is that it becomes impossible to dodge all the gunfire, missiles and grenades lobbed at you. You become quickly overwhelmed as the game advances and the opportunities to gain some extra life are too far and few between.

The graphics are also shit and this looks like a game that was rushed or just designed pretty half-assed.

Additionally, the villain roster was pretty generic, except for Jigsaw and The Kingpin. The reason for this could also be because the regular Punisher comic book series was still only a few years old when this was made. That doesn’t mean that they couldn’t have used other street level villains from the larger Marvel universe like Hammerhead, Tombstone, The Owl, Bullseye, Boomerang, Taskmaster, Crossbones, Typhoid Mary, Mister Fear, The Rose, The Gladiator, etc.

Hell, what’s with the fucking android boss? They could’ve designed it to look like a Doombot or mini-Sentinel.

I know, I know… I’m asking too much for a basic bitch 1990 Marvel game.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: other 8-bit side scrolling shooters or other terrible 8-bit Marvel games.

Video Game Review: Donkey Kong 3 (NES)

This is a game that’s kind of forgotten even though the two games before it are absolute classics.

I think the problem with Donkey Kong 3 is that it is a very different game than its predecessors.

This gets rid of the simple platforming style of Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. and instead gives you more of a simplistic action game.

Basically, you use your smoke gun to ward off bees and to push Donkey Kong up into a beehive. Simple, effective but somewhat of a step down from the other, very creative games in the series.

I’m one of the few weirdos that enjoys this game for what it is. On its own, it’s fine. It’s also pretty f’n hard as you advance.

Strangely, this is the first game without Mario in it, as you play as a character named Stanley. I’m not sure why Nintendo went in that direction but maybe it didn’t make sense to have a plumber using beekeeper equipment? Then again, this plumber also dresses up like a frog and eats mushrooms and strange flowers.

Most people seem to hate Donkey Kong 3. I don’t. I think it’s a fun departure from the style of the first two games but on the other hand, I would’ve preferred something in the style of the first two games.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr., as well as Mario’s Cement Factory and the original Mario Bros. before they went “Super“.

Video Game Review: Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)

I prefer Donkey Kong Jr. more than its predecessor Donkey Kong.

While both are simplistic platform games of the original Nintendo era, there’s just something I like more about this game. Maybe it’s because it’s four levels instead of three or because it’s slightly more complex and, overall, better designed.

I don’t know, it’s just a game from the classic arcade era that speaks to me and I still love playing it. So much so, actually, that I have to play through a few rounds of it a few times per week.

In fact, the rom for it is actually on my all my PCs’ desktops. I often times fire it up between big creative projects to reset my brain. I guess it’s my version of Microsoft’s Solitaire.

That being said, it’s kind of odd that I hadn’t reviewed this already. I guess it’s become such a regular part of my life over the decades since it came out that I don’t really think too much about it.

Anyway, the gameplay feels more fluid than its predecessor, the levels are much cooler to play through and I like the sound better. I also like playing as a vine swinging ape more than the human Mario.

Donkey Kong Jr. isn’t a perfect game, even if it is my perfect time killer and preferred avenue for quick mental escapism. Hell, it’s not even my favorite Nintendo game but it’s still in the upper echelon for sure.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong 3, as well as Mario’s Cement Factory and the original Mario Bros. before they went “Super“.

Video Game Review: Donkey Kong (NES)

It’s kind of hard to review a classic game of this stature that has left such a mark on everything else that’s come after it.

Donkey Kong put Nintendo on the map, introduced the world to Mario and helped solidify platform games as the biggest trend in the ’80s.

It’s elegant and perfect in its simplicity and that’s why Donkey Kong is still played, today. It’s also one of the games that people are still trying to get world records on and that’s not just because of the King of Kong documentary.

I like this game a lot and I play through a couple rounds of it at least every few months. Granted, I prefer Donkey Kong Jr. but I’ll review that one in the near future and break down why.

Donkey Kong isn’t my favorite old school platformer but it is definitely in the upper echelon. I now it’s really old and almost primitive but it was so colorful and well designed for its time. Additionally, I love the sounds in the game and that’s an area where Nintendo just seemed like they were a step ahead of everyone else, except maybe Namco, who had stupendous sound effects in their earliest games like Pac-Man.

This is just a fun and honestly, timeless game. It doesn’t take much to learn it and play it but it’s also really difficult, as you continue on in the game and play through more and more rounds. Because of that, even with its simplicity, it’s a hard game to master.

It’s hard to imagine a gaming world where Donkey Kong didn’t exist. It changed the landscape and deservedly so.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: its sequels Donkey Kong Jr. and Donkey Kong 3, as well as Mario’s Cement Factory and the original Mario Bros. before they went “Super“.