Thursday, April 10, 2014

Super Star Wars Review

Before I begin I’d like to thank the wonderful folks at for creating ReviewAGreatGameDay. When not performing as a Monkees cover band or reading Choose Your Own Adventure books to underprivileged, indecisive children, they publish the best retro gaming content on the internet.  They created this holiday to celebrate what is most important about video games, actually playing them.  A day to proudly broadcast and review a great video game, without talk about framerates, global sales, whether your console functions as a proton pack or can generate enough power to reach 1.21 jiggawatts, which we all know is what makes time travel possible.

I’m a huge dorkus malorkus for Star Wars, even going so far to order my wife to play the Emperor’s March at my funeral.  I annually play through the Super Star Wars trilogy on the SNES, the greatest trilogy of games on the system (I’ll write about this another day).  Though Super Star Wars is only loosely tied to the film, with much needed liberties taken to flesh out the platforming, it is the gunning and lightsaber slashing through the Star Wars universe that captivates me, that takes me back to the characters and worlds I wanted to explore further in the movies.  

Super Star Wars begins with the traditional opening crawl featuring John Williams’ brilliant score.  The music in this game is some of the best in 16-bit gaming, recreating much of the same music from Star Wars.  We begin with Luke blasting womprats and scorpions in the Dune Sea because that's what teens do when left alone in the desert with weapons.  Unfortunately we don’t get to see Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru’s blue milk, or hear about R2 units having bad motivators.  You’ll discover that in each level you can upgrade your blaster by destroying enemies or shooting certain pockets of space inside caves or above hatches for example.  Luke begins with a regular blaster, but can power up to the flame blaster, seeker, rapid ion, and plasma blaster (a blaster that could rival Samus’ arsenal).  From here you pilot a landspeeder to blast Jawas en route to the Sandcrawler to blast some more filthy Jawas.  The Sandcrawler stage is your first true platforming test while battling flying droids, Sandcrawler guns, and Jawas, who must be taken seriously because they’re holding a thermal detonator!  Fall from any platform and you basically need to start the level over.  After your first boss battle inside the Sandcrawler to rescue R2-D2 a cut-scene plays Princess Leia’s message to Obi Wan Kenobi.  The cut-scenes are extremely well done and look incredible on the SNES, while moving the story along.  In the next stage you blast frogs that poop a sticky residue when killed, more womprats, Sandpeople, and my most hated enemy in video games: flying birds.  The flying birds attack when Luke is jumping across the canyon of hanging rocks.  When you reach the end of the level you are greeted by Old Ben, who gives Luke his father’s lightsaber.  Remember kids, as we’ve learned in The Legend of Zelda and Super Star Wars, seek out old men in cloaks/tunics.  They are bound to give you a weapon.  With Old Ben giving you guidance, the next stage is to familiarize yourself with the lightsaber, striking down banthas and Sandpeople into bantha fodder. 

If you didn’t fulfill your fix of blowing away Jawas in the landspeeder, you’re in luck because there is one more stage to wipe them out on your way to Mos Eisley.  In Mos Eisley you’ll be attacked by stormtroopers on the ground as well as falling from the sky and numerous droids.  This is where the beauty and charm of 16-bit graphics begins to shine, with detailed stormtrooper sprites and the desert city landscape.  In the Cantina stage, Chewbacca is playable.  It is advantageous to select Chewbacca when possible because he begins with a larger health bar and flame blaster (a step up from the regular blaster Luke is first equipped with).  Inside the cantina the enemies are comprised of various scum from the movie.  All the enemies are pixilated gold in this stage: Greedo, Walrus Man, the horned devil looking dude, there’s even the Cantina band playing in the background.  The Cantina Fight boss battle against Kalhar marks the beginning of needing to have the plasma blaster to effectively wipe out a boss.  It's nearly impossible to avoid hits during boss battles, which means you're basically trading shots until the last man is standing.  The seeker, rapid ion, or plasma blaster is almost a requirement to finish off a boss.  After defeating the boss, we meet our favorite smuggler Han Solo.  Even though Luke’s not such a bad pilot himself Han and Chewie are recruited to take Old Ben, Luke, and the droids to rescue the princess on the Death Star.  (Alderaan is not included in the video game plot).  Inside the Death Star you will face an onslaught of stormtroopers and now Han is playable.  He also begins with the flame blaster, but his health bar is not as large as Chewbacca’s.  This is another stage of tricky platforming.  There are openings in the floor that result in death if you fall into.  You need to gauge your jumping distance precisely and hope you don’t get knocked into one while jumping across by a stormtrooper falling from the sky.  After the princess is rescued and the tractor beam is deactivated (surprisingly not by Old Ben) you escape in the Millennium Falcon and retreat to the moon Yavin 4 to hopefully discover a weakness in the Death Star’s plans.

The battle of Yavin is spent mostly on the surface of the Death Star and in the trench piloting the X-Wing.  It’s an epic battle once you dispatch of the Tie Fighters and Towers on the surface and enter the trench.  Inside the trench you will need to focus on shooting the Tie Fighters orange blasts instead of the Fighters themselves.  Then enters Vader where your fire needs to focus on the blasts and his ship.  There is no Han to save you this time so you must do it alone before firing the torpedo's (the only time the shoulder button is used during the game) in hopes to destroy the Death Star.

To truly love something, you need to accept it as it is, flaws and all.  I won’t even try to say Super Stars Wars is a perfect game, or that I haven’t wanted to pull my hair out after a cheap death getting knocked into lava inside the Sandcrawler, and then have to start at a point where I can only gain one gun power-up.  You can’t run and shoot at the same time, you need to, “Stop!  Blast them!”  The double-jump is a bit tricky, especially when jumping forward or backward.  Wielding the lightsaber is clumsy and it’s nearly impossible to withstand enemy hits to your life bar when battling up close.  But I suppose this is realistic since Luke is still learning the ways of the Force, having wasted much of his life picking up power converters at Tosche station.  There are plenty of cheap deaths similar to getting knocked into the lava during the boss battle inside the Sandcrawler, or while jumping across hanging rocks to meet Old Ben (although at the 2nd set of hanging rocks if you fall off the ledge and enter the cave at the left you can farm 1-Ups up to 99 lives.  I was lucky enough to find this on accident).  Old Ben is not a playable character and there isn’t a lightsaber duel.  For first time players or those who don't know about the extra lives trick, it is incredibly frustrating that there is no password or save system.  You get one shot, kid.

The positives of Super Star Wars far outweigh the nitpicking aggravations listed above.  Most of these flaws were corrected in Super Empire Strikes Back and Super Return of the Jedi.  In the sequels you can run and gun, the double jump is more fluid, and the lightsaber duel with Darth Vader in Empire is epic.  It is a challenging game, even with three levels of difficulty (Easy, Brave, and Jedi) to select from.  I've attempted Jedi once and failed miserably.  When Super Star Wars was released in 1992, it was the game I had been hoping for ever since I started console gaming.  I was able to revisit familiar environments and obliterate enemies from my favorite movie with a plasma blaster.  The cut-scenes between levels and musical score made playing it feel like a movie.  It was perfect for me, fighting as Luke, Chewie, and Han in the Star Wars universe, expanding the adventures, to where I hope they never end.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review A Great Game Day: TMNT II: The Arcade Game

After first hearing about Review A Great Game Day from the wonderful folks at I thought it would be difficult choosing a game.  There were no restrictions for modern or retro, Nintendo or any other platform, just simply review a great game.  But when I think of great games I'm quickly led to the NES library, a system with simple controls issuing challenging commands, game plots told through landscape and architecture, colorful sprites dashing and jumping and attacking, a special gray box that was my entry into the world of video gaming.  I was sure I'd have to make a tough decision selecting The Legend of Zelda over Metroid or Super Mario Bros. 3 or Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! or Contra.  These are my top 5 games on the Nintendo Entertainment System.  But the first game that popped in my head was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game, a game I play through every year, and as recently as last Christmas.

Unlike the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game on the NES, a challenging platformer and 1989 Nintendo Power Game of the Year winner, TMNT II is a Foot Clan bashing beat 'em up.  As the title suggests, it was ported from the immensely popular arcade game.  While the arcade version had crisper graphics, a boss fight against Rocksteady and Bebop, and allowed for four-player co-op, the NES version was limited to two-player co-op, but benefited from expanded levels and two levels were added with new bosses (Tora and Shogun).

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were one of the hottest properties of the late 80's and early 90's.  From their humble beginnings as red bandana ninjas in the comics to the shell kicking cartoon and movie series, we were fortunate enough for Konami to acquire the license and develop some of the best video games during the 8 and 16-bit era.  I first experienced the arcade version at a video rental store that had a small niche loaded with arcade consoles.  I met one of my oldest friends playing this game there, and allowed him to share his birthday money with me to play co-op.  I was so excited when I read in Nintendo Power the arcade version was being ported to the NES, I eagerly awaited each new issue for any tidbit or screenshot, and nearly died waiting for the game to arrive in my stocking Christmas morning.

I love beat 'em ups.  You get to mindlessly kick ass and face off against larger than life bosses.  TMNT II: The Arcade Game exceeded all expectations in every category.  Plus, Pizza Hut offered a coupon for a free pizza inside the game box.  Needless to say I took a short break from playing the next day to eat my free pizza.  My turtle of choice is Michelangelo, because nunchucks are awesome and he was the party dude and lover of pizza.  There is really no strategy in turtle selection in the game, since each character has the same attack range with their specific weapon, unlike TMNT III where it is advantageous to choose Donatello or Leonardo because of their long-range attacks.  After turtle selection, it is up to you to save April O'Neil in her hot yellow jumpsuit and that dope Splinter (he seems to be more of a liability than an aid in the Turtles adventures) from the vile clutches of the Shredder and the Foot Clan.  Along the way, you'll battle it out with Foot Soldiers, Mousers, Missile firing Snow-Men, and a impressive boss list: Bebop, Rocksteady, Baxter Stockman (twice), Tora, Shogun, Granitor, Krang, and Shredder.  If you fail the Shredder will dine on turtle soup.

The controls in TMNT II are smoother than Stephon Urquelle, and supply three methods of attack with only two buttons--regular attack, jump kick, and jump-and-slash.  The jump-and-slash is performed by pressing B and A nearly simultaneously (press the B button less than half a second after holding A), and eliminates enemies in one hit instead of the two that are needed with the regular attack or jump kick.  One way TMNT II separated itself from other beat 'em ups on the NES was how enemies came out of nowhere. The Foot Soldiers weren't just waiting to fight in fixed positions until Michelangelo side-scrolled to the right screen or only came out of nowhere at random from the left or right.  The Foot Soldiers burst from background objects like windows and doors, from behind Pizza Hut billboards and sewer manholes, and the back doors of creepy-guy vans.  Before TMNT II, backgrounds mostly served the purpose of conveying atmosphere, whether it was a dark or light-hearted game.  They were there to be pretty, not interact with gameplay.  There was nothing cooler than walking through April's fire-blazing apartment building the first time and be shocked how the Foot Soldiers broke through doors to attack you.  One cool note about the first level is if you pause the game the fire will still blaze in the foreground.

There's a great assortment of enemies to fight, most of which are six variants of Foot Soldiers.  Each color Foot Soldier has his own unique attack and weapon.  My favorites are the ghost-like white and gray ones that jump as high as NBA Jam players and try to strike you down with their katana.  The boss battles are a bit repetitive, since the best method to defeat most of them is the jump kick, but there are different strategies on when and where to attack each boss.  The only thing I will say about fighting Shredder at the end of the game is it's one of the best end boss battles on the NES.

TMNT II is one of the best looking games on the NES.  It may not be as crisp as a Capcom Mega Man game, but Konami did an excellent job capturing the look and spirit of the cartoon series.  The Turtles and Foot Soldier sprites are quite large compared to other NES beat 'em ups like Double Dragon and River City Ransom, the bosses are a huge intimidating presence, and very well detailed.  Shredder just looks like a straight up bad ass.  Each level is unique with its own theme and the cut-scenes between levels was a impressive bonus of animation that I had never believed possible on the NES.  The music is borrowed from the cartoon series intro and remixed throughout the game.  It never gets stale and helps pace the frenetic action of the game.  Catchy upbeat tunes that make you believe you should be eating cereal while kicking ass.

It was easy to select TMNT II: The Arcade Game for the first annual Review A Great Game Day, based purely on the fun factor.  There's no grinding or suffering through dull moments to get to the heart and fun of the game.  That's why I love beat 'em ups, there's no waiting, you need to start slashing now before Splinter is kidnapped again for being a lazy master ninja or April is taken hostage by Rocksteady because of her awesome yellow jumpsuit.  TMNT II plays extremely solid, is visually impressive, an amazing experience for not just fans of beat 'em ups, pizza, and yellow jumpsuits, but all video games.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Retro Funkin' LJN's The Karate Kid

Is The Karate Kid really that bad?

In my last blog post (which you can find here), I had this to say about The Karate Kid: "give this game a non-licensed title and it's your average hard-ass Data East game."  Not long after posting I second-guessed this preposterous statement.  Was I insane for suggesting this famously terrible LJN game was anything but poop?  Had I forgotten the Typhoon stage with cheap enemies, flying debris, and getting knocked backward with each hit.  Or am I just sticking up for the little guy, LJN, everyone's favorite punching bag developer on the NES?  I had not played The Karate Kid in about five years, when I bought it at a flea market not long after I was consumed by Retro Gaming, and beat the game within a week.  I attributed my narrow victory (I had one health bar left) to pure luck, maybe ten percent skill.  After finishing I thought I'd never play it again, and suffer through the many frustrations and abrupt ending to the game with Mr. Miyagi telling me I was now a Martial Arts Master.  But I'm older now, not wiser, just old, lazy, and tolerant.  So I put Metroid Prime on hold (which wasn't easy to do since I'm a quarter of the way through the game) and began playing The Karate Kid on the NES.

I will not try to say The Karate Kid is a great game, there are flaws, but you get to kick and punch karate jerks.  I can only think of one thing more enjoyable: watching the episode of Growing Pains where Mike Seaver has a dirt-bike accident and has to stuff pillows in his sweatpants to soothe his ailing bum.  The only thing that really bothers me about this game now is that it doesn't feature a synthesized version of Joe Esposito's song "You're the Best (Around)."  I loved this game as a kid and rented the game numerous times from an appliance store that rented movies and games.  Why didn't the game frustrate me then?  Was I so desensitized from getting my ass kicked from quarter munching arcade games?  I believe I was just happy to play any video game I could get my hands on, especially a game based on one of my favorite movies.

The Karate Kid consists of four stages.  It begins with a karate tournament where you learn the button actions and take down four easy opponents in one-on-one matches.  Stages two through four have light platforming and beat 'em up action, mini games found in dark doorways, and boss fights at the end of the level. Sounds pretty straightforward, right?  Learn the controls in tournament play then move from left to right kicking and punching your way to a boss fight.  There are also two special moves you can earn to perform on your foes as well: the Drum Punch and Crane Kick.  Each can be performed by pressing the A or B button.  If you want to save them make sure you use the directional pad when kicking or punching or you will waste them.  I don't bother with them, they are not needed to beat this game, and I always seem to use them without intending to.  Since I don't conserve my special moves I also avoid the mini games, which allow you to earn additional Drum Punches or Crane Kicks depending on the game.  There are three mini games: the Chopsticks Fly Catch, Ice Block Break, and Swinging Hammer, and the only one I've ever earned bonus points and special moves is the Chopsticks one.  Apparently these mini-games are not in the game for a fun break in the action, they are here to teach you the ways of Miyagi-do, and become the best around.

It took me four tries to beat The Karate Kid again, and my gaming skills are maybe slightly above average.  There were no fits of rage this time through, though.  This game can be beaten in about 10-15 minutes, and with minimal controller tossing, face-palming, blasphemous swearing, or proclamations of pseudo-retirements from gaming.  I knew what to expect, and I accepted the video game's shortcomings.  I love beat 'em ups, and while The Karate Kid doesn't boast the fluid gameplay and graphical marvel of a TMNT game, it was still fun to play and kill fifteen minutes.  Here are four tips to enjoy The Karate Kid and beat the game.

1.  Don't Play the Mini-Games.  You're only here to kick ass and punch flying debris.  They are a waste of time and you don't need any extra boosts of power to beat bosses in this game.  In fact, you can even bypass the boss in level 3 by climbing the wooden ladder to save the little girl.  Reach her and the level is over.  It's similar to how you can walk away from the boss fight with Chintai in Double Dragon and advance to the next level by climbing down the ladders.

2.  Watch the Joe Esposito video of his song "You're the Best (Around)" on YouTube before you begin playing to get pumped up.  You can't beat this game without inspiration.  Just like it is dangerous to go alone in Hyrule without a wooden sword, the same can be said about playing this game without rocking out to this classic 80's video montage.

3.  Don't Get Consumed By the Dark Side of the Typhoon Stage.  Having to jump by pressing Up on the d-pad while the typhoon and enemy hits knock you backward is difficult.  If this weren't challenging why would you bother playing.  Kick the karate jerks and punch typhoon debris.  At some point during your gameplay you will be pinballed by two karate jerks into a corner where there is seemingly no escape.  Just remember that nobody puts Baby in a corner, and button mash jump your way out of there.  If you die, so what, it's just a video game.  Try again.

4.  Remember You Are The Best Around.  At any given point in this game you will never face more than two enemies on the screen.  On the last stage, the karate jerks will now wield spears.  Talk about escalating quickly.  Stand at the left side of the screen and try to jump over them.  They will chase you for nearly the entire stage.  Just make sure to keep them on screen and not fall victim to the black hole that was the screen you just left, otherwise new enemies will appear at your right and left.  Once you reach the end and face that bastard Chozen, mash the kick button until he falls to his death.  Then ready yourself for some awesome 8-bit Miyagi.

LJN's Karate Kid is a lot like the television show Blossom.  It's decent, but it's nothing to get a boner about.  It's surely not one of the worst movie license games on the NES (I'm looking at you Ghostbusters), and if you can accept the game's challenges (that's my nice way of saying flaws) you'll enjoy this simple beat 'em up platformer.

Every time you beat a level, Tommy makes this face.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What the Glitch!?#@

You dirty glitch. For two years I had swabbed and scrubbed The Punisher cartridge with rubbing alcohol to no avail. No picture, just a gray screen mocking me, probably calling me a douchebag as well. I tried the Q-tip and rubbing alcohol method at least once a month, usually on a night I'm picking out carts to play for a retro gaming marathon. It was always near the top of the stacks, tempting me to believe, "Hey, this might be the day it works." But I never saw a single credit, a glimpse of the title screen, no splattered pixels or alien-like symbols. Nothing.  Then one day with great luck and help from Twitter I finally got the game to play only to be let down shortly after.  I wish I could tell you why I didn't just buy another Punisher game. They are fairly common and can be easily found for five bucks or less. Sheer determination to suffer through this broken cart or laziness? I don't care to answer.

I won't blow a cart unless I've had at least five beers, or if the game provides a sweet cheat code like extra lives or continues.

The funny thing is I never intended to buy The Punisher.  I was shopping eBay for NES games, saw a box cover shot of Strider and bid, failing to glance at the item name or description.  I guess at this point in time my life was too important to waste on such minor details.  When the package arrived I ripped open the manilla bubble mailer to find not the game I thought I'd won, but a licensed game with the dreaded LJN logo--The Punisher.  During this period my mind had been warped by the hilarious AVGN videos, and I believed all licensed TV and movie games were garbage, especially games made by LJN, even if I had never played them.  LJN games may not live up to the high standards set by the movies they're based on, but does not mean they are not at least playable or fun, i.e. Jaws, Back to the Future, Karate Kid (give this game a non-licensed title and it's your average hard-ass Data East game).  Once the fury from getting an LJN game instead of Strider subsided, I checked my "items won" history to discover I was an idiot for not reading the auction details and just bidding on a picture.  But for a total of five bucks that included shipping, a game's a game, and popped the cart into the control deck.  Then the gray screen bitch slapped me.

I recently bought a N64 from a friend on Twitter and initially had trouble getting a few games to play.  I immediately went to Twitter seeking advice and Brandon Whaley from fame suggested using Weiman Glass Cook Top cleaner.  It wasn't long before I picked up a bottle and carton of Q-tips.  The Weiman Glass Cook Top cleaner worked brilliantly and I was able to play Goldeneye and Rogue Squadron for the first time since college.  After playing a few games and growing tired of Natalya not following me and standing around like a goober I started cleaning all my NES carts that had ever given me the least bit of trouble.  I had won Baseball in a group lot auction and had never gotten it to work.  A quick clean with the Weiman cleaner and a Q-tip and I had it running, only to turn off the game a few innings later because it's Hilary Swank-acting terrible.  Plus I couldn't wait to clean The Punisher, a game I had never played.  If I could get Baseball to work, surely I would be gunning down thugs as Frank Castle in mere moments.

I spent fifteen mintues cleaning The Punisher cartridge.  I had no doubt a game that went to great lengths not to be played by me would rank in the same company as a Metroid or Castlevania-type game (it's possible I sniffed the Weiman cleaner and became delirious).  It was like I had to earn the right to play this game.  I waited for the pins to dry before popping it into the console.  I jiggled the cartridge from side to side.  I unplugged the controller, examined it, then plugged it back in the port and made certain it was secure.  I pressed Power, the gray screen appeared, and I cursed the game, the TV, the Nintendo, my daughter's Winnie the Pooh doll (don't worry she wasn't around).  Once I calmed down I tapped the cartridge gently with my index finger to the left two times and pressed Power.  I couldn't believe it, a black credit screen with the Punisher logo instead of grayness, then the LJN logo, a skull rising to the middle of screen as Frank Castle's body is illuminated by machine gun fire, the title screen with ominous music.  I was actually going to play this goddamn game.

I eagerly selected the Hitman stage and began play.  The Punisher is an auto-scrolling shooter, similar to Lethal Enforcers and T2: The Arcade Game (two of my favorite light gun arcade games), where you gun down baddies and objects to gain power-ups.  Frank Castle is visible from the waist up at the bottom of the screen and can move from left to right.  The D-pad moves Frank Castle and also acts as the machine gun's sight, and can be aimed up or down.  My first impression was this was a very detailed game, though a bit dark in some areas where it was difficult to identify what you were looking at.  But that also may have been the developer's design choice, since this scene takes place at night in the city.  Controlling The Punisher from left to right was a bit stiff, but aiming your weapon was smooth.  The Punisher may not have lived up to the hype of being a Metroid/Castlevainia-type game for all the hell it put me through, but it was damn fun to play.  There were weapons and ammo to discover by shooting boxes and street signs.  It was like no other game I had played on the NES, but I wondered if this game may have been better suited as a light gun game using the seldom used Zapper, or at least been an option.  Character movement would have been lost, but the pace of the game would have been intensified by needing to take down all enemies from a stationary position.

My gameplay was short-lived, though.  Within five minutes the game glitched on me.  Nothing but letters, numbers, purple and black segments.  I reset the game and was welcomed once again by the gray screen.  I cleaned the cart again.  Nothing.  I jiggled and nudged the cart in several directions.  Nothing.  As a last resort I blew into the cartridge and was thanked with the blinking power button.

A few months have passed since then with no luck, and I have no desire to purchase another Punisher cartridge.  Maybe I wasn't meant to play this game.  Each day I discover a new game or someone shares a story about a game I've missed and never played.  The backlog forever grows.  I'm currently playing Metroid Prime for the first time, fully immersed in the 3D gameplay and loving it, but still I'm searching for more games to add to the collection to play one day.  But I'm beginning to stop and wonder why.  I don't need to play every video game, right?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

10 Radical NES Box Covers

Box covers once served a great purpose aiding a gamer's decision to purchase.  In the NES days, there weren't gameplay videos to watch on your computer or smartphone.  Young gamers had to rely on Nintendo Power and word of mouth.  The publisher had to nab your attention  so you would check the backside and see screenshots of gameplay and read about the main objectives of the game.  When I see a NES box cover now, I can easily place where I first viewed the game, whether at a friend's house or video rental store, or hidden behind a glass cabinet at Toys 'R Us.  This list could have been an all-Konami game list--they were that good depicting the rocking action on the box cover that you would experience in the game, but I had to give love to some to the other developers of NES games.  NOTE: placing a Bandai NES box cover next to one of these games will decrease it's awesomeness by 75%. 


The rabbit looks evil, he's wearing a costume from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and firing a laser.  And this game is made by Konami?  What are 4 reasons I will steal money from my sister to buy a video game, Alex.  This cover is actually from the Larry Hama (of Marvel G.I. Joe fame) Bucky O'Hare comic book issue #7.

This cover looks like what would happen if you mixed Arnold Schwarzenegger movies Predator and Commando, and the end result is awesome.  Never mind the alien in the background, you'll be too busy looking good in a headband and vest, spreading fireballs at your enemies with a Labrador-sized machine gun.  The awesomeness exploding from this cover extends to the actual game, and is seemingly never ending with the Konami code.  If you don't get a boner (either physically if you're a guy or mentally if you're a girl) just by looking at this NES box cover you may need to reevaluate why you are gaming.


My mom wouldn't let me buy this game because the cover looked so scary with that smiling bastard Dracula in the background.  What she didn't get was that He-Man looking dude in the loincloth and whip was on his way to the castle to knock Dracula down a peg, as well as help renovate the castle by destroying bricks and light fixtures.  Whenever I would go shopping with my mom at a store like Target I'd convince her to stop at the video game section.  There I would hold the Castlevania box, brush away imaginary dirt or dust with my fingertips, and look at it with such longing you would think a loved one's ashes were inside the box.  I figured she would realize how much I wanted this game and buy it for me.  My plan failed miserably and I downloaded it on Virtual Console 21 years later.

Has a solar eclipse ever looked so cool in the backdrop of an 8-bit video game?  I don't care for the vertical text on the side but this is one of the most mysterious NES box covers of a truly excellent gem of a game.  Little did we know back then that Journey to Silius was originally developed to be a Terminator game, until Sunsoft lost the license near the end of development and had to tweak the sprites.

The Legend of ZELDA

At the time of Zelda's release the NES was popular enough to drop the simple black box cover with pixelated art, a marketing ploy to distance themselves from Atari's method of selling a box cover that was nothing like the game.  Nintendo still called their video game cartridges "game paks," though.  The only place I ever heard someone refer to a NES game as a game pak was in Nintendo Power.  Zelda was such an awesome game it didn't need to show gameplay, the hero, the landscape, or virtually anything at all.  Just a gold box with "ZELDA" in dark red letters.  Inside this box was the most beautiful gold cartridge that shined as bright as C-3PO at the end of A New Hope.

A bald Russian fat guy with a mustache kicking ass on dinosaurs?  Sign me up.  Maybe the next Jurassic Park movie will borrow from this Data East arcade classic.  At one time a circus strongman, Karnov has the ability to spit fireballs and from the look of this cover, belly bounce his enemies straight to hell. 


Look at me.  A city in ruins burning behind me and I've got this sweet ninja pose.  Every time I see this cover I smile then cringe, thinking about stage 6-2.  This game is advertised as "A Strategic Encounter" in the lower left hand corner.  I'm not sure if Tecmo was suggesting this game had strategic elements like a Zelda title, or it was hinting the strategy you will encounter will be conserving your power-up weapons and not getting your ass kicked by birds and jetpack ninjas.

Did you know that in the original comic book the Ninja Turtles all wore the same red mask?  It wasn't until the cartoon where they all got their own color to initiate distinction and create identities, similar to how in the Real Ghostbusters cartoon each guy had his own color jumpsuit.  When I was a kid, it drove me nuts that Leo, Mike, and Donny weren't wearing their own colors: Michaelangelo (orange), Donatello (purple) Leonardo (blue).  I'm surprised I wasn't bitch slapped by some die-hard Ninja Turtles nerd.  

During the late '80's we were blessed with the Crocodile Dundee phenomenon.  Though we never received a licensed Crocodile Dundee game, the good folks at Konami gave us the next best thing: Bayou F'n Billy.  A beat 'em up/driving/light gun game.  This cover has everything you could ask for: snakes, crocodiles, 80's inspired bandana wrapped around the thigh, a bosomy gal in short jean shorts being accosted by a fat dude.  Though I wouldn't have minded another thong leotard shot of Linda Kozlowski.


With a cover this cool, how could it suck?  I'll tell you how: poor weapons and poop-inspired graphics and level design.  It's hard to believe this is a Sunsoft game.  Seeing an awesome cover like this that disguises the poop-filled cartridge reminds me of Atari games and how the game never lived up to the box cover art.  Utter poop.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sassy Mike Tyson's Punch-Out Quotes

Mike Tyson' Punch Out gave gamers some of the greatest characters on the NES.  Are they stereotypes?  Yes.  If you removed their country of origin would they be less memorable?  No.  The country of origin or stereotype does not matter to the gamer, only the outlandish theatrics each boxer brings to the ring.  These sprites were larger than life, with personalities emerging from their body language, facial expressions, and sassy dialogue.  Below you will find the famous quotes of each boxer in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

Glass Joe

Glass Joe is a bigger punching bag than LJN games.  And not just because he has a hairy crotch.  There aren't many foes on the NES who are slower or pack a softer punch them him, save for maybe a Goomba.  I may be one of the few who gets great satisfaction uppercutting Glass Joe right after he sasses me.  "Woh, woh, woh,  woh!"

"Do I have time to nap before the fight?"
"Make it quick...I want to retire!"
"This is my last match!  I'm too old for fighting!"
"Watch the jaw!!  Don't hit my jaw!"

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"My hairy junk has a better chance of knocking you down!"

Von Kaiser

Von Kaiser is proof that all men with mustaches are dastardly villains.  Dr. Wily, Adolf Hitler, and Rollie Fingers.  If Von Kaiser was bald he would've reminded me of the bulked up Nazi in Raiders of the Lost Ark who meets his untimely demise with an airplane propeller.

"I was a boxing the military academy!"
"I'll teach you a lesson.  You will fall down!"
"Surrender!  Or I will conquer you!!"
"Your punch is soft...just like your heart

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"Heil Tom Selleck's mustache!"

Piston Honda

This dude was bad-ass looking with a 'roided up cool name.  Too bad he was as tough as hippy Steven Keaton and nosy neighbor Skippy Handelman combined.  At least you received a password after beating him so you wouldn't have to endure more hard-fought contests with Glass Joe and Von Kaiser.

"I'll give you a TKO from Tokyo!"
"Sushi, kamikazi, fujiyama, nipponichi..."
"You should wear a helmet when you fight me."
"Where is the NHK TV camera!  Hello Tokyo!"
"I still remember our first fight.  Now I'm gonna pay you back.  Banzai!!"

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"I'd like to Tune in Tokyo on Super Macho Man!"

Don Flamenco

Hey!  Is this Glass Joe's brother?  They have the same body but different heads and colors!  Bitch, you just been palate swapped.  Flamenco had the second best ring entrance with a little dance and rose in his teeth.  He also scored extra points with me for two Star Wars references.  Unfortunately he also suffers from hairy crotchitis.

"Carmen, my love...I dance so sweet for you!"
"Hey!  Mr. Referee Mario...I like your hair!"
"People like my hair.  Don't mess my hair."
"Flamenco strikes back!!  Return of Don!!"

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"Carmen and Mario, I believe the term is menage trois."

King Hippo

Rumor has it Tipper Gore tried to ban Mike Tyson's Punch-Out in the United States.  And not because the game depicted the French as pansies and Russians as drunks.  She was enraged that King Hippo would drop his trunks every time he was socked in the gut.  She believed King Hippo was soliciting his goodies to our young impressionable minds.  This sort of behavior by Mrs. Gore is easily identified as having a Power Glove stuck up your buns.

"Do you like my new trunks!  They are size XXX Large!  Ha, ha, ha!"
"I feel like eating after I win.  Let's go to lunch!  Ha, ha, ha!"
"Ha, ha, ha!  I am the king!  Ha, ha, ha!"
"I have my weakness.  But I won't tell you!  Ha, ha, ha!"

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"Ha, ha, ha!  Underpants!  Ha, ha, ha!  Wink!"

Great Tiger

Did you know the Great Tiger is editor-in-chief at Cat Fancy magazine?  He's also the one who started the funny cat video craze on YouTube.  He had to have a back-up career plan since that damn ruby on his turban kept projecting his next punch.

"A kitten is no match for a tiger."
"So a pussycat wants to fight a tiger!"
"Beware my tiger punch!"
"I have purred long enough.  Now hear me roar!"

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"I have the Purrrrfect pussy punch!"

Bald Bull

Retro Confession: when I was a kid for the longest time I thought his name was Bald Bill.  I never really looked at his name.  I was too busy mashing the select button for Doc to give me a sweet-ass shoulder rub and regenerate health.  Plus I had an uncle Bill who was bald.  Sorry I'm a alliterate moron.

"Doc can't help you now.  Will you beg me for help?"
"Hey!  Little Mac!  Maybe Doc should throw you a towel!"
"My barber didn't know when to you?"
"This time I'm gonna charge right over you!"
"Zip your lip, Doc.  Little Mac is mine now."

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"I eat Jive Turkeys for breakfast!"

Soda Popinski

You're not fooling anyone, Soda.  We know you're a drunk who wears underwear trunks.  We also know that a lifetime dedication to getting all sauced up will cause your skin to turn pink.  Who needed movies like Sixteen Candles that promoted anti-teen drinking when you learned from Mike Tyson's Punch-Out that alcoholics turn radioactive pink.

"I drink to prepare for a fight.  Tonight I am very prepared!"
"Would you like some punch to drink?  Ha, ha, ha!"
"I can't drive, so I'm gonna walk all over you!"
"After you lose, we'll drink to your health!  Ha, ha, ha!"
"I'm gonna make you feel punch drunk!"

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"My name is Vodka Drunkenski you over-sensitive Americans!"

Mr. Sandman

Mr. Sandman is the ugliest dude in the game and the entire NES library.  When you sock him in the gut one eye nearly pops out of socket.  He looks like the love child of Sloth and Mama Fratelli.  He's also a part-time salesman for Sleep Number beds, which explains his obsession with sleeping.

"Welcome to dreamland baby!"
"Bedtime for Little Mac!"
"Hey!  Mac Baby...Say Goodnight!"
"I think you're gonna have a nightmare tonight!"

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"U-G-L-Y.  You ain't got no alibi.  You Ugly!"

Super Macho Man

Nobody can flex man boobies better than Super Macho Man and that's why he is the winner for the coolest entrance to the ring.  For a California guy who loves to tan he was abnormally pale.  I bet Global Warming has something to do with this.  Totally.

"I don't smoke...but tonight, I'm gonna smoke you!"
"My body is just so totally cool!"
"I work on my tan harder than I"ll have to work on you!"
"My super spin punch is totally tough!"

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"My left boob weighs more than you!"

Mike Tyson

Before we found out he was crazy and raped women, Mike Tyson was the coolest boxer of all time.  He was also dating the black chick from Head of the Class, one of the most underrated TV shows of the 80's that for some reason isn't in reruns where I live.  There was nothing more radically awesome than fighting Mike Tyson for the first time after entering code 007-373-5963 and getting your ass handed to you in about 30 seconds from 3 uppercuts from the champ.
Did you know that if you (the reader) found out where I worked you would be able to access my work e-mail account by entering the Mike Tyson code?  Shhhh.  It's a secret to everybody.

"Hey!  Is this kid a joke?  Where's the real challenger?"
"You think the speed of your fingers can match the strength of my fists?"
"They say I can't lose.  I say you can't win!"
"Your experience doesn't match mine.  Go home and practice!"
"Great Fighting!!  You were tough, Mac!  I've never seen such Finger Speed before."

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"Just like J.J. from Good Times I'm Dyno-mite!"

Little Mac

Little Mac was smaller than Rudy but kicked more ass.  And thank God he wasn't a green wireframe like in the original arcade game.  Little Mac taught me that the size of your muscles didn't matter in a fight, only your heart.  No it didn't, all this game taught me was that Nintendo games rocked.

"I'm Tired Doc!"
"He's Hurt Me Doc"
"I Can't Win"

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"F U Doc!  I'm trying!"


With such sage advice as "Dancin' like a fly, bite like a mosquito," how could Little Mac not win the World Video Boxing Association (WVBA) belt to set the stage for the Dream Fight with Mike Tyson.  And who else but Doc could get Little Mac to wear that adorable pink sweatsuit.  Maybe the pink sweatsuit was Little Mac's initiation into joining the Nintendo Fun Club.

"Join the Nintendo Fun Club today!  Mac!"
"Dancin' like a fly, bite like a mosquito!"
"Listen Mac!  Dodge his punch then counter punch!"
"Yes you can Mac!"
"Keep your guard up!"
"Stick and move, stick and move!"

Cutting Room Floor Quote:
"That is what the jazz is all about!"

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

2013 Retro Gaming Resolutions

Instead of eating healthier, exercising, drinking less, and cease swearing and shaking my fist at hippies for my upcoming New Year's resolutions, I've decided to redirect my efforts on something more important: Retro Gaming.  Resolution lists tend to focus on limiting or eliminating some aspect in your life.  But I want more retro gaming, I want it to reach 1980's excess proportions, with more pixels and Konami codes.  More spread guns and Ice Wave Beams.  More pick up and play 2D platformers and beat 'em ups, codes written on scraps of paper, maps drawn on graph paper or napkins.  I want to spend half a Saturday trudging through flea markets (no matter the smell) searching for old video games amidst the boxes of used Hot Wheels cars and extension cords.  I want more awesome, so without further ado, I present my 2013 Retro Gaming Resolutions.

Rumor has it this game is good, like Lee Carvallo's Putting Challenge good.  It's also considered the best title in the Legend of Zelda series.  And I've never played it.  *Gasp*  I've also kept myself from reading reviews because I want to experience it unfiltered, without any opinions possibly swaying my own.  I was a Playstation boy and the only N64 games I played back then were multi-player like Goldeneye, Smash Bros., and Mario Kart.  I picked up a N64 a month ago and Ocarina of Time shortly afterward.  As a husband and dad with a young daughter, it's difficult to play games for long stretches.  I'm waiting for the perfect rainy day to pop this cart in the console, maybe a rainy day or two where I play hooky from work.  This is my easiest resolution.

I obviously would like to defeat more than two games next year, but these two are at the top of my list.  I've been stuck on Stage 6-2 in Ninja Gaiden since Perfect Strangers was a hit sitcom on ABC.  Don't be ri-dic-u-lous.  I never hated birds/hawks until playing this game, and flying backward after taking a hit is one of the most frustrating parts of this game.  But I keep coming back for more because the gameplay is awesome: whipping stars, the jump and slash, wall-spring jumps.  The pace is fast and the bosses are B.A. Baracus tough.  The sad thing is, if I beat this game I may never want to play it again after the years of torment.  Good thing there's a part 2 and 3 on the NES.

Kid Icarus is a game I played very little of when it was first released.  It was difficult, plus it didn't have Mario or Link in the game.  I play this game in streaks--one day I'll be progressing then hit a tough spot and then I set the game aside for months.  It's one of those I games I don't want to see end so I slow play it.  The game is tough, but as you progress and are able to upgrade the strength of your bow and endurance the game does get easier.  I had the same feeling about this game as I did with Metroid--I didn't like it at first because I didn't know what the hell I was doing, but as I got deeper into it I grew to love the game.  I'm currently at Stage 1-4 and continually getting my ass handed to me by the Eggplant Wizards.  Fucking Eggplants are standing in my way of glory.

I'm a 2D Mario platformer guy, so I'm having a hard time engaging with this game.  I get why it's popular, and I do enjoy playing it, but I currently don't care if I ever beat it or if I ever play it again.  I've never felt this way about any Mario platformer.  The reason this game is still on my radar is because my two-year old daughter loves to watch me play it, and press the jump button at inopportune times.  FADE [Bowser Maniacal Laugh]

I enjoy writing about video games almost as much as playing them, but writing is exhausting.  More exhausting than beating Dr. Wily, or being a bad enough dude to save the President.  By the end of the day it's easier to sit down and play a mindlessly fun game like Super Mario Bros. than write an article about why the Super Star Wars trilogy on the SNES is the greatest video game trilogy on any system.  I'm sure I'll need Old Ben's help writing that one and to fight off the bombardment of others questioning my sanity.  I'd like to get more involved with other retro gaming sites that are more community based.  I consider my site as a hub to my favorite retro gaming sites and a place where I can look at the box covers of every NES game, but I need more content with substance.  I will be devising a schedule to help get me back on track writing articles on a regular basis, so I can avoid a six month hiatus like the one I had last year.

I've never owned a Game Boy or any other portable gaming device.  I like playing on big TV's, with a controller in my hands instead of hunched over with a Game Boy inches from my face.  But this sentiment is waning, and the two that interest me are the Game Boy Advance and the 3DS.  What intrigues me about a portable is the pick-up-and-play nature of nearly every game.  Gaming in short bursts, wherever I happen to be.  I'm leaning toward the 3DS because of their current selection of games as well as there will be a new Zelda and Smash Bros. game, but also because of the old Game Boy titles you can download.  I am dying to play Metroid II.

At the end of level 1-2 in Super Mario Bros. a player can reach the famous Minus World glitch by perfecting a crouched jump off a pipe to the right and walking through the wall into the warp zone room and entering the first pipe.  I've only tried a handful of times but I've failed each time. I don't know if it is even tough to accomplish.  The Minus World is exactly like the underwater world 2-2, except for when you reach the end you can't pass through the pipe.  You either die by enemies or by time limit, and then you start the Minus World all over again until you run out of lives.  I can't explain exactly why I want to do this, other than it's one of those fun glitches to perform on old video games done for the pure thrill of it instead of progression.

That's it for this year.  If you were hoping I'd throw in "Make Less Growing Pains References on Twitter," I'm sorry.  Show me that smile again.  And don't waste another minute on your cryin'.  Please share in the comments what your plans are for coming year in the realm of retro gaming.  At the end of 2013, I will revisit these resolutions, and report my successes and/or failures.  Happy New Year!  Now Do The Mario!