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  • Writer's pictureJoe Pace

Player of Games, #52: Bruce Lee

A considerable number of entries on this list come from the latter half of the 1980s, when Star Trek came back to TV, Billy Joel brought down the Soviet Union with a concert, and the Commodore 64 reigned supreme over the first golden age of computer gaming. Some of these games were ports from arcade versions, or updates to Atari cartridges, or completely novel titles. There were racing games, sports games, space games, pretty much anything and everything in a bewildering array of quality ranging from spectacular to middling to astonishingly terrible. It was a wild west, a new frontier in which basement programmers churned out games alongside established design companies, and you were as likely to get your next sweet game from a buddy who had pirated it as you were from the local Ames or K-Mart. It was best not to ask too many questions.

The most common games involved some kind of fighting, because what's more fun than that? And if you're going to have fighting, you might as well turn to the guy we all knew axiomatically to be the best fighter of all time, Bruce Lee. This game, called - wait for it - Bruce Lee, was not complicated, and yet it was absolutely delightful to play. Maybe the greatest 8-bit game of all time. You took control of Bruce and guided him through what was then considered to be a beautifully-rendered sequence of screens, gathering lanterns and fighting bokken-wielding ninjas. For extra fun there was the character of The Green Yamo, who we affectionately called Sumo Sid. He could be controlled by a second player as either assistant or antagonist to Bruce, or you could let the computer run him as another enemy. Our most usual way of playing was for my brother to take Bruce and pursue the main quest, while I took Yamo/Sid and basically got in the way.

I've never been much of a martial arts guy. But man, this game was fun. All of these games were fun. Even the terrible ones. It really was a magical time to be twelve years old with a joystick and a Saturday afternoon.

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