Above is a vide review for H.E.R.O. on the Atari 2600. I highly believe that H.E.R.O. is the best game ever released for the VCS and for those who don’t think so…I highly doubt you’ve ever played the game. It truly stands the test of time. Please give it a watch and if you like what you see…please subscribe over on YouTube.

In prepping this video I decided to reach out to H.E.R.O.’s creator and programmer John Van Ryzin. I asked if he wanted to talk some H.E.R.O. and he said, “Absolutely.” Read the interview below and enjoy!!!

RYAN MCLELLAND: Where did the idea for H.E.R.O. first come from? Is it an original idea you had, something at Activision, or maybe a little bit of both?

JOHN VAN RYZIN: The idea for H.E.R.O. was mine though Activision’s marketing department named the game and the character. The idea came while I was visiting Howe Caverns in New York state. That cave has an underground river and seemed like an interesting environment for a game. I liked superheroes as a kid, so I started with that. Figured he could rescue a miner. I made him fly, gave him laser powered eyes and dynamite. Then I just added fun things that might be in a cave. I then made easier and harder levels for player to progress through. Added more features and tweaks. My co-workers would try the game and give me feedback and additional ideas to try.

RM: Even later Atari games don’t look as good as H.E.R.O. Activision was known for producing some high quality games. Pitfall 2 comes right to mind as a phenomenal game for the 2600 that had a bit more power in its cartridge. How did you achieve the look of H.E.R.O? You can compare to even other Activision games and see that the graphics are pretty stunning. Was more time allotted for the game?

JVR: Activision had high standards for game visuals, sounds, and play. So we could take as long as needed to do the best we could achieve. No deadlines! The hardest part owas complex coding to make objects multicolored, not flicker ,and fit in the 2-4k byte cartridges. My previous game design was rejected because it looked good, but it was not that fun.

RM: In terms of controls it may be some of the tightest controls I’ve ever played for the system. How much work went into making the game feel that incredible? What was the response from your colleagues?

JVR: On H.E.R.O. I spent a lot of time tweaking the play controls and level progression to make in fun. (I) spent less time on graphics and more on play. I would watch my colleagues play the game and make adjustments based on what I saw. My colleagues had positive reactions and ideas and it inspired me.

RM: H.E.R.O. was a best seller but it also was released a bit after the video game crash. Do you feel that the crash affected the game at all? Or do you feel that the quality of the game, the sales, and all the ports to the different systems speaks for itself?

JVR: It reached #7 in the best seller charts for Atari 2600. That was very enjoyable for me, since my previous game design attempt was a failure! But it came out during the video game crash, so it may not have done as well as it could have. It was rated as high as Pitfall in user testing but came out at the wrong time. A sequel was never entertained because by then Activision no longer wanted us to develop games. It was like everyone thought video games were a fad that died, like Hoola Hoops. Amusing when you think about that today. They wanted home computer applications like creativity, simulator, and experience type of products. The company had layoffs and restructuring, it was a stressful time. During that period Nintendo, EA and others came in ended the video game business crash with high quality games. Seems all the low quality games during the gold rush days caused the video game business crash of the 80’s.

RM: Did you ever want to revisit the game? Back in the 80’s…HERO 2? Have you played the game in recent years and, if so, what do you think of it today in 2017?

JVR: Yes I wanted to do a sequel, but the video game business crash did not make that likely. The ports were done by outside vendors and I was allowed to give them feedback I have played the emulator versions in recent years. I still have my original 2600 and games. I remember it being strange to have my game called “Retro” on Playstation, made me feel old. Play wise it still seems solid to me I think it would be fun to make a modern 3D version of the game. Activision did that with Pitfall and they contacted me about doing it with H.E.R.O., but it was never pursued. Maybe I could convince Activision to sell me the rights to a sequel.

THANK YOU SO MUCH TO JOHN VAN RYZIN FOR TAKING THE TIME!!!
You can check out John’s site at: http://www.johnvanryzin.com

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