We’ve all heard about it, never thinking– or at least, always hoping– that it could never happen to us.
You have a collection precious to you, pertaining to a much-beloved hobby or pastime; some of the items possess a significant market value, while others are merely sentimental (though in many cases, it’s a combination of both). As long as you draw breath, no harm shall come to that which you’ve acquired, held on to, and cherish as a part of your collection.
Then it happens: When you’re at your most vulnerable, your most helpless to do anything about it… they’re gone. Sometimes it’s a fire, a flood, or a burglary; others, it’s someone who doesn’t understand, appreciate– or worse, just doesn’t care about the value the items hold, whether it be to the market or in the recesses of your own mind. Before you know it, before you can object, before you can do anything, the items have been tossed in a dumpster, hauled to a landfill, or even just sold for mere pennies at a yard sale you never even knew took place.
It’s not unfamiliar territory for me. Not too long ago, I discovered betrayal from a place I never expected as some of my most valued collections of books– about the first 13 years or so of Nintendo Power, the entire run of SEGA Visions, a variety of other video game and wrestling magazines, and my entire complete run of Marvel’s Transformers (Generation 1 and 2) were cast away to a dumpster, with nothing I could do. Nothing except rebuild.
Fortunately, thanks to a fellow member of The Allspark, I was able to at least reacquire most of the Nintendo Power issues and then some, though I still lack the second issue. Bittersweet was that just under a year later, IDW would start Transformers: Regeneration One, a 20-issue continuation/conclusion to the stories I no longer possessed (I still need to get those).
More recently, it happened again. While I would prefer not to get into all the details, I had some small possessions being held at my parents’ house, which was recently sold. Among those items were one dozen complete Nintendo Entertainment System games (box, booklet, game cartridge, inserts, and sometimes even the original cellophane wrapper, carefully cut) which I just had not been able to bring back home with me for one reason or another. Despite my urging that these be held on to, if nothing else, they wound up going with the house. I’ve tried reaching the realtors to find out if they could still be salvaged, and while it’s not strictly hopeless yet, it doesn’t look good.
So, as a means of turning lemons into lemonade while venting simultaneously, I thought I’d write about these 12 games here: My memories of them and what they meant to me, as well as how much it would cost to replace them (since I looked out of curiosity already). For that latter point, I took a quick look over sold (not just completed) auctions on eBay.com for the lowest and highest prices they’ve sold for, not including those that look like they’ve been run over and also not including shipping fees or whether they even sold internationally (though those that do usually tack on about $10+). I’m hopeful that someday I can reacquire at least some of these at some point, though money is generally a bit tight to splurge on this sort of thing.
Also, please note that rather than trying to rank the dozen (which could take me a very, very long time), this list is in alphabetical order.
Significance: Well, we’re starting off with a bang here. Bionic Commando is one of my favorite games of all time. If I could think of a way to describe it, it would be “underappreciated,” both in its own day as well as today. It has its fans, to be sure, and those who know the joys of swinging from a bionic arm which serves as a grappling hook understand its greatness. But then you have those who don’t understand why he doesn’t just jump, leading to such things as a jump button in the more recent Bionic Commando Rearmed 2.
Speaking of which, if there’s one reason this one doesn’t sting quite as much as others, it would be because of the Xbox Live/PlayStation Network release of Bionic Commando Rearmed, a remake of this NES game developed as a prequel to the short-lived Bionic Commando revival. Even though the newer version made a lot of improvements to the game overall, the original just has certain charms unique to it, perhaps on account of being a product of its time.
I mean, how many NES games can you name that feature Adolf Hitler literally cursing at you before you blow him up with a rocket launcher? Not too many, I’m afraid. Not too many at all.
With any luck, whatever spat led to Capcom or Nintendo not releasing this on the Virtual Console will be remedied in due time.
Significance: Like several other games on this list started out when I was a kid, this one basically began as one of my dad’s games. As such, it was also one I was content to basically just lay on the floor (before doing so could be considered a “bad” idea for me) and watch him play through. This would probably be due to him having significantly more patience than I did at the time, ready to deal with stiff controls or whatever the game would throw at him.
The game itself is basically a clone of Namco’s Rolling Thunder at its core, but it has its own unique attributes and charms as well. In particular, the South American setting as you hunt down drug lords while rescuing hostages sets the stage for some nice toe-tapping NES-era Capcom tunes and some graphics which far exceed the NES version of its inspiration– even if it looks like the titular agent Viper looks like he’s not wearing any pants.
And like Bionic Commando, for what it’s worth, this is what would probably have been considered a “mature” NES game before the Entertainment Software Ratings Board even existed. It wasn’t particularly bloody, there wasn’t a lot of cursing or anything, but the storyline had an overall more mature feel that was easy to appreciate as a kid.
More recently, I got to review the game for HonestGamers, and you can find that here.
Interestingly enough, Code Name: Viper is rarely mentioned among Capcom’s archive of games and heroes. It seems potentially fit for a revival or remake of some kind, especially with the style Capcom is going for these days, but there’s not been so much as a Virtual Console release in all the years since.
Significance: Lunar Pool was another “parent purchase”– that is, games they bought for them to play, though I spent plenty of time with this one as well. With a two-player mode, I remember playing this one a lot, either by myself or with my late mother. And with 60 different tables of varying shapes and sizes and a lot of options to tweak, there was plenty to play.
I’m not especially good at pool, but I’m decent at it, at least. Well, better than someone who has never played before, anyway. This is despite having spent a part of my childhood at an arcade/pool hall my parents used to run, which is where I believe I learned to play. Unlike real pool, though, there were a lot of different shapes, sizes, and layouts for the tables here to keep things interesting, and perhaps even level the playing field just a bit.
On the bright side, at least this one is on the Virtual Console– something of a minor miracle, as most games on this list seem like they either should already be but aren’t, or likely never will. Either way, that absence makes their loss all the more regretful.
If you’re interested in my HonestGamers review, here you go.
Significance: I mentioned before that my dad had more patience than I did when I was a kid, including while playing video games, and this title proves it beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Platoon is a game most people won’t even touch, and for good reason: It is absolutely brutal. And yet my dad, a veteran of the war this movie-inspired game was based on, was able to completely beat it. I don’t mean with codes, with Game Genies, with FAQs, or any of that stuff– he did it legit. Some people might hold that claim today, but back then, it seemed practically unheard of, and watching him play was one of those rare treats, almost like one of those Wizard moments when you watch someone not only play, but effectively dominate a game in a way you know you have no hope of matching.
Speaking of FAQs, Fun Fact: I talked about our local video rental store a while back, and well before there were FAQs you could look up online, my dad mapped out and created a guide for getting through the game. He gave a copy to the rental store, and those who rented Platoon usually got the guide with it, as that was the only way anyone could hope to progress.
Sadly, while I’m not 100 percent certain, I fear that the guide (along with the rest my parents made for various games, such as The Legend of Zelda) might have been callously discarded alongside the Nintendo Power magazines. If I turn out to be lucky and come across them, I’ll see about sharing them here sometime if there is interest.
In any case, though, I feel like this game set a bar that established my father as a true “hardcore” gamer– arguably more than I may ever be.
Significance: If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don’t, feel free), you’ve probably seen me crow about Rad Racer time and again, usually with the intent of getting designer Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the Final Fantasy series) and composer Nobuo Uematsu (who scored many of the Final Fantasy games) to come together again at the former’s new company, Mistwalker, to create a spiritual sequel to this game.
Why a spiritual sequel? Because the original belongs to Square Enix, and while I’m admittedly curious as to what they would do with it, I think I’d be more interested in seeing the original creators get Mighty No. 9 with it. Technology has advanced just a bit in the past 27 years, and I’m curious to see how those two would represent their vision now.
Full disclosure: This was actually one of the first NES games I ever owned, one my parents picked up and played as well, and crappy attempt at replicating the Japanese version’s actually good 3D aside, I still love it. The landscapes and the music are both classic, and while some may consider it a poor man’s OutRun, it’s still pretty good. Good enough to be one of only three games which comprised the 1990 Nintendo World Championships, at that, and the game was already three years old by then!
Strangely, though Nintendo and Square Enix seem to be on good terms now with a decent number of Virtual Console and Nintendo eShop releases, the Nintendo-published Rad Racer (and its sequel, which I never got to play) are not among them.
If you’re curious about my full thoughts on the game, guess what: There’s an HonestGamers review for that.
Significance: Okay, so here’s a confession: I don’t think I ever actually played this one.
Yep, you guessed it: Another one of my dad’s games. Silent Service is a submarine simulator, designed by Sid Meier for home computers and ported to the NES by none other than Rare, under Konami’s “Ultra Games” imprint.
Down Periscope, this wasn’t. As sims tend to be, it was as slow as you can imagine as you sail the waters of the Pacific Ocean during World War II and finding enemy ships to sink with your torpedoes by utilizing realistic tactics, hoping that they don’t do the same to you in the process. I never played it myself, but I did watch on occasion, and can still hear the humming of the submarine’s engines even now.
Naturally, this game serves as another great demonstration of my dad’s patience. However, I honestly have no idea whether he ever actually beat it or not. That said, I think that some of the more interesting/exciting elements of the game and remembering him playing it are what helped spur my interest in Nintendo’s own much simpler submarine series, Steel Diver.
Significance: Admittedly, I haven’t talked as much about Midway/Williams on this site as I should have. I’ll have to make a point to remedy that one day, but suffice to say, they stand out in my mind as a key player, an icon if you will, of the American arcade scene throughout the 80s and the 90s. Granted, their final years were dismal, but thinking back to when you could get some good gaming for a quarter a turn, I think of Midway.
Arguably, one of Midway’s more notable titles during the pre-Mortal Kombat early 90s was Smash TV: A top-down dual-stick shooter which placed you in the role of a contestant on a futuristic television game show which draws inspiration from such movies as The Running Man and RoboCop as you fight hordes of foes for fabulous prizes (and your life)! Fact: The line “I’d buy that for a dollar” makes me think of this game before RoboCop, the film from which it originated.
One interesting tidbit about this particular version of the game is that in order to emulate the dual-joystick controls of the arcade, there is an option allowing you to use two NES controllers at once, utilizing the Dpad on each. On the NES, there’s nothing else quite like it that I know of (the Super NES version’s four face buttons apparently approximated the second joystick well enough).
Believe it or not, this one doesn’t sting quite as much as others on this list. While I’d still love to have it again because I’m a Midway fan (despite the ports being handled by Acclaim), it’s that very fact which eases that pain, seeing as I own all three volumes of Midway Arcade Treasures for the GameCube. That has the original arcade version, and with two analog sticks, it’s about as authentic as you can get.
Incidentally, I hope that Warner Bros. (who purchased Midway’s assets in 2009) will consider including Smash TV as a part of their recently-announced “WB Games Vault” initiative.