Retronauts Pocket Episode 18: Nintendo Merchandise

Coming off the heels of last week’s talk about game media, which was a particularly rich trip down memory lane, we have this week’s episode of Retronauts Pocket, which explores another part of retro gaming minus the actual gaming: the merch! If you’re of our generation, where your childhood was defined by 20-to-30- year-old games, then there’s a good chance you came across a sticker sheet, a pack of trading cards, a bedding set, or whatever else branded with your favorite game characters.

With that in mind, we take a different trip down memory lane and touch on some highlights of Nintendo’s early journeys into Mario, Zelda, etc. merchandise. The cereal, the shampoo, the cake pans, and some special attention paid to Nintendo Power’s Super Power Club catalog. Join us, won’t you? And feel free to talk about any of the trinkets we didn’t!

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Retronauts Volume III Episode 15: Retro Compilations

Retronauts 15 cover
As I left the studio after recording this episode, I remarked that I always seem to do the episodes where there’s about 9,000 different examples to discuss. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment — both in trying to tackle the volume, and getting the feedback that always starts with “They forgot…” Well then, pardon me as I gorge on the history of retro game compilations.

My interest in multi-title old game packs is surprisingly strong, thanks to products like Microsoft Arcade and the original Namco Museum series (which we mention on the show, of course). A part of me enjoys seeing what companies will re-release next, though these days, I’m left wanting more bonus content; something that more clearly curates material instead of dumping it. Namco Musuem used to do this well, but now? Eh, as long as the menu works, right? Of course, as a proponent of game preservation, I can’t always expect corporate entities to go digging in the back room if it’s not going to help make money, but I still think all these gatekeepers of classic content could stand to have a little more pride in what got them here. Nevertheless, some compilations have interesting-slash-amusing stories behind them, like the Sega Smash Pack series. And then there’s just the fact that Japan’s M2 does amazing emulation work. It’s an admittedly light topic for Retronauts, but I think that’s a plus — a little meta, what with discussing the history of collections of history, but easygoing.

Our fourth chair this week is the affable Gary Butterfield from Watch Out for Fireballs, lending a reasoned voice to the discussion. He’ll be back next week for Pocket, as well. Listen, enjoy, and keep in mind that as I left the studio, I came up with a handful of other compilations I could’ve mentioned.

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This episode’s breakdown:

  • 00:00 | Introductions
  • 04:58 | Beginnings: Golden Oldies, Microsoft Arcade
  • 12:01 | Music: Namco Museum Vol. 5: Museum
  • 12:38 | Activision, Mario, Sega Smash Pack series
  • 30:32 | Music: Namco Museum Vol. 1: Museum
  • 31:02 | Intellivision Lives, Sonic Jam, Namco Museum series, other PlayStation import collections
  • 59:04 | Music: Namco Museum Essentials: Menu
  • 59:47 | Attack of the NES games, other GBA collections
  • 1:11:10 | Capcom Classics Collection
  • 1:14:26 | Sega Ages series
  • 1:20:20 | More recent compilations (Sega, Capcom, SNK, Vectrex, etc.)
  • 1:24:17 | NES Remix and the future of compilations
  • 1:32:27 | Plugs and outro (Music: Namco Museum Essentials: Credits)

Retronauts Pocket Episode 3: NES Accessories

Retronauts Pocket 3

We know that the games are what makes retro game appreciation, but for many of us, it wasn’t entirely the games that made an impression, but what we played them with. After all, monstrosities like R.O.B. and the Power Glove became much-discussed parts of NES history, though relatively few people actually owned them. On that note, this episode of Retronauts Pocket touches on NES accessories, with a focus on controllers or other direct-input peripherals such as the NES Advantage, NES Max, Power Pad, Acclaim’s wireless controllers, and several more. Of course, we couldn’t talk about everything (it’s Retronauts Pocket, after all), but hopefully we helped jog your memory a little. Thanks for listening, and look forward to more accessory episodes when I take the helm again.

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Links to pertinent TV commercials:

Retronauts Volume III Episode 3: Ninja Gaiden

Retronauts 3 cover art

Hi, it’s Ray. I was bemused that after so many episodes of Retronauts on so many different topics, we never took time to dive into Tecmo’s Ninja Gaiden series. It was one of the best-remembered series of the NES days, and not only did it codify a big part of games (it was arguably the first console action game to incorporate cut-scenes), it owes a bit to its contemporaries, namely Castlevania. And that’s just one of the talking points we go over in this episode.

My intent was to touch on all of the “retro” Ninja Gaiden games, as they’re not just the NES trilogy most people remember. There was the original arcade game, the Game Boy title, some notable ports, and as you’ll find out, a whole other Sega-borne series that Tecmo licensed out. We also talk about some Ninja Gaiden-related media and merchandise. However, we don’t talk much about Tecmo’s rebooted Ninja Gaiden series — though some of you may have been kids when it got started, we weren’t, and why were you allowed to play M-rated games, anyway?!

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This episode’s breakdown:

  • 0:46 | Digital download discussion (Game Gear VC releases & Final Fantasy VII on Steam)
  • 12:25 | Ninja Gaiden (Arcade)
  • 24:00 | Ninja Gaiden (NES)
  • 39:31 | Ninja Gaiden II (NES)
  • 50:24 | Ninja Gaiden III (NES)
  • 56:39 | Ninja Gaiden Shadow (GB)
  • 1:01:26 | Ninja Gaiden Trilogy (SNES)
  • 1:05:48 | Ninja Gaiden (Game Gear)
  • 1:10:44 | Ninja Gaiden (Master System)
  • 1:14:21 | Ninja Gaiden (Mega Drive)
  • 1:18:19 | Ninja Gaiden anime & Worlds of Power novel
  • 1:24:24 | Haggleman 3
  • 1:27:55 | Closing

And this link to the Game Player’s Gametape will make sense as you listen.

NEXT WEEK: I take on Pocket with another lesser-discussed subject on the show.

Virtual Chronicles: Is this real life?

I write this with the greatest reluctance for fear that by drawing attention to the phenomenon I will shatter whatever gossamer thread of magic binds it to our grey reality, but: Nintendo has finally started to do this whole Virtual Console thing right. At least for the past couple of weeks. And it only took six and a half years to get here.

I know this is a fleeting moment that can’t possibly last, so I urge you to savor it while you can.

In the past two weeks, between 3DS and Wii U Virtual Console, we’ve seen two Zelda games, all three 16-bit Kirbys, the sublime Mega Man X, and (alas) the NES port of Ghosts ‘N Goblins. This of course explains why it has to be fleeting: Top-flight old games exist in finite quantities. At some point, much like fossil fuels, we’ll run out of this nonrenewable resource.

130530-gng

I’m never going to beat this game, and I’m OK with that.

Really, though, the truly encouraging part about all of this isn’t the fact that Nintendo is dumping a bunch of great games on us all at once rather than doling them out over the course of six or seven months as they would have done over the past few years. No, it’s the sale model they’re using.

Now, you can certainly argue that they’re charging entirely too much for a lot of these games — they’ve kept the Wii VC pricing model, despite the fact that since the Wii debuted the entire model of digital distribution pricing has fundamentally shifted downward in response to things like Steam sales, Humble Bundles, and mobile phone/free-to-play software in general. Then again, as excited as people are getting over MMX and the Zelda Oracles games, you can argue that they don’t need to race to the bottom. After all, demand drives price, and Nintendo has ownership or stewardship of a lot of games people demand.

Despite their adherence to the dreamy utopia of 2006 digital distribution prices, though, Nintendo is flinching ever-so-slightly by putting together its own take on sale bundles with week-long buy-one-get-one-half-price package deals. Last week, this manifested in the form of giving customers who bought two of the Kirby games the third one for free; this week, Ghosts ‘N Goblins is half-off if you buy Mega Man X. (It doesn’t work the other way around, unfortunately — that whole “equal or lesser price” restriction happens with digital distribution just like it does at the grocery store.) Edit: Actually, it does work the other way around. But who’s going to think to buy G’nG first when Mega Man X is on offer, too?

Baby steps, perhaps, but nice to see regardless, especially as it potentially portends a few things. One, if Nintendo wants to keep it up — admittedly, there’s no guarantee of this — they need to release at least two games per sale in order to be able to offer one at a discount. Secondly, they’ve even been kind enough to extend this offer to people who have transferred their Wii VC licenses over to Wii U, meaning that instead of paying a dollar to download G’nG, we only have to pay 50 cents. It’s easy to be sarcastic about that, but honestly it’s such a pittance they could have easily just shrugged and said, “You guys are getting a break already,” and I don’t think anyone would have felt cheated; they didn’t, though, which was downright decent of them.

Third, and most importantly, this week’s sale extends to third-party software, meaning there’s some slim hope of seeing more sales like this once Nintendo’s well of first-party hits has run dry. Assuming any third parties besides Sega and Capcom (the two port whores, ever eager to peddle their archives on any and every platform available) are still on-board with the whole Virtual Console thing, of course. Let’s say they are, though. What would be the ideal third-party Virtual Console bundles? A 3-for-2 on both the 8- and 16-bit Castlevanias comes immediately to mind (especially since Bloodlines still hasn’t made it to VC in any form), but I’d also be down with a Sonic 3/Sonic & Knuckles twofer, a Tecmo three-pack featuring Mighty Bomb Jack, Tecmo Bowl, and NES Rygar (which, again, never made it to VC). At the pipe dream level, a Secret of Mana/Secret of Evermore combo pack would be great (heck, slap a fan translation of Seiken Densetsu 3 in there for good measure). Or how about extending the sales to 3DS eShop and bundling all three Final Fantasy Legends together?

No, no, wait, I’ve got it. Since they’ve announced Game Boy Advance for Wii U Virtual Console, they should roll up EarthBound with an official dump of the EarthBound Zero ROM and the unreleased official translation of Mother 3 (come on, you know it exists somewhere). Yep.

That’s the magic of this whole thing: Even when Nintendo gets it right, we’re all spoiled and demanding enough to ruin the occasion for ourselves with our unrealistic expectations. So much for savoring the moment.