First of all, good news, site subscribers! The third bonus book has been uploaded and is ready to be published and distributed. The bad news, however, is that if I order the books now they’ll arrive while I’m out of town for the holiday. Normally I would have them shipped to the office, but as it happens we’re moving to a new office while I’m out of town. So… I won’t be able to get the books out until after the break. I was hoping to have them in your hands sooner; my apologies for that.
In other good news, I’ve broken from format and published two articles this morning. It just so happened that both Shatterhand and Vice: Project Doom appeared back-to-back in GameSpite Quarterly 5, so I thought it would be appropriate to publish both together. Read one and then the other for maximum impact! The face-shattering impact of Steve “Shatterhand” Hermann!
These two games are in no material way connected with one another. They’re both from separate publishers, presumably put together by separate designers, and actually have fairly different play mechanics. What they do share in common is a similar aesthetic sensibility; my coworker Frank Cifaldi calls them “guy games.” They belong to a certain subset of NES games with a distinct look and style; you can always tell them by their manly damn heroes, who have beefy names like Steve Hermann and Quinton Hart; by their somewhat realistically proportioned heroes who have tiny, blank faces (instead of big, expressive cartoon mugs) and a macho stance; by their heavy use of chiaroscuro in the background graphics, creating a shadowy, slightly abstracted techno-noir look; and by their play mechanics, which tend to involve athletic punching even when ranged weapons are available.
These games are more or less the NES equivalent of modern “dudebro” shooters, all musclehead action and terse cliché narrative. And in these two titles, we may well be witnessing them at their apex. Enjoy! Then smash a beer can against your forehead.
11 thoughts on “GSQ5: A double-manly Monday”
Weren’t both games also featured in back-to-back issues of Nintendo Power, possibly as cover stories?
Combining these posts makes complete sense to me. I played and quite liked both of these games in my lavishly misspent youth, and to this day, they, along with Low G Man, form a kind of rose tinted nostalgia soup in my brain. Delicious, delicious nostalgia soup.
While I generally stay far away from the Manly Dudebro school of aesthetics, I’ve always had a soft spot for Project Doom. Partly due to its aura of being a wonky American version of Ninja Gaiden and partly because, unlike a lot of similarly styled games, it’s not afraid to just get downright weird from time to time.
Shatterhand never made it to cover story status. Actually, I’m not even sure it was got more than a passing glance in the magazine. After such heavy focus on Power Blade and VICE, maybe they just didn’t bother.
I picked VICE up for cheap when a local K-Mart went out of business just because Nintendo Power made it look so good. I wasn’t disappointed.
Two tremendous action titles for the NES.
Shatterhand was one that I came to rather late. It wasn’t until emulation that I got to try it, since it never showed up in the local pawn shops or yard sales. I wanted it, though! It’s one of the more solidly-built NES games, and now that I think about it, it has a little bit of a Batman vibe, mechanically. And the music is absolutely awesome.
Vice: Project Doom, on the other hand, my cousins managed to get by ordering through Funcoland back in the day. While the cutscenes never seemed to have the same impact to me as those in Ninja Gaiden, the gameplay more than made up for it. In some ways, I actually prefer this to the NG games.
I never really made the “dudebro” connection, though. Maybe it’s the tiny NES sprites. Or maybe its just that “dudebro” was far more palatable in the 80’s / early 90’s. And of course, Shatterhand wasn’t even that type of game beforehand, it was morphed into that upon localization (along with the complete replacement of one of the stages).
Wow, really, really reaching hard to continue the dudebro thing here, buddy. Steve Hermann is a “beefy” name? Really? Steve Hermann?
Come on, man!
Were either of these a Metroidvania?
Speaking of which, what do you suppose a NES (or SNES) demake of Shadow Complex would be like?
Nope. Shatterhand allowed you to select stages, Mega Man-style, though.
Closest comparison I can think of for either of them is what I stated earlier, with Shatterhand feeling a bit like the first NES Batman, and Vice: Project Doom being a bit of a Ninja Gaiden-clone, although with its own quirks to set it apart.
If you can imagine the sensibilities of Metal Gear combined with Metroid’s gameplay, that’s what I figure Shadow Complex would be like “demade”.
Why have I never heard of these? I must play them.
The outrageousness of the NES ‘dudebro’ games nowhere matches that of their modern-day counterparts, mainly because the NES games had charm, something that already fading in the SNES/Genesis generation.
Conan just used the word ‘dudebro’ in his latest tweet, amusingly enough. I’d say that this upgrades dudebro from niche to… pseudo-niche, I guess.
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