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Posts Tagged ‘famicom

Book Review: Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda

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Like all great media, video games transcend the restriction of language.  Thanks to standardized interfaces, albeit complicated and vast, one can easily pick up a game in any language and navigate it.  Whether or not you absorb the key gameplay concepts or the story, however, still comes down to understanding the written or spoken words.  This is especially true of retro video games since a majority were born in Japan and then exported to various countries and languages (the most common being English).  Unfortunately the process of translating a game requires more care than simply asking what a word or written symbol converts to in another language.  Localization is a more appropriate term for what video game translation is really all about.  Clyde “Mato” Mandelin has actually done it and continues to document various changes and localization between video games in Japanese and English in his wonderful Legends of Localization site.  He recently took the next step and published his first hardcover book, Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda, which does a few things I never thought possible.  For one, it taught me a bunch of stuff about The Legend of Zelda that I never knew.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 7, 2016 at 11:00 am

Retro Game Challenge: Stinger (NES)

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stinger_boxConsole: NES
Released: 1987
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? No
Value: $3.65 (used), ???? (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – as Muero! TwinBee in Japan on the Famicom Disc System and Famicom (cart version)
Digital Release? Yes – Virtual Console for Wii (Japan only)

Below is the completion of the hybrid horizontal/vertical shmup Stinger, better known in Japan as Muero! TwinBee due to the fact that it is a sequel to the original TwinBee set 100 years after the events of the original.  Since we did not get TwinBee in this country, the title was changed to Stinger and a different back story was given, the title belonging to the given name of the ship you pilot.  It’s clearly a TwinBee title, though, with the distinctive bells that you juggle to gather power-ups and point bonuses.  Other interesting differences between the American and Japanese version were multiple difficulty settings, selectable as medium or hard in Japan and eventually an easy option was added for the Famicom cart release.  In America we only received one default difficulty (medium) but the game immediately starts over upon completion on the hard difficulty, easy does not exist in the US version.  This title was intended to support up to three players and in Japan the cartridge had an extra controller port for the third player.  Since carts loaded out of the top on the Famicom this was possible, however at this point there was only a side load for NES carts and thus the game was forced into a two player only mode.  If you had the optional accessory, the four score, which added four more port to the console, Stinger would still only support two players.  In the video below I complete the entire game although I do not replay the harder difficulty as it does not give more content or a different ending.

Written by Fred Rojas

March 29, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Review: Mother aka Earthbound Zero (Famicom)

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mother_boxConsole: Famicom
Released: 1989
Developer: Ape
Publisher: Nintendo
Instruction Manual: None released outside of Japan
Difficulty: Difficult
Played it as a child? No
Value: N/A – No official US release, most versions are fan translations and prototype carts have no official price
Other Releases: Yes – This game was updated and re-released in Japan on GBA as Mother 1 + 2
Digital Release? Yes – Although technically not true.  Digital fan translations to English are available but not really legal.

Thanks to a strong and devoted fan community and some odd ambiguity with Nintendo’s releases of this series, Mother (known as Earthbound Zero with most circles that play english translations) has got to be one of the hardest series to cover.  Having never played Earthbound (Mother 2 in Japan) I did the traditional completionist thing and started with the original game, which is extremely dated by almost all RPG standards.  Mother suffers from everything I dread about going into retro role-playing games: a ton of grinding (or “meat walls”), constant random encounters, no true direction as to where to go next, casual dungeons with incredibly hard boss battles, slow pacing, and a limited inventory system.  Not only that, anytime you try to look up help on this game, everyone who’s written about it has played the game a million times and speaks so condescending of people who get stuck that you feel like an idiot.  That’s because Mother has a small but incredibly devoted community that feels this game and its sequels are the apex of game design.  Despite all these faults, the charm of the writing and what it was doing at the time was enough to keep me invested until the grueling end.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 27, 2012 at 12:45 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) (pricecharting.com
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. 

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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

Head to Head: Super Mario Bros. 2

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Ask anyone who grew up playing NES games and they will tell you that Super Mario Bros. 2 was somewhat of an anomaly.  It is completely unlike the other games in the series, complete with an Arabian theme, veggie-pulling, the option to select one of four protagonists, and Bowser (King Koopa) is nowhere to be seen.  Fortunately for Nintendo it blended right in with sequels to various other popular franchises in the console, including the radically different Zelda II: Adventures of Link and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.  As a seven-year-old gamer back then I shrugged it off and said, “why not?”  It may shock you to discover that the American version of Super Mario Bros. 2 is not actually the intended sequel to the original Super Mario Bros., nor is it in Japan.  The true Super Mario Bros. 2 is better known as Lost Levels in America and our Super Mario Bros. 2 began life as the game Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic! and based on a Saturday morning cartoon in Japan and was later re-worked, improved, and re-released as Super Mario Bros. USA.  Both versions of Super Mario Bros. 2 are as different as two games can get and thus warrant a head to head.

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Written by Fred Rojas

August 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Review: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES)

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Console: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Released: 1990
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Famicom? Yes (as Akumajo Densetsu – English Translation: Devil’s Castle Legend )
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $12.25 (used) $172.82 (new) (pricecharting.com)
Price: $15-$20 (used) $289.00-$500.00 (new) on eBay
Digital Release? Yes – Virtual Console (NES version) – $5.00

What are you supposed to do?

Castlevania III returns to its roots and is an action platformer.  Unlike the original, the game isn’t entirely linear, giving you branching paths along your way.  Of the game’s 15 levels, you will play 9-10 of them depending on your decisions, eventually making your way to Dracula.

Review

As one of the later games on the NES, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is surrounded by technical mastery.  In fact, it utilizes such an expansive amount of supplemental hardware (ie: chips) that the Japanese version isn’t even capable of working with the NES (unless you modify it, of course) and the US version is incompatible with “famiclone” systems.  For all that work, however, Castlevania III is a great title that impresses on all fronts.  Back to the extra hardware – the memory management controller chip, version 5 (MMC5) allowed the game to be playable on the NES albeit at the cost of some of the impressive sounds and graphics in the Japanese version.  This doesn’t mean it’s bad by any means, the game still looks and sounds better than a majority of games ever released on the console, it’s just that the Japanese version is a bit better thanks to the VRC6 microprocessor.  Normally I don’t gush on video game soundtracks, because save for a select few I don’t really consider it a notable factor.  This is one of those rare cases that I must say the game sounds amazing, in any form.  1up’s own Jeremy Parish captured the difference in a YouTube video that I have provided below so you can hear the difference for yourself.

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Written by Fred Rojas

July 20, 2012 at 1:27 pm

Review: Adventure Island (NES)

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Console: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Released: 1988
Developer: Hudson Soft
Publisher: Hudson Soft
Famicom? Yes (as Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Shima)
Instruction Manual: Not necessary – Link
Difficulty: Easy
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $4.75 (used) $100.00 (new) (pricecharting.com)
Price (eBay): $8-$15 (used) $600 (new)
Digital Release? Yes – Virtual Console (NES version) – $5.00

What Are You Supposed To Do?

Much in the same vein of Super Mario Bros., your goal is to navigate caveman Master Higgins through various levels and avoid enemies along the way.  You can collect weapons that are used to kill enemies, lots of platforming sections, and a boss battle completes the third or fourth level of each “world”.

Review

I know I’m going to get some criticism saying that Adventure Island is easy, but it very much is.  Even as a child it didn’t take long to see the ending and the lass boss had a very simplified pattern that I could quickly learn.  That doesn’t prevent this title from being one of the best games and series to grace the NES and anyone who hasn’t played Hudson’s classic platformer should make this a must play.  After having its name proudly on most top 100 and even a few top 10 lists for the NES, not to mention the millions in sales it achieved when it came out, this game is what you look for in an NES title.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 26, 2012 at 10:22 am

Review: 1942 (NES)

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What Are You Supposed To Do?

As far as shooters go, this is as simple as it gets.  You need to navigate your plane and shoot down all other planes.  You are given 3 lives and can collect power-ups for your guns as well as assistant planes.  In a pinch, the A button can be pressed to make you temporarily invulnerable.  You have 32 missions, each one the goal is to go from beginning to end without dying.

Review

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 25, 2012 at 11:07 am

Posted in NES, Reviews

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Review: Abadox (NES)

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Console: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Released: 1990
Developer: Natsume
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Famicom? Yes (as Abadox)
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Difficulty: Insane
Played it as a child? No
Value: $0.87 used $34.99 new (pricecharting.com)
Price (eBay): Couldn’t find a listing
Digital Release? No

What are you supposed to do?
You control Second Lieutenant Nazal through various levels in a side-scrolling and top down vertical view shooter.  Various aliens and creatures will enter the screen in an attempt to shoot you down with bullets or by colliding with you.  In addition the level itself will feature obstacles that jut out of the walls, block your path with destructable walls that regenerate and create small pathways you must navigate.  Throughout levels you can collect weapons and power-ups that assist you in overcoming enemies and obstacles.

Review

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 24, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Posted in NES, Reviews

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Review: 1943: Battle of Midway (NES)

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What Are You Supposed To Do?

This is one of the earliest versions of the vertical shoot-em-up where enemies approach from the top and sides of the screen and attack the player, who is usually located at the bottom.  Your goal is to shoot the planes out of the sky, avoid being shot yourself and prevent your energy from depleting completely.

Review

As a follow-up to 1942, 1943: Battle of Midway places you in the pacific theatre of World War II during the battles at Midway Atoll.  I always felt that this was the more popular of the two titles, but in most cases the arcade version was ported and re-released whereas the NES version is a bit different.  For starters you get to tweak and improve your stats, allowing you to improve your plane and abilities in future levels.  There are also more diverse enemies and bosses that weren’t present in the arcade and I personally feel the levels are longer, although I can’t confirm that.  At first it may be difficult to figure out why you fail a mission in 1943 and you will fail missions time and time again because the game is of the hardest shooters on the platform.  You not only need to keep up with the planes and bullets, but also your energy meter in the lower right corner – if it depletes, you crash.  All kinds of things deplete your energy from what I can tell: it naturally drops with time, every time you get shot and every time you use a charged attack.  Like all titles of this genre, power-ups will drop from certain enemies that can restore your energy, give you a new weapon or increase your number of special attacks.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 24, 2012 at 11:37 am