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Archive for January 2012

Storytelling: How Shigeru Miyamoto Saved NOA

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When Nintendo decided to move over to America, it wasn’t to begin the world of the NES but rather to establish a market for arcade games.  Nintendo of America (NOA) had struggled ever since it migrated to the United States, complete with difficulty finding a home base in both New York and New Jersey, eventually staying for good in the Seattle area.  At the time Nintendo’s owner, a gruff businessman by the name of Hiroshi Yamauchi, had inherited the company and vowed to make it into the powerhouse it eventually became.  Yamauchi recently warmed up to his son-in-law, Minoru Arakawa, and decided to make him in charge of Nintendo’s American migration thanks to his free-spirited nature, familiarity with the country and ability to overwork himself.  Now Arakawa was attempting to find the big arcade game that would put NOA on the map like Space Invaders had done for Taito.  That game was to be a linear space shooter called Radarscope.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Review: Adventure Island (NES)

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Console: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Released: 1988
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Famicom? Yes (as Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Shima)
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Difficulty: Easy
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $4.75 (used) $100.00 (new) (pricecharting.com)
Price (eBay): $8-$15 (used) $600 (new)
Digital Release? Yes – Virtual Console (NES version) – $5.00

What Are You Supposed To Do?

Much in the same vein of Super Mario Bros., your goal is to navigate caveman Master Higgins through various levels and avoid enemies along the way.  You can collect weapons that are used to kill enemies, lots of platforming sections, and a boss battle completes the third or fourth level of each “world”.

Review

I know I’m going to get some criticism saying that Adventure Island is easy, but it very much is.  Even as a child it didn’t take long to see the ending and the lass boss had a very simplified pattern that I could quickly learn.  That doesn’t prevent this title from being one of the best games and series to grace the NES and anyone who hasn’t played Hudson’s classic platformer should make this a must play.  After having its name proudly on most top 100 and even a few top 10 lists for the NES, not to mention the millions in sales it achieved when it came out, this game is what you look for in an NES title.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 26, 2012 at 10:22 am

Review: 1942 (NES)

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What Are You Supposed To Do?

As far as shooters go, this is as simple as it gets.  You need to navigate your plane and shoot down all other planes.  You are given 3 lives and can collect power-ups for your guns as well as assistant planes.  In a pinch, the A button can be pressed to make you temporarily invulnerable.  You have 32 missions, each one the goal is to go from beginning to end without dying.

Review

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 25, 2012 at 11:07 am

Posted in NES, Reviews

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Review: Abadox (NES)

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Console: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Released: 1990
Developer: Natsume
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Famicom? Yes (as Abadox)
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Difficulty: Insane
Played it as a child? No
Value: $0.87 used $34.99 new (pricecharting.com)
Price (eBay): Couldn’t find a listing
Digital Release? No

What are you supposed to do?
You control Second Lieutenant Nazal through various levels in a side-scrolling and top down vertical view shooter.  Various aliens and creatures will enter the screen in an attempt to shoot you down with bullets or by colliding with you.  In addition the level itself will feature obstacles that jut out of the walls, block your path with destructable walls that regenerate and create small pathways you must navigate.  Throughout levels you can collect weapons and power-ups that assist you in overcoming enemies and obstacles.

Review

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Posted in NES, Reviews

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Review: 1943: Battle of Midway (NES)

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What Are You Supposed To Do?

This is one of the earliest versions of the vertical shoot-em-up where enemies approach from the top and sides of the screen and attack the player, who is usually located at the bottom.  Your goal is to shoot the planes out of the sky, avoid being shot yourself and prevent your energy from depleting completely.

Review

As a follow-up to 1942, 1943: Battle of Midway places you in the pacific theatre of World War II during the battles at Midway Atoll.  I always felt that this was the more popular of the two titles, but in most cases the arcade version was ported and re-released whereas the NES version is a bit different.  For starters you get to tweak and improve your stats, allowing you to improve your plane and abilities in future levels.  There are also more diverse enemies and bosses that weren’t present in the arcade and I personally feel the levels are longer, although I can’t confirm that.  At first it may be difficult to figure out why you fail a mission in 1943 and you will fail missions time and time again because the game is of the hardest shooters on the platform.  You not only need to keep up with the planes and bullets, but also your energy meter in the lower right corner – if it depletes, you crash.  All kinds of things deplete your energy from what I can tell: it naturally drops with time, every time you get shot and every time you use a charged attack.  Like all titles of this genre, power-ups will drop from certain enemies that can restore your energy, give you a new weapon or increase your number of special attacks.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 24, 2012 at 11:37 am

10-Yard Fight Review

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What Are You Supposed To Do?

Much easier to understand than most games of the era, 10-Yard Fight is a simple football simulation.  Your goal on the offense is to run the punt return as far as possible without getting bogged down by the defense attacking you.  During a punt return your players will surround you phalanx-style and allow you to get as much yardage as possible before getting tackled.  When on the offense you can run or pass the ball and attempt to score a touchdown.  On defense, you select one of two defenders with either A or B and attempt to sack the quarterback or person in control of the ball.

Review

They’re moving at a snail’s pace, but go on, scream “Go! Go! Go!” anyway. You know you want to.

Full disclosure, I suck at football games.  Having said that, I understand even the more complex rules and plays in the game so I haven’t had much issue with football titles like Madden, but I’m never any good at them.  Thanks to varied difficulties, a surprise for me, I was able to play against a “high school team” instead of the “professional team” or “Superbowl team”.  Not only were these descriptors amusing ways to select how hard the computer-controlled opponent would be, but it allowed me to actually win at a football game.  Being a very early football sim, the simplicity of 10-Yard Fight is also the key to its addictive gameplay.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 24, 2012 at 10:27 am

Posted in NES, Reviews

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Homebrew

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It started predominantly with the Dreamcast, but for as long as consoles have been around “homebrew” make an appearance in one form or another.  Nowadays it’s not uncommon to find a myriad of independently developed applications and games for consoles.  Mind you, it does require you to hack your console – and these days that’s no simple feat and usually carries with it the risk of bricking¹.  Once complete, a modded console with working homebrew can greatly improve the capabilities of your device – certain Wiis, for example, can play DVDs and MP3s as a virtual media machine that even accepts external hard drives via USB.  There are plenty of dark sides to homebrew as well, including the inevitable piracy debate, and in some consoles the homebrew scene is almost laughable.  This article will discuss what homebrew is, why it has been beneficial and the legalese dance any homebrew user must take.

Basement Beer

I couldn’t find any direct correlation between the two, but most likely the name “homebrew” comes from the culture of brewing alcohol in one’s home that began wide popularity after it was made legal in most countries in the 1970s.  Independent “brewers” would create wine, beer or grain alcohols in their homes using various materials and methods.  It was said by these homebrewers that unique flavors were created via methods not possible in major distillers and breweries.  Much like these basement libations, the homebrew scene on video game consoles stems from a similar background.

Homebrew is defined as a program or game created for specific hardware (the specifications of the home console they are developed for) by the community.  In many cases these games are not authorized or licensed by the manufacturer of the console and at times aren’t even legal due to the use of protected materials and copyrights.  It is possible to have legal software created on a development kit and authorized by manufacturers, but this is rare and has only seen mainstream success via Microsoft’s XNA program.  From my experience homebrew either helps the pirating community open up the capabilities for a console to emulate games that never came to them, college students to get the most out of their device (the aforementioned turning a Wii into a DVD player) and hardcore fans of a dead console creating new and sometimes impressive games.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 17, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Review: Friday the 13th

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Console: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Released: 1988
Developer: Pack-In-Video
Publisher: LJN (Acclaim)
Famicom? No
Instruction Manual: Helpful – Link
Difficulty: Hard
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $2.57 (pricecharting.com)
Price (eBay): $5-$10 (used) $100.00 (new/sealed)
Digital Release? No

What are you supposed to do?
Survive three day/night cycles while attempting to kill Jason.  You are given six camp counselors, three boys and three girls, each with one of three template play styles.  At random moments throughout the game Jason will attack another counselor, a group of the 15 children you are watching, or the counselor you’re currently playing as.  If he attacks another counselor or children, you have to find the cabin they are in and fight Jason.  If he attacks you, fight him and stay alive.  In order to eliminate Jason each day his life must be depleted, which requires the use of either the machete, torch or axe (technically you could probably do it with the rock or the knife, but it would take so long I wouldn’t recommend it).  To assist you on all three days you can find Jason’s hidden lair in the cave, fight his mother and receive a crucial item for the day.  On the first day you get a machete, on day 2 you get the sweater (which reduces damage from Jason by half) and on day 3 you get the pitchfork, which permanently kills him.  You will need to light fireplaces in big cabins with the lighter to move events forward.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 13, 2012 at 11:49 am

Posted in NES, Reviews

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Bang For Your Buck

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Video games are similar to several other hobbies, like comic books, that have two different worlds: collectors and players.  Players, like comic book readers, are more concerned with the content rather than the value or potential value as items become old and/or rare.  Collectors, in any form, are always concerned with several aspects like condition, completeness and rarity.  In the case of retro gaming, the two worlds collide quite often, especially because plenty of rare games are also known for their amazing content.  Fortunately digital downloads and re-releases have assisted in making former high-cost classics like Final Fantasy VII and Phantasy Star IV cheap and easy to get your hands on.

Personally I am not much of a collector, despite the fact that I do have a decent collection, because I’m more interested in the game itself.  My copy of Snatcher is not worth what others fetch on eBay – it has a large rental sticker all over it that someone attempted to remove (and failed) not to mention it had several surface scratches before I resurfaced it – but the game plays in my Sega CD nonetheless and I enjoyed it as much as any other gamer.  Other than the games I bought new, many of the expensive games I have acquired don’t have cases, instructions or even labels.  Although rare, there are even a few games that were so badly beaten they wouldn’t play but I was able to resurface or create backups because there was no copy protection on the console (I do not perform permanent hardware mods or install mod chips).  I am a player and I’m not shelling out $150 for Snatcher.  I want the largest amount of quality games I can get and my budget is limited, therefore I get what I can.

No matter how rough a game is (assuming it’s playable) or what format you get it in, there are always going to be minimum and maximum points at which to purchase games.  It’s just not reasonable that you will ever find a copy of Snatcher for $20.  When you’re out and about, it’s important not to get taken advantage of because like all collectible items, video games can suffer heavy mark-ups from those cashing in on the misinformed.  Your best bet is to get a price guide, especially when you want to check if that copy of Final Fight Guy on SNES really is appropriately priced at $30.  It’s also fun to look back at the classics and discover what games from the past became gems of the present.  In addition you may discover that you own some of the top dollar products out there and cash in if times are tough.  These higher value titles are also good trade value – I recently traded my second 32x console, which I thought was broken but just had the wrong AC adaptor, for most of the cost of a Turbografx-16 at a brick & mortar shop near me.  It’s like the stock market, you want to consistently keep up with the trends so as to make the most out of your dollar.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 12, 2012 at 12:06 pm

Super Mario Land 3D: Not Your Father’s Mario

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While I’m perfectly capable of giving a review of this title, its merits and setbacks hold more value to me in a comparison to the series as a whole instead of a single title of the generation.  This is not a retrospective either, I’m more than happy to compare the timeline of the series if my content slims to that point. 

We’re Sorry, but Your Princess is in Another Castle

As a gamer who has been conquering Bowser Koopa – back then we called him “King Koopa” – in 1987 when I unboxed my first NES, the Super Mario franchise is as dear to me as gaming.  Needless to say that for better or worse, I have at one time or another owned every Nintendo console and thoroughly completed any part of the Super Mario platforming series.  As the years carried on I grew older and more mature, as did the Super Mario series.  One thing always remained consistent: each new release on a Nintendo platform played to the strengths of the hardware.  Super Mario Land 3D is no exception; it thwarts bold statements that the 3D hardware doesn’t enhance a game just like Super Mario Galaxy did for motion controls on the Wii.  It is not, however, Super Mario Bros. 3 meets Super Mario Galaxy, not in the least.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 11, 2012 at 8:30 am

Posted in Blog

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