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Weekly Musings #1 - Do movie-license video games all suck?
Author: Michael Ahlf
Date: June 12th 2004
Page: 2
So the video game market crashed in 1984 - the Atari consoles suffered, and gaming in general suffered. Colecovision went down hard. Into the void stepped a company named Nintendo, a playing card manufacturer who had dabbled in video games, coming up with such smash hits as Donkey Kong and Mario Bros. And with the release title of Super Mario Bros. to build it, and later releases like Elevator Action and The Legend of Zelda, it was quick to catch on as the must-have console of the late 1980s and early 1990s. And of course, it was destined for a slew of new releases and movie tie-in games, some better than others. For example:

Star Wars

Yep, the NES got its own two Star Wars titles - though it was rather thankfully spared the inclusion of a third, due to the SNES's taking over in popularity. They were blocky, the controls were sad... and they somehow sold well. Don't ask me how, as somehow the Gameboy ports of them had better controls than the higher-powered console version, but they did sell well.

Why do I mention them here, however? Mostly because I have to, as they are the quintessential examples of how a movie tie-in game can be reasonably bad, but still not suck as such, and as such do decently well in the marketplace.

The Goonies (and Goonies II)

There's an interesting thing about the Goonies - and the Goonies II. They have absolutely nothing to do with the movie of the same title. In fact, the only similarities at all are that (a) they involve kids and (b) the video games use that rather annoying Cindi Lauper song from the movie, as theme music - and it sounds a whole heck of a lot better as a midi than it ever did when she was singing it.

Even so, what was not to like about either of these games? We have kids running around, kung fu kicking rats and generally beating stuff up in the first one. In the second, we've got almost a full-blown RPG, complete with item hunting, an absurdly large area to search and run around in, and best of all - the standard weapon is a yo-yo! In all seriousness, the games did best as a movie title by having nothing to do with the movie whatsoever, choosing instead to go their own way.

Castlevania

The Castlevania series is worthy of note here, even though it's not based on any particular movie. Why? Because the first title especially - titled Vampire Hunter in Japan - was ostensibly a ripoff of just about all the old horror movies, especially monster movies. Like Goonies, beyond the basic associations this series then went on to take on a life of its own, borrowing elements from movie monster mythos while creating unique characters like the Belmont family, Dracula's son Alucard, and the various struggles over centuries between the forces of good and evil.

The upside? We got a great series, which (barring a few titles, such as Bloodlines on the Genesis and the abysmal N64 versions) out of a very basic game that started with the simple premise of going in and beating up on movie monsters like Medusa, Frankenstein's Monster, and Dracula. And that's a good thing.

Conan

The NES was also responsible for bringing us the reprehensible monstrosity of Conan The Barbarian - which, as a movie, is a pretty good vehicle under which a young (at the time) bodybuilder named Arnold Schwarzenegger made a name for himself.

Unfortunately, this title is best left buried; it's shoddy gameplay, has absolutely no correlation to the movie, and more to the point makes absolutely no sense. Which is about par for a Mindscape title.

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters was, for all intents and purposes, everything a movie tie-in game could do right. Well, almost everything - there was that little oops with the ridiculously-hard stairway at the end. And too, the versions for the Commodore 64 and the Amiga were both better because they had more memory and room to work with. Still, Ghostbusters will be fondly remembered by any young kid who wasted days upon days running around, catching Slimers for the fun of it, and occasionally crossing the streams (oops!).

It is also worth mentioning, however,that Ghostbusters did get a Genesis treatment as well - and that that Genesis treatment did, really and truly, suck.

Hudson Hawk

Ah, the wonderful movies of Bruce Willis. And he's still making 'em, too. Hudson Hawk the game, however, is one remembered only semi-fondly; there are some players who love it, and some who hate it. Which means we can probably list it as mediocre, but not as abysmal, and certainly not drop it into the "sucks" category.

The Hunt for Red October

Here's another one for the ages, another game off of a movie which doesn't really suck - it's just your standard submarine-hunting game. Now, it's again not all that great by modern standards, but at its time it was pretty fun.

Indiana Jones

Where would we be, indeed, without the redoubtable Dr. Jones Jr? Actually, maybe better off - the NES version of Temple of Doom wasn't all that great a port of a far better arcade title, and The Last Crusade just kind of blew chunks. Even so, the mining cart rides were darn cool, as was exploring the mines and using the whip to swing around between platforms.

Still, that's 1 out of 2 for the Indiana Jones line on the NES. which isn't all THAT bad.

Jaws

Whoever came up with this one actually had a doozy - it wasn't really an RPG, not really anything else either. Basically, you ran around in a boat till you hit something, then battled sea creatures for conch shells for money. Eventually, you'd trade these in for powerups and weaponry and such. The ultimate goal? Find Jaws and destroy him.

Yes, it was a tie-in of a 12 year old movie. But it wasn't a bad game as such. Score one for games made off of old movies.

Jurassic Park

Yep, they made this one too. At the time Jurassic Park came out, actually, just about every single system got a treatment - the SNES, the NES, the Gameboy, the Genesis, Sega CD, even the 3DO was in on the action. And for every console it was hit-and-miss. The SNES and NES versions were top-down treatments in which you ran around hunting dinosaur eggs while trying to restart the park; in the Sega CD version, you broke in and were OBSERVING the park and trying to find nests. In the Genesis iteration, you ran through in a side-scrolling platform setup either as Dr. Grant or as a Raptor - your goal as Grant, to escape, your goal as the Raptor, to eat Grant.

There was even a PC game made, which was good as a top-down explorer about 90% through, then became a REALLY, REALLY bad FPS for two levels.

So what's the score on Jurassic Park? Hit and Miss, but not entirely worthy of an "always sucks" salute either.

Last Action Hero

What can I say? Sorry Ahnold, this one did, indeed, suck.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles - and 2, and Tournament Fighters

Yeah, they kept this series going - actually, it kept going longer, but moved onto further platforms like the SNES for later games. And it's not strictly a tie-in either, as none of the games have anything to do with the movies (actually, they have more to do with the cartoon series, which itself had little to do with the comics that Eastman & Laird originally wrote).

But they were fun. Granted, #2 (the port of the arcade game) didn't have quite as good controls, but it was still fun - and #1 still can be intriguing and annoying all at once, since getting where you're going is sometimes less than easy to divine. But, ultimately, 2 of 3 (Tournament Fighters did, in fact, suck) isn't bad.

Ahh, enough of this NES stuff however - let's get to a bit more recent titles, shall we? How about them SNES/Genesis days anyways?

 

Weekly Musings 1: Do Movie-License Video Games All Suck?


Added:  Sunday, June 13, 2004
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf

Page: 2/6

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