It’s not easy being green. Or yellow, for that matter. Frogger centers around the titular tree frog who needs to get to his home on the other side of the river. Seemingly the only part of Frogger anyone remembers is the first half of the screen with the cars, even though that’s only the first hurdle. Guess how much time I spent editing this article before posting. Just guess. I kid you not, this journalistic gem required over three minutes of fine-tuning. That’s why it flows this well.
Anyway, Frogger is a good example of how all video games have a story presented by the gameplay, no matter how rudimentary it may be. Just think about it for a second. A tree frog has to get across a busy highway, then get across a river without drowning and has to rescue his lady friends along the way. He then safely reaches his home and the next frog comes to join him. Now, there’s a certain lack of attention to detail that becomes apparent when you discover that the frog can hop as quickly as the cars can drive. Also, once he reaches the other side of the river he jumps into the water… and doesn’t drown. Maybe it’s shallow. Regardless of these narrative blunders, Frogger is still fun to play.
Frogger was developed by the up-and coming Konami. Konami was founded in 1969 by KOzuki Kagemasa, NAkama Yoshinobu, and MIyasako as a pinball-repair service. Through the seventies it started the push towards making games and in 1978 released their first four games, the all-too original Block Game, Block Invader (just one, mind you), Space Ship, and Space King. Konami surprisingly stayed in business long enough to release Frogger. It was really fitting that they chose Sega-Gremlin for the game’s worldwide distribution, since Sega had previously released the electromechanical game Frogs in 1978. It was thanks to the novel concept of the game that made it instantly popular. Clones of the game were everywhere. Oh, the irony. The copier gets copied.
Happily for Konami they could combat the clones with official ports. Whereas Atari couldn’t port Pong in 1972 because there was no supply of consoles (except the Magnavox Odyssey which Pong ripped off), by 1981 there was a wide variety of consoles and computers to choose from. The simple gameplay and simple, colorful graphics were well-suited to any computer.
The controls, too, were simple, the only input being a single joystick. There weren’t any buttons to get in the way. Do you think this made it an easy game? Think again.
What sticks with me the most, even years after playing, is that kickin’ music which I’m sure you thoroughly enjoyed while watching that video. Music was still very new in 1981. 1980’s Rally-X was the first game to have background music playing throughout but 1.) it wasn’t anything special, and 2.) most other games had little music beyond an intro, if anything. Phoenix contained two sizable clips of music from “Romance de Amor” and “Für Elise” but those stopped once complete. Frogger‘s soundtrack was never-ending. Most of the soundtrack was chip-tuned versions of popular songs, like the children’s song 「犬のおまわりさん」 (“Inu no Omawarisan”–“The Dog Policeman”) and the opening theme of the sickeningly saccharine anime 「花の子ルンルン」, as well as American folk songs like “Yankee Doodle” (「ヤンキーデゥードル」) Oops, sorry. I got carried away with that translating. Frogger‘s soundtrack was the quintessential 8-bit arcade music. This kicked off a veritable music boom–soon every arcade game and his brother included music. Some were short clips, like Crystals of Zong having three-second long excerpts of “If I were a Rich Man” and “Light My Fire.” Others had full soundtracks. Seriously. Three minutes of editing.