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Throwback Thursday - 8-Bit Cinema
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 04:39pm 04/06/15 | Comments
Throwback Thursday is a weekly column here on Ausgamers where Kosta opens up the proverbial gaming industry attic, has a poke around, finds dusty copies of games from a different time – and plays them!

Break out the popcorn and watch some '80s cinema, 8-Bit style

It’s summer time! And for movie fans that can mean only one thing, that it’s summer movie season! The time of year where across this good and old US of A of ours, all the big blockbuster movies get released. A summer which strangely takes place in the three month period of June to August. Which makes no total sense, because we live in the southern northern hemisphere. Yep, this is coming from a real Joe America-type. A lover of Apple Cakes, Basing Ball, and all that other good stuff.

As a fan of movies, summer means a lot. You get to watch movies like Comic Heroes United: All the Parts Assembled Part 2 and the latest Robots Morphing Into Vehicles. In scorching hot weather no less. Years ago this time of year (the summer) also meant a time when you could look forward to the inevitable videogame tie-in to the movie you just saw. The videogame that for the most part was nothing like the movie at all. Apart from a logo, and maybe a digitised screen cap of the main stars over a title screen.

So what it was like in the late ‘80s, where just about every big movie release got its own videogame on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)? Did they look and feel like the movies at all? Were the plots successfully transferred to the almost-entirely-plot-less library of NES games on the market? Were they fun to play? Did they insert crazy nonsensical gibberish at every turn?

Let’s take a look at a few.

"Come out to the coast, we'll play some videogames, have a few laughs..."

The Movie/Game: Die Hard
The Year: 1988 (Movie) 1990 (Game)

Within the first few seconds on the NES videogame based on the hit 1988 action movie Die Hard, John McClane shoots a terrorist, nabs their automatic rifle, and then goes on to shoot another bad guy. In the movie this happens after a series of scenes setting up the takeover of Nakatomi Plaza by a group of thieves disguised as terrorists looking to rob hundreds of millions of dollars. Plus many more of everyman, and cop from New York City, John McClane, who’s made the flight out to Los Angeles to be with his estranged wife on Christmas. In terms of action, Die Hard is an absolute classic. Plus it was a milestone release for the genre as a whole, the main hero actually bled, got hurt, and struggled as a one man army.

Not so in the game. Which comes as no surprise, and is to be expected of an 8-bit action game. Here, like with pretty much every game in this entry, the license is used primarily as a marketing tool. Die Hard on the NES is a top down action game through and through. One where the goals are to make your way through a giant building, take down the bad guys, and save the day. Kind of like the movie, but not really.

"Just a fly in the ointment, Hans. The monkey in the wrench. The pain in the ass."

Just Like The Movie: Going into the ducting system and being able to roll around to dodge incoming fire is actually a pretty cool touch, and right in line with the movie.

When Did That Happen? After taking a barrage of bullet fire John McClane drinks a bunch of different types of soda to restore his health.

"I'd buy that for a dollar... because that's all it's worth."

The Movie/Game: Robocop
The Year: 1987 (Movie) 1989 (Game)

The fact that there were Robocop videogames developed for every gaming platform available on the market in the late ‘80s kind of made perfect sense at the time. Every kid who was pop culture sensitive knew who Robocop was. Even if they hadn’t seen the movie. You know, due to it being an exceptionally violent satirical look at capitalist culture. But that didn’t change the fact that the poster looked amazing. A robot. A cop. A robot cop! How could anyone resist. Which is why a few short years after the release of the iconic film the Robocop franchise became everything it was making fun of.

So you can probably guess how the videogame version of Robocop plays. Shooting and beating up bad guys? Check. Cleaning up the streets? Check, but through shooting and beating up bad guys. And all without a hint of actual story or context? Check, but there's lots of shooting and the beating up of bad guys.

"Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law."

Just Like The Movie: The way Robocop shoots his gun is just like in the movie, with his gun arm extended forward and for some reason his other arm in the opposite direction. It’s a very specific pose that the game nails perfectly, including the fact that Robocop’s gun shoots three bullets instead of just the one.

When Did That Happen? Streets overrun with canines, Robocop has no choice but to punch dozens of dogs before they bite his impenetrable titanium legs.

Yeah, Val Kilmer looked weird even back in the '80s.

The Movie/Game: Willow
The Year: 1988 (Movie) 1989 (Game)

“Hey you know what you did with Star Wars? How you took a genre and created the biggest movie franchise of all time? Surely, you could do the same thing again but with a high-fantasy setting like the one from Lord of the Rings.” And so, George Lucas created Willow. The ‘80s fantasy mediocrity that paired Val Kilmer with Wicket the Ewok in a cross-continent adventure about saving a Daikini baby from being killed by Evil Sorceress, Queen Bavmorda. It wasn’t a very good film, and as you probably guessed it didn’t exactly set the box office on fire either. But being from the creator of Star Wars licensing deals were made long before the movie came out, leading to a videogame from Capcom that took the basic plot of the film and turned it into a Zelda-style RPG.

Actually, in terms of story this is the best example of a movie based on a videogame in this entry. The sense of adventure, leaving your family behind, and saving your homeland are all themes from the movie, and ones that are conveyed pretty early on in the game.

"The bones tell me nothing."

Just Like The Movie: Aspiring magician Willow Ufgood decides to go an adventure. So he goes off to see the local town Wizard who will give him some advice. Plus, some magic acorns.

When Did That Happen? Upon leaving the village Willow is attacked by disembodies skull things which he has to hack at with his sword.

Pictured: Car Wax Simulator '15

The Movie/Game: The Karate Kid
The Year: 1984 (Movie) 1987 (Game)

The Karate Kid videogame uses the places and settings from the first two Karate Kid movies. In fact the game begins where the first movie ends up, the local Karate Tournament where Daniel-Son has to face off against Cobra-Kai scum to take home the trophy. Taking on the role of Daniel-Son, you have to fight through a few rounds of one-on-one matches before facing off in the final. If you haven’t seen either film, the game won’t make any sense at all. The Cobra-Kai aren’t even mentioned, you have no idea who you’re fighting and no real sense of who you are. There isn’t any story at all, one minute you’re fighting opponents in a tournament and the next you’re in Okinawa beating up the local rabble for some reason. Nothing is explained, which is the sort of presumption made by many early games based on movies. But it does play a little bit like early side-scroller Kung Fu, which is a plus.

"Sweep the leg. No mercy."

Just Like The Movie: Daniel-Son goes to Okinawa where the local rabble take immediate offence to his very presence.

When Did That Happen? After learning the art of Kung Fu from the act of washing and waxing cars Mr Miyagi steps it up a notch on their trip to the birthplace of Karate, Okinawa. The new lesson? Learning Kung Fu from having to jump over a sharp axe swinging on a piece of rope over and over.

"Before the punks took up residence on his lawn, they were in his streets."

The Movie/Game: Dirty Harry
The Year: 1971 (Movie) 1990 (Game)

Okay, so this is a weird one. A videogame based on a series of Clint Eastwood cop movies from the ‘70s, albeit cop movies with one of cinema’s most iconic anti-heroes, Harry Callahan. Or as he’s better known, Dirty Harry. As to why they made a videogame based on a, at the time, twenty year old film franchise is anyone’s guess. But like the Robocop videogame, this was probably aimed at a young audience who kind of knew who Dirty Harry was. Based off seeing the character on posters and other places. Weirdly the plot of the game kind of sounds like a Dirty Harry movie too, one where Dirty Harry needs to make his way through the seedy underbelly of San Francisco in order to put away a drug kingpin who’s filled the streets with crack cocaine. As expected the game is side-scroller, where the objective is to basically shoot bad guys, beat them up, and clean up the streets.

"You guessed wrong punk! I totally had an extra bullet!"

Just Like The Movie: One upping Robocop in the realistic gun portrayal game, here you can actually take out your gun without firing and hold it in a very Eastwood-pike pose. Also shooting the gun has a cool recoil animation that sells the fact that Dirty Harry carries a .44 Magnun

When Did That Happen? After entering an abandoned building in a derelict part of San Francisco, Dirty Harry follows an armed drug dealer into what looks like an abandoned apartment. Inside he finds that it’s actually inhabited by poisonous snakes. As for the drug dealer? He’s hiding in a nearby drawer, where he pops out to ambush Dirty Harry.

Previous Throwbacks:

Kosta Andreadis remembers a time when in order to get the best out of a console game you had to blow gently into it and whisper sweet nothings like "please work, I’m up to World 8-3, for fudgcicles sake". Situated in Melbourne, Kosta is a freelancer who enjoys playing RPGs, strategy, adventure, and action games. Apart from investing well over 200 hours into The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim he’s also an electronic musician with an album recently released.

Find him or follow him on Twitter - @toadovsky, Steam - toadovsky and Xbox Live - Toadovsky.

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