First off, you gotta love Alan Hunter's cover art—an homage to John Wayne's classic World War Two films juxtaposed with the portrait of a contemporary, muscle-bound Hollywood soldier—think Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Chuck Norris in Missing in Action (1984) or Dolph Lundgren in Red Scorpion (1989). The character archetype of John Rambo was all the rage in the 1980's and it has remained a staple ingredient in countless books, films and video games ever since. It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that TurboGrafx-16 had two games that were clearly inspired by (and modeled after) the Rambo films: Last Alert (CD) and Bloody Wolf (HuCard). Both games comfortably fit within the conventions of the "overhead run-n-gun" genre…
Table of Contents for TurboPlay #3
- 01 Cover: One-Man Army. Artist: Alan Hunter (uncredited).
- A playful homage to both John Wayne and John Rambo, the cover scene is suggestive of Bloody Wolf and Last Alert, both of which are featured in this issue.
- 02 Advertisement: Splatterhouse (1990, HuCard). 02 03
- "Just keep telling yourself: It's only a video game…Only a videogame…Only a videogame."
- 04 Advertisement: Sinistron and Tricky Kick (1990, HuCard).
- "Shoot 'em or scoot 'em! From the creators of CyberCore comes Sinistron, a mind-altering experience in high-tech bio-morphic action, and Tricky Kick, with over 120 perplexing puzzles."
- 05 Table of Contents for issue #3.
- The sidebar lists names familiar to VG&CE readers: Lee Pappas is at the helm of TurboPlay, with Andy Eddy and Donn Nauert as editors.
- 06 TurboMail & Contest.
- "You use a lot of space to say a little bit."—A reader complaining about TurboPlay's thin content. Contest: Send in a drawing from your favorite game and win 10 games of your choice plus a TurboStick!
- 07 Closer Look: TurboChip & TG-CD Game Reviews. 07 08 09
- "Reviews of Legendary Axe II, Veigues Tactical Gladiator, Valis II, Last Alert and Tiger Road."
- 10 Strategy Guide: Bloody Wolf. 10 11 12 13 14 15
- "Fight your way to the end with our game maps and tips!"
- 16 Strategy Guide: Ninja Spirit. 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
- "Grab your ancient weapons and prepare to do battle!"
- 24 Coming Soon: TG-16 Game Previews. 24 25
- "New games coming to your TurbGrafx-16: Aero Blasters, Battle Royale, Jack Nicklaus Golf, Sherlock Holmes: The Consulting Detective, Sinistron, Super Star Soldier and Tricky Kick."
- 26 Advertisement: Devil's Crush (1990, HuCard). 26 27
- "Remember when Mommy told you not to play with fire? Maybe you should have listened."
- 28 TurboTips: Codes, Tips and Tricks. 28 29
- "Donn Nauert gives expert advice on: Boxyboy, Dragon Spirit, Double Dungeons, Drop Off, Dungeon Explorer, Last Alert, Psychosis, Timeball and Valis II.
- 30 Advertisement: TV Sports: Football (1990, HuCard). 30 31
- "If it were any more real, you'd need shoulder pads and a helmet."
- 32 Advertisement: KLAX (1990, HuCard).
- "Give your hand-eye-brain a real workout."
A RAMBO BY ANY OTHER NAME…
The TG-CD Last Alert (known as Red Alert in Japan) is reviewed in this issue. Surprisingly, the reviewer fails to mention the extent to which our hero, Guy Kazama, is John Rambo's soul mate (or should I say "kindred spirit"). Be it an homage or a rip-off, Guy Kazama heavilly borrows the style and attitude of John Rambo, though Kazama comes across as less "gritty" and much more refined. Furthermore, the classic montage of Rambo "suiting-up" for battle is nicely re-created in an opening cinema with Guy Kazama. Competently executed (complete with requisite sound effects) the montage honors, not disgraces, the Rambo films. This is where the similarities to Rambo cease, however, because the storyline in Last Alert has absolutely nothing to do with the films.
A six-page strategy guide for Bloody Wolf (adorned with Alan Hunter's artwork) is featured in this issue as well. Bloody Wolf, like Last Alert, was inspired by Rambo as well. This time, however, even the game's supporting cast clues us in: A character strikingly reminiscent of Colonel Trautman communicates with our protagonists as they progress through the game. Like John Rambo, Lance and Snake use an over-sized bowie knife in melee combat, but don't hesitate using flamethrowers, rocket launchers, grenades, machine guns, etc. when the situation requires it.
Unlike Last Alert, Bloody Wolf provides a minimal storyline. However, despite all the tropes and hackneyed plot points, there are some twists and turns in Bloody Wolf's drama that will delight you. Did I say twists and turns? Perhaps it would be more truthful to refer to a single turn and a mere half-twist, but this half-twist stands out in a genre that includes Capcom's Commando, SNK's Ikari Warriors, Data East's Heavy Barrel, etc. The game mechanics are identical whether you play as Lance or Eagle, but the designers creatively shifted (or "interrupted") the flow of the game with a simple plot twist. It's not particularly groundbreaking or innovative, mind you, but it is a nice touch.
THE THIN LINE
The advertisements for Splatterhouse, Devil's Crush and TV Sports: Football featured in this issue hold up remarkably well to this day. I consider these to be some of the best TG-16 software ads ever produced—they have an edge to them that doesn't come across as too goofy or generic (as later TG-16 ads often did). The Splatterhouse and Devil's Crush ads are my particular favorites, but all three ads utilized the same formula: slick black, high-contrast layouts with crisp, colorful screenshots and amusing taglines…
Splatterhouse: "Just keep telling yourself: It's only a video game…Only a videogame…Only a videogame." 01 02
Devil's Crush: "Remember when Mommy told you not to play with fire? Maybe you should have listened." 01 02
TV Sports Football: "If it were any more real, you'd need shoulder pads and a helmet." 01 02
Sure, this ad copy is supremely corny (especially the captions found underneath each screenshot), but the overall impression is that these ads (and the games featured in them) are genuinely "hip" and "kool". This is a tricky feat to pull-off successfully. All too often, promotional material tries too hard to foster a hip image of the product they are marketing. This sort of "contrived edginess" or "contrived koolness" is immediately apparent to consumers, who laugh it off. As I said, convincing consumers that a product is genuinely kool is no small feat. There is a fine line between "hip" and "too-hip-for-your-own-good". The reason why the Splatterhouse, Devil's Crush and TV Sports: Football ads are successful, in my opinion, is due to their sophisticated layout. If their presentation wasn't as polished, sharp and slick, I suspect that they would be considered average, at best.
SHOOT 'EM OR SCOOT 'EM
Needless to say, the three aforementioned ads are veritable masterpieces when compared to IGS's advertisement for Sinistron and Tricky Kick. Sinistron (known as "Violent Soldier" in Japan) was a horizontal shooter that became fiendishly difficult halfway through the game. Tricky Kick was an under-appreciated puzzle game with cute pastel fairies and mutliple, albeit brief, storylines (gasp!). In short, these two HuCards were diametrically opposed to one another.
Sinistron and Tricky Kick share no common ground as far as genre, target audience, aesthetics, etc. are concerned. In light of this, you can't help but love IGS for deciding to use "Shoot 'em or scoot 'em" as the tag line for their ad. The folks who created the tagline must have struggled for quite some time before they finally settled on that eloquent piece of prose.
Moral of the story? When you double-bill a cute puzzle game with a hardcore shooter, it's no easy task to devise a singe, catchy tagline that captures the essence of both titles. I applaud IGS for their marketing gusto. Shoot 'em or scoot 'em, indeed.
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