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      Game Culture

      What Makes Management Sims Great?

      If you play enough modern titles, you will inevitably, at some point, find yourself numb to the violence that has made itself at home with the most recent games. A dozen AAA releases a year featuring a first-person military shooter or boring open world and a dull protagonist cut from the same piece of thick cardboard as last year can become quite grating as every session seems to blend.

      The cure to this grave illness has been indie games for a while now. Gems such as Celeste and Hollow Knight have started to gain legitimate attention and are complete departures from the copy-pasted open-world objectives. In contrast to the mainstream, playing these indies gives you an appreciation for the amount of work small teams put into these games, every interaction and level unique due to the team's personal touches. 

      However, another growing trend is the increasing difficulty of some seemingly cute and innocent games. These games are undoubtedly masterpieces, but it often feels as if a state of panicked stress has replaced the irritating ubiquity of the yearly franchises as you try to make a dozen pixel-perfect movements in a row during late Celeste levels. Both of these types of games have a place in the industry; however, there is room for a different kind of game; a more slow-paced experience. 

      Many people believe that these are casual, easy games, but that isn’t the case. Management sims are an excellent opportunity for the player to explore slow and deliberate thinking instead of the twitchy reactions that come with most games.

      These titles give the player opportunity for creativity, spatial and logical reasoning, and much more. For most people, these are not skills tested consistently. There is also tremendous satisfaction in completing a project within a management game. Automating a section of my Factorio factory is far more satisfying than leaving behind another room of lifeless ragdolls in a shooter, even if the moment-to-moment gameplay is not as explicitly “fun.” There is also an essential distinction between management games and management in games. You’d be surprised to see how many titles have little touches of spatial puzzling to make the action seem less mindless.


      Management in Traditional Games

      The Witcher 3 has several inventory menus. You can customize protagonist Geralt’s armor, weapons, and other gear, as well as his horse’s armor. You can craft potions using ingredients found in the game world, each with a unique effect. Taking too many potions can cause damage from alcohol poisoning. You can also slot upgrades known as “mutagens” into limited inventory spaces to improve Geralt’s skills further.

      Certain materials are worth selling instead of using, but determining which is at the player's discretion. These mechanics are examples of management that optimize Geralt by giving him minor advantages over opponents in the open world. You can almost consider them two different games; one takes place in the inventory menus to improve the other in the open world. Next time you notice a game with some mechanic inspired by management sims, take note. The Witcher 3 is far from unique in this strategy, but it requires another level of commitment to creating a game that exclusively revolves around management.



      City Builders

      City Builder games might be the first subgenre you think of within management games. This subgenre has two different types: casual or survival. Casual games, such as Cities: Skyline, have the sole goal of placing buildings and other infrastructure until you’ve gone from a small plot of land to a metropolis.

      Gain cash by making room for more civilians and make decisions to improve the economy, such as free transportation to reduce traffic or restricting a coastal district to certain types of businesses to improve their output. It’s a low-stress environment for future politicians or anyone who would enjoy seeing the fruits of their labor manifest in a vast city, and you might find hours slip away before you can blink.



      Survival Management

      Survival games, such as Frostpunk and Surviving Mars, are different beasts. It boils down to a stressful slow-burn that can shave years off of your life as you watch your civilization’s oxygen meter in Surviving Mars deplete with no way to recover it. These games also exist in the Real-Time Strategy genre, with features that tend to overlap.

      My favorite of this group is They Are Billions, the post-apocalyptic zombie flavor of the subgenre. This category is usually more about space and resource management. In They are Billions, resource management uses sawmills and quarries to gather resources, barracks to train soldiers, and walls and other defenses to keep the endless hordes at bay. Loads of other buildings such as farms, inns, warehouses, and research centers affect your progress.

      The less compact your territory is, the more you need to invest in new resources to keep it sustainable. It’s more about functionality than appearance in this case, as one ill-defended corner of your settlement can topple hours of progress in seconds. If you want a chance of making it to the end, you’ll need to plan ahead of the threat. In contrast to more casual experiences, every second can feel like an hour as you run through the countless possibilities that stem from placing a building in the wrong spot.


      Online Management Games

      The Civilization games are the quintessential online management game. You’re duking it out with other players, representing a different historical nation. Negotiation, deception, and simultaneous economic and physical power over your opponent are essential. 

      Joining the Civilization games are Anno and Age of Empires. They are perfect for history buffs, as fighting a human is often more exciting than a predictable computer.



      Tycoon Management

      You have tycoon and business management games on the less morbid side of the genre. You can find a lot of these titles on mobile devices and Steam. Idle Supermarket Tycoon and AdVenture Capitalist are a surprising amount of fun.

      On PC, Rollercoaster Tycoon is a classic. These titles are more about optimizing cash. Cookie Clicker has a straightforward and efficient design, cutting out everything but the essential, and that’s part of its charm. It's like running a business with the bonus of not having to respond to angry customers.



      Factory Management

      Factory management games like Factorio are about maximum satisfaction. There is a lot more freedom in these games, and you have to get creative so that, with enough skill and effort, you can get the factory to run itself without any of your input.

      Factorio, and most other games in the subgenre, are about as much logical thinking and creativity as you can spare. Try them at your own risk; however, I have known more than one friend to lose weeks to these games once they got sucked in.



      Sports Management

      Sports also have a place with management sims. Football Manager, Pro Cycling Manager, and more are popular due to the built-in interest of each sport, so getting the player’s attention isn’t difficult. World Championship Boxing Manager is a classic in this subgenre, as you spend time managing boxers in how they train, when they rest, and when they fight.

      For its time, this game was a big step away from the arcade-inspired games that dominated sales by allowing the player to see the slow but steady progression of their boxers. Boxing is the perfect sport to adapt to this format, as boxing in real life requires a lot of time, effort, and strategy in training to see results in a real fight.

      This slow build to extreme satisfaction defines what makes management games work, and World Championship Boxing Manager™ understands that perfectly. It was revolutionary at the time and, to this day, stands toe to toe with some of the most significant management games. These games focus on individual teams or athletes, giving the player a much more intimate connection to their success than managing a vast city. It’s also worth mentioning World Championship Boxing Manager™ 2, as it will shortly be joining this genre’s roster by reviving what worked in the dated original with modern touch-ups.

      The management sim genre is an important one so that players have an opportunity to step away from the endless bullet hell that is modern AAA gaming as a more intelligent alternative. If any of these sound interesting to you, give them a shot, especially if you haven’t dabbled in management games before.

       If you’re interested in something new and a little different, take a look at World Champion Boxing Manager™ 2! It may scratch that itch for you by reviving what worked from the original and a ton of new features to bring it up to modern standards. If you're just as excited as we are, add the game to your Steam wish list!

      For more on World Championship Boxing Manager™ 2 visit our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for more retro-gaming goodness and the latest on our pawesome games. Care to have a chat with retro gamers and enthusiasts? Visit our Mega Cat Discord and say meow!


      The History of Boxing and Gaming

      The History of Boxing and Gaming

      What’s the deal with fighting? Who in their right mind would subject themselves to a beatdown in front of a massive crowd for a living? As it turns out, quite a few people. People have probably been fighting since people existed, although not necessarily for entertainment. Now, violence is everywhere. You see it in movies and TV, hear about it in song lyrics, read about it in the news, and perform it yourself in games. People generally look down on the current culture of oversaturated violence. 

      As a sport, however, fighting is seen differently. It’s not necessarily about the violence itself, but witnessing someone overcoming their opponent and themselves both mentally and physically. It is a matter of heart, not violence, and for many, that is where the beauty of the sport lies. That has been the case for a long time. The ancient Greeks used ox hides as gloves to spar each other. Romans did similar with strips of leather. After the fall of Rome, interest in bare-handed fighting waned slightly until its revival in England, known as prizefighting, although there were no official rules. Much further along in world history, President Theodore Roosevelt boxed quite often until he was blinded in one eye. All of this before video games were even conceptualized!



      Boxing in Entertainment Media

      The sport of boxing is particularly fascinating. It is a more recent development in the history of fighting but has been improved and refined since its inception. Compared to sports like MMA, which are sometimes unfairly viewed as crude and messy, boxing is considered more refined and strategic. As far as pop culture goes, Rocky is the first to come to mind when it comes to boxing movies, and for many sports movies in general.

      The Rocky films have a very specific message of fighting being the great equalizer among humans. The first two movies pit Rocky against Apollo Creed, a rich and famous, yet likable, narcissist. He represents the upper class and those who have been handed everything they want on a silver platter. Rocky represents the underdog, the everyman with whom most of the audience will be able to sympathize. In the end, Rocky proves that not despite but as a result of his hardships, he can step into the ring as Apollo’s equal as long as he gives it all he’s got. 

      Even now the franchise still rakes in cash with the wildly successful Creed movies, where Rocky trains Apollo’s son Adonis. While the story of Rocky was loosely inspired by a Muhammad Ali fight, the movie Cinderella Man is a biographical film about boxer James Braddock. Braddock starts the movie unemployed due to an injury, but slowly rises to fame through his hard work. Also biographical, Raging Bull explores the dark side of boxing, where Jake LaMotta’s inability to connect with those around him is a result of the violence he partakes in during matches. These franchises had a great impact on the general perception of boxing, making it seem honorable and noble. 

      So how does that translate to the medium of video games? Well, to start with, the inherently competitive nature of boxing is key. Sports will always be great fodder for game concepts. There is built-in competition both for couch play or online, and when commonly played games such as football and soccer are adapted, players usually already know the rules, and therefore already know they’re interested in playing a game featuring those mechanics. You can use established celebrity athletes to advertise your game, recreate legendary matchups, the possibilities are endless. Boxing in particular is an excellent subgenre because of the high barrier that comes with real boxing. Anyone can pick up a basketball and play a pickup game in real life, but to give boxing a shot means putting yourself at risk for getting rocked way harder than you signed up for.



      Early Attempts

      The first attempt at a boxing game came in 1979 with the appropriately but lazily named Boxing Match. Its simple name matches its simple gameplay, however. On a two-dimensional plane, two blobs of color move back and forth throwing out the same jab over and over until one of them goes down.

      This was a product of the limited technology at the time, but compared to other games of the time such as Space Invaders, its aging gameplay is forgivable. A few years later, in ‘83, Rocky Super Action Boxing was released following Rocky III which arrived the year prior. Rocky Super Action Boxing was a step in the right direction with improved character sprites and a whopping two different punch animations, a high and low punch.


      The Golden Era of Boxing Games

      Things would shortly be on the upswing for the boxing genre, as 1984 saw the release of Punch-Out!! in arcades in Japan and America. Punch-Out!! made a lot of changes to the formula that helped it immensely, making it not only more reminiscent of a real boxing match but also a great deal of fun for those who played on its release.

      Instead of the side angle of the previous two games, it had an over-the shoulder-view that better placed the player into the action. The gameplay was far more in-depth, there were several attacks, blocks, dodges, and what was known as the K.O. Meter that filled up as the match went on to finish off opponents. The enemies were all far more emotive and exciting than the blobs of the past, each with a distinct personality. Their eyes would flash yellow before they attacked, forcing the player to react quickly to incoming danger. They would react to being punched in a cartoonishly charming fashion.

      It wasn’t necessarily a recreation of the excitement that came with real boxing, but it was a great success nonetheless, winning several awards that year including Game of the Year by certain companies. The series would remain relevant for years, most recently fans of Super Smash Bro’s Ultimate will recognize that the Punch-Out!! protagonist, Little Mac, appears as a playable character, K.O. meter and all. This was the beginning of not only the Punch-Out!! franchise, but of serious interest in the subgenre.


      The rest of the ’80s saw several more newcomers, as well as several sequels to Punch-Out!!, including a spin-off called Arm Wrestling just to throw a wrench in the already confusing franchise. There was also the notable release of World Champion Boxing Manager (WCBM) in 1990. While the other games were exclusively about taking control of a fighter and beating down opponents, WCBM chose to focus on the training aspect from the perspective of a manager. You get to decide how your boxers spend their time, when they train, and watch as your athletes gain strength, stamina, and speed. It was an interesting and creative departure from the existing market that called for a strategic approach instead of the timed button presses of its competitors.


      Interestingly, as the new millennium arrived and 3D models became commonplace, the more realistic appearance of these games simultaneously improved the possibilities for player input but also reduced the fun aesthetic of older games. The rough models started to lose the charm of the last few decades and tread slowly towards the uncanny valley of too-realistic graphics. The Wii Sports boxing game revived some of that which was lost.  The simple Miis which were customized by the user, utilized motion controls for throwing punches, blocking, and dodging. The most recent Punch-Out!! entry also came on the Wii, featuring more cartoon-inspired graphics and fun characters to avoid the stagnation in other boxing franchises.



      Modern Boxing Games

      As the ’00s ended and the ‘10s began, the output of boxing games slowed down. The only notable release came in 2011 when we got Fight Night Champion with a mediocre appraisal on Metacritic. More recently, we have seen a shift to Virtual Reality, Creed: Rise to Glory being the most notable. Virtual Reality might have been the last step necessary to fully immerse players in the sport without actually putting them in danger (Unless you consider punching a spectator while blinded by the VR headset danger).

      Boxing’s relationship to video games is long, confusing, and oftentimes straight-up weird, but we’ve now arrived at the advent of something potentially great with the new opportunities that come with Virtual Reality for further immersion. It is even possible that games become the new home of the sport instead of TV. 



      Saved by the Bell

      For those who are more interested in the strategy behind training for boxing and want to create your montage straight out of a Rocky movie or those who just want a break from the constant action of modern gaming, there are still options. The upcoming World Champion Boxing Manager 2 may scratch that itch for you by reviving what worked from the original and making plenty of additions and improvements to bring it up to modern standards. Not to mention, a closed beta has just been recently announced until March 30th, 2022! Head on to the Ziggurat page and sign up for their newsletter to reserve a spot! 

      Bottom line? There’s never been a better time to get into the genre, as you’ve got a catalog of classics to get through and a lot of potential in the coming years, so tape up your gloves and step into the ring!

      For more on World Championship Boxing Manager II visit our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for more retro-gaming goodness and the latest on our pawesome games. Care to have a chat with retro gamers and enthusiasts? Visit our Mega Cat Discord and say meow! 



      Enduring Legacy: A series on first impressions

      There have been plenty of times in life that we have been simply sucker-punched by something that we never expected. Whether that experience is positive or negative, we always tend to remember these moments more than those that fall within our routine. Video games are no different, especially when it comes to the ones that stood out by spawning revolutionary ideas. This series aims to take a look at various games that have exceeded expectations and transcended first impressions.

      And what better way to kick this series off by starting with one of the most beloved cult classics of the RPG genre: Valkyrie Profile, released in 1999. Developed by tri-Ace and published by Enix before their merger with Square, Valkyrie Profile drew heavily from Norse mythology. The story centers around a Valkyrie who is tasked with recruiting fallen warriors in hopes of stopping the world-ending Ragnarok.

      Valkyrie Profile boasts an impressive battle system and a unique juggling mechanic that utilized the proper timing of the face buttons assigned to the different characters. It was well-received by critics, which was enough to spawn three other games in the franchise. Personally, this is also one of my favorite games of all time and was my introduction to RPGs as a whole. But I never really expected it to even be an RPG, nor did I expect to be sucked in by its absolutely beautiful world.

      How nostalgic

      Unknown Reflections

      I first saw Valkyrie Profile in an advertisement in the now-defunct EGM magazine. At the time, I was a sucker for 2D platformers such as Megaman X and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. When I saw that Valkyrie Profile used the same perspective as these games and how the main character used a sword, I was hyped. At the same time, I was also confused about certain screenshots depicting four people in a diamond formation. Thinking that these may simply be cutscenes, I went ahead and purchased the game for myself.

      However, the moment I chose to start a new game, I was dumbfounded. What started as a promise for action-packed swordplay transformed into an immersive and emotional 30 minutes that was almost devoid of any controllable sequences. It felt like I was watching a movie with button prompts. Aside from a small battle that I perceived as a cutscene, there was nothing much that would get in the way of storytelling.

      After the first save point, I thought things would get better, but instead, it would be a while more before I even got to the point where I can freely control a character in a platforming manner. But there were no enemies. I was running around town talking to various people from a side-scrolling perspective, but it was oddly idyllic. When things started to escalate, another battle ensued, using the same style as the aforementioned battle that I thought was a cutscene. This was when I started to worry that I might not have picked up an action-packed platformer.

      It’s not a platformer!

      Inner Peace

      Unfortunately, my worst fears at that time came true. The game had none of the action that the advertisement promised. I was leveling up, getting random drops, and optimizing my equipment. I was playing an RPG for the first time in my life, and despite not being able to play one before this, I knew what they were, so I actively stayed away from them due to my tendency of getting hooked on narratives. And with runtimes of more than a hundred hours, I didn’t want all my gaming time to be sucked up by a sprawling narrative.

      But that’s exactly what happened to me in my time in Midgard. I got sucked in by the deeply personal life stories of my now dead party members. I found that the battle system was a thing of beauty with you being more involved in real-time decisions rather than choosing your attacks via a menu system. The voice acting was also superb, being my first taste in voice acting in video games. Everything about this game hit me hard, and it was a wonderful experience that I couldn’t get enough of. Until I hit a roadblock in the form of a boss battle that I seemingly couldn’t overcome.

      One of my earlier party members, a goddess named Freya, confronted Lenneth about something going wrong inside her and then suddenly talked about divine sleep before fighting me in a boss battle. And no matter which attack I use or which setup I try, none of my attacks did any significant damage to her. Meanwhile, she just proceeded to delete my party’s health bars. And I couldn’t understand what I did wrong. Frustrated, I put the game down for a while, trying out other RPGs. But I just couldn’t get Valkyrie Profile out of my head. That was when I inadvertently read about the game’s multiple endings. This was another huge revelation for me because I never even thought about a game having multiple endings. I was repeatedly blown away by this game, and until this day, I could still remember every moment of playing through this unique experience.

      Searching for noble souls

      Divine Punishment

      Unfortunately, no other RPG has even come close to what Valkyrie Profile did for me. There were multiple contenders, like the Super Mario RPG games, Super Robot Taisen OG Saga: Endless Frontier Exceed for the Nintendo DS, and Namco x Capcom. But none of these scratched that itch to play through something similar to the original Valkyrie Profile. The game’s shunted sequel due to the developer’s dissolution will forever remain a disappointment for fans who have been waiting for a successor to the throne with bated breath. And until then, we’ll always be replaying through the original game or loading up the port for PSP. But if you can't find any of these original copies you could always purchase the iOS or Android version which is available on their respective mobile stores. 

      The game isn’t perfect, though, and some game mechanics seem hazy. After all, I couldn’t figure out then how to dodge the fight against Freya until I accidentally stumbled upon a walkthrough of the game. This means that there will be plenty of opportunities for improvements if another similar game aims to challenge the throne.

      How about you? Have you played through Valkyrie Profile? Or have you had a similar mind-blowing experience with any game that you have previously played? Visit our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for more retro-gaming goodness and the latest on our pawesome games. Care to have a chat with retro gamers and enthusiasts? Visit our Mega Cat Discord and say meow!

      Unreleased Games that were Salvaged, Revived, and Released in a Different Incarnation

      We’ve had thousands of games unreleased or lost in the fiery pits of perpetual gaming development hell and it’s really sad to think that most of them would never see the light of day, their spirits wandering the gaming world as pre-alpha builds, beta-builds, and some much worse as just mere game screenshots. However, a few games get removed from the back burner and given new life either by a different game publisher or developer. Let’s look at the interesting stories of these lost video games, salvaged, revived, and released in a different incarnation or form. Kenny from South Park would be proud.


      Success sometimes doesn’t warrant a Sequel


      Case in point, Final Fantasy Tactics. Now if any of you remember this awesome tactical RPG, you know how much success the game has garnered over the years, so much so that it is considered to be a classic and no game has ever come close in terms of gameplay except for its spiritual predecessor, Tactics Ogre from the Ogre Battle series developed by then Quest Corporation. Following its merger with then Squaresoft, Tactics Ogre director Yasumi Mitsuno worked with Final Fantasy director Hironobu Sakaguchi, an avid fan of the Tactical RPG genre, on finally realizing Sakaguchi’s dream of creating a Final Fantasy game with the gameplay mechanics of a TRPG set in a brave new world called Ivalice. The rest is history. 

      Following the release of Tactics, the developers set their sights on creating a new game. Not the sequel mind you, but a completely different story with subtle references to Tactics called Vagrant Story. Vagrant was also set in the same fictional world of Ivalice. The developers were very much focused on their new story, however, they initiated the idea of a Tactics sequel which would have used 2D graphics due to issues with 3D development at the time. The project was reportedly outsourced to an unspecified developer. The sequel never saw the light of day due to the commitment of the team at that time to Vagrant Story. Mitsuno however confirmed that the sequel was really in the works and even released a few assets. Feast your eyes on this:

      Although the sequel didn’t see a proper release, it did see light in a couple of different forms. Mitsuno’s fictional world of Ivalice was expanded upon and saw a revival similar to a multiversal setting called the Ivalice Alliance. This saw games such as Final Fantasy XII, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift, and even Final Fantasy XIV to be set in parallel versions of Ivalice with allusions to some of the races and classes found in the original Tactics game.

      What if Cloud Strife delved into Jungian Psychology and Philosophy?

      Final Fantasy VII was almost Xenogears. Xenogears was almost  Final Fantasy VII. At one point it was almost a sequel to Chrono Trigger.  Confusing ain’t it? Either way, those statements sound just as absurd to me as it does to you and they’re true. 

      Xenogears was conceived by Tetsuya Takahashi and his wife, Kaori Tanaka as a proposal for the then Final Fantasy VII. Initial concepts revealed that it was set in a fantasy world but once it was pitched, it was deemed too complicated, dark, and unsettling for a fantasy setting by the higher-ups in Squaresoft. Despite this, it was given the green light to be its project. It was then conceptualized as a sequel to Chrono Trigger going under the name of “Project Noah”. At this point, Takahashi was already getting frustrated with the Final Fantasy series and wanted to bring about something original.

      After going through the cutting board once more and arguing with the company over the game’s seemingly difficult approval process, they finally decided to cut the sequel idea and make it a completely original IP. With this decision, concepts had to be tweaked since it didn’t fit the fantasy setting anymore and so added in science fiction elements to finally come up with Xenogears. The husband-wife tandem also thought up the inclusion of Freudian, Nietzsche, and Jung philosophies as part of its theme and story. The very complicated conceptualization and short development time (2 years) almost made the second part of the story unfinished (2nd disc) which according to Takahashi was due in part to the team’s inexperience in creating a full game with the proposed development time.

      However, this didn’t stop Xenogears from becoming one of the greatest RPGs of all time with a lot of review publications sharing the same sentiment that it's a game that needs to be played and experienced by gamers one and all. However, did a sequel ever arise after Xenogears? Unfortunately, it never came to be even if Tanaka confirmed a sequel was in the works and this was because Square was focused on a film project during this time. The culprit? Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.

      Takahashi was pretty much into the idea of Xenogears having a sequel and this prompted him to leave Square and go independent. He established Monolithsoft in 1999 with the help of Namco and worked on Xenosaga. Sadly, this was neither considered a sequel nor even a prequel, however much of the concepts and some characters were still present in the new series. Thus, from the ashes of Xenogears 2 came about Xenosaga. Not as good as its spiritual predecessor, however, it was still relevant in its way and kept the spirit of Xenogears alive and burning.



      Doom Guy Slays Development Hell


      Wait, you’re still reading this? You’re up for more rollercoaster rides huh? Well here’s a story you might not wanna miss and which I consider as the best comeback from development hell for a game and quite appropriately so. Enter Doom (2016). Or Doom 4 in its early conception. 

       So, some stories start on a positive note right? Well, Doom 4 started exactly that way with John Carmack, then co-founder and lead developer announcing on QuakeCon 2007 that the game was in the works. It was then officially announced the following year with Id Software announcing that it would follow a similar gameplay loop with the original Doom and Doom II and deviating from the survival horror gameplay introduced by Doom 3. So far, so good right?

      Before Doom 4, Id released Rage, another FPS shooter which saw polarizing reviews, however, was praised for its graphics and strong game engine. Doom 4 was intended to follow in the footsteps of Rage, using the Id tech engine 5 with a more “Boots on the ground approach”. A multiplayer component was announced to be developed separately aiming for a 60 fps framerate. The game was touted to be a soft reboot of the franchise and fans should be excited ‘cause it was deep in development. Deep in development hell, that is.

      Id Software saw a lot of internal changes due to it being bought by ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, John Carmack also left to pursue Oculus in 2013 and this left the development in shambles. Although assets were already done for the game, internally, some of the developers expressed their disdain for the playable build, calling it a soulless, spiritless, personality-devoid game, “lame and unfit for a late-night sci-fi channel”, that was more similar to Call of Duty than Doom. Ouch. Naturally, this news started spreading like wildfire when Kotaku released the expose showing the developers’ internal problems in making the game. So they killed it. Doom 4 was canceled. 

      The end right? Nope! Because Doom came back to life, baby! Woohoo! Now I’m just channeling the energy fans had when the then revived Doom (2016) was revealed in QuakeCon 2014. It was more Doom than ever with modern features that made you reminisce how the original Doom released in 1993 revolutionized First Person Shooters. In a video game world bloated with hundreds and hundreds of shooters, Doom 2016 went back to the basics by removing reload, increasing player mobility, black hole pockets carrying huge weapons while introducing new mechanics such as “Glory Kills” a melee execution system that made enemies drop health. 

      Directors, Marty Stratton and Hugo Martin even mentioned that inspiration came from heavy metal and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe featuring a story a bit more juvenile and comical. Doom 2016 was released with very favorable reviews and even won numerous awards and was considered to be one of the best shooters of this generation. Happy ending right? Definitely! Doom Guy is so OP he even beat development hell. Oh and unlike the previous entries in this list, it even spawned a sequel more awesome in Doom Eternal, released March 2020.




      Playable Teaser Gets Stranded on the Beach


      Alright, we know that Hideo Kojima is a mad genius right? I mean the guy is such an auteur he has shaken up the video game scene in more ways than one with his Kojimaisms I prefer to call it. Every time the man speaks or does something or releases something everybody listens and watches intently! And I’m not saying that in a hyperbolic sense nor in a fanboy way (okay, maybe I am a Kojima fanboy) but the guy knows what’s up. So when he released P.T. or Playable Teaser as he called it everybody was blown away! I mean why is Norman Reedus there? Who is Lisa? Why is she so scary? Why are there babies in sinks? Why do you loop back to the room whence you start? Why is this game so scary? Why are the graphics so realistically good? So many questions! So little time! So much Kojima! See this was a playable teaser for the new Silent Hill directed by Hideo Kojima and in collaboration with Guillermo del Toro. 

      This was Hideo Kojima at his peak and even if he didn’t make any horror games before this, you would see a lot of the innovations he used in his previous games to be present in P.T. I mean who here would ever forget the dread and scare Psycho Mantis gave us in the original Metal Gear Solid. That scared the bejesus out of me when I was a kid, especially when the controller would vibrate on its own or  Psycho Mantis would dictate the games saved on my memory card. I think it was in Kojima’s gaming DNA all along.

      With P.T. he gave us a glimpse of how a full-blown horror would be without sticking to the usual tropes most horror games would spiral into. This was evident in how he would use claustrophobia and the looping game mechanics as a way to evoke genuine fear and vulnerability while still maintaining the urge to push on because of curiosity. This prompted a lot of fans too to form communities and discuss the game’s secrets and theories showing how Kojima’s philosophy of connectivity doesn’t just translate in-game but also in the real world. When it was released, P.T. was downloaded a million times on the Playstation Network creating such a buzz that it was considered a Game of the Year or Horror Game of the Year by a lot of reviewers. This however drew a lot of confusion for others due to the nature of the game. Since it was a playable teaser a lot of game journalists did not know whether to classify it as a full-fledged game, a demo, or a different thing altogether. Despite the hype it generated, sadly Silent Hills was canceled by Konami. P.T. was pulled out from PSN never to be downloaded again. This stemmed from the alleged fallout of Hideo Kojima and Konami. Hideo split from Konami in 2015 and formed his studio: Kojima Productions.

      We will never know what happened between Kojima and Konami and it’s sad to think we’ll never see a Metal Gear release again nor a Silent Hill Remake. P.T. was truly stranded on the beach, like a whale on its final death throes never to leave the shore and swim freely. However, this is not to say that the game is truly dead as Kojima retained some of the ideas he used in P.T. and ported them over to his new game, Death Stranding.

      He even got Norman Reedus to return and Guillermo del Toro’s likeness to be included in the game. Even Lisa the scary ghost made an appearance in Death Stranding as the wife of Cliff Unger, the secondary antagonist of the game. Even the babies make an appearance albeit not in a scary form this time but disturbing nonetheless. Even some of the horror elements were carried over like the “Beached things” or B.T. for short. Death Stranding may not have been the PT we deserve but it was a game revolutionary in its own right that introduced to its players the importance of connectivity. It’s a hard game to sell like most of Kojima’s games due to the uncanny nature of its story and gameplay loop however Kojima is never known to stick to safe and proven game tropes and instead is always keen to think outside the cardboard box. Well me, I’m just glad P.T.’s literal spirit is alive and kicking in Death Stranding. Oh, but what I would give to play that game again. 




      Yeah Yeah Beebiss I is solved! Or is it? 


      Alright, the last one on this list is such an enigma, the Riddler would probably be summoned from the depths of the comic books and just laugh at how absurdly convoluted and mysterious this game is. I present to you the mystery of Yeah Yeah Beebiss I! If you’re not familiar with this game, well I ain’t too because honestly, nobody is! That’s how mysterious this game is. 

      It started with a June 1989 listing for mail-order video game service, Play It Again. In an issue of Video Games & Computer Entertainment magazine, Yeah Yeah Beebiss I was first mentioned. It was mentioned again in July, August, and September in the same mail-order service. What’s weird is that in October 1989, a nearly identical advertisement was placed by another mail-order video game service, Funco. Some people were arguing that this was a ploy by both mail-order services to prank unsuspecting customers but this was impossible during this time because the two companies were from different states and had possibly no prior contact; this was the pre-internet days. So one plausible theory was that the game was fabricated as a copyright trap, intended to serve as evidence if another games service copied the list and this was corroborated by Neil Levin, one of the Play Again founders wherein he mentioned that the company would often put in fake listings to catch people copying Play it Again. 

      Another theory is that the game was just a mere mistranslation of the NES/Famicom platformer Rai Rai Kyonshis: Baby Kyonshi no Amida Daibouken. "Rai Rai" can be interpreted as "Yeah Yeah" and Beebiss I was a mistranslation of the usage of "Baby". This was not confirmed, however, and the game would be probably misconceived as a different game as in the case of a canceled platformer.  It has been speculated that Yeah Yeah Beebiss I's identity is Super Pitfall 2, a canceled sequel to Activision's 1986 NES platformer Super Pitfall. Whatever Yeah Yeah Beebis was, it was an anomaly at a time when the internet was practically non-existent yet. There are no screenshots, no playable builds, nothing except for that mailing list order screenshot. 

      Even if the game was supposedly non-existent and will probably remain a mystery until the sun is a black hole, a sequel is coming out sometime next year. Surprise, surprise! A collaboration by John Riggs, Mega Cat Studios, and Chip ‘N Cellos, it’s a passion project driven more by the curious nature of its source material with literally nothing to base it upon except for speculative theories. Now that is the culmination of everything we’ve talked about here so far. A non-existent game finally being given life just like its alleged protagonist, a Zombie boy. So does this solve the mystery? Nope! Yeah Yeah Beebis I is still out there, mockingly laughing at us while we still search for clues. But it is alive.



       A Proper Requiem

      That was such an amazing ride! It felt like going through multiple murder mysteries but this time instead of looking at dead bodies, we’re looking at revived ones. Not like zombies mind you, because these games have been given a new lease on life with their personalities and quirks and we’re all for it. That’s not to say video game development always ends up with slightly happy endings like these but it goes to show how complicated it is and the people who make these are just as real as you and I with ambitions and aspirations that don’t always end up the way they would like to. See that’s just like life in general, things don’t always go our way and some decisions end up on the back burner but once in a while some of them end up in happy accidents that are just as good as our original dreams. Speaking of Yeah Yeah Beebiss, we may never be able to solve what happened before but lo and behold a sequel is now on Steam and Nintendo Switch called Yeah Yeah Beebiss II. For updates on the unexpected sequel and more retro gaming goodness be sure to visit our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Care to have a chat with retro gamers and enthusiasts? Visit our Discord and say meow!

      Glide on the Pain Train: The hardest retro games we’ve grown to love

      There is plenty of nostalgia to be had when it comes to retro games. Some of it might come from simpler times; when we were young and everything in life was easy and relaxed while playing video games. Maybe because these retro games were some of your earliest forays in terms of video gaming experiences. After all, the nostalgia reasons vary from person to person.

      However, this also means that a few people out there will have fond memories of games because of how insanely hard they were. Video games have had leaps and strides when it comes to handling difficulty, with more accessibility options than before. But during the retro gaming era, developers were limited by both hardware and development experience. Since there was limited space to do things, games tend to be hard so that there would be more replayability, even though this was artificial in a sense. And since plenty of game development back then usually focused on arcade experiences, developers came with the mindset to make games harder to increase penny munching.

      Despite these limitations, players have increasingly grown fond of these absolutely difficult games, accepting their difficulties as if gauntlets were thrown at the face of their gaming expertise. So join me today as we walk through some of the hardest retro games that have been thrown at us by the video game developers of yore. 



      Not quite bullet hell, but hellish nonetheless

      Not quite bullet hell, but hellish nonetheless


      Let’s start with one of the few games on this list that I have finished without using save states or cheat codes. Gradius  is usually cited as one of the most important shooter games by popularizing the horizontally-scrolling shooter genre, players are seated into the cockpit of Vic Viper. You blast your way through levels filled with enemies trying to ram you and incessantly shoot bullets at you. At the end of each level, you will be confronted with a boss, and you’d have to shoot their weak points to defeat them. However, a lot of these points are protected by an additional layer that you have to grind down bit by bit till you get to the meat and ultimately destroy its weak point. The creativity of these boss battles is a highlight of the original game, as is the difficulty of each one.


      My favorite part of Gradius has to be the power-up system, though. Unlike most other shooters, Gradius only has one kind of power-up, and when you pick it up, it will advance a power meter at the bottom of the screen, and if you reach a point in the meter that you would want to obtain, you can do so anytime by pressing the power-up button, but doing so would reset your power meter to zero, creating a mini push your luck game of trying to survive as long as possible with a weak weapon to reach as far as you can on your power meter.



      Ghosts ‘n Goblins

      Jumping in your boxers


      The debut game of one of the most underrated franchises from Capcom, Ghosts ‘n Goblins sees a knight named Sir Arthur try to rescue Princess Prin-Prin from Astaroth, the king of the Demon World. While that plot is pretty thin, it is often referred to as one of the most difficult video games of all time. Unfortunately, much of that difficulty is either a love it or hate it kind. Sir Arthur can only withstand one hit before losing one life, and each life is also timed. What’s more, once Sir Arthur jumps, he can’t change directions until after he lands, which is maddening if you’ve played literally any other side-scroller. What’s worse is that each level only has one checkpoint, and that checkpoint is always smack dab in the middle of the level. If you die before reaching that point, you’ll be thrown back at the start of the level!


      Sure, there’s plenty of additional weapons that you can pick up along the way, and the game is still pretty much beatable, but right when you thought you’ve gotten the hang of it, a very nasty surprise will meet you at the end of your playthrough because now you need to do everything all over again with a higher difficulty to reach the true ending of the game! Sure, it’s nasty, but it wouldn’t be notorious for its difficulty if it was any much easier than this.



      Contra: Hard Corps

      Bad news


      That title is not just a silly pun. This entry to the popular Contra franchise is very hardcore. If you thought the original Contra for the NES was hard, the first and only Contra game released for a Sega console is even harder. Despite the prettier graphics, it has more things to master with its multiple characters, each with its own different sets of weapons. Contra: Hard Corps also features multiple branching paths, with each providing a different ending.


      While that may all seem like an enticing ride, at the end of the day, multiple endings will only have players trying to finish the game multiple times. That wouldn’t be much of a problem if it’s not a Contra game that we’re talking about, especially one that is already considered one of the hardest entries in the franchise.



      Don’t let go of your holy water!


      While not the most difficult game on this list, the original Castlevania will still take you by surprise, especially if you were able to play future entries into the series. Unlike the newer games, Castlevania doesn’t take an entire map and let you explore it to your whims. This was way before the series popularized the Metroidvania genre, and is instead a classic linear side-scrolling platformer. Like Ghosts ‘n Goblins, part of why this game was hard was because of how it handles jumps. You can’t change your trajectory in the middle of your jumps, and while that is realistic, none of the other aspects of the game is chasing for realism, so this seems like a design choice that is made to make your play sessions harder.


      However, this game has one neat trick that you can keep to heart to make things easier. When you acquire the holy water, hold on to it as if your life depends on it. It will make quick work of most enemies within the game. All that’s left for you to do is to practice your jumps. You’ll be beating Dracula in no time.


      Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels

      When both launch and landing are problems


      The only game in this list that was both difficult to finish and difficult to acquire, Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels is the actual sequel to the original Super Mario Bros. The reason why Nintendo never gave this game an international release was because of how absurdly hard it was, to the point that one of Nintendo’s consultants in the West back then called the game an undeserved punishment. However, this spike in difficulty was by choice, as the game was sold with a label that said it was a game “For Super Players”. Plenty of tricks for infinite lives were included in the opening levels to provide additional room for players to breathe in. The latter levels were no joke as they had insane difficulty spikes.


      None of that helped in easing the game’s difficulty, and up to this day, The Lost Levels remains one of the few blotches of the Super Mario franchise. Still, some people regard the game as fun and clever and view it with fondness. While there’s no denying Nintendo’s excellent level design is at work here, there’s also no doubt that this is one of the hardest games in their entire catalog.



      Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

      He’s the least of your problems


      While not as notoriously difficult as The Lost Levels, Nintendo also had you reeling in terms of recovering from its punches with this game, later changing its name to “Punch-Out!!”. This is the easiest game on this list, with the different opponents that you face having distinct patterns that you need to figure out to beat them. However, people still remember it as one of the hardest Nintendo has ever released due to how you would need to restart the entire game from the beginning if you get knocked out in the middle of a fight against any of the fighters.


      Besides, if you experienced this game at a younger age, would you even think that boxing is a cerebral experience? You probably wouldn’t even think to see if your opponents are fighting with a pattern. You’d just mash the punch button in hopes of getting a hit-in. That would most likely be the reason why people remember Punch-Out!! as one of the harder games to have ever existed. Still, I wouldn’t count out the times when one was able to identify Mike Tyson’s pattern and still be hit with one of his uppercuts that will instantly knock you out. That kind of experience is infuriating, and even so when it brings you right back to the beginning of the game. 



      Prepare to crash over and over again


      And finally, we come to the one game on this list that is considered by many to be the hardest game to have ever existed. Battletoads’ main problem is not in its controls or how friendly fire is enabled throughout the game, but in how it was designed. If you have noticed, most other games will give you an idea of what’s coming before it happens. For example, enemies would appear at a significant distance from your character, which gives you an ample amount of time to react appropriately before they do some damage to you. The problem with Battletoads is that it skips all of that. Enemies and obstacles inadvertently appear at near-instant speed, which turns the game less of an exercise in hand-eye coordination and more of an exercise in memorization.


      If you’re convinced that you can finish Battletoads, though, you’re in luck. The game itself is fairly short, so memorizing the patterns of each level is easier than, say, memorizing all the names of stars within a constellation. Just prepare to lose some hair in the process.


      Holy Roller

      While people play games for different reasons, there’s a certain magic when it comes to difficult games, especially when you can overcome the seemingly insurmountable odds associated with them. There is a reason why difficult games have been on the rise recently, with games like Cuphead or Celeste taking center stage. These modern games are now unhindered by the technical limitations of the olden times. So with plenty of ways to adjust these games’ accessibility while also keeping true to their word for the gluttons for punishment, these games have truly transcended the barriers between being a game only the hardcore can muster and a game for everyone.


      However, despite the inherent difficulty that comes so often with older games, the design practices have evolved along with them, paving the way for all of the newer games in terms of designing for a larger audience in mind, and in turn, growing the industry.

      Which of these games have you finished? Or maybe we missed out on a game's difficulty that hits differently than the games mentioned here? How about you head on to our Discord and chat with like-minded friends or head on over to our Youtube channel to see more retro gaming goodness.