Monday, May 18, 2009

Home Versions That Outlived Their Arcade Originals

Something struck me as funny as I walked past the storefront of a local Electronics Boutique. You see, I happened to notice that Nintendo has begun an all-out marketing blitz for "Punch-Out!!" for the Wii. The tagline on the poster hanging up against the glass was, "Little Mac is back!" For those of you too young to remember, he was the hero of, "Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!" that was designed for the original Nintendo Entertainment System back in 1987. I found this funny, because here was an example of an instance where a home-version of a popular arcade game actually managed to outshine and outlast its far-superior original arcade incarnation.

The arcade version of "Punch-Out!!" was a clearly groundbreaking boxing game upon its release in 1984. After plunking a quarter into the game, players would take control of a green-haired boxer whose body was translucent (in order to allow the player to see the opposing boxer). Players would have to work their way up the ranks in order to take on Mr. Sandman, the champ. In 1987, when Nintendo decided to put out a home-version of the game, it was forced to change the game in order to meet the technological limitations of the home console's hardware. Instead of allowing the player to do battle in the ring as a full-sized boxer, the protagonist became a short midget named "Little Mac." On the surface, this whole idea seemed absurd. However, since the gameplay was just as fun as the arcade original, the game was a runaway hit. The fact that Mike Tyson, arguably the world's most famous boxer at the time, was in the game as the final boss, made the game even more successful. Clearly, to this day, when "Punch-Out!!" is mentioned, almost everyone thinks of Iron Mike and Little Mac as opposed to the arcade version and its almost-forgotten sequel "Super Punch-Out!!"

Ninja Gaiden was another arcade game that was quickly forgotten once its technologically-inferior home version was released. The original 1988 arcade game from TECMO was a side-scrolling beat-'em-up in the tradition of Double Dragon. As a kid, I picked up the NES home version thinking that was what I was going to experience. To my dismay, what I got was a side-scrolling action game with inferior graphics. The more I played it however, I became clearly addicted - and the fact that the home version came complete with cool cinematics made it even more interesting. The home version was such a hit that three sequels were spawned, and the series hero, Ryu Hayabusa, became a gaming icon. He's since gone on to become the hero of Tomonobu Itagaki's "Ninja Gaiden" games for the XBOX and PS3, and it's safe to say that everybody (except for arcade historians and die-hards) don't remember the original arcade machine.

Kind of interesting, when you think about it.

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