Gaming History 101

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Posts Tagged ‘neo geo

Podcast: 4 White Buttons and 2 Joysticks

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neogeo_arcadeneogeo_aes

This week we celebrate the release of the Neo Geo X Gold by celebrating the original Neo Geo hybrid console/arcade.  We discuss the launch, initial pricing, history and iterations of the console, and eventually get to the many games you can enjoy.  As the holy grail of my 16-bit gaming as a child, I always dreamed of (and now currently cherish) my Neo Geo.

Song in the opening and closing is Keith Apicary’s Neo Geo Song (Music by FantomenK) and song info, album info, and music video can be found here.


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Written by Fred Rojas

December 19, 2012 at 11:58 am

Last Hope (NG:Dev.Team)

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Under most circumstances, console games are licensed to be released on consoles (meaning the manufacturer sold the right to create a game on its console), however in the case of Last Hope, lead development console Neo Geo was completely out of print.  Furthermore the game has seen much more success as a Dreamcast title, where it was more appropriately tweaked and cost a hell of a lot less than the 128 mb carts (basically a small arcade board) they originally produced the game on.  This is often the case when a developer makes a game for a system long past its prime, we’ve also seen similar unlicensed titles from indie devs like the recent Genesis/Mega Drive release of Pier SolarLast Hope is a surprisingly fun shmup in the vein of R-Type that really captures the feel of a classic 80s arcade game based almost purely on score.  It’s even more significant that it was originally developed on the Neo Geo, a console fully capable of supporting large sprites in busy shmups but few developers created these types of games for.

To even touch the plot at this point is pretty stupid because you know the drill and can probably guess by the title alone: aliens invade and you are the last hope.  What is impressive is that this shmup contains six levels, four difficulties, hand drawn backgrounds (this is a big part of my love for it) and I believe sprite-based ships and enemies.  Furthermore the game runs at a silky smooth 60 frames per second, both the Neo Geo and Dreamcast versions are identical (including identical pixel-to-pixel count in 320×240) and all versions are region free (European players will need to support 60 hz on whatever display device they use).  In short, it is programming a game with love for the console and game in mind, not profit.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 31, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Posted in Shmuppreciation 2012

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

Day 1

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

A Wish List Catalog from JC Penny!

Catalogs are definitely not the rage today.  Most likely those still utilizing them are the technologically inept or those that just cannot release their grasp on the past.  In the 80s and 90s, however, these little guides were responsible for hours of enjoyment to me and my fellow gamers.  If you were a good enough customer of certain departments stores – namely JC Penny, Sears and Montgomery Ward, although I’m certain there were others – a massive 500+ page catalog would adorn your mailbox around the end of November.  Within it was a virtual form of pretty much everything available in that specific department store, including video games.  I used to love going to department stores and bask in the glory of the video game section.  There would always be a line of youngsters like myself, all bundled up and overheating in winter coats, affixed to whatever the demo game was.  Unfortunately, being only like eight years old, going to the department store or toy store to peruse the video game aisle was not something my mother would do at my beckoned call.  On the other hand, the various department store catalogs were always available and waiting on my family’s desk.

If I haven’t made this clear enough, these catalogs were humongous, heavy books that rivaled War & Peace in size and featured glossy full color pages.  Most of them would have a high price tag printed on, like $15 or $20, although I’m certain my family got all of them free because even in the 80s we were no stranger to ordering items remotely.  Thanks to their massive size, these catalogs held nothing back even in the video game section, so most games on the market would appear in the catalog.  If you were lucky there would be a screenshot and a little paragraph that was nothing but marketing drivel, which I always cherished as gospel, otherwise it was just box art and a price.  Before Nintendo Power premiered in 1988 (and even then I didn’t have a subscription until late 1990), these catalogs were the only way to find out what great games were releasing for the holidays.  I would come home from school and scour those pages, initially trying to figure out what games I wanted to ask for. 

After the first week of browsing had passed and my want list written, the second function of the catalog was to create a list of all the items I would get if I were rich.  Since anything and everything was in there I could sit back and imagine I had money for the SNES (about $200 at launch, out of my budget), Turbo Express (around $300) and even distant dreams of a Neo Geo (a whopping $650).  Hell, even the games for the Neo Geo sold at ridiculous prices like $120, so there were times that I would list one or two of those titles and imagined I already had the system.  There was often a “coming soon” section that featured upcoming titles, some of which would never see the light of day, that allowed me to assess what games were worth saving gift money for.  After demand started skyrocketing for video games in the 90s, these catalogs would be excellent places to pre-order consoles and popular games as well as a last effort to grab items sold out in stores. 

Catalogs from department stores were my first exposure to video game coverage, albeit a one-sided consumer driven version, but game coverage nonetheless.  With parents who were against giving out personal information, even back then, I never got into the Nintendo Club by filling out a registration card.  Thanks to an active imagination and a lot of free time, Christmas was celebrated over and over throughout the month of December before the actual gifts arrived.

Go on to the second day of Christmas ->

Written by Fred Rojas

December 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Gaming To-Go Part 3: Self-Reliance

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Given the low price point for both games and hardware, massive amount of ports, and obvious room in the market for clones, portables were not hard to find.  It wasn’t until the late 90s that they actually found their voice, though, starting with weak license translations and resulting in full-blown solid titles developed solely for portable platforms.  At the same time, many developers would revert back to ports now that they could make long RPGs of yesteryear and games from last gen run in your hand.

Game.com – Released: 1997
Pronounced “game com” and not “game dot com”, this newest handheld from Tiger Electronics was a clear attempt to make a cartridge-based handheld version of the games they popularized in the late 80s.  Much like those old school handhelds, the games shared popular licenses of the time and similarities in gameplay, but for the most part were unique creations.  Think of a company that only does book adaptations to film – the concept remains the same and the characters are familiar, but it’s essentially something new.  This sounds like a good idea, but for some reason Tiger always seemed to miss the point of portable games and Game.com is no exception.

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Generation Gap Pt. 3: 16-Bit

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By 1989 the NES was a powerhouse not to be reckoned with.  Sure, there were other consoles out there, but if you were doing home gaming it was predominantly on the NES.  That is, until Sega introduced the first 16-bit system to the market.  Billed as the Genesis (Mega Drive in other regions, but due to an US copyright it was renamed to the Genesis), Sega hit the ground running bringing near-perfect arcade ports of popular titles like Golden Axe and Altered Beast.  This spawned the popular “Genesis does what Nintendon’t” campaign, the onslaught of the console wars, and the second true generation of consoles since the crash.  For those simply wondering what 16-bit (and other “bits”) means is the type of processor working within the system at a given speed (think “Pentium 4” for a basic comparison).

16-bit Generation (1989 – 1999)

Sega Genesis – Launch Price: $189.99 – Released: 1989
It came literally out of nowhere.  Back then the only place to purchase Nintendo games in the Chicago suburbs was Toys R Us – you’d go see a slew of Nintendo box art in closed plastic sleeves, remove a ticket with a large price on it, and take it up to a booth that was enclosed and caged like a casino redemption.  There wasn’t a “video game” section, just a “Nintendo” section, because at that time Nintendo was synonymous with video game (and for my grandparents, it still is).  On that faithful summer day in August 1989 I walked into the Nintendo section and a slot was missing from the game display, replaced by a big blue logo that read “Sega” and a television that had a commercial playing.  In the commercial games like Golden Axe were getting compared to Bionic Commando, a truly unfair comparison from a graphics standpoint alone, despite hindsight revealing Bionic Commando the better title.  This upbeat guy was chanting “Genesis…” and a bold deep voice finished the sentence “Does!” as the commercial cross-cut the great visuals of Sega’s new console versus Nintendo’s clearly dated NES.  Then my eyes wandered down to the price: $189.99 – available soon!  I immediately forgot about it.

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