Retro Video Game Collecting

Because every game is eventually retro.

Category Archives: "Nintendo"

Game Boy Wonder

Posted on 30 June, 2016  in Game Boy, Nintendo

 

 

By today’s standards, the Game Boy seems simple and primitive — a relic of a time long gone by.  It had a monochrome, dot-matrix display that relied on natural light; it offered just two face buttons for input, in addition to the directional pad and little-used “SELECT” and “START” keys; it was capable only of 2D raster-based visuals (with one noteworthy exception).  Retro indeed.

 

And yet, the original 1989 handheld from Nintendo and its direct descendants went on to be one of the best-selling game devices, paving the way for the global saturation mobile phone games enjoy today.  It introduced Tetris to a truly mass audience for the first time, cementing that iconic puzzler as one of the greatest games ever released.  It gave us the first Kirby title in a long-running series.  It gave us one of the best Legend of Zelda titles (the best, according to some).  And it did all of this with some remarkable hardware configuration, using technology that was already a decade old when it first hit the gaming world.

 

You’ll learn a lot about the technical side of Game Boy and just how ingenious it was as a gaming platform, as well as a challenge to programmers, by watching these videos by JackTech.  They’re on the long side, but definitely worth your time.

 

 

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Lamentations of a Former Virtual Boy Owner

Posted on 29 June, 2016  in Nintendo

 

Of my many regrets in life, easily the worst I have as a gamer is that I lost my Virtual Boy.  Yes, I was one of the just over 700,000 or so people in the world to own an actual piece of Nintendo’s greatest failure.  It was a Christmas gift in 1995, from my overworked mother whom I now know could not afford it, but wanted to make up for what had been an awful year for our family.

 

For all the criticism levied against this clunky early attempt at 3D gaming (don’t call it VR, because it really doesn’t meet the definition) I absolutely loved it.  Mario’s Tennis remains one of my all-time favorite games — in my memory, anyway.  I also got a great deal of enjoyment out of the simplistic Virtual League Baseball and Golf.  The only other title I owned was Teleroboxer, which I did not like at all, owing to its steep difficulty.  I never did get to try either of what are considered the “best” games: Mario Clash and Virtual Boy Wario Land.

 

I took the Virtual Boy with me when I went off to college, but unfortunately my university experience included a few years in a fraternity house, and it was probably destroyed or stolen around that time.  By then, I had become something of a lapsed gamer.  In what was the other great error of my gaming life, I sold most of my NES, Super NES, and Nintendo 64 games for spending money, along with the N64 console itself.  (Fortunately, I still have my NES, SNES, and various Game Boy consoles.)  One of my goals as a collector today is to rebuild that lost collection, most of which can be done fairly easily and at a reasonable cost.

 

The Virtual Boy is a different story.  Because so few were made, prices can be quite steep; I’ve never seen one for less than $200, and they often don’t include vital accessories like the controller and AC adapter.  (It can run on batteries, but this is inconvenient and expensive.)  Games can be hard to come by as well, particularly Wario Land.  I still have my copy of Teleroboxer for some reason, though.

 

So much has been written on Virtual Boy already, and I have nothing meaningful to add until I re-acquire one for myself.  PlanetVB.com is the ideal resource for any collector interested in learning more about this whimsical gaming machine.  I also heartily recommend this excellent written history published earlier this year on NintendoLife.  It’s a real eye-opener on a console best known for creating eye strain.

 

 

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Wii-Vaporware: The Uncertain Future of Nintendo’s Motion Control Games

Posted on 28 June, 2016  in Nintendo, Wii, Wii U

Credit: Nintendo

 

It’s hard to imagine a world in which Super Mario Bros. was lost and forgotten a few years after its release.  Even if Nintendo had failed to re-release it in some form on nearly every subsequent platform it produced, there are still perfectly functional SMB cartridges and Nintendo Entertainment System consoles and NES clones to allow for continued enjoyment of this landmark game.  Plenty of PC emulators exist to offer this and other classic games in a dubiously-legal format.  We don’t have to worry about losing Super Mario Bros. forever.

 

Incredibly, we may face a situation in the not-too-distant future wherein the best-selling home console game of all time is essentially unplayable, remaining only in the memories of players and YouTube videos.

 

Wii Sports and hundreds of other motion-controlled games for Wii and Wii U have an uncertain future.  The NX, Nintendo’s replacement for the not-quite-good-enough Wii U, arrives next year.  At some point around that platform’s arrival, Nintendo will cease manufacture of Wii and Wii U consoles.  Unless the NX maintains full backwards compatibility with both of those systems and, crucially, the Wii Remote controllers, it will effectively trigger a time bomb that will effectively kill all Nintendo games that depend on motion controls.

 

This is purely speculative, but it is a point worth considering, as Justin Davis writes for IGN: what happens if these games are trapped forever on the Wii and Wii U?  Within 30 years, it’s likely most of the original Wii and Wii U consoles will have been junked, no longer functioning properly, or completely incompatible with whatever video display / TV format is in use by then.  Optical drives will almost certainly have been a relic for decades at that point.  Will there be enough demand in the retro / classic gaming hobby to maintain them?  And what of Wii remotes and sensor bars?  Will a manufacturer continue to make them available?

 

The pre-CD era of gaming is well suited for the retro collector, as the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles from Nintendo, SEGA, Atari, and others were solid-state.  They have no moving parts, aside from the odd power or eject buttons, and they are easily renovated or recreated.  Disc-based systems, on the other hand, are innately more complex.  So far, we haven’t seen a market for cloned PlayStation 1 or SEGA Saturn systems, though many of the original consoles remain in use.  More importantly, a significant number of games for those systems have been re-released over the years and can be easily emulated on modern platforms, with ordinary controllers.

 

Motion controls are a different beast, and thus the concern for the longevity of Wii and Wii U software.  As Davis notes, VR may hold the key to preserving the gems of those generations, assuming Nintendo has any interest.  But it’s still very early to worry about this problem; if nothing else, the history of gaming has shown us that eventually, technology provides a solution.

 

That being said, I plan to keep my Wii and Wii U consoles in pristine shape for many years to come.

 

 


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SimFanta-City | Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – My Life as a King

Posted on 23 June, 2016  in Nintendo, Wii

Credit: Square Enix / GamersGlobal.de

 

The Final Fantasy series has taken on many forms in its myriad releases and spin-offs over the years.  Included are action RPGS (Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest); tactical RPGs (Final Fantasy Tactics); rhythm and music games (Theatrhythm Final Fantasy); collectible card battlers (Final Fantasy Trading Card Game); kart racers (Chocobo Racing); dungeon crawlers (Final Fantasy Fables: Chocobo’s Dungeon); party board games (Chocobo Land: A Game of Dice); MMORPGs (Final Fantasy XIV); fighters (Dissidia Final Fantasy); and in-app purchase generators (Final Fantasy: All the Bravest).  The results have been… mixed, at best.

 

Among all these side-stories, half-sequels, and shameless cash-ins, we find Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – My Life as a King.  Unique not merely by virtue of being a spin-off of a spin-off, it is the only city builder title in the entire series, offering players a bit of role reversal and digging a bit into the meta-core of RPGs in general.

 

To oversimplify a bit, My Life as a King places the player in the role of an NPC from the Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles series.  No prior experience with the Crystal Chronicles games is needed, nor need one be familiar with Final Fantasy at all.  This is a simple map planning / resource allocation game, with dashes of RPG and RTS elements tossed in to create a surprising and fun experience.

 

Let me back up a bit.  The Crystal Chronicles games, exclusive to Nintendo platforms, are Final Fantasy in name only.  They have little to do with the mainline FF series, though they are tied together with an arcing storyline taking place in the same world.  Many races, enemies, and items familiar to Final Fantasy can be found here, such as Moogles, malboros, adamantoises, and so on.  The similarities more or less end there, with the games mostly taking an action-RPG approach, distinct from the classic FF battle sequences.

 

Credit: Square Enix / Nintendo

My Life as a King takes place some time after the events of the Crystal Chronicles series, focusing on the aftermath of those games’ good-vs.-evil showdown.  There is a simple story here: Leo, the prince of an unnamed kingdom, finds himself in charge after his father’s apparent death.  Surrounded by his retinue and a handful of loyal subjects, you take the role of Leo and attempt to rebuild his kingdom from the ground up.  Conveniently, Leo and company begin the game having found an abandoned castle and surrounding fortress, at the center of which is a giant cluster of the titular crystals.  The crystal unexpectedly grants Leo the magic of architek, giving him the ability to instantly create buildings around the new castle town.

 

As the game progresses, Leo develops the ability to summon more complex and useful structures — all of which should be familiar to longtime Final Fantasy fans.  Just as in most towns and cities in the main series, your castle town can include a weapons shop, an armory, a potion shop, and an inn, along with citizen shops and bakeries.  Also available as your city grows are academies for white and dark mages, and training halls for warriors and thieves.

 

These four archetype classes reflect the series’ long-running jobs system, and that’s where the proto-RPG meta-game kicks in.  As you build houses, more subjects return to your growing kingdom, and some of them want to join your small army.  As such, you assign them jobs and issue daily edicts, here known as behests.  Essentially, in this role, you’re sending these adventurers out to do Final Fantasy while you stay behind and run the kingdom.  Their quests include gathering crystals and other raw materials; clearing roads and landmarks of monsters; fighting bosses; and ultimately defeating the game’s antagonist.

 

None of this is shown in anything other than the most abstract manner possible: a daily briefing prepared by Chime, your adorable young chancellor.  As each in-game day passes — about five minutes in real time — your adventurers either successfully complete behests or fail at them, and the game progresses accordingly.  This is where resource management and some very light strategy come in, as you decide which adventurers are best-prepared for the needed quests.  By providing funding to your town’s shops, you enable the shopkeepers to develop progressively stronger weapons, armor, and items; likewise, the mage academies and battle hall desire funding for improved spells and fighting techniques which are taught to your adventurers.

 

Credit: Square Enix / GamersGlobal.de

The game is easy to learn and doesn’t do too much holding in the opening days, which serve as a built-in tutorial and establish the story.  I found building my kingdom (which I named Midgar) to be enjoyable and relaxing, with interesting things to do in each in-game day.  It does get repetitive in later phases, and once your town is built out, with the maximum number of structures in each genre, there’s not much left except grinding your adventurers until they are strong enough to take down the final boss.

 

This is where the game’s biggest weakness lies.  In order to build beyond the standard limits, players were invited to purchase DLC through the in-game store.  It is not at all invasive and in fact I didn’t even know this was possible until much later in the game, so I appreciate Square Enix not hitting me over the head with it.  But I don’t like having what amounts to not-very-meaningful content locked behind a paywall.  DLC can only be purchased by using Wii Points, another reason I didn’t get to experience everything the game has to offer.

 

If any of the above interests you, act fast.  Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – My Life as a King is an endangered game.  The only way to play legally is to download it from the Wii Shop Channel, either on a Wii or a Wii U via Wii Mode.  While the Wii Shop is still functional as of  this writing in June 2016, it will undoubtedly be shut down by Nintendo at some point, and the fate of WiiWare titles after that remains uncertain.  Unless Square Enix decided to re-issue an HD version of the game in another digital storefront, My Life as a King will be lost forever.

 

Considering how much fun I had with it, that would be a real shame.

 


 

AT A GLANCE

Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – My Life as a King

  • PLATFORMS: Wii; Wii U (via Wii Mode)
  • PUBLISHER: Square Enix
  • DEVELOPER: Square Enix
  • RELEASED: May 12, 2008
  • ESRB RATING: E
  • FRANCHISE: Final Fantasy
  • DESCRIPTION: City builder with light tactical RPG and strategy elements
  • WHO WILL ENJOY THIS: Final Fantasy fans; anyone looking for a unique sim-type experience
  • WHO WON’T ENJOY THIS: RPG fans looking for a challenge
  • SIMILAR TITLES: SimCity 2000; Final Fantasy: Crystal Chronicles – The Crystal Bearers

 

 


 

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Hot Steamy Fun | SteamWorld Heist

Posted on 6 June, 2016  in Current-Gen Reviews, Nintendo 3DS, PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita

SteamWorld Heist HD

KAPWINGGG!!! (Credit: Image & Form)

 

I just love the story of developer Image & Form.  After a modestly-selling mobile title and the muted response to a Nintendo DSiWare release, this group of plucky Swedes decided to put everything on the line for one last, everything-or-nothing attempt at a commercially successful game.  The result was the brilliant, wonderful, critically-acclaimed, and best-selling SteamWorld Dig.  If you haven’t played it, please do — it’s available on just about every platform.

 

Anticipation was high for a sequel.  I was particularly excited, as SteamWorld Dig was (and still is) one of my favorite games of this generation.  I wanted more of its procedurally-generated mining / platforming / puzzle goodness!  So I was a teeny bit apprehensive when I&F announced its next game would not be a true sequel, but an entirely different genre of game, set in the same universe.

 

My fears were wholly unfounded.  SteamWorld Heistout today on PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, and PC — proves Image & Form’s success with Dig was no fluke.  It is a phenomenal game in its own right, and an experience made all the richer for its collection to the ever-increasing SteamWorld lore.

 

 

Heist is a little bit difficult to fit neatly into any particular genre, and that’s what makes it so great.  It’s a turn-based strategy game at its core, but it isn’t an RPG at all.  Heist looks and feels a bit like a platformer, but at a much more deliberate pace.  It gives the player plenty of time to think and plan ahead, while keeping a tense atmosphere of near-constant danger.  SteamWorld Heist does all this while presenting itself in a charming, beautifully-rendered 2D package, wonderfully scored by the beloved indie rock band Steam Powered Giraffe.  (I can attest to their popularity — the line to meet them at A-Kon here in Dallas last weekend was two hours long!!!)

 

In SteamWorld Heist, the player controls Captain Piper, a steam-driven robot space pirate, and her motley crew of renegade automatons, in their fight against diesel-powered robo-punks, a tyrannical robot kingdom, and another mysterious force.  Piper’s band boards various enemy spacecraft — most of them randomly-generated — and fights off robotic fiends, while scooping up loot, weapons, and other goodies.

 

Here’s the hook: instead of the typical run-and-gun action found in many games of this ilk, Heist implements a turn-based system of battle.  Each robot has a limited number of spaces they can move per turn, during which they can also aim and fire their various weapons at enemies.  A few guns come with helpful laser sights that will show the expected path of the bullet or missile, as well as any subsequent ricochets the ordinance will undertake.  Most weapons lack this feature, so careful aim is a must to hit one’s target.  Adding to the challenge: these ‘bots don’t have the steadiest of hands, so the player must time shots just as the firearm’s barrel is squarely aimed where desired.  On top of that, various ammunition types may arc, spread, bounce, or even cause “friendly fire” damage to allies.

 

It sounds complicated, but the designers did an excellent job of making it easy to learn without an overbearing tutorial.  After a few simple missions early on, the challenge picks up steadily — but it can always be adjusted between missions.  Even beginners are accommodated with a “casual” setting.  And if you find the going gets too tough later on, you can go back to earlier stages and grind some experience, thanks to a nifty level-up system.  I spent many hours happily grinding away, to better prepare my crew for the teeth-gritting final chapter.

 

I have only one minor criticism of the game; there is no reward for skill shots, trick shots, or any other methods of dispatching enemies.  While the animations are lovely and frequently quite funny as bad ‘bots collapse or explode, and we do get some “bullet time” slowdown with particularly tricky shots, no bonus is provided.  The game even tells you this in the occasional on-screen hint, reminding players that there is no score given for kills.  If nothing else, I would have liked a “instant replay” of great kills that could be uploaded to the internet in some way, but that’s really a luxury and doesn’t detract from the game’s value at all.

 

Skilled players can probably complete SteamWorld Heist in under ten hours.  As you can see in my screen-grab here, I spent considerably more time with it — not just grinding, but working to improve my scores.  Each mission has a star-rating system, a little bit like Angry Birds, judging the player on how well they completed objectives while keeping everyone in the crew intact.  I’m not often a completionist, but the random nature of missions (most starships have a different layout each time) and the seriously addictive gameplay kept me coming back.

 

Today’s launch of SteamWorld Heist on PlayStation and PC platforms comes with optional paid DLC, already available on the 3DS.  I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I urge you to play through the standard campaign first, as the DLC may be a teensy bit spoiler-y.

 

Image & Form assures us SteamWorld Heist is also coming to Wii U and Xbox One, so you won’t have any excuse to play it if you don’t have one of the above options.  And remember to try SteamWorld Dig, too!

 


 

SteamWorld Heist logo

AT A GLANCE

SteamWorld Heist

 

  • PLATFORMS: Nintendo 3DS; PC; PlayStation 4; PlayStation Vita
  • PUBLISHER: Image & Form
  • DEVELOPER: Image & Form
  • RELEASED: December 10, 2015 (3DS); June 7, 2016 (PC, PS4, Vita)
  • ESRB RATING: E 10+
  • FRANCHISE: SteamWorld
  • DESCRIPTION: Randomly-generated turn-based strategy action platformer geometry physics shooter with robots
  • WHO WILL ENJOY THIS: Fans of strategy, action, humor, well-crafted indie games, and robots
  • WHO WON’T ENJOY THIS: Anyone with a short attention span, lack of patience, and fear of robots
  • SIMILAR TITLES: Angry Birds; Advance Wars; SteamWorld Dig

 


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Nintendo’s Lost IP, Part 2.1: 8-Bit is Enough

Posted on 5 June, 2016  in Family Computer, Nintendo, Nintendo Entertainment System

 

Last week, I chronicled some of the abandoned franchises from Nintendo’s arcade era. Today, I’m looking at the games from the Nintendo Entertainment System and its Japanese progenitor, the Family Computer (Famicom).  For various reasons, these titles never saw much love from either fans or the Big N — and their characters and settings fell into obscurity.

 

I’m pursuing this topic as E3 approaches, in response to criticism of Nintendo over the years for “playing it safe” and sticking to established franchises, rather than creating new IP or resurrecting forgotten characters and settings.  If Nintendo wants to, they’ve got a pretty wide range of options for bringing out the dead on the mysterious NX next year!

 

On with the list:

 


 

Credit: Nintendo / Strategy Wiki

Mahjong
Introduced: 1983, Mahjong (Famicom)
Latest entry: 1984, 4 Nin Uchi Mahjong (Famicom)
One of the very earliest home console titles from Nintendo, Mahjong was also a top seller on the Famicom. Rather than following the “Shanghai” rules most of us are familiar with, it resembles the Chinese tile game with rules similar to the European / American card game rummy. An entry in the Vs. Arcade series was produced, as well as a four-player sequel the following year; possibly making this Nintendo’s very first four-player game.  At any rate, given the wealth of mahjong-style offerings out there, I see no reason Nintendo would want to revisit the franchise.

 


 

Credit: Nintendo / GameFAQs

Gomoku Narabe Renju
Introduced: 1983, Gomoku Narabe Renju (Famicom)
Another very early Famicom title based on an “IRL” game. The title translates to “five points in a row” and it would be familiar to players who enjoy board games like Othello, Go, and Connect Four. Nintendo doesn’t own any trademarks or copyrights on the name, which would be equivalent to trying to trademark “checkers” for example, so there’s nothing to be gained here. It was re-released on Japan’s Wii Virtual Console in 2006, and you will likely recognize the sound effects from other early NES / Famicom games!

 


 

Credit: Nintendo / Nintendo Wikia

Family BASIC
Introduced: 1984, Family BASIC (Famicom)
Latest entry: 1985, Family Basic V3 (Famicom)
One of Nintendo’s most creative, ambitious periods was 1982 – 1987, which saw the launch of the NES / Famicom era. Only then, and frankly never again, could a company like Nintendo attempt something as bold as a home computer programming kit, complete with peripheral keyboard, to use on an eight-bit video game console. Can you imagine Nintendo launching a “game” for learning Python or C# on Wii U?  (Actually, someone else did!)

 

 


 

Credit: Nintendo / Giant Bomb

Devil World
Introduced: 1984, Devil World (Famicom / NES)
Sort of a Pac-Man clone with religious iconography, Devil World is the only game designed by Shigeru Miyamoto to never see a North American release. Nintendo of America’s infamous puritanical policies regarding religious game content kept it away from these shores as it contains power-ups that resemble Christian crosses. (I don’t know whether Christians would be offended or mystified by a game in which a winged dragon pushes a cross, shoots fireballs and collects ice cream cones in an effort to defeat Satan.) Our European and Japanese friends can enjoy it today on Virtual Console; unlike, say, The Last Story, there hasn’t been an online movement to bring it to America, so I doubt we’ll ever play it here.

 


 

Credit: Nintendo / Nintendo Wikia

F-1 Race
Introduced: 1984, F-1 Race (Famicom)
Latest entry: 1990, F-1 Race (Game Boy)
This is a series with a brief but interesting history. The first title was a not-too-bad looking Pole Position clone; its later Game Boy port was an early four-player handheld game, provided everyone had a Game Pak, four Game Link cables and a four-player adapter (included with some SKUs). But rewind a bit and things take a strange turn with 1987’s Famicom Disk System-only Famicom Grand Prix: F1 Race and its 1988 successor Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally. The former features Mario on the cover, standing next to a Formula One-style open-wheel racer; but this is no proto-Mario Kart. Instead, we have a top-down racer similar toR.C. Pro-Am, and Mario’s only appearance is at the end of races in the winner’s circle (at least, I think that’s supposed to be Mario). 3D Hot Rallyreturns to the first title’s camera behind the car, with a stereoscopic 3D twist using the bizarre Famicom 3D System, an attempt to mimic Sega’s Master System 3D glasses kit. While it might not be a bad port for 3DS, I imagine Nintendo just wants to focus its racing efforts on Mario Kart and not deal with any lawsuits from the Formula 1 racing circuit retroactively protecting its trademarks.

 


 

Credit: Nintendo

Clu Clu Land
Introduced: 1984, Clu Clu Land (Famicom / NES)
Latest entry: 1990, Clu Clu Land D (Famicom Disk System)
A pretty terrible early NES title which you can play on the Wii U Virtual Console if you desire. This odd action / maze / puzzle hybrid’s greatest legacy is that some of its assets were used in creating The Legend of Zeldaf or NES.  Bubbles, the spines-free sea urchin heroine, is as one-dimensional a character as they come.  Clu Clu Land saw a sort-of spiritual sequel in the Game Boy Advance title DK: King of Swing, but it’s probably safe to say there’s nothing more to be done with the concept.

 


 

Credit: Nintendo

Pinball
Introduced: 1984, Pinball (Famicom / NES)
Fun fact: this fun but forgettable early NES title was produced and directed by none other than Satoru Iwata. Since it has a mini-game involving Mario rescuing Pauline, is this technically a Donkey Kong spin-off?

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Credit: Nintendo

Duck Hunt
Introduced: 1984, Duck Hunt (Famicom / NES)
A modern sequel might have been a good Wii U title, but we’ll have to settle for the smartly ported Virtual Console edition.  That release, of course, was timed to coincide with the return of the iconic dog and duck in Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U.  As for a lack of sequels over the last 30 years, I suspect the modern Nintendo of America doesn’t want to market a game in which killing animals is the objective.  Maybe they could replace them with robot ducks or something.  As long as we get to shoot the dog…

 

 


 

Credit: Nintendo

Hogan’s Alley
Introduced: 1984, Hogan’s Alley (Famicom / NES)
Another early Light Gun Game Pak which I owned and loved. It lives on in a few WarioWare titles as a mini-game, and in the real world as an FBI training facility. That place got its name from an earlier shooting range, which in turn borrowed its name from a setting in the 19th Century comic strip “The Yellow Kid”. So, in a manner of speaking, this is Nintendo’s oldest IP!

 

 


 

Credit: Nintendo / EMU Paradise

Ice Climber
Introduced: 1985, Ice Climber (Famicom / NES)
Nana and Popo did not return in the Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U, except in trophy form.  You can still play this early Nintendo platformer on Virtual Console if you you hate yourself, since it is probably the worst NES / Famicom game Nintendo developed and released on its own.  The premise, visuals, music, etc. are fine; the controls, however, are so awful the game is practically unplayable except for those with the knack for learning them.

Also, the Famicom version featured clubbing baby seals as part of the gameplay.

 


 

This list is getting pretty long, so I’ll cut it off here and be back next week with even more strange and amusing examples of Nintendo’s lost IP!

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Zelda, E3, and Nintendo’s Last Stand

Posted on 3 June, 2016  in Nintendo, Wii U

Image of Link from The Legend of Zelda

Credit: Nintendo

 

This week, I was invited to join the awesome crew over at RadioFreeRadio for their live weekly pop culture show Popped!  We talked The Legend of Zelda, specifically its 30th anniversary and its frequently-delayed upcoming game, which Nintendo says will be the only playable title at its E3 area.

 

Enjoy the show, and be sure to check out RadioFreeRadio, available streaming live and free on the website or on their mobile app!

 

 

 

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Nintendo’s Lost IP, Part 1: Arcade Classified

Posted on 29 May, 2016  in Nintendo

 

As I write this shortly before E3 2016, Nintendo is having a rough year.  Production of major upcoming titles for the Wii U has all but ceased.  The 3DS is in a downturn of its own.  And Nintendo is unwilling to tell its clamoring fan base anything at all about its next platform, code named NX.  The gaming world essentially has no idea what Nintendo is doing — and, some might say, neither does Nintendo.

 

With the NX on the horizon, there is hope Nintendo can right its ship and start bringing more great games to the fray.  If there’s one thing Nintendo has always done right, it’s create and grow fantastic franchises and universes, based on its own ideas.  Many of the all-time best-selling series live in the Nintendo fold, from Super Mario to Pokémon and The Legend of Zelda.

 

That said, there are plenty of other Nintendo franchises that seem to have fallen by the wayside — a gold mine of gaming history just waiting to be exploited.  I thought it might be fun to look at some of their lesser-known and long-dormant IP, to see if there’s anything worth resurrecting.  We begin with Nintendo’s early arcade days, littered with now-extinct franchises.

 


 

A Wild Gunman electro-mechanical arcade light gun shooter cabinet, from 1974

Credit: The International Arcade Museum at Museum of the Game

Wild Gunman
Introduced: 1974, Wild Gunman (arcade)
Latest entry: 1984, Wild Gunman (Famicom / NES)
The original was technically not really a video game as much as it was an electronic light gun target practice amusement device. But the NES adaptation was a legitimate NES Zapper game, limited as it was. The title made a cameo appearance of sorts in a Game Boy Advance WarioWaregame, but this doesn’t count. The Wii seemed like an ideal platform for a revival of target shooters like Wild Gunman’s spiritual descendants such as Time Crisis and Virtua Cop, but in spite of the Wii Zapper accessory, that genre never really took off again.  That said, you can now play the NES version of Wild Gunman with a Wii Remote via the Wii U Virtual Console.

 


 

Banner logo for Space Fever

Credit: Nintendo / Before Mario

Space Fever

Introduced: 1979, Space Fever (arcade)
A shameless rip-off of Space Invaders and totally not worth revisiting. Apparently there was a “sequel” built into the Game Boy Camera, but we all know how popular that was.

 

 


 

A Sheriff arcade flyer

Credit: Nintendo / Giant Bomb

Sheriff
Introduced: 1979, Sheriff (arcade)
Latest entry: 1979, Sheriff 2 (arcade)
One of Miyamoto’s early projects as an artist, and mostly forgotten; basically a Robotron 2084 clone. Like many of the games listed here, it was featured as a mini-game in the WarioWare series decades later.

 
 
 
 
 
 


 

Detail of the Monkey Magic arcade cabinet marquee

Credit: Before Mario

Monkey Magic
Introduced: 1979, Monkey Magic (arcade)
A Breakout clone. For all the accusations against Sony and Microsoft of stealing Nintendo’s ideas, in its early days as a video game developer and publisher, the Big N was releasing plenty of unoriginal titles itself. Not really much more to say about this game; maybe it was folded into theDonkey Kong series?

 

 


 

Space Firebird arcade marquee

Credit: The International Arcade Museum at Museum of the Game

Space Firebird
Introduced: 1980, Space Firebird (arcade)
Latest entry: 1981, Space Demon (arcade)
Another game designed by Miyamoto before he was famous, and highly derivative of Gaplus. I’m uncertain whether it was related in any way to the anime Space Firebird 2772, which released at around the same time, but the arcade title’s hard-to-find sequel would suggest otherwise. It seems like an open-ended space shooter could be fertile ground for a Nintendo revival, but Star Fox sort of fills that void and it probably needs a new title before any other spacey shooters come back.

 


 

Radar Scope U.S. arcade flyer

Credit: Nintendo / Kill Screen

Radar Scope
Introduced: 1979, Radar Scope (arcade)
Ahh yes, the failure that saved Nintendo. Miyamoto told Kotaku in 2013 that he was unsatisfied with Zelda II: The Adventure of Link when asked whether he’d ever made any “bad games”. However, by all accounts, Miyamoto’s much earlier arcade title Radar Scope was poorly received by American arcade gamers and it nearly led to financial ruin for Nintendo, or so the story goes. At any rate, Miyamoto’s great failure essentially launched his career; legend has it he was tasked with coming up with a new game to repurpose 2,000 or so unwanted Radar Scope cabinets, using the same hardware. The result: Donkey Kong. But what of the original game? Well, it’s nothing special — basically a Galaxian / Galaga clone, but given its unusual display angle, it seems ripe for a return on the 3DS.

 

 


 

Heli Fire cocktail and stand-up arcade cabinets

Credit: Nintendo / Game Room Junkies

Heli Fire
Introduced: 1980, Heli Fire (arcade)
Yet another clone, similar to the early arcade classic Sea Wolf, this is said to be an especially rare arcade cabinet. We already have Steel Diver as a decent submarine combat game, and it has a sequel, so a Heli Fire remake is probably unnecessary.

 

 


 

A Sky Skipper arcade flyer

Credit: Nintendo / The Arcade Blogger

Sky Skipper
Introduced: 1981, Sky Skipper (arcade)
I have absolutely no idea what is going on here.  The Arcade Blogger describes it thusly:

…the game sees the player controlling a bi-plane as ‘Mr. You’, on a mission to rescue various members of a royal family scattered around four levels, whilst avoiding gorillas (sound familiar?) along the way. The bi-plane has limited fuel, so tactics need to be at the forefront of the player’s mind. Think Robotron meets Time Pilot and you’re in the ballpark.

Sky Skipper happens to be of the most rare and valuable arcade games in the world.  If you ever come across a functioning cabinet, consider yourself lucky!

 


 

A Popeye arcade cabinet

Credit: The International Arcade Museum at Museum of the Game

Popeye
Introduced: 1982, Popeye (arcade)
Latest entry: 1983, Popeye (NES)
Nintendo doesn’t really do licensed character games any more, and while this one isn’t terrible, neither the arcade game nor later NES port were especially memorable; nor do I reckon kids these days have any idea who Popeye is / was. It’s said King Features Syndicate rejected Nintendo’s original proposal for a Popeye arcade title, so Nintendo replaced the characters with its own: Popeye became Jumpman (later Mario); Olive Oyl became Pauline; Bluto, Donkey Kong.  It lives on in our pockets; the arcade title was re-made for iOS by Bandai Namco, though Nintendo was not involved.

 

 


 

Next week, I’ll take a look back at the forgotten franchises we saw first on the Nintendo Entertainment System / Famicom platform.

 

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Retro Pro: Make Your NES Game Paks Like New

Posted on 25 May, 2016  in Nintendo Entertainment System

As a retro game collector, you may be put off by the appearance of used games found in thrift stores, trade shows, and other places.  Older games show signs of wear and tear, particularly as we get into the pre-disc era of gaming (1996 and earlier).  Cartridges are scuffed; corrosion is seen on connectors; labels are ripped or missing.  Boxes are typically in poor shape, if they are available at all; retro games found in their original packaging can be prohibitively expensive for the starting collector.

 

The good news is you don’t need to spend a lot of money on well-preserved games just to have an attractive collection.  As console modder and retro gaming enthusiast Drumblanket shows us, a little effort and minimal expense can have even the worst-shape Nintendo Entertainment System Game Paks looking like new!

 

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Quick Picks | Simpsons on Wii; Multiplayer Zelda

Posted on 24 May, 2016  in Nintendo 3DS, Wii

A Photo of The Simpsons Game for Wii and The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes for Nintendo 3DS

 

As a collector, I find it valuable to visit game shops whenever I travel, so as to hunt for titles I might not spot otherwise in my usual rotation of retailers and re-sellers in my home market of Dallas / Fort Worth, Texas.  Being on a tight budget at the moment, I have significantly cut back on my new and used game purchases, so the collection is not growing much these days.  But a recent visit to Washington gave me the opportunity to grab these two titles at a GameStop in nearby Kensington, Maryland.

 

The Simpsons Game is not exactly rare, but I hadn’t yet seen it in my regular visits to game stores in search of titles to build my ever-expanding Wii library.  Now is the best time ever to collect Wii titles, as chains like GameStop are paying just pennies for the discs while trying to eliminate their existing inventories.  Wii U backward compatibility ensures functioning consoles will be available for years to come.  At any rate, I paid about $8 for this 2007 release, a third-person 3D action / platformer with mixed critical reviews.  I was once a huge Simpsons fan, so I expect I’ll get a bit of enjoyment out of this when I get around to trying it.

 

For my current-gen purchase, I picked up another major release that received so-so scores from critics.  The Legend of Zelda: Tri Force Heroes mixes the game engine and visuals of its Nintendo 3DS predecessor, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds with the multiplayer aspects of The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures.  The result didn’t go over too spectacularly with Zelda fans, but many reviewers agree there’s a decent game to be found in here.  I need to check it out soon, before online interest dries up completely and I’m stuck with AI-assisted Link clones.

 

 

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