Tuesday, October 20, 2009

He's Gonna Take You Back To The Past

Lately, I've been addicted to a series of videos made by a guy known as the Angry Video Game Nerd....
Now, I'm aware that I'm rather late to the party on this one. The Angry Video Game Nerd has been making videos since 2006, and his updates attract upwards of a million viewers each month. STILL, I figure that if I only found out about the dude a few weeks ago, then there has to be others out there who are still in the dark, so I might as well help spread the word.

OK, so here's the deal: The Angry Video Game Nerd takes crappy video games from the 80s and 90s, and reviews them. He's a foul-mouthed, very picky, stickler for video game quality, and the videos he produces are hilarious. The AVGN (real name James Rolfe) drew me in at first viewing because the things he's talking about take me straight back to my youngest years. He, too, is clearly a child of Nintendo, and the observations this guy makes about classic games are spot-on. The experiences he recounts are the same as mine and, I suspect, millions of others.

I remember being a kid in the late 80s, and living for Nintendo. I was also a sucker for games that were based off of popular movies or cartoons, and the problem was that most of them were downright bad. See, toy companies were frequently behind many licensed titles back then, and their philosophy toward game development was simple: pump out any crap with a famous character in it, and the kids will bug their parents to buy it. Cha-ching!

(The ending of the Ghostbusters NES game. Seriously -- READ IT!)

The AVGN's accounts of playing such substandard offerings really take me back. He, too, remembers the crappy Who Framed Roger Rabbit? NES game. I got it for Christmas one year, and was fooled by the above-average graphics into thinking it was good. Of course, it didn't take long for me to realize how lousy the game really was, and the AVGN's review captures this better than I ever could. His review of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, for the NES, is probably his most famous. I remember being eleven years old, and LOVING the Ninja Turtles. The release of their Nintendo game was a highly anticipated event, and my friend Nick was the first one in my circle to get it. He raced over to my house with the brand new NES cartridge, and we popped it in the console, barely able to contain our excitement.

Well, frankly, the game was a let down. Sure, as the AVGN notes, it SEEMED on the surface to be solid, but it simply didn't live up to the high expectations of the TMNT fanbase. What was with that lame music? Where were the foot soldiers and Krang?? Why couldn't the game's developer just copy the awesome ARCADE version??? It wasn't fair that we kids got screwed like that. NES games were 50 bucks back then, and it wasn't easy convincing parents to buy you one (for me, it was impossible to get a new game unless it was Christmas or my birthday). HOW DARE the developer blow the Ninja Turtles license like that??? The AVGN re-raises all of these important questions.

As a classic game collector myself, I am blown away by the size of the AVGN's library. He doesn't just blast crappy 8-bit Nintendo games, but will sometimes review offerings on other, more obscure, consoles. He covers the mysterious Phillips CD-I in a trio of hilarious episodes, and even delves into such failures as the infamous Nintendo Virtual Boy, the Atari 5200, and Sega 32x. This guy's a consumer electronics historian, as well as a crappy games expert! I hope he someday does a feature on my personal favorite failed console, the Tubo Grafx 16....

Anyway, the Angry Video Game Nerd puts the entire gaming industry into perspective for me. I mean, sure -- bad games are still made all of the time (just check out the Wii section of your local Gamestop); but they're not bad now in the way that they were bad back then. As mentioned above, video games in the 80s were simply viewed as toys. A fly-by-night company could hire a dozen programmers, secure the rights to some comic book character, and pump out any garbage to make a few bucks off of dumb kids across the country. Over the years, however, those kids grew up to be guys like me. They saw the potential for real artistry in the format, and many even became game programmers themselves. Despite the efforts of companies like LJN and Wisdom Tree to kill the video game industry with substandard products, GOOD developers -- such as Nintendo, Capcom, and Konami -- released enough quality titles over the years to keep the dedicated fans coming back. Over time, those fans started making their own titles, and now the video game industry rivals (and some would say is BEATING) even the film and music industries as the dominant entertainment medium of our culture. I say huzzah to the Angry Video Game Nerd for doing his part to chronicle how things got to be the way they are. Oh, and if you ever played Battletoads as a kid, then you've GOT to check out his review:


For me, the above video was one of those laughing-so-hard-I-can't-breath sort of deals. Oh, what the heck? I might as well give the AVGN a...

5 out of 5.


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