Tag Archives: nes

Weirdo shooter Gumshoe represented an end and a beginning for the NES

This week’s Video Chronicles project casts its gaze back to what may well be the most unconventional light gun game ever to appear on NES: Gumshoe.

I really love this game in principle, although I am super terrible at it. It’s such an odd and unusual concept for a Zapper title: An attempt to marry side-scrolling platform game design with a shooting gallery. It almost works, but for its absolutely brutal difficulty level. A little kindness (like, say, removing instant deaths and giving poor Mr. Stevenson a few hit points to soak up unhappy collisions) would have gone a long way. Maybe someday I’ll make it past the first stage… but more likely I’ll go to my grave never having seen level two in the flesh. Alas!

This does bring us, at last, to the end of the NES launch rollout in America, which Nintendo staggered across two phases (October 1985 and June 1986). From here on out, Nintendo will no longer be the only publisher on NES games. And, as denoted by Gumshoe, not every game going forward will necessarily have appeared in Japan first. Unlike the first 25 games for Good Nintentions, Gumshoe never had a Japanese release. Things are a-changin’ in NES land.

But before we get to the arrival of NES third party releases, I think Game Boy World is feeling a little lonely…

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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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The story of Balloon Fight

When I started up the Good Nintentions project, there were a few specific games I had in mind to write about. I knew that for every Stack-Up or Urban Champion I had to slog through, there would be highlights like Super Mario Bros. as well. And today, we come to one of the classics I was most excited to write about: Balloon Fight.

I never owned Balloon Fight back in the day, but it was one I borrowed from that obligatory friend everyone had — the one who seemed to have an infinite budget for getting all the best stuff that the rest of us could only gaze upon in envy but was always really cool about it. I didn’t really enjoy it that much at the time… which isn’t to say I disliked it, and in fact I really dug Balloon Trip mode. But this was 1988 we’re talking about, and I had already savored the pleasures of Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros. It was kind of tough to go back to a single-screen arcade-style experience, especially when I’d played its inspiration (Joust) to death back when it was a current arcade release.

Over time, though, I gradually began to appreciate Balloon Fight more. It’s a Joust clone, yes, undeniably so. But I realized that, heretical as it may be to say, Balloon Fight is the better game. The two-hit balloon mechanic grants a bit more mercy to the player that comes as something of a necessity, since your characters appear larger on the screen, meaning the action can become quite crowded in a hurry. The level designs change, which keeps things varied, and the later stages can become quite unpredictable thanks to the inclusion of elements like spinners that send anyone who collides with them flying off in different directions. And, of course, that Balloon Trip music.

Even though this video clocks in a bit shorter than many retrospectives for much lesser games, there is no less love invested into this one. I even managed to convince my wife to play it with me for the co-op footage, and while she doesn’t play many games, so really seemed to enjoy this one (and we made it quite a ways into the game in her second time through). In short, it’s basically just a great game.

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Put on your power tie and Power Blazer for today’s Gintendo

Well hello! It’s been a while since I last streamed a video game while sipping a libation, because I’m afraid I’ve been out of town doing Important Retronauts Things for the past week. Today, however, I’m settled back in, and it’s time to get back on the wagon. Uh, so to speak.

This afternoon I’ll be getting together with Ben and Benj to record another episode of Retronauts East (it’s all about SEGA this time), and once they’re gone I’ll be hitting the digital airwaves to broadcast a classic (cult classic, at least) NES game: Power Blade by Taito. Join me at 5:30 p.m. ET (2:30 PT) for a look back at this cloniest of Mega Man clones, which I’ve always had a soft spot for. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s a totally solid 2D platform shooter with some enjoyable upgrade mechanics and that wonderful 8-bit Japanese trend of combining loopy weirdness with sci-fi futurism.

But that’s not all! 

Rather than focusing strictly on Power Blade, I’ll also be looking at its Famicom counterpart, Power Blazer. I’ve heard Power Blazer was wildly different from Power Blade (and generally not as refined), so I picked up a copy in Japan to discover simultaneously with you, my friends. We’ll start with the U.S. game before moving along to the Famicom original, because regression is apparently all the rage these days.

So please join me this fine afternoon for a stream of a fine game and some fine gin (gin optional). I’ll be streaming on YouTube per usual beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET.

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Mario Bros. reconsidered

For this week’s Video Chronicles feature, I found myself taking a long, hard look at a familiar game — a too-familiar game, I should say — and reevaluating it. I’m old enough to remember playing Mario Bros. in arcades when it was brand new… and I also remember when Super Mario Bros. came along and suddenly made a perfectly entertaining arcade platformer feel like a terrible dinosaur. I’ve noticed a general sense of dismissal among Nintendo fans when it comes to the original Mario Bros., and the way it’s showed up as a bonus add-on in something like a dozen different Mario titles in the past 30 years hasn’t really done much to warm players to it. It can be difficult to care about a game when it’s treated as a sort of half-baked bonus, you know?

But taken on its own terms, Mario Bros. is still pretty fun. It’s a lot more primitive than Super Mario Bros., sure, but its stiff controls and jump physics somehow feel a lot more refined than those in games that Nintendo produced afterwards, e.g. Ice Climber, a similar co-op platformer whose physics were scientifically based on subatomic particles of pure anti-fun. On Famicom, Mario Bros. arrived a good two years before its sequel, but on NES we actually received after. Or at the same time, if you weren’t one of the cool kids who picked up an NES at its test launch in 1985. Still, that’s pretty rough treatment for a game that deserved a chance to shine on its own merits!

Anyway, find a friend and play some cooperative(-ish)  Mario Bros. You might be surprised by how good it is. Unless you’re one of the few faithful who never lost sight of its appeal, in which case: Well done, you.

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Join me and Simon Belmont this afternoon for a Gintendo stream

Hi everyone, once you’ve savored this week’s super cool episode of the podcast, be sure to tune in for a brand new Gintendo stream. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stream daily this week, but I’ll do my best! Today I’d like to continue with my promise to celebrate Castlevania’s 30th anniversary by taking on the second Castlevania game: Simon’s Quest for NES. Or, possibly, I may try and slug my way through the Japanese version of the game, which appeared on the Famicom Disk System. As I demonstrated in last week’s Retronauts Radio episode, the Japanese “Dracula II” was essentially the same game as Simon’s Quest, all the way down to the infamous lying villagers, but it used the Disk System’s hardware for its soundtrack. It also included really annoying load times. So, if my increasingly cranky Disk System will behave long enough to keep the stream up and running, I will attempt to show off this slightly weird rendition of an old familiar favorite this afternoon… and if not, well, I’ll just play plain ol’ Simon’s Quest. In English.

Either way, the stream begins at 4:30 E.T. this afternoon (that’s 1:30 P.T.), so set some time aside and join me as I try to remember where the heck I’m supposed to go in this open-ended non-linear adventure. I may need your help for advice on where to go next, actually. And I’ll try not to slow down the adventure by grinding out levels in the mansions….

You can view the stream on my YouTube channel, or catch it here on the site once it’s archived.

“I will drink your blood like cherry pop gin and tonic!”

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Celebrate Valentine’s with gaming’s original couple (almost)

This week’s Video Chronicles feature couldn’t have been timed more fittingly, although I admit the scheduling was nothing more than a coincidence: Popeye for NES, wherein a mumbling spinach junkie attempts to rescue his lady love from the burliest of competing suitors. If things had gone as originally intended, though, this game might have been something completely different; Donkey Kong would have been a Popeye game, making Popeye and Olive Oyl gaming’s original romantic couple… and also meaning Mario would never have existed. Now there’s an alternate timeline worth contemplating.

Playing Popeye for this production gave me a better appreciation of the game. I’ve always considered it a lesser work by Nintendo, but it’s better than I’d originally given it credit for. Not a timeless great, certainly, but decently ambitious.

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Donkey Kong Jr. arrives fashionably late to Good Nintentions

Tuesday is normally Video Chronicles Day, but this week I’m on Japan time. Which means… this should have been up on Monday, not Thursday. Well, I’m also on jet lag time, as well as really nasty cold time. So… just forgive me this one scheduling glitch.

My hope is that you’ll find the quality of the content justifies the delay:

We’re just about through the NES debuts of all of Famicom’s launch-day titles, and also just about through the NES Donkey Kong trilogy. While this is all pretty well-trodden territory, you’ll be pining for the delightful excellence of the Donkey Kong series once we hit Urban Champion. Mark my words.

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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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Weekend Gintendo: Let’s kill some actual Nazis [archived!]

It’s been a pretty hectic weekend between the Lunar New Year and what appears to have been the second of 208 planned weekly protests by millions of anti-Trump demonstrators. Also, somewhere in there, an Analogue Nt Mini showed up on my doorstep, and I’ve been eager to put it through its paces. So I figure, why not combine two very important things — playing video games and a stiff drink to take the edge off — with a Sunday afternoon Gintendo stream?

And friends, I can’t think of a more appropriate game to play this weekend than Bionic Commando ’99.

Bionic Commando… ’99?” you ask, perplexed. Yes, ’99 — it’s Bionic Commando for NES, except this version was patched by Chris Covell (back in the year 1999, hence the name) to restore all the content cut in translation from Japanese to English. Nintendo of America shied away from controversy of any sort in the NES days, which means religious symbols and unpleasant political relics alike had to be modified or scrubbed for U.S. release. The Japanese title of Bionic Commando translated to Top Secret: The Resurrection of Hitler, and an image of ol’ pencil-stache himself glowered over the packaging art as the protagonist gave Fourth Reich soldiers, decked out in full brownshirt regalia, an iron boot to the face.

In America, however, all references to Nazis were edited to “Badds,” and Hitler became “Master-D.” Chris Covell’s patch simply changes back the references and restores certain Nazi imagery, including swastikas, to leave no doubt whatsoever about whom you’re killing. In an era where we have actual Nazis showing up in the national news skulking around under euphemistic terms like “alt-right,” I can think of no more fitting game to play than a game mod that revolves around the premise of calling Nazis by their real name.

So please, join me this afternoon at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT as I messily explode Hitler’s skull.

Today’s featured gin will be Greenhook Greensmiths’ American Dry, which is distilled in Brooklyn — literally a few miles down the road from JFK International Airport, the site of this weekend’s most fervent pro-immigration protests. And I’ll be playing on an Analogue Nt Mini, a clone of the Japanese NES hardware designed in Seattle. In short, this stream will be celebrating America, inside and out.

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