Runners-up of 1986

Following the success of Super Mario Bros. in 1985/86, there was an explosion of games in the US, especially for the NES. Most of these, I must confess, were awful. But among the fields of thorns there were quite a few roses. These are the ones that almost made it into the bouquet, but had to be pruned off for the benefit of the fair recipient (that would be you).

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My trip to Japan

After years of dreaming and wishing, I finally did it. God blessed me with the opportunity to go to Japan. This was my first time outside the US and it was, in a word, amazing. At the request of friends and family, I took many pictures. I also captured some short videos. Here they are for your viewing pleasure. Click an image to view the full-sized version. Page 1: Week one. Page 2: Week two. Page 3: Gallery.

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The Legend of Zelda [1986/02/21] |Famicom Disk System|

Every legend has a beginning. Some are more humble than others, but what almost all of them have in common is starting with a very rough first draft. The Legend of Zelda, on the other hand, seemed to hatch fully grown. Of course, it was still a first draft in that it established rules and conventions that later entries built upon, but a surprising amount of its structure began here. It seems to have everything: an open world that emphasizes exploration and secret-finding, items such as the ocarina and boomerang, the main cast of characters, and the instantly recognizable theme music that we couldn’t imagine going along with any other game. Let’s take a look at what made this first entry in the long-running series so legendary.

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Japanese Folklore and Mythology in Video Games

Japanese media are often dismissed by westerners as simply being crazy, but this is often the case because of cultural references or allusions that non-Japanese persons simply cannot understand right off the bat. Even an outlandishly off-the-wall video game will appear more sensible once the player examines the origin of certain elements in the game–and that is exactly what I’m about to do. I’ll show you several instances of mythology and folklore in Japanese video games. These instances shall be put in three categories: First, a concept or figure from folklore or mythology that is mentioned by name but does not actually appear; Second, a figure or concept that appears but is not specifically identified as that figure or concept, and may be based off that figure rather than being the figure itself; and Third, an appearance of the figure or location itself, dramatized for use in that video game.

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Hang-On [1985] |Arcade| HONORABLE MENTION

Following in the footsteps of Pole Position, Sega’s racing game Hang-On gave the player a high-speed over-the-shoulder (or more accurately, behind-the-car) racing game with sharp turns and endless AI opponents. Hang-On added something new to the mix, though. The player sat on a motorcycle-shaped seat that they had to tilt to the left or right in order to steer in-game.

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Racism and the “New” Identity Politics

“Only white people can be racist.” This is the conclusion drawn by many activists of the modern day, who exert their various energies toward the goal of attaining justice for society. The reasoning goes that racism is prejudice plus institutionalized power, so only white persons can be racist. Let’s look at whether this is true and what it really means.

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Excitebike [1984] |Nintendo Famicom| HONORABLE MENTION

So there haven’t been many appreciation articles for 1984, and the reason for this is simple: it was the middle of the video game crash. Americans made a few notable games for arcade and home computer, but the console was basically dead. Across the pacific, however, things were just beginning to heat up. In 1983 Nintendo released their first console, named the Famicom (ファミコム) (short for Family Computer) and immediately started putting out a decent variety of games. Let’s take a look at one of the games from their Sports series.

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Marble Madness [1984] |Arcade|

Did you ever play with marbles as a child? I did, but one day I lost all my marbles, and now I write about video games on the internet. Anyway, I’m going to show you Marble Madness today, as you no doubt surmised by the title of this article. Atari had a really good year in 1984, pumping out tons of instant classics such as Paper Boy; I, Robot; and many others. If only such innovation had come in 1982 or ’83….

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