Friday, December 4, 2009

Forgotten Worlds - Bygones of the Arcade Age

I grew up in a time where you could go just about anywhere and find, at least, a decent video arcade.  From the huge, neon gilded arcade halls that enticed the young with electric wonder, to the sequestered game rooms of bowling alleys, movie theaters, etc.  I remember a really good arcade at this truck stop in the country (we went there a lot because they had a decent buffet - my parents went through a buffet phase).  Hell, there was even one time, while we were vacationing in Panama City, FL, that my younger brother and I spent an entire night at a great arcade there while our parents did some boring tourist crap.  I can't even imagine how much money in quarters we blew on those games.  Some of my best childhood memories were found in these arcades.

Now, arcades are kind of a neglected relic in America.  They're still doing okay in Japan, but arcade games have been too easily replaced by home gaming systems.  This is especially true now that consoles have surpassed arcade games graphically and allow people to play online, because who wants to go outside to play video games?  Sure, you can still find some around, but most of them seem like shadows of their former selves, filled with stupid golf and deer hunting games and far too many DDR machines (just how many of those does one arcade need?).

For a while, I've had this dream of opening up a new video arcade - one that has all the classics from the golden age of gaming (by that, I mean the 70s, 80s, and 90s).  It would be full of all the games I grew up playing and some of the ones I wish I could have played.  I had the perfect name for the place: Forgotten Worlds.  Not only is it the name of a Capcom arcade game, but it seems perfectly fitting for a collection of the classics of a bygone era.

Unfortunately, I'm not getting my hopes up for that dream to come true (the problem is that a lot of these games are hard to find in good condition, making arcade collecting a difficult treasure hunt).  Instead, I'm going to take you guys through some of my favorite arcade games from my younger years.  This is Kaiser Crowbar's Forgotten Worlds.
If you were to tell me, as a kid, that someone perfectly combined two of my favorite pastimes, arcade games and RPGs, I would have said you were full of shit and thrown you to the desert wyrms that lived in the sandpit in my backyard.  But, in the 90s, Capcom did just that, not once, but twice.  When I saw Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom in the arcades for the first time, I shit enough bricks to make my own city.  While fantasy arcade games with RPG elements were nothing new (just look at King of Dragons, Knights of the Round, and Cadash), this brought it to a brand new level.  Never before had someone so seamlessly integrated a lot of the classes, rules, and creatures of D&D into a brilliant side-scrolling brawler.  Dare I say it, this game was Nerdvana (Yeah, I know.  I went there.  What about it?).

Of course, the game wasn't exactly like playing D&D.  It didn't have a "Roll a d20" button, no saving throws, no THAC0 listings.  Actually, I don't think I would play a game that was that painfully adherent to the rules (and those games were made, just for the PC).  Tower of Doom captured the feel of playing D&D without all the bookkeeping.  It's what a D&D game should look like.

If that's the case, I want to know who was the Dungeon Master for that game, because I want in on that campaign.  The adventure takes place in the classic D&D campaign setting of Mystara, which is, pretty much, your standard fantasy fare.  You and three friends can play as a Fighter, Elf, Dwarf, or Cleric and go around rescuing villages and defeating vile beasts.  Both the Fighter and the Dwarf are you standart brawler types, while the Elf and the Cleric can utilize magic spells to get an edge.  Of course, there are also items you can throw at your enemies, such as daggers, warhammers, and even rings with magic spells stored in them that the Fighter and Dwarf can use (A little tip for you, if you ever get to the boat and you fight the troll, make sure to have a ring of fireball or a few flasks of oil, as the thing will not go down permanently unless you burn his body).

Of course, what would D&D be without the monsters.  Capcom scoured the Monster Manuals to give the players plenty of creatures and enemies to slay.  I couldn't believe how psyched I was to fight the Manticore or the Black Dragon for the first time.  And the Lich?  Holy crap, that was awesome (if you didn't know, liches are my favorite D&D adversaries).

There were also multiple paths you could take throughout gameplay.  While you still played through the same storyline and ultimately end up at the same destination, this allowed players to play different levels over others.  The first choice allows you to either hunt monsters down in a cave in the mountains, or come to the rescue of a beleaguered village.  Either way, you end up at the next stage, you just take a different route.
Since this game was immensely popular in the arcades, Capcom decided to follow it up with Shadow Over Mystara which continues the adventures of our heroes with some added features.  First off, new player characters were added to the mix: the enigmatic Magic-user and the swift and sexy Thief.  Not only that, but there were two versions of each character, so two people could play as the Fighter at the same time, just with different looking armor.  They also improved the equippable items in the game, such as armor.  There was a row of icons on the bottom of the screen that let you know what items you have equipped.  The graphics were slightly improved, but the overall look remained.  Unfortunately, I never got to play this one in the arcades, but a friend of mine had the Dungeons & Dragons Collection import game for the Sega Saturn and I did get to play it then.
This has to be one of my all time favorite arcade games.  I did see a working cabinet of Tower of Doom somewhere (though it wasn't in the best of shape).  To make me feel better, here's a montage of some of the beast slaying action.  As always, this was taken from YouTube and was made by amitrius17, so I take no credit for it.  I just think it's awesome.

Kaiser out

1 comment:

  1. I was born in the time when arcade games are slowly diminishing, but still waving its banner, and so far, during my growing years I was only introduced to only few arcade games. I got interested with this game, though I know it's classic already. I hope I can try this out.