|Issue #50 - July 2008|
Table of Contents
|02.||NES'Cade -- Jackal|
|03.||Apple II Incider: Breaking out|
|05.||Old Wine in New Bottles: Retrogaming on Modern Hardware|
|06.||Who'd Win: Star Wars vs. Star Trek|
|07.||Fun Arcade Games That Never Came To My Arcade|
|09.||Game Over|Attract Mode by Scott
I'd like to start off by giving a heart-felt thank you to all of you who wrote to me in response to last month's attract mode, and letting us know how much you love the publication, and how you don't want it to disappear. Don't worry, RTM isn't going anywhere for the foreseeable future. With that said, I'd like to present our very first guest editorial, written by Bobby Lyle, aka "retro junkie".
I have been playing video games for years. The first home console that I played as a teen was "Pong" hooked up to an old Black and white TV. And I have become hooked on the past, not for nostalgic reasons, but because of the great simple gaming goodness that can be found there. With RTM I find some of the game titles that I did not know existed. I find myself searching for them and purchasing for my own game library.
The old school "Space Shoot'em up" or "SHMUP" is my favorite gentry of video games. I can not get enough of that retro, shoot everything in sight, tons of power ups, lets get that higher score, survival game play. From the bad to the greatest I have tried to find and play them all. And I have found some real gems in the process. From the early Commodore 64, NES, or Sega Master System, to the present day DS, if it has an old school type SHMUP release I will try to obtain it.
I can remember my first experience with a SHMUP on the Commodore 64. It was there that I first discovered the thrill. Really some of those were home conversions of arcade games like Defender. Those vague memories are also filled with the first Gameboy versions of Gradius. The Turbo Grafx 16 / PC engine became my favorite gaming system, and still is, because of the tons of SHMUPs that fill its game library. The consoles that stand out in my mind, with my favorite shooters, are the NES, Turbo Grafx 16, SNES, Neo Geo CD, and Sega Genesis. And I do love the Jaguar's updated versions of Tempest and Defender. I do acknowledge that the Saturn, Dreamcast, PlayStation 1 & 2, and the Gamecube have their place, but they have very few of of the classics that I cut my teeth on. Games that I still play today for example, like Stun Runner on the Lynx, in which I can spend hours on, or Gyruss on the NES, etc.
The gauntlet is filled with the Gradius series, R-type, Blazing Lasers, Thunder Force series, Gun Nac, Crisis Force, Gate of Thunder, W-Ring, Life Force, Zanac, Space Mega Force, Side Arms, Raiden, Paranoia, Last Resort, Super Star Soldier, Rabio Lepus Special, Tatsujin, Tempest 2000, Defender, Super R-Type, and many more,the list is huge. I can still, and do, pick up and play with the same full enjoyment that I did back in the day when they were fresh and new.
And with each generation of newer and more powerful technological leaps in console gaming, I find myself gravitating back to these simple pick me up and play games. I seem to find more satisfaction in these retro blasts from the past than in the modern complex play mechanics found in the present day offerings. That simple adrenaline pushing challenging game play, pushing myself to beat my own high score, dodging and fighting my way to that next boss, grabbing those power ups for that different weapon or for that full potential extreme blast, has gotten me totally addicted. And you, most of the time, only use one or two buttons on that game pad. Sheer genius programing in game play mechanics. And no fancy graphics are needed, only enough to create the atmosphere and to complement the game play.
These games, for me, seem to be timeless gaming fun. Many young modern day gamers will probably never experience many of those classics, or simply don't get it. One lone tiny prototype battle space cruiser against a vast alien armada bent on annihilating our part of the galaxy. They really don't have a clue as to what they are missing. I cherish those memories and relive them as often as I can.
Thank you very much retro junkie.
If you'd like to see your guest editorial printed here, please submit them to
me. Enjoy the issue!
Games based upon war have always
been a core component of the video game industry as a whole. Shoot or be shot
has been a fundamental mechanic dating back to some of the earliest video games
\both in the arcade and in the home and continues on to this day. One could
argue that this is a greater reflection of humanity being based around war and
conquest. Or that the natural world instincts of survival of the fittest
permeate into all things. However that's something else entirely since we're
here to play some video games and have some fun. Konami became known early on as
one of the top innovators and refiners of the shooting genre, with games that
featured fast action game play along with fluid graphics and memorable sound.
While their run and gun opus, Contra, was still a year away, 1986 wasn't without
its stellar arcade titles. Building on their already popular catalog of arcade
hits Konami offered up a more down to Earth take on combat with Jackal, released
in North American arcades as Top Gunner.
Jackal enlisted players in the role of a pair of soldiers in a jeep, dropped behind enemy lines via helicopter. Your mission: rescue your comrades who are being held as prisoners of war. Along the way small helicopter landing pads will be staffed by rescue helicopters to carry away your freed brothers-in-arms. Be careful though, since you're going in as a small invasion and rescue force you'll be up against the entire might of the opposing army. Each jeep is equipped with both a primary and secondary weapon. The primary weapon is a rapid fire machine gun which always shoots upward. It has limited range and firepower, however due to its quick rate of fire it is an indispensable tool for grinding through the masses of enemy soldiers. Also since it always shoots upward it can be used as a strafing weapon while the jeep is driven to the left and right. The secondary weapon is an upgradable explosive projectile. It begins as pineapple grenades which while fire slower and a shorter distance than the machine gun, cause much more damage. The grenades can be upgraded to missiles which fire faster and have greater range. The missiles can in turn be upgraded a couple times, increasing their final blast radius with each upgrade. Only explosive projectiles can be used to blow open buildings which will then allow the rescue of the P.O.W.'s inside. Special P.O.W.'s will upgrade your weapons and of course transporting P.O.W.'s to the rescue helicopters is the best way to gain massive bonus points. Two years after charging through the blockades of the arcade, Jackal appeared on the NES but not without quite a few changes.
Let's start off with what remained faithful to the arcade original. The first thing most players remember about Jackal is the music, that one of a kind tune that plays during the introduction screen and during the first stage. This is completely intact and many will take to the NES instrument reworking more so than the original soundtrack. Control is handled exactly as it was originally with the directional pad replacing the joystick for jeep movement. The B Button fires the machine gun, straight up as in the arcade, and the A Button launches your current explosive projectile. As for the projectiles, they follow suit as they did in the arcade for the most part although the blast radius upgrading behaves just slightly different. Movement and firing are fast and accurate although while the jeep tends to respond faster on the NES, due to fewer frames of animation for it backing up and turning around, the machine gun doesn't fire as fast as it did in the arcade when the button is held down. P.O.W.'s are rescued in the same way by blowing open their prison buildings, parking out in front to pick them up and depositing them at helicopter landing pads.
As I write this, it is July 1st!
Hard to believe that 6 months of 2008 has come and gone. For me, the month of
June was difficult to say the least. I'm going to write up a separate article on
my situation, so look out for it.
As far as this month's Apple II Incider goes, I'm going to focus on games that revisit an old Atari classic Breakout. One slight change from previous months though. I'm going to include some thoughts on an Atari 5200 game!
According to Wikipedia, the original Atari Breakout game came out in 1976. I was born only two years earlier in 1974 and didn't start going to the arcades until at least the early to mid 1980's. I don't recall ever playing the original Breakout in the arcade during my youth.
My first exposure to a variation of Breakout was with my Atari 5200. My family purchased the early variation of the Atari 5200 that had four joystick ports and included Super-Breakout as the pack-in game. If people recall, later variations of the the Atart 5200 only had two joystick ports and Pac-Man was included as the pack-in game.
Now, everyone knows the Atari 5200 joysticks were rather filmsy things that broke easily. Well, my parents and I obviously didn't know that. We spent hours at the Atart 5200 playing Super Breakout. I know there are people who were critical of Atari including Super Breakout as the pack-in game. However, I can tell you I wasn't complaining. Super Breakout, with it's variations of screens, was quite fun. My parents and I played it quite often until the Atari 5200 Pac-Man came along.
The next variation of Breakout I came across was for the Apple II. It was called Brick-Out. I remember reading about the game in magazines during my youth, but I had never actually played it. However, I seem to recall borrowing a disk from school one day which included Brick-Out on it. I loaded it up and gave the same a spin. It wasn't the easiest game to play as the screen was sideways (see screen shot). Also, the game was programmed for the Apple II paddles. It was an interesting experience, but by the time I came across it, it was also very outdated. I didn't play this game too much at all.
The last two variations of Breakout I played were also for the Apple II. The first was a game called Flobynoid. As you can probably tell, this game was a variation of the arcade game Arkanoid. Flobynoid was a public domain (freeware or shareware) game developed by some French programmers. I accidentally came across the game while going through a software thrift shop during my college days in the 1990's. I bought the game immediately and played it the instant I got home. From the bootup screens to the gameplay itself, I was extremely impressed with Flobynoid. The graphics were very smooth and the sound was solid. But it was the gameplay that really kept my playing. Even using a joystick, the action was smooth, even with multiple objects on screen. The Apple II was never known for it's graphics capabilities, but some developers were really able to push the system to it's limits.
Finally, I can't leave off the Apple II (8-bit) version of Arkanoid. I actually hadn't played this version before. I had played the arcade version and the Apple IIGS version (via emulator) and the game was quite fun. For sake of comparison, I gave the 8-bit version of the game a spin and came away a little disappointed. When compared to Flobynoid, the game play just seemed sluggish. Though the graphics on the surface seemed similiar, to me, there was something about Arkanoid that seemed off.
In any case, I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane. See you all next month!
I had planned to cover Midway Arcade Treasures this month, but I have just
managed to acquire a copy of the recently released SNK Arcade Classic: Volume 1
collection for the PlayStation 2. I cannot pass-up the chance to review an
actual new retro-game collection.
Collectors may wish to consider grabbing an extra copy as this may very well be a scarce title in the future. It is supposedly a discount or budget title, but around here prices range from $25 to over $50 - and most stores do not even have it in stock! I had to visit several places until I managed to find a singe copy. EB Games does not stock this tile (at least not in Canada). One local, independent retailer told me that he simply could not get it from his supplier.
This retro collection includes 16 Neo Geo arcade games from the early to mid-1990s. These titles range from the well known (e.g. Metal Slug) to rather more obscure releases (e.g. Neo Turf Masters). World Heroes is initially locked, but it can be easily unlocked.
The collection skews towards fighting games; 7 of the titles (e.g. Art of Fighting, King of the Monsters, King of Fighters '94, Samurai Shodown) are of this genre. The balance of the collection consists of platformers and three sports games (golf, baseball, and soccer).
There is a substantial amount of unlockable content. This includes game-related art and music, move lists for the fighting games. Unlocks are accomplished by way of collecting medals. Medals are ranked according to difficulty (from Green to Black) and are they awarded for various accomplishments (e.g. beating a high score, passing a level without dying). Some are really easy to obtain, while others are nearly impossible.
My biggest complaint about this collection is the horrendously long loading times before starting a game. It reminds me of an early PSX game. There are also delays in saving settings, etc. (progress is saved automatically a pre-set checkpoints, usually at the end of a level or round). It also appears that settings (e.g. custom controller mapping, difficulty level) can only be saved for one game at a time. Medals accumulated and unlocked content is saved for all titles, however.
This is a decent collection of retrogames, but many of the titles are not well known. As I am not a fan of the genre, the emphasis on fighting games is a negative for me (though I do really like King of the Monsters). The production quality could also be higher. I doubt anyone but hardcore collectors (or fans of a specific included title) would want this collection. Combined with its limited distribution, this collection has potential as a future rarity. I do not anticipate that Volume 2 will be released anytime soon - at least not in North America.
Next month, we really will cover Midway Arcade Treasures (volume 1). Feedback on this column is always welcome. Please send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
readers! With another RTM comes another installment of "Who'd Win?", and this
one is gonna be a good one! This month I will be pitting arcade games of the two
greatest sci-fi franchises of all time! Star Trek, and Star Wars! See there was
a time when movie license games were very good! So let us punch up coordinates
for the hyperdrive, and do a slingshot effect around the sun back to the 1980s!
Engage, and may the force be with you!
Growing up in a
small Ohio town, we had the usual convenience stores such as 7-11 that carried a
couple of classics, or the ever popular department store lobby arcades that
housed maybe three or four games...of course one of these always was so old and
beat up that the color usually consisted of a lovely monochrome green or red.
You could always find Asteroids, Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, etc, etc.
Maybe even get lucky and find a Pole Position where the steering wheel actually
worked and wasn't covered with gum and other assorted stickiness...ahhhhh, fiery
pixilated wheel bouncing crashes!
Step up a level to a mall arcade and now we're talking a Tempest or possibly a sit-down version of Star Wars. The sights and sounds could attract kids from the parking lot and off I went while Dad browsed the hardware aisles at Sears and Mom tried on more clothes and shoes that I cared to sit through. A quick plea for a few one dollar bills and I was gone.....damn the little orange light on the token machines that cried Out Of Order! Where's that clerk again....doesn't he know that they are supposed to stay behind the ticket counter in case someone has 300 tickets to redeem for that shiny plastic ring?
With the introduction of MAME, one can easily replay all their favorites from yesteryear, as well as find some new favorites that they never knew existed......
A 1983 Williams game that focuses on quick reflex action throughout various stages. Sounds similar to Defender and I think that the graphics are very cool for the time period. Highly recommended.
This 1983 Atari classic has the player controlling a robot through various 3-D platforms to destroy the eye sentinel as well as shooting enemies in space stages. What makes this game even more unique is that you could pay a quarter to just doodle on the screen with shapes if you didn't want to play! Very cool game.
DISCS of TRON
Weighing in at over 700 pounds, this cabinet was huge and most likely very expensive. Surround sound, speech and great action with Tron effects make for one great game. Defeat your enemies without falling off.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
The vector-based Star Wars game could be converted to this 1985 Atari quarter stealer. Featured some fun new levels as well as a stupid avoid the meteor level that was just lame. Never played the real version....go MAME!
JOUST 2 SURVIVAL of the FITTEST
1986 sequel to the classic Joust by Williams. Features new levels and enemies and is based on the classic's battle formula, yet only about 1000 of these were ever made. Worth checking in my opinion.
ATARI ARCADE CLASSICS
This prototype from 1992 was never released. If this game had been released on schedule it would have commemorated Atari's 20th anniversary. It has two games on offer, "Super Centipede" and "Missile Command II". They are both re-makes of the original classics but with enhanced graphics and sound.
These games represent just a few of the many long lost arcade gems that you can play in MAME. There are so many others I haven't even mentioned, so download MAME and check some of these classics that you miss or maybe never got the chance to play......all without that damn orange light on the token machine!
Life can be full of
fun and games at times. But sometimes, life can throw you a real curve ball. As
I mentioned in my Apple II Incider column, I didn't have a particular great
month of June. Here's a brief synposis of what happened.
On June 9th, 2008, I received a call from my boss at work. Unfortunately, I was actually talking to a co-workers that worked out of the country so I didn't take the call and listen to my boss's voice mail until later that evening. My boss left me a somewhat cryptic message which hinted to me something was up. Since he was in the Eastern time zone, I would have to wait until the morning to call him back.
At 1 AM that night (June 10th now), I was still up and taking a LATE shower. All of a sudden, I heard a loud noise. It sounded like something had fallen or been dropped. I quickly got out of the shower and looked around my house and didn't see anything out of the ordinary. I did notice some commotion outside and suspected something was wrong. However, I didn't really see anything so I put it out of my mind.
Since it was late, I decided to hop into bed and go to sleep, but then my doorbell rang. At that point, I knew something was wrong. It turned out my parked car had been sideswipedby another car and damaged rather severely. Fortunately, the driver stuck around. So, at about 1:30 AM in the morning, I was now suddenly trying to gather information from the driver. That took about an hour or so. Once I got the information, I immediately called my insurance to report the accident. That took me another 30 to 45 minutes.
By the time I was done with reporting the accident, it was about 3:30 AM. Since my car was not in a drivable condition, I decided to send an email out to my co-workers about my car situation and let them know I might be late. After this was done, I went to take a brief nap.
At about 7:30 AM, I got up to call a tow truck to take my car to the body shop to begin the work of estimating the damages. Once this was completed, I had to get a rental car as well. By the time I got my rental car, it was around 10 AM in the morning.
Since I was already going to be late, I decided to get some breakfast before heading into the office. Before I went to get breakfast, I remembered that I had to call my boss back. Unfortunately, it was just bad timing all around as my boss was giving my notice that I was to be laid off. I'm sure my boss and others felt bad with the crazy situation with my car, but there was no choice.
I worked my last day on June 19th, 2008 and the past couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur. I've filed my unemployment papers, talked to the unemployment agency and try to get my affairs all squared away as this was my first time being laid off in my career. I've worked on my resume and talked to a few recruiters about job leads, but nothing has come up yet. As I write this, my car is still in the shop and I'm still driving a rental.
But the past few weeks haven't been all about work. I'm playing in a summer basketball league with my friend's church team (my 17th season). To keep things somewhat game oriented, I picked up a copy of Command and Conquer: The First Decade for my PC. I enjoyed several of the Command and Conquer games in the past and wanted to give some of the other titles a run.
It was definitely a brutal last few weeks, but thanks to friends I've managed to keep a level head. I'm optimistic that things will improve in the coming months. Thanks for reading and see you all next month.
Wow, despite the concerns I spoke of last month, this
month's issue really came together. However, we're always looking for
more contributions, so if you want to see your writing published here, all you
gotta do is send it in. See you next month!
Copyright © 2008 Alan Hewston & Scott Jacobi. All related copyrights and trademarks are acknowledged.