Saturday, 28 December 2013

The 12 Generation Of Gaming - Gen 3

On the third gen of gaming,
The Nintendo sent to me.
Many new IP-e-es.

On the third gen of gaming,
Sega sent to me,
The Sega Mark III.

The Third Generation – 1983 - 95

Atari 2600
Sega Master System
Atari 7800
Nintendo Game and Watch

Popular Games:
Legend of Zelda
Super Mario Bros
Dragon Quest/Warrior 
Final Fantasy
Mega Man 2
Metal Gear
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
FIFA International Soccer

It's time for third gen now and some of the more recognisable and popular games are making an entrance as well as some brilliant hardware as well. Third gen (also known as the 8-bit era) signalled the end of the North American video game crash as well as the transition of gaming dominance from North America to Japan. Also, the blocky graphics are gone! (well almost) Sprite based graphics are here to stay. The world says hooray! Gaming companies get pay! If you don't like these rhymes just say... Yeah, I'm going to stop that now. Other pivotal features of the third gen include: the amazing D-pad, better scrolling, 256*240 resolution and 32 colour graphics!

In this post, I'm going to talk about both the hardware as well the software. Oh, and some of you may have noticed the lack of any handheld hardware based paragraphs but don't worry, they will be coming later.

Released in Japan on July 15 1983, North America in 1985 and Europe in 1986 the NES revitalised the video game market and made sure that they were here to stay. The NES also created the business model for letting 3rd party developers publish on the console. Originally the NES was going to be nothing more than a 16-bit computer complete with keyboard and floppy disk drive. But Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi rejected this and instead went for the cheaper and more normal cartridge based games console. Thank god, he did. The actual console was designed by Masayuki Uemura under the project codename of GameCom. The name 'Famicon' came from this when Masayuki Uemura 's wife suggested the name Famicon after deciding that the console was not a personal computer but, rather, a family one. Next, the cartridges. The original design for the cartridges was for them to be about the size of a cassette tape but due to technological barriers they ended up being twice the size. The D-pad was implemented after Nintendo questioned the durability and safety of the arcade joystick (ever stepped on a joystick in the middle of the night? Well it hurts). The D-pad was transferred from the Game and Watch and as it was easy to use Nintendo kept it (but they did leave a port so that you could use a joystick if you wanted to). After the success of the console in Japan, Nintendo were all set to release it in North America as well. Nintendo decided to ask Atari if they could license the NES under them with the name Nintendo Advanced Video Gaming System. But after Atari found out that the Coleco Adam computer had used Donkey Kong to market its console the exclusive license between Nintendo and Atari had been violated delaying the release process. It didn't really matter as Atari's CEO Ray Kassar was fired next month and so the deal went nowhere. Nintendo (presumably sick of waiting) released the console anyway but under their own name instead. And so, the legacy of the NES (and Nintendo) began.

Sega Master System:
The Sega Master System was not a new console at all but was instead a remake of the Sega Mark III and was released in 1986 in North America and 1987 in Europe. Doing well in only Europe and Oceania the Master System failed to compare with Nintendo in North America or Japan. Sadly, even when Nintendo was found guilty of violating United States antitrust law in 1991 the Master System never recovered. The main problem was the software library as in, there wasn't much of one. Games were few and a long way between each other and so while the games released may have been good (and some of them were) there simply weren't enough of them. One of the differences between the Sega Master System and the NES was the cartridge size by which the Master System's were small and cheap with a low memory whereas the NES were bigger and could hold more information. I think I will leave the Master System with what the last game was, a game that would ring in the ears of Sega and Nintendo fans alike... Sonic the Hedgehog.

Atari 7800:

The Atari 7800 (released in 1986) is often classed as a relaunch as it was originally announced to be released in 1984 but due to the external company begin sold was pushed back to 1986. The Atari 7800 was the first console to be backwards compatible without extra additions. It was backwards compatible with the Atari 2600 even though it was the sequel to the Atari 5200. The 7800 was also the first console that Atari developed with the help of an external company, General Computer Corporation and once it was sold Tramel Technology Ltd. Due to the falling prices of home computers many families believed a home computer to be a better investment than a console as it had deeper gameplay as well as being able to do more things other than gaming. For this reason, Atari designed the Atari 7800 to be able to be adapted into a home computer by adding things like an expansion port for a keyboard and printers. Sadly, even Atari could not hope to face off against Nintendo and the NES's dominance and by the time of cancellation (1991) Nintendo controlled 80% of the video gaming market and Atari only controlled 12%. But let us ignore the figures for the moment and instead remember the brilliance of Atari and its systems.


Super Mario Bros:
Super Mario Bros. was the sequel to the highly popular Mario Bros. game. However, this game has nothing to do with plumbers (unless you count the warp pipes of course) and instead has everything to do with mushrooms. Mushrooms to make you bigger, mushrooms that kill you, mushrooms that you stamp on and... flowers that make you shoot fire (oh and by the way, this isn't what you think, worried parents of the world). The game was developed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka and released on September 13 1985 as the successor to the arcade phenomenon Mario Bros. (read 2nd gen of gaming for more details). The gameplay is one that is familiar to most gamers, you run and jump through different stages and worlds while picking up power ups and coins while squashing enemies along the way. One difference with the New Super Mario Bros. games of today, however, is the difficulty. And it was a lot harder. For one thing, lose all of your lives and its not only an annoying game over screen accompanied by even more annoying music but also a reset to the beginning of the game. I can't even begin to count how many times I've tried to complete that game, failed and come back for more. But then I guess that's the true testament to how great the game and the series is. That I, and millions of others, keep coming back to it however many times we lose. 

The Legend of Zelda:
The Legend of Zelda was developed by the same two men that designed Super Mario Bros. Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka and was released on the 21st February 1986. The script was written by Tezuka and whereas Miyamoto designed and directed the game. As it was designed by the same people and at the same time as Mario one of the main challenges the developers faced was to make it different to Mario. And so, Zelda was developed to be more open world while Mario was completely linear. Oh, can while I say open world I don't mean properly open world (not like Skyrim anyway) I just mean that you could stumble upon a dungeon that is a lot higher levelled than you are (but even then, you often couldn't enter them as you didn't have the right weapon to get in) but you have to admit that its a lot more open world than Mario. While this was confusing, it didn't stop Miyamoto from... not changing anything. Rather than listening to the collective mass of confused Japanese gamers he kept it as it is and instead made them communicate with each other to find out the way around (something that is sorely lacking in the modern-day era of cheat guides and hackers). This communication aspect also inspired a completely different series, a certain Animal Crossing. Right, now a quick bit about the story. Ganon, an evil pig humanoid with the aptly named title 'Prince of Darkness' has invaded Hyrule and stolen the Triforce of Power (a legendary artefact that grants him supreme... power). Now he wants the Triforce of Wisdom but Zelda (the princess of the realm) has broken it up into eight pieces to keep it from him, and then gotten captured. So its up to you, Link, to find all eight pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom, rescue Zelda and kill Ganon. A normal day then.  

Metroid was released on the 6th of August 1986 after being developed by Nintendo's Research and Development 1 division and Intelligent Systems. It combines the platforming aspects of Mario and the exploration aspects of the Legend of Zelda as well as a darker atmosphere. The player follows the story of a female bounty hunter called Samus as she tries to clear a Galactic Federation space research vessel of Space pirates as well as collect samples of the titular Metroid creatures. Samus gains powers for her power suit such as a missile launcher and a 'screw ball' somersault technique which were different to Mario as they lasted to the end of the game compared to being lost if you got hit. Metroid was also one of the first games to be focused completely on exploration with all of the linear aspects gone. Metroid was also one of the first games to have a woman as the main character even though the instruction booklet was sure that she was in fact a he...

Dragon Quest/Warrior:
The first Dragon quest game was in fact not even called Dragon Quest at all instead being called, Dragon Warrior. Released on the 27th of May 1986 and developed by Chunsoft and published by Enix. Dragon Warrior is an RPG game that most gamers will be used to by now but it was very different to the Legend of Zelda or Mario games on the NES at the time. To begin with, the sales weren't great but after several Shonen Jump articles by Horii the sales increased dramatically people especially praising the music. While the storyline was basic (rescue princess, kill Dragon Lord) it was improved upon with a sequel and prequel. The gameplay involves you travelling around this world killing monsters, levelling up and buying weapons and armour before killing more monsters and repeating the process until you can kill stronger enemies (I think the technical term is grinding). You move by using the D-pad and have a selection of commands that you can complete such as looking at the item beneath your feet, check stats, use items etc. However much the, apparently, sparse gameplay and story was (although this was only said years after the release) it did spawn one of my most favourite series of games of all time as well as setting up the template for the many RPG's to come. Oh, and it contains slimes.

Final Fantasy:
Final Fantasy was created by Hironobu Sakaguchi and published by Square (which is now, by the way, Square Enix). The reason for the name 'Final Fantasy' was that it was going to be Hironobu Sakaguchi's last game (if it had not sold well he would have quit the gaming industry and gone back to university) thankfully it did sell well and so it was not his last game. Also, Square didn't even want to make the game as they expected low sales (again, never listen to predictions). The gameplay is similar to Dragon Quest and has you partake in turn based battles to level up your characters. The enemies were completely random to find which was a feature that was criticised as it took too long to do (it's also a feature that hasn't left the Final Fantasy series). The story line follows the idea that the four elemental orbs of the world (air, water, earth and fire) have gone dark and now the world is plagued by natural disasters so it is up to the four legendary heroes of light save the world. Even though the predicted sales were low, the actual sales were high and so was the ratings by the critics. And so, yet another successful series was produced in the Third Generation of Games.    

FIFA International Soccer:
And who could forget FIFA? The first one in the series was FIFA International Soccer and was released in 1993 by EA. It only used national teams and did not include real names but even so it stayed at the top of the UK charts for a full six months! It was made in preparation for the 1994 World Cup in the USA even though the title was coined so as to appeal to Europeans after EA realised that the Americans had no interest in the game. The game featured an isometric view which was different to other 16-bit era games such as Kick Off which featured a top down view.

Goodbye for now, Harry

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