WELCO METOT HENEX TLEVEL – Night Trap

NightTrap_MCD_US_Box_FrontPublisher: Sega
Developer: Digital Pictures
Released: 1992

On May 8, 1981, John Krizanc’s new play, Tamara, debuted in Trinity-Bellwoods Park, Toronto. The play is based on an historic meeting between Polish painter Tamara de Lempicka and Italian writer Gabriele D’Annunzio.

But Tamara wasn’t your run-of-the-mill production, where the audience sat in their seats while the story played itself out on stage. Tamara took place in a multi-room building, featuring as many as 11 different scenes happening simultaneously at some points. The audience mingles in with the actors, deciding which storyline they want to follow and moving from room to room with their selected character. Or maybe they would decide to stay in a single room to see what might happen next. This meant that it was impossible to see the entirety of the play in one viewing, but also meant that each audience member came away with a relatively unique experience and perspective on the story.

It was highly innovative to say the least. And in May, 1984, Tamara began a nine-year run at the American Legion Hall in Hollywood. Over a single weekend in 1985, Rob Fulop and Jim Riley attended the play three times, trying to piece together the entire story.

But Fulop and Riley weren’t just theatre buffs. They both worked for Axlon, one of a series of companies founded by Nolan Bushnell after leaving Atari. Axlon created, among other things, electronic toys such as AG Bear, which was a talking teddy bear that reacted to hearing people speak.
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Axlon (and Hasbro, thanks to its $7 million investment) had created a new type of video game system, codenamed NEMO, which overlaid live video with more traditional video game graphics through a modified ColecoVision console with footage being fed by a VCR. But these were no ordinary video tapes – they contained computer data and multiple tracks of video that could be switched on the fly.

Tamara’s premise was perfect, and the idea morphed into one of the early demos for the new console – Scene of the Crime. One of three short demos that were completed and presented to Hasbro in 1986. From these, full development of what would become Night Trap and Sewer Shark was greenlit, and the crew got to work.
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Diff’rent Strokes star Dana Plato would be the main character. Hollywood and Silicon Valley would collide to create one of the most groundbreaking video games in history. A three week shoot and what had to be one of the largest budgets in video game history up to that point was all it took.

With Night Trap and Sewer Shark in the can and the launch of the newly-named Control-Vision a mere three months from its late 1989 debut, Hasbro cancelled it all. The projected cost of the system would be $299, which was considered far too expensive to compete with the ridiculously successful Nintendo Entertainment System. Key members of the NEMO team, notably Tom Zito, purchased the rights to the software and put everything in storage.
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Enter Sega. And Sony.

In 1990, Sony acquired the rights to the NEMO games, with intent to publish them on the planned Nintendo PlayStation. However, Nintendo famously flipped Sony the bird on that one and Sony was left with rights to a bunch of games they couldn’t publish. It just so happened that Tom Kalinske and Sega were also of the opinion that full-motion video games were the future, and with the US launch of the Sega CD set for late 1992, Sega and Sony entered into a publishing partnership, splitting the $5 million cost of updating Night Trap and Sewer Shark for release on modern consoles. The two publisher divvied up the games, with Sega publishing Night Trap as a first party launch title, while Sony would publish Sewer Shark as a launch title under its Imagesoft banner.
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Playing Night Trap, it’s not hard to see its roots in Tamara. You are a member of the Sega Control Attack Team, investigating a mysterious house where a lot of young girls have recently gone missing. Your team has found a series of cameras and traps in the house, and has given you full control of them. SCAT’s undercover operative, Kelli (Plato) is joining a group of young women having a sleepover. It’s up to you to protect them and figure out exactly what the heck is going on here.

What follows is the best kind of B-movie trash, featuring vampires, terrible acting, and hilarious dialogue. Like in Tamara, you are in control of what parts of the game you watch. While you’re trying to follow the story, the house is being overrun by Augers – people who have been mostly drained by vampires but are still alive. You need to keep an eye on a series of rooms and try to capture as many of these shuffling terrors as possible. Trap enough of them and you get to the end game, where the Martin family is revealed to be vampires, and you must save Kelli and the remaining girls from their fates. Let too many “augs” go and you’ll get reamed out by the leader of SCAT, taken off the case and disconnected when he rips the cord out of a Genesis controller.
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It’s a difficult game that really comes down to memorization (or taking pages of notes). As the Augers are not known to the girls or the Martin family, you almost never see them in any of the story scenes. So playing the game properly actually means ignoring most of the story. On top of that, at various points in the game the access color for the trap control will be changed. If you miss this scene, you might be completely out of luck, as these switches are the only random bit of the game. You never know which color control will switch to for sure.

Check out this video for an idea of just how much is going on in Night Trap. It shows all feeds running simultaneously for the entirety of the game.

All that said, Night Trap kind of felt like the future back in 1992. Those of us who played it could not believe what we were seeing. And while this isn’t how Hollywood and Silicon Valley ultimately came together, it definitely represented the first steps.

Sega’s decision to publish Night Trap rather than Sewer Shark would put it right in the center of a huge controversy. Concerns about violence in video games were rising, and 1993 brought Congressional hearings on video game violence. One particular scene in Night Trap, where one of the girls is attacked by three augers while wearing a tiny night gown was played over and over again. Night Trap, Lethal Enforcers and Mortal Kombat were all held up as examples of how the game industry had simply gone too far. The industry was warned to start policing itself, or the government would step in and do it.

Sega had already implemented a rating system on Genesis, Game Gear and Sega CD games by this point. This, along with the directive from Congress, directly led to the formation of the ESRB and the rating system we still have today.

Nonetheless, the whole thing ultimately resulted in Sega pulling Night Trap from shelves altogether. It was at that point that Digital Pictures, formed by Tom Zito and other key NEMO team members back in 1991, stepped in and self-published the game on the Sega CD, Sega CD 32X as well as the 3DO, Mac and PC. The updated versions featured bigger video windows, a slightly better map interface and a new intro that erased all mention of Sega or appearance of Genesis hardware.
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Much like the play on which it is based, Night Trap was groundbreaking. It’s easy to laugh at the folly of FMV games today, but back in the late 80s and early 90s, many thought this would be the future. Sega was just one of the few companies actually in a position to pursue it. And every time you buy a video game and see that ESRB rating on the package, remember you have Night Trap to thank for it.

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494: Existential Dread

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This week! CJ’€™s at PAX so Greg and Phil talk video games with guest Ethan Einhorn. Topics include toys to life, Microsoft ending production of Xbox 360, Mega Drive Classics, Star Fox Zero, Ratchet & Clank and so much more. Join us, won’€™t you?

Links of interest:

Ethan’s Video Game Memories blog
Toys to Life
Tatsuya Minami steps down at Platinum
Microsoft stops producing Xbox 360s

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 17 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids.

Own an iPhone? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old,
read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:35:26

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WELCO METOT HENEX TLEVEL – NHL Hockey ’94

NHL '94 (U) (Front)Publisher: EA Sports
Developer: Electronic Arts / Mark Lesser
Released: 1993

After the runaway success of Electronic Arts’ John Madden Football on the Genesis, development of a sequel was planned almost immediately. But EA was looking to expand – it had football covered, and had tackled basketball with Jordan vs Bird, as well as the NBA Playoffs series of games. The next sport to get the EA treatment would be hockey.

NHL Hockey was released in the second half of 1991 to resounding success, quickly followed-up by NHLPA Hockey ’93 the following year. But NHL Hockey ’94 was the real deal, widely considered to be the pinnacle of EA’s 16-bit hockey franchise. Even today you’ll find regular tournaments and roster updates for this 24 year old sports game.

The Sega CD version is more or less a port of the cartridge version released earlier in 1993. NHL ’94 brought a lot of improvements to the series. The welcome return of the NHL license meant players could once again play with real teams on ice adorned with the official logs of their favourite squads. The return of the NHLPA license meant that, when you took to the ice as back-to-back defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins, you were in direct control of superstars like Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Tom Barrasso.

Can you tell I’m a Penguins fan?

Actually, being in direct control of the goalie was another new feature in NHL ’94. As was the inclusion of the almighty one-timer, where a player could pass to a teammate in front of the net, and that teammate would let loose a slapshot the instant he had possession of the puck. If you’re a hockey fan, you realize just how important something like this is to the game.

I could go down a long list of new features, but the point is that this game made the previous two in the series feel like dress rehearsals. They were the pre-season, this was the Stanley Cup Finals.
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The Sega CD version of NHL ’94 added to the game mostly in the audio/visual sense. A full-motion video intro, video clips of each team, a full-on team matchup by Ron Barr featuring his actual voice before each game, and an underlying, redbook recording of a big crowd in the arena intermingled with the game’s standard cheers and boos. Oh, and the organ music all sounds much better in this version.

Another bit that I believe was added for this version is a very complete set of stats for each player that you can explore during each game. It goes as far as what years they played for which squads, all the way down to the minor leagues.

Outside of this being, in my opinion, the ultimate version of NHL ’94, I didn’t realize until recently that it was quite an important release for EA and its relationship with the NHL. John Madden Football did not ship with any player names or official team names and logos. After all, the licensing money had gone to Madden himself. NHL Hockey marked a shift away from EA looking for a single celebrity endorsement, licensing the actual league itself. Of course, it was not able to license the NHLPA, so the first NHL on the Genesis did not feature real players.
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However, during a pre-launch event of NHL Hockey held in Pittsburgh during the 1991 Stanley Cup finals was instrumental in shifting this policy. The story goes that someone playing the game managed to get Wayne Gretzky, the face of the NHL, into a fight. Then-NHL Commissioner John Ziegler was present, and was apparently furious that it was possible for anyone but enforcers to get into fights in the game – especially The Great One. Fighting in hockey was a controversial subject at that time (as it has been for decades), and so Ziegler demanded that fighting be taken out of the game or the NHL would end its affiliation with the series.

Unfortunately, the game was done and was already being produced for sale. It was too late to make a change. And so the first game launched the franchise and doomed it to a future without NHL endorsement.

The stars aligned for EA the following season, however, when the players had a falling out with the NHL and went on strike in April of 1992. EA, which had been stonewalled by the NHL Players Association the previous year, suddenly found in the NHLPA an ally. They were given the license with the express request to include fighting in the game. Thus, NHLPA ’93 featured real players, fighting, and no official team names or logos.

Why is all of this important? By 1993 the Sega CD and 3DO were on the market, and NHL Hockey producer Michael Brook knew that with the advent of the CD medium in games, his sports titles would eventually require video footage. Of course, as is the case with most sanctioning bodies, footage of NHL games is owned by the NHL itself. And thus, EA was forced to make peace with the NHL, or risk releasing multimedia versions of his hockey game without the “multimedia” bit.

So there you have it. The impending release of the Sega CD version of NHL ’94 was instrumental in EA and the NHL having to kiss and make up. The downside to this is that NHL ’94 does not feature fighting, though you can still make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed (See: Swingers). The upside is that we’ve been blessed with a long-running series of mostly great NHL games over the past 24 years.

I want to make sure to give credit to Blake J. Harris’ fantastic article about the creation of NHL ’94 over at Read Only Memory. Most of the information in the past few paragraphs is lifted from that piece, which you should really go read.
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493: Good controller or good 3DO controller?

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This week! New Neo-Geo cart found, Ratchet and Clank, Mario & Luigi Paper Jam, retro game prices, 3DO, Pippin, Playdia, and so much more. Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 17 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids.

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:10:04

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492: Do It Yourself Link

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This week! Guest Ethan Einhorn joins us to chat NX rumors, Zelda Wii U/NX rumors, PS4 remote play, Punch-Out tricks, Game & Watch Gallery 4, Far Cry Primal, The Division, Fire Emblem Fates Conquest, The Order 1886, and so much more. Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 16 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids.

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:30:11

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491: Let’s Read

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This week! April Fools, My Nintendo, Miitomo, the Alison Rapp firing, Worlds of Power books, the differences between versions of Life Force and so much more. Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 16 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids.

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:23:11

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490: The Three Ps

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This week! Fake NX pictures, Batman v Superman (movie SPOILERS 07:14-14:47) Wii U production ending, Star Fox Zero difficulty, Bill Cosby and more. Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 16 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids.

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:25:40

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489: I’ll Be the Stranger!

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This week! Guest Ethan Einhorn joins us once again to talk VR at GDC, PlayStation VR price/release, the fake NX controller picture, Miitomo, Uncharted 4 going gold and so much more! Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 16 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids.

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:30:39

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488: A Less-Compelling Ouya

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This week! PlayStation VR, Lionhead and Press Play close, Miitomo, Amazon Japan shipping games internationally, Coleco dumps the Retro VGS, and so much more. With special guest Ethan Einhorn! Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 16 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids.

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:35:19

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487: Grand Theft

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This week! A rehash of an old CJ story, Hololens/Young Conker, Quantum Break, Nintendo Direct stuff, Pokémon, SNES on 3DS, great vaporware systems, a spoiler-filled Firewatch discussion (54:30-1:32:07, chapter stops available on some podcast clients), and more! Join us, won’t you?

Links of interest:

Check out Greg’s web series Generation 16 (Episode 16 now available) – click here. And take a trip over to Phil’s YouTube Channel to see some awesome retro game vids.

Own an iPhone/iPod touch? We’ve got an app for that–the Player One Podcast player app is available now. Play shows new and old, read show notes, access the show Twitter, website, email, and more! Click here to download.

Got an Android device? You can now download our app on the Amazon Android Appstore. Find out all about it here.

Follow us on twitter at twitter.com/p1podcast.

Thanks for listening! Don’t forget to visit our new web site at www.playeronepodcast.com. Don’t forget to join our forums if you haven’t already!

Running time: 1:37:04

Check out this episode!

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