A Kick for Kickstarters: The Arkade

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Do you remember the number of old Christian-themed games released for various gaming platforms in the early-to-mid 90s? There’s a good chance anyone raised as part of a Catholic direct family played at least one. It was a time where games were far, far from being taken seriously, and were partly scrutinized by certain groups as destroying the brains of children. (Not to say they aren’t now, but that happens to a lesser extent.) Skeptical parental guardians wanted their children to play something ostensibly more wholesome in between traditional games, and that’s where games like these came in.

They didn’t have to be good, and it’s easy to forget how difficult it was to find reviews for such titles around this time; some also fulfilled the duty of helping our younger selves distinguish the difference between good and bad games, but it was best when these were actually fun.

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Incidentally, that’s the nostalgia Wisdom Tree is counting on with their Kickstarter campaign for the Arkade. Wisdom Tree wanted to go beyond redistributing some of these games on digital PC services like Steam, which is where the Arkade comes in, a plug-and-play microconsole packed with all of their NES games preloaded to the device. Specifically, that will include Sunday Funday, Spiritual Warfare, Joshua & the Battle of Jericho, Exodus, Bible Adventures, King of Kings, and Bible Buffet. To read more about these (save for Sunday Funday), check out Drew’s post about them. But make sure you return to this post if you do.

The games will be stored on a controller that’s visibly nearly indistinguishable from an NES one, a patent I would have thought long expired if Nintendo hadn’t trademarked it again in April last year. (It’s clear they did this for the NES Classic Edition announced two weeks ago, which also makes the introduction of this very campaign somewhat fortuitous.) That’s already enough to give me pause here, and I don’t see anything about this being licensed on their page. But they admittedly claim it’s a prototype design, so perhaps the final version will be modified enough to avoid a lawsuit, unless they forgot to include that info.

For anyone who’d rather go without the system altogether and still has a working NES, a multi-collection cartridge including every game listed above is also available upon pledging for a $40 tier. Like any crowdfunding campaign, pledging options that go beyond simply obtaining the cart, as shown with one that also includes the manual and cardboard box for $60.

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Beyond the NES games: Backers can also pledge for a Genesis/Mega Drive collection including four games (Bible Adventures, Spiritual Warfare, Joshua, and Exodus) released for that platform on one cartridge for $35 pledgers. A few other products have also been released physically for Genesis well after its twilight years, like Pier Solar, so this will join them. There’s also an SNES cart for the Wolfenstein 3D-style Super 3D Noah’s Arc that’s available at the base level for $40, which includes a box and instruction booklet.

Some are also available through PC in physical DVD and digital editions. One will include Spiritual Warfare, Exodus, and Bible Adventures, while another is for S3DNA, both of which are the same price ($30) to show the latter’s value. It’s also worth noting that S3DNA is available on Steam for a mere $5.

That’s a lot of pledge tiers! In fact, it’s enough to be overwhelming and confusing for anyone happening upon the page. You’ll have to read all of them carefully to understand what you’re getting with each one. The amount of reading onlookers need to do could partly explain why its funding is a little on the low side, though it’s already reached its initial goal of $16,500 with around 16 days to go. It’s clear they wanted more than that, evinced through the stretch goals for Genesis and Dreamcast versions of S3DNA at $75,000 and $150,000, respectively, and $350,000 for an animated feature of S3DNA.

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I’m also concerned about the build quality of the controller being constructed by PNP, whose record has been dubious with certain products. Their fighting game controllers, for instance, have received much criticism due to how easily they can break, and you really wouldn’t want that to happen with a controller full of preloaded games. I’m also not a fan of how it requires composite cables, which can be more of a hassle than they’re worth on newer TVs.

But my biggest concern is the potential emulation and porting quality of each title, and the build quality of the carts they’ll come on — emphasis being on the former. Good emulation quality is tough for even the biggest companies around to get right sometimes, but it’s had to get a good impression of how this will fare given the demonstration on the crowdfunding page. While I don’t expect anything as bad as, say, games made for the recent Sega consoles ported by AT Games (and it gets worse), I’m hoping they at least play well with adequately-replicated visuals and sound quality.

Despite those potential issues, you’re still getting a good deal for what you’re paying for with this Wisdom Tree Kickstarter. There are a lot of tiers, but they made sure to keep the prices low, which lowers the risk associated with pledging. I hope they deliver when these products release in December.

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