Image via NESHQ

The first member of the Nintendo Ultra 64 Dream Team we’re going to take a look at is none other than Acclaim, the self-proclaimed “Masters of the Game.”

While Acclaim’s reputation over the ensuing years hasn’t held up especially well, at the time, they were not at all a bad choice to be a publisher for Nintendo’s then-upcoming 64-bit platform. They had been a third-party to Nintendo in North America almost since the beginning, working with the developers at Rare to bring titles such as Wizards & Warriors to the Nintendo Entertainment System, to say nothing of a plethora of licensed titles (many through subsidiary LJN) such as WWF WrestleMania.

In 1990, they played a part in the success of syndicated television program Video Power. While Saban Entertainment and Bohbot Entertainment brought the latest gaming news and tips to viewers five days a week through live-action segments featuring host Johnny Arcade, these bookended a sort of inverted Captain N style animated segment starring heroes and villains from a variety of Acclaim-published games entering our world to do battle. (Maybe if there’s interest, I can talk more about that some other time?)

The 16-bit era would go on to prove especially kind to Acclaim, as while the Mortal Kombat series became a smash hit for Midway Games in arcades, Acclaim was the company’s partner for porting arcade hits to home consoles. And while the first Mortal Kombat fared better on the rival SEGA Genesis due to the allowed “Blood Code” that changed grey sweat to crimson fluid (not to mention unlocking the game’s original Fatalities), this seemed to nudge Nintendo to ease up on their restrictive censorship policies when the time came for Mortal Kombat II to come home. As a result, the gap in sales between the two versions dropped from what was reportedly somewhere between a 3:1 to 5:1 difference to an almost even split.

Acclaim wouldn’t get to carry the license to the bloody fight fest over to the Nintendo Ultra 64, however, as Williams Entertainment was entering the home market as another member of the Dream Team. Nevertheless, Acclaim made up for it (or at least attempted to) with their first-person shooter, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, which earned rave reviews, sold around 1.5 million units (making it a Player’s Choice title), and spawned three sequels on the platform.

They would also publish a number of sports titles for the platform under the “Acclaim Sports” label, which included titles ranging from NFL Quarterback Club to NBA Jam, NHL Breakaway, and All-Star Baseball. They also continued the partnership established with the then-World Wrestling Federation during the NES era to produce WWF Warzone and WWF Attitude; however, Vince McMahon’s company would decide to part ways soon after and hitch their wagon to THQ, who had seem success publishing titles for the rival World Championship Wrestling. In their place, Acclaim would go on to publish two games for the third-biggest wrestling company of the day, Extreme Championship Wrestling, though only the first — ECW Hardcore Revolution — would make it to the Nintendo 64.

Acclaim would also further their previous trend of releasing titles tied in to non-sports licensed properties with a trio of South Park titles, none of which were especially well regarded, but seemed to get worse with each new release.

Unfortunately, while Acclaim seemed to do well enough for the duration of the Nintendo 64’s lifespan, its success did not last much further beyond. Controversy and lawsuits with former partners, licensees, and investors would follow them in their final days, with poor sales leading to studio closures.

In August 2004, Acclaim Entertainment would file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the US Bankruptcy Court of Central Islip, New York, thus bringing the company’s 17 year run in the video game industry to a close as their assets were liquidated and sold off to pay off their debts.

David Oxford David Oxford (31 Posts)

Lover of fine foods and felines, as well as comics, toys, and... oh yeah, video games. David Oxford has written about the latter for years, including for Nintendo Power, Nintendo Force, Mega Visions, and he even wrote the book on Mega Man!