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.

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Black Widow (Arcade) is the Retro Game of the Week for 30 January, 2017

Released: 1982
Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
System: Arcade
Genre: Shooter
Played on: MAME, gamepad

Another “I am sick as sick can be” week here at RGotW, so this is going to be brief.  Playing games on the Atari Vault collection on Steam is enjoyable not only because I get to play a bunch of old games I am familiar with, but also discover a few games I really didn’t get to see back then or ever try since.  Black Widow is one of those games, and it’s pretty good.  You move around on a web and basically shoot other spiders and creepy-crawlies using a twin stick shooter, with various enemy types, dangers and obstacles in your way.  Sounds simple, but again, simple can be really, really good.

Hopefully next week I won’t be horribly sick and I can actually think to write more than a single paragraph about a game.  Enjoy.

Pleiades (Arcade) is the Retro Game of the Week for 23 January, 2017

Released: 1981
Developer: Tehkan
Publisher: Centuri (US version, played here)
System: Arcade
Genre: Vertical shooter
Played on: MAME, gamepad

This edition of the Retro Game of the Week is pure, unapologetic nostalgia. While its featured game, Pleiades (also spelled “Pleiads” elsewhere), is pretty much a bog-standard vertical shooter game with a few neat tricks, my affection for the game comes from it being an arcade game in a gas station within walking distance of my home back when I was young. I played this game probably way, way more than I should have. And I loved every moment of it. Nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake for once in RGotW, but at least somewhat deserved.

Pleiades is comprised of four stages, repeated over and over until you run out of lives. The first takes place on what appears to be a military installation, complete with makeshift shields and tracking satellite dishes (that also fire at incoming aliens). The aliens swirl in via various patterns, shooting at the player and occasionally morphing into fast-moving ball-shaped aliens and walker aliens that lay down shields just above you that block your fire. After you defeat them, the second stage has you blasting off into space to take on a group of small aliens that quickly grow into large bird-like aliens that you have to shoot the center of — shooting their “wings” only slows them down. When those are dispatched, you take on the alien ship that spawns waves of aliens while exhaust ports on the ship open for bonus points. When the ship is dispatched, a message onscreen tells you to return to Earth; you must then navigate through a landing strip full of parked ships and a quickly tapering edge (both of which destroy your ship and make you lose a life) to a target point, where the first stage begins anew and slightly increases in difficulty.

It is reminiscent of games like Phoenix, yet its style and gameplay make the game very compelling on its own. But let’s face it, I probably would never have made this a Retro Game of the Week if not for that arcade game in a corner grocery store near my house.  Nostalgia, friends.

Commander Keen (series, DOS) is the Retro Game of the Week for 9 January, 2017

Released: 1990
Publisher:  3D Realms (Apogee)
Developer: Id Software
Platform: DOS
Genre: Platformer
Played on: DOSBox, keyboard

Commander Keen was an early effort by the now-famous Id Software, famous for Quake and Doom that is essentially a scrolling platformer, something that was not really seen on the IBM PC in those days but were basically ubiquitous on consoles with such games as Super Mario Bros.. Keen was an attempt to replicate those kinds of games on the PC, and of course, they knocked it out of the park.

Commander Keen is about the adventures of an eight year old kid named Billy Blaze and his alter ego, the titular Commander Keen as he blasts his way through waves of alien bad guys. It may of course seem very much a primitive game these days, but back then, it was a very fun and enjoyable romp through a platformer game not really experienced outside of Nintendo and Sega’s gaming juggernauts. And it really does hold up pretty well today. It was a perfect starting point for the wide expansion of PC gaming, as well as the achievements of the developers and designers of Id Software (John Carmack and John Romero, primarily).

Extremely sick, RGotD is Super Mario 2 (NES)

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Sorry, no video, no writeup, nothing.  I’m almost too sick to think.  But here’s the RGotW, and it’s the black sheep of the original Mario games, Super Mario Bros. 2, aka Super Mario USA, which was a changed version of an original Japanese game featuring different characters.  It’s still insanely fun, so go play.

Now I’m going to curl up into a ball and cry and hope I’m better tomorrow.

Tapper (Arcade) is the Retro Game of the Week for 21 November, 2016

Released: 1983
Publisher:  Bally Midway
Developer: Marvin Glass and Associates
Platform: Arcade
Genre: Action
Played on: MAME, gamepad

A new PC and a new, re-energized love for retro gaming means I’m back and ready for more games that you probably never knew existed!

Tapper is a cool one.  The game itself is incredibly simple, and almost seems like what a smartphone game would be these days.  You are in charge of a series of bars with a ton of thirsty customers waiting for drinks, slowly advancing down the bar.  You are in charge of filling up a mug of beer and sending it sliding down the bar so that the thirsty patron can grab it.  The customer can either take it with them and leave or send the mug sliding back down the bar, waiting for another drink.  If you let a customer reach the end of the bar, let a returning empty mug crash onto the floor, or send a full mug down the bar with no one along the bar to recieve it, you lose a life and start the round over.  Some customers will also leave tips at the very far end of the bar, where you can run down the bar to grab them (you can also run down to grab empty mugs, and any time you run down you don’t have to take the time to run back as any action will immediately move you to a bar end), and this money allows dancers at the top of the screen to distract some customers that would normally be advancing down the bar, waiting for you to serve them, giving you a little breathing room.

Sure, at first this seems simple enough, and the first couple of levels are indeed cleared very easily as long as you are quick to throw the drinks down the bar.  But as the bars get cluttered with more and more customers and more and more start chunking the glasses back for more, giving you many bars full of empty glasses threatening to break on the floor all at once, the game gets very hectic and quite challenging.  You have to prioritize where to go and what to do and if you can risk (and have time to) run down a bar to grab a tip that might give you a little breathing room.

The interesting thing?  The game’s blatant ad for Budweiser beer plastered everywhere.  Given that games of the time seemed to be geared for young people and be family-friendly for the most part, the idea of chunking beers down a bar and a Budweiser ad staring them in the face is a bit jarring.  This certainly prompted a different version of the game, Root Beer Tapper, that was the same game except obviously with root beer instead of the harder stuff, and a generic ad for root beer in place of the Budweiser logo.  Regardless, I remember many more arcades carrying the original Tapper game back in those days rather than its kinder, friendlier alternative.

Regardless, the game is fun and a nice, challenging arcade game to quench your thirst for simple action gaming.

This Tapper’s for you.

 

Pinball Games (Arcade) are the Retro Games of the Week for 3 October, 2016

(No stats this week because we’re not concentrating on a single game, but the above, as stated below, is Tales of the Arabian Nights played via Pinball Arcade on Steam, controlled with a keyboard.)

This week is a special week here on RGotW as we are including a ton of games in one week, beating our previous record of three.  In fact, we’re just going to go ahead and celebrate an entire type of gaming, retro and non, because really, they are all good.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you: pinball. 

The above example is from a very nice game available for Steam called Pinball Arcade: it very faithfully replicates a ton of pinball tables from throughout the entire history of pinball.  While getting all of the tables is a bit on the pricey side, you at least get the table I demonstrated above (Tales of the Arabian Nights) for free, and can play others for free for a limited time.

But let’s talk about pinball itself.  Unlike other videogames, pinball is a very mechanical and real-world entity that has a definite feel and charm to it.  Sure, playing pinball on the PC through means like the above Pinball Arcade is well and good if you have no other way, but honestly, if you’re going to enjoy pinball, go out and find a real machine at a reputable arcade that keeps their tables well-maintained and in working order.  There’s really no substitute for the feel and the sound of a moving ball rolling around on an inclined surface colliding with obstacles and being bounced around, while you try to prevent it from escaping to the bottom of the table with the flippers, controlled by side buttons almost as if you are embracing the table, inviting it to become a part of you, and of you, it.  If this all seems almost sensual, you are right.  It is a very involved, wonderful dance of skill and perception that requires one to sense everything going on.  And in this way, computer pinball simulations don’t really do it justice, but again, it’s better than nothing at all.

You can find many old pinball machines that are all mechanical, with no electronic components, and modern ones that integrate many electrical, crazy components in it, including a scoreboard that can be interactive, elements that can control and change the table, speech, graphics, and so on.  Both are absolutely wonderful and I’m not sure if some people have their preference, but I have none.  I adore tables like Royal Flush just as much as I do, say, Theatre of Magic.  It doesn’t matter how much or little the game adds with electronic wizardry; the game is still about a physical ball rolling around in a physical space, and as long as you have that, you have pinball.

Go out and find some pinball games out in the wild.  Enjoy them.  Love them.  Maybe even bring them back.  We’ve brought electronic videogames into the home to stay, but pinball needs to be experienced in its purest form.  I’d love to see an arcade today full of tables from all eras.  On second thought, maybe I wouldn’t, because I would go there and never leave.