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NEW LOT! - FOR SALE - ATARI 7800 BONANZA!! - "Starter Set" Incl. DKJr., Crossbow, Food Fight, Choplifter, Robotron:2084
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I thought one bee was too easy. So I added two more bees. The bees and the fly all move randomly around the screen. I also changed the game's name. People were thinking that I was going to make 54 minigames. So I changed it to "Minigame Mayhem."
If you swat the fly, another one comes on the screen from one of the edges. The game ends if you touch a bee. Now after looking at this, I'm wondering if I should make the bees bigger.
This is kind of what I was imagining with my Atari 2600 game. I couldn't make the scanline steady, so I had to drop it. And soon after, Atari bought AtariAge and it wouldn't have mattered anyway.
I didn't get to sleep until 3 a.m. I thought it was earlier when I was working on something. Last time I checked on the time it was about 8 p.m. Next thing I knew it was after 2 a.m.
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Hi and welcome to Lance’s Laboratory! This is the third entry of what will be my personal blog, sharing small slices of life with you from within my Lab.
For those who are new to Atari I/O let me introduce myself. My name is Lance Ringquist, I’m from Minnesota, and I am the world's oldest surviving Atari dealer. You may have heard of me before as Video 61 Atari Sales which I have consistently operated since 1983 and I have been at it now for 40 years!
I need to update my website about my longevity. I always have so much to do. Anyways, with everything going on in the Atari world right now, I had some thoughts from these 40 something years as an Atari dealer that I wanted to share with you. I have now survived at least FOUR incarnations of “Atari”. I started as an Atari dealer in 1983 under Atari, Inc. - “Warner’s Atari.” I really didn’t know anyone there.
Steve Ross, CEO of Warner Communications in 1983. Steve Ross is not often spoken of within the Atari community, but it was Steve Ross who bought Atari from Nolan Bushnell, who both hired and fired Ray Kassar, who single handedly took control of Atari in 1983 often showing up in person to run the company, who ultimately sought out Jack Tramiel with a deal to take Atari off his hands, and who orchestrated the Time-Warner merger.
Atari dealers at the time were contacted and supported by dealer representatives who were supported by Warner Communications and would occasionally stop by the stores. I had a good one that supplied me with lots of dealer cartridges, floppy disks, and promotional materials. This is essentially the same way PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo support their retailers today, with reps who go into the stores to update the demo games in kiosks and make sure there’s current promotional signage in the stores. They usually have goodies to give to the workers too.
One day my Atari dealer rep came into my store and announced “This might be the last time I see you. A new owner is taking over… everything is up in the air, and the rumor is he does not support his operations in… let’s say… “a traditional way.”
That was Jack Tramiel, later on affectionately known as “Jack".
He was right. That was the last time I ever saw my friendly dealer rep, and I never heard another word from Atari until the Atari ST computer was released.
Alan Alda from the popular TV show M*A*S*H* was a celebrity spokesperson for Atari Home Computers during the Warner Communications era of Atari. (1984)
All high-paid celebrity endorsements were dropped when Jack Tramiel took over.
One day out of the blue I received a packet along with an Atari ST with some software. Gone were the days of glossy print ads in National Geographic, and sophisticated TV commercials with Alan Alda, the popular actor who played “Hawkeye” on the top TV show M*A*S*H* and was Atari’s spokesperson. The Atari ST that I was sent came with the instructions that - as a dealer - it was up to ME to educate my customers about the new Atari ST computer line, and it was up to ME to support and sell the machine as support from Atari would be minimal. STUNNING, to say the least.
This began the second incarnation of “Atari” - Atari Corporation, or Atari Corp., - “Jack’s Atari”. This was the incarnation of Atari that I was most involved in, and had a lot of day-to-day interaction with. That was sometime in 1985.
I did not hear from Atari again until 1986 or possibly 1987. It’s been so long that it’s difficult to remember the exact timeline, but around that time I received a letter from Atari Corporation with a hefty “release schedule” of games lined up for the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, and Atari XEGS. I was impressed! For nearly two years it was crickets out of Atari, and finally we were receiving real support and a commitment for new games.
At the time, the only real major supporter of the Atari 2600 was Activision. It felt like they were the only kid on the block. Atari had been quiet, and most other third party publishers like Imagic, Coleco, M-Network and Parker Bros. hadn’t survived the crash. Activision was still with us though, and at Video 61 Kung-Fu Masters, Ghostbusters, and Pitfall II were serious strong sellers.
Jack Tramiel with the Atari ST
When I received the new release schedule from Atari, I thought “Hey, maybe the new owners figured it out!” There was still plenty of life left in Atari, even for the 2600, which I could see in my stores. To my dismay, many of Atari’s newly announced titles never came even close to being released on time, or worse - never came at all!
This was very frustrating because I could see the demand for new Atari stuff and yet the Atari potential was being pissed away. There’s this common belief that “The Atari 7800 was released in 1986.” That’s not really true. I had received a few 7800s from Warner’s Atari Inc. in 1984, and they sold quickly. This was in Minnesota, not California or New York City. I never got a thing from Atari again until 1986.
So as Nintendo took America by storm with Mario, Zelda and Metroid on the NES, and with Atari being run so poorly, I thought the jig was up.
"When I received the new release schedule from Atari, I thought 'Hey, maybe the new owners figured it out!' There was still plenty of life left in Atari, even for the 2600 which I could see in my stores. To my dismay, many of Atari's newly announced titles never came even close to being released on time, or worse - never came at all."
Then came the fury. After defaulting on their release schedule and missing any new releases at all one Christmas season in 1988, I was outraged. I picked up the phone and called Atari. I wasn’t just a customer, I was in business with Atari as a dealer responsible for a percentage of all Atari games sold that year. I was helping make them money. When I called Atari, I was given the run around about “how hard it was to keep these games in stock” and “how hard it was to bring out new games.” I interrupted the lady and told her what she was saying was word for word what Nintendo was saying to their distributors - she broke down and agreed that what she had been instructed to say was not really the case.
Later on I came to find out about certain “business details” and “practices” that were happening under “Jack’s Atari” which made it clear to me HOW and WHY Atari had missed so many release dates, launch windows, and even lost new releases, but thats a whole other story that we will go into another time in an upcoming Blog entry.
Jack's Atari: This was the incarnation of Atari that I had the most day-to-day involvement with
I continued on the phone and was trying to be nice. It wasn’t this nice lady’s fault that she had been instructed to lie. So I asked what can be done. I was sent “upstairs" and told that Atari "had messed up and badly damaged the market" and had really had messed up in my region of the country, the upper midwest. Sales and support in our part of the country needed help, and I was asked by Atari Corp. to become a service department and distributor for Atari. I was stunned. I dealt with other Atari dealers, but it was mostly to buy or trade what was needed.
I said yes. I was blown away later on when I found out how just badly Atari had shrunk. They had lost almost 90% of their workforce. Yet the "Atari" brand still commanded household name recognition and selling power, which they underutilized thanks to certain business ideologies and practices from the Tramiel family.
Here is a link to my Atari distribution paperwork, which is hosted on my website:
I became really enmeshed in this as Atari sent me to deal directly with third parties, who I then bought from as what’s known as “direct". During this time I got to know many good people in third party companies like Activision, Avalon Hill, S.S.I., Datasoft, Eypx, Sierra Online, Microprose and more.
As an Atari distributer I purchased immense amounts - truckloads - of games and software direct from Atari and all third parties at the time. When Atari pulled the plug, I had about 250,000 pieces of software in my warehouse. Today it’s dwindled to under 40,000 pieces left.
Jack Tramiel's son Sam Tramiel took over leadership of Atari in the mid-'90s with Jack's continued close involvement.
Was the Atari ST named after Sam Tramiel? Was TOS the "Tramiel Operating System?"
Jack Tramiel and wife Helen in their retirement years
Jack Tramiel traveling the world
After Jack Tramiel pulled the plug on Lynx, Jaguar and the Atari computers, I could see what he was doing. Sam wasn’t going to save the company, and J.T.S. Corporation - an Indian hard drive manufacturer founded after the Jaguar’s launch - acquired Atari though a “reverse merger”. (Was Atari, as an entire company, "laundered" through J.T.S. so it came out nice and clean to be able to sell to a potential buyer?)
This lead to Atari, or what IPs and documentation was left of it, being sold to Hasbro. This became the third iteration of the of Atari that I dealt with, “Hasbro’s Atari.”
When Atari was sold to Hasbro, Atari gave Hasbro a list of contacts. I was one of them. Not only for service, parts, and software, but I was also Atari Corporation’s person who interacted with movie studios and television networks. Atari no longer had the game systems, computers, many times the software and games, nor the man power to supply the entertainment industry with Atari “props” when filming a movie or tv show that was to feature Atari in it.
Atari just sent them to me for systems, computers and games, and I supplied the movie studios and television networks with what was needed, under the license agreement from Atari.
One day I got a call from Hasbro, and very arrogantly told me that they would do the supplying, and the legacy Atari market was really no interest of theirs. They were going to release new games for new platforms.
I supplied Atari items to Columbia Pictures (now Sony) Warner’s of course, Paramount, 20th Century Fox and others. I almost got some footage into one of the Alien movies, but Fox still owed me money from Fox Sports, and they could not come to agreements with “Jack". Many TV shows had my Atari stuff in it, one name I remember was The King of Queens, there was an Atari 7800 and Video Olympics if I remember right.
Atari 2600 and 5200 game cartridges on NBC's cult classic show Freaks and Geeks (2000)
Later on, my contact at Paramount studios was dismayed they could no longer get legacy Atari hardware and software for their productions, and that Hasbro’s Atari would only supply them with the newest games, which in the case of the studios and networks, was not what they wanted. I apologized to her, and said my hands were tied, "I can’t do a thing." These people at Hasbro were clueless as to what they bought. They didn’t understand what Atari was, what they still had, or the potential even for legacy markets. Hasbro really messed up quickly, and quickly sold Atari off.
Meanwhile - almost daily - ever since “Jack” sold off Atari, I would get calls from disgruntled stock holders, former suppliers, and people who were owed money by Atari. Some even made threats of suing me, because in their eyes, I was Atari. That lasted even into the early Infogrames days, which is what came next.
The French company Infogrames Entertainment SA acquired Atari in January, 2001 as the biggest part of their purchase of Hasbro’s software division “Hasbro Interactive”, which also included MicroProse, and Hasbro’s game.com monochrome handheld system which was a joke compared to what the Atari Lynx could do, even years later, and couldn’t compete contemporaneously against Game Boy Color.
This began the fourth incarnation of Atari - “Infogrames Atari” or “French Atari” which now goes by Atari, SA. (Infogrames rebranded themselves as Atari in 2003 and began releasing games like Splashdown, Driver 2, The Matrix and Ghostbusters for modern game systems of the time.)
Splashdown was one of the first new "Atari" games released by Infogrames in November, 2001
The cover art featured branding for both Atari and Infogrames
Infogrames never contacted me period, until one day a fellow named “Wim” (not sure of the spelling…) gave me a call. I tried to enter him into my contacts database, he would not spell his name for me, and acted quite annoyed that he even had to speak with me.
I found out that Infogrames had an operation that was local to me in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Minneapolis / St. Paul, in a suburb named Plymouth I think.
“Wim” wanted to know who I was, and he was looking for certain items. He would discuss nothing, could care less about Atari’s legacy, knew that many, many people were looking for Atari service, parts, games etc., but "Wim" was only interested in my Atari 2600 power supplies, Atari 7800 power supplies, TV switch boxes and R.F. cables.
He demanded to buy them all. I said no. “What about my customers?” I retorted … let alone the legacy Atari systems that found their way to me.
"Wim" had no interest in the Atari legacy, nor the history I was privy to, and had lived through much of. "Wim" only wanted to get the people off his back who were looking for those particular legacy parts. Why?
I found this simply amazing. Here I was, and of course the two other legacy dealers (we’ll get into that in a minute) who could step in and help Atari’s legacy customers, and help guide Infogrames in making decisions around the needs and potential of the legacy market.
I thought to myself "Here we go again!” Never interacted with them directly again, only indirectly when I was contacted by a debt collector wanting to know “what happened to Atari" as they were owed money. Something I have heard about many times before before, and I thought “Man, will this ever end?”
I told the collector Atari was now located in New York, last time I heard. As it turned out the collector ended up being an old friend from high school that I hadn’t seen in decades.. small world indeed!
"'Wim' wanted to know who I was, and he was looking for certain items. He would discuss nothing, could care less about Atari's legacy, knew that many, many people were looking for Atari service, parts, games, etc. but Wim was only interested in my Atari power supplies, switch boxes and R.F. cables... Why?"
Here we are, now well over 20 years since Infogrames acquired Atari and has become the longest owner of the name, with new products being developed - finally - around Atari’s greatest strengths - it’s legacy.
So that's the history of my involvement with the many evolving incarnations of Atari. The history in my eyes that counts the most, was the "Jack" era. The stories, what happened within those walls, what they pulled off and what they got away with - it’s almost too amazing to be true.
When "Jack" merged with J.T.S., the government would only allow the "reverse merger" to proceed if Atari kept the American market supported. That was ignored entirely, and Atari was sold to Hasbro.
Together, the three of us became heavily involved day to day under “Jack's" Atari. This is just a minor rundown in who I am in the Atari world, and I wanted to share my thoughts and experiences with you. Today, after over 40 years, I continue to march forward in the legacy Atari world, still providing sales and support, and developing new games which I hope will continue to entertain and dazzle Atari players for generations to come.
What comes next?
Thanks for reading,
Please visit me online for more at www.atarisales.com
I've seen something similar to this before although not in the way I was seeing with a recent 4 switch console I was servicing. As part of diagnostics I will use Paul Slocum's excellent Test Cart program as it should some primary colors, shows the current state of all switches minus power of course, but also has a basic graphical view of each controller and small block on the bottom that will move left/right when you plug in paddles to test those too. So all in all a nice utility to know that all controller functions are working properly on the console.
Well, on this one, player 1, player 2, and player 4 paddle controls would move from left to right and back turning the paddle as you would expect. But player 3 paddle control would just site on the left side, and then after a point when turning the paddle, it would suddenly just be on the right. No movement of any kind. Just one sec on the left, and then next thing you know it is on the right. So it was acting more like a digital control vs analog. It wasn't the paddles since I used the same set to test player 1 and 2 and that was working fine.
Going through the service manual will yield some interesting stuff to help isolate this, but unless you have the diagnostic controller plugs and the 2.6 diagnostic rom, you aren't going to be able to see exactly what you need to see. But lets review that..
If you have the diagnostic plugs, plugged into the controller ports and the diagnostic rom up and running with the controller matrix screen up. Then you use an Oscilliscope to probe the paddle lines off the TIA pins 37,38,39, and 40. They represent player 4, 3, 2, and then player 1 on pin 40. Well, what you should see on your scope if you have it set to the right settings, is something like the picture below from the service manual:
However, when I probed pin 38 that is for the player 3 paddle line. I was getting a flat line. Well, actually I was showing a flat line of about 1v but the point is...not pulse like you see in those pictures. (And btw...I was seeing that same pulse line on my o'scope for the other paddles).
Well honestly there isn't much in the way of electronics from the controller port to the TIA where the paddles are read and handled. In fact, there is really only 1...just 1 component in the middle of the mix from the controller port to TIA. At least on the 4 switch and above units this is the case. That one component is usually a small ceramic disc, or poly capacitor that doesn't usually go bad. So I first checked that the traces from pin 5 of the player 2 controller port to that cap (C220) was good. It was, and then checked from the cap to pin 38 of the TIA. That too pinged out good. So I went ahead and replaced the capacitor just to see if anything changed. Sadly.... no.
What did fix it?
Well, if you've gotten this far and read my description of the very simple circuit from port to TIA... it should come as no surprise that is was the TIA itself. This is even more sad considering how rare these IC chips are now becoming and there isn't any projects I'm aware of to make new ones or something to replace the TIA.
But yeah... if you find the paddle lines aren't working, chances are that it is the TIA chip itself that has failed if the actual traces are good. Apparently this was less of an issue with earlier 2600s as they used buffer ICs to help control this and therefore the TIA was more protected. Just more cost cutting at work as the console lived on...
A quick trip on a beautiful Saturday to the Evergreen Air Museum in McMinnville Oregon. It's about an hour drive from my home. This museum is most famous for housing the giant WWII Howard Hughes "Spruce Goose". I assure you, it is huge.
Also a picture of the author on Atari Day with an Atari shirt, relaxing in an old airline seat, a delicious lunch at a place that serves sandwiches on fresh-made bread, a sweet late 60's Ford Falcon I spotted in a parking lot, and our current sweet ride too, which looked nice in the sun.
OK. Im new to Jinks. I have read where many people have dogged it. I have watched video reviews on it where it didn't do so good. Granted it is not a typical 7800 game I'm use to. From a technical standpoint it actually does some impressive feats.
I have to admit that I don't belong in those majorities. On the contrary I find Jinks rather fun. I did find a few flaws here and there like my ball disappearing all of a sudden or going through objects it shouldn't but the game is sit down classic fun. It doesn't need twitchy fingers and movements to enjoy the game. Jinks is more laid back and relaxing. And I believe that is where the misconception is.
Jinks is a fun game if you don't approach it as an arcade game because that is something that it's not. If you just sit down and want to play a game where you can be immersed and have an hour to kill give Jinks a go. It really isnt a bad game and the sounds in spots are actually quite impressive.
UPDATE: After I wrote this post I decided to spend a few days on this game. I can't stop playing it. I did some research on it and it seems like the 7800 was the only game console to receive a port of this computer game. I have not yet researched the other versions to see what differences their are BUT...once you know the game's mechanics and what every object in the game does there is a hidden gem inside that plastic cartridge. I have not found any other game on the 7800 that has the sounds like Jinks does. Then again Jinks is my first game outside of the usual arcade ports on the system.
The sounds in this game are what impress me the most. It is amazing just how far some developers went as to push new features on the 7800. Jinks really shows just how flexible the 7800 really was even when just using TIA as the sound chip. I mean...digitized sounds and speech?? It makes me wonder if the 7800 got any more games that did that. Granted the actual game play sounds are full-on TIA sounds the rest of the game is all digitized sounds. To me that is impressive.
I don't know how it faired during the 7800's production run and I don't know what modern gamers who have reviewed this game are basing their opinions on (e.g.; other 7800 games or other Jinks ports) but my opinion stands firm: Jinks is a hidden gem of a game and has become my number two game on the system right under Asteroids.
Recent EntriesAtariAge will again be attending the annual Portland Retro Gaming Expo, taking place this year October 13-15 at the Oregon Convention Center! We'll have an even larger booth this year, the largest we've ever had at the show. And we'll have many new games available to purchase at the show, as well as demos for upcoming games! The AtariAge booth will be located right near the main entrance to the vendor hall, so you can't miss it as you enter the show! Many homebrew developers will be in attendance again at this year's show, so this is a great opportunity to meet and talk to developers about their games! And of course this is a HUGE event, and even larger this year with the addition of 60,000 square feet of space! There's so much to do at the show, tons of vendors, a huge free-play arcade, cosplay, auction, large console play area, tournaments, many speakers and panels throughout the show, and much more! Here's a list of the games we are working on for this year's show: Berry Fun! (Atari 2600) Boom! (Atari 2600) Bot & Tom (Atari 2600) Caramujo (Atari 2600) Electroball (Atari 2600) Game of the Bear 2 (Atari 2600) Immunity (Atari 2600) Penult (Atari 2600) Quantum Tunnel (Atari 2600) Robot Zed (Atari 2600) AWA Multicart (Atari 5200 / Atari 8-bit) Scorch (Atari 5200) A.R.T.I. (Atari 7800) Death Merchant (Atari 7800) E.X.O. (Atari 7800) Harpy's Curse (Atari 7800) Millie and Molly (Atari 7800) Oozie the Goo Gaiden (Atari 7800) Plumb Luck DX (Atari 7800) Growing Ties Deluxe (Atari Lynx) Odynexus (Atari Lynx) Novagen Volume 1 (Atari Jaguar) Rocket Ranger (Atari Jaguar) Visit our 2023 Portland Retro Gaming Expo Forum to discuss the show with other members and learn more about the new games and demos we'll have at the show! We hope to see many of you there!!
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Hello and welcome for my first blog entry. I am going to discuss the rpgs I am currently playing and the progress I am making. Don't expect and complete walkthroughs or detailed step by step descriptions. I want to keep things a little more casual than that, and besides I'm not that good of a chronicler. The last thing I want to do is keep constant notes of every step of the process. I will also do reviews here including games that I have already finished. So, what am I focusing on at the moment?
Black Sigil: Blade of the Exiled - Nintendo DS
I probably shouldn't have started this game considering all the games I am in the middle of, but it's a game I've wanted to play for years. Back about a dozen years ago I tried to buy this game from the much lamented gohastings.com, but it turned out to be out of stock. Right after that happened the price went through the roof and I was never able to track one down. Luckily I found it on a totally legit DS multicart sandwiched between mountains of shovelware. I love shovelware too so I will play them all I am sure, but of course the RPGs are the main draw.
I am only a couple hours in so I haven't accomplished much so far. It's a bit of a reversal from the typical RPG in that everybody starts out hating the protagonist because he is one of the few people who can't use magic. Usually it's the other way around with a mysterious magic user showing up and frightening everyone with their powers. i don't know if I've ever played an rpg where the protagonist is hated because he's not powerful enough. Hopefully it goes in some interesting directions.
The Bard's Tale IV
Here's another game from my classic routine of getting halfway through a game and then stopping. It's even a game that I like. The combat is fun, and I enjoy the vintage gameplay. I was playing it every night for a while there. Then I just sorta stopped. I got a couple of other new games and they took priority over a game I bought a whole month ago. I started it back up last night and it took a while to get back into the swing of things. Even on easy mode I almost lost the first battle I encountered. It's nice to get back into it though, and hopefully I will chronicle it more fully as I go along.
So that's enough for today. Join me next time as I hopefully get Daggerfall: Unity figured out. Seriously it took me fifteen minutes just to learn how to turn around.
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I consider my RETRO GAMING CORNER officially complete ! 😎🤟🧐includes 14inch TOSHIBA CRT / ColecoVision w/ AtariMax Flashcart / Retrobit SuperRetroTrio (nes, snes, genesis w/ Everdrives for each) / TG-16 w/Everdrive 😎👍as well, I can hook up the 2600 module to ColecoVision or even play Master System using the Everdrive on the RetroTrio. Happy covering 7 platforms with 3 consoles. Wanted to cover as many platforms with what I already have in the space I am limited to.
I want to start off by saying I love GOSUB on the 7800! It was a fantastic experience, simple to pick up and a lot of fun to learn. It's a solid play for an evening or afternoon, and it's a bit cheaper than other games I've purchased off of other websites. I got it from 2600connection, but I couldn't find it listed anywhere on his Facebook or Website. I had to send him an email and ask him if he had any left, PayPal him the money, and it came pretty quick. It's hard to track down unless you really want to find it, and he has a lot of other games and versions of GOSUB for other platforms. Yes, I love GOSUB for the 7800, but should you go to the trouble of tracking it down for yourself? Maybe not actually...
The graphics are very simple. You have the blue background that represents water, along with the deadly seaweed outline that traps your yellow submarine and makes traveling difficult. Then there's an octopus that will track you relentlessly, and later there are even larger enemies and tiny sharks that are surprisingly detailed! Each level had a simple key and treasure chest and the last few levels have portals that look just as simple. Everything in the game looks uniform with the rest of the game and the coloring is all fine. Honestly, it's a boring game graphically. The title screen looks okay, the ending screen looks okay, and the game over screens look... you guessed it... okay. Overall the graphics may be a bit too simple really, but they work for this game.
Please Excuse The Screenshots, their not uniform yet.
If you sit at the title screen you will hear the sonar of your submarine beep every few seconds. It made my wife ask "what is that beeping, it's driving me crazy". So don't let it sit at the title while you write a review. But other than that the song that plays is nice and catchy and the sound effects are fine too. Again, these things are simple and on their own I don't think their anything impressive at all, similar to the graphics. But when you add them to the gameplay of this game you get something fantastic. So, although it might be cliche, GOSUB is greater than the sum of it's parts. Easily.
And the gameplay is really the main thing to talk about here. It's a maze game where you must push a direction to make your sub move. It will continue in that direction until you push another direction and it will start to move that way. So once you start moving, you will always be moving. It can be difficult not to touch the sides of the seaweed maze sometimes, but the octopus that will chase you relentlessly is what really adds to the challenge. You can only fire in the direction your moving in and you can only have one bullet on the screen at a time. So if you shoot at an octopus that's coming at you and miss, then you need to have room to evade until your next shot is ready. It actually can get pretty intense and fun!
You also have 2 lives per level which is nice for progression. If you use all your lives on level 5 for instance, than you don't have to worry about having no lives for level 6. You'll automatically start out with 2 more lives for your attempts of that level. Later levels you'll encounter an invincible shark that will move randomly and you most avoid, and portals that allow you to get to other ends of the maze. Not to mention the mid and final boss that requires quite a few shots to get past. You don't technically kill him, but you do chase him off. At the end of each maze you'll find a treasure chest that may or may not require a key and that's essentially the game.
Screenshot from WIP
It all plays and works well together, but I do have a complaint. This game is SHORT! Too short. I was able to beat it in about 2 hours of playing. When I first turned GOSUB on it was too easy because I didn't see any octopus enemies, but the difficulty switches fix that. So there is a "kids" mode I would say, or one without enemies. But the 21 levels left me wanting so much more. I was satisfied with the game, but I don't see myself pulling it down again anytime soon. The want to replay the same levels just isn't there for me. I don't think I would get anything more from repeated playthroughs of the game I guess. I would buy another cart if he doubled the levels though, but that's just me.
GOSUB did provide a fun afternoon for me (well 2 now: one when I got it and one to prepare for this review) but I really don't have the want to continue beating it. It feels fantastic, and there are bonus levels along with the boss battles to break up the maze based gameplay. It all works fantastic, its just a shame that it didn't last longer. I believe I paid 30 dollars, maybe under 35 with shipping for this one from 2600connection (google it, because the website I had led to somewhere else now) and I've spent more on a single evening before. You could have dinner, see a movie, or play GOSUB and have some good old fashion enjoyment. Plus the cartridge looks nice. But if you want something with a little more meat on it, then you may want to look elsewhere.
The Cartridge and Manual Look Nice. Shame there's no box...
Graphics: 5 out of 10
The graphics aren't really bad, but they are simple. Given the simplicity of what's needed you could've really went all out with details. But it works in context of the rest of the game
Sound: 6 out of 10
I really like the songs composition and it sounds good. The only sound effect I didn't care for was that beeping at the title screen, but I guess it's my fault for letting it sit.
Gameplay: 7 out of 10
This game plays fantastic. Don't touch the edges, avoid the enemies, and grab the treasure! It's simple but it works!
Fun: 8 out of 10
I loved it while it lasted. I felt like we were just getting started with the sharks and portals when I got to the end, so it feels like it finishes abruptly. But I really liked the experience up until then.
Value: 3 out of 10
I hate to give this such a low score on value, but it only lasts a few hours with little reason to go back to it. I may play it once every few years and that's it. This is truly the low point of this game.
Overall: 6 out of 10 GOOD!
I bounced back and forth between a 5 and 6 for this one. I do recommend it for those that are okay with paying 35 bucks for an evening of fun. Everybody else should steer clear, but I do want to say that I'm glad I experienced this game and don't regret the purchase.
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Mac Tonight was a smash success, but quickly faded from the scene, only to be revived by Mcdonald's sporadically. On this episode of the Retroist Podcast, I look at the history of this famed spokesmoon.
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Martin Goldberg is a veteran game industry developer, writer, archiver, and historian who is well known and respected in the Atari community. Marty’s articles can be found in many gaming publications, and he co-authored Atari Inc. Business is Fun, A Complete History of Atar Inc. in collaboration with Curt Vendel as part of their effort to preserve Atari history with their Atari Museum archive.
The period during which Aquaventure is thought to have been under development was one of change and turmoil within the Consumer Division and at Atari overall. Atari was scrambling to cover losses from a steadily worsening video game market. During the summer Jim Morgan was named as CEO of Atari, replacing Ray Kassar. But at the time of the announcement, Jim was still employed by Phillip Morris and wanted to take a sabbatical so Manny Gerard was tasked with running the company on a day-to-day basis until JIm could officially step into the CEO role at Atari. As a result of all the change, it seems there was even less executive supervision of the consumer development team, and less reporting on their activity making its way up to the top.
Jim Morgan started work at Atari on September 9th, and within a few weeks he issued a company-wide freeze on all projects and products in development. A month-long product-by product evaluation period followed during which a large number of projects were modified or completely canceled. Atari’s Ataritel advanced telephone division is an example of one large casualty of the process. It also caused delays in other products that were scheduled to be released for that holiday season.
The two Aquaventure ROMs that have been discovered so far have July and August dates. From what Gary Shannon has recently related to Atari prototype games expert Matt Reichart, Aquaventure was done and ready to be released and as a result Gary was set up for receiving a deadline bonus. What most likely happened is that Aquaventure was a victim of the development freeze and resulting product culling as Jim Morgan looked to make the company’s offerings leaner to help Atari weather what some were nicknaming the “Atari Crash.”
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YARS: RECHARGED (VCS)
Published 2022 (Atari)
Developer: Adamvision Studios, Sneakybox
YARS: RECHARGED is a modern take on Yars' Revenge, the 1982 smash hit for the Atari 2600. Programmed by the incomparable Howard Scott Warshaw, Yars’ Revenge went on to become the best-selling original title for the platform. This is quite a legacy to live up to.
YARS: RECHARGED is available on multiple platforms, including VCS, Switch, XBOX Series X/S, XBOX One, PS4, PS5, Steam and Epic.
Let’s take a quick look at the VCS version!
At its core, YARS: RECHARGED is a twin-stick shooter. It borrows elements of Yars’ Revenge and combines it with a dash of “bullet hell” and a slick future retro aesthetic to deliver a fresh take on HSW’s classic.
As with the original, you control a Yars, an insect-like space race that – according to lore – descended from the common house fly on Earth. Of course, this being a modern, digital title, YARS: RECHARGED eschews any story that might have made its way into a manual or accompanying comic. At any rate, the Yars are again at war with the Qotile. It’s your job to take out Qotile defenses through 30 levels in either Arcade or Missions modes: for 60 levels total.
The first time you play YARS: RECHARGED you’re automatically taken to a quick tutorial to acquaint you with the game’s controls. This is a first in the Recharged series and is a welcome addition to the game. The controls are fairly intuitive and harken back to that old Atari adage “Easy to learn, difficult to master.”
Using the Modern Controller, the left thumbstick controls Yar’s movement while the right controls fire and aiming. The controls are tight and precise, and I found the Modern Controller to be ideally suited for the twin-stick action. The game also offers support for the Classic Controller. Use the rotary to aim your Yars and the joystick to maneuver. It’s a novel way to play for fans of the VCS’ unique controller.
Qotile defenses are hidden behind rows of hexagonal shields. The shield strength is indicated by each hexagon’s opacity; near transparent shields are easily foiled, while solid white shields take a lot to break through. The shields are frequently interlocked in a honeycomb and protect various “cores.” You must shoot or “nibble” through the shields to charge your Zorlon Cannon, expose the Qotile Cores, and eliminate them as quickly as possible. Eliminating the last Qotile Core will destroy all remaining enemies and clear the level. There is a time bonus in both Arcade and Missions modes, so play strategically to clear each level as quickly as possible.
Enemy types range from the “Swirl”, Silorak Cores, and bullets coming from off screen. The Swirl behaves in much the same way as it did in the 1982 original. Watch for the Qotile Core to change into a Swirl and dodge or shoot it. If your Yars is hit by a Swirl, its GAME OVER. In later levels, there will be multiple Swirls to contend with. Importantly, Swirls can penetrate the Glitch Shield to destroy your Yars.
The Silorak Cores serve as Qotile defense turrets and target you with spread shot, railgun, explosive shot and rapid fire. When destroyed, these “minor” cores will drop a power-up the mirrors their attack. The Silorak Cores are also tied to select shields. As you attack a core, you’ll notice several hexagons flashing with each hit. These will be destroyed once you take out the connected core.
Bullets coming from offscreen add a level of danger to the proceedings. You’ll need to pay close attention to the patterns of the bullets to avoid hitting them. Alone they are easy to avoid, but with the assault from the cores, things quickly become chaotic.
Your greatest weapon against the Qotile onslaught is the Zorlon Cannon. Only the Zorlon Cannon can destroy a Qotile Core. Charge the cannon by nibbling or shooting enemy assets and collecting the resultant golden orbs. Once charged, take aim and fire across the screen. Timing is critical as there are frequently moving Qotile Cores and rotating shields.
When the Zorlon Cannon appears, so does the Glitch Shield. The Glitch Shield protects Yars from all enemy weapons with the exception of the Swirl. It dissipates as soon as your charge is depleted.
In Arcade Mode, the default setting provides the player with three hits. The hit counter will refresh with each cleared level. Taking a similar approach to Gravitar: Recharged, Yars offers the option to stack modifiers for bonus points. Each modifier adds 2.5% to the score at the end of arcade play. There are three modifiers:
- The “Hyper” modifier dramatically speeds up your Yars. While this might seem like an advantage, it’s actually a bit unwieldy.
- The “Hunger” modifier eliminates your ability to shoot forcing you to rely only on your “nibble.” The nibble is more effective and in early levels this too seems like an advantage. However, in later levels the need for a ranged shot becomes clear.
- The “Heavy Cannon” modifier increases the damage of your cannon but takes longer to charge and moves slower.
The choice of whether or not to use a modifier adds an interesting strategic element to the game.
In Missions Mode, your goal is to complete the missions as quickly as possible. The missions play like the hardest versions of the levels that you’ve already completed in Arcade Mode. In this way, it feels like more of the same. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, I personally preferred the creativity and variety of the goal-oriented Challenges Mode from earlier titles in the Recharges series. One thing that I do like about Missions Mode is that score bonuses are displayed upon the completion of each level.
Couch co-op returns to YARS: RECHARGED and greatly enhances the game in either Arcade or Missions mode.
The look of YARS: RECHARGED is reminiscent of the art style found in Gravitar: Recharged. Backgrounds are muted and - with the exception of your Yars, the golden orbs and Zorlon Cannon - monochromatic. The Yars itself looks nice and everything from the hexagonal shields to the in-game menus, to the Silorak cores are very clean. Its functional but not terribly exciting to look at. One wonders if the Geometry Wars inspired art style of the earlier Recharged games might have worked better here.
SOUND & MUSIC
Sound is a weak point for YARS: RECHARGED. For this outing, Atari has once again partnered with composer Megan McDuffee for the in-game music. The soundtrack is stellar and some of the tracks have an almost cinematic vibe. McDuffee has definitely brought her “A Game.” Unfortunately, the in-game music is barely audible with default settings. It is utterly overwhelmed by the sound effects, including player and enemy shots and ambient sounds. In order to enjoy the soundtrack, I had to go into audio settings, crank the music to 100 and reduce effects to 30. My feeling is that there is some wave interference taking place between the competing sounds. It’s truly a shame because the music really is fantastic.
As for the effects, they are just what you would expect from booming shots, lasers and spinning swirls.
YARS: RECHARGED includes proper unlockable achievements which have become a staple of modern gaming. Some are progressive. Other achievements are awarded for completion of a single task. If you've played the other RECHARGED titles, these will be familiar to you. The inclusion of achievements is a welcome addition to the game, particularly on the VCS. However, as the VCS does not support trophies, the achievements are only viewable in-game.
Fans of the highscore chase will be pleased to know that the game includes local and online leaderboards. In Missions mode, scores are cumulative. This contrasts with previous entries in the Recharged series, where each mission had its own scoreboard.
YARS: RECHARGED is a solid update to Howard Scott Warshaw’s 2600 classic. Atari and its development partners have a tricky balancing act with the Recharged series; at once satisfying longtime fans and introducing the brand and IP to new generations of gamers. With YARS RECHARGED, they have largely succeeded. Some tweaks to the audio mix and goal-oriented missions would make this near perfect. As it is, YARS: RECARGED is the best sequel to the original yet attempted.
Have you played YARS: RECHARGED on the VCS or on another platform? What do you think of the game?
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PLAY EPISODE 22 HERE#PA2041, Published by Atari Corp.
In this episode I cover yet another arcade port for the Lynx, Paperboy, released in 1990. Included are statistics for the game and a run-down on how to play it, along with reviews and ratings, some fun facts and trivia, and lots of listener feedback about the game. Also in today’s episode: Monty and I talk about the lost art of delivering newspapers door to door.
“Yes…it’s true…I once owned a Morris Minor to deliver The Heckington Hawker.The Paperboy upright arcade cabinet was released by Atari Games in 1984.
Please don’t pity me.” -Monty
PAPERBOY VITAL STATISTICSKieren Hawken’s interview with Paperboy programmer Al Baker from the February 2014 issue (#125) of Retro Gamer magazine. You can view a full-size version of the scan by clicking HERE.
Release Date: December of 1990.
Initial Retail Price: $34.99-$39.95 in the US; £29.99 in the UK.
Cartridge Information: 128kB mono curved lip-style cartridge.
Game Genre: Isometric-view 2-dimensional scrolling arcade game for 1 player only.
Screen Playfield Orientation: Landscape (horizontal).
Based On: The arcade cabinet of the same name released by Atari Games in 1984.
Ports to Other Systems: Acorn Electron (1986), Amstrad CPC (1987), Apple ][ (1988), Apple ][gs (1988), Atari ST (1989), BBC Micro (1986), Blackberry (2009), Commodore 16 (1986), Commodore Plus/4 (1986), Commodore 64 (1986), Commodore Amiga (1989), DOS platform (1988), J2ME platform (2005), Nintendo Entertainment System (1988), Nintendo Game Boy (1990), Nintendo Game Boy Color (1999), Sega Game Gear (1991), Sega Genesis (1991), Sega Master System (1990), Xbox 360 (2007), and ZX Spectrum (1986).
Sequels: Paperboy 2 for Amstrad CPC (1991), Atari ST (1992), Commodore Amiga (1992), DOS platform (1991), Nintendo Game Boy (1992), Nintendo Entertainment System (1991), Super Nintendo Entertainment System (1991), Sega Game Gear (1993), Sega Genesis (1992), and ZX Spectrum (1992).
Game Levels: There are three skill levels: Easy Street (easiest), Middle Road (medium difficulty), and Hard Way (hardest). Within each of these skill levels, there are seven stages, one for each day of the week.
Packaging: A full-color standard flap-tab regular-size box (5 3/8″ by 4 3/8″ by 7/8″). The French variant included a lapel pin and French-language manual, And the Japanese variant included Japanese verbiage on the box back, along with a Japanese-language manual. There was also a blister pack variant sold.
Instruction Manual: A 12-page (including front and back covers) stapled regular-sized booklet manual in monochrome, measuring the usual 4 7/8” high by 3 ¾” wide. The manual was released in English in North America and in Europe, in a full-color Japanese manual in Japan, and in French in France. The manual was written by veteran Atari Lynx manual writer Scott Rhoades.
Original Arcade: Atari Games Corporation
Publisher: Atari Corporation
Licensee: Tengen, Inc.
Developer: Al Baker & Associates
Programmer: Al Baker
Sound: David Tumminaro
Original Art: Elite Systems
Lynx Art: Nathan Baker
Be sure to check out our partner AtariGamer.com to stay “Lynxed In” to all of the latest news about our favorite handheld gaming console!
Kieren Hawken’s 2019 book “The A-Z of Atari Lynx Games Volume 1”.
Coming Soon: “The A-Z of Atari Lynx Games Volume 2”!
Information About Paperboy:A comparison of the different home ports of Paperboy, published in the February 2014 issue (#125) of Retro Gamer magazine. You can view a full-size version of the scan by clicking HERE.
Atari Age title info/rarity guide for Paperboy
Atari Gamer title info/rarity guide for Paperboy
Digital Press title info/rarity guide for Paperboy
GameFAQs article about Paperboy
Moby Games article about Paperboy
PriceCharting.com value guide about Paperboy
RarityGuide.com rarity/value guide about Paperboy
Wikipedia article about Paperboy
Reviews and Ratings for Paperboy:
Review by Gideon in GamePro (US; Issue #017; December 1990; page 148)
Review in RAZE (UK; Issue #03; January 1991; page 47)
Review by Robert A. Jung at IGN (1999)
Review by The Video Game Critic (2005)
Review by Brian Thomas Barnhart at Atario.io (2016)
Review by Jon Mc at Atari Gamer (2018)
YouTube Videos About Paperboy:
Playthrough and Review (BTB/Lynx Lounge)
Playthrough and Review (RetroGamerDaz)
Comparison of Handheld Ports of Paperboy (The Laird’s Lair)
Retailers Selling Paperboy:
B & C ComputerVisions: US$9.95 (box only), US$19.95 (cart/manual combo), US$24.95 (NIB w/damaged box) and for US$29.95 (NIB) through eBay under the user name MyAtari…check his online store on eBay for availability.
Best Electronics (last updated October 7, 2021; check website for availability): US$14.95 (loose cart), US$19.95 (CIB).
The Gamesmen (Australia): AU$24.95 (CIB).
The Goat Store: None Available.
Telegames (UK): £29.99 (CIB).
Video 61 & Atari Sales: $49.95 (NIB).
THE RESOURCES Page
is where you can find a current list of after-market and
home brew Atari Lynx titles,
plus a lot of other information!
“Thank You’s” and Other Lynks:
Antic: The Atari 8-Bit Podcast (Thanks to Brad Arnold, Randy Kindig, and Kevin Zavitz for the shoutout about The HandyCast in Episode 50!)
AtariGamer.com (Thanks to Igor for incorporating The HandyCast into his excellent website!)
The Atari 2600 Game By Game Podcast (Thanks to The Podfather himself, Ferg, for encouraging his listeners to check out The HandyCast in both Episode 151 and Episode 154!)
The Atari Jaguar Game By Game Podcast (Thanks to Shinto for encouraging his listeners to check out The HandyCast in Episodes 22 and 26!)
Curtis Herod (Cujo)‘s The Bl^ck Book v2 (Check HERE to see the now-expired Indiegogo campaign, where you can find out more about the book. And please consider purchasing Curtis Herod’s The Black Book v2 by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Gaming on Ten (Thanks to Nick and Don for encouraging his listeners to check out The HandyCast in Episode 09!)
Into the Vertical Blank Podcast (Thanks to hosts Jeff and Steve Fulton for “singing” about The HandyCast in Season 1, Episode 10!)
Please Stand By (Thanks to Zerbe and Ferg for helping to promote The HandyCast on several episodes of this fun-to-listen-to show, starting with Episode 60!)
The RCR Podcast (Thanks to the Retro Computing Roundtable: Paul Hagstrom, Quinn Dunki, Jack Nutting, and Carrington Vance, for highlighting The HandyCast in Episode 167!)
The Retro MacCast Podcast (Thanks to Retro MacCast hosts James Savage and John Leake for highlighting The HandyCast in Episode 475!)
Retro Video Gamer Forums (Thanks to Eugenio/TrekMD for helping to promote The HandyCast on his wonderful forums!)
Thanks go to everyone who contributed feedback about Paperboy (and other games) for this episode: Brian Bolding, Jeff Cossey, Derek Dash (tripled79), Eugenio (TrekMD), Kieren Hawken (Laird’s Lair YouTube Channel), imall543, Jon Mc (AtariGamer.com), Scott Rhoades, Shinto (The Atari Jaguar Game by Game Podcast), and Bobby Tribble. I really appreciate your feedback!
Also, I would like to thank the Free Music Archive for the following musical artists and songs that were used in this episode under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License: “8-Bit Core” by Tagirijus (opening and closing theme music), along with “Depth Charge,” “Elastic,” “Flow,” “Glass Ceiling,” “Twist,” “Underpass,” and “Wriggle,” all by Metre.
Thanks also to Elvira, Mistress of the Dark (Cassandra Peterson) for the “Oooh, let’s party!” and “Leaving so soon?” digitized speech clips captured from the Atari Lynx game Pinball Jam that are used at the beginning and end of each episode of The HandyCast.
I would especially like to thank Shinto for submitting his memories of various Atari Lynx games he’s owned in the past to The Atari Lynx HandyCast…they are greatly appreciated. And you should all check out Shinto’s wonderful Atari Jaguar Game by Game Podcast; it’s definitely worth listening to, even if you’ve never owned a Jaguar. You can find it here.
Many, many thanks also go to Zerbinator for his continued support. His encouragement and expertise are very much appreciated by me. You can find all of his fun-to-listen-to podcasts here, including my favorite, Please Stand By.
Finally, my thanks to the Podfather himself, Ferg of The Atari 2600 Game by Game Podcast. His inspiration and dedication to covering every game cartridge ever made for the Atari 2600 (I think over 1000 of them!) is what gave me the courage to begin this podcast. Please, check out his don’t-miss podcast, even if you’re not an Atari 2600 collector; you should also visit his website here.
I hope you enjoy this episode of The Atari Lynx HandyCast. And please don’t forget to visit the official Atari Lynx HandyCast website by clicking here!
Next Episode: “EPISODE 23: A.P.B.”
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This blog over the coming weeks and possibly months, will be about my getting back into the Atari 5200. It'll have related YouTube videos, photos, comments and other neat stuff. If you you have any questions or comment along the way, don't be shy, speal up!
This word is tossed around a lot when it comes to NES games. Indeed, a lot of NES games were groundbreaking titles unlike anything else people had seen on the Atari 2600, Colecovision, or any other system prior to 1985. Super Mario Brothers was revolutionary because it offered a game with a size unlike 99% of the previous generation's games. Zelda was revolutionary because it had a massive open world with secrets to explore in every nook in cranny, offering an adventure so vast that it had a battery installed in the game to save one's progress across multiple sessions without the need of a password. But what if we took both these games and mixed them together? We perhaps get the most influential game Nintendo has ever published on the NES. This is Metroid.
Metroid was unlike anything else when it came out in 1986 for the Famicom Disk System. It barely had any precedent at all on home consoles at that point. The game had no score at all. It didn't even have levels (even Zelda had those to an extent). No, Metroid was truly a world you could explore to your heart's content. It seemed like there were secrets hidden everywhere, like there was no end to the game at all. Nowadays, the map of Metroid seems tiny, but back then it seemed to be a massive, sprawling, never-ending adventure.
You start Metroid in the middle of a place called Brinstar. You control the little orange-and-red "space robot". He can jump shoot up, left, and right. He can't duck, he can't shoot down, he can't jump on enemies or shoot farther than a few feet from himself. In other words, you seem very limited and outmatched at this point in the game. Enemies are too close to the ground to be shot. You only start with thirty health and die in just a few hits. This is intentional.
You head right, as anyone in 1986 or 1987 coming off of Super Mario Brothers would. Enemies crawl around the ground and swoop down at the space robot (maybe he's named Metroid?). You find out that shooting the blue hatches opens them and allows you to go into the next room. You keep heading right until...
What's this? You're officially stuck. Remember, "Metroid" as we're calling him now can't crawl or duck, and the passage is too short to walk under. You TRY to duck under this passage, but pressing the down arrow doesn't seem to do anything at all. This means, at this point, there's absolutely no way to clear it. Out of desperation, you move left and realize that unlike Super Mario before it, Metroid allows you to go left. And if you keep going left, past the point in the game you started at, you'll find this:
The game pauses for a moment as a jingle plays. This is the Morph Ball, sometimes called the Morphing Ball or Maru-Mari. The game doesn't show you what this strange ball-shaped item does with a text box or anything. It doesn't even tell you what the name of it is. But after collecting it, you'll soon find out that the passage you entered this place with is too high up for Metroid to jump to. The passage below you is too small to walk under either. So you try to duck again by pressing down on the D-Pad again, and this time something happens. That strange sphere seems to allow you to turn into a ball once collected! Now you can roll under the passage and get out of the area you got the item in. You immediately remember the narrow passage from earlier and start running right again, and this time, you're able to clear it. Then, Metroid truly starts.
After this experience, you find out that Metroid is no Super Mario Brothers. This is a game you're going to have to pay more attention to. A game where you're going to have to spend countless hours looking for secrets that help you progress further in the game. You'll find obstacle after obstacle; blocks you can't break because you can't shoot down, red hatches impervious to your beam, areas too high to jump too, etc. Eventually, you'll find items like the Bombs, which are in Morph Ball mode and can be used to break blocks below you, Missiles that take out enemies quicker and let you open those red doors, and High-Jump Boots that let you jump higher than before. The Metroidvania genre is born.
Let's back up a bit. What are you supposed to do in this game? Basically, there's a group of space pirates on the planet Zebes who are using and breeding life-sucking, jellyfish-like creatures called Metroids (yeah, you're not actually named Metroid, like how Link isn't named Zelda) to try to take over the galaxy. The galactic police have sent the bounty hunter Samus Aran (that's Metroid's real name) to defeat the space pirates alone. The brain behind the operation (pun intended) is the "mechanical life-vein" Mother Brain, who is basically a cybernetic supercomputer with extensive databases and networks throughout the planet. Her two main henchmen are the "mini-bosses" Kraid and Ridley, who live in their own lairs below Brinstar and Norfair respectively. While exploring the early parts of the game, you'll most likely come across a room with two statues and an inescapable pool of lava should you fall in. This is the road to Tourian, Mother Brain and the Metroids' hideout and the final area of the game. You'll need to come back to this place once you kill Kraid and Ridley. Then, once you shoot their now-flashing statues, a bridge will be built leading to the final stretch of the game. But first, you'll need to find them, which is easier said than done.
Now is a good time to mention that the original Metroid on Famicom and NES didn't have a built in map. The game has five main areas to explore: Brinstar, a hub that connects most of the places together and is also the area you start out in, the firey Norfair, Kraid's and Ridley's lairs, and Tourian. That's quite a bit to keep in mind while playing, and in 1986 and 87, there was no Google to look for maps on. Your best bet was to draw out your own as you went along, or get Nintendo Power once that became a thing. That wouldn't be much of a problem if the game was easy to navigate on your own. Metroid requires you to take random shots in the dark until something works. For example, you may need to bomb a completely random floor tile in a random room that looks just like the hundreds of other floor tiles you've seen in the game to access a route to a boss's lair, or shoot out a random ceiling to access a crucial item. That's bad on its own, but Metroid also likes to blatantly copy/paste rooms over and over again. In Kraid's lair, for example, there are over a HALF-DOZEN rooms in the first shaft of the game that start out IDENTICALLY! This makes the game very frustrating to navigate around blindly, and coupling that with tougher enemies that hit harder in the later areas means that you'll end up dying a lot without making much progress.
And that leads to another thing: dying. Dying in Metroid is brutal. Throughout the game, you can find energy tanks that increase your max health by 100 HP. Despite that, however, every time you die Metroid will start you off at the beginning of the area you died in with only 30 HP, the same amount you started with when you first arrived on Zebes. That means that you'll have to spend dozens of minutes of your time shooting enemies and grinding the health refills they occasionally drop. Each health pickup restores 5 HP, and the drop rates are very, very low. You'll likely spend your time standing in one spot next to an enemy spawner holding down the B button to shoot until you collect enough health to continue on exploring. There are no other ways to recharge your energy or missiles. This happens every single time you die, and you don't stand a snowball's chance in Norfair surviving unless you grind for health. The energy tanks do refill your health to the max, but there are only a few of them in the game and once you run out of them, you'll have to grind. This is EASILY the worst part about this game. Metroid is brutal, with hard-hitting enemies, instant death pits, and cheap deaths aplenty (you can even get killed during room transitions). This sucks the fun right out of the game for many people. I've gotten to the point where I almost never die in a playthrough, but even if you load up your game via a password you STILL start with 30 health and have to grind. This isn't fun. It's just padding.
Throughout your journey, you'll find many more items to help you reach places you couldn't before. I've already mentioned the Missiles, Energy Tanks, High-Jump Boots, and Bombs, but there are much more than just that. Alongside Samus's peashooter he gets at the beginning of the game, he gets three more basic guns. The Long Beam is the only beam in the game that stacks on top of others in the game. This simply allows Samus's bullets to travel across the entire length of the screen instead of disappearing a few feet from his face. The other two beams, the Ice Beam and the Wave Beam, can't be used with each other. The ice beam will temporarily freeze enemies and allow Samus to use them as platforms, though they require twice as many shots to kill. The Wave Beam can travel through solid objects and travels in a sine wave pattern, finally allowing Samus to shoot the ground-based enemies shorter than him. Sadly though, the Wave Beam is somewhat pointless in the game as the toughest enemies in the game, the eponymous Metroids, can only be disposed of once frozen and shot with five missiles. Speaking of missiles, they are completely separate from the beam weapons. Missiles, unlike the beams, have limited ammo. You can increase your maximum amount of missiles you can carry by collecting more missile tanks scattered about the world, each one bumping the limit up by five. These missiles become quite important when it comes to the bosses and the final area of the game. You simply press the select button to toggle between the beams and missiles, and that's as advanced as inventory management gets in this game.
You also have items like that Varia Suit and Screw Attack. These are completely optional and good bonuses for those who were able to find them. The Screw Attack charges your running jump with electricity, allowing Samus to instantly kill almost anything just by jumping into it. The Varia Suit (which can be seen in the second picture) is a pink palette swap of Samus that simply doubles his defense. The suit will become much more utilized in later games, but here it simply acts as a defense boost.
Let's talk about those mini-bosses, Mother Brain's henchmen Kraid and Ridley. Technically, you're supposed to fight Kraid first, but the game is so open-ended and nonlinear that you can fight them in any order without the game stopping you. Kraid's lair is incredibly hard to navigate. The enemies do a ton of damage and the layout of the place is so confusing that it's nearly impossible to find Kraid without a map. It's so BS that you even find a fake version of the boss. Who does that? EVENTUALLY, you will find the real Kraid, though. He's easily the harder of the two. He'll shoot spikes out of his stomach and through his toenails at you without mercy. The best plan of attack here is to freeze the center spike in place, drop into Morph Ball mode, and spam bombs that'll hopefully blow up in his face. Hopefully you'll have enough energy to damage-boost your way through the fight and have Kraid die before you do. When he dies, you'll get 75 more missiles and begin the worst section in the game.
There is a tower in the chasm that leads to Kraid's boss room made completely of breakable blocks. This tower is no wider than one block and goes up for several screens. You have to shoot a hole in the block tower, shoot the blocks above you, and keep jumping until the blocks respawn below your feet. This requires precise timing and persistence, as if the blocks respawn ON TOP OF you, you'll take damage and be knocked back, falling off the impossibly high tower and having to start all over again. This is outright terrible game design. I have the timing down now that I've played the game for years, but initially this seemed completely impossible. This has absolutely no reason to be in the game other than to pad the length and frustrate players. You're better off committing suicide back at Kraid's room and respawning back at the beginning of his lair.
Navigating through Norfair will eventually lead you to Ridley's lair. His lair is a lot more straightforward and less labyrinthine than Kraid's, but the enemies are even more aggressive and dangerous to make up for it. Once you find Ridley, he's super easy. Simply freeze his fireballs midair (he won't shoot more until they unfreeze) and pump him full of missiles. Then he just dies and you get 75 more missiles. Yeah, if you couldn't tell, these first two bosses are terrible. This is one of the most broken boss fights in any game I've ever seen. I don't think I've died to this guy a single time before. But that's okay. The game more than makes up for it in just a few minutes.
Before we get to that though, I want to tell you all about what this game means to me.
One of my first games ever was Super Metroid, and it immediately became my favorite game. I was only four or five years old (I can't remember if it was 2010 or late 2009) when I started playing it with my dad (he did most of the playing anyways), and that experience really influenced my gaming tastes for the future. We did get stuck a few times, though, and used YouTube walkthroughs to help us. Sometimes the tab would be open and I would click around YouTube and watch the videos that they played. I couldn't really read at the time and just clicked the videos based on the thumbnails. Thankfully I didn't find any naughty things I shouldn't have been watching, thank God. What I did find was a different Metroid game. This game looked AWESOME to me back when I was little. It looked like Super Metroid, but the graphics weren't as good. I really wanted to play it. I assumed, based on the inferior graphics, that it was an older game, but I thought at the time it was the original Metroid. I now know it was actually Metroid 2 played on a Game Boy Player. So my dad, bless his soul, persuaded his brother to give me his old NES and went to the now-long-defunct Star Video and bought a used copy of Metroid for me. This was back in the day when you could buy expensive NES games like Metroid and Castlevania for like five dollars, which is what he paid for those two games. Only one problem though: the NES didn't work. At all. It was in the shop being repaired for what seemed like an eternity, and I spent much of my time laying on the sunroom floor, staring at that silver Metroid cartridge, waiting for the day to play it.
When the NES finally was fixed, I eagerly popped in the game once my dad set the system up, and... I got this. I was completely wrong; the Metroid I wanted was actually the SECOND game, not the first! I was only disappointed for a second though. I really liked this game. I was terrible at it but I played it a lot. Though I still really wanted to play Metroid II, but it would be five years before I would have the chance to.
My dad started up a caramel business in 2013 for reasons I don't want to get into here. He leased out a building that used to be a diner called The Villa to use the commercial kitchen in to make the caramel and sell it at farmers markets. Nothing was sold out of the building, so my sister and I had the entire front of it to ourselves. The front of The Villa was a piece of garbage, though the kitchen was perfectly fine. Every spring there would be a giant puddle of water in the middle of the place, and during the winter there would be no heating or anything. There were also no bathrooms. My parents didn't trust us kids home alone yet, so we had to stay there for hours at a time while my dad and his business partner Jon (same Jon as Atari Jon) made stuff. Our only entertainment was a couple of my sister's Barbies, the NES, and like seven games. One of which was Metroid. I remember playing that game quite a bit there and I have fond memories of repeatedly starting new games and telling myself I was going to beat it this time, only to get stuck in Kraid's lair and quit every single time. Still, it's a fond memory.
I eventually got good enough at this game and beat it, though I gave in and used a map. I think I was 11 when I did this on the 3DS Virtual Console. Nowadays I can beat the game effortlessly with a map and well enough without one. I have had a map of this game and its direct sequel hanging on my wall for years now. I do love this game, though I will admit it has not stood the test of time.
Anyways, let's see what Samus is doing.
As you leave Norfair and make your way back to the statue room, you realize how powerful Samus has become. Rooms that you once struggled with now are cakewalks. As you climb the same vertical shaft you did at the start of the game to get to Tourian, you feel really good about how far you've come. As soon as you shoot the statues and build the bridge, though, that feeling of power turns into one of pure dread and helplessness.
This is Tourian, the final area of the game.That green thing is a Metroid, this game's namesake. These are the toughest enemies in the game by far. They dart towards Samus with unparalleled speed and latch on to him, rapidly sucking his energy away. The only way to escape is to lay down bombs and hope the Metroid loses its grip. To kill one, Samus must freeze one with the Ice Beam and shoot it with missiles five times. Metroids are always generous enough to drop loads of missiles and energy when they die. And you'll need every bit of them you can get for the final battle.
This is the final battle. Before this, Samus must shoot down several "Zebetite" barriers that can only be destroyed by missiles, which is a pain in itself. The fight against Mother Brain, though, stands alongside the block tower as the most frustrating part of the game. You'll need all the energy you can get to stand a chance here. The floor is lava and the platforms are small. Cheerio-like Rinkas and acid turrets are shooting at you as you try to pump Mother Brain full of missiles. These nearly-unavoidable attacks will send Samus into the lava, which is very hard to get out of. And remember, if you die here, it's back to the start of Tourian with only thirty health. Eventually though, you'll blow up Mother Brain, who will set off a self-destruct sequence that'll blow Tourian to smithereens. The last room of the game involves Samus climbing to the top of a large shaft on tiny platforms while a timer ticks away. If you make it to the top of the elevator and have beat the game fast enough, you'll see one of the most shocking moments in video game history:
SAMUS IS A GIRL?!?!
This came as a shock to many back in the day. You almost never saw a woman in the leading role of a game before. In most games at the time, women were the damsels in distress meant to be saved by a male character, like Princess Peach or Zelda. They were almost never badass, awesome space bounty hunters. The game's manual even keeps this a secret by referring to Samus using only male pronouns, which is why I used them in this blog up to this point. This game was incredibly progressive at the time, not just for influence but for women's representation in games. And though the whole goal of "beating the game faster so more suit comes off" isn't GREAT by today's standards, I suppose you have got to walk before you can run.
So that's the end of Metroid. Has it aged well?
This game is frustrating in almost every way possible. I might like it, but I would never, NEVER recommend this game to someone playing the series for the first time. To the right kind of person, though, I'd recommend this game with a map. For most, though, Metroid is nothing more than a historical curiosity for those who just want to see where the series started.
In 2004, however, Metroid recieved a full, ground-up remake for the GBA: Metroid Zero Mission. I won't be going into too much detail with this game (I might cover it more in the future), but I will say that it does improve almost everything from the original. The map is incredibly faithful to the original game, but slightly different, though that has the unfortunate side effect of making the game incredibly short. There are now save rooms and places to recharge your health and ammo. The secrets are more well-hidden and the levels better designed. The bosses are actually bosses this time, and there's more of them. Items and abilities from Samus's later adventures are here too. It even has a special surprise twist at the end. This game is pretty good and completely replaces the original, even going as far as including the original game as an unlockable when you beat the game on any difficulty.
Zero Mission, unlike the original game, is a GREAT place to start with the 2D Metroid series. A little too great. You see, I actually don't care much for this game because I feel that it thinks I'm stupid. Metroid Zero Mission, to ME at least, seems like "Baby's First Metroid". Unless I'm trying to collect everything, I don't think this game is much better than "good". I seem to be the only person to think that, though, so please don't listen to me and play it.
And that wraps up Metroid and its remake. These games are good, don't get me wrong, but as far as the 2D Metroid series goes, every other game in the series beats them to a pulp. I still pull out Metroid every few months and have a blast with it, and Zero Mission has been growing on me more and more the past few months since I got a repro cart for my GBA. All the 2D Metroids are great games, but these two are slightly less great than the rest, at least to me. This shows us, though, that there is a lot more to look forward to in the series. And that's coming very soon.
Next week: Metroid's flaws are ironed out in my favorite Game Boy game, and Samus starts two new eras of 2D Metroid twenty-six years apart.
I hope you are enjoying Month of Metroid so far. This took me a long time to write! Hopefully you guys like this and consider trying out the Metroid series. It's not my favorite series ever without a reason.
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