Wednesday, June 7, 2017

8-bit Friday's: The Diaries - June 2nd, 2017

Occasionally gameplay over my weekend feels like it has to be chiseled out of small crevices, and taken in bite size portions similar to a Snickers Fun Size you get on Halloween. This was one such weekend as graduations parties, outings, and other issues plagued us, in this otherwise beautiful weather and slow down period between Memorial Day and July 4th. I originally had this weekend pegged (as I did the weekend previous) as a second vintage computer weekend, but minor computer repairs and games that had yet to arrive prevented that, so hopefully next weekend.

This Weekends Buys:

Submarine Command (Atari 800) - Adding to my upcoming vintage computer weekend will be some Atari 800XL play including this little known title, which I picked up CIB for less than $6.

Q*bert (Basic Fun Mini-Arcade) - I’ll go into these machines as part of this weekends plays, but Q*bert is the second of two color LED games in the series of four games.

Space Invaders (Sega Saturn) - This is another Saturn import that includes several arcade versions of the original game. I look forward to playing this one, and I just might be doing a Space Invaders series later on.

Star Wars: Rebel Strike-Rogue Squadron III (Nintendo GameCube) - As per my YouTube video I’m going to be spending some time on the GameCube this year, and figured I had to pick this one up, since we are also in a Star Wars frenzy at home now too. Anyway, YouTube videos of this one looks pretty amazing, so can't wait to get it.

Astrokill (PC-Steam) - I’ve been picking up a lot of games on Steam lately, especially as the summer sales roll on, and this one was on my Steam wishlist and finally became half off. Essentially, it’s a starfighter combat sim that looks pretty gosh darn good and I can't wait to test my gaming PC with it.   

This Weekends Plays:

Starlancer (Dreamcast)   ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️- As I understand this is another Chris Roberts creation, although it isn't set in the Wing Commander universe. This has a familiar plot to it as a lot of other space games and Sci-Fi do, of a solar system at war. Think The Expanse but much more epic in this game. This one is actually a PC port, but playing it on the Dreamcast I could barely tell. Despite being a few generations behind this one looks great even after all this time. Despite having the handicap of being a console game ported from PC this one plays pretty well, although there are a few notable control schemes that don't work that well like targeting, and weapons switching. As far as originality the general plot is derivative of a lot of other science fiction properties, however it's a nice mix of those properties with some familiarity bought from games like Wing Commander. This tends to be a more expensive Dreamcast title and I can see why, and I can also tell you that it should be a definite add to your collection.

Crime Killer (PS1) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - I'm always on the lookout for obscure games and  this one was suggested to me over Twitter as one such game. The suggestion actually paid off since upon playing it, I found out the YouTube playthroughs that I have seen did the actual game no justice. What I found upon playing it was a game that was highly addictive, and  that felt and played damn near an arcade game. Graphics wise it falls victim to it’s era but you quickly find out that all that is highly forgivable. The game itself plays well and is extremely intuitive namely in that the game itself is remarkably fun. The game's setting is in a not-too-distant future, in which an unnamed city resorts to having advanced police cars, motorcycles, and fighter jets in order to combat high levels of crime generated by a crime organization. The beginning intro tells the entire story and is cheesy yet somewhat touching. The game is 100% original in it's storyline although it has a Road Blasters type feel to it. If you don't have this one for your PlayStation make sure you get it, since it's fairly inexpensive and definitely worth it.

Dune 2000 (PS1) ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 - Dune 2000 was Westwood Studios reboot of their earlier Dune game, but meant to take advantage of the game mechanics Westwood had learned from the Command & Conquer franchise which followed after the original Dune RTS game. This game is of its era, and filled with plenty of FMV goodness including a bit of starpower. Basically, this is the first C&C dressed in a Dune skin and graphics wise it looks good, and is on par with a lot of other Westwood games of that time, and being comfortably 32-bit blocky which for me has a lot of nostalgia. Control wise though like other C&C games ported to the PlayStation from PC, there are obvious issues. The control mechanisms to me don't feel right of course, but that's as someone who has played Westwoods best RTS games on PC, meaning I feel as if I am at a bit of a disadvantage commenting on the controls. I just feel that a mouse would work better for a game like this and give a player more control. To say the least though once you learn how the PlayStation controller works in the game, gameplay does get a little easier. Originally wise this is a reboot of an earlier Dune title, and based on C&C but I can't help but feel that it all works and is definitely different enough to give the game some of it's own character. I would only suggest adding this one to your PS1 collection if you are a Dune, Westwood Studios, RTS, or C&C fan.

Strategy X (Atari 2600) ⭐⭐⭐- This is an oddly rounded top Atari 2600 cart from Konami itself. Plugging the game in I did a facepalm as it looedk suspiciously like a game I reviewed a few weeks back called Frontline. Of course both games were arcade ports, but Strategy X focused on a tank as opposed to an infantryman like Frontline. Companies like Taito, Konami, and Capcom did tend to have a lot of games on arcade in that era that tended to have similar looks, premises, and play methodologies, which later ported to home consoles. On the Atari 2600, Strategy X is a forced vertically scrolling shooter with a tank weaving its way through obstacles (assumably trees) while dealing with various enemies. I could best describe it as River Raid meets Frontline, or if it helps think of the NES’s Iron Tank being on the Atari 2600. Graphics wise it's true early Atari 2600 in looks, with the tank being the only really impressive graphic on the screen with its moving treads. Play wise it’s responsive, but the tanks inability to move more than four directions does costs the player, and although the trees (or whatever they are) can be driven through it does cost your tank fuel, which ala River Raid you can get more of buy running over fuel tanks. Originality wise it is a bit lacking since, as with the above mentioned Frontline, games of this kind were common back then. Overall, it’s a good game, but it  would be more worth adding to your collection for its unusual cart than the actual game.   

Desert Falcon (Atari 7800) ⭐⭐⭐ ½ - Slowly closing the ring on the remaining Atari 7800 titles I don’t have is Desert Falcon. I’m just going to start off by saying graphically it's a pretty impressive looking game, and proved the Atari 7800 could produce graphics on par with the NES. Also, unlike the 2600 version, which I also have, I can actually tell what's going on, and what everything is. Control wise though it’s not so hot, even with the CX-78 joypad, since controlling side to side, back and forth, and altitude all on the same stick is kind of frustrating and got me killed more than a few times. Originality wise this is a game that has it in spades, since it’s a typically late Atari oddball with a strange premise about a falcon stealing Egyptian treasure. As an Atari 7800 fan or collector you have to have this game, not only to complete your collection, but to show the old 7800 could go head to head with the NES when it wanted to graphically.  

Dark Chambers (Atari 7800)  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ - I usually hit on originality last but on this games originality is the 800 lb gorilla in the room, since Dark Chambers is more or less a direct Gauntlet rip off minus being able to choose your adventurer type. With that said though it’s actually a pretty good game, even if it is a blatant rip off.  Graphics wise it truly has the look and feel of an actual arcade game, and of what late 8-bit Gauntlet looked like on the NES. Play wise I was using the CX-78 joypad, which worked out really well on this game, and gave me a pretty fluid and responsive experience and made this game a pleasure to play. Overall, I found that it’s actually a great gaming experience on the 7800 and despite being an obvious clone its worth adding to any 7800 collection.

Galaxian (Coleco Mini-Arcade) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐- With Coleco Mini-Arcade you pretty much know you're getting a light show dressed up as an arcade game, albeit a very cool and entertaining one. I love my Pac-Man for instance and have spent a lot of time playing it, even though it lacks the fluidity and depth of playing it on a console. When I got Galaxian though I was shocked, this game not only plays fluidly but plays fast and is highly challenging. Although you don’t get the variety of alien attackers you do in the various console ports, what you do have works just as well, and gets just as complicated as you move on to other levels. I will even make the controversial statement that Galaxian on the mini-arcade might actually be a better port than what we got on the Atari 2600. So if you going to get only one Coleco Mini-Arcade this has to be the one.

Centipede (Basic Fun Mini-Arcade) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ - A few months back I picked up Basic Fun’s LCD Space Invaders mini-arcade, I even mentioned on my Facebook page, and Twitter about how I picked it up for next to nothing from Bed, Bath, & Beyond. The LCD game was good, but at times it will just kill the game on higher levels. Buying this I also knew there were Pac-Man, Centipede, and Q*bert versions out there but felt no need to collect them. Then one day while listening to The Retro League Hugues mentioned that his wife had gotten him the Centipede, and Q*bert versions and how each was like a miniature MAME cabinet. It’s at that point I knew these must be different than the LCD Space Invaders I had and the Pac-Man I had seen. Looking it up I found that each had small full color LED screens and produced games that very much looked like the real deals. Control wise for only being operated with a small joystick and button the game works pretty well, and provides pretty compelling gameplay for it’s small size. Overall this is a nice pickup for any arcade game lover.  

Pac-Man (Basic Fun Mini-Arcade) ⭐⭐⭐1/2 - Looking to collect all four machines now I picked up the Pac-Man LCD mini-arcade. Like the Space Invaders version this one produces a pretty good LCD emulation of the arcade version, and also like the Space Invaders version has fairly spot on sounds and music. Control wise like the above mentioned Centipede you are dealing with a small joystick, but it works out well and is fairly responsive. An obvious buy if you're looking to get all four machines.

Countermeasure (Atari 5200) ⭐⭐⭐1/2 - Think of the first Atari 2600 game I played this weekend Strategy X but a little more complicated and with better graphics. The plot revolves around a nuclear missile silo being held hostage by terrorists and your tank is sent to find the code and disarm the missile. Like Strategy X your tank can roll through trees at a cost in fuel, and you must fight anti-tank pillboxes protecting the silos.Of course being a later 8-bit title trees look like trees, lakes look like lakes, houses like houses and well you get the picture. On top of that is the code collecting element that reveals the order the letters must be in to disarm the missile, luckily it's only three letters and you can guess if you miss. Graphics wise the game looks pretty good, and it’s easy to see the quantum leap in graphics the Atari 5200 had over the Atari 2600, although it falls short compared to some other 5200 titles that could put the system on par with the NES. Control wise this is one where the 5200 controller shows the possibility of dual button games with the bottom button firing, and the top controlling the turret although the Atari 5200 standard controller does make this a bit tenuous, and the directional control of the tank with the joystick is a bit laggy. Originality wise once you get past the Strategy X parallels the game is pretty darn original, especially the code breaking elements. As an 5200 fan, and as a collector I have to say this one is worth adding to your collection.

So with 5 consoles, and 3 free standing platforms played covering 10 games I had a pretty good weekend, despite it all. Hopefully, with new vintage computer games in place I can get to that vintage computer weekend round two I’ve been waiting for. Until then have a great week, and God Bless!!      


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

YouTube Channel Previews

With the new website on the way I'm also slowly but surely coming out with YouTube content as well. Be sure to check out my quick look at Elgato Video Capture being used for GameCubes Super Mario Sunshine.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

System Saturday's: Vintage Computing - A Collectors Overview

When I was about 6 or 7 years old my Mom decided to go back to school. I was in school Monday thru Friday all day by this point, so she had time to attend classes and study during the day. Her main goal was updating her late 1950’s early 60’s education of typewriters and tediously done paperwork, and enter the modern age of computerization. The end objective of course being to take on a part-time office job while I was in school. My mother learned quickly and soon became our resident computer expert, bringing home cool text books, library books, and magazines on computers and the future of technology. I can remember this one Time-Life book she bought home from the library filled with robots and computers, and with future depictions of robot tractors farming fields, and rescue drone helicopters sent out by the dozens to help flood victims stranded on their roofs.

This was between about 1983 and 1985, when the world of computers and their possibilities, provided us all with a lot of anticipation. It was an exciting era, and one that has since inspired movies like The Pirates of Silicon Valley, and TV shows like Halt and Catch Fire, as well as being the home era of one of the ultimate computer movies, Wargames. My mom would talk about getting us a computer often, and she would show us magazines with the likes of C64’s, IBM compat’s, Apple II’s, and Atari 800’s. I can remember this one ad that showed an Atari 800XL and it's writing pad accessory, and marveling when she told me I could write or draw directly into the computer. It was an exciting time for my young mind, and filled me with hopes for a brighter future.

It wouldn't be till the summer of 1987, that my Mom and Dad decided to buy a Commodore SX-64. Commodores so called portable system, the SX-64 weighed about 40 lbs, and nearly measured 2’ x 2’ x 12”, but I loved it. I’ve since spoken of some of my fondest memories of that old computer on this blog before. By 1992 the old SX-64 would be taken out in a bad lightning storm, and in that era it wasn’t something that could be fixed without great cost. It would be about two years more till I got another computer, my Packard-Bell Legend 126, which I've also discussed on this blog before too. I consider my Packard-Bell my entry into modern computing though, a lineage leading me up to the computer I’m typing on at this very second. Although, it was in the heart of PC gaming’s golden age of DOS and early Windows, it wasn’t quite like what we experienced in the early to mid-80’s.

Watching AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire I'm often taken back to that era. The engenuity, the excitement of change, the limitless opportunities, and the reality that the world we exist in now is built on those foundations is easy to get swept up in as I watch fictionalized versions of real life computing pioneers change the world with out of the box thinking. There was this point at the end of the second season when the character of Joe McMillan (Lee Pace) looks out of the windows of his dark newly rented office space towards the lights of San Francisco's  skyscrapers, and the keys it held to Silicon Valley beyond. It was enough to make me remember the 1980’s and those promises of a computerized future it held, making me almost wish I was old enough to have been able to participate in that era.

Of course I wasn’t and I was born into a different era, one in which Microsoft’s DOS and later Windows variants dictated what systems are built around, and not what individual manufacturers decide anymore. It’s an era of Windows 10 or Apple iOS, where they later just barely escaped joining the ranks of Commodore, and Atari’s final fate of extinction. If I want to now experience what the mid to late-80’s was like for a computer enthusiast I essentially do it the way they did by playing on the actual systems, especially considering I can own all the original systems for a mere fraction of how much they originally cost even in 1980’s money. So here is a brief overview of my collection without getting into each system in-depth.

Commodore 64 - The Commodore 64 or C64 is probably one of the most legendary of all the non-IBM compatible computers. It was known as a gaming PC, long before the modern era of gaming PCs. It’s very architecture would share much in common with the NES meaning it was a true game changer in 8-bit gaming and computing. Although the C64 arrived on the scene in 1982 as a replacement to its already successful VIC-20, it would only achieve minor success until about 1984 when it would step into the realm of being highly successful. This success would not only be partly due to a price drop, but also a result 1983’s epic gaming market crash which had consumers walking away from the eras gaming systems in search of the next big thing. It would be between 1984 and 87 that the C64 would become a dominant player in computers and gaming. At $200 to $300 the C64 was also the best bang for the buck being significantly cheaper than Apple, Atari, and the IBM “compat” entries, but proving to be of far better quality and power than cheaper options like the TI-99, and Timex-Sinclair 1000.

This system itself is a fairly simple computer-keyboard combo, that can be connected into a TV, or even to a Commodore monitor. Other inputs such as 5 ¼’ disk, and tape drives where external, with the former being nearly the size of the system itself. I can’t remember how much my system cost me but I think I picked it up on eBay for less than $100, and bought the 5 ¼’ separately. Mine required a bit of maintenance though since the keyboard diaphragm was a bit dried out, however the repair was cheap to have done even with part having to come from the UK. I currently have 15 games on the system some in 5 ¼’ format and others in cartridge, plus three games waiting to be tested.

Apple IIe - The Apple II is the computer most Gen Xer’s associate with their grade school days. Like the C64 it was a computer/keyboard combo although a bit larger. It’s top mesa was nearly a foot long, and featured a tray like area in which to rest dual tandem 5 ¼’ disk drives, or the Apples “adjustable” and iconic green monotone monitor. Let’s just say a lot of us experienced hours of Oregon Trail in those fantastic green colors. A personal memory for me is playing hours of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego towards the end of my eighth grad year of school after the curriculum was long over. This system sold for $1200+ new and was aimed at the high end home audience wanting a useful system with educational qualities, but it was also aimed at the academic market being discounted for the elementary through high school market, and affordable to public and private schools alike.

My Apple IIe cost me about $150, and included the single 5 ¼’ disk drive. After getting it I bought it in for servicing hearing something loose inside, and not getting any monitor out, but everything checked out. It took me about a year of on/off messing with this system and finally logging on to an Apple II Facebook page, to find out that in order to get monitor out of my Apple II I needed to connect my cable from the back of the Apple II to the green composite input on the back of my HDTV, and not the yellow as is more common. The system worked well after that, and I have a total of three games for it with an additional four waiting in the testing que. My biggest complaint
about the Apple II is finding good and decently priced classic games to play on it.    

Atari 800XL (and XEGS) - The XEGS has a blown motherboard and is in that “I'll get around to it” pile. The XEGS and my Atari 800XL can play the exact same games though, so don't let the XEGS cartridge fool you it’s an Atari 800 game the same as any other. The Atari 800XL as you can guess by the name is a bigger version the Atari 800 and basically shared architecture with the Atari 5200, part of the reason why Atari 5200 games look light years beyond 2600 games. Seeing as to how the 800 was a “computer” though and the 5200 just a dedicated gaming system, the 800 came with a significant higher price tag and longer life span.  However, just as Atari’s gaming systems fell prey to the 1983 crash so too did their computers and the formally $1000+ systems dropped to less than $200. Of course Atari trying to identify themselves as an all around computer company would consistently add and drop other systems from their lineup with characteristics close to the 400/800 base models. In 1987 the XEGS would be introduced as kind of a hybrid Atari computer/console in a kind of “take that Nintendo!” maneuver. It would never catch on, but amongst vintage computer collectors, and Atari fans XEGS are collectors items.

My 800XL is probably one of my favorite vintage systems. Of course I can only play carts on it since I haven't gotten a 5 ¼’ for it, but even in carts only I don't mind. There are actually a lot of games readily available for the 400/800’s that weren’t for the 2600, 5200, or 7800 due to various reasons. Plus considering the 800XL uses a 2600 joystick for gameplay, it’s a similar gaming experience. I bought the 800XL within a timeframe close to when I bought my C64 so again I can’t remember price but probably under $100, with very limited maintenance.

As for the XEGS it cost me a little over a $100, but at least it came totally complete and in the original styrofoam. The games, lightgun, joystick, and just about everything else in the box worked, but support groups on the Atariage forums are telling me it’s motherboard is probably shot on the computer itself but I know where I can get a new one for $65. To be honest though knowing the XEGS is nothing more than a pimped out 800 I’m considering selling it, either as-is or after I get a new motherboard in.

Between the 800 and XEGS I have 5 total games, and no others waiting as of yet.

TI-99 - The TI-99 is a system that basically wormed it’s way into my heart. Like the Atari 800 the TI-99 was another highly priced computer that took a header in 1983, going from a price well above $1000 in 1982 to near $50 by 1984. I have no doubts systems like the Atari 800 and the TI-99 weren’t just victims of the 1983 game crash, but of the C64 hitting the market as well coming in with more power and at a lower price. Of course the TI-99 also found itself at another unique disadvantage too, since Texas Instruments aimed the TI-99 more at the educational market than the consumer market. This left it under-powered for competing with the likes of the C64, and at a market disadvantage competing with the Apple II for a place in schools.

My TI-99 cost me about $35, and came in it's original box, all items included and with two games, plus a copy of Star Trek I picked up after buying it. The TI-99 despite not being a true gaming platform is a delight to game on, the graphics are simple and remind me of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and the games are still pretty fun. My favorite in Parsec a somewhat kiddie-fied version of Defender that is a true blast to play, and equally challenging. I have two additional games in my testing que, but they are also still being shipped.

TRS-80 CoCo - The Tandy-Radio Shack 80, was a line of computers sold by Tandy, before the computer manufacturer would just skip the TRS part and just head right to Tandy. The line included 4 different pre-color versions, the I and II where separate component type (monitor, CPU, keyboard, etc) systems, while the III and IV were all-in-ones. Later the various CoCo’s (Color Computers)  would be introduced, simple color systems capable of gaming, that could be part of component sets or directly hooked up to a TV. The CoCo’s featured cartridge slots for games, and other applications but it’s the former that endeared them to a lot of gamers.

Looking for the TRS-80 experience I bought TRS-80 Model III early last year, just to find out it didn’t take carts. So I bought my CoCo shortly after, and in October of last year sold the massive Model III at a nice profit. It would take until January of this year before I could get the CoCo hooked up, and when I did I was knocked off my feet. Although I only had, and still only have one game Canyon Climber I was impressed with what I saw and played. The TRS-80 is one of those systems I will have to put some time into hunting games on, although I may have a few more on the way before the end of the weekend.

The thing about vintage computers is that when playing them you realize there is so much more they can do than just play games. These very same computers might have been involved in doing a family's taxes, helping write papers for college courses, or they may have even been part of some small business. You also realize with the various programming languages on them, you could in fact design your own games. In a way there is a feeling of lost potential here, which is sad at times, but then you realize that the moment these computers arrived home for the first time someone was saying, “Gee I wonder what games I could play on that!”. Vintage computer collecting isn’t for everyone though and that's understandable. After all, to really get these systems and their various idiosyncrasies you had to live back then, and to have operated one of these things in their prime. It’s all about knowing the flashing cursor, the 5 ¼’ and tape drives, and when to insert the cartridge, and the knowledge that any and every program that computer would run had to be fed into it via an external disk, or some other source. Relating these machines to someone purely of the Windows 95 and era after, would be like telling them they had to load Windows off a flash drive every time the wanted to do some work, since internal hard drives didn’t exist as of yet.
Of course the progression of collecting vintage consoles, leading to collecting vintage computers can be somewhat natural. Vintage computers help tell the story of videogames as we know them, and if you're of a certain age there's no doubt your personal history is part of this. Like vintage consoles, computers also demand some TLC as well as operating knowledge in order to understand the various idiosyncrasies of each system. For me personally I find all of it nostalgic, since my childhood experiences often allowed me to work with some of these systems in their prime, leading me to a general understanding as to how other systems of the era operated as well.      



Thursday, May 25, 2017

Return of the Speccy - The ZX Spectrum Next

So here we are May 24th, 2017 and the ZX Spectrum Next program has been fully funded on Kickstarter. That may not sound like much to an outsider, but it’s actually kind of a big deal to ZX Spectrum fans and/or vintage computing lovers alike. Over the past few years Kickstarter and other crowdfunding sites have seen numerous ZX Spectrum projects come and go. Some of these have failed to get funded, some got funded and fell apart immediately after, while still others are marred in controversy with no final product delivered to backers as of yet. So when the ZX Spectrum Next project appeared on Kickstarter last month many of us were a bit skeptical, till we watched the video and did our homework. Instead of getting a flight of fancy with pretty 3D rendered drawings, we instead got a well thought out and feasible sales pitch, put together by folks who actually knew a thing or two and had the experience to make it happen. So after considering it carefully for about a week I decided to back the project myself to see where it went. To say the least where it went was extremely surprising, and has even left it’s creators somewhat speechless. With less than 48 hours to the ZX Spectrum Next program began ripping through its stretch goals, and raised nearly 3 times as much as the project's main goal.

As both a gamer and someone with an interest in vintage computing  the ZX Spectrum series of computers has always had a somewhat legendary status. The problem is as an American gamer and vintage computer enthusiast the ZX Spectrum family has always been somewhat unattainable, since the Spectrums were a British made computer, and being so only worked on PAL televisions and monitors. This meant that a working system would have to not only be imported, but one would have to find a PAL monitor, or some conversion device. All this added up quickly, and in the end one was taking a chance buying a vintage computer, and investing a lot extra to get it to work. Of the Spectrum did make a domestic appearance for us in the US in the 1980’s in the form of the Timex Sinclair. But, many of the Spectrums classic programs and features didn’t directly port over, meaning American users of the system didn’t get the legendary system at its best. Instead the North American Timex version was basically a bare boned version of its UK counterpart, underpowered as a gaming platform, and mainly meant to be a cheap entry level computer for home business and student means, i.e. a cheap family computer.

When the new ZX Spectrum Next project appeared on Kickstarter, what peaked my interest was that it was optimized and modernized version of the old Spectrums. What really sold me though, was that the ZX Spectrum Next was able to be easily switched between PAL and NTSC formats, all while outputting on HDMI. That means someone in the US (like me) could could output the ZX Spectrum in all it’s glory to NTSC, and in HD. Of course I also failed to mention that the Next is not only enabled to play Spectrom ROM’s via SD card, but can connect to original Spectrum hardware such as tape drives. This means all those classic Spectrum tape games that were formerly off limits to us in North America, are now playable for many of us if we care to experience them in their original formats. The system is also being given a nice mix of original and modern features, like the above mentioned SD card slot, and HDMI output, as well as Wifi capabilities, and USB access.

As of the end of the auction the expected delivery date isn’t until January of 2018, but I have my fingers crossed for an earlier delivery. One I receive the system I’ll be sure to put video up on my YouTube channel of the system in action.        


Monday, May 22, 2017

The Website

So after some careful consideration, and just a complete lack of time to work on the website I made a few decisions about where I want to go on things.

First I have determined that the new website will not be called, since I felt the term 8-bit pigeonholed me into video games only, and there was a lot more than video games I wanted to bring to the site. The name I've decided to go with for the website is, which has a nice basement rec-room kind of feel, and opening my website to not only video games, but music (vinyl records), vintage toys, electric trains, and other man cave type pursuits.

I'm also slowly but surely bringing in audio and video recording equipment and software, which may give me the ability to podcast and/or vlog in the near future as well.

8-bit Friday's: The Diaries - May 19th, 2017

Well, it’s been one of the weeks where it’s been hard to get out of bed in the mornings for work, and even harder to stay awake through the morning hours. To say the least this weekend has been a fight against wanting to just veg, and actually getting up and getting stuff accomplished. Luckily the latter managed to win a bit, and with it some games managed to get played as well. This weekend became an unofficial NES weekend, something I’ve needed in a long time, since sometimes you just need comfort gaming and the simplicity of 8-bit.

This Weeks Buys:.

Deserts of Kharak (PC-Steam) - Yes, finally the PC game I’ve been waiting to get on sale through Humble Bundle at more than 60% off. I haven’t had the chance to install it yet, but I can’t wait to play it.

Desert Falcon (Atari 7800) - I have a minor desert theme going, sorry. So, yes on my way to wearing down my Atari 7800 wishlist and finishing off my collection.

Tutankham (Atari 2600) - Um, I guess I’m continuing the desert theme. So yes adding to the Atari 2600 collection.

Dark Chambers (Atari 7800) - Got a great deal on this one so one more towards completing the 7800 collection.  

This Weeks Plays:

Cobra Command (NES) ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 - If you didn't know, Choplifter was never actually released on the NES although it did see a Famicom port. So Cobra Command is the closest thing to Choplifter we got on the NES, which is ironic since Cobra Command is so much like Choplifter II on the Game Boy. Anyway, in case you haven't picked up on it Cobra Command is basically a Choplifter clone, where you fly a combat helicopter and pick up prisoners, but with a few differences. One of the main differences is that unlike Choplifter, where you blast your way into P.O.W. camps and rescue many prisoners at once, in Cobra Command they are scattered throughout stages individually. Once found, unlike Choplifter where you must land to get prisoners, in Cobra Command your helicopter can extend a rope to your escapees. Cobra Command also features some unique stages and substages as well, much like it’s subterranean levels which are also part of the above mentioned Choplifter II’s gameplay as well. Lastly, unlike Choplifter you can’t turn your helicopter around, meaning returning your escapees to homebase is an impossibility.

As I understand it Cobra Command is actually based on a 1984 laserdisc arcade game which has a Blue Thunder feel plot wise, and looks a bit more like Sega’s Thunder Blade. So in all actuality it’s nothing like its NES port, and the only thing in common is Data East. Of course why Data East went with more of a Choplifter vibe than with their actual arcade property I’ll never know, especially when Lucasarts was able to pull something similar off with Rescue On Fractalus for the Atari 5200 and 800. Perhaps, I’ll send that question off to the 2 Dudes and a NES Podcast for an answer. Maybe I should also ask why Broderbund never decided to directly port Choplifter to the NES as well. So graphics wise this one is Ok, but I found the colors to be a bit dark, and at times it makes things a bit hard to see and contrast. Control wise it works pretty well and is very responsive and intuitive, but it’s hard to get Choplifter out of your head when playing this, and it took me awhile to get past wanting to turn my chopper around, that’s just me of course. Originality wise as mentioned it is a bit of a Choplifter clone, but it takes the concept in a unique direction that almost feels as if it inspired some of the levels in Choplifter II. It also reminds me a bit of Activisions similarly named Chopper Command on the Atari 2600 too, since both the gameplay and name are somewhat comparable, as is another Atari 2600 game Super Cobra. It’s not a supremely awesome game, but does have a true NES adventure vibe which is always worth experiencing, especially when one of 8-bits most legendary games, Choplifter, isn’t available on the platform.

Joust (NES) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Having ports of Joust on several systems there's not much for me to say. It's a resident of my Atari 5200, 7800, PS2, and my X-Arcade MAME cabinet, and now on my NES. I will make the highly controversial statement of saying I liked the Atari 7800 version a little better than the NES version though, but the NES has the better sound (obviously). Graphically this one looks extremely good and on par if not better than the real deal on arcade. Control wise it's good but the 7800 version was a little tighter. Originality wise it's a classic arcade Apples to Apples port, so not much to say there. If you're an NES collector you probably want this one.

Wizards & Warriors III (NES) ⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 - A longtime resident of my wishlist and completing the franchise for me. Despite the serious looking labels and box art, these games are always kind of cartoony and a bit humorous. Graphics wise it's not bad, and its clear whats going on. Control wise it's also very good, and reacts and fights well. As far as originality it doesn't stray too far from this first two games, but there are also many other games on the NES like this. With that said though I'm a fan of the franchises super serious fantasy labels, juxtaposed against its overall goofy nature. I would only suggest buying this if you're a fan of the series or NES fantasy games.

Marble Madness (NES) ⭐️⭐️⭐️ - I picked this one up at Reckless Records, at the same time I bought U2’s Joshua Tree (as mentioned in Weekend Spins). The game section is hidden in a small glass case in a corner somewhat obscured by the Jazz record bins. For $5 I couldn't  pass it by, although it was just a supporting actor in my record store bag that afternoon. Anyway Marble Madness is known for being hard, and the Madness part of the title is often joked at as being a warning, but I have to agree. As I understand it this one was an arcade game that had a trackball to control the marble. Many say the lack of a trackball in porting it to the NES, means the game lost a lot in translation. Of course I can't speak for that since I've never run into a Marble Madness cabinet in the wild. Graphics wise this one is ok and somewhat simple, and it reminded me of Captain Skyhawk also on the NES. The graphics do have an Atari 2600 meets ZX Spectrum feel to it though, being a bit basic feeling. Control wise, it's not easy but I think the hard control is stylized to the game itself. Originality wise this game has it in spades, and truly is different but its easy to see why it hasn't spawned any successors. As an NES collector you may want to pick this one up.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (NES) ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ - Bonus points for being an 8-bit Star Wars game. This is another game long stranded on my wishlist, finally taken off after getting a fairly good deal this week. Just like its infamous younger SNES siblings the Star Wars games of the NES aren't easy either and take a lot of liberty with the story lines and Empire Strikes Back here is no different. Graphics wise it's great, clear, fun and downright lovable. Control wise it can be kind of stiff, especially in jumping, that just really sucks, especially when timing is a key issue. Originality, wise I love it, it follows Empires story, but adds it's own odd twists to it. As an NES collector you need this one, as a Star Wars fan you can't live without it especially just to hear the Star Wars theme in 8-bit.

If all goes well this week I may be having another vintage computer gaming weekend next week, fingers crossed on that. Until then have a good weekend everyone!!