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Gamer Tuesday

October 30, 2012

Pap the Disney Gamer's Highlights: Game Central Station at Disney's Hollywood Studios

I am more than excited for the release of Disney's Wreck-It Ralph. In the past months, I have analyzed the trailers in order to explain the meaning behind some of the jokes and references in the film. That is because one of the reasons Wreck-It Ralph has caught so many people's attention is that is sets out to pay tribute to video games of yesteryear and today in very clever and humorous ways. One of these is Game Central Station. In the story of Wreck-It Ralph, Game Central Station works as a train station where video game characters can leave and enter other video games, but only after the arcade has closed. It reminds people of the busy schedule of New York's Grand Central Station, and it also adds a level of fantasy that Disney is known for.

Recently, both Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope have begun meet and greets at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Like they do with all their meet and greets, Disney has created an elaborate meet and greet area that reflects the humor, fun, and video game theme of the movie. Housed in the Magic of Disney Animation Building in the Animation Courtyard, guests enter the building and can quickly spot the area, which has been based off of Sugar Rush, one of the games Ralph visits during his journey. But before we get to the 'game' we have to go to Game Central Station first. In real world terms, this is where the line to meet Ralph and Vanellope begins.

As is the case with other attractions at Walt Disney World, this is no mere line. The queue has been beautifully designed to resemble Game Central Station. As you make your way through the line, you see several game portals, one of them for Fix-It Felix Jr. You can also see the first of MANY gaming references you will find. One portal leads to Namco's Galaga. Galaga is a space shooting game with the objective being to survive the levels while obtaining the highest score possible. One cool thing about this game portal is that we are seeing right onto Litwak's Arcade. In other words, we are now video game characters that are seeing into the other world. But we are not getting a clear view of the action outside. That is because there is a sign indicating that the game has malfunctioned. This is bad news for the citizens of Galaga as this means the game will be disconnected, leaving them without a home or reason of being (which is what poor Q*Bert and his friends are experiencing in the movie) if the game is not repaired.

At the very end of the line, just before you meet Ralph and Vanellope, lies a board. Much like at the airport or a train station, this board indicates the status updates of various game stations. A cute detail for sure, but if you are a gamer like me, you will see that Disney has gone above the call of duty in order to preserve Ralph's video game authenticity.

Here is the first set of updates on this board. It indicates the following:

Bad Anon Meeting at Pac-Man Tonight: Bad Anon Meetings is a counseling group composed of video game villains dealing with their roles as bad guys in their respective worlds. This is a scene that has been shown extensively in the past, but it is great to see it reference once more here.

Q-Bert Out of Order: Q-Bert is a classic arcade game in which you play as an orange creature with a long nose. The objective behind the game is to turn the pyramid's tiles into a specific color by jumping on them. As I have indicated, in Wreck-It Ralph, Q-Bert and friends are now homeless due to an issue with their arcade game. 'Out of Order' references that fact about the story.

Tapper HAPPY HOUR!: Now this is an eyebrow raising development. Midway Games developed one game concept: you play as a bartender that must serve his patrons drinks. They will keep coming until they reach the end of the bar, or the bartender misses and a mug falls, leading to a game over. I say this is surprising because Midway developed two versions of the game. The best and well known is Root Beer Tapper, which was distributed to family arcades. The other version is just Tapper. It was sponsored by the beer company Budweiser and the beverage is clearly alcohol. Due to this, the game was only seen at bars. Disney has referenced the ALCOHOLIC version of the game... and they proudly promote Happy Hour! Guess even video game characters NEED a drink after fatalities, defeats, and doing the same thing over and over again...

Punch-Out DELAYED King Hippo Blocking Track: Punch-Out first originated as an arcade by Nintendo that later became a wildly popular NES game. You play as a small boxer named Little Mac, which encounters boxers that are much bigger than him. The fighting mechanic is one that is very simple: block and avoid the other fighter's attacks, and when they are open launch your own attacks. But like any good game, this becomes a challenge as characters become unpredictable and their attacks that much stronger. King Hippo happens to be one of the characters you face off against. He is the best known character because in order to beat him, you must first make his shorts fall, then go for his belly. King Hippo was also one of Mother Brain's henchmen in the old cartoon Captain N: The Game Master.

Now onto update #2...

Frogger NOW BOARDING Please Mind the Platform: Frogger is a game in which you play as a little frog that just wants to get to the other side. However, what separates him from his home is a very busy highway and uneven platforms. Frogger himself makes a cameo in the movie. The 'Please Mind the Platform' comment references the fact that in the game, some platforms are prone to sinking in the water, or move out of the way.

Paper Boy REROUTED TO THE HARD WAY: In Paperboy, you play as a young paperboy trying to deliver papers to the neighborhood. This quickly becomes a challenge for him as not only does he have to deliver the paper to the RIGHT household, he must avoid many obstacles like trash and pedestrians. 'Rerouted to the hard way' references that you can choose between the hard path and the easy path in the game.

Star Wars Arcade ON TIME May the Force Be With You: Star Wars needs no introduction. The popularity of the film franchise spawned many, many video game adaptations on various consoles, including the arcade. What confuses me a bit, though, is that it isn't clear which arcade game it is referencing. In 1993 there was 3D arcade game developed by Sega, and in the 70s there were several classic arcade games. Either way, the mention is very cool. In addition, Disney's Hollywood Studios is home to both Star Tours and Star Wars Weekend so it is cool of them to reference that fact about the park.

The board changes and we get the following...

Sugar Rush At Platform: We are heading right into the game where Ralph and Vanellope are waiting to meet you!

Dig Dug CLOSED Tunnel Cave In: Dig Dug, developed by Namco, stars a futuristic miner who sets out to destroy the enemies that lie underground. You do this by using a drill that also serves as an air pump. Enemies are defeated by blowing them up. Because the game takes place underground, the chances of cave ins are very high, hence why Game Central Station has closed the game off.

Castlevania JUST DEPARTED Back in a Snap: Castlevania is a game series developed by Konami in which players take on the role of a vampire slayer named Simon Belmont. In the first game in the series, Simon does battle against many classic monsters, such as Death, werewolves and Dracula himself. He does this by using his family weapon, the whip, hence the 'Back in a Snap' quip on the board.

Pitfall CLOSED Due to Opening and Closing Sink Hole: Pitfall is a home console game developed by Activision for the Atari in which you play as adventurer Pitfall Harry. As his name indicates, one of the many challenges he faces are pitfalls that open and close.

Because this is a very busy station, the board quickly updates with more boarding information...

Madden 2014:Madden is a football simulator series in which sports commentator John Madden headlines as commentator. The series, developed by EA, is one of the most popular sports video game franchise of all time. There is always a new version of the game released each year both to the amusement of fans and annoyance of various gamers. Even though this year's edition is Madden 2013, the board is mocking the fact that a 2014 will soon be released at this time next year.

Robotron NOW BOARDING: Robotron is a shooting game in which you rescue humans from a never ending wave of rogue robots. It seems there are no issues with the game if boarding is occurring as normal.

Skykid: ON ROUTE: Skykid is a sidescrolling shooter where you control an airplane. This is one of the most obscure references so far in the board. It was also the first game Namco arcade by themselves. Prior to this, their games were released through another company.

Space Paranoids OFF THE GRID: Ladies and gentlemen, we have our first reference to Tron, Space Paranoids! If you remember the story of Tron, Space Paranoids was the game Flynn was working on before he got zapped into the digital world. You control a tank and try to destroy the other player's tank. 'Off the Grid' references that the digital world is known as the grid.

Donkey Kong Jr. ON TIME: Donkey Kong Jr. is the sequel to Nintendo's mega classic Donkey Kong. In this version, Donkey Kong's son, DK Jr, tries to save him from the wrath of Mario (that's right, Mario is an antagonist here!). Donkey Kong Jr is actually partially an inspiration to Fix-It Felix Jr. Not only is the Felix-Ralph relationship similar to that of Mario and Donkey Kong, the fact that their game is called Fix-Fit Felix Jr indicates that there may be a predecessor to the game, and that Fix-It Felix Jr may actually be the son of the original Fix-It Felix!

Mega Man 2 ON TIME: The very first reference to a Capcom game, Mega Man 2 is an action platformer in which players step onto the metal boots of Mega Man, a robot boy whose mission is to stop Dr. Wily's evil robots. While there are ten entries in the series and even more under the Mega Man X series, Mega Man 2 is still seen to this day as the most definitive entry in the series and the most revolutionary. During an early version of the Bad Anon Meeting, Dr. Wily was set to make an appearance as one of the bad guys in dire need of counseling. His appearance, though, was scrapped.

There are hundreds of games that are ready to travel, so the board changes into the following:

Uncharted 2 TRAIN DERAILED: Uncharted is a game series developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony. Exclusively for the PlayStation 3, the Uncharted series is one of the most revered in this generation of gaming. Starring Nathan Drake, Uncharted takes player around the world in an adventure with very huge action pieces and a captivating story. 'Train Derailed' references the runaway train level in the second game. Its hero Nathan Drake will be a playable character in the Super Smash Bros like game, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. And speaking of Super Smash Bros...

Super Smash Bros ON TIME: First released in 1999, Super Smash Bros is a Nintendo fan's dream come true as it pits many Nintendo characters against each other in a creative way. The likes of Mario, Link, Pikachu and more have made this fan fest one of the best of all time. There are three games in the series, with a fourth set to be developed by Namco and be released for the Wii U and 3DS. Ralph's Bad Anon buddy Bowser is a playable character in parts 2 and 3.

Guitar Hero AT PLATFORM-NO WAIT!: Guitar Hero first debuted in 2005 as the next evolution of the music/rhythm genre. Using an elaborate guitar controller, players must hit the notes by hitting the corresponding buttons on the controller. Its popularity lead to five main games and several spin-offs like Aerosmith (which happen to have their own rollercoaster at Disney's Hollywood Studios). The arcade version of Guitar Hero is extensively featured on Disney's many resort arcades.

Crazy Taxi AHEAD OF SCHEDULE: Crazy Taxi is an arcade game, later a Dreamcast game, in which you play as one of four cab drivers. The difference is that these drivers will go to ANY lengths to get their clients to their destination. The super fast gameplay and rocking music made it a cult classic of the late 90s. 'Ahead of Schedule' indicates that the characters drive so, so, SO fast that they got there way before their expected arrival time.

Space Invaders Out of Order: In the game, players control a tank fighting off a wave of alien invaders. You move left and right while trying to eliminate all the aliens before they land, making you lose the game. It seems Litwak needs to fix this arcade cabinet.

Don't blink as you'll miss the next set of station updates...

Super Mario Bros. TUNNEL CLOGGED!: Super Mario Bros. Is yet another game that needs no introduction whatsoever. The 2D sidescrolling adventure game introduced to the world Mario's curious world as inspired by Alice in Wonderland. The game along with the NES seemingly saved the video game industry after it experienced a bad crash in the 80s. 'TUNNEL CLOGGED' references the fact that Mario and Luigi are plumbers and need to unclog the tunnel.

Speaking of which, many gamers have wondered where are Mario and Luigi in the film if they got the rights to use Bowser. According to director Rich Moore, they approached Nintendo to get the rights to the characters. Nintendo unfortunately declined the opportunity, leaving Bowser as being the only Nintendo character in the movie. Bowser and this queue reference may be the only instances of Nintendo in Wreck-It Ralph.

Dance Dance Revolution ON TIME ' PERFECT!: Dance Dance Revolution is a game series by Konami in which players step on arrows to the beat of the music. It, along with Guitar Hero, has become a staple of modern arcade gaming thanks to how players can put on a show. A DDR dancer can be seen in the movie. 'ONTIME ' PERFECT!' mentions how one of the rankings is 'perfect.'

Zoo Keeper DELAYED: ANIMAL ESCAPE: One of the most popular genres of computer gaming is the simulator. Many simulators were released throughout the decades, Zoo Keeper being one of them. As the title implies, you play as a zoo keeper trying to keep animals happy and make the zoo one of the best and most attended. It seems the characters did not take care of the animals, though, if the boarding has been delayed.

Guess what? There are EVEN MORE station updates!

Street Fighter II NOW BOARDING: Street Fighter II, developed by Capcom, is a fighting game that would become one of the most definitive of the genre. It's huge popularity in the 90s inspired hundreds of clones, and it itself received several updates, many of them ending with the word 'Turbo.' There are four main entries in the series and several spin-off and crossover series. Street Fighter will be receiving a ton of exposure in the movie as Zangief and M. Bison are part of the Bad Anon Group. Ryu, Ken and Chun-Li have also been spotted making cameos.

Mortal Kombat II DELAY: Fatality: Mortal Kombat II is the second game in the series. Created by Midway, it was released when Street Fighter II was gaining momentum in arcades around the world. It had three distinctive traits: the fighting mechanics were so simple anyone could master the game, the characters were actually digitized actors, and the most important of all, it had finishing moves called fatalities. Mortal Kombat was a super bloody and violent affair that let players finish their opponents in the most offensive way possible. The sequel, being referenced here, is considering the best in the series. It was so violent that it even inspired the current game rating system and parents felt the games were being sold to young players. Its inclusion in the Disney film is interesting. Heart-ripped Kano is featuring in the Bad Anon meeting. As for Game Central Station, it seems that one of the kombatants (misspelling intended) got angry and performed a fatality on the other guy, hence the delay...

Also, this might be the only time in which Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat share the same universe, so this is the closest we will ever get to a full crossover of the two series.

Halo DELAYED-Flood: Halo, now considered to be a classic of the first person shooter genre, was a launch title for Microsoft's new gaming system, the Xbox, in 2001. The enigmatic character of Master Chief, the intriguing story and the spectacular gameplay made it one of the most popular games of the system. Hero's Duty, a game featured within Wreck-It Ralph, owes its inspiration to Halo as an evolution of gaming. The Cybugs, which are the threat to both Hero's Duty and the game world, were inspired by the Flood, enemies that invade the Halo world, hence why in Game Central Station, Halo's delay was caused by them.

Asteroid Under Repairs: A game of the late 70s, Asteroid has players controlling a small ship destroying big asteroids. This is yet another game Litwak needs to look into...

Contra REROUTED Go up up dwn dwn lft rt lft rt station AB: Contra is both an action arcade and NES games by Konami known for being one of the hardest of all time. Even with its difficulty, the polished controls and addicting gameplay made it one of the icons of the golden era of gaming. But what is this about up down on the board? Well, someone at Disney is a clever gamer as this is the world famous Konami code! On the title screen of Contra, press up down up down left right left right A and B. You will get 30 extra lives! You can also enter this code on other Konami titles. This simple code is now a famous thing in gaming. Since then, many games would hide great treasures and cheats behind a series of control inputs. Well played, Disney!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAND we come to the last set of updates from Game Central Station!

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 CANCELLED ' Rings on Track: You hear the word 'sonic' and you might thing of two things: a fast food chain or a blue hedgehog with red shoes. Sonic the Hedgehog became Sega's mascot in the 90s when his first game defined the then new Sega Genesis. Much like with Mega Man 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is seen as the best game in the entire series. It introduced his sidekick, flying fox Tails, has the best music and the gameplay is very polished. Wreck-It Ralph pays homage to the blue blur in many ways. Dr. Eggman, Sonic's nemesis, is a Bad Anon regular, Sonic appears everywhere in the world of Wreck-It Ralph and now, Game Central Station is having issues with his rings. In the games, Sonic's health are the golden rings he collects. If he gets hit by an enemy, all his rings fall off him.

Centipede DELAYED Don't be bugged!!!: The arcade game Centipede is all about the childhood dream of crushing and destroying various bugs, but in the actual game, the bugs are very dangerous and larger than life! But even video game characters can lose it at Game Central Station, hence why the train has been delayed...

Discs of Tron ON TIME ' FLYNN LIVES!: And we come to the very last shout out to a classic game, and it's appropriate that we end on another reference to Tron. Discs of Tron is a game in which players toss discs at each other in order to defeat one another. In the film, this was a critical game of survival as one wrong move equals death. Finally, 'Flynn Lives!' was one of the tag lines when Tron: Legacy was released in 2010.

And that, my friends, are the shout outs in the queue line for Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope. It should be noted that not all of them originated in the arcade, so their mention is somewhat odd. However, Wreck-It Ralph is a celebration of gaming, both past and present, at the arcade or at home. It shows that the production team behind the film did more than just reference games: they truly love video games and believe in their legacy. Disney seems to have come aboard for the ride and have openly embraced the history of video games. So if you are at Disney's Hollywood Studios, go on and visit Ralph and Vanellope and enjoy some very sweet video game nostalgia.

Pictures courtesy of Brent Dodge. To read more about the meet and greet, read the latest update on From Screen to Theme!


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