Saturday, June 19, 2021

1981 in Review

This can also be considered a general purpose pre-1981 thing, seeing as I have no desire to handle things before this year.

1981 when everything is an arcade game or a text adventure. One thing I didn't mention was the text-based flight sims, because this is about action, ultimately, not simulation. Most of the army simulations from this year don't look too different from ones made in 1993, just less detailed. On the other end, everything else is basically an arcade adaptation, either official or unofficial. I've culled a lot of the fat in that regard. No one wants to hear anyone's opinion on some obscure TRS-80 Battlezone-clone. Or Pac-man, or something even more obscure. If you really want something of historical interest, just try one of those text-based flight sims, it'll be interesting even if its complete trash.

While I'm sure some purists are going to try to rain on my parade about this, but most of the arcade titles aren't worth the trouble. Definitely get an arcade collection and spend an afternoon or two playing the games if all you know is Fortnite, but otherwise you've probably played most of these in a brief form. Unless you actively enjoy those kinds of titles, its only worth it to recognize what minigame or phone game is ripping off what.

Further, I culled a lot of games that were clones or just looked like clones, and removed some systems entirely. Sorry, if you were interested in seeing what titles were on the Arcadia, the VIC-20 or the Dragon 32/64, but I've got some lines in the sand to draw.

Pictured, an MSX game, not my usual gaming haunts

On the other hand, despite the absolute hell I've gone through emulating some systems, I've seen some good. But overall the vast majority of titles are not worth the trouble it takes emulating them. You should take the time to read any FAQs or manuals before you start setting up an emulator. Better bored than enraged and wasting your own time. You'll have to read that manual sooner or later anyway.

Game of the Year: Castle Wolfenstein
The only must play title from this year. Castle Wolfenstein shows the beginnings of the sort of games we'd come to love and cherish, while also killing random demons. It has relatively coherent level design, separate aiming and moving, not that you'd deal with that, and items, some of which are useful. In a year of historical curiosities and arcade titles, I found it to be one of the few that felt like it was something more.

Worst of the Year: 3D Defender
3D Defender is a game that is everything I hate about old, old video games. Non-sensical controls, non-sensical graphics, and designed in a way to be unplayable to anyone who isn't the original developer. There were a few titles that were worse, but none I actively hated like this one. I played this one so long ago I never took any screenshots, not that you're missing anything.

I didn't really feel like tossing out a best and worst of the year, because everything is hovering near enough to the 5 mark it makes no difference. As you might be able to guess, anything that's 30+ on my ratings scale is a 5+ on a normal ten point rating system. But this scale is sort of biased towards shooters that have a meaningful atmosphere and friendly NPCs. Oh, and are generally first person shooters, not arcade coin-munchers. None of them actively appealed to me or pissed me off.

Of special interest are the FPS precursors, 3D Monster Maze and its variants. Probably should have given it its own entry, but I don't think its interesting enough to get its own entry, and others have talked about its history better. Voyager I, which technically fails my requirements, but its interesting. As a sort of gawking at the past. Less in a hostile way that's usually done and more in an interesting way they did it with inferior computers and little technical knowledge. I'm probably overselling myself.

There were a ton of titles I couldn't find, and to be honest I don't really care anymore. They're all Apple II titles. I'm starting to hate that computer and its sound system that makes screeching sounds on par with the PC Speaker. I didn't really care for that back in the day and I definitely don't care for it now. While it remains to be seen if those games can beat Castle Wolfenstein, I doubt it.

Next year I have 41 games to play. As I look through them, I don't really notice many games I'm interested in. I find that a problem. I've decided that moving forward, I'm going to reject any games that look like they're obviously under 10 points. This applies more to non-FPS games, but they're still at risk. This is to eliminate obvious shovelware and clones of games that don't add anything. With that rule in place, 1982 might just have less reviewed titles than 1981.

Speaking of the near future. I had a plan for the last FPS of 1993 and indeed the 100th game. Originally I had some 23 or so titles planned out for what would be the list of 1991-93. With one saved for later, Star Cruiser 2, my Japanese isn't up to snuff yet. As I write this I have finished a few games that bring my total up to 79. I am planning on aiming for that, however, I've also moved titles that aren't FPS games to later on, so I have 19 titles, giving me 2 spare ones for Halloween or just something interesting. There's always the possibility that future titles could get removed or bumped down to later, but either way, my plans are going forward, this blog is just going back to being FPS-heavy for a while.

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