MAME: Black Tiger, Tron, and the All Nighter
If someone were to ask you what is the greatest arcade game ever, you might be tempted to say:
Street Fighter 2,
Vs. Super Mario Bros,
or even Star Wars.
You’d be wrong.
The correct answer is Black Tiger.
Black Tiger is a 2D side scrolling fantasy themed game from Capcom. Two things set it apart from other games, first: I had access to it. And second: the player was able to purchase gear with in-game currency, rewarded for killing bad guys and exploration, allowing you to better slay your enemies and continue exploring. This added an interesting cost / efficiency strategy to a visually (at the time) stunning game. If you believed you were very skilled at the game, you wouldn’t need to buy a slightly better weapon incrementally but save up your money until later, allowing you the privilege of buying the best weapon (a huge ball of fire on a chain that shoots swords! Actually all the other weapons also shot swords but that just adds to the aweseomness of Black Tiger) in the game 1 or 2 levels before you were expected, thereby making it easier to do-in more evil doers. The 7-11 near my house had this one for about a year and I found myself the local expert on the machine owning the top 5 high scores. yea, I know, oooooowww!.
and then one day, it was gone. Just like that. No word, no warning. Just gone. Replaced by an inferior game. Which I probably played the crap out of as well but I’m getting off topic.
Fast forward many many years later, having obtained my first personal dial up internet connection in 2000 (courtesy of Blue Light from Kmart of all places) I was all set to explore the depths of knowledge hidden away within the interwebs. I enjoyed typing anything I could think of into search engines and being overwhelmed by vast amounts of sites hosting information on any given topic bouncing around inside my head. I was reminiscing about Black Tiger and I wanted to see what information about this game existed. I stumbled upon something called M.A.M.E. (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) and gave it a shot. Turns out MAME is a free program, community supported, created to enable the playing of classic arcade games on the PC. It emulates various game engines to run on a PC with the correct game ROM for any game out of thousands. I could get the ROM for Black Tiger from any number of generous host sites, download MAME, and relive the greatest arcade game ever. Mind = blown! It was unbelievable! I soon found myself searching sites for other classic games also supported by MAME.
It was about 4am when I forced myself to turn off my PC. But I had to tell Steve! Steve has been my buddy since 3rd grade and if its one thing we loved, its tarding. He would have understood if I called him at 4am with news of my discovery but I thought against it since he might try to come over and keep me up the rest of the night.
The next night, Steve came over and I showed him Black Tiger, exactly as we’d remembered. Mind = blown!
Then we played Star Wars,
then Rushin’ Attack,
then many others. At some point Steve turned to me and said: “You know, when I was a kid, I saw some guy play Tron so well he made it to a tank level with recognizers.”
Naturally I called his story crap. But this led us to play Tron the rest of the night, until the sun came up, seeking for the recognizer level. We didn’t make it to the recognizer lever (we finally did years later)
but we had an amazing time reliving past classics gone, taken from us along with all our local arcade machines. Thank you MAME for bringing them back!
Recently I have discovered Hyperspin, a new, very pretty, user interface for MAME which I am now updating and preparing for the creation of my dedicated MAME arcade machine. Occasionally, I’ll play Tron, Star Wars, or Black Tiger for an hour or two and then play some Just Cause 2 or Left 4 Dead 2. The contrast is startling. But sometimes you just need your classic gaming fix.