Tag Archives: jeremy parish

The leader of the Kong bunch: A Donkey Kong retrospective

In the course of my chronological console library video projects, there are certain Big Ones: Games that carry considerable weight, whether that’s historic or merely psychological. This week’s Good Nintentions tackles a game that possesses both kinds of weight: The original Donkey Kong.

This video is ostensibly about the NES version of the game, but in practice I barely even touch on that adaptation. There’s a great deal to be said about Donkey Kong, and I tried to say as much as I could here. The NES version analysis will have to wait until next week’s episode, I’m afraid.

I’ve written quite a lot about Donkey Kong over the years, and I’m perfectly happy to make this video retrospective a sort of final statement on the subject. It probably won’t be, but it could be, is what I’m saying. Anyway, please enjoy.

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Podcast: Bust-A-Move, Puzzle Bobble, or whatever you wanna call it

It’s the epic conclusion to last week’s amazing episode! Eh, well, OK, maybe I’m fudging things a bit. But I did promise after last week’s talk of Bubble Bobble that I’d follow up with a piece on sequel Puzzle Bobble, and by cracky that’s exactly what we have here. Of course, most of our listeners are based in the U.S., so you probably know this series by its inexplicable localized title, “Bust-A-Move.”

Whatever you want to call it, however, it’s good stuff. A real, weapons-grade, match-three kind of affair. It has only the most tenuous connection to Bubble Bobble, of course, which means you might occasionally come across an adaptation in which developer/publisher Taito has replaced Bub and Bob with, say, the cast of the Azumanga Daioh anime.

Or, more likely, you’ll come across shameless ripoffs in which outside developers have (without shame or apology) replaced Bub and Bob with completely unrelated characters and made a fat stack of cash by stealing Taito’s work. Such as Snood, the extraordinarily ugly clone that served as my introduction to the series thanks to the magic of Macintosh shareware.

What a world.

Even if you’ve never played legitimate Bust-A-Move or Puzzle Bobble releases, odds are pretty good that you have experienced the series’ concept in some form. Colored orbs advance toward the bottom of the screen, and you have only a pivoting launcher anchored at the center-bottom of the play field with which to fling bubbles back into the screen in an attempt to clear the encroaching threat by creating color matches. A pretty mundane description, perhaps, but the game is so terribly addicting.

Having survived the Bubble Bobble episode, Jeremy mops up the franchise with a look at its most popular (or at least most imitated) branch: The iconic color-match puzzler Bust-A-Move… more sensibly known as “Puzzle Bobble.”

Libsyn (14:39 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud)

Much this week comes from a panoply of Puzzle Bobble sequels. Yes, I realize it’s annoyingly upbeat, but that’s what I had to work with. When life gives you lemons, create saccharine lemon desserts. Don’t worry, next week’s episode will include much better music.

This week also marks my return to creating episode cover art after nearly a year away. You’ll be happy to know Nick Daniel will still be illustrating Bob’s episodes, though, so those of you who prefer his more vivid digital compositions to my washed-out watercolors aren’t totally out of luck.

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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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Gravity is rad, and reversed, in the latest Retronauts Micro

Heigh ho everybody, and welcome once again to the Retronauts show! We’ve got a real corker this wee— aw, OK, it’s just another off-week Micro episode. On the plus side, I’ve decided to ditch my boring one-man-show approach to Micros and bring other people into the conversation, which should be a relief to everyone. To kick things off this week, we have Sam Claiborn from IGN in the studio to enthuse over classic NES mech platformer Metal Storm for a few minutes with me.

Metal Storm is one of those games that plays better in person than it does via audio — it’s a brief and fairly simple game, and its appeal comes from the way it pushes the NES hardware, and from the way its mechanics turn a straightforward five-stage platform shooter into a dense, nail-biting challenge. The game’s central premise (you can invert gravity while in mid-air) demands a higher standard of level design than the usual NES fare, and every screen of Metal Storm stands out as a sort of inventive action puzzle… without being an actual puzzle game. Trust me, I’ve seen a lot of those in my Game Boy adventures, and this ain’t one.

The biggest downside to Metal Storm is that you’re not going to be able to find a cartridge-only copy of the game for less than $100 unless you get really lucky. It’ll never show up on a download service, either, because publisher Irem ditched gaming altogether and, last I’d read, had delisted all its games from PSN and Virtual Console. This is why classic video game is so darned stupid most of the time.

Download Links

Libsyn (13:02, 9.4 MB) | MP3 Download | SoundCloud

Thanks to Sam for dropping by, and I’ll be playing the game on a live stream later this week via USgamer. So you can check it out that way if you’re curious about Metal Storm but too lazy (or scrupulous!) to emulate it.

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The latest Retronauts Micro arrives in two delicious flavors…

…audio flavor, and video flavor.

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Q*Bert is such an abstract, visual game, it would seem sort of ridiculous not to include images while discussing it, right? So, for this week’s Retronauts Micro, I’ve upgraded the mini-podcast to a mini-video as well.

Though of course, the audio version remains for you purists in the audience.

Moving forward, I hope to produce video versions of all my Micro episodes. Bob seems to have a good thing going with his mixtape episodes, so I imagine those will remain audio-only, but my own productions tend to be less inspired. Thus, I’m fancying them up with visuals. If I have time (ha!) I’d also like to go back and rework my older Micro episodes into videos as well.

Download Links

Libsyn (8:34 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud )

Episode Description

Journey back in time to 1982 and the sassiest mascot character ever to cuss up an arcade: Q*Bert. And if this episode seems a bit brief, well, be sure to check out the video version on retronauts.com or usgamer.net!

The music in this week’s audio version comes from Q*Bert 3. It’s not very good music—it’s actually kind of annoying!—but what can ya do?

As a reminder, the Retronauts project is made possible through Patreon! I also have posted some of the original podcast cover illustrations up for sale, if you’d like to give someone the gift of slightly amateurish video game watercolors this holiday.

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Episode 53 looks at arcade legend Williams…

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…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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Retronauts Micro 11 Gets Virtual

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Last week, we talked about the Game Boy line’s would-be competitors from the late ’90s. This week: A look at its erstwhile replacement, Virtual Boy. Since people actually bought and liked Neo Geo Pocket (and to a lesser degree WonderSwan), last week’s conversation worked as a full episode. Virtual Boy, however… that’s a 10-minute monologue topic if ever there was one.

Description for this episode:

Following our look at Game Boy’s competitors in the late ’90s, Jeremy explores the system’s would-be successor: Nintendo’s disastrous Virtual Boy. Aw, but it wasn’t all bad.

Listen or download here:

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

Next week, we’ll be back with another podcast. It’s kind of what we do.

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

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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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Retronauts Micro 009, the Kuros for What Ails Ya

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Greetings and welcome to a thrilling new week… oh, wait, it’s Wednesday. Never mind.

Sorry for the delay on this episode, but the first version I recorded for this one didn’t turn out very well — my audio setup hadn’t been fine-tuned yet to my new office. So I made the executive decision to delay it and re-record it with a proper setup. Hopefully it was worth the wait.

Just kidding, it wasn’t worth the wait. This is a Micro episode, so no one’s really champing at the bit for it. But this is pretty much the definitive sort of Micro episode — it follows up on last week’s full episode to look with a bit more depth at a game we brushed on in passing, but which deserves more attention. Wizards & Warriors isn’t one of Rare’s most beloved classics, but the games hold a sort of unique place in the company’s history: They were among their first attempts to get their bearings on both NES and Game Boy, where they stood as pioneers leading other Western developers onto the promised land of Nintendo licensing. That makes these games pretty noteworthy, in my book.

This week’s show description:

After last week’s in-depth blowout on Rare, Jeremy pauses to look briefly at one of the company’s most significant yet underappreciated creations: 1987’s Wizards & Warriors for NES.

Listen to or grab it here:

Libsyn (1:49:23 | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud | Subscribe on iTunes | RSS | Support the show on Patreon

Next week, we’ll be back with a standard full-length episode. Probably on time, too!

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This week in Retronauts, you shall be as gods

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Hi everyone! It’s a little something different this week for Retronauts Micro.

A few years ago, I revisited a game I deeply hated, Xenogears, with the intention of giving it a second chance. After pouring a heck of a lot of time into it, I came away not precisely changed, but with a deeper understanding of my issues with the game along with a deeper appreciation of what director Tetsuya Takahashi and his team were trying to accomplish with it. I wrote up my findings in a lengthy essay for my side project GameSpite Journal; rather than retread the same territory, I’ve adapted that old essay here into a condensed podcast script.

Music this episode, of course, comes from Xenogears, because what kind of idiot would create a podcast about Xenogears and not use Xenogears music?

Libsyn (9:30 | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud | Subscribe on iTunes | RSS feed

Jeremy explores his uncomfortable mixture of admiration for and frustration with Squaresoft’s almost-classic RPG for PlayStation, Xenogears. It’s a complicated episode for a complicated game.

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