Retronauts Pocket Episode 8: Jaws & Friday the 13th

Retronauts Pocket 8

Hello, boils and ghouls — It’s Bob again with my third episode in a row. (Hopefully you’re not getting sick of me by this point.) Retronauts Pocket episode 8 comes to you courtesy of David Shuff, who suggested Jaws for the NES as a possible topic, then — for the sake of filling a half-hour — agreed to let us talk about Friday the 13th as well. Now, these two typically make every “Worst NES Games Ever” list, and while there’s plenty of room for improvement, both Friday the 13th and Jaws contain some great (and distinctly Japanese) design ideas that would have made for much better experiences if the cruel taskmasters at LJN gave their hired guns more time to work with. That said, due to its topic and timing, Pocket 8 became our accidental Halloween episode, helped into creation by Brett Elston and Chris Antista (of the Laser  Time podcast network), who you heard on last week’s show. Enjoy, and for extra spookiness, be sure to listen to this one in the abandoned summer camp or moonlit pumpkin patch of your choice.

Libsyn (33:43 | MP3 | 24.6 MB) | SoundCloud

This episode’s description:

“In the late ’80s, Lewis J. Norman had a dream: delivering children awful video game adaptations of movies way out of their age range. But are these 8-bit monsters really just misunderstood? Join Bob Mackey, Ray Barnholt, and special guests Brett Elston and Chris Antista as they uncover the dark truths of Jaws and Friday the 13th for the NES, and brave the horrors of mechanical sharks and machete-wielding goalies.”

About the musical selections: Both Jaws and Friday the 13th contain about two minutes of music apiece, so I’m not going to bother listing my choices here. And the closing song is “Angela’s Theme” by Frankie Vinci from the 1983 movie Sleepaway Camp. Happy?

14 thoughts on “Retronauts Pocket Episode 8: Jaws & Friday the 13th

    • I second the motion for a Jaws/Jason shirt. No copyright infringement necessary, unless you decide to dance on the border and put “Shark Jaws” on the front with the word “shark” at less than one-tenth of the size.

  1. JAWS was another regular rental for me as a kid. Purchased and finally beat it 20 years later. It still gives me a fun few minutes about once a year. Thanks for another great show!

  2. Great episode! One thing though — Bob said Acclaim bought LJN in 1995. They actually purchased them in 1990 and folded LJN into Acclaim in 1995. The LJN namesake didn’t reappear until 2000, when Acclaim used it on the Dreamcast port of Spirit of Speed 1937.

    Also, that picture is hilarious.

  3. I have an experience near Stockholm Syndrome when it comes to Friday the 13th. It was one of a bunch of games that I was given as a kid when an older friend of the family bought a SNES and had to make room.
    It forced me to enjoy the game, and while I didn’t figure out how to actually beat it until watching a YouTube video fairly recently, I still kind of like the game.
    It has a great imagination to it, and is a precursor to open-world games in my opinion. Imagine it today, if it were in 3D and you had to run around the camp to stop Jason while he was in the cabins. I think it could work.

  4. I felt a surge of excitement when I saw this topic, I played through way too many LJN games when I was younger. They were just so bad that I considered it a challenge to beat them and eventually got to liking some of them, Friday the 13th in particular.

    The game has a lot of fascinating elements. Like Jaws, it’s really a game about surviving long enough to increase your offensive firepower. The fireplaces do have a purpose, as lighting them all nets you the torch which is the second most powerful weapon in the game (the pitchfork isn’t available until the last day). However, like Jaws, the game is so obtuse about explaining itself that it’s hard to know what you’re supposed to do.

    The most interesting thing about the game is Jason’s “path.” At all times, Jason seems to be somewhere on the game map, even when he isn’t actively attacking people. I’m not sure how the game determines where Jason is, most likely it gives him a random counselor/child to kill and he takes the most direct path there. This means that you can often run into Jason even when you don’t expect it, which I think is kind of cool.

    You notice this the most during the endgame when you’re powerful enough to take Jason down and he continually flees. If you beat him in a cabin and then choose the correct path (left or right) outside the cabin, you’ll actually “catch up” to Jason’s path and he’ll be forced to fight you outside. If you have someone fast like Mark, you’ll just keep catching up to him each time he runs away and quickly destroy him. However, Jason is also defensive and will sometimes duck into empty cabins while you’re pursuing him, hoping you’ll pass by. I’d love to know more about the programming of the game and what determines Jason’s whereabouts.

    Sorry for the essay, but one doesn’t get the opportunity to discuss LJN games too often!

  5. This episode made me subscribe to LaserTime podcast. Great show. I randomly picked an episode and it happened to be the Psy Crow one, where Mackey guest hosted. I look forward to listening to more.

    Related to this episode, you guys should have contacted your old friend Sam Claiborn, because on last week’s Nintendo vocie chat, he started off by saying how Friday the 13th is his favorite game and he can’t stop playing it. I never really played it growing up, so after hearing how much he loved it, and how bad it was here, it gave me a chuckle.

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