Posts Tagged ‘ NES ’

Let’s Play Game Expo 2017

Let’s Play Game Expo (LPGE) started 3 years ago and was held at the Plano Convention Center the first two years. I first became aware of the convention through flyers at one of the stores that helped get the convention started: FX Game Exchange. In only three years, the relatively small convention has rapidly outgrown its inaugural location in Plano. From the start, the arcade set up has been above and beyond what I’d expect at a small convention and this year was no different. There’s also a free play console area in addition to the free arcades.

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Just about 1/3 of the arcades set to free play at the convention for the weekend.

The vendor count has only grown with over 85 vendors at this year’s convention according to the website.

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Likewise, this is maybe 1/3 of the vendor area.

The other big draw has been the tournament scene held each year. This year’s tournaments included Low Tier City 5’s national Smash Bros. Tournament, The Ultimate Q*Bert Hi-Score Tournament (with special guest Warren Davis, creator of the arcade game itself), an Oregon Trail tournament, Quake III, and even a Virtual Boy tournament among many others. The Nintendo Playstation was also on hand for viewing.

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Tournaments are shown on a main stage.

Normally, the convention has been in June, but with the move to the new, larger, venue along with tournament scheduling, it was scheduled for the first weekend in August. The problem, at least for me, with this was the short time between LPGE and Retropalooza in October. Not as much time to recover spending money as a June to October stretch.

I had sold some finds, put money back, and had games to trade, hoping to knock out the last 15 or so N64 games still on my hunting list for around $200 to $250, then knock out a chunk of Atari 2600 or GameCube titles on my list. In total, I was taking $825 cash along with $3,000 worth of games to trade. I was more than ready to work a deal to knock those games off my list, taking the losing end of a trade in order to get closer to completing my primary collection goal.

Day 1 of LPGE

My friend Phil, @TerranceHarken, met me at the expo at opening. He and I both paid $8.50 online in advance for convention parking, only to find it was $8 at the parking garage. On top of that, there was no in & out privilege for parking. A bit frustrating as parking was free at Plano’s location.

Nostalgic Nerds

All the same, we headed into the convention to start the big hunt. Our first stop was to visit a buddy of mine that makes up one half of The Nostalgic Nerd. Looking over what they had, nothing jumped out immediately… except Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers 2. For $240.

Let me take a moment to promote these guys just a bit. What Patrick and Matt do with Nostalgic Nerd tends to beat most other vendors at conventions. They price based on Pricecharting and add tax on the sticker, so what you see is what you pay. Rescue Rangers 2 is at $225 on Pricecharting and they had it at $240, but other vendors were anywhere from $250 to $300 for this gem. Overall, their prices were better than other vendors. They also are eager to trade, offering 75-80% of Pricecharting values in trade or 50% in cash. But I wasn’t here to buy an expensive NES game!

First Purchase

Moving on from Nostalgic Nerd, I had to start looking around. We started meandering along the rows of vendors. Phil found a place that had Final Fantasy V for Game Boy Advance complete in box for a reasonable price and was going to buy it, but I hopped in and asked about Superman on NES and got it bundled in for $5 off the total of the two. Comic book based games are a sub-list I’ve been collecting for, so I was happy to grab that one.

“I love the Power Glove. It’s so….bad.”

The first thing that I came across that really interested me was the Power Glove, with hook ups. The Power Glove is one of those items that I don’t need, but think is cool to have. However, they wanted $100 for it and I was definitely not paying that. Moving down a few tables, we found another one for $60, also with everything but the box and any paperwork. I considered it briefly, but wanted to wait before dropping a large chunk of money. When I hesitated, the guy dropped it to $40, which seemed like a good enough deal to me, so I walked away with a Power Glove of my very own.

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The Power Glove gives me John Cena level invisibility

An Unexpected Find

Continuing to venture through the vendor area, I came across a copy of Valkyrie Profile for Playstation. I asked mainly out of curiosity and the guy wanted $120, but right off said he’d do $100 on it, which he was pretty sure was the disc only price on Pricecharting. That seemed fair, but I wasn’t planning on buying pricey Playstation games at this convention. Still, I had to look it up and see and the current price was showing $85 for disc only, so he agreed to do $90 if it was cash. So, once again, I decided it was a fair deal to knock out one of the last 3 notably expensive Playstation games on my list, and an RPG at that. I was quickly going down the spending hole and I had barely been here an hour. (Side note: Funny enough, I am in a Facebook group with the guy and neither of us realized it at the time).

A Few Good Pick Ups

We also came across a copy of Star Fox complete in box for $35 at a vendor that had a few other games well below Pricecharting values. However, they had some issues, so I passed on the others (minor cosmetic issues here and there mostly), but I decided to take the Star Fox so I could upgrade my box at home. I also found an Atari 2600 cartridge of Snoopy and the Red Baron, which I’ve been looking for a good while now for $5 off regular price.

I found a booth that had Ocarina of Time Collector’s Edition, Dr. Mario 64, and a guy sharing the booth that had Tactics Ogre 64: Person of Lordly Caliber. Prices were fair, but I was really hoping to find ALL my N64 targets in one location and work a killer deal in a large bundle. Still, I kept thinking about those for a while.

We made a few more final loops and Phil picked up some extra games before he had to head out around midday due to work.

Going Solo

After he left, I kept looking around vendors, seeing if I had missed anything and what I wanted to make mental notes for a return trip on Sunday rather than pay sticker price. A lot of vendors do deals before closing up the last day to avoid packing and hauling things back home.

I decided I hadn’t seen Ocarina of Time anywhere else, so I went back and got Dr. Mario 64 and OoT together. I didn’t get a great deal for the two, the guy taking $3 off, which brought them down to Pricecharting prices, but it was something.

On my way out, a guy had N64 games they were still trying to get out. Tubs of them. We went through and found a few more on my list: Castlevania Legacy of Darkness, 007 The World Is Not Enough, and Wipeout 64. I went back to the Ocarina of Time booth and tried to get Tactics Ogre for $35, then $40 but the guy was staying firm at $45.

So, having had no luck with anyone willing to take anything I brought for trades, I went back to Nostalgic Nerd and let them pilfer my list for what they’d want. In the end, they cleaned out a good portion of my complete Sega Genesis games, a number of NES carts, some N64, and Wii titles. I left the first day with one final game I never really thought I’d pick up: Chip n’ Dale Rescue Rangers 2.

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I honestly never thought I’d actually pick this up.

Overall, the first day was pretty good.

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Day 1 results

Day 2 of LPGE

I returned the second day and had a good start to the day saving that 50 cents by paying at the garage rather than online and got a great parking spot. It’s important to appreciate small victories.

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Pretty close to the elevators, I’d say.

No Returns or Exchanges…sorta!

I started off by going back to the guy I had bought Ocarina and Dr. Mario 64 from after I had realized the night before I already had Dr. Mario! Despite keeping a list, it seems I had forgotten to remove it from my hunting list. I was asking for a straight value trade and I’d put the balance of cash towards his price on Battletoads in Battlemaniacs, but he wanted an extra $3 on it. I told him I’d think on it, but was rubbed a little wrong by the idea. He recognized me, he remembered the purchase, he knew I had bought from him the day before, but wasn’t willing to make the trade on value for the mistake. Instead, he wanted to recoup the $3 he had knocked off (which was $3 over Pricecharting to begin with). I was fairly sure I wasn’t going to take the deal, but wasn’t going to completely write it off.

A Really Good Trade In

One thing I had seen the day before was a copy of Thousand Arms for Playstation at a booth that was asking $125 for the game with manual and case. I had a copy of the game without the manual and research had revealed it had originally included a holographic card as well as memory card stickers. The game, case, and manual was regularly $50 on eBay, but I had asked them what the trade value would be on mine without the manual. They had told me $90, but I hadn’t made a trade. The more I thought on it, however, the more it seemed like a good deal considering I had only paid $20 for my copy. As such, they were my next stop for the second day.

Going back, they were still good with a $90 trade credit on my copy without the manual, so I handed it right over and bought a complete copy with manual, case, game discs, along with sticker sheet, a second sticker sheet (missing 1 sticker), and 2 of the holographic cards on eBay for $85. I then picked up Shiren the Wanderer for Nintendo Wii, Radiata Stories, and Banjo Tooie for a friend.

Patience Wins Out

I didn’t find much else and spent most of the day looking around and chatting with vendors, though I did get Dig Dug with a very nice label for $3.  I then went back and got Tactics Ogre 64 for $40 (let a game sit on the table for two days and people are more ready to make a sale!). Next to them, I picked up Shadow Hearts From the New World for $20.

Finally, I was getting ready to wrap up the day and went back by Nostalgic Nerd. I had been considering some Sega Genesis games they had, including Phantasy Star I and II and had brought some more NES games for trade.

Instead, I wound up taking Sonic Adventure 2. I had spent enough cash, I was starting to get tighter on the wallet and wanted to keep to trades. However, Matt just had to tell me of a booth he was sure was cutting good deals during the weekend and with the day winding down, I had to check them out.

Final Deals

Sure enough, they had reasonable prices and I was debating a bundle of games, but really wanted a Star Wars game for Atari 2600 I had seen. I had them put the bundle aside so I could see how the Star Wars panned out. After getting it, Star Wars: The Arcade Game, for $20, I headed back but saw Superman on Atari 2600…and snagged it for one whole dollar!

I returned and scrapped a game from the pile, but still got Golden Axe II for Genesis, Phantasy Star Online Ver 2.0, and Evolution the World of Sacred Device for Dreamcast. However, when I come back to make that deal I find Matt and Patrick of Nostalgic Nerd going through the guy’s stuff to make some deals for themselves! I couldn’t help but swing by their booth and grab a pic.

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“Gone deal hunting, back later.” – Those nerd boys are at it again!

The weekend was winding down to a close and I still had half my money left. I went back to my car and locked everything in the trunk before going back to browse this year’s free play arcade.

All in all, I felt like I took home a pretty big haul of some high value games, which tends to be the real benefit of conventions these days. If you’re still looking for more common and lower price titles, eBay and game stores are still a pretty good source, but for the real valuable games, conventions tend to have a lot of them.

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Day 2 results

I don’t feel like trades are as strong at conventions as they used to be, though. Unless you have rare and higher value things, people just aren’t interested in doing trades, with a few exceptions. Some stores want to boost inventory of common games and anything Nintendo first party is likely to be a consideration. I just didn’t have much luck with anyone even wanting those this time.  As always, cash is king, even if people are taking credit cards at conventions more often now.

So here are my main pieces of advice for conventions:

  1. Look for your rarer and hard to find items on your list.
  2. Walk around to every booth before buying things. Look for price differences and buy the best value for your buck.
  3. Try to look for multiple things you want at a single booth and bundle up. You’ll usually get better deals that way.
  4. Practice your negotiating skills at garage sales and flea markets. They’ll help at conventions too!

Now there’s 2 months left until Retropalooza, so it’s time to get out and hunt, find some deals, and do some trades and flips to build up cash for the next round of convention hunting!

Going Retro: Getting into Game Collecting

Disclaimer: The top image is not my game collection….yet!

I went to GameStop a few years back (I don’t have nearly as much of a problem with them as some) and saw a friend of mine who was the store manager at the time. Before I left, she recommended I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Her recommendation was so high that I wound up going to Barnes & Noble the same time to pick it up. I read the full book in a flight to Seattle and back.

I loved the book, but it also kindled a fire in me for nostalgia of my own childhood, primarily for video games. I started thinking about my backlog of games on current consoles and, like many gamers, wondered if I’d ever get through them all. Then the idea hit me: If I couldn’t play through all the games, why not start collecting them and curating a library of of the best ones?

I started by going to garage sales and looking for older games. One of the first I went to I met a guy who was also collecting and working towards a complete North American licensed release NES library. He invited me to join a Facebook group and I began to realize how many people were into retro game collecting. I decided I need t obetter define what games I wanted to start building my own library.

What Games To Get?

I started by thinking about consoles. I still had my NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, Genesis, and PS3 at this point. I decided I would try to get all the consoles I had played growing up and a “Top 100” library of the best games on each system. Then I’d also include memorable games I enjoyed as a child if they weren’t on the “Top 100” list. This meant acquiring an Atari 2600, Sega Saturn & Dreamcast, a Playstation and PS2. I didn’t include hand held systems as they have never been a big interest for me.

To determine a “best of” hunting list for each system, I started with sites like IGN and GameSpot that had done “Top 100” articles before. Next, I went to fogurms where posters had debated their picks for the best games with discussion and votes moving games up/down the list and adding/dropping off the list. I took the titles that appeared across each list and made that my Hunting List.

For example:
IGN Top 100 NES Games
Retro Sanctuary Top 100 Best NES Games
Game FAQs Top 100 NES Games

All in all, I actually came up with a list of:

  • 106 Atari 2600
  • 164 NES
  • 147 SNES
  • 101 Sega Genesis
  • 88 N64
  • 95 Sega Dreamcast
  • 83 GameCube
  • 215 PS2
  • 220 PS3

Obviously the “Top 100” grew with the additional titles I remembered and moreso as I decided to include infamously bad titles and all RPGs.

Benefits of the List, and How to Use It

I highly recommend creating a list to work from, even if you are going for a complete library of every title on a system. Put the list in Google Drive and get the app on your phone. I use a spreadsheet listing the titles and their Pricecharting value across 6 rows to minimize scrolling, divided up by systems. This way your list is always on hand and you can make sure you don’t buy a duplicate of something you’ve already picked up (so long as you update and save the file in Google Drive, of course).

I did mention I keep the price for each game from Pricecharting on my list. I’ve seen in some groups there are people who think Pricecharting is crap and should never be used. I’ve yet to understand why some think this. Pricecharting basically tracks prices of completed auctions from eBay to give an average price. Using completed auctions ensures you’re getting information based on what people are actually willing to pay. I don’t advise taking it as the absolute price, though. You can look at the auctions the data is coming from to make sure they’re recent. If not, you can go to ebay directly and see what recent prices were on sold listings. Sometimes Pricecharting doesn’t have recent data on their averages, but I find this an uncommon occurrence.

One thing to remember is these are largely eBay based prices, so I think it’s safe to push for a bit less than those prices since a seller would lose 10% to eBay fees, not to mention the hassle of shipping.

Where To Hunt for Games?

The simple answer is: everywhere.

Garage Sales / Flea Markets / Thrift Stores / Antique Stores
Obviously these are all hit or miss, but you never know what you might find. I always keep an eye out for other items completely unrelated to video games that I can flip for profit to further pay for game collecting such as vintage posters, Disney or Warner Bros. items, or anything that I think might be worth reasonably more than is being asked.

GameStop
If you’re looking for XBox 360, Playstation 3, Wii, or Wii U games, it’s worth looking into GameStop prices. There are some titles I’ve gotten much cheaper at GameStop than Pricecharting shows, meaning you’re actually better off with GameStop, especially if you have their Power Up Reward card. A few examples as of the time of this writing:

Sakura Wars on Wii is worth $25, but $13.50 with discount at GameStop
Arc Rise Fantasia on Wii is worth $34, but $27 with discount at GameStop
Ar tonelico Qoga: Kneel of Ar Ciel on PS3 is worth $22.50, but $9 with discount at GameStop

If you’re really lucky and can find a copy of Dokapon Kingdom at GameStop, it will run you $45 rather than $80 for just the disc.

It’s just a matter of researching the titles you’re looking for and checking if they have them near you, then going or calling to verify if they’re complete with manual. If you hunt during a Buy 2 Get 1 Free weekend, you can really clean up.

Half Price Books
People in a lot of gaming groups hate Half Price Books, primarily because they overprice games. I’ve found some stores do, some don’t, and some are reasonably in line with Pricecharting prices. I find it’s worth looking at least and I tend to drive around to as many as I can on the coupon weeks for 20-50% off coupon purchases. That’s how I got Skies of Arcadia on GameCube for $35 and Mario Cement Factory for $50.

Game Stores
The chain stores, such as Game X-Change, are unlikely to offer real deals unless you catch them slipping on values. Sometimes you’ll find fair prices on titles you’ve been looking for but haven’t had luck finding. Game X-Change also offers a B2G1 deal on all games $7.95 or less. This doesn’t help as you get to a point where you’re hunting more expensive titles, of course.

Your best bet is small independent stores where the owner is more likely to be willing to work a deal with you if you buy multiple games at a time and return with repeat business.

eBay
Of course, this is sort of a last resort, but if you’re patient and watch close, you’ll sometimes catch good deals on games you’ve been looking for with no luck for a long while.

Facebook Groups
You’ll find Facebook groups where people buy, sell, and trade their extra games. I recommend taking some time to get a feel for how the group is and if you want to work with them for trades.

Gaming Conventions
If you want to get a good deal at conventions, you probably want to work on your haggling skills and still go in with good games to trade and cash to spend. The last few conventions I’ve been to weren’t too great for deals, but were full of rare things you won’t find at the average store. You might use conventions to target rare and hard to find additions for your collection.

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.

Pixels

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.

 

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.

As well it should, for 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.

Turtle Power!

 

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).

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.


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 Swift, 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”