Gaming History 101

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Posts Tagged ‘zapper

Podcast: Ready, Aim, Fire!

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This week Fred and Jam tackle the wonderful world of light gun shooters.  What started as a mere carnival game evolved into one of the more interactive – and for some of us fun – genres that has not withstood the test of time.  With the advent of newer screens, the technology that made light guns possible is now ruined by delays of no more than a fraction of a second.  In this episode we discuss the history, technology behind, and our fondest memories of the games that utilized the light gun peripheral.

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Written by Fred Rojas

December 17, 2014 at 11:00 am

Duck Hunt (NES)

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duckhunt_boxConsole: NES
Released: 1985
Developer: Nintendo R&D 1
Publisher: Nintendo
Difficulty: Easy
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary – Link
Played as a child? Yes
Price: $1.74 (used)
Famicom Version? Yes, as Dakku Hanto
Digital Release? No

duckhunt_1Duck Hunt is one of those games that should need no introduction. On the other hand I speak with eager retro gamers every day that didn’t get started until the Playstation or N64 era and especially with modern HDTVs being incompatible with light guns, Duck Hunt is yet again just another classic title lost in the shuffle. Back when the NES released there wasn’t a console out that didn’t have a copy of Duck Hunt, usually in a hybrid cart with Super Mario Bros. This game is a light gun shooter that has you hunting for ducks, just as the name suggests. Additionally there was a skeet shooting alternative to blasting live ducks, which had increased difficulty and was PETA approved. Unfortunately there’s no getting around the fact that this title gets repetitive, and boring, fast.

Duck Hunt was designed as a launch title for the NES that would release concurrently with a light gun peripheral, the Zapper. While it had different goals and release schedules in Japan, making a light gun peripheral and game for the NES was crucial along with R.O.B. the Robot in convincing the United States that the NES was not a video game, but a toy. This is why Duck Hunt isn’t all that fun, nor is it all that complex, because everyone had it as a pack-in to convince Americans the NES wasn’t a video game. Duck Hunt was developed by Nintendo Research and Development (R&D) 1, a mostly hardware based department responsible for the Zapper as well. The producer on the project was Gunpei Yokoi, notable as the creator of the Game & Watch series and later the Gameboy, which helps to explain Duck Hunt‘s simple but addictive design. Duck Hunt released in 1985 but by 1986 it was packaged with Super Mario Bros. and offered in the holiday release “Action Set” as a staple for almost all NES console sales. It would later be included on the triple game cart Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet when both the Zapper and Power Pad became standard pack-ins for the NES.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 2, 2013 at 6:39 pm

For the Love of the Light Gun

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zapper2I can’t explain my love for the light gun.  It’s one of the oldest forms of interactive entertainment, dating back to the carnival days where you would fire air rifles at a metal bullseye to make an old man’s hat pop up or a dog bark.  Once the gun made the transition to video games it honestly became one of the most lifelike and violent gaming tropes throughout history.  Not to get deep with it, but you are pointing a gun at a target, usually alive, and shooting it.  There is not other gesture like it, you are shooting a modern device to kill something, virtual or not.  At the same time it also doubles as the most simple form of proficiency.  I don’t think anyone will claim that being good at Duck Hunt or Lethal Enforcers relates to being a good shot in a shooting range, but it’s got a much higher chance of significance than being able to get a headshot in Call of Duty.  Whereas the FPS emulates the concept of aiming and firing a gun with 1:1 responses from a controller, a light gun truly simulates the experience.

lethalenforcersLight gun games have been a niche genre, but that doesn’t prevent them from withstanding the test of time and being available on most home consoles and one of the most popular games, even today, in arcades.  I guess it’s because despite the maturity implied behind firing a gun, it’s one of the easiest concepts for us to pick up.  I’ve been on many adventures thanks to light gun games – whether it’s cleaning up the future in T2: The Arcade Game, battling zombies in a haunted house through House of the Dead, or enjoying some of the worst acting of all time in Mad Dog McCree.

It’s also significant because the light gun is a genre nearly impossible to emulate and doesn’t translate well in today’s technology.  While there are exceptions, you will have a hard time playing Crypt Killer properly on a PC running MAME and most HDTV technologies don’t support light guns from the past.  Authenticity is as important as the genre itself.  This month I’ve decided to dedicate to a timeless style of video game that I always make first priority when buying a new (or old) system: the light gun shooter.  Come join me to learn about some of the best, worst, funniest, and definitely weirdest titles to ever grace the hobby of video games.  Thanks to my huge CRT television and original hardware, I can even show you videos.

Written by Fred Rojas

April 1, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Generation Gap Pt. 2: 8-Bit

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Amidst the video game crash of 1983, it seemed pretty unlikely that home consoles would have a future.  Fortunately a Japanese toy maker had figured out how to re-sell video games to the masses despite the world economy turning its back.  That company was Nintendo.

8-bit Generation (1985 – 1995)

Nintendo Entertainment System – Launch Price: $200 – Released: 1985
Depending on your age, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) probably needs the least introduction or background, but there were many things going on behind the scenes that assisted this console in becoming the giant it was.  Initially Nintendo had to figure out how to overcome the world economy’s opinion on video game consoles, which the Famicom/NES clearly was.  In Japan, where personal home computers were all the rage, it was marketed as a computer for your family, hence the name Famicom (for “family computer”).  In America the better way to sell it was as a toy, which everything from the console’s marketing to the simple boxy aesthetic suggests.  It worked and in both regions this little 8-bit system assisted Nintendo in virtually running the 8-bit era.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm