|Issue #31 - December 2006|
Table of Contents
|02.||The Lost Faces of Tapper - the Apple ][|
|03.||NEScade -- Roadblasters|
|04.||Apple II Incider|
|06.||Space Invaders Papercraft|
|08.||Behind the Pixels: Pac-Man|
|09.||Game Over|Attract Mode by Scott
By the time you read this, a seminal moment in gaming history will have taken place. All of the actors in the latest generation of consoles will have taken the stage. Another way to look at this moment is that the classic consoles of the future have arrived. While the PS3 and Wii are still in their infancy, they will one day become the retrogaming tools of a generation of gamers who are are just starting life. "Blasphemy!" I hear you say, but it's true. While we older enthusiasts claim that the only true retrogamers are those who can actually remember playing an Atari console during its prime, there is a current generation of young adults who think that SNES and Genesis are retrogaming consoles.
While I'm sure there are a number of you who perhaps prefer to retrogame exclusively, most retrogamers I know dabble in a mix of retro and modern gaming, switching from one to the other when time permits. But why do we do it? We all have our mix of reasons, such as simplicity and nostalgia, but those are justifications, not our overall motivation. And in the process of pondering this, I accidently came to understand my father better.
All my life, my dad listened to a range of music that could be loosely placed under the early rock umbrella, such as the Beatles, Elvis, Grateful Dead, etc. And through the 80s and 90s, he played that stuff to the point where I could no longer tolerate it for more than 2 minutes. I vowed never to be like that. I was going to listen to the most modern music that life had to offer. I was never going to get stuck on a time period and listen only to the music which that period offered. And to this day, I've kept my word. I listen to Breaking Benjamin, to Hinder, to Evanescence, what have you (yes, I'm partial to rock and alternative.)
A few weekends ago I surprised my wife with
tickets to the Journey/Def Leppard concert in
When I grew up...
And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn't anything that I didn't already know, but the way the point drove itself home to me was incredible. Dad's listening to the Beatles, my playing Atari, the fact that a college kid thinks the SNES is retro, and the fact that a baby born today will probably only think of the Wii as a "classic"... it's all the same. We grow up, we take on bigger responsibilities in life, and some of us even have families of our own. But the one thing that never has to change, the one escape we can count on when we need it, is the fact that these "retro" consoles (or music) can remind of us a feeling that life gives us little opportunity to be in touch with at an adult age.
I ended up getting my Wii through a very lucky eBay auction (good price, local seller, I got it one day after the launch. I refuse to stand on a line anywhere for anything) and one day I'll get a PS3 when Sony releases a Slim model just like they did for the PS1 and 2 (I don't have space for something that looks like the George Foreman grill, much less $600 to spend on one.) And I'm going to enjoy them to be sure. But like my dad who listens to the music that reminds him of a more carefree time, I'll always come back to the 2600 and the NES to recapture those more magical moments in life. And they'll always be there waiting.
RoadBlasters is yet another game that pairs two tried and true video game concepts: driving and shooting. In a futuristic time you must navigate your high performance armored vehicle through a series of fifty rallies. However this is more than just a speed race, along the way you'll face swarms of enemy vehicles and obstacles that will stop you dead in your tracks. More deadly than anything else though is the threat of running out of fuel, out here when you're out of gas you're out of luck. Fuel is replenished by crossing mid stage checkpoints as well as picking up fuel globes. Green fuel globes drift along the roadway, Red fuel globes (orange on the NES) are revealed by shooting enemies on the road that are carrying them. Thankfully your armored vehicle is equipped with powerful guns and can utilize even more powerful special weapons flown in by a support plane. Consider it Pole Position with shooting as that's a fairly good way to describe the basic gameplay.
With fifty stages in the original, one would assume that the NES version would truncate things somewhat but amazingly all fifty stages are present. Sure they may not follow the arcade layouts exactly but they're pretty darn close. Every few stages is bundled into a different region that you drive through. In both the arcade original and NES version you may start at one of the three first regions: Bubble City (rally 1), Forest Section (rally 4), or Desert Region (rally 11). This starting stage select was a common practice among Atari arcade games of the time and it's a pleasant surprise to see it included in the NES port. In fact nearly every screen is a carbon copy of the arcade original, albeit less detailed. The starting stage select, in-game, and post rally summary screens all look very nice and some real care has gone into bringing as much of the original over as possible. The in-game graphics aren't as colorful as they were in the arcade but there is a decent level of detail and the sensation of speed is recreated nicely. When the support plane drops special weapons they attach to your vehicle just as they did in the arcade, again showing the attention to detail present in this port. The fuel gauges, mine warnings, special weapon quantity readings - all the heads up display items are present and work exactly the same.
Audio is replicated as well as could be expected. The original had quite an assortment of sound effects and speech clips and while most of the sound effects make it onto the NES, all the speech has been cut due to technical limitations. The limited musical soundtrack is faithfully recreated for the most part although there wasn't much music in the arcade game to begin with. The controls are well adapted to the NES control pad considering that the arcade version used Atari's well know steering yoke. Acceleration and deceleration are controlled by up and down on the directional pad respectively. The only way to decelerate in the arcade was to lift off the accelerator pedal but the NES method of speed control simulates analog acceleration very nicely. Steering is controlled by left and right on the directional pad and feels tight and accurate. While there were two triggers for the guns and two buttons for the special weapons in the arcade, they were simply mirrored on either side of the control yoke. On the NES the A button fires the guns and the B button is used for special weapons, nothing is lost over the arcade original.
There are few NES arcade ports that have
the amount of polish that RoadBlasters does. Instead of a lackluster port or a
stripped down version of the original, a solid effort was made to cram
everything possible from the arcade onto the NES. All the regions are present,
all fifty rallies are here, every special weapon has been carried over and works
exactly as it did in the arcade, and all the gameplay mechanics are reproduced
perfectly. Simply put, this is one of the most accurate ports of an arcade game
onto the NES hardware platform ever created. Sure it doesn't look as nice but no
one should expect it to, the graphics are still very well done and are more than
adequate. Gamers didn't get shortchanged with the NES version of
RoadBlasters, the port lives up to the fun and challenge of the original. After
all, that's how things should be done when a game is being recreated on an
alternate platform. Anyone that enjoyed RoadBlasters in the arcade or that
thinks that the NES can't produce an accurate version of an arcade title should
give this game a try. It's a very pleasant surprise among the stack of arcade to
"InsaneDavid" also runs a slowly growing gaming site at http://www.classicplastic.net/dvgi
Ask and ye shall receive. At least according to the Bible. In all seriousness, I eagerly read the November issue of Retrogaming Times Monthly (RTM) and noticed Scott's request for contributors. Ever since I had been introduced to RTM, I always thought I could contribute something. However, I had been lazy and never really got around to it. Besides Scott's request, I noticed Alan Hewston was taking a break as well. RTM has been such a good read, I figured it was time to put in my "two cents" on retrogaming and try to keep a good thing going.
First a little background on myself and my experiences with Retrogaming. I was a child of the 80's and grew up a diet of Atari 5200 and Apple IIe games. Looking back to those games, while the Atari 5200 games were quite good, most of my best memories come from the Apple II side of things. When I created my "Apple II Game Museum" (http://www.angelfire.com/80s/apple2), I created a "Apple II Gaming Memories" section as well. Since the Apple II hasn't been too heavily discussed in RTM, I thought it would be appropriate to take some of my gaming memories and contribute it to the RTM. These first memories are edits of what I already had on my web site. I hope you enjoy my trip down memory lane.
Apple Panic - Broderbund Software
When my parents first purchased our Apple IIe back around 1983, I remembered playing around with the "Apple Presents.....Apple IIe" disk as well as some games on disk like Brickout. However, I distinctly remember getting "Apple Panic" real early and it was my first game that I played with my IIe. I don't recall if I picked the game or if my parents picked it up. Regardless of who decided to buy this, this game kept me up for nights as I tried to whack evil apples into submission. I remember spending quite a bit time fiddling with my joystick or paddles for a long time before just playing the game on my keyboard. I don't recall if the game was meant to be strictly for the keyboard or not.
Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar - Origin Software
If I recall correctly, this was my first "adventure/RPG" type game I had played. It was also the first game in the Ultima series I had played. To this day, I still have yet to finish the game! There are a couple of reasons for that. One, after going through most of the game and getting to the Stygian Abyss, I battled to Level 6 where I promptly got lost in the criss-cross maze that is on that level. I eventually got a map from Origin to manuver through the maze and got to the end of the game at Level 8 of the Abyss.
Alas, at the end of the game, I couldn't answer the questions and was sent back outside the Abyss! I think I tried several more times to get back to Level 8 but it was tough and I gave up. Perhaps one day I will try it again.
|Computer Baseball - Strategic Simulations Inc.
I recall I picked this game up at a Sears store that was across the street from my high school in San Francisco. That would put the time frame around 1988 to 1992 (probably earlier than later). Interestingly, Computer Baseball came out around 1981 so the game was fairly old when I got it. However, it was still great fun. I spent hours playing the 78 Yankees, taking on everyone from the 1927 Yankees to the 1978 LA Dodgers.
Comparing Computer Baseball to other baseball games of the 80's is a little unfair. Computer Baseball harked back to the old days of a true baseball simulation rather than an arcade game. Compared to even the other baseball games of the 80's, Computer Baseball's graphics and sound were primative. There was no real animation as we know it and minimal sound. Even the game play was fairly primative. There were no balls and strikes. There was one only "pitch" and it was either a hit, strike out, walk, etc.
The simulation was fairly realistic. You could pinch hit, warm up relivers and do most things most real baseball managers would do. I really had a great time being the manager of the 78 Yankees. However, there was one unrealistic thing that I found. I had relivers with great stats (i.e. Dennis Eckersly from the 80's) and I put them as starting pitchers. They would pitch 7 to 8 inning and they would dominate in reality probably wouldn't happen. However, it was fun to see!
Given the limitations of the 8 bit machines, getting new teams and keeping track of real time stats was difficult. However, Computer Baseball did allow you to save stats and also create new teams on blank disks. I spent a lot of time creating new teams and that was quite fun as well. While I enjoy today's NBA games for the PS2 and other systems, I have yet to find a baseball simulation that was as fun as Computer Baseball was.
In the process of constructing last month's editorial, I forgot to supply one for Nintendo Realm. That's OK though, there really wasn't a lot to say about last month's batch of games. However, we have made it to the very end of 1985. And the Famicom ends 1985 with a bang, as a number of unique and interesting games hit the market. The Famicom is just about to hit it's stride in 1986, which will see the release of the Famicom Disk System, as well as the very first Legend of Zelda. By this time, the Nintendo Entertainment System has officially launched in the United States. While the inclusion of R.O.B. makes the overall package attractive, the NES really takes off when Super Mario Bros. was officially ported over in October of 1985, roughly one month after its release in Japan. Now all Nintendo has to do is sit back and watch the system sell itself. Let's dive in to this month's chronological selection, one of which spawned a series of games that is still being developed to this day!
Zunou Senkan Galg released by DB Soft on
December 14th, 1985. Also known simply as Galg.
Galg is a shooter of the vertical scrolling variety. It features a very smoothly scrolling background that takes you through areas that contain branching pathways. It appears that in addition to your "blast everything in sight" objective, you must also collect 100 "parts" that can be found in each of the areas. The parts, which appear as red triangles against a white background, scroll by and must be touched to be collected. Enemies range from motionless obstacles to creatures which move about the screen and fire at you, all with predictable patterns. The contols for the game are smooth, and the double shot offensive capabilities of your ship work effectively to eliminate two enemies at once. The music is a little too high pitched, and nothing else remarkable stands out about Galg, but it's a decent game.
Q-Tarou: Wan Wan Panic released by Bandai on December 16th, 1985.
Released in the U.S. as Chubby
Cherub in 1986
As an American gamer, you may only be familiar with the game "Chubby Cherub," in which you play a fat naked cupid who seemingly flies over several neighborhood in search of fruit, lollipops, and rice balls, all the while avoiding dogs. The game made very little sense to me as a child, and after seeing the original Japanese counterpart, I understand why. Obake no Q-Tarou was an anime produced in Japan in 1985, based on a manga about a ghost (obake). It was designed by the same man who created Doraemon, anime's famous blue cat. Q-Tarou is a silly ghost who freeloads in the household of some children, and they have some adventures together. In the Famicom game, it seems like Q-Tarou's objective was to collect all of the food he could find and avoid the neighborhood dogs. Q-Tarou (and consequently, our American version cherub), has a power meter that constantly drains, and food refuels the bar. By pressing jump twice, or pressing and holding jump, you can make your character fly, which makes avoiding dogs and their dangerous barking much easier, but it doubles the consumption of the power bar. Regardless of which version you play, both are somewhat fun to try, although they get a little repetitive as the game advances. I suppose the Japanese version makes slightly more sense, but only marginally so.
|Galg||Obake no Q-Tarou|
Binary Land released by Hudson on December 19th,
In this age of penguin popularity, this is one of two games reviewed this month that would have benefited from the media boost (the other being, of course, Penguin-Kun Wars.) Binary Land is an interesting puzzle/action game featuring an aqua penguin and a pink penguin-ette who begin each stage at the bottom of opposite halves of the screen. Before you start the game, you are asked to choose one of the penguins. The penguin of your choice is the one that you will be in direct control over. The other penguin will still appear, but your control over this penguin is mirrored in the left and right directions. Your goal is to direct both penguins from their starting location to the caged heart beneath the goal. Most of the time, you will be in control of both penguins at the same time. The only time this changes is if you get one penguin trapped in a spider web, in which case you must direct the remaining penguin to free the other before a monster gets to it first. The penguins are not helpless. They are armed with some kind of conic wave that takes down spider webs and enemies easily. Destroying an enemy sometimes has the added benefit of a bonus item or power up being deposited in the maze. Hudson recently made this game available again as part of a Famicom compilation on the Game Boy Advance (it was not part of the Famicom Mini series.) It's a cute game, and it's definitely original.
Exed Exes released by Tokuma Shoten on December 21th, 1985.
Based on one of Capcom's earliest arcade games, Exed Exes was also known as Savage Bees outside of Japan. Exed Exes can best be described by starting with 1942, replacing the World War theme with a Sci-Fi theme, and replacing the enemy planes with bee-like insects. But Exed Exes has more of an organized feel than 1942. Enemies come out in packs in difficult but predictable patterns. Larger enemies appear periodically, and power-ups are provided for extra fire power. The usual shooting sections are broken up with bonus areas, where POW symbols can convert difficult to destroy skulls in to easily captured bonus fruit. At the end of each level, a floating platform containing multiple cannon targets appears as the stage boss. The game is fun, but otherwise unremarkable except for one bit of history. When the game was released, a contest was held, and players who reached a score of over 1 million points were provided with a special password. Players who photographed this password and mailed it in to Tokuma, which was also a magazine publisher, you were given a special silver label to apply over the original. The label, and cartridges that still contain one, are extremely rare.
Wars released by ASCII on
December 25th, 1985.
We end 1985 with a very unique and fun game. Penguin-Kun Wars is an unlikely title for a game involving healthy competition between cute animals with... balls. This war is all about who can get the most balls on their opponent's side of the table before 60 seconds runs out. Each player starts with 5 balls on their side. They can throw one ball at a time and if a rolling ball makes contact with a player, that player is knocked out briefly, giving the other player precious moments to send balls over uncontested. The game is played in best two-out-of-three rounds, in an elimination style tournament. If either player manages to get all 10 balls on their opponent's side, they automatically win the round. After 30 seconds, each player is given small control over the lateral movement of the balls, and when only 20 seconds remain, a partial barrier appears to reflect the balls back when they hit it. Upon winning two rounds, you (the penguin) are transported to a bonus round with various objectives, including bombing a whack-a-mole like arena. Your ultimate goal is to get the penguin to the top of the elimination chart against the evil empire of koala's, mice, beavers, and pandas.
|Lot Lot||Penguin-Kun Wars|
Greeting RTM readers! Besides gaming, and classic
gaming at that, one of my other hobbies is building papercraft models. Mainly of
sci-fi stuff such as robots, spaceships, and the like.
As for gaming, I've seen some video game related papercraft models such as arcade machines, popular Nintendo characters like Mario, and even paper versions of game systems like the Game Cube and the original model Game Boy Advance. While these were cool, I noticed there weren't any papercraft models done on the really classic stuff before the Nintendo age.
So with that in mind, I thought I'd try my hand at creating my own papercraft models based on a classic game before the Nintendo era. Being my first try at designing a papercraft model, I wanted something that was both simple to build, yet would make for a cool 3-D model.
Then I thought of the perfect classic game that had characters that would be easy to turn into neat paper models. And that game is Space Invaders! So for classic gaming fans, and anyone interested in trying their hand at papercraft model making, I present to you my 3-D papercraft renderings of the aliens from Space Invaders.
Before going into what I'll be talking about in this column, let me tell you a bit about who I am-my name is Erik, I've been playing video games since my father brought home a home Pong system in 1974 (I don't remember if it was a Coleco or Radio Shack Pong system, but it was definitely one of the two), and my obsession has gotten to the point where I've worked in the video game industry for almost ten years now. In other words, when I used the word "obsession" in the last sentence, it really wasn't much of an exaggeration. Much of my interest in games centers on the early 80's emergence of home systems (specifically the Atari 2600/5200, Intellivision & Colecovision systems, with a bit of Odyssey2 & 7800 stuff here). This time, though, I just want to have some goofy fun with the evolution of
Behind the Pixels: Pac-Man by Erik Lampi
Back in the
early days of the video game industry, 5 B.C. (Before Crash), Namco released a
little game called Puck Man on the Japanese public. Before coming
Behind the Pixels: Pac-Man
The 1970's were the
beginning of the consumer video game industry, and the birth of the character
based video game can be traced to a pizza parlor in 1978
Fame came easily
to Pac Man, and seemingly overnight, he had gone from being a "neat" video game
to a world phenomenon. The young sprite was featured on everything
from t-shirts and lunchboxes to having his own cereal and a permanent penthouse
suite at Caesar's Palace in
Mario: "Yeah, those were the good old days. I remember one particular night; P.M, Double D, Doodoo (Pac Man, Dig Dug, and Mr. Do. -ed.), and myself were in Atlantic City snorting power pellets off of a new cocktail version of his game, when he just lost it. You know all of those stories that you hear about rock stars trashing hotel rooms? P.M. outdid them. Couches, one of the end tables, and every towel in the room were thrown out the window, and just about everything else was broken somehow. The only thing left untouched was that damn cocktail version of his game that we'd been snorting off of. He didn't care though-he was the biggest game star in the world, rolling in money, and he knew it. The damage was pretty bad, but P.M. just shrugged it off & said that it didn't matter to him-- he had plenty of quarters to pay for it all."
In 1981, Pac Man
met the woman that he'd spend the rest of his life with, but not until years
later. Ms. Pac Man came to
Ms. Pac Man: "I couldn't stand him. The first time that we went out was a double date with a couple of the robots from Berzerk-- I think it was Steve & Shelley. Anyway, we went to a pretty nice place, but Pac obviously didn't want to be there. He kept looking at the timer on the wall & telling Steve that he had to get going by 11 because he had some 'thing' to do with Donkey Kong. Finally around quarter of 11, Pac just disappears. Later we found out that he had ducked out of one of the emergency exits on the side of the building to keep his appointment with Donkey Kong. We didn't see each other again for years after that."
The Caesar's Palace meltdown started a new, darker chapter in Pac Man's life, although it didn't seem that way to him. In May of 1982, he decided that his entire life needed to change, and he left the video game industry. Joining Billy Idol on tour for the rest of the year, Pac Man's every craving was satisfied, no matter how deviant. His addictive personality led him to eventually collecting first aid kits and flags, but he refused to tell anyone why, and he very rarely shared them with the groupies that were so plentiful on the "White Wedding" tour.
Namco, on the other hand, wanted Pac Man to star in another sequel to his original hit, but he refused, and the first of Pac Man's many legal battles began. Having no other choice, Namco hired a new Pac Man for the upcoming Super Pac Man game. To generate interest in the upcoming sequel, Namco courted Richard Pryor for a supporting role in the game, but he had already signed on for a similar role in the upcoming Superman III. Super Pac Man was eventually released in 1982 with a recast Pac Man, but the gaming public would have none of it, and the game was a relative failure.
Dirk The Daring: "I found Pac Man at the Long Beach Arena Billy Idol concert, and I almost didn't recognize him-scraggly beard, half-lidded, bloodshot eyes, nursing a bottle of Jack Daniels that he'd stolen from one of the opening band's roadies. The poor guy was a mess. I stayed backstage with everyone until he passed out, then carried him out to my car & straight to rehab."
In 1983, six months after
leaving rehab, Pac Man was still clean & sober, and was once again dating
Pac Man has led a clean life since his tumultuous 4th year, and the future looks bright. Namco now releases Pac Man games directly to home video game consoles instead of the arcade, but Pac Man, older & wiser, prefers it that way now.
Pac Man: "Would I do it all over again? Yeah, probably. I mean, those years of partying in the 80's made me who I am today... well, that and extensive plastic surgery. I'm not ashamed to admit it: I've had some work done. With all that I've done in the past 27 years, I think I'm doing OK."Stay tuned for next month, when Behind The Pixels looks at Donkey Kong's bi-polar disorder.