Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Games of Your Dreams!

Once upon a time, the wizards at Color Dreams sought to strike a blow for NES freedom by producing games for Nintendo's 8-bit console outside of the manufacturer's famously restrictive licensing program.  Among the official constraints was a limit on the number of games each licensee could produce -- five per year.  And there were certain QA requirements -- not so much about game "quality" as we'd like to think of it, but developers were expected to prove that a game could be played for hours on end without freezing or crashing.

But Color Dreams was a maverick operation, and they figured out how to "zap" the NES' famous lockout chip (by legal means, unlike Tengen) so their games would run.  They reverse-engineered the system, designed their own cartridges, and set out to capitalize on the console's success without kicking any cash back to Mario's enforcers.

Unfortunately, this also meant the company didn't have access to the documentation or tools provided with official NES development kits.  That they were able to get some games put together at all is pretty impressive.  But I've played most of the games advertised here, and they were not very good at all.

Did gamers jump on the bandwagon, ignoring the officially licensed NES lineup to Fly Into Action With Color Dreams And Experience The Games Of Your Dreams?

No,  not so much.  Freedom to produce middling games wasn't really what the market wanted.  At least Color Dreams exceeded the five-game annual limit, putting seven games on the market in short order and more whenever they felt like it, just like in the wild-and-woolly days of the Atari 2600.

But looking at the end results, I can't help thinking that maybe Nintendo had the right idea.

I'm not in favor of restraint of trade, mind you.

But even color dreams need a little restraint.


  1. You think the Color Dreams games were lousy, you didn't follow their path all the way to becoming one of the first dedicated vendors of Christian video games: the sordid tale is at ... ahh, your comments don't want to accept pasting. Well, seek out "Wisdom Tree" on Wikipedia.

  2. I did cover the Wisdom Tree games, including the obvious quickie conversions of Color Dreams games, in a video podcast about Christian games a couple of weeks back.