Every developer crowed they were “bringing the arcade experience home” whenever a smash-hit arcade game received a console translation. Until the PS1 era, most of us took these boasts in stride because we knew in our hearts there was no way the games we loved in the arcade were going to look or sound the same when down-sized to an 8- or 16-bit system. We suffered the indignities of smaller sprites, lower audio fidelity, missing levels, and an understanding that the strategies we’d worked out on the big machines might not translate to home systems. But that’s assuming the game we wanted ever came home in the first place–for every home port that lived up to the hype, there are five that didn’t, and ten which never got made. That’s what MichaelB wants to discuss with this week’s Top 3 Tuesday video, so I’m going to dig into it and start naming and claiming before some other punk with a video camera and awesome YouTube handle Bogarts all my picks.
3) The Lost World: Jurassic Park (Sega, 1997)
With the glut of light gun games that did get home ports, I’m shocked neither of Sega’s runs at the Jurassic Park franchise ever showed up in our living rooms. Considering we got home versions of everything from Lethal Enforcers and T2: The Arcade Game to Crypt Killer and Area 51, it seems strange this one never joined them. On the one hand, the games bear almost no relation to the plots of the films from which they take their names. On the other hand, they’re on-rails light gun games where you shoot everything from Pteranodons to Tyrannosaurus Rexes in glorious 3D. The 1994 Jurassic Park arcade game is fun for a once-through, but with The Lost World, Sega upped their game by offering branching paths to explore in the sequel, delivering some great quarter-sucking replay value. Come on, Sega, you brought both House of the Dead games to the PC for crying out loud. Would it have killed you to let us shoot some raptors along with the shambling hordes of undead?
Well… though it pains me to say it, this is one of those cases where the game couldn’t possibly live up to expectations. While titles like Revolution X and Maximum Force were all about blasting things on the screen, Sega’s two Jurassic Park titles weren’t meant to be played so much as they were meant to be experienced. You sat (hopefully with a friend) side-by-side in a deluxe cabinet styled like one of the park’s Land Rovers, while the speakers placed all around your heads resounded with roars, and the very seat you sat on rumbled and jumped with the stomping crashes of the T-Rex’s legs. If you survived longer than a few minutes, your butt would be tingling for the next half hour. Jurassic Park and The Lost World were meant to be immersive entertainment where the light guns were just one part of the total package. Take away the vibrating seat, the surround sound, the curtains over the jeep’s ‘doors’ and you’d be left with the same cringe-worthy voice acting and point-and-shoot action as House of the Dead. There’s nothing wrong with that, but HotD was more about light-gun shenanigans, and reducing The Lost World to that would strip something essential from the presentation. That’s still doesn’t excuse Sega for not even trying, but given its release date and the status of the Saturn at that time, I can see why the bosses never even considered porting this one. And while I could fill a list five times this size with nothing but Sega titles (seriously guys, no Alien 3: The Gun? No Golden Axe: The Revenge of Death Adder, Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, or Daytona USA 2? What gives here?), I’ll pick on two other companies instead.
2) Crime Fighters (Konami, 1989)
No matter how you feel about their treatment of Kojima, the Silent Hill franchise, or their sudden urge to churn out pachinko machines, Konami of the 80’s and 90’s was a force to be reckoned with. When it came to arcade-to-home conversions, they delivered far more often than they failed. Contra, Jackal, Super C, TMNT II: The Arcade Game…these are titles that at the very least met, if not surpassed, their arcade counterparts. Konami was good at stripping their games down and building them back up again for the home market, but for some reason they chose never to delve into a port of Crime Fighters.
This game deserves a write-up all its own given some questionable content from the Japanese version that was removed from the North American release, not to mention the differences between the 2-player and 4-player ROM sets, but that’s not why you’re here, so I’ll leave all that alone. Basically Crime Fighters is the story of four similarly-attired vigilantes who set out to rescue a bunch of kidnapped women by punching out the local street gangs. What saves it from being forgotten as a Final Fight clone with smaller sprites are the aforementioned four player simultaneous play mode, the ability to kick downed enemies for additional damage (something rarely offered in fighting games even today), and the flamboyant copyright trolling Konami engaged in with some stage bosses who rather closely resemble well-known slasher horror icons. Additionally Konami infused the game with the sort of physical comedy gags they went on to use in later titles: characters can be flattened against walls by swiftly-opening doors, pancaked by steamrollers, briefly rendered half-size by falling signs, and so forth.
I’ll be the first to admit Crime Fighters has its flaws, especially the four-player mode which had a health drain “feature” akin to Gauntlet that rampantly defunded the allowance of any kids trying to get past the first stage, but it’s still an enjoyable if repetitive title. The Bosses Strike Back mode was an equally awesome feature where, upon beating the game, you got dumped into a small arena with every stage boss gunning for you at the same time, something it showed off in the attract mode so you knew what you’d be up against. Despite its problems, Crime Fighters was certainly successful enough for them to devote the resources to making a home version. Am I honestly expected to believe the same company who made an NES version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade somehow wasn’t up to the task of converting Crime Fighters? Because I don’t buy that for a second, and neither should you.
1) CarnEvil (Midway, 1998)
There are better light gun games out there, but none that wallow in ridiculous depravity the way CarnEvil did. Casting the player as a local yokel out on a hay ride, CarnEvil spouts an entire nasty three-ring circus when you drop a token into the slot on the gravestone of Ludwig von Tökkentäkker. With your love interest Betty in danger, you snap up a shotgun from the dark carnival’s shooting gallery booth, and proceed to make every deformed acrobat, vile clown, evil gremlin, and over-size end boss swallow hot lead. That evil ringmaster’s going to rue the day he messed with the prettiest young lady in all of Green Valley, Iowa, yessirree Bob! It’s nothing we haven’t seen dozens of times before, but man does the unique setting make this one a blast to play. I mean, when was the last time you got to show Santa’s evil twin Krampus the business end of a boomstick?
CarnEvil hit the arcades in 1998 and from the moment you watched the attract mode rendering those luscious backgrounds and animated polygonal enemies, it was clear a home version was out of the question. This nightmare-inducing blast-fest used a 3Dfx graphics board, two sound chips, a blazing fast CPU, and an internal hard drive to hold two gigabytes of models, animation, backgrounds, music, sound effects, and textures to deliver a pulse-pounding 60FPS on-rails shooter like no other. About the only machine suitable for porting this beast was the PC, and even with the best 3D card available at the time you’d struggle with performance issues. Now try and imagine it running on the PlayStation or Saturn looking anything like its arcade incarnation.
Yeah, I couldn’t either.