Tag Archives: jeremy parish

Retronauts Micro 59: The return of Atari’s SwordQuest

Confession time: I had a dual motive in mind when I invited Chris Sims of War Rocket Ajax and The ISB to join us for the most recent episode of Retronauts. One, he knows a lot about Batman, making him a perfect foil for our Batman-centric episode. But also, he’s the cowriter of Dynamite Comics’ upcoming SwordQuest series. With issue Zero due out in a couple of weeks, now seemed like a perfect opportunity to explore one of the most fascinating game stories of the Atari 2600 era.

I don’t want to spoil the plot of this episode, but Atari intended for SwordQuest to comprise four separate games — episode gaming in the Bronze Age of the medium! — with incredibly valuable prizes attached to a complex set of puzzles tied to each game and its accompanying comic book. But, as has been the case with pretty much all episodic games not published by Telltale, the SwordQuest saga didn’t quite come to fruition… though in this case I’m gonna go ahead and say that wasn’t Atari’s fault. Or at the very least, that it was their fault for fomenting the circumstances that led to SwordQuest fizzling out, but that they really did have admirable intentions with this project.

In any case, the four-game SwordQuest series ultimately pooped out at three entries, and no one really knows what happened to the fabulous prizes that were created and promoted but never handed out. And that, in fact, is the real SwordQuest saga now; Chris’ comic project isn’t a continuation of the in-game story, but an exploration of the story around the games. It definitely sounds worth looking at, and I’m not just saying that because one of the writers was cool enough to join us for this episode.

Episode description: Jeremy and Benj discuss the history of Atari’s fascinating, extravagant, and incomplete SwordQuest series with (literally!) one of the authors of the game’s new comeback: Comics scribe Chris Sims.

MP3, 24.9 MB | 50:27
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As for music this time around… well, SwordQuest (being at Atari 2600 release) didn’t really have music to speak of, so I couldn’t pillage the game for interstitial tunes. But a chronicle is kind of like a quest, right? So I threw in some spacey jams from Hawkwind’s Chronicles of the Black Sword (which is about a totally different fantasy saga, namely Elric of Melnibone — but who’s counting?). Ah well, whatever. Enjoy.

Note: Sorry about the lack of an embedded stream in this post. Our host changed the layout of their pages sometime in the past few days and their embed option appears to have vanished! We’re looking into it.

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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 Micro 57: A Blaster Master retrospective and Blaster Master Zero review

A game review? On Retronauts? It’s more likely than you think. In fact, there’s one right here.

But this is not your typical game review — it’s a game review that takes the form of a podcast, and the review itself has in turn been commingled with a retrospective. My hope is that it’s a review format you could only experience here in the one, the only… Retronauts.

Is it a good review format, though? Or one that you only find here because it’s a ridiculous concept and no one else would ever bother. I leave that as an exercise to you, the listener, to determine.

So, yes. Episode 57 of Retronauts Micro is a two-part affair: First, a retrospective of the original Blaster Master, including some handy context to help explain why the game had such impact and remains so well-liked, and a loose rundown of its sequels. The second part (after the obligatory ad break) delves specifically into the new Inti Creates remake, Blaster Master Zero. My goal here was to create a chunk of game commentary that upholds the Retronauts goal of tying present to past, while also taking advantage of the fact that this venture is, ultimately, about the podcast.

It’s about 30 minutes long in total, so it goes into pretty considerable detail without (hopefully) wearing thin its welcome with your ears. So please have a listen!

Episode description: It’s a different application for the Retronauts Micro format this week as Jeremy uses the show to present a review of the newly released Blaster Master Zero alongside a series retrospective.

MP3, 14.6 MB | 31:46
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And that wraps it up for me for a little while. You’ll be glad to know Bob’s back on duty next week with a look at celebrity video games, and he’ll be handling the next Micro as well (two weeks from now). So you can enjoy a bit of a respite from my monotone drone…

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Let’s take on the Plutonium Boss with Gintendo

Blaster Master Zero launched last week for 3DS and Switch, and it’s just lovely. The Retronauts review will be along soon in the form of a lengthy Retronauts Micro episode, but for now let’s mark the occasion by playing the original NES game. Today’s Gintendo stream will happen at 4:30 p.m. ET (1:30 p.m. PT), and will absolutely not feature me completing this incredibly tough NES game or even making it to the Plutonium Boss.

Heck, I might even run out of continues in the space of an hour. Who knows! So join me on YouTube this afternoon and see what madness transpires.

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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 87 heads east for a look at the legendary Apple II

One of our goals with taking Retronauts weekly was to add a “Retronauts East” series to the lineup… which is basically a fancy way of saying that it would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming for me to travel out to San Francisco frequently enough to record a sufficient number of full weekly episodes with Bob to run one every single week. So rather than make that impossible effort, I’ll be recording one episode each month right here in the comfort of my own home in North Carolina. Conveniently, a lot of people with extensive knowledge of and roots in video games happen to live right here in Raleigh, thanks in large part to the presence of several major tech-centric universities, as well as fixtures like a headquarters for IBM, and even some major game studios like Epic.

With this week’s episode, you can enjoy the first fruits of these labors. Retronauts episode 87 doubles as Retronauts East episode 1… and while it has a few rough edges we’ll be endeavoring to sand down in subsequent entries, I feel it makes for a pretty solid start. A big component of the Retronauts East mission statement is to tap into the potential of bringing in new contributors to the show. Bob and I have many areas of specialization about which we can speak with ease (or else this whole podcast endeavor would be moribund by now), but we also have many areas of game history in which we need to rely on our guests. Retronauts East’s fresh new contributors will allow us to expand the show’s horizons beyond the areas to which Bob, our regular San Francisco-based contributors, and I can speak.

You’ll see that in action right here as we tackle a topic that, to my recollection, has never before been covered in any Retronauts format over the past decade. The Apple II computer is essentially the foundation of PC gaming — it’s not only the original mainstream home computer, the hardware was built in part for the express purpose of being able to play games. We’ve gone far too long without tackling such a critical point of video game history, and thankfully this week’s guests — Benj Edwards of Vintage Computing and Ben Elgin of academia — have plenty of experience with and knowledge of the platform to share. It’s a fairly general overview of the system, but I feel pretty confident that we’ll be circling back to cover some of the topics we touch on here in far greater depth in due time…

Episode description: It’s the debut of Retronauts East as East Coast gaming experts Benj Edwards and Ben Elgin join Jeremy to discuss the Apple II computer platform: Its origins, its games, and its legacy.

Libsyn (1:26:12, 62 MB) | MP3 Download | SoundCloud)

As I mentioned, there are some rough edges to this episode. Besides the mild awkwardness of forming a new podcast Voltron (it’s kind of like going on a first date, except without the nervous flirtation or expectations of a goodnight kiss), this new recording setup has a few quirks that need refinement. Fortunately, the most egregious audio issues — that annoying, disruptive static burst that keeps appearing, and the low fidelity of my mic — have already been attended to. Next time should go far more smoothly, so please bear with us for this pilot effort, and look forward to a second Retronauts East effort in about a month. Thanks! And thanks especially to Ben and Benj for making this show possible. You can follow Ben on Twitter at kirinn, while Benj is at benjedwards, if you’d care to see more of their thoughts on video games, and also not-video games.

And finally, this week’s musical interludes come from Wizardry Suite: We Love Wizardry, a 1987 tribute album to the Wizardry games composed by Kentaro Haneda. Seems a fitting choice for a show on the platform that served as host for the RPG franchise that helped inspire not only the dungeon-crawler genre basically the entirety of all Japanese RPGs…

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Oops, an unannounced Gintendo

Yesterday afternoon we recorded the first episode of Retronauts East, which I desperately hope turns out well — there’s a lot of fine-tuning that needs to happen with our recording setup, so the sound quality could turn out to be kind of awful. I guess we’ll find out! Once we wrapped the recording session, I decided to celebrate the show’s eastward expansion by launching an impromptu and unannounced Gintendo live stream of Castlevania:

Incredibly enough, it went remarkably well. Shockingly well, actually. I aced the two big sticking-point battles on my first go (skip ahead to 16:30 if you want to see the most impressive showing I’ve ever put up versus Frankenstein’s Monster and Igor). Then… the second half of the stream consists of my nerve breaking and me failing abysmally against Dracula’s stage and the final battle, over and over again. It was a pretty solid first half, though! I guess you could blame the gin (Reisetbauer Blue, if you’re curious).

Anyway, it’s here if you’d like to watch it.

I head out of town for a week on Sunday, so I won’t be able to host a normal Gintendo while I’m abroad. Although… I guess there’s technically nothing stopping me from taking along, say, the Retro USB AVS? And an Elgato device? And maybe picking up some random retro Famicom games and playing them? Hmm. If nothing else, I might try and stream a stroll through Akihabara or something, assuming it won’t devastate my international data plan. And I definitely will be posting all throughout next week on my game-shopping and developer-interviewing exploits in Tokyo, so you can at least look forward to that.

(Promo art by Rusty Shackles)

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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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