|Issue #34 - March 2007|
Table of Contents
|02.||The Many Faces of David's Midnight Magic|
|03.||There's Something About Mary|
|04.||NEScade -- Ghost 'n Goblins|
|05.||Apple II Incider: The Atari 5200 vs. The Apple II|
|07.||Old Wine in New Bottles: Retrogaming on Modern Hardware|
|08.||Game Over|Attract Mode by Scott
thought for a while about how to start off this issue. I'm not always the
best when it comes to conjuring up pearls of wisdom. But lately I've been
thinking about how my experience with RTM has changed so much in so little time.
I started out very much like all of you: simply a reader and a fan of what
the various authors produced each month. Sometimes I would whip through an
issue in a matter of minutes, gazing at the pictures and moving on. And
sometimes an article would really grab me and suck me in. I enjoyed the
experience either way. It's always fun to reminisce
Then a couple of years ago, I decided to become a contributing author to RTM. At the time, I was really into collecting vintage game magazines, and I saw a topic that didn't get much coverage so I decided to volunteer a little bit of what I knew each month about different magazine series. Shortly after that, my interest in magazines faded, and I switched over to chronogaming on the NES and sharing those experiences instead. When Adam King decided to step down as chief editor, I decided that I enjoyed working on RTM so much, that I would step up and assume his role.
you're probably thinking that all I chose to write all about was me. But
the truth is, that's not really my intention. My intention was to point
out that any of you, whether you're a casual reader, or an avid fan, can become
a part of this great experience, and it's so easy to do. Not everyone is
confident about their writing skills, and I'm very aware that mine still needs a
lot of polish every now and then. But once you get into it, it gets a lot
easier as you go along.
I've done a lot of asking for new talent and articles, but I haven't really done a great job spotlighting those who have answered that call. Donald Lee has been with us for a number of months now, and he's been doing a wonderful job shedding light on retrogaming from an Apple II fan's point of view. And this month, we welcome brand new author Jonathan H. Davidson who will be providing us with retrogaming coverage with a twist: reviews of all those compilation disks that you see on sale for modern day systems. Also, we have an extra special last minute surprise entry by the one and only Tom Zjaba, founder of the original Retrogaming Times. And David Lunden Jr. spotlights an absolute classic game in this month's NEScade. So there's a lot to dig into, and I hope you enjoy it. Please let us know if you do.
|"DMM" is based upon the
from "Black Night"
|Darn! No metallic Broderbund cartridges this time|
Home Version Similarities - except those in < > all home versions have: a pause <2600>; multiple players (one simultaneous); you start with 5 balls in each game; variable strength plunger; the plunger remains fixed <2600> until changed again; upper and lower flippers; bumpers and kickers that send the ball flying off them; scoring or other bonuses for hitting or reaching specific locations or targets, or striking an entire set of targets; there are rollover targets; there is a ball collection location <2600> so that up to 3 balls <2600> can be involved in multi-ball action; fill the collector or hit the ball release target to activate the multi-ball frenzy; magic save magnets <2600 (side kickers)> can be earned on each lower side; the magic save magnets must be activated (via keyboard) at just the right time to save your ball; end of game ball release toggle sets any collected balls free; there are three <2600> paths (ways) to get the ball back to the upper section; multiple target sets <2600 only 1>; upper & lower <2600> target sets; targets do not reset when ball is lost <2600>; sets of targets are reset and bonuses are earned when all targets in that set have been hit; your score and bonuses can be multiplied ("multiplier" increases to 2, 3, 4 and then 5 times the score) when the ball enters the ball loop <2600 when all targets are hit>; after reaching 5X, the subsequent time will earn an extra ball or "Shoot Again"; any time the ball is lost (or final ball when playing multi-balls) the bonus points are then subtracted from the screen bonus display and directly added to your current score; if you have multipliers, then after the bonuses are tallied, then the multiplier reduces by one and then the bonuses are tallied again, etc. until the multiplier and bonuses both reach zero, at which point you are finished scoring points with that ball; the multiplier then remains at zero (none) to start the next ball; finally, the most interesting addition is the ability to "nudge" the table; but if you nudge three times in a row you will have the table "Tilt"; if you "Tilt" all actions stops and you lose the ball, plus any bonuses and multipliers are all lost (not tallied up).
Note that this "nudge" is not quite as simple as you could physically do on a standard table, but it is more like putting some "whammy" or "English" or spin to the ball. Although this augmentation is random, it does tend to add some influence to the outcome - which sorta gives you more control - but also can be dangerous. An experienced player will trade off the risk and learn to "nudge" early and often to get the ball to do what is harder to do on your own.
|2600 screenshot from AtariAge.com|
Have Nots: Atari
My first reaction was how cool to find out that this was ported from the 8 bit computer line. The actual title is "Midnight Magic", but since it is based upon the computer game David's Midnight Magic - we have included it here in our review. Atari sat on this one from 1984 when it was completed, finally releasing it in 1988. The Gameplay is very good (7) with most of the elements of a decent pinball game, but still coming up short in variety, complexity, and especially in the quantity of targets. Matching the detailed table layout of the computer versions was not possible here, instead some added variety and more randomness has been included. A nice addition is 2 skill levels, where the "B" difficulty provides the center post (below the lower flippers) and kickers (one each along the lower wings) always. The "A" difficulty makes you earn the center post and kickers - which are not present until you hit the target pointed at by the arrow. This makes for quite a challenge, and usually a much shorter game. Not found on the computer versions are 2 vertical kickers, found along the wings that are essentially mini plungers that prevent the ball from going out of play. The great part is that they apply a random amount of power to kick the ball upwards, with every kick being a bit different, really livening up the action. Another fine addition to give you more control or influence - are 2 upper magnets, one each along the side walls. These magnets automatically grab the ball when it gets nearby and then release it straight down - right onto the upper flipper along that wall. The most notable element missing is no ball collection area, nor any multi-ball action. There is also no chance to nudge the ball, taking away more of the strategy. There are no loops or targets that earn you bonuses, just the upper set of targets. Since all of the upper targets must be hit to increase the multiplier, all targets and the multiplier are reset every time you lose a ball. The exception being when you earn a "shoot again" (done by hitting the top rollover when the multiplier is on) in which case the multiplier and any targets remain as they were when the original ball is lost. This port has the most on-screen activity, but overall, the game tends to play by itself - since you have less influence (no nudge) and a lot less flipper control. To compensate, there's a lot more randomness and variety to where the ball can go, and how much faster it can go to keep you alert and more focused to save the ball when necessary. Addictiveness is enjoyable (8), with enough action, rewards and playability as the original, but lacking a pause and the tallying up of bonus points. Graphics are exciting (7) for the 2600, with a lot of flare with kickers, bumpers and targets flashing when you hit them. The ball is lively and moves around smoothly. The spinner is exceptionally well done and really grabs your attention. There is wide variety of colors used, including the entire screen changing shades when the multiplier is earned. There's a rainbow effect when a "Shoot Again" is earned. There is some added text outside of the table saying: "Midnight Magic" & "Player One" & "Ball One" etc. Midnight Magic flashes in the demo mode and the other text changes colors as well. A LED-like score is uniquely placed in the lower center of the table, right there in your face. Sure, the flippers are not that well animated and there is a square ball and lots of blocky graphics, fewer targets and items to hit, and hardly any details, but all of that is easy to ignore. The Sound is the best here, much more effective (7) and having things not heard on the other versions. Added are an effect when you lose a ball, and nice musical jingles are played to start each game and when the game is over. All the basic effects are there, plus the really cool, long lasting, dominating unique sound of the spinner. The spinner effect works so well because it is in sync with the actual spinning rate of the spinner. The kicker's sound is also very unique and varies in proportion to the power imparted by each hit - awesome! Controls are perfect (10) as it is great to work the flippers and plunger via the stick. Other versions were penalized for having too much to control, or at least for not having it all on the joystick. See below, how, in my opinion, one could add all the control functions (even nudge, magnets and maybe pause too) found on the computer versions to one Atari joystick. Perhaps the 2600 was capable of adding those elements to the gameplay as well. This 2600 cart is not too hard to find.
|Here's a C64 box scan courtesy of Lemon 64|
Gold Medal: Apple ][, Atari 8
bit & Commodore 64 (41)
These 3 are so very similar, with exactly the same scores that I'll combine most of the details. There is a lot to the outstanding Gameplay (9), with all the same elements for scoring & strategy, and although the game does not get harder, you'll gradually learn aspects of the game and improve your skills at various locations (or situations) on the table. The playfield for all three is the same (other than proportion or scaling differences) so the graphical layout of the targets, plunger, kickers, bumper, flippers and anything else is comparable. The game plays at a good, realistic, speed and does a good job of imitating gravity for a ball rolling on an inclined plane. The laws of physics are done well, especially ball collisions and the interactions with the flippers bumpers & kickers. Bad news is that there is no demo, no options for skill or difficulty, only a choice of 1 to 4 players. The Graphics are of superb quality (9), with a great amount of detail, smooth ball motion and flipper action, hi-resolution backgrounds, cursive text, nice displays, flashing arrows and detailed bumpers, targets and sets of targets. There is a lot of color variety and some multi-color. Portions are a bit simpler, like the plunger, rollover targets, ball release and magnets. The action is limited to one (to three) small ball(s) and 4 flippers. There is an attract mode with the lights and displays & multipliers all lighting in sequence. The Sound is good (6), but is clearly the area that could easily have been enhanced - see the 2600. The "bells and whistles" (i.e. audio effects) are not heard as frequently, or in chorus, or anywhere near as entertaining as is found on a real pinball machine, but there's enough to make you happy. It does get a bit quiet at times and several of the effects are repeats. The basic effects are: the plunger, kickers, bumpers, targets and the rollovers. The more interesting effects occur when you cause a "Tilt", activate the magnets, complete a set of targets, or the ball enters the ball collector, the multiplier loop or the multi-ball release. There are no background effects or music, and no sounds when the flippers swing, or even when the ball is hit by them. Finally, there's no effect when the ball is lost or even when the game is over. Add in a few of these and the score quickly goes up a point. Addictiveness in fantastic (9) as this pinball game can be played for hours. They are loaded with lots of gameplay elements and well conceived to provide you the ability to influence or control the ball (or at least to prevent from losing it). All versions have an unlimited break in the action between balls, but the computer versions also have a pause button <Esc>, <Run/Stop> & <Select> whenever you need a break. Controls all scored a (9). The complexity of having gameplay features such as 2 flippers, a nudge, a pause and two magnets is great, but too bad they did not group most or all of them into a single joystick. Having only the pause on the keyboard would have been my preference.
For all three computer versions, the use of the magnets is as follows:
Left Magnet - <Z> or <X> or <C> or <V>
Right Magnet - <M> or <,> or <.> or </>
These are the best possible choices (especially to give us multiple keys to smack at) as they are the keys just above those used for the left and right flippers respectfully. This keeps the added challenge of the magnets there, without the burden of finding the keys.
Gamers who prefer keyboards over joysticks may score the Apple ][ or C64 controls a "10", but I could not come to do it. Another good reason is that this would penalize the Atari version (see below) as I am not sure if the Broderbund version had an "all keyboard" option or not.
|Apple ][ screenshot from Wikipedia|
|C64 screenshot from Gamebase64.com|
|The Broderbund 1982
screenshot from MobyGames.com
|Atari XE 1987
screenshot from MobyGames.com
The beautiful Princess Prin-Prin has been kidnapped by the demon king Astaroth and it's up to Sir Arthur to rescue her. Six treacherous levels stand between their reunion, with a powerful guardian at the end of each. Donning his armor and armed with his trusty lance, Sir Arthur sets off on his long journey through the kingdom to Astaroth's castle. Arthur's lance can be traded out for one of four other weapons that appear when an enemy carrying one is destroyed. Only one weapon can be carried at any time and some are better suited for specific areas than others. Two hits from an enemy attack will kill Arthur, the first stripping him of his armor and the second leading to his demise. The series would come to be known by this damage mechanic and Arthur running around in his underpants after losing his armor.
For its time Ghosts 'n Goblins was beautifully detailed game, it still looks very nice to this day. Of course this is the first compromise on the NES hardware. I will say that a valiant attempt was made to keep the visual style and level design as close as possible to the original. Visually the entire game is recreated pretty much verbatim, far less detailed, but nearly everything is there or at least close to how it was. There is a nominal amount of flicker which makes the graphic presentation not as solid as I would have liked it to be, yet the game was released early in the life of the NES so it's excusable. Control is spot on to the arcade, a little drifty but accurate. All the music and the majority of the sound effects have been brought over but they fight each other for supremacy. While this is common with many early NES games it's very disappointing here as Ghosts 'n Goblins had a memorable arcade soundtrack.
The real question here is if the NES version will make someone a better player at the arcade version and vice versa. Honestly, no - while the games are very similar they are still very different. The NES version is almost like a miniature rework of the arcade original however it is just as full featured. Timing is different, distances are different, but most of the enemy locations are the same. It's the same game just modified to work on the NES hardware. This raises the question if the NES was ready to handle a game like this at the time it was ported onto the system. At the end of the day I don't feel it was, which is why we end up with a game of compromises. It's the same game but in its limited form on the NES it simply doesn't have the charm and drawing power the original had. Still, anyone that liked the original should try the NES version, it is worth a look at. Those who grew up with the NES version owe it to themselves to play the arcade original to experience this great game as was intended. Ghosts 'n Goblins stands as one of the most brutally difficult NES games to ever be released as the challenge from the arcade remains completely intact.
"InsaneDavid" also runs a slowly growing gaming site at http://www.classicplastic.net/dvgi
to the March 2007 edition of the Apple II Incider. It's been a tough past
few weeks due to work and other things so this article may be a little
shorter than usual.In any case, after writing my last few articles for RTM,
I started to wonder why most of my best memories were of the Apple II but
not of the Atari 5200. I had the Atari close to the same time as the Apple
II. I recall having a fun time playing the Atari 5200 games during the 80's.
I had to stop myself to think about the subject and come up with an answer. The Atari 5200 library of games were as fun as any other games I have played over the years. Between Break Out, Defender, Pac man and others, I spent many hours playing them. However, the majority (if not all) of the games were arcade translations. The 5200 games were fun at the time because they were the closest thing we could get to the actual arcade games without actually going to the arcade.
However, these days, the best arcade games of the 80's are available via emulator, online or the various compilations for the newer generation of game systems. The motivation to play the 5200 versions is much less because the originals are so readily available.
The other half of the answer belongs to the Apple II itself. The Apple II had inferior hardware to the 5200 but like most computers, had a more diverse game library than the 5200. As I've been writing in RTM, I have very good memories of my days playing various Apple II games. The software library is only part of the answer though. I think the real answer of why my best memories were of the Apple II was due to the Apple II's inferior hardware (especially the 8 bit Apple II's). The Apple II graphics and sound were weaker compared to it's contemporaries such as the Atari 800 and the Commodore 64. These limitations were highlighted on a daily basis in many magazines when they compared games between systems.
However, despite this, I remained proud of the Apple II. In fact, I found myself enjoying Apple II versions of arcade games like Robotron or Pac Man on the Apple II more than anything else. Yes, they might have been a little inferior to most versions of games on other systems. However, I have to gave credit to the programmers over the years. Despite the many limitations with the Apple II, some were able to work miracles and create many good looking and sounding games.
Not to slight the Atari 5200, I have been playing with some games via some 5200 emulators. It was good to relive some old memories. In the future, I may do a comparison of Apple II and Atari 5200 games that exist on both systems. I think that would be fun.
See you next month!
We're moving on to April of 86 now. Six is a comfortable number for me to continue with since I'm a little more busy than usual, so we'll keep going with it. This month's collection of games are more interesting for the tidbits of trivia that I could find about the games, than the actual games themselves. So read on to find out what arcane knowledge I was able to dig up for you.
Team Pro Wrestling released by Namco on April 2nd,
1986. Released in the US by Data East on September 1986 as Tag Team
Igo: Kyuu Roban Taikyoku released by Bullet Proof Software
on April 14th, 1986.
I'd also like to point out that Igo has Ninjas
Nazo no Murasame Shiro released by Nintendo on April 14th,
Jaleco on April 17th, 1986.
Atlantis no Nazo released by Sunsoft on April
Gegege no Kitaro: Youkai Daimakyou released by Bandai
April 17th, 1986. Released in the U.S. as Ninja Kid on October,
After years of being relegated to the fringes of mainstream gaming, retro gaming has become cool. Major corporations have discovered that there is still value in their "old games" and have begun re-releasing these titles on modern platforms: old wine in new bottles.
Welcome to my new column at Retrogaming Times Monthly. Each month we will look at a different commercially released emulator package of classic games. The primary focus will be on Playstation and PC games, as those are the platforms that I have. Some of these packages are no longer in print, but they are still readily available second-hand.
This month, we will review the Playstation compilation Activision Classic Games. This was published by Activision in 1998 and was subsequently re-issued as a Greatest Hits edition. The Digital Press guide gives it a rarity of R2.
This collection includes 29 original Activision games and one Inmagic game (Atlantis). The selection ranges from the very common and well known games (e.g. Grand Prix, Pitfall, River Raid) to the more rare and/or obscure titles (e.g. Cosmic Commuter, H.E.R.O., River Raid II,).
Obviously none of the third-party licensed titles (e.g. Ghostbusters) and arcade ports (e.g. Double Dragon, Rampage) are included. Many of the larger and more complex games (e.g. Robot Tank, Private Eye, Pitfall II, Space Shuttle) have also been dropped. I assume that this must have been because of technical issues with the emulator. This is an unfortunate omission.
Some of the less fun games (e.g. Bridge, Checkers, and Oink) are also excluded, but I doubt anyone will miss their absence. The truly bizarre game Pressure Cooker has also been wisely dropped from this collection.
Disappointingly, the Activision collection does not include any extras beyond the games, not even pictures of the high-score patches that were once available! Considering that most other compilation CDs include everything from video clips of interviews with the programmers to samples of original advertising, this is a serious deficiency.
All of these games were originally developed for the original Atari 2600 controllers, and not all of them have adapted well to the Playstation controller. This is especially the case with Kaboom (which used the paddle controller).
While Activision games have been widely released on various platforms since the halcyon golden age of the 2600, this compilation is solid. I recommend it to any Playstation owning retrogame enthusiasts.
Next month, we will look at the Intellivision collection for the Playstation.
Feedback on this column is most welcome. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
|I could not be more pleased
with how this months issue came out. As always, we look forward to your
feedback. This is as much your magazine as it is ours, so share your
thoughts with us! |
Copyright © 2007 Alan Hewston & Scott Jacobi. All related copyrights and trademarks are acknowledged.