David Bowie Album by Album: Aladdin Sane, Pin Ups and Diamond Dogs

Last time I covered but one David Bowie album, so it seems like I owe an extra. Today I’ll do just that in the continued exploration of Bowie’s discography, taking us through the rest of the glam rock period and proto-punk, because things certainly changed after this period. 

Aladdin Sane is up first; conceived and recorded during Bowie’s U.S. tour of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Aladdin Sane is often described as “Ziggy does America”. And that right there seems to be the perfect explanation of the album. Sure, Bowie “killed” the character of Ziggy Stardust on stage during the tour, but his spirit clearly lived on in the titular new character. So similar, that Aladdin Sane’s iconic cover, of a lightning bolt make-up adorned Bowie, is often mistaken as a Ziggy Stardust look. In this album Bowie definitely looked further into his friends and influences of Iggy Pop and the Velvet Underground, as they showed him what it meant to be in the dark corners of America’s cities.

Joining Bowie on the journey was still the Spiders: Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick “Woody” Woodmansey, and the arrangements they provide are as tight as ever. Truly one of the best rock n’ roll back-up bands ever formed. They are undoubtedly a huge part of what makes the glam rock era Bowie so prevalent and beloved to this day. But what makes a huge part of Aladdin Sane memorable is the addition of avant-garde pianist Mike Garson. Take note on the second track, the title track “Aladdin Sane”. The tune grooves and rocks as solid as any of this period of Bowie, and then comes the piano. All over the place, schizophrenic keys dance a manic dance around the rhythm section’s infectious groove, and then outlasting the rest of the band as Garson refuses to let go of the final notes. Garson’s style gives the song a manic, mesmerizing quality that stands as a shining moment on the album. Garson would pop up with Bowie a few times sense, most notably on Bowie’s 1993 album Outside. But that of course is for another day.

Image(The ever iconic Aladdin Sane album cover. Photo from Wikipedia)

Aladdin Sane has a unique place among Bowie’s catalog, it’s arguably more famous for it’s album title than any song on the album, save for perhaps the popular single “Jean Genie”, a full blown 50′s rockabilly tune riding a cocaine high straight to oblivion. The album as a whole has received mixed reviews over time; some critics argue it deserves a higher place than Ziggy, giving the listener more power and stomp than the previous album, where as others see it as a slap-dashed hodgepodge of what Ziggy had already put forth, albeit a different theme. I personally wouldn’t put it nearly at the heights of Ziggy (then again, I don’t put much up there) but the album still garners praise from me. Top tracks include the jungle rhythm fury of “Panic in Detroit” (I swear it’s not just the nod to the city I live in that makes me like the tune), the aforementioned “Aladdin Sane”, and the album high-note, “Time”, which again features Garson’s piano, narrating a earth-shattering waltz from the Spiders, as Bowie frantically shrieks in a stage musical fashion (It’s easy to see how The Rocky Horror Picture Show is pretty much influenced straight from glam era Bowie) about he monster that is the concept (or personification of) time itself, and it’s affect on one’s ability love. “We should be by now” he voices in protest as Ronson’s guitar does what it does best: climaxes over and over. Aladdin Sane as a whole is a great view of the outsider’s look into America in the seventies, the drugs, the style and above all else perhaps, the terror.

Released a little over half a year after Aladdin Sane in 1973 is Pin Ups, an album consisting completely of cover songs.

Image(Pin Ups cover, featuring Bowie and 60′s-era supermodel Twiggy. Photo from Wikipedia.)

This could make it more of a footnote in Bowie’s vast catalog, but it bears some mentioning, if not only because it is a solid album, but it is also the last time the Spiders from Mars (aka the Hype) were together with Bowie, although Mick Woodmansey would be replaced with Aynsley Dunbar. Mick Ronson would go on to have a successful solo career (which Bowie would collaborate on every now and then) and also as a recording and touring musician for many other big names, including Morrissey, John Mellancamp (Jack and Diane owes a lot to Ronson) and T-Bone Burnett. Woodsmansey and Bolder would briefly reform the Spiders (without Ronson, but with Mike Garson and a few others) and release an album, before breaking up permanently. So in a sense this album is the last hurrah of the glam rock era, as Bowie would begin to go in new directions afterward. The concept of this album stemmed from Bowie’s desire to give America a taste of a lot of the 60′s-era British rock and roll that influences him during a lot of his formative musician years, with covers from bands such as The Kinks, The Who, Them, Syd Barret era Pink Floyd and the Yardbirds. Bowie’s balls-to-the-wall rendition of Them’s “Here Comes the Night” and the silky-sexy version of The Who’s “I Can’t Explain” are the highlights of the album for me. Also it’s worth noting the Pink Floyd song “See Emily Play”, and that in the early 2000′s Bowie joined David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd) on stage for a rendition of the early Floyd song covered here.

With the Spiders disbanded, and without his ace in the hole guitarist Mick Ronson, where would Bowie go? Was glam rock dead? Well, kind of. For Bowie’s next effort, 1974′s Diamond Dogs. Glam got dirty. Bowie took over lead guitar duties himself, which many have cited his more abrasive, harsh style of guitar playing “glam-trash” and a key influence on the first wave of British punk bands such as the Sex Pistols.

Image(Diamond Dogs album cover, photo from Wikipedia)

His style is evident in one of his most well known songs, “Rebel Rebel”, Many of the arrangements were composed while still touring Aladdin Sane, with Ronson still an influence factor on some of the songs. But Diamond Dogs reflected a change, and not just in band members for Bowie. Beginning as an attempt to make a theatrical production based on George Orwell’s dystopian fiction novel 1984 (as seen in songs such as the titular “1984″, “Big Brother” and “We are the Dead”) the author’s estate denied him the rights, so instead he crafted his own post-apocalyptic world set in New York City, and created the new, yet still rather Ziggy influenced character of Halloween Jack. On the title opening track, Bowie sings of Jack “The Halloween Jack is a real cool cat/And he lives on top of Manhattan Chase/The elevator’s broke, so he swings down a rope/Onto the street below, go Tarzie, go man go”, and with the roaring opening line “This ain’t rock n’ roll, this is…GENOCIDE!” Bowie takes us to a world of decrepit cities, and the punks and prowlers who live, love and die in the ruins of skyscrapers no one can remember why they were built.

Image(David as Halloween Jack, in 1974)

Orwell’s novel’s themes of oppression and submission, and the possibly futile attempts to fight them remain clear in the album’s themes and lyrics, but the real treat is Bowie’s continuing demolition of rock n’ roll as dedication to the art. Take in point the three-song mini-epic “Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise)” which pretty much encapsulates and finishes the glam period, and “1984″ and “Rock and Roll with Me” provide soul-inspired rifts that Bowie would delve into further in his next album, Young Americans, and pretty much create a whole new sub-genre in the process.For now though, Diamond Dog’s frantic nihilism and shattered glam puts the final nail in the coffin for the glam period, and Bowie would push forward in a different way, never staying with one concept for too long, the gears in his mind always shifting toward something different and new.

WedNESday: Final Fantasy

Woah, a week flew by without a post from me. My bad! Holidays get crazy and I lose track of time. Well, let me gift everyone with a new Nintendo post, then? Sounds like a plan. Today I’ll don my mage robes and get down with the original Final Fantasy.

Image(Final Fantasy box art, photo from Wikipedia)

Sixteen years into the world’s most popular video game role-playing game series, with fourteen main titles and a plethora of sequels, spin-offs, movies and anime, countless merchandise; it’s easy to forget Final Fantasy’s humble origins, so let’s go back to where it all began, ironically where it was all supposed to end.

Final Fantasy’s odd title comes from the fact that it was indeed meant to be final. The game’s creator, Hironobu Sakaguchi, had been working for Square (now Square Enix) for several years, helping to create racing and sports games, but nothing he was particularly proud of. So with the intention of finishing one more game for the company before leaving, he set to work on a fantasy-world role-playing game.

FF‘s world is indeed fairly typical Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons flavored fair, in which wizards and warriors go on quests, fighting monsters and encountering all kinds of strange races (dwarves, elves, mermaids, etc.) in order to thwart a great evil. Far from the first RPG, Final Fantasy was influences by other similar titles such as Ultima, Wizardry, and it’s soon to be main competitor in the Japanese Role-playing game department, Dragon Quest (Dragon Warrior here in the states until recently). But FF did add some elements that the other games were mostly lacking, including bringing in the classical four elements of earth, fire, wind and water, and utilizing them so that certain enemies of one element would be weak to the other, a staple in table-top RPGs such as D&D. FF also granted the player to choose the four characters (out of the six available) in which they wanted to use on their adventure. Each character represented a different class, which of course meant different uses and abilities in combat. The player could choose from a sword-wielding Warrior, a Black Mage (specializing in offensive magic), the White Mage (healing and defensive spells), Red Mage (a little skilled in the previous three’s abilities, but not nearly as skilled in one area as the main class), a thief and finally, the monk. Choosing a balanced combination of characters could make or break the adventure, so the player has a few options from the get-go. Later in the game, the characters will gain a class change, which changed their appearance and furthered their skills. This was a big change of pace from most RPG video games at the time, which pretty much forced a type of character or role on the player, FF carried on the tabletop tradition more by allowing the player to have a degree of control over their adventure. The selection of characters would lead to the creation in later entries of the series into the “job system”, where characters could change their class, or job, as many times as they would like over the game, and classes such as the various color mages would become staples within the series (particularly the Black Mage, whose iconic look would appear time and again throughout the series)

Image(The first dungeon. Photo from mobygames.com)

The plot, too, is quite influenced by western role-playing games and fantasy lure. The backdrop to the story tells about a world which had many advanced magical civilizations, governed by an orb of an elemental type (in other words, a water-based community akin to Atlantis was powered by a water orb, and so forth). Over the time, these orbs would become darkened, and lose their power, causing the kingdoms to fall. The world fell into darkness, but a prophecy foretold of four “Warriors of the Light”, each having possession of one of the orbs, and they would restore the orbs, and bring light back into the world. Pretty simple beginnings, and most of the game’s quests a fetch quests, where the warriors have to get an item or artifact to a non-player character, who in turns helps the warriors advance their main quest, such as allowing the characters to ravel more of the world by boat or airship (a flying zeppelin type ship that would become a huge feature in later FF games) but FF does have a few twists along the way, keeping the player engaged and committed to their quest.

Image(A look at the over world, photo from millennium.org) 

 

After choosing their four Light Warriors, the game begins on the over-world map. The map is a top-down scaled version of the game’s world, and which can be explored at the player’s whim, but random battle encounters will occur, and if the player is not properly equipped, they could meet an easy doom by traveling too far. From the over-world, the player can enter places such as towns and caves, and within towns, players can go into stores and inns to rest and buy better items and equipment, in order to survive the over-world and dungeons. When in battle, the game shifts from the top-down perspective to a new screen, where the four player characters are on the right, and the enemies to the left. Their actions such as fight, magic, item and flee can be selected for each character to try and defeat the various baddies. Most fights are random, except for bosses and few other necessary encounters to further the plot. Battles won gain experience points, which in turn allows the players to become stronger, wield better weapons and spells, and defeat tougher foes. 

Image(The battle screen, photo from Nintendojo.com)

It may be hard to imagine by today’s standards, but many of these features were breakthroughs, and compared to other similar titles at the time, Final Fantasy’s game play options, story progression, graphics and sound (the music’s director, Nobou Uematsu, would gain international acclaim with his later series soundtracks, including performing music from the games live with full symphony orchestras) would place FF in a league of it’s own. It popularized the RPG format in video games (though maybe not immediately, as the next two NES entries in the series did not make it outside of Japan for many years, until later system remakes were released), but still other companies tried their luck at creating RPG outings, including Sega’s Phantasy Star and Nintendo’s Earthbound, to their own varying degrees of success. Many of the flagship concepts and creatures of the Final Fantasy series, such as Chocobos and Moogles, were absent from the first game, but still, the seeds for one of the world’s most popular video game series were sown, and of course, this would be far from the final fantasy.

WedNESday: Super Mario Bros. 2

It’s the middle of the week, time for your weekly dose of Nintendo nostalgia, courtesy of WedNESday! Today I’m gonna talk about Super Mario Bros. 2, the weird middle child of the NES Mario titles, and why it was so different from SMBs 1 and 3.

Image(Box art for Super Mario Bros. 2, photo from Wikipedia)

When I was a wee one, like so many others my age, I had an NES, and with it came the Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt game pack. So of course I played it non-stop, stomping on goombas and shooting ducks like it was a career. Few years in, I obtained Super Mario Bros. 3, and it remains one of my all-time favorite NES games. Huge worlds, complete with cool world maps, lots of side-paths, tough baddies, great graphics and sound. Even then as a kid I could appreciate how great the game was. But what about Super Mario Bros. 2? For some reason, I just never had it. I finally got around to playing it at a friend’s house sometime during elementary school. I was quite confused by this game.

Unlike the original Super Mario Bros. and SMB3, Super Mario Bros. 2 was…different. For starts, it was only a one-player game, but you have the choice of playing as either Mario, Luigi, Princess Toadstool (she wasn’t called Peach yet, at least in America) and Toad. I for one was psyched to play as Luigi, who I always liked more than Mario (I believe this is because one, I liked the color green more than red and two, my older sister always made me be player two when we played SMB1 or 3. No wonder I have a side-kick complex, thanks sis). Not only that, but each character played slightly differently. Cool! Luigi could jump super high, Toadstool could glide with her dress (?!), and Toad and Mario could not do either really much special, though Toad is the quickest at pulling turnips from the ground. Did I just type “pulling turnips from the ground”? Yes, I did.

Image(Super Mario Bros. 2 screenshot, photo from digitalspy.com)

That’s where the game got very weird to me. Instead of the usual ‘jump on the bad guys’ heads routine you’d expect from a Mario game, in SMB2 you must pull turnips from the ground, and toss them at baddies in order to get them out of the way. Weird. Why turnips? Where are the power-ups, too? No fire flowers, though invincibility stars still popped up occasionally. For that matter, where’s Bowser? Or goombas and koopa troopas? What’s with the weird mask guys, dinosaur birds that spit out eggs, and this evil toad named Wart? While I enjoyed the game, it was just a tad off for me, and I would much rather just play the original or SMB3. Why’d Nintendo create this odd Mario game? Well, the truth is, it wasn’t a Mario game at all when it was originally released in Japan.

It goes like this. After the worldwide success of Super Mario Bros., it made sense for a sequel to be made. Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan was more or less the same as the first, but with new challenges and added twist. There were tougher enemies, backwards warp pipes, and bad mushrooms that would kill Mario & Luigi, or at least cause them to lose fire power or size, if they had those upgrades. Other than that, it was the same basic idea. Bowser had captured Princess Peach (she was called that in Japan from day one, America eventually went with it for Super Mario 64) and her Toad-people, and it’s up to those lovable Italian brothers to run and jump their way to save the Mushroom Kingdom. But America didn’t get this game, at least not for awhile. Why? Apparently, the folks over at Nintendo of America decided that the game was just too hard. The challenges were significantly increased from the first game, and NoA had made the decision that the level of frustration players could get would turn them off from ever buying a Mario game. But still, they had to get a new Mario game out there, but how? That’s where a strange little platformer called Doki Doki Panic comes in.

Image(Yume Koujou: Doki Doki Panic box art, photo from the Mario Wikia)

Yume Koujou: Doki Doki Panic (which translates roughly to Dream Factory: Heart-Pounding Panic, cause that had a nice ring to it) was a Japanese game starring a family (a Dad, Mom, and two siblings, a girl and a boy) that enter a strange, Arabian-themed book, and go through it, fighting monsters led by a frog-demon king called Mamu (re-named Wart for SMB2) by plucking turnips from the ground (apparently, monsters hate eating their vegetables).

Image(Screenshot from Doki Doki Panic, photo from Themushroomkingdom.net)

The game had enough similarities to the Mario Universe as is, with it’s colorful, otherworldly pallet, starmen, “POW” blocks, and coins, and the music was composed by Koji Kondo, who did the other Mario games (as well as Zelda, and later many more Nintendo games), so it didn’t seem incredibly difficult to do a sprite swap here and there for the playable characters, change the plot, and voila! Mario! Interestingly, because of the height difference between the Mom and Dad character sprites, this is why Luigi would become taller than Mario, where in previous games (and also in SMB3 and Super Mario World) Luigi and Mario were the same height. So we can thank Nintendo’s decision to turn DDP into SMB2 for that, as well as introducing now well-recognized baddies such as Shy Guys, Bob-Ombs and Birdo into the Mario Universe. The game was a success for Nintendo, and although considered weird and just not the same as the original Super Mario, or it’s sequel SMB3, the game is still considered a fun and engaging platformer, with great looks and sounds, and replayability due to the multiple character choices. 

A few years down the road, on the Super Nintendo, Nintendo released Super Mario All Stars, which featured the first three Mario titles with updated, SNES-powered graphics and sound. On this title was also something called Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels.

Image(Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels from Super Mario All Stars, photo from fanboygaming.com)

SMB:tLL played exactly like the original SMB, but with more challenges, tougher baddies, backwards warps and poison mushrooms. Sound familiar? It should now, and so American gamers could finally play the original Japanese SMB2, and like-wise Japanese gamers could now experience the American SMB2 (though they made have played Doki Doki previously, now it has that fresh Mario paint-coat over it). SMB2 (the American version) has been re-released several times since, notably as the first Super Mario game for the Game boy Advance. The Lost Levels, too, would be re-released a few times as well. 

So that’s the story of the middle child of the NES Mario games. It was weird, but still enjoyable, and the music is always randomly getting in my head. Interestingly, Zelda II was also a strange deviation from the first title, and then the third would revert back to the original formula, as would the Castlevania series. Was experimentation not the way to go, kind of like a new band’s so-called “sophomore slump” album? Well, maybe I’ll get to those games at some point (oh, I will. Count on it.) But until then, eat your turnips, or throw them at weird little monsters.

DC on TV: Part 2 – Constantine and Hourman

Continuing where I left off last week, in which I had shared my thoughts on DC comic’s upcoming live-action TV shows, most of them being announced to the success of the CW’s Arrow (which I’ve got a few episodes left in season 1, and man, I’m loving it. It makes me forget that I’m watching a CW show, most of the time). Last post I discussed Arrow spin-off The Flash, as well as the Gotham Police Department show simply known as Gotham. Today I’ll talk about the planned Constantine show, as well as Hourman. There is technically one, or even two, other shows being produced (iZombie and Preacher) but since I haven’t read either, I can’t really lay on too much of an opinion on them. I know, not reading Preacher at this time of my life is a cardinal comics sin, I plan on correcting this soon. Anyhow, let’s drop in on everyone’s (soon to be) favorite snarky street magician, John Constantine.

Image(John Constantine, Hellblazer. Photo from the DC Wikia)

John Constantine, sometimes known as his main comic’s title, Hellblazer, was created in 1987 by writer Alan Moore (you know, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, From Hell, etc.) and artists Steve Bissette and John Totleben, as a character in the comic Swamp Thing. Moore and the others have expressed that one of the main reasons they even created Constantine was because the artists wanted an excuse to draw a character who looked exactly like the rock singer Sting. Yup, from the Police. That was all. Alan thought of what he could do with such a likeness, and it came to him to create a new kind of magic user. Your typical wizard or warlock character in any medium is more or less a Merlin or Gandalf: old, long white or grey beard, pointy hat and robe, casting spells from wands or books. Moore decided that it was time for a new approach. These old-timey wizards almost seem bourgeois, or at least middle-class, and Moore wanted a street-level, working class wizard. This guy had to know a lot about everything, from many kinds of magic, to having connections and contacts he could use to get anywhere or any kind of information he might need. Moore created a con-man, smooth talking, mysterious and alluring man, and some how made it all work with magic. And look like Sting. That’s John Constantine, in a nut shell. Constantine’s comic, Hellblazer, ran from 1988 to 2011, making it the longest running Vertigo (that’s DC’s mature, creator-owned imprint, if ya didn’t know already) title. Constantine now appears in the regular DC Universe line, both in a solo comic (simply called Constantine) and Justice League Dark, a magic-based team book.

There was also a 2005 Constantine film staring Keanu Reeves, which while not horrible, per say, the less said, the better. At least for the sake of this post. The film did a few things right, but it did a lot of things wrong. How can the new show right the wrongs of the movie? Well, I guess cast a British guy who looks like Sting, or at least has short blonde hair. Make sure our (anti)hero is charming and smooth-talking, sexy and calm, even in the face of death, but make sure, underneath his charming exterior is that heart of gold. Or at least brass. One of John’s defining features is his steadfast humanist beliefs, he truly believes in the best of people, and does the shady things he does in order to help others, or at least help himself by helping others.

Then there are the allies, the enemies, the friends. We’re talking about a guy who has been in every corner of DC’s magic universe, so he can encounter just about anyone in there. Particularly members of the aforementioned JLD comic. Frequent guest appearances by the backwards-spell casting magician supreme, Zatanna, please! Not to mention body-jumping carnie Deadman, sorcerer supreme Dr. Fate (not to be confused with Marvel’s Dr. Strange), and hell (pun intended), perhaps even Lucifer himself. If the show does it right, we could even get big guns like Swamp Thing and Dream (the Sandman) in. One can hope!

But let’s move on to the other topic of today. The first of all these shows that is supposed to drop is based on a rather obscure hero, The Hourman.

Image(An Hourman comic cover, featuring those who haved donned the name. Photo from Wikipedia)

The new show, like The Flash, will likely take place in the same universe as Arrow. (Will these mean the other shows shall too, making DC create a universe like Marvel Studios has been with their movies and S.H.I.E.L.D. show?) Hourman, unlike Flash, isn’t too sci-fi, so he should fit in well with the non-super powered Green Arrow set. But who is Hourman? What are his powers? Why does he get a show? I can answer two of those questions, and maybe speculate on the third.

There have been a few characters to don the name Hourman, the first would be Rex Tyler, created by DC back in 1940 during the Golden Age of Comic Books. Rex (first called The Hour-Man), was a scientist who developed a strength increasing drug he called Miraclo, and he decided that human trials could only be made on someone he could trust: himself. He did so, and discovered that his vastly increased strength and vitality only lasted one hour. So during this period he would put on a costume and fight injustice however he could before the serum would wear off. Sounds good, right? He has an hour, the show will probably be an hour, wham-bam, thank you Ma’am. Done. Except, that would be a pretty thin plot for a show. There has to be a catch, right? Well, of course there is!

After the Golden Age, superhero titles tended to fade away, with only the big guns such as Superman and Batman really having any lasting popularity. The rest came and went, but eventually when the Silver Age of comics boomed, and many heroes who remade or reborn, Hourman was included. He, along with some of his other allies of the Justice Society, would become elder statesmen in the DC universe. Heroes that due to various encounters with other realms and magics, remain younger than they should be, but still rather old, and normally end up teaching newer heroes to continue to fight the good fight. Rex has a son, Rick, who would do just that. He could inherit the costume, and name, and more importantly, Miraclo. But like I said, there’s a catch. During this revitalization of older heroes, the nature of comics was darker, so of course things have to take a turn for the worse for many of these characters, and in Rex’s case, it’s that his serum is rather addictive. Makes sense really. A drug that when injected gives you super human abilities, but only for an hour? How long would it take for a person to succumb to the temptations, to keep injecting? And at what price? Not only that, but Rex would also become addicted to the thrill of crime-fighting itself, the adrenaline and rush he gets only making it harder to quit. A man like that could easily be pushed to the edge, could easily give him and become a villain, or a junkie, or dead. And what about Rick? If his dad goes through all that hell, would he want to do it himself? Would he be able to overcome what his father couldn’t? Such themes have been in the comics for some time now, only goes to see if the TV show will follow the same path. Of course, Rick may not appear at all, as we are likely dealing with a younger Rex, but still, the rest remains. I just hope the show doesn’t get too preachy. Not that a warning against doing drugs is a bad thing, of course it’s not, particularly on a network that mostly caters to teens and young adults, but hey. We don’t need to have a G.I.Joe like PSA at the end of every episode, do we? I doubt we will, but just sayin’. Keep it classy, DC. I have faith. Also, I’m a sucker for cameos. Throw in some other Justice Society heroes (Starman, please. Then give him a show. Please. Please. Thanks.) and you’ll have me watching week after week, or at least in marathon chunks on Netflix.

DC on TV: Thoughts on the newly announced DC comics Television Shows

Within the past few weeks DC comics announced that they are planning to green-light five new TV series based on their franchises, which include The Flash, Gotham Police/Jim Gordon, John Constantine, iZombie and Hourman,  so I figured I’d throw in my two cents about some (I’ll save the rest for another post) these shows in today’s post.

Seems to me while Marvel has pretty much outclassed DC in every way on the big screen (Except for the Nolan Batman movies, but they’re almost an entirely different beast, if you ask me, but I digress), DC has decided with the success of Arrow to take on the small screen, while Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. struggles in the weekly ratings. So why TV? We’re going further away from scheduled television, as streaming services and DVR recordings are all the rage right now, network television is finding it harder to compete. In Marvel’s case for instance, while S.H.I.E.L.D. will hopefully get a second season out (and you know, maybe the pace of the show will pick up more…), Marvel Studios has already announced their plans to make straight to Netflix shows based on characters such as Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron First, and Jessica Jones, with the intent of these shows coming together in a mini-series. Bold, brilliant move if you ask me. I think both companies are realizing the potential to tell longer, more realized stories than in two hour movies, despite the significant downgrade in visual quality and monetary backing. So Marvel’s going streaming, and DC is going all out to the networks. Who will win? I guess the quality of the shows will determine that.  But let’s talk about what DC is attempting to bring to the table.

Image(photo from ign)

First off is the “The Flash”. Well, I don’t think show is actually the first one that will come out, but I’ll start with it due to Flash being the most recognizable of the bunch. The Scarlet Speedster will get his show after some guest appearances in Arrow, which at first sounds pretty strange to followers of Arrow, as the gritty, down-to-earth show has little evidence of any actual super beings. How will the fastest man alive fit in with a guy who shoots arrows? Guess we’ll have to find out. What we do know so far is that the show will feature the Barry Allen Flash. Before DC’s 2011 comic universe reboot (I know I have a lot of not comic following readers, so in a nut shell it goes like this: DC decided their timeline and universe was too convoluted, so they had an event that allowed them to “reboot” their universe, making the length of time super heroes have been active shorter, getting rid of lots of characters they deemed unnecessary, basically trimming the fat to get new readers on board, without needing to know 50+ years of comics history to be able to enjoy a book) Barry Allen was the second Flash, introduced in 1956. The original from the 1940′s, Jay Garrick, was regulated to an alternate universe, and then later as an older Flash and inspiration on the younger ones. Barry is the Flash one would have seen in the 1970′s Super Friends, as well as the 1990′s live action TV show.

Image(Barry had a show before. Can they do it again for today’s audiences? Photo from geeksoulbrother.com)

Wally West, the third Flash and former Kid Flash, is a bit more known to my age group due to him being the one and only Flash in the Justice League cartoon. Personally I enjoy Wally more, I always found Barry to be a little too boy-scout for me, even more than Superman. Barry always seems to be a very black-and-white type character, where he is good and just and his foes are crooks and thugs, so he stops them. But maybe they’ll take a bit of Wally, and other DC speedsters to give Barry a little jump in personality, a little bit of Wally’s humorous side would go a long way. Barry Allen’s back story, which we may get in Arrow before his own show, is a pretty typical sci-fi origin style of comics back in the late 50′s (and subsequently the 60′s with most of Marvel) in that his powers were caused by a scientific accident. Barry, a police scientist, was working in the forensics lab when the lab was struck by lightning, the bolt of lightning hit a bunch of chemicals, which poured all over Barry, giving him super speed. Seems pretty silly for today’s television show, all things considered, but not a terribly hard one to streamline and make more sense for Arrow’s world. But perhaps Barry won’t even be the Flash in Arrow, but only as Barry. Save the (excuse the pun) flashy stuff for his own world, keep him grounded when hanging with Ollie, or whatever that will entail.

The next show I’ll talk about today is currently being called Gotham. Well, we know who usually hangs out in Gotham, but apparently this show is going to be a pre-Batman world, and the focus will be on Jim Gordon. Most likely he will be a rookie cop, or Sargent tops, but definitely not Commissioner yet. This show could be great, but mostly it worries me. Not because Jim Gordon isn’t a great character who can hold his own in a show, that I have no doubts on. And supporting cast? That could be fun. We have the likes of rough and tough detective Harvey Bullock, the crooked commissioner Loeb, and the future Mrs. Barbara Gordon (not Batgirl, mind you, but her ma).

Image(Image from the comic series Gotham Central, which could be an excellent cop drama. But will it hold on TV without Bats and his pals? Photo from ifc.com)

But then that’s also what worries me. Without Batman, would they consider having the younger Barbara Gordon in the show? Or are we getting a Jim Gordon before all that? Seems to me that would be the best path, as what the show worries me about it why bother having Gotham without Batman? He is Gotham. I think a good cop drama in this type of fictional, semi-futuristic world is cool, but at the same time, who do they plan on having Jim and his crew stop? The Joker? Riddler? Penguin? Most of the famous Bat-rogues are more-or-less created because Batman was around, so these crazy costumed men and women have a vendetta with him. So without Batman, how are we going to have these names? Seems to me the show intends on being Bat-less, but for how long? If the show doesn’t get enough viewers, would they bring in the big guns? Would we get Batman: Year One in television form? Not a bad idea, but also that pretty much defeats the purpose of the show. On the other hand, one of the things that viewers seem to criticize Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is the lack of super heroes. Sure,t he agents are cool (well, getting there. I’m not totally sold on any of them yet, really) but we all know what fans really want to see. Again, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s ratings aren’t what Marvel was likely hoping for, so what can DC learn from this?

That’s all I’m going to talk about for now, in one of the next posts, bar me getting more interested in talking about something else, I’ll go on to talk about the John Constantine/Hellblazer proposed show, which is the one that I’m most interested in. DC’s magic-based world is always a great one to me, and if this show does it right, our favorite down-to-earth street magician could have lots of interesting stories ahead. I’ll also talk about the first green-lit show, Hourman, and see if such an obscure character can make the grade. I won’t be able to discuss iZombie much, due to never having read the series. But I think two shows per post is good enough. ‘Til then!

David Bowie Album by Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

My series of David Bowie love-fest posts continues today, and I must admit, I’m not sure I can gush any more over one Bowie album than this one. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (we’ll just call it Ziggy Stardust from here out) is not only my favorite Bowie album, it’s one of my top albums from anyone. It is, simply put, one of the best pure rock n’ roll albums to grace popular music. It is the epitome of what a great rock n’ roll record can sound like. Sprawling, wild, silly at times, and gut-punching at others. Let’s go into a little of the famed album’s history, and then a track by track review. 

Image(the iconic album cover)

By 1972, touring for Hunky Dory, Bowie had become a fairly big sensation in his native England. In the U.S., he was still mostly known for his earlier hit “Space Oddity” and not much else. But he still managed to come to the states several times to promote his albums. During his travels, particularly in New York, he became friends with many of the players from the Warhol scene, as well as the burgeoning N.Y. punk scene (this still a few years before it would kick off), as well as fellow rock icons Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. The N.Y. scene was filled with many LGBT members, drag queens and kings, exotic dancers, and all sorts of drug-fueled personalities. All these scenesters would go on to become part of what Bowie would craft into the Ziggy Stardust persona. The name itself is taken from several influences, including Vince Taylor, an English rock musician who after much drug use believed himself to be a demi-god, Iggy Pop’s wild rock animal image, and an early psychedelic folk artist called the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Bowie has also made mention of a tailor shop called Ziggy’s he had passed by, and it seemed fitting due to his creation’s outlandish clothing styles that would soon be put to great effect. 

Ziggy Stardust would become more than just an album, he was a character, a persona for Bowie to play. He was Bowie, but he wasn’t, further demonstrating that the man is an actor of rock music. He creates and plays roles, in a very method-actor approach, he becomes them, and Ziggy is by far the most well-known of these roles. The flaming red hair, the psychedelic alien fashion, the drug-fueled, ambiguous sexual preference, and the sheer rock star image is a memorable outlook indeed, and even his later personas of Aladdin Sane and Halloween Jack are often mistaken as Ziggy, and indeed that bear much resemblance, proving that Bowie couldn’t let go of the character easily. But why the character? Why the transformation? I think Bowie was reaching for this idea for some time, as his previous albums have sung about youth revolutions, freedom from any one system, messianic delusions, and the dawning apocalypse. Now it was his time to streamline these ideas into a single story. And that’s what Ziggy is, the central character in a story, just told in rock music form. The story of a near future when the world has only a few years left in it, with a feeling of doom and dread over everyone’s lives, a young man hears a message from an alien, a starman, about a race of aliens that can save Earth, if only the kids hear it. The boy who hears this message sets out to spread the news, in the only way he knows how, music, and the message ignites a spark in the youth, and the boy, now calling himself Ziggy Stardust, becomes a drug-fueled, alien sex god, believing himself to be one of the aliens, the savior of the world, and the harbinger of  anew age. It is only finally on stage when the aliens can finally arrive, but they are a race of black hole jumpers, composed of anti-matter, and to exist in our plane they must tear Ziggy himself to bits, using him to become corporeal, and so the messenger is sacrificed. But then what? Are we saved, or just victims of a rock n’ roll suicide? The answer is left ambiguous, and at the end of touring for the album, Bowie did “kill” Ziggy, and so he could move on to the next phase.

But at the heart of all this alien-god, impending doom, runaway youth story is the music. That’s what really counts. Here we have glam rock at it’s pinnacle. Glam was meant to be the return to rock n’ roll at it’s core. Loud, fast, simple and free of the pretensions that many had felt had taken over the style. Rock had become bloated, overly complex, long, and well, in Bowie’s (and other like minded, such as Marc Bolan, Iggy Pop and later, Queen) opinion, dull and obsolete. Why listen to ten-minute long songs, with a three minute drum solo? It’s not impressive when everyone’s doing it. Where was the fury? Where was the lust? Where was rock n’ roll? Glam was created to bring it all back. Glam, unlike the rockabilly acts it was returning to, however, was, well, glammy! It was meant to be flashy, a spectacle. A real show. Inspired by the Warhol superstars he had met, and then circus performers he had traveled with in the early to mid 60′s, glam would take the music of before, but inject it with a wild side never seen before. And who better to create the sound to match this image than Bowie’s tight backing group, the Hype? Or, as they would become known as, the Spiders from Mars. Mick Ronson is once again at the forefront, his blues-rock guitar riffs igniting at every twist and turn. He is joined by Trevor Bolder’s bass, keeping the rhythm lean, mean and powerful while Ronson cuts loose, in tandem with Nick Woodmansey’s thundering drums. So let’s get to it then, track by track.

“Five Years” opens the album, and it is to me one of the best openings to a rock album, and of my overall top Bowie tracks. A soft steady drum beats on like a heart beat, soon being joined by a few rhythm guitar strums, a prickly bass and a piano, that as they all come together, and get joined by strings, it gets louder. Bowie croons about the world ending, as I imagine a young man walking down a suburban city street on a cold, rainy fall day. His head is down, his hands are in his pocket, he thinks about a girl he liked “You’re sitting in a ice cream parlor/smiling and waving and looking so fine/Don’t think you knew were in this song” . Eventually, all the pain and confusion about the end of the world becomes too much, and his screams at the top of his lungs “Five Years!/That’s all we’ve got!/Five years!/My brain hurts A LOT!” as Ronson’s guitar cuts in, and the song gets louder and louder until it suddenly ceases, and we’re left with the quiet drumbeat again. 

Then comes “Soul Love”. Another fine steady rhythm section opens up, with Bowie singing about a girl at a graveyard. But it’s not as dark as the last song would make us think. “Idiot love will spark the fusion” he sings, as kids all over fall in love and lust and back again quickly, without thinking. With such little time left, people can cut loose and follow their hearts. But as he says, “All I have is my love of love/and love is not loving.” The people in song can experience, but how much can they truly feel? The band’s easy-going jam let’s the song flow by, and Bowie plays a sexy saxophone that adds to the song’s love vs. lust dilemma. Then, like the previous song, it fades off.

And then “Moonage Daydream” explodes. This is one of the prime examples of why Mick Ronson was one of the true guitar gods. His guitar licks are an orgasm of the electric. You can hear exactly why Bowie would imitate fellatio on stage to Mick’s guitar during tours of the album. “Moonage Daydream” seems to say that lust has won the conversation of “Soul Love” and that this is what the youth wants to experience in their little time left. The space age cosmic jive is what our protagonist, Ziggy, is hearing, yearning for the come true. But again, whatever the lyrics mean, with it’s space face’s laser guns and electric eyes, this track is all about Mick and his guitar.

Image(Bowie on Top of the Tops, performing Starman)

“Starman” is next, and it is the song that launched Bowie into stardom once again, with a striking performance on England’s Top of the Pops program. Here, Ziggy hears the message from space, that there is hope in the last few years of Earth, and he is to be the messenger. He calls his friends and they begin to form their band and go to spread the news. This was probably many people’s first exposure to the glam rock song, and the outlandish costumes and style that Bowie and his crew were showcasing. But at it’s heart, the song is pure pop-rock perfection. A catchy, jumpy piano and guitar riff narrate, and it’s nearly impossible to not sing along. It’s infectious and fun, and shows that under all it’s pomp and flash, glam rock was a successor to the rock sound pioneered in the fifties. You can dance, jump and sing along and, as Bowie sings (as the voice of the Starman) to “let the children use it/let the children lose it/let the children boogie!”

Side one closes with a Ron Davies cover, “It Ain’t Easy”. A hard-rocking stomp-er, with a huge backing chorus, the song, while not a Bowie original, seems to fit in with the narrative as it foreshadows the journey Ziggy will go through on side two.

“Lady Stardust” opens side two, or act two of the musical play that the album really is. A bright piano, similar to songs like “Oh! You Pretty Things” or “Life on Mars?” begins as Bowie sings about the enchanting titular Lady Stardust and her connection to Ziggy, who is no longer the young man of side one, and now is the harbinger of a new sound, a new era. The song is softer than much of the album, and seems almost romantic, as the Lady sings “of darkness and despair” but their is still a glimmer of hope when Ziggy and the band play on, as “the song goes on forever/and it was all right”

“Star” continues Ziggy’s journey, as he comes more and more sure of his message of peace and love and aliens, but he also becomes more and more obsessed with his ego. Fueled by the sex and drugs, he sings “I could make the transformation as a rock n’ roll star”. The song plays quick and fast before climaxing (okay I’m probably making too many sex metaphors in this review, but oh well) into a crashing piano and warping guitar, perhaps signally that Ziggy is indeed, “falling asleep as a rock n’ roll star” but how much longer will he able to do it for?

“Hang on to Yourself” follows as sort of an answer to that question, and it is a straight-forward rock n’ roll song, but is interesting to note that Bowie had released an earlier version of the song (along with “Moonage Daydream”) a year previously, under the alias of Arnold Corns, indicating that the Ziggy persona had be in a cocoon stage for some time. The song, like others, is very sexual in nature, as Bowie sings about a girl, “she wants my honey not my money/she’s a funky thigh collector/layin’ on electric dreams” and that perhaps for all his message and image, Ziggy is just another lust filled youth, spiraling towards the end of the world, and the end of his won life. Maybe. Or it’s just another solid rock song, something to drive the album forward before it his the titular track, the one-two punch of “Ziggy Stardust” and “Suffragette City”.

Image(The alien sex messiah, Ziggy Stardust)

And here we are. The famous guitar riff and Bowie’s shriek that kicks off the track “Ziggy Stardust”. Acting as kind of a synopsis of all that has been happening, Bowie, seemingly singing as followers or perhaps as the members of the Spiders from Mars, as they remember the man, the legend. But the album isn’t over yet, so what is to come of Ziggy? Here is idolized, crucified, and idealized. “Making love with his ego/Ziggy sucked up into his mind”, Bowie laments the fate of the kid who wanted to save the world, only to fall to the demons of rock n’ roll, scrutinized and destroyed by those who had once followed him, and he sings, “When the kids had killed the man/I had to break up the band”. But the song’s strong stomp is not the end, and the curtain has not yet fallen.

“Suffragette City” is the epitome of a great rock n’ roll song. At it’s core, it uses familiar riffs and chord progressions straight out of Chuck Berry or Little Richard’s playbook, but with Bowie’s signature style and flair. Released as a single, it didn’t fair as well originally, but has caught on with time. Particularly rocking and catchy, with that ever-dramatic pause and hook of “Wham Bam! Thank you Ma’aam!” the song acts as a break from the story, perhaps to remind us what Ziggy’s message of love and rock was all about, as the singer laments “his school is insane/my work’s down the drain” and perhaps, without Ziggy, life might remain hectic, but it’s lost some of that cosmic magic.

We’re at the end of the album now, the curtain falls with “Rock N’ Roll Suicide”. When performed live, Bowie would have the aliens finally come down, revealing themselves, but as said earlier, they have to tear Ziggy Stardust to pieces in order to appear in our dimension. Ziggy completes his messianic mission by being sacrificed on stage, and as earlier foreshadowed, the aliens have come, but at what cost? Perhaps the Starman was wrong, earth is not saved, or if it is, life just reverts back to the norm. The revolution was televised, and then the end was, too. I imagine “Rock n’ Roll Suicide” the same way I imagine the opening track, “Five Years.” A young man, with his hands in his pockets, walking down a suburban city street on a cold fall day. He thinks about aliens, and drugs, and rock n’ roll, and the end of the world, and how fragile life is. It is achingly beautiful and painfully short. But then, down the street, there’s that girl. Maybe the same one Ziggy saw in the ice cream parlor. She’s still here, too. And she sees our narrator (again, was he is a devotee to Ziggy, or a member of the Spiders? He is us, regardless) and she comes to him. “Oh no love! you’re not alone/No matter what or who you’ve been/No matter when or where you’ve seen/All the knives seem to lacerate your brain/I’ve had my share,/I’ll help you with the pain/You’re not alone!” One of them surely tells this to the other. They both lived through it all, and whatever time they have left, they can live through it together. “Gimme your hands/ ‘Cause you’re wonderful!” The boy and girl hold hands, and aren’t so cold anymore.

Of course, all of this is open to interpretation. Perhaps I got it all wrong. But these are the images that I see every time I play this album, every time I allow myself to be taken up and away by the album. In the car, screaming the words at the top of my lungs. This is one album I go back to again and again, and even though I find tracks on other Bowie albums even more enjoyable than lot presented on Ziggy Stardust, the fact is no album makes me think of the endless possibilities of youth and rock n’ roll, of love and lust, of freedom, than this album. That, and aliens. Hard to top all that, really.

WedNESday: The Simpsons’ Video Games

It’s that time of the week again, friends! WedNESday! Your mid-week home for retro gaming reviews and discussion. Today’s topic: The Simpsons licensed games for the NES.

Let me type that again. The Siiimpsoooonnssss. Who doesn’t hear the opening line of the theme song when they see the name of the family on a screen? Well, I hear it in any case. For the most part, we all know The Simpsons. Though it has surprised me every now and then to hear of someone who has never seen an episode of the show, I have yet to meet someone who doesn’t know the name of the titular family, and even some other aspects of the show (Springfield, for example, or Mr. Burns and other characters). The show has been on the air since the late eighties, it’s the longest running show ever. It’s longevity is a sign of it’s greatness and versatility, being a parody to middle-class America, the sitcom format, and the human condition in general, episodes can generally go wherever they want, and the large cast, and ever-expanding guest list, means the show practically has no bounds. Today, I often find that people think the show isn’t as good as it used to be. I’d argue they just aren’t watching it much, because I feel the opposite. Even against competing, like-minded shows like Family Guy, Simpsons still comes out stronger. To me. That said, it is no argument that the show isn’t enjoying a popularity surge like it did in the early to mid 1990′s. I remember a time when Simpsons merchandise knew no bounds, from clothes, dolls and toys, cereal bowls and silly straws, music CDs, and of course, video games. And I, like many other kids, had them all. I’m not entirely sure how many kids really know about the Simpsons these days, but for me and my generation, every kid wanted to be Bart. Well, maybe some wanted to be more like Lisa, but Bart certainly had the cool 90′s kid attitude to the T. I had a Bart-man (Bart’s super-hero persona, of course) poster, a doll, clothes, (like I said, everything) including two of my favorite NES games, naturally. They were Bart vs. The Space Mutants and Krusty’s Fun House. A third NES game, Bart vs. The World, was also released, but I didn’t own it. I’ll still touch up on it a bit later.

Licensed video games, especially back in the NES days, weren’t often known for being great games. Usually, and it still happens today, a show or movie comes out or rises in popularity, some publisher buys the rights to make games, and hands it to a developer. The game usually has to come out quickly, often in time for a movie release or holiday season, and regards to quality are an after thought. Make a game that the parents will buy, kids will play, forget it after awhile, and move on. Tight controls, great graphics, compelling story line, all unnecessary. The game will sell based on it’s name-brand image and market. Just make it playable. Maybe. The first Simpsons game (not the first NES one), however, may have beaten those odds. It was the fan-favorite Simpsons Arcade Game.

Image(Photo from the Simpsons Wikia)

Developed by Konami, who had also had success with their arcade Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle games, took the world of The Simpsons and turned into a side-scrolling slugfest that still managed to perfectly capture the show’s appeal. Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa were all playable (the plot of the game was to rescue Maggie) and used weapons such as vacuums, skateboards and jump ropes, as well as combined attacks, to fight off Springfield’s most notorious baddies. With graphics that looked just like the show, voice clips from the actors, the game was a quarter-munching success. So how to translate that to the home consoles? Publisher Acclaim and devloper Imagineering would try that several times, to varying degrees of success.

The first Simpsons NES title was Bart vs. The Space Mutants, in 1991.

Image(Photo from Wikipedia)

It would also be released on a  variety of other platforms, including Sega’s Master System, Genesis and Game Gear. The premise of the game is pretty obvious, as the title spells it out. Springfield is taken over my Space Mutants (let’s just call them aliens), and it’s up to Bart to convince his family and friends that the menace is real, and save the world. The aliens (who are often disguised as humans) plan to create a weapon to help them take over, and Bart has to collect the items they need in order to stop them. This is one of two of the Simpsons games that I owned and played it all the time. Well, I played the first level all the time. Maybe up to the second. The game is notoriously difficult. Only five levels long, but without a save system and a limited life span for Bart means you’ll find yourself starting from stage one over and over again, until you can make difficult jumps perfectly, which was also made difficult due to some rather clunky controls. The levels vary slightly in style, or object of the stage (though I didn’t know it back then), in that Bart has to do different tasks to get the items the aliens want. For instance, in the first level the aliens want purple objects, so Bart, armed with a can of red spray paint, can tag these objects in order to prevent the aliens from wanting it. Later stages include hats, balloons, exit signs and lastly, nuclear rods. Bart has a few different items and weapons that assist him, such as rockets and cherry bombs, that he can get by spending coins obtained by defeating baddies. Bart also has a pair of X-ray glasses that when turned on allow him to see if certain characters are actually aliens in disguise, and thus he can jump on their heads to stop them. 

Image(Screenshot from consoleclassix.com)

The game, as I said, was hard, especially for a three/four year old. But time and time again I would put the game in, and hear the 8-bit chip tune variation of the famous theme song. Maybe one time I’d be able to clear the right jump and make it to the next level. Or I could at least use the phone in level one to prank call Moe. The game has nice little in-show references like that; you could tell the developers were at least fans of the show, which sadly isn’t always the case with licensed titles. These days, too, I can appreciate the homage to the movie “They Live”, with glasses that reveal aliens pretending to be humans. As Bart himself would say, “Cool, man.”

The other NES Simpsons title I owned didn’t actually star any of the members of the Simpson family, but rather Bart’s favorite TV-show clown, Krusty. I probably enjoyed Krusty’s Fun House more than Bart vs. The Space Mutants, probably because I could get much further in the game.

Image(Photo from Wikipedia)

Krusty’s Fun House, released in 1992 was developed by Audiogenic and published again by Acclaim, is also a plat-former, but it doubles as a puzzle game, and as a child (and to this day) I’m a big fan of solving puzzles, and working out solutions. In KFH, our hero’s fun factory has been overrun by rats, and Krusty has to find a way to rid them. Each level is connected in the fun house by doorways, and Krusty can often pick a few different levels to try at one time, and when he clears enough rooms, can move on to the next bunch. Krusty can not directly attack the rats that are running amok, but rather has to lure them into extermination machines controlled by friends such as Sideshow Mel or Bart. He does this by navigating the rooms, grabbing blocks and other objects that the rats can walk on, as they wander around aimlessly, they will follow paths Krusty makes straight into the device. Little-kid Shaun loved trying to figure out just how each maze worked, and how to solve each room’s puzzle.

Image(screenshot from uvlist.net)

Hampering Krusty’s quest are enemies such as snakes and flying pigs, who unlike the rats can harm and Krusty, but luckily Krusty can equip himself with pies to throw at the fiends. If they manage to hurt Krusty, he will drop whatever he is carrying, and be forced to start over. While this game may not have the overall spirit of the show, being a puzzle-solving game,I find it has a higher replay value than Bart vs.

Lastly, while I didn’t own it, Acclaim and Imagineering released one more NES Simpsons title i late 1991, not too long after BvSM, (they, and other companies, would go on to release many more on later systems such as the SNES, Genesis, Playstation, etc.) Bart vs. the World.

Image(Photo from Wikipedia)

Continuing on the Bart vs. theme, this time Bart faces off against Mr. Burns and his twisted relatives, as Bart goes on around the world, visiting real-life locations on a savanger hunt. Other Simpsons characters will appear in each stage to offer hints on where the items may be, and the game offers puzzles that Bart must solve while going through each level in traditional platform style. Like BvSM, Bart vs. the World features weapons for Bart to use in his quest, including a cape that allows him to briefly transform into Bartman, and gain flight. Many reviews suggest that the game, while less difficult than the first, is also less creative in its challenges, and is critisized for not having much to do with the world of the Simpsons, outside of the Krusty souveniers that can be found, and a little bit of episode trivia. 

These three titles are mostly fun for the sake of nostalgia, and are often just reminders of how the licencing industry works. The Simpsons Arcade, however, still stands out well, and there have been other, more recent, Simpsons titles that I feel not only capture the spirit of the show, but also are just plain well-programmed games (Hit & Run, for the PS2, Gamecube and X-Box, might be the best one), but still, I find it fun to go back and give these old boys a play, again mostly for nostalgia sake, remind myself of a time where I would wear my Simpsons PJs, eat cereal out of a Bart-shaped bowl, have my toys next to me, and play some Simpsons games. The next day, do it all again, only TMNT themed instead. Maybe that’ll be for another post, but I think I’ll take a break from licensed titles for now.

Thanks for joining me once again down memory lane on this fine WedNESday!