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Podcast: Castlevania III Dracula’s Curse Game Club

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This week Jam and Fred do the game club thing with Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse for the NES. This title was popularized due to its technological leap, overall quality, and the fact that it’s really hard to get to work properly on third party hardware. In this episode they dissect the development, concept, and branching campaign.


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Written by Fred Rojas

November 2, 2016 at 11:00 am

Dissecting Nintendo’s Famicom Classic Edition (Mini) Differences

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This week, Nintendo announced the Eastern component to the NES Classic Edition (or NES Mini) that most of us knew were coming.  Nintendo did allow some hands on time and offer new information on the NES Classic that will probably apply to the Famicom Classic as well, so check that link above if you haven’t already.  The delightful Famicom Mini is officially called the “Family Computer Classic Edition” and it appears to be quite similar to the Western version save for the obvious aesthetic difference, but also with some details and games.  Like the NES Classic Edition it will contain 30 games, it does not accept cartridges, and it will retail for ¥5980 (which at time of writing is literally $59.80).  Those of you already hoping to import should expect international shipping to be approximately $20-$30 depending on the speed of shipment and retailer.  I’ve already checked and no one currently has it on pre-order, although some bigger import sites do have pages for it, but I suspect it will not have a supply problem as the price point for these consoles suggests it needs to sell a large quantity.

Now there are some notable differences that you should be aware of.  Of course the games will all be the Japanese counterpart and contain the Japanese versions, but the universal HDMI out means that any HDTV worldwide should easily support either console.  On the other hand the USB power supply is not included in the Family Computer Classic Edition and can be purchased for ¥1000 ($10) if needed.  Those picking up both versions can most likely use the included NES Classic Edition cable and it’s probably the common micro-USB plug type.  Also the Famicom Mini, like the original Famicom, has two controllers wired directly into the console and are not removable.  As for games, 8 titles are unique to each region, so 22 of these titles are on both consoles.  Here’s a quick list of those and you can expect a video of these region specific titles coming soon.

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Podcast: The Astyanax or Lord of the Kings

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Developer Aicom had a slew of interesting titles in the late 80s and early 90s, one of which was called The Astyanax or Lord of the Kings in Japan.  Oddly enough the game also had one of those infamous ports to the NES that changed and extended the original arcade concept, which Fred loved as a kid.  In this episode Jam and Fred discuss their discovery of the arcade original and a replay of the Nintendo port.


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Written by Fred Rojas

September 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

New Podcast: Gaming Tech 101 (Episode 0)

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NES

There has been much appeal to the hardware side of retro gaming and with so many new products coming out it’s time to get back to basics.  While Gaming Tech 101 will have its own feed and episodes, Fred figured he’d give you a taste over here on the GH101 feed.  In episode 0 Fred discusses what GT101’s intentions are and then delves into the growing world of NES clone consoles hitting the market.  From NOACs to FPGAs and even Nintendo’s own “mini” slated for holiday, it’s all covered in this first preview episode.  GT101 will be a bi-weekly podcast.


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Written by Fred Rojas

September 2, 2016 at 11:00 am

Nintendo Announced the NES Mini and Here’s the Important Details

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Update 09/30/2016 at 12:45 pm: Nintendo has released more information on the NES Classic Edition in conjunction with the announcement of Japan’s Famicom Classic Edition.  The Classic Edition models will contain multiple visual modes: CRT Filter, 4:3, and Pixel Perfect.  CRT Filter adds scanlines, 4:3 presents the game in its original aspect ratio, and Pixel Perfect upscales everything in a perfect square (which seems to suggest 720p output).  In addition you can have up to 4 suspend points that act just like save states in emulators.  You will also get a QR code on the screen with each game that will allow you to access the original manual.  Bob Mackey at US Gamer also just did a write-up that claims the controller cords are short, like 3 feet or so short.  You also have to reset the console to pick a new game, although those of us with flash carts should be used to that.  This probably won’t change your opinion, but it does get closer to finally finding answers to these early questions from the summer.

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.

Original Story:

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.

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Written by Fred Rojas

July 14, 2016 at 10:24 am

Posted in NES, News

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Podcast: Old Console, New Hardware (Part 1)

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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.


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Written by Fred Rojas

May 4, 2016 at 11:00 am

Maniac Mansion Retrospective

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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.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 8, 2016 at 11:00 am

Altered Beast Review

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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.

altered_beast_arcade_beast_modeThe 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.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 1, 2016 at 11:00 am

Metal Gear (MSX) Review

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No, don’t be confused this is not Metal Gear Solid on the Playstation or the reboot (Twin Snakes) on the GameCube. It’s also not that Metal Gear game on the NES that everyone played in American and absolutely no one played over here in Europe (quick commentary at the end if interested). Nope, this review is for the very first Metal Gear game released for the MSX microcomputer way before the Solid days and back when Kojima and Konami were better friends. This is a game no one had played in America (until the re-release) and was slightly more popular in Europe. This game along with the MSX sequel titled Metal Gear: Solid Snake (not to be confused with the NES sequel Snake’s Revenge, which is not cannon nor Kojima developed) are both available on the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection on Xbox 360, PS3 and PS Vita. They are also available to play on Metal Gear Solid 3: Subsistence on PS2. For this review I will be covering the PS Vita version but after spending some time with the 360 and PS2 versions, they’re all pretty similar with very minor differences.

Metal Gear puts you in the shoes of a rookie soldier with the code name Solid Snake. Your job is to infiltrate a place called “Outer Heaven,” rescue the hostages, and destroy a new weapon that can launch nuclear missiles called Metal Gear. It’s very likely you’ll be going back to play this game after one of the other titles in the Solid series. So, you probably have some familiarity with the plot and most likely know about the twist at the end. Everything is presented in text and unlike any other game in the series the story sections of the game are short and sweet. Even though I knew exactly where the story was heading it was still interesting to see how it reached that moment.

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Written by jamalais

August 24, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in NES, PC/Mac, Reviews

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Retro Game Night: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (NES)

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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.

Written by Fred Rojas

August 2, 2015 at 1:48 pm