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      Game Culture

      Run, Shoot, and Compare the Computer Ports for Contra

      Run, Shoot, and Compare the Computer Ports for Contra


      Experiencing all the computer ports of Contra gives the audience the literal notion of masochism, and in this article, we inspect the important reasons behind this fact, by introducing the Arcade version first, and comparing these ports with the original title.



      The original Arcade game utilizes automatic movement in the air, and this means that while you’re holding the right direction, for example, and hit the jump button to move in the air, the character goes to the right automatically, even if you released the desired direction during the process. But you cannot shoot upward and downward while moving along the x-axis in the air; as pressing up and down directions, in the same position, makes your character stop along the said axis. An automatic movement in the air doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot change your direction after each jump.

      The game sometimes doesn’t detect the lowest platform on the screen, as descending through the lowest one can make your character die:

      But the Amstrad CPC port is different; you have one button to fire, an up direction to jump, and a down direction to drop down to lower platforms, meaning that the whole control scheme is made up of the main directions, plus one button to action. Holding this button will result in shooting, with all the weapons acting like machine guns in the game. So, you cannot crouch, until you’re shooting, and you cannot jump, while you’re shooting! Also, there is no way to fire downward, the lowest platform detection remains the same, and the automatic movement in the air is dropped.

      The ZX Spectrum one is weird, making it a unique title compared to the other conversions; automatic movement in the air made a return, but there is no stopping the character; the scrolling seems working, but you’re not able to go to the left; every other thing seems fine, but there is no shooting downwardly. Also, the ability to change your direction after each jump in the air, is only present in the tunnel levels, with no diagonal shooting in its boss fights. And here’s the worst part; if you jumped, the game pulls the last standing position, and is forcing you to aim only at that angle in the air, without any option to change so, until you hit the ground and repeat the process with another jump!

      The Commodore 64 conversion inherited its own issues from the said ports; no shooting downwardly, no automatic movement in the air, and yet, no lowest-platform detection. However, all the weapons act like machine guns, and no problem can be experienced with diagonal shooting in the game, but for some reason, the jump button (space bar) doesn’t function normally, and you have to tap it multiple times to make it work! Not to mention that the fire button means JOYSTICK, and the jump button means KEYBOARD:

      The MSX2 title, has the nearest controls to the Arcade game, as you have the ability to fire downwardly from the air. However, the automatic movement in the air is gone, with the jumps pulling the sensitivity of the button you’re pushing, with no shooting left-upwardly.

      And even this port doesn’t solve the lowest-platform detection problem.



      The Arcade version is your typical Contra; a variety of arsenal with pseudo-3D levels, and technical achievement, with visually impressive features. You have 3 continues, even if you have hundreds of coins, and you’ll get killed if you dive into your enemies. Also, the game uses some methods to make one of the oldest examples of level design with just two buttons, where an obstacle fixes the player’s position in the last level:


      The original title gives the player an opportunity to ignore a few mini-bosses in the game, creating opportunities to fool them:


      And about the Amstrad CPC port; the R power-up is replaced with a machine gun, no continues across your journey, and the scrolling effect is not smooth as well:


      And what’s the problem with the scrolling effect the game has? Well, the bullets of your enemies, for example, can go through sections of a level, but a weapon, as the power-ups of the game, disappears when the screen gets scrolled.

      In the ZX Spectrum port, there is no design for the power-ups that you’ll get; you hit their cases, and you get the weapons, and losing your lives doesn’t mean losing your arsenal. However, the game is still hard, since you’ve got no way to increase your lives through your progress (with no continues), and the scrolling effect creates big problems in the waterfall level (with bad enemy placement):


      But thankfully there are some tricks for the final bosses, as they don’t react to you while not being revealed completely:


      The ability to fool bosses in the Commodore 64 conversion, to an extreme degree, is its ridiculous gameplay feature, as this boss is ignorable, and you can scroll through the level with no threat ahead:


      The opportunity to play with unlimited lives, WITHOUT any cheat codes, is the main benefit you could get from this version, as the game asks so from the player:


      The MSX2 port, feels a lot like a bootleg version, as the enemies seem to come from another world:


      While the weapons came from another universe:


      As you have to aim in the worst ways ever in your gaming life:

      And you must go through nearly 20 stages, to put an end to this expedition!


      The scrolling effect is a lot like the Amstrad CPC port:


      And the whole game feels like an RPG version of Contra:

      While it’s the first time that you have a health bar for each of your lives.



      The original Arcade title is a technical achievement for its era: more than just one design for weapons’ looks, and different kick-back effects with a great game-feel:


      The game also uses parallax scrolling, with parts of the background moving at a different speed than parts of the foreground:


      The Amstrad CPC port seems like a demake version; no different design for the weapons’ looks, and no different kick-back effects, like the Arcade game. And the main problem is that the color of your bullets is the same as that of your enemies, so you don’t know when to crouch. The ZX Spectrum port has the same problem, plus the fact that the color of your bullets can be the same as the whole environment:



      There is nothing special about the Commodore 64 conversion, as it’s like a demake version of the Amstrad CPC title. Compared to the Amstrad CPC port, the color of bullets is clearly distinctive, and compared to the ZX Spectrum port, every object has its own visual identity.

      The MSX2 version is more colorful than the Commodore 64 port, and unlike the CPC one, is the closest conversion to the original game with its great color palette. However, since it’s like a bootleg version of the original game, you can sometimes see the character changing its color scheme from stage to stage, with no logical reason!



      If you wait for minutes in the Arcade game, you’ll see some objects diving into the character and enemies appearing, to punish the player for waiting for too long:


      The Arcade version also, looks more realistic than the other ones, because if you want to start shooting diagonally, the character shoots some bullets, somewhere between your main angle and the desired direction, till he reaches the desired diagonal direction you want:


      As a sad conclusion of your ultimate efforts, the Amstrad CPC port has a dark message at the end of the game:


      The unique feature of the ZX Spectrum title though, is its main menu, providing the player with a variety of options, as you can see:


      In the Commodore 64 one, you can complete the game with unlimited lives, as said above in the Gameplay section.

      And, the ending of the MSX2 version is its reward for your hard attempt:


      Be like Coach Cat-ter: The Best Sports Management Simulation Games

      Managing people is a challenging skill. Managing our own lives is already a difficult task, and the day-by-day can sometimes be stressful. That's not to say it's all stress and whatnot cause despite the bad days, there are good days too, and they happen in equal measure.

      Nowadays, video games have become so meta that simulating the management side of things can be a gamified experience. For fans of the genre, virtual stress can be a dopamine/endorphin-releasing experience. Paradoxical? But that’s a mystery we can solve in another article.

      Let’s list down the best sports management simulation games released over the years. Popular franchises like the NBA 2K Series, FIFA Series, MBL, and many others inspire these management games. The only difference is that instead of controlling every minute action of the player, such as shooting or passing, you take on a more hands-off-the-ball approach. By hands-off, I mean making the crucial decisions that’ll make or break the team, drafting, scouting, player development overview, and contract negotiations.

      The amount of text and graphs you have to sift through with these games is complicated and possibly overwhelming. But I think it’s a natural expansion of what a sports video game should be and how it should play. So, wear your best suit and tie and hustle and huddle with us as we take you to the rabbit hole of sports simulation games.




      You may be familiar with football or soccer games like FIFA and PES. But some of you may have heard about Football Manager. It is striking and is considered one of the most in-depth sports management sim games of all time. 

      The first game in the series was released in 1992 by Sports Interactive and published by Eidos under the name Championship Manager. After the developer’s fallout with Eidos in 2004, SEGA picked up Sports Interactive and released it under its new title, Football Manager. 

      Since then, the series has become widely known and critically acclaimed.  Modern game iterations have many features: maintaining the budget and finances, developing infrastructure, taking up press conferences, indulging in transfer market activity, engaging in coaching sessions, experimenting with formations, scouting young talents, and signing potential superstars to secure your club’s future.

      The number of decisions you make is varied, and to add realism, it uses real-life football metrics to measure activity. Real football clubs use the game to do scouting runs! If you’re a football/soccer fan, why don’t you give it a whirl? Who knows, it might even inspire you to get a Coaching license in the future! 


      If football fans have Football Manager, baseball fans have their version called Out of the Park Baseball. Starting as a simple text-based game released in May 1999, it created a buzz among online gaming sites. It wasn’t until OOTP 3 that the game took off, and players started noticing. At this point, the developers were still in the indie gaming scene. By 2005, Sports Interactive purchased the franchise, but Markus Heinsohn, the lead developer, still directed the game. 

      By 2007, Sports Interactive split from the franchise and gave the reins back to OOTP Developments. Since then, the game has been constantly praised as one of the best games on PC. A true testament to the staying power of simulation games such as this.

      It has since moved on from its simple text-based gameplay and added modern features for better immersion such as officially licensed MLB rosters; better 3D graphics, an interactive and dynamic user interface, a recoded scouting system; a new fielding ratings development system; achievements; new trading AI; more realistic player creation among many other features. This game certainly knocks the ball out of the park!


      So far, we’ve only discussed two popular ball games, and now we’re on to the third. Another critically acclaimed game due to its realism, Tennis Elbow Manager sets the bar high for most sports management sims games, let alone for Tennis sports. It currently has no other rival in its niche, making it the only available Tennis simulation game. But would you ask for anything more if your game is as polished and balanced as this? I certainly wouldn’t! Every iteration released since 1996 has continually improved over the previous games. 

      Its latest iteration is Tennis Elbow Manager 2, which features a complete 3D match engine, improved AI with new player strategies, and more realistic behaviors. It even has a system to accurately measure player statistics such as fitness, power, and precision, to name a few.

      You can tweak the level of realism in the game, such as turning “fatigue” on or off having the indicators of where the shots will impact the court displayed or not. There are different CPU levels (6 in total, from "beginner" to "incredible"), and choosing from Arcade, Simulation, Elite "Controls" affect gameplay. What makes this game unique from other sports sim games is the ability to take control of your players and play the actual 3D tournament matches. A new release is said to be in the works, and although there is no official announcement yet, we’re curious about what new features it brings to the table and hope it’s something smashing!


      Enough about ball games! How about we pick up the speed with the next game on this list: Motorsport Manager Racing! This game puts you behind the wheel of a racing team manager as you create your own motorsports team, hire engineers to give you the best car performance, recruit new drivers, build new infrastructures, and the usual micromanagement of your finances.

      Although initially released on mobile platforms only, it has since been released on Steam thanks to Sega taking on the publishing reins for Playsport Games. The PC version improves on the mobile version by adding a more in-depth gameplay experience and a massive improvement to graphical fidelity.

      One of its features is a random events system that provides choices to the players, which either improves their relationship with a different team or compromises the player’s popularity with the current team. The random events system in place may also provide optional upgrade choices to the three research segments in the game but may increase cash costs. These research segments include manufacturing—which determines car reliability and tire wear, design—which generally affects all aspects of the car, and aerodynamics—which affects car downforce and acceleration. These random segments can trigger during or at the end of a racing season.

      With that said, the exhilaration doesn’t just come from behind the wheel while zipping past other cars; sometimes, it's the satisfaction that you made all the right decisions during race day, allowing for a smooth team workflow, essentially grabbing a win for the whole team!


      We’re down to the last game on this list, and it certainly packs a punch! World Championship Boxing Manager may be an old simulation game, but its influence is evident across different gaming generations. It was initially released for the Commodore Amiga in 1990 and is one of the earliest boxing management simulation games.

      For modern gamers looking to try this out, it is now on Steam if they want to get a hold of a classic retro game. Gamers may consider much of the gameplay elements to be clunky nowadays, but it still holds on its own and adds to that element of deep and immersive mechanics that’ll pull you in to play for hours and hours.

      These features include designing boxers' training regimens to get their skills and physique in fighting shape and negotiating with managers and promoters to secure fights with top-rated fighters that provide good payouts. In addition to this, coaching boxers in each round will make sure they come out on top; and keep your boxers healthy and motivated to take the number one spot.

      Most modern boxing simulation games released recently follow these formulae laid down by WCBM, attesting to the adage that “if it ain’t broken, there’s no need to fix it.” With almost two decades in its life, WCBM needs a proper sequel. Fortunately, for us fans of the genre, Mega Cat Studios, in collaboration with Ziggurat, is up to the task of bringing us the much-awaited sequel: World Championship Boxing Manager 2

      The franchise's next iteration will be adding more features such as a story mode with branching narrative choices and multiple endings. If you're a skill buff, extensive skill trees and deep statistics will keep you occupied for hours. The features don’t end with more deadpan humor and goofiness, an improved user interface, and real-time cinematic fights. Recruit and grow your staff, such as physical therapists, trainers, cornermen, and secretaries, to help you in your efforts. That is just scratching the surface of what is to come, and by the time the game comes out, you’d want to channel that inner Rocky Balboa of yours and start shadow-boxing to the tune of Eye of the Tiger! In the meantime, add the game to your Steam wish list!


      That ends our list of some of the best sports management simulation games in the past few years. The sports sim genre is certainly not for everyone due to the steep learning curve and the amount of patience you need for the entire playthrough. But different strokes for different folks!

      There’s undoubtedly fun injected into tycoon and management games, and if you think about it, everyone can use it to learn specific soft skills. Even real-life sports managers and aspiring ones are already using these games with actual scouting and drafting sessions. All these real-world applications show how much video games can be a force for knowledge and learning, and though some people may not agree, it’s not just pure fun and games.

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



      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!