Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

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Ben Boldt
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Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Ben Boldt » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:55 am

I find it strange how few NES games use Memphis style. I remember this style being very popular at the time and the excessive use of geometric patterns, sloppy swoops, and blocky shaped stuff certainly seems to lend itself well to limited graphics of the NES.

Sonic the Hedgehog series had this nailed, also Toejam and Earl had some but that's not NES. The only example I can think of is Super Mario Bros. 3. The zig-zag pattern to black at the end of each level is BIG-TIME Memphis, also the 16x16 icons randomly sprinkled around in the sky, etc, they are getting there. Did we ever have a game that took this any farther than that?

Examples:

Memphis Furniture.jpg
rockos-modern-life.jpg
Memphis seamless pattern.jpg
Memphis seamless pattern.jpg (41.37 KiB) Viewed 673 times
90s-memphis-transparent.png
jazz solo cup.jpg
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Ben Boldt
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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Ben Boldt » Sat Jun 27, 2020 1:33 pm

I realize now that Klax is an NES game in this style, at least the box/label art. Can you think of any others?

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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by tokumaru » Sat Jun 27, 2020 1:54 pm

The cartridge label for the Famicom game "Armadillo" comes to mind.

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Ben Boldt
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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Ben Boldt » Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:51 pm

Oh wow look at that, I never knew about that one!

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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Bavi_H » Sat Jun 27, 2020 5:19 pm

Parts of M.C. Kids might sort of qualify.

The early levels feature bright colors and repeating shapes in the grass and columns: The text screens (used for the game over message, the bonus game title card, and the end credits) have a bright color background with spinning shapes falling diagonally:

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Ben Boldt
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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Ben Boldt » Sat Jun 27, 2020 5:36 pm

Yes very good points and I agree that M.C. Kids does use that style.

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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by M_Tee » Sun Jun 28, 2020 12:20 am

I used it for the Action 53 Vol. 3 packaging design, and Broke Studios uses it in their webdesign and branding.

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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Drag » Sun Jun 28, 2020 1:19 pm

I love this style, and I like those Mac skins. :D If only we could figure out a way to include some Roland D50 samples in an NES game, because that's the only thing that'd be missing. :P

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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Ben Boldt » Sun Jun 28, 2020 4:45 pm

The more I think about it, Toejam and Earl is the one that nailed this style. I think Sonic is pulling more from some other 80s/90s style, but I am not sure what that would be or if that has a name. Sonic is doing something a lot more industrial and I think that's why FM synth works so well for Sonic.

Definitely some sound expansion is needed with Memphis style. I wanted to say that FM synth / VRC7 would be a good fit but I am second-guessing that now. I am not sure what sound goes well with this style. I am thinking little strange sampled audio snips could do something, I just don't know though. Maybe a lack of music with more emphasis on sound effects works. The strange artsy lady from the movie Beetlejuice comes to mind... She might have some ideas for us, though her style maybe predates Memphis a little bit.

It is hard to envision this style very far on NES, but it MAKES SENSE. The choppy animations, geometric patterns, and diverse but limited pastel and bold color schemes all seem like a can-do for the NES. Objects tend to be intentionally large, askew, and sometimes curved which might be more of a graphical challenge.

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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by tokumaru » Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:12 pm

The Japanese boxes for the Mega Drive Sonic games definitely have a lot of this style, but the games themselves don't, as far as I can tell.
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sonic1.jpg
sonic3.jpg

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Ben Boldt
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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Ben Boldt » Sun Jun 28, 2020 6:46 pm

You're right, I was way off, though your box art does show it. Sonic might have a few things here and there in-game like SMB3 but not much.

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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Dwedit » Sun Jun 28, 2020 8:16 pm

Does this count?

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Ben Boldt
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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Ben Boldt » Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:31 pm

I would say it has some influence, what game is that?

Edit: I see it is Chu Chu Rocket.

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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by Memblers » Mon Jun 29, 2020 1:35 am

I couldn't find better pics, and it's just the packaging instead of a game, but there's definitely some of that going on here:
38909-[Program]_Pro_Action_Replay_2_(Europe)-1460147229.jpg
RARE-Nintendo-NES-Datel-Pro-Action-Replay-game.jpg
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Re: Late 1980s / Early 1990s Memphis Style in NES Games

Post by dougeff » Mon Jun 29, 2020 5:51 am

The package art for Double Dare.

Also, since you list Rocko's Modern Life... they made a SNES game for that show.
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