RickR reacted to HDN for a blog entry, Metroid (and Metroid Zero Mission)
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.
RickR reacted to HDN for a blog entry, BLOG ANNOUNCEMENT: September is the Month of Metroid!
Hey guys! I know it's been a while since I updated the blog. I had a lot of stuff going on for a few months after that last post and eventually I sort of forgot about the whole blog thing. But I'm back now, and with a very special month planned for you all.
As some of you might know, Metroid (specifically the 2D games) is my favorite video game series of all time. So you can imagine my shock in June while I was watching Nintendo's E3 presentation live with my friends when out of NOWHERE Nintendo announces that Metroid 5 is finally coming out! The first original Metroid game in NINETEEN YEARS! What's more, it's called Metroid Dread! That name might not mean much to you guys, but there have been rumors of a DS game with that same name floating around since 2005! I'm incredibly happy to see my favorite series getting a new entry. We Metroid fans don't get a lot of new games often.
To celebrate Dread coming out for the Switch on October 8th and the Metroid series's 35th anniversary, I have decided to make September the Month of Metroid. There are four Fridays that month, and four mainline Metroid games. I have decided to cover a new game each Friday on this blog, from 1986's NES Metroid all the way to 2002's Metroid Fusion. I won't be covering the spinoffs or Prime games, just the 2D ones. However, I will be talking about the remakes of each game (if they have them) alongside the originals. I hope you guys enjoy it and it helps you get hyped up for Dread!
Have you guys ever played a Metroid game before? Are you guys going to buy Dread when it comes out? Have you always wanted to try out the series but never have? Please comment below to let me know!
I can't wait to get blogging again!
RickR reacted to 1Littlebeast for a blog entry, Pac-Attack
It's time for my Pac-Attack review. Recently I've been spending a lot of time with this game. For those who haven't played Pac-Attack it is a 1993 falling-tile puzzle video game developed and published by Namco for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis. Or to put it in simpler terms it's Tetris featuring Pac-Man. 😂 Your goal just like in Tetris is to eliminate the blocks to get as many points while trying not to hit the top of the board. In this game to add a little twist the Pac ghost's 👻 are lumped in with the blocks and to get rid of the ghosts and make the blocks fall just like in Pac-Man he's got to waka waka over and eat them. I enjoy the soundtrack I find myself humming along to it. On top of your regular mode there's also a puzzle mode with 100 levels and a multiplayer option. I give this game 8 out of 10. It's a fun game and I recommend giving it a try if you haven't.
Below is some screenshots of the game and a PDF of the manual..Pac-Attack (USA).pdf
RickR got a reaction from Sabertooth for a blog entry, Using the Collectorvision Phoenix on an old CRT or Analog TV
More adventures with the Phoenix.
One very minor issue that I've had with the Phoenix has been that my retro gaming is done on an old analog TV. Since the Phoenix only has HDMI output (and my TV has no HDMI input), this was a problem.
Off to ebay! I found a very inexpensive (less than $10 shipped) HDMI -> AV converter and ordered one. It has arrived, and I've been playing around with it. Summary: it works! It's exactly what I needed. No fuss. Just plug it in, and it works straight away. It works on my other HDMI retro gaming systems as well (Commodore 64 Mini, Sony PS1 Mini, Atari Flashback 9).
The picture and sound quality isn't bad at all. It pretty much looks identical to a real Colecovision to me. I didn't notice any lag or any color issues.
My advice for anyone that wants to use their Phoenix on a CRT is to buy and try one of these devices. Please note to be careful...they sell devices that convert composite to HDMI, and that's not what you want. Look at the picture of the item and make sure that HDMI is listed as "INPUT" (and not "OUTPUT").
RickR got a reaction from Sabertooth for a blog entry, The Collectorvision Phoenix
What is it?
It's a modern rendition of the classic Colecovision. It has a cartridge port and will play all of the original cartridge games. In addition, it has an SD card slot and can run Colecovision ROM files. It also has an Atari 2600 core to run Atari ROMs. Real Colecovision controllers work with it, and it also has a Super Nintendo socket to use a SNES gamepad. And it has HDMI output for use on modern TV's. It comes with the "super game module" built in -- so you can use the latest improved homebrew games with no issue.
Willie at ArcadeUSA has a very good review up on Youtube, which I suggest you check out.
What do I think?
In the short time I've spent with the system, I can honestly tell you this thing is pure awesome. I love that real cartridges work (why can't more "flashback" systems include a cartridge port?) I haven't found any compatibility issues. Even my "new-to-me" roller controller works fine. It plays, looks, and sounds PERFECT. I really like how they made the unit look like a tiny Colecovision. The inclusion of the SNES port is genius. No more complaints about the "just-ok" Colecovision controllers.
Please know this: this list is insignificant and nitpicky. But an honest review must include some cons.
There are some HDMI compatibility issues. I have one TV that won't play the sounds correctly. And I've read on-line of some Samsung TV's not being able to display the picture at all. The "core" slots for the SD Card are a touch confusing. I haven't messed with it much. My guess is that I'll set up the Coleco and Atari cores and try to never touch it again. I wish it had composite output to enjoy the system on an old CRT. I know that I can buy a converter of some kind, and I think I may go ahead and do that. Overall Opinion?
It's a huge ball of awesomeness. Congratulations to the Collectorvision team for producing such an incredible system. I've heard talk of a third run of consoles, so get your name on their list if you are interested. Highly recommended. RickR gives this an A++++.
RickR reacted to MaximumRD for a blog entry, SHADOWMAN games
😎I've never finished it but I played the original SHADOWMAN first on the N64 followed by the DREAMCAST then years later the PC version (from STEAM or GOG I cannot recall) of course, each version had some minor improved visuals but here I am again this time playing the recently released REMASTERED version on PC. It runs great and though still incredibly dated it's the best it's ever looked. I like the atmosphere and it's somewhat a guilty pleasure game for me like NIGHTMARE CREATURES etc. Here's a couple grabs I took just now.
ANY FANS? 😎
RickR reacted to - Ω - for a blog entry, One Man's Journey With The TI-99/4A (Part 2)
By the beginning of 2015, I had upgraded to a Lotharek HxC and an F18A, dropped on a Lantronix UDS-10 and started hitting Heatwave BBS...
By the middle of 2015 I added a PS/2 keyboard, and an extra disk drive and WiFi capability to my UDS-10...
Around the middle of 2016 I had a modem, which was not used much, and I think the HDX card (which has since been removed). It was around this time that I obtained a TI compatible Wico trackball and customized it to match the TI. I also added a custome control panel with digital thermometer showing the TI's running temperature.
It was about this time that I had already started removing stuff from my system and replaced older stuff with some real cool goodies! So now by the end of 2018, (as shown below) the Modem was gone, the UDS-10 was gone and was replaced by a TIPI giving my TI mouse support and gigabytes of storage.
At the end of 2020 not much had changed except some cosmetic stuff and an external SD card holder for the P-Box TIPI unit.
... so now that it's basically expanded as far as I can go, what could I possibly do?
RickR reacted to - Ω - for a blog entry, One man's Journey with the TI-99/4A Home Computer (Part 3)
So what do you do when your TI-99/4A system is expanded as far as possible? Simple, start another system! I'm not sure where I'll take this one next, but so far...
.. currently my beige "portable system" has a TIPI/32K with RPi ZERO W and a speech synthesizer. Hopefully someday the F-18A MK2 will finally hit the market. This entry will be updated if/when anything changes!
RickR reacted to - Ω - for a blog entry, One man's journey with the TI-99/4A Home Computer (Part 1)
What drives a guy to use a computer that is 40 years old? Nostalgia & fun are two reasons.
Back in 1981 or 1982 I got myself a TI-99/4A console, later Extended BASIC a "Program Recorder" (Cassette player) and then built it up little by little. This was what my system looked like in 1985...
The peripheral expansion box (as shown above) only had a 90K disk drive, 32K and RS-232 card. By today's standards that's laughable!
By 1987, I had to "downsize" due to my firstborn taking over my den space. So I built a hutch, popped the 19" monitor inside, added a lighted printer bay and was happy for a while as seen below.
By 1990 I had downsized again due to my second born taking over more space in the bigger place. In the photo below I was stuck in the corner of the master bedroom as seen in the photo below.
This photo was the last photo of my TI system before I got out of the TI and moved on to the "PC".
Years went by, computers came and went in my life, and then I found and played with Classic 99 the best PC based TI-99/4A emulator (IMHO)... and then it happened, I got bit by the TI bug... a second time.
In 2013 I got a TI, speech synthesizer, Nano-PEB and a Supercart and thought I'd be happy... it didn't quite work out like that.
By 2014 I was on my third Nano-PEB and came to the conclusion they were low priced junk, but I'm thankful, it forced me into getting a P-Box.
By the end of 2014 I had a P-Box and a spare and then I started "going to town"..
RickR reacted to HDN for a blog entry, One year ago today, I got the system of my dreams.
Whoa! It's been a while since I last blogged! Sorry about that, readers!
Today is a special day indeed. It's the one-year anniversary of when I first got my Atari 2600s! I thought I'd post a little something here about my systems in particular. I already made a very long status update about this (which I'll archive here at the end of the blog so it doesn't disappear forever), but here in this blog entry I'd like to touch on the history of these systems from what I have heard through the years from my "ancestors".
There were two "dream systems" that I had always wanted, a Game Boy of some sort (I got a GBA) and an Atari 2600. I got both of them just a couple of months apart. However, once I achieved this lifelong goal of mine a cosmic balance was disturbed and the world imploded on itself (see: pandemic). I'm still happy to have them, though.
Today is all about Atari, not GBA. Ever since I was a wee lad (almost as long as I can remember, honestly), I have wanted a very specific Atari 2600: my dad's cousin's. Jon (that was his name) still had his childhood Atari 2600 sitting in his parents' basement all these years later, and I wanted it DESPERATELY. For years, I had envied his neglected Atari. When Jon's dad was moving in to a retirement community early last year, Jon and his family were downsizing and moving into his parents' old house. Downsizing meant getting rid of things they didn't use anymore. Downsizing meant I FINALLY GET AN ATARI!
Anyways, let's talk about these systems' histories. My dad was the first to get a console, a Magnavox Odyssey 2 (which is sadly no more). About a year later, (probably 1981) Jon got his woodgrain Atari VCS. The manufacture date on the system is June 27th 1981 (I hope it doesn't get picked for the lottery), so I'm guessing maybe Christmas of that year. I believe he may have spilled soda or something on this one given the state of the insides when I got it. The switchbox also had a pitchfork missing on it.
Later on, he must have gotten the Vader, which I could not find a manufacturing date inside of. This one worked just fine when I got it, and it's the 2600 I like to use. It matches my desk very well.
According to my dad, some of their favorite games growing up were Frogger, Pitfall!, Video Pinball, Pac-Man, Keystone Kapers, Donkey Kong, and Carnival. He also says that they thought that Pac-Man was great at the time and didn't really notice much of a difference from the arcade game. As kids, they spent many hours trying to figure out Raiders of the Lost Ark to no avail and played a lot of Air/Sea Battle and Combat together (Tank Pong all the way). And yes, they hated ET. My dad remembers that he and Jon were playing ET one day soon after it came out and another one of their friends came over. He took a look at the TV and asked, "What's the point of this game? To cut ET's mouth?". Jon and my dad started laughing really hard (for some reason), and to this day whenever my dad sees ET (the movie or the game), he'll bring up getting his mouth cut.
Oh, and the paddle games! My dad hated those. "If you just looked at it funny it would shoot to the other side of the screen," my dad once said regarding Breakout. And when I first played with them, yikes! It was very jittery. I fixed them, and now they work just fine. I've successfully converted my dad to the pro-paddle side.
I'm happy to have this system. Here's to another year of 2600 goodness!
RickR reacted to 1Littlebeast for a blog entry, Burger Time
BurgerTime for me is a solid 9/10. BurgerTime is a arcade game created in 1982 by Data East. In this game you have to help Peter Pepper create hamburgers while trying to avoid Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Pickle, and Mr. Egg. The easiest way to do this is by just focusing on the top buns. You can score extra points by crushing Mr. Hot Dog, Mr. Pickle, and Mr. Egg under a falling ingredients, or by dropping an ingredient while they are standing on it. You can use pepper shots to help stun enemies for a few seconds but beware you only have a limited amount of pepper shots. 5 pepper shots and 4 life's to start with to be exact. Like in other games for example Pac-Man food items appear on occasion, raising your score and adding one extra pepper shot when collected. There are a total of 6 boards and the levels increase as you go on. My one complaint about the game is at times it can get to hard for me to figure out which way to go as the more enemies on the screen tend to get me cornered. BurgerTime is an arcade classic in my opinion and every time I go to a Barcade or Arcade if they have a BurgerTime cabinet there I have to play it. If you haven't played this gem of a game I highly suggest it.
RickR reacted to HDN for a blog entry, Ranking the Classic 2D Super Mario Games!
Today's entry of GFBMT is going to be a little different. Today, I will be ranking the Classic 2D Super Mario games from best to worst. I won't be going in-depth here, just listing the games. We'll be ranking the pre-NSMB (New Super Mario Brothers) era Super Mario games that appeared on Nintendo systems (Sorry, Super Mario Brothers Special!). We will also only be talking about the mainseries Super Mario games, not any of the spinoffs. Mainly, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 won't be included here.
These are just my opinions. I do plan to review most of these games in-depth in future blog entries, whenever that will be. We are also only looking at the original versions of these games. We will NOT be counting any remakes, such as Super Mario All-Stars, Super Mario Brothers Deluxe, and the Super Mario Advance games.
Without further ado, my rankings from best to worst!
Super Mario World This game is simply superb. While there are loads of great things about World, such as the bountiful secrets and fantastic score, the absolute greatest thing about it is the superb physics. Mario handles like a dream. It's impossible to put into words how much better he feels than he did in Super Mario Brothers 3. You'll just have to play it for yourself. Super Mario World is my favorite 2D Super Mario game of all time, and one of the greatest games ever made.
Super Mario Brothers 2 (USA) (Super Mario USA in Japan) I have always enjoyed this one. The game is short enough so that the lack of a save feature isn't that bad, and the game's 20 levels offer a lot of variety and challenge. The music in this game is phenomenal as well. Four different playable characters add strategy and replay value to the game. Sure, the NES version may not be as forgiving as its SNES and eventually GBA remakes are, but unlike its sequel Super Mario Brothers 3, the NES version still holds up pretty well today. Though this originally was released as a non-Mario game in Japan, this sprite-swapped version of the game still seems to feel like a Super Mario game, and improves on the shortcomings of the original in many ways.
Super Mario Land Here's one I adore. Super Mario Land may not be as polished as many of the other games on this list, but it has lots of its own feel and character that make it stand out above the rest. Though the gameplay quirks hold it back behind SMB2 and SMW, it still managed to be pretty close to my top spot. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto had no involvement in this game, and it shows! The wacky and foreign atmosphere of Sarasaland hasn't been replicated before or since SML's release in 1989. The physics, while wonky at first, actually work quite well for the game. At a measly twelve levels, Super Mario Land is the shortest game on this list, though the game is challenging and is highly replayable. The game also has a hard mode, which is sorely lacking from so many other games.
Super Mario Brothers This is the only Super Mario game that I own on the NES. This is a truly fantastic game, with excellent physics that still hold up 35 years later. While I'm very nostalgic for the SNES version, I feel I prefer the NES version for its superior physics. This game was a real game-changer at the time and is often credited for revitalizing the North American console game industry. This game is amazing.
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins Another great game, and while I will admit this is a better game than the original Super Mario Land, I don't prefer it. Mario has incredibly floaty physics in this game, though I don't really mind them much here. At least his momentum makes sense, unlike our next game. Super Mario Land 2 has a unique non-linear World Map setup, and it has mostly unique and new enemies and bosses. This was the last-released game on this list, and is a very unique one at that. If only modern 2D Mario games offered the same amount of uniqueness and diversity instead of regurgitating the same generic Mario garbage with every release. I've been using the word "unique" a lot here, and that's the word that best describes this game.
Super Mario Brothers 3 All of the games mentioned before this point are among my favorites. Super Mario Brothers 3 is not. I just don't like this game, though I've really tried to. Everyone else seems to like it quite a bit. In my opinion, Super Mario Brothers 3 is just OK. Whenever someone says differently, ESPECIALLY when someone likes it better than Super Mario World. The NES version has some flaws that are inexcusable and make the game the worst-aged of the NES SMB releases. There's absolutely no way to continue after turning off the system, not even a password system. Sure, there's the Warp Whistles, but good luck beating the later levels without a stockpile of items. Mario 3 is a long game, several hours in fact. But whatever, I can look past that. The real killer of this game is the horrendous physics. Mario is so freaking floaty here, and his momentum and jumping is unpredictable. I've played this game a lot, and I still mess up all the time. There's a jump in one of the World 5 fortresses I often think of. It looks like you should run and jump to it, but whenever I do that I always overshoot it. Landing on small platforms is always a source of anxiety. Everything about how this game controls is just jarring to me. While I enjoy SMB3 enough, these physics always hold me back and take way too long to get used to. This game just isn't the masterpiece everyone says it is.
I like the All-Stars version much more, and I can see why some people enjoy that more than World (though I don't agree), but the NES version just kind of sucks.
Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels (Super Mario Brothers 2) (JPN) I was debating whether I should even put this on the list. Obviously, the Famicom Disk System version of SMB2 is the worst of the classic Mario games! Need I say more? While the original version sucks, I think I might like some of the remakes more than the original NES version of SMB3.
Sorry for going off on Super Mario Brothers 3 there! That's always been a source of rage for me. I hope you enjoyed my rankings. What are your thoughts?
RickR reacted to HDN for a blog entry, Superman for Atari 2600 | Man of Stella
I'm not a big comic book fan. I remember reading some DC comics (Detective Comics comics?) that came out of a box of cereal when I was around seven or eight and being too bored to finish it. All of my subsequent efforts to get into comics have more or less ended the same way. Most recently, I got some comic books with my 2600 stuff back in March. Four vintage Superman comics were mixed in with the manuals, from around the same time the movies were coming out (as there were a few advertisements in there for them). I never did finish them, but I did look through the ads. I should give them a second go sometime.
Also with the 2600 manuals were a few Atari-themed comics. I believe issues 2 through 4 of Atari Force were in there from Berzerk, Star Raiders, and Phoenix if I remember correctly. I don't remember how many Atari Force mini-comics were released. I, as big of an Atari fan as I am, couldn't finish them.
As far as superhero comics go, the only one I believe I have read to completion in recent years (if you count it as one) was "The Quotile Ultimatum", the mini-comic included with Yars' Revenge. I really enjoyed this one and how creative it was. Atari Force didn't seem to be near as accurate to their source games as this one was, but I should take another look at those. This mini-comic was very creative in expanding the "lore" of Yars' Revenge.
I'm not saying that I don't like comics as an artform. I actually used to really enjoy reading the Sunday comics as a little kid before realizing how painfully unfunny they were. I also used to read a few "graphic novels", and I even had my own "comic strip" for a while (we'll get to Metroid's Turnover Tops another day). I just don't like superhero comic books. Is it that I'm intimidated by them? A little. I feel like I need to do some serious catching up to do on all the backstories, and I couldn't just jump right in on any issue. Is it because I don't give two craps about the characters? That's a part of it for sure. I feel the biggest reason, however, is that I just found them boring. I never much cared for action scenes in books and movies, even less in my youth. I've always prefer the story-driven segments of movies or books, and action scenes have always been less interesting to me as a whole. That's part of the reason I prefer Star Wars (A New Hope to all you filthy casuals out there) to Empire Strikes Back. Action scenes are even worse in a comic book, as you have to leave something up to the imagination, but it isn't as free and creative as when you're interpreting the words of a book. It's too limited to imagine the scenario for yourself, but just abstract enough to not be like a cool movie spectacle. I don't prefer action scenes in movies and books to story driven scenes, but in comics, it just seems to be all action and not enough story. And the action itself is considerably worse than if it was in a novel or movie.
Now, with that said, I do enjoy some superhero movies. I think what really introduced me to them (if you don't count Star Wars, which you shouldn't count anyway) was Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. I loved this movie. It was funny, had lots of story elements, and yet still had enough things to make it a superhero movie. Shortly thereafter, we rented and watched (multiple times) its sequel, which was better in every regard. Guardians Volume II was funnier, built on the characters and story, had some emotional and suspenseful moments, and had a killer soundtrack. If you haven't already, watch the Guardians movies and get the soundtracks. But I digress. I later watched some more movies in the MCU, and even saw Endgame in theaters with my friends on opening weekend. I haven't seen all of the MCU movies yet, but all the ones I have seen were excellent films.
So let's talk Superman for the Atari 2600, one of the first-ever licensed games. Superman was created by John Dunn and released in 1979. While Superman was released a few months before it, Dunn actually built this game off of Warren Robinett's Adventure engine. The reason this game came into being is because Atari's parent company, Warner, already had the rights to the character. Superman was a sort of tie-in game with the recently released movie, though other than the characters the games have nothing alike.
I had actually never seen Superman until a couple of months ago. I enjoyed it, though it wasn't as good as Superman II, which I had seen years prior. You know those rotating triangle prison things? I think of those all the time, especially when I'm playing Freedom Fighters! on Odyssey 2. As well as "kneel before Zod".
So, like Adventure, Superman is a multi-screen action-adventure game. You play as Clark Kent at the beginning. Walk to the right, and you'll see Lex Luthor and his henchmen blow up the Metropolis bridge. Make your way to the phone booth and change into Superman! Now your job is to put all the crooks in prison, which are all symbolized by a bar by the timer, and find the three bridge pieces and rebuild the bridge. Once the bridge is fixed, make your way to the phone booth to change back, and make your way to the Daily Planet newspaper building to finish the game. Use the joystick for moving and press the button for X-ray vision. This will let you look ahead one screen in whatever direction the joystick is positioned in, which is useful for finding important items and avoiding upcoming danger.
Superman isn't all sunshine and roses, however. Though Kal-El can't actually die, he can be inconveniced by the numerous Kryptonite Satellites Luthor has unleashed. If Superman were to touch one, he would lose his ability to fly and carry items and villains. Your powers can return by simply touching Lois Lane, who will kiss you and return your powers. I'm not a big comic book guy, but I don't remember anything like this happening. Is this accurate?
There are two main variations to the game: one player and two players. The two player option sees both people controlling different axes of Superman's movement. It's not good. The single player option gives one player full control of Superman. Unlike Adventure, there is only one game map, though there is an accurate in-game timer that pushes you to complete the game in as little time as possible, in a way making this one of the first speedrunning games. The difficulty switches determine the speed of the satellites and bad guys, and whether or not Lois will automatically come to your aid if you are hit.
The graphics, while not great for the system, were leaps and bounds (over tall buildings) over any other game that preceded it on the VCS. Take a look at all the other games from the 1970's Atari VCS catalog. Some of the "better looking" games were Basketball, Human Cannonball, and Sky Diver. Superman had lots of animation, multicolored sprites, and lots of individual assets. John Dunn's art background really shows here, despite his boss telling him to "not get too artsy with it". Despite the nice graphics, Superman suffers from a lot of flicker, which can occasionally make it difficult to pick up items. No biggie, though.
I never liked this game back in the Wii2600 games. It's much less self-explanatory than its sister game, Adventure. I never knew what I was doing. Why was the city stacked up like it was? What was I supposed to do? What were all these doors and colored rooms? Indeed, Superman is a game where you at least need to know the backstory in order to play. It wasn't fun to play it without it. It also helps to know what the subway station does, and what you need to do once the bridge is rebuilt and all the bad guys are in jail. I'd say this is one of those "manual games", though it isn't as necessary as it is in say, ET. You can explain the goal of Superman in a sentence or two and be able to play the game correctly. You don't need to worry about strange symbols at the top of the screen or energy meters or anything as complex as ET. Or Raiders of the Lost Ark, for that matter!
When I refreshed my knowledge of what I was supposed and what everything was to do the other day, I booted up Superman on my DSi using an emulator. I can't find a way to get the thing to change the difficulty switches, so I was stuck playing with fast satellites, fast Lex Luthor and henchmen, and most deviously the elusive Lois Lane, who was nowhere to be found when I found myself weakened by a satellite. Most of my time spent playing Superman that first time was spent looking for Lois to heal me and stumbling across Metropolis, as I didn't have a map with me. I ended up beating the game (for the first time ever, I might add) in a whopping twenty-nine minutes and thirty seconds. Definitely not faster than a speeding bullet.
It's easy to compare this game to its sister game Adventure. There are things that Superman does better than Adventure and vice-versa. For one, Superman has much better graphics, animation, and spritework than Adventure does, while it also has a built-in timer and a "task list of sorts". The timer is like a score; beat the game in the lowest time possible. Adventure doesn't have this, which in a way gives the player less incentive to keep replaying it. Superman also has a lot more goals to accomplish, like going to work, building the bridge, and putting everyone in jail. The game also has more human characters and a much more complex story than its fantasy-themed counterpart, and even though its multiplayer mode is less than ideal, at least it has one.
However, Adventure has a world layout that is, while still not perfect, much more logical than Superman's. With a strictly top-down perspective, moving in four directions works much better and makes more sense here than in Superman's sandwich-like layered city. Adventure's world also has more distinct environments, and the world is generally less confusing as it doesn't wrap around. Metropolis looks nice, but it all looks the same, and while Adventure's world doesn't look as nice, at least they are distinguishable. There are also more items to interact with in Adventure, like keys, swords, and magnets to name a few. These items also serve functional in-game purposes rather than just being a thing that you have to bring to a specific spot on the map. There are also multiple maps and game variations, including a beginner mode, a larger map, and a randomized variant.
So, which one is better? I'll leave that one up to you. Personally, I think I'm in the Adventure camp on this one, though Superman is really fun too. It's just that Adventure does a much better job of being an adventure game. The world makes more sense to me, and I like the strategy of choosing your item and always being on the lookout for the dragons. There's also a lot less time wasted in Adventure. Not that I don't like Superman, I really do. There are things that it does much better than Adventure, especially the timer and graphics. It's just that if I had to pick only one of them, I'd probably go with Adventure. Or as my damaged label says, Dventure.
I don't yet have Superman. I recently sent one of our members a PM. @Scott Stilphen has been selling some of his Atari 2600 games for years, and he has this one listed as one of his for sale. I'm waiting for him to respond, but I hope to purchase this game and a few others from him in the future, if he still has them available, of course.
So, overall, Superman on the Atari 2600 is a great game if you know what you're doing. It is especially fun to compare and contrast both Superman and Adventure, and play them side-by-side. I had a lot of fun researching and writing this blog post, so I hope you enjoyed it.
Sadly, due to obvious copyright issues, Superman hasn't been rereleased in modern Atari compilations. So if you want to play it, you'll have to emulate it or pick up a copy someplace. It's much less sought-after than Adventure, and you should have no problem finding it for a decent price. It's well worth it.
Take care, everyone, and I hope you enjoyed my blog post!
RickR reacted to HDN for a blog entry, Flag Capture on VCS | Hard to Capture in the Wild
Recently, I have been thinking of my favorite games on the Atari VCS and coming to the realization that I have some pretty unpopular tastes. Pac-Man, the "worst video game ever", in my number two spot? Donkey Kong closely behind at number three? Artillery Duel in the top-ten? Video Chess near the top of my most-wanted list? These are some pretty unpopular, if not downright hated games. What's more, some of the 2600's most beloved games, like Yars' Revenge, Adventure, and Pitfall!, aren't near the top of my list. Not that I dislike these games; quite the contrary. I just have some that I prefer more.
This also got me thinking of Flag Capture. Ever since the Wii2600 days, I have really liked this game. I'm very fortunate to have people in my life, particularly my dad, who will sit down and play Atari with me. My dad and I like to play video games together sometimes. With some experimentation, I have found that it is most fun to play the older, simpler games together, like 2600 through Super NES. I've also found that it's more fun to play games with direct competition rather than co-op. This game was always a fun one to play on the Wii or Atari Anthology on XBOX.
Strangely, I've found that this is one of the more hated games on the system. It's not as famous as Pac-Man or ET are as Flag Capture (released by Sears as simply Capture) didn't sell too well. I never understood the hate for this one.
This is also one of the less common games for the system. Not terribly rare, but I've never found one in the wild. And believe me, I've tried. This one was very elusive. I've found XONOX Double Enders in the wild at my regular used-game store. I saw a JVC X'Eye, a Sega Nomad, and a CIB Jaguar there, too. Motor Psycho, sure! Tengen Tetris, you betcha! But no Flag Capture. I simply couldn't find it in the 2600 rack, and I looked every time. Thankfully, Flag Capture isn't terribly sought-after and still goes for pretty cheap; about the same price as your average 2600 game.
So where did I get my copy of Flag Capture after all? I never did find it at that store, despite their large 2600 collection. Instead, Atari.io's very own @socrates63 kindly sent it to me. Young was kind enough to send me something from our recent Retro Junk Box, which I was unable to participate in. What I didn't know at the time is that he was going to send SOMETHINGS, plural. Flag Capture was a big surprise for me. Thanks, Young!
Flag Capture was released in 1978 for the Atari VCS and contains 10 "Video Games". Developed by Jim Huether, Flag Capture was initially designed as an adaptation of Stratego. If you're unfamiliar with Stratego, it's a board game that involves teams of two players traversing across the board attempting to capture the opponent's flag piece. Each of the pieces is assigned a number, one through ten, and the design of the pieces shields what it is from the opponent. If two pieces touch each other, the piece with the lower number is discarded. Along with the numbered pieces are spies, which are the only pieces that can kill the number ten pieces, bombs, which will blow up anyone who comes in contact with it (except 3), and the flag. On each turn, you can move one piece one space (except for twos which behave like rooks in chess) in any cardinal direction. Think of Stratego like Chess with a pecking order and end goal. I'm not very good at the game, but I enjoy it quite a bit.
Due to the limitations of the VCS and the 2k ROM cartridges of the time, Huether couldn't make a straight port of the game to the lowly 2600. Instead, he took the core element of the game, finding the flag, and ran with it. What we're left with is Flag Capture, which plays like a mix of Stratego and Minesweeper.
Flag capture is certainly a unique experience on the 2600. For most of the variations, two players go around the 7x9 grid of squares searching for the flag before the other. Each player can press the button while on a square to search underneath it. Several clues aid the player towards the whereabouts of the hidden flag. One could find arrows pointing in the general direction of the flag, numbers indicating how many spaces away the flag is from the player, and devious bombs that send the player back to their corner of origin. The goal of most two-player variations is to find the flag fifteen times before the opponent. Especially in the first variation, games between players can get pretty hectic and fun.
The variations are where the game really shines. The default mode has both players freely moving around the grid simultaneously. This mode challenges players to not only think faster and smarter than their opponents, but also use their reflexes to get to the right block before the other. If you'd prefer something a bit slower-paced, there is also a mode in which both players take turns moving around and checking spaces, a bit like a board game. There are also modes in which both players solve their own individual flag puzzles and compete to see who can get the flag in the least amount of space-checks, as well as variations where the flag will move after every space checked.
If you're going solo, Flag Capture has you covered to an extent. The last few variations are one-player time trial modes. You must find the flag as many times as you can within 75 seconds. This game mode is fine, though it's missing a little something without another player. Still, Flag Capture has a much better for a single player than many other 1970's games on the VCS. I'd rather play Flag Capture by myself than Combat or Outlaw.
Flag Capture, while not a must-have for the system, is a worthwhile pickup if you can find it. Especially if you have another person willing to play Atari 2600 with you, Flag Capture is a spectacular time. I'd say that Flag Capture is one of the better 2600 games of the 1970's.
RickR reacted to HDN for a blog entry, SOS | Save our SNES!
So the other night my family and I sat down and watched the hit 1997 film Titanic. My parents always talked about how much they hated it, but last night is when us kids finally got the chance to see it.
I will say, parts of the movie are really well done. I have always thought the Titanic disaster was interesting, and my mother has as well. She knew a lot about it, to my surprise, and pointed out a few Easter eggs in the movie that would have gone over my head otherwise. For instance, there was one scene where the ship designer (I believe it was him) was staring into a fireplace or something, which was where he was supposedly last spotted. There was lots of stuff like that scattered throughout the film.
The set design was also astonishing, and very accurate to the real-life design of the ship. I have seen what the vessel actually looked like from documentaries, pictures, footage of the wreck, et cetera, and the movie did a very good job replicating the original design.
But the thing that completely ruined the whole movie for me was the horrible main story.
The story! Jack, the stereotypical "poor boy" love interest character, and Rose, the stereotypical "rich girl loves boy below her social class" character. The whole thing is incredibly cliche. The two are "soulmates" and are so deeply in love, even though they have only known of each other's existence for less than a week. But no, just THROW THE NECKLACE IN THE WATER FOR YOUR DEAD PAL FROM 85 YEARS AGO, ROSE! And when you die, go make out with this dude you knew for like three days almost a century ago. Your husband you were married to for years? Screw him!
And that stupid song! That song has been "memed" to death, and has been paired with so many stupid things over the years on the internet. I honestly can't take anything with that song in it seriously anymore, and since the story is so bad in the first place, the whole thing seems ironic to me. The song is so overused these days and paired with such stupid things, and the story qualifies as a stupid thing. It's not like it's a bad song or anything, it just doesn't carry the same emotional value that it did 20+ years ago. It is pretty cool that it was recorded in one take.
You know, not many people know about this (including myself until yesterday), but there was actually a Titanic movie as far back as 1912. Yeah, it came out only 29 days after the tragedy occurred! Imagine someone releasing a 9/11 movie in October of 2001! How insensitive and horrible for the survivors! That's waaaaaay too soon to make a dramatization on such a contemporary and tragic incident.
"Saved from the Titanic" starred a real Titanic survivor (who sadly experienced many emotional breakdowns on set) and even experienced with color in a few scenes. Unfortunately, all known copies of the film were destroyed in a fire in 1914, though it is rumored that a copy was given to president Taft and that it may still be preserved in his presidential library. A fake copy of the movie is currently on YouTube, though that isn't the original. Only the movie posters and a couple of stills exist today.
So anyway, what were we talking about again? Oh, yes, our game!
When I was watching Titanic, I couldn't stop thinking about a certain Super Nintendo game I used to play back in the day called SOS. I didn't play the game as often as others (like Super Metroid, F-Zero, or Mortal Kombat II), but I had played it a bit and enjoyed it. It was a very hard game, and I never did get too far in it. So I decided to try it out again after watching the movie, as it had been a while and my video gaming skills had improved drastically.
SOS has a copyright year of 1994 and was published by Vic Tokai here in the USA. The game was developed by Human Entertainment, who is probably best known for the cult classic Clock Tower. SOS is not to be confused with the other SOS game on the Super Nintendo, SOS: Sink or Swim! The two are completely unrelated from what I can see.
Though this game reminded me of the Titanic disaster, the game's story is actually quite different than the events that occurred in 1912. From research I have done, SOS drew heavy inspiration from the novel and film "The Poseidon Adventure". Rather than an iceberg becoming the ship's undoing, there's a violent storm in which the boat, Lady Crithania, is capsized. The game is also set in the early 1920's rather than the early 1910's.
So what's the gameplay like? I'm glad you asked. At the beginning of the game, you have a choice of several playable characters, each with their own backstory and in-game goals. For instance, Dr. Jeffery Howell will need to rescue his wife as his main objective. You have one hour in real time to escape the ship with as many survivors as possible. The ship will rotate randomly using some nice Mode Seven techniques, and that can either help or hurt you. The game plays like a Metroidvania, and there is no combat in the game. All you need to do is avoid obsticles such as fires, sparks, and falling from too great a height. If you die in the game, you'll be deducted five minutes from the in-game timer. If you're still in the ship when time is up, your game is over. Because off all of the different characters and endings, the game is very replayable.
The level design is very much like a ship that's sinking. You have your broken tables, sparks, fires, carcasses, WATER of course. The thing that makes the level design hard is that the ship is constantly rotating and you play most of the game upside-down. The stiff controls also add to the challenge. Some say these controls ruin the game, though I feel they add to it. You're a random dude on a sinking ship, not an athlete. If you had Samus Aran's controls from Super Metroid, this game would be a breeze to complete. I feel the level design fits the controls well, and nothing seems particularly undoable.
So, what are the problems with the game? It can't all be positive.
As previously mentioned, the controls can make the game very frustrating at times. I have found myself draining my time very quickly because I kept dying due to the ship's unpredictable rotations. I understand why they made it this way, but that doesn't mean it can't be frustrating. Another thing that can be annoying is the absence of an in-game map. Expect to get lost a lot. Again, the ship's turning also makes it harder than it needs to be, as it can be very disorienting. The A/I of the survivors you rescue is also pretty bad. It isn't obvious at first, but you need to keep hitting a button to get them to follow you around. Just keep hitting "L", and they'll follow you. It's not too big of a problem, but it can get mildly annoying at times.
Strangely, this game commands quite a high price. When I was cataloging my collection via Pricecharting.com, I was pretty surprised when I found out this game's value. SOS, loose, goes for about $70 according to the site. Thanks, Dad, for not selling your games!
This game also got a Japan-only sequel on the PlayStation.
So would I recommend it? While SOS is a great hidden gem on the system, I simply can't recommend it because of the price. Is it a fun game? Yes. Am I glad I have it? Yes. But it's simply too much to pay for the game. While it's a great game, this is the SNES we're talking about here. This thing has a killer library of classic games like Super Metroid, A Link to the Past, and Super Mario World. So, for the system it's on and what it's up against, I'll have to rate it relatively low. Lower than I would like to otherwise.
So, for the system it's on, SOS gets a 7/10 from me. If you find this one for a reasonable price in the wild, don't hesitate to pick it up and give it a go. It's a pretty great game, though it's not Super Metroid!
I will say this: it's leaps and bounds better than the Titanic movie!
RickR reacted to HDN for a blog entry, Flinging food in Food Fight
So this blog entry is a little special. Today, I will be covering a video game that I got through the I/O on the I/O! I bought this game and a few others from the one and only @chas10e a few weeks back. He's a great guy to deal with.
When you think of classic arcade titles from the golden age, several come to mind before others. In my mind, there are divided into several tiers based off of popularity. Allow me to go off on a little bit of a tangent, but I feel that I need to list them.
This is the top tier of popular classic arcade games. Not necessarily my absolute favorites, but I feel they still remain popular all these years later. Some examples from this category are Mr. and Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Galaga, and Dig Dug. Even non-gamers have heard of or even played these games before. This tier is slightly less popular than the first, though many modern and/or casual gamers have heard of them. Some examples are Galaxian, Xevious, Centipede, Q*Bert, Defender, and Asteroids. In this tier, we have games that were popular in their time, but not so much with the more modern crowd. Berzerk, Phoenix, Vanguard, Venture, Crystal Castles, and Moon Patrol all fall under this category in my eyes. These games are less popular than the third tier. Many gamers at the time when these were new haven't played or heard of these before. These games tend to be pretty obscure in the modern age. Many are hidden gems. The arcade version of the game we're talking about today, Food Fight, falls under this category, as well as Super Pac-Man, Pac & Pal, Bosconian, and GORF. Not that these games are bad, but they just weren't as popular as the others (though not flops on the market). These are the really obscure games, including flops on the market. Many games from the early 1970's fall under this category. Many of these are really obscure, and even serious retro gamers may not have heard of several of them. Examples include Stratovox, Anti-Aircraft, Star Ship One, and Taito's Japan-only Western Gun. I know some of you here have probably heard of most of these. So anyways, let's start talking about Food Fight already! The arcade version was released in 1983. Though the game was published by Atari, it was actually developed by General Computer Corporation. I won't get into their history now (I'll be saving that should I do a blog on Missile Command or Ms. Pac-Man), but do keep in mind that they were also behind the 7800 system itself. The arcade game used an analog joystick for aiming food in more than eight directions.
The goal of the game is to make your way over to an ice cream cone on the opposite side of the screen before it melts. On your way, you must avoid the chefs and the food they throw at you. If you walk over a pile of food, you'll be able to pick up a piece of it. Once you throw it, you'll have to pick up another before you can shoot again.
Food Fight didn't get a lot of home ports; only two to my knowledge. First, there was the 7800 port, which may have launched during the 7800's test launch in 1984, but saw a nationwide release in 1986. Second, there was the XE version which I believe has a 1987 copyright. The XE port is a sad excuse for a game. It is incredibly choppy, and makes 7800 Hat Trick look smooth. It's a shame, too. Sadly, after these two ports we never saw another release of Food Fight in compilations. In order to play it, you'll have to track down a cartridge for the 7800 or XE or just emulate it. It's a real hidden gem worth trying out.
Well, we did see one rerelease. In fact, it was a completely different port altogether. This version of Food Fight was programmed for the NES for use on the original Atari Flashback in the early 2000's. That version of the Flashback was the only one to use a 7800 design and it even included some of the system's games, Food Fight included. Cool, right? The 7800 needs more love. No, not cool. This is some of the worst "emulation" I have ever seen in my life. The Atari 2600 joystick plug and play from Jakks Pacific a few years earlier also used a similar NES-on-a-chip design, and though it wasn't perfect, it was much better than this. This version of Food Fight was based on the 7800 version rather than the arcade. Kind of reminds me of when the Nintendo arcade games were ported to the 7800 in 1988. Those were based off of their NES counterparts rather than the arcade originals.
This version of Food Fight is the worst of all. They did almost nothing right. Don't even bother. It's somehow worse than the XE version.
The 7800 version of Food Fight does what it does really well. It handles a lot of sprites on screen at once and runs much smoother than the XE version. The graphics are a step down from the arcade; Charley Chuck has dots for eyes and the color palette and pixel resolution are drastically reduced. The sound chip is also inferior. But somehow, Food Fight manages to be one of the best games on the system. The gameplay is still there, the instant replays are still there, the music and sound effects are very good for the TIA chip, and you can even choose your difficulty and starting level. The controls are also really good, which is a bit surprising given how the ProLine controller can only let you aim in eight directions.
If you don't have a 7800, buy it just for this game. It's amazing, and something you won't find in many other places. This is the best version of the game that you can play at home without using emulation. An easy 10/10 game for the system it's on. By far my favorite game on the 7800 so far. Thanks again, @chas10e.
RickR reacted to HDN for a blog entry, Don't go into a dark Alleyway because you won't be able to see your Game Boy screen.
This January I finally completed my North American Nintendo Game Boy launch lineup. I have said in the past that I have been collecting games for the original Game Boy since August of 2015, though that's only half-true. In August 2015 I bought my first DMG Game Boy game on 3DS Virtual Console. Not a physical cartridge, though since I did pay money for it, it sort of counts in my eyes. The first game I got on 3DS was not any of the GB NA launch games, rather it was a very late release, Game and Watch Gallery. Later in September I bought the amazing Metroid II: Return of Samus (Lots of backstory about that game) and Super Mario Land, the latter being a launch game.
I didn't get a means of playing official Game Boy cartridges until Christmas Eve of 2016 when I got my Super Game Boy. Earlier in August while on vacation at Blue Harbor in Sheboygan, WI we were shopping at the only retro game store I knew of at the time. I believe it was called Freaktoyz or something. Anyways they had an SGB there for $15, the exact amount of money I had brought with me on vacation. I was seriously considering it. My dad used to have an original Game Boy in college that my mom sadly threw out in the early 2000's. I assumed he had some of his original games with him still somewhere in the house. I had been on the lookout for them for years since I have always been fascinated by the original Game Boy. I was pretty sure they were somewhere, but as I had been snooping around for them for years at this point I didn't want to risk it, so I opted for StarTropics on NES instead. I kid you not, two days later we were cleaning the basement and what did I find? A cloth bag thing filled with Game Boy games. I couldn't believe it. I had been looking for these for years, and right after I saw a Super Game Boy I found them! Only one of the games my dad remembered wasn't there, that being Centipede and Millipede. I assumed that one was in the Game Boy when my mom threw it out. But all of the other games were there. Here are all of the ones I remember being there:
Tetris Baseball Play Action Football Sports Illustrated Golf The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening F-1 Race So right off the bat I had two of the launch lineup. Plus at that point I had Super Mario Land on 3DS.
I didn't get another physical Game Boy cartridge until last year because I was never around any game stores (or at least I didn't think I was), but I did get a few more games on the VC, including Tennis. When I discovered my new regular game store, Game Trade in DePere, WI, I had recently gotten a Game Boy Advance system and was getting in to collecting for the Game Boy DMG, Color, and Advance, though mostly the OG. I had gotten some money for Christmas to fuel my collecting. Some of the first games I got were games I had loved on the 3DS VC and wanted to play them on somewhat original hardware. In the clearance bin I saw a very beat up copy of Tennis, so I decided to pick that up. I had enjoyed the game quite a bit on the 3DS and since it was so cheap, why not? When I got home I got on the list for a physical cartridge of Super Mario Land. That was the last physical cartridge I picked up, but today's game, Alleyway, was the last of the GB launch lineup I actually played. I picked that up on maybe my second or third Game Store run for five bucks.
Anyway, let's actually talk about Alleyway.
Alleyway was a launch title for the original Game Boy in North America, Europe, and Japan. Here in the states it launched in 1989. Alleyway is a breakout-style game. Note that I did not say Arkanoid style game. Though this game came out several years after Taito's 1986 classic Arkanoid, which heavily expanded upon the format seen in Atari's Breakout and Super Breakout. Arkanoid added things such as powerups, weapons, and enemies to the mix. Alleyway does away with many of these, though it is still obvious that it was inspired by Arkanoid. For instance, each level is distinct in its layout. Super Breakout had some distinction, but that game did it very differently. Super Breakout's level design was much simpler in comparison and a lot less varied. Plus, to my knowledge you couldn't progress from level to level like you could in Arkanoid and Alleyway. I believe if you beat, say, the cavity screen for instance, you didn't transition to the progression or regular Breakout screens. At least I don't think you could. I've never been very good at the arcade version of Super Breakout or on any home system.
Like Arkanoid and the earlier Breakout games, different shades of blocks earn you different amounts of points. In this case, the darker the shade of puke-green the more points you will get. The darker blocks also increase the speed of your ball, though it is nowhere near as noticeable as it is in some other block-breaking games. Also like the original Breakout, starting on the fifth stage, if your ball hits the top of the screen, your paddle will shrink in size.There are also some indestructible blocks in the game like those seen in Arkanoid. In short, Alleyway is like a midpoint between Super Breakout and Arkanoid.
The game's progression consists of three stages using the same basic structure followed by a timed bonus stage. The four-level setup is reminiscent of the world layout of the original Super Mario Brothers on the NES. The first level in an Alleyway "world" is a basic level with nothing going on. The blocks stay still for this level. On the second stage they wrap around the screen horizontally. In this mode it is easy to get the ball stuck in a pattern and wipe out many bricks at once. The third stage appears to not move at first, but occasionally the blocks will descend another step towards your paddle. Nothing bad happens if they reach the bottom; they just disappear. This mode is a straight ripoff of the progression mode in Super Breakout. The fourth mode, as I previously mentioned, is a timed bonus stage. These stages feature cameos of Super Mario characters and items in block form. The player has about a minute (in real time; the seconds on the clock move way too fast) to clear out the entire field. This is much easier than it sounds; the blocks disappear in a Breakthrough style. Though it still can be a little challenging at times. The game sessions in Alleyway tend to last pretty long as I can play for quite a while without Game Over-ing.
The sound and music in this game are quite nice. This early Game Boy title takes full advantage of the stereo headphone jack, providing some great musical ditties. The title theme especially gets stuck in my head. I also enjoy jingles between levels, before the bonus stage, and during the bonus stage. I really dig the music in this game. The sounds are your typical Breakout sounds. The Game Boy tries its best to provide an echo effect on some of the block-breaking sounds. I thoroughly enjoy the music and sound in this game and highly recommend using headphones while playing.
The packaging of the game is also very cool. I like the behind the paddle perspective and the stellar color palate. It really gives of that intergalactic vibe. I don't know what it was with Breakout games and outer space. Super Breakout was about the interstellar adventures of... was it Captain Jack Chang? I remember it was Captain something Chang. Arkanoid also has a space theme, where you control the spacecraft Vaus jettisoned from the mothership Arkanoid after it was destroyed and caught in a space warp. This game appears to take place in outer space as well, though with a twist. The pilot of the spacecraft is none other than our man Super Mario. Or maybe just Mario, as the opening cutscene of the game shows a sprite of Mario hopping into the paddle that appears to resemble his pre-Super Mario Brothers appearance. He looks like a bootleg version of himself. Oh, early Game Boy graphics with your tiny, creepy little sprites...
Game Theory time: What if this game was the inspiration for Super Mario Galaxy? I mean, they both take place in space. Maybe that's a bit of a stretch.
Even when this game was first released in 1989 it was an incredibly basic and simple take on the genre. It didn't have the little nuances that made Arkanoid so great. It didn't even have a single powerup in it. If this game were released at any other time than at the very start of the first mainstream portable game system's life, it would have been laughable. But the Game Boy was a new concept for most people. Sure, the Microvision and Adventurevision predated the Game Boy by several years, and the former predated it by a good decade, but those consoles were for the most part failed attempts at bringing the console and arcade experience on the go. Plus, I feel that Alleyway was a good way at getting more casual non-gamers to play the Game Boy. Compared to the NES, Nintendo's handheld system offered a much more all-inclusive experience with typically easier and simpler game experiences. Tetris sold many systems to the non-gamer crowd, and Alleyway probably had a few copies bought by those Tetris players.
So why play Alleyway now? This game has nothing to set it apart from the crowd. There are much more complicated and engaging Breakout style games out there nowadays, so why pick this one? I'll tell you why:
In all of my life, I have never played a better controlling Breakout style game that uses a D-Pad. The controls this game has are second only to the paddle controllers seen on the 2600 and other potentiometer-based knob or dial controller. The control you have over the game's paddle is exceptional. I have played many other Breakout games with digital-style controllers, like Arkanoid on NES, 1001 Blockbusters for DSiWare, and others, but nothing comes close to controlling better than this game. The paddle moves at the absolute perfect speed for the game. It's honestly hard to explain how good it feels; you need to play the game yourself. If the paddle's base speed is too fast or too slow for you, never fear. The face buttons are here! In this game, the A button will "accelerate" the paddle while the B button will "break". That's how I remember their functions. Though I don't often use the face buttons in the game, they can come in handy in the later levels.
So how would I rate this game out of ten for the system it's on. Sadly, I have to put it pretty low as there are so many better games on the system like Metroid II, Link's Awakening and Super Mario Land 2. If I had to I would probably rate it a 6/10. The game is really good, but there are so many other games on the Game Boy that are better. Though I rated it somewhat low, I still recommend picking it up. It's not in very high demand. The controls are exceptional enough to make the purchase worth it. The controls alone turn this game from yet another boring Breakout clone I played to one of my favorites in the genre. All in all, Alleyway is a game I love to "Breakout" and play a few rounds of from time to time.
RickR reacted to MaximumRD for a blog entry, Hair grooming during self isolation.
So yeah, hair care IS a thing since we cannot go out and social distancing blah blah. I just recently SHAVED my beard off 😮 because I like to "reset" every now and then, let my face breath etc, it's cool, I will have 5 o'clock shadow by 3 o'clock again 🙄 I mention this only because I am posting these silly low res images I took in Linux on one of my low end craptops recently and so you can see my before and after. I used a webcam effect in the after image because I was MAD LIKE HULK or something 😆 Now, as for the hair on my head well, who knows? We don't have clippers and I am not hacking away at my head for over 2 hours with disposable razors like I did my face so, I am expecting my hair to get longer than I have allowed it in years, I will likely have the Mod Squad Clarence Williams III / Linc Hayes Afro going before this is all over. 😎
RickR reacted to MaximumRD for a blog entry, RE: My Tragic C64 incident
RE: Commodore 64. Once (I learned a lesson 😎) back in the early days, my first C64, the classic breadbox model, I loved it so, I even painted the case a cool shiny BLACK with spray paint. NOTE: Image show is not mine and included for descriptive purposes only. Sadly, I had more balls than knowledge and was always tinkering, wanting to see the guts of a machine etc. Do you know where this is going? I disassembled the machine BUT, and I think this was my biggest mistake in all this, with the cover and shielding OFF for some reason I still had it plugged in and turned on and poking around looking at the chips with screwdriver in hand I explored the guts noting numbers and labels when suddenly I dropped my tool (I MEAN MY SCREWDRIVER!) and there was a pop sound followed with a spark. It all happened so fast, I do not recall seeing any obvious damage but....well after putting everything back together, at first I was happy to see the machine start up and at first thought eh, everything fine but.....nope. Turns out everything I loaded, whether form cassette or disk just ran at the wrong speed, I don't recall if it was super sped up or super slow, IF I had to pick one I am pretty sure it was super slow, as if every process went from normal to the speed of a snail crawling through molasses, it seemed to work normally otherwise from what I recall but nothing was playable or usable after that. Oh man I was soooo upset and mad at myself. Such things were rare commodities for me at that young age and I was never going to get a replacement that's for sure, I had gotten it used as a hand me down. I learned a valuable lesson that day I can tell you. Oh I still tinkered, took things apart and explored every electronic item I would be lucky enough to get, MOST reassembled and working again successfully. Anyway, there was a time I got ONE hell of a shock that I think made my heart possibly stop temporarily while working at the back of a 26' cabinet RCA CRT Television but that's another story 😛
Note mine (it's long gone 😢) but similar
RickR reacted to Video 61 for a blog entry, WELCOME TO MY LAB!
Hi and welcome to Lance’s Laboratory! This is the first post of what will be my personal blog sharing small slices of life with you from within my Lab.
For those of you who are just getting to know me for the first time, my name is Lance, I’m from Minnesota, and for nearly 40 years I’ve been in the Atari business operating Video 61, one of the last surviving original retail Atari distributors. We started in the video business as a local chain of video rental stores serving the Twin Cities area with locations along U.S. Highway 61, the road that musician Bob Dylan referred to in the album and song Highway 61 Revisited.
I also love classic movies and spending time with my family and friends at my cabin up north. For decades I’ve gotten to know you guys as my customers and friends, buying, selling and remanufacturing Atari systems, games, software, and computers, and developing my own line of Atari-compatible Video 61 games and controllers.
I’m still in my Lab working away dreaming up new creations and shipping off new original Atari products, and I thought after all these years of being in the Atari community it was time to start sharing tidbits of Minnesota life with you here on my blog. To old friends and new, WELCOME!
RickR reacted to Atari 5200 Guy for a blog entry, It's a SMURFING Day
The SMURFS. Arguably one of the most popular cartoon icons of the 1980's. These little blue people took America, if not the world, by storm literally overnight. Once the cartoon aired it wasn't long before stores started loading down their shelves with everything from lunch boxes, vinyl records, figurines, dinnerware, posters, and many other items too numerous to mention. Seriously, anything you could think of to put SMURFS on was available. The Saturday morning cartoon series ran a full 9 seasons (1981-1989) containing 256 episodes.
I loved the SMURFS. Even Atari couldn't keep me from watching my favorite Saturday morning cartoon show. The Atari was on from about 6 until the SMURFS came on which was usually about 9. The first shows aired for about 30 minutes in my area. After the SMURFS I usually tried to watch Saturday Supercade on another channel if it was coming in good. If not then back on went the Atari.
I would pick up SMURF items during the show's run. I had lots of figurines but never could find a Papa Smurf. I had three of the full-length LP vinyl albums and enjoyed them. Some songs I still remember by heart.
"Hey! You forgot 6!"
"You forgot 6."
The the sounds of a rocket ship would take off followed by a pop-rock style beat and music. Yea, you just never forget some things from childhood. The one thing I was blind to was the SMURF games that came out for the Atari 2600. This was due to my owning an Atari 5200 which did not get any games made by Coleco, Mattel, and most other 3rd party software developers that graced the almighty 2600.
I recently acquired a SMURF game for the 2600 titled SMURF RESCUE IN GARGAMEL'S CASTLE. SMURFS? On the 2600? I have to admit my first thought was, "Oh dear. Those poor SMURFS. Even they were not immune to the 2600." Knowing how the 2600 really was not suppose to be capable of decent graphics I only imagined what the game would look like. I cringed to think about how it would play. But I loved the SMURFS so I took a chance on it. Would I see Gargamel? What about Azrael? What was the point of the game? Was I going to run for my life or was I suppose to try to get something back from Gargamel? These questions all popped up in my head because I only had the cartridge. I didn't have the instructions to read that might have gave some insight to what I was suppose to be doing.
On goes the game and I immediately hear that famous "La la lala la la" theme the SMURFS would always sing. And it wasn't that bad. Then I start playing the game. Make it to the next screen and ... couldn't figure out how to jump over that first fence for nothing. I lost all five lives in about 5 seconds...or so it seems. It might have been longer than that. I wasn't counting.
I try another round. Found the jump button! You push UP on the joystick. And if you time it right you can get a double jump that is significantly higher than before. I try the double jump and VIOLA! I'm over the fence. Next screen...a river. No problem. Double jump over that no problem. Next screen. Oooo...a spider! I try just walking down the hole and die. OK. Walking in the hole doesn't work so I tried jumping in it. Success! Pass the spider, jump up the other side and on to the next screen. Another river. I mistimed my jump and ended up taking a bath. Another life lost. I managed to get over it the second time. Next screen. Gargamel's castle. In the top right corner is Smurfette and now it all becomes clear. I'm to strategically work my way through screens, each with its own challenges, to try to reach Gargamel's castle before Smurfette becomes Smurf Stew.
The more I played the game the more I became hooked on it. The game is very colorful and the characters actually look decent. The controls take a bit getting use to but that's commonplace for 2600 games. What is a rarity with most 2600 games is in-game music that plays in the background while there is action going onscreen. Only a few games did that including Pitfall II and Moon Patrol, the latter of which did not do it very well but tried. SMURFS on the other hand managed to get background music and sound effects without either one cancelling each other out. It's like there is a second sound chip in the cartridge somewhere. There probably is truth be told.
What is even more interesting is how well Coleco captured one of the most on-going story lines in the cartoon series. Gargamel, an evil wizard whose schemes almost always never worked, would manage to capture a few SMURFS to try to eat. Eww. It was never clear why the two never got along and I remember a few episodes where the SMURFS actually helped Gargamel and his evil cat Azrael a time or two. By the end of some of the episodes where SMURFS were about to be Smurf Stew the SMURFS captured where always rescued and Gargamel kindly cursing his loss or blaming his cat for them getting away. And that's the plot of the game. To save Smurfette which, surprisingly, was originally Gargamel's creation to lead the SMURFS to Gargamel's castle.
For what it's worth SMURF RESCUE IN GARGAMEL'S CASTLE is probably the first true hidden gem I've come across on the 2600. It's not what you would think. This game is more like the ancestor to the Super Mario Brothers games. It's easily the first, if not the only, side scrolling style platformer for the 2600. Putting it down is hard to do and as you progress the harder the game gets but speeding things up. You will soon be trying to figure out how to jump a fence and avoid a pesky hawk, avoid snakes and rivers, and much more. No, it doesn't scroll but it fits better in that category of gaming than any other as far as I'm concerned.
My original thought on the game before I even played it was quickly laid to rest as soon as I started playing. I understand that this is considered one of the more rare games on the 2600 but should one be found in the wild don't hesitate to pick it up or might miss one of the best games Coleco put out on the 2600. If Donkey Kong on the 2600 is considered their worst then SMURF on the 2600 should be considered their best work. Period. Don't miss it if you find it and if you have it play it more often. Below is a video of me playing the game the first time after I learned the controls. This should showcase all it has to offer and why I feel it is a 2600 hidden gem.
Enjoy the video and I hope you enjoyed this post. And have a SMURFING Day!
RickR reacted to Atari 5200 Guy for a blog entry, Small Size, Big Heart
What to write about? I know I want to write about the 2600 but I just don't know where to begin. Do I talk more about the iconic woody console or the Junior model? I don't have much to say about controllers because it's either paddle, driving, keypad, or more joystick designs than anyone could fathom. Games? Do I talk more about games that I have managed to pick up since my last post? I might have to think on this a bit more. While I'm thinking...
As I sit here writing this there is a 2600 Junior model sitting in front of me. Recently acquired in unknown condition I spent the better part of a day taking it apart all the way down to the motherboard and gave it a good cleaning. Wondering why I couldn't get bubbles off the chrome strip I finally discovered that the protective covering had never been taken off. Nice surprise. So I removed it. I couldn't let all that moisture remain trapped and ruining that beautiful chrome strip. It still has some color issues I have to work out but is functional otherwise.
Since I'm here, and more Atari games have been added to my collection, I'll do a bit of an updated version of my favorite cartridges. Keep in mind these are personal favorites solely based on two factors...they are favorites and played the most. Let's get started.
Favorite Black Label Carts
I have two black label favorites. Video Chess and Yar's Revenge. Yar's Revenge was a 2600 title I could have seen as a Saturday Morning cartoon show. It wasn't until a recent Squad Challenge that the true nature of this game proved to me just how challenging Yar's could really be. Because of that, and the few years I've been biased about the 2600 in general, that this game moved up the ranks as a favorite and played often. It's arcade-style game play is rock solid and sure to give the joystick a workout.
Video Chess is my go-to black label game when I want to play a relaxing game. I still haven't managed to beat the computer but I enjoy playing Chess and don't really have a human opponent to go up against. I'm not a pro at the game but I enjoy this classic strategy game. I have never found a perfect computerized Chess game either and the 2600 is not without its own flaws. However the 2600 is a very strong opponent no matter which skill level you attempt at trying to win. And it will always plan its next moves carefully but at times it seems as if its first few moves are preset. Still fun, though.
Favorite Silver Label Cart
One of my favorite games on the 5200 is Vanguard so it shouldn't be no surprise that the 2600 port of Vanguard became a favorite. I love the artwork on the label and surprised that it isn't the same one that was used on the 5200 as was often done. Compared to the 5200 port Vanguard on the 2600 seems a bit more challenging and a bit more unforgiving. One mistake can mean sudden death. I also believe this is the only 2600 game I have that has a continue feature. It's also the only one where the player can move diagonally while firing because you can't do that in the 5200 port. Graphics in this game are absolutely stunning and the sounds are not much different from the 5200. I do miss the music that plays during some of the vertical scrolling segments. I also miss the Striped Zone that is absent in the 2600 port. And I have yet to destroy the end boss before it takes me down. Believe it or not, I never knew this was an arcade game for the longest time until I discovered an actual cab during the NES days. Very well made 2600 port with very little to no flicker issues. My favorite shoot'em up on the 2600.
Favorite Adventure Cart
For most other 2600 gamers Adventure might be their favorite adventure-style game but for me Dark Chambers has slightly taken an edge above Adventure. I enjoy having to figure out the levels to find items and exits that are often hidden. I also enjoy having to go through the level screens to figure out how to reach those items. For this reason this game gets more play time than Adventure in my library. I personally think it is even slightly better than the 7800 version. That one looks better but, as NSG has mentioned, if only it would have taken the game play concept of hidden items to find the 7800 version might have been the better game. But, alas, the 2600 once again shows just how well it can capture a gamer's attention and hold it when properly developed for. And Dark Chambers is one of those games. I've not been able to spend as much time with it as I would like to fully enjoy it but what little I have played of it I keep finding myself spending more time in every level trying to find items than what is probably required. Seriously, I've spent about 15 minutes in some levels.
Favorite Pinball Cart
Again, it should be no surprise that Midnight Magic makes for one of my most played 2600 games. I like Video Pinball but at times you just sit there waiting to do something. Midnight Magic manages to capture some of the pure essence that makes pinball tables fun. There are targets, bumpers, a spinner, kickbacks, dual flippers, rollover targets...this game has the basics that are perfectly placed and captures what made some of the early pinball tables memorable. Knock down all the targets at the top and the game goes into double points. The table also changes color and plays a short tune. Knocking down targets again advances the multiplier all the way up to five times the points obtained. Lose your ball, however, and it's back to single points again. Do it right and the player can obtain extra balls. Lose all five balls and the game is over. Easy to pick up and play, no flickering, and it looks good. I'm also a little partial to this game because when I got my very first paycheck the NES and Sega Genesis were on the market. Instead of buying anything for either of those I picked up a new 2600 Junior, Jr. Pac-Man, and this game. All for about $50. I played Midnight Magic the most.
Favorite Arcade Cart
The 2600 got lots of arcade ports. While the limitations of the system kept most ports from looking like their arcade parents the game play managed to remain intact. Two arcade ports stand out in my collection. Space Invaders and Gyruss. Space Invaders was the very first Atari game I remember playing many moons ago on a store display. Dangling from a chain I put the game in and quit playing only when it was time to leave. This game was the one that introduced me to Atari, the VCS, and the only reason why I kept hoping for one.
Gyruss, on the other hand, was a game I remember playing in arcades and enjoyed it immediately. I must have been sleeping when Parker Bros. ported this game over to various consoles. Being fairly new to my collection Gyruss on the 2600 has quickly become a favorite. It might not be graphically impressive but the game play is there and the music that constantly plays in the arcade was put in the 2600 port in all of it's 2-channel glory. And it's really not all that bad. Missing are the sound effects because the music constantly playing doesn't leave room for any sound effects. A valiant effort that is a very worthwhile cart to play. One of my favorite arcade games and one of my now favorite 2600 games. Space Invaders and Gyruss. What more could one ask for?
Favorite Dot Munching Cart
Mouse Trap is an easy to pick-up and play dot munching game where the player controls a mouse. The object is to eat all the dots in the maze of which I'm not entirely certain what they are suppose to be. In each of the four corners of the maze are X's that change the player into a dog temporarily when the fire button is pressed. This helps keep the cats chasing the mouse at bay. A unique feature of this game is the ability to change the maze by opening and closing doors. Doing this can help block cats from catching the mouse. Originally released on the 2600 by Coleco of ColecoVision fame the cart I has is the re-release Atari did with a red label. Still an easy game to pick up and play today. This one and Jr Pac-Man get lots of attention but I find myself coming back to this one more often.
Favorite 3rd-Party Carts
Fast Eddie and Planet Patrol are great 3rd-party 2600 games. I'm sure there are others but I have to base this post on games I have in my collection. Something about Fast Eddie is addictive. The ladders are vary in position with each game played, enemy characters are basic but challenging, and the only real thing the player has to do is collect things like hearts, tanks, fish, etc., to grab a key being guarded by the enemy at the top. It's a bit of Popeye (the collecting hearts part) mashed up with Lode Runner in a easier format. Very colorful game that is fun for hours on end.
Planet Patrol is another shoot 'em up on the 2600. The only real difference is the changing of day to night, destroying enemies and reactors/power plants, and scrolling from right to left over left to right or vertically. A bit unusual. What makes this so appealing to me are the small details of this game. Easy to pick up and play, takes a while to master. I also love the chrome label, something rarely seen. It's very attractive and I could see how eye appealing that package would have been sitting next to other games, fighting to be taken home. It does that now in a large library of 2600 carts.
Favorite Activision Cart
It's almost unlawful to mention the 2600 without thinking immediately about the first 3rd-party game developer known as Activision. Activision literally pushed the 2600 as hard as they could and, in the end, it paid off. Almost every title they released for the 2600 was an instant classic. While I enjoy all Activision games in my collection the two that I go to the most are Enduro and Space Shuttle.
Enduro took me completely by surprise in 1988 when I picked up a used 2600 with a bunch of games. This cart was one of the games included and when I first plugged it in I expected it to be a Pole Position rip-off. The next thing I know I had been playing it for over an hour and forced myself to stop when it was time for dinner. I was in 8th grade then. Enduro left such an impression that I would have an agonizing 24 hour wait time to return home to play it again. To help with that I woke up an hour early to get a game in before having to get ready for school. Space Invaders game me a reason to want an Atari, Enduro gave me a reason to hang on to one. Enough said.
Space Shuttle. Gee, where do I begin with this one? You're a NASA astronaut and your mission is to dock with a satellite in space currently orbiting the Earth. Sounds simple, right? Then you give it a shot and wonder why in God's name you can't seem to leave the planet without killing you and your crew members. Then you grab the manual for some pointers. It is at this precise moment you realize what you have plugged into your 2600. This isn't a game...this is a simulator. The author wanted to capture as much as he could about space flight that he literally went to NASA and participated in learning everything the astronauts have to do and even used NASA's flight simulators used for training. I would have to say that his efforts paid off in probably the only simulation game made on the 2600. The amount of detail in unreal. Every switch on the 2600 does something to the space shuttle. There's a switch for running gear, brakes, deploying parachute when landing...let's see what else?...one to turn on ignition I think...it's unreal! The instructions alone are like a shortened step into NASA's school. The manual is thick and can take a lot of time alone to absorb. But it is also probably the most expensive instruction book made for any 2600 game ever. Full color, exploded views of an actual space shuttle, step-by-step instructions on what you are suppose to do. And it's on the 2600 to boot. I'm not very good at it but I keep finding myself coming back to this simulator because its visuals and sounds are absolutely amazing to me. I consider this one of Activision's, and Steve's, holy grail. If only today's games went this far. I believe there was only one other game to do something similar but it was at least a decade after Space Shuttle. For those that wanted to be astronauts but never did...here's your chance. This is as close as it gets.
Favorite Paddle Game
The 2600 had plenty of games but it also had plenty of controller options. I don't know how many times I would play a 2600 game without paying attention only to realize I needed paddle controllers. For the longest time I felt the paddle controllers for the 2600 could have been better. Once I found Warlords, however, that thought quickly changed. It didn't take me long to realize just how comfortable those paddle controllers actually are. And after hours of playing Warlords the design of the paddle controllers made sense. What makes playing Warlords for hours on end a must on the 2600 is the fact it's a mix of Pong and Breakout put together and then shaken up with steroids in the mix. The 2600 might not be graphically impressive but when it comes to game play it can strut its stuff like no other. Warlords offers four-player game play either solo against three computer players or with a group humans be it they are friends or enemies. And once the action starts it's hard to put down. All you have to do is break down your opponents' barrier to their castle to hit the center of their castle with the ball. That's it. Yea...good luck with that.
Favorite Red Label Cart
Since I did my favorite black and silver label carts I might as well tell my favorite red label cart. I kept wanting to put Solaris on this list but that game makes me rage quit so much that it could take me weeks to return to it. Radar Lock on the other hand is a well done game, by the same author, using most of the same mechanics found in Solaris. This is easily the 2600's answer to those needing an After Burner fix. It looks good, sounds good, uses dual joysticks (one stick is used to select weapons), plays good, and is just all around fun for hours on end. This on is probably one of the more rare red-label carts out there so if you find it I would suggest picking it up.
Favorite Non-Game Cart
One cart in my collection that is not a game at all is Basic Programming. The 2600 is interesting not only from a gaming point-of-view but also from a technical perspective. It's hard to believe a game console designed to do strictly tank and pong games showed that it could do so much more, often times surpassing what it was originally designed for. For the curious this cart would allow anyone with the enthusiasm and patients to write small programs for the 2600 to perform. While it doesn't unlock the full potential of the 2600's inner workings it does give a taste of what it's like to program the 2600. However, with the memory limitation, don't expect to write the next Adventure game as there simply isn't room. Also, once turned off any programs you've written are erased. Pencil and pad are your best friend. I use this one often just to toy around with the system. Kind of neat to see what can be done with it.
The 2600, no matter which model you own, has always been a small system with a big heart. Even the almighty six switch models are not that large. When taken down to just the heart of the system only a small footprint remains. Big things do sometimes come in small packages and the 2600 has proven time and time again that it is very capable of entertaining for hours on end. I still run across games that are just unbelievable in terms of what the developers managed to pull off. Again, here is a console designed for simple Pong and Tank style games. It was never designed to play Space Invaders, Galaxian, Gyruss, Pitfall!, or anything close to Space Shuttle...but it did those things and did them pretty well. Truthfully, the video game genres we have today have their roots dating back to the 2600. This is the console that started it all and it is still showing it can stand its ground against modern gaming hardware. And that, my friends, is no small achievement.
RickR reacted to Atari Creep for a blog entry, You are ALL my children now!!!
I love taking something old and giving it new life. That said when it is a creation from someone else past it can be a bit touchy. Anxiety on red alert. This kit was someones work of art, their creative outlet in the time in witch it was created. No matter, some things need to be restored and given new life. I am more than happy to do so. In fact it's an honor. Someone its giving you something VER PERSONAL regardless if they feel so or not. Regardless of the extent I do or do not put my spin on a restoration I try to retain something, even a small part of what was there to start with.
Thanks to @btbfilms76 for entrusting me with small slices of your childhood, even if you do not take it as serious as I do.
RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, Annex 002 - Rikki & Vikki (Atari 7800)
Welcome to the second "annex" entry of the Game Cave. In this entry, I'll discuss the PenguiNet game Rikki & Vikki for the Atari 7800.
Rikki & Vikki was a surprise release on Steam (12/2018) and the 7800 in February 2019 from PenguiNet. Some of you may be familiar with PenguiNet for their amazing work on Zaku for the Lynx; arguably one of the best original titles on the platform. Zaku really pushed the Lynx and stands as a tremendously fun, graphically stunning and amazing sounding game. For Rikki & Vikki, PenguiNet continues in that tradition, delivering an original gaming experience on a classic console that largely exceeds Atari published efforts in key areas of gameplay, graphics and sound. Make no mistake - this is not a homebrew. This is a professionally developed game with a high level of production value and a stellar physical product. Now for some impressions & observations!
Rikki & Vikki is a sort of puzzle platformer. The goal of the game is to save your two children - Mary & Sam - from Misery the Inconvenient. Misery has kidnapped your children and taken them to the six cavern Miseryland Themepark - "a downward spiral of inconvenience." On each level, use Rikki or Vikki to collect all of the keys within the time allotted to progress to the next level. Collecting keys isn't always easy. You have to move cubes, navigate enemies, spikes and other hazards to get to the keys. Some puzzles are more obvious than others and don't be surprised if you run out of time before solving a puzzle.
Rikki & Vikki requires a 7800 compatible controller with independent fire buttons. This means that you can't use a standard 2600 controller or a Genesis gamepad for the game. The left button is used to "interact" with the cubes and the right button is used to jump. When you grab a cube you can throw it at an enemy or stick it to the floor or wall in order to gain access to an otherwise unreachable area of the play field. Falling into a void will cause you to re-emerge from the top - this is sometimes necessary to solve a puzzle. Each area of the Park - called "caverns" - consists of several levels and culminates in a boss battle. Gameplay modes come in three flavors: co-op with Rikki & Vikki, solo Rikki, and solo Vikki. I have not yet played co-op mode and from what I can tell, the solo experiences are the same whether playing as Rikki or Vikki.
This is a hard game. You will die. You will run out of time. You will make stupid mistakes. You will get stuck. While you can continue, doing so forces a restart at the beginning of the cavern. Fortunately, after a few continues, a character named "Dut", a large penguin and "salesman" of you unlimited continues in exchange for your points. You will no longer get points in game - so no high score - but you will get to keep problem solving. This makes it a little less arduous to develop your skills and improve your puzzle solving strategies.
Rikki & Vikki boast what are possibly the best graphics on the 7800. The character animations, level-design, character and enemy sprites all look amazing. Add to that, the game runs in the 7800's 320 mode - a higher resolution mode that few games have taken advantage of. I struggle to think of a single game published for the 7800 that looks better. It looks first-party NES/SMS good folks. The animations are not just good, they're thoughtful and add depth to the game. The levels look great with coherent themes throughout. Its clear the people at PenguiNet are getting all they can out of the 7800.
Like the graphics, PenguiNet went all in with the sound here. Apparently, they developed a custom chip for sound that allowed for NES level music. The TIA is still there and - at least on my 7800 - the harsh crashes are a bit louder than the music. However, that's my LHE mod and not the game. The music here is absolutely fantastic.
The packaging on this game is beautiful folks. Everything from the cart, to the box to the manual screams professional. The game comes on a custom transparent orange cart shell with a wrap around full color label. It fit my 7800 perfectly. The box is likewise full color and is in the same size and style as original run 7800 games - just missing "Atari." The instructions are full color and come as a "Miser Land Official Tour Guide" fold out with gameplay and character info. The package even comes with a warranty card, two passes to Misery Land and a PenguiNet sticker. Top notch all the way!
This is 7800 gaming at its best. It has game design, graphics, sound and amazing packaging. If you own a 7800, I urge you to support the developer and grab a copy today. For $59.99 plus shipping, the package is well worth the price of entry. Even if you don't own a 7800 or don't have the $$, the game is also available on Steam for $9.99. For that price, you could hardly find a more fun and complete game play experience.
Have you played Rikki & Vikki? What are your thoughts on the game? How does it stack up to other games on the 7800?
PenguiNet Rikki & Vikki Trailer:
RickR reacted to Sabertooth for a blog entry, Annex 001 - Robotron 2084 Controller for Atari 7800
Welcome to the first "annex" entry into the Game Cave. I'll post reviews of homebrews, community projects, and other goodies here. First up, my review of the Robotron 2084 controller for the Atari 7800 by Mike @RetroGameBoyz I ordered my controller last week after reading about it on the forums and received it on Friday. It was shipped in a plastic mailer with plenty of bubble-wrap for protection.
As many of you know, the Atari 7800 version of Robotron can be played with either one or two controllers. With one controller, you can only shoot in the direction in which you are moving. Using a two controller configuration, the first controls the direction of movement and the second controls the direction of fire. Honestly, this is the best way to play Robotron 2084 and closely mirrors the experience of the arcade version. That said, as you can imagine, without a coupler, using two unsecured joysticks or gamepads can be difficult. This is where Mike's gamepad comes in. Using a 3D printed gamepad, modern style pad holder, dual d-pads and two 9-pin cables, the RetroGameBoyz Robotron 2084 controller allows you to play the game in the way that it's meant to be played.
The game pad itself is just about the size of an NES pad. In the optional holder, it's just a little larger than a Dual Shock 4 and is pretty comfortable. At first, I was worried that the square-ish shape of the holder would feel clunky. I'm happy to report that it actually feels quite nice and I don't anticipate taking the pad out of the holder.
The parts have that "ridged" look that is typical of things made with a 3D printer. However, this isn't to say that it doesn't feel substantial. The build quality is legit and the controller responds nicely in all directions. I really like the custom sticker; it's a nice finishing touch. The two 9-pin cables are extra long, measuring 9 feet! No extension cables needed!
Let's see how it plays:
I really love the 7800 version of Robotron 2084, although I'm not that great at it. On the default "intermediate" setting, I can generally get up to wave 8 before giving up the ghost. Playing with one controller requires you to play in a defensive way. With the dual pad, I was able to get to wave 12 and score over 170,000 points. Being able to have independent directional control over both movement and fire allows you to play much more aggressively. Simply put, it's an entirely different - and better - game. The controller also includes independent fire buttons for use in other 7800 games. Its important to note, this works with the left pad only; the right pad isn't used outside of Robotron. I played Xevious, Choplifter, Centipede, Ms. PacMan and Food Fight to put the controller though its paces. I found it to be light, comfortable and responsive. The buttons seem to work correctly. The d-pads hit all of the directions accurately. After a solid two hours of gameplay, I didn't feel the least bit of fatigue in my hands. Compared to the Atari 7800 europad, this controller was at least as good if not better in most every respect. Final thoughts: The dual-pad Robotron 2084 controller for the Atari 7800 is a winner. It looks cool, plays great, can be used for more than just Robotron and - for $49 - is just about the best damn controller you can get for the 7800. I really like it and can see this becoming my goto for the 7800, 2600 and A8 although Mike has a single pad variant on offer via eBay. If you want more information on this controller, check out the original thread or visit Mike's eBay link: https://www.ebay.com/sch/retrogameboyz/m.html