Archive for the ‘NES’ Category
Update 07/14/2016 at 12:45 pm: A reader (TeenNick) has mentioned that Nintendo Life has reported the device will not support additional games, either in cart form or other alternative forms. This better explains the list being so strong and varied. Not sure if this is still going to be of value to me, but for most fans of the NES as a child this is a quick and dirty solution for your favorite classics.
First of all, Nintendo, 5 am? Really? Clearly Reggie and the gang are up much earlier than I am – and for the record I work in healthcare so I have a bit earlier of a schedule than the typical games media writer. Either way, the great news came down with this announcement from Nintendo of America (NOA) that this November we will be getting the NES mini. I have an NES and I have a lot of games for it, not to mention the 100+ titles I also have on the Virtual Console, and lets not forget that a dozen or so clone consoles are just a used game store away, so why care? Well, on the surface of this announcement, you don’t. It’s not until you get the details, which I do have below, that suddenly this is an intriguing endeavor.
Thanks to Gamespot’s Eddie Makuch, who appeared to be equally inquisitive with Nintendo as opposed to most other sites who merely said “mini NES with games, isn’t that cool?” we have some important details. It will cost $60 in the US, releases November 11, and includes 30 games (the list is below). From what it sounds like the cart slot will support any NES game you put in there, but I have yet to see that actually stated, however you would hope. That will also be significant in the next paragraph. Nintendo confirmed that the console has HDMI out and uses a USB power adapter for AC, which is free and included in the US but not in Europe (and probably not in Japan as we traditionally see). The controller is a classic NES style and one is included in the box, but more can be purchased for $10 apiece. These use the classic controller port like we see on the Wiimote. Also Nintendo confirmed that “suspend points” will be available. This means a lot of things, so lets break down what this information seems to indicate and why you may want to purchase this, even if you own an NES.
We all love old video games, but the frank reality is that as they age our consoles run solely on obsolete technology. As the basic capabilities of modern hardware increases, so does the ability to mod classic consoles to keep up. In addition, new accessories also come on the scene to serve needs that were either impossible or too expensive in the past. This episode covers the earliest cartridge-based consoles and the many modifications and accessories you can get for them. In part 1 of this two-part series we get a bit technical, but also present the many options you can potentially research.
Maniac Mansion is a significant game in the evolution of the medium, but interestingly enough it’s also a game that is hard to find and not many have played. Perhaps it’s the fact that the point-and-click genre went away long ago and until recently, really hadn’t seen a resurgence. It also likely has to do with the fact that Lucasfilm was for many years no longer in the publishing business, didn’t have much interest in rehashing these older titles, and the fact that it was originally on microcomputers like the Commodore 64 made it hard to port. The reason Maniac Mansion holds such an important role and special place in my heart – which is impressive considering I generally hate point-and-click adventure games – is because it started a new trend for the genre.
When it was conceived in 1985 the rift between computer gaming and console gaming was vast. On consoles the experiences were more action oriented and based on feats of skill in the moment with titles like Super Mario Bros. or Gradius. This makes sense because consoles like the NES were tailor made for an experience like that with the ability to scroll and a gamepad as an interface. On computers, the story was a bit different. Microcomputers were terrible at scrolling and any attempt to do so was clunky with the player literally able to see the vertical lines being drawn as they progressed. Games had to have rudimentary sound, supported single button 9-pin joysticks, and could come from various sources such as cartridge, tape, and floppy disk. One thing the computer had over the console was the fact that it could use a full keyboard for its interactions and this is where the adventure genre really takes off. From text adventures like Zork and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and RPGs like Ultima came the point-and-click adventure. In the early 80s these were dominated by Sierra On-Line, a development house that also published and was responsible for notable graphical point-and-click adventures like King’s Quest. These titles, while incredibly immersive and entertaining for more mature gamers, suffered a fatal flaw in that you could overlook simple items in the beginning only to have them render the game unbeatable several hours later. Gamers like myself also hate the fact that the concept is basically to read the developer’s mind and in the end succumb to the horrid tactic of “try everything on everything.” Back then Sierra was even meaner, with fail states that could kill your character and thus if you forgot to save resulted in the loss of progress, sometimes large sometimes small. That’s not to say that Sierra games aren’t good or enjoyable, many of my peers will admit to loving the Sierra catalog and they are a welcome addition to the library at Good Old Games, but Lucasfilm Games hoped to do something different.
Altered Beast was a game that lived in screenshots. Like it or not, the arcade System 16 classic was less known for the roller skating rinks, bars, and bowling alleys that it was intended to get popular on and instead became the poster child for early Genesis advertising. I say this as someone who was under 10 years old at the time it premiered, though, so perhaps it was burning up the arcades, but all I seem to remember was it coming home. I did get a chance to play the title in coin-op form at my local bowling alley, but after a handful of attempts that never got me further than the second level I gave up on replaying the game. When it came home, however, I needed it on my Genesis and I replayed it constantly. In fact, for a game that is not only easy but also quick to complete (probably about 30 minutes), I find myself replaying it more than most other games from my past. This even more odd given that, sadly, Altered Beast is not a very good game.
The premise is that of a centurion of Greece brought back by Zeus to save Athena, his daughter, who has been kidnapped. Upon your resurrection, you now gain the ability to take the form of different animals in a sort of “were-” hybrid (werewolf, weredragon, werebear, etc) that can be accomplished by collecting power-ups in the level. Beyond that Altered Beast is nothing more than a walk to the right and beat up everything in your path game, often known today as a brawler, but given that it pre-dates most of the Konami licensed brawlers and Capcom’s Final Fight, it was significant for the time. Levels can vary in length, but if you know the game in the least – and what needs to be done – you’ll clear each one in 5 minutes or less. Given that there’s only 5 levels, that’s a short time span. When I refer to knowing what needs to be done, that’s the need to destroy the albino wolves in each level, which contain the power-ups needed to make your character’s strength grow and eventually trigger “beast mode.” Each level rotation has 3 albino wolves and it takes 3 power-ups to go into beast mode, so you have to do it right the first time through or go through another rotation of the level that is usually harder than the first. Beast mode refers to your character transforming into the aforementioned were-beasts from earlier and has even crept its way into pop culture as a meme. While there are new enemies in each level, they all take basically the same amount of hits to defeat and aside form some basic change in behavior, don’t differentiate very much. That’s still not to say this game didn’t have talent behind it because designer Makoto Uchida would earn some notoriety for his future work on Golden Axe and a personal favorite Dynamite Deka (Die Hard Arcade series). Co-designer Hirokazu Yasuhara is even more notable with his planning and design on the early Sonic the Hedgehog titles before moving on and being involved in the design of Jak & Daxter titles with Naughty Dog and eventually the first Uncharted.
This week Retro Game Night features Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the NES. One of the many games that had a non-traditional arcade-to-console port, this licensed product was significant because it was an unlicensed Tengen game and then eventually became an officially licensed Mindscape game, so there are two identical versions in the wild. Fred goofs around with it a bit to give the general gist.
The Legend of Zelda series has transcended time and now acts less as a genesis of the 80s and more as one of Nintendo’s long running trains through time. Like all trains, many have gotten on and gotten off over the decades and thus the original is no longer that paramount flagship title that gave way to action RPGs that it used to be. In fact, these days I can’t imagine how one not familiar with the game could get started without a guide. Where would you go? What would you do? How long until you eventually enter the first dungeon that read “level one” and would you know that it means first dungeon instead of top level of the dungeon? On the other hand there are that other half of the gaming populous that is acutely familiar with all of the intricacies of what was our first true digital adventure. I myself know exactly where every dungeon is (on the second quest too), know exactly where to bomb a wall or burn a bush, and could navigate the lost woods with my eyes closed. That’s because I’ve done it so many times that the very movements of my average run are more muscle memory than anything else. It was one of the first games I played and one of the best.
We’ve had quite a few articles about game collecting lately, most notably the process of how to find and get games from various locations with little to no issues. One thing that was not as highly discussed is knowing how much items are worth/cost, especially because games’ values vary depending on re-releases and upcoming releases. At the Midwest Gaming Classic 2015 I got to see first hand how that works and factors you may have never imagined can jack up the value of random items. For example, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the 3DS was readily available when the game launched in 2011 at the retail price of $39.99. These days it’s worth quite a bit more at $50 for a loose cart and $65 complete – I’ll get to these price trends in a sec – due to the fact, according to many of the booth vendors I spoke to, that in January of this year the carts became extremely rare on store shelves and it spiked a bit more when the Zelda Wii U delay was announced. Looks like Nintendo decided to go more digital as the game can be easily purchased on the eShop for MSRP, but if you’re a tangible collector that game has outlived its apparent welcome. Also it appears that gamers have begun to want that game back in their collections because of the delay of the Wii U title so they have something to be all nostalgic about until that game finally arrives. These are things I neither knew about nor cared about, but they are important. A while back I wrote an article on knowing the difference between different games and what games fetch high value, well today I decided to get a little more specific and show you some of the coveted titles that fetch a large sum of money on retro consoles. Keep in mind this was written in April 2015 and a lot can happen with each passing day as of the writing of this article. Please keep in mind all prices are based on Price Charting, a US-based price guide that compares eBay, Amazon, and third party sites for what games actually sell for as opposed to what they are listed for.
Note: Due to the size this article has become, I’ve broken it up into several articles that will go live throughout the rest of the week. I will also feature each article under its appropriate console(s) for easier access. So lets kick this off with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES):
Platform: Arcade, microcomputers, NES, Master System, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox/Gamecube/PS2/PSP (part of Midway Treasures)
Digital Release? Yes, it had a digital release on XBLA (360) but was delisted in Feb. 2010
These days there is a good chance any gamer is familiar with the “twin stick shooter”, a concept where you move with the left stick and shoot with the right. Back in 1982 when fantastic game designer Eugene Jarvis premiered the concept in Robotron: 2084, it was unlike anything we had ever seen. The merits of that game, and what it brought to video games, cannot be denied and if you want an idea of how Robotron played you need look no further than recent neo-retro release Rock Boshers Dx. It wasn’t until almost a decade later, in 1990’s fantastic Smash TV, that Jarvis along with a talented team at Williams created one of the most addicting arcade games from my youth. Set in the year 1999 – oh how we thought so much was going to change with the year 2000 back then – Smash TV has you and potentially one other person shooting it out in a room-to-room TV studio playing the most violent game show of all time (Running Man anyone?). It takes the building blocks of Robotron: 2084 and brings it into the nineties by giving you a second player, having you kill tons of humans instead of rescue them like in Robotron, and of course you’re doing it all for cash prizes to selfishly grow your wealth. I loved it then and I love it now.