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Matt Barton's picture

The Worst Coin-Op to Console Converions

IGN has a nice feature up about the worst coin-op conversions, and I bet we've all probably suffered through most of them. Yes, the VCS Pac-Man is on the list, as is Donkey Kong and Dragon's Lair for the SNES. I doubt any kid who received the SNES version of Mortal Kombat was happy on Christmas...One surprising entry is Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits for the GBA.

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Mario Games I've Never Played, Thank the Gods

How well do you know Mario? Did you know about all of Mario's Bastard Children? Read about some truly obscure Mario Bros.-licensed titles of all sorts--is "Super Mario Bros. & Friends: When I Grow Up" on anyone's top ten list? It seems that Nintendo's brief spasm of cross-platform licensing didn't last long, and, judging by the looks of these titles, that's a good thing. When will parents learn? Educational games suck--and so do devices that try to trick you into learning or getting in shape.

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Top 10 NES Games according to GameSpot

NESNESGameSpot has a nice feature up about the Top Ten NES Games according to its many readers. They tallied over 12,000 votes to get the resulting list. It will probably shock no one to see Super Mario Bros 3 at the top of this list, followed by Zelda (follow link for cool timeline). Perhaps more surprising is Final Fantasy at #4. This is the only Final Fantasy game I've played all the way through, and it seems odd that it would occupy such a top spot. I played it through an emulator at about four-x speed (and frequent warping), and even then it took hours of monotony to complete the game. Playing it on the original hardware must have been an exercise in endurance! I'm shocked to see Metroid coming in at a lousy #8. As far as I'm concerned, Metroid would've been at #4. Ahh...I can almost hear the theme music now...

Matt Barton's picture

NES and Cell Phone Fun!

NESNESIf you're interested in exploring that strange world between Nintendo's classic system and cell phones, I have some interesting links for you today. The first involves NES emulation on the Motorola Q Mobile Phone. Check out someone playing Mario on just such a phone. Looks good, sounds good--but how about those controls? Nah. Another twist on this theme is this NES Cellphone Mod. Turn an old NES controller into a working Nokia 3200! Now, isn't this just the height of fashion? Of course, the obvious question here is whether some hacker can combine the two, so that we get a working phone and NES emulator inside an NES controller.

Matt Barton's picture

The Power Glove Lives!

Author: Matt Barton and David Torre
Editing: Bill Loguidice
Online Layout: Matt Barton and Bill Loguidice

The history of videogame controllers is a pretty dull affair. We truly haven’t come very far since the first videogame controller—a simple device rigged up by the Spacewar! team to spare them elbow pain while playing the first videogame, which ran on a giant mainframe computer. Though many early games used paddles or trackball controllers, the winning majority of pre-NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) games favored joysticks, while the majority of post-NES games favored game pads. Modern joysticks and game pads offer various degrees of analog and digital circuitry with very precise control. Still, one wonders about the future of videogame controllers. Have we reached a plateau, or are more intriguing possibilities on the horizon? What we are concerned with here is a peculiar strain of what seems to be a very promising type of controller: An electronic glove that detects hand movements. Conceivably, such a device would allow players a stunning degree of control over their avatars.

Keeping Things in Perspective: First Person Shooters Vs. Platform Games

Author: David Torre
Editing: Bill Loguidice and Matt Barton
Online Layout: David Torre
Screenshots of Games: David Torre

Perhaps the single most popular type of game in the history of PC gaming is the First Person Shooter (FPS). A First Person Shooter is a game that takes place from a first person perspective, essentially putting the player in the shoes of the character. The player rarely sees the character being played; the player sees exactly as his or her character sees. Universally known for an emphasis on multiplayer network combat, First Person Shooters were some of the first types of games to be played on the Internet. Most people will acknowledge that Id Software’s Doom (1993) started the First Person Shooter craze, others point to Id’s Wolfenstein 3D (1992). For me, there were two games released around the same time that practically guaranteed the domination of First Person Shooters: 3D Realms’ Duke Nukem 3D and Id’s Quake, both released in 1996. It was during this time that the mouselook control scheme was invented, which would soon become the standard control scheme for just about every PC game. Eventually First Person Shooters would dominate PC gaming. New games like Half Life (Valve, 1998), Quake 2 (Id Software, 1997), and Unreal (Epic, 1998) continued to push the graphical envelope, and, being the most popular games around, were often used as benchmarks for the latest three-dimensional (3D) graphics cards. Adventure games and other genres would soon sink into obscurity, while others like Real Time Strategy (RTS) games and Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) would eventually provide some competition for First Person Shooters, but overall, FPS games took over.

Now, enter 2004. First Person Shooters are still some of the most popular PC games. Out of Amazon.com’s top ten best-selling PC games, four (a majority) are First Person Shooters. There have been some variations on the popular FPS formula (as accentuated by the success of Doom and Quake), such as having vehicles in games like Starsiege Tribes (Dynamix, 1998) and Battlefield 1942 (Digital Illusions, 2002), and games that attempt to simulate World War II combat like Medal of Honor (DreamWorks Interactive, 1999), Call of Duty (Infinity Ward, 2003), and Return to Castle Wolfenstein (Gray Matter Studios, 2001). Further, two heavily hyped FPS games are expected to release this year: Id Software’s Doom 3, and Valve’s Half Life 2.

Four different perspectives used in Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. In a rotating third person perspective focused on Link's right side, Link swings his sword at a giant spider. In a third person perspective with the camera focused behind Link, Link sprints through Kokiri Forest. In third person perspective with the camera focused on the front of Link, Link plays his Ocarina. Finally, in first person perspective, Link aims his slingshot at a smaller spider.
Various perspectives from
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (N64)

Many gamers like me have expressed their discontent about the current state of PC Gaming and the dominance of the First Person Shooter. Many of us have switched to consoles to get our gaming fix. This is because unlike PC games, one would be hard pressed to find a single genre that dominates console games. In addition, many console games tend to take place from a variety of perspectives, the most successful games utilizing multiple perspectives as needed. This can be best typified by Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998) for the Nintendo 64. In this game, the player navigates dungeons with the camera behind the character, fences with enemies in a rotating perspective, plays a musical instrument with the camera looking at the front of the character and occasionally switches to first person perspective to look around or aim a precision weapon such as the slingshot.

When I share my sentiment concerning First Person Shooters with most hardcore PC gamers, I am met with a variety of analogies. The most prominent analogy is that having a lot of First Person Shooters today is no different than when we had a lot of two-dimensional (2D) platform games in the late 1980s and early 1990s. By platform game, I define it as a game in which the player controls a character that moves from one obstacle to the next, usually by running or jumping.

I don't find it to be the case that the FPS dominance of today is anything like the 2D platform craze of yesterday. In fact, I find a fundamental flaw with all First Person Shooters that I feel constrains the gameplay to an overly simplistic process of repeatedly dodging and shooting.

One of the primary flaws of the first person perspective can be illustrated by using the classic platform fighting game, Technos’ Double Dragon (1988) for the NES, as an example. In Double Dragon, the character gained more and more abilities as the player progressed (a hair-pull kick, a spinning kick, and an uppercut). Naturally, most of the fun of the game was being able to see a variety of these attacks being performed. However, in a first person perspective, this same game concept is difficult to accomplish. It would be disorienting (and perhaps nauseating) if the player's viewpoint spun around while performing a spinning kick. Instead of changing the game's perspective and allowing some interesting attacks, most FPS game programmers don't even bother, limiting one’s movement only to the simplest running and shooting. In fact, most FPS shooters that do include melee combat do so in the form of a one-two punch, the Double Dragon equivalent of hitting the B button twice. Imagine if Double Dragon was programmed like this, limiting one’s moves only to the most basic attacks. Sure, the game had a variety of weapons, but without the repertoire of attacks, I'd imagine the game would be pretty dull.

Side scrolling perspective from Megaman X2 where X is on a futuristic motorcycle flying off a ramp
Megaman X2 (SNES)
Side scrolling perspective from Super Metroid; Samus is running extremely fast, breaking through a wall
Super Metroid (SNES)
Side Scrolling perspective from Contra 3 showing Mad Dog hanging from a rail over a pit of fire while firing the heat-seeking missile launcher
Contra III: The Alien Wars (SNES)
Side scrolling perspective from Bionic Commando where the player is using his bionic arm to swing from a lamppost away from an enemy
Bionic Commando (NES)

More Weekly Famitsu 20th Anniversary Madness!

Just picked up the latest issue of Famitsu Weekly and I am pleased to see they are still doing some retro coverage in their 20th Anniversary sections. The supplementary booklet this time around focuses on games from 1998-2005 with less detail than in the previous issue, but it's still interesting for a glance at what games were popular in Japan.

The Games History section focuses on a variety of sports genres in video games, giving several examples of each. It makes me want to buy a better Japanese dictionary when I get home so I can try some translating, although my Japanese grammar skills aren't great! Among the more curious types of sports games mentioned are Fishing Games and Winter Sports Games.

20th Anniversary Famitsu Issue a Gem

Wish I could scan in the most recent copy of famed Japanese magazine Famitsu Weekly, because it is a 20th Anniversary Issue which contains several retro-gaming articles, including a large supplement with mini-reviews on the best games up until the end of the PSX era.

Although my knowledge of Japanese is fairly limited, it's still very interesting to flip through the photos and see what games Japan's most popular gaming magazine considered significant (hint: every Dragon Quest game ever made is on the list).

Matt Barton's picture

Atari 7800 Double Dragon: A Comparative Look

Author: Mark Wiesner Jr.
Editing: Bill Loguidice, Buck Feris and Matthew D. Barton
Online Layout: Buck Feris
Notes: All screenshots were provided with permission from the following sources – Atari Age and The Video Game Museum

Title screen of Double Dragon for the Atari 7800. Reprinted with permission from Atari Age.

Matt Barton's picture

Original Super Mario Bros. in 3D!

Super Mario Bros 2.5D: It's got depth!Super Mario Bros 2.5D: It's got depth!Here's some jaw-dropping news for those of us who dig Super Mario Bros: "Nickmade Games" has remade the NES classic in 2.5 dimensions, and, as you can see, they did a sweet job. Grab the game here and let us know what you think! You can read more about this game at Opposable Thumbs. Don't forget to use the arrow keys for movement and the WASD for camera control.
Description: Super Mario Bros 2.5D is a remake of the classic, Super Mario Bros… in 3D. How can you remake a 2D game in 3D? Add depth! Defeat enemies as Mario in a whole new way with 3D views and 3D graphics!”
Filename: SuperMarioBros2.5d.zip

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