Archive for the ‘ Nintendo ’ Category

Thoughts on Nintendo Switch

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Nintendo unveiled their new console, the Nintendo Switch, this week and the Internet has all sorts of reaction, as expected. Some are proclaiming the death of Nintendo (again). Unfortunately, investors are not convinced with the console either as stocks dropped after the system’s reveal event. Many are voicing worry that it will be a repeat of the Wii U’s underperformance and, to some extent, I am too.

A lot were thinking $250 was the smart, and likely, price point for the Switch. Instead, $300 gets the Switch console unit with dock, AC adapter, the Joy Con controllers and charging grip. However, once you add a game for $60 you’re looking at $360 to get started and $430 if you want to add a Pro Controller. What’s more, it’s a weaker system than Playstation 4 or XBox One. This could have still been appealing if it was released head to head with PS4 or XB1 at launch, but with those consoles currently priced around $250 with a game included, it’s a lot to justify. When the competition has a more powerful, current gen system, having one of the cheapest release prices in console history (when adjusted for inflation) doesn’t mean much.

On top of that, the accessories seem extremely steep. $70 for the Pro controller, $80 for extra Joy Con controllers, $30 for the charging grip, $90 for an extra charging dock set (if you want a second TV set up with one). If there’s a reason for the Pro Controller costing $20 more than the Wii U Pro controller (and a Dualshock 4), such as motion control or the advanced haptic rumble feedback like the Joy Cons, Nintendo needs to make it clear to make it seem like the value is worth the price.

Many are also marking a lack of games as a strike against it. 1-2 Switch seems like it should be the Wii Sports equivalent, packed in with the system, but it is a launch day game. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Just Dance 2017, Skylanders: Imaginators, and Super Bomberman R are all launch day titles. It does strike me as odd that Nintendo didn’t make more of a showing of Bomberman R, though I’ve seen complaints that it has micro-transactions tied up in it.

Within the release month, Has-Been-Heroes, Snipperclips: Cut It Out Together, and I Am Setsuna are also releasing for the Switch. While I Am Setsuna is available on other systems, I’d be interested if Nintendo and Square Enix offered a physical release here. Still, that’s 8 games available in the first month where Playstation 4 had 26 and XBox One had 21 launch day titles.

There was a Wii vibe from some of the titles presentations, but I’ll admit with the high prices, the game line up, and the presentation, there is a Wii U performance vibe here.

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The fact that Nintendo didn’t come up with this themselves is also disappointing.

However, with the information provided, I heard some real excitement at work the next day from fathers who loved the idea of the games for family nights and the ability to go from TV to handheld. The battery life didn’t remotely phase them as they expected portable charger options to be available. If that spreads, the Switch could actually be more of a Wii, adopted by families and less of the “core gamer” crowd, than a Wii U.

But here is my opinion on what Nintendo needs to do to get some interest in Switch, as equally irrelevant as everyone else’s opinion!

Indie Games – Court them!
I thought this about the Wii U and I feel the same about the Switch. Since the console is less powerful than the other two on the market, Nintendo should make a strong effort to court the indie games that don’t need as much power. If Nintendo made themselves into the key console for indie devs, they could build a library that’s unique to them. Seriously, Nintendo should have secured a Wii U console exclusive of Undertale.

And even if it’s not a Switch exclusive, Nintendo could stand out by putting in the extra effort to of releasing those indie games in a physical release that are otherwise digital only. This may seem like a minor differentiating factor, but Limited Run Games has been showing there is a demand for physical releases of indie games.

Imagine if Nintendo had picked up Mighty No. 9 rather than it being a Kickstarter project. If the project had been developed with Nintendo involved, their quality requirements having to be met, would we have gotten a better product? After all, since Mega Man was a staple on the NES and SNES, I felt Nintendo should have been involved in getting Mighty No. 9 up to snuff and securing it as an exclusive.

Or how about another NES staple with Castlevania? Would it increase interest in the Switch if Nintendo had picked up Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night as an exclusive rather than that being a Kickstarter project?

In the same vein as indie developers, Nintendo needs to re-evaluate their handling of fan projects. While I understand the legal necessity to protect their IPs, they could take a look at these projects they’ve shut down and work out a deal with the creators to complete the project for Nintendo. Moreso, they could start a program allowing fan’s to submit passion projects to Nintendo for approval and release. If Nintendo could bring these creators on board and officially release the fan made Mario 64 HD  or the recent fan remake of Metroid 2: The Return of Samus, it could offer relatively cheap exclusives for Nintendo.

There has to be some middle ground for fan projects to meet with Nintendo. Just look at Sonic Mania, a passion project including team members who were working on a fan project high-definition remake of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Having a program that encourages fans to submit their examples of levels or game work might find Nintendo new talent to bring on board.

Nostalgia & 3rd Party
One of the criticisms leveled at the Wii U is now being leveled at the Switch: lack of third party support. Some of the multi-platform games announced for the Switch are reportedly ports of last gen versions of the games due to the weaker power of the Switch. If the Switch doesn’t have the power to handle current gen games, they need to establish a unique niche that becomes a “must have” apart from what PS4 and XB1 offers.

The greatest strength Nintendo has is nostalgia, as recently demonstrated by the high demand for the NES Classic. They should capitalize on this with their new console as well. Not only do they have the nostalgia in their favor, but retro games are definitely in favor right now.

Rather than highlighting a lack of power, Nintendo could pursue third party developers to make exclusives, even if timed, that are lower cost and retro inspired. A perfect example is the XBox One’s upcoming Cuphead. Pursuing developers for these types of games while reaching back into their past library for inspiration could give them a good line up of new games. And if these games are cheaper to develop, a lower price tag on them could increase appeal. If Nintendo’s system costs as much or more than the competition, but the games were, on average $10 to $20 cheaper at retail, that could balance out the cost perception a bit.

Here are some Nintendo heyday series Nintendo could pursue convincing developers to bring back:

Adventure Island – Last seen as WiiWare, converting the original game to a 3D approach, Konami could come back to this series either as a classic style side scroller or keeping the 3D approach.

Adventures of Lolo – Another series that’s been forgotten, HAL Laboratory made Kirby and the Rainbow Curse on Wii U, so they still have a relationship with Nintendo. Lolo was a maze puzzler that would fit pretty well with Nintendo’s modern offerings.

Ghosts n’ Goblins – Though the original 8-bit and arcade versions have been re-released, a complete remake would be a solid exclusive. Staying true to the original difficulty, this could be Nintendo’s side scrolling “Dark Souls” of difficulty.

Ikari Warriors – SNK hasn’t done anything with this series since the NES. They were originally 2 player, but adding more enemies and really making the game chaotic could lend itself well to the Switch supporting 4 players, either on 4 Switch units for local co-op, or 4-way split screen could be loads of fun.

Capcom – Yes, we could long for Capcom to make another classic Mega Man that outshines Mighty No. 9, but no. Well, okay, if Nintendo could convince Capcom to make them an exclusive by the name of Mega Man Legends 3, that would get some attention for sure. But no, my thought was more towards a few remasters. Following the success of DuckTales Remastered, let’s get Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, and TailSpin Remasters out.

TMNT – It’s been a while since the turtles had a good game and Mutants in Manhattan didn’t hit a home run. Either as a 3D approach or a classic side scrolling beat ’em up, Nintendo’s family gaming image might be a good fit to partner up with Nickelodeon for an approach at the four brothers.

Sparkster – Another longshot since it’s stuck in the depths of Konami, but perhaps Nintendo could pry it from their cold hearted fingers. I loved Rocket Knight Adventures and Sparkster and I don’t know why they never took off (pun intended). I’d love to see Sparkster brought back as a modern side scroller or as Nintendo’s contemporary to Ratchet & Clank.

Earthworm Jim 3 – Another title that hasn’t seen much attention other than a 2009 remake, Nintendo could do worse than to clench a new Earthworm Jim as an exclusive.

Samurai Jack – Ol’ Jack is on his way back to Toonami on Cartoon Network. Another potential partner for Nintendo to pursue, if they could land a deal to publish games based on this IP, it would be a decent win. With the new show said to be darker, it could offer a less “for kids” game for the Switch.

??? – This one will be a little difficult as it has the problem of no current developer or publisher, but Nintendo could go a long way if they could get a partnership deal with Disney now that Disney Interactive is defunct. Remember Aladdin and The Lion King on SNES? Smooth animation, tight controls, great music. Yet where was the game for Zootopia or Moana last year?

Staying in Disney’s court, where are the Marvel games? There hasn’t been anything in the MCU area since Captain America: Super Soldier from Sega. Aside from Lego Marvel Super Heroes, anyway. Where is X-Men Legends 3 or Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3? While these likely wouldn’t be Switch exclusives, having them on the system, if it was made, would be great fits for the multi-player that Switch promotes.

Mother Collection – Simply stated, if Nintendo would make a Mother Collection release for the Nintendo Switch, it would swell. At least to its fan base. If they’re that worried about it, they could do a limited first print run to gauge interest in the US with a 2nd print planned if the demand was there.

Nintendo’s Missing IPs
Nintendo has Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild at launch and Mario Odyssey slated for holiday 2017, but there are still a number of Nintendo IPs that need games lined up for Nintendo Switch.

Kirby – Almost a guarantee a Kirby game will release on Switch at some point.
Donkey Kong – Donkey Kong Country is on SNES, N64, Wii, & Wii U. It’ll happen.
Pokemon – With Switch’s portability, I’m sure it will get a Pokemon game. They may not want to step on Sun & Moon’s foot on 3DS just yet.

Metroid – I can’t really imagine Nintendo isn’t finally planning a new game in this series, likely in the Metroid Prime series. I have to think Nintendo will want to do one with the Joy Con controllers. If they are planning one, it would be wise to announce sooner rather than later.

Kid Icarus – Similar to Metroid, I think it might be interesting to see what the Joy Con controllers can do to emulate archery with the haptic rumble feedback. When was the last time Pit had a console game, after all?

F-Zero – Mario Kart has taken all the attention as Nintendo’s racer, but I’d like to see F-Zero come back on Switch.

Star Fox – Star Fox fans are still eager for a good Star Fox game whereas Star Fox Zero was really a Star Fox game built from testing the Wii U capabilities. Fake leaks suggested Star Fox 64 HD remake and that might actually be all Nintendo has to offer to satisfy fans. Personally, I’d like to see Star Fox move forward with a new story after Command. Pick an ending to make canon and go foward. I’d also like to see a little more depth brought to the story. Have Fox, Falco, Slippy, and Krystal piloting with Peppy as tactical advisor. Play up the mercenary basis and have them framed as traitors having to prove their innocence & bring down a new threat. Bring in supporting cast characters and implement cut scenes to actually make a story. Honestly, I’d even be okay with Star Fox Adventures coming back if that series went more towards Ratchet & Clank meets Zelda with more of a Star Wars style story. Or go 3rd person shooter mixed with flying levels like N64’s Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire.

Bravely Switch – Since Square Enix is developing for the Switch, I’d love to see I Am Setsuna get a physical release on the system and Bravely Third developed for it instead of 3DS. For that matter, Square Enix could bring Breath of Fire back to console.

The Big Deal – Super Mario RPG or…

Paper Mario has taken the place of Super Mario RPG, but I’d love to see Square Enix do another true Super Mario RPG sequel to Secret of the Seven Stars.

But going a step beyond that, I’d like to see Nintendo and Square Enix do a spiritual sequel: Super Smash Bros. RPG. Taking the page from Kingdom Hearts and mixing Smash Bros. cast with Final Fantasy characters for an RPG. If they come up with a good story, having these casts interacting could be fun. And they could negotiate to give us an entire line of Final Fantasy amiibos. Even splitting profits on those, I think the volume might make up for it.

The Nintendo Switch is never going to compete with the Playstation 4 nor XBox One and Nintendo shouldn’t try to. Their best bet is to establish themselves with a solid line up of games that make themselves unique and worth having. First party games alone aren’t going to be enough, as the Wii U showed. They need to get third party developers offering games as well, but not just ports that aren’t on par with the competition. If they can carve out some unique offerings, though, the Switch could still be an appealing console and with a price drop to $250, it could become an easy choice. Most gamers today are willing to drop the money for two consoles if both are offering enough unique experiences the other isn’t.

And also…cut the artificial scarcity nonsense. People want your product. Get into as many homes as you can before they get frustrated and decide to just pick up your cheaper competition.

What do you think Nintendo could do to make Switch a must have console apart and separate from the competition?

 

 

Growing Up Gaming – NES

In the last post, I mentioned not being certain about specifics of my gaming roots, but my memories are more clear as we proceed to the arrival of the Nintendo Entertainment System. I didn’t get one at release, but I certainly wanted one.

I was in elementary school and we had a fund raiser selling raffle tickets with the grand prize for who could sell the most being $100. While my parents took me door to door in the neighborhood or out to the local golf course, and my grandparents around their neighborhood, I had to give the sales pitch myself. Ultimately, I did sell the most tickets and got my $100 prize, which I opted to spend on buying myself the Nintendo Entertainment System.

This set me on a path that I grew rather proud of, having bought every console I’ve ever owned through the years myself rather than asking for one from my parents. While they bought me games at birthdays and Christmas, I always bought my own consoles. I think it was a good lesson in responsibility for young me.

I got the Action set with the console, controller, grey zapper, and Super Mario Bros./ Duck Hunt.

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Note: I pronounce it as N-E-S, not “ness” which is just silly.

My first game, of course, was Super Mario Bros., and my father and I started playing it together. Now, my father certainly has never had much interest in video games prior to this, nor since, but at the start of the NES era, we did play together some. In fact, he played enough that I remember him picking me up from school one day with a big grin on his face. When I asked why, he told me he had beaten Super Mario Bros. My father beat Super Mario Bros. before I did. I beat it not long after, and with the Fire Flower’s power, which he hadn’t.

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I tried to claim he cheated because I was at school, but I knew the truth…

The other game I got early was also because of my father: Golf. My dad has always been a golfer and I imagine he hoped playing the game together might spur an interest in the actual sport, but the game did no such thing. It wasn’t all that great of a game either, but it still holds a special place in my memory because of that time playing it with him.

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Mario played the gentleman’s sport of golf.

Now, there are plenty of other games I will be talking about in this post, but only one other with a connection to family for me. I had my tonsils removed when I was young and after surgery, I got The Adventures of Lolo as a get well gift. I seem to recall beating the game, but never played the sequels.

While I didn’t have a lot of familial connections in gaming, I did have friends. All my close friends had gotten an NES and we would play whenever we visited one another’s house. One friend and I played through Bubble Bobble on 2 player together. I played DuckTales at another friend’s house, but never owned it. I borrowed Mega Man 2 from a friend to play through.

DuckTales The Moon Theme may be my favorite NES tune.

And that social aspect, the trading games, led to exploring other games. I got Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers because I liked DuckTales. I got Mega Man 3 because I liked Mega Man 2. I went back to the original Mega Man via rental because I liked Mega Man 2 (but never beat it.. darn rock monster in Wily’s castle).

Rentals. Ah yes, before our town even had a Blockbuster, we had a local family owned rental store. I remember renting Dragon Warrior, which I didn’t care for at the time, Dick Tracy, Robocop, Yo! Noid, and Ninja Gaiden games. My friend and I would play Ikari Warriors for hours each rental. I also remember loving Wolverine on NES after the disappointing offering of Uncanny X-Men. Unfortunately, I owned (and still own the same copy of) Uncanny X-Men and only rented Wolverine, though I’ve rectified that now.

Like almost every young boy in the USA, I was wrapped up in turtlemania, so of course I got the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. I don’t recall how I got it, but I’d be willing to be it was a birthday or Christmas present one year. While many had trouble with the underwater level diffusing bombs, I never had too much trouble and with some practice, I was able to ace that level every time with minimal damage. It was the level afterwards that always got me, with so many places to go and not knowing where the correct path was. I’d waste too much health going to dead ends or in circles and lose lives. Without YouTube and the Internet, the best we had was whatever Nintendo Power had to offer (which I was subscribed to starting with July/August 1989, Volume 7). We watched my friend’s older brother get to Shredder once, but he didn’t manage to beat him.

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Some of the covers were pretty amazing.

By the time TMNT 2: The Arcade Game was out, we all knew the arcade game (which I would love to own one day) and though not as good, the NES version was still a blast. We still went over to each other’s houses to play it and we’d replay the full game again and again after beating it.

Another curiosity of the NES era is the movie games. Today, and for a few generations now, it is generally expected that movie tie-in games tend to be fairly lackluster, though there are some exceptions. This wasn’t the case with the NES, possibly due to the more simplistic game designs. Still, the NES had some decent movie tie-in games. The 1989 Batman movie game was a pretty good side scrolling platformer for its time.

I also still love the Who Framed Roger Rabbit game with the ability to drive around in Benny the Cab and outrun the weasels being one of my favorite parts. The game had some puzzle solving, amusing items to employ (exploding cigars and cartoon holes to cause enemies to fall through), collecting pieces of Acme’s will, some joke telling mini games, and a little bit of fisticuffs for combat. I remember spending a lot of time on that game, and a lot of frustration against Judge Doom.

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Seriously, it was a hard fight.

Other movie tie ins I remember being pretty good include the Robocop games, Dick Tracy, and particularly Gremlins 2 was a lot of fun. I think Back to the Future is supposed to be pretty good, though I don’t recall playing it. I also liked both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, despite what anyone else says. Of course, not all were great, like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but the ratio of good to bad movie tie in games is definitely in the system’s favor.

I also played Super Mario Bros. 2 at my friend’s, or borrowed it, yet never owned it. Once again, it spurred me to get Super Mario Bros. 3 and eventually went through every level (though I definitely prefer wise use of warp whistles). The third is definitely my favorite on NES, though Super Mario World on SNES may edge out as my favorite of the series. Still, Super Mario World made polishing touches where Super Mario Bros. 3 introduced so many new things. Flying with the raccoon tail, saved games (correction, this was not on NES’ SMB3), the different suits with different abilities were all impressive and stunning new additions.

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In hindsight, I actually missed a lot of great titles that set the standard in their categories and launched both their own franchises as well as imitators since. I only briefly played, or watched friends play, Legend of Zelda and Adventure of Link. The same goes for Metroid and Kid Icarus. I never played Kirby either, though a friend of mine had the GameBoy game.

Bomberman.
Metal Gear.
Castlevania.
Even Final Fantasy!

All games I never played as a child and still haven’t played through yet in some cases. I’ve got them in my library now, added to the ever monolithic backlog, but haven’t played through them.

Honorable mentions of other games I did love: Contra, Bucky O’Hare, Tiny Toon Adventures, Little Nemo, Battletoads, Godzilla: Monster of Monsters, Double Dragon, and Shadowgate.

As a bit of a sidenote to the NES, I never really got into hand held games. I never had a GameBoy, but later got a GameBoy Pocket and then GameBoy Color, but I pretty much only got in on the Pokemon craze with Blue and then later Yellow. Otherwise, I didn’t really play GameBoy through its iterations.

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Back when he was a pudgy Pikachu.

To me, the Nintendo was all about fun. Well designed games with solid gameplay. Often light on plot, they were still a lot of fun. And some did have decent plots within their constraints. But Nintendo, the NES, was also about fun with friends and sharing your experiences and your knowledge with each other.

Playing video games at my friends, trading games to borrow, and talking about how to beat them pulled me deeper into loving video games. They weren’t just for introverted kids (even though to some extent I am an introvert), there was always a social aspect to them, even to single player games.

And though I may have missed some great games, I still had great experiences with the ones I did play. Experiences I hope to share.

In the next entry, I’ll talk about my favorite games from the Super Nintendo, where I fell fully into RPGs.

National Videogame Museum Opens Its Doors

The National Videogame Museum (NVM) opened in Frisco, TX on April 2, 2016. It was a bright, sunny Saturday morning. 10:00 AM, to be precise, was the opening of the doors. I was there and I was excited. Obviously, it’s taken a while for me to get to writing my thoughts on the grand opening of the nation’s, the world’s, first museum dedicated to the history of video games (I use “video game” though the museum officially uses “videogame”).

I had arrived at the Frisco Discovery Center, where the NVM is located, at 10:05 with a bit of a hurried step. I wanted to get in with plenty of time to look around as I was meeting someone in 3 hours to hand over some video games I had accumulated that weren’t going into my collection. I knew the doors opened at 10, so I went right in. And found the line. I followed the line outside again and saw just how many had arrived to see the history of their hobby.

There were a lot. The Museum holds about 240 people and the line was well out of the building and along the sidewalk, starting to curl around the build like a human formation of Nibbles.

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One or two people showed up

I stood in line with a mother whose 7 year old son was running around playing with other kids while they waited. Preston was here to see more about video game history, particularly Pac-Man and Galaga. I learned something from Preston’s mother in the hour we waited outside.

Pixels was a good movie. That’s right, Pixels.

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Yes, THAT Pixels.

Preston saw Pixels more than once in theaters and probably a dozen times at home since it released on blu-ray and DVD. Pixels introduced this young boy to Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Q*bert, and made him want to learn more. He went to Google and began reading about these games and these characters and when they came out. He grew interested not only in the games themselves, but their history.

If a 7 year old boy loves a movie about video game characters, and that movie drives him to pursue the history of the industry, then I have to say the movie did something right. Adults and critics may not like it, but if it stirred the interest and curiosity of children, then it’s a good movie by my measure.

And so, there we were, at the first museum in the nation that would let him explore more of that history. TekForce was present and volunteered to provide music and MC the waiting room that we reached at 11 o’clock. I was able to speak with him a moment and learned that the museum was expecting 1,500 visitors for the grand opening day. In the first hour, they were adjusting expectations to 4,000. They underestimated how many people would come out for the grand opening.

As we waited for our ticket groups to be called there were pictures available to color, music played, and a couch set up with a Wii U and Super Mario Bros. available to play. Kids were having a great time. There was also trivia to win prizes – the question I was present for was regarding Pac-Man’s original name (The answer is Puck Man).

At 11:35, our ticket group was called up and we finally went into the NVM lobby to pay for our tickets to the museum proper. Tickets are $12 for adults, but include $1 worth of tokens for the arcade at the end of the museum. By noon, 2 hours after arrival, I finally set foot inside.

The Museum is divided into 16 stages, all of which cover a different portion of video game history.

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But first, you’re greeted by Mario

 

Stage 1, “Begin” covers the early days of video game history. In fact, with Ralph Baer’s “Brown Box Prototype” on display, it might be safe to say this touches on video game pre-history and then advances through history from there.

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An important aspect of the NVM is that it’s not just exhibits to look at and read. There are a lot of interactive features at the museum, mostly in the form of playable games in the exhibits. Almost every Stage has something you can play.

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Just like the one you grew up with, right?

Stage 2, “Timeline” is the most time consuming interactive option. With screens set up above oversized Super Nintendo controllers, this allows visitors to browse every single video game console ever released to get some information about them. Release year, MSRP, some highlighted games, as well as notorious games, and some of the most valuable on the system can be reviewed. There are 53 different consoles to read about, all of which are on display on the wall.

Stage 3, “Third Party” showcases a number of the third party titles that helped consoles excel with the public. Pitfall, which is playable in the exhibit, Stampede, Megamania, River Raid are on display in their original boxes in a display case while some notable Nintendo entries from Activision share the bottom shelf of the display with Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, Rampage, and more.

Stage 4, “Control” is, quite simply, a full wall with a history of controllers through the years. Multiple controllers from each system are displayed, as well as a disassembled Atari 5200 controller.

Stage 5, “Portable” explores portable games. Game n’ Watch is on display, along with others that pre-dated the Game Boy most think of when “portable gaming” is mentioned.

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Again, there are playable games set up here as well. However, one of the most notable items features in this display is the Barbie Edition Game Boy, which is an unreleased prototype Game Boy Pocket. Supposedly the deal never went through and only two of the systems, along with a gaudy carry case, were made.

Stage 6, “Crash” is ironically my favorite exhibit, despite its dark days in gaming history. It deals with the video game crash of 1983. The first thing I liked was the introduction plaque does detail that the cause of the crash is much more complicated than the simple examples often cited, but not without being self aware of these rumors. Poor E.T. still appears in the stage’s image, even though it’s acknowledged the game was not the cause.

What I really liked about this exhibit, though, was the “going out of business” store front. With various 80s items such as Pac Man trading cards and bubble gum under the glass, a Top 5 sign for the week’s hottest games (which includes E.T., I might add), and a sign indicating the store is going out of business, it’s a very nicely done presentation.

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I promise I was also NOT the cause of the crash.

Stage 7, “Rise” presents the return of video games, stronger than ever, on both computer and with the Nintendo Entertainment System. A lot, and I do mean a lot, of set ups are here to play and interact with.

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At this point, as you venture through the museum, you’ll find the bathrooms. Not exactly something you’d think worth mentioning, but this is the NATIONAL VIDEOGAME MUSEUM, so of course the bathroom entries are worth mentioning with their clever indication of “Men’s” and “Women’s” signs.

 

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Women’s

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Men’s

Stage 8, “Create” presents games moving from just being games and actually involving the user in the creative process. Games like Mario Paint are on display, but I wasn’t able to spend much time hands on (there were a lot of people here, remember?).

Stage 9, “Invent” presents a theoretical game studio’s office. Games adorn the shelves, a PC and work station are present, various articles and news clippings are framed on the walls.

Stage 10, “Transmit” discusses the rise of online gaming with various Blizzard entries, Quake, and two terminals that visitors can use to communicate and send a webcam image to each other on either side of the exhibit with.

Stage 11, “Listen” details music coming into games more with entries such as Parappa the Rapper and, of course, Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution.

Stage 12, “Unplugged” is likely to surprise many visitors with the various board games that were released based on video game properties. Frogger, Q*bert, Pac-Man, Legend of Zelda, and more are all on display.

Across from “Unplugged” is an exhibit showcasing various items. Systems, the Pokemon series, rare and valuable games, this section is an eclectic mix of things that didn’t belong to a single exhibit, but are definitely fun to look at.

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Before venturing to the next stage, there’s also an exhibit with various pieces of merchandise, including the wearable Mega Man helmet.

Stage 13, “Family” accurately portrays a family living room from the 1980s, with a console hooked up for play on the television, a fake plant, wood panel walls, and a Dogs Playing Poker painting on the wall! There are even family photos on display.

Stage 14, “Sanctuary” depicts a teen’s bedroom. Bear in mind, the NVM is in Frisco, Tx, so if you aren’t a Cowboys and Rangers fan, forgive the decor!

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A Pac-Man throw pillow, 80s movie posters, a record playing 80s music, and a Mario phone. It’s worth noting that the visitor I caught in this picture….still had trouble with the NES Zapper hitting the ducks in Duck Hunt.

Stage 15, “Respect” isn’t an exhibit so much as an art display. A cube art mural of Ralph Baer hangs near the conclusion of the museum tour.

Stage 16, “Bonus” is a collection of framed posters, displays, arcade machines, and a life size statue of Gabriel Belmont. Along the wall next to Stage 16 are a line of consoles, all of which had someone playing them. I did get to finally play a bit of Bonk’s Adventure on Turbo Grafx-16, though. Above the consoles is a mural with a number of recognizable video game characters.

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Stage 16 leads to an 80s style arcade to conclude the tour of the National Videogame Museum. The lights are dark and lit more by the neon marquees and the screens of video games than overhead light and it was packed with a person on just about every cabinet. A machine is in the arcade to give tokens for dollar bills in case your 4 tokens from entry aren’t enough to get your gaming fix.

Finally, you exit the arcade to find yourself in the gift shop. I didn’t look at everything, but overall they had some cool items in there. Some books particularly caught my eye and they were all priced reasonably compared to Amazon.

I’ve gone on for over 1700 words about this museum and don’t think I’ve scratched describing it. I was hopeful for this endeavor after visiting the “History of Videogames” exhibit at the Experience Music Project museum in Seattle, WA, but this is far beyond what was presented there.

The one thing I’d like to see NVM add if they are ever able to expand in size is to build a display library for every system. The curators, I believe, have only brought out a small part of their overall collection. I would love to see a glass display shelving every Atari or NES title in their boxes. In time, seeing every video game on every system lined up on shelves, their spines facing out would be truly a sight to see.

If conclusion, if you’re in the DFW area in Texas and have time to get to Frisco, the National Videogame Museum is well worth your time. I only had a couple of hours available and don’t feel like it was remotely enough time. I’m looking forward to going back with friends when they come into town, but I might have to sneak an extra trip before they make it.

My only hope is that they get repeat business and are able to stay open for a long time to come. Video games have become a huge part of our culture, both in America and across the globe, and it’s great to see a museum preserving and sharing their history.

 

TMNT IV: Turtles in Time

Here it is, the TMNT game that sets the bar for all TMNT games, in my opinion even to this day.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles IV: Turtles in Time for the Super Nintendo.

‘Nuff said

 

The game still incorporates the basic graphical look of the TMNT Arcade game (Turtles in Time was also an arcade game itself), but this was the first time those graphics translated accurately to a home console game.  The graphics hold up pretty well today and the animations are smooth.  The hit detection is spot on and the different abilities are just fun.

Totally tubular, dude.

You have essentially two buttons – jump & attack – but you can do a diving jump kick, a jumping kick that takes you across the screen, an upwards kick, a special attack, running shoulder block, or a running somersault into a sliding kick.  You can also stun the enemies and slam them back and forth on the floor or throw them at the screen.  When enemies are in front of you, you attack like normal but if they’re behind you, you can attack with a rear attack as well.

This is one of the most interesting fights in the game

The turtles aren’t too terribly different so you can really choose who you want, but there’s a bit of difference between them. Donatello has the longest reach, of course while Raph has the shortest but Raph certainly attacks fastest.  Mike has a good speed, though his first attack is slow. Leo is the, of course, the most rounded as he tends to be made for the games.  I had difficulty managing with Michelangelo’s play style when I revisited the game and I liked Raph a lot, though I felt his animations had some weirdness to them (his head looks really big sometimes).  Leo was the one I managed best with.  The game is much easier, or at least more approachable, than previous entries largely because you’ve got unlimited continues.  To balance that a bit, you do have to beat the game on the hard difficulty to get the actual ending.

The game is honestly a lot of fun and being able to keep at the levels that beat you make it fun enough to stick with it and keep trying. At the same time, the enemies can get positioned around you to make it tough to get away, though taking out a number of enemies left and right does give you a real “bad ass ninja” feel as you fight your way through them with your favorite ninja turtle.

TMNT: Turtles in Time proved popular enough that it warranted a re-vamped release on the PS3 and X-Box 360, called “Re-Shelled.”  The graphics were updated to a new style and though the game had luke-warm reception, the face that it was remade at all is proof of the popularity of the game over the years.

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While I will admit, I’ve never had the opportunity to play TMNT: The Hyperstone Heist on Sega Genesis, as it currently stands I have to give Turtles in Time the reigning championship as the best turtles game on consoles to date.  It only takes about 30 minutes to beat on normal, though again, you need to go for hard if you want the real ending!

NES TMNT “Trilogy”

While the world was going crazy for four mutated turtles trained in ninjutsu, plenty of merchandise came out to whet the endless appetite.  Among that merchandise were three separate games for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  They don’t really connect to each other and only the second two share play styles, but they were still released as TMNT, TMNT II, and TMNT III.

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES

The first game was a bit of an odd game in a way.  It was divided into two game types, or one could perhaps argue three game types.  You start off with an overhead view of the game, traversing the map of the city while avoiding Foot vehicles that can crush your turtle in one hit.  I like to think of them as steamrollers.  On this map there are also foot soldiers who can be defeated with a single hit from the turtle of your choice.  You have access to all four of the brothers: Leonardo, Donatello, Michaelangelo, and Raphael by just pressing start and selecting your turtle, then returning to the game.  This arguably lets you avoid dying by switching to a turtle, but there’s a downside to needing to do that…more on that in a moment.  As you traverse the city map, you’re able to enter different buildings or open manholes which takes you into a side-scrolling level where you fight through enemies and get from one location to another, fight mini-bosses, reach your objective (and boss), or possibly just find secondary weapons, items, life replenishing pizza, or rescue a captured turtle if you’ve “died” with one of them.

The problem with much of the game is that Donatello is practically the only turtle you have any business choosing.  He has arguably 2-4 times longer reach with his bo and on top of that he has the most powerful attack.  Leonardo has the second strongest attack, but the reach is still more limited.  Michaelangelo has even shorter reach and can’t attack downward and finally Raphael can’t attack downward, has essentially no reach at all, and is the weakest attacker.  With Raph and Mike being essentially useless, you’re crazy (or hardcore) to choose them over Leo or Don and even Leo is a bit crazier to choose than Don.  Though there are those with videos on YouTube who speedrun through the game without taking almost any damage as Leo.  Granted, using some characters in areas to allow yourself to get damaged and save your heavy hitters for later can make sense.

Do you play as your favorite, or the one the game encourages?

And if you do get hurt, what’s the solution?  Pizza.  Unfortunately, many times you’ll have to fight through enemies to get to that pizza, replenish your health, then….fight through all the enemies that have reappeared (and sometimes different sets have appeared) resulting in taking so much damage you’re back where you started or worse than you went in.

The third game type is just the second level. It’s still a side scroller more or less, but you swim around a maze-like level avoiding rotating bars (similar to Super Mario rotating fireballs) and electric seaweed to disarm some bombs. And you have about 2 minutes to do it.

The game doesn’t have the best register of hits and sometimes it feels like you need to be able to strike faster than your character is able to (unless you’re Raph, in which case you can attack faster, but you need four times the hits so you’re still going to get hit).  Unfortunately if you back up to buy yourself more space to attack without getting hit….the enemy you’re fighting will be there again when you move forward again.

There are six areas you play through and I don’t believe I ever got further than level 4 and even that was only once.  I think I got to the giant mouser, but no further. A friend’s brother got to Shredder within the Technodrome once as we watched when we were kids, though.  Part of the challenge of the game, growing up, was a lack of Internet guiding us where to go. By exploring different buildings without knowing where to you, you whittled yourself down as you lost turtles one by one until game over and you had 2 continues available total.

It’s a classic NES game….hard.  Very challenging, but with a good walkthrough and a bit of studying what to do, there are videos online of people completing the game in 30 minutes or so, so it is possible.  Your reward isn’t too great, though, other than “saving the world” and turning Splinter human again (who looks more like a beardless Chuck Norris more than a Hamato Yoshi).

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES II: THE ARCADE GAME

The second game released on Nintendo was an import of the truly classic TMNT Arcade Game, which consumed many a quarter in the 90s.

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Because it was awesome!

For porting down to the 8-bit NES, the game is a decent translation of the game.

Too bad you’re limited to 2 players, though…

The game is entirely a side scroller beat-em-up.  It’s challenging enough with 2 extra lives and 2 continues along with an extra life earned every 200 points.  Unlike some beat-em-up games, when you hit an enemy, you can’t follow up with a few more attacks by mashing buttons.  The enemies seem to counter attack and you can trade blows back and forth, but you’ll burn you health bars quickly that way.  There’s a little bit of frustration with some of the enemies as you can sometimes jump kick them just fine, other times they’ll punch as your in mid-kick and be sent flying back.  Sometimes an enemy strike will just hit you, other times it will throw you back.  Don’t expect to finish the game on a full play through your first time picking it up, or even your first time returning to it if you were a TMNT II Ninja Master back in the day.  The game is arguably a bit easier on 2 player, and after all, this is a game that just cries out to be shared with a friend.  Still, the NES game is a lot of fun and won’t cost you a quarter to play….though it would be nice if you weren’t limited on continues (but that would shorten the game’s life span at the time of release).

The one thing that did make me laugh a bit during my 30th Anniversary play of TMNT II on NES…. Splinter looks more like a corgi than a rat.  Unfortunately, I don’t have a screenshot of him, but definitely reminded me of a corgi.

Nicely, you can pretty much choose whichever turtle you favor and won’t be impacted like you are in the first turtles game for NES.  So grab your favorite turtle and get out there and save your friends, and the city, or even the world!

TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES III: THE MANHATTAN PROJECT

The third, and final, game on NES was an original game utilizing the same play style as the arcade game import.

Ironically, Triceratons are not in the game.

TMNT III: The Manhattan Project plays much like The Arcade Game, a side scrolling beat ’em up using the same graphics, but with a few new abilities.  All turtles remain mostly the same with no true benefit to one over the other, though they do each have their own unique signature move.  Leo does a standing spin hitting any enemies around him.  Raphael does a torpedo attack, shooting forward towards enemies.  Mike does a sort of reverse hand spring kick. And Don spins forward in the air and comes down smashing his bo.  The attacks don’t seem terribly strong, but they are a bit better than normal attacks and Raph’s seems the most useful. However, each use costs one health bar.  All turtles now also have the ability to throw the foot soldiers, which results in a 1 hit kill in most cases.  Unfortunately other enemies, like the Rock Soldiers aren’t affected by this.

You start with 3 lives and 3 continues, but III seems more generous with extra lives.  That’s nice because I always felt, and still feel, like this entry seems a bit harder.   The first two levels aren’t too bad, but by the third you get two bosses in one level and after the first of the two you see your first health replenishment thus far in the game.  Much like TMNT II: The Arcade Game, however, The Manhattan Project is definitely better when you have a friend to play with.

Although all three games are rather difficult, they’re still fun and have their own charm. If you have the chance to play with a friend, I highly recommend it, and they’re the next best to thing to shelling out $1,000 for your own TMNT Arcade Cabinet in your home (though I highly recommend that if you can afford it as well).

Game Collection Goal

So it’s probably time to start updating this more frequently.  I thought I’d start off by just going a bit into a little information on my dream collection for video games and the reason I’m pursuing retro games that I’ll be talking about in this blog!

To be honest, I’ve always kept some of my games.  I still have my NES, SNES, N64, and GameCube from growing up as well as my Sega Genesis.  I kept a few games for each of them, but not many.  In fact, I sold a lot of them on eBay a few years ago and just kept my favorites.  Not an uncommon story, but a painful one for anyone who’s done so and then got back into retro games!

Then last year at the recommendation of my GameStop manager friend, I picked up and read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.  The book is filled with pop culture references from the 80s; video games, movies, tabletop, all manner of geekery.  The nostalgia chord was struck for me and I decided I wanted to look into some of the old games (and even movies) of my childhood as well.  I discovered there’s a whole group out there who are into retro games as well and a lot of people who, like me, see video games as a form of art as much as a form of entertainment.  Sure, you have the games, but you also have the artwork that went into the cartridge labels and box art as well as the manuals themselves.  These are pop culture history right here.  So my nostalgia was fueled into a quest to rebuild my gaming library…better, stronger, larger, awesomer…er.

So I decided first that my new collection and library would need to encompass my life of gaming.  The first step was to gather the consoles I wanted in this collection and then to decide which games I would get for each system.  I decided to get every console I played growing up from Atari 2600 to PS4 of today and a “Top 100” library for each system, or equivalent in some cases.  I did Google searches and found IGN “Top 100” lists, message board threads for “Top 100” where games were added and removed based on number of times people included it in their picks.  Eventually, I came up with a list for each console that I’m actively working on tracking down and finding.  I’ve since also added GameBoy, Game Gear, and Nintendo DS to my collection.  It’s going to be a long journey, and it’s probably going to be more expensive than I’ll want to dwell on, but that’s the path I’m going down!

I’ll be chronicling the adventure on this blog, of course, but once I gather the games the mission will of course be to play the games and review them here as well.  That should push me out of my usual comfort zone since a lot of the Top 100 are game genres I don’t generally like.  First Person Shooters, racers, sports games primarily will be on that list, but I’ll still give them a try.

The eventual goal is to buy a bigger television and get a custom build entertainment center in the living room with each system presented in a museum quality presentation, all cables hidden and each one able to be switched on and played easily with their respective game libraries in attractive cabinets.  That, however, is even further down the road.

I’m actually down to just 958 games left to find on my list for all systems.  Not a bad start.  Though there’s a good chance I’ll pass on a few of the more expensive games considered in the top 100 of these systems.

-Jeff

Introduction to Ninja Fox Games & More

I thought about jumping right into this blog with a first article, but decided introductions were in order first, for both the blog and the author.

I was born in January 1981 and when I was little, a good friend of mine had an Atari 2600.  The first games I remember playing are Pac Man, Chopper Command, and Joust.  From that point on, I’ve been a gamer my entire life.  In elementary school, I worked with my parents’ help to sell raffle tickets for a fund raiser and won the first place prize for selling the most tickets. I won $100 and used that money to buy a Nintendo Entertainment System.  My dad and I would play Super Mario Bros. together to see who could beat it first.  My dad rescued Princess Toadstool before I did, but I beat the game with the fire flower’s power first.

That first taste of video game victory was so sweet.

A few years later during a trip to visit a relative in Houston, TX, I bought the Super Nintendo Entertainment system which still has some of my favorite games of all time.

Oh Squaresoft, I miss you…

I later purchased a Sega Genesis and Sega Game Gear, a Game Boy Pocket, and a GameBoy Color.  I never bought a Sega Saturn, but I rented it from the local Blockbuster and remember playing Panzer Dragoon.  I was primarily a Nintendo guy with my Sega experience mostly contained to Sonic the Hedgehog and a few other titles, but like so many other RPG fans, I jumped ship when Final Fantasy VII came out on the Playstation.

Because this was mind blowing cutting edge polygons right here.  And because we fell in love (lust?) with Tifa Lockheart.
Coincidentally, this was my standard team!

I didn’t completely abandon Nintendo considering I came back to the N64 two years later.  I continued with the GameCube as well as the PS2 and later the PS3 and I’ve recently gotten a Nintendo Wii and got a release Playstation 4.

By 2013, I had sold a lot of my games, but had kept all my consoles and I discovered there are a lot of people out there who, like me, still love the old games as much as new ones and there are groups out there focused on collecting retro games.  I decided that I wanted to gather up some of the old games and start to dig more into the history of video games over the years and decided I’d go back and get every system I’ve ever played in addition to the ones I’ve owned through the years and plan to build a “Top 100” library for each console.

My library now includes:
Atari 2600
Nintendo Entertainment System
Game Boy
Sega Genesis with Sega CD & Sega 32X
Game Gear
Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Sega Saturn
Sega Dreamcast
N64
GameCube
Playstation
Playstation 2
Playstation 3
Playstation Vita
Nintendo Wii
Playstation 4

Fair warning now, I’ve never been an X-Box fan and have never played X-Box, X-Box 360, nor do I have any interest in the X-Box One.

I’ve also got a fairly well rooted history with MMORPGs as well!  I played EverQuest for about 4 years, Final Fantasy XI for 1 year, World of Warcraft for 9 continuous, uninterrupted years, dabbled in Lord of the Rings Online, Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, and Final Fantasy XIV before finally moving currently into Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn.

So there you have my background in Video Games, but what’s up with the title of this blog saying “& More” huh?  Well, I’m not just a gaming geek, I’m a well rounded geek/nerd!

At age 10, I picked up X-Men #1
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So now I’ve been collecting comic books for 23 years.  I’ve focused on X-Men, but I’ve collected quite a few Uncanny X-Men, a full run of Wolverine, and full run of Amazing Spider-Man from its first relaunch/renumbering (later dropped for the standard numbering) along with a decent mix of other titles from Marvel, an occasional run in Batman, and some other publishers as well.  Currently, Superior Spider-Man (soon to again be Amazing Spider-Man) and IDW’s TMNT are my favorite monthly books and I’ve lost so much interest since Marvel Now!, my ongoing subscription to Wolverine and any X-Titles is really in question.

I also am a bit of an otaku, having started with Sci-Fi Channel airing what was then Saturday Anime, but often called Japanimation at the time with Akira, Vampire Hunter D, Project A-Ko, and one of my favorites to this day, Record of Lodoss War.

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Kind of surprising how well D&D works as an anime.

Over the years, I’ve continued to watch anime and have attended A-Kon in Dallas, TX for the last nine years with 2014 being my 10 year anniversary in attendance.  If I get any readers to this blog who love anime, don’t hesitate to e-mail suggestions to watch!  This anime interest has extended into a few series of manga, though I don’t tend to pick those up anymore simply due to the sheer volume of a series and the cost in keeping up with it.

My interest in anime has also led me to a financially semi-unhealthy interest in statues and figures, which weren’t so bad contained to anime, but got a bit insane expanding to the statue maquettes from Sideshow Collectibles of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Fellowship of the Ring (where’s Merry and Pippin, Sideshow?!)

I also enjoy a lot of different movies, TV series, animated series, and web series such as the Jace Hall Show and Felicia Day’s The Guild!

So that explains the “Games & More” so we’re all done!

Wait, what’s up with the whole “Ninja Fox” thing?  Well, to put it simply, I like foxes and I like ninja.  A friend of mine and I were developing a web comic that I’m now planning to move to a novel format and one of the main characters is based off Japanese kitsune myths and is admittedly one of my favorite characters in the series.  The character’s name is “Swift” (yes, that just might be a slight homage to this guy) and he’s a ninja and has fox ears and a tail.  On various forums and online games I’ll use NinjaFox, or SwiftNinjaFox as a handle.

So there you have it. A potentially unnecessarily long introduction to this blog.  I look forward to writing and sharing more thoughts, opinions, and perhaps a small helping of nonsense.

-Jeff “SwiftNinjaFox”