Monthly Archives: July 2013

Retronauts Volume III Episode 3: Ninja Gaiden

Retronauts 3 cover art

Hi, it’s Ray. I was bemused that after so many episodes of Retronauts on so many different topics, we never took time to dive into Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden series. It was one of the best-remembered series of the NES days, and not only did it codify a big part of games (it was arguably the first console action game to incorporate cut-scenes), it owes a bit to its contemporaries, namely Castlevania. And that’s just one of the talking points we go over in this episode.

My intent was to touch on all of the “retro” Ninja Gaiden games, as they’re not just the NES trilogy most people remember. There was the original arcade game, the Game Boy title, some notable ports, and as you’ll find out, a whole other Sega-borne series that Tecmo licensed out. We also talk about some Ninja Gaiden-related media and merchandise. However, we don’t talk much about Tecmo’s rebooted Ninja Gaiden series — though some of you may have been kids when it got started, we weren’t, and why were you allowed to play M-rated games, anyway?!

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This episode’s breakdown:

  • 0:46 | Digital download discussion (Game Gear VC releases & Final Fantasy VII on Steam)
  • 12:25 | Ninja Gaiden (Arcade)
  • 24:00 | Ninja Gaiden (NES)
  • 39:31 | Ninja Gaiden II (NES)
  • 50:24 | Ninja Gaiden III (NES)
  • 56:39 | Ninja Gaiden Shadow (GB)
  • 1:01:26 | Ninja Gaiden Trilogy (SNES)
  • 1:05:48 | Ninja Gaiden (Game Gear)
  • 1:10:44 | Ninja Gaiden (Master System)
  • 1:14:21 | Ninja Gaiden (Mega Drive)
  • 1:18:19 | Ninja Gaiden anime & Worlds of Power novel
  • 1:24:24 | Haggleman 3
  • 1:27:55 | Closing

And this link to the Game Player’s Gametape will make sense as you listen.

NEXT WEEK: I take on Pocket with another lesser-discussed subject on the show.


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Retronauts Pocket Episode 2: Captain N: The Game Master

Retronauts Pocket 2
If you were born between 1975 and 1985, there’s no doubt Captain N: The Game Master once stood as the foundation of your Saturday morning cartoon and cereal orgy. Coming into creation at the end of a very long and dark period for television animation, this cheaply animated, glorified Nintendo commercial kept a nation of kids glued to their sets, if only for the chance to see their favorite characters as more than just fuzzy blobs of pixels. On this installment — which echoes some of our Movie Month episodes of the past — we sat down to talk about Captain N’s first episode, “Kevin in Videoland,” which is only a quick Google search away. But since you’re nice, I’ll embed it below:

We’ve talked about Captain N before on Retronauts, but only in the superficial way that everyone does — because it’s not as if this show merits serious analysis in any way. But I wanted to examine Captain N as both an artifact of animation history, and a marketing tool for Nintendo, all while avoiding the same jokes that have been circulating for 20 years (okay, we make about three of them). Anyhow, I’d love to use my mini-episodes to take a look at more media like this, so please share your thoughts in the comments section!

Libsyn (39:43 | MP3 | 27.4 MB) | SoundCloud | YouTube (coming soon)

This episode’s breakdown:

Supplemental content:

I’ve also noticed we’ve recently received a ton of a reviews on iTunes, which bumped us up into the “New and Notable” section of Games & Hobbies podcasts — thanks to anyone who contributed. If you haven’t, please consider taking a few minutes to leave your own review. We’d really love for more people to hear about the show, and this is the best way to do it outside of buying a Retronauts blimp.


Filed under Retronauts, Retronauts Pocket

One More Awesome Thing About Wario Land 2

In case you couldn’t tell from our most recent episode, I’ve been a little obsessed with the Wario Land series — no surprises there. I’m still working on getting 100% in Wario Land 2 (something I rarely do with any game); as I said on the podcast, WL2 displays a sort of “world map” after you finish it once, and this level select screen shows all of the branching pathways you might have missed along the way. (But not where they’re located in the levels themselves.)

Since I inadvertently stuck to the main path during my first playthrough, I’ve spent the past few days searching for the hidden exits that lead to clusters of unplayed levels. I managed to clear nearly all of the alternate pathways, but the entrance to one absolutely eluded me — Wario Land 2 claims that its first level has a secret exit, but after scouring this fairly straightforward stage a handful of times, I turned to the Internet to rectify my ignorance.

I can’t stop stressing just how subversive and brilliant Wario Land 2 is, and its very first level contains one of the more extreme examples. The game begins with Wario in bed (which makes sense, since its main musical theme seems to be a riff on “Beautiful Dreamer”), and hitting any button will wake him up for the first objective: turning off the massive alarm clock ringing somewhere in his castle. But if you want to find this level’s secret exit — and the shortest path to the end of the game — you simply have to do nothing.

After thirty seconds, the stage ends as any normally would, and the inattentive Wario is unceremoniously removed from his private property by Captain Syrup’s gang. And this small alteration to WL2’s story explains why this path makes for the shortest one in the game: instead of having to track down the crooks who pulled a B&E on his valuables, the objective changes to simply retaking his castle from an army of squatters.

Obviously, this isn’t news by any definition, but I turned this unexpected concept around in my mind about a thousand times, and I might be in love. This secret may be a little too hidden — I never would have thought to keep Wario from waking up on my own — but I definitely appreciate how the game rewards Wario for his laziness by making the goal so much closer. It’s rare a game can surprise me so much, but I guess this stands as more evidence why the Wario Land series remains so awesome and secretly revolutionary. Do I really need to give you guys any more reasons to pick these games up on the 3DS eShop? If we work together, we might even be able to confuse Nintendo into releasing more of them. (But let’s not go crazy.)


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Retronauts Volume III Episode 2: Wario Land

Retronauts 2 cover art

If you’re not familiar with the Wario Land series, I completely understand your possible skepticism over this week’s episode topic. But Nintendo’s weird little offshoot platformer series houses some amazingly subversive and impressive ideas, some of which would be stolen wholesale for Mario’s future adventures. In fact, there’s so much to talk about, we unexpectedly went over our planned recording time with barely a mention of Wario Ware! (That’s for another podcast — but no promises.) Our past episodes of Retronauts have done a fine job of covering a most of the major topics, so we’re hoping to both surprise and impress you with the unassuming importance of Wario Land.

Libsyn (1:33:41 | MP3 | 64.3 MB) | SoundCloud | YouTube (coming soon)

Special thanks go out to Kat Bailey, who’s making her return to the world of podcasting with this very episode. Look her up on Twitter, if you’re so inclined.

This episode’s description:

“Wario’s been adventuring solo for nearly twenty years, though Nintendo’s evil answer to Mario is mostly known for his micro-game legacy. Join Bob Mackey, Jeremy Parish, Ray Barnholt, and Kat Bailey as they peer back a bit further into this character’s past to examine his highly revolutionary and subversive series of Game Boy platformers.”

This episode’s breakdown:

  • 2:17 | Digital download discussion
  • 10:06 | Musical Interlude: Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 “Stage Theme 1” (Kozue Ishikawa)
  • 10:35 | Intro to Wario
  • 20:02 | Musical Interlude: Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 “Stage Theme 10” (Kozue Ishikawa)
  • 20:31 | Super Mario Land 3: Wario Land
  • 36:31 | Musical Interlude: Wario Land 2 “Factory Escape” (Kozue Ishikawa)
  • 37:01 | Wario Land 2
  • 48:39 | Musical Interlude: Wario Land 3 “Out of the Woods” (Kozue Ishikawa)
  • 49:09 | Wario Land 3
  • 54:51 | Musical Interlude: Wario Land 4 “Toxic Landfill” (Ryoji Yoshitomi)
  • 55:19 | Wario Land 4
  • 1:07:30 | Musical Interlude: Virtual Boy Wario Land “Area Theme” (Kazumi Totaka)
  • 1:08:00 | Wario Land platformer spin-offs/important questions/wrap-up
  • 1:31:18 | Musical Interlude: Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 “Credits” (Kozue Ishikawa)

Here’s a Wario Land livestream I did a few weeks back on our page, just in case you need a visual aid:

Watch live video from retronauts on TwitchTV

And if you haven’t heard enough of me this week, I guested on a recent episode of both Laser Time and VGMpire, two podcasts you should love if you willingly download ours. Special thanks to Chris Antista, Henry Gilbert, and Brett Elston for letting me breathe all over their microphones.

NEXT WEEK: If you enjoyed my Movie Month episodes of Retronauts, you’re in for a treat. If not, you’re in for some… mild poisoning?



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Come see us live this weekend

We’ll be at the Seattle Retro Gaming Expo Sunday afternoon at 1, talking about… a mystery topic. But there’ll be audience participation! Yes, our presentation will be recorded and posted as a bonus podcast, but really, don’t you want to step up to the mic and share your darkest gaming secrets with the world? Of course you do. Come see us. It’ll be good times.

We’ll also be putting in live appearances at a couple of other events over the next 11 months or so, but we’re not sure which ones yet! (We’re still waiting on confirmation.) So, Seattle is your sure bet.

Sunday. 1 p.m. Be there.


Filed under Kickstarter

It’s… Retronauts Pocket Episode 1

Well, hello, there! Welcome back, my friend, to the show that never ends. Or at least won’t end for another year, anyway.

Retronauts Pocket 1 cover art

As you may recall from a few months back, the terms of our Kickstarter venture were thus: If we could hit a certain stretch goal, we would not only record 26 biweekly episodes of Retronauts over the next year, we’d also fill in the interstices between those shows with 26 “mini” episodes. Since we blew past most of our stretch goals in very little time, well, here we are. Our very first mini episode. We’re calling the smaller shows “Retronauts Pocket” to help distinguish them from the standard episodes (credit to Ray for coming up with the name), but don’t worry: They’ll all be on the same feed, and the ID3 tags will help keep the 52 total episodes nice and sequential in your music app of choice.

Retronauts Pocket differs from the standard episode template, somewhat. Or at least that’s my intention. I’ve been interested in exploring the things that influence games, from pinball machines to Star Wars, and so the Pocket episodes I put together (or at least the ones whose topic isn’t determined by a Kickstarter backer) will not be so much about games as about the media and other concepts that influence them.

Since we had a straight-up music expert on hand for this first episode — Chrontendo‘s Dr. Sparkle, whom you may recall from last week’s episode — I decided to talk about rock music’s influence on games. Specifically, progressive rock. What follows is a 45-minute conversation that sometimes touches on games, but is really more about the nature of something that was hugely influential on a lot of key game composers, with plenty of fair-use sound clips to provide context.

Retronauts Pocket Episode 1 (July 8, 2013): Gaming Roots – Progressive Rock

Libsyn (45:00 | MP3 | 36.0 MB) | Soundcloud | YouTube (coming soon)

Since music plays such a key role in this episode, here’s a breakdown of the tunes you hear. In case you want to look them up, or possibly burn every copy of the album in question.

  • 5:06 – Jon & Vangelis “The Friends of Mr. Cairo”
  • 6:00 – Rick Wakeman “Catherine of Aragon”
  • 8:06 – Pink Floyd “Money”
  • 8:55 – Pink Floyd “Astronomy Domine”
  • 11:29 – Can “Halleluwah”
  • 12:59 – Mike Oldfield “Tubular Bells”
  • 15:25 – King Crimson “Discipline”
  • 17:41 – Gentle Giant “Runaway”
  • 20:45 – David Bowie “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”
  • 22:45 – Dream Theater “Pull Me Under”
  • 27:13 – The Nice “America”
  • 31:04 – Norihiko Hibino “Metal Gear Solid 3 – Lady Luck Revisited”
  • 34:30 – Nobuo Uematsu “Final Fantasy VI – Dancing Mad”
  • 35:42 – Emerson Lake & Palmer “The Three Fates”
  • 39:10 – Genesis “Watcher of the Skies”
  • 42:35 – Yellow Magic Orchestra “Rydeen”
  • 44:25 – Gong “You Can’t Kill Me”

I realize this isn’t your typical episode of Retronauts, but that was kind of the point. If you hate it, please focus your fury on me as this is all my doing. And don’t worry, we’ll be back to the old-fashioned format next week when Bob takes the driver’s seat.

P.S. We’re still working on the iTunes thing. Apple moves at its own pace, because they’re richer than Croesus. But you can still goof around with the show’s RSS feed like you did last week.


Filed under Retronauts, Retronauts Pocket

It’s here: Retronauts Vol. III Episode 1


You pined for it, you paid for it, you’ve waited for it, and now the fruits upon the tree of our labor have ripened at last for you to pluck and savor. What I’m saying is that the first new episode of the Retronauts podcast is here. Acquire it through the delivery method of your preference:

Libsyn (1:27:56 | MP3 | 60.4 MB) | SoundCloud | YouTube (coming soon)

We’ll have an iTunes feed soon, but since we can’t use the old feed it’s a chicken-and-egg situation: We have to have episodes before Apple will list them. In the meantime, you can add the show yourself by going to iTunes’ File menu (the Advanced menu in pre-11 versions), selecting Subscribe to Podcast… and pasting in our Libsyn URL ( But basically, we ask that you be patient on the iTunes front; it moves a bit slowly, and the system is out of our hands.

Or you could just listen to it here, I guess.

This episode’s description:

“We’re back! By the power of crowdfunding! Retronauts launches a new season by marking the 30th anniversary of three crucial Japanese consoles: Famicom, SG-1000, and MSX. Featuring the voice of Chrontendo‘s Dr. Sparkle and a lovely new musical theme.”

This episode’s breakdown:

  • 0:00 | Introduction (feat. the new Retronauts theme by Anamanaguchi)
  • 6:31 | Musical Interlude: Final Fantasy V “Ahead on Our Way” (Nobuo Uematsu)
  • 7: 07 | Virtual Console lamentations celebrations
  • 20:40 | Musical Interlude: Balloon Fight theme (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)
  • 21: 15 | Classic revivals: Jajamaru-kun and Umihara Kawase
  • 27:52 | Musical Interlude: Umihara Kawase “Sea” (Shinji Tachikawa)
  • 28:28 | July 1983: The birth of Japanese console gaming
  • 59:15 | Musical Interlude: Faxanadu “title” (Jun Chikuma)
  • 59:44 | July 1983 continued
  • 1:15:23 | Musical Interlude: Hudson’s Adventure Island “Wild Plains” (Jun Chikuma)
  • 1:15:54 | Damn kids, get off our lawns!
  • 1:27:24 | Musical Outro: Wrecking Crew “title” (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

Our new season (that’s what we’re calling this year’s worth of Kickstarted episodes, because there’s no cliché like a well-worn cliché) should largely be business as usual. Four people sit in a room and talk about old video games. However, we should bring to light a few differences of note.

Probably the biggest difference — one you won’t notice until our second episode — is that the host seat is now a rotating duty. I’m the lead voice this week, but our second episode will feature the vocal talents of M.C. Bob, and the third episode will see Ray as host (etc.). We’ve already recorded episode two (as well as the first two “mini” episodes, because we’re taking our commitment to maintain a weekly release schedule very seriously; this is a benefit of having a show run by three aggressively Type-A personalities driven by a nagging sense of guilt and duty) and already I can see the difference in Bob’s extremely meticulous approach to organizing a show and my looser, more extemporaneous style. Also, as promised, our 26 biweekly “main” episodes will be 60-to-90-minute productions right in line with the old podcasts (which, I should note, can still be gathered from for as long as Ziff-Davis leaves it up and running), while the “mini” episodes on off weeks will be shorter and more unusual. Our hope is that you’ll like some of them, if not all.

Anyway, back to this episode: You should regard this episode as a complement to the retrospective series I’ve been running over at my new gig, They both cover the same material — namely, the near-simultaneous launch of three different game systems in July of 1983. As the U.S. console market was imploding, the Japanese market was only beginning to take shape, and the machines that launched in Japan that month would make an impact whose effects we still feel to this day. The prime mover of July 1983, of course, was the Nintendo Famicom (which would come to the U.S. as the NES) — but everyone always celebrates the debut of the Famicom. For this episode (and the articles on USgamer), I wanted to paint a bigger picture and put the Famicom’s launch into the perspective of its time by looking at its contemporary competition, the state of Japanese home gaming before its arrival, and why things shook out differently in Japan than the U.S. Hopefully this podcast will help shed a little light on the way things were, even if only to better appreciate the significance of what Nintendo managed to accomplish.

And, of course, you should also look to the first few episodes of our gracious guest host’s long-running Chrontendo project to get a sense of just what gaming was like in the summer of 1983. Enjoy the show, and happy listening/reading/viewing!

Supplemental content:


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