We're looking forward to reuniting with a few old friends this weekend. These are characters we haven't encountered in ages. They are a bit colorful and animated, to say the least, and go by such unusual names as Jumpman, Contestant One, Liu Kang, and Rastan.
See also: ZapCon 2014's Game List Is Revealed
Besides all the various tournaments and competitions, screenings of game-inspired movies, and other activities that are scheduled during the two-day event (including an "Atari Lounge" featuring throwback 2600 consoles), more than 80 different old school and vintage titles will be featured.
ZapCon's game list boasts numerous joystick gems you haven't seen for eons or rarities you never knew existed. And a total of 85 pinball units will also be on hand for enthusiasts of the silver ball.
A little of both can be found in our personal list of games that we're looking forward to interfacing with at ZapCon.
This popular Nintendo-produced boxing game from 1984 (which was later adapted to the NES as Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!) was featured at last year's Zapcon, and, frankly, it vexed the hell out of us. It seemed considerably a lot harder pounding buttons to put away boxers like Piston Hurricane, Mr. Sandman, and Bald Bull as adults than when we first encountered the game in our youth. We're ready for round two.
Mr. Do's Castle
The games in the Mr. Do series of the early '80s really weren't entirely original, considering that each title sort of ripped off the mechanics of such groundbreaking games as Pac-Man and Qix, but damned if it wasn't a blast play 'em. Mr. Do's Castle, for instance, was derivative of Donkey Kong involving climbing ladders, swinging hammers, crunching enemies (in this case, evil unicorns), and collecting keys. It was challenging (especially during the later levels) and a helluva lot of fun.
Mortal Kombat II
If you've been into video games anytime in the last 20 years, it's incredibly likely that you've gone a few rounds with any of titles in the Mortal Kombat franchise. In our opinion, however, the series peaked with this game, the first sequel in the series. It improved on the characters, gameplay, combos, music, graphics, and (most importantly) the blood and gore of the original before Mortal Kombat as a whole descended into an over-bloated self-parody of itself with the movie and everything from MK3 onward. Plus, Kitana's razor-sharp fans were pretty boss.
Throughout the '80s, the people at Atari Games designed groundbreaking arcade titles inspired by unusual pursuits that often boasted unique joysticks, such as 720 Degrees, A.P.B., and S.T.U.N. Runner. One of their first hits was 1984's Paperboy, which (as the title portends) involved delivering newspapers to subscribers without breaking their windows or running into obstacles (including breakdancers, wandering drunks, or fist-fighting skinheads). Since it involved riding a bike, the joystick was a pair of handlebars, which often were slammed around by overeager kids unconcerned with damaging things. Let's hope whichever collector is bringing this game to Zapcon has performed some proper maintenance over the years.
Long before polygons were the standard, it was quite impressive when a game utilized vector or wire frame graphics. In the early '80s, Atari had several games that did so, including the tank simulator Battlezone, as well as Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back (both inspired by the respective movies). And then there was the relatively rare black-and-white vector game, Red Baron, whereby you dogfight in a World War I-era biplane against other sky jockeys. It's practically Paleolithic when compared to today's consoles, but its a curious relic of gaming's past that looks plenty fun.
The whole swords and sorcery thing was a big part of the arcade gaming's golden age, as evidenced by such offerings as Gauntlet, Ghost and Goblines, Venture, Crossbow, Rygar, and Golden Axe, just to name a few. Our personal favorite was Rastan, a Conan-esque side-scrolling platformer with a fantastic soundtrack that involved leading the titular warrior through his heroic journey of slaying dragons and smiting evildoers with his flaming broadsword.
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Never heard of this particular arcade classic? It's not surprising, considering it's pretty darn rare, which is one of the reasons were eager to get our mitts on it at ZapCon. It's got an unusual concept, to say the least: an invasion of juvenile delinquent-like mutant turkeys is running amok and it falls to you to annihilate them with endless rounds of ammunition. Produced by Williams Electronics in limited quantities, Turkey Shoot's action resembles the mechanics and frenetic, blast-happy chaos of its sister game Robotron 2084. Can't wait to try it.
ZapCon 2014 takes place on Saturday, April 12, and Sunday, April 13, at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Doors open at 9 a.m. each day. One-day admission is $25, and weekend passes are $35.