Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Archive for March 2013

Retro Game Challenge: Stinger (NES)

leave a comment »

stinger_boxConsole: NES
Released: 1987
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? No
Value: $3.65 (used), ???? (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – as Muero! TwinBee in Japan on the Famicom Disc System and Famicom (cart version)
Digital Release? Yes – Virtual Console for Wii (Japan only)

Below is the completion of the hybrid horizontal/vertical shmup Stinger, better known in Japan as Muero! TwinBee due to the fact that it is a sequel to the original TwinBee set 100 years after the events of the original.  Since we did not get TwinBee in this country, the title was changed to Stinger and a different back story was given, the title belonging to the given name of the ship you pilot.  It’s clearly a TwinBee title, though, with the distinctive bells that you juggle to gather power-ups and point bonuses.  Other interesting differences between the American and Japanese version were multiple difficulty settings, selectable as medium or hard in Japan and eventually an easy option was added for the Famicom cart release.  In America we only received one default difficulty (medium) but the game immediately starts over upon completion on the hard difficulty, easy does not exist in the US version.  This title was intended to support up to three players and in Japan the cartridge had an extra controller port for the third player.  Since carts loaded out of the top on the Famicom this was possible, however at this point there was only a side load for NES carts and thus the game was forced into a two player only mode.  If you had the optional accessory, the four score, which added four more port to the console, Stinger would still only support two players.  In the video below I complete the entire game although I do not replay the harder difficulty as it does not give more content or a different ending.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Podcast: Asinine Accessories

leave a comment »

powerglove_poster

Fred is joined by Rob “Trees” and Chip Cella to discuss the world of unnecessary console accessories.  Some good, some bad, and all overpriced.


Download this episode (right click and save)

Subscribe:   RSS   iTunes   Google   Podbean

Written by Fred Rojas

March 27, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Posted in podcast

Tagged with

Review: Darkstalkers Resurrection

leave a comment »

dsres_box

Capcom has continued to make its library as available as possible to the masses, especially when it comes to arcade re-releases from decades passed. This generation marks the first where old school arcade titles can be re-released at low prices, individually, with visual filters, online play, and perform exactly as they did in the arcade. Granted, it’s still a pain to figure out how to find each of these titles – a perfect example being Capcom Arcade Cabinet, which provides several of Capcom’s classic coin-ops that would seem to include Street Fighter II and Darkstalkers – but let’s face it, some games are much more marketable than others. The newest of this tradition is Darkstalkers Resurrection, an HD re-release of sorts, that covers the second and third titles in a series that never quite made a faithful translation to American households.

Night Warriors with smoothing filters on

Night Warriors with smoothing filters on

As for the games themselves, they are not covered in this review so see our Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge and Darkstalkers 3 coverage respectively, and then continue on. I am aware that a nearly arcade perfect port of Night Warriors did release in the US on the Sega Saturn and Darkstalkers 3 was decent in its US version on the Playstation (and PSOne digital store currently), but I hardly think these platforms, especially if you want both titles, are the best and easiest way to play these games. Furthermore they are not without specific tech-based flaws – mostly visual on the Saturn and gameplay on the Playstation – and Darkstalkers 3 was so updated and altered in the home port that it’s barely the original arcade game. Putting all that aside, with the recent resurgence of the fighter genre, many hardcore fans have fight sticks or specific fighter game pads on their newest consoles that a 360/PS3 version can support. Capcom has also decided to keep this title digital only in the US, which also accounts for the low price point that is much more affordable than the 4,000 yen ($45) disc version in Japan. Now that this game’s presence is thoroughly justified, I must commend Capcom for treating a classic re-release with so much care because Darkstalkers Resurrection is the definitive way to play these games at home.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

March 26, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Darkstalkers 3

leave a comment »

darkstalkers_3_boxAlso Known As: Vampire Savior: Lord of the Vampires in Japan
Console
: Arcade
Released: 1997
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Ports: Playstation 1, Sega Saturn (as Vampire Savior: Lord of the Vampires in Japan only), PS2 (part of Vampire: Darkstalkers Collection, released only in Japan), Dreamcast (technically, see below, as Vampire Chronicle for Matching Service in Japan only), PSP (as Darkstalkers Chronicle: The Chaos Tower), PS3 (part of Vampire: Darkstalkers Resurrection, released to disc only in Japan)
Digital Release? Yes – As a PSOne game on PSN ($5.99) that works for PS3/PSP/Vita, as Darkstalkers: The Chaos Tower for PSP ($10.00), Part of Darkstalkers Resurrection in the US on XBLA or PSN ($15.00)

This is the game where Capcom went nuts.  As the list above suggests, there were several ports of this game and in different forms.  So many, in fact, that a brunt of this article is about the ports and differences themselves than the actual game.  Darkstalkers 3 released to a very crowded arcade in 1997, most fighters at that time were also developed by Capcom might I add, and thus Darkstalkers 3 was almost unnoticed in an arcade in America.  Furthermore, the dwindling US arcade market probably saw it releasing to fewer locations.  Originally titled Darkstalkers: Jedah’s Damnation for the US, this title was dropped – I can think of a few reasons why – and the very generic Darkstalkers 3 replaced the title domestically.  As it stood in 1997 you could walk into an arcade and choose between Street Fighter III, Street Fighter EX Plus, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, and that’s just the Capcom fighers.

darkstalkers_3_1

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

March 24, 2013 at 11:00 am

Night Warriors: Darkstalkers Revenge

leave a comment »

Night_Warriors_coverAlso Known As: Vampire Hunter: Darkstalkers’ Revenge in Japan
Console
: Arcade
Released: 1995
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Ports: Sega Saturn, PS2 (part of Vampire: Darkstalkers Collection, released only in Japan), PS3 (part of Vampire: Darkstalkers Resurrection, released to disc only in Japan)
Price: $20.00 (used) $49.99 (new) pricecharting.com
Digital Release? Yes – Part of Darkstalkers Resurrection in the US on XBLA or PSN ($15.00)

Not wasting any time, which is something you’ll notice from all popular Capcom franchises, a sequel to the original Darkstalkers was brought out only a short year later in 1995.  It’s important to note that this was common for arcades back then with much shorter development time and a need to ride the coattails of any popular game franchise in coin-op form.  The moment your game didn’t have anything new to offer and hardcore fans stopped playing it, you were dead in the water.  While the original title mixed up the formula for Capcom fighters, Night Warriors was more of a refinement of the unique ideas its predecessor introduced.  This time around Capcom focused more on adapting the “special” bar, now having up to 3 levels of power, and more complex chain combos.  Additionally the animation was so well coded the characters moved on screen like living cartoons, no more awkward mechanical movements or odd frames of animation.  Some say this was one of the first games that frame counting became a more complex and time-intensive activity and with new 3-gauge EX specials and combos, you could make or break your match.  Players also have the option of playing a traditional style of gameplay or the new “auto-block,” which would prove popular to those new to the series and not cause any grief from veterans.  Unfortunately the way Capcom staggered its release schedule of fighters, Night Warriors was the first of three major fighters introduced by the company in 1995 and somewhat fell to the wayside going into summer (this released in March, technically the end of winter).  It’s unfortunate because some fans of the series, like myself, consider it to be the best of the three titles.

New character Hsien-Ko

New character Hsien-Ko

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

March 23, 2013 at 11:30 am

Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors

leave a comment »

Darkstalkers_boxAlso Known As: Vampire: The Night Warriors in Japan
Console
: Arcade
Released: 1994
Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom
Ports: PS1, PS2 (part of Vampire: Darkstalkers Collection, released only in Japan)
Price: $11.18 (used) $455.00 (new) pricecharting.com
Digital Release? Yes – PSOne release for PS3/PSP/Vita ($5.99)

It seemed that all classic fighters started life with iterative trilogies. Seriously, it happened with Street Fighter II (original, champion, turbo), Mortal Kombat (1-3), Art of Fighting (1-3), ClayFighter…okay, scrap that last one. Darkstalkers, known as Vampire in Japan, was no exception. The first Capcom fighting game that wasn’t from the Street Fighter series, these games were less about building a new series and more about being a testing ground for new mechanics. That doesn’t make the games any less awesome, nor does it discredit the silky smooth gameplay and beautiful animation that was significantly improved over the Street Fighter graphics that had begun to look dated in 1994. While it may be a true timepiece that you either grew up in the mid 90s playing or missed completely, Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors is a great starting point when learning the more hardcore mechanics of today’s fighters.

darkstalkers_1

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

March 22, 2013 at 6:52 pm

Top 5 Shmups on Portable Consoles

leave a comment »

Given the frantic and brief nature of most shmups, the genre is perfect for the portable platform, much like it was perfect for the arcade. For one reason or another, these titles can be rare to find on traditional handhelds and even harder to find actually good ones. On the other hand some of my favorite shmups are exclusive to portables (at least in the United States) so we’ve compiled a list of the portable shmups actually worth playing.

5. Space Invaders Extreme (Nintendo DS)

space_invaders_extremeWhen Taito decided it would re-invent the Space Invaders formula I was skeptical. We were told in previews that the game would feature an upbeat techno soundtrack, plenty of screen tricks and explosions, dual screen integration on DS, and a hybrid between modern game mechanics and the original title. Just in case that sounds tempting to you, it’s almost verbatim what no gamer wants to hear when a beloved franchise is rebooting. Somehow Taito pulled it off and with no updates save for that fearful list Space Invaders Extreme was an addicting masterpiece. It released in a few forms on a few consoles but bar none the Nintendo DS version is the one to get. With non-linear level progression and utilization of dual screen to make the DS function more like a vertical arcade monitor, it’s like having Space Invaders on speed. Bonus rounds, boss battles, and power-ups were simple tweaks to the original formula that switched up gameplay without being a specific reason to play the game. Needless to say if you haven’t played Space Invaders Extreme, regardless of whether or not you’re a fan of the original, you should give this handheld game that’s easy to learn and brutal to master a try. It will keep you occupied for many a train, plane, or bus ride to come.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

March 21, 2013 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Luck O’ the Irish – Special Edition

leave a comment »

vader_paddy

Rob “Trees” O’Connor joins us on the most Irish of days, St. Patrick’s Day.  To celebrate, we are discussing Irish video games of the past and because that only takes 5 minutes we’re also talking special edition consoles.  Yes, those $500 editions typically exclusive to Japan that make our inner fanboy reach for the wallet every time we see a new ridiculous logo on something we already own.

Opening song: The Blood of Cuchulainn by Michael Danna (popularized in the opening credits of the movie The Boondock Saints)

Closing song: Irish Drinking Song by Dropkick Murphys


Download this episode (right click and save)

Subscribe:   RSS   iTunes   Google   Podbean

Written by Fred Rojas

March 20, 2013 at 11:00 am

Games You’ve (Probably) Never Played: Tiny Toons Adventures: Defenders of the Universe (PS2)

leave a comment »

If you’re not familiar with this Playstation 2 title it’s probably because it never came out.  On our most recent podcast, we discussed the developer Treasure, responsible for a slew of great and popular titles but the company itself is quite lesser known to those in America.  With a resume that spans almost every console from the 16-bit era on, there are some odd releases that Treasure is also responsible for, namely Tiny Toon Adventures: Defenders of the Universe (which will be referred to as DotU from now on and was also at one point Defenders of the Looniverse).

Conspiracy Games, a somewhat obscure publisher that is responsible for a bunch of licensed and lower budgeted projects on the PS2, Wii, and PSP, must have acquired the Tiny Toons license because it was and has developed a few games for the series.  Conspiracy specifically works with developers that want to make a game but do not have the financial backing to do so.  This title was to be a somewhat large collaboration that had Tetsuhiko Kikuchi (aka HAN), best known for the great Saturn brawler/RPG Guardian Heroes, as director and even its own web site: http://www.dotu.com.  Very little is known about the development cycle, struggles, or overall issues about the development of this game, but what started as an early PS2 release in 2001 eventually was delayed 3 years into 2004 (according to IGN) and eventually canceled.  Because deals with publishers and developers often result in delayed processes and forced decisions that the creative team does not like, it’s really anyone’s guess why this game spent so long in development and was eventually sapped.

Somehow, a prototype of the game was recovered and released on the Internet for all to enjoy.  In order to play this “game” you need to either have a PS2 emulator on your computer (that runs marginally well) or burn the game to a disc and play it on a modded PS2.  I have a modded PS2 so I check it out on the latter.  Below is a video of the gameplay and pretty much the entire prototype (I was one or two screens from the end), which appears to be simply a demo.  It’s pretty interesting that the game seems to support up to four players taking on each other in a hybrid co-op/competitive team game to save the Universe.  DotU seems to harken back to the N64 days – at the time of initial development somewhere around 2000 this would make senses until a publisher comes in and explains that the N64 is dead and to release a game is far too great a risk and cost.  I don’t even know if the 4 player multi-tap for the PS2 was out yet, but you can see where Treasure would have made great use of it.  I wish there was more to this game – I’ve heard this is a nearly completed version, which sounds completely wrong since there’s only about half an hour of content on this disc and half of it is cutscene.  Still, had they continued on and increased the dynamic of team play while also adding the challenges of beating the group, I could see this being one of those licensed games we discuss that was “ahead of its time.”  As it stands the title remains unfinished and unreleased, lost to the annuls of history and just another holy grail of people like myself that want to experience as many prototypes as possible.  If you have the capabilities to play it, especially with multiple controllers, you may want to check out this early knock-off of a Mario Party title.  For the majority of you, here’s 18 minutes of a game that never saw the light of day.

Review: Life of Pixel

leave a comment »

pixel_iconRetro “style” has become exponentially popular these days. What started as an amusing aesthetic for Mega Man 9 or upgraded project like Retro City Rampage has spawned a rush of pixelated, sprite-based games that may look like they came from yesteryear but play like anything but. To the untrained eye (or non-technical gamer) these are nothing more than cash-in titles hoping to embrace the nostalgia of gamers like myself and strategically place a casual game in a 1985 wrapping. My only exception to this style probably lies in titles like Retro Game Challenge on the DS, which fully recreated new games that actually play like old games, or titles like Pier Solar on the Genesis, which is an actual title that plays on the console. Life of Pixel rests just in the middle because it plays completely like a game from the past, but also looks like a game of the past as well. The twist: it does this with eight different known consoles/microcomputers.

One of the first systems is the Atari 2600

One of the first systems is the Atari 2600

Released on the Playstation Mobile platform, an odd choice at first but completely appropriate in hindsight, you follow a single pixel lost to the annals of history that rediscovers its value visiting a retro game museum. In this museum he discovers that he was quite useful on international consoles Atari 2600, Gameboy, and NES, along with five microcomputers that dominated 80s gaming in the UK. These work as “worlds” for the game, each containing eight levels of pure retro platforming bliss. In truth the levels are nothing special if not for the fact that each level and console looks and acts just like it did in the past, flaws and all. An easy example is that of the Atari 2600, which cannot scroll its screen in any way and thus the levels are contained in what you see. Additionally microcomputers could not scroll at will like the NES could so you have to move screen to screen. These are just a couple of examples of how the particular console you are on relates to the type of tactics you use in each level. This isn’t the only hook, as game design “grows up” as you progress in the consoles, so do the mechanics and gameplay styles. In the end you’re basically playing the same series and concept of game across 8 consoles and more than a decade of hardware and game design. If that doesn’t speak to the retro style I don’t know what does. Life of Pixel is a full retro experience, complete with visual styles that faithfully resemble the aesthetic of that console – you know how each console seemed to have a “look” – and properly credited music that holds as true as the graphics.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

March 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 277 other followers