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12 LITTLE LESSONS - PART TWO
Six more things I learned from old arcade games.

by Nathan - May 30, 2003

It's Thursday afternoon, and you know what that means? It's time for me to sit down and impart the second half of the collected wisdom I've gained from all the arcade games I've been playing. After reading that last bit you might be wondering what, if anything, Thursday afternoon has to do with learning more about the ways of the world from poorly-translated arcade roms.

Allright, so they have nothing to do with each other at all. Satisfied? You and your analytical powers have ruined my article lead.

Hmph. Well. I'm not one to hold a grudge, except against certain software store clerks*, so I'm going to keep on writing anyway. It really wasn't that great a lead. I deserved it.

Anyway, the wisdom. As I covered in the previous installment of this series, I have come into posession of a remarkable amount of arcade roms and as I slowly work my way through each and every one of them I have gained a certain amount of knowledge. Knowledge that is far too important to be kept to myself - and so it is that I write about it here. Let's get on with the show!

7.)It is a perfectly normal reaction to run about and construct a huge machine while your girlfriend is being chased by monsters.


Shown Here - Blue Print

We're all familiar with the standard horror movie plot. Evil Nasty Thing invades, kills several. Studly Protagonist and Girlfriend are the last ones left standing, and when Evil Nasty Thing attacks Girlfriend, Protagonist must cleverly dispatch Evil Nasty Thing - else Protagonist will not have anything to make out with later. Except Evil Nasty Thing, but that's just-- ew.

Blue Print puts a spin on all that. In the game, while your shapely mistress flees across the top of the screen to escape the clutches of the weird purple monster thing, it is your duty to raid random houses in order to find parts for a bizarre machine that you have the blueprint for. It is assumed that the completion of said machine will solve the problem, but I'm not entirely I would have chosen the "Build Machine" route to solving things, given the same situation. I'm thinking I would have gone with the "Beat the monster to death with a tire iron" route.

But when you come down to it, this guy's doing the right thing. Instead of acting irrationally and violently, like I would have, he becomes a shining example of cool-headedness and control by building a machine instead. The lesson? Keep cool! Even if your girlfriend's life is being threatened, it's still way better not to solve your problems with violence! (Unless her name is Madonna, and she's been captured by Skinheads, as we saw in the previous article.)

8.)Even Mobsters have the honor and patience to wait until you are looking directly at them before killing you.


Shown Here - Empire City: 1931

Empire City: 1931's backstory is a little complicated, but I think I have the upshot of it now. It begins with two shady, overweight individuals standing by a car. One lights a cigarette, and says "Thank You".

And then the game kicks in. You're dropped onto the street level in front of three buildings packed to the gills with mobsters, and you and your trusty crosshair must follow a gigantinc blue arrow that directs you to the nearest Mobster. Once he slowly scrolls onto the screen, you'd better take him out before he fires back! Repeat as necessary.

What struck me is that even though the mobsters are obviously out to kill you, and indeed are pointing their guns at you by the time you see them, they won't fire until you are looking at them - and even then a timer counts down from three before they actually fire. This was pretty interesting to me. It showed me that the old adage "Honor Among Thieves" is pretty true, no matter how trite it may sound. These guys won't gun you down in cold blood, especially if you aren't looking - they have the professional courtesy to wait until you can see them, and then give you a three-second reaction time. That's what I call respect.

Yes, I hope some day to be as courteous and professional as the gangsters inhabiting Empire City, wherever that is.

9.)The Japanese have some kind of weird obsession with Mahjong arcade games.


Shown Here - Part of my MAME games list

At last count, there are 54 seperate, obvious Mahjong games in my collection. I say "obvious" because that's just counting the ones that say "Mahjong" in the beginning of the title. There are plenty more hidden away in the rest of the collection, and probably half of them feature naked anime ladies.

And it isn't like this is the 'regular' Mahjong that people actually know how to play, like that one that came in the old Best of Windows Entertainment Pack. Oh no, it's always some odd version that's never explained.

Obviously, the lesson to be taken away from this is that the Japanese are all slightly insane.

10.)If you have immense powers, you must use them to fight, simply because you have them.


Shown Here - ESP Ra. De.

I never bothered to figure out what this game is about, so I'm going to make up a good backstory instead. Three random Japanese teenagers have been chosen to inherit massively destructive psychic powers, which they can channel into beams and other explosive attacks. Suddenly, peaceful Japan City is attacked! by nefarious Time-Travelling Ninja Nazis - herein referred to as Ninjis - and the teens must leap into battle because they have these ferocious powers and hey, it beats the hell out of attending school.

However, even with all the carnage and terror they seem unclear on their motivation. It seemed pretty obvious to me that if you have the power to single-handedly destroy an approaching Ninji army, well, you better do it, I guess. I mean, ripping buildings in half with your bare hands can only be fun so long, and it's bound to get people angry at you - whereas saving the city can only have limitless benefits. They might even give you the key to the city, which is something I have coveted my entire life.

So in the end this game taught me that if you have immense powers, you'd better have a pretty good idea of what you're going to use them for - otherwise you'll end up slaughtering armies and being all confused about it.

11.)Contrary to popular belief, Ninjas favor the fruitiest and most obvious colors possible.


Shown Here - Shadow Dancer

As I discussed in the previous article, fighting games of the eighties were based on real events and locations wherever possible. This attention to detail means that these games are nearly historical documents, and I treat them as such.

Most games from that era will tell you that Ninja Crime was on the rise, which was probably true. However, there were those few Ninja who went against the evil doings of their friends and actually risked their lives to save America. Games were made about them as well, fortunately - or we might never have known about their well-intentioned deeds.

However, as I reviewed this historical document, I was shocked. Whereas most people, when asked, will tell you that Ninjas favor secrecy and stealth very highly - all the Ninjas in these games were wearing bright and incredibly obvious colors.

I mean, white and red? Come on, what could you possibly blend into with a suit like that? A herd of bleeding polar bears? From this I learned that most Ninjas weren't necessarily stealthy at all. Seems like a miracle that any of them are still around.

12.)Some games should not have been made. Ever.


Shown Here - I'm Sorry
I'm not kidding, that's what it's called.

At first glance this game seems pretty normal. You play the role of a Japanese man with a massive head and a penchant for gold. It is your duty to navigate mazes, collecting these bars of gold while avoiding angry but well-dressed men and sentient barrels.

This all seemed fairly straightforward until I watched the Demo for the game. The later levels feature such enemies as:


Mostly Naked Black Guy, and
...Michael Jackson?!

Okay, well, Jacko is getting crazier by the second, so I can kind of see him chasing around some random Japanese man. But the black guy? I dunno. Most disturbing, however, is when I stuck in a quarter to play the game. I scrambled around a little but was eventually caught up to by one of the well-dressed-men.


Once again: The less said about this...

To my utter horror (and now yours too! haha!), my character was stripped to his underwear while the other guy suddenly sports dominatrix gear and whips him. Like...whatever happened to just spinning around and going "weeoo weeoo weeoo bwoop bwoop!" like Pac-Man? How does this have anything to do with Japanese men collecting bars of gold?!

So, I learned that there are some games that just don't need to exist - and that game programmers will spend time on the most rediculous things. I believe this is one of them. Perhaps the title of the game is actually a real apology to anyone who might end up playing it - but somehow I doubt it.

And there you have it! The end of the Truth in Arcade Games Saga. Of course there is so much more wisdom to be discovered, but since I was driven nearly insane by some of the games I've already played, it may be a long time before I ever try to write about it again.

Oh yeah, and check it - Rom Pack Number Two! (15.8 mb) Featuring five seperate games (and not six because point #9 wasn't about any specific game, and there is no way I'm going to bother packaging all those retarded Mahjong games). Of course you can only get these if you own the original games, and you will need MAME to play them! Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

-Nathan
-e-mail: [email protected]

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