It's that time of year again
jolly folks, when sleigh bells ring and joyous laughs fill the
still winter air. Every time the Christmas season rolls around
all I can think of are the days of going to the big toy stores
like Toys 'R Us and Children's Palace and hoping that somehow
one of the many toys and video games might somehow end up
sitting under my Christmas tree. As a matter of fact, I believe
that the only time I ever received a new video gaming system (or
computer) was on Christmas day. I can remember the time when I
received an MBX voice recognition system for my TI-99/4A
computer one Christmas. Boy, that had to be the best Christmas
ever, as my sister and I ended up playing the games we got for
it a lot. I mean being able to control a character on screen by
voice was beyond cool (and still is may I add!). My favorite
games, by the way, are still Bigfoot and Superfly for the TI
with the MBX add-on attached. I'm sure many readers of
Retrogaming Times Monthly probably have a lot of their own fond
memories of Christmas, as it's one of those seasons where many
wishes do indeed come true.
Some things you will notice is
the fact that we have changed the header for this issue, with
fancier text and graphics, as well as added sections for the
different types of content covered in RTM. This is something that you can expect
to see every month, as I think it makes the magazine look better and
makes it easier to find the information you are interested in
This month we of course have a pixilated Santa and elf in the
header. Next month will have some different characters and
you'll have to tune in to see what that one looks like. I hope
everyone has a wonderful Christmas and I also hope that this
issue stands as the best one of every year. What could be better
than trying to make the Christmas/year end issue of Retrogaming
Times Monthly the best one yet every year?
MAGFest is a video and
computer gaming festival run by fans, for fans. It is being held
January 1-4, 2010 in Alexandria, VA at the Hilton Mark Center. Some like to call us a
convention, others like to call us a party. Both of these are
somewhat accurate, but really, MAGFest is a unique experience that
we hope you'll enjoy. While similar to most fan-based (anime,
Sci-Fi, fantasy, etc) conventions, we do things a little
differently. We're a lot more laid-back. We don't have a huge dealer
room. We have a large focus on music (2+ concerts worth). Our
special guests tend to fit right in and socialize with the rest of
the crowd. Our "costume contest" has a reputation of being a
"costume roast". Lots of attendees set up games in their rooms and
leave their door open to invite others inside. To find out more on MAGFest, visit our site at
World Of Commodore 2009 The Toronto PET Users Group (TPUG) is pleased to announce the World
of Commodore! TPUG is celebrating its 30th Anniversary and would
like everyone to join us for a weekend of all things Commodore! The
event is being held Saturday December 5, 2010 at the Admiral Inn in
Mississauga, Ontario. Some of the things that will be occurring at
this years event include demonstrations of new hardware and software
projects using Commodore equipment, screenings of Commodore related
videos, vendors selling hardware and software, a raffle of
Commodore-related items, and the always popular freebie table!
Please feel free to drop off any items you no longer want and help
yourself to some goodies. You never know what you'll find! After the
formal show ends on Saturday the festivities continue with an
informal evening of socializing, hacking, gaming and other things,
so please feel free to make a weekend of it. Check out more at
Score Monthly! Profile
I want to give my
congrats to Christian Keilback, aka MightySquirrel, for winning the
2nd and sadly the final High Score Monthly! Christian quickly got
2,180 points when his video ended in under 5 minutes. Good show
Christian! He won the brand spanking new Atari 2600 homebrew Dungeon
along with its wonderful poster from our friends at
AtariAge and from our editor
Bryan Roppolo. Bryan also included a nice letter which was packaged
along with the game and can be viewed
here. Thank you Bryan!
Let us know how the game is Christian.
For those of you
interested in reading Christian's Bio and finding out exactly what
this classic gaming fiend looks like, check out the
issue of RTM where we printed a write up on him along with a
We had to end High
Score Monthly! due to poor response. But, just like Frankenstein’s
Monster, we might see it again in the future. Please keep sending
your requests to Bryan or I if you want the contest to come back. We
will only bring it back if the demand is great enough.
Thank you to all of
the High Score Monthly! players and fans!
It was late 1979, I was a 14 year old boy looking through a Service
Merchandise catalog while dreaming about the coming Christmas. I was a
big fan of electronic handheld games and had looked completely through
that section and was almost finished when I noticed, near the back
pages…something I didn't quite recognize. I was looking at two video
game systems that connected to your TV! The first thing I noticed was
the high-tech touch-sensitive keyboard on the Magnavox system and the
second was the fact that the TV screen in the ad didn't show a PONG game
on it. Instead, it was a color picture of some kind of racing game like
you'd see in the arcades! What the h…I muttered to myself, then I
noticed that you could plug these cartridge things into it for more
games like Blackjack, Baseball and a cool looking space game called
Cosmic Conflict…hmmm I thought to myself, could this Cosmic Conflict
game really be like flying a spaceship?! After a short Star Wars style
daydream about flying through space and shooting enemies with my laser
blasters I took a look at the other system prominently displayed on the
opposite page from a company name I kind of recognized from the pinball
arcade down the street…Atari. After some careful thought I decided that
the one with the big keyboard looked pretty neat and it had that awesome
Cosmic Conflict space game for which I knew I just had to own! I realize
now 30 years later that this was a pretty lame reason, but at the time
it looked like something from a science fiction movie and it really
sparked my imagination. I took a pencil and put a huge circle around it
knowing that my parents used those circles to base their Christmas
purchase decisions on. My mother noticed it, and decided that she needed
to talk with me about the price which was a whopping $179.99, she and I
knew that this was a bigger ticket item than my parents typically spent;
they also had to make sure that my sister had an equally good Christmas,
if not in cost at least in similar items. They finally decided to get it
for me and my sister would receive another electronic game called
Microvision by Milton Bradley as her big ticket item.
Soon Christmas came and I quickly found the Magnavox Odyssey 2 under the
tree and thought that the box was the coolest thing I ever saw, its
explosive letters popping out at me and all those video game characters
like race cars, football and baseball players all zooming out. This
helped to set my mind into the right frame to play any game from that
era. In those days the graphics were simple placeholders for your
imagination to attach your fictional characters too; in your mind you
were seeing those pictures from the boxes and their accompanying
manuals. After a few tense moments wiring the thing up to my TV and my
parents begging me not to electrocute myself while hooking it into the
antenna (back then we didn't know any better), I powered it on and
quickly learned what the screen looked and sounded like when you turned
it on without a cartridge in the slot, basically it's like your system
threw up onto your TV screen accompanied by a loud static/explosion
hisssssssssss!!! After briefly loosing my mind and getting my heart back
into my chest, I managed to turn it back off and carefully read the
manual which clearly said to "insert the cartridge BEFORE you turn the
system on". Crossing my fingers and hoping that I didn't fry my system
in its first two seconds of life, I gently inserted the cartridge that
came with it (Speedway, Spinout and Crypto Logic) into the slot and then
turned it back on… and… that's when I heard the cheerful tone sound that
to this day makes me nostalgic for those first few days of video game
system ownership …BOODELLLLETT… as the colorful words "SELECT GAME"
appeared on my TV screen. Wow! I wish I could bottle that feeling and
Other Odyssey 2 games that were found under the Christmas tree included
Armored Encounter/Sub Chase, Cosmic Conflict, Football and Baseball! I
remember my dad challenging me at a game of Football and also completing
my first successful pass to score a touchdown against his team, it was
an amazing feeling and I believe it was the last video game I ever
played against my dad. That was one moment that I haven't forgotten in
all these years. Later Christmases and birthdays brought me more and
more Odyssey 2 games but the greatest Christmas of all was, by far, the
first. I will admit that the Odyssey 2 games got better over time with a
few disappointments sprinkled in like Alien Invaders Plus, but the best
ones came long after those first few holiday seasons. I had some friends
and cousins end up with Atari VCS systems and I have to admit I thought
that they were cool, but for years I was convinced that I made the right
choice with the Odyssey 2. I even credit it for launching the first
sparks of my computer career with those valuable lessons I learned
learning assembly with the Computer Intro cartridge and its unbelievably
well done spiral bound tome of 1970's computer secrets!
During the later years with my Odyssey 2, I was given the "Voice of
Odyssey" sometime around 1982, which was one of the coolest things I had
ever seen at that time. A handful of games took advantage of it, but the
most fun I had was using the Type and Tell cartridge to create
synthesized speeches and then taping them with my tape recorder. Other
High points were the "Challenger Series" games starting with UFO and
leading to Pick Axe Pete and the best Pac-man clone of the time, K.C.
Munchkin, followed by his later post-Atari-lawsuit version, K.C.'s Crazy
Chase. As a side note, I wrote a free homebrew game poking fun at this
character for the Atari 2600 called K.C.'s Crazy Nightmare – feel free
to visit my web site and download it here
The last highpoint of owning my Odyssey 2 system came with the "Master
Strategy Series" starting off with The Quest for the Rings. This was
something to behold, a beautiful board game/map with real quality metal
playing pieces and an artful keyboard overlay, the set was completed by
a solid heavy chest-like box and beautifully illustrated golden players
manual. This Lord of the Rings inspired dungeon crawl made great use of
the keyboard and was an amazing adventure game experience for someone
who was just getting into Dungeons and Dragons. Finally, something
similar to Atari's great game named Adventure rounded out my later
Odyssey 2 days!
I still have my Odyssey 2 and I recently purchased an Atari VCS,
initially to play the cartridge versions of some recent homebrew games I
wrote but quickly I started collecting some of their best offerings to
round out my historical "Golden Era" of video gaming personal
collection. The two systems are wonderful and if you ask me today I can
find reasons why each one is superior to the other in their own way, but
I give props to Atari for having by far the best overall library.
Odyssey 2, although not as successful as Atari, managed to release a few
games that gave me pride in it. Later in life I discovered that many of
these titles were written by one man, Ed Averett, for whom I can thank
for some of my best childhood video gaming memories! As a 21st century
programmer I can only dream to have such a professional influence as he
By the way, my sister's Microvision, a handheld game that came with a
packed in copy of Block Buster (a breakout clone), was never graced with
more than a handful of games (I believe she also had the bowling game
for it). It was an idea that was a decade or so ahead of its time
leaving a void until the Nintendo Gameboy came along to take the ball
and totally run away with it.
That's my story. Here is wishing all of you a wonderful
John Reder programs homebrew cartridges for the Atari 2600 among other
systems. If you are interested in seeing more on what John has done, check
out his website at http://TacticalNeuronics.com.
Video games have long played a big role
in my holiday festivities, but the Christmas of 1982 is the one that
rekindles the fondest memories. This was the point in history when video
games were really taking off. There was an arcade on every corner,
several competing home systems to choose from, and groundbreaking titles
like Defender and Q*Bert appearing on a weekly basis. I owned - and
cherished - a small but well-maintained collection of Atari 2600 games.
My parents always went a little overboard
for Christmas, and on this particular year they went a little crazy and
said I could ask for three video games. And that was in addition to all
the other stuff I normally got! Sure , there was no guarantee I would
get all three, but I knew it was just one big mind game. I had to choose
wisely however, because when your income is limited to grass cutting and
snow shoveling money, new games are few and far between.
My first choice was Frogger. I had played
it over at several of my friends' houses and it was one of those
universal games everyone seemed to enjoy. How many games can you say
that about today? My next choice was Donkey Kong. I was fully aware that
the Atari 2600 version didn't exactly set the world on fire, but it was
Donkey Kong for Pete's sake. I instantly fell in love with its "climb
the girders" concept since I first laid eyes on it at the local bowling
alley. My third choice was the less-popular Star Raiders. Why? Well,
with two arcade hits under my belt, I was looking for something with a
little more substance. Star Raiders was a first-person space shooter
that came with its own special keypad controller! Atari games that came
in "fat boxes" (like Indy 500) were hard to resist, because you always
felt like you were getting so much more for your money.
I would have been perfectly happy with
those three titles, but I had an ace up my sleeve. It was a family
tradition for me to exchange presents with my younger sister Mary on
Christmas Eve. Sure enough, when her gift to me appeared under the tree,
it was shaped like an Atari cartridge. Go figure! I examined the box
constantly, as if I was going to discern its contents by feeling the
box. I made several attempts to trick Mary into divulging the name of
the game, but I have to hand it to her - she never let on.
I handled that gift so much that by the
time I actually opened it on Christmas Eve, it was all bent up! The game
was a real shocker: Realsports Volleyball. I had never even mentioned
that one in my frequent conversations about Atari games. I played it
that night and thought it was great. It was a two-on-two beach
volleyball game with a scenic blue ocean in the background. After
playing it for a while, I left the room, and when I returned my sister
was exclaiming about something on the screen. Low and behold there was
actually a shark fin patrolling in the water on the horizon! It was by
far the coolest thing either of us had ever witnessed.
On Christmas morning I worked my way
through the huge pile of gifts to gradually uncover Frogger, Donkey
Kong, and Star Raiders. While firing up my Atari 2600 console my mom
handed me one last gift. I wasn't too excited because it was shaped like
one of those clothes boxes which usually contained a shirt, socks, or
some other worthless article of clothing. But when I brushed aside the
tissue paper I nearly had a heart attack. It was E.T.! E.T.!! That’s
right - it was the newly-released Atari cartridge that had generated so
much fanfare. At that point it was official: Best. Christmas. Ever.
My sister and I had a blast playing these
games while sitting on the carpet still littered with bits of wrapping
paper. We would cycle through all of the games but we were especially
fascinated with E.T. Okay, I know what you're thinking - E.T. is
considered one of the worst games of all time. But we didn't know that.
As we guided that little alien between contiguous screens, E.T. would
often fall into holes and sometimes find goodies. In one pit there was a
dead plant, and when E.T. walked over to it the plant sprung to life! It
was pure video game magic. The game didn't make much sense, but that
made it all the more intriguing.
In retrospect, the fact that my sister
kept repeating, "this is a really good game" was probably an indicator
that E.T. wasn't very good. I mean, when a game is good, it's
self-evident. Nobody has ever uttered the words, "You know what? Pac-Man
is a really good game!" Du-uh! I vaguely recall that the E.T. box still
had a $19.99 sticker on it - pretty reasonable for a new Atari
cartridge! In retrospect, this probably indicated that retailers had
seen the writing on the wall and were trying to unload as many copies as
possible before the holidays were over.
One part of Christmas that always sucked
was the obligatory visit to relatives for dinner. I can't recall who it
was we visited that year, but I do remember taking the game manuals in
the car so I could study them on the drive. On the way back, I had to
strain my eyes because it was getting dark. The Donkey Kong manual
stated "You'll find that this cartridge is full of special features to
make DONKEY KONG exciting every time you play." This tantalizing phrase
suggested the game was chock full of hidden rooms and other Easter Eggs.
In reality, those Coleco games never contained any extra surprises at
all, and usually played the exactly the same every time! No sharks here!
It's difficult to believe that just one
year later the video game market would crash and my Atari 2600 would
take a backseat to a brand new home computer. It was the end of an era,
but I will never forget that perfect storm of video game bliss that
struck in 1982.
Dave Mrozek AKA The Video Game Critic (www.videogamecritic.net) is currently celebrating ten years of writing classic game reviews on his site.
Fooling The Stores: A
1984 Guide To Videogame Return Policies
Note: These are the musings of a 16-year-old juvenile delinquent.
Any resemblance to the author's attitude 25 years later is purely
coincidental. The following should be read as if it were 1984.
”I'm sorry, but it really isn't the thought that counts.
others ask for wish lists, then tend to show their dense side by
ignoring them. It's not like it's a money thing since I'm not asking for
new computers (OK, I pestered the foster parents endlessly into buying
one last year, but that was as a "family" gift). I list handheld games
and cartridges from the under $10 bargain bin. I'm fine with cheapo
walkmans since they seem to break constantly no matter the price.
Digital watches get cheaper and more novel every year. Food in many
forms is great, if the electronics thing bothers them. And there's
usually plenty more, with nicely detailed references to where in those
thick Christmas catalogues they can be found.
What I don't remember
listing is clothes because 1) they're a necessity, not a gift and 2)
picking your own during annual back-to-school trips works about a
thousand times better than having others try to guess your size and
preference, invariably incorrectly.
But I can safely assume a
significant portion of the boxes on Christmas morning, especially from
distant relatives, will contain things I'm supposed to wear (in a living
example of the worst stereotype, one of my grandmothers actually sent
the same sweater two years in a row).
So December 26 has become an annual
pilgrimage – on foot, by bus or whatever – where a pile of stuff gets
traded for things I like. I've only had one or two occasions where a
relative eventually asked to see how something they sent looked on me,
so the potential embarrassment factor is low enough to be worth the
Since I'm almost always looking for new handheld games, cartridges
for the Atari or Colecovision, or software for my Radio Shack Color
Computer (the "family" thing was something of a courtesy title), the
following are the stores I hit and how they rate in terms of willingness
to take things and games worth acquiring. The best obviously give cash
or credit without receipts, and are large/gullible enough that you can
keep playing and exchanging a game until you're sick of them.
Some stores are starting to get a little wiser, realizing it's pretty
easy to copy software and albums, but most aren't there yet. So here's
the places (at least in my hometown of Denver) worth hitting while the
getting away with it is good:
(A-) Get there when the doors open
and these guys are golden. Opened, no receipt, from a different store
(peel off the price stickers and other giveaway evidence) or whatever,
they'll almost always give you cash or exchange credit. They're getting
a bit tight about opened albums, but you can usually at least get credit
if you're persistent. Also, if you don't have a receipt you'll only get
whatever an item's lowest price has been during the last 60, 90 or some
odd days. They have an above-average selection of handhelds and
cartridges, and some really good day-after sale prices. Good first stop
for everything you can get by them, especially since they tend to be the
first to open around 7 a.m. or so, and getting there more than five
minutes late means you can get stuck in lines that are insane.
(B) Thank goodness for their Christmas catalog, which allows you
to determine if they actually sell the stuff you want to return before
you show up and embarrass yourself. They have a pretty good game
selection, and you gotta love their live demo station, where you can
select and play a bunch of Atari carts for five minutes at a time). They
also sell a lot of clothes and "other" stuff, so it's a good all-purpose
stop early in the day. They tend to be about 50-50 on giving refunds
without a receipt, but everything else is a breeze. The best stores are
the ones where you can do trades at one of the registers throughout the
store instead of the customer service counter.
(B) Good about everything they sell except opened software
on disk and cassette. Their handhelds tend to be lame and more expensive ripoffs of other companies' games, but it's possible to do a few
tried-it-didn't-like-it-swaps, especially if you do the exchanges at
different stores. They're also good about exchanging Color Computer
software on cartridges, which is great since it's possible to save
copies of them on disk (warning: the programmers seem smarter than the
salesmen, since a number of newer games have code that tries to
overwrite itself as a protection mechanism).
(C+) A higher-priced version of Sears. Their Christmas
catalog is also worth looking through, but they tend to be heavy on
clothes and home stuff, and light on anything worthwhile. Still, the
foster parents and other adults in my gift circle seem to favor this
place, no doubt due to being able to shop by mail order, so taking back
at least a few clothes is part of the annual pilgrimage. They're a bit
tighter about giving cash back, and their handhelds and cartridges are
more limited in number than other stores. This is where I go at the mall
when I'm running out of options.
(C) Similar but not quite as good
as Target in every way. Some places are reluctant to give cash without a
receipt and the games selection tends to be disorganized and depleted
the day after Christmas. Considering the selection is already smaller
and second rate in comparison, it's where to go if you've got a receipt
or can't get to a better store for some reason.
(D+) Ugh. Getting
clothes from here often means getting stuck with them, if only because
there isn't much to exchange for. They're also tightwads about giving
cash without a receipt, plus as a relatively upscale store they have an
attitude about teenagers trying to bring stuff back. On occasion they'll
have "executive toys" that are just madly overpriced versions of simple
handhelds, but it beats something that'll never come out of the closet
except when your aunt visits. Only redeeming factor is because their
stuff is expensive, if you can somehow get cash (I swiped the receipt
for something out of my foster parents' dresser a couple years back)
you're in great shape for a trip to a better store.
bizarre inclusion, but bear with me. Obviously a non-gaming and
non-retail (unless you live in Maine) place, but I ask for a lot of
stuff from here because 1) I like their backpacking gear and 2) they'll
take anything they sell back anytime in any condition. Seriously, I
returned a backpack after a couple years of hard use and it was no
problem. More common is sending back clothes sent by relatives who can't
figure out my size and/or taste. Obviously refunds are by check and
that's a pain because it takes a few weeks, followed by a week or so for
the check to clear when you get it. I once tried using a check-cashing
place after getting my driver's license this year but, wow, do they ever
rip you off – they took something like 20 percent for "processing fees,"
which is only slightly less worse than shoplifting when it comes to
This is a little bit weird. It's a
couple of days before Thanksgiving as I write this, but the article
is for the DECEMBER issue of Retrogaming Times Monthly. Even though
the article is for December, I will note a few things to be thankful
for: My health, my family, my friends and my job. I've had lots of
ups and downs in 2009 but have appreciated all of the support my
friends and family have given me.
As for the December column of Apple
II Incider, I'm going to go away from discussing a specific game and
go with a Christmas theme. I am going to put together an Apple II
wishlist which will consist of various items that I either would
like to have or see created in the Apple II world.
Item #1 - Apple IIGS system
When the Apple IIGS was introduced
around 1986, I always wanted to own the machine. Of course, being a
teenager at the time, buying a IIGS (list price of $999 without
monitor or disk drives) was impractical on my own. For one reason or
another I never convinced my parents to buy a IIGS machine for me.
For the next decade I was stuck using my Apple IIe, and it wasn't
until 1995 when I was attending a 4 year university that my dad got
me my next computer, a Compaq Presario running Windows 95.
With the advent of emulators, a real
IIGS system is not necessary to enjoy the many programs that exist
out there. However, a part of me still would like to get a real one
to play with. Despite being over 23 years old, a fully upgraded
machine is still useful even in 2009 as there are productivity
applications (word processers, spreadsheets, database programs, and
desktop publishers) that could still be used today. Thanks to the
ingenuity of various people in the Apple II world, Ethernet cards
and other hardware have been created over the years. Even though the
IIGS wouldn't be able to support a graphical web browser like
Firefox or Internet Explorer, developers did come up with a Lynx
(text only) browser that runs on the IIGS.
Item #2 - Ultima VI (and beyond)
for the Apple II
As many people remember, Richard
Garriot (aka Lord British) created an adventure game called
Akalabeth for the Apple II 8-bit machines around 1979. Garriot then
followed up Akalabeth with a game called Ultima in 1980. As we all
know, the rest is history.
During the 1980's I had been a fan of
the arcade game Gauntlet because of it's multiplayer aspects, and I
always imagined myself traveling around with a group of friends
adventuring or fighting as I did in the game. The unfortunate aspect
was that Gauntlet was not released for home computers at the time.
Determined to find a game that was
similar, I stumbled upon Ultima IV: Quest of the Avatar. I don't
think I knew what I was getting into. I was probably expecting an
arcade game like Gaunlet but got a role-playing adventure instead. I
recall that it took me a LONG time to figure out exactly what I was
doing in Ultima IV. However, once I figured out what I was supposed
to do, I played the game with a vengeance. Interestingly enough I
never completed the game, however, I did become a big fan of Ultima
and looked forward to every release.
The week Ultima V went on sale, I
purchased a copy and completed the game very quickly. After
finishing Ultlma V, I decided to go BACK and play Exodus: Ultima III
since Ultima VI was not going to be released for another two years
or so. With some help I completed Ultima III as well.
I eagerly awaited the release of
Ultima VI, but alas my hopes were dashed. Apple Computer had
determined the Macintosh would be the system of the future. The
Apple II computers were still popular but the market size was slowly
shrinking. Despite some pleas to contrary, the software publisher
decided to cancel development of Ultima VI for the Apple II which in
turn marked the end of an era. Ultima had been released for the
Apple II since the inception of the series and now it was time for
it to move on to a more advanced platform.
These days, while I know Ultima VI
(and sequels) will never be ported to the Apple II, there are
compilations out there for the PC that could enable me to play the
games. Alas, it wouldn't be the same as playing the game on my Apple
IIe. One can dream though.
Item #3 - Compilation of A+,
Incider and Incider/A+ magazines
A+ and Incider were general interest
Apple II magazines that began sometime in the early to mid 1980's.
The magazines feature product reviews, commentary and news that
pertained to the Apple II computer. I was first exposed to A+
magazine and later Incider. Both had their own quirks and charm, but
I enjoyed each one greatly. As the Apple II market began to shrink
in the late 80's, A+ and Incider magazines merged into one called
Incider/A+. The merged magazine lasted for several more years before
publishing it's final issue in July of 1993.
I would love to see the entire
collection of A+, Incider and Incider/A+ magazines collected so I
can re-read them. I don't know how much demand exists for such a
project but it certainly would be a great dream come true.
That's all for this month, hope you
had a Happy Thanksgiving and will have a very Merry Christmas!
I recently had the
pleasure of playing a new homebrew game for the TI-99/4A. It is a
faithful port of David Crane’s jungle masterpiece Pitfall! by
Activision. The story here is not the game itself, as many have played
Pitfall! and are familiar with it. The real story is in the process the
creator went through to reach a finished product. In playing the game,
one quickly begins to understand the massive scope of the project. 255
levels, challenging SPRITE dynamics, and pinpoint platform parameters
are a few of the hurdles the programmer had to overcome. This port is
second to none!
The title screen is the first thing that grabs your attention… A
flawless “Activision” title scrolls across the screen followed by the
classic Pitfall! vine swing. Once you enter the main gameplay, it
becomes very apparent that this programmer paid extreme attention to
detail. Everything from the crocodiles in the pools to the rolling logs
that zap your points and right down to the actual game physics are
pristine in presentation. I was brought back immediately to my own
childhood playing Pitfall! on my Atari 2600 many Christmases ago, and I
felt a great sense of nostalgia creep over me as I maneuvered Pitfall
Harry through the jungles. The only word that I could conjure in my head
I had the opportunity to talk with Filip Van Vooren, the programmer
responsible, and get his side of the story. I followed the progress of
Pitfall! on Filip’s webpage (http:// retroclouds.de) while he was going
through his “growing pains,” but never fully understood the process
until we spoke. What follows is a conversation he and I had about this
game and the trials he went through to create what is no doubt one of
the finest games ever produced for the TI-99/4A and is sure to be a hot
Christmas item next year when it comes out on cartridge, well at least
in the classic gaming circles!
screenshot for the TI-99/4A
RTM: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us a little bit about your
game, Filip. I’d like to start by asking you how you got started… What
inspired you to write Pitfall! for the TI, and how long did it take you?
Filip: In early 2007 I got fascinated by the Colecovision game console. At the time I had bought a lot on eBay that also included a bunch of
really good Colecovision games. Not much later I learned that the
Colecovision had the same VDP and sound engine as our TI-99/4A. That got
me thinking. If they have so many good games, it should be possible to
get something similar for our TI-99/4A. Actually, I was considering a
general approach at first, a translator program running on the PC that
reads a Colecovision game ROM image and outputs TMS9900 assembly source.
Go figure! Well, even today I haven't completely given up the idea on
that, but that's another story! In November of 2007, we had a discussion
on the Yahoo! TI-99/4A group if at least a single-color version of
Pitfall! would be possible. I thought we could do better than that and
also considered the game to be simple enough I could give it a try.
Shortly after I started writing my first code in TMS9900 assembler.
Now -2 years later- I'm still working on it (Revision B, which is the
basis for the cartridge version). I don't know how many hours I've spent
on writing/testing/debugging. It could be over 1,000 I guess.
Yes, I've been having some complaints from my wife! Seriously, couldn't
have done this without her patience and support. I love her very much.
Thank you Steffi!
RTM: What was your biggest challenge/hurdle you had to overcome during
Filip: There were many during the different development stages, I'm even
fighting some today. For one I had to learn TMS9900 assembly language,
had to implement a game engine and needed a way to design the 255
levels. Currently I'm finishing work on the cartridge version. Quite a
challenge, I must say. Just recently I was able to reduce RAM memory
usage from 1.3K to only 255 bytes. That was required for making the game
work on a bare console without any memory expansion. Today I'm working
on the bank-switching, making sure the game code fits in 8K blocks. It's
looking promising so far.
RTM: Graphically, the game is VERY close to the original... Maybe even
better in its presentation. What are some tools you used to achieve your results?
Filip: I used many. At first I wrote some software for extracting most
of the graphics from the Colecovision ROM and to visualize the graphics
on a PC (decide on sprite patterns, tiles, etc.). Sound data was
converted in TI sound format using my own custom tool, but in the end a
lot of tools and emulators were involved in the process: Winasm, CV
Soundbank, Java Applet, MEKA, and Meisei to name a few. Most
importantly, however, had to be Tursi's Classic99 emulator with its
excellent built-in debugger. Without it, Pitfall!
for the TI-99/4A would not exist today. I’d like to take the opportunity
to thank Tursi and all others for the great tools they have made!
RTM: What did you find most rewarding about the process? Are you more
internally motivated or externally motivated? In other words, did you
write the game for YOU or for others?
Filip: Tricky question. I'm not really a gamer myself, but I love doing
new stuff. I have already written enough serious software in my life and
writing an arcade game was a totally new experience. Now back to the
question. Yes, I developed the game for myself. To prove I could. But
I'm not going to play it much, I'll leave that to the gamers.
RTM: What would you change about the final product if you could?
Filip: A lot! Not so much what concerns the game itself, more what
happens behind the scenes (optimize source code, add compression etc.).
Just recently I was told that on the Atari 2600 only 1 byte (!) was used
as seed for calculating the 255 levels. Now that is something I find
very fascinating. However, I wouldn't want to rewrite the game anymore.
Pretty much done with that. I had a blast doing Pitfall! but now it is
time to move on. I have learned a lot which will be of good use in my
future TI-99/4A homebrew game projects.
Please check out Filip’s website (http://retroclouds.de) for more
information about “Pitfall!” and other ‘retroclouds’ games upcoming in
the near future. You can also view video, screenshots, and get status
updates from Filip himself on the “Game Development” page of
We stand at the end of a
year and at the end of a decade. During the past 10 years we have seen
many new developments in technology, hardware and software innovations,
and a new generation of “gamer” come into being. With so much new life
in the community of video games, it is interesting to note how much
light has been cast on the origins of modern gaming. From magazines,
like the one you are reading now, to hundreds of websites all over the
net, classic gaming has resurged into the public eye. Cartridges have
been replaced by DVD’s and Blu Ray’s, joysticks have been replaced by
wireless remote controllers . . . but the spirit of gaming is the same,
whether it happens to be 1979 or 2009.
On a quick search of the
most downloaded arcade apps for Apple's iPhone, one might be surprised
to discover that several of the top 20 downloads are games that were
made over 20 years ago. Games such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Frogger,
and Galaga top the list of retro-gaming mainstays that have resurged
into the mainstream of modern popular gaming. While these games have
always been popular for nostalgic reasons, there is something deeper and
more tangible that has prompted America's renewed interest in them.
Let's take a brief look at the history of gaming in America to try and
discover the driving forces behind the renewed passion and desire for
these classic masterpieces.
Odyssey (Image Courtesy of Martin Goldberg)
In 1972, the Magnavox
Odyssey was released and the culture of home video games was
born. While the "Brown Box" (as it was affectionately dubbed) was the
first of its kind and truly pioneering, it would not be until 5 years
later that home gaming would become widespread. In 1977, the Atari 2600
was released, reigning in the 8-bit era of video gaming. Since then,
there have been tens of thousands of home video games released from
"Pac-Man" to the "Call of Duty" series on X-Box, Playstation, and
Nintendo. The era of interest for our discussion, however, extends from
1975 through 1985. This is considered by many to be the most crucial
period in early game development--the "golden-age" of arcade gaming.
Let's look at the key developments in technology and why the games from
this era have withstood the test of time.
It is impossible to have
a discussion about early game technology and development without
mentioning the Atari Company. Atari was responsible for the first home
version of Pong, the first affordable home game console. While it was limited to one type of game, it brought the
fascination of home gaming to the public and an empire was born. Soon,
Atari began work on a multiple-game console which would eventually be
named the 2600. Based on the unique and revolutionary concept of ROM
(read-only-memory) cartridges, it would allow users to purchase whatever
games they wanted for their gaming console. This was the true catalyst
for all gaming to follow. Early games developed by Atari and third party
game developers included Frogger, Pac-Man, Air-Sea Battle, Football, and
Space Invaders. The system would eventually go the way of the 8-bit
games in 1984 when the "video game crash" hit. But the seeds of early
arcade gaming had already been sown. Hundreds of thousands of people had
gotten a taste for the blips and beeps of the golden age of arcade
gaming... and to this day, many of these original games are still
prevalent in our culture.
Atari Pong and
2600 game consoles
So, the next logical
question is "Why?" What is it about these games that struck such a chord
in us as a culture? I think one has to look at just how widespread they
were to get a grasp on the answer. Many households did not own an Atari
2600, but there were many other gaming options at the time, some from
unexpected sources. Atarisoft, the software division of the company,
became a major game developer for the Texas Instruments TI-99/4A along
with the Commodore line of home computers. The games that Atarisoft put
out in the early ‘80s such as Pac-Man, Pole Position, and Donkey Kong
were still being produced for many gaming consoles through the end of
that decade (albeit from different sources other than Atarisoft),
including the 8-bit gaming giant and relative newcomer to the
market—Nintendo. With the rise of Nintendo, the golden era of home
arcade gaming came to an end. However, even as you look around today,
seeds of that time and era are growing taller and more advanced
everyday. Games such as “Super Pitfall” for the Nintendo and “Donkey
Kong 64” for the Nintendo-64 systems held large shares of the market
during their reign in the game stores—largely due to the historical
importance of the characters in those respective games and the nostalgia
they created in gamers of that era.
FLASH FORWARD- December 2009
Today the world of gaming
looks very VERY different; touch screen applications downloaded via 3G
wireless connections, Blu Ray discs containing games so massive in scope
that not even the great visionaries of the 80's could have ever dreamed
the possibilities; games that look far more realistic than even the
highest-budget blockbuster films of the day. But through it all, through
the Medal of Honor’s and the Grand Theft Auto’s, Frogger remains. Space
Invaders" remains. In short, while technology has changed so drastically
and so rapidly in the past 25-30 years, the love for simplicity of
As in most other areas of
life, the desire for different types of entertainment runs in circles.
In other areas, bell-bottom jeans come in and go out of style.
Hairstyles vary from decade to decade, but seem to always go in a
cyclical pattern as well. One could also look into trends in music.
Whatever the case may be, there is always a cycle that repeats itself.
In the case of classic arcade-style games, the same is true. There has
been a resurgence in development and consumer demand, and I—for one—am
grateful. So next time you plug in your Wii or your Playstation 3,
remember the great games of old . . . and know that they are only an
iPhone download away from your very own fingertips!
As many of you guys out
there might know, I am a big TI-99/4A fan. I've used this system ever
since 1983 when I got my first one under the Christmas tree. I still
have a picture to prove it! One 3rd party company that made games of the
TI system was Funware, a small game factory based in Richardson, TX.
Michael Brouthers ran that company and they produced some pretty
interesting titles for the TI system. One of those titles was St. Nick,
and it's a great little game to review for this special Christmas issue
St. Nick contains some very nicely detailed and colorful graphics. The
intro screen is perhaps the most beautiful where the player is treated
to some music along with a scene where witches invade St. Nick's factory
and hypnotize the elves to start scattering all the toys they made
everywhere. Can Santa collect all the toys and put an end to the witches
curse in time to save Christmas?!? I have to admit that the story is a
real interesting one, I mean who would have thought about combining
witches and Christmas together? Not me at least!!
As for the game itself, the object is to go around and collect the
scatters toys. However, things are not as easy as they may seem. In
order to complete a level you must collect the different types of toys
in a certain order. Such as having to collect the teddy bears first,
followed by boats, etc. There is a little area on the left side of the
screen that shows the order in which you must collect your toys. If you
do happen to accidently bump into an object out of order, Santa will
freeze and an elf will come out and scatter MORE toys on the screen for
you to collect all while precious seconds tick off the clock (and trust
me, those elves take their good old time too!). This makes it harder to
complete the level as only a certain amount of time is given for each
screen. On higher levels it is crucial that you do not collect anything
out of order, or else that could be the end of Christmas.
In addition to having to watch for stepping into the wrong toy, there
are also witches flying around on broomsticks that when hit will also
cause those pesky elves to appear again. One of the nice things though
is that if you have already collected a certain set of toys, that toy
will no longer be placed by the elves that come out on the screen. It
makes it a little bit easier, since it means if you end up picking up a
wrong item or hitting a witch when you are on the last type of toy to
collect, then only that remaining type will be scattered on the screen.
This part makes the game actually sane in terms of the difficulty level.
One thing that I should note is that the blocks that you see scattered
on the screen can actually be picked up at any time to spell out
"SANTA". If you end up spelling the jolly bearded one's name, time will
then freeze and you'll be able to pick up the toys in any order that you
please. Talk about a nice feature! This was some pretty cleaver thinking
on the developers part, although I guess you could say they might have
been inspired by Mr.Do! where you get to spell out "EXTRA" for an extra
life/early ending of the level.
The only real complaint I have about this game is that sometimes it can
be hard to tell if St. Nick will actually hit a toy or not. Therefore,
it can be hard to maneuver through a set of toys on the ground that you
don't want to touch. St. Nick's head is the only part of his body that
does not pick things up, meaning that you have to touch a toy with any
other part of your body. This is done in order to allow St. Nick, which
is a big sprite, to be able to move between objects on the screen. It
gives him some depth so that you can technically look like you are
walking over an object but in actuality you are not. Sometimes, however,
determining where St. Nick will end up hitting an object is not so easy
because of this "depth" and you end up hitting a toy or witch that you
do not want to. That's really my only complaint for this game, but once
you get the hang of what parts of St. Nick's body matter when it comes
to touching an object, you can get into the swing of things very
In terms of difficulty, this game actually starts out pretty hard, even
once you master the collision issue mentioned above. You do have the
option to start on levels 1-6 at the beginning of the game, but I would
not recommend the top level as things move so fast I'm not sure it's
even possible to actually beat it at that point. Although, the elves
move faster which is nice since they take less time off the clock to
scatter their toys, but the amount of times you will probably end up
running into a witch or wrong toy more than makes up for it.
St. Nick is probably the second best Funware game out there for the TI,
with first prize going to Henhouse, which is held as many people's
favorite TI game. However, for Christmas this little game cannot be
beat! This can be confirmed by my friend Joshua who was entertained by
this title and kept wanting to play it again all the while figuring out
a strategy to win, and trust me this is no easy friend to impress!
To all fans of the Vectrex system, I'm sorry to say that there will
be no game review this month. The reason for this is because the
emulator I used the past two months did NOT work with the game
images/ROMs I found online. As I noted previously, the emulator I
used was developed by someone who did it for fun but doesn't seem to
be actively maintaining it.
The good news is that I did find an emulator that has a good number
of games that work with it. Unfortunately, the emulator seems to run
incredibly slow on my computer, so I couldn't get any of the games
running well enough to review them. However, this may not be the
fault of the emulator. The computer I am using is several years old,
has a small amount of RAM and the hard drive is about 70% full.
I'm going to see what I can do about this and hopefully get back to
looking at Vectrex games next month. Thanks for reading!
Hello, this is James Sorge back with
Dual Perspective, the column that reviews games from both the playing
and the World Record perspectives. This month, the victim is Super Mario
Brothers by Nintendo.
D There are a few fatal flaws in Super Mario Brothers’
graphics. One is that they tend to use the same sprites over and over
again (don’t know if this was an NES limitation or just not enough
effort). Second, Fire Luigi has the same color as Mario, that kind of
bit the big one. Third, the color schemes weren’t the greatest in the
world and could be irritating on the eyes at times.
A The tunes were classic back then and have formed the basic
tune base for the Super Mario Brothers series in general. Some of the most
nostalgic tunes are here in all of video games.
F Generally easy and the game that most later game’s
difficulties are based on. Kids can beat this title and I know plenty
who can beat it and no other. Then again, I know people that can beat
Elite Fighters and can’t even beat this. A good standard-bearer for the
difficulty of an average game.
A There are three general tracks to completing this
game: Minimalist (using Warp Zones), Full Completion, and Points. This
gives you three ways to play the game and keep going. Plenty of reasons
to replay this.
World Record Perspective: The records in this game might be
insurmountable in the speed category, but the points records are not
close to being maxed out, especially on the SNES remake. For this
review, we’ll keep it simple and go over the NES World Records. The
minimalist completion: The Speed Demons Archive record with glitches is
5:00 by Andrew Garkidis, and the Twin Galaxies record is tied at 5:08:00
by 3 people. These records are pretty much unbeatable, though to see the
sub-5:00 run would be nice if only by a second. Full Completion: SDA
time: 19:40.00 with glitches, TG record 20:02.00, no glitches, both held
by Andrew Garkidis. Once again, this record is pretty godly, I wouldn’t
suggest going after it unless you have a million hours or want to prove
a point. The points record is 1,201,350, held by Patrick Scott
Patterson. This record is not insurmountable, and I know several people
from my NES days that would have fun with it if they practiced with 5
lives. It’s OK, but definitely beatable.
The Penguin Says: "I’ll take the time to explain this, and coming from a Nintendo
based penguin mind you this could be rough. The graphics aren’t really the
greatest and can be an eyesore at times. Also, there were a few major mistakes
in the design of Super Mario Brothers, including Fire Luigi’s color and the
Minus World glitch. Don’t get the wrong, the game is fun, but I still to this
day don’t see how 40 million+ people have come to enjoy this one while better
games don’t get more credit. It’s solid, but not spectacular, and falls into a
category like Final Fantasy 4: The After Years."
"Overall I give the game a
6.5/10. However, the World Record
Points score can still be beaten, so I give that a
Mega Man III introduces
Protoman and has some unique features, including Dr. Wily's first break
from that Metriod-Chozo looking machine for the boss battle. Also, it
introduces the Robodog Rush, which is much better than the items the
previous game had.
10 / 10 The games’ graphics sets are very well done for the NES and contain some
of the most complicated images on the system, Mega Man 4 is the only
game I can think of offhand that surpasses it (Mega Man 5 and 6 are Mega
Man 4 clones and are not as polished).
Sound: 8 / 10 The sound on this is good and Protoman's theme is a nice composition,
but like the entire series, the actual sounds never really changed from
Mega Man I. It could have been better, but was pretty solid.
Controls: 10 / 10 This has what is probably one of he best control schemes in the series.
Rush Jet is a virtual platform that is wonderful to use and Mega Man
responds very well and very quickly.
Game Play: 9 / 10 Game play is great, taking advantage of new weapons and abilities, and
unlike Sega there are no accidental glitches that result in you getting
shoved inside of walls and eventually crushed by sliding. The Mega Man
II bosses are back in this game, but it’s too bad you can't take and use
Longevity: 9 / 10 The Doc Robot stages really make you want to replay this game. However,
the Wily rounds are a little too easy.
Overall rating: 9 / 10 If you want to get a hold of this game (and you very well should!), I
strongly suggest the Virtual Console version over the Anniversary
Collection. Well worth the 500 Wii points, especially since that's less
than 1/10th of what this great game cost new on the NES! The Anniversary
Collection version for the Playstation has the normal porting issues,
plus the auto fire and weapons cycling ruin the original experience. The
Game Cube version, on top of all the problems associated with the
Playstation Anniversary Collection release, also has the A and B buttons
switched which really hurts you, especially if you are use to the NES.
fighting games have been around since the late ‘70s in the form of
Sega’s boxing arcade unit Heavyweight Champ, followed by the popular Way
of the Exploding Fist originally released in 1985 on the Commodore 64
among other systems, it was the Street Fighter series and its inevitable
sequels that introduced the masses to a genre that has remained popular
to this day. Fighting games emphasized the concept of one on one combat
between two human-controlled characters, and the arcade units would
become a regular hangout for highly competitive gamers, young and old.
Other fighting franchises were released to critical acclaim and cult
status in the early ‘90s, like Mortal Kombat and Virtua Fighter, and the
popularity of such game in arcades flourished. As the decade continued,
the popularity of the fighting genre began to deteriorate, partly due to
rising complexity of the games and also the increasingly powerful
home-consoles released at the end of the millennium, like the
Playstation 1 and Sega Dreamcast. As the arcade units began to become
scarce, some fans opted away from the fighting genre, as they complained
that the arcade feel couldn’t be replicated at home on home consoles.
Despite this, publishers like Namco Bandai and Tecmo continued to push
for more fighting titles, with Dead or Alive and Soul (Calibur) gaining
many fans. It was however, a series that had previously stood in the
shadow of others in the mid 90s that was to take the limelight. Tekken
3, the follow up to the 1994 and 1995 releases of the same series, was
put out on the Playstation 1 in 1998 and is widely regarded as one of
the best games of the console generation, and an exceptionally
well-crafted fighting experience.
Despite maintaining the same core fighting engine seen in its
predecessors, a series of tweaks and improvements in terms of graphics
and animations would be enough to perfect the already excellent gameplay
mechanics seen in the two earlier games in the series. There were also
several additions to the previously petite character roster, with
modern-day favorites like the bizarrely-headed King (pictured on the
taekwondo expert Hwoarang, and Jin Kazama, a boy who claimed to be
“Heihachi's grandson", the man who had originally been the ‘final boss’
in the original Tekken Arcade game. There were a total of fifteen new
characters added who hadn’t been featured in the Tekken series before,
including unlockable ones. This would bring the total number of playable
characters to twenty-one.
A new technique added to Tekken 3 not before featured in the series was
the ability to sidestep and the emphasis on the third axis. Though
unique, dodge and sidestep maneuvers were available to particular
characters in previous games, but now the ability was open to every
character without a complicated combo-chain to remember. All it now took
was a simple push on the joystick or d-pad in the corresponding
direction. Another small change was the emphasis on realistic jumping.
No longer could a fighter avoid an attack by jumping preposterously
high; they were instead limited to a jump which was around the head
height of most other combatants, with exceptions being some of
the…larger enemies you encounter as the arcade story mode progresses.
This addition made the player depend far more on the sidestepping
technique, and it became a key technique to master should you want to
consider yourself a ‘pro’. Juggling the opposition also became a far
easier system to master, with increased hit-parameters for a variety of
moves, allowing for a more generous opportunity to deal massive damage
on the opposition.
The game also included a Streets of Rage style minigame named Tekken
Force. This would place the player in various stages against enemies, as
you were told to clear each group of foes before being allowed to
side-scroll into the next area. Whilst this mode was popular in its own
right, it was also played a lot as you would unlock a bonus character,
Dr. Bosconovitch, upon a fourth completion. This bonus mode is not
necessarily the one for which the game is most fondly remembered
however. Tekken Ball, a game almost identical to Beach Volleyball, was
unlocked upon completion of the main story mode. It would put the
players against each other once again, in a one vs. one contest, but
unable to make direct contact with each other due to the net that stood
between them. Instead, damage would be dealt if the opponent failed to
return the ball and it hit the ground on their side, or if they were hit
with a charged attack.
Despite the story being one of the last reasons to play Tekken 3, it is
still enjoyable to see the time and effort put into developing each
unique character’s persona and back story. Family ties amongst other
things are revealed and it generally makes for a cheesy, but
all-the-while watchable, experience.
The game was released to massive critical praise and to this day remains
one of the most popular fighting games of all time. Its Metacritic score
remains at an outstanding 96% and it received countless other reviews
applauding its excellence. For anyone who appreciates fighting games as
a whole, Tekken 3 is without doubt a game worth enjoying even after more
than a decade after its initial release.
Old Wine in New
Bottles: Retrogaming on Modern Hardware
What classic video game
enthusiast wouldn’t want their very own arcade cabinet for Christmas?
Unfortunately, most of us just don’t have the space for a full-size
arcade game. We have to make do with the next best thing – emulation.
For this special Christmas-themed edition of RTM, I will be reviewing
not one but two classic arcade game compilations for the PlayStation 2:
Taito Legends (released in 2005) and Taito Legends 2 (released in 2006).
In my experience, Taito
Legends 2 is harder to find than the original; I have only ever seen one
copy of this title (in a small pawn shop), while the local HMV stores
had piles of Taito Legends in their discount bin (HMV is a music store
chain here in Canada).
Taito Legends includes 29
games, all originally released between 1978 and 1993, while Taito
Legends 2 has an impressive 39 titles, dating from 1979 through 1997.
Most games in the first collection date from the mid-1980s, while most
in the second are from the early 1990s.
As with all of these
retro arcade game collections, there are some real classic gems, but
there is also some filler. Taito Legends includes Bubble Bobble,
Elevator Action, Jungle Hunt, Phoenix, Zoo Keeper, and three versions of
Space Invaders (the original, Part II, and Return of the Invaders).
It also includes some
lesser well-known titles such as Battle Shark, Exzisus, New Zealand
Story, Tokio, and Volfied. Some of these titles may not have been
previously released in North America. Gladiator (1986) may not
technically qualify as a classic, but I have very fond memories of
playing it when I was in high school.
Taito Legends 2 includes
the classics Alpine Ski, Front Line, Puzzle Bobble 2, Qix, and yet more
versions of the venerable Space Invaders franchise (’95, DX, and Super
Space Invaders ’91).
It also includes many
titles that again were (very probably) not released in North America,
such as Cameltry, Don Doho Don, Huri Hinton, Puchi Carat, and the aptly
named Violence Fight.
Taito Legends includes a
brief section on the history of Taito (it began as a manufacturer of
vending machines in the 1950s). For every game, it includes an image of
the original cabinet, an original sales flyer, and hints and tips for
the game. For some titles, it includes a video clip of an interview with
the original designer. None of this content needs to be unlocked.
Legends 2 includes only a very brief description of each game and a
small screen-shot. There is no other bonus or additional content. It
appears to me that this game was rushed into production, and so it lacks
the care and attention lavished on the original product.
The user interface on
both games is simple and intuitive to use. For all of the games, the
difficulty level and other options (e.g. extra lives) can be adjusted.
Taito Legends has the better looking interface; seeing the original
cabinets gives something of the feel of an actual arcade, while Taito
Legends 2 merely has a scrollable list of the titles.
Most of the games have
adapted very well to the PS2 controller. The buttons are intuitively
mapped and there is a diagram at the start of each game explaining the
function of each. The difficulty, as always, arises with games that
originally used special controllers. Taito Legends titles Operation Wolf
and Space Gun both used a machine gun-like controller in the arcade;
both of these games are virtually unplayable with the standard joystick.
Battle Shark also appears to have had an odd control scheme, but it is
quite easy to play with a joystick.
The original arcade Space
Invaders used buttons rather than a joystick for left and right
movement, but virtually every implementation since has adapted well to a
joystick. Apparently, there was a Japan-only Space Invaders collection
that included a special arcade-like controller for the PS2, but I have
never actually seen this legendary piece of hardware.
Some of the arcade games
(e.g. Dungeon Magic and Football Champ, both part of Taito Legends 2)
originally supported up to four players, but as neither collection
includes support for the multitap, they are now limited to only two
As with many of the
recent retrogaming compilations, any of these games can be paused at any
point. There is no in-game save function, however. This is arguably more
“authentic” to the original game, but developers should take advantage
of the emulator to add extra features. Settings and high scores are
saved automatically at the end of a game.
Overall, Taito Legends is
the more solid of the two collections – and that is the one I would most
like to find under my Christmas tree. I would not recommend Taito
Legends 2 unless someone is a fan of one (or more) of the included
titles. While it has 25% more games, frankly, most of those are obscure
filler titles. It is more fun than a lump of coal in your stocking, but
not by very much.
Feedback on this column is always
welcome; please send any comments and/or questions to
firstname.lastname@example.org. I am also very interested in hearing about any
classic PlayStation 2 compilations that were never released in North
America (e.g. Data East or Stern collections); please let me know what
is out there.
This is a new series of articles about brand
new games for modern systems that are using “retro” graphics. I am going
to cover Nintendo Wii and DS games that you can buy in retail stores or
download from the digital world and are new, original titles using retro
graphics. In each issue I will mention what games came out for that
month (if any) and talk about one that I enjoy. I will describe the game
and give some history on it. Even if you don’t have these modern
systems, I think you will still find the articles interesting. In
addition, many of these games will make great Christmas gifts this year,
since they are currently available and can appeal to both the retro and
modern gamer alike. It would not be a bad idea to carry this article in
your purse when you do your Christmas shopping this year! Now on to the
Mega Man 9
Hironobu Takeshita (producer) interview
Bit.Trip: Beat Video Trailer
This month I am going to focus on WiiWare.
On May 12, 2008 WiiWare games were available to buy from Nintendo’s Shop
Channel on the Wii system which are new titles that you can buy and
download. This is a way for small developers to make simple, original
games without the cost and risk of creating one to be sold in a retail
store. The developer first needs to be licensed and approved by Nintendo
before they can purchase a development kit for around $2000. WiiWare
games so far cost between $5 and $15 each and some have an added cost
for downloadable content. On launch day, six games were made available:
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: My Life as a King, LostWinds, Defend
Your Castle, Pop, V.I.P. Casino Blackjack and TV Show King. With Pop
probably looking the most retro.
After that many games had very simple
graphics but none really had “retro” graphics. All of that changed on
September 28, 2008 when Mega Man 9 was released. This was a brand new
Mega Man game in the series, but it used retro graphics and sound/music
from the NES era. Check out the video with not just clips of the game
but a great interview with producer Hironobu Takeshita who makes a
comment on the popularity of classic gaming!
Once Mega Man 9 came out, the public wanted
to see and play more new games that used retro graphics, retro
sound/music and were fun and simple to play.
On March 9, 2009
Gradius Rebirth was
released for WiiWare. This was another game in a well-known series that
used retro graphics, but this time they were from the 16-bit era and not
On the following Monday, March 16, 2009
Bit.Trip: Beat was released.
Mega Man 9 and Gradius Rebirth came from the
big companies Capcom and Konami. But, Bit.Trip: Beat was made in 4 months
by Gaijin Games, an independent developer made of 3 people: Alex
(designer), Chris (engineer) and Mike (artist). A video interview was
done with the team at Gaijin Games and can be found
Alex loves the Atari VCS and it’s still one
of his favorite consoles. He always wanted to make a VCS-era retro game
with simplistic gameplay. So, Bit.Trip: Beat was born. Bit.Trip: Beat,
originally titled Paddle, was made in a very similar way to how Atari
VCS games were made back in the day and how homebrew developers make
them today; with only 1 or 2 people. Going back to the basics, the
graphics are very much early Atari VCS in style. The game looks similar
to Pong and plays like a combination of Pong, Breakout and Arkanoid
(there are items in the game). You hold the Wiimote (Wii’s controller)
sideways and twist it up or down to move your paddle on the screen up or
down. The control is incredible and it feels very similar to the Atari
VCS’s paddle controllers. The designers even added a slight vibration in
the Wiimote when you twist it. Very cool! You don’t even need to press
any buttons in the game, all you do is twist the Wiimote, it’s all very
simple. You need to hit each oncoming block to gain points and keep
going. There are some blocks in the game that make your paddle longer,
shorter and can even stop it from moving. If you miss a bunch of blocks,
the graphics go to Pong’s original black and white graphics with a bleep
sound coming from the Wiimote’s speaker. At the end of each level you
fight a boss. The “boss” for the 2nd level is a game of Breakout
(horizontal of course).
Bit Trip: Beat
The modern flair that Gaijin Games wanted to
add to this title so it was not completely retro comes from the music
which sounds like trance or electronica. It is actually a new genre
called chiptune, and for Bit.Trip: Beat it is made of samples from Atari
VCS and Nintendo Entertainment System games. There are some modern 3D
graphic effects in the background as well. Even with these modern
touches, the game still feels very much retro. Even during the
introduction you quickly see a rainbow zip by that looks similar to
Activision’s logo that was used for all of their Atari VCS games. The
game is simple to play, yet hard to master. A good sign for a classic
If you have a Wii and you don’t own this
game, buy it now. If you don’t have a Wii it would be worth buying one
for this game and all of the other retro games available for it. This
system is quickly becoming one of my all time favorites.
Since this is the holiday issue of
Retrogaming Times Monthly, I want to say Merry Christmas to all of the
readers and mention that Bit.Trip: Beat now has a free demo only
available on the Wii’s Shop Channel through January 31, 2010.
Also, below are some of the “retro-like”
WiiWare games that are now available that the retro gaming community
Click on the titles to view a YouTube video
Two Decades of Harassment is Enough In stunning news, the pink female frog from the Frogger games has
finally had enough. After more than twenty years of being hopped on by
every passing Frogger, she decided to hire an attorney and fight back.
"Just because I am sitting on a log is no reason for this continued
harassment," she said in a tearful statement outside the courtroom. "I
know Frogger is risking his life going across that road, but I am not
some prize for him to win. I have feelings and needs of my own." Her
attorney was able to get a restraining order against Frogger, who is not
allowed to come within two logs of her.
A Boy, A Blob and a Lesson in Healthy Eating Everyone who grew up
with the NES knows the story of the boy and his blob. The little
creature from Blobonia had a love for jellybeans. In fact, he loved them
so much that he would change shapes when he ate different ones. It made
for a fun game and a great story, but unlike ET and other alien stories,
it did not have a happy ending. Like most creatures, blobs need a
balanced diet. It is necessary for them to grow big and strong and
maintain their elastic body. However, this poor little blob lived on a
diet of strictly jelly beans. Being a young and naive blob he did not
know any better, and over time he felt worse and worse, but did not know
what it was. Was it the atmosphere or the constant changing of shapes?
He was not sure and he never said anything to the boy, who did not
realize that his companion was moving slower and getting weaker. It
wasn't until he was bedridden from malnutrition that other members of
his planet came to his aid. After they investigated the situation, it
became apparent to them that the boy was abusing the blob with his poor
diet and constant need to change shapes. The blob was taken back to his
home planet and the boy was disintegrated.
Berzerk Budget Cuts The recession is hitting everyone and that
includes the world of video games. From imitation dots in Pac-Man to
recycling barrels in Donkey Kong, the belt has been tightened. In one
game, the cuts have been felt more than any other. Berzerk, the famous
game full of mazes and robots has seen shrinking revenue force them to
make drastic cuts. The first cut is the electric walls are no longer
charged. When we asked Evil Otto about the move, he had the following
statement, "I know we are famous for our electric walls, but they cost a
fortune to run. Not only is the cost of electricity expensive, but we
have to keep replacing robots that aren't smart enough to not run into
the walls." Future cuts may include less robots and changing the
gameplay from shooting robots to merely tagging them. The cost of
maintenance is horrendous.
Tom Zjaba is the founder of Retrogaming Times and is both a video game and comic book enthusiast. Be sure to
stop by his Arcade After Dark site to see a plethora of video game related comics which are not
published in Retrogaming Times Monthly.
Games That Can Be Played On-Line
Now that this issue
has come to an end, it's time to go and plan how you will go about tackling
those Christmas presents this year! Plan your strategy, plan your attack, and
most importantly plan how you will eventually conquer the new (and hopefully
retro) games that you get this year. I know I will be doing a ton of classic
gaming this Christmas just as I do every year, since what would the holiday be
without a some new retro games under the tree? Until next year...