Tag Archives: video

The Nintendo PlayStation is fully working at last

The Nintendo PlayStation, much like Rob Van Dam, is one of a kind.

For those of you who have been following the story of the Nintendo PlayStation prototype since it first surfaced in 2015, you now finally have something of an end to the whole saga — after a long period of tinkering, hammering, sodduh-ing and lord knows what else, popular YouTube console modder and electronics bod Ben Heck (of The Ben Heck Show) has finally managed to get the machine fully working to the point where it can run games from the “Super CD ROM” portion of the system.

The prototype, the only one that is known to exist, was originally found by Terry Diebold when his employers, Advanta Corporation, went bust in 2009. A man named Olaf Olafsson was the president of the company — previously he was CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment back when Nintendo and Sony formed a short-lived partnership, during which time Sony announced the SNES/PSX system and Nintendo announced they were working with Philips on the hybrid console at the very same CES show in 1991, the ultimate fruit of which was those godawful Mario and Zelda games on the CD-i. It appears as though Olaf took the prototype to Advanta as a personal belonging but never got around to picking it up as the company closed down, meaning that the system itself was part of a boxed lot that Terry won in an auction at the close of Advanta for a mere $75, only finding out what was inside after the fact. It wasn’t until 2015 when his son Daniel made an innocuous Reddit post about a Nintendo PlayStation sitting up in his father’s attic that people — obviously disbelieving at first — slowly realised what the Diebolds had once pictures of the machine were released.

The system itself has always been able to play Super Nintendo games just fine, but trying to load up a CD has always resulted in nought but a BIOS screen. Ben Heck, a man who can also be found making portable Xbox Ones, N64’s and ZX Spectrums on the Internet, met up with the Diebolds at the Midwest Gaming Classic Expo in 2016, and he’s been working on the prototype ever since — documenting the labours of himself and his team over the course of several videos and livestreams until finally, a few days ago, the news that everyone’s been waiting for was announced in video form; that the Nintendo PlayStation prototype is now able to successfully run CD-ROM’s filled with game data. While no games were ever actually programmed for the system — it is somewhat different from the Sony PlayStation we eventually got meaning you can’t just run Gran Turismo on it, and the game that Heck shows off in the video was created using an emulator — it is now, at last, fully functional.

Ben Heck, YouTube tinkerer extraordinaire.

Of course, it is not for me to spoil the processes that Mr. Heck undertook on the system in order to get it working — he is a very capable person when it comes to presenting electronics on the Internet and he’s clearly done a great job on this project, whereas whenever I turn an old system on part of me unreasonably worries that it will blow up; which is coincidentally the reason why the Diebolds never once turned the prototype on in all the time that they had it sitting in the house, fearing that they would go down in infamy as the people who somehow managed to fry this one-of-a-kind historically significant item. But if you’re interested in the workings of consoles, modifications and a unique piece of video game history finally strutting its stuff after 26 years? Ben Heck’s video is more than worth a watch — even for those of us whose understanding of how to fix a computer problem boils down to little more than “turn it off and on again”.

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Yo Capcom, bring on the “Disney Afternoon for Game Boy Collection”

I’ve been working on a review of The Disney Afternoon Collection. It should be up sometime this week; I’d been wanting to hold off on posting until I’d had a chance to put this video together:

And now that I have, I feel like a hold a slightly more informed perspective with which to judge the Collection. Well, OK, not really. This is a mere footnote, not some essential magnifying lens.

DuckTales for Game Boy is, in broad strokes, the same game as the NES release that serves as the crown jewel of the Collection. Look at the details, however, and it’s more of a remix: Same overall goals, same control scheme, same enemies and challenges and general flow, but with all the individual pieces of each stage shuffled around. The game moves a little more slowly and its physical locales are somewhat more compact, and weirdly enough this all works in its favor. DuckTales on Game Boy works (at least, aside from the awful mine cart physics, which are bad on NES and intolerable on GB to the point of nearly breaking the game), and it offers a rare example of an NES game adapted to the diminutive handheld without needless compromise. It’s not perfect, but it gets a lot of things right that many, many other developers fumbled back in the day.

It’s a different enough game, and bodes well for Capcom’s other NES-to-Game Boy Disney conversions, that I’d really like to see a follow-up Afternoon Collection focused strictly on those ports. I doubt Capcom would ever go to the trouble of licensing those releases for reissue; we’re far more likely to see a compilation of their other Disney titles. But a boy can dream, right?

Anyway, DuckTales was a welcome point of light in my efforts to chronicle the Game Boy library. I’ll be taking a break from Game Boy Works for a couple of months in order to wrap up NES Works 1986 and put together the corresponding print edition compilation, but there are some interesting releases on tap once we get back to handhelds.

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Kim’s video corner: The story of Duke Nukem Forever

As a fair few of you know, I make videos for the Internet — usually long and drawn out ones. Now that I’m on Retronauts, I have one more space to show them off, along with a lil’ bit of editorial to go along with it. And so, here’s today’s video — it’s not necessarily retro, but it deals with an old and once loved character, and a game that’s development cycle started over 20 years ago and went on for nearly 15 years. It’s the long, often painful story of Duke Nukem Forever.

This 60-minute long video is the first entry in a new series for the Kim Justice channel called The Agony and The Ecstasy, that will deal with projects that went through similarly long and/or painful development cycles. I picked the name (a common saying that I believe originated from Irving Stone’s 1961 biography of Michelangelo) to represent the hills and valleys in such projects — the good and the bad, the pleasure and pain, the agony and the ecstasy! Plus it sounds good and suitably epic. I have quite a few rough ideas for other projects in the series, not all of which are games — Jurassic Park: Trespasser, L.A Noire, Orson Welles (in general, really) and Go Set A Watchman are a few of the subjects I’m thinking about for future videos.

The video is split in half somewhat: The first sections go into the development of the game itself. Thankfully there are a lot of resources available on Duke Nukem Forever online — every trailer, screenshot and a whole bunch of interviews and forum posts have been preserved on the Internet for eternity, and 3D Realms itself have still kept their news archives online all the way back to 1996. Despite the game’s lengthy cycle — during which the game was rebooted no less than six times — it wasn’t too difficult to keep track of the timeline, and show the project’s evolution, especially when compared to all the other titles that 3D Realms head honcho George Broussard was inspired by. One of the major factors for DNF’s lengthy development was a serious case of featurecreep — whenever Broussard saw something he liked in another game, whether it was the physics engine in Half-Life 2 or snow levels in The Thing, he wanted that to be added to DNF. The end result is almost like a series of ideas that don’t actually come together — in all the time that was spent on making DNF, I wonder how much of that was spent on working with a design document that specified a beginning, a middle and an end to the work. The answer, in all likelihood, is “not a lot”.

We tried to reach the Duke for comment, but he thinks that he’s way too cool for this website. He is wrong.

When the game was eventually released in 2011, it was a critical flop — bashed left and right by just about anyone with a pen and a career in the industry. However, Duke Nukem Forever certainly does have its fans — for some the presence of the Duke and the blasting of many an alien (and hey, you certainly do that a lot in the game) makes for a good time! However, I am not a fan of the game for various reasons. You’ll find a lot of criticism that centres around the Hive level, what with its impregnated women and breasts on the wall, and that’s certainly a part of my vid — largely because the whole thing is an ugly, toneless mess. But more than anything offensive, DNF just feels like it’s completely out of time. I don’t think there’s any real nostalgia for the sort of FPS games that came out in the wake of Half-Life 2 — games with an overabundance of physics puzzles or lots of subsections such as platforming, or driving — and that’s the time Duke Nukem Forever comes from, around about 2004 or so. If I wanted an FPS where I largely just blast things and have fun doing it, I’d sooner play the new DOOM. However, in a few years there may well be a nostalgic trend back towards the HL2 style, at which time DNF could undergo a critical reappraisal. You never know!

The other problem is with Duke himself, and how his creators see him. It’s not an issue so much of Duke being a 90’s character with, again, all that “political incorrectness” gubbins and so on — more that the way Duke is presented is with somewhat misguided reverence. We’re all supposed to think he’s awesome, everyone else in the world (except those damn Cycloids and a corrupt President) thinks he’s awesome, and most of the game’s humour is based around Duke being awesome. Jon St. John in the booth may do a good job of voicing the character as usual, but there’s only so much you can get from a character who’s one trait is…well, that they’re awesome. That wasn’t necessarily the impression I got back in the days of Duke Nukem 3D.  I rather wish that the game had at least tried to prick the ego of the Duke somewhat, made him more of a ridiculous character in a saner world, because…well, he IS ridiculous. His name’s freaking Duke Nukem, for crying out loud. Something just…well, it went wrong over time — and the end result is more ego trip than parody.

Of course, all of this is in the video — and it’s certainly worth watching, even if I say so myself. I’m proud of the end result, and I hope that people will enjoy it! I should note, mind you, that this video does deal with a game where the sight of breasts is common, not to mention plenty of gibs as aliens get various limbs blown off and all that — meaning that this video is not really safe for work. I probably wouldn’t take an entire hour out of my day to watch this video at work in the first place, but then it’s not like I’m your boss! Whatever you choose to do, have a good one, and hope that the Duke has better days ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

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Let’s take on the Plutonium Boss with Gintendo

Blaster Master Zero launched last week for 3DS and Switch, and it’s just lovely. The Retronauts review will be along soon in the form of a lengthy Retronauts Micro episode, but for now let’s mark the occasion by playing the original NES game. Today’s Gintendo stream will happen at 4:30 p.m. ET (1:30 p.m. PT), and will absolutely not feature me completing this incredibly tough NES game or even making it to the Plutonium Boss.

Heck, I might even run out of continues in the space of an hour. Who knows! So join me on YouTube this afternoon and see what madness transpires.

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The story of Balloon Fight

When I started up the Good Nintentions project, there were a few specific games I had in mind to write about. I knew that for every Stack-Up or Urban Champion I had to slog through, there would be highlights like Super Mario Bros. as well. And today, we come to one of the classics I was most excited to write about: Balloon Fight.

I never owned Balloon Fight back in the day, but it was one I borrowed from that obligatory friend everyone had — the one who seemed to have an infinite budget for getting all the best stuff that the rest of us could only gaze upon in envy but was always really cool about it. I didn’t really enjoy it that much at the time… which isn’t to say I disliked it, and in fact I really dug Balloon Trip mode. But this was 1988 we’re talking about, and I had already savored the pleasures of Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and Super Mario Bros. It was kind of tough to go back to a single-screen arcade-style experience, especially when I’d played its inspiration (Joust) to death back when it was a current arcade release.

Over time, though, I gradually began to appreciate Balloon Fight more. It’s a Joust clone, yes, undeniably so. But I realized that, heretical as it may be to say, Balloon Fight is the better game. The two-hit balloon mechanic grants a bit more mercy to the player that comes as something of a necessity, since your characters appear larger on the screen, meaning the action can become quite crowded in a hurry. The level designs change, which keeps things varied, and the later stages can become quite unpredictable thanks to the inclusion of elements like spinners that send anyone who collides with them flying off in different directions. And, of course, that Balloon Trip music.

Even though this video clocks in a bit shorter than many retrospectives for much lesser games, there is no less love invested into this one. I even managed to convince my wife to play it with me for the co-op footage, and while she doesn’t play many games, so really seemed to enjoy this one (and we made it quite a ways into the game in her second time through). In short, it’s basically just a great game.

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Put on your power tie and Power Blazer for today’s Gintendo

Well hello! It’s been a while since I last streamed a video game while sipping a libation, because I’m afraid I’ve been out of town doing Important Retronauts Things for the past week. Today, however, I’m settled back in, and it’s time to get back on the wagon. Uh, so to speak.

This afternoon I’ll be getting together with Ben and Benj to record another episode of Retronauts East (it’s all about SEGA this time), and once they’re gone I’ll be hitting the digital airwaves to broadcast a classic (cult classic, at least) NES game: Power Blade by Taito. Join me at 5:30 p.m. ET (2:30 PT) for a look back at this cloniest of Mega Man clones, which I’ve always had a soft spot for. It’s no masterpiece, but it’s a totally solid 2D platform shooter with some enjoyable upgrade mechanics and that wonderful 8-bit Japanese trend of combining loopy weirdness with sci-fi futurism.

But that’s not all! 

Rather than focusing strictly on Power Blade, I’ll also be looking at its Famicom counterpart, Power Blazer. I’ve heard Power Blazer was wildly different from Power Blade (and generally not as refined), so I picked up a copy in Japan to discover simultaneously with you, my friends. We’ll start with the U.S. game before moving along to the Famicom original, because regression is apparently all the rage these days.

So please join me this fine afternoon for a stream of a fine game and some fine gin (gin optional). I’ll be streaming on YouTube per usual beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET.

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I’ll be streaming Zelda for tonight’s Gintendo!

Yes, Zelda is this week’s big topic. That and Switch, but at the moment most people only care about Switch because of Zelda. Sadly, though, Nintendo won’t let us stream the new one, so in lieu of Breath of the Wild I will instead be streaming the Zelda that will serve as a subject for this week’s Retronauts recording marathon: Link’s Awakening.

(I was going to stream Power Blade today, but we’ll save that for some other time. There are many more streams to come!)

The magic will happen this afternoon at 5 p.m. ET, which is (rumor has it) 2 p.m. PT. You can enjoy the madness on my YouTube channel, per usual.

Will I reach the Wind Fish? (Spoilers: Not even close.)

This will, of course, be the final Gintendo for February! I’ll be out of town for the following week for Game Developers Conference and the aforementioned Retronauts recording weekend, but I’ll hit the ground running once I return. Thanks as always for your support of Retronauts video endeavors… and don’t forget that there’s a Final Fantasy IV episode of the show online and ready for your enjoyment if you support the podcast, too.

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Oops, an unannounced Gintendo

Yesterday afternoon we recorded the first episode of Retronauts East, which I desperately hope turns out well — there’s a lot of fine-tuning that needs to happen with our recording setup, so the sound quality could turn out to be kind of awful. I guess we’ll find out! Once we wrapped the recording session, I decided to celebrate the show’s eastward expansion by launching an impromptu and unannounced Gintendo live stream of Castlevania:

Incredibly enough, it went remarkably well. Shockingly well, actually. I aced the two big sticking-point battles on my first go (skip ahead to 16:30 if you want to see the most impressive showing I’ve ever put up versus Frankenstein’s Monster and Igor). Then… the second half of the stream consists of my nerve breaking and me failing abysmally against Dracula’s stage and the final battle, over and over again. It was a pretty solid first half, though! I guess you could blame the gin (Reisetbauer Blue, if you’re curious).

Anyway, it’s here if you’d like to watch it.

I head out of town for a week on Sunday, so I won’t be able to host a normal Gintendo while I’m abroad. Although… I guess there’s technically nothing stopping me from taking along, say, the Retro USB AVS? And an Elgato device? And maybe picking up some random retro Famicom games and playing them? Hmm. If nothing else, I might try and stream a stroll through Akihabara or something, assuming it won’t devastate my international data plan. And I definitely will be posting all throughout next week on my game-shopping and developer-interviewing exploits in Tokyo, so you can at least look forward to that.

(Promo art by Rusty Shackles)

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Ping pong, like love, is a battlefield

One really great thing about Game Boy World: Finding strange obscurities that intersect with things I love. Example for today: Battle Ping Pong.

Have you ever heard of Battle Ping Pong before today? I’m going to go ahead and say, “No, you haven’t.” This one was pretty tough to track down (not quite as hard as Hong Kong, since a search on eBay for “Game Boy” “Hong Kong” nets you a lot of Asia-region releases and bootlegs, but still tough), because evidently most people haven’t heard of it — even in Japan. It was worth it, though! It’s one of the very first games created by developer Quest, one of my absolute favorite game studios of yore. Quest created Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics, and their key personnel has had a hand in the likes of Final Fantasy XII and Crimson Shroud. Quest is awesome. Well, was awesome. R.I.P., Quest.

Battle Ping Pong isn’t really all that awesome, though. This was clearly put together in the “walk before you can run” phase for the studio, and it’s pretty interesting as a curio. But it’s actually kind of crummy as a table tennis sim. It feels weird to use the words “Quest” and “crummy” together in the same mental breath, but, well, sometimes that’s how it goes.

Fortunately the next Game Boy World episode covers a game that, I hope, will bring us out of the doldrums of import obscurity. Please look forward to it in a few weeks.

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Weekend Gintendo: Let’s kill some actual Nazis [archived!]

It’s been a pretty hectic weekend between the Lunar New Year and what appears to have been the second of 208 planned weekly protests by millions of anti-Trump demonstrators. Also, somewhere in there, an Analogue Nt Mini showed up on my doorstep, and I’ve been eager to put it through its paces. So I figure, why not combine two very important things — playing video games and a stiff drink to take the edge off — with a Sunday afternoon Gintendo stream?

And friends, I can’t think of a more appropriate game to play this weekend than Bionic Commando ’99.

Bionic Commando… ’99?” you ask, perplexed. Yes, ’99 — it’s Bionic Commando for NES, except this version was patched by Chris Covell (back in the year 1999, hence the name) to restore all the content cut in translation from Japanese to English. Nintendo of America shied away from controversy of any sort in the NES days, which means religious symbols and unpleasant political relics alike had to be modified or scrubbed for U.S. release. The Japanese title of Bionic Commando translated to Top Secret: The Resurrection of Hitler, and an image of ol’ pencil-stache himself glowered over the packaging art as the protagonist gave Fourth Reich soldiers, decked out in full brownshirt regalia, an iron boot to the face.

In America, however, all references to Nazis were edited to “Badds,” and Hitler became “Master-D.” Chris Covell’s patch simply changes back the references and restores certain Nazi imagery, including swastikas, to leave no doubt whatsoever about whom you’re killing. In an era where we have actual Nazis showing up in the national news skulking around under euphemistic terms like “alt-right,” I can think of no more fitting game to play than a game mod that revolves around the premise of calling Nazis by their real name.

So please, join me this afternoon at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT as I messily explode Hitler’s skull.

Today’s featured gin will be Greenhook Greensmiths’ American Dry, which is distilled in Brooklyn — literally a few miles down the road from JFK International Airport, the site of this weekend’s most fervent pro-immigration protests. And I’ll be playing on an Analogue Nt Mini, a clone of the Japanese NES hardware designed in Seattle. In short, this stream will be celebrating America, inside and out.

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