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Podcast: Finding An Analog

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When video games started invading toy store shelves the industry was stunned by a product that not only buried traditional products but dominated at generating revenue.  Secretly they all wanted a piece of the pie and the hope was that the dominant video medium, VHS, could be the gateway.  Enter the failed consoles of the Action Max, ViewMaster Interactive Vision, and canceled Hasbro Control-Vision (codenamed NEMO).  Oddly enough these consoles did have roots with some very top people in both toys and gaming in addition to creating the building blocks of the Full Motion Video (FMV) game.

Tetris on a skyscraper video:

Action Max gameplay vids:

ViewMaster Interactive Vision Channel:

IGN’s fantastic NEMO article *MUST READ*:

Download this episode (right click and save)

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Video: Michigan: Report from Hell Longplay Part 4 & Finale

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And here’s the wrap up of easily one of the most expensive PS2 games I’ve ever owned.  At 4.5 hours with the bonus material, probably not the strongest campaign out, but Michigan is an experimental “out of the box” title that probably will never be repeated again.  Either way, here’s the end of the journey:

Also if you wish you can check out the entire playthrough in a full playlist here.


Written by spydersvenom

January 13, 2014 at 9:11 am

Michigan: Report from Hell Longplay Part 3

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And here’s the third part of the Michigan longplay (for the initial post on this game click here):

Written by spydersvenom

January 10, 2014 at 11:00 am

Michigan: Report from Hell Longplay Part 2

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In Part 2 of our Michigan longplay (you can read about the game as a whole and see the original video here) we continue our playthrough of this super rare (for the English version) title.  Enjoy!

You can go on and see part 3 here.

Written by spydersvenom

January 9, 2014 at 12:06 pm

Retro Game Challenge: Daze Before Christmas

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dazeMerry Christmas fellow readers.  Today we are looking at one of the only true Christmas themed games, which is also one of the most rare 16-bit titles released.  Originally developed by then newcomer Funcom, Daze Before Christmas took a whopping year to develop (most games took 4-6 months back then) and was really just a conversion of the developer’s other game We’re Back: A Dinosaur Tale.  It eventually wrapped up and publisher Sunsoft decided to release it exclusively to Australia (a PAL region) in 1994, which is why the title is expensive and hard to find.  Near the end of the summer of release (most games came out in the summer to prepare for word-of-mouth advertising in the holiday season) an SNES port released in Europe, but only in Germany, which again explains its rarity on that platform.  Sunsoft USA had begun work on a US version for both consoles but it was canceled as Sunsoft USA was nearing its closing in late 1994.

It’s really too bad because aside from being super easy, the game is a solid Christmas themed platformer with Santa as the playable character, bright colorful graphics, and a synth Christmas soundtrack.  While a legitimate copy will cost you on the upwards of $100+ today (not to mention the mods needed to a Genesis/SNES to actually fit the cart in your console), reproduction carts like the one I got are much more affordable around $30-$40 online.  For a game that can be completed by almost any seasoned gamer in about an hour and a very narrow theme that may seem like a hefty price tag, but I’ve seen people pay more than that for a copy of fellow holiday game Christmas Nights so supply does justify the purchase.  Either way, Merry Christmas and enjoy Daze Before Christmas.  Friendly warning: I get too close to the mic for portions of the playthrough so I apologize for the jet engine breathing.

Written by spydersvenom

December 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Retro Game Night: RE Gun Survivor 2 and Michigan

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For this week’s video and Retro Game Night we are playing requested titles Biohazard (Resident Evil) Gun Survivor 2 (Japanese Version) and Michigan: Report from Hell (European English Version).  Both titles only released in Japan and Europe so here they are in all your viewing glory.  Due to language and violence both of the games and the commentary, viewer discretion is advised.  Michigan is continued via additional longplay videos starting with Part 2 here.

Written by spydersvenom

December 14, 2013 at 11:14 am

Retro Game Night: Fatal Labyrinth and Call of Cthulhu Dark Descent

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In what is easily the two hardest game titles to spell, we are going dark for this week’s Retro Game Night.

First up is user @NeoJakeMcC requesting one of the first ever rogue-likes from the Genesis/Mega Drive: Fatal Labyrinth.

Next up is the relatively rare hybrid between survival horror, first-person shooter, and adventure: Call of Cthulhu Dark Descent.


Written by spydersvenom

July 20, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Retro Game Night: Patriotic Edition

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This week we post a little early and celebrate America’s Independence Day with patriotic video games:

First up is actually a Japanese game, Parodius Da! but it has quite the patriotic boss so it’s here because I love this game and found a connection:

Next up is a rare unlicensed NES game by Color Dreams entitled Operation Secret Storm:

Third on the list is a digital pinball game from the PS1 era, because why not right?  Here’s Patriotic Pinball (please excuse my technical difficulties):

And last but not least we close the show with a game so American, so amazing, so awesome it was only released on one console (Xbox) and in one region (Japan).  Yeah, you read that right.  Since I have no way of getting my hands on it and don’t have a Japanese Xbox to play it on, here’s a great flashback of 1UP’s Broken Pixels show bragging about From Software’s 3rd person uber-American title Metal Wolf Chaos:

Hope you enjoyed those and have a safe and happy 4th of July!

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

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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:  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.

Top 5 Shmups Worth Importing

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Ah March, shmuppreciation is back and in full effect on Gaming History 101.  If this is your first time hearing the phrase, shmuppreciation is for the love of the shoot-em-up genre (shmup for short) and is celebrated all March on the site.  If you missed Shmuppreciation 2012 I highly recommend you check it out as we provided more than 30 articles dedicated to introducing you to genre specifics and the myriad of popular series in the most triumphant genre of all time.

This year we’re going past introductions and into the intermediate world of shmups, which requires more skill, dedication, and money than the games covered last year.  While I would hardly call the games we will be covering obscure by any stretch, these titles are much less known outside of enthusiastic shmup fans.  To kick it off we’re featuring the top 5 games worth importing.  Shmups are of the most expensive games out there so you can expect a bit of sticker shock even with the games mentioned here.  Just keep in mind that you’re currently dropping $60 for day one releases and sometimes even more if you’re into that special edition stuff.  The titles in this list are unique because they have not seen a release, even digital, within the United States and thus require some sort of special circumstances to play today.  There’s a great list of import games that have released digitally on PSN, XBLA, and Wii Virtual Console as well so be sure to check out our article on those titles as well.  In order to play these games you have to either import them or get access to a digital service outside of your region.  The links in each title will take you to the games’ review or video on our site.

5. Zero Gunner 2 (Arcade, Dreamcast- Japan Only):

Zero_Gunner_2_CoverartWhile it’s not a traditional shmup by any means, Zero Gunner 2 is similar to Geometry Wars except that the arcade and Dreamcast title didn’t have twin sticks.  In a 3D rendered world, it carries an aesthetic similar to that of Silpheed or Star Fox updated by the graphical prowess of the updated hardware.  Ironically the game plays much like a traditional arcade game with a series of enemies attacking you on a single screen and you are taxed with taking them out by flying around the screen and firing in all directions.  Now that I think of it, connections could be made to Asteroids without much of a stretch, but there’s no denying the addictive nature that is Zero Gunner 2. – Review with video coming next week.

This title can only be found in Japan but is easy to find in the import market.  Dreamcasts require a mod chip or boot disc to load an import game.  Typically the title sells for $80-$110 on Dreamcast and upwards of $500-$750 on JAMMA arcade PCB board.  The PCB is high in cost due to the rarity and difficulty to emulate properly in MAME.

4. Espgaluda (Arcade, PS2 – Japan Only):

espgaludaNot only is this title developed by prolific studio Cave, known for shmups of all kinds, but this danmaku title has been adapted to a more general audience.  Since “bullet hell” shmups dominate the contemporary market today it is key to get good at weaving in and out of the bright beautiful bullets invading the screen in various patterns.  Instead of getting a game over every five minutes in the traditional origins of the genre, Espgaluda is highly recommended because it’s adapted for a general audience.  When you get ambushed by bullets, like you will, they slow down to allow easy maneuver between them and getting hit doesn’t net you a death.  With a great cyberpunk setting, bright colorful sprites, and an adapted difficulty make this a must buy for those who want to get into modern shmups.  I won a contest and received it as a prize, which at the time I didn’t realize how lucky I was.  Now I know.

This title can only be found in Japan and is somewhat common in the import market.  Playstation 2 requires a mod chip or a boot disc to load an import game, however boot discs can be frustrating due to various security methods in the console.  Of course a Japanese PS2 is another (albeit expensive) option.  Prices range from $50-$75, making it one of the cheapest on our list, however the arcade JAMMA PCB is more rare and valuable due to popularity and thus sells for around $350 (and much higher) in US import shops and at least 40,000 yen ($450) in Japanese stores.

3. Sexy Parodius (Arcade, PS1, Saturn, PSP – Japan Only):

sexy_parodiusI do love this title and despite what the name suggests, it’s not very titillating and the best installment in the Parodius series.  A long running parody of Gradius, Konami released these games in every territory but the United States and why is anyone’s guess – although the original titles did mock American culture in some levels.  As the only title in the series not released outside of Japan it’s a shame that more shmup fans haven’t been able to enjoy this great game, especially because most ports were nearly arcade perfect.

This title can only be found in Japan however it’s very common.  Saturn can only play imports via Pro Action Replay cart (most modchips do not make it region free) whereas PS1 can use either a modchip or a boot disc with mild modification to the console.  PSP can play imports naturally and this title is found in the Parodius Collection.  All console versions sell for around $35-$60.  The JAMMA PCB is also quite common and sells for around $100-$125 in US import stores.

4. DoDonPachi (Arcade, PS1, Saturn – Japan Only):

Dodonpachi_titleCave’s most popular shmup of all time and partially responsible for the love danmaku is every bit as great today as it ever was.  Despite its ramped difficulty, the game features amazing explosion animation and unlimited credits as an option in the console versions.  It’s a point of contention as to whether the PS1 version and Saturn version differ much, but I can see that argument given the Saturn was designed around 2D sprites and the Playstation around 3D polygons.  Personally I do feel the Saturn version is a bit better, however given the larger availability of the PS1 version it’s not worth the extra cost.  Many consider this title to be the best shmup of all time and it’s among my favorite in my collection.

This title can only be found in Japan however it’s very common and even available on the Japanese PSN.  Saturn can only play imports via modchip whereas the PS1 can use either a modchip or a boot disc with mild modification to the console.  PS3s from any region can get a Japanese PSN account and with prepaid cards play the title off of the Japanese PSN PSOne version.  At $75-$100 on both PS1 and Saturn this is a justified expensive import and the JAMMA PCB is quite rare at $300-$500.  On the other hand the Japanese PSN version is a meager 600 yen ($7) and definitely the best option (it even plays on PSP and Vita if you go through the annoying process of setting up a Japanese account on it). 

1. Battle Garegga (Arcade, Saturn – Japan Only):

gareggaCountless lists of best shmups of all time will rank Battle Garegga as number one and for good reason.  It feels like the pinnacle of the airplane vertical shmup that was started by the 19xx series but with design choices that are appreciated by those that aren’t purists.  It has fast paced action, modified bomb options, and is one of the few shmups from 90s that can be completed without memorizing the game after countless hours of play.  It’s not a cake walk either, but Battle Garegga can be successfully navigated by twitch instincts, making it feel more “fair” like the classics.  Furthermore the Saturn release, while one of the most costly on the console and in my collection, is arcade perfect and has special features that resemble contemporary shmup releases.  If you’re going to get into the Saturn for its great library, especially as a shmup fan, the title justifies its ridiculous cost.

This title only released in Japan and is rare due to its print run and popularity.  Saturn can only play imports with the use of a Pro Action Replay cart (most modchips do not make the Saturn region free) that is to this day available at various outlets for $30-$40.  This title sells for a staggering $125-$175 average complete – I found mine for $75 at a retro convention in disc only format – and the arcade JAMMA PCB (if you can find it) has sold anywhere from $200-$500. 

There you have it, five incredible titles tailor made for shmup fan consumption and almost $500 to collect them all.  Still the entire concept of a shmup is that you play them over and over.  When you think about it, any one of these titles can take months or even years of your gaming life if you let them.  Keep in mind these are titles that never entered our country, never became part of a re-release or collection in the US, and never got released in digital format.   When you think about it that makes them obscure and rare for all gamers worldwide and thus justifies the higher price tag.  Stay tuned for more great shmup coverage and reviews on the three games we haven’t already reviewed on this list next week!

Written by spydersvenom

March 1, 2013 at 8:49 pm


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