Something troubles me, and it's been troubling me since the early nineties. I sometimes wake in the middle of the night, skin cold and damp, screaming. Badly colored, badly animated sprites, collision detection non existent, arrrggggggh! I compose myself and reach for the paracetamol. Surely it was all a dream?
NO! Flying Edge really did happen!
The Mega Drive and Master System were both supported at their fullest from around 1991 to 1994 – since why later MD games are so rare (except Ballz, please, please go away …). The list of third party contributors to both consoles is lengthy and many still exist today, albeit in a different form (Domark are now Eidos for example). One that you think would not exist is Flying Edge. Even in my late Primary School / early High School years I knew that if I saw that logo it meant trouble.
It actually did not start off too badly. The first FE (as I'm going to refer to them from now on as) game was Arch Rivals, which at the time seemed a stupid idea, a 2 v 2 basketball game where you could only play as one of the “characters” . Although it does not play great, the reduced number of sprites on the screen and slightly violent dynamics made it a reliably fluent and pleasant experience compared to the dross Basketball games about at the time. It also laid the foundations for something truly special, which you've probably already guessed.
So, FE were on the cusp of being pioneers … not quite. The games that came after readings reads like a who's who complete and utter tosh. If you ever have the opportunity to play George Foreman's KO Boxing on the MS run, run as fast as you can. It looks like someone screw up over it and is actually less fun than staring at one of Mr Foreman's grills. It's rushed, plain and simple. This theme continues with Smash TV. Smash TV was an immensely popular arcade machine which main draw was the two-joystick system where you could shoot in an opposite direction to which you were running. The SNES version works pretty well (the 4-button acting as the second joystick) but the graphics and collision detection are horrendous, on both 16-bit and 8-bit versions. Do not get me started on the sound and control systems on the Sega versions, we'll be here all day … The laughable Crash Dummies, RoboCop 3 and Double Dragon 3 are just a few more games that no respectable developer would ever be associated with.
FE were just another bad developer with no one else to blame but themselves. Wrong! Now here's the twist in the story, FE were actually a subsidiary of Acclaim. Apologies to those who already know this, but I bloody did not! There is a clue in the introduction SNES version of Smash TV, Acclaim are there quite proudly in the opening sequence but they left FE to the Mega Drive version … How can a company responsible for making gems such as Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam ( see what I did there) have any part of Flying Edge? I just simply had to find out.
Acclaim itself had been established since 1987 with much of its focus on games based on licenses it acquires from comics (Spider-Man games aplenty), TV / Sports (WWF) and movies (Alien 3). It also forged a strong “partnership” with Nintendo durable titles such as Rambo on the NES being pretty poor, Star Voyager on the other hand was considered revolutionary. You will never see Flying Edge on any Nintendo game (if you do, it's dodgy, throw it out) as they were created specifically to “produce” Sega games. Apologies for the many speech marks already used in this article.
Information on the contractual wrangle between Nintendo, Acclaim and Sega is so sparse I'm left clutching at straws as to how Nintendo persuaded them to do this. In fact, the only conclusion I can come to is that Acclaim was happy for FE to be the suspicious lamb in order to reserve their relationship with Nintendo. This appears logical given Nintendo's dominance in the home entertainment sector and the gradual decline of arcades. Looking at FE's back catalog it's easy to assume that the developers / programmers in this division were not very good in comparison to Acclaim's. The reality is that for every Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam there were several stinkers. Forget what you know about Acclaim, the reality of it is that they really were not that good, period. If it was not for Midway, Mortal Kombat would not have experienced. Acclaim's back catalog around the same time reads: Double Dragon 2; Krusty's Fun House; NFL Quarterback Club; The Addams Family etc etc … It is not good!
Flying Edge was dissolved in 1994, which clearly must have provided Acclaim with a get out clause for all those bad titles. What did they back it up with? Again, mainly hit and miss. The Turok titles proved popular on later consoles and some of the Spider-Man games were good. They were also Virtua Tennis 2 which is still a joy. However, rubbish … sticks. The poor licensed games continued – Batman Forever, Paris-Dakar, Gladiator, Fantastic Four. Acclaim were made bankrupt and defunct as of September 2004, ten years after the demise of Flying Edge.
There is a reason that the big guns (Sega, Nintendo) and some of the smaller guns (Domark as Eidos) still exist. Evolution. Acclaim, in amidst all glory, never deviated from their primary aims – buy licenses, tack on games around them, seek the assistance of other willing developers.
Acclaim (or the name) was purchased by Acclaim Games who were one of a few companies in the early 2000s who focused on online gaming. Sadly, their games were unpopular and they were previously bought and dissected by Playdom games in 2010. The Acclaim name now only appears in the footnotes under “What Could Have Been”.