Tag Archives: jeremy parish

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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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.

micro 27 cover

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…

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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Retronauts Micro 11 Gets Virtual

EPSON MFP image

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

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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