I’ve recently come across a collection of flash games that Nintendo produced for promotional purposes between 1999 and 2010. They were online previews of sorts for full release Nintendo games.
Sometimes you’d get a bit of a demo, sometimes you’d get a flash game inspired by the title, or you’d just get a ton of information on the game set out interactively with video clips and screenshots and that. Unfortunately, for the past few years due to Flash itself becoming defunct and Nintendo being dicks and throwing archive website content out into the trash, many of these games have been lost to the sands of internet time.
Not all is lost, however. Thanks to a website called Origami64, which is a forum mostly dealing with Mario 64 ROM hacking and ROM hacking related products, many of these games have been brought back to life. Today on Atomic Kote, I’m going to be taking a look at a few of them. If you want to play them yourself, you can check them out here.
With that said, let’s install Adobe Flash like it’s 2002, and boot a few of these bastards up.
Yeah, really. There’s one for Donkey Kong Country. I love Donkey Kong Country. Let’s go.
Booting it up, you get hit with a warning. Eh? Shocking scenes of a day-to-day life in a place called Donkey Kong Country? Professional video game characters? This is nostalgic. What’s this taste of? Ah. Nineties Rare. In other words, it’s bollocks, let’s click ‘go’.
Eh? What? This isn’t a flash game. It’s not even a flash cartoon. It’s just a bunch of fluff. I used to hate it when people used Flash for this kinda crap. Making something that’s barely interactive just for the sake of a bit of advertising.
Interestingly, at the top, we get told that the Dongs have been crushing Kremlings for ten years. Oh, so this flash video isn’t for the Super Nintendo version, then. That makes more sense. With the reference up top, it’s more than likely referring to the Game Boy Advance remake.
Anyway. You have the option of hovering over one of the two of the furry bastards. Clicking one or the other does much the same thing – you get the render of which Dong you picked. The site will then draw arrows to their various limbs, organs, and clothes, and give them an amusing designation.
There’s no game that follows, or anything. You get your diagrams and then you get out. I guess the only thing left to do now is to hit ‘play video’ and bask in the glory days of 2004.
To be honest, the clarity of it isn’t that bad, it’s the fact that the whole video is the size of my thumbnail. They’ve been clever, here. Rather than make a blocky mess of a video for full-sized human beings, they’ve made a crystal clear version for ants. Good on you, Rare.
A quick note before we continue, if you plan on checking these out yourself. I’ll save you some time – if you’re on the Origami64 archive, you’ll see that the page is split into two halves. Games on the left, and games on the right. Games on the left are similar to above, where they’re more information packs then, well, actual games.
These are interesting in their own right, and I’d recommend checking them out, but we’ll be sticking to the actual games from now on. The others are interesting to read, sure, but my commentary really doesn’t add anything to them. Look at them in your own time, alright?
Alright. Going in alphabetical order. Let’s look at some FLASH GAMES.
Up first, we have Donkey Kong Country 3: Barrel-Blastapalooza. I wonder which Donkey Kong Country mechanic this one is going to involve?
This one is interesting, though very short-lived. Have a look at the GIF below to get a better idea of how it works.
Mechanically, the game works like the above. Drag barrels into their proper positions. Try to collect all of the DK coins. That’s it, really. There’s not a great deal to say about this one. Quite literally here, what you see is what you get. There’s only the one level, which is a bit of a shame, because I could’ve done with one or two more. Ah, well. Never look a gift flash game in the mouth.
It’s lacklustre. I ain’t got nothing more to say. Moving on.
Dr. Mario Vitamin Toss
Here’s one for a Dr. Mario and Puzzle League combination game, which I honestly don’t remember releasing. Which is strange, because I would’ve ate that shit right up. Scratch that, actually – would’ve? I’d still eat that shit up. With chips.
Anyway. Clicking on the square for Dr. Mario or Puzzle League just takes you to a broken menu where screenshots, videos, and tips used to be. And we’re not here for that. There is one actual game here though, found in the bottom left corner – Dr. Mario Vitamin Toss. I struggle to think of how they could fuck this one up. It’s Dr. Mario. It’s gotta be a classic, even in flash game form.
So far, so good. We’ve got Dr. Mario here living up to the title of his game, tossing that vitamin front and centre. I would read the instructions, but, nah – c’mon. It’s Dr. Mario. This ain’t my first rodeo. How much different can it be? There’s only so much that you can mess about with.
Right, alright then. Wipe that smirk off your face, Doc. I get your damn point. I’ll go back and read the instructions, because I don’t have a single clue what’s going off here.
Oh, right. So this is how it works.
It’s a game of timing. As you can see, you have to punch the launch button. This sets off a little arrow. You have to time it so that it hits either the yellow, blue, or red zone, depending on the colour of your pill. Do it right, and you hit the virus, which lowers the fluid level behind it. Get them all to zero, and you win.
In other words, they fucked it up.
Drill Dozer – Shifting 101
Anyone remember Drill Dozer? I do, but I never got a chance to play it. At least, not on the original hardware – mainly because it never came out in the UK. I caught up with it on a Virtual Console release on the Wii U years and years later, and, you know what? It’s really bloody good. One of these days, I’ll do a feature on it. (UPDATE: This can now be found here!)
In it, you play Jill, who rides the titular Drill Dozer in order to enact revenge against a bunch of scummy bastards that have nicked off with her dead Mother’s priceless gem. What follows is seventeen massive levels of drill-based action platforming. Enemies oozing from every corner and packed with secrets, it’s just generally pretty ace.
The flash game, keeping with the theme, isn’t very good and really has nothing to do with the above, though. It’s a shame, because this little ‘sample’ really wouldn’t have sold me on Drill Dozer back in the day. For a new IP, you think they’d have wanted a bit more effort put in. Then again, it is a flash game that was probably made on the cheap, so.
Much like Dr. Mario Vitamin Toss, it’s a game of clicking your mouse at the right time. The GIF below says everything that I could ever say, really.
The original game is really good and you should play it. Get it on the Wii U Virtual Console. Or find the original cart. Or fuck it, just emulate it like a scumbag. Do what ya want.
Mario Party 7 – Bowser’s Lair Hockey
Here’s an entry for Mario Party 7. Interesting bit of trivia for you – it was the last Mario title released for the noble GameCube in Japan. Also, it’s called Lair Hockey, because it’s Air Hockey but Bowser’s involved and Bowser has a lair and that, don’t you know?
Now, I know those facts weren’t that interesting, but I have to try and preface with curious trivia, because the game itself isn’t all that interesting. Though it is more of a game than everything else we’ve looked at so far.
I mean, it’s a pretty standard flash port of the classic real-life game. Grab a paddle, and, as the game so delicately puts it, whale away at the puck. I’ll tell you from experience – no matter how much you ‘whale’ on it, the chances of you getting that thing into Bowser’s net are slim to fuck all. I couldn’t get a point on the guy over the three games that I played. The AI is a little too good, and there doesn’t seem to be any kind of consistency when it comes to your shot strength. Still, if you feel like playing a Mario themed version of Air Hockey, in Flash nonetheless, well, it’s there for you, I guess.
For me, though, all it does is prove that nice guys finish last. Sorry Toad, but I’m gonna have to let badness triumph this time.
Mario Strikers – Heads Up
Mario Strikers was a Mario football game that nobody really saw coming or knew that they wanted. Until they played it, at least. Proper football, too. The kind where you can’t run around with it in your arms and you have to actually kick it around with your feet.
Here’s an interesting tidbit – it was the last Mario game released on the GameCube in America and Europe.
What? Are the last Mario games released for the GameCube the only trivia that I know? No, you insolent little shite. I know that Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 was the last game ever released for the Nintendo 64, too. Put that in ya pipe, prick.
Sorry. You’re not a prick. Come back. I’m talking about the game now.
It’s about what you’d expect. Control Mario with the arrow keys, and make sure that the ball continues to make contact with his head. Grab a Mushroom, and Mario is sped up. Touch a shell, and he gets all slow. See that Waluigi in the air? Get the ball to make contact with him or another character from the game and you get bonus points.
It’s simple enough, and surprisingly playable. For at least five minutes, anyway. After that, you’ll be reaching for the ‘close tab’ button, no doubt.
Metroid Prime Hunters – Know Your Enemy
There was a demo of Metroid Prime Hunters included with every Nintendo DS when it originally launched. I only ever played the demo, because – well, the demo was alright and not much more than that. It could’ve been a great game, but it was let down by the lack of any reasonable way to turn your character’s head, since the Nintendo DS only had a single directional pad. And when it comes to first person shooters, you need two. Or at the very least, something more reliable than raking your thumb around on the touch screen.
Anyway. This game is bad. Why? It gets your hopes up. It makes you believe that it might be something decent, something with gameplay variety even. Look at this.
Does this not look like a character select screen to you? Pick your name, pick your character, pick your weapon. Hit ‘submit’, and then go into a top down arena where you have to shoot at baddies, or something.
Nah, nah, nah mate. It’s not that. Turns out that it’s yet another lazy effort. It’s a matching game. Pick a name. Then, you have to match up the silhouettes. Click ‘submit’. There you go, you win.
It’s crap and I hate it.
Odama – Crush and Conquer
I’ll be honest with you – I don’t know a single thing about this one. I’ve never heard of Odama. According to Wikipedia, though, it’s made by the same guy who produced Seaman for the Dreamcast, so it’s probably quite the trip.
Anyway. What’s it all about, eh?
The aim of the game here is to fire the titular Odama from a cannon and roll it across the battlefield toward the Ninten bell that a bunch of yellow blokes in their underpants seem to be carrying around. Hitting the blue pricks running around the battlefield nets you bonus points. Don’t hit the red ones, though – that’s your army, and you have points deducted for each one that you twat.
It’s alright. Again, nothing particularly memorable. I don’t come away from it wanting to buy the game, or anything. And I can say that honestly – I’ve never actually played this one. I’m sure that, much like the others, though, it doesn’t best represent the game that it’s trying to sell.
Don’t worry though, if you’re a fan, Wikipedia has already sold me on it. It’s a pinball game set in the feudal period of Japan. That’s ace. There’s even soldiers on the board that you can boss around by shouting into the GameCube microphone.
I’d like to retroactively order ten copies of this game to my younger self, please.
Polarium Puzzle Challenge
Here’s one that I do remember – Polarium for the Nintendo DS. It involves both stuff falling from the sky and tile flippery. So, it was just like any DS puzzle game, then.
In the game, there are both black and white tiles. You can flip them by dragging your stylus across them, which changes them to the opposite colour. Matching black or white up in a horizontal row clears them from your screen.
There were two modes – a Tetris-like challenge mode, where tiles continuously fell from the sky. Then there was the more chilled puzzle mode, where you had to figure out the optimal solution and clear all of the tiles from the screen in one move. It wasn’t as good as Picross, nor infinitely replayable like Tetris, but that’s okay, it came at a time before neither of them were a thing on the DS.
How are they going to screw the pooch on this one, though? Is it just a generic flash game ported over and given a Polarium skin to make it relevant? Is it a Polarium character quiz? Am I going to have to become the tile?
Oh, wait. It’s actually just showing off what the game’s puzzle mode is like. I’m actually a bit lost for words. This is actually a demo of sorts. I guess it’s because it ports over to Flash easily enough. Then again, so would Dr. Mario, but they felt a need to fuck with the established formula there. Oh well. I suppose it kept things interesting.
Polarium, you’re the best of the bunch so far, because you successfully recreated an above average game. I’ll put a sticker on your jumper so that you can show your Mum when you get home.
Pokémon Trozei: Learn to Play
Oh good, one for Pokémon. In this case, it’s for Trozei, which is a match-four puzzler. As Professor P tells you up above. Trozei is fairly generic, but functional and decent enough for a kick around every now and then, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Anyway, it does what it says on the tin. There’s five lessons that teach you the basics of the game. After completing them all, the game forwards you to a now non-existent website where you could presumably play a demo of the full thing, dragging Pokémon around with your mouse and the lot.
Another one that’s pretty much like the same as the game that it’s trying to promote, though. Both of them have been puzzlers so far. Two outta three ain’t bad, until you remember that the one that they got wrong was Dr. Mario. And a Dr. Mario in the hand is worth like, five Polariums in the bush.
Super Princess Peach: Parasol Fall
Ah. It looks like we’re back to something derivative.
Super Princess Peach is a decent platforming game that offers a nice bit of role reversal. That’s right – Mario and Luigi get kidnapped and Princess Peach has to save them. With the power of her … emotions. Right, then. One step forward and two steps back.
Rather than playing as Peach, though, you’re stuck playing as Perry the Parasol in this Flash game spin-off preview thing. Aye, Peach has a sentient umbrella in this game. Don’t ask, alright?
It’s pretty simple – use your left and right arrows to move Perry around, dodging clouds and grabbing coins. It’s playable, but it isn’t without it’s problems. For one, the poor parasol moves like he’s submerged in tar, rather than falling through the air. The other problem is that the main obstacle, the clouds, look like background objects rather than obstacles that you have to dodge. Plus, they can spawn in the worst places. Look at where that blue gem is placed at the end of the GIF – there’s no way I can get that without having a collision.
What’s Perry doing so high in the sky? And where’s Peach? What does this have to do with Super Princess Peach, anyway? Absolutely nothing. It’s like the designers were fed as little information as possible.
FLASH DEVELOPER: So, since you want us to make a game to promote Super Princess Peach. We were wondering if we could have any information about the game, you know, something that we can design our little game around …
NINTENDO: There’s an umbrella. Get the fuck on with it.
I’ll get this out of the way – I’ve never got on with the Tales series. I don’t know why – I’m a sucker for a good JRPG. I can’t quite ever put my finger on why, but I can never get invested with the characters or the world around them. Still, it has a big following, so there has to be something there.
Anyway. This one’s here to promote the GBA rerelease of Tales of Phantasia. It’s an archery game. The flash game, that is. And, you know what? It’s not bad, really.
It’s a bit like that other bow-based Flash game, which is called Archery. It’s exactly like that, actually. Adjust the aim of your bow with the up and down arrow keys, and then choose how far you want to draw back with the left arrow key. Release, fire, and hopefully hit something. As you can see, though, I’m a bit useless at it. Sorry about that.
Anyway. It’s not bad. Mainly because it reminded me of that old Archery game. Let’s be honest, though – what does it really have to do with Tales of Phantasia? Nothing, that’s what. Just a hollow and somewhat shameless rip-off. Ah well, it’s not like any of these have been big winners, anyway. Replicating a decent Flash game is probably the best it’s gotten so far.
Go on then, Tales of Phantasia Archery. Have a sticker and stand on the stage with Polarium.
Mate, it’s Tetris. Not only is it Tetris, it’s Tetris DS, probably my favourite version of the classic block-based puzzler. Tetris DS was pretty sweet because, as you can see, it featured a whole bunch of classic Nintendo characters from a variety of games. I’m not just talking Mario, here – NES classics Excitebike and Urban Champion even get a look in. It’s one of the few DS games of mine that I’ve managed to hold onto over the years, and it still gets played today.
Unfortunately for this flash game, however, it’s a recreation of the somewhat weak ‘puzzle mode’ that was included in the game as a side shoot to the main marathon mode.
In this mode, you were tasked with cleaning up a big Tetrisy mess on the bottom of the screen, using a limited selection of Tetriminoes. Drop them in the right order and in the right place, and, bam, you’re done. I’d have rather seen a Flash version of, you know, normal Tetris, but these games never seem to give you what you want.
If you think about it, there’s probably a good reason for that. If they just threw a Flash version of Tetris up, then everyone would just be compelled to have a round of Tetris in their browser rather than buy the game itself. Advertise a unique mode for it, though, and not only do you get people thinking ‘oh, there’s more than just Tetris on this cartridge, hmm,’ but you also inspire the people who just want a round of regular Tetris to buy the bloody thing, too.
Clever, Nintendo. Very clever.
True Swing Golf
True Swing Golf is a golf game that isn’t as good as Mario Golf. Golf, golf, golf.
It’s meant to be a more realistic interpretation, featuring folk that look like real folk, and clubs that don’t make your ball set on fire when you hit it really, really hard. And, honestly, where’s the fun in that? I guess if you’re a diehard golf fan that can’t accept any, you know, fun stuff, then True Swing Golf would’ve been the game for you.
Anyway. That’s the actual game. And you should know by now that’s not what you’re going to get. At all. Unless it’s a puzzle game, and then you’ll get a watered down version. And the only puzzle about golf is how people watch it for eight hours a day.
You have to grab the golf club and try and swing it into the ball to try and drive it as far as possible. That’s about it. It’s a fairly pedestrian affair.
Oh. And I’m not very good at it.
Animal Crossing Trivia / Chibi-Robo Quiz
There’s also two quizzes. I’ll cover both of them at the same time, since they’re similar.
This one is fairly standard fare – it asks you a bunch of questions about Animal Crossing. That’s it, really. Nothing wrong with it, there’s just not much to report.
The Chibi-Robo one, however, is dead cute. In the game, you play as a tiny little robot that goes around cleaning up after it’s owners, the Sanderson family. You get into all kinds of scrapes along the way, even meeting a bunch of sentient toys, ala Toy Story.
In the Flash game, however, you are asked a bunch of questions which are basically designed to figure out how much of a scruffy shit you are. Depending on your answers, the quiz will judge at the end as to whether or not you need your own Chibi-Robo to wipe your arse for you.
There we are then. That’s all of them.
Well, no. Not quite. There were actually a ton more of these that were, it seems, lost forever. I can remember a WarioWare one. There was a competition around the original games launch that asked fans to send in their own microgame ideas. People did this, and Nintendo recreated them in a Flash game. I know that this existed, but I’ll be damned if I could find it. The reason I’m writing this paragraph? If you know where it is, tell me. Provide me with a link. I’ll be most grateful.
I can’t say I’ve had a great deal of fun playing these games – at least, not in the traditional sense. They’re obviously lacking, and you can’t use the word ‘Flash’ as an excuse, because there were plenty of amazing games made in Flash, some of which went on to, you know, proper games that people had to buy with real money and that. Look at Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac, or even Alien Hominoid.
The difference between those games and these, though, is that they were passion projects. They had countless hours of love, dedication, and pride poured into them as the creator strove to see their vision completed. These, on the other hand, they’re games made to promote a product. The people, or even the singular person who made them was just doing their job. They might not have enjoyed their job. They might’ve not have been a gamer, even – just a Flash programmer working for an advertising agency. Or they might’ve loved it, but they were given less than a week to turn these things out.
You can’t blame the creators. And you can’t blame Nintendo, because I wouldn’t want them to spend half of the game’s budget on creating a perfect 1:1 Flash replica of Drill Dozer for the sake of an advertising campaign. So, who do you blame for the quality of these games? Well, nobody. The whole thing is a blameless affair. Hell, we shouldn’t even be judging the quality of these games, really, even though I’ve just used four thousand words to do so. They were used to make a website more interactive, and at this point, they’re relics. Important relics.
Because, you know, here’s the thing with them. Despite the majority of them being crap, wonky affairs, I do remember playing some of them. They left an impression, in their own way. And some people will remember some games more fondly than others – there’ll be plenty of people who might’ve whiled away hours in the school library playing Phantasia Archery or any one of these games, really.
This is why it’s important to preserve them. That WarioWare Flash game that I mentioned? That’s probably gone forever now – I’ll never be able to revisit that memory, and that’s pretty sad. It’s not the most important thing in the world – I’m not going to lose any sleep over it, or anything – but playing that game again would make me happy, even if it was only in a very small way.
They’re little bits of Nintendo history. That time when they made Flash games. Crap, yes. But they deserve to live.
So, Origami64, I’ll raise a glass to you, for keeping the nostalgia alive for crappy old Flash games that aren’t that fun. Don’t ever stop, because they’ll probably be gone for good if you do.
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