Archive for April, 2011

Atari 800 Prototypes!

Posted in Finds on April 28, 2011 by satoshimatrix

Sometimes you find treasures in the strangest places.

About a month ago, on a residential side street in Toronto, I came across…an unusual find. Standing on the ground near the sidewalk was an old plastic case holding 14 Atari 800 games, and also an Atari 2600 Joystick.

The games were:

Pole Position RX8034
Star Raider CXL4ON
Pac-Man CXL4022
Donkey Kong RX8031
K-razy Kritters ATR1001
Soccer THB 12003
Joust RX8044
Space Invaders CXL4008
Centipede CXL4020
Qix CXL4027
BASIC Computing Language CXL4002
Pitfall II CZ-011
H.E.R.O CZ-007

They all look remarkably good considering their age (and the fact they were apparently abandoned) but I did notice something odd about the two Activision games. Their labels weren’t anything like the other ones, and H.E.R.O in particular had a very peculiar label:

Clearly written with an early 80s dot-matrix printer, the top label has long since become worn and now cryptically reads,

AN EPROM SAM
TO ACTIVISI[ON]
OF ROM SAMPL[E]

AHC

Even though I don’t know a whole lot about the Atari 800, one thing that struck me was how tiny the cartridges were compared to those of the Atari 2600. Here’s H.E.R.O and Kaboom side by side.

Upon closer investigation and seeking answers on AtariAge and other sites, it would appear that both H.E.R.O and Pitfall 2 are prototypes. Thats right – pre-release copies handed out to advertisers, magazines, or perhaps the very programmers themselves.

I unfortunately don’t own an Atari 800 to test these games out, nor do I understand how the cartridge is held together enough to open them without breaking them. These are undumped, and could very well be different than the retail versions in a number of ways!

I plan to sell these in the near future, so if you want them, act quickly and contact me now. The person who offers the most gets them. Serious buyers can contact me at satoshimatrix@hotmail.com.

Advertisements

Top 25 GameBoy/GameBoy Color Games

Posted in Editorials, Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Hidden gems, Retro Gaming on April 21, 2011 by satoshimatrix

IMPORTANT NOTICE!

This top 25 list is now outdated and obsolete. It is replaced by my Top 100 GameBoy and GameBoy Color Games of All time list. Please ignore this and read the newer, more detailed top 100 list instead. This list is OLD.

Click here to view the new top 100 list.

A while back, I wrote the top 25 NES Powerpak Killer Apps list, and to my surprise that article turned out to be my most popular article ever. Flooded with requests to write similar lists for other systems, here’s the first of what I hope to turn into a semi-regular segment.

In 1989, Nintendo released the GameBoy Compact Portable Videogame system. The GameBoy was a monochrome, non backlit handheld with low resolution screen and a less powerful processor than even the NES, but it soon proved to be a hit. The GameBoy brand would endure until it was replaced by the Nintendo DS in the mid 2000’s. The original GameBoy had a successor called the GameBoy Color released in 1998. The GameBoy Color was a very similar system with the same screen resolution and basic design, but with a slightly faster CPU and full 8-bit color support.

This list is dedicated to the top 25 GameBoy and GameBoy Color games released between 1989 to 2002 when the GBC was retired in favor of the completely newly design GameBoy Advance. I had considered writing two lists, one for GameBoy and one for GameBoy Color, but ultimately the two are so similar a combined list made more sense to me.

Note that this article is jammed packed with pictures, so those who have subscribed to the email feed should visit the actual page to get the full experience.

So without further ado, enjoy my picks for the top 25 GameBoy and GameBoy Color games!

Again,

IMPORTANT NOTICE!

This top 25 list is now outdated and obsolete. It is replaced by my Top 100 GameBoy and GameBoy Color Games of All time list. Please ignore this and read the newer, more detailed top 100 list instead. This list is OLD.

Click here to view the new top 100 list.

#25

Star Trek 25th Anniversary

1991
Konami
Platform: GameBoy Original
Horizontal shooter, Action-Adventure
Price range: $4-10

A giant machine known as the Doomsday Machine now roams space, obliterating whole worlds in its path, its origin unknown. Indestructible to all known weapons, Federation scientists scramble to develop a weapon capable of destroying the Doomsday Machine before it can enter Federation space. To make the situation worse, the Klingons have stolen the prototype to destroy the weapon, dismantled it and scattered its parts across several worlds. The USS Enterprise has been assigned to recover the parts and defeat the Doomsday Machine before it reaches Earth.

1991 marked Star Trek‘s 25th anniversary. The Next Generation‘s popularity demanded Star Trek merchandise of all sorts, which of course included games. For the 25th anniversary of the original series, Star Trek games were produced for a number of consoles, including the GameBoy. Straying from general practice, the GameBoy Trek wasn’t a port of any console game. Instead of being an ill-conceived shovelware title to cash in on the popularity of the license, the GameBoy game played to the system’s limitations and strengths, delivering not a adventure-focused game, but an action shmup with only light adventure elements tossed in for good measure.

Why you should play it

A Star Trek shmup? Sign me up. Even to this day I can count on one hand the actually good Star Trek videogames, and this would be among them. If you’re a Trekker, you’ll love the fact that the whole story of the game centers around the classic episode “The Doomsday Machine”. If you’re not a Trekker, you’ll appreciate there’s a decent shmup structure with the ability to adjust your speed, power and shields. This one totally blows the NES Star Trek TOS game out of the water. Track it down.

#24

Operation C

1991
Konami
Platform: GameBoy Original
Action platformer
Price range: $8-15

Operation C is an original title specifically designed for the GameBoy with stages heavily influenced by the NES megahits Contra and Super C. A new evil group called Black Viper threatens the planet, so Contra duo Bill and Lance once again grab their infinite ammo rifles, leave their t-shirts at home and rush into both sidescrolling and vertical scrolling manic shooter hell. Gotta love it.

Why you should play it

Despite the limited housepower and low resolution of the original GameBoy, Operation C manages to deliver all the action and excitement of its console cousins. Not even the lack of color could stop this one from being a winner. Many slight improvements such as the ability to combine guns like the Super Spread Gun and Homing Spread Gun made it a lot of fun, not to mention the default weapon is the handy auto firing machine gun. It offers classic Contra difficulty. It may be only five stages long, but it’s a real challenge.

#23

Super Mario Land

1989
Nintendo EAD
Platform: GameBoy Original
Action Platformer
Price range: $4-8

Among the launch titles for the GameBoy in 1989, Super Mario Land provided new adopters of the handheld the ability to get their Mario platforming fix on the go for the first time. Unlike Tetris, Mario Land was not a pack-in game but sales nevertheless were very high, making Mario Land among the most successful GameBoy titles ever produced.

Super Mario Land returned to the formula of the first Super Mario Bros. Travel through different worlds of four stages each, collect mushrooms and fire flowers, and attempt to save the beautiful Princess Daisy. Mario Land mixed things up by adding auto – scrolling shump sections where Mario drives a sub and later an airplane.

Why you should play it

Along with Tetris, Super Mario Land was a perfect match for the Gameboy delivering all the fun and excitement of the console Super Mario Bros. experience in the palm of your hand. The graphics were were simpler and sprites were smaller and more basic, but Mario Land was just as fast paced and varied enough to entertain for hours. Finally, there can never be enough said about the fantastic soundtrack composed by the legendary Hip Tanaka. Super Mario Land is without a doubt, a landmark title that holds up extremely well to this day.

Super Mario Land‘s music composed by the famous Hip Tanaka, has some…..outlandish remixes. Among the more bizarre ones are the lyrical remix by the Ambassadors of Funk in the 1993 Nintendo album Super Mario Compact Disco. If you’ve never heard this before, check it out below. The music video is amazingly bad.

#22

Metal Gear Solid: Ghost Babel

2000
Konami Computer Entertainment Nagoya
Platform: GameBoy Color only
Action-Stealth
Price range: $15-25

The United States government sends Solid Snake somewhere in Africa to once again infiltrate a militant terrorist group who has gotten hold of a prototype Metal Gear – a walking, nuclear warhead armed tank – and stop the terrorists, destroy this new Metal Gear, and save the world.

Released in 2000, Metal Gear Solid: Ghost Babel is a semi non-canon sequel to the Playstation’s blockbuster hit, Metal Gear Solid. Ghost Babel is a completely original game that borrows design cues from the original MSX Metal Gear and Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, but also gameplay tweaks and features first seen in the PS1 title such as the VR missions.

Why you should play it

Metal Gear Solid on the GBC is a beautifully executed game that is extremely well suited to the hardware. From the look of the detailed graphics and fluid animations to the complexity of the guard AI, it’s immediately clear Konami put a lot of effort and production value into this title. It isn’t all that expensive to buy used either.

I’m not even particularly a Metal Gear fan in the least. I’ve yet to finish any of the console Metal Gear games that have been put out over the years. Yet still I find myself picking up Ghost Babel and completing it every couple of years. If you missed this one the first time around, give it another go. You’ll be glad you did. This game is really just that awesome.

#21

Survival Kids

1999
Konami
Platform: GameBoy Color, Super Gameboy
Adventure
Price range: $15-30

Survival Kids is a adventure/survival sim where you assume the role of Mary or Ken, a ten year old girl or boy who washes up on a deserted island and is forced to fend for her/himself to survive and eventually seek help.

Survival Kids is actually the first in a long running series of survival simulators Konami has made over the years, and is directly related to Konami’s Lost in Blue series on the Nintendo DS. It benefits from full color on the GBC, but can also be played with a custom limited pallet on the Super GameBoy, or even the original black and white GameBoy if that’s all you have.

Why you should play it

Survival Kids is an a very well made, unique effort on the GBC. There isn’t another game like it in the slightest on the handheld. The ability to play as a girl is both surprising and welcome. It might seem odd a girl would be excited to get a knife for her tenth birthday, but hey, it’s nice to see adventure games of this nature giving the choice of playing as a girl and avoiding stereotypes and established gender roles.

Foraging, hunting, exploring, building tools, Survival Kids has it all. It’s a fairly rare game, so make sure you don’t pass it up should you see it in your local game store.

Still not sure Survival Kids is for you? Check out this short snippet of gameplay of the first day in the game.

#20

Final Fantasy Legend III/SaGa 3

1993
Square
Platform: Original GameBoy
Role Playing Game
Price range: $15-20

Long ago, after a long and costly war, the magical land known as Pureland was sealed away from the rest of the world. Then out of nowhere, the mysterious Pureland fountain appeared in the clouds and began endlessly pouring water onto the land. The problem grew and grew until it threatened to flood the entire planet.

Three young children and their mentor are sent back and forth in time to retrieve parts for the ancient dormant timeship known as the Talon in order to find out why Pureland is flooding the world and change this history. This….probably made more sense in Japanese.

In actuality not a Final Fantasy game at all, Legend 3 is instead the third in the SaGa series. Made by Square, many elements are shared, including an excellent battle system, soundtrack and story, the only reason the FF label is slapped on was for brand recognition and to further popularize Final Fantasy in the west.

Why you should play it

For an early handheld RPG, Final Fantasy Legend 3/SaGa 3 gets a lot of things right. When you defeat monsters, they will occasionally drop meat or bolts, which can convert your party members into mutants or cyborgs, augmenting their appearance and giving special abilities. There’s a fairly deep magic system, a good, if convoluted story that mixes fantasy and sci-fi, and some of the best RPG music ever. The Talon theme comes to mind whenever I think of the best videogame music on the GameBoy.

The epic Talon theme for your listening pleasure.



#19

Megaman V

1995
Capcom
Platform: Original GameBoy with Super GameBoy support
Action Platformer
Price range: $25-40

Unlike the first four Megaman titles to hit the GameBoy, Megaman V is not a remixed game consisting of Robot Masters from older NES games. Instead, Megaman V is a completely new game with new bosses, called the Star Droids. When Megaman’s Mega Buster proves useless against the Star Droids, Dr. Light upgrades Megaman’s arm cannon to fire his fist as a projectile, which has enough force to damage the Star Droids. What follows is the only Megaman game in the classic series to not feature Dr. Wily as the end boss!

Why you should play it

Released in 1995, Megaman V is the final Megaman Classic title on the GameBoy and takes what Capcom learned from the privious four games into one final crescendo effort. The visuals, audio, and gameplay are all top notch, and the change of the Mega Buster to the Mega Arm is sufficiently different enough that you won’t get a similar game on any other system. I like it an awful lot, but I still think there are better Megaman games, even on the GameBoy. Megaman V is also fairly rare.

In late 2003, Capcom announced Megaman Mania, a collection of all five GameBoy Megaman games with newly added color support. Unfortunately, the project was ultimately canceled when Capcom evidently “lost the original source code”. Despite this, early screenshots appear to show Megaman V fairly deep into the colorized development, if not completely finished. Perhaps one day the prototype will surface, or the fan community of hackers will pick up where Capcom left off. For now, we can only dream about what might have been with Megaman Mania.

#18

Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

1992
Nintendo EAD
Platform: Original GameBoy
Action Platformer
Price range: $10-15

18 Super Mario Land 2

While Mario was away to rescue Daisy in the original Super Mario Land, Wario came to Mario Land, brainwashed the inhabitants and then moved in to Mario’s Castle. Upon his return, Mario discovered Wario had erected a great door to Mario’s former home, which will only open once six golden coins are put in place.

Super Mario land 2 was the first appearance of the anti-hero Wario, who has since become a popular Nintendo character on his own, spawning the Wario Land series and many years later, the Wario Ware series of mini-games.

Why you should play it

Like the first Super Mario Land, Super Mario Land 2 is an absolute blast to play through. Taking design cues from Super Mario World, Mario now has multiple hats, has a spin attack, and can freely scroll to the left as well as to the right. Mario Land 2 drastically increased the size of its sprites without sacrificing screen visibility too much. It still looked a little basic, but was much more similar in overall look to later NES games being made at the time. The game is fairly lengthy with a good selection of worlds to visit and lots of replay value.

#17

Ganbare Goemon Hoshizorashi Dyamites Arawaru!!

2000
Konami
Platform: GameBoy Color only
Action Platformer
Price range: $15-30

Amongst all of the Goemon RPGs on the GameBoy, Dynamites Arawaru is the only platformer. The gameplay is pretty much like Goemon 2 and 3 for the Super Famicom, although goofy cat enemies litter the game as opposed to rabbits. Goemon and Ebisumaru have been separated, and each has their own set of levels. While Goemon’s levels are your traditional left-to-right scrolling stages, Ebisumaru’s mix it up a bit by scrolling from right-to-left. It’s a little odd, but it keeps things fresh.

Like most of the best Goemon games, this one was never released outside of Japan, making it a somewhat uncommon import. The last I checked it wasn’t anywhere to be found on ebay, so you’ll probably have to hit up your local import store for this one.

Why you should play it

Gabare Goemon Hoshizorashi Dyamite’s Arawaru is a Japan-only title without any English translation, but this is a platformer. As such, there’s very little in the way of a language barrier and no reason at all to avoid this one unless you absolutely hate Goemon (we could never hang out). The visuals are quite impressive and detailed. The game isn’t especially long clocking in at around 3 hours or so, nor it is very difficult, but it’s among the best Goemon titles and deserves a look.

#16

Trip World

1992
Sunsoft
Platform: Original GameBoy
Action Platformer
Price range: $20-40

Once upon a time, Tocapu, a magical shape-shifting creature called a Shabubu, lived in the land of Trip World. Yocapu lived with his grandfarther on the holy mountain of Dubios. It was here that the Flower of Peace resides, with Yocapa’s Grandpa the sole guardian of the flower. One day, a band of thieves stole the flower and caused chaos. Now it is up to Yocapa to get the flower and restore order.

Trip World is a very underrated GameBoy title produced by one of it’s era’s best developers, Sunsoft. Trip World was only released in Japan and a few European countries such as Germany. The development team would later go on to create the incredible Gimmick! on the Famicom several months later.

Why you should play it

If you love Sunsoft, you owe it to yourself to track this elusive game down. As with Gimmick!, the sprites are beautiful and incredibly animated, the music is fast, upbeat and quite good, and the and the game itself is a lot of fun to play. It’s nowhere near as difficult as Gimmick!, so it’s a perfect casual game for a relaxing afternoon.

#15

Megaman IV

1993
Capcom
Platform: Original GameBoy
Action Platformer
Price range: $15-25

The nefarious Dr. Wily has again reprogrammed eight more robots on display at the annual Robot Masters Expo. Sending these new robots across the planet to wreak havoc, Dr.Wily once again tries to take over the world. Wily never learns.

Megaman is sent in once more to put a stop to the bad Doctor’s plan. This time, Dr. Light informs Megaman of a new type of energy called P-Chips which can be made into useful items. Among the deadly Wily robots is Ballade, a heavily armed robot with more firepower than any robot before him. Megaman’s greatest challenge yet awaits him.

Megaman IV is the fourth GameBoy adaptation of the Blue Bomber’s NES exploits. Like the first three GameBoy Megaman titles, IV is a mix of four bosses from Megaman 4 and Megaman 5 on the NES but with brand new stages. Tossed in to the mix are a few GB exclusive bosses as well as the powerful killer robot Ballade. Released before the Super GameBoy there is no true color support, but the game nevertheless looks great on the Super GameBoy, GameBoy Color or even GameBoy Advance.

Why you should play it

Fans of challenging platforming, detailed sprites, fantastic stereo remixes of some of the best music in the series, and spot on gameplay will find a lot to like here. Released on the heels of Megaman 5 on the NES, Megaman IV is in my opinion, even better than Megaman V and is one of my personal favorite classic series Megaman games to date.

#14

Pokémon TCG

2000
Hudson Soft
Platform: GameBoy Color with Super GameBoy support
Action Platformer
Price range: $10-15

Pokémon, Pokémon, Pokémon. Pokémon was everywhere in the later years of the GameBoy. Even the card game based on the GameBoy game made two appearances on the GameBoy! The Pokémon Trading Card Game brought the entire library of cards (at the time) as well as some GB exclusives to gamers who either couldn’t afford or didn’t want to bother with the real cards.

Here players could build virtual decks and pit them against computer-controlled opponents. Although the Pokémon were all only cards, the objective of the game was similar to the RPGs. As a beginner card player, the goal is to collection many cards, build decks, challenge clubs and collect badges to complete in the grand hall to inharet the legendary Pokémon cards.

There was also a sequel that came out a year later in Japan with even more cards, but unfortunately this superior version was never released outside Japan. Luckily though, a fan translation is available that mostly translates all game menus, so with only a minimal walkthrough the game is entirely playable in English.

Why you should play it

Call me crazy, but I absolutely love the Pokémon TCG. Like everyone else at the time, I had (and still have) a crap ton of Pokémon cards. Also like everyone else, I never had anyone to play the actual card game with. For me and tens of thousands of other kids, the Gameboy version allowed the TCG to actually be played and enjoyed without worrying about scratching that 1st edition holographic Charizard. Don’t worry if you don’t already know how to play the game – there’s an excellent in-game tutorial to get you started. Pretty soon you’ll find yourself collecting virtual cards even more riggoriously than you might have collected the real ones.


#13

Kirby’s Dreamland 2

1995
Nintendo EAD
Platform: Original GameBoy
Action Platformer
Price range: $10-15

Although the star rod has been recovered and peace returned to Dreamland for a time, the Rainbow Bridges that connect the seven Rainbow Islands have been stolen by an evil force called Dark Matter, who has possessed King Dedede and is intent on conquering Dream Land. This time accompanied by his three animal friends, Kirby once again sets out to save Dreamland by defeating Dark Matter.

A sequel of sorts to the NES classic Kirby’s Adventure, Dreamland 2 introduced three animal partners and many new worlds for Kirby to explore. Rick the hamster is great on land and can give Kirby a good boost in height. Coo the owl flies through areas and can easily cope with high winds, but is slow in water. Kine the fish is slow on land and can’t fly, but he can swim quickly in water and easily cope with fast currents.

Why you should play it

Kirby’s Dreamland 2‘s genius is in the animal partnership. In addition to Kirby’s powers he gains when he inhales enemies, Kirby gains new abilities when he partners with his animal buddies. For instance, alone, the sparky enemies turn Kirby into a stationary electric generator, but with Rick he can shock enemies, with Coo he can cast lighting bolts, and with Kine he can…launch lightbulbs that explode like mines. The same is true for the dozen or so power ups present in the game, offering a lot of replay value as you experiment with each of the abilities. While nowhere near as colorful as Kirby’s Adventure, Dreamland 2 offers Super GameBoy support which makes the game look quite good.

IMPORTANT NOTICE!

This top 25 list is now outdated and obsolete. It is replaced by my Top 100 GameBoy and GameBoy Color Games of All time list. Please ignore this and read the newer, more detailed top 100 list instead. This list is OLD.

Click here to view the new top 100 list.

#12

Pokémon Puzzle Challenge/Tetris Attack/Panel De Pon!

2000
Intelligent Systems
Platform: GameBoy Color only
Puzzle
Price range: $15-20

Pokémon Puzzle Challenge is a puzzle game created by Intelligent Systems. In Puzzle Challenge, a well is partially filled with 5 distinct types of tile pieces. Adjacent tiles may be swapped horizontally with the cursor. The object is to match three or more tiles vertically or horizontally, resulting in the tiles clearing after a short delay animation, during which they become immovable.  Additional points may be earned with either “combos,” which involve clearing more than 3 tiles simultaneously, or “chains,” which require that the tiles above a clearing set fall into another clear. Like in Tetris, if the stack of tiles reaches to the top of the screen, the game will end.

After the massive success of Tetris, the puzzle genre sprang up almost overnight just as the platform genre did in the wake of Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Among the better puzzlers to come out in the years to follow was a cute, charming and girlish game created by Intelligent Systems called Panel De Pon! released for the Super Famicom.

The powers to be at Nintendo decided to localize this puzzler by replacing Lip and and her girlfriends with Yoshi characters and then rename the game to Tetris Attack for brand familiarity just as Square had renamed the SaGa games to be under the Final Fantasy label. In 2000, Panel De Pon was released on the GameBoy Color, and once again the characters were swapped for the big craze at the time, Pokémon. Pokémon Puzzle League is therefore simply Panel De Pon with a fresh coat of Pokémon paint.

Why you should play it

Even if you HATE Pokémon, give this game a shot – its honestly just Panel de Pon/Tetris Attack with Pokémon wallpaper. Underneath the cuddly Pokémon exterior is an extremely deep, rich, and addictive game experience that surpasses any superficial distaste you may have for all things Pokémon.

#11

Donkey Kong Country

2000
Rareware
Platform: GameBoy Color only
Action Platformer
Price range: $8-15

While Donkey Kong was napping, the evil King K. Rool, the leader of the Kremlins, stole DK’s banana horde and kidnapped his buddy Diddy, encasing Diddy in a barrel. When the gorilla awoke, he found the Kremlins were starting to take over his island. Never one to let action pass him up, DK sets out to rescue Diddy and get his bananas back from the Kremlin krew and stop King K. Rool.

Donkey Kong Country was first released in 1994 using advanced digitalized sprites that wowed gamers who were just starting to transition from 16-bit consoles to the new 32-bit offerings. As it’s aged, Donkey Kong Country has generated somewhat of a mixed fan base. There are some who feel it holds up incredibly well, while others claim it was terrible from the get-go and now that its shiny new paint has dried, it can be seen for the bad game it is. For me, I’m clearly in the camp that defends DKC as one of the best games of its generation regardless of graphics, and I think the GBC version proves this point nicely. While it was later ported to the Gameboy Advance, this is the definitive version that I still find the most impressive.

Why you should play it
Donkey Kong Country was an amazing achievement on the SNES in 1994, and the GameBoy Color adaptation is no less impressive. Utilizing the color pallet of the GBC to it’s fullest, Donkey Kong Country might just be the most colorful game for the system. All the stages from the classic game are reproduced here. While it doesn’t look quite as good as the original, it’s an amazing achievement for the system.

#10

Megaman Xtreme 1/2

2000/2001
Capcom
Platform: GBC with SGB support/GBC only
Action Platformer
Price range: $8-12, 15-20

A group of Mavericks have hacked into the mother computer in the Maverick Hunter’s base and are using old Maverick battle data to distract the Hunters. X must go into the mother computer, destroy the battle data, and stop the hackers. Then one day, readings of Reploids on the southern pacafiic Laguz Island vanish, and X and Zero are sent in to investigate the island and attempt to determine what is going on behind the disappearance of so many Repolids.

It might seem odd to group both Megaman Xtreme and it’s sequel together, but they’re so similar to each other I felt it only right to place them together in the tenth position. Like the classic Megaman games before them, Xtreme was a mixing of the first two X games on the SNES. The translation between the SNES to GBC was done extremely well. Most of the stages, bosses, powerups, etc were brought on for the GBC, and I went nuts when these games came out as the Megaman X games on the SNES were among my favorite videogames, period.

Megaman Xtreme 2 is an even further improvement over the first, presenting an even better audio/visual experience, as well as gameplay tweaks, most notably the inclusion of playable as Zero, and even switching between X and Zero on the fly, a concept no prior Megaman game used.

Why you should play them

Just as Megaman X was an evolution of the NES games, so are Megaman Xtreme 1 & 2. Despite the limited hardware, these games really do deliver a comperable gameplay experience as could be found on the SNES in their 16-bit originals.

For me, seeing my favorite games re-imagined on the GBC was a real treat. The reason these games are still relivent is because they offer extremely solid gameplay. Zero, who uses a close range energy saber, plays drastically differently than long range X. Between the two games are dozens of hours of exciting, fast Megaman action. To put it simply, Megaman games are awesome and so are you for playing them. Good job.

#9

Tetris

1989
Nintendo
Platform: Original GameBoy
Puzzle
Price range: $4-8

The most successful puzzle videogame of all time, Tetris challenges the player’s spatial relation abilities by presenting them with different shapes made of four square blocks. The blocks are randomly presented one at a time at the top of a rectangular play field, and quickly begin descending toward the bottom. The player can rotate the shapes and move them horizontally as they descend, and if you are able to make a complete horizontal line of blocks, that line will clear from the field.

When the GameBoy launched in 1989, Tetris was both its pack-in game and it’s biggest killer app. Perfectly suited for the handheld, Tetris changed perception that videogames were intended for children only and soon many adults, especially women, began to buy GameBoys just to play this one game. It’s not even uncommon for hear that people who bought GameBoys never bought any other game because Tetris was all they ever needed.

Why you should play it

It’s Tetris. The GAMEBOY Tetris. I mean c’mon what do I need to say? This was THE reason to buy the system.

For all of it’s importance, there’s simply no way I couldn’t have to put Tetris out of the top 10, but even still I feel there are other games that surpass it as the best for the system. The best version of Tetris perhaps, the best puzzler ever perhaps, but the best GameBoy game? I’m afraid not. Feel free to disagree….this is only my opinion. Some people take Tetris too seriously.

#8Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow

1995/96/97/98
GameFreak
Platform: Original GameBoy with Super GameBoy support
Turn based strategy, RPG
Price range: $15-20

You would have to have been living under a rock to not have heard of Pokémon, but I’ll provide a breif overview nevertheless. Pokémon, Japanese short form for Pocket Monsters in much the same way Family Computer was shortened to Famicom, are a group of special animals with powers and abilities that make them highly prized and sought after.

As a young Pokémon Trainer, your task is to catch and train as many Pokémon as possible, battling with other trainers and collecting gym badges. Once eight gym badges are gathered, you can compete in the Pokémon League, where the best trainers square off for the title of champion. Along the way you will also encounter and defeat the evil Team Rocket, who steal Pokémon and force them to do bad things.

Pokémon Red and Blue were released in 1998 in North America and Europe. Already a huge success in Japan, Pokémon became a massive fad fueled mostly by the original two GameBoy games, but also by the anime, trading card game, toys and other merchandise that quickly followed. It wasn’t until 2001 that the worldwide craze was over, but much of the surge can still be felt today as Pokémon still enjoys a very large adult fanbase of people who grew up with these two titles.

Why you should play them

Only second to the original pack-in Tetris, Pokémon Red and Blue were the most significant games on the GameBoy. Even the term “GameBoy killer apps” is a huge understatement when it comes to Red and Blue‘s importance. These games single handedly gave the GameBoy a huge resurgence nearly ten years into its life. It’s thanks to Pokemon original black-and-white GameBoy games were still being developed well into the year 2000.

It’s probably fair to say that had Pokémon not come around, the GameBoy Color may never have even been developed and the course of handheld history would be forever altered. The success of the GBC, GBA and DS all owes a huge debt of gratitude to Pokémon.

Red, Blue, & Yellow were absolute instant classics and started a true phenomenon that everyone had to get in on. Released in Japan in 1996, the original Red & Green games were not visually or even technically impressive, but they were incredibly engaging, likable and most of all, addictive. The true genius of the game was the fact that there were two versions, each with some Pokémon that could not be found in the other. The solution for this was to trade via the GameBoy Game Link cable. Pokémon became the best use of the cable since the original Tetris.

In 1997, a special Blue version with slightly enhanced graphics was released as a promotional game in Japan before hitting retail shelves. A year later, the Yellow version was released, taking the same overall game as before but infusing it with many elements from the anime such as Pikechu being the only starter, Team Rocket’s Jessie & James and more changes.

The series has evolved over the years into something truly spectacular, and continues to be both popular as well as really good. The urge to collect all the Pokémon started here. As they say, you gotta catch ’em all. Oh, and these games have Missingno. That’s gotta count for something. There’s a reason these two games together are among the best selling videogames of all time.

IMPORTANT NOTICE!

This top 25 list is now outdated and obsolete. It is replaced by my Top 100 GameBoy and GameBoy Color Games of All time list. Please ignore this and read the newer, more detailed top 100 list instead. This list is OLD.

Click here to view the new top 100 list.

#7

Legend of Zelda Orcale of Ages/Seasons

2001
Flagship/Capcom/Nintendo
Platform: GameBoy Color with GameBoy Advance support
Action-Adventure
Price range: $15-25 each

In the Oracle of Seasons, the Triforce sends Link to the land of Holodrum. Link soon comes acorss a beautiful, tanned dancer named Din, the Oracle of Seasons. Soon after meeting her, Link is powerless to stop her being kidnapped at the hands of the evil general Onox. Onox imprisons Din in a crystal, which causes the seasons of the land to wildly and instantly change, disrupting the natural balance of the land. Link must travel across Holodrum, brave its fractured seasons and find the eight Essences of the Seasons to rescue Din.

In the Oracle of Ages, the Triforce sends Link to the land of Labrynna. Link soon comes across a beautiful singer named Nayru, the Oracle of Ages. The demon sorceress Veran tricks Link and possesses Nayru’s body which causes all time in Labrynna to go into chaos. Link must travel across Labrynna in two timelines to find the eight Essences of Time to rescue Nayru, and stop an ultimate plan to resurrect Ganon.

The two Zelda Oracle games were released simultaneously in 2001. Announced over two years prior, Nintendo had initially planned to port and recreate the NES Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: the Adventure of Link on the GameBoy Color, as well as create a third game to complete what was planned as the Triforce trilogy.

When problems arose due to the limited screensize of the handheld, the project shifted to three completely new Zelda games for the hardware. Ultimately though, it was decided this system would be too complex and the project again shifted gears to only Seasons and Ages as we know of them now.

Why you should play them

It should be a foregone conclusion that Zelda games are almost always among the best games on any Nintendo platform, but I’ll humor you. Alone, either of these games would be fine candidates for the seventh best GameBoy title. Each Oracle game is a breathtaking look at what the hardware could do and why the GameBoy was still king after so many years on the market.

Sprites were colorful and detailed, the gameplay was the perfect blend between puzzles and action, and despite how complex the games were, there wans’t a hint of slowdown. Then factor in that the game’s can be linked together to unlock additional bosses and carry your collectibles from one to the other. As much as I’ve enjoyed Zelda games that followed this pair, there hasn’t been any Zelda games made since that surpasses the incredible effort here.

#6

Warlocked

2000
Bits-Corp
Platform: GameBoy Color only
Real Time Stategy
Price range: $4-15

Though there has been skirmishes near the southern border for nearly a century, Queen Azarel’s kingdom had remained relatively safe.
But with the recent rush of Beast raids in territories farther north, it had become obvious that Chief Zog was determined to destroy the humans once and for all. Left with no choice, the Queen sends a call throughout the land for the Wizards to come to her aid.
Now, from high atop the walls of Konjo Castle, Azarel gazed down upon her troops, Loyal and brave to the last man, the soldiers awaited her orders…

Released in 2000, Bits Corp’s Warlocked brought the RTS genre to the GameBoy in an exciting way. Featuring 25 levels across two campaigns, Warlocked was basically Warcraft for the GameBoy. Units could be built, sent where you wanted at will, and the enemy was cunning with signs of advanced AI. Warlocked was an utter marvel on the GBC. There’s also the Wizards, who can cast unique spells and spices the game up considerably.

Why you should play it

As you might recall from my review, Warlocked is an outstanding real time strategy game that defies logic by being really, really good on such limited hardware. Perhaps Warlocked is even the best 8-bit strategy game ever made, bumping M.U.L.E out of that spot. It looks good, sounds good, plays good and has enough complexity that you will want to come back for more, and replay levels even after you beat them for faster times and higher scores. Warlocked is extremely affordable today, so if you’re looking for a great GBC gem, look no further.

#5

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

1994
Nintendo R&D1
Platform: GameBoy Original
Action Platformer
Price range: $5-15

After his defeat to Mario in Six Golden Coins, a dejected Wario leaves Mario Land and sets off on a journey of discovery – not for personal self-worth or purpose, but rather in search of riches so he may afford to build an extravagant castle of his own, just like Mario. Wario learns about a pirate island filled with booty, and decides to make this island his next target. Here Wario is sure to face many challenges on his way to his fortune.

Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 is a Mario game in name only. Merely the spiritual successor of Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins, Mario is completely absent this time around (save for the ending). Instead of the usual Nintendo mascot, this game stars Wario in a Super Mario World sized platformer.

Much more than just a swap in the first letter, Wario Land takes the successful formula of that game, switches in a new protagonist, improves upon the graphics and adds an extra layer of gameplay depth thanks to the inclusion of bizarre power-up hats. Wario’s gameplay style is brute force mixed with elements of careful jumps and deductive reasoning.

Wario plays very differently from Mario, who instead of jumping on enemies, tackles them. Where Mario wears different suits to gain new abilities, Wario wears different hats to agument what he can do. Wario Land spawned another three games to follow it, but the original is far better than any of the later efforts, except for the rather excellent Virtual Boy version.

The Boss battles are all very unique, large and impressive. The game’s unusually lengthy, even longer than Super Mario Land 2. It could take several weeks to complete, a feat not many other GameBoy games can attest to. There’s also plenty of replay value as you increase your cash to get Wario more and more coins to afford bigger and bigger houses for the end game. You don’t want to end up living in a bird house, do you?

Why you should play it

This is an absolute must-play game for the GameBoy. The graphics have been changed to a very good looking cartoonish look, the change to actually give a reason for collecting all the coins is great, the change in gameplay mechanics to tackle enemies instead of jumping on them, and even the fresh new character make Wario Land not only the best in the Mario Land trilogy, but one of the very best GameBoy games ever made.

Wario Land‘s just as solid as any console Mario title, so it’s only fitting to play it as such. Although Wario Land doesn’t have any color support, the Super GameBoy and GameBoy Color can colorize it to look rather good, almost as if it were on the NES. It’s a bit ironic to think that the best Mario game on the GameBoy is actually a Wario game!

#4

Donkey Kong ’94

1994
Nintendo EAD
Platform: Original GameBoy with Super GameBoy support
Arcade Action Platformer
Price range: $10-15

Released in time for the launch of the Super GameBoy, Donkey Kong ’94 offers enhanced colors and a special background when played on the Super GameBoy, and is generally considered to be the killer app for the Super GameBoy accessory.

The game is loosely based on the 1981 arcade hit Donkey Kong and its sequel Donkey Kong Jr. While it starts off as a direct port of the original arcade game, Donkey Kong ’94 quickly proves to be far more than that. After the original four arcade boards are cleared, many brand new, GameBoy exclusive levels open up with new challenges, enemies and objectives never before seen. It’s officially simply known as Donkey Kong, but many fans refer to it as Donkey Kong ’94 to avoid confusion with the original Donkey Kong.

Why you should play it

Donkey Kong ’94 exceeded expectations by leaps and bounds. By far the best port of Donkey Kong to any console to date, Mario now had many new moves at his disposal, there were dozens of new levels and in many new puzzles to solve. With the Super GameBoy or even on the black and white original, Donkey Kong offers many hours of fun arcade action that actually exceeds what you’d get at the arcade!

IMPORTANT NOTICE!

This top 25 list is now outdated and obsolete. It is replaced by my Top 100 GameBoy and GameBoy Color Games of All time list. Please ignore this and read the newer, more detailed top 100 list instead. This list is OLD.

Click here to view the new top 100 list.

#3

The Legend of Zelda Link’s Awakening DX

1998
Nintendo EAD
Platform: GameBoy Original & Gameboy Color remake, with Super Gameboy support
Action Adventure
Price range: $8-15

After being caught in a terrible storm, Link’s ship is destroyed, and he washes ashore the mysterious Koholint Island. Link is soon found by a local village girl named Marin, and brought to her home to recover. Soon, Link is visited by an owl who gives him the quest of gathering the eight instruments of the Sirens and awakening the Wind Fish who is sleeping inside of a giant egg in the mountains.

The Legend of Zelda IV: Link’s Awakening was released in 1993 for the GameBoy, and again in a special color enhanced version in 1998 in Link’s Awakening DX. DX colorizes the entire game and added minor tweaks to make a great game even better. Zelda DX was widely considered to the GameBoy Color’s killer app until the arrival of Pokémon.

As you can see, Link’s Awakening is easily one of the best looking games on the GameBoy, even without the benefit of color added from the DX version. Sprites had a perfect cartoonish look that make the game look nearly as good as Link to the Past on the SNES. Not bad for the GameBoy!

Why you should play it

Zelda DXis my far my favorite Zelda title ever made. It hits every major mark when it comes to a great handheld experience. It’s one of the longest, most visually impressive titles out there with spot on control, wonderful music and just like the two Oracle games, DX not only delivers the established Zelda game forumla but actually expands on it. Bombs, boomerangs swords and arrows now shared the spotlight with the Roc’s feather, the Magma Rod and the Power Glove. (it’s so bad!) among many others new items. Zelda DX would became the benchmark for which all future 2D Zelda games would be judged.

#2

Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal

Welcome to Johto! It’s a whole new world to explore. In this new land, meet many new Pokémon, interact with the PokéGear – a watch, radio, map and phone in one – challenge a new set of Gym Leaders and just as before, aim to become the greatest Pokémon trainer in the land.

The long awaited set of sequels to one of the most popular RPG series ever made, Gold and Silver were a very big deal when they were released in the fall of 2000. Released at a time when Pokémon popularity was beginning to subside, Gold and Silver largely helped the GameBoy once again crush yet another competitor, the Neo-Geo Pocket Color. Nothing could stand against the might of Pokémon.

A year later, the game would return again in Crystal, a slightly tweaked version with some minor graphical enhancements including animated sprites for all Pokémon, minor plot changes, and the inclusion of a playable girl for the first time in the series.

Why you should play them

Pokémon Gold & Silver were huge. Huge in every way you can think. The Pokémon were now in full color. The sprites were far more detailed than before. There were 100 new Pokémon, dozens of new moves. A brand new world to explore and even the old one for nostalgia sake. The battle system was tweaked, the music made even better, a day/night time system with a real time clock. A breeding center. There were so many improvements to a great game formula that Gold, Silver and Crystal are the best games on the GameBoy Color. Well, almost.

#1

Shantae

2002
Wayforward Technologies
Platform: GameBoy Color, with Gameboy Advance support
Action platformer
Price range: $90-150

Half-Genie girl Shantae lives in Scuttle Town, of which she is hired as a genie protector. When the town falls under attack by lady-pirate Risky Boots, Shantae rushes in defend the town, but while she does manage to drive them off, Risky steals a Steam Engine from the villages Relic Hunter, Mimic.

Shantae learns that Risky plans on using the steam engine along with four powerful elemental stones to build an incredibly powerful mech to terrorize the lands. Shantae sets out to get the stones first and stop Risky’s plan from succeeding. On her quest, Shantae learns magical dances to transform herself into various animal forms to help her deal with environmental challenges. The monkey form can jump very high and scale walls, the elephant can smash through heavy objects, the harpy form can fly, and so on.

Released at the very tail end of the GameBoy Color’s lifespan, Shantae was a sleeper hit if there ever was one. Developed by the virtually unknown Wayforward and published by Capcom, Shantae was released after the GameBoy Advance was already on the market. All the stars were aligning against Shantae and it quickly fell into obscurity.

Why you should play it

As I stated in my original review, Shantae is outstanding. It’s a perfect blend of free-roaming action RPGs with many elements of Metroidvania thrown in for good measure. Shantae is technically and visually a masterpiece. This is not only be best looking gameboy Color game, but the best looking 8-bit game ever made. It is extremely colorful, lush, sprites are detailed and animate extremely fluidly, and the whole game carries a distinctive Arabian vibe that’s hard to dislike. There’s even parallax scrolling!

Hidden in this one obscure GBC game is the best GameBoy experience you can find. There’s Zelda-like puzzles, Metroid-like world to explore, and a Castlevania 2-like Day/night and town system. Shantae represents everything that NES sidescrolling RPGs such as Zelda II or the Battle of Olymus were trying for, and yet even today Shantae remains an overlooked classic. As Jeremy Parish stated on his blog, “Shantae stands as the ultimate chapter of 8-bit gaming, a gorgeous and entertaining tribute to all that had come before — and that’s hardly a legacy to be ashamed of. ”

Keep in mind that because of the obscurity of the game upon its release, the game was released in limited quantities. Coupled with an almost EarthBound cult following, prices in recent years have skyrocketed. You should expect to pay at least $90 – often much higher – for even a loose cart. I feel lucky to have bought the game new back when it was released in 2002. Shantae is, without a doubt outstanding.

So there you have it. 25 reasons why even after all these years, the GameBoy is still king of handhelds.

Did your favorite games make the cut? If not, don’t fret – I’m planning a follow up with some honorable mentions.

Retro Duo Video Review

Posted in Hardware, NES, Retro Gaming, Reviews, SNES on April 12, 2011 by satoshimatrix

In case you guys missed it, here’s my review/stress test lf the Retro Duo, a Famiclone/SNES that plays NES and SNES games and uses SNES 7pin controllers for both systems. Enjoy!


And here’s a bonus video, a stress test of even more games!

Tenchu Z Review (Xbox 360)

Posted in Hidden gems, Reviews, Xbox 360 on April 9, 2011 by satoshimatrix

Ninjas are still cool

Back in the day, ninjas held a very active role in gaming. Ninjas such as Joe Musashi and Ryu Hyabusa were names that any kid would know. Now it seems the ninja mania of the 1980’s has largely subsided, forcing ninja games to step to the backburner. Even so,  a number of ninja-heavy games continue to pop up every now and then, including the long running Tenchu series. While Tenchu Z didn’t create a huge splash when it was released and was largely dismissed by major game reviewing publications, take it from me – Tenchu Z is worth playing.

Story

It’s roughly the mid 17th century, Japan. The land of Goda, where the Azuma clan of ninja reside, is on the brink of war with the neighboring land of Ogawara. As a new recruit in the Azuma clan, you are sent to assassinate those who are assisting Ogawara, including army officials and spies who have infiltrated Goda, as well as recover stolen items and rescue prisoners. In between thwarting Ogawara’s plans, you will be tasked with delivering divine justice to the wicked who terrorize the land. A shinobi’s work is never finished.

Graphics

The game may be in HD, but it’s very evident that From Software had nearly no experience with the 360 hardware. Much of what you see probably could have been accomplished on the PS2 without much degradation. There are no lip movements at all. Character models are particularly wooden and lack refined movement. From afar, they look passable, but Tenchu Z really comes across looking more like a budget title than anything else. The game is a ton of fun though, so the graphics are in the end, acceptable.

Audio

The music is largely subdued, traditional Japanese interments and very oriental sounding. All the voice acting is in Japanese, most of which is left completely unsubtitled, making it feel even more Japanese in origin. If you know any Japanese, hearing the various enemy voices can be fun in of itself.

Here’s the game’s main theme, as shown in its opening sequence.

Gameplay

Like the previous games in the series, Tenchu Z is a stealth action game that mainly focuses on unobserved assassinations. As such, Tenchu Z lives and dies by it’s gameplay, which luckily is functional and a lot of fun. After choosing if you want to be a ninja or kunoichi (female ninja), the player’s first task is to design how their character looks and what they wear. As you play the game, you will unlock the ability to buy additional costumes and accessories, making your ninja as badass – or as ridiculous – as you want.

Tenchu Z mainly centers around preforming assassinations while remaining unobserved. As such, there is an in-depth stealth system in place. Enemies will react not only to sight, but also to sound, and even to smell. It’s almost always a good idea to crouch rather than walk or run and to only move when enemies have their back to you. Many stages employ pitfalls and noise traps to prevent you from carrying out your missions. Daytime assassinations are more difficult as they require you to stick to shadows and avoid rooftops, and so on. After you kill an enemy, it’s usually a good idea to also move their body to a hidden location to prevent other guards from sounding the alarm. All this will sound old hat to Metal Gear Solid fans, but this level of depth in a ninja game is both surprising and appreciated.

Missions usually present you with the goal of assassinating a single target, but leaves how to accomplish this task to the player. You can rush in and attempt to kill everyone in sword fight after sword fight or take them out one at a time with a well placed lunge through the back or a snap of their neck. Or, you can use your grappling hook and other items to skillfully move about remaining completely unseen, killing only your target.  Sounds simple, but with so many guards, it’s easier said than done.

Another complication are the innocents that populate some areas. Usually merchants or housemaids, these unarmed civilians will totally freak out and their noise will alert guards if they spot you, and killing them will result in major deductions to your reward money after completing each mission.

There are a total of fifty stages, but not all involve assassinations. Occasionally, you will be tasked with retrieving secret documents, disarming explosives, rescuing hostages, etc. There is an online multiplayer mode, but I have never played it so I cannot give any impressions.

Controls

Luckily the controls makes sense, are easy to learn and won’t account for many cheap deaths.

Left Stick: Movement
Right Stick: Look
LT: Defend
RT: Check enemy vitality/strafe
LB: Use item
RB: Crouch
A: Jump
B: Draw katana/sheath katana
X: Attack
Y: No usage
Start: Pause
Back: no usage
L3: no useage
R3: Change to first person view, throw gabbling hook

Frustration

Being detected sucks. It will drastically reduce your reward money. There are times when guards will seemingly come out of nowhere and spot you. If this happens, it’s usually a better idea to just restart the mission that continue on. Occasionally the controls become a little awkward, such as looking over the edge of roofs and when crawling under building foundations.  Add on lengthy load times and the problems can potentially be a deal breaker for some gamers.

Availability & Price

Tenchu Z isn’t particularity rare, but it is somewhat uncommon. Expect to pay between $15-25 for a used copy. Search around your local area and you should come across a copy with enough searching.

History

The Tenchu series dates back to the PS1 in 1997 and over the years, sequels have been somewhat sparse. Tenchu Z has no bearing on the timeline canon of the Tenchu series and can thus be considered a side story.  Tenchu Z remains the only HD Tenchu game and unfortunately poor sales have so far prohibited a sequel.

Overall

Good

  • Being a Shinobi is awesome
  • Stealth killing is awesome
  • Good controls
  • Great replay value

Bad

  • Rather repetitive goals
  • Stages repeat constantly
  • No explanation of what items do
  • Some uneven difficulty spikes; Tenchu Z isn’t combat focused, so when you are forced to engage the enemy, the game feels sluggish.

Conclusion

Tenchu Z, manages to offer a thrilling and entertaining experience, flaws and all. Jumping from a rooftop and stabbing a guy in the back so he dies before he hits the ground is a kind of morbid fun that no FPS headshot can compare with. The game might not be pretty, but like they say, it’s what’s on the inside that really counts. Give Tenchu Z a shot. Chances are you’ll find it to your liking.

Data
Platform: Xbox 360
Genre: Ninja Stealth
Release Date: June 12, 2007
Developer: K2 LLC
Publisher: From Software
Also from the developer: No idea!
Also try: Ninja Gaiden Black, Ninja Blade
Game Length: ~30 hours
ESRB: M
Buy/Skip: Buy it, rent it or borrow it. Just…try it.

NES/Famicom Starting Guide

Posted in Editorials, Hardware, NES, Retro Gaming on April 6, 2011 by satoshimatrix

Thinking of getting into Nintendo 8-bit Retro Gaming? This Guide is for you!

Nintendo NES or Famicom games – regardless of where you live, you see them almost everywhere. Even after more than twenty years they’re still commonly found in game stores, garage sales, flea markets, swap meets, Craigslist and of course, e-bay. You start to think how great it would be to enjoy the games for the classic hardware, but then you start to worry about all the reliability issues that come with really old hardware, the front loading NES in particular.

If this common scenario sounds familiar to you, then I’m here to help. Despite what you might think, there are many different options for playing classic Nintendo games. Each option has its own unique individual strengths and weaknesses and there’s really no “best” answer for everyone. All I will do is give the facts. Rest assured you are getting honest information as I own every variant of the hardware listed below except for the specialty versions.

If you are thinking of exploring into the NES scene, keep this guide in your bookmarks for future reference.

Without further ado, here is detailed rundown of all of the options for today’s gamer to explore.

The Original Nintendo Entertainment System

Common Nicknames: NES, NES Toaster, Frontloader, ol’ gray box
Model Number: NES-001
Platform: 72 pin (NES cartridges)
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Price Range: $20-60

When you hear the name NES, this is probably the system you think of first. This is the original North American design form 1985 that set the western world on fire. It’s an iconic symbol of 1980’s console design and as such, highly desirable by retro gamers. The design of the system was radically different from other consoles of its day including it’s Japanese counterpart. The Nintendo Entertainment System NES-001 had a small lid which when flipped up, revealed a spring loaded cartridge bay that would apply pressure on the contact pins to create a solid connection. Due to the engulfing nature of the system, it is commonly referred to as the NES ‘toaster’.

Why you should choose the NES-001

The NES just screams and shouts retro. It’s boxy, VCR-like appearance makes it stand out on any shelf and attracts attention, or fit right in. It features somewhat forward-thinking composite video output as well as RF, making it still look fairly decent on tvs today. It’s power supply is a 9v AC plug, and the beast can be powered by just about anything you throw at it – AC, DC, 8v, 9v, 10v, 12v – the NES-001 cares not.

Why you should avoid the NES-001

The design of the cartridge bay is somewhat flawed for two main reasons: dust build up and the constant bending of the pins. Due to the distance the cartridge connector is from the user, household dust has a tendency to build up inside the cartridge bay interfering with normal usage. This is why generally speaking, blowing on cartridges helps to get your games to work. More effective treatments involve cleaning the contacts with Isopropanol alcohol and with a good pink eraser.In fact, I wrote a guide to do this this last fall. https://satoshimatrix.wordpress.com/2010/11/27/how-to-clean-cartridge-contacts/

Replacing the connector addresses this problem as well, but new production 72-pin connectors tend to grab rather tightly on cartridge connectors, preventing easy removal of cartridges.

Nintendo Entertainment System Toploader

Common Nicknames: NES 2, NES Toploader
Model Number: NES-101
Platform: 72 pin (NES cartridges)
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Price Range: $60-80

Released at the tail end of the NES’ lifespan, the NES-101, commonly called either the NES 2 or NES Toploader was a redesigned, sleek and compact budget-priced Nintendo Entertainment System for the 90s. It featured a 72 pin cartridge connector, two standard 7-pin NES controller ports, RF video, and came with one newly designed “dogbone” controller, so named for its overall shape and color. The redesigned controller was universally loved and resembled the great design of the SNES controller. The redesign NES-101 removed the 10-NES lockout chip and the unused expansion port featured on the NES-001.

Why you should choose the NES-101

The NES 101 uses a top-loading cartridge design which is mechanically simpler than the Zero Insertion Force design of the NES-001. The change results in less stress on the cartridge pins than the original tray design of the NES-001 and far better reliability. As long as your cartridges are clean, they should power on the first time you turn on the system. Like it’s older cousin, the NES-001 is powered by a 9v AC power supply which can be substituted for just about any other plug you may happen to have.

Why you should avoid the NES-101

In their efforts to reduce the cost of the NES, Nintendo decided to remove the composite video outputs found in their earlier model and include only an RF output, which is even worse quality than the RF signal found in the original model. The system was universally bashed for creating faint vertical lines that were visible in bright colors. Due to the limited number of the units sold, they now are considered fairly rare and can be sold used for often double what they were sold for when new.

I should note that modifications are possible to correct the video signal issues and restore composite video . I own an NES-101 that’s been extensively modified and it is my preferred method of playing North American NES game cartridges.

Nintendo Family Computer

Common Nicknames: Famicom, Japanese NES
Model Number: HVC-001
Platform: 60 pin (Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Price Range: $20-60

The Nintendo Family Computer was released in Japan in July 1983 to an uncertain future. It was in this time period the videogame market was starting to crash in North America, and the consequences were felt even in Japan where the market was still strong. Despite the problems with the medium in the west, sales quickly grew and the Famicom was soon a major success. Two years later the system was redesigned for North America and the rest is history.

The Japanese fondness of creating short nicknames spread to the Family Computer quickly being nearly universally called “Famicom” instead. Although never called that by Nintendo themselves, the Famicom is still the universal name for the Japanese NES.

Why you should choose the Famicom HVC-001

What can be cooler than playing your favorite NES games on the very first model of the system? The Famicom’s white/red/gold coloring, small, compact design and permanently attached controllers make it one of the most instantly recognizable gaming consoles ever made.

Why you should avoid the Famicom HVC-001

The original Famicom HVC-001 uses permanently attached controllers with only 3 feet of cable. There was an expansion port in the front of the system that allowed gamers to use other third party controllers, but most such controllers could only be used for player one, and nearly all third party controllers had the same short three foot cables.  Due to the inclusion of the microphone, there are no Start or Select buttons on the second controller. The system is also RF only. Of course, there are plenty of composite video hacks available for the HVC-001 Famicom. Finally, while it doesn’t affect system performance, most HVC-001’s have badly discolored over the years, turning the once off-white plastic into a urine-like yellow shade.

New Nintendo Family Computer

Common Nicknames: AV Famicom, Composite Famicom
Model Number: HVC-101
Platform: 60 pin (Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Price Range: $60-80

The”new Family Computer’ is the Japanese counterpart to the North American NES-101 ‘toploader’. the HVC-101 is the only version of the Nintendo without an RF modulator built in, making it composite video only. As such, it is commonly nicknamed the “AV Famicom”.  The system was released late in the Famicom’s lifespan, and was very successful in Japan. It isn’t entirely uncommon for some Japanese retailers to still even have them new in the box.

Why you should choose the AV Famicom HVC-101

The AV Famicom is downright stylish. It outputs composite video, can use North American NES controllers, still has the DB-15 expansion controller port, and works with all Famicom accessories including the Famicom Disk System. Best of all, the video signal it produces is among the cleanest you’ll get from any 8-bit Nintendo console. AV Famicoms were produced as late as 1998 in Japan, making them by far the newest and most reliable variant of the hardware.

Why you should avoid the AV Famicom HVC-101

The biggest detractor is the price. used, console only AV Famicoms hover between $60 to $80 plus the cost of shipping. Also keep in mind that as both controllers use the American style controller plug, early Famicom games specifically designed to take advantage of the HVC-001’s built in microphone in the second controller cannot be played. The biggest casualty is the Famicom Disk System version of The Legend of Zelda which requires you to shout loud noises into the mic to defeat Poles Vice (the jumping rabbits).

SHARP TWIN Famicom

Common Nicknames: SHARP Famicom, Twin NES
Model Number: AN-505 (model 1) AN-500R, AN-505-BK AN-505-RD (model 2)
Platform: 60 pin (Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: SHARP
Price Range: $80-140 (model 1) $350-600 (model 2)

Released in July of 1986 by electronics giant SHARP, the TWIN Famicom was an officially licensed Nintendo console that combined the functionality of the Nintendo Family Computer with the still fairly new Disk System attachment. It is the only model of the Family Computer to be officially called a Famicom. TWIN Famicoms came in multiple colors, with later models even featuring built in turbo fire buttons into the controllers.

Why you should choose the TWIN Famicom

The TWIN Famicom has the Disk System RAM Adapter built in, making it a perfect all-in-one Famicom player that can accept both disk and cartridge formats. If you are planning on building a large Famicom collection with a healthy number of Famicom Disk System games, this is the system of choice. Like the North American NES-001, the TWIN Famicom features composite and RF video output. Later models also included longer six foot cables and built-in turbo fire switches for the B and A buttons on both controllers.

Why you should avoid the TWIN Famicom

The addition of the disk drive assembly means the TWIN Famicom is rather large, especially compared to the compact design of the other Famicom models. It’s about the size of the the first DVD players or most a bit smaller than most VCRs, if you can remember that far back. It’s rarity coupled with its size and weight make it an expensive Famicom choice to import from Japan, and it still uses permanently attached controllers with only 3 feet of cable. The more desirable later versions with longer controller cords and turbo fire switches often sell for $400-600 USD without shipping charges. Like standalone Famicom Disk Systems, the intenral motor belt can break or melt, and although TWIN Famicoms take the same kind of belt as the standalone units, replacements are becoming increasingly uncommon.

SHARP Famicom Titler

Common Nicknames: RGB Famicom,
Model Number: AN-510
Platform: 60 pin (Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: SHARP Electronics
Price Range: $350-600

The Famicom Titler is a very rare Famicom variant that allowed users to play Famicom games as well as create custom title cards for businesses doing video-overlay either for commercial tapes, magazine photographs, and store displays. It features controls on the system as well as a small touch pad to write messages for custom titles. It is the only Famicom to offer native S-video output.

Why you should choose the Famicom Titler

S-video of course! S-video is cleaner, more vivid video format than composite, making the Titler capable of producing the best picture of any consumer level Famicom. Better yet, the Titler can even be modded for full true RGB support! RBG is a signal used in arcade machines and in Europe called SCART. RBG is better quality than S-video and is about on par with component. Pretty crazy when you consider you can get component quality video from a videogame console from the 1980s!

Why you should avoid the Famicom Titler

They’re very very expensive. You’ll probably never ever see one unless your LukeMorse1 or some other lucky bastard. Getting RGB to American TVs is pretty much impossible as very very few have the correct inputs.

 

Famiclones

Common Nicknames: NESclones, fake systems, new production systems
Model Number: Varies
Platform: 72 pin (mostly, but also 60 pin too)
Manufacturer: Varies
Price Range: $20-60

As soon as it was evident that the Japanese Nintendo Family Computer was a huge success in Japan, it spread to neighboring Asian countries and then around the world. By the late 1980s, the market was so large many slightly shady companies began to develop their own Famicoms through reverse engineering. Unlike the North American NES, neither the Japanese Famicom hardware nor game software had any copy protection, so the only avenue Nintendo had against these clones was legal action, which proved only moderately successful.

By about 1989, there were dozens of companies producing their own, bootleg Famicoms. These early clones often were direct hardware clones of the Famicom, chip for chip and component for component. Most even looked the same with only minor alterations.

As the years went by and the chipset required to construct clones became cheaper, Famiclones became even more prevalent, with more elaborate designs cropping up worldwide, often accompanied by bootleg “9999 in 1” cartridges. In the pursuit of further cost reductions, by about the mid 1990s, Chinese Famiclone manufactures had developed a single epoxy-based IC that would contain the equivalent processing ability of the entire Famicom chipset. These single chipped Famiclones became known as NOAC Famiclones – NOAC standing for Nintendo On A Chip.

Below are a few examples of common Famiclones you might want to consider if you or someone you know is just getting into the NES for the first time.

 

Yobo FC Game Console

Common Nicknames: Yobo NES, US Neo-Fami
Model Number: OT-8008
Platform: 72 pin (NES cartridges)
Manufacturer: Yobo Gameware
Price Range: $20-30

The Yobo FC Game Console was released in 2005 when Famiclones first became legal due to the twenty year hardware patient of the NES expiring. This unit features a 72 pin cartridge connector for North American NES games, two standard 7-pin NES controller ports, composite video output, and comes with two controllers, power adapter and audio/video composite cables.

Why you should choose the Yobo FC Game Console

The Yobo FC Game Console is an extremely small console at only a tiny bit bigger than the very game cartridges its designed to run. The controllers it comes with are actually quite good; they are rounded like NES dogbone controllers but feature turbo fire B and A buttons as well as the mostly superfluous turbo Start. Still, if you prefer to use original Nintendo-made controllers, the system uses the same 7-pin standard allowing you to use any controller designed for the original NES-001 hardware.

Why you should avoid the Yobo FC game console

The Yobo FC Game Console is a NOAC-based Famiclone. As such, it produces audible pitch errors in many games, produce graphical glitches in others, and flat of refuse to play a handful of games. Still, you can usually find these for around $20, so you shouldn’t expect the world from the Yobo.

Generation NEX

Common Nicknames: NES NEX, New NES
Model Number: None
Platform: 72 & 60 pin (NES & Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: Messiah (bankrupt)
Price Range: $50-70

The Messiah Generation NEX is a Famiclone that was produced by a small California based company called Messiah Gameware in 2005. It offers both an NES 72pin connector as well as Famicom  60pin connector, wireless controller support, amplified mono sound, and a compact sleek design.

Why you should choose the Generation NEX

The Generation NEX is extremely attractive, mimicking the design of the NES-001 but with an over 50% reduction in size. The NEX outputs video via composite, and creates amplified mono audio by transferring the signals along both mono and stereo RCA jacks. The NEX features both an NES 72 pin connector and a Famicom 60 pin connector, eliminating the need for any adapters. It’s wired controller is seemingly designed after the Super NES pad, complete with shoulder buttons, turbo fire and rapid fire start slow-mo. The NEX also supports its own brand of wireless controllers and wireless arcade stick, both which work remarkably well.

Why you should avoid the Generation NEX

Despite all that it has going for it, the Generation NEX is at its very care, a  simple glob top NOAC that works no better than the other $20 clones out there. Typical NOAC sound issues, game glitches, and refusal to play some games are abound with the NEX. Given the high cost, the added features such as the duel cartridge port design and wireless controller support make this one hard to recommend over the real hardware. If you’re only looking for one Famiclone though, this is the one to get.

RetroDuo

Common Nicknames: NES Two-in-One
Model Number: None
Platform: 72 pin NES and 46 pin SNES/SFC
Manufacturer: Retro-Bit
Price Range: $50-70

The Retro Duo is a twin Famiclone/Super Famiclone that will play both NES and Super NES game cartridges. The system supports real SNES controllers that can be used for either SNES or NES. There’s compoite video as well as S-video cables included. The System is sleek and compact, powered by just a 5v power supply.

Why you should choose the RetroDuo

Honestly, I was quite shocked by the quality of the Retro Duo. It will play nearly all NES games including Castlevania 3, and the SNES side will play anything but later revision SA-1 games such as Super Mario RPG. The system has composite video output, amplified mono for NES and stereo for SNES, S-video for both (although the NES is pseudo S-video) and it’s controller ports are that of the SNES 7pin, meaning real SNES controllers can be used to play both SNES and NES games!

Why you should avoid the RetroDuo

Although using a SNES controller to play NES games is comfortable and novel, it somehow just doesn’t feel right. Unmodified, the NES daughterboard will produce rather horrid audio, but luckily this can be corrected by soldering in a single capacitor and resistor. $60 is kind of expensive for a Famiclone, even if it is for the best one on the market.

RetroN3

Common Nicknames: Hyperkin Tri System, Retron Three
Model Number: None
Platform: 72 pin NES and 46 pin SNES/SFC, Sega Genesis
Manufacturer: Hyperkin
Price Range: $50-70

The RetroN3 is a triple Famiclone/Super Famiclone/Genesis clone released in 2009 by Hyperkin. Like the Retro Duo, it will play both NES and Super NES game cartridges, as well as Sega Genesis carts. The system includes two IR based wireless controllers but also features six controller ports – two NES, two SNES, and two Genesis controller ports. There’s compoite video as well as S-video cables included. The System is sleek and compact, powered by 9v DC center pin positive PSU.

Why you should choose the RetroN3

I only own the first model RetroN3. Apparently the new version will play even more games than the one I have. The RetroN3 does what it says on the box – it plays games designed for the NES, SNES, or Genesis. It even supports the originally controllers designed for each system! There’s S-video output for both SNES and Genesis games, and games look rather excellent through the RetorN3.

Why you should avoid the RetroDuo

At least on the version that I own, the NOAC based Famiclone that powers the NES portion is rather poor, about on par with the Yobo FC Game Console. It won’t play Castlevania 3, the Powerpak, or other higher end NES games. SNES is near perfect, but the lack of the SNES CIC lockout chip prevents later revisions of Super Mario RPG from running. Genesis games seem to run without too much problems, but there are noticeable differences in sound levels of the various channels used in Genesis game music. You’ll probably hear things you barely noticed on the real hardware. In standard composite, Genesis games look like absolute shit.

GameAxe Color

Common Nicknames: Pocket Famicom
Model Number: N/A
Platform: 60 pin (Famicom cartridges)
Manufacturer: Radiant (bankrupt)
Price Range: $130-160

The GameAxe Color is a reverse engineered hardware based Famiclone that reduces the system’s chipset into a handheld with a screen. It has built in turbo fire buttons and video output to a TV and requires six AA batteries to operate.

Why you should choose the GameAxe Color

Ever wanted to take your Famicom collection with you on a roadtrip? This device allows you to do just that. This system came from a time before NOAC Famiclones. As such, it works with every NES and Famicom game I own, from Castlevania 3 to Lagrange Point.

Why you should avoid the GameAxe Color

The performance of full color backlit LCDs from the early 1990s leaves a lot to be desired. The LCD on the GameAxe is somewhat blurry and the two miniature fluorescent tubes behind the LCD draw quite a bit of current, forcing the system to drain six AA batteries in around 2 hours. Also, compared to even the Lynx, Gamegear or TurboExpress, the GameAxe is absolutely massive

Wii Virtual Console

Common Nicknames: Nintendo emulator or sometimes lolz y would i PAY for romz?!
Model Number: None
Platform: Wii
Manufacturer: Nintendo
Price Range: $5-6 per game

The Wii Virtual Console is a channel on the Wii Shop that offers retro Nintendo games via download for a fee. Simply take your Wii online, enter the store, find a title you want to purchase with a creditcard, pay and download the software to the system.

Why you should choose the Wii Virtual Console

Many of today’s gamers don’t have working NES systems or even NES game cartridges. The Virtual Console provides today’s gamer with a way of playing NES classics in a new setting. This is a great way to play NES games in 480p. There are a number of controller solutions available, including The Wiimote, Classic Controller, Gamecube controller, even adapters that allow games to plug in original NES controllers to their Wii!

Why you should avoid the Wii Virtual Console

While $5 or $6 for some NES games is an absolute steal, it’s a total rip off for others. For instance,  according to the virtual console, Donkey Kong Jr. Math is equal value to Super Mario Bros. 3 or the Legend of Zelda.  Ultimately though, the biggest disadvantage is the total lack of something tangible. You send your money on a digital download that you can’t sell or trade at your leisure in the future. I’m not too big a fan of the VC.

NES Emulation

Emulation simply means one processor coping the performance of another. In this case, it means the ability to play NES games on much more powerful modern computers. There are NES emulators for PC, Mac, Dreamcast, Gamecube, PS2, Xbox, GBA, PSP, DS and many other machines.

Why you should choose emulation

Emulators are free, and legality issues aside, they allow gamers to play any and all NES games regardless of rarity. NES emulators on portables such as the PSP allow games to try out a game before purchase at a used game store. NES games look beautiful on a computer monitor or tv. They allow for savestates, you can take scrreenshots, add turbo fire, even remap games with backwards or otherwise broken controls.

Why you should avoid emulation

Even now, many emulators are not 100% perfect, owning ROMsets of games you don’t own is technically illegal, and as with the Wii Virtual Console, the lack of the tangible game cartridge diminishes the impact the games have on the player.

There you have it folks. While I covered most of the choices, there are still many many Famiclones I haven’t mentioned, but keep one thing in mind: if they’re from the mid 90s or newer, they are all NOAC based. Save your money and choose one of the system I listed above. I hope people will make good use of this guide. If you have a question or comment, feel free to leave them below.

Capcom taking votes for upcomming Rockman figures

Posted in From Japan, Megaman Classic, Retro Gaming on April 3, 2011 by satoshimatrix

A few days ago, Capcom Japan announced that the planned XBLA/PSN Megaman Universe has been canceled. However, Capcom Japan is offering something pretty cool for Megaman fans to somewhat make up for the loss of Universe.

The Japanese Capcom Rockman community forum is hosting a public poll with suggestions for upcoming Rockman figures. Votes are anonymous without any logins needed and it seems you can vote from anywhere in the world.

You can vote for three figures. If the character you want a figure of isn’t listed, you can type it in the text box provided, but remember to type the name in Japanese. The menus are in Japanese, but there’s a lot of katakana and should be pretty easy to figure out. Below the character voting box, it asks your age range, then your favorite Rockman series (Classic, X, DASH, etc.) The figures will probably be Japan only, but that shouldn’t stop you from hitting an import shop once these publicly voted figures hit.

I’m personally excited about the prospect of getting more DASH/Legends figures, although Zero series Ciel or Leviathan are fine too.

link here:

https://monitor.capcom.co.jp/question/panel1/rockman/rockman.cgi