Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cover to Cover: Virgin Games 1992 Catalog (pp. 4-5)

Our page-by-page survey of the 1992 Virgin Games catalog gets seriously underway, with a few pages of games for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System.  Page 4 features three titles that feel more like home computer titles shoehorned onto the NES than native console games:

Greg Norman's POWER GOLF is a fairly sophisticated golf simulation by 8-bit standards, and must have included an unusually large battery-backed memory in the cartridge, as it allows saving tournament play in-progress as well as player-created course designs.  There was, of course, no way to exchange these designs with other players on the NES platform, but it's an interesting and innovative feature borrowed from the personal computer world.

Robin Hood is a licensed game based on the Kevin Costner version, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and unlike most of the movie licenses on the NES, it's actually a role-playing game with some degree of depth.  Which is to say, it's not just a side-scroller with Robin Hood graphics thrown into a standard engine, and the plotline resembles the movie to some degree.

I have played Overlord a lot on the PC, and I have the NES edition in my collection; it's a solid resource-management simulation, with engrossingly detail-oriented gameplay as we seek to colonize the available planets in competition with others trying to do the same thing.  There isn't a lot of action onscreen, so I suspect this didn't sell particularly well on the NES, but it's a decent conversion aside from significant color loss as compared to the PC original.  The game originated and was known as Supremacy in the UK, and likely came to Virgin's attention on the company's native shores.

The games on Page 5 are a little more action-oriented:

M.C. Kids is a licensed title based on the McDonald's fast-food chain, and spawned a 16-bit sequel a few years later.  It's a platformer for one or two players, playing cooperatively, and features cameo appearances by various McDonald's icons.  It's not quite as blatant as some of the free advergames in circulation today, but any game where the players are required to chase down the Hamburglar is going to promote the parent brand to some degree.  The catalog copy mentions that the game was "developed in consultation with Developmental Psychologist Frank Manis, Ph.D.," just in case parents had any qualms about plunking down $49.99 for an interactive extended McDonald's commercial.

Finally, Jordan Mechner's enduring classic Prince of Persia really needs no further introduction (at least to regular readers of this blog.)  It was a huge hit for Broderbund on home computers, and was sublicensed to a number of companies for other platforms; Virgin published the NES conversion, as well as a Gameboy edition coming up on the next page, next time.

1 comment:

  1. I think the second screenshot for Robin Hood is the one blown up and cropped for the cover of the catalog.

    It's impossible to completely overlook the McDonald's aspect to MC Kids, but I'm fairly sure I played this and it's a quite well done, fun game.