Gaming History 101

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Posts Tagged ‘retro

Buying Guide: Sega Genesis (plus Sega CD and 32X)

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Behold "Frankenconsole"

Behold “Frankenconsole”

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

We have finally come to the console I started this entire buying guide series for: the Sega Genesis (and its many add-ons).  With a short period of its life having a 55 percent market share over the SNES (the year it launched, mind you), there were plenty of households who had a Sega Genesis.  So many, in fact, that there were five different versions of the console and 3 iterations!  Depending on the console version, your specs will vary but the list of what you need should stay the same so I’m going to run over the list.

First of all, figure out which model you want, here’s the gallery of what they look like:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 20, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Buying Guide: Turbografx-16

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tg16

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

There was this brief period of time when the store shelves of Toys R Us had Nintendo games, Sega Genesis games, and Turbografx-16 games.  After the Super Nintendo ushered in a whole mess of games in the holiday season of 1992 (the console premiered in 1991 but it had significant presence the following year) and the Turbografx-16 consoles moved to that dreaded area in the middle of the aisle.  Before you knew it they were stacking up boxed consoles at discounted $99.99 price tags (the console originally was either $199.99 or $149.99, although I forget which) and in 1993 it was down to $49.99 with free games and all at once disappeared.  Due to the fact that NEC’s “in between” console only moved at that exremely low price point, most people that owned the console kept it, which makes for a bit of scarcity on today’s market.  Fortunately I have this buying guide here to assist you and aside from games, there really isn’t a lot to the accessories or hook-up of a TG-16.

You will want to make sure your console has:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 18, 2012 at 3:36 pm

Buying Guide: Sega Master System

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sms

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Oh the Master System, the red-headed step child of the 8-bit era.  Not only were Sega products unknown to American markets – Japan had seen several iterations of the Sega Mark consoles, the Master System known as the Mark III – but it released alongside the NES in America and had nothing to show for it.  The two biggest problems with the Master System today is that it’s relatively expensive for a working consoles itself, there are ways to play many of these games on the Game Gear or Genesis (with the Power Base Converter), and not too many good games (many arcade games also got ported to Genesis with better quality).  For those that aren’t aware, Nintendo also had developers and publishers locked into license agreements that didn’t allow games to be released on another console and basically had the Master System in checkmate in the US.  Still, I have the console and love some of the games/ports that are available on it (like Ghostbusters) and plenty of collector’s are curious what the console looks like.  Aside from the video provided below, make sure the consoles you get have the following:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2012 at 12:57 pm

The Hobbit Review

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hobbit_boxConsole: Xbox
Released: October 24, 2003
Developer: Inevitable Entertainment
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary
Difficulty: Easy
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $4-$10 (used), $10.49 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – PS2, Gamecube, and PC and a modified version for the Gameboy Advance
Digital Release? No

No, sorry, this is not the ZX Spectrum game from 1983, but rather the more widespread console release from twenty years later, although I’ve never played the original so perhaps it’s garbage and this is the better choice.  Back when the Lord of the Rings film trilogy was nearing its end, a slew of video games hoping to cash in on the wild success of Peter Jackson’s movies released.  After sapping all of the film properties, the books themselves became source material for spin-offs and one of the first was based on Tolkien’s prequel book The Hobbit.  As a mild fan of the series I always felt that The Hobbit was the better book and overall story, which explains the tale of how Bilbo Baggins became the first hobbit to embark on an adventure with 12 dwarves and wizard Gandolf the Grey.  Not only that, but it introduces the ring, odd creature Gollum, and probably one of the only dragons in that universe, the unrivaled greedy dragon Smaug.  Despite the semi-decent cartoon version of the book that I had seen in my youth, I was immediately drawn to the playful cartoon re-imagining of Tolkien’s book and despite some major snags in the gameplay department, I was pleasantly surprised.

hobbit_bilboshire

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Buying Guide: The Nintendo Entertainment System

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NES

We all love our retro consoles, but in many cases the consoles we are buying are because they are cheap enough or we have enough money to purchase what we never were able to in our youth.  Unfortunately the business of making used retro items available to the masses can at times be a money grubbing market where consumers are deceived by people they will never meet in real life.  As an individual who has spent the last decade scouring the local area, conventions, eBay, and the internet as a whole I have learned many valuable lessons.  For that reason I present my buying guide series, which is a handy quick guide to knowing what to purchase and what will cost an arm and a leg to replace.

Most of us that are over 30 and grew up gaming had a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) at one point or another in our collection, so it’s not that common to have a reseller screw you over with a used console.  Still, I think it’s best to know exactly what you need to look for in your NES so here’s the official list of items that should be included in a used console:

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 11, 2012 at 12:37 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. 

contra_jpn_cart

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

Review: Sonic CD (Sega CD)

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soniccd_boxConsole: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1993
Developer: Sonic Team
Publisher: Sega
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $11.99 (used), $23.50 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – PC, PS2/Gamecube (Sonic Gems Collection)
Digital Release? Yes – Steam, Xbox 360, PS3, Android, iOS ($5 on all platforms)

Sonic CD is one of those games that it’s just popular to like.  I don’t want to start on a negative note, the game does have some merit, but it’s not a particularly good Sonic game and doesn’t quite change the universe like many will claim.  Before Sega decided to blitz every console on the market with the digital version, Sonic fans were gnawing at the bit for a decent port (sadly the Sonic Gems Collection ports had emulation issues).  Now that it’s everywhere the gaming community seems to have adjusted to a more realistic view of the CD adventure that throws a few imaginative ideas at relatively lackluster level design.

At one point you're forced to beat Metal Sonic in a race.

At one point you’re forced to beat Metal Sonic in a race.

For those that aren’t up on their Sonic history, the hedgehog was co-created by Naoto Oshima and his more known partner Yuji Naka.  After the release of the first game, Naka and several members of that team moved to the United States and joined with STI (Sega Technical Institute) to create Sonic the Hedgehog 2.  Meanwhile the remaining developers, including Oshima, took the concepts that were in early development for Sonic 2 and expanded upon them into what eventually became Sonic CD.  This is why despite coming out around the same time as Sonic 2, Sonic CD looks graphically more like the original and doesn’t seem to adapt some of the great ideas of the sequel.  Still, it does feature some interesting gameplay mechanics, like the ability to move into the past and future with two full versions of the many levels.  This dual expansion of the campaign does have a casualty: level design.  Many of the levels in Sonic CD feature plenty of wasted real estate in the interest of moving quickly to the right, odd gimmicks that net death if you don’t tolerate the so-so platforming, and several instances where Sonic’s momentum is completely spoiled by a random ramp or springboard.  Despite these layout flaws I still contest that the boss designs are superior over Sonic 2 and prove that not all of the talent in Sega’s Japanese team migrated to America.

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Written by Fred Rojas

November 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Review: Racing Aces (Sega CD)

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Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1994
Developer: Sega
Publisher: Sega
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Difficulty: Hard
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $4.45 (used), $9.35 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: No
Digital Release? No

Racing Aces is another in a long line of games that came out before their time.  It’s not that the concept is particularly unique – a bunch of different planes involved in a race with occasional weapon combat – but rather that it’s a fully polygonal game trying to operate on a system that just doesn’t have the power.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the Sega CD, but I acknowledge that it did nothing more than add some graphical maps and sound channels to the Sega Genesis.  This isn’t very conducive to a fully rendered 3D environment for racing.  As a result it looks and acts much like the Genesis ports of games like Virtua Racing or Hard Drivin’, with large bare environments that are boring to look at and staggered, slow vehicles that don’t make for an exciting battle.  Racing Aces moves sluggishly, the enemies have an unfair advantage, bare bones world, and is a racing game – all negative things in my book – so why do I like it so much?

The game starts off with a training arena that gets you used to using the easiest of the four classes of airplanes, the basic bi-plane.  It allows you to learn navigation, pointing the plane where you want it, and how to navigate the air before throwing competition your way.  It’s during this tutorial level that I learned I had a long way to go and for some reason remained a blocked part of my fond memory of this game.  Racing Aces controls like a computer that has too many processes (which may very well be what’s happening) because all of your inputs have drastic changes to the movement of your plane and come a few seconds after you press them, so it’s difficult to re-adjust yourself after an overshoot.  You eventually get the hang of it but that really means you get used to tapping directions to slowly adjust your direction to just the right spot.  Well until you hit a turn, that is, when everything gets thrown drastically off course and you’re again fighting to fly in a straight line.  Since I’ve never flown a plane before, I guess it’s possible that this is a normal experience for pilots but for those of us just trying to play a game it was a bit specific.  This speaks nothing for the other planes in each class, there are usually 2-4 different ones, which will force you to readjust to even more picky controls.  It’s all worth it once you grind through the hour or so of practice to get your skills up because then you feel like this laughably sluggish race moving at stuttering speeds is actually intense.  By the end of it onlookers couldn’t help but crack up as I inched my way toward a finish line.

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Written by Fred Rojas

November 27, 2012 at 3:57 pm

Review: Double Switch (Sega CD)

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Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1993
Developer: Digital Pictures
Publisher: Sega
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Difficulty: Hard
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $2.63 (used), $7.63 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – Sega Saturn, PC/MAC
Digital Release? No

This is the game that brought it all together and proved that not only was a full motion video (FMV) game possible, it could be properly acted with high production values.  Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure this title completely bombed on the Sega CD, otherwise there wouldn’t be so many freaking copies in the world (both used and sealed).  Despite its commonality, Double Switch is like many other titles in the vast gaming world that starts off solid and becomes a veritable train wreck near the end.  Honestly that’s when its commonality and subsequent low price tag come in to justify the purchase because I still really dig this title.  It’s definitely not without plenty of flaws and if played in long intervals, can easily induce the need to never touch it again.  If you can stomach it, this title does bring with it all the charm of a far-fetched early 90s pop film, which lead Corey Haim should suggest by the very fact he’s cast in the game.  With the proper introduction, Double Switch was a fair follow-up to its much more popular, although purely due to its controversy, older brother Night Trap.

Developer Digital Pictures is solely to blame for the FMV game and it held the most firm grasp and largest library on the Sega CD.  A company that started off as the lead developer for Hasbro’s canceled NEMO game system (that would do basically the same thing with VHS tapes), most of the sales celebrated by the company came from all the controversy of Night Trap.  Even back then there was clear admission that Night Trap was a dated title that lacked almost any interactivity by the player and had terrible acting to boot.  Double Switch, the successor that would follow the same structure without being a true sequel, hoped to address many of these complaints and did a fairly decent job of it.  Unfortunately no one factored in the fact that many gamers thought they would see graphic violence or sexual themes as the sole reason for picking up Night Trap, the return on investment was hardly there.  With what was surely a much higher budget than any similar title at the time, Double Switch was a big gamble that failed and not without good reason.

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Written by Fred Rojas

November 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm

Review: The Amazing Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin (Sega CD)

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Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1993
Developer: Technopop
Publisher: Sega
Instruction Manual: Helpful – Link
Difficulty: Moderate
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $8.88 (used), $39.99 (new) (pricecharting.com
Other Releases: Yes – Simply known as Spider-Man on Genesis, Game Gear, and Master System
Digital Release? No

As we sometimes see in the 16-bit era, first party published titles became interesting exclusives on either side of the console wars and among the various Spider-Man titles I have to say this is my favorite.  Amazing Spider-Man vs. Kingpin (or better known on all other ports as Spider-Man) tasks you with defusing a bomb set by the nefarious Kingpin within 24 hours (pretty sure that’s not real-time) by collecting keys from different foes in the Spider-Man universe.  This was the first game I played that gave me exactly what I expected out of a superhero title.  It allowed me to play as Spider-Man, it had solid controls that included web slinging and wall grabbing, and it did it all in a side scrolling platformer/brawler.  Not only that, but the game embraces a non-linear structure where you visit locations throughout the city and face whatever is in certain locations, which felt like it freed the game up to your personal pacing, something quite uncommon in the days of early platformers.  While the plot centralized around the Kingpin, you will take on almost all of Spider-Man’s key foes including Venom, Doc Oc, Lizard, and Electro, just to name a few.  Graphically the game had that semi-real grit that Sega titles all seemed to offer in the early 90s with great animated storyboard art throughout.

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Written by Fred Rojas

November 25, 2012 at 11:34 am