Take on the NES Library

An 8-bit Extravaganza!

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JUL
31
2017
0

#48 – BurgerTime

Build the biggest believable burgers in BurgerTime.

Another plain arcade title screen.

To Beat: Finish 6 Levels
Played: 3/28/2017 – 3/29/2017
Difficulty: 6/10
My Difficulty: 6/10
Video: BurgerTime Playthrough

BurgerTime is another one of the many arcade ports that made its way to the NES. I did not play the arcade version of the game, but I do have some nostalgia for this NES port. I had left the game mostly untouched for the past 25 years as just about all my experience of this game came when I was young. It’s time for me to experience this blast from the past and shed some new light on both this game and its successors.

BurgerTime was first released in arcades in Japan as Hamburger, and then the name was changed over when it came to the US. It was originally released in 1982 by Data East as part of the company’s DECO Cassette System. This was the first arcade system where one could buy a standardized cabinet and load different games to the machine using cassette tapes. BurgerTime also got its own standalone cabinet published by Bally Midway. The game received around ten ports to various computers and consoles, such as Intellivision, ColecoVision, and the Apple II. The Famicom port of BurgerTime was developed by Data East and published by Namco. It was released in November 1985. BurgerTime was brought to the NES in May 1987, this time published by the developer Data East.

There are also a number of sequels and spin-offs for BurgerTime. An Intellivision-only sequel named Diner was released in 1984 where you push balls of food to the bottom of the screen and into enemies. Peter Pepper’s Ice Cream Factory was also a 1984 release in arcades where you build ice cream cones. Super BurgerTime was a 1990 arcade game that is an enhanced version of the original concept. The Game Boy received BurgerTime Deluxe in 1991. Namco released an updated version of the original game for mobile devices named BurgerTime Delight in 2007. Lastly, a 3D version of the game called BurgerTime World Tour was released in 2011 on Xbox Live Arcade and the Playstation Network, with a Wiiware version arriving in 2012.

Who put all this stuff here in the first place?

BurgerTime is a single screen action game. The screen is filled with platforms and ladders, and there are various slices of hamburgers, buns, and toppings across the board. You control the chef Peter Pepper as he must use all the ingredients on screen to build gigantic hamburgers underneath the level. You do this by running across the ingredients causing them to fall to the level below. If an ingredient falls on top of another one, it falls as well potentially setting off a chain reaction. Once all the burgers are assembled, you complete the round and move on to the next stage.

A game like this wouldn’t be complete without enemies, and there are three different types in BurgerTime. They are named Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Egg, and Mr. Pickle. All three enemies behave in the same way by following you around the board. Mr. Hot Dog is the most numerous of the enemy foods. Mr. Egg appears in fewer numbers and he tends to be a little bit smarter as he tracks you. Mr. Pickle appears in the later levels and also tends to be a bit smarter like Mr. Egg. The only way the enemies defeat Peter Pepper is to run into him, so you should always be on the move.

Peter Pepper can use the ingredients to his advantage in dealing with the enemies. If one of the ingredients falls on an enemy, they get squished and you get points. After a few seconds, a new enemy will take his place and join the fray. You can also displace enemies by dropping an ingredient they are standing on. Not only does this knock out enemies for a short time, but it also causes the ingredient to drop more ledges than when dropped alone. You score double points for each additional dropped enemy on the same ingredient, so this is the best way to rack up points in a hurry as well as clear the level more quickly.

A dash of pepper can help if you get trapped like this.

The only weapon our chef has at his disposal is pepper. It is only limited to a few uses but it is incredibly useful to get out of a bind. Simply press A or B to throw a dash of pepper in the direction you are facing. Pepper stuns all enemies it touches and you can run right through them without getting hurt. It can be used as an evasive move if you get trapped, but you can also use it to stack several enemies together on top of an ingredient and then drop them all at once for huge points. You get five peppers at the start of the game and you can acquire additional ones from powerups that appear in the middle of the level periodically. Depending on the level you will find an ice cream cone, a cup of coffee, or a bag of fries that give you points as well as pepper.

BurgerTime has six levels and it only takes a couple of minutes to clear each one. However, it’s a challenging game. At first, it gets overwhelming being chased around by four or five enemies at one time. After getting used to it, the first couple of levels are pretty straightforward. The third level requires you to work your way up through narrow space to reach the top part of the stage. This is a solid test for understanding how the enemies route their way across the level in order to navigate around them. The fifth stage has long platforms without branching paths, leading you to get trapped easily if you aren’t careful. The final stage is nasty, including several ingredients placed on dead ends. Having several shots of pepper handy goes a long way to clearing it. After all six stages are finished, the game loops back to the first level with faster enemies. It will keep looping until you run out of lives.

BurgerTime was one of the very first games my family owned for our NES. If memory serves it was the third game we owned after Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt and Pinball. Therefore, BurgerTime is among my earliest gaming memories. I do remember beating this game as a child by hoarding pepper for the final stage and setting up a super combo with all the enemies included. As we collected new games, I put BurgerTime on the back burner for many years. I played it again in 2015 when it showed up as a NintendoAge contest game. I did not beat the game that week, but now I got to beat the game again for the first time since I was 7 or 8 years old.

The level layouts get tricky at the end.

I beat BurgerTime in one late night, but it wasn’t easy. Stage 6 is the most challenging by far, but Stage 5 is the make it or break it level for me. I typically have to use a lot of pepper because it’s easy to get surrounded on the long platforms, and I need to hold on to as much pepper as possible for the final level. When I did reach the final level, I had some close calls. I was one ingredient drop away from beating the game on my first attempt. On a couple of later tries I botched some near finishes with several lives remaining. I completed the game on my ninth attempt, and I finished it off by playing into the second loop until I lost all my lives.

The one thing I run into trouble with in this game is moving on and off ladders. You have to be lined up with them pretty close to center before you can climb them. To get off, you must be at the very top or bottom before you can move laterally. The inability to make precise movements when you get stuck on an edge makes BurgerTime much more frustrating than it should be. I like it when games automatically nudge you the rest of the way if you start to switch direction just a tad early. That would have really come in handy here.

BurgerTime is a serviceable arcade game port that plays just fine on the NES. As this port is based on an older game, the presentation matches the arcade version. However, on the NES it comes off as a bit sparse. The graphics are plain and include solid black backgrounds. The music is one continuous, droning loop and the sound effects are simplistic. Gameplay is what matters most, and BurgerTime has it where it counts. Rounding up the enemies and dropping them in bulk is satisfying, as is crushing them with a bun or lettuce leaf. It’s fun to play for high scores and it’s fun to work through all the levels. BurgerTime is not a bad choice to consider adding to your NES collection if you are interested in 1980s arcade games.

#48 – BurgerTime

 
JUN
06
2017
0

#44 – R.B.I. Baseball

Crush monster home runs in this quintessential NES baseball game!

Not shown is the giant baseball and corresponding *pling* sound effect at power on.

To Beat: Win 9 Games
Played: 12/29/16 – 12/30/16
Difficulty: 2/10
My Difficulty: 2/10
Video: R.B.I. Baseball Longplay

The NES library holds a large collection of sports games. While Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! and T&C Surf Designs could be loosely classified as sports games, I feel comfortable saying that today’s game is the first major sports title covered on the blog. There are more baseball games on NES than any other sport. So not only is it fitting that this first sports game is a baseball game, but it also happens to be one that I really enjoy and have spent a lot of time playing over the years.

R.B.I. Baseball is the first in a long series of baseball games developed by Namco for release in Japan. There it is known as Pro Yakyuu Family Stadium. Subsequent games on the Famicom were released yearly spanning 1986 through 1994. The 1989 installment was called Famista as a play on the name Famicom, and the series has been named Famista ever since. R.B.I. Baseball on the NES was released in June 1988 and was published by Tengen. This is one of three licensed NES games published by Tengen. It was also released as an unlicensed black cart version that seems to be much more prevalent than its gray cart equivalent.

The Famista series in Japan would carry on to many other consoles such as the Super Famicom, MSX, and Game Boy, as well as modern versions on the 3DS and Android/iOS. Not related to Famista, the R.B.I. Baseball name would be used in a brand new series developed by Major League Baseball (MLB) themselves in 2014. This separate series has received new entries every year. Also unrelated to both this new series and Famista are two R.B.I. Baseball games on NES. Developed by Atari Games and published by Tengen, R.B.I. Baseball 2 was released in 1990 and R.B.I. Baseball 3 came out in 1991. These games share a similar style as the original game but with all MLB teams and rosters included. They are not officially licensed by Nintendo and so they will not be covered in the main project, though I will probably play and write about them one of these days.

Choose your abbreviation and let’s get started!

R.B.I. Baseball lets you play a typical nine-inning match against either a computer opponent or another human player. When you begin, you get a list of ten teams and you can choose the team you want. The list only consists of two letter abbreviations and only a fraction of the teams are covered. The last two teams in the list are the American League All-Stars and National League All-Stars, and their rosters are comprised of best players not already included within the other eight teams. Once teams are selected, choose from one of four pitchers. Then the game begins!

The gameplay for R.B.I. Baseball breaks down nicely into pitching and fielding on the defensive side, and batting and baserunning on the offensive side. The one common thread between everything is base selection. On the controller, Right represents first base, Up is second base, Left is third base, and Down is home plate. Most baseball games will use this same scheme because it is both sensible and intuitive.

Player 1 is always the away team, meaning he bats first. While batting, the pitcher is shown at the top of the screen and the batter on the bottom. When batting you can position your player anywhere within the batter’s box with the D-Pad. Press the A button to swing the bat. You can hold the button down to do a full swing, and you must press A again to bring your bat back if you swing way too early. If you tap the A button the bat will immediately stop at whichever point it lies during the swing path, and if you get the bat to stop over the plate you can bunt the ball. The B button is used for sending your baserunners on a steal attempt. While the pitcher is winding up to throw, you press B along with the direction of the base you want to steal. For instance, if you have a runner on first base, press B and Up to have the baserunner start running toward second base.

It doesn’t look like it but this is good swing timing.

When a batted ball is put into play, the perspective shifts to an overhead view of the field and now you control the baserunners. Here the A button is used to go back and the B button is used to go ahead, and you combine this with a D-Pad direction to direct a specific runner to the nearest base. This is the same as baserunning while batting. For example, say you hit a ball all the way to the outfield wall. When your batter reaches first base, you can press Up and B to advance the runner to second base. Now if the throw from the outfielder is going to beat you to second base, you can send the runner back to first by pressing Right and A and avoid making an out. As long as the ball is hit fair and the screen remains in fielding mode, you can move runners around as much as you want, though you run the risk of getting tagged out for being careless on the bases.

In the bottom half of the inning you control the pitcher and defense. To pitch, you start by positioning your pitcher on the mound with either Left or Right. Press the A button to start your windup and throw a pitch. If you hold Down with A, you will throw a faster pitch, and if you hold Up with A you will throw a slower pitch. The slow pitch plays a different sound effect than that other pitches and sometimes it will bounce off the ground, causing the batter to swing right over top of it. After the pitch is thrown you can steer it with Left or Right to curve the pitch. Finally, the B button in combination with a D-Pad direction lets you do a pickoff move toward a base.

If the opponent puts a ball into play, then you play defense from the overhead view. Depending on where the ball is hit, the game will automatically give you control of the nearest fielder. Actually, you get to control most fielders simultaneously. Just run your fielder into the ball to pick it up, or you can follow the ball’s shadow if it is hit into the air. Once you have possession of the ball, press A and a direction to throw the ball to the desired base. If you press A without a direction the throw goes to first base which is useful for infield grounders. If you press B with a direction then your fielder will run toward the base with the ball in hand. This is useful for running down baserunners. The game goes back to pitching once the fielder has the ball without any controller movement for a while.

Sometimes you have to make a long throw to get an out.

The team rosters are very simple. As selected at the start, there are only four pitchers per team. The first two pitchers are the starters and the other two are relievers. This is important because the starters maintain their stamina longer than the relievers. Also in consecutive games, the prior game’s starter is unavailable. You can change pitchers in the middle of the game by pressing Start to call timeout while pitching. You can then bring up a menu of available pitchers and get a fresh arm into the game right away. The same goes for hitting if you want to bring in a pinch hitter. Each team has four pinch hitters on the bench and they can be swapped anywhere into the lineup regardless of position. Just like in a real game, if you pinch hit for the pitcher, then you must select a new pitcher at the start of the next half inning.

Players have different attributes that are not always spelled out in the game. For pitchers, you can see their ERA. Typically, the lower the ERA the better the pitcher. What the ERA doesn’t indicate is that some pitchers throw faster, some have better curves, and a few even throw sidearm for a different look. On the hitting side, you can see a hitter’s batting average and home run count. Hitters with high batting averages tend to hit the ball more often in places it can’t be fielded easily, and hitters with high home run totals have more power. The hitters also have different speeds while baserunning with no visible stat to suggest how fast they run. Finding skilled players in certain areas requires trial and error.

Love that 32 home run power!

R.B.I. Baseball was one of the few sports games I had growing up and I played it often. I owned both the unlicensed black cart and the licensed gray cart and those same copies are still in my collection today. This game was particularly popular in college and people would drop in to play matches all the time. I haven’t lost to the CPU in ages but I lost quite a few games in the two player mode. Our preferred house rule was “straight pitch” style where we always threw pitches right down the middle, focusing just on hitting, fielding, and baserunning.

Despite all those years of playing R.B.I. Baseball, it turns out I learned something new about the game when I set out to beat it. I was expecting that I would have to win a single match to consider the game beaten. However, there is a different ending screen if you win nine matches, one against each opponent. The downside to that is that there are no passwords or saving in the game, so you must complete all nine games in a single sitting. The upside is that the game has a mercy rule which can shorten games significantly. If you lead by 10 or more runs at the end of an inning, then you win immediately.

My favorite team in the game is the National League All-Stars, but similar to college it’s not quite fair to play as one of the teams completely stacked with talent. I would have definitely picked my favorite team, the Chicago Cubs, except they aren’t represented in the game at all. So I decided to play as my backup team Detroit. They are a very good offensive team which aligned with my desire to score a bunch of runs to win quickly by the mercy rule. Since I have the game mastered already, it was a breeze to beat all nine teams.

It’s true! Chicks dig the long ball.

Here are some stats about my 9-0 run of the game. I outscored my opponents 112-4, and I allowed all four of those runs in one inning of my first game. Every game I won by the mercy rule and I averaged a little over 5 innings per game. I pitched two separate three inning no-hitters and struck out 90 batters total. I got 145 hits, including 28 home runs, and I only allowed 23 hits. It was a pretty thorough bashing of the other teams, but I expected nothing less!

One interesting tidbit about R.B.I. Baseball is that it is the first console baseball game that uses actual MLB player names. This is because the game is the first baseball game officially licensed by the Major League Baseball Players Association. However, the game is not licensed by MLB, and as a result it cannot include the names of the actual teams. So here you have the names of the players but not the name of the team, leaving only the city names to represent the teams.

It may not be easy to see just looking at the game, but R.B.I. Baseball is a classic title that is still fun to play today. Appearances can be deceiving, since the characters are large, chunky sprites and the movement feels slow. The music, while catchy, can get repetitive over a long play session. What really matters is that R.B.I. Baseball is simple and easy to play. It may be a trimmed down experience, but it is so intuitive and quick to start playing that it has maintained its popularity for all these years. If the formula is good enough for a modern remake, then it is good enough here.

#44 – R.B.I. Baseball