Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Games that pushed the limit

With today’s powerful gaming machines that have gigabytes of memory, it’s not really impressive to make a game look shiny. Back in the day though, you had to work with sometimes only a few kilobytes of ram to make a game look like something special. This is a tribute to games spread across various platforms that pushed their hardware to the limit.

5. Solaris (2600)

Solaris is the largest Atari 2600 cartridge, with a then impressive 14 kilobytes of data. Like I said, it was impressive back then (that could barely fill one word document now). Solaris is massive, with multiple areas to explore via your star map.  When you run across an enemy Zylon ship (no relation to Battlestar Galactica’s Cylons) you’ll engage in exciting, flicker-free dogfights. Solaris may not look like much today, but give it a chance.

4. Battletoads (NES)

Parallax scrolling galore! Games like this make me wonder why most games on the TurboGrafx 16 couldn’t scroll backgrounds… I mean, Battletoads on the NES did it. Battletoads also has detailed character sprites that do various animations in different contexts. The most inspiring graphical feat has to be the tower in level 12. There, you’ll see the pseudo-3d effect of rotation. It’s a shame that you probably won’t get that far though, as the game is notoriously difficult starting on level 3. Still, Battletoads gives you a glimpse into Rareware’s early talent.  

3. Contra: Hard Corps (Genesis)

Contra: Hard Corps is amazing not for any trick in particular, but just for how much crap is thrown on screen at once. Seriously, they call it Hard Corps for a reason: It’s hard. There are legions of bad guys waiting to waste your continues, and it’s your job to stay alive. No matter how hectic things get, however, there is never any slowdown… even with a second player joining in on the fun. By the time you’re riding on a missile in the sky trying to stop a giant alien brain, you’ll start believing that maybe Sega was right with all that Blast Processing business.

2. Doom (SNES)

Yeah, this version of Doom looks like someone smeared petroleum jelly on your television screen. Still, remember that this game is running on a Super Nintendo, a 2d machine. The fact that you can move around 360 degrees in a three dimensional environment is just stunning. The game is pretty playable, but due to its blurriness you really have to wait until you see the white of a demon’s eyes before you start shooting. You really are better off playing almost any other version of Doom though. Even the Sega 32X has a decent version (although the music sounds like an orchestra of armpit farts).

1. Perfect Dark (N64)

Is there anything Rare can’t do? This bad boy looks as impressive as some triple A computer games of its day. With reflective surfaces and dynamic lighting that can be altered by shooting out bulbs, Perfect Dark made good use of the N64’s expansion pack. There was even an option for an “hd” widescreen mode in an era where tube televisions were king. Heck, it even had Dolby Surround Sound. All this came at a cost, however, as the game’s framerate moved like the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack. Still, few noticed such limitations when you could rescue the president from alien terrorists on board Air Force One.   

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