Retro Video Game Collecting

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Category Archives: "Nintendo Entertainment System"

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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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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Long Lost and (Deservedly) Forgotten NES Prototype Resurfaces

Posted on 14 May, 2016  in Nintendo Entertainment System

On the same Memorial Day 1993 weekend that saw the release of the Super Mario Bros. movie, an even bigger flop hit the big screen and led to the collapse of a beloved film studio. Incredibly, “Happily Ever After” also had an NES tie-in game in development at the time, one which was assumed lost forever — until a prototype cart was discovered in Texas last year.

 

From NintendoPlayer.com

From NintendoPlayer.com

This rare find was finally announced this week after months of thorough research by Nintendo Player.  Their fantastic post on this unreleased game and its history is a long read, but definitely worth your time.

 

 

The collector who found the Happily Ever After prototype did not disclose how much he paid for it, and I won’t hazard a guess.  Prototypes of unreleased games, if authentic, can easily fetch $1,000 or more depending on the title and rarity.  I’ll be writing much more about prototypes in the future.

 

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Zelda Redux: The Reinvention of Link

Posted on 16 February, 2016  in Current-Gen Reviews, Game Boy, Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Color, GameCube, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Famicom, Wii, Wii U

Seeing Double: GameXplain compares the HD remake (left) and Wii original (right) of Twilight Princess. (Credit: GameXplain)

 

On November 23, 1998, what is commonly described as one of the greatest video games ever created was released to an eager North American audience.  The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time went on to sell more than 7 million copies worldwide, and continues to capture the imaginations of gamers to this day.

 

In its shadow, just over three weeks later, another revolutionary Legend of Zelda game made its debut, for a second time.  The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX was, of course, the definitive version of what had already become a classic Game Boy title, now available for the first time in color.

 

Link’s Awakening DX was also the very first true remake of a Zelda title, setting a trend that culminates in next month’s release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD.  Nintendo has issued more remakes in the Zelda series than any of its other acclaimed franchises — even Super Mario and Pokémon.  With Twilight Princess HD, Nintendo will have recreated, repackaged, and remastered every major home console title in the legendary series, save the newest original game, 2011’s Skyward Sword, and, curiously, the first two games originally released for Famicom and the NES.

It’s total BS this LoZ remake never left Japan. (Credit: VideoGameConsoleLibrary.com)

The original The Legend of Zelda did get a remake of sorts, but it was never released outside of Japan, and crucially it can no longer be played in any conventional or authorized manner.  In 1995, Nintendo and publishing partner St.GIGA created BS Zeruda no Densetsu, a downloadable game for the then-cutting-edge BS-X Satellaview, a Super Famicom peripheral that allowed players to download games via a satellite receiver.  Twenty-five years before digital-only titles would become an industry standard, Nintendo made this curious time-challenge version of the 1986 classic available only via download.

 

While BS Zelda survives in the ROM-swapping community thanks to the efforts of a few far-sighted Satellaview owners, Nintendo would wait another three years to issue its first “official” remake of a Zelda title, Link’s Awakening DX.  More than just a colorized version of its Game Boy source, LA-DX featured an entirely-new dungeon and what felt like a much more interesting world to explore thanks to its now-vibrant color palette.

 

From there, Nintendo recognized the long-term play value and resaleability offered by the deep, lavishly-produced Zelda games, and subsequently every “main” game has gotten the enhancement treatment.  The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (which also saw a BS-X Satellaview broadcast in 1997) returned via Game Boy Advance in late 2002, nearly unchanged save a smaller screen resolution and with the welcome addition of Four Swords, which itself was remade in 2011 for the Nintendo DS in a 25th Anniversary Edition.  Ocarina of Time was remade not once but twice: first as a lightly-tweaked GameCube port, the Master Quest limited-edition bonus for The Wind Waker pre-orders; and then again for Nintendo 3DS as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, a more ambitious and visually-pleasing true remaster.  The Wind Waker HD debuted two years later as the first Zelda release for Wii U.  The Zelda remake renaissance continued in 2015, with the brilliant enhanced remaster The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask 3D for Nintendo 3DS.  (Lest we forget, Majora’s Mask also saw a straight port on the GameCube in 2003’s Collector’s Edition disc.)

 

 

Twilight Princess was sort of remade right out the gate, if you consider its GameCube release to be the true original and the simultaneous Wii version to be an enhanced port, with 16:9 visuals and motion controls.  (Complicating matters further: the Wii version was published weeks before the GameCube release.)  And now what’s old is new again, as TP makes its HD return on March 4.

 

A Skyward Sword remake seems inevitable at this point, especially given the Wii release’s somewhat muddy visuals, divisive control scheme, and laborious “tutorial” in its opening hours.  If there’s one thing the numerous Zelda remakes have done well, it’s improve upon the originals and fix whatever flaws they had.  Wind Waker HD is the best example of this, with the much-improved sailing mechanics and abbreviated Triforce shard quest; likewise, Majora’s Mask 3D made many changes to address complaints gamers had about the Nintendo 64 original.  I remember that version as frustratingly difficult by Zelda standards, particularly its arcane save system.  I attempted a replay when it arrived on the Wii Virtual Console nine years later, and I gave up pretty quickly.  Majora’s Mask 3D rectified all of my complaints about the original, making it just a bit more accessible while greatly improving the graphics and speeding things up a touch.

 

Yes. Yes, you are. (Credit: Zeldapedia)

So it seems strange, then, that Nintendo never bothered to take another crack at Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, generally considered the worst title in the series.  Yes, Zelda II has its fans and defenders, but this is the game that even Shigeru Miyamoto hinted was likely his biggest regret.  Zelda II took some big risks and introduced interesting new mechanics and gameplay, but it is badly hindered by poor localization, severe difficulty, and critical situations (like finding Bagu’s house) that are nigh impossible without the help of a player’s guide or walkthrough.  As a nine-year-old, I spent hours of severe frustration trying to find Parapa Palace in the western area of the map, since an NPC had told me to “GO WEST” in search of it.  Parapa Palace is, of course, in the east.  But I do go on — if any Zelda game needs a remake for redemption, it’s the unloved second in the series.

 

And what of the first, original, 1986 Famicom Disk System release that gave the franchise its name and propelled Miyamoto-San even further into video game history?  As it is, the original is very good: a memorable soundtrack; crisp, clean, vintage 8-bit visuals; clever map design; challenging boss fights; and a great all-around experience.  Yes, it suffers a bit from the “I have no idea what to do next” that was MUCH worse in its sequel, but it was really revolutionary at the time and still holds up well.  A FAQ or walkthrough is essential for the first-time player even today, but I’m not certain adding modern visuals or even a Link Between Worlds sort of aesthetic would be an improvement.  If anything, I’m hopeful the upcoming Wii U title will be a sort of spiritual reboot, simply called The Legend of Zelda and serving as a total reinterpretation and fleshing-out of that classic’s sparse storyline.

 

Until then — and I’m not certain it will come out in 2016, or only on Wii U for that matter — I have high hopes for Twilight Princess HD.  The original is the only other “main” Zelda game besides Zelda II which I haven’t finished, owing to my dissatisfaction with the Wii control scheme (and just meaning to get back to it later, then never making time).  Nintendo has proven they can and do listen to fans and critics when it comes to remastering their most-beloved property not named Mario, and the long list of successful Zelda ports gives plenty of reason for optimism.

 


 

AT A GLANCE

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD

PLATFORM: Wii U

PUBLISHER: Nintendo

DEVELOPER: Nintendo

RELEASE DATE: March 4, 2016

ESRB RATING: T

FRANCHISE: The Legend of Zelda

DESCRIPTION: High-definition remake of the 2006 GameCube and Wii title, a linear action-adventure with an emphasis on sword combat, puzzle-solving, side quests, and boss fights in a high fantasy setting.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS: Fans of the Legend of Zelda series

WHO WON’T LIKE THIS: Players who absolutely hated the original Twilight Princess and refuse to give it another shot

SIMILAR TITLES: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword; Darksiders II; Okami; Beyond Good & Evil HD

 

 

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