We’ve now reached month two of 2020, my goodness how time flies! While we still aren’t really getting massive new releases, it is quite an improvement over January, which was basically a ghost town for games. We’ve got a good mix of AAA, AA and indie titles, so there should hopefully be something for everyone this week. This is also an exciting week for me because I was able to talk to a friend of mine who did some level design work on Bioshock 2, this week’s ten year old release, and he divulged some interesting info on an Easter egg that may or may not be a scoop. Read on…
Zombie Army 4: Dead War (PC – Epic Games Store/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 4th
From Rebellion Developments, developers of the Sniper Elite franchise, comes a new entry in their spin-off series Zombie Army. Originally created as DLC for Sniper Elite 2, the series became its own franchise with the release of Zombie Army Trilogy in 2015 when it combined the first two DLC campaigns, and a brand new third campaign, into one single game. Now with Zombie Army 4, the team at Rebellion are continuing the story of Zombie Hitler who, after being cast down into Hell, is back with a vengeance, bringing the undead hordes of Hell back with him on a quest for world domination. Now I consider myself somewhat of a history buff, so I think this is all made up, but we can’t really know for sure. Hey, remember how Sniper Elite let you blast Nazi nutsacks with your gun? Well that trademark feature is back, but this time the Nazis are zombies, so you now have the chance to blow open their gonads in death, after missing the chance to do it while they were alive, so it’s really a story of redemption, more than anything. Fuck Nazis.
The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics (PC/PS4/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 4th
Based on the Netflix film that is a prequel to the 1982 film, this tactical adventure game from developer BonusXP is finally coming out. You control a band of rebellious Gelflings through 50 maps of pure, tactical RPG action, featuring all the various unit types you know and love; melee, ranged, magical ranged, healer, etc., etc.
Monster Energy Supercross 3 – The Official Videogame (PC/PS4/Stadia/Switch/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 4th
Hey, it looks like people still enjoy dirt bikes, or maybe it’s just one of those things that only elementary school kids are into. Sadly, even though “monster” is in the title, there are no massive, Zombie Army 4 style, creatures in this game, just the bad ass, 100% bro-tastic Monster Energy Drink; boo-yah!! I’m also very happy to report that this the official video game, and I bet you’re thinking exactly what I was thinking…how did they make that book into a video game…for the third time!?
Wide Ocean, Big Jacket (PC/Switch) – Releases Feb. 4th
While the amount of high profile releases makes things less exciting, it does mean that I get a chance to highlight some indies that might have otherwise been relegated to the slums of “Everything Else“; case in point, the delightful looking Wide Ocean, Big Jacket. In this game, and I use that term in the loosest definition possible, an aunt and uncle take their niece, Mord, and her boyfriend, Ben, on a camping trip. The Steam description basically tells you that this is a 60-90 minute movie, so keep that in mind if you give it a try. The animation is nice, and I’m intrigued by the premise, it could be interesting.
Kunai (PC/Switch) – Releases Feb. 6th
In this week’s other indie highlight, we have a 2D Metroidvania style action game for PC and Switch called Kunai. In this game you are a tablet named…Tabby…who decides to fight back against an army of robots who want to take over the world. The art style here is less 8-bit pixel and more like a 2D cartoon, I really dig it. Does this mean it will translate into a good game? Eh, not sure, and these types of games appear to be a dime a dozen now. For me it always comes down to controls; if the game controls well and has a good response time then I’ll forgive most other short comings. This could be a blast to play, so we’ll see.
Ports and Re-releases:
Arcade Archives: Saint Dragon (PS4/Switch) – Releases Feb. 6th
Like Sega Ages, the Arcade Archives series takes classic games and gets them to work on modern machines, generally with some new bells and whistles. Earlier this year they released the classic football game Tecmo Bowl to the delight of Bo Jackson fans everywhere, and this week they are bringing another arcade classic (though one I’ve never heard of), the horizontal shooter Saint Dragon. Originally released by Jaleco in 1989, this game has you taking on the role of a cyborg dragon named, of course, Saint Dragon, and has you flying through five stages, fighting cyborg bulls, cyborg panthers, and *waves hand around* the other ones, whatever they are.
Code: Realize – Guardian of Rebirth (Switch) – Releases Feb. 6th
Hey all you otome visual novel fans out there, don’t have a Vita or a PS4, but you do have a Nintendo Switch? If you said yes, then you’re in luck! The 2015 game Code: Realize – Guardian of Rebirth is now available on the latest Nintendo system, bringing along all of the characters you know and love; Cardia Beckford, Arsene Lupin, Abraham Van Helsing, Victor Frankenstein, and of course Herlock Sholmes, a name that I swear to god I’m not making up. Can you find Cardia’s father and help cure her of the terrible affliction that has befallen her, while also probably falling in love?
Knights and Bikes (Switch) – Releases Feb. 6th
From developer Foam Sword and publisher Double Fine, comes one of 2019’s sweet little surprises, now finally on the Switch, Knights and Bikes. Described on the official website as “…a coming-of-age story starring Nessa & Demelza, exploring the coasts of Penfurzy on their trusty bikes, looking for a legendary lost treasure in a Goonies-inspired tale of excitement, danger, fun and friendship“, I am happy to finally give this game a try on the console it will likely feel the most at home.
The Sims 4: Tiny Living (PC – already out/PS4/Xbox One) – Releases Feb. 4th
The tiny house craze is now officially making its way to The Sims 4 with the latest expansion Tiny Living. Having released on PC about a week ago, the expansion is now heading to the console versions of the game. In Tiny Living, you will have the opportunity to build one of those little houses you see white people move into on HGTV, complete with a brand new tiny lot, tiny furniture that comes with handy ways to maximize your tiny space, and of course all new Create-a-Sim, or CAS, items that totally allow you to show off your low-key lifestyle to your parents who still live in that big fucking behemoth of a house that has FOUR bedrooms; get it the fuck together mom and dad!! Meanwhile, in real life, regular, working class people are also living in tiny homes, usually called apartments, because the average wage in America is too low to afford something larger (particularly in places like California and New York), but you just did four years at Columbia and got your BA in pottery, so why not splurge a little on your $180,000 tiny house! It’s a great investment, and you’ll totally just get a regular sized house when your friends on Twitter say it’s okay to get one too. Maybe you can build it in that super cheap part of town with all the “culture”.
- Nerved (Switch) – Releases Feb. 6th, PC release later this year
Hey, bro! Eat a sandwich or something.
- SEN: Seven Eight Nine (PC/Switch) – Releases Feb. 6th
Notable Releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago:
A sequel that has seen its stock rise over the years, a pretty forgettable racing game, and another Technos Japan classic are this week’s notable releases from 10, 20 and 30 years ago. Have fun!
Bioshock 2 (PC/PS3/Xbox 360) – Released Feb. 9th, 2010: Wiki Link
Hey everyone, we’ve got a bit of a treat this week. Instead of the usual write-up I was able to sit down with a friend of mine, Scott LaGrasta, who was one of the level designers on Bioshock 2. We discuss a bit of his early career, talk a bit about his role and contributions to Bioshock 2, and catch up on what he’s currently working on. Oh, and he also brings up an easter egg that, from what we can tell, has not been widely discovered. It’s a bit long, but I hope you find it as fascinating as I did; read on…
Andy: To be honest I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I started writing about old games, I couldn’t wait to get to Bioshock 2 and some of the other stuff you and our other friends have worked on. I’m dying for a first hand perspective rather than just looking up Wikipedia articles and other online sources. Let’s start at the beginning then, how did you find yourself getting into the industry?
Scott: I’m always happy to remove some of the mystique around games & the process. I kind of bumbled into it. I was working at a GameStop, trying to get my life in order after moving to San Diego to get back on my feet after a dead-end life in Arizona. The location I worked at was the closest one to Sammy Studios (later High Moon) and RockStar San Diego – the people who worked there would come and buy games & chat with us. One day one a guy from Sammy Studios mentioned that they had a focus test for a game coming up and said I should come check it out. I did, and I gave them some feedback and they said “Hey, this is interesting, you should apply for a QA job“. I did, and got the job. It’s also worth noting that this is sort of a dying story. Basically the only way into games now is to go to school for it.
Andy: Do you remember the first game(s) you did QA for?
Scott: First game I QA’d was Seven Samurai 20XX for PS2; fun story about that one…
Andy: Wow, it had designs by Moebius. High pedigree there.
Scott: Artistically, yes.
Scott: So, my role on that game was the rabbit; basically what you’d call a speedrunner these days. Once we got the build sync’d from Japan, we’d burn discs to test on. I always got the first one and was supposed to complete the game to ensure it was possible to finish it. One day, the build comes and I jam the disc into the PS2 and start going. I go to exit the FIRST ROOM in the game, and I can’t. There’s collision blocking the hallway to the next room. After I stopped laughing, I rubbed my player all over the walls and noticed that the collision was basically shifted about 10 feet north from the visual geometry. The rest of the build was fine, but I was like “C’mon, the first room? Do y’all even play your own game?”
Andy: That seems like a good indication on how much they paid attention to the quality of the game. Reviews weren’t too kind to that title, so it’s not surprising to hear that it had such an obvious bug. Like you said, eventually Sammy becomes High Moon, right? Were you still in QA by the time the name change came?
Scott: Yeah, Sammy turned into High Moon. They initially started out as an American division of Sammy Japan. They wanted to break into the American market so they started Sammy Studios, but then divested themselves after they decided to instead break into it by buying Sega (ANDY – Sammy didn’t just buy Sega, they basically snatched it in a hostile take-over in 2003, although it has seemed to work out for the both of them). I was on to design at that point, though – I only spent 10 months in QA before being promoted to design, but that was still a lot of time to see a few games come through.
Andy: Was that specifically level design, or is there more to it than that? What was design like in comparison to QA?
Scott: I did a lot of stuff. I started off doing audio scripting, placing sound emitters and the triggers for them in levels. It was boring but gave me a good opportunity to do something daring and cool and a bit show-offy. Once people realized I could handle scripting (on Darkwatch, the level events and logic were scripted in Lua) they made me a “technical designer” which is basically someone who takes ideas or script prototypes from less technically-capable designers and makes it functional. Lots of studios have different types of designers, and it’s not consistent from place to place what a “designer” means. It’s getting more consistent these days, though. Compared to QA, design was great. More respect within the studio (although High Moon was really good about respecting QA), and a chance to make something really cool and put your mark on the project. QA is like, sometimes fun and sometimes a mindless slog. Usually long hours but lots of gallows humor and free dinners.
Andy: QA seems like the job you want when you’re 23 and can stay up all night eating pizza and drinking cokes, get 5 hours of sleep, and then start up again.
Scott: Yep, exactly.
Andy: You touched on Darkwatch, which looks to be the first High Moon game, were you there during development of their next few games?
Scott: I was there for Darkwatch and The Bourne Conspiracy, but after that was when Activision came in and laid off half the studio & gave them the Transformers license (which was a cool license to have, people were pretty hyped). I was a victim of that layoff and started looking for work.
Andy: I wish we could talk more about the release of Bourne; looking online it appears that Matt Damon backed out of the game after wanting it to play more like Myst? Is that true?
Scott: I wasn’t aware of that particular excuse. The observation going around the studio was that Matt’s mother was a psychologist who believed in the thoroughly-debunked theory that violent games caused people to perform violent actions in real life. I don’t know if that’s true or not but it’s the only rumor going around the studio about why he backed out. (ANDY – 2008 article from MTV.com discussing the title MATT DAMON DIDN’T SPEAK DIRECTLY TO ‘BOURNE’ DEVELOPERS, WANTED A GAME LIKE ‘MYST’)
Andy: That’s an interesting tidbit. Okay, sorry, got off track. Let’s fast forward to 2K and Bioshock. At what point did you join the company?
Scott: I got hired by 2K Marin in November 2008. Getting the job there was kind of a fluke – my old boss had contacts at 2K Australia and I was like “yeah, sure I’ll go down under for a few years” but I had a hard time getting in touch with them, and eventually cold-emailed a 2K recruiter about it and she was like “How do you feel about moving to San Francisco and working on a Bioshock?”
Andy: Was the game already underway when you joined or was it still in the early phases of development? Was it even called part 2 yet or did it have some kind of code name?
Scott: It was definitely Bioshock 2 at that point, no code name. They had just hit what they called “alpha“, which was “we have a single level that hits the visual and gameplay target“. Interestingly enough, that level would be the basis for the level I would later work on, Dionysus Park.
Andy: Was the story for the game locked down by that point or did it change?
Scott: (ANDY – this is a direct quote) loooooooooooooool. It changed so much.
Andy: Is there anything you can talk about in terms of the early story?
Scott: It was really confusing and disjointed when I showed up. Basically like a series of fever dreams because (as I recall) you were supposed to be experiencing the memories of the first little sister and all the messed up things she saw during the fall of rapture, but filtered through a sort of child-like innocence. That part still exists in the game, but got dialed-back a lot. It was one of our few ways of forcing the player to see story beats because we really tried to take control from the player as rarely as possible.
Andy: For Bioshock 2 you continued doing design work, right, for the Dionysus Park level. When were you given the reigns on that, and how much autonomy did you have to create the final level? I assume there were story beats you had to meet, but aside from that was it up to you how things played out or was it more of a design by committee approach?
Scott: Yeah, altogether, I did Dionysus Park, two levels in the challenge DLC and the Ops level from the Minerva’s Den DLC. The initial idea was basically me and the creative director, Jordan Thomas, sitting in a room and spinning the most ridiculous ideas we could muster. He and I both loved clever, high-concept ideas and I sort of became a bit of an enabler in that way. Dionysus Park was originally going to have this weird thing with 3 separate factions of splicers that you could pit against each other by, like, sabotaging their clocks or something for some reason? I forget exactly why but I assure you it was clever and insane and I loved it but we spent a lot of time fighting the engine to even make it a prototype. Eventually the lead level designer was like “Scott, none of this is understandable by anyone aside from you and Jordan and it mechanically doesn’t work for the game“, so we reworked the idea into something much more manageable and closer to what we ended up shipping. I learned a great lesson from that, though – the same idea can be great in one game and terrible for the other. There are no bad ideas, just ideas that don’t fit the project.
ANDY – Breaking off here, to describe Dionysus Park (SPOILERS). According to the Bioshock fan wiki, Delta (the game’s protagonist) enters Dionysus Park, searching for his companion Augustus Sinclair. He is contacted over the radio by a man named Stanley Poole and tasked with removing all of the little sisters from the area, worried that the ADAM they take from the dead will reveal terrible secrets about his past. The game’s antagonist, Dr. Lamb, is not happy with Delta traipsing around her beloved experiment in social unity, and sends hordes of splicers after him. As Delta deals with the enemies, and gathers the little sisters, Eleanor, one of the original little sisters, uses her telepathic powers to show Delta the memories that Stanley wanted repressed. It is through these memories that Delta learns that Stanley is the cause of the initial flooding of Dionysus Park, Eleanor’s childhood fate, and Delta’s current condition. When Delta returns to Stanley, after dispatching the little sisters, he is given the choice to either kill Stanley or let him live.
Andy: How much of the level’s story was you and the design team, and how much was the writer(s)?
Scott: It was probably 80% writers. The game was – of course – fairly story-driven, but it was written intelligently so that we didn’t have too many constraints. It was basically “we need you to hit these 3 or 4 beats, do whatever you want to in between“. Jordan did a large part of the writing on the game, but he was a level designer on Bioshock 1 (the level with Sander Cohen was his brainchild; ANDY – that appears to be the Fort Frolic level) so he knew how to leave us enough room to express ourselves. In most levels, you really do get to see some aspect of the designer, not just the writers or leads.
Andy: Was there any part of Dionysus Park that you feel best represents you as a designer? Anything that you are particularly proud of?
Scott: I was fortunate enough to get the first level where you had “Houdini splicers“, teleporting enemies, and so I got to showcase them in a lot of fun ways – mocking the player by teleporting around, using light to project shadows on the wall, etc. All harmless pranks by the splicers. I put in things like “if the player walks through here, spawn a Houdini behind them and have them play a sound, and then have them teleport off a second after the player looks at them“. I love putting in things that not everyone will notice, so I’m particularly proud of a gag I put in that only occurs if you go to this dead-end ballroom after you’ve cleared the storyline and are able to exit. If you go there, you see two Houdini splicers dancing together, and if you attack it’s sort of a miniboss battle, where one teleports away and then after a certain damage threshold, that one teleports out and the second one teleports in, so you’re only ever fighting one at a time, but since there’s two of them it’s sort of like fighting one guy with double the health. But after you kill one of them, the other one teleports back in and instead of attacking, it runs over to the body of the one you killed and starts crying. I probably spent a week working on that, and I don’t know if anyone’s ever seen it, lol. (ANDY – I looked online to see if I could find any videos, or mention of this Easter egg anywhere. The only place I came across it was a GameFAQs message board post from 2011, Apparent Grieving Houdini Splicer)
Andy: That’s a really cool Easter egg. I wonder how much stuff is in games that we don’t see just because the designer added it to a place that you wouldn’t think to go back and look at.
Scott: Eh, these days everything’s on the internet. There’s a great video where someone finds the cat I put in my level and fails to appreciate the joke but still enjoys it anyway.
Andy: Oh right, you put Schrödinger’s cat in a freezer, if I remember correctly?
Scott: Right! I think we had a dead cat in almost every level. One guy found the mesh and put one in his level, so we all started trying to come up with better cat-related gags. (ANDY – According to the Bioshock fan wiki, you encounter several cats in the series, but all of them are dead, except the ones in Paris. The wiki page states, “It is worthy to note that even though the cat appears frozen, it does not shatter; when whacked or shot, it bleeds, leaving its status inconclusive (just like Schrödinger’s experiment)”.)
Andy: Nice, so it was like a running gag between the designers?
Scott: Yeah, it was a great design environment. Everyone was brilliant and there was a lot of good-natured competition to be the best in some way.
Andy: Alright, let’s talk about the release of the game. It’s a pretty common story in the gaming industry, but I assume crunch was inevitable. Was there anything that caused you to stay long hours near the end to get the game finished?
Scott: Yeah, there was some crunch, but I managed to avoid a lot of it. Programming crunched a lot, but that’s not too uncommon. I worked a few late nights but it was rarely because someone told me to. It was more commonly because I wanted to make a better level. I had a lot of ego attachment to my work back then. We also got several last-second extensions from publishing, which really sucks when you think you’re close to finishing. It was like, 2 more months here, another 6 weeks there, etc. Then, of course we rolled right on to DLC.
Andy: Was there any thought about how the public would react to this game?
Scott: We pretty much knew how the public was going to react. News of Ken Levine’s vocal non-involvement had been circulating for months ahead of launch. But, we never tried to change people’s minds about it, we just let the game speak for itself. We believed that anyone who played it with an open mind would find it to be a better game, and that anyone who was going to be hung up on Ken’s involvement wasn’t going to keep their mind open. (ANDY – According to a Eurogamer article from 2010, Ken Levine had this to say about Bioshock 2, “I think it’s a very talented team,” he said, “and I think it fulfilled the mission of completing the story of Rapture”. Levine: Why I passed on BioShock 2)
Andy: Yeah, it does seem like Bioshock 2 was, at least anecdotally, kind of dismissed as the “other” Bioshock game, not a “real” one, which I think is just a bunch of hot air. This game has just as much to think about as the first title, and comes with some really clever moments if you look for them.
After the game shipped you started work right away on the DLC?
Scott: Yeah, some of us got peeled off to help out 2K Australia on what would become The Bureau: XCOM Declassified but a few got to make challenge maps.
Andy: What was the mood at 2K Marin after Bioshock 2 shipped? Not to get too far ahead, but The Bureau was their last game, right?
Scott: Yeah. The mood immediately after ship was good. We had the DLC, and we were spinning up a completely new game, but that never got to be anything more than concept art on a wall. As time passed, we learned that, Bio2 sold a lot of units but not enough for publishing; they were expecting what was, in that era, “Call of Duty numbers“. I think our target was something like double what Bio1 sold? It was unreasonable and it completely poisoned the well. Between that and The Bureau’s well-documented problems, 2K Marin was sinking.
Honestly, seeing that studio collapse is one of the lowest points of my career. They accumulated so much talent and just squandered it all.
Andy: The gaming industry seems incredibly volatile, it’s a wonder anything ever gets made. Were you at 2K Marin until the end or did you move on before they shuttered?
Scott: I was there until the lights turned out. Worked on The Bureau and its one DLC, lol. Started on the second one even.
Andy: Let’s see, The Bureau released in 2013, so I’ll chat you up about that one in three years.
Scott: Man, only 3 years later? Felt like a lifetime between those.
Andy: I know you’re still working in the games industry, but tell people where you’re at now and what led you to your current position?
Scott: I’m currently at Ubisoft Massive, and the path here is another strange one. While working on The Bourne Conspiracy at High Moon, another technical designer and I were approached about helping out another studio that was owned by Activision at the time – Massive, so I flew out to Sweden for 3 months to help them ship World In Conflict. A decade later, I’m doing build engineering at Telltale Games and HATING it, interviewing at several places but never quite getting anything, and it’s becoming clear that Trump is going to get elected, so eventually my wife says “wouldn’t it be cool if you could get a job in Europe?” and I’m like “if you’re serious, I can start talking to people“. I found out that I had some former 2K coworkers who were at Massive and I thought “oh yeah, Malmö was cool, I’d go back there“. I interviewed with them and was a great fit for what they were looking for and got the job.
Andy: What’s the latest game you’ve shipped, and what can you say about what you are working on next?
Scott: The latest game I’ve shipped is actually an indie game of mine called Gunbuds (ANDY – Link to Scott’s game https://slagrasta.itch.io/gunbuds). It came out last year and it’s… well, it’s not fantastic but it is a game and I actually finished it. Prior to that it would’ve been… I don’t know… probably some episode of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier for Android or something. Maybe the Switch version of Batman: The Enemy Within? Not sure if that ever got released, lol.
Andy: According to the internet Batman: The Enemy Within made it to Switch on Oct 2nd, 2018.
Scott: Oh, right. As for the current project, I can’t really talk about Avatar, unfortunately. I’m very proud of the work I’m doing on it, and I think people will really enjoy it. It’s announced, James Cameron has talked about it on his Twitter feed and such, and Massive’s website mentions it by name on their jobs page, but I think that’s like literally all that I can say about it, lol.
Andy: This was a lot of fun, and I feel like we only scratched the surface. I’m a big game fan, as you probably know, plus I love discussing the history of the hobby, so this was a big treat.
Scott: Quickly going back to Bio2, though – one thing that I wanted to mention is that if you liked Bio2, I’d also keep an eye on the next Bioshock that Cloud Chamber is developing. They have already – and this is public information – hired some people who worked on Bio2. I’ve got my hopes up for it.
Andy: Oh wow, I didn’t realize that was happening, very cool. I’m going to let you go, but is there anything else you wanted to bring up before we wrap this up?
Scott: Oh yeah, I wanted to discuss the Bioshock 2 team and the tragedy of the closure. The brief version is that there was a big indie boom of games made by people that left when things started going bad (I think Gone Home was the most notable), but there are already entire articles written about ex Bioshock devs, and the people who left but didn’t go indie went to places like Bungie, Valve, Double Fine, Unity, Epic, etc.
Andy: Wow, there’s a big story about what could have been based on the talent at 2K Marin. Scott, I wish we had more time to talk but we’re going to have to save it for the next game. Thank you so much for all your insight!
ANDY – He’s not joking, a bunch of notable games have made by ex Bioshock 1 and 2 developers:
- Gone Home
- City of Brass
- The Blackout Club
- The Flame In The Flood
…and I’m sure dozens more. Talk about some lost talent.
Need For Speed: Porsche Unleashed (PlayStation) – Released Feb. 9th, 2000: Wiki Link
Unfortunately I don’t know anyone who worked on our next two games, but I have played them, so, you know. In the fifth entry in the now long running Need For Speed franchise, a major focus was put on the Porsche model of cars. I’m not entirely sure why, but if the game’s designer Sylvain Branchu wants to reach out and give me the story then I’m all ears. Despite finding the racing to be fairly generic, the game received mostly positive reviews, thanks largely to the inclusion of a story mode; a first for the franchise. In this new mode, players take on the role of an aspiring Porsche factory driver (the internet says this is a race car driver who is sponsored by the auto manufacturer), as they compete in a series of races and challenges against the current team of Porsche factory drivers. It seems pretty bare bones when compared to something like Gran Turismo, but if you love Porsche’s then I’m sure this had lots to offer.
Super Spike V’Ball (NES) – Released Feb. 1990: Wiki Link
Earlier this year we discussed two other Technos Japan titles; River City Ransom and Double Dragon II. By February, the popular arcade game company was releasing their third loclaized title for North America, this time published by Nintendo, Super Spike V’Ball. Originally released for arcades in 1988, the NES version came out to help promote the NES Satellite and the upcoming NES Four Score. While the game is essentially a stripped down remake of the arcade game, it does come with a couple of notable differences. First off is that players can now choose their team, with four to select from. Out of those teams, one is pretty unique, made up of Billy and Jimmy Lee from the Double Dragon series. Unlike the Kunio series and its line of sports games, Super Spike V’Ball is a bit more realistic looking, so it makes more sense to include Billy and Jimmy instead of Kunio and Riki. The game is pretty fun, offering quite a bit of enjoyment and challenge, and I found myself playing this for well over an hour the other day, trying to get the perfect spike. The game would eventually be bundled with another Technos Japan game, the Kunio focused Nintendo World Cup, but as far as I can tell this has not received any kind of modern release (perhaps because of the four player feature).