Tag Archives: rolling thunder

We really need a Nintendo Switch tate mode grip attachment

One of the most interesting things to emerge from Nintendo’s complex multi-modal hardware design for the Switch is the fact that it’s the first game system since Bandai’s WonderSwan in 1999 to support a vertical screen orientation right out of the box. Yes, I know, pedants: The DS had “book” mode, but only one developer was insane enough to try and use that for an action game (Team Ninja with their ambitious but kinda disastrous Ninja Gaiden: Dragon Sword). With Switch, though, you can simply disconnect the Joycons from the core unit, place the core sideways on a stand, and play with a rotated screen — an arrangement that would require prodigious effort with other consoles.

This, of course, has its practical limitations. You can’t easily use vertical mode when the Switch is docked, since the system feeds out to a television in that mode. This of course introduces the same issue involved with any other system, i.e. you don’t really want to turn a 60″ flatscreen television sideways unless you’ve had a pivoting mount installed at great expense specifically for that purpose. And it’s not as though a lot of Switch games use vertical mode. But it’s a great option for classic arcade games that originally shipped with vertical monitors, and as we all know, Switch is quickly becoming a favorite destination for publishers to stow their classic games and compilations.

Case in point: Yesterday Bandai Namco announced a new Namco Museum anthology specifically for Switch, due out this summer. While you’ll find some of the usual suspects on this compilation, such as Pac-Man, it also contains some unexpected inclusions: Splatterhouse, for one, and the more or less forgotten arcade version of Rolling Thunder 2 (which I don’t believe the company has ever included on any compilation to date). It also includes the option to use vertical — or tate, if you prefer — mode for the games that originally ran on vertical arcade monitors. Galaga, for one.

That’s rad, but it does raise the issue that the system’s vertical orientation only really makes sense when you set the core screen on a stand and use a detached controller. Games of the type packed in with Namco Museum seem like a natural fit to the system’s default handheld mode, yet there’s no way to treat the system as a handheld while using the screen in tate mode. So this is my earnest request to peripheral manufacturers: Please, dudes and ladies, someone out there needs to create a third-party Switch grip that will allow us to use the system in vertical mode while still holding it as a compact, self-contained handheld device. Some sort of snap-on cradle to enclose the screen and slide the Joycons into seems like a pretty simple and inexpensive thing to create; ideally the cradle would include wired connections to allow the Joycons to physically plug into the console, but it would also work just fine if it simply had a pair of rails to slide the Joycons into and let the controller dongles connect wirelessly, as Koizumi intended.

Can I get a “hell yeah” from the choir?

I doubt this peripheral would see a ton of use, but I also suspect we’ll be seeing enough classics with tate mode support to make it worth many people’s while. Heck, someone with more confidence in CAD software than I have could probably bang out of these out with a 3D printer in the space of an afternoon. So anyway: You, the peripheral makers of the universe, may have this idea for free. All I ask is that you send one along for a Retronauts review once you’ve created it.

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Filed under Retrogaming News

Gaming loses another giant: Remembering Masaya Nakamura

The Associated Press reported today that Masaya Nakamura has passed away. This isn’t really one of those shocking, out-of-nowhere passings; Nakamura had reached the ripe old age of 91 and seems to have lived a full and successful life.

If you don’t recognize Nakamura’s name immediately, don’t feel too bad about that; he was an executive, not a designer, and few people in that line of work tend to see a lot of recognition among consumers. He had held an honorary position for years, long since having retired from the day-to-day management of his company. But, you will definitely have heard of the company he established: Nakamura Amusement Corporation, or Namco for short.

Nakamura founded Namco in the ’50s, during the same fertile period of Japanese post-war reconstruction that gave us SEGA. Even if you didn’t recognize Nakamura’s name right away, you’ve probably heard the sincerely inspiring story behind Namco’s creation. The company began as a handful of electric kids’ rides on the roof of a department store, for which Nakamura himself provided maintenance and upkeep. From that humble beginning, he built a massive arcade empire, eventually getting into the creation of arcade games rather than merely their distribution. It was a natural fit, and Namco’s distribution network meant their games had an easy in to arcades.

Still, none of that would have amounted to much if not for the fact that Namco produced some of the absolute greatest games of the golden age of arcades. Nakamura didn’t design the games himself, but he nevertheless spent time with each one before release, making sure it was up to standards through exhaustive personal play testing. Compare that to Nintendo’s Hiroshi Yamauchi, who prided himself on never having played a video game. Both men ran incredibly successful game businesses — it’s not hard to imagine that Namco could have become a first-party giant if they had gone the sam route as Nintendo and produced their own console in the early ’80s — but they approached their respective businesses from completely different directions.

Maybe it’s not surprising, in that light, to know that Nakamura and Yamauchi butted heads for a while. Namco had supported Nintendo’s Family Computer pretty much straight out of the gates, porting their arcade classics to the system as one of Nintendo’s first third-party publishers. Pac-ManGalagaMappy, and Tower of Druaga were just a few of the arcade best-sellers that became Famicom best-sellers; in fact, I believe Druaga did even better on consoles than in coin-op form due to its decidedly RPG-esque nature. As Nintendo’s console matured, the company began to tighten restrictions on third parties — including its die-hards. Nakamura reportedly felt ill-used as a result; it wasn’t hard to make the argument that Famicom owed much of its success to the high-quality hits Namco brought to the console, and Japanese business revolves greatly around relationships. For Nintendo to treat such a trusted partner the same as middling latecomers like, say, Bothtec or Towa Chiki… well, that flew in the face of protocol (something Yamauchi was known to do when it suited him).

So, Namco unabashedly pushed back, scaling down their Famicom production and going all-in on NEC’s PC Engine instead. Nakamura also played a key role in the establishment of Atari subsidiary Tengen, which went rogue in the U.S. and published classic games — many from Namco — without a license.

So Nakamura was a pretty cool guy who helped usher essential masterpieces to market and wasn’t afraid to go his own way. A true great of the games industry, and a rare gem of an executive who regarded his company’s creations with a personal passion and commitment to quality.

To honor Nakamura in my own small way, I’ll be streaming some Namco games tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT. I’ll start with Rolling Thunder and move on from there. I can’t remember which Namco games I have in my library at the moment, so it’ll be a potluck of sorts. Join me and be surprised!

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Filed under Gintendo, Retronauts

Retronauts double-header

micro 21 cover

Hey! I forgot to post last week’s episode here! Oh well. Now you get two at once.

First: The latest episode, a Micro look at Namco’s Rolling Thunder. You kids seem to like Bob’s music-heavy episodes, and as it happens this game has rad-as-hell music. So rock on out to this one. I wonder if all the great music in this game informed Sega’s decision to make the bad guys in Space Channel 5 basically look like the Maskers in Rolling Thunder…?

Download Links

Libsyn (17:36 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud )

Episode Description

Jeremy looks back on Namco’s clasic arcade action game Rolling Thunder, the quintessential old-school take on “spy action” before Metal Gear redefined the genre to mean “stealth.”

EPSON MFP image

Aaaand speaking of Metal Gear, here’s last week’s episode, featuring Shane Bettenhausen and Jose Otero on Hideo Kojima’s long-running stealth franchise. See what I did there?

Download Links

Libsyn (1:57:36 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud )

Episode description

As an era ends with the release of Metal Gear Solid V, Shane Bettenhausen and Jose Otero join us to wax rhapsodic about the unique history on gaming’s longest-running saga. No haters or Hayters allowed!As an era ends with the release of Metal Gear Solid V, Shane Bettenhausen and Jose Otero join us to wax rhapsodic about the unique history on gaming’s longest-running saga. No haters or Hayters allowed!

Enjoy, and remember that you can listen to next week’s episode early by supporting us on Patreon. But it’s cool, you can also just wait a few days and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the episode all the same.

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Filed under Retronauts, Retronauts Micro