Retro Vault: Sonic 3, Mario: The Lost Levels, Lemmings
19th May 2013 | 11:00
Retro Vault is our regular weekly feature in which we dive into gaming's past and share five classic nuggets of retro nostalgia. If you missed last week's Retro Vault you can read it here.
March 2001 - Conker's Bad Fur Day
At the E3 Expo in 1997, Rare announced that it was working on a 3D platformer starring a little squirrel called Conker. Originally named Conker's Quest, early screenshots and footage showed a game that looked so cute and saccharine that it would likely need a health warning for diabetics on the box.
In late 1997 Conker made his debut as a playable character in Rare's Nintendo 64 racing game, Diddy Kong Racing, alongside another future Rare star, Banjo. Shortly afterwards Conker's Quest was renamed Twelve Tales: Conker 64, and then... nothing.
After concern that Conker's game would be dismissed as yet another cuddly, child-friendly platformer, Rare scrapped Twelve Tales and essentially started from scratch, creating a game designed for a more mature audience.
The result was Conker's Bad Fur Day, a game packed with foul language, tasteless humour, numerous movie parodies (A Clockwork Orange, Reservoir Dogs and Saving Private Ryan were among those spoofed) and a giant talking poo. It was a surprisingly shocking title for its time, especially on the Nintendo 64, and was a huge critical success as a result.
When Rare moved to Microsoft the game was re-released on the Xbox as Conker: Live And Reloaded, complete with Xbox Live multiplayer. Ironically though, despite Nintendo's more family-friendly image, the Xbox version was censored more than the Nintendo 64 original.
February 2, 1994 - Sonic The Hedgehog 3
By the time the third Sonic game was due for release, Sega's mascot had firmly cemented himself as one of the most popular video game characters in the world.
The third game, released on Groundhog Day in North America (redubbed Hedgehog Day by Sega), saw Sonic and Tails travelling across the levitating Angel Island to stop Dr Robotnik from stealing the Master Emerald and using its power to repair his damaged ship.
Also on the island is Knuckles, the last surviving echidna, who's tricked by Robotnik into thinking Sonic wants to steal the Master Emerald. Knuckles appears throughout the game to hinder Sonic's progress and generally be a bit of a prat.
Originally planned to be a massive adventure on a 34 megabit cartridge, Sonic 3 was eventually split into two separate games - Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles. Joining both cartridges together lets you play Sonic 3 & Knuckles, the 'full' third game.
Sega recently announced it will release the original Sonic to Android devices. For the first time in the series history, Tails and Knuckles will also be playable in the game (the current iOS app will also be updated to add both characters).
June 3, 1986 - Super Mario Bros 2 (The Lost Levels) flyer
Super Mario Bros. was such a huge success for Nintendo that it decided to use the inevitable sequel to help sell its new add-on, the Famicom Disk System.
Super Mario Bros. 2: For Super Players used the first game's engine and offered 48 exceptionally difficult stages. Poison mushrooms, windy stages, annoying traps and trick warp zones (which send you back instead of forward) caused many Japanese gamers to pull their hair out.
When it came to the game's western release, Nintendo Of America didn't like Super Mario Bros. 2 because in its eyes, the first game was difficult enough as it was. This new, much harder game was considered far too frustrating for western gamers and so it was decided that it wouldn't be released.
Instead, Nintendo took a different Famicom Disk System game, Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic, and modified it, changing its four Arabian nights-themed characters into Mario, Luigi, Toad and Princess Toadstool (Peach). This became the western Super Mario Bros. 2, which explains why its vegetable-throwing gameplay is so different to that of the other Super Mario Bros. games.
The Japanese version finally made it to the west seven years later (renamed Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels) as part of the SNES compilation Super Mario All-Stars. It's also currently available on the Wii and 3DS Virtual Console services in the west, if you're up to the challenge.
1991 - Nintendo Customer Service Training video
The year is 1991. You're working in an electronics store. A bald businessman comes up to you, says his NES isn't working and wants an exchange. It's covered in what looks like Coca-Cola but may actually be something far worse. How do you deal with him? Do you tell him what you really think of him?
No, you don't. At least, not according to this sensational Nintendo training video from 1991. This video was sent to electronics stores all over America. It educated store owners on how to deal with troublesome customers trying to pull a fast one by returning faulty NES systems.
CHEER! As the bald business man is denied an exchange for his Coke-riddled NES.
WOOP! As a stereotypical nerd with tape on his glasses tries to bully a store clerk into returning a Game Boy.
WINK SUGGESTIVELY! As a ditzy mother is told not to put her controller in port 2 and then, majestically, offers the sales clerk some pie to thank him.
February 1991 - Lemmings review (CVG issue 111)
Here's a fun fact - lemmings actually aren't suicidal creatures, and don't jump off cliffs to their certain doom. The whole misconception was created by Disney, who in its Oscar-winning documentary White Wilderness, actually launched a bunch of lemmings off a cliff to make it look like suicide.
Developed by Dundee-based DMA Design, Lemmings tasked players with assigning abilities to mindless, walking lemmings in order to guide them to an exit while avoiding traps and obstacles. Its simple yet challenging gameplay made it a huge critical and commercial success.
Thanks to Lemmings' success and simple art style, it's been ported to an impressive 31 different systems over the course of its life, not to mention the six sequels it spawned (including Xmas Lemmings, Oh No! More Lemmings and Lemmings 2: The Tribes), and two spin-offs - Lemmings Paintball and PlayStation platformer The Adventures Of Lomax.
It's been estimated that over 15 million copies of the first game have been sold worldwide.