In this month’s “What the Crap?”, we keep our ears open for those cold war-era videogames that include some rather jankie voice clips. Today’s games have scores of voice actors and tens of thousands of lines of dialogues, well surpassing film. Fallout: New Vegas had 65,000 lines alone. Back in the ’80s, there simply wasn’t enough processing power or storage to have a significant amount of sounds of any reasonable quality. So, by the later stages of the NES, we got to hear some quite awful audio.
First off, Ghostbusters for the NES is certainly not on my list of favorite Nintendo games. I’m an avid Ghostbusters fan, but this game was just inexcusable. I’m convinced that the game developers saw about 20% of the film, combined. So, after you jam this grey rectangle of failure into your console and power it on, you’ll see the big Ghostbusters logo with the text “GHOSTBUSTERS”. Then, after you press Start, you hear this awful, jarring noise that penetrates your very soul and can’t be heard. It’s an awful mashing that sounds like “GushBahshas”. It’s a good thing they put the “No Ghosts” log on the title screen, because you may not understand what the hell was just said. What’s more, it sounds like an old man talking. Haven’t they heard the actual Ray Parker Jr. song? It’s clearly a young women screaming in fear and excitement. Thanks for ruining the song, Activision. What would have been really awesome was to hear the proton pack starting up when the screen loads, and then the sound of the proton pack after hitting Start. Of course, there’s no Ghostbuster equipment sounds of any kind in the game at all. Your proton packs are just silent weapons shoot stupid yellow beads at ghosts. It’s a shame…I feel like that the awful voice here probably took up like 20% of the space on the cartridge. What a waste.
Thankfully, by 2009 we have an excellent Ghostbusters title complete with awesome voicework and great sound effects.
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!, however, is one of my favorite NES titles. The sound effects of the punches and hits are pretty cartoonish, but Punch Out games are not about realism. The sounds of the crowd you hear at the start of a round are actually pretty good. But what’s just silly is referee Mario’s noise he makes when doing his 10-count during a knockdown. Each sound is a sort of clanky “brunk” noise that sounds horrendous. What’s more, it’s the same sound for every number. Why even bother? I can understand an audio cue of some sort, so why not just a generic ding or something? Also, Mario has a speech bubble with the number in it for each count, so the reasoning behind that is beyond me. The sound for “Fight!” is also the same, but there’s slightly different sounds for “KO” and “TKO”.
Brunk, Brunk, Brunk…
What’s more, Mario counts about twice as fast when Little Mac is down versus an opponent. What the crap, Mario?!
There’s a host of other wrestling and boxing games that have slightly better, but still awful voice samples.
Blades of Steel
Finally, we come to Blades of Steel, an excellent ice hockey title that feature good sprites, awesome music, and in-game advertisements for other Konami titles. Some of the voice clips are actually pretty decent. We have “<metallic gleen> Blades of Steel” on the title, “Face Off!”, “Fight!”. They’re actually pretty clear and enhance the game experience. But there’s one more sound you’ll hear about every 5 seconds and isn’t really clear at all. Is it “cut the grass”? Why would I want to cut the grass in ice hockey. “Jump the rash”? I don’t like to talk about my rash. “Tap the gas”? Yeah, maybe I should be skating a bit faster, if that’s what you mean. Despite that the sound is heard every time you pass the puck, I never realized that they were saying “with the pass”. Well, no crap I passed…I just pressed the Pass button. But what’s weird is that some of the sounds are what a referee would say, and others that an announcer would say, or maybe a coach. I guess in the world of Blades of Steel, they’re all the same guy. Well, once I figured out that it was “with the pass”, only a few years ago, a little piece of my childhood died.
But, why do we have to hear this every single time I pass the puck? I pass the puck all the time. I don’t need to be reminded every time. Sometimes I’ll pass so often that it cuts the previous clip, so you hear “with the with the with with with the pass”. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a voice when I take a shot, which would actually be pretty fitting for the flow of the game. Also, why is it that when you collide with an enemy player it sound like rubber?
So what compelled game designers to include the sound clips? Perhaps our ears were being inundated with so much noise of Soviet invasion and “devil’s music” that they thought we couldn’t detect that the sound clips were lacking. Maybe it was something to boast about as being “totally rad” in a game commercial. Maybe they were simply trying to show a little innovation. While we may never know, our 21st century ears greatly appreciate the changing times and technology.