Joined: 26 Aug 2003 Posts: 4192 Location: Oakland, CA
Posted: Tue Feb 27, 2007 5:15 am Post subject: VC Alternative, Week Four: Time Diver - Eon Man
Hi gang! Today's Virtual Console Alternative comes jam-packed with a guest review by a guy named Erebus, who runs ErrorMacro.com. The formatting's all screwy because bbcode sucks and I can't figure out how to make html work properly, so if you want to see it as originally intended, go here!
On the dawning of 1993, the Super NES had been on the market in the U.S. for over a year, and the Genesis even longer. The NES was looking longer in the tooth with each day that went by. By that point, even new games for the system looked old, and thus what came out had to be something special if it hoped to draw attention away from the next generation. It had to offer something new and exciting. It had to be fresh and original. In other words, it needed to not be Time Diver: Eon Man.
Time Diver was an action platformer for the NES, scheduled to be released by Taito in February of 1993. I'm not saying the game is bad, mind you; just generic. It could easily be a dozen other games, and at least seven of those would be Ninja Gaiden. It's a simple five level sprint through every cliche of the NES era, and I can only assume that this sameness made Taito question the title's sales potential. The game is clearly complete, and it even got a four-page strategy guide and review in issue 45 of Nintendo Power, but shortly thereafter it was cancelled and shelved for good.
Assumption is about all we have to go on; there's little evidence as to the real reason the game was dropped. The only other theory I have is that the plot confused everyone into forgetting to ship the game. As the introduction to Nintendo Power's coverage explains:
"Earth, 60 years into the future. The world is virtually crime free thanks to the Clear System invented by Kane Nelson, scientist extraordinaire. That is, until a secret organization called Romedrux decides to challenge the system by unleashing a plague of crime. In order for them to succeed, they'll need to prevent the Clear System from ever being invented, and that means eliminating Kane or his ancestors."
It takes a fair amount of effort to manage a parodox before you get to the part about time travel. I'm not sure how an organization can plan criminal activity while operating under a system that eliminates criminal activity. And how do they intend to pull this off? It just so happens that, busy guy that he is, Kane also devised a method of time travel called the Eon System. So the Romedrux crew decides to steal both systems (once again we must question how effective the Clear System really is), and travel back in time to bump off Sarah Connor Kane's ancestors. Questions left unanswered include what they needed to steal the Clear System for, as well as why they need to stop its invention if they can apparently just grab it and toss it into the nearest time portal.
Of course, if they actually succeed in their plan to prevent Kane from being born, the Eon System won't exist. Thus at best they won't have a way to get back home and at worst they would have had no reason to leave in the first place, causing the space-time continuum to collapse. They really didn't think this through very far.
Soon (and yet earlier), in 1993, mild mannered Los Angeles student Dan Nelson is walking home when he's suddenly attacked by a group of men weilding unusual weapons and flying on floating pods. Dan collapses like a wet rag at the sight of danger, but just as they close in for the kill, a mysterious man in a goofy outfit appears out of nowhere and fights against them. He wins, but not without taking a hit himself, and Dan carries his injured savior home.
It turns out the hero is the fabled Time Diver, sent by Kane from the future to protect his father and other ancestors from Romedrux. Unfortunately, his injuries now prevent him from continuing in his duty, so he must appoint a new Diver to continue in his stead. Naturally, he decides the best man to suit up and jump in front of the oncoming Danger Train is the man he just got shot trying to save and the producer of the sperm upon which the world depends. Dan's a little unsure of this idea, but Time Diver throws down some zen similes to seal the deal.
Inspired by this impassioned speech, Dan becomes the new Time Diver, suddenly gains 30 pounds in pure muscle, and heads out to save the world while old Time Diver loafs on Dan's couch and turns on Oprah. With this, our game begins in earnest.
The first level takes place in Dan's own time of "Peaceful 1993." After making a stop at local teen hangout BEEF for a quick snack, Dan heads out to crack some skulls and save his brother, who's been kidnapped by Romedrux and taken to the top of a nearby building. I'll admit to nodding off during Biology in high school, but I'm fairly sure Dan's brother didn't have a large role in concieving Kane. At least.. I hope not. So the bad guys are already resorting to the bait-and-ambush trick, and Dan walks right into it. After fighting across the streets and through a factory that seems to specialize in producing high-quality fire for mass market, Dan arrives at the top of the building to find a reject from Mutant League Football whose plan of attack is to run back and forth and throw footballs until Time Diver gets bored and leaves. The Diver counters this with a plan of his own involving punching a football player in the face until he explodes.
Dan's brother is safe, and as you would imagine, he's ecstatic.
I'm fine. Here's a gun. Go away.
Dan takes his sibling's advice and travels to Devestated 2052, an age of decaying urban centers, skies choked with smoke, thugs with guns, and mindless, roaming creatures fitted with artificial parts. So it takes him a moment to realize he's left present day LA.
This time around, Kane himself has been kidnapped, and you'd think the game would pretty much be over now. But rather than just throw the guy in a chipper and be done with it, once again they choose to tie him up and wait for Dan to come along. Then they can kill Dan, make Kane disappear and finally fulfill the requirements for their Circuitous Murder merit badges at Romedrux Camp. But Dan is more than prepared thanks to the new weapon his brother gave him, which grants him the power to spin in dirt. Yes, the weapon literally has no function except when Dan stands over one of the few patches of loose soil found in the game, at which point he starts spinning and digging down through to the other side as the hero of time and space, Time Diver: Garden Weasel.
After he's properly tilled the farmland of the future, Dan arrives at the boss, on loan from the end of the intro level to Mega Man X2. Dan is tasked with casually avoiding the disembodied claws that float onto the screen long enough to whack the robot's cockpit to death. Ignore the glitchy claw, these graphics flicker a lot.
Don't take that tone with your past dad young man.
You can decide whether or not it's coincidence Kane has the same haircut as Edward Furlong in Terminator 2. At any rate, he looks more like a tomboy girl than a top scientist, but more importantly he doesn't look more than 12. I suppose we could say he's some kind of Doogie Howser of the inventions that stop crime and also allow time travel world, but that still doesn't explain why Dan would have a teenage son in 2052. Dan would be well into his 70s by that point. It's possible Romedrux kidnapped Kane earlier in time, then took him to a different year for the sole purpose of tying him up and waiting for Time Diver, but I prefer to believe a 60 year old man fathered a super genius scientist who earned international accolades for single-handedly abolishing illegal activity when he was in middle school. It's more reasonable.
Nintendo Power's guide sets the stage for the next level: "Grandpa Nelson was a rugged character full of spit and fire until he was kidnapped by these time bandits." I swear to God if I ever write a book, that's going to be the opening line. Time Diver finds himself in 1882, fighting the Bluto clone army to save what has to be at least his great grandfather from the hellish torture of being tied to a post for a while. Be on your guard, Time Diver! These men hail from The Bad Club, so you know they mean business! For reasons I can't explain, the game randomly sorts these levels, so on a different playthrough you might get the old west first, then the future. I don't know what purpose this could serve, other than adding a "random level order means each time you play is a new adventure!" bullet point to the back of the box.
Dan soon finds a shack with a hole in the floor and jumps in, apparently oblivious to the concept of an outhouse. Lucky for him (and you), it just leads to more tunnels filled with goons waiting to shoot at him. One area features platforms that appear and disappear in time to the background music, which is the closest this game comes to having a neat idea. To counter this threat of original thought, your new weapon for this level grants you the ability to freeze time momentarily, which is second only to the moving platform as one of the most overused concepts in gaming. The heroes of the video game world get time freeze power-ups in the mail like we get free trial discs of AOL. You can't get rid of the damned things if you try.
At the bottom of this pit Dan finds Thing's retarded brother Doohickey, who attacks by generating a porn soundtrack at you. By this point in the game, your maximum "arts" points have increased enough that you can fire one power blast (the default special weapon) after another into a boss and have him one hit away from dying before the fight even starts. I refuse to use NP's name "wind blasts."
EVERYBODY STOP TELLING ME WHAT TO DO
Dan returns to the present, only to find.. whoops! He must have picked up a Gray's Sports Almanac while he was in 2052, because now it's Devestated 1993. Dan's brother has been kidnapped and left tied up on top of a building again, but this time it's totally going to work. I don't know how Romedrux has managed to destroy the present time period when they're not even from here. Maybe one of those Blutos Dan punched to death in 1882 happened to be the man who was going to be solely responsible for making sure the town wasn't on fire a hundred years later. Good job, Dan.
Notice that the screenshot here is the same location as the one for the first level. I bet that fire in the BEEF building smells delicious. The whole level's like this. Not a direct copy of the first stage, but the same kind of stuff except with darker colors and cracks drawn on to prove that it's all torn up. Even the football player has been reincarnated as a black man, which means he's not fooling around this time. He's changed his strategy to running back and forth and punching the ground to make flames shoot out, which somehow manages to be the one thing less effective than throwing footballs at you.
I'm not saving you again. Just a heads up.
The devestation in the present makes even less sense when Dan heads back to the future and finds the world a peaceful utopia. Squids clean the floors, Aibos have rocket feet, and there's a space shuttle in every driveway. But there's still work to do, as Dan's girlfriend Dola has been kidnapped time time around. Maybe he can ask that nearby Imperial interrogator droid for directions.
After climbing up through a vertical shaft slowly filling with toxic fluid (cliche #2508), Dan happens upon a docked space shuttle. Unaware that these things have doors, he latches himself to the outside and takes a ride through an asteroid field. The trip is difficult, as he keeps being blown back by all the.. uh.. wind resistance. But he has at least one spot of luck: It turns out that this era is so peaceful that Dola is being held hostage on the honor system, without a boss to protect her. These are the people who defeated Kane's inpenetrable security system.
Give me long hours on weekends and no raise. I consider turning in notice.
Dan doesn't have time to ask why she looks like a 20 year old anchorwoman, because the final boss awaits. Like any good boss, he comes in multiple stages; unlike any good boss, both stages suck.
First is a robot which, if you squint and turn your head, could pass as a cyborg version of Vigo from Ghostbusters II. His one and only ability is to hop back and forth. And not a "I'm going to crush you" kind of hop; he just moves from one end of the screen to the other. If you manage to get hit by this thing, it's actually illegal for you to ever play video games again. After it explodes, the mech in the back wakes up, and the second phase begins.
His left hand holds a sword to slash at you, the right is empty and just tries to grab you. In short, he's the same boss as the one in Devestated 2052. The best part of the whole fight is that final weapon Dola gave you: a nova attack that lights up the whole screen. If your arts points are full, you can use the attack three times and actually kill the final boss in a few seconds. It's like a Knights of the Round without any of that bothersome work.
And with that, the game is over. There's a short scroll of text reiterating what great guys the past, present and future Time Divers are, then it's The End. But the story of the game itself has one more chapter.
After Time Diver: Eon Man was shelved in 1993, no one expected to see it again. However, sometime in 1994, a game appeared in the Asian market called Time Diver: Avenger. It was exactly the same as Eon Man, with the only changes being the title screen (filmed in Actraiser-Vision), all uses of the name Eon Man (changed to Avenger), the copyright date, and the name of the company. Both instances of the Taito logo were replaced with the logo for a company called Nitra, though they missed the Taito on the back fin of the space shuttle. No amount of research has been able to determine exactly what Nitra was. Given that Eon Man was unreleased and they were working in the bootleg-heavy Asian market, many assume Nitra was a pirate group that somehow got a leaked copy and sold it themselves. However, others (like Lost Levels' own Frank Cifaldi) have speculated that it may have been a legitimate company that bought the rights to the game. Or even better, perhaps Nitra was a branch of Taito itself, trying to make what money back they could by turning to a market more receptive to new NES titles. Unfortunately, I can't find any other Nitra games to help prove or disprove this theory. Other Taito games I've seen pirated simply have the company and copyright date removed altogether.
As for the original Eon Man, it's hard to find the story behind its cancellation most likely because there isn't one. The game itself was not a very risky propostion, and Taito certainly wasn't going down in flames. Hell, the game is actually fun to play, albeit much shorter and easier than it should be. It simply had too little new or different, and was delivered too late for the market it was being released into. The two titles Taito did ship for the NES in 1993 were The Flintstones 2 and Bubble Bobble Part 2, and at least they had name recognition going for them. Perhaps if it had been Terminator: Eon Man instead, things would've been different. And possibly made more sense.
Some of you might have this game in your fancy ROM sets, but that particular file is actually a title screen hack of Time Diver Avenger. This ROM here, previously unavailable on the internet, is the only clean, true version of Time Diver: Eon Man. Enjoy!
Last edited by TheRedEye on Fri Mar 02, 2007 3:39 pm; edited 1 time in total
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