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Aug 312016

It’s nice to look back on old game shows on occasion. One I haven’t thought of in a long time was Remote Control (1987-1990), which was MTV’s first original non-musical show. It was hosted by Ken Ober and featured Colin Quinn as the announcer/sidekick. This was long before he became a cast member on Saturday Night Live.

The object of the game is simple. Three contestants sit in lounge chairs and select one of nine channels on a big screen TV answering questions about TV trivia from shows that were from the 60s and 70s. Looking back now, it feels outdated, unless you grew up watching shows like Bewitched, All in the Family, and Hogan’s Heroes.

Some categories were performance-driven with reoccurring characters. For instance, in the category Celebrity Square (Parody of Hollywood Squares), a celebrity (often played by John Ten Eyck) was asked a question and the contestants won points by agreeing or disagreeing. This version only used one square because MTV supposedly couldn’t afford all nine, as is always mentioned.

You might find this interesting. Adam Sandler used to be on Remote Control, before Saturday Night Live, as reoccurring character Stud Boy. He was a heartthrob who dated many famous women. As he describes one, it’s up to the contestants to guess who she is.

The most popular category is Sing Along with Colin, which focuses on music trivia. Colin Quinn would sing the lyrics to a song and once he stopped the contestants would guess the next line. It sounds awesome because what’s an MTV show without referencing music videos. However, you should keep in mind that Remote Control was from the late 80s, long before stars like Eminem, 50 Cent, and Britney Spears became a huge part of the music scene. So this would be more old school material.

Occasionally a contestant would run across a negative channel, which takes away points. Ones like Home Shopping Zone that sells useless products and reoccurring character Ranger Bob, who is a thickheaded park ranger offering camping safety tips. That is some funny stuff.

The part I remember best is Off the Air. After the two rounds end, the contestant with the lowest score is out of the game in a very elaborate setup. Each chair moves backward. The one on the left flipped upside down, the one in the center went through a brick wall leaving a hole, and the one on the right went through a revolving wall showing a garden hose hanging. There were times when the chair returned with a skeleton in place of the contestant, which freaked me out at first. Then I wondered what became of the contestant. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that they were riding back to the audience, like a Disney ride. That may not be entirely accurate, but one thing is for sure. The contestant was unharmed.

After a lightning round, the winner has a final challenge. The one I remember best was the Wheel of Jeopardy, when the contestant is strapped to a horizontal wheel with ten monitors all around. Each monitor has a TV question. Depending on how many questions are answered correctly increases the chances of winning the grand prize. When the wheel stops spinning, his/her head is the pointer. It’s so much better than identifying artists in nine different music videos playing simultaneously.

Like many game shows, after the series ends, the repeats are very hard to find. (There are some on YouTube.) However, I didn’t get the full grasp of the show until I found Remote Control the NES game. I’ll admit that it’s not as exciting as the game show itself, but for NES standards the game is quite good, even though there is no end round.

This was a good game show for its comedy and creativity. However, it was hard to keep track of since it never had a steady time slot. Looking back now, MTV programming has changed a lot since the 80s.

Apr 152015

If you thought The Alphabet Jungle Game was good, then you’ll love Sesame Street: The Great Numbers Game. This time, Elmo, Telly, and two kids explore a magical forest that’s set up as a video game world. The goal is to quest for the numbers 1-20.

There’s also an animated segment or two about each number. Once again, most of them are more modern, which is a bit disappointing. There are a few classic segments also, but they were all on other Sesame Street DVDs already.

The subplot scenes are much shorter in this feature, but are really neat. There is a point where Elmo and Telly hop on moving platforms. However, the most common obstacle is a giant cookie that rolls around and Elmo and the others try to run from it. It would’ve been interesting to see that action, but it keeps cutting to a segment too quickly.

I can easily tell that the magical forest backdrop is a green screen, which made it easy to show Elmo and Telly’s entire bodies the whole time. That wouldn’t have been so easy to do years ago.

I enjoyed this feature mostly for the concept of going through a video game type world. I’m a little surprised that the Count wasn’t in this one. He would’ve liked this adventure since he had his own NES game called Sesame Street Countdown, which was about the Count finding numbers. Come to think of it, Cookie Monster would’ve enjoyed that giant cookie. Though it was never revealed where it came from.

Feb 042015

One of my most favorite games on the Nintendo Wii U is DuckTales Remastered. If you remember the original NES Ducktales game as well as the animated series from the 80s, this is definitely a game to look forward to.

The object of the NES version was for Scrooge McDuck to travel to five different locations, which are the Amazon, Transylvania, African Mines, the Himalayas, and the Moon. Then he collects a treasure after defeating a boss. Afterwards, the treasures get stolen and he must defeat Dracula Duck and race Flintheart Glomgold to the top of a pillar. Then that’s it. The game is beaten.

Ducktales Remastered is basically the same game, but with new additions like two extra levels and an actual plot. A really awesome addition is the voice acting. All of the surviving voice actors from the original Ducktales series reprise their roles. The characters even speak during the game play, which makes it more interesting.

Wendee Lee, who I met at Anime Festival Orlando 2011, voices the role of Mrs. Beakley in place of the late Joan Gerber.

The story starts with the Beagle Boys taking over Scrooge’s money bin. You go through the place, rescue Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and fight Big Time Beagle by clobbering him with a safe on the ceiling before being given the option to select a level. That is an intro that helps the story line make sense.

I’m so glad that each stage has a map screen because in order to proceed forward, you have to find items that are scattered throughout the area. I used to enjoy exploring the stages in the old game to locate hidden gems and it’s certainly paying off here.

After collecting all five treasures, Scrooge must go to the other new stage, which is Magica de Spell’s home on Mount Vesuvious to get back the treasures and his kidnapped nephews to face Dracula Duck. Before it was just the Transylvania level again.

I should point out that among the special unlockable features there’s a section of the music score from both versions of the game. It even includes 8-bit versions of the two additional levels. So maybe they did exist in the old game, but were later removed. Are there any theories on that?

The boss battles are the most exciting. Before it was simple with just five pogo jumps to beat them. Here, only some of the bosses take five hits and the others take more. It also includes random dialogue and more elaborate attacks.

Dracula Duck is the final boss of course, but Magica gives him more power every time he gets pogo jumped on. The effects are amazing. I love it.

Then we have the epic climax. Scrooge must race Glomgold to the top of the mountain, but it’s not just up one chain this time. It’s tricky with the breakable chains and fast rising lava.

This is truly a great Nintendo Wii U game and I’m not just saying that because it’s a 2D-platform game, which is surprisingly a rare type of video game nowadays. It’s so wonderful that a classic franchise was brought back and still stayed true to its precedent. Do you suppose any other classics like Chip ‘N Dale’s Rescue Rangers may do the same someday?

Oct 252013

Yes, it’s true. The Castlevania franchise continues to grow with its third installment Castlevania 3: Dracula’s Curse. Now this game is more like a prequel then a sequel because the hero is Simon Belmont’s Great-grandfather Trevor Belmont and takes place 100 years earlier.

The task is still the same to get rid of Dracula and restore peace to Transylvania. It’s all in the prelude, which looks like it’s on a filmstrip. As Dracula keeps coming back in the movies, he does the same in this franchise. You just can’t keep this old vampire down.

The game play is very much like the original Castlevania game. Unfortunately, that means it’s also tough. It isn’t as hard as the first game, but definitely a close second.

There are some added twists to this game. On occasion you come to a fork in the road and decide which set of levels to go through. Sometimes it’s helpful, but other times it isn’t because some stages are much harder than others, so you must choose wisely.

Another great addition to this game is that you can play as other characters as you find them. There’s Grant Dynasty the pirate ghost that can walk up and on ceilings, Syfa Belnades the mystic who can cast spells, and Alucard the son of Dracula who can turn into a bat. They all make great allies, but you can only team up with one of them. If you choose another, the old one leaves. I find that very disappointing.

If you thought many of the levels and bosses were tough, Dracula is harder than ever in this game. He takes three different forms one after another, which must be done in one setting or you have to start all over at the beginning of the final level. It’s bad enough that Trevor’s life meter drains a lot faster in later levels, even more so with the other characters. At times like this I’m glad Game Genie was created. Unfortunately, Castlevania 3 is one of few games that it doesn’t work on, which I find hard to believe.

First you take on Dracula as he is while having to dodge tall fiery spikes from the ground. Then he turns into a floating blob with six heads, which isn’t too bad. I can’t tell if it’s drooling or in need of a tissue.

But it’s Dracula’s third form that’s the real killer. You have to aim for his head, which is at the top of the screen, while riding random platforms on the ground. Dracula also fires lasers diagonally, which are hard to dodge.

Believe it or not, I have played this game for years and I have only beaten it once. I was at my next to last life with only one life bar left. It felt like it was all luck. Would you believe that Syfa was the best character to defeat Dracula?

Don’t get me wrong though. I still think Castlevania 3 is a real NES classic. Although this marks the end of the NES versions, the Castlevania franchise still doesn’t end there. Check my blog for part 4 for the exciting conclusion of classic Castlevania.

Oct 222013

Welcome back. Not too long after the success of the original Castlevania game, there came the sequel Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest for the NES. I must admit, when the title says “quest” they aren’t kidding.

Although the task is the same as in the first game, with an additional prologue, this game takes on a whole different approach.

That’s right. Castlevania 2 is indeed a quest game. As the story goes, after Simon Belmont defeats Dracula in the first game, Dracula’s body parts were scattered in five separate mansions. Now it’s up to Simon to gather them all up, bring them to Dracula’s castle, and defeat the Count once again. Oddly, the body parts only consist of Dracula’s rib, heart, eyeball, nail, and ring. So where’s the rest of him? Back at his castle?

In a way, it’s like the Legend of Zelda franchise. You go through different towns to talk to people, hunt around for hidden items and clues, and collect hearts by killing enemies and use them for currency to buy items and weapon upgrades. Normally I hate those kinds of games, mostly because I never know where to go, but this game is one of few exceptions because I have a map in a Nintendo Game Atlas. But let’s face it, no matter how many times I play this game, I need the map every time.

There are points that are annoying like when it becomes day and night, leaving the impression that Simon’s task takes days to complete. The enemies are stronger at night and the townspeople are all asleep while zombies roam the streets. On the bright side, it helps you collect hearts because the items and upgrades are expensive. One thing I find odd is that the time elapsed is unaffected inside the town buildings and mansions. Okay, does that mean all time stands still when you’re indoors?

Unlike the other Castlevania games, the bosses are pretty tame and it’s not because there are only a couple of them. I wonder if it has to do with including the Grim Reaper in this game, since he’s a boss in every Castlevania game, at least all the ones I’ve played.

It also includes Dracula himself. He’s actually pretty easy as long as you have the golden knife and some laurels to make you invincible for a short time.

Even though I have this game figured out, thanks to a Game Players strategy VHS tape, one thing that usually puzzled me was the ending sequence. There are actually three different endings and it’s hard to tell which one you’re going to get. Does it have to do with how many items or hidden clues you find? I’ve been trying to figure that out for years since there were no other sources that mentioned it. Then not too long ago I finally find the answer, thanks to YouTube. The ending sequence is entirely based on how fast you get through the game. Wouldn’t you know it? Just like with Metroid, it’s all about speed.

Needless to say, Castlevania 2 is an improvement from the first game. The graphics are better, the obstacles and enemies aren’t as irritatingly difficult, and despite the need for a map every time, the game play is enjoyable. It’s not over yet though. Check my blog for part 3 for the next classic Castlevania game.