What a horrible night to have Retronauts Pocket Episode 25

Our current run of Retronauts is winding down, and this marks my last stint in the hosting chair for this season. After venturing out into the terrifying world of unfamiliar UK games from the ’80s last week, I felt compelled to scurry back to the comforting embrace of the familiar this time around. Yes, it’s a return to that most abused and tired of classic Retronauts topics, Castlevania.

Pocket 25 cover

Since all those old episodes have long since vanished into the ether, we figured, “Why not?” We’ll almost certainly be revisiting topics from the older, now-missing seasons of Retronauts in the next phase of the show. Consider this a sort of warning shot, I suppose.

Not really much to say here except that the music is from the Akumajou Dracula MIDI Collection album, and also thanks! It’s been an interesting and sometimes challenging run fielding your various topic requests, and I hope you’ve enjoyed what we’ve put together over the past year. Thank you for your support, and I’m sure you’ll hear me stambling my way through hosting duties again in the not-too-distant future.

A buffet of download options awaits you!

Direct download (MP3) | SoundCloud | RSS
Please subscribe to and review us on the iTunes Store because, eh, why not.
You can also listen right here on this very blog post if you prefer:

Retronauts Vol. III Episode 25: (Union) Jack in for 100 minutes of ’80s games history

retronauts 25 uj cover

In the many years we’ve been doing Retronauts (the show is almost eligible to be its own topic at this point), our one big weakness has been our coverage of ’80s UK gaming. This has made many people angry and is widely considered… well, kind of inevitable, really. The British 8-bit microcomputer scene of the ’80s was very specific to Britain; outside of the Commodore 64, all the systems that defined the decade for England never really had much availability or impact beyond the English Channel. Though it would prove to be a fertile ground for major players who remain active today (Jeff Minter! Codemasters! DMA Designs aka Rockstar North! Psygnosis aka Sony Liverpool! Peter Molyneux! Rare!), the actual games that those legendary designers and studios created rarely left the UK.

The importance of the scene has made it a crucial gap for the show, but the insularity of the scene has made it difficult to speak to it with any authority, what with us being outsiders and all. So, for my final episode of this backer-supported season of Retronauts — for which you can thank one Mike Wasson, by the way — I could think of no more appropriate scheme than to rectify Retronauts’ greatest failing at long last by tracking down someone who actually lived in the UK and followed the gaming scene.

Handily, this required almost zero effort on my part, given that Bob and I happen to work with an icon of the ’80s UK gaming press: USgamer editor-at-large Jaz Rignall, who covered the 8-bit micro scene as a feisty teenager back in Thatcher’s England. We did the research for this one, but he fills in the generalities and hearsay with experience and perspective. The result is, I think, one of our best episodes ever (despite so, so many technical issues), a whirlwind tour of a fascinating but (to us) alien facet of game history. I hope you also enjoy it!

Thanks to Jaz for joining in (despite our scheduling the recording session during the World Cup final, sorry!) and to Mike for prompting us to shore up this particular weakness.

Fill your earholes through the delivery system of your choosing:

Direct download (MP3) | SoundCloud | RSS
Please subscribe to and review us on the iTunes Store because I DON’T KNOW!
You can listen right here if for some reason you are so inclined:

Links, curated with love for your edification:

Retronauts Pocket 22 and the joy of superfluous keypads

retronauts 22 pocket cover

Hi everyone, sorry this episode is a little late. I’ve had a busy week, not least of all because Bob just came aboard full time at USgamer, and I’ve been trying to whip him into shape. Dude is recalcitrance personified.

This latest Pocket episode revisits a topic that I’d actually forgotten we covered at all — the ColecoVision. But someone told me we did one of those, back in the olden times. After doing 150 of these shows, they start to blend together. In any case, I’m confident that this exploration of the ColecoVision is far more entertaining than any supposed forays into this topic that may or may not have happened once long ago.

We’ve already covered the NES and Atari 2600, and if I have my druthers this episode is simply another checkmark in our journey to jabbering about every classic 8-bit console. Stay tuned.

Retronauts Pocket 22 direct download | SoundCloudRSS feed
And this is our obligatory spot where we beg for iTunes reviews.

Daaaarliiiing, it’s Retronauts Episode 22

Actually, despite the art and blog post title, this episode really has nothing to do with Lum or Urusei Yatsura. It’s just that we got sidetracked by a tangent about anime of the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, and lacking any particular cohesive theme for this episode I decided to use that brief distraction as an excuse to draw Lum. I believe this makes for a “deal with it” kind of situation. So sorry.

retronauts 22 cover

This episode’s theme ended up being… well, let’s just say we played fast and loose. Kickstarter backer Jonathan Anderson wanted us to talk about misplaced nostalgia or nostalgia for things we never experienced, and we did our best to fulfill this mandate. I’m not promising we succeeded, but by god we gave it a shot.

Also of note: Long-time Retronauts contributor Chris Kohler finally makes his Vol. III debut. Huzzah!

This episode’s soundtrack selections come from Final Fantasy V, which we discussed somewhat at length near the beginning of the show. And my apologies if the sound quality isn’t perfect this week; I edited and assembled this podcast on a cross-country plane flight, so I can’t tell if the incessant whining sound was the plane engines or something in the podcast itself.

Anyway, please enjoy. Especially you, Jonathan Anderson.

Listen and download, fleshy mortals:

Direct download (MP3) | SoundCloud | RSS 

Finally, please consider leaving us a nice review on iTunes Store, because it’s an easier (and less creepy) way to express your enthusiasm for Retronauts than hunting us down and hugging us.

This week in Retronauts, we go (Captain) Commando

We’ve had a string of NES-themed episodes based on backer requests lately, but this will be the last of them (at least for a while): A look into the NES years of Capcom.

retronauts pocket 19 cover

I have more to say about this topic (courtesy of a separate backer request), so I won’t belabor the details now. But basically, Capcom started out as an arcade developer with an internal division dedicated to creating Famicom/NES ports of their coin-op titles. In time, though, the home console division took on a life of its own, creating some of the finest original (and semi-original) titles of the 8-bit era.

Or at the official episode description says:

By our powers combined! (With the backing of Larry Froncek.) We delve into Capcom’s NES years, also known as the point at which a fledgling arcade developer became a world-class console powerhouse.

Direct Download | SoundCloud | RSS
We earnestly request the courtesy of an iTunes Review

The music this episode all comes from various Mega Man games, because, hey.

Let us cling together as we discuss Yasumi Matsuno in Episode 16

Retronauts backer Hugh Franck requested we record an episode focused on director Yasumi Matsuno. Coincidentally, this episode (which we scheduled ages ago) turned out to be quite timely, as Matsuno’s Kickstarter project — Unsung Story — just ended successfully a few days ago. And I couldn’t help but think of Final Fantasy XII (codirected by Matsuno) as I recently reviewed Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII, which presents a much smaller and frankly less compelling take on FFXII‘s open-world concept. And so, here we go, fresh from our brains to your ears:

Retronauts 16 cover

Direct download | SoundCloud | RSS
Apparently it’s good if you leave us positive reviews on iTunes?

This episode turned out to be a less-than-daunting task, as all three of us are pretty keen on at least some of Matsuno’s games — as is guest host Kat Bailey. In fact, the real challenge here was keeping the discussion short enough that our guest didn’t have to bail on us midway through to make a prior engagement.

We cover Matsuno’s career from his days at Quest (and in fact discuss the origins of Quest) through Unsung Story. But since he’s had a pretty small output, it’s easy to enumerate the games at hand: Conquest of the Crystal Palace, Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, Vagrant Story, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Final Fantasy XII, MadWorld, and Crimson Shroud. See? That wasn’t so hard. Musical selections come from Final Fantasy Tactics by Hitoshi Sakimoto and Masaharu Iwata, though I believe I only spliced in Sakimoto compositions (sorry, Mr. Iwata. Please understand).

As a small caveat about this episode’s recording process: Not only was this episode unfortunately hosted by me, this is also the first episode I’ve hosted remotely. The rest of the crew was back in San Francisco in the studio while I recorded from home on the East Coast. Despite this, I think it all turned out more or less seamless thanks to my snipping out all the awkward pauses and stumbling cross-talk. Thankfully, remote hosting won’t happen too often. When we ran our Kickstarter campaign, we couldn’t have predicted the need to fly me cross-country every few weeks, so it wasn’t budgeted… but we’re contemplating workarounds. In the meantime, please nerd out on this discussion, because good lord is it nerdy.

Retronauts Pocket 13 Takes the “Retro” Thing a Little Too Far

Apologies, citizens, as we appear to have taken our remit as “retronauts” a little too seriously this time around and set the Wayback Machine so far that we don’t even really talk about video games. Instead, in another “Retronauts roots” episode, we talk about the precursors of video games — the various electromechanical amusements that established arcades as an entity before the idea of using room-sized computers to control the movement of a dot around a tiny phosphor screen ever existed. Think of this as the Silmarillion to episode 13‘s Lord of the Rings.

As such, the conversation is a bit more dry than would be ideal. Whereas the previous episode featured us talking passionately and at length about things with which we had personal experience in our formative years, the concept of a pre-video arcade exists strictly in a museum sense for us. Because we’re not 60 years old, and therefore can’t speak about these things with the sort of intimate familiarity with which we went delved into classic video arcade games. Still, there’s some learnin’ to be had.

And my apologies if the theme sounds a little weird. I was trying to go for a cracklin’ 78rpm sound, as if “His Master’s Voice” was secretly playing Anamanaguchi, but I’m not sure it quite worked out. Oh well! Put on your carny jacket and bark at passersby as you listen to us poke and prod at video game prehistory.

Incidentally, this episode marks the halfway point of our Kickstarter-funded podcast journey. Crazy.

Retronauts 13 Pocket cover

It’s the most retro Retronauts ever as we look at the roots of video games in the form of pre-video arcade games. Ski-ball! Kinetoscopes! Electromechanical target galleries! Even WE aren’t this old. Sam Claiborn joins Jeremy, Ray, and Bob.

Direct download (MP3) | SoundCloud | RSS
Please find us on the iTunes Store and leave a loving review!

Retronauts Vol. III Episode 10 Is 100% Duty-free

Retronauts 10 cover

Hey kids, it’s your ol’ pal Jeremy, back for more Retronauts fun. Today’s episode was actually recorded a couple of months ago. Remember when all the Laser Time folks showed up on an episode and I didn’t? That’s because I was in Japan, making this show happen. There’s a very good reason for the exotic locale: One of our Kickstarter backers who supported the show at the “co-host an episode” level, Dan Feit, lives in Japan. He pitched in assuming he’d never actually be able to make good on his pledge, but since I was over in Japan for Tokyo Game Show, we figured “Well, what the heck?”

Huge thanks to our friends at 8-4 Ltd. (hosts of the 8-4 Play podcast!) for lending us space, equipment, and opinions to make this happen.

So what did we discuss while we were in Japan? Well, Japan. Specifically, I put the question to everyone: What was the golden age of Japanese games? Each contributor had a different response, and the result was a pretty interesting (if overly nostalgic) conversation. Responses range from the mid ’80s to the late ’90s; sadly, no one wanted to go to bat for the past couple of console generations.

Taking part in this merry discussion was… a whole lot of people, actually. Obviously you have myself and Dan, as well as Mark MacDonald and John Ricciardi of 8-4. Also present was long-time contributor Kat Bailey as well as long-time Friend of Retronauts and all-around fashion plate Kyle McLain. And, finally, quite by surprise, former Retronauts regular Shane Bettenhausen happened to be in the office when we were recording and jumped in to share his opinions after a lengthy exile from podcasting.

Unfortunately I have to apologize up front for the uneven sound quality. We had seven people sharing three microphones, and the guy who usually does the 8-4 Play sound setup wasn’t there to get things working for us. Kat and I were also running late due to crowded trains, so we had to cut our session short. I’ve done what I can to balance out the audio, but there’s no avoiding the fact that some of the sound was clipped because I hadn’t set up the unfamiliar sound board correctly. And need I mention the crosstalk that inevitably happens with more than four people on the mike (especially when certain among us are so garrulous)? So, apologies again. Hopefully you’ll find the content of this episode sufficient to compensate for the imperfect sound quality.

Direct Download (MP3) | SoundCloud | RSS
Check out our virtual presence on iTunes and say nice things about us (please?)

Retronauts Pocket Episode 7 May or May Not Have Died for Your Sins

Print

Sorry, everyone — this is a sort of hit-and-run posting, as I’m currently in the final stages of packing up my life into shipping containers to relocate to the east coast. But I still managed to find time to assemble Retronauts Pocket Episode 7, which serves as an answer to Kickstarter backer Daniel Worthington’s request to talk about Illusion of Gaia. Since one Super NES action-RPG isn’t quite enough to fill an entire episode, we delve into the overall catalog of Gaia‘s developer, Quintet. Sadly, the ambition I mentioned here (to track down and talk to some Quintet folks at TGS) didn’t pan out, though I did hear an explanation of why the studio is so elusive. However, that’s someone else’s story to tell, so I won’t talk about it here. Suffice to say… getting an inside track on Quintet is going to be tough.

Hopefully you’ll enjoy this discussion. I can’t actually tell if this episode is any good or not, but that’s probably just because my entire brain is in “oh god the shippers are coming in 12 hours” panic mode. So… if I’ve led a terrible discussion, I apologize. Especially to you, Daniel Worthington. If you hate this show you paid for, I’ll make it up to you somehow. I do feel good about the episode cover art, though, so at least that’s something…?

Description: By request of backer Daniel Worthington, Bob, Ray, and Jeremy delve into the history of 16-bit RPG masters Quintet… or at least as much history as we can dig up. Those guys were pretty mysterious.

Direct download (MP3) | SoundCloud | RSS
Find us on the iTunes Store and leave a nice review!

Musical inclusions this episode:

  • 7:22 – Actraiser “Fillmore”
  • 18:01 – SoulBlazer “Dr. Leo’s Paintings”
  • 26:23 – Illusion of Gaia “Sky Gardens”
  • 37:51 – Terranigma “Zue”
  • 47:11 – Actraiser Symphonic Suite “Bloodpool/Cassandora”

Rock Out to Retronauts Episode 7

Retronauts 7 cover

People still talk about how much they liked the game music history episode of Retronauts we did many many years ago under the 1UP aegis and have asked many times for us to do another… and, as it happens, James Eldred of Lost Turntable put some Kickstarter backer money on the table to co-host an episode of the show. Since James specializes in music preservation with a strong interest in video games (check out some of the cool rarities on his site), it seemed natural for us to revisit the game music topic. This episode is much lengthier than the old one, exploring the evolution of music in games… and I made a conspicuous effort to avoid covering too much of the same ground as in the old show.

Retronauts backer James Eldred of LostTurntable.com joins Jeremy, Bob, and Ray to talk about the highs and lows of the history of video game music in this nearly two-hour ramblefest.

Direct Download (MP3) | SoundCloud | RSS
Check out our virtual presence on iTunes and say nice things about us (please?)

This episode’s musical inclusions:

  • 0:05 – Retronauts Vol. III Main Theme
  • 15:01 – Snafu (MIDI arrangement)
  • 17:34 – Rally-X
  • 21:04 – Gentle Giant “Time to Kill”
  • 20:18 – Silver Surfer “Level 1″
  • 31:52 – Bionic Commando “Tune 5″ (C64 version)
  • 37:54 – Psycho Solder “Main Theme” (cassette version)
  • 45:12 – Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance “Successor of Fate”
  • 50:27 – Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin “Invitation of a Crazed Moon”
  • 54:27 – Techno Cop “Title Theme”
  • 1:14:48 – Symphony of the Night “Unused Track”
  • 1:16:28 – Vib-ribbon “Universal Dance”
  • 1:20:45 – Spyro the Dragon “Alpine Ridge”
  • 1:34:26 – Tempest 2000 “Constructive Demolition”
  • 1:38:23 – Streets of Rage 2 “Back to the Industry”
  • 1:40:27 – Chrono Trigger: The Brink of Time “Chrono Trigger”
  • 1:42:24 – Sexy Parodius “Pastoral March”
  • 1:44:53 – Evergrace “Castle of Regression”
  • 1:47:45 – Chase H.Q. “Main Theme Flexidisc Remix”
  • 1:51:20 – Castlevania: Dracula Perfect Battle Selection “Beginning”

You’ll have to excuse the sound quality of the Snafu sound embed — I wasn’t able to get original game audio, so I had to convert a MIDI recreation, which doesn’t sound authentic. The Athena song isn’t the one ripped from the game but rather the version that appeared on a cassette tape pack-in with the Japanese Famicom release of the game. And as for Gentle Giant… well, that prog rock episode happened for a reason, you know?