Hardcore Gaming 101 editor Kurt Kalata recently discovered that Konami is working on a classic game collection to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Knowing what Konami has become in recent years has kept my enthusiasm in check, but this at least has the potential to be something special. Even with licensed games off the table, it's easy to think of fifty games that could be offered in such a collection... especially if Hudson Soft games are included. Let's look at what this package could include in a best case scenario. It's not a likely scenario, but hey, a man can dream!
• Scramble, Circus Charlie, Yie Ar Kung Fu, Tutankham, Gyruss, Time Pilot, Frogger, Shaolin's Road, Track 'n Field, Juno First, Locomotion, Mega Zone
|Juno First is kind of like what|
Defender would have been if
the Japanese made it.
(image from International
Most of Konami's best work from the early 1980s was already included in Konami Arcade Classics, a top-notch collection released for the Playstation at the turn of the century. However, only ten games were on the disc, including dubious selections like Pooyan and Road Fighter. If Konami makes a new collection as the rumors suggest, they ought to consider including Juno First (Konami's very best imitation of an intense, noisy Williams shooter), Locomotion (a deceptively charming tile-sliding puzzle game set in a trainyard), and Mega Zone (a devilishly hard top-down shooter) to the list of early arcade titles.
• Metal Gear, Metal Gear 2, Antarctic Adventure, Penguin Adventure
|"Wait a minute! Penguins can't fly!|
PENGUINS CAN'T FLY!!!"
(image from Generation MSX)
The two Metal Gear games are also likely candidates for inclusion, since their NES counterparts were watered down or completely changed, and because I find it hard to believe Konami would include any of the games in the more advanced (and more difficult to emulate) Metal Gear Solid series.
• Castlevania, Contra, Super C, Double Dribble, Blades of Steel, Gyruss, Rush 'n Attack
|Just look at this cover! What self-|
respecting teenager is NOT going
to buy this for his NES?
(image from Wikipedia)
Castlevania has to be in this collection, naturally. There's a better Castlevania game on the NES, Dracula's Curse, but it makes more sense to include the original for the sake of historical preservation. (Not to mention the fact that Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon covers most of the same ground as Castlevania III on modern game consoles.) Contra and its sequel Super C were defining moments for Konami and hugely influential to the shooters that would come later, so those need to be here too.
The other games I've listed are subject to debate, but it just feels right to include Double Dribble and Blades of Steel in this collection, since they both illustrate how important Konami was to the evolution of sports games before Electronic Arts swallowed the genre whole. Rush 'n Attack laid the groundwork for Konami's later military games, especially the previously mentioned Contra series, and Gyruss (the lone Ultra Games release in this list) expands on the classic arcade game in all the usual ways, adding bosses and a powerful blast that clears away space debris that had been indestructible in the original.
SUPER NES GAMES
• Legend of the Mystical Ninja, Super Castlevania IV, Axelay, Contra III: The Alien Wars, Twinbee: Rainbow Bell Adventures, Sparkster
Konami published games for all three major systems during the console wars of the early 1990s. I'll get to the TurboGrafx-16 (aka the PC Engine) later in this article, but most of what the company made for the Sega Genesis was better left forgotten; generally pale imitations of what was already released for the Super NES. Sure, there's Castlevania: Bloodlines, which feels like a throwback to the NES trilogy despite digging deep into the Genesis' bag of magic tricks, and the brutally tough, gleefully obnoxious Contra: Hard Corps, but what's left? Games based on Warner Bros cartoons, which have no hope of winding up in a collection like this, a watered down port of Turtles in Time, and roughly half of Sunset Riders. Bleech, no thanks.
|In the Twinbee games, the pilots are |
somehow larger than their ships.
I never understood that.
(image from Emuparadise)
SHOOT 'EM UPS
• Gradius, Gradius II, Life Force, Salamander 2, Bells and Whistles, Fantastic Parodius, Xexes
|Look, nobody likes it, but it's|
(image from HG101/Pinterest)
There were tons of Parodius and Twinbee games, making it tough to choose one from each series. Personally, I would go with Fantastic Parodius and Detana Twinbee (aka Bells and Whistles), since they improve on the graphics and sound of previous games while not getting bogged down with silly gimmicks. Chatting Parodius is... fine, I guess, but do you really want to listen to some guy screaming in your ear for the thirty minutes it takes to beat it?
LATER ARCADE GAMES
• Devastators, Vendetta, Metamorphic Force, Sunset Riders, Mystic Warriors, Violent Storm, Martial Champions, Dragoon Might
Most of Konami's arcade output from the 1990s was tied up in cartoon and toy licenses. Getting the rights to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons so late after the fact would be at best hugely expensive and at worst damn near impossible.
|Metamorphic Force turns the X-Men|
(image from Arcade History)
Then there are the original games. Sunset Riders and Mystic Warriors are two sides of the same coin, with the former set in the wild west and the latter offering a modern spin on the far east. One's got cowboys and the other's got ninjas, but they feature the same run 'n gun action; basically a downshifted Contra. Vendetta is a more comical take on the beat 'em up genre popularized by Final Fight, while Violent Storm cranks up the wackiness to eleven and breaks off the dial with a setting that's post-apocalyptic, yet unexpectedly zany.
Finally, we have Martial Champions and Dragoon Might, Konami's attempts to capitalize on the Street Fighter II craze. Martial Champions, originally intended as a sequel to Yie-Ar Kung Fu, isn't particularly good, but it's probably worth including anyway for historical context. Dragoon Might is better, a midway point between Samurai Shodown and SNK's later release Savage Reign with big sprites and confidently drawn backgrounds, including a rope bridge suspended over lava.
• Bonk's Adventure, Bomberman '94, Air Zonk, New Adventure Island, Neutopia
Fun fact! Hudson Soft was not only a game publisher, but designed the PC Engine as a successor to the Famicom. Nintendo didn't want it, but NEC took a chance on the machine, manufacturing the PC Engine as an alternative to the aging Famicom. The system's candy colors and detailed sprites were a big draw to Japanese gamers weary of the Famicom's last generation performance, and the PC Engine sold respectably well... until ill-conceived successors like the Supergrafx and PC-FX convinced NEC to make a hasty retreat from the video game industry. Hudson Soft went back to publishing games, until Konami purchased a majority stake in the company in 2005 and shuttered it completely years later.
|You could argue that Bonk's Revenge,|
shown here, is better than the first one.
Mostly because it is, but you probably
shouldn't forget its roots.
(image from Time Warp Gamer)
Bringing us up to an even fifty is Snatcher, the Sega CD adventure title that draws heavy inspiration from the film Blade Runner, and which in turn inspired the recent indie title 2064: Read Only Memories. I don't have much personal experience with this one, but it's refreshingly different from the other titles on this list, and would give gamers a chance to play this incredibly rare game without having to rob a bank for the opportunity.