Gaming History 101

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Version: Mortal Kombat

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In this new video series we dissect the home versions of the arcade classic Mortal Kombat.  Check out the roughly 10 minute video for a quick retrospective on the title and the craze that resulted in September 1993 as many kids brought this violent title home.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 1, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Hardware Profile: Game Cartridges

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carts

It’s hard to believe, but the typical cartridge game began to phase out of gaming in 1995 when the new wave of consoles and the subsequent movement to disc-based media began. I’m sure plenty will be quick to point out that the N64 was a cartridge-based console, but I truly believe this decision was the result of Nintendo not wanting to give up the control over manufacturing and sordid history making a machine that read discs. This change happened 18 years ago, which means there is a significant number of gamers that are now in their early to mid 20s that have never played games on a cart. This is truly a shame because the versatility of cartridges is much more abundant than most people realize, but the crutch will always be that carts offer little storage for massive prices. In today’s lesson we will discuss what makes up a cartridge, benefits/setbacks, and how the cartridge was used to literally upgrade consoles for more than two decades.

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Written by Fred Rojas

July 30, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Retro Game Night: Sonic Xtreme and Sonic Blast

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This week we play the two 3D Sonic titles most of you have never touched.   First up is the unreleased demo of Chris Coffin’s late in the development cycle version of Sonic Xtreme as discussed on this week’s podcast:

And next is the Brazilian Master System port of the Game Gear’s final Sonic title, Sonic Blast, which utilized much of the same technology as Donkey Kong Country:

Written by Fred Rojas

July 27, 2013 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Xtreme – The Story of Sonic (Part 2)

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Screen capture from Sonic Xtreme

Screen capture from Sonic Xtreme

This week Fred is teamed up again by Andy (@damien14273) and Ali (@thealmiesta) of the 42 Level One podcast (@42levelone) to discuss the second and final part of the history of Sonic the Hedgehog.  For the second part we cover Sonic’s 3D outings including the sordid tale of Sonic Xtreme (and its many other project names and iterations) as well as all other 3D Sonic titles up to 2006 (Sonic the Hedgehog on 360/PS3/PC).  Although it ends badly, trust us, it’s a great ride.

Opening Song – Living in the City from Sonic R (Saturn)

Closing Song – Sonic X Theme from Sonic X cartoon show


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Written by Fred Rojas

July 24, 2013 at 11:00 am

Retro Game Night: Sonic the Hedgehog, 8-bit Edition

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This week in honor of our Sonic podcast, I’m playing the 8-bit (Master System/Game Gear) outings of Sega’s mascot.  If you’ve never seen them before, they are drastically different than the 16-bit versions.

First up is the original Sonic the Hedgehog:

Next is, obviously Sonic 2:

And finally, Sonic Chaos (Sonic & Tails in Japan), which was to be the 8-bit companion to Sonic 3 had it not been delayed:

Written by Fred Rojas

July 13, 2013 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Blast Processing – The Story of Sonic

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sonic_post

This week Fred is joined by Ali (@thealmiesta) and Andy (@damien14273) from the 42 Level One podcast to discuss Sonic the Hedgehog.  With a heavily documented history, Sega’s official mascot to combat Mario had quite the history.  In part 1 we discuss the origins of Sonic and all of his 16-bit era outings (which include his 8-bit Master System/Game Gear titles, spin-offs, and his CD outing), complete with the games themselves and the stories of development. While long, there’s no lack of content or stories tethered with the beloved hedgehog.

Opening Song – Sonic Theme (from Sonic the Hedgehog on Genesis/Mega Drive)

Closing Song – Sonic Boom (from Sonic CD on Sega CD/Mega CD)


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Written by Fred Rojas

July 10, 2013 at 11:00 am

Friday at the Movies: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Arcade)

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T2TheArcadeGamepromoConsole: Arcade
Released: 1991
Developer: Midway / Probe Software (console)
Publisher: Midway / Acclaim (console)
Ports: Gameboy, Game Gear, Master System, Genesis, SNES, PC/DOS (all as T2: The Arcade Game)
Digital Release? No (probably due to license issues)

In 1991, the sequel to Jim Cameron’s film Terminator hit theaters and literally launched the careers of Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick as well as ushering in a new generation of computer generated image (CGI) effects.  With a monster budget the film was accompanied by a marketing blitz like no other.  At that time making an arcade game for the movie was a great and potentially cost-free endeavor (it would make as much in revenue that it cost to produce), which resulted in one of the heaviest cult following of a licensed game I’ve ever experienced.  Not only was it a licensed arcade game, but it was also a bolt-on light gun game (which I describe in my Operation Wolf article) that made it significantly more approachable than any other format.  For me, it was the “why can’t I beat the damn third level!” game.

Hosted at Universal Videogame List www.uvlist.netIt’s quite an expansive experience that takes you through most of the pivotal moments of the movie, including several levels that take place in the post-apocalyptic future and subsequent present day challenges.   Like other shooters of its type, you have a primary machine gun weapon and bombs that can be fired off for some of the stronger enemies or to take out clusters.  I must admit that at the time it was awesome taking out the original T-800 cyborgs we first saw in the original Terminator and the neo-future setting.  Then you hit level three.  Most people don’t remember and even fewer talk about the fact that unlike arcade quarter-swallowing titles like Revolution X, level three requires skill to complete and no amount of money in the world will get you past it.  This is why most people who have played this game get hung up on or never see beyond the third level.  It’s a protection mission where you literally have to memorize the spawn points of the oncoming enemies that seek to destroy the truck John Connor is fighting in.  This vehicle is very susceptible to damage and if you can’t intercept the airborne enemies right as they appear you have no chance of completing the level.  If John dies, you have to restart with no true penalty.  This resulted in long, repetitive, and frustrating replays of an escort mission you never wanted to play.  It’s really disappointing too, because the remaining seven levels are both fun and provide much more fan service for those that have seen the movie.  These levels are also brutally difficult to the point that I don’t think it’s possible to pass on consoles and requires more than 50 credits on arcades/MAME.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 26, 2013 at 11:00 am

Top 5 Shmups on Portable Consoles

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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.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 21, 2013 at 11:00 am

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin (Sega CD)

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Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1993
Developer: Technopop
Publisher: Sega
Instruction Manual: Helpful – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $8.88 (used), $39.99 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – Simply known as Spider-Man on Genesis, Game Gear, and Master System
Digital Release? No

As we sometimes see in the 16-bit era, first party published titles became interesting exclusives on either side of the console wars and among the various Spider-Man titles I have to say this is my favorite.  Amazing Spider-Man vs. Kingpin (or better known on all other ports as Spider-Man) tasks you with defusing a bomb set by the nefarious Kingpin within 24 hours (pretty sure that’s not real-time) by collecting keys from different foes in the Spider-Man universe.  This was the first game I played that gave me exactly what I expected out of a superhero title.  It allowed me to play as Spider-Man, it had solid controls that included web slinging and wall grabbing, and it did it all in a side scrolling platformer/brawler.  Not only that, but the game embraces a non-linear structure where you visit locations throughout the city and face whatever is in certain locations, which felt like it freed the game up to your personal pacing, something quite uncommon in the days of early platformers.  While the plot centralized around the Kingpin, you will take on almost all of Spider-Man’s key foes including Venom, Doc Oc, Lizard, and Electro, just to name a few.  Graphically the game had that semi-real grit that Sega titles all seemed to offer in the early 90s with great animated storyboard art throughout.

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Written by Fred Rojas

November 25, 2012 at 11:34 am

Now & Then: Mortal Kombat II (Midway)

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Midway must have known it had a hit on its hands with the original Mortal Kombat because no time was wasted creating the sequel.  While most of us anticipated the home release of the first title, Mortal Kombat II (MKII) snuck into arcades and blew our minds.  This game literally had it all – more characters, more fatalities/finishing moves, and more violence.  For most MK series fans, myself included, this is considered to be the best and it’s one of the highest grossing video games of all time.

MK Meets its Match

The original Mortal Kombat was an impressive fighter, especially for one that was developed with digitized actors in only 10 months, but creator Ed Boon wanted to do more.  “[MKII] had everything we wanted to put in the original MK but didn’t have time for,” he said in an interview with EGM2 (issue 5, Nov. 1994).  It does seem like there’s some truth to his claim, especially with the introduction of more stage fatalities, a second fatality for each character, and even joke finishers “friendships” and “babalities”.  I’m not so sure the roster was an initial idea, nor was the background concepts of Outworld, but I can definitely see the Midway team wanting to break away from the perceived reality of the original.  Not only was MKII the definitive version of the original concept, but it continues to be the template for which all other titles in the series are based on.

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