Thursday, February 3, 2011

Game On: Let's Play 2.04 - Jaws

Game: Jaws
System: Nintendo
Developer: Westone
Publisher: LJN
Player: Edward Bauman

Game Overview

Take a trip back to the 1980s, when videogaming had hit a slump when Atari crashed. What caused the great glut of gaming was licensing: a terrible port of Pac-Man and a hastily-prepared game based on E.T. Licensed games based on movies have greatly varied in quality since gaming resurfaced with Nintendo at the helm. This is one of those games which, unfortunately, does not vary far from the drudge that killed Atari.

Jaws is a videogame which appears to have something in common with E.T.: The Extraterrestrial: both movies were directed by Stephen Spielberg. However, something is incorrect in this comparison. Jaws the videogame is actually based off of Jaws: The Revenge, the fourth movie in the Jaws franchise; Jaws: the Computer Game for Commodore Amiga (and a port, known as Jaws on Commodore 64) made by Screen 7 (and ported by Box Office Software) is an actual game adaptation of the Spielberg classic. It should be noted that aspects of the original Jaws are in Jaws the NES game, but in reality, where it fits into a movie storyline is irrelevant to the end product.

In Jaws, players control a diver and his boat with the intent on defeating the giant menacing shark. In order to defeat Jaws, however, players must be capable of defeating it in a fast enough time so it cannot swim away. In order to do that, players need to upgrade their harpoon strength, and the only means of doing that is sailing their boat from one port to the other, back and forth. First, players receive a tracking device which allows players to know when Jaws is near. Afterward, players receive power boosts with each visit across the map, but in order to earn any upgrades, they must collect conch shells which are dropped by enemies consisting of jellyfish, starfish, and smaller sharks. Once players weaken Jaws, the game shifts into another angle, in which players have to shoot a charge to launch Jaws in the air and subsequently ram the boat into the shark, killing it. All in all, a very basic and short game with an annoying difficulty made more annoying by its repetitiveness.

Although not mentioned in-game, Jaws was developed by Westone, a Japanese company who was subcontracted to create the game by Atlus. Westone, formed in 1986, was originally known as Escape, but it later changed its name to better suit its image. Westone had previously created the Wonder Boy arcade games for Sega, which makes Jaws an odd choice for development seeing as the company had not yet made an NES game before. Then again, this is LJN who published it.

LJN Entertainment was founded in 1970 by Jack Freidman, and in 1980 was purchased by the Music Corporation of America (MCA). It was during this decade that LJN focused its efforts on publishing titles on the NES. Unfortunately, they were not necessarily good in quality, as they were mostly outsourced products based on licensed material for highest profits. Before Jaws, it had only released one title, Gotcha! The Sport, a Zapper-enabled game involving paintball.

Since its Release…

While the movie series for Jaws ended, that did not stop the sale of the franchise's merchandise. As for videogames based on the series, besides the aforementioned Commodore Amiga and 64 titles based on the original movie, one Jaws-focused game arrived almost ten years later. The game, Jaws Unleashed, was published by Majesco and developed by Appaloosa Interactive, the development team behind Ecco the Dolphin; in it, players control Jaws himself in creating chaos and destruction to all those in the ocean. The game was not well-received, and Jaws (as well as Appaloosa) has not been seen since. It should be noted that technically Jaws appeared in another game, Kemco’s Universal Studios Theme Parks Adventure, back in 2001, but as it was a minigame, it is an insignificant Jaws-related game.

Westone’s future was not as sparse, and while it still exists in effect today, its focus has steered away from mainstream gamers' eyes. After developing Jaws, Westone worked consistently on Sega’s Wonder Boy franchise, including Wonder Boy III: The Dragon’s Trap for Sega Master System (as well as the re-skinned version, Dragon’s Curse, on TurboGrafx-16), Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair for Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx CD, Wonder Boy in Monster World for Sega Genesis (and the re-skinned TurboGrafx CD version, Dynastic Hero), and Monster World IV, only released in Japan on Sega Genesis.

Westone would also produce a number of other titles, including but not limited to Blood Gear on TurboGrafx CD and Dark Half for the Super Nintendo. Its last known original title listed today is Milano no Arbeit Collection for Playstation, a game released in 1999 in which players control Milano, a young girl who has moved out to live on her own; players help her earn money through oddjobs and ultimately help her decorate her new home. Other than help associated with a Japanese-only Sega AGES Collection on Monster World, Westone has been quiet ever since.

LJN fared the worst of the three, which is certainly saying something! LJN produced a wide variety of movie-based videogames on the NES, most if not all of which were terribly produced. Some of these games includes Back to the Future, Friday the 13th, Beetlejuice, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. However, as the decade ended, LJN was in financial trouble, and the company was sold to Acclaim on March 1990. Acclaim would keep the LJN brand in order to sidestep Nintendo regulations (only a number of games could be released by a publisher within a year). However, the label would not last long, and in 1994, it was folded into Acclaim along with its special Sega labels (Flying Edge and Arena Entertainment).

The last time LJN would appear was in mid-2000, when Acclaim used the LJN label in publishing Broadsword Interactive’s Spirit of Speed 1937 for Dreamcast. It had terrible reviews, and the label disappeared forever. Acclaim would also fold not too shortly thereafter. A terrible end for a mediocre publishing company.

The Let’s Play

This episode was filmed with the intention of fulfilling a number of odd titles to fill our lineup of games for the season. Ed was interested in taking a shot at some episodes while he could, and we were very much willing to oblige. We hoped more people would show, but the others who had planned to join could not. They would eventually appear for another recording, only for things to mess up and be unobtainable for editing purposes.

Jaws was a game Ed chose to record because it was fast to complete. This is true, though the difficulty can become something deadly, especially when the game is already dragging on with repetitive battles and movements. Can Ed kill the shark of doom? Or is he chum?


Things went worse than expected, both on the episode and in its editing. Before recording the episode, Ed played through the game, and within fifteen minutes, he was at the highest strength available and was on his way to defeat the aquatic menace.

When the camera turned on, he flubbed. The game caught him off-guard, and he ended up getting so many seashells it was painful. It became more monotonous as he lost to Jaws and then various other enemies in the ocean, ultimately failing to complete the game in the half-hour he gave himself…and he had a game over, anyways.

After that was finished, editing became a problem…the Canopus capture card was failing to capture correctly. Audio and video were not syncing, and so when we played the game, the audio was staggered, as if playing through a fan. This problem continued for the rest of the season, and it only occurred with any console older than the Nintendo 64. It could have been a PAL/NTSC issue, but we never figured it out to fix it. So, if you wonder why the audio is messed up for the game, that’s why.

But we still had two more episodes to record this day, and they were a bit less…off.

No comments:

Post a Comment