Friday, January 31, 2014

Journey's: Escape

Where were you in 82'?

Have you ever seen Tron: Legacy? Probably one of the best scenes in the movie is when the main character Sam walks into his fathers old video arcade, flips the breaker and all the machines go on and Journeys Seperate Ways comes on the juke box. For a lover of retro games and old vinyl it gets your heart pumping, and really makes you miss the old days of great video arcades and music on a Saturday night. What's really interesting about the use of this song in Tron: Legacy is not just that it was popular when the first Tron movie came out in 1982, but that in this movie about video games Journeys 1981 album Escape had a video game based on it, also in 1982.

Thats right? The early 80's classic filled side to side with great music including songs like Seperate Ways, Don't Stop Believing, and Faithfully had a video game based on it. 

Jouney Escape Vinyl Album and Atari 2600 game. Be sure to check out my vinyl record collecting blog Diary of An Amateur Vinyl Record Collector at or my retro video gaming blog The Retro Video Gaming Blog for the Mid-Core Gamer at

The Album

Escape is actually Journeys eighth album, but it was the first to go to number 1 on Billboard. The album was released in July of 1981, and saw its first hit Who's Crying Now before 1981 was out. After that the album would see hit after memorable hit with Stone In Love exiting the charts in 1984. Escape would leave an indelible print on music of the early 80's and on music of the 80's in general, and would also influence the afore mentioned Tron, when Journey would be asked to do part of the original movies soundtrack. 

The Record

This was another eBay purchase that I am pretty pleased with. It was a quick transaction and the record came in exactly the condition described, which is in fantastic. No scratches or any thing else, nice clean play all the way through. Best of all its a great up beat album from start to finish, and really gets your night rolling by putting you in a good mood. As you can see in the photo above the album cover itself is also an phenomenal shape with its original shrink wrap and stickers still intact. It was another great buy on eBay and one heck of a bargain.

Journey: Escape - The Game

Data Age released Escape in 1982, and it was the first video game of its kind to be based on a popular music group and album. The game is actually fairly simple and consist of a black down scrolling screen and of a little man that you must control on the screen meant to represent a security guard trying to help the band to get to their scarab shaped escape vehicle, well also trying to hang onto the $50,000 in concert money. Along the way the little man avoid hearts with legs which are meant to be groupies, bodiless heads with mustaches and shifty eyes that are meant to be promoters, barricades, and flashing yellow lights which are meant to be paparazzi. Along the way you can get help from what appear to be little aliens with antennas but I understand they are actually meant to be roadies who give you the temporary power to walk through various obstacles. Also supposedly there is the band manager who looks inexplicably like the Kool-Aid man and he is also supposed to help you although I have never run across him in my gameplay. Your ultimate goal is to reach the yellow scarab escape vehicle which you probably could pass-by pretty easily if you weren't looking for it,  and to reach it while hanginh onto as much of the concert money as possible. Keep in mind that each obstacle you walk into will take some of the money from you. Every time you help the band reach the escape vehicle a new level starts and each level gets progressively harder where obstacles no longer stay stationary but the begin to move towards you or cross the screen in random directions. The game obviously ends once all the money is taken from you.

As far as the game music the only actual Journey song we hear is Don't Stop Believing in the games intro, during the actual gameplay itself we are given some sort of generic music that is in no way related to anything by Journey.


Without going online and looking at the directions I had a hard time actually trying to figure out what the heck I was supposed to be doing and who was friend an who was foe coming at me. Luckily, I was able to find instructions on Atariage, and after that the game actually became pretty interesting and kind of fun,  and at times even challenging. 

Other then that it's  a pretty good game but there are a few things that I was little let down by. First of all considering Escapes album cover I expected the game to have some sort of sci-fi theme to it. After all the album cover for Escape shows a scarab breaking out of a planet or something into outerspace and then on the back of album shows the scarab zooming off into outer space. Of course that's fairly minor but the biggest letdown is that there wasn't any actual Journey music during gameplay. Sure it's nice to hear Don't Stop Believing in intro but it would have been cool to have actual Journey music throughout.

Overall though I have to say that I am really impressed by both the album and the videogame. Both Escape's are fantastically entertaining, although the album has much more and notoriety and is pretty well remembered, while the videogame lives obscurity. I can only imagine being a teenager in 1982 and feeling like I was on top of the world having Journey's Escape playing on the record player well I played the accompanying game on my Atari 2600. It must've been a heck of a way to waste a Saturday evening back then in what seemed like much simpler times. I have to say I thoroughly enjoy owning this album and I really have enjoyed having a chance to play the game. If you have a chance to buy this particular album on vinyl I would definitely suggest doing so because nothing else sounds the same. And if you have the chance to buy the Atari 2600 game for it do so as well. You won't be let down by either.


Gen X.5: Part 4- The Cats Ninth Life in Gen 4.5

After the Atari 7800 I guess Atari figured that it's numbering system was a bit outdated. I think getting into five digits also made it bit rediculous since Atari 10400 would have been next. So in and era of Super Nintendo, and Genesis, a name had to be divised for Ataris next console. Since the code name of the project already introduced a cats name "Panther", sticking with jungle cats just seemed natural and in 1993 the "Jaguar" was released.

Now, as I previously said Atari was known for making bad decisions and the Jaguar was the coffin nail of bad decisions. First of all like the 5200, the Jaguar had a terrible controller and as a matter of fact the Jaguar controller looks like an evolved version of the 5200's 

strange number pad, oddly placed firing buttons and all.

The actual major downfall of the Jaguar and Atari as a console maker isn't becuase of its controllers, but in reality partly becuase it was offering a product ahead of its time, and partly due to its marketing. Atari knew after Gen 4 that it was no longer a player in the console market. Sega had stepped up in their place with the Genesis, and the Atari 7800 had been a minor success in Gen 3, but Nintendo had left its mark as king of that generation. So to counteract this and establish a beachhead in Gen 5 Atari had to put something out there that was revolutionary. In a way they did the Jaguar was 32-bit in a 16-bit era. But, it seems like desperation kicked in and Atari marketing took it too far. The system was marketed as being 64-bit, which at the time would have made it almost a generation ahead of its competitors. The only issue was that in essence it wasn't 64-bit, and performed a little like existing 16-bit systems, but even more closely to Sega's 32X which was to come a few years later. So the Jaguar produced a 32-bit experience which made it ahead of its time, but by no means was it 64-bit. 

If now days you where to look at the Jaguar, and compare it to an N64 or PS1 you would see that its graphics are definitely not 64-bit. The claim of the Jaguar being 64-bit would actually draw some criticism from those in the industry, since the systems CPU was 32 and not 64-bit but it's graphics processes where. This "technically 64-bit" controversy was a major turn off to consumers, who felt Atari's claims where misleading.  We can only theorize that if Atari had claimed the Jaguar was a 32-bit system instead of a 64 they may have been able to still stay ahead of the crowd while maintaining consumer trust but even that is debatable. 

The main debate takes place on whether Atari was in fact trying to decieve consumers or not. At the time there was nothing that provided either a 32 of 64-bit experience on a home console. This means that in marketing the Jaguar, Atari may have honestly believed it was producing and selling a 64-bit system. Many current Jaguar fans argue that Nintendo and Sega may have made a larger issue out of the Jaguar's technical specifications then need be in order to prevent the more advanced system from gaining marketshare and possible dominance from over them. Jaguar fans also argue that had the system had a longer lifespan it's games would have evolved to take advantage of its 64-bit capabilities. 

Unlike the 5200 where the market could be blamed, the Jaguars failure is purely based on poor decision making by Atari corporate. At the time consumers already looked at Atari as being a name from the past, so for them to sudden jump back into the market with a system supposedly 4 times more powerful then what was already out there had to really draw suspicion from gamers, and as history tells us it did. The Jaguar was one of the worst selling consoles in home gaming history selling only a quarter as many units as Atari's previous failure the 5200, and it would seal Atari's fate, ending its future in console gaming. 

Today though the Jaguar has a loyal following and looking at eBay, Jaguars sell at almost the same price the where released at in 1993, in the $200 range. This is probably also becuase so few systems sold and/or where made that they have become collectors items. But, Jaguar owners are a fearsome bunch who have established clubs and even conventions for their beloved last true gaming console of Atari's, and still believe their system wasn't given the chance it needed in order to prove itself. 

I would like to say time will tell but 20 years have passed and the Jaguar is a forgotten system. It seems to only be remembered in retro circles, and even somewhat laughably by those who don't know much about it. 

The Jaguar like the Sega 32X and CD, and the Atari 5200 was a true mezzanine system. It was to advanced to be placed in with current systems, but too far ahead of its time to be connected with the next generation. In a way these systems where doomed before the hit the market, and market forces only helped in adding pressure to end these systems lives before the could even start.

Looking at the products 18 or more years in the future as we currently are we can only assign "what if" theory's to these systems and companies.  What I trurly think we fail to realize though is that the video game market is a fragile microeconomy. Unpredictable market turns, changes in consumer tastes/product perceptions, and bad decisions on the part of a manufacturer can all push a console and/or it's manufacturer into oblivion. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

When a PS1 Was Just a Playstation

The Playstation arrived on the scene in 1995 to a lot of skepticism. Sony after all made the TV's we played video games on and not the video games themselves. Besides with Sega and Nintendo who needed anything else. It didn't take long for reviewers to sing Playstations praises though, and it went from being the must miss console to the must have pretty quickly. By launch time the Playstation was a huge success and it marked the begining of a new era in gaming systems.

Now if you keep up with my blog you'll know that I was a bit war refugee who sought a home in PC gaming in the mid to late 90's. To me the SNES vs Genesis fight and everything that came after was something I was oblivious too, and rightfully so since it was the golden era of PC gaming. But, having to boot up a computer and wait for stuff to load, and all the other crap that goes along just trying to even start a game on a PC got to me and I began to think about the ease of playing a game on a console. By 1998 I gave some small consideration to buying a console for myself, but the 1998 JC Penny's Christmas catalog finally got me serious. The picture in the catalog was for a game called Gran Turismo and being a young man with an interest in cars it was an essential. By early 1999 Playstations where selling for about $99 and I grabbed one from a local Best Buy, making sure to buy Gran Turismo with it. 

To say the least I was floored by gameplay and Gran Turismo became a go to game on lazy days off. Christmas of 1999 I would get Gran Turismo 2 as a present, and it had me from the begining with The Cardigans Favorite Game during the intro sequence, as well as the rest of its phenomenal gameplay and soundtrack. 

I spent a lot of time on that Playstation, although I mainly stuck to my Gran Turismo titles. However, I do remember spending part of my 22nd birthday playing Siphon Filter with its red light gun. 

In 2001 I got my PS2, I mainly bought it for my girlfriend (now wife) to play DVD's on, but it also allowed us to escape the boredom of her hometown and/or house by escaping into video games, like 4x4 Evolution, ATV Offroad Fury, and Gran Turismo 3. When we where finally under one roof I put Gran Turismo 2 in the PS2 one day and was shocked by how bad PS1 games looked on PS2. After that my Playstation now PS1 games where confined to their cases, and the PS1 hidden in the bowels of my entertainment center. 

Well, if you've read my blog before you know I have been trying to find my old PS1, but I finally gave up. You see I did a really stupid thing and about 4 years ago before I even gave consideration to retro gaming I recycled several old computers and a lot of games. I think I may have placed the PS1 in with them including all my games. Well I think!! Especially since I can't find any trace of them. 

Pic original PS1 controller and new, original on the right. 

So a couple of weeks ago I splurged a bit and picked up another PS1 at my local retro gaming store. This is one of the older units and is a darker grey then my original I can tell since I kept my original PS1 controller at least. It works pretty well but I do see what everyone is talking about with the disk speed of the PS1 in comparison to new systems. The only other issue is that the PS1 controller I got with it is crap and will just stop working from time to time. Luckily, I have that original PS1 controller, and some PS2 controllers to use with it if need be. 

As for games I picked up Gran Turismo, and Gran Turismo 2 the day I got the new unit, and I got 007 Racing off eBay too which is an ok game. Of course being a true retro gamer I want to experience certain games on their original system, so I am looking for titles to play in their original form. Some suggestions I have heard are any of the Army Men games, any of the Colony Wars games, Return Fire, Crazy Ivan, and Tomb Raider. That all look pretty good.

So what PS1 games would you suggest? 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rethinking Gen 6's Retro Status or Lack There Of

A couple of months back I wrote an article named PS1 Retro or the Start of a New Era ( in it I asked why the PS1 is so controversial as a retro gaming system. To say the least I got precisely the reaction I thought I would with 50/50 split down the middle as to the PS1's status as a retro system versus a modern one.  

That was early November, and now here we are in January, two plus months firmly intrenched in Gen 8. That means that it's now Gen 6's turn at gaining retro status, but by no means is this any less controversial. 
Gen 6 consisted of four main systems the PS2, XBox, GameCube, and Dreamcast. This generation was the first in which all gaming systems in it, used CD drives as their main form of gameplay and media. But CD-ROMs as a primary media source had been used in Gen 5 by both the Sega Saturn and PS1.  

But as we look at all four systems I think there are some pretty good arguments for all four being retro. On the other hand though I also think the generation can almost be argued as being half modern and half retro based on the individual systems themselves. 

Now generally speaking probably the least controversial of the four to seek entry into the retro hall of fame is the Sega Dreamcast. The reason being is that the Dreamcast was the last Sega console to be made and it has no decendents in following generations. In a way Sega has almost become as synonymous with retro gaming as Atari. The PS2, XBox, and GameCube on the other hand all have decendents in Gen 7 and 8 some of which, like the Wii and Xbox 360 are backward compatible with Gen 6 games.

But there is something else that could win the Dreamcast, as well as the GameCube retro status in Gen 6. The CD-ROM drives in both the Dreamcast and GameCube could only play games. The PS2, and XBox on the other hand could play games, CD's, and DVDs. This is where Gen 6 receives most of its anti-retro sediment. For most retro video gaming fanatics video game consoles should only play games, and once they started playing CD's and DVD's they became multimedia platforms and not game consoles. For some this factor seems to condem Gen 6 to its current limbo state, throwing the GameCube and Dreamcast in through a purely "guilt by association" logic. Time will tell if retro gamers give the Dreamcast and GameCube retro status. 

To help Gen 6 into the retro world here are a few other things I'd like to argue on their behalf.

Hard Wired For Retro

As you can see above wireless controllers have been around for a while. The Atari 2600 set above is indicative of its Motorola "Brick" era early 80's wireless tech, but where/are said to work well outside of eating battery's. But up until Gen 6 wired controllers where the norm. Gen 6 is the actually last generation to have wired controllers as the standard OEM for the system. All four systems came with wired controllers until they where discontinued. Gen 7 would make its mark with the Wii controller, PS3 Bluetooth controller, and XBOX 360's Wireless controller, and would be the first generation on which wireless controllers where standard OEM.

No Strings Attached

A major frustration of gamers in Gen 7 and 8 are system updates. If you don't game in Gen 7 or later let me tell you what this is, every week or so your system needs to go online and do an update. You can skip around it and go to your game but it's not exactly the boot and load direct to your game we see ending in Gen 6. In some instances not doing the updates may keep you from being and to download content and/or new games and items. This also brings about the subject of downloadable content, DLC. These are add on's or powerups you can buy for your game, and can be very annoying since they where all part of the games you bought in Gen 6 and back. 

Gen 6 systems like their predecessors, do not require updates or even any kind or internet access at all, its purely optional. Gen 6 is also the last generation in which you could put your game in and go right to playing it, no homescreens, no updates. This means that Gen 6 games and systems didn't need DLC add ons, and everything in your game was there when you bought it. 

Gen 6 systems almost stand in juxtaposition to Gen 8 systems, and as we look at them they can appear very retro. Wired controllers, no homescreens, and direct to game booting after all, are also charateristics of the NES, and Atari 2600 too. Even the multimedia capability of the PS2 and XBox seem antiquated compared to something like XBOX ONE's ability to play a game, run picture in picture television, and Skype all at once. 

Overall, looking at the huge jump between Gen 6 and 8 I have to believe that Gen 6 will slip easier into the world of retro then systems of Gen 5 did. I don't expect to see a PS2 become retro tomorrow, but I think it needs serious consideration in the near future. 

What are your opinions?


Friday, January 24, 2014

Gen X.5: Part 3 - Gen 2.5's 5200 Reasons to Cry

You know the Atari 5200 gets knocked a lot by retro gamers. The Angry Video Game Nerdsepisode on it “Atari 5200” was pretty much remorseless towards the old system. I have to say that I loved my Atari 5200 and I know it may sound like sacrilege but it was by all means a better system then the 2600.When I play Mario Brothers, or Berserk on my 2600 it’s somewhat disappointing compared to how great those same games looked and sounded on the 5200.
The 5200 did have its issues though one of which was its size which to date still makes it one of the largest video came consoles ever made. Also its unusual coaxial/power device just verged on being out and out one of the worst ideas ever. There are also a lot of other complaints about the controllers themselves, the lack of functionality, the weird side buttons, and the keypad at the bottom have all come under fire at one time or another.
First of all let me say this, Atari both in the video game industry and in the business world in general has come to be known for just making bad decisions. Now let me add this to that statement, Atari like Sega (as I talked about in part 2 last week) made bad business decisions which where bad for the time they where made, but later generations of video game consoles and their manufacturers would actual prosper from similar decisions. The Atari 5200 is the product of one of those types of decisions.  

Come Christmas 1979 the Atari 2600 was still king of the hill in gaming systems, but it had attracted competitors. The Intellivison, and Colecovision had come into the picture and where cutting into Atari’s business with products that looked and performed better than the Atari 2600. Atari knew that if it was going to have any kind of future in the home gaming market it would need to find a way to compete. Three years later in November of 1982 Atari would release the Atari 5200.
The 5200 was a monster roughly 4 times bigger then an Atari 2600, and its cartridges where nearly twice the size or Atari 2600’s. The system was roughly the size of a PC of the time excluding a monitor. Of course you have to consider that this would make sense since the Atari 5200 used technology based on that of Atari’s 400/800 8-bit computer systems. But part of its size also went into the controller storage area on the back of the console.

Overall game play was great though, and video gamers got their first taste of 8-bit gaming, something that wouldn't been seen again until the Nintendo NES three years later. For the most part titles found on the 5200 where ports of those on the 2600, but with the supped up graphics and sounds capabilities of the 8-bit 5200, games on the 5200 looked, felt, sounded and played better then they did on the 2600. But, it was Atari’s intentions not to stop there with the 5200’s abilities, and using computing power like that of their 400/800 systems, Atari had hoped to give the 5200 some computer capabilities another reason why the keypad was necessary on the 5200’s controller. It can only be guessed that Atari had high hopes for their new system.
Sadly though the odds where against the 5200, starting with its release date. By 1982 some indicators showed that the industry was in decline, and things would only get worse as 1983 dragged on. Hoping to cash in on the success of the Atari 2600, the market had been flooded by clone consoles, and games. The old rules of economics with supply and demand kicked in and prices plummeted on just about anything video game related. In choosing between Atari’s new 5200, and the wide range of readily available and cheap Atari 2600 products and clones it was easy to figure out what direction consumers went in. The new 5200 never caught on and Atari took a loss on the new system, and year and a half later in May of 1984 the 5200 was discontinued by Atari as the 7800 went into development. The goal of the Atari 7800 would be to introduce an updated and more advanced system that could take full advantage of the glut of Atari 2600 games on the market by being backward compatible while delivering the full 8-bit graphics that generation 3 would be known for. This move would solidify the Atari 5200 as a mezzanine console of generation 2.5 as it found itself sandwiched in between generation 2 mainstay the Atari 2600, and generation 3 contender and NES competitor the Atari 7800.
Atari much like Sega, who would have their trials a decade later, was trying to deliver products and market strategies that where ahead of their time. From Gen 6 onward we would see consoles that could offer consumers not just a video game console, but more of an entertainment and multimedia platform something solidified in Gen 7 by the XBOX 360 and PS3. In the 5200’s case we saw a system that was attempting to do something similar arriving in the house as a video game system, and later becoming the family computer or at least a simple version of one. Atari was trying to produce a great deal of value with the 5200 by giving consumers a little more bang for there buck. Also like Sega, Atari tried to offer products at various price points much as the Saturn was the premium system in Sega’s case the 5200 was the premium system in Atari’s day, while the Atari 2600 took on a similar role of that of the Sega 32X later, but unlike Sega with the 32X, Atari had a popular product in the Atari 2600. Luckily for Atari the decision to price point products and compete against itself worked as sales of Atari 2600’s even at a reduced price still represented a profit, something taking the 2600 out of production when the 5200 was released wouldn’t have done..
When I look at the Atari 5200 I don’t see a bad system, and really it wasn’t. It had its flaws and if it had a longer lifespan those would have been worked out just as the coaxial/power device issue was worked out in late 1983 models. What I see is the first X.5 system, the first mezzanine system, a system trying to be the next generation but falling short this time because of economics, and greed within its industry.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

King of Route 66: The Crossover

You know I have been able to do a cross over between my Retro Video Gaming blog ( and my Diary on an Amateur Vinyl Record Collector blog ( with a great deal of ease since when you get down to it both hobbies have the same dogma and goal behind them. But, I never thought I would see the day when I could do a cross over between the Retro Video Gaming blog and my Route 66 Family Fun blog (, but now that day has come.

Today I am going to talk about a Playstation 2 game by Sega called King of Route 66

I think we all know that Route 66 has a huge international following, so it was only a matter if time till Japanese Sega would turn their attentions to Route 66 for a racing game. 

Now, if you don't have a Playstation 2, and want to try it this game out you can find emulations out there. and some other sites have it, just be aware that some versions may have viruses so try to go with a reputable emulation site. Also if you want to see what the game looks like and see it played you can find a lot of great videos about it on YouTube.

The King of Route 66, is essentially an arcade racer, in which you race 18-wheelers down Route 66 to beat your rival to the end delivery point. If you know anything about arcade racers then you know that they are pure silliness, with odd characters, power ups, vehicle upgrades, and all the goofyness you'd see in games like Crazy Taxi. So if you are looking for an actual 18-wheeler sim, don't look here.

The game is rated T for Teen, so don't let the cliche naked lady mudflap cover, and "get you chicks on 66!" back cover fool you. All you'll see is a lot of bare midriffs and that's about it, as most of the game concentrates on its premise. The plot line is also very cliche as the cut scenes refer to an evil trucking group known as "Tornado", terrorizing the people of Route 66. Your job is to defeat them by taking business away and out racing their drivers to delivery points in every level. Lets just say it's not exactly Final Fantasy plot lines or anything so don't look to find Steinbeck or Wallis quality in the story

For the Route 66 Traveler

Keep in mind that this game is just for fun and not an accurate depiction of Route 66. But that doesn't mean it isn't worth a look. The game depicts a lot of Route 66 landmarks, in a really fun way. For instance you can race big rigs down Chain of Rocks Bridge, and launch your semi-truck off a ramp through the screen of the Route 66 Drive-In. Plus there are a lot of other fun presentations of Route 66 landmarks in the game. It's also a great way to get you kids interested in Route 66 by pointing out the landmarks as you see them in the game, it will give your kids something to associate the actual places with. 

For the Gamer

PS2 still lives in the limbo realm between modern and retro system. So this games retro status is open to interpretation, and when it comes to the PS2 there is a lot of it. Like all arcade type racers skill and following the route may not be good enough, since your A.I. rival may have a short cut or two up his sleeve. This also means you will be repeating levels a lot until you get the fastest route possible down pat, so be ready for repeatitive play at times. This is also the kind of game where you choose your driver, and I have found that speed is a factor. With that said its a good, but not memorable game where the only thing that separates it from similar games is the 18-wheeler aspect.

I guess if you asked me to make the perfect Route 66 racing game I would have gone more for classic cars then 18-Wheelers. So in a way I think Sega did mess it up a bit. I mean they could have had funny characters as they did, but racing 57' Chevys and 65' Mustangs down the Route instead, with Greasers, and Elvis look alikes. Either that or make it more GTA style in which the routes detail is more developed and you do missions across country. But someday maybe, right? 

So happy travels and/or good gaming.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Getting Dreamy with Dreamcast on the Way to Saturn

If you read my post on Retro Gaming Resolutions from December 30th you know one of my resolutions was to get an Atari 5200 and 7800 in 2014. Then I began to think about other systems out there worth collecting and trying. My mind immediately went to the oddball systems, like 3DO, NEOGEO, and Turbografix, but I totally forgot about that Sega legacy after Genesis.

Let's be honest things where pretty bleak for Sega after the Genesis, I won't get into why, I already wrote an article about that in Gen X.5: Part 2 - Gen 4.5 and the Sega Saga (January 17th). Let's just say Sega made a few bad decisions, so systems like the Saturn and Dreamcast didn't sell all that well even though they where on par with competing systems. 

As for me you know that I took a duck from the console wars to go to PC gaming, something I don't regret Command & Conquer alone sinched that one up for me. So well SNES was duking it out with Genesis, and Playstation was making its debut I was happily emmersed in Warcraft, C&C, Sim City, Descent, and Wingcommander. It wasn't until about 1999 and a little game called Gran Turismo that I returned half heartedly to console gaming with a PS1, at that time it was just known as Playstation.  

So late last year when I picked up a Genesis and played it and Sonic for the first time I was blown away by the game play and graphics. It was a really awesome experience, and considering it had been nearly 20 years since I last played an SNES I had forgotten how 16-bit graphics looked. But since then I have been concetrating on building my Nintendo consoles collection culminating with an SNES purchase about a month ago. After that I asked what systems I could get next. 

So here I am thinking about Sega's lost systems. I call them lost because posterity will remember the PS1 in Gen 5, and the XBOX in Gen 6 before it does Sega's minor contribution in either generation. For me the Saturn and Dreamcast are completely alien territory, since outside of a few Sonic titles I know nothing about either system. In retro gaming circles the Dreamcast seems to be refered to more then the Saturn, but gamers generally don't talk about either in great detail. 

It's also interesting that unlike another lost system the Atari Jaguar, there doesn't seem to be a following or alligence to either Sega system even from Genesis devotees. Which as an outsider looking in begs me to ask why? 

To say the least though I'm going to be taking a closer look at both that Saturn and Dreamcast in 2014. My goal it to get to know these systems, and their games, and possible add one or both to my collection. 

If you consider yourself a Saturn or Dreamcast expert fell free to chime in and  tell me more. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Gen X.5: Part 2 - Gen 4.5 and the Sega Saga

For Christmas this last year we gave my eldest son Mario vs. Sonic: London 2012 Olympics on the Wii. Even though the title has been out over a year it still came with a hefty price tag new, but he's been asking for it a while, and he does deserves it. 

But looking at this game got me thinking about the whole Sega/Nintendo thing. To a lot of veterans from the 16-bit era "Console Wars" the Mario and Sonic cooperative is absolutely ludicrous, and verges on sacrilege like a Packers flag over Soldier Field.   

I think it was best summed up by James Rolfe who in a recent episode of the Angry Video Game Nerd called Wishlist talked about some Sonic titles toward the end of the episode. While reviewing a title he kind of liked called Shadow the Hedgehog, he felt his mind blown due to the fact that he was playing a Sega title on a Nintendo GameCube. Or as he said "It's like Cats and Dogs living together!". 

It's kind of sad in a way that Sega's mascot and hero of the 16-bit Genesis/SNES battles is now relegated to being second banana in Nintendos world. It's also sad that such revolutionary games like the Sonic series weren't able to keep Sega alive as a top console maker in its future. But, those of us who know a thing or two about Sega's decision processes after the Genesis, know that poor Sonic has no blame in what came after.  

It's no secret that what existed between Nintendo and Sega was in fact a war for marketshare. With Nintendo pretty well intrenched after the NES, Sega at least in North America truly had to fight to gain any kind of ground. In 1991 as Nintendo released the SNES, Sega decided it was time to one up Nintendo and release an add on for the Genesis. 

Enter Generation 4.5 and the mezzanine tech know as the Sega CD. The Sega CD was a pioneer at introducing CD-ROM based gaming in consoles. Although the CD's loaded slowly (comparible to 1x speed), it gave Sega the ability to look far more advanced then it's cartidge based competitor the SNES. The Sega CD was a mild success, and gained most of its noteriety from the 1993 Senate hearings on video game violence in which the Sega CD title Nightrap a campy horror game, came under fire for violence towards women. 

Although the Sega CD represented the next generation of technology, it was more or less introduced to extend the life and image of its mothership the Genesis. But to continue to push the boundary of gaming technology and extend the life of the Genesis even further Sega introduced the Sega 32X. The concept was simple give consumers the next best thing with a 32-bit system. But rather then wait to release a 32-bit system for which Sega built a prototype for known as the Neptune, Sega decided it wanted to make its 32-bit system as an attachment for the Genesis. 

Although the 32X had some phenomenal gameplay, I can't help but feel that it was a huge and costly mistake on Sega's part. Although the 32X extended the life of the Genesis a little further the move to release it was an exercise in futility. The 32X arrived in North America in November of 1994, but by May of 1995 Sega would release the Saturn. The Saturn was Sega's 64-bit replacement for the Genesis and all her mezzinine half generation add ons. Sega would later try to justify the 32X as an inexpensive upgrade for the Genesis, for gamers who couldn't afford the Saturn, but neither system did particularly well. 

Although the Saturn garnered many fans consumers felt overwhelmed by Sega's poor timing in system releases, and a lack of breathing room between the 32X and the Saturn. What was even worse is that Saga failed to hype the Saturn before it's release, and many consumers only found out about it by suddenly finding it in a store one day. To say the least Sega's marketing failed miserably on Saturns launch, and many think the less then six months between the 32X's launch and the Saturn may have been a major part of that. 

The 32X has often been pointed out to be the begining of the end for Sega as it once use to be. The 32X didn't sell well, and the Saturn was more or less an afterthought in the battle for Gen 5 marketshare, as Sony's new Playstation would become the market leader, with the Nintendo 64 pulling in a close second. 

The Sega CD and 32X are examples of systems that where ahead of their time and prime examples of the mezzinine systems. Their existence was meant to give consumers the next big thing, while giving Sega a leg up on Nintendo. But in a way Sega's marketing strategy was ahead if it's time as well. In an attempt to offer a range of products that could meet the price points of different consumers through economy and premium lines via the 32X and Saturn respectively, Sega instead created products that competed against each other.  This created confusion amongst consumers, who where turned off by what they perceived as the bombardment of Sega products. 

In today's market, systems like the WiiU XBox 360, Xbox One, PS3 and PS4 all offer base, and premium systems at different price points to place consoles in consumer hands. In way this is what Sega was attempting to do with the 32X/Saturn combination in 1995. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"By the Power of Zaxxon, I will Avenge Thee!"

What is that title over the top? You have to admit Zaxxon is a great Sci-Fi word. Now that I have that out of my system.......

I think we all know that Star Wars (Episode IV: A New Hope) impacted everything after it came out. And considering it came out during the infancy of video games both arcade and home systems, consumers wanted Star Wars like games. In some instances they got actual Star Wars games, but in many other instances games based on the basic premise where just as good if not better. 

Zaxxon was one of those games. The arcade version was phenomenal giving the player an early attempt and 3D like effects in gaming. The Colecovision version was also good, but both it and the slightly inferior Atati 2600 version still lacked the graphics of their Arcade big brother. 

The games premise was, and stop me if this sounds familiar, that you are flying over the enemy base sometimes in a trench shooting at missiles, laser turrets, fuel tanks and othet targets. Like I said Star Wars influenced a lot. Zaxxon though was an original as a video game, and really opened gamers up to the potential of 3D in video games to come. 

Although Zaxxon would eventually fall out of popularity by the mid-80's it seems to have left in indelible mark on video games to come. Many other 3D or 3D like space rail shooters would follow in its footsteps, moving away from the 2D space shooter model set by classics like Defender, and Galaga. In tribute to Zaxxons legacy here are a few titles that in my opinion have Zaxxon to thank for there existence

Captain Skyhawk 1990 NES

Although Captain Skyhawk isn't and NES legend, there is a good case to show that it is an updated version of Zaxxon. Although the storyline is a bit different the game play is similar. In this game the airplane is like that in Zaxxon faux 3D, but from a top down angle. The aircraft can be made to change attitude and rolls like a real aircraft moving it far away from a 2D space shooter. Like Zaxxon though you spend most of the game attacking alien targets while flying through canyons (trenches) and the only thing that differentiates Zaxxon from Captain Skyhawk besides the improved graphics is the Top Gun like interludes of air-to-air combat mixed in between canyon runs. 

Starfox 1993 SNES

Using the improved processing power of the SNES, and the advancements in using polygonal graphics to create the illusion of 3D, Nintendo released Starfox in 1993. For the most part fans loved it but for video gaming traditionalist the dawn of the 3D era represented by Starfox made the game somewhat controversial. Unlike Zaxxon and Captain Skyhawk in Starfox the player was no longer viewing their star fighter from an angle but rather directly behind it making 3 demensional movements with it. The game was revolutionary in its gameplay mechanisms, but much like Zaxxon the game consisted of restricted movement and for the most part being made to move forward continually. This still gives the game the feeling of moving through a trench or canyon even if game scenery doesn't imply it. 

Starfox 64 1997 N64

The is the reboot of the original Starfox on N64. Essentially gameplay is still the same and the desendent like connection to Zaxxon is still visible. The player gets a little big more flight sim like freedom but the concept is still the same.

Beyond Nintendo 64

Starfox 64 is now Starfox 64 3D on the Nintendo 3DS. But besides that Zaxxon still has and influence in moderns games. Halo: Reach for instance although an FPS does have space flight scenes with a nod to Zaxxon via Starfox like control and viewpoint. But the Zaxxon influence over modern gaming can be seen in many space rail shooters on the iOS and Android platforms. I should mention that one of Zaxxons most direct decendents is  Zaxxon Escape and updated version of Zaxxon on the iOS platform. 

I have to mention that Zaxxon has left a lasting legacy, and that legacy has been enjoyed by a many gamers over the years. Zaxxon and its progeny have given us hours of fun in a 3D environment  and I have no doubts it's influence and that of games following in its footsteps will give us hours of joy for years to come. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Did I Miss Out on NES?

Between articles I have been reading, podcasts, YouTube videos, retro game stores, and eBay I feel like I missed out on NES a lot. I look through my small and somewhat pitiful collection and wonder what the deal is.

Maybe it's the fact that I came into NES late. 1990 was almost the end of NES's heyday, so I guess thats one excuse. Then I look at my collection Super Mario Brothers 3, the pack in Super Mario Brothers/ Duckhunt/ Track and Field, Dr. Mario, Top Gun, RBI, Afterburner. OK, I guess there is somewhat quality over quantity, but my other games not so much. 

Then I take into account that I was one of the first kids in my school to have a Gameboy, and I look at my stack of Gameboy games. There is both quantity and quality here with a lot of the famous NES titles in the mix. So, ok I don't feel to bad, I guess back in the day portable gaming was a little bit more important to me then console gaming. I think it had something to do with not having to fight to use the big TV in the house, or my late Gen X / early Gen Y need to multitask and play a game while watching TV. 

So anyway here's the story.  Since I have been able to get my systems hooked back up after moving I have been updating my NES collection. About a game a month at this point since August. I've added Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, RC Pro Am, Tetris, Excitebike, and as of the time I wrote this article Super Mario Bros 2. So I'm going to add more titles but I'm asking myself what titles should I add. Now let's just get Legend of Zelda, Castlevania, and Metroid out of the way since those are a given. 

Of course the NES library is extensive and there are a lot of really well known classics, and I'm sure if you like me you can name ten off the top of your head that I didn't list here. But, I also have to wonder what title are out there that aren't too well known, but are must haves? To recent suggestions I've gotten have been Cobra Triangle, and Micro Machines. Although looking at screen shots they almost look like the same game with regards to the boat racing levels. 

So what games am I missing that are an essential to an NES enthusiast? What games do you have in your collection you can't live without? Got an idea share it with me and my readers I'd love to hear about your game suggestion and any story's you may have. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Perfect Gaming Night

Its Friday time to go home relax, and maybe get a few hours of gaming in over the weekend. So I think its a good time to think about your idea of the perfect gaming night.

About a year ago my son and I where playing Halo 4, and the subject came up about the perfect gaming night. For him it was just pizza and games, and not much else. 

That suddenly sent my back to a foggy memory of being in a friends finished basement with 5 other boys, 4 Little Ceasers pizzas, 2 bottles of Pepsi, 2 game controllers, and one TV and NES with Contra on it. So Pizza and video games seem to go well, even outside pizza parlors, and Chucky Cheese. 

Now days of course I'm a grown up, which means I have grown up tastes or I should, access to grown up food and beverages and of course grown up games. So the question is as an adult now, what makes the perfect gaming night. Well, to answer that question I put together a list of requirements that for me make the perfect gaming night:

#1 - Night of the Week

To me a Friday or Saturday night is a game night, you know those nights you can stay up till 3AM without wrecking yourself the next day. Any other days of the week would just feel weird, even if I did have the day following off. 

#2 - Finger Food (not messy)

Now when I game I get serious. I'm not the type of guy who can sit down while playing an intense game, I need to be up and moving. So eating is not a priority, but sometimes you just got to. So I know food like pizza, and small sub sandwiches will work. But, I do have to admit sometimes Buffalo Wild Wings makes gaming night a bit more pleasant.
#3 - Drinks

Last Friday, I talked about the alcoholic variety of beverages. Ok, a few beers can help get you relaxed and get the weekend moving. But sometimes if gaming night is to stretch on for hours you got to go the caffeinated and/or sugary way. A lot of gamers go the Redbull route, and you can find it and other energy drinks in game stores, and sometimes as new games come out promotions are run with energy drinks. I personally am a Monster man, usually green, I think it taste better then Redbull, by far and is better tasting then any other energy drink. But, you got to be careful with these drinks they can push you a bit too far physically, and can cause health issues, so they have to be used in moderation and by adults.  I'd actually go with traditional caffeinated beverages like Coke, Pepsi, RC, Dr. Pepper, or the perennial gamer favorite Mountain Dew, since they can get you the boost you need without a lot of the energy drink side effects.

If you are curious about the alcoholic beverages please read my January 3rd post Video Gaming "Beverages". 

#4 - Music

Some video game music is awesome, and then some isn't. Even the good stuff can get to you after a while if it loops over and over. So in some instances having music can really pump stuff up. My oldest son and I played duel player Rampage on the NES till the end, with Garbages 2.0 playing. Ok if you know the album it's a bit more intense then Rampage requires, but it was fun and a bit more late 90's arcade like. 

I used my SiriuisXM app while playing games before but for long game play you get a lot of looping on the top 20 or 40 stations which can be annoying as well. I found getting a playlist together specific to the mood of the game works a lot better. 

#5 - Someone to Share With

Last but not least being able to share your gaming experience is the best. Having someone to play with, take turns with, or even just keep stuff going in the background makes playing more fun. To me sharing my game night would be key to the perfect gaming night. 

So what makes a perfect game night for you? Food, friends, music what is right for you? 


Thursday, January 9, 2014

The Podcasts of Retro Gaming: The Retronauts

If you've read my blog before you know I love podcasts about retrogaming. One of the big issues with that is it seems for every really good podcast there must be three that are so-so. The really great ones tend to get a lot of imitators, and as much as they try, you end up yearning for the next episode of one of the better ones. But buck up I've bought you the best so far in this series. 

Of course if you've read my blog before you will also know that it's becuase of podcasts that I found out such a thing as a retro-gaming community existed. The Retronauts is the very first podcast I ever listened to on retro-gaming, and for a while it was all I was listening too. I even went back and listened to old episodes as well. The show is engaging, the hosts are more then likable, and the show has some incredibly humorous moments. After the very first episode I listened to I felt like I had been a long time listener, comfortable with the hosts and content.

Now if you don't know much about this podcast or if you've never heard about it before here is what you need to know. The Retronauts is one of the most important retro gaming podcasts out there, and is hosted by Jeremy Parish, Ray Barnholt, and Bob Mackey all of whom are some of the most influential writers on video gaming at present time, coming from magazines such as 1Up, and Wired. With Parish, Barnholt, and Mackey as staples on the show, they usually bring in one or two additional hosts every show most of whom are fellow technical writers, and/or experts on a particular game or game type. Many recent shows have bought on listeners as guest hosts, who donated certain monetary amounts to the newest version of the show's Kickstarter last year. 

As long as we are on the topic of the Kickstarter here is a quick overview of the podcasts history. The current incarnation of The Retronauts premiered in July of 2013 after a huge crowd funding campaign on Kickstarter that occurred after the original version of the show was cancelled by the 1UP network, due to it's buyout by Ziff-Davis. 

The original Retronauts had two different versions on the 1UP network. The latest version called The Retronauts: Live was on air from 2011 to 2013. This particular version was 1UP's way of dealing with listener complaints about the cancellation of the original version which was cancelled by 1UP on its 99th episode after being on the air from 2006-2011. 

The Content

Each episode of The Retronauts focuses either on a particular game, a sub-genre, a publisher, or a programmer. Most of the shows that concentrate on an individual game are called Retronauts: Pocket Edition and range from 25 to 50 minutes long, in comparison to standard episodes which are 90 minutes to 2 hours long. Although each of the subject matters are approached with a great deal of humor, the episodes can get very technical as they dig into gameplay, history, and the decisions of programmers and publishers involved in the creation of a game. 

Being one of the pioneering podcasts on the subject of retro-gaming I find that I learn something new with every episode that helps me know the hobby and community of retro-gaming better. The host discuss the subject matter with a great deal of authority and experience and can often approach the subject matter in a scholarly manner which can really make you see video gaming in a totally different way. 

Although I find something in every episode to laugh at the podcast does have some downsides. For instance the host will use some bad words occasionally, and can at times be a little mean spirited and/or even over opinionated. Although these moments don't occur very often as an adult you may want to prelisten to an episode before letting your kids hear it, or not let them listen at all. As an adult listener though you may find yourself laughing at some of these remarks, or taking them with a grain of salt, it would hardly be a reason to not listen. 

With all that said though this is a "must-listen" podcast on retro-gaming. You can find both the newest and oldest version of the show on iTunes just look for the pictures above. You can also visit their blog site which has all their episodes embedded in it, as well as show notes and other articles. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Gen X.5: Part1- Attack of the Mezzanine Consoles

The video game console industry is a really fascinating sector of the consumer electronics industry. From the standpoint of economics it's this little microcosm of monopolistic compitition and where the moves of each compitor can impact the others or even the whole industry. This in laymens terms mean the compitition is tight, the products are similar, and on the move to differentiate product manufacturers make some "interesting" choices. 

If we where to walk along the road of home video gaming console history we would find the bodies of countless victims who strove for the brass ring and failed. Some of them where becuase they hit the market past thier prime, others becuase they where way ahead of their time. There is one group however that seems to be a little bit of both and they are the ones that seem to have to corpses of notoriety, infamy, and ridicule you learn about along the way. These are of course the mezzanine consoles or the generation x.5 systems that left behind the safety of the current gen to bring  us the next big thing but just couldn't deliver.

Sometimes this was because the system was just crap, or becuase it was quickly replaced. Others times marketing departments where to blame, or a company just out and out screwed up by making a rash decision in the fight for market share and product differentiation in a world of monopolistic competition. 

There are probably many of these Generation X.5 mezzanine systems out there but I'm going to focus on four in this series. I will be taking a look at Generation 2.5's Atari 5200, and Gen 3.5's Sega CD, Sega 32X, and Atari Jaguar. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

A Bare SNESessity

Back on November 11, I wrote an article called "Super Jipped N64 Degrees of Mad with Recent eBay Transactions" ( But since then I got a great deal on an N64 (free) and just as my N64 article "Returning to N64"( was published, I picked up a great deal on a SNES on eBay but this time from a seller who specializes in video game systems.

I picked up this unit for about $10 less then the final sale price on the broken unit I got in November, plus this new one came with free shipping. Now to me all that matters is that this puppy works, but I do have to mention that this one came without any games or a controller. Luckily though as you will recall from my failed first SNES purchase I had bought games and a spare controller to have with it, so that filled in the gaps here. 

Outside of just loving the fact that this unit works, and doesn't look like it went through a flood I also really like that it has the RCA cable output rather than the RF output. Of course this also means the SNES is competing for the same RCA inputs on the back of the TV as my PS2, and N64 are. Hopefully a new TV can solve this, and if not that a RCA switcher. But, I'm not complaining,

Now, with a operational SNES I finally got the chance to try out the games I bought for the other system. The Super Gamboy, and F-Zero carts work perfectly but Starfox has green horizontal lines running through it, as does Pilotwings but to a lessor extent. So I'm a bit concerned about this, and I'm going to try cleaning the pins on both games since I have to clean my Excitebike cart for my NES anyway. If you have any idea what these green lines may be let me know. 

The only Nintendo systems I'm missing now are a GameCube and a WiiU, but at the moment I'm in no rush on those. 

Of course now that I have both of Gen 4's 16-bit powerhouses at my disposal I think its time to have a showdown between the two. So be sure to look for an upcoming article on that. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Video Gaming "Beverages"

Did you get enough to drink New Years Eve into New Year's Day? Perhaps you got a little too much, in which case I would suggest that you stop reading right now. If you're still thirsty and need get your drink on then I would encourage you to keep reading. Unless you're under 21 in which case you should also stop reading right now as well. 

So anyway since this is a good week for alcohol I thought I would breach a subject that we usually don't breach when it comes to playing video games. That is what is the best type of drink to have well you're playing video games? And I'm not talking about a bottle of water or nice refreshing can of Coke.

Now, I don't drink while gaming much. It wouldn't really be much fun to be playing Halo drunk, poor Master Chief wouldn't last long that way.  But, I do have a good drinking and gaming story. The night I started playing LA Noire I decided to get into the theme of things and drink some Mai Tai's made with Rum and Trader Vic's Mai Tai mix. Trader Vic's being a popular Tiki bar in LA opened during the same era that LA Noire takes place in, so it seemed to go well together. Well let's just say I finished off the bottle that evening and had a lot more fun with LA Noire then most people normally do. This included drunk driving in the game, which is a ball of laughs in the world of video games (definitely not in the real world). I was laughing my ass off and kept crashing my cars, eventually my Cole Phelps was running around the streets of LA on foot to get to crime scenes. This memory is part of the reason I love LA Noire so much. 

But mentioning this also brings up a couple interesting sub-questions about drinking a gaming. Like what beverage goes best with a night of gaming? What beverages go best with certain kinds of games and/or what drink goes well with a particular game? Lastly, what games make you feel like drinking and which beverage do you turn to? 

To help some of you answer a few of these questions I found a great blog out there with drink recipes and game pairings, and I also have a suggestion of my own that is very retro gaming themed.

That's right there is a beer out there for retro gamers. 8-Bit Ale by Tallgrass Brewery is the self proclaimed "Official Beer of Retro Gamers". Their website has some interesting facts out there about the brew and a crazy little video as well, and can tell you where to pick some up. Keep in mind they are all tall cans but they only come in a 4 pack. Its also a pretty good Pale Ale! 

If on the other hand you prefer a mixed drink, I have to suggest a little blog called The Drunken Muggle. This blog gives you some great drink suggestions, that seem to reflect the games they are paired with. The sites host Mitch also has drink pairings to go with some popular films, and television shows as well. 

So with that said do you have any story's of being a little tipsy behind the controller? Or drink and game pairings? Be sure to let us know I would be happy to hear about them.