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Doom Retrospective

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As I said in a previous article regarding Wolfenstein 3D, “Wolfenstein 3D did it first and Doom did it best.”  The same team, id Software, created both games so it’s less of a competition and more of an evolution.  While I agree that all games are a team effort, the technology that runs these games can sometimes be credited to one person.  In the case of Doom that one person is none other than John D. Carmack.  By this point most of us are aware of John Carmack and what he’s contributed to video games as a whole, but back in 1992 he was the guy creating a new engine for a new game.  That engine was called the Doom Engine.  Carmack claims the name Doom came from the movie The Color of Money in which Tom Cruise describes a custom pool cue as “doom” when questioned as to what’s in his case.  It was created to enhance the first person shooter to include different heights, distances, and even sound effects in stereo for a more realistic type of game.  In truth the hardware of the time couldn’t handle rendering a 3D world so the game is actually all on a flat plane in the code, which is why rooms never overlap and you can shoot a guy on a ledge by just aiming at the wall beneath him.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but in 1993 I hardly noticed.  Doom had positional breathing of mutant men, lighting effects (including dark rooms), a hybrid cyberpunk and distopian Hell setting, and a ton of violence.  It was the rock star of the video game world.

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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

Clock Tower: The First Fear Game Club

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The Clock Tower series has always been a unique horror title since it’s western inception on the original Playstation.  There are no weapons, no fighting, and the main mechanic is hiding from a small man swinging around massive shears that will only result in death if your character is found.  What many may not know is that the series actually began in Japan only on the SNES (and even had a remake of sorts on the Playstation, again in Japan only).  Thanks fan translations, Jam and Fred sit down to discuss this initial outing that we in the West never got and is probably the strongest entry in the franchise.


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Written by Fred Rojas

October 5, 2015 at 11:00 am

A Link to the Past Review

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With the departure that Zelda II was from the original, Nintendo wasn’t going to take anymore chances as it began to release beloved franchises on its newest console, the Super NES.  Of those franchises, The Legend of Zelda was one of the first to be rehashed with A Link to the Past.  Instead of trying to create a sequel or something new, Nintendo instead took all the concepts from the original game, added a few enhancements, and made the game that captured so many hearts over again.  To be clear, A Link to the Past is not a remake, it’s just the exact formula of the original utilized in the same world with a different map, different set of dungeons, and slightly altered item list.  Think if it as a remix to the original rather than a true sequel or remake, but one that marks one of the highest points for both the console and the series itself.

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Written by Fred Rojas

June 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

May the Fourth Be With You: Super Empire Strikes Back (SNES)

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Here it is, the challenge that spawned from Fred’s mystery game 3-pack in March.  It was brutal, it was frustrating, it was on easy…but Fred has beaten Super Empire Strikes Back and what better time to reveal the video but May the Fourth.  Enjoy.

Written by Fred Rojas

May 4, 2015 at 11:00 am

Donkey Kong Country SNES Review

Dkc_snes_boxartPlatform: Super NES, Gameboy Color, Gameboy Advance – Note: Portable versions have compromised graphics and performance
Released: 1994
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Digital Release? Yes, 800 points on the Virtual Console for Wii and Wii U (optimized for Wii U)
Value: $18.52 (SNES)/$6.51 (GBC)/$10.00 (GBA) – cart only, $38.97 (SNES)/$16.24 (GBC)/$20.00 (GBA) – complete, $80.00 (SNES)/$53.07 (GBC)/$51.00 (GBA) – sealed – According to Price Charting 

Donkey Kong Country (DKC) on the SNES is a game held in high regard by a lot of Nintendo fans. Developed by Rare, who at the time was a second party developer to Nintendo and consistently releasing new and unique IPs, which only got better when it came to the follow up console the N64. Nintendo was quite happy for Rare to develop a game starring Donkey Kong, who up to this point was just sitting on Nintendo’s shelf not really doing a lot (development on this title began before the Gameboy re-hash of Donkey Kong ’94). Rare came up with an idea for a platformer that proved to be very successful and led to two additional sequels being developed on the SNES and then a 3D iteration on the N64.  It is now time to peel back a banana and see if this SNES game still holds up today.

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Written by jamalais

April 17, 2015 at 11:39 am

Posted in Reviews, SNES, Wii

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Now & Then: Mortal Kombat 3

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Mk3

Switching It Up

mk3_1A lot happened both in the talent pool of Mortal Kombat players and in the game design overall between the release of Mortal Kombat II and Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3).  For starters there was a mass exodus of on screen talent due to royalty disputes, so almost no one from the original two games returned for the third release.  In addition, Boon and his team were trying to turn Mortal Kombat into a viable fighting game with things no one had ever seen before and mechanics that could compete with the massive rush of fighters in arcades.  The game was completely Americanized, with all hints of Eastern influence including symbols, locales, and the soundtrack completely absent without a trace and instead replaced by urban stages, 90s hip-hop soundtracks, and cyborgs replaced the signature ninjas.  These locations were now composed of pre-rendered 3D backgrounds and the character sprites were almost totally digitized as opposed to the digitized/hand drawn hybrid of the previous games.  Along with it came an overhaul of the controls, including combos and a “run” button to address rightful claims that defensive players ruled the previous title.  It’s all one giant 90s metaphor but that doesn’t change the fact that MK3 (and it’s update Ultimate MK3 or UMK3) stands as the moment I felt the series went into the mainstream fighter territory.  Couple this with the fact that it was on just about every console that existed at the time, still dominated arcades, and had more content than rival Street Fighter II could ever dream to do with its iterations and I see why it’s creator Ed Boon’s favorite.  Mortal Kombat 3 definitely upped the ante.

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Smash TV Review

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smashtv_boxPlatform: Arcade, microcomputers, NES, Master System, Game Gear, SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox/Gamecube/PS2/PSP (part of Midway Treasures)
Released: 1990
Developer: Williams
Publisher: Williams/Midway
Digital Release? Yes, it had a digital release on XBLA (360) but was delisted in Feb. 2010

Smashtv01These 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.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 24, 2015 at 11:34 am

SimCity Review

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SimCity_Classic_cover_artPlatform: PC (but was ported to almost everything)
Released: 1989
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Maxis (later part of EA before closing this year)
Digital Release? Yes, far too many to count

 

 

simcity1With the regretful closing of Maxis this year and the recent discussions of the value of city simulation games, I thought it was appropriate to return to Will Wright’s massively successful city simulation game that started it all.  Although this game was not the first of Wright’s, that was a so-so top down shooter called Raid on Bungeling Bay for the Commodore 64 in 1984, this seemingly tame and rote concept came from that initial title when Wright was developing map builders for its levels.  From there a few engineering books and some other research led to the genesis of Micropolis, the game about miniature versions of cities and managing the development and monthly activities.  The title was supposed to release years earlier on the Commodore 64 by publisher Broderbund, who had handled Bungeling Bay, but they could not see the value in trying to market and sell a game like this – I wouldn’t have either – so it remained unreleased.  It wasn’t until the late 80s that Wright had a meeting with Maxis founder Jeff Braun and secured the license for a Macintosh port that eventually released in 1989.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 20, 2015 at 4:45 pm

Posted in PC/Mac, Reviews, SNES

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Secret of Mana Review

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som_boxPlatform: Super NES
Released: 1993 (Japan, US) 1994 (Europe)
Developer: Squaresoft (aka Square)
Publisher: Square
Digital Release? Yes, Secret of Mana is available on the Wii Virtual Console for $8.00 or iOS/Android for $3.99
Price: $45.75 (cart only), $99.99 (complete), and $999.99 (new/sealed) per Price Charting

Please Note: As discussed in both reviews, we played through this game on the Wii Virtual Console and not the SNES.

Jam’s Take

This year I’m finally catching playing games on that much loved system, the Super Nintendo. So far I’ve been very happy with the games I have played. Earlier in the year on GH101 I managed to finally playthrough the fantastic Super Metroid. Its amazing how well these games play today despite never owning a SNES back when I was younger and better looking. For this November/December game club I played through Secret of Mana. This game is uncommon and kind of forgotten in Europe.  Released from Squaresoft the game came out very late in the SNES life cycle, so its time to get ready to grind and see how Secret of Mana fairs today.  Since I don’t own a SNES I played through Secret of Mana on the Wii virtual console.

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Written by jamalais

January 1, 2015 at 11:00 am

Posted in Reviews, SNES

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