Frogger (Arcade) is the Retro Game of the Day for 30 June, 2016

Frogger is one of those simple, almost Zen-like games of utter simplicity that manifests itself into one of the greatest games of all time thanks to its simplicity.  It shows modern games like Dota 2 that celebrate an almost fanatical, insane complexity that playing a game doesn’t require memorizing an encyclopedia of information and playing for 500 hours to be “good” at it.

Okay, fine, maybe today’s RGotD is more about slamming modern games than celebrating old ones.  Deal with it.  My head feels like I have a basketball stuffed inside of it, and my usual crankiness is dialed up to eleven.  But playing Frogger and other games like it help me; it calms me down and makes me appreciate and enjoy the good games that have been left behind for today’s garbage.  It makes me smile at simply guiding a frog through traffic and a swamp filled with logs, turtles, and nasty little creatures just to get home.

That, to me, is gaming.  Not trying to juggle twenty different things at once all while being yelled at by other players because I didn’t perfectly execute one of my spells at exactly the right time.  That’s not fun.  Frogger is fun.

Deal with it, modern gamers.

 

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Wizard (Commodore 64) is the Retro Game of the Day for 29 June, 2016

Like many kids back in the late 70s and early 80s, my first big console was the Atari 2600.  But of course, the 2600 was very limited in what it could do and what games it could play, and by 1983, it had shot itself in the foot with terrible games.  Fortunately, home computing was affordable enough to start me down that path, first with a Commodore VIC-20, then the wonderful Commodore 64, which I became absolutely obsessed with, not only playing games, but creating little programs and other diversions with that little 8-bit wonder.  I spent tons of time with games like the Ultima series, but I seem to remember a huge chunk of my time playing a simple yet addictive little platformer game that was an offshoot of the more well-known Jumpman games: Wizard. 

Technically I had its improved and expanded version, known as Ultimate Wizard, but the game was the same: navigate a wizard through a series of levels full of platforms, ladders, ropes, traps, monsters, and other obstacles for a very simple goal: get the key on each level and bring it to a lock.  The simplicity of the goal was in sharp contrast to the well-designed and challenging levels that made the seeming simplicity a lot harder as you have to position yourself exactly right to jump from place to place, avoid baddies that scurry around the level, and even navigating through disappearing and appearing level elements.  Most levels give you a limited number of a single spell specifically for that level after you get the key that can give you an advantage, but generally, your skill alone will determine your success or failure.  Moreover, the game includes a level editor that allows you to build your own devious levels.

It’s an insanely fun little game that I spent way too much time with instead of doing the things I was supposed to do at that age, unimportant things like homework, chores, and other things that obviously was less important than playing a videogame (heh).  Give it a try.  The vice Commodore emulator for the C64 seems to play it perfectly.

 

The Bard’s Tale (various) is the Retro Game of the Day for 28 June, 2016

Oh, how I love retro role playing games (RPGs).  These days, I miss RPGs that were actually role playing games and not “play through this story we force on you as a character we force on you”.  Modern RPGs (and most Japanese RPGs, like Final Fantasy) follow this pattern, instead of being a cool little game all about exploration and making characters that are basically a blank slate that you are in control of, and while not all games really have much of a story besides “get stronger and beat the crap out of everything”, really, do you need much more than that in a game?

The Bard’s Tale (aka Tales of the Unknown: Volume 1: The Bard’s Tale) is exactly this sort of game, where you create a party full of various types of typical fantasy game characters, give them equipment, and let them set out into a mazelike set of corridors to battle various bad guys and find help wherever they can.  There is a sort of Zen-like simplicity to this sort of gameplay that makes it infinitely compelling — you have to figure out where you are, where you’re going, how to survive against overwhelming odds, and slowly figure out what exactly is going on so that you can locate and defeat the game’s ultimate goal.  To me, this is infinitely more enjoyable than having to press a button endlessly to page through a mountain of dialog that is ultimately not that interesting or even important to the gameplay itself in more modern RPGs.

The game itself is available on various classic 8-bit computers, many of which are easily emulatable.  I played it in the in-game emulator of the newer The Bard’s Tale game, a modern OS port of a 2004 Playstation 2 and XBox game.  The newer port includes the original Bard’s Tale games within an embedded Apple IIGS emulator.  While I wish they offered these games separate from the main game so I could play them separately (you have to run the newer game and access these games from the main menu), it works well enough to enjoy the games.

Quake (DOS) is the Retro Game of the Day for 27 June, 2016

The above is not my video; thanks to “Kai Moosmann” on YouTube for the excellent video demonstrating the futility of making FPS games these days and a demonstration of the classic gameplay that made it good (watch through to the end!).

I used to be able to do some of those crazy things in Quake, but I’m so out of practice that I felt that I could not do Quake justice with my own video.  Not much else to say today (I’m trying to ease back into the RGotD here) that I didn’t say the other day about it, so we’ll just leave it at that.  And apparently machinegames on Twitter has made a new Quake episode available as well, so you should probably go check that out.

I’m better at Doom, anyway. :)

 

The Nintendo 64 is also 20, but…

[Note: this was also posted in a reddit thread about the Nintendo 64, but I think it’s worth reposting here.]

I went to Toys R Us just before the US release of the N64 and played Mario 64. Was in my mid-20s at the time and was convinced Nintendo had just destroyed themselves because the game was so screwy with controls and camera and thus brought down the gameplay.

Imagine my surprise when it became one of the greatest games of all times thanks to Nintendo basically viral marketing the living crap out of it, paying off reviewers, and fooling the emerging new-gamer market at the game that it doesn’t matter how bad controls are as long as the game is pretty.

Reminder that Mario 64 was originally going to be something like New Super Mario Bros, using 3d as a way to render a traditional Mario 2d style gameplay (you can see elements of what this was supposed to be like in much of the Bowser boss levels, and the gameplay would have been shown from the side), but the whole Sony Playstation “3d Is King” marketing attitude towards those emerging gamers convinced them to change the game and delay it and the N64’s release to accommodate the change to 3d. It shocks me that this fact that was so often reported back before its release is basically completely absent after its release through today, possibly because Nintendo didn’t want people to think they basically changed horses mid-stream.

I’ve played SM64 many times off and on over the years to see if my view on it has changed. I even slagged through the game to get the minimum number of stars to win the game, and did beat it. It was probably one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in a game and absolutely never wanted to touch it ever again afterwards.

So not everyone is on board the Nintendo 64/SM64 love train. I honestly think the N64 was one of the major things contributing to the downfall of classic game mechanics and the rise of shallow, style-over-substance games that have basically destroyed the industry (along with many other games of the era, notably Metal Gear Solid). Not everything for it was horrible (I think it still has the absolute best Mario Kart game), but so many things were just terrible, and its laughable mutation of a controller certainly didn’t help it.

It’s not a popular opinion, but as someone that has played games since the industry’s infancy and someone that still would rather play NES games than anything released in recent times, I think it’s pretty justified.

Happy 20th, Quake 1

I do consider the original Quake (and only the original) a retro game, even though it was released in 1996.  It still has that retro feel and aesthetic that puts it solidly with games like Doom and not with its contemporaries.

It was twenty years ago when Quake was introduced to the world, and was still using DOS at that, even after Windows 95 had begun to take over the world (a nightmare from which we are only now just emerging from).

It’s pretty sad that the name Quake now evokes the memories of the multiplayer-only Quake III: Arena and Quake Live, something that used to at least resemble the passable Arena as a free, multiplatform online game and now is stripped down, forced onto Windows only, and costs money, and will soon receive yet another modern mutation of once-good gameplay, instead of the excellent Lovecraft-influenced fast-paced action game Quake 1 was.  More people need to play the vastly superior original Quake and see what a FPS really should be.  The excellent If Quake was done today video not only highlights the stupidity of most modern shooters, but shows people how classic Quake gameplay should be done (watch to the end to make sure you see Quake played how Quake should be played).

This is all sounding like a Retro Game of the Day, isn’t it?  Well, when I return Monday, I think you can all guess what game is going to be featured…

 

All Featured Retro Games of the Day

…Retro Game of the Days?  Retros Game of the Day?  Retros Games of the Days?

Whatever, this is the link to a Google Sheets list of all the featured Retro(s) Game(s) of the Day(s) featured so far, along with a graph that shows that obviously, I’m way too in love with arcade games.  Hey, I spent a lot of time in arcades back in the day.

My time off continues.  See you next Monday, or whenever I feel like I have something interesting to post.

Sonic CD (Sega CD) is the Retro Game of the Day for 17 June, 2016

Let’s just make this fast, quick, and simple.

This is the best Sonic game.  The USA version, at that.  I don’t want club/dance-inspired music that doesn’t fit at all with the game, I want videogame music, which is what the USA soundtrack is.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is second-best, the first one is third, and 3/Sonic & Knuckles… well… I don’t like the smoothed out graphics (looks sort of ugly), the music, or the level design.  Bosses are uninspired, too.  But don’t get me wrong, 3/S&K is still a great game.  But when you compare it to the other original Sonic games, it comes up a bit short.

And they didn’t make any other Sonic games after that.  Nothing you can say and no evidence you present to me can convince me that they did.  I choose to ignore it.

Reminder: RGotD is going on a little break and will be back on Monday, June 27th.  Until then: play retro games.  And only retro games.  You’ll thank me some day.

Samurai Shodown (Neo Geo) is the Retro Game of the Day for 16 June, 2016

First, a note about the Retro Game of the Day:  I will be taking a week off of posting RGotD beginning this Saturday (18 June, 2016).  It will be back on the following Monday (27 June, 2016).  During this week, I will expect everyone to play only pre-1995 games in celebration of the Retro Game of the Day vacation.  Enjoy.

I won’t have much to say about Samurai Shodown (aka Samurai Spirits in Japan), also known as The Game So Cool It Doesn’t Need A “W” In “Showdown”, other than it’s a really fun, well-done fighting game featuring weapon combat, interesting super special moves that are a bit difficult to pull off, and a ton of cool music.  It’s just fun in general, and gave the overpriced Neo Geo home console a reason to exist, as well as the arcade cabinets that housed multiple selectable games from its library.

And mame emulates it perfectly.

(Am I the only one that sings “neeeeooooo geeeoooo…. neeeeoooo geooooo” on the Neo Geo bootup screen?  Because that is what the little song sounds like it should be.)

 

Professor Pac-Man (Arcade) is the Retro Game of the Day for 15 June, 2016

Ah, Pac-Man.  He and his entire family have munched his way through many a maze in the days of his success.  But with the rise of quiz games in the 80s came a new Pac in town.  Enter Professor Pac-Man.

It is, of course, not much of a game, but instead a simple quiz similar to many “how smart are you” quizzes you see online and in magazines.  Questions like “complete this sequence”, “pick the mirror image”, and “study this scene, then answer a question on what you remember” are a few of the types of questions the Professor will ask, accompanied by Pac-Man-styled animations, and, sadly, rough sound effects and music that is more irritating than helpful.  Your goal is to simply choose one of three answers given to you before the timer runs out and answer as many questions as possible before you lose all your “lives”, losing one every time you miss a question.

The game wasn’t a massive hit, nor was it distributed very far and wide, but it was a fixture in my local arcade (a town about 30 minutes away from a large city) and I put more quarters into it than I care to admit.  What can I say, I’m a sucker for games that let you use your brain, even minimally enough to answer inane little quiz questions.

MAME plays this game well, but unfortunately make even worse the already piercing sound effects it made.  You might want to turn your sound down a bit if you try this one.