Tag Archives: Namco

Code Name: Viper – Part 2

ViperTItleCode Name: Viper
Nintendo Entertainment System, 1990
Developer: Arc System Works
Publisher: Capcom

Last time, we talked about the underrated gameplay of Capcom’s Code Name: Viper. Today, we’ll be talking about its inspirations, or perhaps more accurately, its source material.

It would be diplomatic to say that Code Name: Viper was heavily inspired by Namco’s Rolling Thunder. It would be accurate to say that nearly nearly every aspect of Code Name: Viper’s design was stolen from Rolling Thunder.

Rolling Thunder Screenshot 2015-10-19 21-50-55

Originally released to arcades in late 1986, Rolling Thunder puts the player in control of Albatross, a secret agent on a quest to rescue his partner, Leila. But Rolling Thunder’s epic backstory isn’t relevant to this discussion. If you’d like to learn more about Rolling Thunder, you should read Kurt Kalata’s excellent writeup over at Hardcore Gaming 101. And after you’ve read that, head over to USGamer and listen to the fantastic episode of Retronauts Micro on the entire Rolling Thunder series. Done? Good.

rollingcoverWhat is relevant to this discussion is that in 1989, Namco decided to to port Rolling Thunder to the Famicom/NES. Tengen would publish the game in the US, in one of its infamous, black, off-brand cartridges. If the Internet is to be believed, the developer tasked with porting Rolling Thunder to Nintendo’s console (at least in part) was none other than Arc System Works. Today, Arc is well-known in gaming circles as the developer of the increasingly eccentric Guilty Gear franchise of fighting games. Back in 1989, however, Arc would have been just a plucky little upstart development house, somewhere in the middle of its first or second year of existence.

Arc’s port of Rolling Thunder isn’t bad, so much as it is drab and unrefined. The game’s color palette is remarkably restrained: everything looks like it was originally optimized to run on a CGA monitor. And in case you’re under 30 and that reference flew over your head, just take a look:

Rolling Thunder Screenshot 2015-10-19 21-50-22

Until the color green makes its appearance in the third level, you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that Arc had intentionally restricted themselves to blues, whites, and blacks. Thankfully, things get a little more varied and colorful as the game progresses.

Rolling Thunder Screenshot 2015-10-19 22-10-34
Say, this verdant hideout looks familiar, yet ugly.

While Rolling Thunder for the NES borders on indisputably ugly, it plays remarkably well. Generally speaking, the action in Rolling Thunder takes place across two parallel planes – a high plane and a low plane. Albatross and the legion of masked enemies that stand in his way can freely travel between those two planes by way of a perpendicular leap. As Albatross has the smallest of life bars, the player is forced to dart between both planes, around cover, and into hidden doors in order to get the drop on enemies without taking any damage. It’s a nice little gameplay cocktail which makes for some fairly exciting action. One can’t help but think that Arc had the Rolling Thunder formula fairly close to perfected. If only they had another bite at the apple, what might they have accomplished?

Code Name Viper Screenshot 2015-10-19 22-17-38
Ahh. That’s better, yet refreshingly similar.

As luck would have it, we know the answer to that question. Code Name: Viper is Arc’s second bite. You may have noticed that the last paragraph was comprised entirely of re-purposed and slightly altered sentences from last week’s post. That’s because Code Name: Viper is comprised entirely of re-purposed and slightly altered gameplay concepts and graphics from Rolling Thunder.

You see, in 1990, despite being an extremely prolific developer in its own right, as well as the owner of some of the hottest video game franchises on the planet, Capcom inexplicably decided that it needed to publish what amounted to a port of Rolling Thunder on the NES.

Rolling Thunder Screenshot 2015-10-20 22-41-23
Blue, blue, electric blue, that’s the color of this room. Oh, hey, grenades!

Perhaps this was some sort of jab at its arcade competitor, Namco? The world may never know.

Code Name Viper - Night 2 Screenshot 2015-10-14 20-11-17
Blue, blue, electric blue… that’s the color of this room, too. Might as well be the same room, really. Oh, hey, Molotov cocktails!

Again, if the Internet is to be believed, Capcom hired the uniquely qualified Arc System Works to do the grunt work. The end result: Code Name: Viper, which is both highly derivative of Rolling Thunder, yet refined and  improved in nearly every single way.

The similarities in both of Arc’s games are readily apparent. All you have to do is compare the sprites for Mr. Smith and Albatross:


They both fire their machine guns from the same posture;


they both share the same awkward jumping pose;


they have nearly identical falling animations;


and, hell, they are both wearing the same set of disturbingly flesh-toned, high-waisted pants. Apparently, and unfortunately, Arc felt they’d accomplished all they needed to accomplish in the realm of covert operative leg-wear.

The similarities extend beyond character sprites as well. Just compare the second level of Rolling Thunder…

Rolling Thunder Screenshot 2015-10-19 20-16-47

with the second level of Code Name: Viper:

Code Name Viper Screenshot 2015-10-14 20-30-39

Even the interstitial sequences which feature the bad guys watching a computer monitor were taken from Rolling Thunder…

Rolling Thunder Screenshot 2015-10-20 21-07-04

… though they’ve got far more polish in Code Name Viper.

Code Name Viper Screenshot 2015-10-14 22-51-07

This is just the tip of the iceberg, really; the enemy designs, the music, the power-ups – Code Name: Viper lifted so much from Rolling Thunder that it probably threw its back out in the process.  It is for this reason that Code Name: Viper has been dismissed as little more than a ripoff, and perhaps rightfully so.

But here’s the thing: if Code Name: Viper is simply Rolling Thunder under another name, it’s indisputably the best version of Rolling Thunder on the NES. Arc’s second crack at Rolling Thunder’s particular brand of spy-themed action improves on their first effort in nearly every single way: the graphics are more detailed, the control is tighter, and the music is catchier. It’s the Rolling Thunder that Namco should have published in the first place. Sure, you can choose to view Code Name: Viper as a ripoff, but I choose to view it as an example of a developer revisiting its freshman efforts and improving upon them in virtually every single way. Capcom copied Namco; Arc merely copied itself.

Regardless of how you come out on Arc’s peculiar brand of sub-contracted self-plagiarism, it’s hard to dispute that it resulted in quality release in Code Name: Viper. It’s the closest thing to a South American vacation you’ll find on an 8-bit console, and it’s a fair shake more pleasant to look at than its drab predecessor. Skip the originator and go right to the imitator.

Code Name Viper Screenshot 2015-10-14 20-04-01

Unless you’ve got a Genesis, that is… but that is a story for another time.

World Court Tennis – Quest’s End

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

The Evil Tennis King had to know that I was getting ready to exact my vengeance by now. I’d just picked off two of his top lieutenants and his favorite quota-based hire. And if he hadn’t heard about that, he sure as hell had seen my embiggened racket looming over the horizon. All that aside, I wasn’t ready to face him just yet. I needed one more pearl, so I could get that magical ball. Incidentally, I had no idea what the magical ball did… but it had to be good, right? Otherwise they’d call it the cursed ball, or some other heavy-handed late ’80s RPG name. That’s just how these things work.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-35-15

I had to give it to the last of the of the sinister six: this side of the Evil Tennis King’s ominous castle at the North Pole, he had best secluded fortress in Tennis Kingdom. A remote mountain fortress hidden on the shores of a SECRET GROTTO. No subtlety here. I’m surprised he didn’t write “keep out” in the blood of his victims over the entrance. I give his efforts a B+. But a B+ is no match for “A” level gear.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-46-11

Rosen. Just look at this cocky bastard. That’s a serial killer smile if I ever saw one. His sweater vest told me he meant business, though. But crushing tennis flunkies was my business. And recently, business had been booming.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-58-06

Like his compatriots, Rosen wound up on the wrong end of my tennis legend. The butt end. But the scoreboard does not lie, he but up a valiant fight. I guess that sweater vest was made of a breathable knit, or perhaps a comfortable microfiber.

After forcibly seizing control of Tennis Kingdom’s economy, the Evil Tennis King had not counted on anyone amassing enough Tennis Bitcoins to buy their way to victory. He’d spent lavishly on sweet hidden fortresses when he should have been pumping steroids into his henchmen. As this game was programmed in ’88, nobody would have been testing anyway.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-10-01 21-24-05

I returned to the island home of the Parisian ball merchant. I now had enough pearls to go get myself a magical ball, which, as we’ve discussed, is the only thing in the universe that you can actually purchase with said pearls. As I now controlled the entirety of Tennis Kingdom’s pearl supply, you’d think I would have some leverage here. Were I a less gentlemanly tennis legend, I might have considered holding the magic ball market hostage until I got some more magical tennis apparel… but hey, Tennis Kingdom was apparently a rotational constitutional monarchy in a state of civil war. My pearls might be worth nothing in a day or two if I didn’t commence my attack soon.

At last, I was ready to seize the final piece of gear I would need to free the world from the supposed tyranny of the Evil Tennis King. What words of sage advice would be imparted to me as I acquired the felty green orb of destiny?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-10-01 21-25-04

Jeez. No sense of gravitas at all, huh spitcurl? Hey, why did all of the spitcurls live in isolated huts in the middle of nowhere? Were they some kind of persecuted sub-race of lobotomite? Should there ever be a sequel to World Court Tennis, I truly hope they tackle this important societal issue head on. #ISTANDWITHSPITCURL. Yes, even after he forcibly enlarged my racket. #NOTALLSPITCURLS.

I had done it. The Agassi gear. The magical ball. The large racket. I had come so far. Even if I failed, my place in the annals of tennis history had already been secured. Tennis bards would sing my story for ages. But glory was not enough. Now… now I needed REVENGE. I hopped in my inner tube and set course for the North Pole. It was time to put an end to this. Thankfully, film crews were on hand.

Yes, that’s how it actually happened. It didn’t happen like this, no sir, not at all. It certainly didn’t take me 45 minutes to beat him.

SUCCESS! I HAD DEFEATED THE DEVIL HIMSELF. I’M A REGULAR CHARLIE DANIELS, YOU SONUVABITCH, I”M THE BEST THERE EVER IS. The magical ball had suppressed Tennis Satan’s demonic serve. Without his black magic, he was no match for my arsenal of overpriced sporting goods. Truly, this was a victory for capitalism.

But I needed answers. While the Evil Tennis King had bequeathed Tennis Kingdom to me in his last official act, his authority to do so was suspect at best. What did “a” Tennis King have to say about this?

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-27-44


World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-27-56

I thank you for thinking me. I thank. Or is that think your for thanking me? I thank you know what I mean.

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-28-22

I’ve already bought every purchasable item in the world. I don’t need them. Sure, why not.

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-28-44

Thanks. I’ve always wanted to rule over a geographically distorted, completely flat parallel Earth. I think… but wouldn’t that make it my tennis kingdom, and not yours? And why the hell did you want me to save your godforsaken kingdom if you were just going to give it to me for a handful of jewels? THIS ISN’T ADDING UP.

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-28-52

… go on.

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-29-09

I’ve been known to dabble.

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-29-22

Final Lap? You mean Final Lap Twin? HAS THIS WHOLE THING BEEN A SALES PITCH?

World Court Tennis - The Fall of the Tennis King Screenshot 2015-10-01 20-29-37

You mean my land, right? You’re just going to take all of your Final Lap Twin money and retire to some Japanese dating sim game, aren’t you. Screw you, “a” Tennis King. This place was pretty peaceful to begin with anyway.


And so, I had solved the riddle of tennis steel (it is not the racket, but the size of the wallet that wields it), and brought the era of high tennis adventure to a close. I, STEV had become king by my own hand, and now wore the crown of Tennis Kingdom upon a troubled brow. This would not be the end of my adventures…






NEXT TIME: There is no next time. OR IS THERE?

World Court Tennis – The Pearly Gates

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

Off the coast of Tokyo I had discovered a tennis court surrounded by a vast moat. I assumed it had to be the remains of Osaka Castle.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-35-15

This assumption defied all conventions of basic geography, so it had to be correct. Before I ran into this hidden fortress to take my seat on its throne of tennis blood, however, I did what any good tennis ronin would have done: I retreated back through the lower depths of Japan and secured the perimeter. Also, Yojimbo. Allow me to translate that from cinephile jackass:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-13-45


Way back in Chapter 4, I had noticed that there was another tennis court right outside of Tokyo that I had yet to conquer. As this one was freely accessible by land, video game logic dictated that it would be home to a much weaker tennis pro. I’d weaken the perimeter and then crash the gates.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-15-04

This court was home to Keefe. Judging by his flowing mane and the feline quality of his facial features, I presumed him to be the lord of the tennis cat people – king of the Tokyo jungle. Or maybe he was just a spray-tanned crackhead with a tennis racket. Probably both. Either way, he probably had a pearl.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-22-05

While Keefe put up a surprisingly good fight, he was no match for my particular brand of prophesied revenge-fueled tennis rage™. I was now 3 pearls short of the whole necklace. That was the best possible metaphor to use.

I started back towards Tokyo… but I stopped. What if there was another court over the horizon? Only a fool would try to storm a castle without fully weakening its defenses. The last thing I wanted to do was commence my siege, only to fall victim to a naval bombardment of Sam Groth velocity serves from the imperial navy. In an abundance of caution I sailed north from Tokyo. It was there I learned the horrifying truth about the geography of Tennis Kingdom.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-36-37

While you wouldn’t know it from this picture, the tennis globe isn’t a globe at all. IT’S COMPLETELY FLAT. I could sail my tube this far and no further. The post-apocalyptic tennis wasteland theory was now right out. No weapon of mass destruction was powerful enough to unfurl an entire globe. Now that I thought about it, the Tennis Pangaea theory didn’t wash either; there were islands in this world. This had to be an alternate Earth. The only explanation could be that tennis world was a magical tennis court propped on the back of an enormous tennis turtle.

Tennis Kingdom, from space, as theorized by our research department.

Before I lost my sanity to the sheer void of spatial logic before me, I refocused myself on the task at hand, and searched the seas to the east. There, I found another solitary hut. Barging in uninvited, as was my wont (perhaps this is why the lobotomites had been so generally unhelpful), I was immediately propositioned by another gentleman with a spit curl.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-37-00

Despite my requests that he buy me dinner first, the man continued his approach. Tennis Kingdom really has an issue with consent. Suddenly, the screen flashed.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 20-37-04

And with that, I was unceremoniously expelled from the stranger’s hut.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 21-34-29

Let this be a lesson to all those that would travel the seas of Tennis Kingdom: do not walk into a stranger’s house unless you’re willing to have your racket forcibly enlarged. Consult your doctor if racket enlargement lasts longer than 6 hours.

IS THAT ANYWAY TO TREAT YOUR PROPHESIED HERO? Despite feeling used and trashy, I couldn’t help but view this as some kind of blessing in disguise. As all tennis in this existential hell was played on a 2D plane, theoretically, a larger racket would equate to less dropped volleys. I would abide this atrocity in stride in the name of forging my legend.

After that ugly affair, I didn’t feel like exploring any more. Tennis islanders were a superstitious, cowardly, and touchy-grabby lot. I sailed back to Osaka Castle and stormed the battlements. Inside, I found a man with the very Japanese name of “Wirt.”

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 21-40-01

As you can tell from the only file photo of Wirt I am able to produce due to technical difficulties, he just couldn’t handle the size of my racket. He was more or less Wirthless.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-16 21-02-42

Are you done laughing yet? There’s an unwritten rule about video game quests of any type: if an enemy is isolated in a remote or hard to reach location, they will be uncommonly strong. In complete defiance of all gaming logic, isolating himself on a remote island had not improved Wirt’s tennis acumen one bit. Even the rules of game design don’t apply in Tennis Kingdom.

Having thoroughly exhausted all the prospective pearl locations in the North, I turned my search to the South… you know, towards Toronto and London.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 21-56-17

In the Rocky Mountain foothills east of Spain, I found another secluded court. Under standard rules of video game engagement, mountain strongholds are right up there with secluded island fortresses. Surely, a legendary challenge awaited me within.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 21-32-39

Her name was Brien, truly a tennis yuppie name if there ever were one. I had encountered this face before. It was the face of the woman I had met in the middle of Lake Superior. The one who couldn’t help me. I had cursed myself. Assuredly, the clone in Toronto’s waters had told her master that I was coming. Undoubtedly, Brien would be prepared.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-14 22-08-03

She wasn’t. Brien has the distinction of being the only one of the Evil Tennis King’s minions to double fault. In fact, she double faulted twice. Astonishingly, she didn’t even get the benefit of the time-honored “ladies are faster than men” video game trope. While I applauded the Evil Tennis King’s desire to maintain an equal-opportunity work environment, CLEARLY he had not done his due diligence on this hire.

Having just vanquished three of the Evil Tennis King’s lieutenants, I was flush with Warren Buffett levels of Tennis Złoty. I now had the means to buy my way to true power; to upgrade to “A”gassi level gear. I marched back to Toronto, slapped down a cool half million, and suited up in the gear of a true champion. No sooner did I grasp the racket of the great one, was I struck with a powerful vision.

No Andre, there were no questions. There were only two hurdles left to clear, and I knew exactly what I had to do.


World Court Tennis – The Endgame Begins

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

Had I known I was up against Tennis Satan himself, perhaps I might not have rushed headlong into humiliating defeat. It was going to take more than my legendary forehand and prophesied tennis instincts to take down the Evil Tennis King and free Tennis Kingdom from… uh… well…

World Court Tennis - First Tennis King Battle Screenshot 2015-09-09 19-31-17

You know, I still wasn’t sure just what this world needed to be “saved” from. Sure, it was geographically a mess, but that was about it. All anybody did here was play tennis. I mean, I can’t blame “a” Tennis King for being a little bit antsy about having a green tennis demon/doppelganger living at the North Pole, but it seemed like he mostly kept to himself. On top of that, nobody in Tennis Kingdom seemed like they were particularly unhappy or evil (except maybe the tennis rapists and this guy). There were tennis courts EVERYWHERE. How bad could this place really be?

None of that truly mattered anymore, though. I’d gone too deep, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave tennis kingdom without avenging my loss. I had to know that I truly was THE GREATEST TENNIS PLAYER IN THE LAND. My battles thus far had taught me exactly how to accomplish this goal: OBTAIN BETTER SPORTING GOODS THAN MY OPPONENTS.

I knew a few things:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-28-59

1.  A man in Toronto was selling “A”gassi ranked gear. At this point in time, I lacked the funds to acquire that gear.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-24 20-24-52

2. There were six “fixed” tennis courts in Tennis Kingdom (as in “not the ones that materialize out of thin air every five seconds”). I had conquered two of those courts when I defeated Witt and Sevens. Each of those victories had earned me a pearl. Presumably if I could find the other four pearls, something good would happen.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-11-17

3. There was a big lake in Paris. Something should be there.

As I wasn’t in the mood to run headlong back into a tennis match just yet, I figured the first logical step was to warp back to Paris and check out that lake. Now that i had an inner tube, aquatic exploration would not be an issue.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-36-49

Sure enough, something WAS in the great Parisian sea. An isolated doghouse. I wondered how many tennis francs this primo piece of real estate had cost. Inside?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-38-07

Finally! The mystery of the pearls revealed! I’m no economist, but something told me that this guy would have better luck moving his merchandise if he set more reasonable prices. Currency that you can only obtain by beating the world’s greatest tennis pros is necessarily in short supply. I guess you have to dream big if you live on an isolated island with no means of escape.

At this point in time, I concluded that the next logical step would be to fight my way across the wilderness looking for the remaining tennis courts, while at the same time gradually earning the tennis food stamps necessary to purchase that “A”gassi gear. I was curious though… there had been lakes in Toronto and Tokyo. Why didn’t I check them out first?

Well I’ll be, Toronto apparently had a lake-dweller as well.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-38-28

A step up in quality from the Parisian doghouse I had just visited, no doubt. What useful information would I find here?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-38-32

You know, if I lived in the middle of a lake in post-apocalyptic Canada, I would probably be asking for help instead of refusing to dole it out, but hey, what did I know. Maybe I’d find the Japanese to be a little more hospitable? I warped back to Tokyo and took to the seas.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-35-15

A-ha. Whatever I was about to find, I was sure it wasn’t going to be hospitable. It was time to make like Commodore Perry and bust Japan wide open.


World Court Tennis – Totally Tubular

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

London had become a desolate husk. Other than some sweet “B” ranked gear, jolly old England had nothing to offer me – nothing but a a clue, that is. My next destination was “south of the maze.” Having no idea where the maze was, however, this “clue” was all but useless. Lacking any indication as to where to proceed next, I held my racket aloft and prayed to the spirit of legendary tennis warrior Björn Borg for guidance. I’m pretty sure he told me to head east. This was quite convenient, as it was the only corner of the sub-Spanish dessert continent I had yet to explore.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-02 19-13-26

East of the Spanish desert and the sylvan remnants of England, I found a mountain range, which I assume had to be the Rockies, because that made the least amount of sense. My “B” ranked gear held true, however; my fancy new shirt scared off most of the homicidal tennis cat-men I encountered along the way, and the ones that weren’t frightened away quickly wound up on the wrong side of 40-love.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-17-01

I emerged from the South Dakota foothills to encounter a small island village, separated from the rest of Tennis Pangaea by the smallest of bridges. This would be the last town I would encounter in my journey. I’m out of geography jokes… so let’s just guess. Canada?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-18-05

Oh, hi Witt. Something was happening  This perversely distorted geographic hellhole was starting to make sense to me.

Toronto was in no better shape than any of the other once-thriving metropolises I had encountered during my quest.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-17-58

Canada’s most populous city had been reduced to four residents: one shopkeeper, the obligatory greeter, and two canuck lobotomites. Let’s take the grand tour, shall we?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-02 19-35-10

I did not need any more advice on shoes. After all, I had WALKED all the way from Chicago to get here.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-28-26

An inner tube, you say? What use could that possibly have on a tennis court? Then again, what use did I have for magical pearls? Björn Borg would want me to do this.

Now as for the shop….

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-28-59

“A” ranked gear! My God, could the “A” stand for…

…Agassi? It had to. I couldn’t afford it just yet, but I knew I would need to have the image of a rebel if I was going to take down the Evil Tennis King and marry Brooke Shields. I’d need to earn some money on my tube quest.

Using my new-found prophesied GPS powers, I deduced that the maze had to be somewhere north of Toronto – you know, through the Rockies towards Paris. I steeled myself for the journey ahead and left Toronto with determination in my heart.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-16-51

Yep, this sure looked like a maze.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-16-00

It certainly had some labyrinthine qualities.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-30-14

Yep, some dead ends too.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-16-00

More than a few, actually.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-02 20-14-00

At long last, after an hour of wandering the misty Canadian mountains, stopping every five steps to tennis battle this disturbed looking individual, I had found it. This had to be where I would find the mysterious inner tube of legend, which would undoubtedly send me floating down the lazy river to glory.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-09-02 20-20-50

YOU RAT SOUP EATING SPIT CURL HAVING PIECE OF YUKON TRASH! WHO LIVES IN THE MIDDLE OF A MYSTERIOUS MOUNTAIN MAZE IF THEY HAVE ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DISTRIBUTE TO RANDOM QUESTING HEROES? SOME OF US HAVE DAY JOBS! Seriously though, what did this guy eat? The nearest town was three screen lengths away! Tennis balls. It had to be tennis balls. Either that, or he was a cannibal. There’s no wildlife in Tennis Kingdom other than roving cat people and tennis rapists.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-33-23

…so after about another hour, I found this place.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-33-27

Thank God. Hey buddy – maybe tell your cannibal clone on the other side of the maze to stop being such a dick. Did this man have any other nuggets of wisdom for me?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-33-34

FINALLY! USEFUL ADVICE! It was time to put a bullet in this quest. After two hours of wandering near-aimlessly through the Yukon, I was ready to unleash my fury on something. And now I knew exactly where that something was. It was time to take to the seas.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-36-49

Thankfully, there’s no marine life, tennis frogmen, or any other type of aquatic danger in the seas of Tennis Kingdom. I steered my tube to the North. I didn’t have the power of Agassi yet, nor had I grabbed all of the pearls, but I felt I was ready – my rage would not be quelled.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-41-24

North of the maze and to the east of Tokyo, I happened upon a secluded castle.  Inside…?

SURPRISES indeed! I had at last learned the horrible truth about my adversary. In addition to being green, the EVIL TENNIS KING WAS ALSO THE DEVIL. THE DEVIL. I HAD BEEN TASKED WITH DEFEATING THE DEVIL IN A THREE SET MATCH OF TENNIS. His serve was unbeatable… utterly unbeatable. For all my fury, I was powerless against Beelzebub, lord of the Tennis flies. I would need something more. Something… magic.


World Court Tennis – Into the Dirty South

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

Though I had conquered my personal demons and demolished the sinister Sevens, my journey was far from over. Hell, I still wasn’t exactly sure what my goal was. Tennis Kings, pearls… they were all meaningless symbols as this point. In my quest to save a kingdom of seemingly well-to-do WASPy-looking tennis zombies, I had stumbled upon a much more personal mission – a mission to fulfill the prophecy and become the greatest tennis warrior on neo-pangaea. I had really gone up my own ass.

In my travels, I had noted that there was a desert to the south of France. If video games and anime have taught me anything, it’s that walking through a desolate wasteland by yourself is a surefire way to become good at anything. The path was clear.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-07-15

I had heard the legends of how bad Spain’s economy had gotten, but this was taking austerity measures to extremes. The trek through the desert was long and arduous. I had to pause to refresh my Jack and Coke no less than 3 times. At times, I began to wonder if I was hallucinating.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-10-07

It had to be a mirage. There was simply no way I had been challenged to tennis match by a cat man in a bald cap. Illusion or not, this horrifying chimera was an obstacle. And obstacles were for killing.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-55-00

Strangely enough, the tennis courts which emerged from the sands of the Iberian wastes were made of CLAY. I have no idea why “a” Tennis King was so upset about the fact that all his tennis courts had been seized, when clearly the entire ecosystem of his kingdom had been utterly destroyed by whatever apocalyptic event had formed the FrancoChicagoNippon landmass. While playing on clay proved challenging, my “C” level gear allowed me safe passage through the sandy seas of illusion. “C.” It must stand for “clay.”

Before long, the desert gave way to a forest, and within that forest, an isolated town.

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By my estimation, I had just crossed the tattered remnants of Spain, and I was roughly on the same longitude as Chicago… ahh, screw it. There was no sense in guessing any more. I was just going to go with my gut. And my gut told me this was the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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Not by a long shot. Clearly the architects of this world were not concerned with the impact its design might have on grade school geography scores. The forest had been none other than the legendary Sherwood. England! The birthplace of tennis! Surely my legend would grow to phenomenal heights! It was time to march on London-town.

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Oof. Wimbledon? More like Wimbledon’t. There wasn’t much left of London. It was as if giant giant blancmanges from the planet Skyron had run roughshod over the entirety of the U.K. I was now accustomed to this though. Every major metropolis had been reduced to a shadow of its former-self in this surprisingly cheerful sports-themed dystopia. Regardless, it was time to fraternize with the limeys. Fortunately there were only three of them, and one of them, a Sevens clone, had met me at the door.

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I assumed this was a metaphor for the maze of personal torment we must all navigate on the path to greatness.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode 8.3.2015 Screenshot 2015-08-13 20-09-24

Ah, at least whatever destroyed London had left some semblance of an economy intact. “B” level gear! And having fought my way across the desert, I now had enough tennis bitcoins to pay for it! “B.” It had to stand for “Björn.” Lacking any semblance of the dramatic importance of this development, I convinced myself that I had acquired the gear of the legendary tennis warrior Björn Borg. That was it. Yep.

With that, I tightened my headband, pulled up my short shorts, and began my search for THE MAZE.


World Court Tennis – Genre Pioneer

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

Fear not, tennis fans – I haven’t abandoned my quest. Quite the opposite, in fact. However, sifting through 6 hours of virtually identical looking footage of video game tennis can be quite time-consuming. Particularly when you’ve got a day job! The quest, for good or for ill, has concluded. It will be chronicled in due time.

With the defeat of Sevens, though, we’ve hit what is more or less the turning point in STEV’s tennis legend. He’s finally accumulated enough tennis capital to do some real damage. That being the case, in the time-honored tradition of pointless cliffhangers, I can’t think of a better time to interject a video game history lesson that nobody asked for. Here we go!

Dragon Quest was one of the first (if not the first) role playing games released for a home video game console. Released to Japanese audiences in 1986, Dragon Quest was a rousing success, selling millions of copies and spawning 9 sequels (with many more undoubtedly on the way). It’s often credited with creating the genre we now know as the “JRPG” – the Japanese Role-Playing Game.

If you simply google “Dragon Quest 1 Screenshots,” you’ll get a very clear idea of the the visual and gameplay style Namco was aping when they programmed the quest mode for World Court Tennis :


That’s Dragon Quest. This is World Court Tennis:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-55-30

You COULD call World Court Tennis’ quest mode a blatant ripoff. However, given the fact that the HuCard also contains a full-featured non-quest-based tennis game, I’m willing to give the developers the benefit of the doubt. We’ll just call  it a “loving tribute” instead.

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-22 20-03-58

This, in and of itself, isn’t terribly interesting; loads of games have borrowed liberally from Dragon Quest. Your average American gamer in the late ’80s, however, wouldn’t have known this. Dragon Quest didn’t make its way to North America until August of 1989, when Nintendo renamed it Dragon Warrior and unleashed it on the Western audience, in an effort to introduce Americans to the RPG craze that had taken Japan by storm.  Dragon Warrior certainly wasn’t the first RPG to make it to the Western console market – Sega’s Phantasy Star arrived at some point in 1988 – but it may as well have been. These days, it’s commonly thought of as the game that introduced the Nintendo generation to RPGs.

This is precisely why World Court Tennis must have been a really confusing present for a select few American boys and girls back in 1989. Not only were they confused as to why their parents got them a TurboGrafx-16 instead of a NES , their tennis game was a bizarre cross breed of a sports sim and a genre they had probably never SEEN before. Seriously, this is funny now –

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-09-42

– but can you imagine how weird this must have seemed to some 8-year-old tennis fan back in 1989?  It might as well have been named “Ivan Lendl’s Magical Pearl Quest.”

Making this even MORE interesting is that the best North American release date I can find for World Court Tennis is “1989.” The TurboGrafx-16 launched on August 19, 1989. Assuming the Internet is accurate, and World Court Tennis, was, in fact, released between August 19 and December 31 of 1989, it was likely among the very first console RPGs released in America. There’s a slight chance that it even beat Dragon Warrior to the market – it DEFINITELY arrived before Final Fantasy, which didn’t hit North American shores until mid-1990.

So there you have it. Not only was World Court Tennis a surprisingly decent tennis game for its time, it was also one of the first RPGs released to American audiences. Definitely among the first ten.

And with that, we will return you to your regularly scheduled programming.


World Court Tennis – STEV Rising: REVENGEANCE

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

I had taken out Witt. Conquered one of the six tennis courts and obtained a mystic pearl of unknown purpose. I knew I probably needed more practice, but vengeance – no – REVENGEANCE was running through my veins. I needed revenge against Sevens.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-30 20-35-12

Ah, just look at his stupid face and Hitler youth haircut! I couldn’t move on until I cleansed the stain of my loss to Sevens from my near pristine 15-36 record. Yes, I would have to beat him, and I would have to beat him in a crudely edited montage set to Finnish power metal.

I hope you enjoyed that. It may be the most work I’ve ever put into anything ever. Someone send me a certificate. I now use Windows Movie Maker at a 10th grade level.


World Court Tennis – IKUZE!

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

After recuperating from my devastating defeat at the hands of the sinister Sevens, it appeared that a new plan was in order. I clearly wasn’t good enough to take on a serious challenger yet… or was I? Clearly, I had been called to this surprisingly verdant sports themed wasteland for some reason. Somewhere deep in my heart of hearts, I just KNEW I was destined to save this kingdom – or at least spend untold hours of my life chronicling my attempts to do so for a “fanbase” of less than 2,000 readers.

No. The more I thought about it, it was just impossible. I was great at tennis. My “D” ranked shoes, racket, and shirt, however, were not. They had abandoned me in my time of need. What I needed was “C” ranked gear. Gear that would appropriately “C”ompliment my prophesied tennis greatness.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-09-34

Ah, the mysterious northern town! This had to be where I would find the racket of destiny. It was time for another pilgrimage. But to where? Germany? Finland? Maybe… Buffalo? Western Europe had been just  a short jump from Chicago, after all. Regardless, I concluded that my quest would have to proceed northward. Whether it was German beer, Baltic herring, or hot wings, I was up for the challenge. So I started walking…

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-55-30

Through the foothills….

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Through the fjords and the forests…

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Over bridges and through more fjords and forests…

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Between secluded sylvan streams…

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-57-02


World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 19-05-17


*ahem* Sorry about that. Got caught up in my passion for tennis there. Anyway… after questing through the wild nuclear forests of the North, I finally happened upon a town.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-57-22

Since my journey had taken me in a generally northwesterly direction, I reckoned that I was somewhere in the middle of what the ancient ones called the Atlantic (you know, in the times before the great tennis cataclysm). My best guess? Reykjavik.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-59-45

Good God! How?


Looked like sushi was on the menu. Most expert cartographers will tell you that east, or perhaps west, is the best direction to head if you want to get to Japan from France. Conceivably, I could have taken Santa’s Shortcut… but that would have required me to head northeast, not northwest. I was now convinced. I was in some sort of temporally distorted Pangaea that had somehow been filled with modern cities and populated with tennis playing lobotomite clones. Or maybe androids. It was the only explanation. The real horrors of Tennis Kingdom lied in the hidden truth of its origins. What had happened here?

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-58-14

Tokyo was a modest hamlet – far from the vibrant electric metropolis I knew it to be in my home realm. Six huts, a shop, and a giant lake. I was eager to hear what its inhabitants had to offer.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-59-23

Fortunately, I got two of ’em. HA!

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-59-59

That’s a relief, I haven’t been vaccinated for that particular affliction.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-59-05

I am quite happy with my size, and don’t call me “racket.”

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 19-00-05

Don’t try to butter me up, pal. I can tell you’re a member of the Sevens series of lobotomite androids. I’ll never forget that face.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 18-58-53

Anyway, Tokyo didn’t have much to offer. It DID have a shop filled with “C” ranked gear, though. “C,” as it turns out, is far more expensive than “D.” I needed to acquire some more Tennis Yuan… and that meant more… well, tennis, what else?

I hurriedly left Tokyo, back through the fjords, forests, and valleys. My destination? Paris. If I needed to mug some tennis rapists, it would only be more enjoyable if they were French. After a solid 2 hours of tennis-assaulting some Gauls, I had amassed a princely sum of Tennis Drachmas. I warped back to Tokyo and equipped myself some beautiful “C” ranked gear. “C.” It stands for “Champion.”

While wandering around the Parisian wilderness, I noticed that there was a small peninsula to the east that I had not yet explored. My curiosity getting the better of me, I just had to take a look.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-15 19-05-59

A tennis court. Literally, about a ten second walk from Paris. I silently cursed this Parisian, who had sent me on a ten minute death march towards the doom known as Sevens.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Clip 1 Screenshot 2015-07-15 21-34-00

This court was inhabited by a gentleman named Witt. Like Sevens, he also possessed a pearl, which for some reason, I craved. What had happened to Tennis Kingdom? Who exactly was the Evil Tennis King? The answers – they just had to be buried under those pearls. It was time to show Witt just what a “C”hampion was.

Oh, what? You don’t have 15 minutes to spare to watch me drunkenly force my way through 8-bit tennis? Fine. Here’s the synopsis:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Clip 1 Screenshot 2015-07-15 21-35-02


I had tasted blood. Sevens would know retribution.


World Court Tennis – Advantage: Sevens

Scan0006World Court Tennis
TurboGrafx-16, 1989
Developer: Namco
Publisher: NEC

Despite some initial miscues, my plan to buy my way to tennis godhood had finally commenced in earnest. Dressed in my finest “D” grade Parisian sportswear, I was now a credible threat. It was time to take retribution on those tennis rapists. The rape-ee would now be the… wait. No. Forget I said that.

It was time to leave the lobotomite infested hellhole that the before-ones called Paris. But where would I go? Seeking guidance, I opened my menu, and saw that I now had the power to “warp” to Chicago. My latent tennis legend powers must have awakened upon contact with my expensive new French racket:


That’s it! I’d return to Chicago and seek guidance from “a” Tennis King! Surely he’d know what to do. You don’t become “a” Tennis King without acquiring some degree of tennis questing mastery. I quickly zapped myself back to Chicago and made my way towards “a” Tennis palace.

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-06-17 20-19-12

“A” Tennis King would undoubtedly be impressed with my progress. I was sure he’d been keeping something from me – some ancient legend, some apocryphal wisdom – for the very occasion when I could prove to him that I was worthy of the quest with which I had been tasked. It was now time for him to divulge the hidden knowledge of the ancients unto me, the prophesied one!

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-07 20-44-29

“Go.” Go. All he could say was “Go.” What, did I catch him having an affair with Chris Evert or something? I was beginning to understand how “a” Tennis King had lost his kingdom to his evil twin. You know, maybe if he treated his prophesied heroes a little better, he wouldn’t be in this pickle. Was he too busy cooking the city’s budget? Typical Chicago politician.

My efforts again stymied, I thought back to what I’d learned from the mentally disfigured inhabitants of post-apocalyptic (or perhaps prehsitoric – I hadn’t yet dismissed my Pangaea theory) France:

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-09-16

No, not him. The other guy.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 20-10-31

Surely, this was not merely idle chatter. If this mentally infirm Frenchman wasted his last sentient thoughts conveying this information to me, I was surely meant to seek out this court. TO THE WEST!

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I began my trek westward, across the scorched Atlantic, and was happy to note that my new garments were, as promised, allowing me to avoid tennis challenges.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-07 20-35-52

My plan was working – it seemed that the touchy grabby brigands of Tennis Kingdom were so impressed by my “D” ranked visage, they were finally beginning to understand that “no” meant “no.”

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Well, most of them, anyway. I must have passed into the ruins of a destroyed frat house, or something. But it didn’t seem to matter – with my new racket and faster shoes, I had finally started winning regularly.

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THE PROPHECY WOULD BE FULFILLED (whatever it was, anyway). Finally, after hours of walking through the Atlantic wasteland and its spontaneously generated tennis courts, I happened across…

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-07-01 19-47-49

…well, another tennis court. But this one had an aire of importance about it. It was of permanent construction – presumably bound to our corporeal realm by some sort of tennis magic – and ensconced in a mystical forest glade. What mysteries awaited me here? Batting cages, I hoped. I was secretly getting tired of tennis.

World Court Tennis - Quest Mode Screenshot 2015-06-30 20-35-12
Whoa, buddy. We just met.

Alas, I would befall no such fortune. As I stepped into the forest glade, I was approached by a menacing figure in terminator sunglasses. This was the man only known only as Sevens. I presume he was named this because he eight more than a few nines. Or maybe the Japanese tennis gods who translated this game couldn’t get a handle on the name “Sven.” Either way, this six was not afraid of Sevens. I knew not why I had to beat him, but something told me I needed a pearl. And he had one.


I dropped a close first game to Sevens, but this was clearly a contest of supreme importance – we’d be playing a full set. I smiled, knowing that my shiny new racket would help me win the day. Oh how wrong I was.

DAMN MY HUBRIS! WHY HADN’T I FORESEEN THE SIDE SWITCH? Having never played on the top half of the screen before, I was ill-prepared for this perverse distortion of perspective. My limbs failed me. I may as well have been playing with my controller upside down. Racket, I mean. Not controller. Racket. I don’t think I need to tell you how the rest of the match went.

Having hit another roadblock on my path to predestined greatness, I decided to take a rest. But that Sevens character had looked familiar… had I seen him… in… Chicago?

World Court Tennis Screenshot 2015-07-01 19-34-40

No. This couldn’t have been all a perverse decoy… could it have been?