Everything You Need to Know About Netflix's 'High Score'

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There’s been two things that have continuously gotten us through this quarantine period: Gaming and television. So it was only right that Netflix (the hub for all things quarantine content) would combine the two together. With Fall game season approaching, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect with the debut of their new show High Score.

High Score is a docu-series that aired this past August by France Costrel. The show featured a behind the scenes look at the early days of video games, as well as exclusive interviews with some of the creators and developers behind those games. High Score premiered on August 19th, 2020, and each episode covered a specific period in gaming. The series was narrated by Charles Martinet (the voice actor for Mario), and captured the attention of gamers everywhere.

Entitled “Boom and Bust,” the first episode focused on the arcade gaming consoles and home video games developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The episode also gave a deeper insight into the “Video Game Crash of 1983” (the gaming recession that lasted from 1983-1985), and featured interviews with Toru Iwatani (creator of Pac-Man) and Nolan Bushnell (co-founder of Atari) to name a few.

Episode Two, “Comeback Kid,” dove into Nintendo’s introduction to the United States through Donkey Kong’s release to the Nintendo Entertainment System. This episode also gave viewers a closer look at the 1990 Nintendo World Championship, and included interviews with Hirokazu Tanaka (music composer for Nintendo) and Jeff Hansen (winner of the Nintendo World Championship), amongst others. “Comeback Kid” is dedicated to the late John Kirby (lawyer for Nintendo).

Episode Three, called “Role Players,” focused on the beginnings of role playing and adventure games. It also covered the early stages of those games on PC, and the eventual transition into console RPGs. Interviews for this episode included; Richard Garriott (creator of Ultima), and Yoshitaka Amana (Final Fantasy artist), among others.

Episode 4, entitled “This is War,” went into the in-depth battle between Sega and Nintendo, and detailed Sega’s aggressive push to outdo Nintendo. In the episode, Tom Kalinske (CEO of Sega) talked about the release of Sonic the Hedgehog and John Madden Football. Joe Ybarra, the producer of John Madden Football, also joined the episode, while developer Gordon Bellamy spoke about his part in incorporating African-Americans into the series. Additional interviews included Hirokazu Yashura (gameplay designer for Sonic), Naoto Ohshmia (character design artist for Sonic), and more. 

Episode 5, “Fight!,” chronicled the creation of fighting games, focusing specifically on Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat. It should be noted that times were different back then, and Mortal Kombat was met with a lot of criticism. "Fight!" covered the controversy surrounding the game, and the 1993 Congressional Hearings that led to the creation of ESRB (Entertainment Software Ratings Board). John Tobias (co-creator of Mortal Kombat) was interviewed in this episode along with others involved in the early stages of fighting games.

Episode Six aired on August 19th, 2020. The episode, entitled “Level Up,” explored the progression from 2D to 3D graphics in video games (starting with Star Fox), and the debut of Doom, the first game to feature multiplayer gaming online. Doom creator John Romero and Star Fox creators Giles Goddard and Dylan Cuthbert, were among those interviewed in this episode, concluding an epic series.

High Score was mostly met with positive feedback, with critics calling the series highly informative and creative in its approach. While some argue that the docuseries could have dug further into the history of certain games/gaming eras, most agree that the show offers the perfect amount of nostalgia, and covers the bases (especially for newer/younger gamers who may be unfamiliar with the general history of gaming). Whether you agree with those takes or not, High Score is definitely worth the watch.

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