In 1988, Midway released NARC, a side-scrolling arcade shooter in which players waged a literal war on drugs. And prostitution. And dumpsters.
While it’s admirable that someone finally had the guts to craft a revenge fantasy against the armies of jean-jacketed PCP addicts and perverted clowns that once terrorized the streets of America, Midway’s fascination with extreme violence undercut the anti-drug message a bit. Though arresting drug dealers is presented as an option, NARC makes it explicitly clear that the preferred solution is to explode them with rockets and let their severed limbs rain from the skies like confetti in a Fourth of July gore parade.
NARC is also a very loud game that wasn’t afraid to show off its digitized voice samples. When a NARC cabinet is turned up to maximum volume (as is its default setting), an otherwise unassuming video arcade is transformed into a dissonant carnival of UUUGHs and BLAAAAGHs and YOU’RE BUSTEDs. And whenever a player’s credit ends and a new high score is earned, everyone within 200 feet of the machine is treated to this:
I want to talk about Gaelco. Because someone has to.
Gaelco is a Spanish developer of…ah, let’s call them “lower-tier” arcade games. Its catalog largely consists of clones, cheaply produced original titles, and games that are just shy of what would be considered “good.” Few of Gaelco’s games (exactly two) were ever ported to consoles, and many of their best-known efforts were never released outside of Spain.
If you’ve heard of Gaelco at all, it’s probably because of Smashing Drive, an arcade Crazy Taxi knockoff that, for whatever reason, Namco’s North American branch identified as a surefire hit and subsequently ported to the Xbox and GameCube in 2002. The game was a moderate success in arcades, but flopped on consoles, largely because you can finish the thing in about an hour and never have any reason to return to it.
Smashing Drive itself is not a remarkable game. It’s fun in a shallow sort of way, and it’s worthwhile for the 99 cents-plus-shipping you’ll pay for it on eBay nowadays. The only truly exceptional thing about Smashing Drive is its transcendent soundtrack.
Yeah. This plays in the background during the first level, and you’ll hear it loop many times over by the time you get to the second stage. It’s bizarre, isn’t it? I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more abrasive and less intelligible vocal song in a video game. The lyrics are in English — I think — but what are these words?
Upon first listen, I had the feeling that I’d heard this song before. Somewhere around the 20th loop, it hit me: it’s a total ripoff of Rob Zombie’s “Dragula.” More specifically, it’s modeled after the Dragula remix in Jet Grind Radio — it even uses the same flanging and stutter effects, in the same places. Except, well, somewhat ineptly.
This track plays in the second level, and it’s at least a little easier to understand. I can pick out individual words and phrases, anyway.
It’s probably a ripoff of something, like the first song is, but it’s not immediately identifiable. The guitar riff reeks vaguely of Aerosmith. And now that I think about it, the vocal style kind of resembles “Walk This Way.”
Among the few lyrics that I could decipher:
– “Heeeere we go againnnnn”
– “One two three four. One two three four. ONE TWO THREE FOUR. ONE TWO THREE YEAAAHHHHH”
– “LOOSEN UP YOUR DIAPERS” (Huh? And what’s said afterward? “Get your crotch curling?”)
This one’s catchy. It’s also a complete ripoff of something that I know I’ve heard before, but can’t quite recall. Parts of it remind me of Franz Ferdinand, but Smashing Drive was first released in arcades in 2000 — Franz Ferdinand didn’t exist until 2002. Smashing Drive was clearly ahead of its time.
The melody at 1:16 was totally stolen from Cream’s “I Feel Free,” though.
So hey, here’s a fun thing to try: listen closely to these songs and try to figure out what words you’re hearing. There are no officially published lyrics that I’m aware of (or an official soundtrack release, for that matter). Can anyone decipher them? If you have any guesses, post them in the comments!
While taking screenshots for the last entry, I tried out every version of Golden Axe supported by MAME, just for the hell of it. I was half-hoping to find the rumored bootleg edition that had been hacked so that enemies spurt blood and collapse into a pile of gore when killed.
Sadly, the Rated M for Mature version of Golden Axe doesn’t seem to exist. As Hardcore Gaming 101 notes, the closest we got to such a thing was the Japanese release, which — you may want to sit down for this — has blood dripping from the words “Select Player” on the character selection screen.
After letting the game loop through its attract mode a couple of times, though, I discovered another difference that HG101 didn’t catch. This delightful little vignette is exclusive to the Set 4, Japan version of Golden Axe, and is not found in any other official release:
(Please send your children out of the room before clicking through.)
A few days ago, I decided to investigate something that I had been wondering about for a long time — Golden Axe’s bizarre scoring system.
It’s the most mysterious part of what is otherwise a very straightforward beat-’em-up. There is no high score table, and your score is never displayed at any point during gameplay. When you lose all your lives or finish the last level, though, you see this thing:
Doing some searching, I came across this video:
First of all, thanks, Internet, for finally introducing some math to my Golden Axe experience. Basically, if you want to play for score in Golden Axe, you need to finish off every enemy with a kick or a throw. To do a kick or a throw, you first need to complete a long combo string, which leaves you open to attack from surrounding enemies.
Your final score is divided by your number of deaths, so there’s some skill involved in mixing scoring opportunities with survival. High risk = big reward. Basic stuff.
At some point, though, some jackass discovered that you could exploit the game’s magic system to “kill” a single enemy multiple times before he or she hits the ground after a fatal blow. Using this method, scoring is less about skillful combat and more about strategically kicking those little elf turds so that their magic potions pop out in a cluster, allowing you to cast magic several times in a row after killing a boss.
I can’t imagine that this mechanic was an intentional decision on the part of the game’s designers, but it works. Follow the strategies in the video above and you’ll achieve scores that will impress anyone who a) is aware of the intricacies of Golden Axe’s scoring system and b) happens to be watching during the ten seconds in which your score is displayed before it disappears forever.
Given the obscurity of this knowledge, I wondered if I could use it to easily take over the Golden Axe leaderboards on Xbox Live. Better still, I found out that savestate abuse did not invalidate leaderboard scores. Hmmm.
One of the reasons why I love Capcom’s Strider so much is because it’s packed full of so much stuff. The game is a patchwork of incongruous art, half-finished ideas, and schizophrenic level design. Somehow, though, it all gels as one jumbled, wonderful whole.
One particular element, though, always struck me as being especially weird. Tucked in an out-of-the-way corner of the third level are three stacks of artillery shells. You don’t need to destroy them (they’re not even worth any points), and you might never see them in a normal playthrough.
Destroy the top row, though, and you’ll uncover this little guy.
He does a little dance, rotates his head a full 720 degrees, and then disappears, never to be seen again.
Strider Hiryu later crossed paths with another stuffed bear in a background cameo appearance in Street Fighter Alpha 2.
This, according to Internet legend, is a tribute to the troubled programmer of the unreleased SuperGrafx port of Strider. Depending on who’s telling the story, the guy either suffered a nervous breakdown or committed suicide after cracking under the pressure of strict deadlines.
But really, what’s with that panda? More than 20 years after the game’s release, an explanation was finally given in this recent interview with Strider’s designer Kouichi Yotsui:
“The graphic staff and planners will sometimes conspire against the planner and put something in without his knowledge. For Strider, someone put a panda in the battleship’s cannon room without my knowing. The person who did that later became [Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune]’s wife, fully supporting her husband’s success.”
Yotsui also claims no knowledge of any programmer suicides or breakdowns in regards to Strider’s creation.
The panda was, apparently, snuck into the game by someone who simply likes pandas.