Tag Archives: sega

Episode 95: Face it, you’ve got Batmania bad!

For this week’s Retronauts — Retronauts East — I invited the internet’s greatest Batman expert onto this show to discuss, well, Batman. Or rather, Batman games. Chris Sims of War Rocket Ajax and The ISB (and the upcoming SwordQuest comic) stopped by for this episode to help shed some light on a corner of video games that Retronauts has touched on in passing, but never with quite this much depth.

The original plan for this episode was to cover the entire span of Batman-based classic games from 1986-2005, but we ended up going into so much detail on the context surrounding the games — especially the character’s pop culture resurgence and rehabilitation throughout the ’80s — that we barely made it past Batman Returns. And that is OK! I do wish I had known we’d only be covering half the games I assembled notes for; I’d have gone for depth rather than breadth and really drilled down into the titles we did end up discussing. But there’s a lot of great and informative conversation about the Batman franchise (thanks to Chris) that helps to better define the games. It’s a good mix.

The games we tackle in particular this time around are: Batman (ZX Spectrum), The Caped Crusader, Batman (the movie games), Return of the Joker, Batman Returns (move games, again), and Batman: The Animated Series.

Episode description: Renowned Batmanologist and comics scribe Chris Sims joins Jeremy and Benj to explore the lore of early Batman games and how they fit into the evolution of the character’s franchise.

MP3, 48.8 MB | 1:45:28
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This episode’s music comes from a variety of Batman games: SunSoft’s NES and Game Boy movie adaptations, Return of the Joker for NES, and the SEGA CD game — whose soundtrack, I fear, I unfairly maligned. After giving the SEGA CD soundtrack a closer listen, I owe Spencer Nilsen an apology. There’s some corny butt-rock at work there for sure, yeah, but also some pretty great composition (if decidedly of a ’90s vintage, soundwise).

Finally, a big thanks to this episode’s sponsors: BarkBox, Audible, Dell, and Casper Mattresses.

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Retronauts Episode 91: A survey of SEGA’s arcade work, 1980-85

It’s Monday morning, and you know what that means. Yeah, it’s time for another Retronauts episode.

Specifically, it’s time for another Retronauts East episode. Ben and Benj join me once again in my still-in-development home studio to sit and jaw for a couple of hours about a rarely explored video game topic: SEGA’s arcade games.

“But wait,” you say. “SEGA is a beloved arcade game creator and always has been! Its arcade hits are a known quantity!” And that is true indeed. However, we’re not really looking to the company’s hits; we’re digging further into its past, to the coin-op titles SEGA produced before the ones you know and love. Specifically, we’re focused on their 1980-85 lineup.

 

As you can see from the art above, we certainly do touch on some fairly famous games: Congo Bongo, Zaxxon, Pengo, and of course Space Harrier. They’re the exceptions. For the most part, SEGA’s output in the first half of the ’80s remains fairly obscure; their work from 1986 and on is far better known here in the U.S. SEGA does a better job of preserving and republishing its later games, allowing the likes of Flashgal and Super Locomotive to vanish into the realms of the unknown and unavailable-through-legitimate-means.

This unfortunately makes for a slightly dicey episode at the beginning. We’ve all played some of these games, but certainly not all of them, and a lot of what defines them is the arcade experience. Sure, you can emulate Pro Monaco GP or Zoom 909, but an emulator doesn’t include the funky LED readouts and gauges next to the screen. Stick with it, though, and you’ll find that the conversation comes into focus as we move into SEGA’s prime days. (We also concoct some pretty decent on-the-fly theories about why SEGA’s arcade output improved so significantly around 1985 or so.)

Despite some audio bugs we’re still trying to iron out of the Retronauts East setup, and the fact that we’re taking the Retronauts name seriously by exploring somewhat unfamiliar territory here, it’s a pretty solid episode overall. And a long one, coming in at more than two hours in length! We had actually planned to take this conversation up through 1987 but literally ran out of time. But that’s OK. That just gives us an excuse to reconvene again in a few months and explore SEGA’s work in the latter half of the ’80s.

Episode description: Ben Elgin and Benj Edwards reconvene with Jeremy to explore the first half of SEGA’s arcade output. Like the games we’re discussing, the episode starts off a bit shaky, but everything is awesome by 1985. Pengo! Zaxxon! Space Harrier! Hang On! And more!

MP3, 56.8 MB | 2:03:59
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Music in this episode comes from Space Harrier (except where noted in the show), because honestly there wasn’t really all that much music worth noting in SEGA’s output from this era. That’s just a sign of the times, though. Once arcade games got to 1985 or so, their soundtracks improved exponentially. Our next SEGA arcade episode will have the opposite problem: There’ll be so much incredible music to pick from we won’t know where to begin…

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Panzer Dragoon soundtrack review

I have four more weeks left in my run with USgamer before I go solo and try in earnest to turn this podcast and site into something capable of providing me with a living (or else admitting failure and going into, I dunno, real estate or something). Think of the next 20 work days as a sort of, I dunno, farewell tour. And I’ve kicked it off the only way I know how: By writing about something extremely esoteric and extremely retro in nature. Namely, Data Discs’s recent release of the Panzer Dragoon soundtrack as a double 45rpm vinyl LP set. Because why not go all in when I’m on the way out?

It’s a fantastic release, even by the admittedly high standards of Data Discs. I played through Panzer Dragoon a very, very long time ago, but for whatever reason its music never stuck with me. Going back now and listening to it in this context, I love what I hear. It’s very… well, I can’t think of any other way to describe it except “very ’90s.” But in a good way! Not a bad, cheesy way. There are passages here that remind me of Mega Man Legends —  this one synthesizer hit with a multilayered sound I can’t really describe that both games use — as well as tracks that feel like they served as the basis for huge chunks of the Skies of Arcadia soundtrack, too. But it works most of all as a great collection of music in its own right.

Altogether, the Panzer Dragoon soundtrack feels nostalgic in a way completely different from chiptunes and Super NES or Genesis music. It’s good stuff and I strongly recommend it to anyone who’s into great game music and ever listens to vinyl. But hey, don’t take my word for it; take my word for it.

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Retronauts Micro Episode 3: Zillions and Zillions of years ago…

Hello there! The holidays have come and gone and a new semester has arrived. And this time we’re greeting the new school year with a look at a minor (and generally forgotten) video game classic: Sega’s Zillion for Master System.

You can get the full scoop on this episode over at USgamer, but I know how annoying it can be to make that extra mouseclick, so here is the show in its entirety. All seven minutes of it. Hey, it’s a Micro episode. Whaddya want?

Libsyn (7:20 | 5.3 MB | MP3 Download) | SoundCloud | Subscribe on iTunes | RSS feed

Promo image courtesy of Hardcore Gaming 101. Background music in this episode is from Zillion; the vocal track is from the anime.

Out of curiosity, how many of you fine listeners have actually played Zillion? Either back in the day or through the magic of emulation counts. I’d love to hear more about what the latter areas of the game are like, because I certainly never made it to the end….

As always, Retronauts is made possible by Patreon contributions. This week, Patreon supporters are enjoying Retronauts Micro Episode 4 a week early. And I’m currently working on poster and T-shirt designs for when we hit the three-month funding mark in February!

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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)

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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.

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