Tag Archives: bob mackey

Retronauts episode 97: BRO-totypes

So, here’s a different kind of episode than usual. I’ve been worried about this one since we recorded it; I planned this topic specifically around some casual conversations I remember having with Frank Cifaldi back when we both worked at 1UP, lo those many years ago, and he was to be our guest of honor here. Unfortunately, some last-minute scheduling complications prevented him from making the session, which means we had to wing it. The outcome wasn’t quite what I had in mind… but nevertheless, it turned out quite well with just myself, Bob, and returning guest Steve Lin. Honestly, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this episode as I assembled it.

The title of this episode, I realize, probably seems a bit opaque. (I debated between “BRO-totypes” and “Intoxicating Masculinity.”) But the point really is quite straightforward: A discussion of the trend of musclebound, macho characters in video games throughout the ’80s, and the influence those early era game aesthetics and sensibilities continue to exert on the medium today. This episode is less about the games themselves and more about the cultural and historical trends that shaped them — and our own conclusions seems to be in accordance with the comments submitted in our mailbag section. So if nothing else, at least we’re all on the same page here.

Episode description: Steve Lin joins Jeremy and Bob to discuss that most primal of video game forces: Manly video games about manly men. We explore the pop social forces behind the rise of rugged 8-bit heroes, and how those beefy classics shaped modern game sensibilities.

MP3, 48.2 MB | 1:40:08
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A note on this episode’s music: This week’s tunes come from several games we mentioned during the show: Rygar, Rastan Saga, Shatterhand, Kabuki Quantum Fighter, and VICE: Project Doom.

As for this week’s cover art — a stunning portrait of Conan — that comes to us courtesy of listener Billy Norrby, who actually studied under one of the influential painters we mentioned here: None other than Boris Vallejo himself. Check out Billy’s site (be warned that it’s a tiny bit NSFW) and, I dunno, maybe commission him to paint the cover of your next novel.

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Retronauts Episode 96: Ghostbusters

Episode description: ’80s kids couldn’t help but grow up with a Ghostbusters fixation, even if the games based on this popular property were often as fun as drowning in a river of slime. On this episode of Retronauts, join Bob Mackey, Jeremy Parish, Kat Bailey, and Mikel Reparaz as the crew digs into every Ghostbusters game to see how well each one captures that essential ghostbusting spirit. And if you think all of these games are good, we’re not ready to believe you!

MP3, 42.3 MB | 1:32:20
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A note on this episode’s music: All of the music used in this episode comes from the Famicom version of New Ghosbusters 2, except for the last song, which comes from the Genesis game.

And, as with all of the episodes I produce, this week’s cover art is by Nick Daniel. Check out his Twitter, or patronize his Patreon!

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Retronauts Micro 58: Zelda Treasure Jingle Quiz

Hey everyone, this Micro episode is a little late this week; we both spent all day on airplanes en route to Midwest Gaming Classic. Thanks for bearing with us, and enjoy the show.

Episode description: Since we’ve all got Breath of the Wild on the brain, why not celebrate The Legend of Zelda’s most unsung musical moments? On this episode of Retronauts Micro, join Bob Mackey, Chris Antista, Henry Gilbert, and Brett Elston as the crew assembles to put their knowledge of Zelda’s famous “doo doo doo DOOOO” ditty to the test. You know the one we’re talking about.

MP3, 13.5 MB | 28:09
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This episode’s sponsors include: BarkBox, Audible, and Casper Mattresses

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Retronauts Episode 93: Castlevania goes portable (Igavania edition)

Another week, another episode about Castlevania.

(Nah, just kidding, I’m limiting myself to one per year. But I will be resuming my Gintendo Castlevania marathon soon…)

This episode sees our favorite Castlevania fanatic (Shane Bettenhausen) return to the Retronauts flock to share the good news of portable Castlevania games. In summary, this episode touches on six games:

  • Castlevania: Circle of the Moon (GBA, 2001)
  • Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance (GBA, 2002)
  • Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow (GBA, 2003)
  • Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (Nintendo DS, 2005)
  • Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin (Nintendo DS, 2006)
  • Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia (Nintendo DS, 2008)

Though honestly I could easily manage a full episode deep-dive on at least half of them.

Did you notice the depressing part of this episode? That’s right: Only one of these games fails to pass our 10-year cutoff mark for being deemed “retro.” When Bloodstained arrives next year (presumably), it’s gonna be a one-decade celebration since the last good and proper Castlevania release. Man.

These games are synonymous for me with an incredibly important period of my life. I imported Circle of the Moon and a GBA right before I moved away from the place I’d lived for more than 20 years to attempt to start a new life. I imported Harmony of Dissonance with the negligible cash I had after that attempt failed. When I picked up Aria of Sorrow, it became a much-needed ray of light in a dark time in my life, right before I landed a job in the games press. And the DS trilogy became landmark moments in my advancement in the press: Importing Dawn of Sorrow gave my wild-eyed claims that the DS wasn’t all bad some heft; Portrait of Ruin gave me a thrilling opportunity to get my hands on a game months before its release thanks to my insider connections; and Order of Ecclesia arrived at the point at which I’d been around long enough that I was happy to defer reviews of games in beloved series to other people because I’d already had my say about those franchises and didn’t want to crowd out alternate perspectives.

I love these games, and it has taken an act of will for me to power through editing and posting this episode instead of just nipping off to play through them some more.

Episode description: Castlevania superfan Shane Bettenhausen joins Bob and Jeremy to discuss the next set of vampire-slaying classics to go under the retrospective lens: The series’ six “Igavania” entries for Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS.

MP3, 52.0 MB | 1:48:28
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This week’s music selections come, naturally, from the games in question. Each discussion of individual titles is accompanied by some of that’s game’s best tunes. Composers include Michiru Yamane, Yuzo Koshiro, and more.

Finally, the big change for the show this week is the addition of in-show advertisements. It’s a new experience for us, but we’re big fans of paying our bills! So a big thank-you to this episode’s sponsors: BarkBox, Audible, and Casper Mattresses.

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Retronauts Episode 90: Yeah, it’s about music again

Things have changed with the podcast of late (NOTE: The back catalog pay wall is now down, hooray), but what hasn’t changed is that we keep putting out rad stuff every Monday. Such as this third Retronauts Radio entry, which takes on a different form than the previous two episodes:

Namely, it’s a conversation between myself and Bob on only two topics. One is the recent release of The Legend of Zelda: 30th Anniversary Concert CD (that link leads to CDJapan, as it appears to have sold out on Amazon). The second is more of a music-themed Retronauts topic discussion; rather than tackling a recent music release, we’ve instead delved into the history of Nintendo’s incidental music.

The second topic was inspired by Bob’s recent Wii retrospective and all the fantastic music that appeared in the system’s channels, as well as my “Nintendo Power” Game Boy flash ROM Gintendo stream. Both reminded me just how much love and care Nintendo invests into menu and system music, which is an area most developers and publishers put very little effort into. So we go hunting through the history of Nintendo incidental music, including some exotic imports, and come up with our best findings. As with all of our music-themed episodes, I hope you enjoy it!

Episode description: Bob joins in for a slightly different episode of Retronauts Radio! We discuss the recent CD release of the 30th anniversary Zelda concert series and look at the history of incredible incidental music in Nintendo’s non-game apps.

MP3, 41.9 MB | 1:25:23
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Music in this episode comes from precisely where we say it does, basically. The Zelda CD, Game Boy Camera, Mario Paint, etc. etc. The one mystery track is the outro, which is the “Elegance” Hanafuda 3DS theme’s music. Which is rad, and whoever suggested it (sorry, I lost your name!) is also rad.

And be sure to save the artwork above to add to your download, since (once again) PC1 weirdly doesn’t retain individual episode artwork when we upload the files.

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Episode 89: Final Fantasy IV, plus some big news

Hello! Welcome to a new week… and, as it happens, something of a new beginning here at Retronauts. What I mean is, Retronauts is now part of the PodcastOne network. Yes: As part of our move toward making this show and site proper and profitable, I’m afraid we’ve gone legit.

This does mean you’ll soon be hearing ads in your podcasts, but the tradeoff is that the show will have much greater visibility and reach. We’ll also have more resources available to us as we go forward — financially, of course, but also in terms of facilities on occasion. This is a huge step for the show, and both Bob and I are excited (and a bit nervous) about it, but we definitely agree the benefits will make up for any hiccups we encounter along the way.

And yes, there’ll be hiccups. Since we’ve switched to a new backend and a new feed, it make take a little while longer than usual for iTunes to refresh the show this week. Thankfully you can download the episode directly from PodcastOne if you’re experiencing any troubles, or simply listen to the embedded version in this post. My hope is that any service interruptions prove to be strictly temporary.

Also, PodCastOne places back catalog episodes of their shows behind a paywall. That’s not how we’ve traditionally operated, so we’ve asked them to make the full back catalog free for a couple of months so listeners aren’t suddenly cut off from our older episodes. Those will eventually be pay-gated as is our host’s standard policy, but we’d like to ease into that and give you advance warning.

It’s also worth mentioning that this move doesn’t affect anything with Patreon! Retronauts supporters will continue to enjoy episodes a week ahead of the public feed, along with the usual plethora of goodies.

So that’s the logistical stuff, but what about the fun stuff? Namely, what’s the deal with this week’s episode?

Well, friends, this week’s episode happens to be the second in our ongoing Final Fantasy game-by-game deep dive. We kinda skipped over Final Fantasy II and III, because they’re a bit tough to love these days, and today dig right into the series’ first 16-bit outing: Final Fantasy IV for Super NES.

You know FFIV; you love FFIV; you probably don’t need much preamble about FFIV. Besides, this episode spans nearly two full hours of conversation about FFIV, so I can just let it do the heavy lifting here.

Description: We continue our Final Fantasy deep-dive series by… doing like Square did back in the day and jumping ahead from FFI to FFIV. Chris Kohler and Kat Bailey join to share their thoughts on this most influential of 16-bit role-playing games.

MP3, 56.3 MB | 1:57:19 | Direct download
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Music in this episode naturally comes from Final Fantasy IV for Super NES, but also from the game’s arranged album Celtic Moon. (You can buy both albums on iTunes, and presumably on other download services as well.)

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Retronauts Episode 82: Bubble Bobble & friends

A few months ago, we summoned Ray Barnholt into the studio to help us sort out the mad entanglement of games and names and remakes and reissues and branding confusion that is Wonder Boy. Or Adventure Island. Or The Dynastic Hero. Whatever — take your pick. It’s all the same thing.

Well, we all survived the experience without our brains exploding all Scanners-style, so we have courageously reconvened in the studio to take on the next big messy project: Taito’s Bubble Bobble.

Of course, we’re giving away the plot right there, to a certain degree. This is Taito‘s Bubble Bobble, which automatically makes it less baffling than Wonder Boy and Adventure Island, whose name and lineage splits right there at day one depending on which company’s adaptation of the concept you’re talking about. Bubble Bobble is Taito’s baby (which means it’s been Square Enix’s baby for the past decade), so it at least has a sort of internal consistency going for it. That being said, this sprawling franchise of loosely connected platform games has suffered its share of overlapping titles and contradictory names, so there’s plenty to keep track of… and plenty of opportunity for your poor host (me) to screw something up.

This episode spans a wide gamut of games: Bubble Bobble, Parasol Stars, Rainbow Islands, Bubble Memories, The New Zealand Story, Liquid Kids, Don Doko Don, Bubble Symphony, a host of remakes, a bunch of games that claim to be Bubble Bobble 2, and a bunch more that I can’t remember off the top of my head. Honestly, it would probably be less trouble for you to just give it a listen:

The original Power Trio — Bob, Ray, and Jeremy — follow up their recent look at Wonder Boy to take on the next needlessly convoluted franchise: Taito’s Bubble Bobble (et al.). Confusion guaranteed for all!

Libsyn (1:59:16 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud)

And we didn’t even get into the Puzzle Bobble games… that’ll be next week. And eventually we’ll get a Falcom expert into the studio to go over the Dragon Slayer franchise with us and bring an end to this trilogy of nonsense.

Music from this episode comes from various Bubble Bobble games. Especially that theme. You know the one… or you will, once it’s drilled its way forever into your brain after its frequent appearance here.

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Episode 53 looks at arcade legend Williams…

episode 53 cover

…with the help of arcade legend Jaz Rignall.

We don’t often tackle the golden age of arcade games, because it’s a little tough in this day and age to really immerse yourself in the classic arcade experience. But Williams’ games were so memorable—and guest Jaz Rignall so versed in them—that this turned out to be a bang-up episode. Not too many arcade manufacturers offered as high a proportion of hits to releases as Williams, but with the likes of Defender, Robotron, and Joust under their belts, they were true greats.

These days, I believe Williams’ properties are owned by Warner (who acquired Midway, who in turn had merged with Williams). Hopefully they’ll make it a little easier to experience these classics again! It’s been a couple of console generations since we’ve had a proper Williams anthology.

Download Links

Libsyn (1:33:43 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud | Subscribe on iTunes! Support us on Patreon!)

Episode Description

Jaz Rignall joins Bob and Jeremy to look back at Williams, who became an arcade legend with a small but fantastic collection of coin-ops. The innovation of Defender! The brilliance of Robotron! How Sinistar was arguably the arcade’s first RTS! And more!

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Episode 51: An oral history of the NES

episode 51 cover

Hi kids, sorry this episode is a day late going up here on the ol’ blog. I ended up folding this Retronauts into a not-so-coincidentally timed USgamer cover story, because it dovetailed so well with that feature. But of course, you cool people are all subscribed to our podcast feed or back us on Patreon, right? So you’ve already listened to this episode and the post here is a mere formality, I’m sure.

Anyway! This episode covers a topic near and dear to everyone’s heart, I have no doubt: The U.S. launch of the NES. Yeah, we talked about the system’s Japanese debut waaaay back in Season III Episode 1, but this is (1) a different facet of the console’s life, and (2) this episode features and entirely different cast of expert opinions. And I do mean expert! Guests this time around:

  • Frank Cifaldi, now of Digital Eclipse and once and former Retronauts co-host (returning at long last to the show, although we actually have already recorded an episode with him that simply has yet to be published);
  • Steve Lin, who does work in the media but has a remarkable collection not just of classic games but also of the sort of valuable historical ephemera that no one else really keeps up with—flyers, ads, and even more esoteric and cool stuff (as you’ll hear in this episode);
  • Gary Butterfield of Watch Out for Fireballs, returning guest with lots of brilliant insights into classic NES games;
  • and Bob Mackey, obviously. I mean, come on.

Sadly I wasn’t able to wrangle everyone into a single room, because this was recorded guerrilla style at Portland Retro Gaming Expo last weekend. Instead, the episode features a series of one-on-one conversations between myself and each guest. I think this format works a little better for Micros, but it’s still a pretty good episode, with lots of great insights and anecdotes from each participant. I apologize for the occasional overlap in my own remarks… kind of hard to avoid that given the nature of the show. But if you can bear with the occasional rehashed remark, I think you’ll find lots to enjoy here. So, please do enjoy.

Download Links

Libsyn (1:34:26 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud )

Episode Description

Live at Portland Retro Gaming Expo, Jeremy speaks one-on-one with podcast friends Frank Cifaldi, Gary Butterfield, Steve Lin, and of course our own Bob Mackey about the weekend’s big commemorative event: The NES’s 30th anniversary.

And please, for the love of all that’s good, be sure to check out my Masayuki Uemura profile/NES retrospective/expanded oral history cover story at USgamer. As I said on Twitter, I’ve written a lot about the NES over the years (A LOT), but this is by far the single best piece I’ve ever put together. If this thing doesn’t get 100,000 views, it’s because the world is a cold and empty shell of bitter regrets that deserves to explode. So be sure to share the link with your friends, for the benefit of all life on this planet.

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Episode 37: Giving love to Game Boy’s forgotten competitors

episode 37 cover

I spend a lot of time these days thinking about Nintendo Game Boy. It’s kind of a sickness, I guess, but that’s what I do. The side effect of this particular obsession is that I also spend a lot of time musing about other portable systems. I have to admit the Lynx is a little hard to love, with its cumbersome size and hellacious battery consumption, but the second-generation handhelds that popped up in the late ’90s, alongside Game Boy Color? Man, I love those things. In fact, I would go so far as to say Neo Geo Pocket Color was the system that made me truly love portable games. That and Metal Gear Solid for GBC, I guess.

Both NGP (before it meant “Next Generation Portable”) and WonderSwan were two great little handheld systems that did nearly everything right. They offered good power, solid libraries, and excellent physical design. About the only thing they got wrong was showing up too late to be properly competitive. Had NGPC and WonderSwan Color appeared in, say, 1996… they could have been monsters. Instead, they rolled out slowly against a color-enhanced Game Boy empowered by the might of Pokémon. They never stood a chance. But by god, we loved them anyway.

Description for this episode:

Old-timers Shane Bettenhausen and Christian Nutt join Jeremy and Bob to hash out the history and relative failures of the last great Game Boy challengers of the ’90s: Neo Geo Pocket and WonderSwan.

Listen or download here:

Libsyn (1:26:47 | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud | Subscribe on iTunes | RSS | Support the show on Patreon

Thanks, and we’ll be back next week with another ’90s vintage portable system! Kind of.

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