A C64stravaganza!

Hey, look, it’s Monday, and even though I said I’d stop Retro Game of the Week entries, here I am with a post!  No, RGOTW isn’t back, but I did say I’d post semi-regularly regarding some of the things I’ve been playing, and I did say I was going to play some Commodore 64… and so I have been.

When I was young, my parents scraped together enough money to get me the Commodore VIC-20, and eventually, the Datasette (basically a storage device that used regular audio cassette tapes to store data — yes, it was as slow as you might think it would be).  As my poor VIC-20 got atrociously out of date after some years, my parents, in their infinite lower-middle class generosity to their computer-crazed son, plopped down a brand new Commodore 64 in front of me.  Still had the Datasette, though, so loading something like Telengard would take an insane 30 minutes!  (The game was something like 35KB, smaller than most small images that it takes a fraction of a second to load from the internet these days.  Take that, priviledged kids.)  Eventually, they once again felt the sorrow of a poor nerd and ponied up the money for the 1541 disk drive, featuring 5 1/4″ floppy disks that held a whopping 170ish KB of data.  And loaded a lot faster than that damn Datasette — I was up and playing Telengard in a few minutes now!  (And thanks to me eventually acquiring a fast loading cartridge to speed up things, it loaded even faster!  It was no fraction of a second like it would load now, but hey, progress!)

So many exclamation points, I know.  The sign of a poor writer.  But it is a reflection of the excitement I had at the time for the Commodore 64 — a simple yet effective machine, every bit of it laid bare for me to manipulate, hack on, fiddle with, and, yes, play games with.  It was my first true love in computing, and it still holds a place dear to my heart.

My actual Commodore 64 hardware is long gone, long since broken and lost to the ages, but I still am able to play its games and toy around with it thanks to a magnificent emulator called VICE.  It is technically a multi-emulator that is able to run all 8-bit Commodore hardware, from the old PET computers to the VIC-20, Commodore 64, 128 and PLUS4.  It’s quite a magnificent feat of programming and very impressive work was done to simulate it very well, especially the magnificent Commodore 64’s sound chip (SID), which was capable of some impressive sound feats back in the day.

Did I mention it can play games?

International Karate+

international-karate

This game is probably one of the games you think of when you think of Commodore 64 gaming.  It’s a very early example of a fighting game, where you can fight against the computer or another player to execute a variety of karate punches and kicks to knock down your opponent (unlike many fighting games, one good hit knocks them down and you gain a point).  The controls seem rather awkward at first as you only have the standard Commodore 64 8-position joystick plus single button to control your fighter, but as you play more, you quickly remember the movements required to pull of any move.  There were many variants of this game, and trying quite a few of them, I never was able to find the exact version of the game I played back in the day, but the version I ended up with was close enough.

Great Giana Sisters

great-giana-sisters

Super Mario Bros. and Nintendo, eat your heart out.  The Commodore 64 proved it could play side-scrolling platformers, too, and delivered a very good Mario Bros.-like with this game.  Pressing up on the control stick to jump was a little awkward if you’re used to doing it with a button, but it was necessary, like International Karate+, to map everything to a single one-button stick.

Radar Rat Race

radar-rat-race

Hoooly crap.  I had completely forgotten about this one until scrolling through a game list for the C64 and happening on this thing.  The game is basically a clone of the arcade Rally-X, and is very well done and insanely fun.  Big smile on my face playing this one.

Raid on Bungeling Bay

raid-on-bungeling-bay

I didn’t play a whole lot of this back in the day, but I did remember that the helicopter controls were absolutely awesome, confirmed by my replay of it today.  It’s a pretty simple multiscrolling fly-around-and-shoot-things game, but it’s really a solid game.

Speedball

speedball

There seems to be many people who remember Speedball 2 and not this one, and claim that the second game was the better game.  I disagree.  2 had a more zoomed in view with clunkier controls and chaotic (in a bad way) gameplay, while the original seemed a lot more solid and fun to play.  2 wasn’t bad, mind you, but I think the original just has it beat in every way that matters.  In the end it’s just a simple football game, (“soccer” for my fellow USAians that are obsessed with that “other” so-called football) but hell, it’s fun, and that’s what counts.

I highly recommend grabbing the Vice emulator and giving these games (and others) a try.  You might find that the Commodore 64 will win your heart, as well.

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The end of Retro Game of the Week

I figured that one day it would come to this point, but honestly, this lasted a lot longer than I thought it would.  I figured I wouldn’t have the patience to grind this thing out for longer than a few months before I tired of it, even after changing the original plan of one game a day to once weekly, and even with the breaks and weeks off, I didn’t think I’d make it this far.

But here I am.

This doesn’t mean the end of Retro Gaming Universe, at all.  And occasionally I will highlight a game I’ve been playing.  But RGotW as a regular feature will no longer happen.

The main reason: I’m sick of fighting with YouTube over copyright issues.  Seemingly every few videos, something crops up — either the video’s audio gets matched and is blocked in certain countries, or the entire video is blocked everywhere, or worse, flagged.  And it’s frustrating, because all I want to do is show a damn short video on typical gameplay.  It’s free publicity, I am not making one damn red cent from my channel, and I am doing this to inform and educate the public about old games.  And you still want to block me from doing that?  Typical corporate greed and short-sightedness.  It’s something I fight on a daily basis as a user and advocate of Free operating systems like GNU (aka Linux — GNU is the actual OS name, Linux is its kernel, and no cobbled-together name like “GNU/Linux” is going to improve it even though Linux isn’t technically part of GNU, as the argument goes; I’d rather just call it by its OS name) and other freedom and human rights advocacy online.  I realize that the use of Google’s services in any way makes me somewhat of a hypocrite, and I am well aware of my own hypocracy in this area — I have so many times in the past struggled with my relationship with Google, even completely removing it from my life at one point, but the problem is that it’s just too ubiquitous and useful to keep away from.  I try to keep my distance the best I can — my primary search engine is DuckDuckGo, and I would rather directly watch a YouTube video via mpv+youtube-dl than on its bloated site, but I still have an account there, I post YouTube videos, and I occasionally participate on Google+.  And I hate myself for it.

Trust me, I’m not even close to exhausting the amount of retro games I remember and enjoyed, and would love to share them.  My eventual plan was to go on a Commodore posting spree and highlight games from the VIC-20, Commodore 64, and Amiga very soon, and other systems like Apple 8-bit computers and the GameBoy barely got their day in the sun, not to mention a ton of Nintendo’s games that really don’t get much mention these days.  But Nintendo games again bring up the YouTube problem, as Nintendo doesn’t seem to like people posting their games much unless they are formatted in a way to prevent copyright matching (yeah, that’s fair), so as much as I would have loved to do a full Super Mario Bros. 2 (the USA conversion of Doki Doki Panic, not the Japanese version that was basically a masochistic version of the first one), I ended up having to do it on a week that I really didn’t feel like posting a full RGotW and just ended up attaching an image of it.  Not the way I wanted to celebrate the black sheep of the Mario series.

I am still going to post here, and I still want to highlight some Commodore games (Raid on Bungling Bay, The Last Ninja, the Scott Adams adventure games, Speedball 2, Shadow of the Beast, etc), as well as some DOS games (Ultima Underworld, Scorched Earth, Warcraft and Command & Conquer, etc).  But they won’t be in RGotW format, and in fact will probably be some all-in-one post, or just a single post on a certain game that I’ve been playing.

I’m just tired of a deadline, and tired of YouTube.  It’s been a fun ride, and the ride will continue in another form, but the Retro Game of the Week rollercoaster is done.

I think I’m going to play some C64 games now.

Here is a list of every single game featured on Retro Game of the Day/Week. Enjoy.

Cliff Hanger (Arcade) is the Retro Game of the Week for 13 February, 2017

Note: due to YouTube stupidly blocking the video for copyrighted content, there will be no game video this week.  YouTube sucks.  Seriously.

screenshot_20170213_210841

Released: 1983
Developer: Stern Electronics, TMS Entertainment
Publisher: Stern Electronics
System: Arcade
Genre: Interactive movie
Played on: MAME, keyboard

During one of my awkward school years, my class somehow thought that it might be fun to round us all up and head out to the local roller skating rink.  Being completely uncoordinated and awkward, this was obviously a nightmarish trip for me as I laced up my skates, wobbling and carefully moving everywhere.  I seem to remember spending more time on my ass with those skates on than not.

Fortunately, the place had a few arcade games, including one I had never seen before.  It was in the genre of Dragon’s Lair-like interactive movie games that were even at that time waning in popularity (and rightfully so), but having to choose between the other games that I’ve played a million times (and, if I remember correctly, weren’t even that great) and this new one, I chose the new one — Cliff Hanger.  Like several other barely interactive movie arcade games at the time, I spent way too much time and money on this thing, and never really got that far, but again, the alternatives were pretty poor.

Cliff Hanger follows the adventures of “Cliff” (well, sort of — read on) and his quest to rescue “Clarissa” from the clutches of the evil “Count Draco”.  The “game”, if you can call it that, involves hitting either a direction or one of two “action” buttons (hands and feet) at specific times during the video.  Failure at any point means you lose a life and must return to a specific point in the action (generally a few moments before your failure) to try again.  Losing all your lives isn’t a huge setback, as you can insert more coins to continue where you left off (or just hit the coin button in MAME… heh).

At this point in my life, I wasn’t very familiar with Japanese animation, even though I had seen a bit of it under the guise of Americanized versions of things like Mach GoGoGo (Speed Racer) and a few others.  I had no idea that this game, in fact, was a bastardization of the Japanese animated Lupin the Third, specifically the movie The Castle of Cagliostro.  Watching Lupin the Third some years later and specifically that specific movie, it was quite a realization that the game was a repurposed version of this movie, and that “Cliff” was really Lupin, “Clarissa” was Lady Clarisse, and “Count Draco” was Count Cagliostro.  Shocker, I know.  (The game also used a few bits of footage from another Lupin movie, The Mystery of Mamo, but it was primarily taken from Cagliostro.)

So yeah, another pointless nostalgia entry of Retro Game of the Week.  I try not to do a lot of these and focus on actual quality games, but sometimes, I just can’t help myself as I think of and rediscover games I haven’t played in years, and point out that not all games back then were great — it’s just that the greatest games of the time were better than the “greatest” games of today.  But gaming today doesn’t realize that you really can’t get away with just playing a movie, adding a bit of superficial gameplay, and expecting it to be good.  Sadly, today’s gamers have been trained to believe that is true.  The lessons we learned back in the day have been forgotten.

Oh, well.