Gaming History 101

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Posts Tagged ‘contra

Know This Developer: WayForward

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Yesterday I saw a tweet from WayForward, a games developer that specializes in a retro feel and hand drawn animation, that it was celebrating 25 years.  That’s impressive, especially when you consider that 1990 predates the Super NES and also because the 16-bit style has been around now for two and half decades.  If you fancy yourself a fan of that era, long for the days of gorgeous hand drawn animation with large sprite-based characters on screen, and a 2D plane then WayForward is just the developer for you.  Oh yeah, and its strongest titles are typically tough as nails so just like back in the 90s you’re going to have to die a lot and restart before you ever think about beating one.  It should also be noted that WayForward is of the few studios that can really get a licensed game right and with the amount of care and detail afforded to this company’s many licensed outings it is akin to the Capcom Disney games.  All of these reasons and the fantastic original series Shantae make WayForward a developer that retro enthusiasts should definitely know.

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Progressive Challenge: A History of Game Difficulties

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Zelda II: The Adventures of Link, Shin Megami Tensei Persona, IkarugaDark Souls.  All of these games have one thing in common: they are hard as hell.  Since the genesis of the video game difficulty has existed to be the barrier to entry and the extension of game experiences.  What is a video game if not a challenge?  Originally technology had not caught up with the goals of the medium so games had to use difficulty to bridge the gap of a good experience where visuals and storytelling failed.  Nowadays games are just as capable, if not more, than other media in being an interactive experience and therefore difficulty steps aside most times.  I consistently hear that the concept of difficulty is dead, that a hard game dictates a good game, and that today’s gamers are weak and catered to.  Frankly, I disagree with all of that.  Gaming is typically tech dependent and with that dependence comes the evolution of experience, which results in the evolution of difficulty.  Games haven’t gotten harder or easier, they have simply evolved.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 31, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Retro Game Challenge: Super C (NES)

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superc_boxConsole: NES
Released: April 1990
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $9.03 (used), $179.95 (new) (
Other Releases: Yes – as Super Contra on arcade, PCs (microcomputer and IBM compatibles)
Digital Release? Yes – Virtual Console for Wii (NES version) and XBLA (arcade version)

Per a request from reader Quark, our follow up from the Contra retro review.  Now we complete the sequel.

Written by Fred Rojas

February 10, 2013 at 6:41 pm

The Japanese Always Get The Better Version: Contra (Famicom)

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contra_boxConsole: NES/Famicom
Released: 1988
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $26.01 (used), $399.95 (new) (
Other Releases: Yes – Arcade, Microcomputers, PS2, DS (all are the Arcade version)
Digital Release? Yes – Virtual Console (NES version), XBLA/PSN (Arcade ver) ($5 on all platforms)

With box art that is clearly Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone combining forces to be in a franchise that belongs to neither, Alien, this game has it all.  For the most part you and potential partner rush through eight levels, including a jungle that is ripped straight out of Predator, to attack bad guys and eventually aliens.  It’s a confusing game in America because nothing is spelled out for you, the game just drops you in the jungle without any plot, scene, or explanation.  Now that I’ve played the Famicom version (and the video below will show the complete game to you as well), it looks like there’s a decent plot that unfolds.  Since I don’t know Japanese nor can I read Kanji, what is actually conveyed is a mystery to me, but I’m sure the translated explanation is only a Google search away.  Contra not only introduced us to a frustrating and fun franchise, but it’s also where most of us learned the Konami code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, Start).  If you put this into the title screen you would begin the game with 30 lives (if you instead end the code with Select before Start you can start a two player game with both players having 30 lives), which was the only way most of us could beat the game when we were younger.  After years of practice I can now complete the game with the given 3 lives, although not flawlessly, and I prove it in the video below. 


The Famicom version I’ve always heard is “enhanced” over the NES version and the two are worth roughly the same amount, so when I was picking up the title at a retro show I opted for the Japanese version.  It’s not really that different, but the changes of note are the aforementioned cutscenes, moving backgrounds, and slightly easier difficulty.  Either way it just goes to show that the Japanese version of most games will always be the better version.  Then again when this title released in Europe it was renamed to Probotector and features robots instead of humans (although in either version the enemies pop and explode).  Without further ado, I give you the completion video of Contra on the Famicom.

Written by Fred Rojas

December 7, 2012 at 12:30 pm

Podcast: The Final Countdown Pt. 1

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Fred Rojas from Gaming History 101 and the B-Team podcast is joined by Josh “Colm” from the T4 show and Rob “Trees” from EZ Mode Unlocked to discuss the games in G4’s recent top 100 games of all times.  We start by discussing some of our issues with the games in the list and then hit the ground running talking about our personal experiences with many of the great games on the countdown.  Due to time constraints this first part covers games 100-60 with more to come in future weeks.  Check it out!

Download this episode (right click and save)