Monday, July 28, 2014

“Nuts for Nintendo”, Not All That Bad

The year was 1988 and “Nintendo Fever” was kicking into high gear. I guess I was slightly oblivious to this since in my school we were arguing about Commodore 64 vs PC, and the joys of Micro Machines. Some of my classmates had NES’s, and some didn’t, but no one care. Yet, history seems to tell us that the country was ablaze with Nintendo, and kids seem to obsess about it.

In November of 1988, ABC’s longtime news program 20/20 ran a story called “Nuts for Nintendo” by John Stossel. For retro gaming enthusiasts and NES devotees alike, the “Nuts for Nintendo” piece has become somewhat immortalized, and a point of contention ever since. Love it, or hate it, it exist but I say it’s not all that bad. Now, to be honest unless I was reminded about the piece I never would have known about it, I mean heck there is a chance I even watched it live and just forgot about it over the years so to say the least I was oblivious to it either way. So when various podcast and internet articles seem to focus on the piece with some animosity I decided it was something I wanted to take a second look at by myself, and see what I really thought about it on my own.

Some, especially those who were NES crazy themselves at the time, seem to look at the story as an attack on the NES. In a way I can see that since the last 90 seconds or so of the story seem to focus on the down sides of having an NES (or video game consoles in general). One argument bought up in the story about the NES, and have been hearing for years  ever since is that, ”video games desensitize kids to violence” an argument Stossel seems to blow off in the piece by saying “Well, I don’t’ know about that!” with a noted tone of incredulity.  But, another argument is that kids seem to “be obsessive” about the games and play games instead of doing their homework. This seems to be the bigger concern for Stossel then anything else, but even his argument here is somewhat more of a warning for parents to use common sense in how much time there kids play. Even nowadays I have to use common sense on when and for how long my son plays Minecraft, keeping him balanced between homework, chores, and game time.

In my opinion though, the rest of the story isn’t too bad, to me Stossel just seems to be walking outsiders (i.e. parents) through what the whole NES craze was all about, and coincidentally just in time for Christmas. He talks about its history, its quick rise into pop culture, and the economics behind Nintendo’s success, with just the right amount of time and information dedicated to those points. I will agree however, that Stossel has some concerns that could at time be construed as negative such as Nintendo’s Japanese origin, intentional games shortages, and waiting in line for hours to get new games, but these points seem to be outshined by Stossel’s constant alluding to the imagination that goes behind both creating and playing the games. In a way there is almost a love letter quality to the whole story that I think goes without notice.

Of course I think part of the reason why the report has come under fire over the years is because of Stossel himself. Stossel was bought onto 20/20, after one of their more famous reporters Geraldo Rivera left the show to pursue his carrier as a serious investigative journalist (we know how that went). In a way Stossel in his 1980’s form is almost a Geraldo clone mustache and all. But, as time went on we found out that Stossel was far more Andy Rooney, than Geraldo Rivera. His approaches to stories could at times be serious, but for the most part he would go with the cynical questioning “really?” tone, similar to what we see and hear in “Nuts for Nintendo”.

Here is the story ala YouTube provided to the world by Screwattack aka The AVGN:
After watching it I’m sure you can agree that Stossel can at times come across as a bit annoying, and even slightly negative, but I still don’t think this the story is positive towards the NES.

 Say what you want about the story or Stossel, but I think the end cap for the story tells it all. After the story ends we cut back to Stossel and Barbara Walters. Its at this point Stossel tells us that he got an NES for the story and he says “I’m keeping it”, and that he and his wife “stay up till midnight” playing it. This to me is the point that says Stossel was sent out a hard core investigator and came back a huge fan instead.

Now, as I said you can think and say what you want about this story, and maybe my attitude to the story comes with 28 years of insight, and/or the fact that I didn’t have “Nintendo Fever” in 1988 so I’m not angry about it,  but to me though it’s a nice piece about the NES from the era. So I guess no matter what your opinion is, its a wonderful piece of history, from a simpler time in video gaming.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Podcast of Retro Gaming: The Upper Memory Block

I will openly admit that I have a lot of interests, as many other American men do. So with that said as long as I am going to spend 8 hours a day behind a desk unable to partake in those interests I would at least like to listen to podcasts on them so I can be informed and have fun that way. For some of my hobbies there aren’t any really good podcast, or in some cases any podcasts at all. But, when it comes to retro gaming there are a lot of really good ones, some of which I have covered in previous blog entries.

About two months ago I began to learn a lot more about DOSBox, the DOS emulation program that can be used to access DOS based programs on Windows XP and later computers. I decided to do this after I picked up a bunch of DOS based games at a local thrift shop. It was at that point I began to wonder if there were any podcast out there that concentrated on old PC games. I searched iTunes and found nothing, using PC games, DOS, and a number of other search terms, so I throw my hands up and just admitted to myself that no such podcast existed. Then one day I was listening to the Retro Rewind Podcast, a podcast I wrote about on my blog once before, when they piped in a commercial for another podcast. The man on the commercial asked if “you remembered pre-XP pc games, and running config files, etc….”, as well as a few other questions all of which I answered yes to. The ad was by Joe Mastroianni host of the Upper Memory Block podcast, a podcast on retro PC gaming, and exactly the type of podcast I had been searching for. With only a few minutes of the Retro Rewind Podcastleft to go, I plugged the Upper Memory Blockinto an iTunes search and in a few seconds I had found a podcast that seemed to sum up all of my recollections of my PC gaming days.

The backlog of episodes covered games like, Wing Commander, Command & Conquer, Mechwarrior, Strike Commander, Railroad Tycoon, andmany other classics. The first episode I listened to was Emulation which was fantastic episode that introduced me to many of the great emulation methods out there for old pc games like ScummVM, and the DOSBox front end application D-Fend. The episode provided me with a huge amount of insight into how to use DOSBox’s somewhat confusing set ups, and how to make it all easier.

I went on to enjoy a lot of other episodeson some of the great games I remembered, afterthat the podcast became a staple in my IPhones podcast library.

I would like to compare the Upper Memory Blockto the Atari 2600 Game by Game Podcast, due to the fact that they both podcast have similar formats. Joe much like Ferg is incredibly likable, and really makes the show worth listening to because of his love for the subject. Joe, much like Ferg also gets very in-depth with the games, he talks about game play, control methods, his memories of playing, and of course he talks about the games development. In comparison to Atari 2600 games PC games have a lot more back story that goes into development, and Joe has some really great stories about them.

Joe also rates the games too at the end of each episode, based on whether he believes the games stand up against the test of timeor not. I like this segment because it really puts the games into perspective, as to whether or not they were truly something special or just a stepping stone in a long line of games to come. He also ends the show by telling you where to find these games if you want to try them yourself, letting you know if they are on Steam, GoG, or some other site, or if eBay is your only option. Thanks to this segment I have become an avid GoG, and Steam user.

As for the show itself you have to keep in mind that it’s a single host program, so you not going to get the banter and conversation between friends effect that you do on two or more host programs. With that said Joe is pretty engaging on the subject of PC games, and he knows how to keep the show moving, and keep it lively. The shows average about an hour long each, and for the most part cover one game, but he will sometimes cover a series of games much like he did in the Descent, and Doom episodse. The subject matter is always presented in an interesting way though, and not hectically paced even for the series episodes I just discussed. The only time music is played in the background is when Joe is discussing the music for the game so there’s no music playing distractingly through the whole podcast, which allows you to focus on the subject matter a little more.

Joe, also makes himself really accessible to his listeners which is really great when you have a question about a game or emulator. This is another reason why his program is so great.

This podcast is a must for anyone who has an interest in old PC games of the pre-Windows XP, or just wants to share in a bit of nostalgia about that era.  

You can find of the Upper Memory Blockon iTunes, on Facebook, and also on Twitter. Also be sure to check Joe’s website for the podcast out at

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Revisiting Retro Gaming New Years Resolutions:

Perhaps this would have been more appropriate to do on June 1, or June 30th, but now is as good of a time as any to make sure I am on track with my New Years resolutions. Well at least the gaming resolutions, I didn’t right the rest of them down so the heck with them right?


#1 Play a Final Fantasy game:


I haven’t done this one yet, but I decided of all the Final Fantasygames, I’m going to buy and play the first one. That’s right the original NES version. Now, I know what you’re saying “what there are so many new and better versions, so why?”. Well, you have to think I’m coming into a series that has been going on for a while, and let’s be honest even though the parts don’t link up you still lose something not starting from the beginning.


#2 Finally Finish Super Mario Bros. 3


I bought in a lot of new games and systems this year and sitting down to tackle this classic just hasn’t been possible, maybe in the fall.


#3 Finish Halo: ODST


No to this as well for a reason see #2


#4 Get an Atari 5200 & 7800


Thank you tax money for helping me add these bad boys to my collection! I wrote articles on both this year as well make sure to check them out.


#5 Play StarFoxall the way through


See #2 and #3 for the reason


#6 Leave my comfort zone and learn how to play both Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter 2.


I have both for the Sega Genesis, plus a copy of MK for the SNES. I have played all three and I can say I am slightly better at Street Fighter 2. Overall I think this one is done but don’t count on me to enter any competitions for either.


#7 Find my PS1 and game, and if I can’t buy a new one


I couldn’t find my PS1 or its games and I am thinking I dumped them about six years ago, but my memory fails me on that. However I do have another PS1, and several games.


#8 Attend a retro video gaming convention


I was committed elsewhere the weekend of Midwest Gaming Classics, and as far as I know I missed a few other as well.


#9 Make my wife learn and enjoy retro video games


My son and I have gotten her to join us a few times but I am nowhere completing this one.


#10 Keep writing this blog


After a brief hiatus in February and March I’ve been pretty consistent getting articles up.

Overall, that makes 3 completed items, 2 sort of’s, and 5 uncompleted items. Not bad I guess let’s hope I can get the rest up and running before the end of the year.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Podcast of Retro Gaming: The Retro Rewind Podcast

If you follow my blog you know I am always hunting for new podcasts on retro gaming to help occupy my days. After you have listened to, and are fully caught up on all your favorites you end up have a lot of time to fill. So I end up hunting again.

About a month ago I was looking for something new to listen too, and I was in the mood to play F-Zero on the SNES, but it was 10AM on a weekday and I was at my desk working. So I decided to put F-Zero in as a search topic in iTunes hoping to find an SNES podcast, or hear a podcast about F-Zero’s development. My search bought back a few results some of which I already knew about, and some others that where irrelevant, but I did find this one that sounded really interesting. The podcast was named the Retro Rewind Podcast and as I looked into what the podcast was about I found that it was something that I might actually like to listen to. So I decided to give the podcast a try with the F-Zero episode, and very quickly found that I liked the podcast, its format, and it hosts.

Now, I have to warn you that the podcast doesn’t only cover retro games, they also talk about movies as well. So if you’re looking for a pure gaming podcast you may not be into this one, but if you like getting a little nostalgic over games and movies from the 80’s and 90’s I think you’re going to really like this one.

The podcast is hosted by Francisco Ruiz, and Paul Powers, as well as a guest host (my favorite of which is Francisco’s wife Kristy). The hosts have a great chemistry with Francisco anchoring the podcast, and Paul bringing a comedic side to it, keeping conversations lively andengrossing. Yet, with that said they keep the podcast on a low key that is funny and engaging, and makes you feel like you having a conversation with friends. I love this format for nostalgic topics, because it allows you form your own memories and thoughts on a subject during the podcast, making you feel more like a participant then a listener. Other podcasts on similar subjects with blaring background music and interruptions could take a lesson from the guys at the Retro Rewind Podcast as to how a nostalgia based podcast should sound.

Another thing I like about this podcast is that each episode focuses on one topic. So you aren’t hit hard with nostalgia on a bunch of things, but rather you get a really well thought out show that concentrates on one subject beginning to end, which as previously stated it allows you form your own memories and thoughts on the movie or game they may be talking about.

They usually end the show by rating the movie or game: Classic or Tragic (2nd Class in older episodes). I have found that when it comes down to doing these ratings the host and guest hosts usually put a lot of thought into it, coming up with some pretty strong arguments as to whether or not they believe the movie or game stands up over time or is just kind of a relic of its era. Its actually a really fun and though provoking segment. 

Overall, it has become a fast favorite of mine, and if you like movies and games from an era most Gen X-r’s remember fondly, this may be one you want to look into.

Be sure to look for the Retro Rewind Podcast on iTunes, on Facebook at  Retro Rewind Podcast, or on their website, where you can also find some of their older podcasts.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Generations: Jet Fighters and Home Consoles - Part 4

Gen 7 & 8 Gaming and Gen 4.5 & 5 Fighters

We live in interesting times both for home consoles and jet fighters, due to the fact that generations of both are overlapping and the replacement of one over the other is coming slowly.

For Gen 7 in gaming the only loss so far is the generation’s best known platform the Nintendo Wii, replaced by the somewhat tenuous WiiU. Meanwhile the Xbox 360 and Xbox One as well as the PS3 and PS4 stand toe to toe with only limited replacement of one over the other. The recent release of Watch Dogs for instance is proof that all four systems are still very much alive.

In the world of jet fighters we are beginning to see Gen 4 lingering on as Gen 4 staples see upgrades that make them as high tech as the Gen 5 fighters set to replace them. Advances in CAD engineering, radar, communications, weapon systems, and avionics have developed faster than aerospace engineers can design aircraft to embody them all. With that said the high price of developing new aircraft from scratch has dissuaded the US Military from development,and forcedthe upgrading of existing airframes, and retrofitting new tech to them, while leaving new aircraft development to drones. In a way the need to make drones ever smaller and on the edge of technology has been baring gifts to piloted aircraft as well. Retrofitted and upgraded versions of the F/A-18, F-15, and F-16 rule the skies, and although they look like gen 4 aircraft, they are a generation more advanced than the “A” variantsof each that first entered service three or more decades before. With that said they are still the deadliest aircraft in the skies, and will be for some time to come.
Pic Wii and F-16

The F-16 entered the service 36 years ago and was developed 40 years ago. But don’t let its age fool you, it’s considered to be one of the world’s premier fighter aircraft, and in its time has proven itself again, and again in battle. The F-16 has scored countless air-to-air kills, and has run thousands of strike sorties in a fighter/bomber role. The F-16 also serves as the USAF’s current world ambassador in its role with their famed flight team “The Thunderbirds” where these red, white and blue beauties, adorned with a large Eagle painting on the bottom show off both the F-16, and USAF’s pilot capability. Although the USAF is the world’s number one user of the F-16, the plane has prime place in many other air forces around the world as a top of the line air superiority fighter. The F-16 promises to live a long life, as new technology constantly upgrades the aircraft, giving even greater capability then its designers first imagined.
Of all of Gen 7’s consoles the Wii is by far the best well known and the one you are most likely to see in a home with kids. The Wii was designed to be a family friendly wireless system, that finally fulfilled Nintendo’s dream of having a system that required users to be fully interactive and up and moving, something they strove for since Gen 3 with the NES’s Power Pad. The Wii was not just a great success as a video game platform, but also as an entertainment console as well. With its app’s and internet capability the Wii became the primary way many of us first got to experience streaming movies services such as Netflix, and Amazon Prime. Although the Wii has been discontinued it still lives a very vigorous life, and seems to be outshining its successor the WiiU.


Pic F-15 and XBOX 360

Do you like those stories that go: this lead to that, which lead to this, which lead to that? The F-15 is kind of like that. The USAF made the XB-70, so the Soviets made the Mig-15 to counter that, so the F-15 was made to counter that. The F-15 is a monster that was built to succeed the F-4 Phantom II, and was designed to overcome all of the F-4’s shortcomings. The F-15 has done that in spades and like its USAF brother the F-16, the F-15 has been proven in battle and has scored countless air-to-air kills, and has run thousands of strike sorties in a fighter/bomber roll. The F-15 also like the F-16 is considered to be a top of the line air superiority fighter both within the USAF’s ranks as well as international air forces. The F-15 like the F-16 is under constant upgrades, and will prove to have a long life. In addition to this the F-15 has had  one additional role added to it that is super-awesome, Satellite Killer. The F-15 can climb to high altitude at nearly a 90 degree angle and launch a missile that can shoot down enemy satellites, something successfully tested a few years ago on an obsolete communications satellite. Let’s just say that the “air” in air superiority fighter means a lot more than normal for the F-15.

The XBOX 360 started as the first Gen 7 system on the market beating the PS3 and Wii into the market by nearly a year. With its wireless ergonomic controller the XBOX 360 finally unchained gamers from their consoles. Nintendo and Sony would follow suit and the Gen 7 market would be a true slugfest between the 360 and PS3 for serious gamers. But the 360 had a surprise up its sleeve the Kinect, a totally wireless, controller-less interactive gaming system. The Kinect wouldn’t exactly appeal to hard core gamers but made the XBOX 360 more family friendly as a gaming device, and with its voice activated tech gave an added level of integrated entertainment to the XBOX 360’s multimedia capability. Overall, the XBOX 360 like the F-15 ended up becoming the technological winner of its generation thanks to its surprise capability with the Kinect leaving the PS3 to itself play catch up.


Pic PS3 and F-18

 The F/-18 Hornet is the current darling of the US Navy, and with a coat of Navy Blue and Yellow it takes to the skies as the current aircraft used by the world famous Blue Angels.  Of all the aircraft ever used by the Navy the F-18 has to be the best looking and most graceful in the role of a Blue Angel.  The F-18 is sleek, fast, and the one of the finest specimens of a jet fighter to have ever graced the skies.  Outside of the famous exhibition team the F/A-18 has an important role with the US Navy as their primary fighter bomber, replacing such venerable aircraft as F-14, A-4, and A-6, on the flight deck. The F-18 has an interesting history as well, actually starting out as the YF-17 a competitor of the F-16 in a competition for the USAF’s next light interceptor. The Air Force passed on the YF-17 but the Navy showed interest, and the design changed hands from Northrup to McDonnell-Douglas and became known as the YF-18 with MD modifications to the design. The Navy initially bought the F-18 on to replace the aging A-7, but as time passed on the Hornet was modified, upgraded, and upsized into the Super Hornet which is where it is now. The F/A-18 has served in many combat roles, and proven itself as a highly capable fighter/bomber.

 The PS3 held its own against the 360 and Wii in Gen 7 but like the F/A-18 with the Navy, had some big shoes to fill walking behind its predecessor the PS2. The Playstation name garners a lot of loyalty with players that dates back as far as original Playstation in the late 90’s, and the PS3 didn’t fail to disappoint these fans. The PS3 became known for its fantastic controllers, its online capability, and it’s built in Blue Ray player, as well as its fantastic library of games including new installments to the Gran Turismo, and Ratchet & Clank series, as well as exclusives like The Last of Us. However, the PS3 did find itself following behind in Gen 7 after the Kinect came out for the 360, and all Sony could muster was an odd looking Wii-esque controller with a blue ball on top.  


Pic WiiU and F-22

 The F-22 Raptor is destined to be the replacement for the F-15, F-16, and F-117 with the USAF. The aircraft is impressive, and is one of the most advanced jet fighters in the world with unprecedented capability. But the F-22 has arrived in an era  of government cutbacks, and of  drones are taking on a more dominate role with the USAF. This means the production is continually started and stopped on the F-22, as money is poured into upgrading existing aircraft, and into new drones.  Many believe that the F-22 may be one of the last manned jet fighters to enter the world’s air forces.

 The WiiU like the F-22 arrived to faded fanfare.  The Wii created a big splash for Nintendo when it came out and was the “must own” system for families. This created a lot of hype for what was to follow with the WiiU, but when the WiiU came out it left many feeling underwhelmed. The system seemed like more of a half step back than it did the way forward. On top of that the big screen display controller for the WiiU, has been plagued with a lot of reliability issues due to lost connectivity with the main console over time. Although the WiiU has found its way into the homes of many long time Nintendo fans, many fear for Nintendo’s future and wonder if the WiiU may be the end of the line for the video gaming powerhouse.


Pic F-35 and PS4

Southwest Airlines manages to help keep its costs down by using one type of aircraft the Boeing 737. This means you aren’t buying a bunch of different parts for a bunch of different planes, but a bunch of parts for one type of plane that can be used on all of your aircraft at any time. I guess the Department of Defense caught on to this idea and asked Boeing and Lockheed to give them a plane that could work for the USAF, NAVY, and Marines. Lockheed came up with the winning design, presenting a fast, carrier capable, VTOL aircraft that could serve all three branches well. The F-35 is not in service yet and is still getting the kinks worked out, but it does promise to be revolutionary even inspiring the Royal Navy to build a whole new class of Aircraft Carriers around them.

 The PS4 started off as nothing more than a slightly supped up PS3. But now Sony is talking VR headsets in an amazing attempt at one-upmanship over Microsoft’s Kinect systems. The new VR systems known as Project Morpheus have made big impressions, with Sony even choosing to show the systems off in a recent episode of The Tonight Show. Having seen the episode I can tell you it was impressive, but with that said the headsets are reminiscent of the big VR headset craze of the mid-90’s that spawned Nintendo’s failed VirtualBoy, as well as short lived VR sessions at amusement parks and larger arcades. Will the PS4 be the technological innovator of Gen 8 giving us something truly awesome, or will it fall flat on its face? Time will tell.


Pic T-50 and XBOX One

Think what you want about Russia, and the old Soviet designers, but Sukhoi has been rocking it for years. The SU-27 Flanker for instance was a dreaded maritime fighter used on Soviet carriers, and featured Thrust Vectoring a technology untapped by western aeronautical engineers. Thrust vectoring allows pilots to uses engine exhaust as an additional way to control the aircraft, outside of the standard operations that rudders, elevators, and ailerons can give them. At a demonstration at the Paris Air Show an SU-27 was able to travel horizontally while the aircraft itself was at a 45 degree angle, looking to similar to a Cobra about ready to strike. The SU-27’s thrust nozzles (afterburner area) where vectored horizontally at a 0 degree angle, while the aircrafts control surfaces gave the plane its odd attitude. At the same airshow the SU-27 also demonstrated twists and turns only possible via its thrust vectoring. Looking to build upon that Sukhoi developed the T-50 a replacement for both the SU-27 and Mig-29 in the Russian military. The aircraft looks similar to its western counterparts the F-22 and F-35, but with the added element of thrust vectoring.

 The XBOX One is an entertainment platform unlike any other. It is “set top box” entertainment technology that we had pounded into our heads over and over again in the 90’s, as we were told about the future of TV and home entertainment. It’s a platform that allows you to play games, watch TV, or entertain yourself in a myriad of other ways simultaneously. So far though the ONE hasn’t been a big hit, and it’s looking like nothing more than another XBOX 360. But, with HALO 5 set to come out next year many are asking if Microsoft has a few surprises up its sleeve before it releases this next of their huge flagship titles. Will the ONE be like the T-50, using its Kinect the same way the T-50 uses thrust vectoring? Time will tell for this one as well, but Gen 8 may turn out to be far more interesting than it is looking right now.

 I hope you have enjoyed this series since it has allowed me to explore two of my passions, aviation, and video gaming. It was fun to do this since both fighters and consoles are categorized by generations, by those “in the know” of their respective communities.




Friday, July 11, 2014

"Independence Day" Syndrome - A Gamer Paradox

Probably the number one factor that separates a hipster retro gaming from a legit retro gamer, is the fact that a legit retro gamer has a history with the games that dates back to when they first came out. With that said a legit retro gamer also has the burden of memory and perception about the games that doesn’t necessarily allow him or her to see the truth about a game. I like to refer to this as “Independence Day” syndrome, not in reference to the recent holiday weekend, or the holiday at all but rather the 1996 Sci-Fi summer blockbuster.

If you’re as old as me you probably remember the movie and the hype about it back in 1996, like the big Sci-Fi channel interview with Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum, and the rumor that the film was so epic it would only play over the holiday weekend. I was one of those drawn in by it all and I decided to go see the film on July 4th, and treat my parents to the movie as well. It was awesome, and it was the biggest, splashiest, star studded epic movies I had ever seen. It may not have been the greatest movie ever but it was (in my mind at the time) one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, and the best film of the year. I went on to see it a few more times that year in theaters and made sure to catch it on HBO and few more times in 1997 and 98.
Flash forward to 2010, and the movie shows up on Netflix. My son is a big sci-fi nut and is making up his own stories about planes shooting down flying saucers, and I decide maybe it’s time to let him see Independence Day. I expected to be overcome by the same awesomeness I remembered from 1996, but sadly I wasn’t. What I found was a traditional superficial summer blockbuster, filled with star power, gratuitous explosions, predictable plotline, and cliché characters and lines. It was still entertaining none the less, but I felt disappointed compared to what I remembered.

On the flip side though I had to ask myself whether the way I perceive the movie now is based on what came after, or if I just become a more mature person with a higher level of expectations in a movie. For instance is it that Independence Day, has become cliché after following summer blockbusters like Armageddon, and Wild, Wild West which all follow the same formula? Or is it that I have opened myself up to new experiences and viewpoints on movies that makes me see the whole superficiality of it all. I mean after all how do you compare a masterpiece like The Kings Speech, to a film like Independence Day and not feel as if there is some inequality in the depth of plot, characters, and level of acting between the two movies?

With that said this all sums up defining “Independence Day” syndrome, that memory of what a game was like as a kid compared to what it is now. As legit retro gamers we poured hours into playing and/or dreaming about games. Whether it was playing StarFox at a local store after it came out, plugging Command & Conquer into the PC for the first time, or being blown away by Gran Turismo on the PlayStation (1). Years later though the question is how do these games stand up after the march of time, and advancements in games, consoles, and controllers?

As a teen I remember getting Microprose Subwar 2050 on PC, after looking at it in the store for a month and finally getting enough cash together to buy it. I got it home installed all the disks, got through the awesome opening scene and…nothing. The game crashed and I never got very far into it, I upgraded my computer and still it wouldn’t work the right way, some graphics card non-sense or another. I spent hours looking at the back of the box, and read Under Currents the manual/book included with itcover to cover. To me it was the coolest thing, a future of underwater mining, and super submarines that performed underwater roles similar to modern aircraft. It completely captured my imagination and even inspired part of my senior research paper in high school. As time went on the frustration of loading in the damn game in just made me forget it entirely, although the concepts remained.

20 years later (i.e. early this year) after hearing a lot about Steam and GoG I decided to check both websites out. I had to do a double take when I saw that GoG had Subwar 2050 in its library, since I thought the game would have been pretty obscure. A few months later I finally downloaded it and was shocked to actually get past the intro screen and into the game. I began to play it and as cool as it was, I quickly began to become a bit disappointed, for what I had found was a game that was glitchey and at times unplayable. For instance the forth training mission could never end because the submarine stops working and starts spins out control into black space and grid work, and the second mission in the Bermuda Triangle seems to go nowhere after you make it to the last waypoint, and getting back to the carrier is impossible. All the anticipation about the game seemed to fall to pieces as I made the realization that Microprose released a buggy mess. This game had the potential to have become a cool and timeless new take on the flight sim,with the originality of delving into a future underwater that no other game company ever thoughtof before or since, but what we got extremely sad. Much like Independence Day I still think Subwar 2050 is entertaining and unique, and I am still a huge fan of much of Microprose work.  Time and my memory though have taken their toll andinstead of the one of a kind gaming experience I expected, I instead was let down byMicroprose having given us a game that should have been released later after testing had corrected all the bugs and glitches.

As legit retro gamers we all have our Subwar 2050’s, that game that haunts our memory’s with coolness as kids, and leaves us let down as adults. I’m sure no matter what platform you play(ed) there is that one game that has you asking “WTF did I see in this game as a kid?”, and if you do you have “Independence Day” syndrome too.

So feel free to share what game(s) you think make that list for you.



Monday, July 7, 2014

To Legacy or Not to Legacy

If your like me and you follow videogame news closely then you probably heard that Hyperkin, announced its plans to come out with a DOSBox-based PC game emulation system sometime in the near future. Now, I don't know if you have been following along with the epic of the Retron 5, but Hyperkin has been having a lot of issues with the system being behind schedule and getting the system into stores. The worst part is the Retron 5 is only an upgrade and modification of the existing Retron 4.

So what does that spell for those of us would be eagerly waiting Hyperkins possible PC game emulator bound to come out sometime in the future? To be honest considering there's very little news about the proposed system on Hyperkin's website I'm thinking this might be a 2 to 5 year project before we see it in stores. 

Even before Hyperkin announced this new system, I have been debating attaching some sort of PC to the television in my game room so that I could experience my old PC games along with all my other games on one television. The only problem has been making it actually come to fruition. 

If you don't know much about modern PC gaming or you just haven't been around PC gaming in a while I might need to explain a few things to you. First of all ever since Windows XP, DOS has pretty much been persona non grata on the Windows Operating platforms. From XP up Windows has for the most part been 64-bit, leaving behind its 16-bit DOS and Windows 3.1 roots. However a program called DOSBox was developed shortly after Windows XP came out to allow DOS to still be used on it and future systems. 

For the 2 Windows XP, 1 Windows Vista, 1 Windows 7, and 1 Windows 8 computers I have at home DOSBox is a viable answer. The only issue is that of these computers only one has and internal 3.5" disk drive, but it doesn't look like DOSBox can support a 3.5" drive anyway. So the retro feel of playing off a 3.5" or 5.25" is somewhat lost. 

Let's also mention Windows 95/98. If you have a lot of games from this era as I do DOSBox can support them but only if you configure and install Windows 95/98 into it. So good luck finding a copy of one of those. Don't get me wrong DOSBox and it's adaptability are great, but there are short comings. 

So then you have to ask yourself about a little something called a Legacy system. There are two types essentially; one is just buying and building up a pre-Windows XP computer, or two buying and downgrading a newer system to work with old tech.  

For the first option I looked around the house to see if I had anything to fit the bill. Sadly, about 4 years ago I got rid of a bunch of old desk tops and :-( games, I get a sick feeling thinking about it. The only thing left is a laptop my wife and I shared in college with a built in 3.5" but running Windows XP. Of course a major issue for this system, as there would be with early XP and systems before it is the lack of anything out but a VGA line. Of course to overcome that you have to spend $40+ on an adaptor which may or may not work. 

That raises a few questions about the old system concept. Anything before XP will lack RCA y/w/r or HDMI out, and an adaptor card may not be available to hook it to a TV. Not to mention you might not have wireless support for WiFi or a wireless keyboard/mouse set up. Plus USB access could be an issue as well.

Then comes the second option, buy and downgrade. Turns out it's not a bad idea but Windows 95/98 can only support so much since computers only had so much capability, and predicted capability at the time they where developed. For instance did you know Windows 95 can only support 2GB of hard drive space? A modern system can support all these things but anything before Windows XP acts as and anchor on its capabilities. 

The best way to go is to operate under Windows ME which can support the most due to it being the last of Windows 95's legacy and only predating Windows XP by about a year. 

At the moment though I have settled on copying old games off their 3.5" disks, and onto a flashdrive and porting them to my Windows 8 computer and placing them in C:\ directory used by DOSBox. The 8 has HDMI out and all the goodies. I know it's not very retro but it's something until Hyperkin ever comes out with their system. 

Are you operating a legacy system, old or new? Chime in and let the world hear about it!!!