Archive for the ‘Blog Post’ Category

What the NES Classic means for Nintendo and Retro Gamers


Monday, December 26th, 2016

The big news story this holiday season was the NES Classic, one of the “hot gift items” fir 2016.  It has been nearly impossible to find on shelves, and scalpers are making a bunch of money reselling these systems on eBay.  I have personally yet to find one, but plan on picking one up once the stock issues are eliminated.

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However, the interesting story behind the huge success of the NES Classic is that we could see a change in the way Nintendo handles their classic IPs.  For close to a decade now the only way to play these classics legally was to either own the original release or purchase it via a Nintendo console or handheld on their Virtual Console, and usually both options were a significant expense.  Original carts can be anywhere from 5 to 100 US dollars, and Virtual Console games range from 5 to 10 dollars.  Now, there is an option to get a bundle of 30 games, all solid titles, for an average cost of 2 dollars each.  The value of this system is astounding, and the consumers have spoken:  they want this format.

I believe in 2017 and 2018, we will see two more releases.  I would first expect to see a second NES Classic, perhaps modeled off the US NES 2 Top Loader.  The second unit will likely feature 30 more titles, perhaps this time with a few more third party titles than the original.  Nintendo still has a large collection of first party NES games that could be sold on a second unit, including a few titles that never saw a US release.  Super Mario Bros 2 Lost Levels and Earthbound Zero are a couple obvious choices.  Capcom could supply us with another Mega Man title, and the RPG front could be augmented with Square-Enixs Dragon Warrior, and perhaps the sequel as well.

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The second release I would expect Nintendo to release would be an SNES Classic.  Many gamers have fond memories of the 16 bit Nintendo console, and considering Sega has already released a mini Genesis with built in games, I would expect Nintendo to bring a well made SNES with 30 built in games, perhaps at an increased price of 69.99.  First party games would definitely include the two Mario World games, Donkey Kong Country, F-Zero, Super Metroid, Zelda LttP, and Starfox.  Third Party options include Mega Man X, Final Fantasy 2 and 3, Street Fighter (or perhaps Mortal Kombat), Castlevania 4, and Contra 4.  With the way the NES Classic is selling, Nintendo could easily develop this type of console for the 2017 holiday season and replicate the amazing success they had this past season.

With the 3DS seeing a major resurgence in sales this holiday season and the amazing sales of the NES Classic, Nintendo has a chance to get their name back in households using cheaper devices, and they should use this to their advantage to convince consumers to purchase their new Switch.  While their flagship consoles from the modern era have been disappointing since the Wii U, they could easily work their way back into the forefront of gaming simply by selling cheaper products like these.

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Retro YouTube: Little Miss Gamer


Thursday, December 1st, 2016

Readers of the blog may remember my writeup on Captain S, a Youtube show that ran in the late 2000’s styled in a family friendly sitcom format.  It was the webshow that put a spotlight on PBC Productions.  This next show was their second large gaming show, running 23 episodes.  Named Little Miss Gamer, it was another show that was highly unique among its peers at the time.  Featuring a female lead, it was light on comedy, featuring no swearing just like Captain S (unlike most shows at the time), and had great appeal to someone not wanting to just watch another “angry review show.”

One fantastic skill that the host has is the ability to take you back to the time you were playing these games she features.  The female lead went by either Little Miss Gamer or “Z”, and had an obvious love of the NES and SNES gaming era.  She shows great passion in each video she produced, and her personality is so positive it’s impossible not to let her upbeat attitude affect you as you watch.  Each episode also has a Viewer Mail segment, giving more interaction than your typical YouTube show at the time and also gives the feeling of Z building a rapport with her viewers.

 

Some shows have some small skits done in them, and others feature some of Z’s puppetry work, which is quite well done for the YouTube era it was in.  Also, it felt very fitting for the show to use puppetry in an era that is filled with cheap CG effects, giving it a retro feel.  Production standards are also pretty high for the era, just like Captain S.  PBC Productions put a lot of effort into their camera and sound work, and it shows in each episode as the production values slowly get better and better.

 

Sadly, the show only lasted from October 2007 to 2010, and had a quiet end as PBC ramped down and their crew moved on to different things.  However, that period had  fantastic episodes released with games ranging from the Atari 2600 to the PS2 and X-Box eras, and it shows that while she has moved on to the newer consoles, she has fond memories of the older games.

The full playlist for the entire shows run can be found here, and below is an embedded video of the first episode.  Be sure to check this classic out!

 

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Is Nintendo Switching to a new gaming medium?


Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

Recently Nintendo unveiled their “NX” platform as the Nintendo Switch, which they are planning to be the successor to the Wii U.  The system is being touted as a home gaming system that can be also used on the go.  However, there seems to be something that people are ignoring with the launch of this console:  that Nintendo has just left the console box style of gaming platform behind for the first time since they entered the home gaming arena.

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Pictured above is the switch controller, and the switch system in its home use mode.  Look familiar?  What you are looking at is a tablet with a bluetooth controller and a docking station that allows it to charge and connects it to your television:  the same thing you can have with a standard Android tablet, but with Nintendo IPs and games.  Make no mistake, the Nintendo Switch is nothing more than Nintendo switching gears.  They are releasing a branded tablet that has a proprietary Nintendo OS and is meant to play their games.  This is nothing revolutionary; we have had the ability to game on tablets with built in controllers for a while now.

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The system features a snap-apart controller that can then be mounted to the tablet for on the go gaming.  Nintendo is attempting to say that this means you can take your home gaming on the go.  While this is the case, I question why one would wish to do this in the first place when you can accomplish the same thing using an Android tablet and bluetooth controller, or a tablet with controls built in such as the one pictured below.

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Taking a closer look at the above tablet at this link, it looks similar in size to the Switch, but with its controller permanently mounted.  It also features HDMI support for hooking up to your home television, and look:  is that Mario 64 in the picture?  Yes, using emulators, this tablet can play any Nintendo game up through the N64 era, along with non-nintendo properties such as Atari, Sega, Sony Playstation, and Arcade, without having to re-purchase games in Nintendos marketplace.  Also, this is only one of a multitude of android gaming tablets available, so you can pick one to suit your needs.

Nintendo is still playing catch-up in the gaming world, and their vision of the Switch simply confirms that they are still struggling to find that innovative spark to compel the consumers to purchase their product.  Releasing a product similar to what savvy consumers have already had for the past five years is something which in my opinion lacks to put Nintendo back to the forefront of the gaming industry.

The jury is still out, since the Switch has not yet released, but so far it looks as if Nintendo has a hard road ahead of them in their goal to reclaim the gaming throne.

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Masters Of Pixel Art Volume 2 Kickstarter


Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Check out this cool Kickstarter.

There have been quite a few retro books on Kickstarter lately so you can pick and choose the good ones and the Masters of Pixel Art Volume 2 is one of them.

Available in hardback it is 216 silk coated pages of info and pixel art.

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The book features more than 350 images from over 41 artists on the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum, Atari XL-XE, Commodore Plus/4 and MSX.

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As always there are plenty of perks at different backing levels.

Head over to Kickstarter and back it. We will be reviewing the finished product on the show once we receive it.

Shop: http://nicepixel.se/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/themastersofpixelart/

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Make your own budget Retro Handheld for $110


Tuesday, August 16th, 2016

As a retro game fan, we all enjoy taking time from our day to enjoy classics of yesteryear.  However, many of us also have families and full time jobs, and much of the time this means we are always on the go and don’t always have the convenience of using our original systems.  Open sourced handhelds usually run a couple hundred dollars and have older hardware inside.  Building your own such as Adafruits PiGrrl is a fun project, but not all of us have access to a 3-D printer or have the skills required to assemble a unit.  Even if you have both, the cost for all the parts involved are still more expensive than a pre-made open source handheld like the GCW Zero.  Thankfully, there is another option.

Cell Phone emulators in the Google Play market are getting better and better all the time.  As of right now, the free option is RetroArch, a capable front end system that uses multiple emulator cores in order to support multiple different systems.  Using this in conjunction with the Gamesome front end on Android creates the core operating environment for our handheld.

As far as the phone goes, the best budget choice is the Blu R1 HD.  It runs Android 6, with a guarenteed upgrade to 7 in the future.  Sporting a quad core CPU, Micro SD expansion for more storage, and 2 GB of RAM, this is a front runner since the cost is only $59.99 for Amazon Prime members.  Be sure to choose the 16 GB storage, 2 GB RAM version for 59.99, as there is a 8 GB storage, 1 GB RAM for 49.99 that is simply not worth it when for just ten dollars more you double your storage and RAM.

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A handheld is only as good as its controls.  For the controller we are running the 8BitDo NES30 Pro controller.  Visually it looks like an NES controller with thumbsticks, shoulder buttons, and extra face buttons added on, but its design is closer to the SNES controller or the Wii Classic controller.  The expanded thumbsticks and shoulder buttons allow us to play up to PS1 and N64 games on our unit with no problem whatsoever.  The controller can be purchased in a bundle with the “Xtander” phone clamp, which is recommended.  Of course, both can be purchased seperately, so if you already have an NES30 Pro, the Xtander will only set you back ten bucks.  The controller has a great classic feel, with solid construction.  Some may be tempted to go with a Moga Hero Power instead, but the Moga controller lacks the quality construction the 8BitDo offering contains.  Spend the extra money for a better gaming experience.

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Once you have all the parts, simply install Gamesome and RetroArch, and download the cores for Retroarch for the platforms you wish to play.  The Gamesome frontend will detect your game ROMS after you select the proper folder they are in on the phone, and will even download artwork for them.  If you wish to expand on this idea, you can purchase a 64 GB Micro SD card for storage, or the case for the R1 HD to give it some more protection.  The best part is that this setup is upgradeable.  In a few years, if there’s a more powerful phone you wish to add to the setup, it’s a quick swap-out.  If you have a current powerhouse of a phone, all you have to do is install Gamesome, Retroarch, and pick up an NES30 Pro with Xtander to get in on the action.

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As you can tell from the above screenshots, the frontend makes the setup look quite smooth.  The entire interface can be driven either by controller or touchscreen, so you can choose which suits your needs best.  Below is a video showing the setup in motion (albeit with a different phone).

While this setup is a tad clunkier than an open sourced handheld or Adafruits GameGrrl, it also is able to be made by someone with no soldering or construction skills, is upgradeable, has a lower price, and features a more powerful CPU/GPU combo allowing it to emulate more powerful systems at faster speeds.

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