This article originally appeared on GamePro.com.
Arcade Games That Time Forgot is a feature about weird, brilliant, kooky, terrible, or just interesting arcade games. Why just arcade games? Because while arcades gave us plenty of amazing games that are now classic franchises, it wasn't unlike the PC market, where any ol' group of people could make and distribute them, and with that sort of freedom, crazy ideas had a better chance of making it through. And for better or worse, quite a few did.
Hotdog Storm (Marble Inc., 1996)
Arcade shoot-em-ups weren't always the "bullet hell" stuff we see now (and I really should find a less tired term to use next time) -- the shift towards that occurred in the late '90s, when the genre sort of leveled out in quality and wasn't really drawing in players like they used to, and without the strong competitive component of fighting games to keep them going, shooters were all but headed underground. And Hotdog Storm was one of the harbingers of the decline.
Not that it's a bad game, though. But for starters, Hotdog Storm is not a run-of-the-mill name, and if you're like me, that will be your only reason for playing it. (I'm not sure anyone figured out what it's supposed to refer to; the emblem on the title screen suggests that it's the name of the fighting force you belong to.) Unfortunately, I have to burst your bubble: The game doesn't live up to the title. Right after the title screen, you'll see that it's another jet fighter shooter where you blow up big robots. Yay. And this was in 1996, right about when all that stuff finally got long in the tooth, and a year after Cave debuted with the first DonPachi.
But, again, regardless of Marble not having the best timing in history, Hotdog Storm is a capable shooter. The graphics are decent, with a clear Raiden influence -- explosions are common, and shrapnel flies everywhere once something's destroyed. And most of the enemies, not just bosses, use sectional sprite parts to make the mechs hover and "breathe," an animation technique that wasn't used too often.
This isn't even like Dino Rex, where you think you're just playing something kind of crappy, and then all of a sudden you're thrown into Crazy Land. The only other food imagery is in the high score screen, which features flying hot dogs and condiment bottles. Maybe that's where they got the idea for the name -- someone was staring at their After Dark screensaver and decided to bring the flying toaster concept over to hot dogs. And yes, I am struggling to find something else to write about Hotdog Storm. Basically, it's worth playing just for anyone who wants to expand their knowledge of shooter history.
As an interesting historical point, despite being inferior to Cave's games, Hotdog Storm ran on the original hardware developed by Cave for use in their shooters of that period. But I suppose it stands to reason that no matter how great your hardware is, and no matter what innovative games are made for it, you're going to get some lesser products from people that may or may not have tried their best to just get something good out there. All things considered, I do think the makers of Hotdog Storm tried. And at least they're really great at picking names.