OkandOnsdag: Rounding up obscure games


Promoted from our community blogs

[Flegma has been doing an interesting series of recaps for old and essentially forgotten games that we think would be interesting to share with the wider world. ~Marcel]

You know Doom and Mario and Sonic and Willy, Uncharted and Warcraft and Sims and Larry, but do you recall the unsung games of the days long gone?

"OkändOnsdag" is hopefully Swedish and should translate to "Unknown Wednesday." I blame English language for not having a weekday that starts with O (Obscure) or U (Unknown). (EDIT: And myself for not thinking about "ForgottenFriday until after releasing this cblog.)

There are many games that have been forgotten over time. Just look at the games flooding Steam nowadays, and you see plenty of games that'll be forgotten the day after they're released, unless they're so terrible that someone makes a video out of them. The fall to obscurity is how it has been since bedroom coders got on the market.

For the past month and a half, I've quickposted on Wednesdays longplays or other videos of some (relatively) obscure games. The main criterions for being included have shaped up to be...

  • The game should be mostly or totally unknown among gamers (who were born after its release)
  • The game should be at least 15 years old (for the above criterion to mean anything)
  • It must be somehow interesting (even if the very first in the series fails this criterion)

Just to make it clear -- none of the videos in the qposts are recorded by me. 

I've tried not to cover games that are terrible in every possible sense -- that's what Ashens has been doing -- but games that are interesting in some sense, possibly even today. I had never heard of Ice Cold Beer, a Taito arcade game, until I read reviews for Tumbleseed. I don't know how many people reading this are game developers or hope to be one, but maybe one of these games is someone else's Ice Cold Beer - a game to draw inspiration from for their own game, hopefully with better outcome than Tumbleseed devs had. And for those not making games -- well, these blurbs are nowhere near on par with what Norman Caruso, the Gaming Historian, creates. And that's not my goal either. The "tidbits" I have to offer are limited primarily to Wikipedia, a few quick Internet searches and my memories.

As a rule of thumb, these recaps won't have images unless I have the game in question and can run it, which is usually not the case.

June recap: a mixed bag

While I'm not inclined to write a long cblog on each of those games even if they might be worth it, I intend to recap them once a month and telling in a bit more detail why I included the said game. With luck, I'll even manage to come up with a connecting theme. This month there was no theme: hence, a mixed bag. 

Airborne Ranger (Microprose, 1987)

(Let's play on SpiderMwa's channel)

Microprose was in the 1980s and 1990s a very prominent publisher in video gaming. X-COM: UFO Defense aka UFO: Enemy Unknown, Civilization, and Master of Orion are just some of the titles they published and those IPs are familiar names even for present-day gamers. Airborne Ranger, however, is a game that didn't have a major legacy, but was well-received in its day. A hybrid of a tactical game and an arcade game. Microprose will definitely be making repeat appearances later down the line.

Personally, I have never played this game, one reason for that being I never owned a system it was released on.

Anachronox (Eidos, 2001)

(Opening animation on YouTube on ciox's channel)

During their existence, the two studios that ION Storm consisted of released six games of varying quality. On one hand, the Dallas studio created Daikatana. On the other, their Austin studio created Deus Ex. But then that studio created Deus Ex 2: Invisible War. Their game between the two Deus Ex titles was their Austin studio's Anachronox: a JRPG-styled game using the Quake 2 engine, produced by Tom Hall, one of the founders of id software. It reviewed well, but in a catalogue that offers the aforementioned three games, just being a good game in its own right means it'll be together with Thief: Deadly Shadows in being outshined by the praise for Deus Ex and the near-universal panning of Daikatana and Invisible War.

In case you have it on GOG or Steam, use the "GCT Setup" program to launch it. That'll fix a whoooole many points of frustration.

The game starts up slow, but picks up once you get out of the titular space station... after all too many hours. For people who want to find everything in a game, there are tacos -- totally arbitrary collectible objects. These are definitely not sandwiches.

Tenseiryuu: Saint Dragon (Jaleco, 1989)

(Arcade longplay on Perikles STG's channel)

This is included for the game's main gimmick I mentioned in the qpost: the player flies a dragon and has to position the impervious tail so that it'll protect the head from enemy fire. As a shmup, it's not a good one. The video I linked has a long description by the uploader why the game isn't a good one: it's all about memorizing the correct way to clear the stage without leaving room for creativity and completely undermining the score attack aspect.

Irem's Dragon Breed (1989) was slightly similar in the use of a dragon's body as a shield/weapon, but it is still a rather distinguishing feature in a game. All I had to describe the game with was "You played a metal worm in a shmup and the first boss was a cyborg bull," and I got the answer right off the bat... but this still requires the person you're asking to have actually played or seen the game.

Hunter (Activision, 1991)

(Longplay video by IronClaw on World of Longplays' channel)

Hunter is one of those early polygonal 3D games but let the player fly helicopters, destroy buildings, drive cars, steer gunboats ... which is a lot for a game of the time. A few years earlier, Mike Singleton's Midwinter was even more than that. Eurogamer made an expansive retrospective on that title and how it was far ahead of its time that was. Hunter, by comparison, comes across today as a simpler game, only viewed from a third-person perspective.

Today, the description makes it sound like an also-ran, but then there's Mad Max that sounds like an also-ran of open-world games...

Hi no Tori Hououhen (Konami, 1987) 

(Longplay on einokeino303's channel

Konami's 8-bit games are well-known for their music. Going by Wikipedia, the game (and a Famicom game that shares its name but little else) are actually licensed games, based on the manga "Phoenix" by Osamu Tezuka. Honestly, though... its inclusion in this list is only because I hadn't decided to start posting actually interesting games, even if I'd listen to the soundtrack over and over and over again. Its status as a licensed game also practically guarantees it won't be rereleased on digital distribution services in the near future.

Wiz'n'Liz (Psygnosis, 1993)

(Longplay by RickyC on World of Longplays' channel)

Potion mixing, platforming at speeds not that far behind Sonic while collecting wabbits before they explode. Developed by the now-defunct Raising Hell Software, this game was released on Amiga and Megadrive. The player would race through short looping stages, collect potion ingredients for their cauldron and collect all the wabbits in the stage before the time ran out. And after watching the longplay, I'd love to play it again. It's simple and quick fun well suited for short bursts.

While the IP was an original one, the developer, soon afterwards renamed to Bizarre Creations, ended up at Activision before being shut down and the publisher, Psygnosis, had a similar fate with Sony. We'd probably need Activision, Sony, and possibly Sega working together to get the game rereleased... and I don't see that happening. But in a world where spiritual successors are a thing... well, one can always dream?

So what is in the future?

I have half a dozen games already lined up, with release dates ranging from 1984 to 2001; from NES and microcomputers to arcade and PC. Early games of studios whose are very well-known today, luminaries' first games, celebrity designers collaborating, all that sort. I'm curious to see if I can carry this through the rest of 2017.

Of course, now that I've told you I'm doing this, I can't just drop it next week. :)

I am, though, seriously considering either dropping the video links from the qposts or squeezing video credits to the qpost at the cost of space for the main description.

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Very much unprofessional writer, don't take anything I write without a truckload of salt. On a hopefully long-term break from saying anything. more + disclosures



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