Gaming History 101

Know Your Roots

Posts Tagged ‘christmas

Repost: 12 Days of Retro Gaming Christmas

leave a comment »


Hope all of you out there are enjoying the holiday, whether you celebrate Christmas or not.  As a little fun rehash we decided to present to you our favorite Christmas posts over the last three years of GH101.  Enjoy!

12 Days of Retro Gaming Christmas

Daze Before Christmas (unreleased Mega Drive/Genesis game) playthrough video

Nights into Dreams Christmas Quick Look Video

Written by Fred Rojas

December 25, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Podcast: Twas the Night Before Xmas Part 2

leave a comment »


This year we celebrate more releases of Christmas time with special guests Rob “Trees” (@TreesLounge00), Shawn Freeman (@Freemandaddy5), and special guest Yomar “Yogi” (@Yogizilla).  With a goal of 1991-1996, we only make it through the first half of 1994 but it’s a fun ride through the biggest titles of the 16-bit era.  Merry Christmas everyone!

Download this episode (right click and save)

Subscribe: RSS iTunes Google Podbean

And as a bonus we have a special Christmas card from Jam:

Written by Fred Rojas

December 24, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Podcast: Tis the Season

leave a comment »


For our holiday show, Fred is joined by Shawn Freeman of Knuckleballer Radio and Rob “Trees” O’Connor from EZ Mode Unlocked to discuss the holiday releases of days passed.  With a plan to cover 20 years of releases we only get through five (1985-1989), but plenty of fond memories are shared.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Subscribe:  iTunes  Google   Podbean

Written by Fred Rojas

December 26, 2012 at 11:00 am

Review: Christmas Nights Into Dreams (Saturn)

with 3 comments

christmas_nightsConsole: Saturn
Released: December 1996
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Instruction Manual: It did not have one – manual of the original game should suffice
Difficulty: Easy
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $24.25 (used), $56.00 (new) (
Other Releases: Yes – A Japan only PS2 remake of Nights Into Dreams includes the Christmas content
Digital Release? Yes – included in the HD remake of Nights Into Dreams on XBLA and PSN, certain content removed (see below)

Christmas Nights Into Dreams is significant for several reasons, but most of all it’s one of the only Christmas themed games to ever come out.  No, seriously, look through the vaults of retro console history, this is a holiday that is rarely celebrated save for games that focus on certain days (Animal Crossing, for example).  In the winter of 1996 Sega was already in big trouble with the Saturn.  At only about a year and a half old, Sony’s Playstation was killing it in terms of sales and there were few exclusive titles that generated any kind of buzz.  Even Sonic, the faithful hedgehog that always seemed to sweep in and save Sega’s butt, hadn’t released a real game yet.  Not only that, but this was the Christmas release of the Nintendo 64 and Mario 64 was selling out consoles nationwide.  Nights Into Dreams was the only recent release on the Saturn that appealed to the typical gamer and with its colorful aesthetic, roots in platforming, and Sonic Team developer it was Sega’s best bet for the holidays.  Under these circumstances Christmas Nights invaded the market in several forms from being a free pack-in with Christmas console bundles (that already included Nights), inside several magazines, a mail away/in store offer with certain game purchases, and even for rent at Blockbuster Video.  This “sampler” title was everywhere, but only for about 45 days, and now it’s one of the more rare and sought after pieces of a retro gamer’s collection.


Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fred Rojas

December 25, 2012 at 11:00 am

Day 9

leave a comment »

On the ninth day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

A 9-in-1 Game Cart!

My father was born and raised in Costa Rica (hence why I’m half Costa Rican), but I was pretty young for the first family vacations back “home”.  Near the end of the NES era, a bunch of family members on my mother’s side as well as my immediate family celebrated Christmas in Costa Rica.  There were lots of subtle differences to American culture there, but none more interesting to me than imported knock-offs.  If you were to enter little toy shops in and around central hub city San Jose, you could expect to see items cheaply made and imported from Asia.  I still remember the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures I picked up (all 4 for about $15) that had Chinese all over the box and looked a bit off-center with its paint job.  They all broke by the end of the trip.  There were also video games, of course, and I couldn’t help but check them all out.

For like $50 there was an NES that was painted all silver, more boxy (I later discovered it was the Famicom design) and had controllers and a zapper permanently wired into them.  Not only that, when you turned it on it had 101 games built-in, which I didn’t pick up because I had an NES already and this console wouldn’t work with cartridges.  What I also saw was a slew of “x-in-1” cartridges that contained some of the console’s best games all together.  It was old school pirating at its best – take a bunch of smaller older games and thanks to new technology put them all into a single cartridge and sell them in foreign countries.  I remember buying one for my NES, probably a 76-in-1, that I could have sworn had 76 individual titles but I later discovered there were only like seven games repeating on a list with different names.  I also bought a Game Gear 9-in-1 (pictured above) for my buddy, which was amazing because it contained Sonic the Hedgehog and a handful of arcade ports.  I wasn’t really trying to be kind, but it was like $20 and I used to love borrowing his Game Gear, now I gave him a reason to be forthcoming with it. 

This trend would continue in gaming moving forward to as recently as this generation with Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and several others.  In addition, I still see 30-in-1 Genesis systems and 50-in-1 Atari systems for roughly $30 at Walgreens, which are now legal items that these respective companies have approved.  As is the case with most collections, they were as much a double-edged sword then as they are now.  You have so much selection that you barely spend any time with a single game and never accomplish much other than beating the first level of each title before the system eventually dies.  Costa Rica gave me lots of great memories and views, but it was also my first glimpse at how bad small countries got it in the video game market.  No wonder the Master System and Genesis were so big in Brazil.  Any one out there have some crazy unlicensed all-in-one pirate games?

<- Go back to the eighth day                                Go on to the tenth day ->

Written by Fred Rojas

December 22, 2011 at 10:26 am

Day 8

leave a comment »

On the eighth day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

Eight Final Fantasy Titles!

The Final Fantasy series has always been a staple in gaming since it was first introduced on the NES in 1990.  While the series has undergone various changes, the basic format of multiple adventurers taking on opponents in turn-based combat was still around with each iteration on the Playstation.  Final Fantasy VII released in January 1997 and at that point I didn’t yet own the console and couldn’t get the game everyone was talking about.  I thought it was odd that every gamer I knew wanted to play this game – Final Fantasy games had always been big with some gamers, but it was never a universal series.  After I got to see it in action in a local Babbage’s, I completely understood.  FFVII was gorgeous – futuristic cutscenes, impressive graphics, a cyberpunk atmosphere and versatile battle system (including the infamous materia magic).  Even more intriguing was the fact that this was on the Sony Playstation as Nintendo had been the sole home for Final Fantasy games in America for almost a decade.  I got the game for Christmas in late 1997 and immediately began to play it, but with a 70+ hour campaign along with a girlfriend and school restarting, I only got as far as the big twist that concluded disc 1. 

After the giant success of Final Fantasy VII, the Playstation quickly became the home of both role-playing games (RPGs) and Square Enix titles.  I had always wondered why the Final Fantasy series had jumped from part three to seven, a common inconsistency for Japanese RPGs released in America.  An article in Electronics Gaming Monthly about the series would reveal that in America we only got certain titles and Nintendo had chosen to number them differently for consistency with an America audience.  It turns out that Final Fantasy II and III released on the Famicom in Japan but never made it stateside (probably the massive undertaking of regionalizing it and the fact that the SNES released only a year after the original FF).  In America we got Final Fantasy IV, renamed to Final Fantasy II, and Final Fantasy VI, renamed to Final Fantasy III.  How confusing, right? 

As Final Fantasy fever hit the Sony Playstation and newfound gamers began to enter the magical worlds of RPGs, it seemed every Christmas had a Final Fantasy on shelves.  Thanks to multiple teams working on projects, Final Fantasy VIII would grace store shelves of eager gamers in 1999 and Final Fantasy IX only a year later.  At this point Sony ran into a similar problem that Nintendo had: the Playstation was coming to an end and by the following year the Playstation 2 would be available.  In a genius decision taken straight from the book of Nintendo, Sony decided to continue to release classic Final Fantasy titles on the Playstation.  Launching as dual-game collections, most games would give you a combination of a game US audiences had played along with one they hadn’t.  Final Fantasy Anthology offered Final Fantasy V and VI, which would be most familiar to audiences of the time given the popularity of Final Fantasy III (VI) on SNES and introduce a cult favorite with VFinal Fantasy Collection would also release that year and include Final Fantasy IV, better known as II in America, to complete the SNES packaged offering.  Those that didn’t catch the extremely rare and high-priced Collection could pick up Final Fantasy IV along with Chrono Trigger, an SNES classic from the makers of both Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior, in Final Fantasy Chronicles.  In the final days of the Playstation, Christmas 2003 would be adorned with Final Fantasy Origins, collecting Final Fantasy I and II.  If you’re paying attention, that’s eight whopping Final Fantasy games and more than 500 hours of overall gameplay (and that’s not even counting Chrono Trigger). 

Back then I remember a friend of mine that was so obsessed with the Final Fantasy games that his mother would just ask if he wanted the new Final Fantasy again that year.  It was during those years that I wasn’t gaming often and when I did I definitely didn’t have time for a huge Final Fantasy game.  Thankfully I recently picked up most of these titles on Amazon – yes, Amazon has new copies of these particular Playstation games on its site at this moment (and for cheap too!) – and will eventually try to find the time to work through them.  Much like the HD remakes today, each title featured enhanced graphics and new CGI cutscenes.  For many RPG fans the wonderful world of Final Fantasy opened up and they were given the ability to enjoy a whopping eight titles in one console generation, not to mention the fact that they would all still work on both Playstation 2 and Playstation 3.

<- Go back to the seventh day                                         Go on to the ninth day ->

Written by Fred Rojas

December 21, 2011 at 9:57 am

Day 7

with 5 comments

On the seventh day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

Mode 7 Graphics!

Mode 7 is a complicated process that is oh so easy to explain, the most notorious user of this graphical style being the SNES.  It was impossible to not notice Nintendo’s push to boast mode 7 graphics in its advertising and even if you were able to ignore it, the launch games for Christmas 1991 and beyond.  Basically the SNES was capable of seven different graphical modes, some adding multiple layers (up to 4) and others allowing you to manipulate and rotate a single layer (mode 7).  It was a way to fake 3D and depth in early games and while Nintendo wasn’t alone, consoles like 3DO were expensive and the Genesis required the Sega CD add-on to feature graphics like mode 7.  If that was all jargon to you, it was the ability to make the screen rotate and zoom on pixels.

When you played Pilotwings, your character wasn’t actually falling into a perceived depth, the world that was created below was just zooming and rotating as you pressed d-pad buttons.  If you pay attention you’ll notice your character stays fixed in the middle of the screen, like an early arcade racer.  Pilotwings wasn’t alone either, almost every early SNES game had mode 7 graphics as some sort of flashy show-off gimmick.  When Bowser flew at the screen in Super Mario World or a foot soldier was tossed toward you in Turtles in Time, these were mode 7 graphics at work.  When the logo of Actraiser did a dance across the screen mode 7 was responsible.  Most notably was the ability to see racers both close and off in the distance with a sense of realism in Super Mario Kart, especially with that technically stunning opening sweep of each racer from Lakitu’s camera perspective.

As for me, when I finally got a SNES in 1994, the first game I wanted to play was none other than Super Castlevania IV.  As an avid fan of the Castlevania series I had thoroughly played the first three games to their challenging conclusions.  Even in early Nintendo Power issues I had been dazzled by the high-end graphical style of Castlevania IV and it remained a game I couldn’t wait to play.  Not only did this title seem more manageable – the multi-directional whip made killing annoying enemies much easier, if not the entire game as a whole – but thanks to mode 7 every trick in the book was utilized.  The world would turn upside down, the screen would rotate, Konami even had some tricks that created the crazy “in the barrel” effect that you see in the screenshot.  One of the biggest trademarks of consoles were that software manufacturers made them do things they were never intended to do, from Atari to SNES and beyond.  Mode 7, on the other hand, was specifically designed into the Super Nintendo and no title showed off all the crazy things that hardware could do better than Super Castlevania IV.  If you still have an SNES and have not touched this technical gem, you owe it to yourself to see mode 7 in all its glory.

<- Go back to the sixth day                             Go on to the eight day ->

Written by Fred Rojas

December 20, 2011 at 9:25 am

Day 6

leave a comment »

On the sixth day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

Six Launch Games!

 It’s almost sad how poor Sega handled the Saturn launch in America.  Without delving too deep into the history of it, the console was supposed to release Saturday, September 2, 1995 – dubbed “Saturnday” by the various marketing items that hit toy and gaming stores in the Spring.  At E3 that summer, they announced in their press conference that Saturn would be releasing the same day, Thursday, May 11, instead.  Select retailers were let in on the event, but the many who weren’t, including my choice gaming store K.B. Toys, were so hurt they refused to carry the Saturn.  As usual none of us regular kids who dropped by the mall were let in on the elaborate fights and decisions being made behind the scenes, so it wasn’t until I walked into a Toys R Us and saw it on shelves that I even noticed it was out.  I was a Sega fan through and through back then, my devotion going so far as to keep me saving up paychecks from my crappy part-time job and even some Christmas money from a returned 32x.  Since Sega was the only developer that knew the Saturn was releasing early, it was only Sega games available at launch.

I purchased the console near the end of the summer for a whopping $400, my mother begging me not to waste my job earnings on it (I did save half my earnings for college, mind you).  Saturn came bundled with Virtua Fighter and 5 other Sega properties joined it to be the six launch titles: Daytona USA, Clockwork Knight, Panzer Dragoon, Worldwide Soccer and Pebble Beach Golf Links.  As a typical teenage gamer I couldn’t have cared less for the sports titles, leaving only three true titles available at launch.  It didn’t matter anyway because all the money I had spent on the console, which didn’t even leave enough for a second controller to fight people in Virtua Fighter, left me broke all the way up to Christmas.  By then there were supposed to be tons of launch titles from other 3rd party developers, Tomb Raider and X-Men: Children of the Atom were hyped, but the stores told a different tale.  Since I only trusted games I knew for the console I asked for Daytona USA and Virtua Cop because I hadn’t had time to read reviews or see anything else I liked.  Tomb Raider was supposed to be cool but full 3D titles still intimidated me and re-releases of FMV titles I already owned like Double Switch or Corpse Killer: Graveyard Edition couldn’t sell me.

For all intents and purposes, the list of launch titles I so very much desired just weren’t there.  I read in an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly that there were some amazing Japanese Saturn titles, both launch and third-party, but almost none of them were coming stateside anytime soon.  Later on it would turn out that none of them were coming, and to import required both hardware modification and the high expense to get these games stateside.  Although Sega kept assuring us Saturn gamers that we would eventually be seeing non-launch Sega titles, the retail stores told a different story, especially for my Christmas shopping parents.  Not only that, but I had to make the switch to Babbage’s for my video games since K.B. Toys refused to carry Saturn games.

<- Go back to the fifth day                         Go on to the seventh day ->

Day 5

leave a comment »

On the fifth day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

Five Genesis Models!

For a console that was only around for roughly six years, the Sega Genesis sure was releasing new iterations like there was a reason for all the updates.  To be fair, every single one of these consoles changed something about the Genesis but not all of them for the best.  Sega in the 90s was like an eager child, just ready to jump at the next opportunity to improve current technology and release new ones.  This is why the Genesis had 5 different models, not including the many licensed models that also released from different companies, as well as two more add-ons.  They would also jump the gun and release the Saturn less than a year after selling you the pricy 32x, which claimed to turn your Genesis into a 32-bit system and didn’t do a good job at it.

Thankfully all of the standard Sega branded Genesis models ran the entire Genesis library (yes, some 3rd party consoles did not), but not all of them were compatible with Sega’s add-ons.  It’s easy to imagine that the Nomad wouldn’t work with the Sega CD and 32x – at least not without a hardware hack – but the CDX, which already combined the Sega and Sega CD, you wouldn’t assume would be incompatible with the 32x.  Even more odd was the fact that Genesis 3 was incompatible with both Sega CD and 32x due to hardware design.  Furthermore, the 32x would be on store shelves with the CDX and Genesis 3, both consoles it was incompatible with.  It was a nightmare for everyone involved from the marketing guy to the retailer and finally the parent.  The only person who could keep it all straight was of course the gamer, the one person that couldn’t be involved in the transaction thanks to Christmas and gift giving.  I’m sure there were at least a few massive $500 refunds after a rich parent purchased multiple incompatible parts.  In those days if it didn’t work like it was supposed to right out of the box, who cared how cool it was, parents returned it. 

I managed to get out mostly unscathed thanks to the gaming press, which kept me informed of the upcoming Saturn.  I did ask for a 32x, which would end up being incompatible with my CDX, but I didn’t fret because I knew the next console generation was around the corner.  I returned the 32x (and both games I got with it – Doom and Star Wars Arcade) and kept the money waiting in my dresser for the Saturn.

<- Go back to the fourth day                                       Go on to the sixth day ->

Written by Fred Rojas

December 18, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Day 4

leave a comment »

On the fourth day of Christmas my memories gave to me…

Four AA Batteries!

I know they don’t look like much, but these little capsules of power are responsible for oh so many smiles and tears to gaming children.  In the early 90s, everyone wanted a portable gaming system of some kind – Gameboy, Tiger handheld, maybe even an Atari Lynx – and they all had one thing in common: they needed batteries.  Stories of whether or not any of these devices came with batteries are often passed around anecdotes of suburban myth, but regardless of that fact no child could survive Christmas weekend on one set of batteries alone.  I know for a fact that the Gameboy did come with batteries, but any of the others is anyone’s guess.  Either way, it was the beginning of a time where frantic holiday shopping parents coming to terms with $100 price tags were greeted with reminders to purchase bundles of batteries and most passed.  Then on Christmas morning these parents realized how poor a choice that was.

Nothing ruins a parents day like getting children a new toy, an electronic toy no less, that cannot run.  In many cases the portable console would be the only thing they received for Christmas, and if not then various games may be the only other gift(s).  As expected, there was almost nothing open on Christmas day – in 1990 in the suburb of Chicago I grew up in there weren’t even 24 hour Walgreens or gas stations nearby that opened on Christmas.  If you didn’t have batteries and needed them, you were essentially screwed.  Thankfully most remote controls used AA back then rather than the AAA they use now so it was a scavenger hunt for anything with a remote.  If you were lucky enough to snag all 4 AAs, however, the batteries in those remotes were probably on the verge of death because the same type of parent that didn’t buy batteries at Christmas were also the kind that didn’t replace them until the remote was near death for at least a month.  If you were lucky you got an hour out of the device before it died again.  In the end it was a lesson that parents quickly learned, but the child gamer paid the price.

 Thankfully by 1995 most stores and parents knew the best option was a rechargeable battery pack, AC adaptor, DC adaptor, or even a kit with everything for a low price.  In fact, by 2000 many of the available versions in stores were bundles that included said kit as a way for the store to generate a profit on the console sale (if you’re unaware, most retailers make no profit on the sale of a console itself).  Thankfully my parents also learned this lesson, but I still remember getting handhelds I couldn’t play right out of the box.

<- Go back to the third day                                            Go on to the fifth day ->

Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2011 at 12:12 pm