Shadow Warrior Review – You Didn’t Buy It?
To say that video games have become much more politically correct over the years is no bold claim. One inappropriate joke or passing comment could result in unwanted criticism from countless people, just the kind of thing game developers want to avoid entirely. It wasn’t always like this, however. Sometimes, developers pushed games beyond the boundaries of tastefulness.
3D Realms’ iconic shooter Duke Nukem 3D, was offensive, challenging, and oh so fun. Its satirical and tongue-in-cheek content was enough to upset more than a few people after its release in 1996. After that, the company released an Eastern-themed spiritual successor Shadow Warrior. Looking past the cheesy one-liners, parodies of bad kung-fu movies and racial humour, Shadow Warrior really pushed its engine to its limits, helping the poorly-selling title achieve a cult-classic status over time. A title well-deserved, too.
Once you start the game, you’re attacked within the first three seconds. No other game has dared following in Shadow Warrior‘s footsteps!
If you’ve played Duke Nukem 3D, you may be disappointed to hear that Shadow Warrior is not as lengthy or balanced. You’ll come across quite a few irritating enemies across its 22 levels. The worst of the bunch are the uzi-wielding ninjas that jump, climb, and even perform special attacks, like fire homing missiles or cast spells (depending on the colour of their trousers). If that wasn’t annoying enough, there are suicide-bombers that usually turn into hard-to-hit ghosts on death, and killer hornets that attack in swarms.
A ninja’s never ready for a fight without his mighty katana or a handful of shurikens, but these are quickly outclassed by weapons like uzis, a slow-firing railgun, a grenade launcher, and a fire-breathing monster head. Many of these weapons actually have alternate-fire modes, like the riot shotgun. Normally it’s quite accurate, but its alt-fire lets you unload four shells in rapid-succession before automatically reloading, making it an excellent choice for close-encounters. Another example would be the ability to launch a mini-nuke from your rocket launcher. Just be sure to take cover if you do. Big arsenal, big fun.
In both single and multiplayer modes, you can use turrets, tanks, half-tracks, and more. Plus, they’re fitted with gib-tastic cannons.
Much like Duke Nukem 3D, you can carry items in your inventory, like portable health kits, smoke bombs to turn you invisible, and repair kits. The rest aren’t as useful as ol’ Duke’s gear, though, so you probably won’t be using them as much. Health kits and fortune cookies will give you health, and while body armour can be collected to protect you from enemy attacks, it gets chewed up far too quickly. Somehow, falling from a six-foot drop will damage our supposedly-agile hero, and will inexplicably dent your armour points, too.
Lo Wang is after his former-employer, Master Zilla, who unleashed hordes of demons across the land. His hunt for Zilla will take you across various well-designed and creative locations like a bath house, an underwater facility, a subpen, among many others. You’ll need to search for keys to advance. Of course, there are plenty of secrets to explore, and the occasional bit of scenery to interact with. Some of the enemy placements and traps can be a bit cheap at times; some areas contain far too many bad guys who can pick you off in seconds.
Say hello to the first ever sticky bomb in video gaming. Eat your heart out (at Duke Burger), Halo.
The level design is more complex compared to that of Duke Nukem 3D, thanks to the updated Build engine. Players can climb ladders, fire turrets, and even drive vehicles. Getting ahold of a machine gun turret or tank makes you feel like death on wheels, even if the steering feels a little clunky. Snooty reviewers at the time scoffed Shadow Warrior for not being a fully-3D title like Quake, though it does have 3D items, detailed sprites and some varicolored visuals throughout.
Numerous oriental-themed songs await within Shadow Warrior, courtesy of Lee Jackson (creator of Duke Nukem 3D’s iconic main theme, and composer for more than half of the songs in that game). Songs like “Attention”, with its twanging strings, are a brilliant listen, while ambient tracks like “Thunder Winds” will give you chills. Plus, those who beat the game are treated to the hilarious “Lo Wang’s Rap” at the end.
One of the bosses attacks you with explosive farts, because reasons.
John William Galt’s performance as Lo Wang will tickle you pink with all sorts of over-the-top, cheesy one-liners. Make no mistake, the awkwardly-named protagonist is a badass, and while he does love to make corny puns about his surname, you can’t avoid laughing when he splatters an enemy and exclaims “eat this, pencil-d**k!”
It may be in bad taste, and can be pretty irritating at times, but Shadow Warrior is still a worthwhile shooter. Excellent level design, a superb soundtrack, silly jokes and some great gunplay make it a great addition to 3D Realms’ repertoire of shooters. It may be technologically advanced than its predecessor, Duke Nukem 3D, yet ol’ Duke had more levels and polish to its gameplay. Regardless, the best thing is that this one’s free to download from online game retailers, so if you’re hungering for a tricky title from yesteryear, then pick up your katana and slice yourself some wang in this gem of a FPS. Grasshoppers and wannabe-ninjas need not apply.
A Brief History of: Namco
The golden age of Japanese arcades wouldn’t be the same without one big name: Namco. Specifically, it wouldn’t be the same without an IP dreamt up by Namco’s staff, and that is Pac Man.
Aside from Pac Man, however, Namco is one of the pillars of the early Japanese arcades, contributing no less than Galaxian, Xevious, and Dig Dug, among others. Founded in 1955 as Nakamura Seisakusho, what we now call Namco Bandai has had stakes in businesses ranging from theme parks and gaming centers to arcade games and home console titles.
Namco’s Dig Dug
The company became Namco in 1977 when it began to focus more heavily on electronic games, their first such product debuting in 1970 under the name “Racer.” Before this, Nakamura Manufacturing Company mainly produced electronic rides for the rooftops of Japanese department stores. There, children would ride on electronic horses and the like in coin-op amusements that are still common today.
As luck would have it, Namco was able to get into the video game industry due to the collapse and subsequent firesale of Atari Japan. Due to money issues back in the States, founder and CEO of Atari Nolan Bushnell expedited the sale of Atari Japan which, despite heavy losses, attracted some bids, one of which was from a major pinball maker called Sega.
Sega lost the bid, reportedly, because they underbid when compared with Namco’s offer which secured the deal for them and changed the course of the company forever.
What Namco got out of this deal was an exclusive license in Japan for all of Atari’s games for the next ten years. In addition to that, Namco began to open up branded arcades across Japan that featured Atari’s games prominently.
Launched in 1978, Gee Bee was Namco’s first stab at original IP under its own steam. Prior to this, the company also launched Namco America to license its games to US publishers. Yet it was the release of Pac Man in 1980 that would change everything for the company. A worldwide sensation, Pac Man went on to become the mascot and trademark game for the company. They would follow this with successive hits year after year through 1982.
The video game crash would impact the company just as it did the wider industry but Namco would go on to become a pillar of support for the then-unproven Famicom/NES from Nintendo. This would reveal itself to be a wise move as the NES went on to dominate the 8-bit hardware generation.
A renewed renaissance began in 1993 with the release of Ridge Racer and then the 3D fighting game Tekken. Following Sony into the 32-bit era, Namco became a major pillar of the PSX’s early strategy to make headway in the home console market.
One of the biggest changes in corporate history came in 2005 when the company merged with Japanese toy conglomerate Bandai to form Bandai Namco, as the company is called today.
Still a major power in the home console business, Bandai Namco retains a close relationship with electronics giant Sony. The company is also involved in pushing its games, such as the Tekken series, into the eSports arena. Outside of this, their merger with Bandai has provided the company with access to tons of original IP and new ways of bringing it to market, including toys, amusement parks, animation, and more.
Arcade of Hall of Fame: Pong
When people consider the founding fathers of video games, one title cannot help but make it on the list, and that is Pong. A virtual table tennis game that first debuted in 1972 from Atari, Pong was simple and simply a sensation, largely kicking off the arcade craze and birthing the home console industry after that.
One of the earliest but not the first arcade game ever released, Pong is a simple, two-dimensional game with a player squaring off against an AI or other human player. Players have to keep a white dot going between their two paddles without missing it. Missing it causes the other side to score, much like in tennis, with momentum, ricocheting, and other minor physics aspects coming into play during the game.
Though simple on its surface, Pong is deeply compelling once you’ve spent some time with it. A competitive game from the start, Pong’s addictive conceit helps it to be accessible by both young and old, video gamers and non-gamers alike. It’s not hard to see why Pong kicked off the video game craze.
The first home console, the Magnavox Odyssey, took advantage of Pong’s name recognition and popularity with Atari later capitalizing on it as well during the 1975 Christmas season with a Sears exclusive home-version of Pong.
Pong’s birth was largely an accident. Commissioned as a programming exercise by Atari’s Allan Alcorn, Atari executive and founder Nolan Bushnell recognized the amazing potential this demo had as a full-fledged game. Mimicking table tennis in many ways, Pong becomes more difficult the longer players go back and forth. This is mainly accomplished through the increasing speed of the ball as well as the fluid movement of the paddle. It is easy to miss the ball, just like in real life, and when a player does the speed of the ball resets, much like the tempo of an intense bout in tennis once one side has scored over the other.
Graphics and sound are worth mentioning, if for any reason other than they are studies in minimalist perfection. Bleeps and bloops are appropriately weighty depending on whether you hit or ricochet the ball while the simple yet easy-to-read, black-and-white graphics are the definition of functional.
What modern gamers have to keep in mind about Pong is how novel and new it was when it arrived on the scene back in 1972. No one had ever played anything like it before. Aside from pinball games, arcades were largely dismal affiars filled with smoke, pool tables, and the aforementioned pinball machines. Pong changed that over night and became a cultural sensation.
Pong was the first video game to achieve widespread, commercial success and this would have ramifications for the entertainment industry at large. Giving rise to video games as we know it, Pong not only created a new segment but also introduced the world to the concept of a self-guided form of entertainment that would later eclipse Hollywood and television.
A Brief History of: Capcom
The house that brought us Mega Man, Street Fighter, and Resident Evil, among others, Capcom is a relatively young company in the grand scheme of things but has had an outsized impact in its 39 years in the video game industry.
Founded on May 30, 1979 in Osaka, Japan, Capcom started life as I.R.M. Corporation of which, a subsidiary called the Japan Capsule Computers Co., Ltd, would give inspiration behind the company’s name change in June 1983 to Capcom. This subsidiary, responsible for manufacturing and distributing electronic game machines, gave Capcom its foothold in the nascent industry and started its long legacy in arcade games. Those who know their history will note that 1983 was a tough time to enter the video game industry due to crash of the home console market that occurred that same year.
But, sometimes, in times of great change there are great opportunities, and in this chaos Nintendo would rise to re-establish the home console market and Capcom (along with a slew of licensed titles bearing the Disney name) would help power the Nintendo Entertainment System’s dominance in the West. Whether it is one of the many ports of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts or one of the installments in the Mega Man series, Capcom went from unknown to console stalwart within one generation. The company began its life as an arcade concern but ended up being one of the pillars of Nintendo’s home console efforts.
Yet Capcom wouldn’t forget the arcades – nor would it stop profiting from them.
Capcom’s Street FIghter II
With Nintendo’s console dominance secured, Capcom entered the early 1990s in a unique position in the United States. Known for its home titles, Capcom branched out into new genres and even pioneered some as well. Two great examples of Capcom’s last great contributions to the arcade scene are found in Final Fight and, later, Street Fighter II. Popularizing the beat ‘em up and fighting game genres, respectively, Capcom would iterate on these two formulas for a barrage of titles that starred everyone from the X-Men to Tatsunoko’s universe of iconic Japanese characters.
Capcom milked its success in the arcades and translated it to the home consoles with more ports and translations of Street Fighter II than can be recounted here. It is hard to exaggerate how big of a sensation Street Fighter II was when it hit arcades. Similarly difficult is overestimating that game’s impact on the industry in general. Both home and console markets were hugely impacted by SFII’s release. Even though the formula was becoming tired by the end of the decade, the 1990s were, in many ways, Capcom’s time to shine.
The rise of the PlayStation in the mid-1990s presented unique opportunities for Capcom. Sony’s powerful hardware allowed them to explore concepts first introduced in their title Sweet Home in a game called Resident Evil (known as Biohazard in Japan). Once again, Capcom popularized a genre seemingly overnight and started a craze that still hasn’t slowed down.
An innovative and dynamic company, Capcom is a pillar of the modern console market as well as a former titan of the arcades.
Friday The 13th (NES) – Think You Can Beat It?!
If we can thank 1980s American cinema for one thing it would be the popularization of the slasher horror flick. Films like Halloween, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Friday the 13th often pitted promiscuous though resourceful teenagers against murderous bad guys that either couldn’t be stopped (Michael Myers or Jason) or couldn’t be killed (Freddy Krueger).
Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street particularly had mythos that were well suited for a video game adaptation. Jason, as the child of a witch, is resurrected by his mother after being left to drown (accidentally) by camp counselors at Crystal Lake. And (small spoiler warning) the first movie centers around her revenge against the camp at Crystal Lake with the mad, unstoppable titan Jason showing up in the sequels to avenge his mother.
Resurrected by her witchcraft, Jason is extremely powerful and nigh unstoppable. The premise of the video game melds the plot of the first film with that the subsequent films in that you can encounter and defeat both Jason’s mother and Jason himself.
Developed and published by the legendary as well as infamous LJN, the company behind almost every licensed product in the early console era, Friday the 13th for the NES lets you guide counselors around Camp Crystal Lake collecting weapons and items to defeat Jason and his mother.
The first appearance of the purple Jason costume outside of a poster for the movie in Japan, the NES iteration of Friday the 13th is a classic in its own way though it cannot be praised for mechanics and game design. Like many titles of the NES era, it is amazingly hard and filled with esoteric mechanics and puzzles to solve. Back in the day, the best way to handle most games was to work with others to figure things out. Most things were solved by word of mouth and many players would simply wear a game out rather than call it quits. Since way fewer titles were released back in the day, this isn’t surprising but it does explain why companies like LJN could survive pumping out relatively schlocky titles.
The challenge with a game like Friday the 13th is that it has most everything bad about older game design going on all at once. There is a method to the madness but figuring it out is more than half the battle. In addition, Jason is an ever-present threat and will absolutely wipe you out time and time again. It would be nice to say this game rewards mastery, but, if anything, it rewards a kind of speed-run mentality that pushes a player to go as fast as they can to collect what they need to finish Jason off. There’s nothing wrong with this approach per se, but if you don’t know what you’re doing and the game insists on being intense from minute one then you’re most likely going to have a bad time.
That said, Friday the 13th for the NES is a quirky game and that makes it interesting. We recommend gamers who are fans of the horror genre play it because there are so many prototypical elements in the game that we see everywhere today (early jump scares, impossible to defeat yet unrelenting enemies, etc.). A stretch to call it a classic, it is not much of a leap to argue that it is a game worth playing – even today.
5 Things You Didn’t Know About: Nintendo
The makers of some of the world’s most iconic titles, Nintendo’s history is longer than the video game industry itself.
Makers of the Switch, Wii, SNES, and NES, Nintendo thrive off of doing things a little bit differently (and somewhat better) than their competitors.
Credited with single-handedly resurrecting the home console market with the release of the Famicom in 1983, Nintendo’s innovations rarely rely upon cutting-edge technology but instead the company’s ability to intuit the next big thing in gaming. From platformers in the 1980s to motion controls in the 2000s to a hybrid home and portable console today, Nintendo keeps one step ahead of its competition through its more savvy approach to gamers and gaming which is probably why, in the minds of many older gamers at least, Nintendo is video gaming.
We found five facts about Nintendo that you might not know. And here they are…
5. Game Boy Created by a Janitor
The legendary Game Boy, one of the most successful systems in history, was developed by a janitor who rose through the ranks after the successful development of Donkey Kong and Metroid. Eventually coming up with the Game Boy concept, Gunpei Yokoi would also be associated with the Virtual Boy. The failure of this second system dented the career of a promising Nintendo employee who was hit by a car after a minor accident and killed.
4. Over 100 Years Old
Nintendo HQ in 1889
Founded in 1889, Nintendo is easily the oldest console company out there and, indeed, probably the oldest video game company as well. The company didn’t start out making video games (natch) but they have always had a reputation for making fun diversions based upon traditional Japanese games.
3. Handhelds – Game and Watch
Nintendo’s drive to dominate portables and handhelds actually began way back in 1980 with the proto-DS Game and Watch series. These one-off units, each holding one very basic game, look like DS units eventually turned out and represent a milestone in portable gaming. Two things combined to make the Game and Watch a success for Nintendo: Ease of use and affordability. Because the mini consoles were easy to use, well made, and had relatively compelling games on them, Nintendo was leagues ahead of what anyone else was doing at the time in portable gaming of any kind.
2. Playing Card Company
Nintendo got its start making Japanese Hanafuda gaming cards. Nintendo also makes other traditional playing cards as well as other gaming products and sets. Before hitting it big with home consoles, Nintendo actually made toys and put in a pretty good effort in the arcades as well. But it was video games that really put the company on the map – and for good reason. As we stated above, Nintendo helped save the industry (and made a mint while doing it). Though not nearly as profitable as the home consoles and video games, Nintendo still makes the traditional game cards it sold way back when even today.
1. Mario is Named After a Landlord
Probably one of the weirdest factoids about Nintendo is that their iconic mascot is actually named after a Nintendo of America landlord the company once had. Mario is the veritable Barbie of gaming (doing every occupation under the sun) but no one would ever guess his first job was collecting rent checks from the Big N.