Profiled: Brad Smith

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Name: Brad Smith

Favorite Classic Game: Metroid 2 (Gameboy) Prince of Persia 2 

lizard

Gamer Profiles heads to the great white north to talk with developer, Brad Smith on his latest project titled, Lizard. His Kickstarter brings us a cool platformer for the NES where you explore an 8-bit world while wearing a lizard for a true retro inspired adventure. Brad has been a fan of classic games all his life from Metroid 2 on the Gameboy to Prince of Persia on the PC. Brad is also a fan of video game music and began creating his own music own music for the Nintendo.

We had a great time talking with Brad so check out the gamer profile and you can check out the Lizard Kickstarter and Brad’s website at the links below.

Lizard Kickstarter – https://www.kickstarter.com…

Brad’s Website – http://rainwarrior.ca

The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island

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The Adventures of Gilligan’s Island

Gilligan’s Island is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Though it’s hard to believe someone wanted to make a video game based off of it. Though Bandai had that idea and did so in 1990. The Adventures of Gilligans Island hit the NES about 23 years after the show ended
The Adventures of Gilligan's Island - NES
The game is (obviously) set on the tropical island Gilligan and all his friends are stuck on. Well except Ginger for some reason. Tina Louise, the actress that portrayed her had clashed with creator Sherwood Schwartz because she thought she’d be the central character. She failed to return in most of the reunions, and I guess the same applied to her 8-bit self.
The Adventures of Gilligan's Island - NES
The game instead has the Skipper as the central character with Gilligan as your sidekick. You basically walk across the jungle looking for the other castaways. On the way the duo are attacked by birds, warthogs, and other animals of the jungle. The Skipper has the ability to punch (which doesn’t seem to do anything), but running away is more effective. Gilligan is so mindless that he often falls behinds or into pits. Leaving you to have to rescue him time and time again.
The Adventures of Gilligan's Island - NES
Overall Gilligan’s Island is often listed as one of the worst NES games ever made. It was a game nobody asked for, and even less people thought it was fun. It had unclear objectives, terrible combat, sub-par graphics, and some things made little to no sense. And to make matters worse, Gilligan isn’t even wearing the right shirt.

Sonic The Hedgehog

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Sonic The Hedgehog

This week we have Sonic for the Sega Master System. Why this version? Because it’s definitely one to play. Of course, it’s graphically inferior than the Genesis version we all know but it’s quite rare to find the US version around these woods. The game overall is not bad until you compare it to its more powerful predecessor. Enough talk, it’s a Sonic game after all so it can’t be that bad right? OK, I take that back…
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
Sonic music in 8-bit sound is actually quite enjoyable but it’s definitely not for everyone. The sound effects are also a bit bland. I’m getting to understand why Sega didn’t released this game massively in the USA.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
The graphics are quite good for a Master System game. Sonic looks like Sonic and not like a blob. The backgrounds and graphics of the stages are a hit. You never feel like you’ll jump into a fake wall or something. There isn’t that much distortion if there are too many things going on in the game so that’s a well deserved thumbs up.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
The gameplay is easy. Sonic games for the Genesis were just as easy as pick up and play. They are fast and fun. This one requires a little bit more strategy and jumping without having to go as fast as the speed of light. It’s still fun in the end, it is classic Sonic after all.
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
Like many of the older Sonic games, this one is well worth a replay especially if you want to challenge yourself with your own goals like not taking a hit per level or collecting all the rings. Sonic games can be addictive too you know..
Sonic the Hedgehog - Sega - Master System
It’s the first Sonic game and it’s fun. What else is there more to say about this gem? It’s just really enjoyable! I suggest you get the European version as it’s the same thing and a lot cheaper!

Whomp ‘Em

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Whomp ‘Em

In 1991, when they were not busy releasing another Bases Load sequel, Jaleco released a side-scrolling platformer for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System console called Whomp ‘Em. Following a Native American protagonist named Soaring Eagle on his quest to seek mystical totems, Jaleco put plenty of developer muscle into fine-tuning this title. But in tuning the mechanics so finely, did they miss the big picture?

Whomp 'Em - NES

Gameplay

A seasoned NES player recognizes the formular: The directional pad moves the on-screen character, the A button jumps, and the B button attacks. While Whomp ‘Em begins with this formula, it certainly adds many ingredients. On a minor note, Soaring Eagle can duck.

Whomp 'Em - NES

But in a major way, Soaring Eagle’s attacks can be incorporated into a variety of moves. Holding B while running keeps his spear ahead of him, damaging incoming foes. Holding Down in midair enables him to drop the spear’s tip upon the head of unlucky enemies. The spear can even be used as a shield against certainly projectiles, if held in the right manner and in the right spot. The spear can even be directed upward, by pressing Up when jumping. This gives the player a variety of ways to damage creatures, and many angles to utilize.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Then there are the items, which form quite an in-depth in-game economy. Although the player begins with just a few hearts on the health bar, these hearts can be increased by collecting gourds. But the number of gourds needed to gain a heart of health increases each time, until the player needs 99 gourds to gain the 12th and final heart unit of hit points.

Whomp 'Em - NES

And this is not even to mention the bonus items that add to attack or defense until the player is hit, nor the health-increasing grabs. Perhaps the most intriguing item-driven mechanic, however, is how Whomp ‘Em handles extra lives: The “magic potion” item essentially is an extra life, but the player is limited to holding three at a time. This is a strange, different-from-the-norm way to handle an extra-life mechanic. It does seem to add some tension, as it removes the possibility of simply hoarding dozens of lives, as can be done in other games, while also making it a priority at times to hunt for those crucial hidden potions.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Much like Capcom’s Mega Man series, Whomp ‘Em lets the player select what order he or she would like to conquer the stages in. At the end of each level is an environment boss. Defeating this character gives the player a new selectable weapon type to use; typically, a boss is especially vulnerable to a certain weapon, which gives the player incentive to strategize smartly as to their order of play.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Taken together, these separate elements would seem just fine, quite enough to put together in order to create a formidable video game. Whomp ‘Em does proceed crisply, offering the player well-honed fighting mechanics to use throughout a variety of stages in an experience that proves to be a worthy challenge. However, well-designed items and enemies aside, Whomp ‘Em does have some flaws.

Whomp 'Em - NES

The additional weapon are underwhelming. Most of them just make the basic attack reach a little further, which there is already an item for, and prove to not be any more useful against most regular enemies. This is a strange choice, and could have been for any number of reasons, but it is definitely disappointing to gain the flame weapon – and notice that it only shoots a small fire out of the tip of the spear, like a blowtorch.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Some of the stage designs are questionable. Among Let’s Players and others, the final level has gained notoriety for being rather difficult and just plain cheap. These design errors are evident elsewhere, though: Several areas force the player to make blind jumps, which is hardly ever fun. At least the player can aim the spear downward, likely helping the cause in these cases. There still remain, though, a few spots in which it is tough to tell which elements are mere background and which are needed platforms, along with dubious practices in enemy regeneration.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Then there are the bosses, which range wildly between very cool and a just-right level of difficulty – to ones that are spectacularly frustrating, with such traits that include the ability to instantly take away the player’s extra lives at a single touch. While none of the bosses are impossible, and all are pattern-based, the use of cheap tactics in order to artifically inflate their challenge is a bit eyebrow-raising, to say the least.

Whomp 'Em - NES

Overall, Whomp ‘Em is a pretty good game, and just that. It is not an all-time great. It is rarely seen on top-10 lists, but deservedly so; even then, it has perhaps been overlooked a tad, since it is still better than most 8-bit titles, and while nitpickers can find many flaws, the entirety was made well as a whole.

Graphics

Whomp 'Em - NES

Whomp ‘Em looks great. The enemy designs are fun and varied, while some of them even move smoothly in interesting ways – check out the floating hands in some of the vertically oriented portions. The levels are lush with colors, but better graphical signals could have been used, such as with the bizarre “electric” clouds on the final stage. Also, this game does suffer from some flickering. The pixel artists was skilled, but the execution was not quite fully polished. For instance, that jump animation looks super weird.

Sound

Whomp 'Em - NES

For a video game that feels like it was trying to be The Next Big Thing on NES, the music has a strange strata to it. While the composition mostly maintains a sense of skillful rendering, even summoning a vague Native American sensation at times, but at others falls flat or even gets downright irritating. At least the sound effects are satisfying.

Originality

Whomp 'Em - NES

Whomp ‘Em has been accused of being a Mega Man clone. You can offer the character stage selection right away alone without getting that accusation, or just borrow enemy powers, or have stage-end bosses, or involve pesky precision-jumping puzzles; but combine those, along with elemental weaknesses, and you have a recipe for such reputation. Then again, with a training level to start, the impressive in-game economy of items, the Native American flourishes, and an overall theatrical flair, Whomp ‘Em deserves a look, and is a bit more than a mere clone… even if it still never reaches the heights that a great Mega Man game achieves. Perhaps it would be a little better with a smidge more length, coupled with an adequate password or save function. Alas.

Overall rating: 3.5/5 stars.

NES Baseball

 nintendo baseball

NES Baseball

The Nintendo sport series on NES was pretty bad, and Baseball is not much different.
nintendo baseball
The game really is not that bad in a technical sense. It’s baseball….and not much else. It’s got different teams and a 2 player mode but that’s about it.
nintendo baseball
The problem with the game are really three things. The first is the speed of the game, it really goes far too slow for it’s own good. The second are the controls which aren’t so hot when you’re trying to throw it to the right base. Lastly is the difficulty when playing against the computer. It’s far too good getting easy home runs while you struggle to get pass any base.
 nintendo baseball
It may be slightly better in some ways compared to some other sport games on NES, but it’s still garbage. Do not buy this game from anywhere.

Score: 3 out of 10

Archon: The Light and the Dark

Archon: The Light and the Dark

Overall Rating: 3/5 Stars

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

Activision is among the most prolific video game developers in history, spanning several decades of production for retro and modern systems alike, responsible for titles like the infamously atrocious Ghostbusters cartridge for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) yet also for the explosively popular Call Of Duty series. Somewhere in between, in terms of quality, lies the 1989 video board game Archon.

Gameplay

Archon is a unique game. It is like chess, in the sense that it is played on a similar grid of a board, and strategy heavily lies on most advantageously using pieces with different abilities. However, there is one enormous difference: Rather than instantly taking an opposing space when you move your piece onto a square occupied by an opponent, you must fight to earn it.

Yes, every single time a player moved into a space that is already occupied, the screen shifts to an arena, and the two pieces then fight to the death. It is even possible for both pieces to die in battle. Either way, the lack of a guaranteed takeover makes every skirmish of tantamount importance.

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

This also adds to the depth of the variety of pieces; not only do they move in certain ways, but they are also different in their battle mechanics, sporting health meters of different sizes, melee or projectile attacks, even differing in the speed, strength, and rate of reload per those projectile attacks.

If that were not enough to make the game interesting, the pieces are divided into the Light side and the Dark side. They are stronger if on a square of their side; for example, if a Dark piece is on a dark space, its health meter is longer. But rather than simply have a grid with every other space sporting an allegiance to Light or Dark, there is also a swath of spaces that fluctuate their coloration. After the second player’s turn, they turn a shade darker or lighter, cycling through four shades until reaching the maximum saturation, then going back toward the other extreme. Being in one of these spaces, then, means constantly shifting between a position of power and that of weakness.

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

There is no concept of “check” or “kinging” in this board game. The victory condition is to either obliterate every opposing piece, or occupy the five special Lumina spaces on the board. Of course, these five spaces are all of the color type that shifts from darkness to lightness, forever back and forth.

One other quirk applies. Each side has a magician; for the Light side, a wizard, and for the Dark, a sorcerer. Not only are they powerful in combat, with a very strong projectile attack, but they can also cast a spell on the player’s turn instead of moving a piece. These spells range from Teleport, which moves a piece (of either allegiance) to a different space on the board; to Revive, which brings a previously defeated piece back onto the playing field; to Heal, which recovers a piece’s health, since drops in health do stay in play, unless the piece is allowed a few turns to heal naturally; Summon Elemental, which basically attacks an opposing piece with a one-use powerful being in hopes of earning the kill; and a couple others, all of which are good for one use.

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

The directional pad obviously moves the cursor from space to space and the pieces once selected with the A button, with the B button canceling an unwanted or accidental selection. Also useful to know is that the Down button is what is used to scroll through available spells, and the Up button speeds up the opening scene of piece-placement and any in-game text. Combat is handled by pressing the A button to attack and using the d-pad to maneuver.

Archon exists within a medieval fantasy motif, with the Light side commanding a phoenix, knights, and unicorns, while the Dark side commands a dragon, trolls, and even manticores, among other fiends. The battlegrounds may appear as a slimy dungeon, or a fiery hellhole, or a spooky graveyard set. It truly manages its own distinctive experience for a video board game, and with the option to play either against the computer or against a human opponent, a couple decent chunks of replay value present themselves.

Graphics

archon_nes_gameplay_screenshot

The battle scenes look darn good, with enough 8-bit graphical quality to appropriately fit in to another genre if it ever tried. The board itself looks alright, though the flickering of the five power spaces is a little off-putting. The pieces look alright, rendered as two-tone icons, and slightly enlarge during battle. The playscreen is cast onto an odd purple-brick background, though manages to not massively offend the senses. The animations are smooth, action proceeds at a satisfactory clip, the menus are legible; really, overall the game looks fine, its only “flaw” being that it never really takes it up a notch in its visuals, since the vast majority of the video game takes place on either the board screen or the battle screen. Also, one complaint is that the tones of blue used for the Lumina spaces are, honestly, difficult to discern in terms of which is darker than another. Grayscale may have been preferable. Speaking of grayscale, the title screen looks sweet, split into black and white, with two serpentine dragons hissing and claying at each other over a strange geometric figure.

Sound

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The strange, dual-layer background music that comprises the gameplay gets old fast, and it may be preferable to play this game muted. Or, rather, it would be, except that the game makes the sound absolutely essential: During battle, a chime lets the player know when their projectile is reloaded and ready to fire again, using a lower tone for the Dark side and a higher tone for the Light. The more upbeat battle track is solid; though, again, gets repetitive. The tones, at least, are delivered with solid fidelity and clarity. Fire attack buzz like cackling flame, arrows slash through the air – those are the auditory highlights. The music is the worst part, in listening terms.

Originality

One thing Archon can certainly say is that it is a one-of-a-kind video game for the NES. There were plenty of other board games to choose from, whether classics like Monopoly and Othello, or hybrid-genre titles like Anticipation and Bible Buffet. By inherently linking battle attributes to its pieces, Archon adds a unique layer of tactics.

Unfortunately, enjoying those tactics may be difficult, because this game has one big deficiency: There is no choice for computer difficulty level. Yep, the same computer that seems to have masterful control over their weakest pieces will always relentlessly hound human opponents in battle, while having the same projectile-timing weaknesses every single fight. Perhaps obviously, Archon is best played with another player, yet decades later, can an interested player find a second?

The concept is sound, and not executed badly, but the lack of gameplay depth, beyond the foundational rules, is a big hindrance to replay appeal. At least the pieces in battle can both move and fire in eight different directions, which is cool. In fact, “cool” may be the perfect word to describe a neither-hot-nor-cold rating score of three stars out of five.

Robot Chicken: Pac-Man

Robot chicken, pac-man, adult swim, cartoon network, ms. Pac-man, seth green, 8-bit, classic gaming, funny video game videos, retro gaming

Today’s video of the day comes from the Adult Swim show, Robot Chicken. You can always expect Seth Green and the gang to come up with some hilarious shorts, but his retro gaming parody’s are especially funny. Check out their latest one based on the classic arcade hit, Pac-Man.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

Overall Rating: 2/5 Stars

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

In the 1970’s, the first of a series of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes flicks was released, providing a send-up of classic B-movie horror films. Years later, kids would enjoy an animated series. Then, in the 1990’s, the 8-bit Attack of the Killer Tomatoes video game was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System console. Published by somewhat notorious gaming company THQ in 1992, with development work by Imagineering Inc., this was a one-player platformer based on the cartoon.

Gameplay

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The player controls Chad Finletter, the only resident in the town of San Zucchini courageous enough to fight the killer tomatoes. This game features the classic platformer controls: A jumps, hold B to dash (on levels 3 and later, which is bizarre), the directional buttons move back and forth. The enemies, for the most part, consist of a variety of different sized tomatoes, along with creatures such as bats, spiders, worms, little pudgy-shaped things, etc. The only attack is to jump on enemies, but the jumps must be exactly on the head or midsection of a foe to defeat it, demanding precision-jumping not only to traverse levels but to beat the baddies.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

There are some mini-boss battles in which the player engages the larger, named tomatoes, such as Tomacho, Beefsteak, Fang, etc., along with unique stages such as the main mad scientist boss not being fightable but conjuring a wave of enemies instead, or the mysterious hooded figure who plays a sewer organ that Chad must destroy one pipe at a time with rocks (yeah, hooded figure playing a pipe organ in the sewers, right).

Otherwise, this is a fairly typical platformer ‘” much of it is very linear, moving left or right, avoiding or defeating enemies, interacting with certain background elements like switches and the cliche acid drop in the sewers, etc. This is an average title, made less-than-average by some odd design choices, such as levels three, five, and the “bonus” level post-credits being maze-like, making them painful and unenjoyable to navigate.

Graphics

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The visuals may actually be the high point of the game. The backgrounds are colorful, the animations are smooth, there are few clipping/slowdown issues, certain background elements are animated, the characters look distinctive, and many sprites are handled at once. A couple highlights are the lighting effects under the streetlights in the first level, and the tomato-throwing effects during the opening and the credits. However, there are a couple flaws, such as the infamous switch that must be activated in one level, which reverses the gravity; while the gravity-reversing feat is always great fun on the NES when it is found, the switch very much just looks like a background element and can be easily missed.

Sound

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes - NES - Gameplay Screenshot

The music is nicely layered, playing a few “instruments” at once, and at decent melodic complexity and pace. But after a while, it does grow stale. This would be forgivable, except for one insane soundtrack choice the developers made that really strikes this cartridge down for enjoyment factor: Moving makes noise. In other words: There is a sound effect for just moving the character across the ground; not only is this remarkably unnecessary, but can only be found as annoying.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhwPsgpkaEg[/youtube]

Originality

Overall, this is another one of those platformers in which more effort was put into its presentation of a license than actual gameplay, much like the Simpsons games (Bart Vs. The World, Bart Vs. The Space Mutants, etc.) or Spider-Man: Return of the Sinister Six. Actually, those are very apt comparisons with several similarities: Background music that can haunt your sleep if gameplay lasts too long, oddly unintuitive jumping mechanics, potential confusion in navigating certain levels, questionable hit detection, and other issues. Nonetheless, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes is a worthy challenge for retro NES fans, and is at least fairly short, being just a handful of stages. A word of warning: Look out for the floating robotic arm and spark thing. Otherwise, this squashes two stars out of five.

The Atari Lynx

The Atari Lynx - 1

The Handy from Epyx, was the brainchild of David Morse, Dave Needle and the legendary RJ Mical. All three were the masterminds behind the Amiga. The collaboration of the device was done on a napkin in August 1986 – well before anyone else had thought of a portable gaming device like this. The Handy was the first full colour, 16-bit portable device. There are arguments till this day about how many ‘bits’ this device had. For me, it was, and still is 16-bit.

 

Epyx, not having the finances to take the product to market themselves were planning on selling the technology to Nintendo. Little did they realise, Nintendo was already working on their own portable device, the Gameboy.

The Atari Lynx vs The Nintendo Gameboy

When the Nintendo deal fell through for the Handy, Epyx approached none other than Jack Tramiel, owner of Atari at the time. Atari had attempted to create their own portable device (the Atari 2200), however, they could not get it right, so the Handy was perfect timing for them. The Handy became the Atari Lynx and the rest as they say, is history.

 

The Atari Lynx was released in the US in 1989 (1990 in the UK). The price of the unit was $100 more than the Gameboy. This price disparity, and the fact that Nintendo bundled the killer app Tetris with their unit, basically killed the market share for Atari’s new portable device. The original Lynx unit was bulky and also suffered from a short battery life – it chewed the 6 x AA batteries in no time when compared to the Gameboy. This just added to the woes of the Lynx.

The Atari Lynx Games

Atari eventually released the Lynx II, which was half the price of the original unit and was also smaller and cheaper to manufacture. The Lynx II introduced stereo sound and a pause button. This newer version also had longer battery life – a relief for avid fans.

 

As Atari thought they were on a winner with the Lynx II, along came Sega’s Game Gear in 1991. Although the Lynx was far superior than the Game Gear, it could not compete with Sega’s vast advertising budget and resources. The Game Gear was also backward compatible with the extensive library of Master System games.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKXScEpZ94Q[/youtube]

 

Even though Atari’s Lynx was relegated in the portable device market by the Gameboy and later by the Game Gear, it was still home to some awesome games and arcade conversions like: Chip’s Challenge, Klax, California Games, Blue Lightning, Rampart, Lemmings, Roadblasters, Paperboy, Rampage, STUN Runner, Xenophobe, Xybots and Zarlor Mercenary.

The Lynx fate was sealed in the early 90′s, not due to inferior hardware, but to better and smarter marketing from the likes of Nintendo and Sega. The device enjoys a cult following till this day in the retro gaming realm. So, do yourself a favour, grab a Lynx II. You will not be disappointed.

Classic download of the Week: Kid Icarus – Of Myths and Monsters

 

Kid Icarus - Of Myths and Monsters

Kid Icarus – Of Myths and Monsters

Available today on the Nintendo eShop is the classic Gameboy game, Kid Icarus – Of Myths and Monsters. Released by Nintendo in 1991 this Kid Icarus games features the classic platformer gameplay we all loved from the classic NES title.

Here is the official statement on the release.

A lighthearted adventure with mythical challenges.

The “8-bit Summer” series continues with this classic action game from 1991. Angel Land is up to its halos in woes as mythical monsters are running rampant. Pit, the original Kid Icarus, must save the realm again. Armed with his trusty bow, he’ll zap the bad guys and find the Three Sacred Treasures hidden by Palutena. Only after this grueling training will he be strong enough to take on the dark forces behind Angel Land’s troubles.

Pit will encounter old friends and new enemies – from helpful Centurions to the dreaded Eggplant Wizard – as he journeys from the depths of the underworld to the towers of the sky palace. Find hammers to shatter special walls and reveal helpful items. Collect hearts by fighting off Pit’s foes. Train hard and battle harder. Pit’s challenges make the labors of Hercules look like a walk in the park.

To enjoy the 3D effect of Nintendo 3DS software, you must experience it from the system itself. All screenshots and videos on this website have been captured in 2D mode.
Use Parental Controls to restrict 3D mode for children 6 and under.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YepzdVuRoNw[/youtube]

You can pick up Kid Icarus – Of Myths and Monsters for $3.99 for the Nintendo 3DS.

Synthboy

synthboy

Obsolete Gamer is always looking for cool new projects that feature classic games and what could be more classic than the Gameboy handheld system. Check out this project on Kickstarter that brings new life to the retro gaming system.

Dust off that first gen Gameboy as we have a very cool interface dock that converts the handheld gaming system into a state of the art 8-bit sound machine. There is a growing community of musicians and audio artists that are using these old gaming system sounds.  We have used some of the achievements from the 8-bit community and created the SYNTHBOY+.  Easy to plug into your mixer or home stereo with all of the various outputs. Midi IN/OUT makes it easy to connect to almost any keyboard.  We have a limited number of units available on Kickstarter.com.

synthboy

Link Here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/763704741/synthboy

So please grab one and support the effort to save these older gaming systems and rock out to some old school Tetris sounds.  This is recycling at its best.  We really wanted everyone to be able to get one of these, so we went smaller and more affordable. You can even send in your working Gameboy and we will modify it for you.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxZ4J6cj8-A[/youtube]

Thank you for your time and I hope you love the old gaming system sounds as much as we do.

The Interview: Dr Peter Favaro

Dr. Peter Favaro was the man behind the excellent Alter Ego life-sim and also one of the few psychologists deeply interested in the Internet (think Tendrilmedia) and video gaming. What follows is quite obviously an interview with said gaming legend regarding both the past and the future. Have fun reading it and feel the retro gaming nostalgia …uhm… feeling.
Alter Ego disk
It’s been quite some time since Alter Ego hit the shelves and impressed the press. Have you designed any other video games since?

Well, Alter Ego was to be followed by a game called Child’s Play -a humorous simulation about raising children, but Activision fell on financial hard times and had to be scrapped. The project manager was someone named Brenda Laurel, whom everyone first referred to as “The Lizard Queen” in the early days of the Internet.

Since then I have had some game ideas. One is finally coming to fruition. It’s Internet based and code named K-OS.

K-OS? Will it be an MMO sort of game? Could you describe it briefly?

Only briefly. People purchase computer generated DNA. They feed, train and teach the creature that forms from it. The creatures meet in a virtual world on line, fight, consume each other’s attributes until one becomes most superior. You know, the kind of touchy feely activities psychologists are known for.

Any idea when it should be available to psychologist adoring masses?

Well a lot depends on how much time I can slice from my media business which is doing quite well right now. My guess would be Winter 2007.

So, back to the old days, if you don’t mind. Alter-Ego. How would you describe it in a couple of sentences?

Alter Ego was a life sim, written in a tongue in cheek style which permitted people to explore the consequences of their decision making. It was built on a foundation of hundreds of interviews I conducted with people about their most memorable life events. Combined with stuff I just made up!

AlterEgoBoxBack

And how did you decide to undertake such an apparently mammoth task? What was your inspiration? Your PhD in psychology perhaps?

Actually, it was the other way around–it was my love of game design and the prospect of making some money. Psychology was a way of breaking out of the pack of other designers.

Hehe… A cunning plan indeed!

Well, its more than that, although I am cunning. Technology is by nature an exploitative enterprise. You have to strike while the iron is hot and you need to innovate in order to achieve that. That is what juices me up about working in this business and that’s why I rarely sit in a room with people who tell me about their anxieties.

Alter Ego, despite being critically acclaimed, didn’t sell very well. Why do you think this happened?

It sold well enough to buy me a house and a car. However, it did not sell like Mortal Kombat.

Why? Well, the egoist in me thinks it was before its time. It was developed during a period of gaming that did not know what a game activity was. It came after the initial shoot em ups and after some Zelda like stories, but was quite different than both. People have been begging me for years to re-do it.

Actually, should you re-do it, it would still be innovative and unique… Creativity in the mainstream gaming media seems to be at an all-time low… Or not?

Well, a project like that needs some cash behind it. It would have to go through a big developer like Sony. It would also have to be multimedia because that’s what turns people on -and well it should be- better for the nakedness and the killings and all. However, large developers wisely stick to their franchises–sports games, carjackings, and war themes. I don’t know if it would make it past the funding stage.

Then again, the Sims did it… And it was the only truly successful spiritual child of Alter Ego.

Yes it was, damn it. Can’t do the Sims again though; it would be me imitating an imitator of me.

AlterEgoScreen

How surreal and psycho-confusing….

Thank you. If someone would toss a few million my way, I am sure I could come up with something.

Which reminds me, have you played Timothy Leary’s game? Actually met the man? Helped him with his game?

Only by phone. Tim was an interesting sort of fellow. Lots of ideas about technology but no real clue. On the other hand, I don’t like people mucking about with my stuff, so I learned programming from the ground up. I am actually quite a technical person.

But where did you learn game-design and coming up with intuitive and never before seen interfaces?

I think game design is a function of a person’s idiosyncratic way of living. To some, life is just one big game. HA!

Wow!

I just realized what that implies about Alter Ego.When I was younger I used to make up games to amuse myself and to torment my little sister.

Did you ever hit her with an Alter Ego manual, then?

No, she was already too old and strong to mess with.

Sisters, tsk… Like reviewers really. Remember any of the reactions and/or reviews back in the day Alter Ego was released?

We all grew up in Brooklyn and had to learn to street fight relatively early in life.

Oh people loved it, the reviews were excellent with the exception of two guys from Compuserve who hated it because it relied on manipulation and was nothing more than a simulation based on psychology. Imagine! I laughed my ass off when I read that review.

Besides laughing at reviews, what else did you enjoy from the Activision era?

Well, also, loved the perks. Activision was big on treating their designers like rock stars. It was hilarious that when we showed at Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas we were always right near the porn stars!

Now, one final question. Which games did you recently enjoy?

I like the online multies. World of Warcraft is a good game -causing quite a stir with parents who say their kids are too involved in it

Well, parents can be funny, but WoW is a huge and all consuming time sink….

Sure, but you can expect more of the same. People are becoming more vegetative, and the more they veg, the more they will be looking for these kinds of activities.

Now, that I’ve never thought. Quite the vicious circle really…

There’s a reason televisions are getting bigger and bigger, and if you listen to Bill Gates everyone of them will have a web browser built in in just a few years.

Actually, quite a few anarchist believe that a color TV equals a black ‘n’ white life…

I can see that, but what’s going to stop the deluge? Nothing.

I see. Now, care to add anything else?

Well, only that there will always be a fascinating interplay between people and the widgets they keep themselves occupied with -and in that there is still a lot to learn, explore and exploit.

Thanks so much for the interview. Oh, and good luck both with K-OS and Tendrilmedia!


FC Twin Console

FC Twin console
FC Twin console

In the world of virtual consoles and emulators one might wonder why you would need a console system that plays old NES and SNES games and the answer is, why the hell not. The FC Twin is a clone system meaning it copies what the original system did hardware wise, but it is not the original. In the FCT’s case you can play both the 8-bit and 6-bit games on the system. The FC twin can be purchased at major outlets online and sometimes in stores for about $40 USD.

Now the first thing to remember is you will need the original cartridges from either the SNES or NES to play on the FC Twin. The good news is you can find a ton of games on eBay or even your local thrift store. The FCT comes with the following:

Base Console

Two SNES style controls

AV Cables

AC Adapter

FC Twin console
FC Twin console

The base console itself is really light, but the plastic case seems strong enough to take a little beating. The controllers feel good in my hands even though it is much lighter than the original SNES controller. It may feel like cheap plastic and true enough I am sure it is not the best, but honestly they feel better than the original classic controller that you can purchase for the Wii. Another cool thing about the control input is it can fit the original SNES controllers.

A little bit more about the controllers.  The FC Twin is not compatible with the original NES controllers and that includes the guns. The FCT is compatible with most SNES controllers including the light gun and in fact a light gun was release just for the FC Twin.

The AC adapter is pretty standard as is the AV cables. I connected the system to my Vizio television. Don’t expect any differences visually, the system will look the same as if you connected your original SNES to your T.V., so there is no HD mode or anything like that.

FC Twin console
FC Twin console

On the console itself are two cartridge ports, the upper one is for the 8-bit games and the lower one is for the 16-bit games. There are only two buttons on the console. One button is to reset the system and the second is a switch that goes from Power to 16-bit to 8-bit. What makes the switch cool is you can put in two cartridges and switch between both on the fly.

As for looks and sound I personally did not see a difference between the FCT and the original consoles however, it has been a while since I played the original non-emulated. Other uses have reported that sometimes the sound with NES games are not exactly like the original, but I have not been able to confirm that. You can connect your FC Twin’s audio ports to a stereo even with surround sound, but keep in mind the old NES games were not meant to utilize that technology so it might sound a bit weird.

Compatibility wise there are quite a number of games that are not compatible with the FC Twin, but instead of listing them here you can see the list on the Wiki Page for the FC Twin. Most of the compatibility issues are a result of the Super FX chip found in these games as well as the lack of ability to use the Power Pad and R.O.B.. So far playing a few games on both the SNES and NES side I can tell you it plays just like the original, but I can see how if you are a bit rough on your controllers you could wear them out in time.

All in all if you have the original cartridges and are missing the console system then the FC Twin is a cool way to play them. Sure, you could just get the emulated versions, but why not to both as that is the mark of a collector.

Ten Questions with Tony Gonzales

Romstar logo
Romstar logo

Tony Gonzales

What is your professional background related to gaming?

I had taken electronics in school and a regular hang out type at the local college arcade, I always wondered about the electronics inside and enjoyed looking in when they were being repaired. One particular game was a pain in the neck; the owner had it repaired several times. I idly slapped the cabinet and it did an immediate reset. Turns out that the power supply had leads poking onto a metal casing. Insulated fish paper repaired it for good. That is when he asked me if I wanted a job working on his games. I said yes and games have been a part of my life ever since. The game was Plieades, by the way and the tech at the time with the arcade later went onto fame as the world’s first videogame champion and one of the founders of a major game software company.

Personally when did you start gaming and what did you play?

Always loved pinballs and mechanical games. 7,8,9, no idea of a starting date for liking games. I loved them, though!

One of the companies you worked for was Romstar, can you tell us about what you did there as well as the company itself?

Romstar was my first manufacturing job. I was half the tech department and later headed up the consumer division. Repair, beta testing, phone counselor, manual writing, I was there. Some previous work I did with a friend on an in-house hardware game system resulted in Magic Darts for the NES. I also helped ship, beta test since I had the only truck at the company (strange but true fact, the cabinet for Ninja Warriors was designed to fit the truck, an 88 Toyota short-bed. I still have that truck today). Basically, all of us wore many hats there. Your readers may find this a bit surprising that for a game company that did manufacturing and home games as well as design, the amount of personnel was 14.

Can you tell us about repairing arcade games?

Always a puzzle, always a lot of fun, except when they don’t respond. Each repair teaches me more, and I grew hungry for more knowledge along the way. I still do. Right now as I type this, I am sitting with a Galaxian board in my lap that I had repaired.

What was it like working for SNK?

Lots of fun, lots of hard work. A great balance. Creative juices got out to play, we worked hard to give the customers and distributors good value. Great group to work with, some I still remain in contact today. A huge family, as it were. Same situation at Romstar.

Can you tell us about working on a project that never gets released, does that upset you or are you just glad you had the opportunity to do it?

Tera was probably my favorite project I worked on. That was an in-house designed hardware system. Our vice president had brought in a friend named Doug Hughes, who had designed the old US game board system for Taito (Qix). I spent a week up north on his ranch helping in the design and learning to program it. It was 286 based and programmed in Borland C. Sadly; the system never saw the light of day though some of the programming formed the core game design of Magic Darts on the NES 8 bit. I still have the schematics to this puppy. Might have to hit it up on a CPLD someday 🙂

What was your favorite game related project of your career?

Probably Tera,  I have drawings for what I hope would be a Tera ][ eventually. I revamped the design for a brand new microprocessor I hope to be working with soon called Terbium. Terbium is a 32 bit 65C02 and much more….

What are you currently working on?

I have several projects. The biggest game one I call Pinball Mind. There was a pinball made in the 1970s called Fireball and sold for homes. When the CPU dies on those, they are un-repairable. I designed a piggyback CPU board for those. I have some fun display and light animations at present and I am revamping the code into a cleaner library format. It will release with a whole slew of features to make it worth the cost, including 4 games, a built in contest, possible linking and video capabilities and a software developer’s kit. It is based on the 65C02.

Some other projects include several arcade and redemption games, an alternate reality game which has been in design and some play over the last 4 years, and some music CDs to butress 2 movie soundtracks I am composing.

What games are you currently playing?

Roller Coaster Tycoon 2. Otherwise, I don’t play too much. No time these days!

What is your favorite classic game?

Got too many for different reasons, but Haunted House pinball and Sinistar probably rank in my top, along with Tempest and Chiller.