Archive for October 2012
Happy Halloween to all of our lovely retro readers. All month we’ve been chatting about horror gaming, ominous dark rooms, and I’ve been spending one moment in Silent Hill and the next running from the Slenderman. I thought it might be fun to finally offer some retro Halloween gaming for the timid, nervous, screaming little scaredy cats out there. Yep, you read that correctly, here’s a list of fun Halloween videos games that aren’t intended to scare you.
Console: Playstation 2, Xbox, PC
Released: 10/29/2002 (US, PS2)
Developer: Rockstar North
Value: $0.88 (used) $8.25 (new) (pricecharting.com) – Prices for PS2 Version
Price: $5.00-$10.00 (used) $10-$20 (new) on eBay
Digital Release? Not Yet – ESRB suggests a PS3 and possibly Xbox 360 release and iOS/Android app should be out any day
When Grand Theft Auto III hit the Playstation 2, Rockstar North single-handedly proved that it could make a clearly defined, open world that players could explore in a fully rendered 3D city. It wasn’t until the follow-up, Grand Theft Auto Vice City, that the studio gave this concept personality. Some think of it as a sequel, but in retrospect Vice City was merely an update to the engine that allowed to tell a side tale, which would be made available nowadays as a large DLC add-on. It basically retells the story of Scarface within the GTA III engine, but adds enough detail and flair to the mix to place it among one of the top rated games of last generation – and even garnered it a sequel that started life on PSP and moved to the more prevalent PS2. Personally, this is my favorite game in the series because it’s clever storytelling promotes completion of the campaign while the familiar 80s soundtrack brings me back to the early days of my youth.
This week Fred reflects back on survival horror favorite Silent Hill 2. This is his first time playing the game and he discusses the atmosphere, gameplay, and plot of Konami’s unnerving title.
Okay, I know the Sega CD actually turned 20 exactly one week ago on October 15, but we’ve been very busy over here so we regretfully missed the window. Fortunately we are making up for that with tons of Sega CD coverage for the month of November, check in to see write-ups and gameplay on many of the titles that made Sega’s overpriced add-on a temptation in 1993. Now I know it is popular opinion to crap all over the Sega CD and in full disclosure I’m an avid fanboy of this specific system, but somewhere in between lies its true value. Someone once told me that any console with at least three good games is worth being in existence and under that theory the Sega CD justifies itself at least three times over. In recent days the Sega CD has also dropped in price/value so it’s quite possible to get your hands on a Genesis/CD combo for roughly $50-$75, which isn’t too shabby even by today’s standards.
In truth the Sega CD (Mega CD in Japan and Europe) wasn’t designed for our market. It was developed in Japan to compete with the PC-Engine CD (Turbografx-16 Duo in our country) and hopefully migrate the consumers of the time into the CD generation as an unassuming add-on instead of a full-blown machine. In the end both consoles did make their way stateside (NEC being very conservative with Turbo Duo distribution and Sega liberally releasing any and all hardware in every market) with hefty price tags ($300-$450). Sega CD emerged victorious but many would argue its victory was due more to the fact that almost every game that released in Japan came over here whereas an extremely meager amount of PC-Engine CD titles ever made it stateside. Like the PC-Engine CD, the Sega CD was able to upgrade visuals, considerably upgrade audio quality (especially with straight CD tracks in red and yellow book audio format), and increase capacity of discs to 600 mb when compared to the frail 32 megabit capacity of the Genesis. Sega CD was kept under wraps so tightly that aside from technical specs, many developers of early games had no idea what console they were developing for.
Every now and again a video game comes out that completely embraces the culture of growing up with gaming, most of these developers being in their 30s and were kids in the 80s during the so-called “Nintendo Generation”. These games borrow commonalities with their aged ancestors, but refine the years of innovation and can generate an even better title than was possible back then. Retro City Rampage (RCR) doesn’t really do that. Instead, this game packs itself to the brim with 80s pop culture references while walking, talking, and acting just like a classic 8-bit Nintendo game. While the nostalgia factor, especially for a gamer like me and readers like you, is always a welcome addition, it does cloud the focus of the developers to the point that the gameplay is a jack of all trades and expert of none.
Retro City Rampage actually started life back on the original NES as a homebrew project. Designer Brian Provinciano began the project in 2002, building his own NES dev kit and trying to “demake” – a term used for modern games remade on classic consoles – his favorite titles, one of which was Grand Theft Auto III. For years he was creating technical breakthroughs on Nintendo’s old gray box and possibly pulled off a faithful demake entitled Grand Theftendo before deciding to scrap the NES limitations and continue in PC development. By 2007 he decided to integrate some classic game references (leading to pop culture references as well) and eventually creating the original title Retro City Rampage. If this hasn’t already become abundantly clear, those that didn’t grow up playing Nintendo games will likely be lost on the (sometimes obscure) references. That doesn’t stop this GTA clone from still being an amusing romp and shouldn’t discourage anyone who would like to check out what is ultimately a decent-sized game that doesn’t lose pace, even at the end.
This week Fred and Derek from the Playground Podcast (and contributing writer on GH101) discuss the concept of “neo retro” titles. We define neo retro as any game that looks like, plays like, or collects games from the past and releases them today.
The following article was written by Derek on the retro gamer and why more should join the cause. For all intents and purposes it seems to demonstrate the mantra of this site – perhaps even moonlighting as a retro gamer manifesto of sorts. Either way it’s a well written and concise explanation of why the retro gamer cannot and should not disappear, even if it isn’t mainstream. Enjoy the read. – Fred – GH101 Executive Editor
Atari, NES, Amiga, and Master System. The grandfathers of modern consoles and the canvasses for which many classics were displayed upon. Whether you’re part of the young generation or you got a late start on gaming there is no better time than now to start playing retro games. Yes I realize the graphics, sound, and some of the game play isn’t up to par with today’s game releases but this by no means makes these titles inferior. So why go retro? It’s quite simple really: affordability, fun, and nostalgia. Gaming is one of few art mediums where the majority of people don’t know or appreciate the roots and genesis of it all. It’s time for that to change!
It’s been a very busy week, but we at Gaming History 101 will never disappoint or miss a week. In this Fred Rojas solocast we discuss the various practices that Nintendo imposed on the US NES market to basically secure profit on every game and control competition to remain the only game in town. Stories abound and a partial introduction to the company Tengen and why they are one of the only companies with unique NES carts.
Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD, 32X CD, 3DO, PC
Developer: Digital Pictures
Publisher: Sega (Sega/Mega-CD, 32X CD), Virgin (3DO), Digital Pictures (PC)
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $25.00-$50.00 (used) $50.00 (new) (pricecharting.com) – Prices for various platforms
Price: $25-$50 (used) N/A (new) on eBay
Digital Release? No
Oh Night Trap, your reputation precedes you. In actuality this game has received far too much press than it’s probably worth and constitutes an odd sense of rarity about the title. It’s too bad because had this title fallen into the $5-$10 category that its brethren Sewer Shark, Corpse Killer, and Double Switch dwell, more people would probably appreciate the title. Unfortunately due to some senate hearings and the fact that this game was alongside Mortal Kombat and Lethal Enforcers for why the ESRB ratings needed to exist in the first place, people think they are going to see some explicit content. That, friends, is simply not true. Putting all that publicity aside, there is a meaty cult-style game here that perhaps suffers less than other full motion video (FMV) games. It’s not great, but it sure is fun to watch at least once.
Console: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Famicom? Yes (as Abarenbou Tengu Translation: Hooligan Tengu)
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Played it as a child? No
Value: $187.49 (used) $127.61 (new) (pricecharting.com)
Digital Release? No
Aside from the steep price tag, there are few games on the NES that are like Zombie Nation. Not only is it it an original horizontal scrolling shmup, but it does many technical tricks not often seen on the console. Starting with the title screen, which has a line effect that resembles many arcade shmups of the time period, there is a lot happening onscreen at any given time. The NES would often suffer stuttering or slowdown when the screen was flooded with only a few enemies – heck, Double Dragon couldn’t have more than three characters on screen at once! Zombie Nation has far more than that with little slowdown and even background effects with everything from burning buildings to guiding lasers. Additionally the boss battles and frantic later levels would dowse the screen in bulletfire, making it a precursor to the popular “danmaku” genre of shmups that emerged in the mid 90s. Did I also mention it’s fun as hell?