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Halloween Rarities

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I’m really into lucrative titles, especially when they are about Halloween or horror.  For the most part these games are classic titles from the past that you have either never played or never had a chance to play.  On the plus side, thanks to rom¹ hacks and translations, you can easily find any of these games to play on an emulator.  While I don’t condone piracy, nothing in this list was released in the US save for one title so for a single play to see what you’re missing I feel there’s no harm, especially since you have no other option.  I cannot link any of these roms directly, but feel free to search for “(title of game) rom” on Google and you shouldn’t have any problems.  Without further ado, here’s the list of great Halloween games you’ve probably never played.

Sweet Home (Suīto Hōmu) – Famicom – 1989

Considered by some to be the original version of Resident Evil, Sweet Home is actually a licensed game based on a movie of the same name.  It was developed by Capcom and produced by RE producer Shinji Mikami, who later admitted that Resident Evil began as a remake of Sweet Home.  For many modern gamers, RE is a tough sell with its fixed camera angles, blurry graphics and tank² controls.  If this describes you, then Sweet Home may be the outdated choice for you.  Although developed on the Famicom there is a surprising number of similarities with RE on the Playstation.

Even in 8-bit, the mansion holds that eerie feel

When you change rooms the all-too-familiar door opening animation will escort you through.  The inventory system and puzzles will ring extremely familiar for those that explored the mansion as Chris or Jill.  In fact, the big spooky mansion is probably the most distinguishing similarity, although instead of a biological outbreak it’s merely haunted by the ghost of Lady Mamiya.  And even though it’s technically a survival horror title, the game plays much more like a classic Japanese role playing game (JRPG) with random Final Fantasy-like battles.  If you’ve always wanted to explore a haunted house JRPG style, check this one out, especially considering the decent english translation making the rounds.

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Now & Then: Resident Evil Code: Veronica

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Technically the Resident Evil series has more Sega console lineage than what I and many other gamers regard as a Sony franchise.  The original launched on the Saturn alongside the Playstation and although it took some time, enhanced versions of the second and third title appeared on the Dreamcast.  Mind you, all three of the first titles still premiered on Playstation and were ported to Sega’s platforms.  Code: Veronica was first announced and released on Sega’s Dreamcast and marked a significant change for the series.  A mere one month after its February 2000 release date, the Playstation 2 had one of the worst launches in history with a vast library of titles no one wanted to play.  To have Veronica on the launch list to usher in Sony’s new console would have been amazing.  This wasn’t a case of Capcom turning its back on Sony, though, they had always planned on having named titles on non-Sony consoles, reserving numbered titles for Sony.  Given that Sega co-produced the game, it was clearly a paycheck game to give the Dreamcast a strong exclusive library, but it also ended up being a great addition to the series.

Despite his incessant begging, Claire decides it’s best not to come out of hiding

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 27, 2011 at 12:58 pm

Now & Then: Resident Evil 3 Nemesis

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (RE3) gets the worst treatment within the series because it was released on the tail end of the Playstation cycle and as the third release in as many years (most people remember RE‘s re-release, the Director’s Cut, more than the initial release), there really wasn’t that much new brought to the table.  Having said that, it was the most polished title on the Playstation and finally made the concept attempted in RE2 a reality.  With a few slight tweaks, like the ability to flip a quick 180 and a much more agile Jill Valentine, RE3 felt a lot more like games of the time.  Unfortunately with the diluting of the franchise via frequent releases and the fact that the game looked identical to the first two on the box, it just didn’t hold players’ interest.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 26, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Now & Then: Resident Evil 2

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

Resident Evil 2 (RE2) hit the market with a steep price; like other series favorite RE4, this title was scrapped and redone after it was more than 60 percent complete.  In order to keep hype and demand strong for the series after the extremely popular original, the sequel began production one month after the release of Resident Evil.  This first version, dubbed Resident Evil 1.5 by Capcom when production stills and videos released, featured a similar plot without crisscrossing paths.  Leon was still the male protagonist and Elza, a motorcyclist college student, as an early version of what would eventually become Claire Redfield.  Graphically the game was much uglier, looking the same (or worse) than the original, but only so that more zombies could appear on-screen.  In 1.5 Umbrella had already closed down, the outbreak still occurred, and the police station looked a lot more modern.  Players could equip different clothing, which changed their appearance (as did combat damage).  There were also many more survivors for players to encounter along the way, some of which played new roles in the final version of RE2.  Producer Shinji Mikami scrapped the project when it was near beta (60-80 percent completion) because he found gameplay and locations to be “dull and boring”¹.  Originally the series was supposed to end with the sequel, but supervisor Yoshiki Okamoto wanted a more open-ended series.  As a result Elza became Claire Redfield to connect to the first game and the plot was made more big budget movie style to get Capcom to the 2 million copy sales goal.  Graphics were updated, adding more polygons to each character, and items were made much more scarce to increase tension and fear.  Since it would miss the planned early 1997 release date, the Resident Evil: Director’s Cut and Complete Edition were released instead and included a demo of RE2.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 25, 2011 at 10:12 am

Now & Then: Resident Evil

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Now & Then is different from both a retrospective and a review.  It tackles games you probably already know and is a place for gamers to discuss these games.  Below is an overview of a game’s presence in the market then and now.  Authors of these articles share their personal experience, so we encourage all of you to do the same in the comments.

“You have once again entered the world of survival horror…”

Those famous words set up a genre that has undergone more definitions than probably any other in video games.  Depending on your personal taste in titles, survival horror can mean different things but it was used first and defined by Resident Evil¹.  This game was basically a haunted house brought to life and has spawned a series that many gamers, myself included, follow endlessly.  Despite the direction of the series not holding well with fans of the originals and a slew of poorly made films, Resident Evil lingers on, if only in our nostalgic minds.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 24, 2011 at 11:14 am

Generation Gap Pt. 2: 8-Bit

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Amidst the video game crash of 1983, it seemed pretty unlikely that home consoles would have a future.  Fortunately a Japanese toy maker had figured out how to re-sell video games to the masses despite the world economy turning its back.  That company was Nintendo.

8-bit Generation (1985 – 1995)

Nintendo Entertainment System – Launch Price: $200 – Released: 1985
Depending on your age, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) probably needs the least introduction or background, but there were many things going on behind the scenes that assisted this console in becoming the giant it was.  Initially Nintendo had to figure out how to overcome the world economy’s opinion on video game consoles, which the Famicom/NES clearly was.  In Japan, where personal home computers were all the rage, it was marketed as a computer for your family, hence the name Famicom (for “family computer”).  In America the better way to sell it was as a toy, which everything from the console’s marketing to the simple boxy aesthetic suggests.  It worked and in both regions this little 8-bit system assisted Nintendo in virtually running the 8-bit era.

Among the most substantial difference was the changing of games as a whole.  Launch title Super Mario Bros. was very different from previous generational titles because it actually scrolled and the player had a sense of moving along a broader space than the screen in front of them.  Most arcade and console games from the generation before worked screen to screen with predominantly repetitive concepts for a higher score.  In the case of Super Mario Bros. the score was inconsequential, being ignored by many players.  It added versatility to the games.  For this same reason, most console ports of arcade games were expanded, creating longer experiences in comparison to its coin-op counterpart.  A great example is Double Dragon, which consists of levels more than twice the length of the arcade title, a simple leveling system to unlock moves, and areas never previously conceived.  This trend continued during the life of the NES with varied results, but it changed the face of games from a single screen concept to a more connected, linear experience.

Nintendo was smart enough to learn from previous companies’ mistakes, so various things were implemented into the NES to assure success.  It’s important to note moving forward that while similar, the Famicom and NES are completely different pieces of hardware, exchanging strengths and weaknesses with various multi-region releases.  For starters, the NES had controller ports that allowed its accessories to be expanded beyond the two controllers.  Over the years a myriad of first and third-party accessories would sell for the system to broaden the overall experience and appeal.

Another large difference was the fact that many games released in both Japan and America had various differences for various reasons.  It is for this reason that the process of bringing video games from one region to another is regarded as localization rather than translation.  Due to cultural and social differences, simply translating the game wouldn’t quite fit.  In some cases it was because games were seen as too hard or easy for a region, many were edited for content, some received updates or upgrades due to years difference in release windows, and some simply got stuck in licensing hell.  In America, Nintendo of America (NoA) was in charge of what Japanese titles we got in the US, but since Japanese companies at that time were basically run from Japan the ultimate decision was made back home in the East.

As for non-localized US releases, Nintendo placed some very stringent rules on would-be developers to prevent the issues apparent in the video game crash of 1983.  If you wanted to create a game for the NES, you would have to pitch the title to NoA for approval and a contract would have to be signed.  Nintendo would license permission to make your game into a cartridge, but you would have to put up all the capital to manufacture and release the game.  Nintendo owned and controlled all the chips and carts, so they initially made money on your prepaid order of games (which you were forced to decide the quantity to purchase).  This resulted in occasional chip shortages that delayed many titles here in the US and also explains the rarity of some titles that weren’t able to get another print run.  In addition you could only produce 5 games per year, per company, which is why companies created second labels to release more games – Konami’s second branch was Ultra and Acclaim’s was LJN.  Some publishers straight up refused to conform to the system, choosing instead to reverse engineer unlicensed titles in their own cartridges.  The most popular among these being Atari software, under the name Tengen, who was responsible for a port of Tetris that later led to a heavy lawsuit between the two companies for who actually owned the rights to release the game on the NES.  Not that it mattered, but of course Nintendo won.

As frustrating and limiting as the licensing system was, it definitely kept a mild sense of quality among games (although this is highly debatable) and prevented the flood of games that ruined the industry in 1983 from happening again.  At the same time there was definitely no lack of games in the NES library, with titles being released well into the next generation of consoles.  The NES had many bundles over the years, the most popular being the Action Set, which included a console, two controllers, the light gun Zapper, and a Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt combo cart for $100.  Eventually in 1993, during the rush of the Super Nintendo (SNES), the NES 2 (model NES-101) released with the top-loading look of both the SNES and Famicom in a hybrid form.  This new design helped secure the 72-pin connection that failed so often with the NES and caused the all-too-common “blinking console” issue.

Click here to see a list of our NES reviews

Sega Master System – Launch Price: $200 – Released: 1986
Mostly unknown to the American audience, Sega’s Master System (SMS) is actually an adapted version of the Japanese console the Mark III and chose probably the worst possible time to premiere in the United States.  Releasing the summer of 1986, approximately one year after the NES, the SMS launched with just as much versatility as the NES and boasted better graphics.  Unfortunately Sega made the big mistake of minimizing the on-the-box advertising and everything looked incredibly bland.  With an all-white box that had blue grids on it, the SMS came with everything in the Nintendo Action Set (console, game, two controllers, light gun) but just looked cheaply made.  That wasn’t the Master System’s worst problem by far, its biggest problem was that by this point Nintendo already had the US game market on lockdown.

You could play the SMS in two different ways: either by the Sega Cards that loaded in the front and looked basically like credit cards or via top-loading cartridge.  Sega Cards had less storage space and thus contained smaller, less expensive experiences that were all but concepts of the past and still reminded gamers of the horrid Atari titles that led to the crash of 83.  Cartridges provided increased space that led to higher graphical fidelity that could look better than any NES title.  Unfortunately there were very few games to put on the console due to US licensing agreements.  In the US, Nintendo made its 3rd parties sign agreements to license games that prevented them from putting any title on another console.  With the already vast Nintendo library, that meant very bad news for Sega.  For the most part, the SMS library consisted of first party Sega titles and arcade ports, with a few odd exceptions.  The Wonder Boy series, which continued on both SMS and Genesis for a few sequels was basically a sprite swap with Master Higgins in the NES series Adventure Island.

As time went on, Sega was partially responsible for the apparent lack of support on the hardware side of the SMS.  This led to an ongoing trend with Sega for supporting hardware concepts ahead if its time and resulting in console sales issues.  In 1989 Sega released the Genesis, its next generation 16-bit console, and released an inexpensive piece of hardware that allowed the console to play SMS carts and cards thanks to the SMS chip being used as the sound chip for the Genesis.  In 1991 when the Sega Game Gear released, which was basically a portable SMS, ports of its various best-selling titles, like Sonic the Hedgehog, were released on SMS as well.  However by that time most SMS gamers were either in other countries or were using their Genesis to play the updated versions of these games.  Mind you, the failure of the Master System in America is much more attributed to the poor number and quality of games and short shelf life, making it less than worthwhile in the US.

Click to see our list of Master System reviews

While Sega may have screwed up in the 8-bit era, they certainly came out much stronger in the 16-bit era with the Genesis.  At one point the Genesis actually held a 55 percent market share over the Super Nintendo and was the catalyst for the first console war.  Read about it in Generation Gap Part 3!

Written by Fred Rojas

October 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm

Generation Gap Pt. 1

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It’s difficult to understand and discern the various console generations that have existed, so here’s a brief overview of each one and the consoles that spawned in North America during these generations.  Please note that these posts cover home consoles only (and goes into broad detail on specific larger market share, not every console that released) – while arcades and PCs were a signficant part of gaming in the respective 80s and 90s, they will be covered in different posts.

First Generation (1972 – 1983)

Magnavox Odyssey – Launch Price: $75-$100 (retail dependent) – Released: 1972
Designer Ralph Baer’s team started working on the console, codenamed “brown box”, in 1966 and completed a prototype in 1968.  I wasn’t even remotely alive when the Odyssey was on the market, so my experience with the console is limited to a few brief and clumsy plays of Ski at various Midwest Gaming Classic conventions.

The Odyssey had interchangeable cartridges that were purchased individually, much like more modern consoles, and also included an overlay for the television.  Since it was unable to generate graphics necessary for the games itself, it would instead use the TV overlay to create the playfield and dots or lines would be the only true visual created by the console.  Each cartridge would trigger jumpers in the console to generate the desired images or items on the screen.  Some games would also include dice and various other items, creating a virtual board game of sorts.  One of the most popular among the Odyssey titles was of course Pong, which was actually named Tennis on the console.  Unfamiliarity with a device of this sort and co-branding with Magnavox stores created a public perception that the Odyssey would only work with Magnavox televisions, which wasn’t true. 

Click to see a list of Odyssey games

Pong Clones – Launch Price: (Variable)
Although Atari and Magnavox were making “official” versions of Pong various clones began to flood the market made by a whole slew of manufacturers.  Eventually the demand for the simple paddle game dwindled and companies that had invested large sums of money were seeing a staggering drop in sales as the bubble burst.  Some refer to this as the “video game crash of 1977″, a clear foreshadow to the eventual crash of 1983.  After 1977 only Magnavox and Atari remained in the market, dug out by the arcade release of Taito’s Space Invaders.

Atari 2600 – Launch Price: $199 – Released: 1977
You may know this console also as its original name, the Video Computer System (or VCS) to compete directly with the Video Entertainment System (or VES), later being renamed to the Fairchild Channel F.  Both consoles were essentially Pong clones upon release until after the crash of 1977 forced developers to put the hardware to work on other potential projects.  Ironically enough, the title that the console launched with was Combat as well as two classic joysticks with a single red button. 

With the exclusive content and the bowing out of Fairchild for what they considered a dwindling market, Atari became the front-runner for video games by 1979, taking home markets by storm.  In January 1980, a licensed version of Space Invaders hit the console and by 1982 the console had also acquired another arcade pleaser, Pac-Man, which sold over 7 million copies itself.  1982 was also the year that the console officially was renamed to the Atari 2600 to make way for the Atari 5200, which also released the same year.  This new model was completely black, removing the signature 70s wood paneling and moved two of the dipswitches to the back of the console.  Several updated versions of the system would release, including a slim-lined version named the 2600 Jr., and even co-branded products like the Sears Video Arcade (which was the Sears brand of the VCS/2600).

List of 2600 games

Mattel Intellivision – Launch Price: $299 – Released: 1979-1980
This can technically be considered the first console intended for multiple title and cartridge distribution, although the 2600 had clearly planned for multiple cartridges upon its initial market release.  Mattel decided to go right for the throat with the Intellivision (standing for an “intelligent” and “television” hybrid), doing side-by-side screen comparisons with the VCS/2600 in its 1980 commercials for mass market release (although it started in test markets in 1979).  It launched with the title Las Vegas Poker & Blackjack, possibly suggesting an older target market (especially in combination with price).

Titles for the Intellivision would include overlays for the odd 12-button numeric keypad located at the top of the controller and a multi-directional pad on the bottom.  Intellivision’s list of games provides an impressive combination of licensed arcade ports and original games.  Its best-selling title, Astrosmash, also managed to top 1 million sales.  In an attempt to find its place in the market, the Intellivision announced a keyboard peripheral and teased add-ons to make it a full computer, but the peripheral was eventually recalled and plans for the computer add-on were canceled resulting in several customer complaints.  There were two revisions, the Entertainment Computer System (ECS), which was basically an Intellivision with limited programming capabilities, and the Intellivision II, released in 1983 and not actually new hardware, was manufactured to be cheaper and more sleek with disconnecting controllers. 

Click to see a list of Intellivision games

ColecoVision – Launch Price: $200 – Released: 1982
Launching in summer 1982, the ColecoVision had a short but sweet life.  With a design similar to the Intellivision, the only real difference was that the directional pad was replaced with an arcade-like analog nub and relocated to the top of the controller.  It’s marketing goal was simple: take any arcade ports that Atari hadn’t nabbed and gobble up the licenses.  Even more significant was the fact that it could create near-perfect arcade ports and in some cases even create ports that were superior to the arcade.  With an impressive pack-in at launch, Nintendo’s Donkey Kong, the console was able to move more than half a million consoles by Christmas of 1982. 

Arcade ports included Donkey Kong Jr., Zaxxon, and even held responsibility for popularising less known arcade titles like Mr. Do!  Of the titles considered superior to the arcade was the standout Space Panic alongside a handful of other titles that continued the trend.  Unfortunately the short life of the system can also be attributed to its lack of true original exclusive titles and a decent number of its titles (including those on the console box) that are considered “vaporware”, meaning no version of the game was actually seen by 3rd parties and its unclear whether the game(s) ever existed at all.

Click to see a list of ColecoVision games

Atari 5200 – Launch Price: $270 – Released: 1982
In the grand scheme of things, the Atari 5200 was a waste of consumers’ time and money, directly demonstrating the cause of the video game crash of 1983.  Released to compete with the Intellivision and boasting higher graphics than its predecessor and Intellivision, it unfortunately launched only a few months after the ColecoVision as direct competition.  With a hefty price tag and little innovation, it was a hard sell to the most enthusiastic of gamers.

The 5200’s controller was nearly identical to the ColecoVision (which mostly copied the Intellivision) save for the more pronounced joystick.  Anyone who owned a 5200 remembers the non-centering joystick that would cause all kinds of problems if not centered before turning on the console.  Main reasons for the console’s failure was that it did not offer backwards compatibility with the 2600, which was twice as bad when you consider that at this point Intellivision had a cartridge adaptor that allowed it to run 2600 titles.  It also featured few games, Atari pumping more time and effort into its ever-expanding 2600 library and doing little more than higher graphical ports of 2600 games with sloppy programming.  Finishing off the console’s future was the fact that compared to ColecoVision the pack-in game, Super-Breakout (an adaptation of Arkanoid), was far less intriguing than Donkey Kong.  Thanks to the improper handling of the console, it died a quick and painful death.

List of 5200 games

Video Game Crash of 1983

With the market skyrocketing with video games, the early 80s had no shortage of options, many of which had become overwhelming.  At the time of the crash one could enter a store and see a slew of consoles: Atari 2600,  5200, ColecoVision, Coleco Gemini (2600 clone), Intellivision (II), and even a new version of the Odyssey (second generation).  This doesn’t even include store specific items like the Sears Tele-game series and the Tandyvision (RadioShack).  Mind you, in 1982 $200-$300 was much more than it is today and with many titles ranging from $30-$40 in price, gaming was no cheap hobby.   Companies overestimated sales and manufacturing, flooding the market with games.  In order to produce games quickly, titles were severely rushed and not given proper treatment – most noteable the poor 2600 port of Pac-Man (which did celebrate commercial success at the price of unhappy consumers) and the pathetic 2600 title E.T. also rushed to meet the release of the movie and a rumored 2 million carts were buried in the New Mexican desert. 

With all of this going on, companies were going out of business at an incredible rate and retailers were unable to sell back unsold and returned games to these bankrupt publishers.  Everyone suffered from the console manufacturer to the publisher to the retailer.  Even the consumer suffered as low-priced software hit the market in droves, enticing gamers away from the high-priced $40 quality software to virtually unplayable $5 carts.  By summer of 1983 every store was overwhelmed with unsold clearance software only to hear from both Atari and Magnavox that the 7800 and Odyssey 3 respectively were dated to release the following year.  The entire market came crashing down and by 1984 retailers didn’t even want to think about video games again.  If it weren’t for Nintendo having the intelligence and foresight to hold back on bringing the Famicom (Japan’s version of the NES) to US until 1985 and selling it as a toy and not a video game, we may not have home consoles today.

Our coverage of video game generations continues in Generation Gap Pt. 2!

Written by Fred Rojas

October 20, 2011 at 10:52 am

Revisionist History

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March 16, 2010 was an important day for Playstation manufacturer and video game publisher Sony Computer Entertainment.  It marked the release of God of War III, a technological stunner that promised to be every bit as fun as it was beautiful.  Not only was God of War significant for being the third in the series (and subsequent end to the second title’s cliffhanger), but it was to be the first outing for Kratos on the Playstation 3 console.  God of War II had been slated for the PS3 at one point in development, but Sony opted to keep the title on PS2, marking it as one of the best titles on that console and a fitting end to usher in the PS3.  There was just one big problem.

God of War Collection PS3

Starting in November, 2007, the Playstation 3 consoles had removed backwards compatibility with Playstation 2 titles, rendering them unable to play God of War or God of War II.  When the decision was made to put God of War II on PS2, it was always thought that new PS3 buyers would be able to use this feature to replay the previous titles.  In an era where storylines are significant and a series like God of War required you to know the storyline of the previous titles to understand the current one, Sony was in trouble.  Fortunately a long rumored concept ended up coming to pass – a high definition remake of the first two games on one PS3 compatible blu ray, and at half the price of a contemporary release.  In November of 2009 the God of War Collection was released to masses, an impressive appetizer to the third iteration, which still loomed more than four months away.  Not only that, but it was a great deal, amassing an impressive 1 million+ sales to date and a solid holiday season.  Not bad for two titles that had released a generation ago.  At $30 apiece gamers (myself included) ate it up and IGN’s Chris Roper even declared it the “definitive way to play the game” (guessing he meant games) in his review.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 19, 2011 at 10:56 pm

Strength in Numbers

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Anniversaries.  As time progresses everything ages at the same pace and with each passing year a ton of video games hit new milestones.  Popular titles from the past can be revisited in short periods of time for the sake of nostalgia or the chance to finally complete a difficult game for the first time¹.  Since no one day can go by without something in the video game industry reaching a notable age, it’s no surprise that retro articles are riddled with regular anniversary celebrations.  This site will be no exception.

Sonic 20thGaming companies have now begun to celebrate series anniversaries themselves on a more consistent basis.  In some cases I feel these creations are warranted, but I find myself frowning a bit when it’s a last-ditch effort to revitalize an intellectual property that should have died off long ago.  I think the better anniversary is the for titles that stand on their own and you rarely think about until they are brought up.  A perfect example of this is Chrono Trigger.  Despite a few remakes and Square’s occasional interest in bringing attention to the title, it’s mostly one for the nostalgia vault.  Thankfully, unlike so many other titles, Chrono Trigger holds up today and stands as an individual game even though it technically has two other entries in the series².  Oddly enough, even though the game celebrated 15 years in 2010, it received a GBA port on its 13th birthday and didn’t come to virtual console and PSN until this year (its 16th anniversary).  This only further proves that incremental numbers aren’t always on a publisher’s top priority list.

Of all the anniversary celebrations, Nintendo still remains the biggest mystery of them all.  To be fair, Nintendo has never done things in a “traditional” way and has almost never catered to fans of any series when it comes to revisiting the past.  Sure, the virtual console and several collections from years past prove that Nintendo has no problem shoveling the same titles to us console generation after console generation, but they never deliver a well-rounded package.  A perfect example of this are the recent 25th anniversary celebrations of both Mario and Zelda.

Zelda 25th

For Mario we received a re-release of Super Mario All-Stars, which originally released on the SNES with graphically updated versions of Super Mario Bros. 1-3 and Lost Levels (Japan’s Super Mario Bros. 2).  Instead of making any changes to the original SNES rom, Nintendo instead opted to use up an entire DVD for probably 20 MB of content with absolutely no extras.  Included in the package was a soundtrack that consisted of the title track to all major Mario games and a “history book” that roughly chronicles Mario’s entire series in a few paragraphs with large pictures that are taken right out of owners manuals.  At $30 US, this collection was about 30 percent more expensive than buying each game individually on the virtual console and the SNES Mario All-Stars, which is no different, should only cost $8 by virtual console pricing standards.  This means that a quick thrown together package was released to net Nintendo some quick bucks instead of offering historical content or games to show the little plumber some love and respect.  Even more odd is the fact that Zelda’s 25th anniversary this year is celebrated by no collection at all and a weak cross-promotion with the 3DS release of Ocarina of Time.  While OoT is great and all in 3D, I think selling a 13-year-old game that’s available for $10 on the virtual console for a whopping $40 isn’t quite the anniversary celebration I had expected.  Oh well, I digress, Nintendo will do what it wants and instead of re-living the glory days by picking up the originals, gamers will consistently rely on trying to find cheap digital alternatives that publishers won’t release.  As a result, emulation is rampant and no one truly knows what it’s like to play these games³.

Halo AnniversaryIf you are a fan of old school games, there’s always a reason to celebrate.  These titles will often hold a memory or two in the hearts of some gamers and remain significant in name only for others.  In 2011 alone we have Donkey Kong turning 30, Zelda, Metroid, and Castlevania turning 25, Street Fighter and Sonic turning 20, plus Resident Evil and Tomb Raider turning 15.  It’s a banner year to look fondly back at these franchises.  Even Halo turning 10 years old is being celebrated with an HD remake, which is an awkward trend that we will be discussing in tomorrow’s post.  Whether it’s by publishers hoping to cash in on previous properties, a false marketing campaign for brand strength or simply a web site trying to generate hits, anniversaries are definitely here to stay.  Hopefully we will start to see celebrations of more obscure and impressive titles of gaming’s past so that you can read about a game you’ve never played yourself and are tempted to dig up (can I get a shout out to Salamander please?).

1: I just beat Zelda 2: Adventures of Link for the first time this year
2: The other technical additions to the Chrono Trigger series are Satelliview’s Radical Dreamers and Playstation’s Chrono Cross.
3: PC emulation has come a long way, but I personally find that the only true way to play a game is on its original console without technical glitches and graphical overhauls (ie: purist).

Written by Fred Rojas

October 18, 2011 at 6:09 pm

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