Time for another
issue of Retro Times, the new classic gaming newsletter.
I am going to take this time to thank all the people who
took the time to respond to the last issue. After the
first issue of Retro Times, I received no feedback.
After the second issue, I received three emails. After
the third issue, whammo, over a dozen responses and more
still coming in! And what did most people ask for?
Longer issues! They wanted more. Well, I'm not one to
not give the public what they want, so I will do my
darndest to increase the size. I will be adding new
features and giving you more to read. Like always, I am
open to submissions (hint! hint!). So here we go with
another issue, hope you enjoy it!
Christmas and the Intellivision
When I was a teenager
(around 1982), I used to do comic shows with my father
and uncle. There was this one show that was held at the
Chapel Hill Mall, the week after Christmas. It was a
five day show (some real bright planning) and I was
usually asked to attend all the days. My cousin Dave
used to come along and we were close to the same age, so
we hung out. After the first day, we had seen all the
dealers tables about ten times and did a lifetime of
window shopping. So we became bored, really bored. That
was until we found a Sears that had an Intellivision set
up for customers to play. So many hours that week were
spent in heated battles of Auto Racing, Sea Battle and
especially Baseball. We literally spent hours playing
this game. Sometimes against each other, sometimes
against other customers. We always made sure to let
others play and usually went easy on them. Well, to make
a long story short, we came back at the end of the week
to play one more game before we had to pack and leave.
As the game progressed for the world championship, I
overheard a salesman talking to a manager behind us.
This was a salesman we had befriended and even played
against. The manager was saying something like "Those
darn kids are back again. Why don't you do something to
get rid of them." The salesman responded, "Get rid of
them? Are you kidding, I am sorry to see them leave. Do
you have any idea how many Intellivisions they sold over
the week?". The salesman then pointed to a half empty
display. While I don't know the exact number of units we
helped sell, I know it was enough for them to allow us
to keep playing. At the time, I didn't realize that I
was an ambassador for Mattel and the Intellivision. But
I am glad to know that I did my little bit to help the
success of the system.
the big deal with the Vectrex?
When you get into
classic gaming, one of the first things you will learn
is how coveted the Vectrex is. You know, the black and
white system that came with its own screen. You will see
them sell for more than any other system. And you will
see quite a few people looking for one. But is the
Vectrex all it is cracked up to be or it the most
overhyped classic system? Well, you will have to answer
that one for yourself, but I personally think it is a
bit overhyped. Sure the system is cool, with some of the
best joysticks around. Sure you have the cool vector
graphics. Sure John Dondazilla makes some awesome games
for the system. But is it worth the price (which is
still eons less than the original asking price)? Well, I
personally don't think so. First and foremost, you have
one of the smallest game libraries around and only a
handful of great games among them. Every time I own one
(I have owned 5 of them), I play it for about a month
and find that I only play about five games and that is
about it. Without John Dondazilla's great Patriot game,
I wouldn't have spent quite so much time. Now things may
be different if I owned the very rare and very expensive
3D Imager. I would like to play 3D Coaster and 3D
Minestorm, but I am not going to dish out that much
money. While the system is quite good, it never had a
chance to really shine. If it would have lasted a few
more years, maybe it would have more great games to
play. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking the system.
It was innovative for the time and still is quite
playable. It is just that a system is only as good as
the games for it and this is the Achilles' heel of the
Vectrex. So before you buy a Vectrex, I recommend trying
the emulator first. Sure it is a neat addition to a
collection, but it is a limited one.
Look at Keystone Kapers
One of the new
features in the newsletter will be to review some older
games. But unlike my regular reviews, I am going to go
deeper into it and really get into the game. Let me know
what you think of it.
I still remember how
excited I was when I first played Keystone Kapers. I was
going to be the long arm of the law and do my best to
capture those dastardly crooks. I liked the clean
graphics and the neat little map that showed where the
crook was. I remember how the game kept me coming back
to see what was on the next level. The bouncing balls,
the speeding shopping carts, the deadly planes. Every
new obstacle was a new challenge. Even when they just
added faster carts and two radios, it was the small
glimmer of hope that something different was just a
board away. Sure it wasn't, but us kids had faith and
that was enough to keep us going.
I quickly learned some strategies to improve my scores.
It didn't take long to figure out when to duck from the
plane or to keep an eye on upper levels for those two
radio rooms (still gets me to this day). I soon learned
that an elevator must be plotted out, so the crook
doesn't run away. I usually just ran it out. I was young
and full of energy!
This is one game that I recommend to anyone to add to
their collection. It is fast, fun and quite colorful.
Plus, you have a positive role model for the lead
character and we all know that the industry needs more
of that. My only gripe is that the Coleco version is
only slightly better than the 2600 version. The graphics
were spruced up a bit, but no extras. Oh well, guess
they didn't want to ruin a good thing.
Look at Minestorm
While many people may
argue with the next two statements, I stand firmly
behind them. First, Minestorm for the Vectrex is the
best Asteroids clone out there, bar none. Heck, I'll
take it over the original. Secondly, it is the best
pack-in (or built-in as is the case) game on any classic
system and probably any system. The biggest competition
would be Donkey Kong for the Coleco and I think this has
a lot more in terms of repeat gameplay.
For the people who aren't familiar with Minestorm
(considering the rarity of the Vectrex, I would say a
few), it is an Asteroids clone. But much like KC
Munchkin for the Odyssey II, it doesn't just clone a
classic game. Rather it surpasses it. Where in Asteroids
you just keep shooting rocks into teeny tiny rocks and
get bothered by an occasional flying saucer, until you
either die or get tired of it. But in Minestorm, the
rocks are more like ships. Each wave brings on new
challenges. First it is just rocks, same as Asteroids.
But the second level, the rocks send back a deadly
fireball when shot. So, there goes the just keep
shooting everything in site strategy. If you do that,
you will be bombarded by fireballs. Talk about a quick
game, you will be over faster than Ross Perot's
presidential race. When the third level begins, you will
notice a different kind of rock, one that follows you
like a love starved puppy. But this isn't no pet, rather
it is a tracking ship and you are the target. Get past
this and you get a homing, fireball spewing ship that is
a real pain in the keister. Get the idea. Plus, there is
the typical annoying ship that gets in your way. When
you get to higher levels, all hell breaks loose.
One of the best features of this game is that it was
made for the Vectrex joystick. Just like the arcade game
that inspired it, this game only uses buttons. Two of
them move you, one left and the other right. Another
button shoots and the last one is your hyperspace. It is
a game like this that really makes you appreciate the
Vectrex joystick, still my favorite of the classic
joysticks. You can really get into a game and the
controls are great. So you only have yourself to blame
if you do bad. Much nicer than the joystick moving
version on the Atari 2600.
Another thing you will notice is that you don't need
color for this game. Like Asteroids at the arcades, this
game is fine in black and white. I usually leave off the
packed in color screen. It is more annoying than
anything else. Some classic games, like classic movies
are just better in black and white. I always thought the
color screens were a little lame. If Vectrex wanted to
do color, they should have done it. For the high price
you were paying for the machine when it first came out,
they should have given you color. I'm sure someone will
email me with the specific costs of color versus black
and white in the eighties, but I don't care. There was a
color version in the planning stages, but the market
crash put the kibosh on that. Too bad, cause I would
have liked to see some of the games in color. Would have
been interesting. To finish this, Minestorm was and
still is a great game. It is the best Asteroids version
out there and truly showcased how great a system the
Vectrex was and could have been, given the time for more
software to be developed.
of the Month
Last month we
actually had some responses to our question of the
month. A total of three responses, including one for a
new version of Yar's Revenge, one for a 3D version of
Space Invaders (yow!) and one for an updated version of
Adventure. All were quite interesting and I enjoyed
them. But now onto this month's question.
game would you like to have been released?
This was a toughie for me
as there are so many games I would have liked to see
finished. Parker Bros alone had a bunch (Incredible
Hulk, Lord of the Rings and even McDonalds). But after
some consideration, I would probably say the one game I
would really have liked to play is.......Tunnels &
Trolls for the Colecovision. I have seen the opening
screen and it intrigued me. Plus, this was the game I
wanted most when I first got my Colecovision and saw the
ad for it on the back of the box. I remember bothering
the local stores month after month for the game. I
really wanted it! I was a huge Dungeons & Dragons fan
and any game like it was enough to get me interested.
But, it never came out. A matter of fact, many of the
games on the back of the Coleco box were never released.
Talk about a tease of a company. At least we had the
Asphaii game for the Coleco to fill the void. We all
know how dull Venture got after awhile.
Finally MAMEing it!
After months of
trying to figure this crazy thing out, I'm finally
playing MAME (multiple arcade machine emulator). After
months of hearing people bragging about how great it is,
I can finally join in the fun. And what fun it is! Now
games like Discs of Tron, Bagman and Satan's Hollow are
available to me after years of just remembering playing
them. Plus, I can play full versions of games like Congo
Bongo. Is this a great company or what? For anyone who
hasn't tried it, I recommend it! You can go to the
Digital Press Online (http://digitpress.com) for easy
directions on installing and running the system. With
over 250 games to try, you will have weeks if not months
of fun. Look for some reviews of the games in future
issues of Retro Times. Until then, I will be
playing....err, reviewing the games.
Once again I will
review a few of the newer games that are based on
classic games. Hope you enjoy them!
C+)-Since everyone else has made a comeback, I
guess the Froggster deserves a facelift. The best level
I played was the one that was based on the original
game. While Frogger (the frog) looks a bit odd, the rest
of the game looks quite sharp. The main problems with
the game is that the controls are a bit buggy. Takes a
bit to get used to. Also, most of the new levels aren't
well thought out. Maybe a brief intro to each level
telling you what the goal is would help. The new
features are nothing to crow about. Overall, it is a
good attempt, but once again it is a case of technology
ahead of a gameplay.
Pack #1 (Grade B+)-I needed a new mouse (my
four year old is rough on it) and went to the store to
buy one. As I was looking, I saw the Microsoft one that
was bundled with Arcade #1 for $30.00. As I looked and
saw the joystick alone goes for $30.00 or the game
separate was $25.00. While math wasn't my strongest
subject (maybe a little more Math Grand Prix could have
cured this), I know a good deal when I see one. So I
bought it and went home and tried the disk. Not a bad
little package. You get Asteroids, Centipede, Tempest,
Battlezone, and Missile Command. All the games played as
I remembered them and there was even some bonus info
about the games. Would I have paid full price for it? I
doubt it, especially with MAME, but as a throw-in it is
quite a deal.
Different Eras, Same Results
One thing I noticed
in each gaming era, is there is always one forgotten
system. This system is usually the third most popular
system or lower. It usually had little third party
support and while not the main system, does have a loyal
following. A system that didn't have a lot of games
available (at least not stateside) and one a few dozen
maximum of worthwhile games. In the classic era, when
the Atari ruled, it was the Odyssey II. In the
neo-classic era that was dominated by the Nintendo it
was Atari 7800. And now in the 32-64 bit era, that
system is the Atari Jaguar. If you really look at the
three systems, you will see they have a lot in common.
None of them were the big system, not even the second
most popular. They all had minimal third party support
and a limited amount of software made for the system.
But each one does offer a decent amount of great games
only available for that system. So, history does repeat
and there will always be a forgotten system.
Well, I did my best
to make this issue even bigger than the last and it is
my goal to keep adding to the newsletter. As always, let
me know which sections are your favorites and which you
would like to see removed. I do listen and appreciate
every comment. Have a happy holiday and see you in a