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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Console 2 - Dingoo A320

Dingoo A-320
Well, here is a blog about a new device I got from my AMAZING girlfriend for Christmas this year (2011). The Dingoo A-320. What the hell is the Dingoo A-320 you ask? Well, simply put, it is a hand-held gaming device, that allows you to emulate NES, SNES, Sega Genesis, GBA, and original GameBoy, and GameBoy Color games.

This little device, made in China, already has the emulators loaded on to it, and has a full 4G of available space to store the various game roms on. So far it has met, and exceeded my expectations. It plays almost anything I have thrown at it thus far, with the exception of Mario Kart.

The SNES emulator is not always good with running sound, but the graphics seem to emulate well.

The GameBoy Advance emulation is by far the best on the entire system. I have re-lived the wonders of Castlevania: Aria of Sorrw, as well as Metroid Fusion. I am also experiencing Zelda: Minish Cap for the first time ever.

This little slice of heaven also runs all NES games....with the exception of RC Pro-AM (the cars are invisible).

Truely the best thing about this little handheld device, is that it not only plays classic games, but also allows you to play mp3 files, and movies.

This thing is truly amazing. It is considered open-source, and can be modified with an open-source version of Linux. I am sure most of the problems I have experienced thus far, although minor, can be solved through various downloadable items.

This device is available on both Amazon and Think Geek.

Highly recommended piece of hardware for those of us who love retro-gaming.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Console 1 - Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES)

A Basic SNES System.
Released: US - 1991
Bit: 16

    I know up to this point I have only made blogs about the games found on the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), but I decided to take a small break from that, and discuss my favorite game system of all time, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System.
    I was never aware of the so called console wars, as they have been called by various groups, but I did know growing up that you were either a Nintedo kid, or a Sega kid. Simply put, you either owned a Sega Genesis, or a Nintendo. I had heard about debates as to what system was superior, but I myself had never engaged in any such debate, as all my friends were Nintendo kids. As such we engaged in a regular
diet of all the classic Nintendo games that were associated with the NES.
    Some history is required at this point, in order to put things in to perspective. Sega was the first to release a 16-bit system in to U.S. households in 1989. This system was called the Sega Genesis. The Genesis was released a full 2 years ahead of Nintendo's 1991 16-bit Super Nintendo System. This means that Sega
Kids had 2 years of thumbing their nose at Nintendo Kids for having an inferior gaming system. (Technically there was another 16-bit system released in 1989 called the Turbo Grafx 16, but I will be damned if I knew of anyone who owned it. I do not recall it being included in any video game dialogue as a kid. As such, I will not mention it again.) In fact I do remember seeing the advertisements for Sega Genesis systems with the taunting words, "Sega Genesis does, what Nintendon't".

The famous Genesis Ad
 This was the first time I was acutely aware of the war between the 2 systems. My friend Ben, a Nintendo Kid by all means, had a friend who was a Sega Kid named Mark, who I only knew by name. I sometimes heard Ben talking about going to Mark's house to play
Sonic (Sonic The Hedgehog) on his Genesis system. It's funny how life operates. Mark, the Sega Kid, would later become my first college roommate. Imagine that, a Nintendo Kid, and a Sega Kid rooming together in college. But I digress. 
     Rumors began circulating about Nintendo's anticipated response to Sega's 16 -bit console. While I didn't subscribe to Nintendo Power Magazine, I heard rumors about advertisements in said magazine that declared Ninendo's plans to release a 16-bit console that would once again level the playing field. It really wasn't until
sometime in Jr. High or High School that I began to hear more about it from my friend Ben. He had gotten a Super Nintendo, and was raving about playing games like Street Fighter on it. To this point I had really only played Street Fighter at the 7-11 by my middle school on the arcade cabinet. I wasn't very good at it, and was mostly a button-masher when it came to playing most arcade games.
    My first experience playing the Super Nintendo had to then be Street Fighter. I do not recall playing anything else for the first few months. I am sure there were other games, but Street Fighter tournaments at Ben's house were weekend regulars. Yeah we eventually bagan playing other SNES games like Sim City and Super Star Wars, but it was quite some time later.
    I didn't get my own SNES until years later. In fact I think the first Super Nintendo I bought was used, and was sometime between graduating from high school in 1995, and beginning college at Utah State later that same year. It may have actually been sometime after my first year in college, after I had come home for the summer to work, but I do not recall. I do remember playing Super Star Wars, and Sim City on my own system, and I remember going to the local video rental store in Logan my 2nd year there and renting all sorts of SNES games for the weekend, and playing them.
    To this very day, the Super Nintendo remains my favorite gaming console. It had such a great library of games, and the controls were awesome. The graphics allowed for most games to be done in an amazing way. The Super Star Wars series, for example, fully utilized the power of the Super Nintendo's graphics and sound to produce some awesome games.
    I am hoping to start mixing in a few SNES games in to my blogging rants here shortly. I will remain faithful to the original NES system, and it's games, but I need to balance out the two systems I experienced the most amount of time with.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Game 7 - Marble Madness

System: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Release Date: 1984 (1986 to Nintendo)
Genre: Platform/Racing
Publisher: Atari Games (Rare)

For Starters:

Ledges and out!
    Marble Madness is a simple enough concept. Race a marble through a 3D environment, and try to beat the clock. As a child, I loved playing with marbles, and especially loved making courses for them to run through. I remember my grandparents having a plastic cube, that was actually a marble maze, that required you to drop a marble in one end, then rotate the cube around, guiding the marble through the inner workings of the maze, and out the hole on the opposite side. So when I saw Marble Madness on the Nintendo, I was at once captivated by it. As with most of the early Nintendo games I played, this captivation was short-lived.
    Marble Madness was originally developed in 1984 for Atari, and was later ported to the NES by Rare Limited in 1986. I bring this up only because of the fact that the NES version of this game is the only one I have ever played. I imagine that the controls for the Atari (i.e. trackball) would make game play a lot easier than the awkward game play one experiences using the D-pad found on the NES console. If using a D-Pad on a 3D game isn't challenging enough, the game also allows you to select from two different control options, those being 90 degrees and 45 degrees. Since the game grid was set at a 45 degree angle, as it relates to the television screen, the 90 degree control option simply meant that the ball itself would move left/right/up/down as it correlated with the same directions on the controllers d-pad. The 45 degree control option meant that those same directions on the d-pad would correlate to the grid on the screen, making the game a little more challenging.

The Good:

    Since my starting points pretty much cover most of the important points of this game, I still feel it necessary to not deviate from my standard format. Simply put, the best aspects of this game have to be the fact that it's a marble game. There is no denying that this game, while short, is very challenging. But then again, the physical cube I played with as a kid was also challenging, so it's a wash. The graphics, while basic, are decent. The 3-D feel of this game is really amazing, and the virtual world in witch you maneuver through was captured well by the developers.
    As far as the actual game play is concerned, the better aspects of this game are definitely the real-world physics that were incorporated. Should you move to close to the edge, gravity will take over and you will fall off the ledge, and with a large enough drop, your marble will actually break in to tiny pieces, that are then swept up by a little broom and dust pan animation....actually quite clever. There are speed boosters in some of the further levels, that are fun to try and hit, and the various obstacles, such as the vacuumes that pop up and suck your marble down the pipe,are just plain fun.
    Another fun factor is the game's 2 player mode. Race your friends through the various stages, all while trying to avoid the various pitfalls and obstacles. Add on the fact that you can bump each other off the track, and you have a recipe for a fun and friendly competition.

The Bad:

    I realize I am about to contradict myself a little bit in this section, but hey, I never claimed to be perfect. The same aspects of Marble Madness that are fun, are also a big part of what make the game frustrating. Honestly the biggest enemy in this game is time itself. As mentioned, each track is timed, and if you don't reach the finish line in time, you are done. Your other biggest enemy will be yourself. I found myself getting panicked when the time was running out, and would always end up trying to hurry too much, and would inevitably make a panicked mistake.
    The obstacles themselves, while fun, and innovating, are also very frustrating. Amongst them are, the marble-eating worms, and the roving pools of acid. That's right, there are roving pools of acid that will melt your ball, hammers that try and smash you to smithereens while navigating a narrow path with drop-offs on both sides, and a myraid of other hazards all out to get you. Good luck.


    Marble Madness captured a childhood fascination, and brought it in to the video game realm. Oh sure, pinball machines, had the corner of this market sewn up years before Nintendo even existed, but who has the money or space to put multiple pinball machines in their house? I love pinball, but let's face it, any pinball video game I have ever seen has failed to recreate the experience of playing an actual pinball machine. Enter Marble Madness. While different from a pinball machine style of play, it captured the same elements that made playing with marbles in real life fun. Oh sure, the frustrations associated with trying to beat the clock and win will eventually cause you to shelve the game, and let a few colorful expletives fly from your mouth, all while swearing you will never play the damn thing ever again. But you will eventually forgive and forget, and find yourself once again reaching for this old friend. It will be enjoyed even more so if you can find someone to play the 2 player mode with. After all, what's more fun than beating your friends?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Game 6 - Captain Skyhawk

System: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Release Date: 1990
Genre: Scrolling Shooter

Publisher/Developer: Milton Bradley/Rare Ltd.

For Starters:

    Imagine a world where everything is a geometric shape, and all the terrain around you is one color. Imagine flying over this simulated 3-D landscape in a fighter jet, blasting alien enemies shooting diamonds at you. Have you got a mental image? Good. You just visualized the 1990 NES game Captain Skyhawk.
    I don't recall how I came to know about this game's existence, but I do remember that I wanted this game very badly. I think I had seen an advertisement in Nintendo Power, and fell in love with the concept of flying over landscapes destroying enemies. Little did I know that it would be a short-lived affair.

The Bad:

    I know I usually start with the better aspects of games, but with this particular dish, it makes more sense to serve up the bad, and then follow that with the few garnishing pieces that do make this game at least somewhat playable.
    As I mentioned in my opening, the graphics of this game are simple. Hell even using the word "simple" to describe them doesn't truly describe how plain and boring the game graphics are. I have played a lot of Nintendo games in my life, and have seen what can be done with 8-bit graphics (Karnov, for example). Also consider the fact that Nintendo had been in existence for 5 years by the time Captain Skyhawk was released (1990), and you can see why this games graphics fail to meet expectations. Compare the graphics to another 1990 NES game like Sunsoft's Batman, and you will see what I mean.
    Now that we have gotten the graphics out of the way, it's time to move on to the mechanics of the game. While not terrible, this game is definitely far from being great. As would be expected in any flying game from the 8-bit era, you use the D-pad to maneuver your jet (down = up; up = down; left = left; right = right - basic flight controls). The A and B button of course, are used to fire your primary and secondary weapons (and to drop supplies in some stages).
    The biggest problem with the controls, is that sometimes your plane loses altitude while you are flying. This could be just a matter of accidentally hitting the up button on the D-pad while you are going through the normal flying procedures, but nothing sucks worse than smacking unexpectedly in to a mountain side because your plane has lost enough altitude to be able to clear it. I know there is an altimeter on the screen that shows you how high you are, but to be honest, with the number of enemies, and the rate of flight, who has time to check. If you take your eyes away from the action for even a split second, you are dead.
    This brings me to my next point. The game play itself. To be honest, the game play itself is not all that bad. The worst aspects of this game are simply that there are too many enemies stuffed in to the tight space they give you to operate in. Our hero, Captain Skyhawk, maneuvers through narrow canyons, evading the gunfire from enemies. The narrowness of the canyon, and the density of the enemies really does provide a challenge, but due to the graphics, it's often difficult to see the enemies bullets, so you usually end up dying for no apparent reason.
    If you manage to survive this mission, and defeat the fortress at the end of stage 1, you will be treated to a blatant Top Gun ripoff stage. Yes, you now get to destroy enemy fighters from a first-person perspective, just like the NES game Top Gun. And if that weren't enough, the final stage of level 1 is to dock your ship in your home base. While different in the mechanics, this is basically the same stupid Top Gun bullshit, where you are required to land on the aircraft carrier. The only difference is, that you are in space, and the docking bay to your base is a spinning slot. To succeed you must line up horizontally to the opening, and then initiate the "spin" dive when you and the opening are lined up. Should you make the mistake of acidentally tapping right or left on the D-pad, consider yourself dead. No amount of readjusting will ever bring you back in to the dead center of the screen. The easiest way to dock is to wait until the base stops moving, then use up and down on the D-pad to bring yourself in to alignment with the opening. Then, once the rotating bay is aligned with your wingspan, hit the A button, and hope for the best. It baffles me that even entering your home base could potentially kill you.
    Level 2 is almost the same as level 1, except for this time, your goal is to drop supplies off to scientists working on some top secret weapon. Normally the B button would be used to launch your secondary weapon (missiles, bombs, etc.) but on this stage, it is used to drop the supply crate, parachute included, in to the 2 drop off points. The biggest challenge, outside of maneuvering through the narrow enemy infested canyons is the timing on dropping the supplies. It's difficult to know how to time them, and may take you a few passes before you get it right. The fact that they recycle the stage until you complete both drops is nice, but like Top Gun, you can run out of fuel, and crash, so you better learn how to drop these supplies quickly, or you will be eating an Alcatraz Sandwich.
    The rest of the game is basically a repeat of the two stages listed above, but in different colors, and with a few different enemies. There is also at least one stage that has water instead of the standard ground, but you are still navigating a narrow canyon, while being blasted by the enemies naval forces.

The Good:

    If you are still with me, and haven't left, here are the better aspects of the game that make it at least somewhat playable.
    One of the things that makes this game decent is the music. I realize that there is no music during the actual game play, but the musical score during the opening sequence, and the stage intro screens are pretty good, not great, but good enough. I think adding some music to the actual game play would have made this game a hell of a lot better, but I guess I can't expect much from a game designer that chose to use such rudimentary graphics to begin with.
    Aside from the music, or lack there-of, the sound effects are actually quite good. The explosions, and the sound of the jet engine are all quite nice, even if they are exactly like the sound effects from Top Gun.
    The game play itself, is nothing to write home about, and as mentioned above, it has its issues. This does not mean that it holds no merit though. For me, the challenges and frustrations associated with the poor game design do actually make the game somewhat enjoyable to play.


    If you enjoyed Top Gun on the NES, then Captain Skyhawk is for you. Considering that this game borrowed a lot of it's graphics and features from Konami's worst game, some may consider Captain Skyhawk to have a Top Gun sequel feel to it. While I may still play this game on occasion, it is not one that I regularly reach for when I am in the mood for some classic console fun.
    Milton Bradley made some great board games during my childhood, so I expected their venture in to the video game world to be on par with their board games. Unfortunately their vision of Captain Skyhawk was not fulfilled through Rare Ltd. I feel like this game could have been better by adding music to the game play sections, and by using better graphics. I imagine that Captain Skyhawk could have done really well had it been designed as a side-scrolling game similar to Life Force or Gradius. But alas we are left with a boring, bland, game that will fade quietly in to history.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Game 5 - Karnov

System: Nintendo Entertainment Syatem (NES)
Release Date: 1987 (arcade); 1988 (NES)
Genre: Platform (side-scroller)
Publisher: Data East

For Starters:
    Finally, a game about a Russian circus strong-man that runs through 9 mythical worlds, collecintg treasures, while destroying abstract monsters from classic literature. I will admit that this game was unlike anything I had ever played before. I don't even really recall how I came to know this game even existed.
All I do remember is that I wanted it. So I asked for it for my birthday, and in return, received a game that I still love to this very day.

The Good:

    For me the best part of this game has to be the music. Yes it's repetitive, but the score for this game really adds to the overall gaming experience. I enjoy it so much, that I have used it as a ringtone on my phone.
    The graphics, simply put, are great for an 8-bit game. Data East released a lot of games that, in my opinion were great examples of what could be done with 8-bit graphics. The only minor complaint I have about the graphics, is that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish the foreground from the background, and it makes it difficult to know when you have obstacles you can't walk past, or if you have to jump over them.
    While the enemies are annoying, and sometimes difficult, I do like the fact that Data East did not simply recycle enemies. Yes there are common enemies in every stage, but they also added unique enemies to each stage.

The Bad:

    Earlier I said that this is still one of my favorite games, and it certainly is highly replayable. That being said, there are some things about this game that I didn't like.
    The ability to use sub-items is great, and you are given a plethora of unique items to use, including, jump boots, wings, ladders, and diving helmets. The biggest problem with these items is that you have to either press pause, then use the d pad to select the desired item, or you have to use the d pad during live action until you get to the item. When you are concentrating on defeating enemies, it makes it obnoxious to have to either pause the game, or tap the d pad to get to the desired sub item.
    The other problem with these items, is that you are given a limited number of these items when you pick them up, so if you use them all up before a critical point, you are basically fucked. It would be nice to be able to retain unlimited numbers of certain items (like you have with the ladder), without having to use a
cheat code.
    The other problem is that certain items are only available when the game allows you to use them. The wings for example are only available when the game alerts you to it, and you see that they are selectable in your item menu. In some ways this is good, because it prevents you from running out of critical items, but
it would also be cool if you had free reign to use the wings whenever you felt like using them.
    The enemies are another frustrating feature of this otherwise fine game. I know I said earlier that I enjoyed the variety of enemies that were provided on each stage. While this is true, there is also a certain amount of frustration that goes along with them.
    Golden statues that, if not destroyed quick enough will explode, and basically kill you. They emit two levels of projectiles, and you cant duck the lower ones, and can't jump the higher ones. So unless you figure out a way to hover in mid-air, so that you are in between are dining on an Alcatraz Sandwich
my friend.
    Blue birds that swoop down upon you from above...again at a level that you can neither jump over, nor duck under. And usually they will wait until they are almost off the screen before they attack, and if you  jump too soon, they will guess your elevation, and dive-bomb you at the level you jumped to.
    The bosses at the end of each stage are unique, and different, but damn are they difficult to defeat. The will charge, shoot projectiles at you, and basically makke life difficult for our hero. With enough practice however, you will learn tricks and what sub-items to use to defeat them.


    Karnov is a classic 8-bit NES game, that will forever live in my library of Nintendo games. While frustrating, and difficult, it is a game, that with a little practice, and a shit load of patience, can be beaten, and even played at a level of skill that makes it fun. The music,along with the graphics, are amazing, and the
catchy little tunes can easliy get stuck in your head, and may find their way on to your cell phone as a ringtone in the near future. ENJOY!

Up Next: Captain Skyhawk

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Game 4 - Kung Fu

Our hero, Thomas, battling through purple and blue enemies.
System: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)
Release Date: 1985
Genre: Beat 'em up (side scroller)
Publisher: Nintendo

For Starters:

    Ah Kung Fu...who could forget this staple NES game? A classic side scrolling beat 'em up on Nintendo. I recall playing this game over and over, usually when we had grown tired of playing Castlevania or Mario Brothers. This game served as a fun and challenging distraction from the regular games in our Nintendo diet.
    The premise of this game is simple enough. You are a Kung-Fu warrior (Thomas) trying to rescue your girlfriend (Sylvia) from some evil jerk (dubbed Mr. X in the game). Most of the games I recall playing (i.e. Donkey Kong, Super Mario Brothers) always seemed to involve this simple plot. There is just something about beating the crap out of strings of henchmen and mini-bosses in the name of love and glory that never seems to get old.

The Good:

    There is a simplistic satisfaction found with this game. The game is designed in a basic side scrolling fashion, that provides ample amounts of enemies to kick and punch in to oblivion. Most of the enemies are defeated with 1 or 2 hits, and the manner in witch they fall off the screen is just delightfully fun. When you
add the simple yet harmonic music and sound effects to this mix, it only sweetens the deal. Yes, the sound effects of kicking and punching are cheesy, but without them this game would lose some of it's humble charm.

The Bad:

    Even though my overall opinion of this game is good, there is an element of difficulty that boarderlines on frustrating. I guess that's kind of the point of video games though right? To be challenging, and provide a certain level of frustration? After all thats what keeps us coming back to them time and time again. So I guess what I am saying is that this is the type of game that provides a challenge that increases with each level you conquer.
    First off, lets talk about the controls. Due to the limits of the controller design, they had to use up on the d-pad to get the character to perform a jump. The A and B buttons were reserved for executing punching and kicking moves. Most games of the era used the A and B buttons, one for attacking, and the other for jumping. Even though this is a deviation from what was normally used, it was a necessity. And this necessity is a minor flaw in an over all decent game. It takes some getting used to, and the controller is responsive, but sometimes when you have enemies coming at you from both sides, and are using d-pad left and right to switch back and forth, the jumping maneuver can get missed, and you end up being gang raped from both
    And speaking of enemies....let's now discuss them. As you would expect, the enemies get progressively harder as you advance through the levels. Level 1 consists of basic soldiers in this kidnappers kung-fu army. They are dressed in glowing bright purple vests, and baby blue pants. The two difficult enemies on level 1 are
the knife throwers, and the end boss.
    The knife throwers appear in other levels, and are notorious for being able to throw both high and low knives at our hero. Sadly there does not seem to be a pattern, so you will inevitably jump when you should have ducked, and vice versa. The other ball buster, is when you have 2-3 of the regular enemies coming at you from behind, when the knife thrower appears. You can only hope to reach him before he throws his knife, and sweep kick him in time to still have room to turn around and dispatch the ones coming at you from the other direction.
    The level 1 end boss is just a guy in a green suit who tries to bash your skull in using a stick. The biggest gripes are that even while ducking, you get hit, and take damage, and that the reach of this guys weapon is just as long as the space you require to sweep kick him. Sometimes you have to just go in, duck, sweep kick
about 900 times, and hope he runs out of energy before you do. There is a strategy to sweep kick him be fore he uses his weapon, and then move out of the way, but it still seems to work about 50% of the time.
    Level 2 is where the surprises begin to come out of the woodwork. Level 2 is a simple game of duck or die. Random items drop from the ceiling, and will contain one of 3 things; a snake that can only be killed from a ducking position, a dragon that shoots fire from his mouth, or a ball that hovers, then explodes, hurling
projectiles towards you. All 3 of these dropping items can be killed by executing a well-timed  jump kick however.
    If you manage to make it through this gauntlet, and defeat the boomerang wielding level 2 boss, you can then proceed to level 3 to take on bands of roving midgets. Thats right I said midgets. Actually, I am not sure what they are supposed to be, maybe kids? Although I don't know what is worse, beating up midgets, or
beating up kids. Either way, these mini enemies will come at you, and sometimes do a jump flip, and strike you on the head, causing damage, and aggravation. Once you manage to work your way through level 3 and the giant honey bear at the end, it's on to level 4, filled with killer swarms of bees or moths, or whatever the hell those things are that come flying out of the walls.
    Ok I have made enough about the different enemies on each level. I think you get the idea. This game gets progressively harder with each level, as expected.


    This game only consists of 5 levels. But with each level getting progressivley more difficult, it's not an easy journey. Yes, I have seen some speed runs online, and can see how it can be beaten quickly. However, my experience with this game was during a time where there was no YouTube or the internet. I had to rely on my own skills, and previous experiences to guide me.
    Overall, Kung Fu is fun enough to keep you going, challenging enough to not seem simple and easy, and frustrating enough to make you throw things in a fit of rage. Add the music and sound effects in, and this makes for a truely classic console experience.

Up next......Karnov

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Game 3 - Excitebike

System: Nintendo
Release date: 1984
Developer: Nintendo
Genre(s): Racing Game

For Starters:

    Excitebike is an often overlooked original Nintendo game from the 80's. The truth is, this is an easily forgettable game in the original Nintendo library. I remember playing this game both on the Play Choice 10 arcade cabinet, as well as playing it on my Friend Ryan's NES.
    The game itself is simple. Racing a motorcycle in a series of side-scrolling tracks, trying to beat the best time, so as to advance to the next race. Each track consists of jumps of various sizes, shapes, and placements. It also has mud pits, and other obstacles used to try and slow you down. There is also a feature that allows you to design and race on your own track. Sadly enough, the design your own was the funnest part of this game for me.

The Good:

    With a game as simple as Excitebike, there is not a lot of things to draw from when compiling a list of good and bad features. The music is catchy, and in today's modern age, makes a great ringtone. The funnest part of this game, as mentioned before, is the ability to design and race on your own tracks. The controls are simple, and responsive, and it's easy to maneuver your way through the tracks.

The Bad:

    The graphics are 8-bit, and are therefore very simple. The crowd animation for the background grandstands are simple, and rather boring, and mundane. The only differences between each track are the combination of jumps/obstacles, and the color. It is really easy to get bored of this game, and it usually happens rather quickly.
    As far as game play is concerned, there is not a whole lot to nit pick about, but the biggest complaint I have is with the overheating feature. The temperature gauge rises quickly when you are running through the course like a maniac using the Turbo acceleration, but they can be reduced by hitting the turbo strips located randomly throughout the course. The turbo strips are common enough to find, but sometimes can be placed in areas where you can miss them. With some practice though, you can learn to use the turbo acceleration sparingly, and place at least 2nd in each race. When you do overheat though, you are forced to the side of the track to cool down. This of course takes up precious time. And with a time limit needed to advance, it makes it difficult to beat the lowest track time and advance further. They could have shortened the cool down time a little bit, or at least added a 2-3 second time penalty to the timer. It only takes about 6 seconds to return to normal operating temperatures, but those 6 seconds can sometimes be the difference between 1st and 4th place.


    Excitebike is a classic Nintendo game, and is one that still holds a place in people's hearts. There has been re-releases and sequels to Excitebike (including Excitebike64), plus remakes that have been developed for the Wii, and virtual consoles. Maybe I will eventually get around to playing the N64 version again, and post a review, but that will be determined at a later date.
    Overall the NES version of Excitebike will probably remain somewhere between a classic, and a forgotten gem. Due to the game's ability to get old quickly, and it's low replay value, it will probably only be removed from the shelf, and dusted off on occasion. But on those occasions where it is selected, the player will be treated to about 15 minutes of primitive 8-bit fun before the game is once again returned to the shelf and left to continue it's dust collecting.

...up next, Kung Fu

Monday, September 5, 2011

Game 2 - Super Mario Brothers

System: Nintendo
Release date: 1985
Developer: Nintendo
Genre(s): Platforming
Series: Mario Brothers

For Starters:

      This game is a classic. It was THE game that defined Nintendo back in the mid-80's. Sadly it was not my first Nintendo experience, but it was the 2nd NES game I even played growing up.
      I am going to try and be honest with this, and try not to get too carried away. This isTHE classic NES game, that really put Nintendo on the map. Nintendo packaged their system with Super Mario Brothers, and in doing so,created an immiediate phenomenon. Super Mario Brothers was THE game to play when I was growing up. All the talk at school was about what level you got to, and if you used the warp zones. Weekends consisted of getting together with friends and playing Super Mario until the late hours.

      I did play the original Mario Brothers on the Atari, but I was still young enough when Idid, that I really didn't understand video games at the same level as I would later in life. It was one game of many that my brother had available on his old Atari 800 system, and not one of the ones I would play as frequently as Dig Dug or Joust, or Pharaoh's Curse. Unfortunately, I must confess, that even to this very day I have never beaten Super Mario Brothers. I remember watching all my friends beating it, by using the various warp zones within the game. I guess being a little bit of a perfectionist, even back then, I never really believed

in utilizing these warp zones. I was of the mind set that a game should be conquered one level at a time, in order. I did not believe in skipping levels, just to achieve victory. So while my friends would all skip to world 4, then 8, I would be back trudging through each world in sequence. My friends would beat the game, and then be done, and I would usually be somewhere in world 2 or 3. Even when I finally got a NES of my own, I would still revisit this game on my own, and try to beat it one world at a time. I could never do it. I will continue to try, and I know it will only be a matter of time, before I too can declare that I have defeated Bowser.

The Good:

    This game has everything a young eager gamer could want. Two player mode, chances to earn extra lives all throughout the game, warp zones, secrets, and  ample power ups. Anyone who has played this game more than a few times will quickly learn where to find the 1up mushrooms, that 100 coins will give you an extra life, and that repeadtedly bouncing a turtle shell against a nearby wall will eventually provide you with a butt-load of extra lives in a few moments time. Yes Super Mario Brothers provided the player a multitude of ways to earn extra lives.

    The goal of this game is to conquer 8 worlds, each with 4 levels, in order to rescue a princess being held hostage by a mutant turtle dragon named Bowser. Each level provides growth mushrooms, and fire flowers as power ups, however you must first get the growth mushroom before getting a fire flower. Fire flowers make life a hell of a lot easier as you work your way through each stage, allowing you to pummel the enemies with fireballs that kill in one shot! Without the fire flower, you have to rely on jumping on each enemy, squishing them flat. The only opponents that will not die by fire balls are the spiked turtles, buzzy beatles, or the bullet bills.....but that's why the invicibility star was created.
    The other secret, although kinda pointless, is to reach the end of each level, with the number displaying on the timer ending in a 1, 3, 6, or 9. This will of course cause the level to end with 1, 3, 6, or 9 fireworks erupting from the little castle.

The Bad:

    While there are numerous good points to this game, this game is not perfect, and does have it's flaws. While most of the enemies are easy enough, there are a few that are a pain in the ass to deal with. The most prevalent one in my mind is of course the Hammer Brothers. The bullet bills are also a pain in the ass, since they often times will come at you from different heights. You can duck one, only to be hit by a lower-flying one that comes in from the right slightly after. The Piranha Plants are also sometimes annoying in that they will sometimes pop out of the pipe when you are least expecting it. It also seems to happen whenever you are working your way through a board where thare are lots of pipes all in a row, and you are jumping from pipe-top to pipe-top.

    The game controls are pretty simple, but the ability to make jumps across higher or wider gaps can be difficult. World 6-3 for example, has multiple gaps, and platforms that will drop straight down when you jump on them. This makes advancing to the next platform difficult, since it's usually located at a higher spot on the screen. You really have to learn to master the "B-run" technique, in order to avoid falling to your death.

    Yes this game is the Nintendo Franchise game. It is a classic, that has seen it's progression on to each new console that Nintendo has released. Sadly enought though, the game is usually only replayable a few times before you do feel like it's been done to death. The sequels to this game (Super Mario 2 and Super Mario 3) did things differently enough that even to this day I find them highly re-playable. While Super Mario Brothers is a classic game, that does provide some nostalgia for a retro gamer, and may even provide a common thread amongst old school gamers and the younger generation gamers, it is still a game that, once beaten, often times finds itself placed up on shelf gathering dust, both literally, and figuratively.

Up next.......Excitebike (NES)



Sunday, August 21, 2011

Game 1 - Castlevania

System: Nintendo (NES)
Release date: 1986
Developer: Konami
Genre(s): Platforming
Series: Castlevania

For Starters:

    This was the first Nintendo game I ever experienced growing up. I first found the game at the local Circle-K convienience store, in the form of coin-op arcade game. In fact it was the Nintendo Play Choice 10 machine. I had heard a friend
of mine mention this cool new game that he had played that involved battling skeletons, monsters, and ultimately, Dracula. Being a 10 year old boy, I was of course intrigued. What more could a boy that age want? A game that involves killing all the classic horror movie monsters....HELL YES!!!

    So after scrounging around my piggy bank and finding a few quarters, off I went to try and defeat this exciting new game.

The Good:

    Lot's of good things about this game. Where to begin? Graphics are great for an 8-bit mid 80's game. The music is absolutley amazing. I love playing this game in the dark, just for the added ambiance the music brings to the table. The secondary weapons are great, my favorite of course being the boomerang with the triple-shot.

    The game play itself is good. Good control, levels that are all uniquely different, challenging enemies, opportunities to restore health (although they are not too common), and even the ability to find some meaningless hidden treasures along the way.

The Bad:

    Boss battles. UGH! I will admit the first few bosses are fairly easy, once you figure out a strategy. The later bosses are difficult as hell, as would be expected in a good video game, but some of them are just ridiculously difficult. It took me a long time to finally be able to defeat Medusa in a single go, but only after realizing that you could freeze her using the stop-watch weapon. Too many times I tried to use the triple-shot boomerang, and would end up coming oh so close, only to be defeated.

    Dracula of course is the hardest enemy in the entire game, as is expected. Unfortunately, the difficulty you face from Frankenstein, and the Grim Reaper along the will need all the luck in the world reaching him.

    The minor enemies for the most part are not too bad. The ones that stand out in my mind as being the worst are:

    - Fleamen (hunchbacks). These little bastards hop all over the place in a spastic fit. They are also low to the ground, so if you want to hit them with your main whip attack, you either have to be crouched down, or hit them when they are still in mid-air. I have found that using the holy water on these little turds does an effective job, but god help you if you do not have it, or if you lose it along the way. The stop-watch is the better weapon however.

    - Mini Medusa heads. I cannot count the number of times I have been trying to cross a span with gaps, only to be knocked off by one of these little blue flying menaces. Of course if you have the stop-watch, you can freeze them, and progress, but again, if you do not have that item, you are staring down an Alcatraz sandwich.

    - Merman. Even though these enemies are not flying across the screen, their ability to jump up out of the water is just as annoying. Sometimes they will even land on a platform and spit fireballs at you. When this is combined with bats flying across the screen at out! The stop-watch works well against them when you are required to cross the water filled gap by either jumping, or by using a moving platform.

    - Birds/Bats. The birds are few and far, but are annoying in that they are always perched atop something near a gap you need to cross. They are effective at knocking you backwards off the platform you are on, and in to the pit you are trying to kill. Bats too are good at knocking you backwards off of a gap span you are crossing, and since they re-spawn like other enemies (mini Medusa, merman), they can be used to stock up on hearts.

     One aspect of the game that, to me, seems pointless, is the bags of money you will pick up from enemies, candles, and hidden blocks. You can't use this money to purchase items in a shop, and the only value of the points system is to earn extra lives. I have never once completed this game, and immediately looked to see what my points score was. In fact I don't recall ever seeing anything that indicates what your final score even was, nor does it have a "High Scores" table that records your final score. So these bags of money along the way are completely pointless. Why not replace them altogether with minor health restorals. I know they
already have them in the form of hidden pork chops, but honestly, it would make the game better if they would just replace the bags of money with a simple scrap of food to restore a little bit of health.


    The first Castlevania game is a classic side-scrolling platform game that will continue to stand the test of time. This is evidenced by the fact that it has spawned multiple sequels on several consoles, including a few of Nintendo's competitors (Sony PlayStation, Sega Genesis, Commodore, PC).

    What is it that makes this game a classic? Is it the music, the challenging levels, the high replay value, and of course the nostalgia of reliving a child-hood game? Yes. But there is more to it than just these reasons. And each person who plays this game will provide their own reason for why it is a classic game.

     For me it is a combination of nostalgia, the music, the high replay value, and the fantasy of fighting all the classic monster movie villains, I grew up hearing stories about. My friends and I would spend our time making up gruesome tales to try and scare the ever-living shit out of ourselves. They would involve stories about Freddy Kruger, Jason (Friday The 13th), Bloody Mary, Dracula, zombies, and sometimes even our own made up creatures. So when a video game came along that involved fighting various monsters, we were all excited to see our imaginations come to life....even if only in an 8-bit representation.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


I do not want to turn this in to a devastating rant that resembles the popular online reviewer known as the Angry Video Game Nerd. Mr. Rolfe has that corner of the classic console games wrapped up, and very nicely I might add. I would like this to have more a blog-type feel. Yes I will share my frustrations with certain games, and provide things that are done well, or that could have been improved upon, but I do not want to bury the gaming experience by ripping it apart. Rather I would like to try and find a balance between good and bad. With that said...on to the games.