Old games, new reviews

Back when NES was the king of the hill with little competition, a port of an arcade game called City Connection was included on a multicart with 63 other games. I’ve got no idea where the game originated, but I can give an educated guess combining China and Russia of early 90’s. The cartridge itself ended up into my possession with the second NES console, which was bought due to certain situations in family at the time.

For whatever reason, the cart began with the game number 10, City Connection, rather than from number one. Whenever I felt lazy enough I would simply engage the cart and play City Connection rather than spend any second to browse through the familiar game selection.

Just look at that cover. It looks happy-go-lucky fun joy time!

City Connection is a peculiar game. The aim is to traverse all the road with your Honda City each stage offers. Essentially, sort of reverse Pac-man, where you add paint to the road rather than eat pills from it. Police cars travel with you, and hitting them will explode your itty bitty but still awesome Honda City into lovely cloud of hearts. The same happens if you hit a spike that rises from the ground if you spend too much time dicking around at one spot. Other major obstacle are cats that randomly appear on the road. Hitting them will make the fly off the screen in a satisfactory manner, but holy hell they’re annoying. I’m sure City Connection has contributed anyone’s dislike for cats because of them. There’s Oil cans that the player can pick up and shoot towards the Police cards, making them spin and tackle them away. The obstacles are set so that the game rewards the player for making quick last second decisions. It’s not what we could call a hard game, but it’s merciless. This lulls the player into false security and the game requires surprisingly temperate play style where plans often change the very second that damn cat appears on the screen. Your planned route is never clear.

To say that City Connection keeps you at your toes while forcing you to advance at all times would be apt.

For a game that was ported to the Famicom in the mid-80’s, City Connection is a very competent for its time. While I have not been able to play the original arcade cabinet, it is rather clear that the core o the game has seen rather exact translation between platforms. The music and graphics are understandably downgraded, and stages have been cut due to size limitations. Animations were transferred very accurately too, from the spin of the wheels to the small wheelie the car does after a handbrake turn. The animations make the game very satisfactory. The MSX port is less than stellar as it lacks scrolling screen an music being one sound tinning, but the core of the gameplay still remarkably intact. Out of the two, the Famicom port is superior in every regard.

Why am I talking about this game? Because the more I see reviews of it, the more it baffles me how it get berated, especially now that City Connection is on 3DS’ eShop. Nintendo Life, for example, has a review which doesn’t seem to comprehend that games don’t need to be realistic, scoffing off that roads simply float in the air. Older arcade games had a level of surrealism to them, which later transferred to some console games. Sadly, this is now lost and more often than not everything needs to be sort of functional if existing in real life. The Famicom port may not be anything spectacular, but it is standard of its time and by all means is one of the better ones produced. For example, the home console version of Momoko 120% on Famicom, Urusei Yatsura; Lum’s Wedding Bell, has just significantly changed controls for the game to feel just tad different. Well, the use of the Urusei Yatsura license is another one, but that mess is a whole another thing. Funny still, Momoko 120% still uses the opening theme of Uruisei Yatsura, Lum’s Love Song. Nevertheless, some would say that the Famicom port, while limited, has more to offer in some ways.

Reviewing an old game with its re-release is a challenging task. On one hand, it is true that a good game will get good reviews regardless as they will stand the test of time. On other hand, we can also argue that we need to take sensibilities of the era the game was produced in. Is it fair to put Super Mario Bros. in direct comparison with Super Mario Galaxy, reviewing both of them with the same frame as any Wii U, PS4 of Xbone game?

No, it really isn’t.

Society changes, and so does technology. Without taking into notion timeframe of the production and prime any product has is to do a disservice to both to the product and customers. Objectively speaking, almost any properly made game of the modern gaming era is better than any NES game; the graphics are better, sound is of higher quality, gameplay more varied and coloured and disc space allows far more stuff to put in. Design of the games are larger with expansive worlds and so on. However, this is rather obtuse way to look at things, especially when we just give the numbers 2D Mario games have sold across console generations. Ultimately, it’s the wallet that speaks the loudest when it comes to the customers.

Reviews are ultimately biased, and the person giving them colours the text despite how much they strive for objectivity. Nevertheless, it should be something anyone writing anything called a review should do, as it is different from giving an opinion. I may have an opinion that City Connection is a great damn game and that I have spend many hours with it. However, at the same time I do admit that people who are accustomed to modern gaming expect something else and could find the game a chore. Nevertheless, the reviewer should take another view to any product at hand other than their own and wager possibilities they may not be willing to entertain otherwise. The closer we are to matters, we often can’t see the forest from the trees, or vice versa. This is why it would be good to have someone who is completely unrelated to the matter, an outsider, to say a hefty word or two. Of course, a forest has more things than just trees as well.

Then again, City Connection is a thoroughbred arcade game, so of course it would demand proper execution for further advancements. Otherwise you’re going to see a lot more coins vanishing down the chute.

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