Game Boy World makes its 2017 debut today. I would like to say the subject at hand is inspirational and sets a great precedent for the year, but that would make me a heckin’ liar. On the contrary, this latest Game Boy release is all kinds of mundane. Not wretched, not enjoyable, just kinda there, a legacy of a publisher’s willingness to peddle a fairly popular license without giving much thought to the quality of the problem attached to it. It’s a shame, because I really like the Patlabor franchise and think it could make a heck of a game in the right hands.
To add to the sorrow: This YouTube video has unfortunately been blocked by Bandai in Japan due to my inclusion of some footage from the anime franchise being covered here. If you happen to be one of the rare few who watch Game Boy World from Japan, I apologize. You can watch via Libsyn instead:
Either way, you’re in for an 11-minute video of which about 7 concern how cool Patlabor (the anime) is, while the rest kind of offers a perfunctory critique of how tedious Patlabor (the Game Boy game) turned out to be. I scraped as much game discussion as I could out of this, but there’s a weird element to the game in which you’re given a password after completing a stage which does not function as the password for continuing the game. I had intended to take the time to translate the dialogue in an attempt to figure out what I needed to do in order to advance, but time constraints kicked in and this is as far as I made it. Patron Max Smith shared a Nico Nico link that shows footage from later in the game and… it’s all the same thing. Just dull turn-based robot fights from start to finish. So, no great loss.
Next episode concerns a game that maybe isn’t great but is definitely weird and comes from an interesting developer, so I’ll try to make up for this episode’s shortcomings there.
First, you’ll be downright chuffed to know that this week’s early access episode (wherein Bob and Ray and I discuss the mysteries of Bubble Bobble canon) is now available through Patreon.
Secondly, I’m chuffed to say that, thanks to a surge of Yuletide enthusiasm and generosity, we crossed over our “weekly full episode” tier last night. Over the coming month, leading up to February’s big change, we’ll be developing our new publishing plan, which includes the new monthly chapter of the show, Retronauts East. Tentatively, the East show will feature Benj Edwards of vintagecomputing.com and Ben Elgin, both of whom will bring a welcome dose of knowledge regarding classic computers, Atari games, and other bits of retrogame trivia that Bob and myself (who are largely, though not exclusively, Japanese console-centric in terms of our interests) have typically been a bit weak on. I’m excited about this new addition to the family! I will definitely need to pick some extra recording gear before we can start producing the new show, though.
Of course, this does mean that Retronauts Micro will be vanishing… unless we manage to hit our next funding goal, at which point it will resume its biweekly schedule. So, to recap, we’ve gone from two full and two Micro episodes per month to four full episodes, and our next stop will be four full episodes and two Micro. Hopefully we’ll get there soon.
I’ve also added a new link to the banner across the top of the site: an iTunes feed for Retronauts Chronicles videos. I always post my video projects several days early for video backers, but the iTunes feed also gets updates a day or two ahead of the videos going public via YouTube. This week’s early video on iTunes concerns Pilotwings for Super NES; next week will probably be Mach Rider, or maybe a prototype long-form retrospective on the SEGA Master System (monthly long-form videos being the next video Patreon goal, you see).
Yeah, we’re doing the hard sell here…. but hopefully the content makes it go down smooth.
I’m not sure that anyone has ever used the terms “Donkey Kong Jr. Math” and “platonic ideal” in the same sentence before, but we like to do things differently around here. DK Jr. Math, as I mentioned a few posts down, was the subject of this week’s Good Nintentions video:
…and, while there’s not really all that much to celebrate about the game itself, this coverage really does embody the essence of what I’ve been working toward with projects like Good Nintentions and Game Boy World. By no means is this the first video anyone has ever produced about the game, nor even the first video that consists of more than just ranty swearing about how terrible it is. That part isn’t particularly unique.
Nah, it’s all the other stuff that comes along with the video that makes it (in my opinion) worthwhile: The post at the Good Nintentions site that contains a revised version of the video script, direct feed screenshots, and — happily — lots of photos of the game’s packaging. Since the complete physical edition of DK Jr. Math now sells for as much as $1500 — almost double the $800 it was selling for when I began accumulating material for Good Nintentions two years ago! — this is a pretty hard-to-come by set. Having it documented this way at least provides a decent record of the game and its packaging materials, courtesy of generous collector/friend of Retronauts Steven Lin, who very trustingly lent his copy to me to be photographed. Eventually, high-resolution versions of all of this photography will go into another Good Nintentions book, and there’s something about print that makes material like this real. A permanent record, I suppose.
And that’s really what I’m after with these documentary projects: To get as much material as possible into a single place as comprehensively as I can. I’ve been doing the best I can in my spare time, but now that Retronauts and the documentary video ventures are becoming a primary concern, I’m excited about what we’ll be able to accomplish. I just hope we’ll be able to track down the box to Fish Dude one of these days…
The one down side is that every time I hit a sort of goal or target, I realize there’s even more that can be done. For instance: Since documenting the box for DK Jr. Math, I’ve gotten my hands on a much nicer camera and invested some Patreon money into a rather pricey but incredibly worth-it high-speed macro lens — a combo that does much better justice to these artifacts. But now I feel like I need to do a bunch of reshoots. It never ends.
As foretold by the prophets — or rather, profits — you can expect daily blog postings here at retronauts.com going forward. Let’s go!
The first episode of Good Nintentions 1986 goes live shortly, which is something that merits a mention here now that (1) Good Nintentions falls under the Retronauts banner and (2) we’ve cleared the “daily blog post” Patreon goal. (Please forgive my shameless promotion of this link now that it determines my livelihood.)
Good Nintentions 1986 kicks off with, sadly, a look at the misbegotten Donkey Kong Jr. Math. As usual, I’ve tried to set this season apart from the others with a distinct YouTube thumbnail. (Yes, I realize that for maximum YouTube popularity my thumbnails should feature a photo of myself, screaming with rage or looking otherwise stupefied about the topic in question.)
Since Good Nintentions 1986 will culminate with the release of the NES’s first worthwhile third-party release, I wanted the thumbnail theme to reflect that climactic journey. And since that game in question was Konami’s Gradius, I decided to echo Konami’s iconic NES box art:
And finally, because the heart of a graphic designer still beats within my chest from time to time, I’ve used ITC’s Eras for the thumbnail font, reflecting the typography Konami used inside its NES manuals. No, shut up, you’re a nerd.
Honestly, those boxes still look great. The silver overlay with that distinctive gradient stripe — I’m not really sure how else to describe it! — would work just as well as a branding scheme today as it did in the ’80s (even if the use of actual hand-painted art pegs this as a work of a bygone era). Ah, if only Konami still made video games…
This video took much longer to put together than I had intended or hoped, so I’m far too tired to write about it. I will let this episode speak for itself:
And you old-fashioned types can do the usual audio-only thing, I guess:
Libsyn (11:09 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud | Subscribe on iTunes! Support us on Patreon!)
Jeremy dives into Game Boy Advance classic (and overpriced rarity) Ninja Five-O, a game that probably should never have existed. But isn’t it nice that it does?
…audio flavor, and video flavor.
Q*Bert is such an abstract, visual game, it would seem sort of ridiculous not to include images while discussing it, right? So, for this week’s Retronauts Micro, I’ve upgraded the mini-podcast to a mini-video as well.
Though of course, the audio version remains for you purists in the audience.
Moving forward, I hope to produce video versions of all my Micro episodes. Bob seems to have a good thing going with his mixtape episodes, so I imagine those will remain audio-only, but my own productions tend to be less inspired. Thus, I’m fancying them up with visuals. If I have time (ha!) I’d also like to go back and rework my older Micro episodes into videos as well.
Libsyn (8:34 | MP3 Download | SoundCloud )
Journey back in time to 1982 and the sassiest mascot character ever to cuss up an arcade: Q*Bert. And if this episode seems a bit brief, well, be sure to check out the video version on retronauts.com or usgamer.net!
The music in this week’s audio version comes from Q*Bert 3. It’s not very good music—it’s actually kind of annoying!—but what can ya do?
As a reminder, the Retronauts project is made possible through Patreon! I also have posted some of the original podcast cover illustrations up for sale, if you’d like to give someone the gift of slightly amateurish video game watercolors this holiday.