Gaming History 101

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Posts Tagged ‘turbografx

Podcast: Are You One of Us?

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tg16_post

This week Fred flies solo to discuss the short live but highly coveted niche console the Turbografx-16.  With an 8-bit processor and a 16-bit graphics card this Japan-centric console by NEC only hung around for 4-5 years but has a cult following almost as intense as Sega.  This episode covers its release, different versions, Japanese counterpart the PC Engine, and of course the expensive CD expansion and games.


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Written by Fred Rojas

August 21, 2013 at 11:00 am

Buying Guide: Turbografx-16

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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

Darius Series (Taito)

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Of all the shmups I mention this month, the toughest to actually play the way it is intended will be Darius (pronounced “dah-rai-us”).   This title premiered in arcades in 1986 by developer Taito and featured a super wide 3-screen arcade cabinet.  The first monitor would be centered like you’re used to, but the other two would be at slight angles on either side, using mirrors to create one straight wide view.  As a result the way you play the game is completely different because there’s a lot more to see coming and going around you.  Nowadays you could do a decent job emulating it on widescreen televisions, but no one has decided to do it yet.  Because of this visual mode it doesn’t work all that great on MAME and I highly recommend trying one of the home ports or later arcade ports, which were designed around 4:3 televisions.

Sample screen from original arcade format of Darius

Darius isn’t only significant for having a super wide screen resolution, otherwise it would have died in obscurity as a one-off coin-op.  It breaks the mold of the traditional shmup in many ways, including the fact that the player picks which level to play next.  Much like Castlevania III it is impossible to see all 28 levels in one playthrough, in fact you will only see 7 in any one completion, but eventually you can piece together every level.  Seafood haters out there will also note the interesting crustacean look to the enemies in the series.  Your ship, the Silver Hawk, comes equipped with a cannon, bombs/missiles for ground attacks and a force field, all of which are upgraded by, you guessed it, power-up items dropped by destroyed enemies.  Each level ends in a boss battle, although the size of the bosses isn’t quite the scale as I was used to with other shmups.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 10, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Magical Chase (Palsoft/Quest)

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To keep the theme of this weekend alive, I decided to go with yet another light and fluffy shmup on this Sunday afternoon.  I’ve chosen to go with one of the most expensive games in my collection, Magical Chase, one of the few Japanese-heavy shmups to find a release on the Turbografx-16 system in the US.  I always thought this game was kind of a throw away title as a child, it didn’t do anything quite as well as Fantasy Zone, Gradius or even R-Type, but of course I had to dig it out when I found out how rare and expensive it was.  I am pleased to say that when I gaze upon this title with learned eyes I am much more aware of some of the great things it does and now that I finally got my hands on an owner’s manual I can play the game the way it’s supposed to be played.  See, back then if we couldn’t understand a game we just assumed that it was too complicated or we were too stupid and just ignored it.  I had no idea how to control the stars before getting my hands on that text document.  Don’t believe I actually have the game?  Well here’s your proof below (yes, this is a cheesy excuse to show it off):

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 4, 2012 at 12:00 pm

Converts

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So now you want to import consoles and games, do you?  Well you’ll be happy to know that it is entirely possible on most consoles, however there are some things you’ll have to be aware of before you do it.  This article discusses the different things you have to do to both the electric and video signal of various imported consoles.  It will also briefly discuss how to get foreign games to play on US consoles, if possible.

Electricity Differences
No matter what console you are using, it’s important to know the differences between electricity in the US, Europe and Japan.

Japanese Consoles in the US
As you’ll see plenty of times in this article, Japan is quite similar to the United States in many ways, including power.  We use 120 volts as our standard for power.  Japan doesn’t appear to use a ground (or at least none of the Japanese consoles I’ve ever gotten do, never been to Japan itself), so all plugs from Japanese consoles will be two-pronged and fit in an US outlet.  Also fortunate is the fact that most consoles, especially retro ones, will use AC adaptors that work in the US.  Never interchange US power supplies into Japanese consoles, you could fry the console or worse.  For example, if you import a Famicom, use that console’s AC adaptor and not an US NES one.  For newer consoles like Japanese PS2s and PS3s, you may want to check the back of the console, but I think those are good for AC 100-240 volts for worldwide distribution, but I could be wrong.  Basically if it generates heat, be very careful and do a search for advice from a reputable source (no, Yahoo! Answers is not a reputable source).  Also if you want to be completely safe, there are Japanese voltage converters that allow use of Japanese products here.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 29, 2011 at 3:25 pm

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 2: Gameboy and beyond

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For more than 10 years various portable games came and went, mostly focusing on a single title in custom hardware, then in 1989 it all hit at once.  With such a small gap between releases it was clear that multiple companies were developing cartridge-based portable consoles.  Most portable systems in history moving forward had one simple goal: to port home console games to handhelds as faithfully as possible.  While some gems of creativity did spawn from portables that were clearly not ports, the main goal of many developers was always about getting those console ports in the palm of your hand.

Gameboy – Launch Price: $89.99 – Released: 1989
In every way shape and form, the Nintendo Gameboy was designed to be a portable NES.  The brainchild of Gunpei Yokoi (Game & Watch series) and Nintendo Research & Development 1 (R&D1), known best for the creation of Metroid, the Gameboy was defined by one game: Tetris.  Not only was the portable 8-bit console looking as promising as the NES – complete with launch titles Super Mario Land and a handful of all-too-familiar titles that launched the NES like Baseball and Tennis – but Nintendo picked the ultimate pack-in.  With the Gameboy, Nintendo linked to a more casual market as well as the NES and gamer faithful, which was no more clear than the inclusion of Tetris, not Super Mario Land, in the box.  Tetris fever was rampant in the United States at the time, some six or more versions were floating around on various platforms by 1989, and the Gameboy was a convenient and relatively inexpensive (Tetris was around $40 in most software versions) way to get a versatile version of the game.  Starting in 1990, after many children and adults alike received a Gameboy for Christmas, it was not uncommon to see people in public grinding away the hours on a Gameboy.  What was unique is that they almost always were playing Tetris and nothing else.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 9, 2011 at 11:49 am

Halloween Rarities

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I’m really into lucrative titles, especially when they are about Halloween or horror.  For the most part these games are classic titles from the past that you have either never played or never had a chance to play.  On the plus side, thanks to rom¹ hacks and translations, you can easily find any of these games to play on an emulator.  While I don’t condone piracy, nothing in this list was released in the US save for one title so for a single play to see what you’re missing I feel there’s no harm, especially since you have no other option.  I cannot link any of these roms directly, but feel free to search for “(title of game) rom” on Google and you shouldn’t have any problems.  Without further ado, here’s the list of great Halloween games you’ve probably never played.

Sweet Home (Suīto Hōmu) – Famicom – 1989

Considered by some to be the original version of Resident Evil, Sweet Home is actually a licensed game based on a movie of the same name.  It was developed by Capcom and produced by RE producer Shinji Mikami, who later admitted that Resident Evil began as a remake of Sweet Home.  For many modern gamers, RE is a tough sell with its fixed camera angles, blurry graphics and tank² controls.  If this describes you, then Sweet Home may be the outdated choice for you.  Although developed on the Famicom there is a surprising number of similarities with RE on the Playstation.

Even in 8-bit, the mansion holds that eerie feel

When you change rooms the all-too-familiar door opening animation will escort you through.  The inventory system and puzzles will ring extremely familiar for those that explored the mansion as Chris or Jill.  In fact, the big spooky mansion is probably the most distinguishing similarity, although instead of a biological outbreak it’s merely haunted by the ghost of Lady Mamiya.  And even though it’s technically a survival horror title, the game plays much more like a classic Japanese role playing game (JRPG) with random Final Fantasy-like battles.  If you’ve always wanted to explore a haunted house JRPG style, check this one out, especially considering the decent english translation making the rounds.

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