Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chlorine, Corn Chips & Coin-Ops...

Hey ! Thanks for checking back in with us at the Final Boss, this week were going waaaayyyy back and looking at a great Arcade Conversion from NAMCO the company that brought us Pac Man, Galga, Pole Postion and later Ridge Racer ,Soul Caliber this thing called Tekken.

Back in 1983 when I was 6 or 7 years old my Mother had decided I was going to learn to swim because she couldn't. Every week I was taken to the YMCA where once entered the brightness of the outside world was replaced by the dimness of partially lit fluorescent lights reflecting off dark colored tiles in long narrow hallways and even narrower enclosed staircases. The smells of sweat and floor cleaner would change to that of chlorinated pool water as we approached the 3rd floor and my nervousness would always set in. I would be quickly rushed "alone" into a locker room and told to put my stuff away where my mom would meet me on the other side by the pool with my class mates and instructor. Afterwards I would rush back into the lockers dodging the baby powder being hurled at my eye level meant for old mens swinging baggage. I would get dressed and rush again outside to where my mother would roughly dry my hair with a towel made of sand paper and not make a complaining peep. With it being almost closing time we would sprint through the now even less lit hall past the UP staircase we had previously used, now on our way to the DOWN staircase when the electronic symphony sounds would get louder and soon the glow of the gamma radiated CRT screens would cut though the dimness of the darkened corridor and I would catch the first glimpses of the alcove cut in the wall that contained FOUR Arcade Games. Don't get me wrong I loved swimming but Arcade Games were the shit ! I would feel my mom try to rush me past the Cabinets each time we passed them by gripping my hand tighter and quickening her pace but I always met these attempts with my own clever set like stopping to tie a shoelace (on a Velcro shoe) or asking to use the water fountains that reside just before them in attempt to break loose of her grip and walk over to the machines where I would turn and aim hard my only true weapon ... The Look ! Oh yes I would plead hard with a Woman whom had worked all day then picked me up from school and drove me to the dim YMCA where she sat alone in '80s NYC and waited to drive me home and make dinner. Looking back I was a DI*K, but I had to play them and she graciously against her will let me do so quite often and when she did I played DIG DUG !!!!!

.....when she didn't I got 25 cent Fritos at the luncheonette on the way out... so not a total loss !

Dig Dug In the Arcades was like no other game at the time you controlled a little man whom seemed trapped on a screen not only under dirt but with monsters and armed only with a bicycle pump ... Holy Sh*T somebody get that guy outta there!! The real story to the game is as follows you play as Hori Taizo which directly translates in Japanese as " I want to Dig! " Taizo has a beautiful vegetable garden which one day he discovers is being destroyed by the monsters living under it, he decides to take matters into his own hands as a expert digger and grabs hold of a shovel and pump and sets off ...

A Slick Design from a Japan only RPG

Taizo as drawn in the Mr. Driller games.

Now as this may seem super cheesy or weird it is the Golden Age of Gaming so be gentle. I loved this game as a kid and mostly played it in the setting described above, I later got the Atari 2600 version which as you can compare for yourselves in the photos is not very good. Over the years I always kept  special place for this game in my heart and would play the Cabinet whenever I saw it. As seen in Episode 2 of Game Hunting I recently picked up Dig Dug for the Famicom apparently the Game was never ported to the NES in America despite the fact that it was  huge hit in Arcades here. The game was however ported to EVERY other Home Computer and Video game Console in the mid 80s so it was accessible.  It should also be mentioned that the Famicom home version is herald by almost everyone as the Best home conversion in the 80s. And its true so lets play it...

I love the original art style used for Dig Dug

Yes!! My copy complete with a Top label

Atari 2600


The Famicom version is spot on to the Original except for very small differences such as the sky being Black instead of Blue (probably to save memory), The high score stops at 999,990 instead of 999,999 and stops at Round 99 but interestingly enough the title screen will display high scores players set into the millions. The Flowers atop the screen are only displayed till Round 93 (ill explain later).The game has no kill screen like the Arcade so you continue to accrue lives and play till you decide to shut it off. And finally the games difficulty stops increasing after Round 28 but is still hard enough for most.

A 999,990 score at round 99 with flowers counting out only 93 rounds

Each board starts Taizo off  surrounded by monsters in the center of a screen that has the depth of dirt displayed visually in Neapolitan ice cream like colors. The colors vary from Round to Round but the  purpose of distinction is always the same... scoring! The points given for defeating a enemy at lower depths is increased. The two Monster types are the Pooka and Frygar, the Pooka a red ballon looking creature with yellow goggles that can be seen making cameos over the years in a variety of NAMCO titles. The Pooka is faster than Taizo and can pass through the layers of dirt with out tunneling as it can "ghost" through the layers to get to you but CAN be killed in both forms. The Frygar the more dangerous and point heavy of the two can also "ghost" but more deadly is its Fire breathing which can be seen before it happens by its tell of flashing. The points also increase on the Frygar if attacked head on obviously due to the danger of burning to death. Both the Frygar and the Pooka can be seen in Disney's "Wreck it Ralph" in the game central station scene. Rocks can be used as weapons if our hero tunnels under one while leading an enemy in pursuit the rock will fall upon the monster's head netting you 1000 points and 2000 after the first two rock kills.

Love the art style

After Taizo tunnels on screen and the jingle stops the creatures begin to stir in their carved out dwellings. On the first Round its one to a cave but after the Rounds increase they double up in a cave more and more often. A classic trap is putting "two" Pooka's in a cave and the AI has them move in unison so you cant see the second is even there, as you tunnel in to kill the "only" Pooka the twin leaps out from behind the others pixels and kills our poor protagonist. Strategy is the best weapon in dig dug and depending if your going for points or distance the strategy varies or you could just go for both. A basic tactic to master is tunneling up to the caves but not breaking the last bit of wall, that way the creature cant touch you unless it goes "Ghost" yet it allows you to throw Taizo's pump through the wall and pump up the enemy for the kill. Yah I said pump oh didn't I mention earlier Hori Taizo uses a Bicycle pump like weapon to kill the Monsters that he willingly "chases" after.... Yup he crazy. Another tactic to be aware of is that when you pump up the monsters it takes 4 pumps that you manually pump with 4 hits of the A or B button, which means you can stop mid-pump and leave the monster to wait till he deflates to chase after you again this is good when trying to avoid multiple monsters or lead one to a higher scoring kill. I should also mention that as soon as you start pumping up an enemy Taizo can touch or even pass through them with out any hazard , so 2 pumps makes a nice exit strategy when cornered. The pooka and Frygar's will follow your direction at top speed so making a back peddle or side stepping move throws them off. But the same can be done to you, at a certain point in a Round the bad boys will begin to flee to the surface, be careful the leaving parties are known to turn back at you right before they take that last step. The pumps line will travel about 4 lengths in front of Taizo giving him a good advantage on reach but be careful the villainous bastards have no problem stepping over their brothers to get to you. The background music only plays as you walk making for an interesting auditory setting. The Music also speeds up as time runs out the only cause for alarm is that the Frygar and Pooka's will exit as time winds down removing opportunities for scoring and gaining 1UPS. Vegetables appear in center screen netting Taizo BIG points for saving his crop. If you die in a Round the Monsters already removed do not return for your next attempt but any one lets will appear in their rightful positions even if thats face to face with you. Flowers mark your progess atop the surface level and every 10th round they consolidate in to a larger flower as I said above the Flowers only keep track till Round 93... Why you ask ? Oh you didn't ask ? Good ! 'cause I don't know.

Dig Dug takes us back to a simpler time of gaming when skills were honed through repetition and when  distance and scoring mattered. Dig Dug had many returns after this entry such as Arcade Dig Dug II a game played on small islands not under ground, Dig Dug on game Boy offering classic mode and a "NEW Dig Dug "mode which had objects that could not be tunneled past. Many more exist but in 2008 the original Famicom version was finally released in N.America in the Wii Virtual Store and is worth the download.  To expand the story even more lets talk about a spin off series that was meant to originally be the 3rd game, I speak of Mr. Driller. See Mr. Driller is Hori Taizo's son Hori Susumu. The Mr. Driller game was in Arcades and on Playsation and Dreamcast in 1999, Driller saw many sequels such as the popular Nintendo DS games when both father and son are playable... but not Mom... Oh yes didn't I mention ... Toby "Kissy" Masuyo  Hori's Ex-Wife and the main protagonist of the arcade game Baraduke. Im not even gonna expalin that but its ALL true click the links to read about them and the 2 "other " kids... YUP !! 'Nuff Said.

Mr. Driller

Game ads were pretty convincing back when

It started this whole thing.

So go out and play some Dig Dug today and celebrate its 32 anniversary on one of the many consoles it was available or play the best conversion the Famicom , hell download it on Xbox 360 or go play a Mr Driller game on DS, PSX and Wii Ware. What ever you do just shout " Horitaizo ! " I wanna Dig !

Game Boy Hori Taizo !
Oh the results of last weeks contest are in and while several people guessed correctly Im going with the participant that answered "first" and the rest of you will have to wait and find out the answer soon when I do a write up on the item.... sorry. And thanks to all that sent in emails. More contests soon.

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