Friday, October 30, 2015

Saying Goodbye to my Old Game Room

Having a gameroom of any kind isn't easy when you have a family, but sometimes you do luck out. In my case it was the a-typical basement that became my mancave or as I preferred to call it my gameroom. When I first moved into my last house the finished portion of the basement was where the spare pieces of furniture and other decor quickly collected. As the first few months passed and the main areas of the house began to become de-cluttered of moving boxes, I finally had the first opportunities to begin transforming the basement into an area for my games.

Sadly, time became a premium and what should have been a simple weekend project failed to get done. Then one fateful day when I went to work sick, had an equally bad day at work, I came home to find that my wife and oldest son had taken the day to work on the basement for me including putting up decor. All I can say is that it changed a bad day to a very good one quickly, and I must have just sat down there looking around at everything they did for an hour after they first showed me their accomplishments.

This was the turning point that would finally allow me to hook up many of the systems I owned at that time, and to begin unpacking, playing through, and cataloging what games I had. Two months later I would finally get my Atari 2600 Jr, the model of 2600 I had the most memories of as a boy, than later I would follow that up with a Sega Genesis, and eventually many other systems and games. My TV would eventually get changed out as well from a 19" Polaroid TV, to a much more substantial 42" Panasonic Plasma bought down to my gameroom after it was replaced by a larger TV in the family room.

As 2015 arrived and the lease on our house was ending we decided it was time to buy our next house, and by late January the house hunting began. Luckily for us some pre-hunting in the fall put us through the ringers and helped us narrow our hunt considerably. Our final choice in houses lead us to a place that worked well for my family, but on the gameroom side not so much.

The bad news is that the basement of our new house is unfinished, the good news is that the basement on the new house is unfinished, but it's also a huge English type with large windows. Can anyone say "barcade"? In all honesty though I know my work is cut out for me but in the meantime, who says we can't have fun? My eldest son and I hooked the PS2, and surround sound up down there over Columbus Day weekend and it sounded like an arcade.

But, to my old gameroom I would like to say, Thank You! This room gave me the ability to add systems as I wanted, and always gave me a place to play the new games I bought. Memories of lost evenings down there and the many games played will linger with me for a long time. 


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Happy 30 NES

Looks like this has historically been a busy time of year for Nintendo. A few weeks ago we celebrated 25 years of the Gameboy, and today we are celebrating 30 years of the NES in North America. Once again I wish I could have written something more in depth for today, but I'm a bit caught off guard. 

For me the NES came into my life later in its life in the Christmas of 1989. My system (which I still own and operate) came with the Power Pad, light gun, and triple game cart including Super Mario Bros, Duck Hunt, and World Class Track Meet. I also believe I was given Super Mario Bros 3 that Christmas as well.

My NES and its descendants the SNES to the left and below it the WiiU. My collection also has an N64, GameCube, and Wii on standby. 

My NES may not have initially been a huge go to system for me, but it did inspire me back then as well as much later. My NES would be a huge influence on my getting my Gameboy back in 1990 when I was so impressed by my NES, I decided I needed it's new mobile companion. Then in 2011 my NES would inspire me to get into retro gaming after I found it and hooked it up to my TV after years in storage. 

The simple collection of 14 games I had when I put my NES away so many years ago has now increased to a 175, and having it has encouraged me to explore many of its contemporaries, and those systems before and beyond. 

As I said I wish I could write more and I have in the past and no doubt will in the future. For now though Happy 30, my iconic, tempormental, beautiful white and grey box. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Defining 8-bit: Part 2 - Memories and Experiences

In the last part of this series I talked about 8-bit's legacy, how its sometimes misinterpreted, and its evolution between the Atari 2600 and the NES. Of course the 8-bit era would extend back before the Atari 2600, and after the NES and its fellow generation 3 counterparts, so if I have forgotten systems like the Fairchild Channel-F and the Nintendo Gameboy you will have to forgive me since both of these systems and others are as instrumental to 8-bit as the systems I did list.

With that said, it's often too easy to find some mindsets trapped into interpreting 8-bit based on technical specifications. True 8-bit is usually defined by the central microprocessor a console uses, but in my case what we are talking about here are personal definitions of 8-bit. Or to put it another way those feelings that seem to hit you when you see an 8-bit image from your favorite system, and the way you perceive 8-bit from those feelings. To be honest defining 8-bit in this way almost seems a far more honest way of interpreting it than through technical specifications.

Defining 8-bit this way is something that I found to be personally daunting since my personal definition alone would fail to paint the full picture of the 8-bit experience as I would wish to pass on to others. I order to really paint this full picture, I decided to find those who know a lot more than me about this topic, and who like me choose to openly share their love for retro video gaming either in the form of blogs, through podcasts, YouTube shows, or a mixture of these forms of media.

If you follow my blog then you will know that in the past I've written blog posts reviewing and introducing you to some of my favorite podcasts. Since that time many of those podcasts have inspired others to make their own podcasts,  expanding my favorites list enormously. Over the past few weeks it has been my pleasure to be in contact with the hosts of many of these podcasts, and to have them help me paint a more full picture of 8-bit through their own memories, and/or interpretations. What you are going to be reading next are what the hosts of these programs shared with me when answering the question: What is your definition of 8-bit?

The Retro Rewind Podcast

My first response is from Francisco Ruiz and Paul J Powers at the Retro Rewind Podcast, which is an amazing podcast that covers video games and movies. These guys are really fun to listen to, and to goof around with on their Facebook page, and I'm glad to have been able to make friends with them since first listening to their show on F-Zero for the SNES.

Francisco's answer:

"8-bit is waking up at 6AM as a six year old so that you can be the first to play Super Mario Bros. It represents a time when games were mostly too hard but some how were still funner then a lot of games nowadays - though maybe its just the nostalgia talking"

Paul's answer:

"For me, 8-bit gaming are those games played on 8-bit systems or emulators, such as the NES and Sega Master System. All others would not be considered 8-bit. For example: Atari 2600 or 5200, SNES, or Sega Genesis".

Thank You, Francisco and Paul!

Be sure to catch the Retro Rewind Podcast on iTunes, or on Stitcher! These guys will make you laugh well indulging in a little nostalgia. You can also find them on Facebook at Retro Rewind Podcast, or at Be sure to check out my review for them at to learn a little more about them and their phenomenal podcast, which has actually gotten even better since I last wrote this article.

The Retro League 

My next response is from Hugues Johnson at The Retro League. If there is one spot in all of podcasting or even the internet that you could call retro gaming's hub it is The Retro League, and the podcasts website and forums. Hugues co-host this podcast with Rob Anderson who is also a regular on The Cartoon Retrocast, and together each and every week they bring us retro gaming news, discuss a gaming topic, provide reviews of old games, let us know about free games or sales, and discuss about a number of other topical subjects.

Hugues answer:

"Interesting question... when I hear "8-bit gaming" I immediately think of console systems from the Atari 2600 to NES. Adventure and Super Mario Bros are the first two games I picture. Oddly 8-bit computers don't immediately come to mind although they certainly qualify.

Some might argue that the Intellivision is "technically" 16-bit but I'll always consider it an 8-bit system, on the flip side some might argue the TurboGrafx-16 is "technically" 8-bit but I never think of it that way."  

Thank You, Hugues!

You can catch The Retro League on iTunes and Stitcher, and you can even watch it on YouTube. As a podcast it will keep you highly informed as to the goings on in the retro gaming world, and also give you a a few good laughs. You can also find them at The Retro League on Facebook, but more importantly at their website and at their forums which is a phenomenal place to meet fellow gamers and discuss gaming topics. you can check out my review for them at, FYI much like the Retro Rewind Podcast, The Retro League has gotten even better since I last wrote this article.

The Atari 7800 Game by Game Podcast 

The Atari 7800 Game by Game Podcast is still a fairly new podcast just having kicked off in January of this year, so sadly I have not had the time to write an article about it yet. But, if I had I would tell you that its host Phil, is also host of a YouTube video game review and commentary program called The No Swear Gamer, and Phil also goes under the moniker of  "The No Swear Gamer" in the retro gaming community. The podcast is a descendant of Fergs,  Atari 2600 Game by Game Podcast and covers as you may have guessed Atari 7800 games at the rate of one or two per program. Phils add his own unique twist and sense of humor to these reviews which is needed when dealing with the many odd titles the Atari 7800 had. Phil is also lucky enough to have a full Atari 7800 collection.

Phil's Answer:

"Growing up, I first recall hearing about bits around the time the Sega Genesis arrived in the US. The Sega Genesis was 16 bit so 8 bit was for the earlier consoles like the NES and Master System. For a long time, I figured that since bits had just doubled, then the Atari 2600 must have been 4 bit since it was part of the previous generation. Later I learned that most early systems were also 8-bit, albeit with less power overall. So now, I consider 8-bit gaming, anything on a home system before the Sega Genesis with the NES/SMS/7800 being the high point of 8 bit gaming. Yes, there are new 8-bit style games released today and yes, technically this may not be entirely accurate since the Intellivision can be considered a 16 bit system, but that's my definition and I like it!"

Thank You, Phil!

You can catch The Atari 7800 Game by Game Podcast on iTunes, and Stitcher, and the No Swear Gamer on YouTube. Be sure to check out both if you can, since they are pretty insightful, and his game reviews are well done and usually dead on, plus both are really fun. Podcasts like this particular one and a few other system-centric ones I will mention are a great resource for those interested in learning about a particular system, and also collecting for it. Be sure to check out Phil's blog at

Master System Masterpieces: The Mega Podcast Plus   

Master System Masterpieces: The Mega Podcast Plus is another fairly new podcast that premiered in late May, and took inspiration from the NES based podcast 2 Dudes and a NES. As the title would indicate the podcast focuses on the sometimes forgotten (at least in North America) Sega Master System an 8-bit contemporary of the NES, and Atari 7800, and Sega's first internationally released console. The hosts George and Eric really engage you in this podcast while providing insight about a particular game, its development, and its game play elements, coupled with an honest review of the game. Overall the show is fun to listen to and an excellent resource for those collecting for the SMS, like me.

George's answer:

"What is my definition of 8-bit gaming, huh? That's an interesting question. For me, I think right away about the NES and Master System. For North America, the Nintendo Entertainment System is the machine that defined video games and helped bring back the video games market. I would say it's the "face" of video games. For the Master System, it was popular in countries from Europe, in Australia, New Zealand, and even Brazil. What is my definition of 8-bit gaming? Well, what about Atari's 8-bit computers? The NES? The Master System? The Atari 7800? People loved them, they were fun. Honestly, any 8-bit machine that gave someone enjoyment, pleasure, satisfaction, nostalgia, etc. That's what defines 8-bit gaming to me, having fun and holding on to memories of an old machine. I personally grew up a tiny bit with an NES, and I still have memories of it to this day. I was a Playstation kid though. Now with the SEGA Master System, I was curious as to why people enjoyed it, why they loved it. I went ahead and took a look at it, I got a console, I started playing. People enjoyed the thing so much, and from many different parts of the world. That's what defines it for me. A simple matter of the world enjoying playing these games, whether together or alone."

Thank You, George!

Much like the other podcast here you can catch Master System Masterpieces: The Mega Podcast Plus on iTunes and Stitcher. This is another podcast I have a lot of fun listening to, and having just bought an SMS towards the begining of this year it was awesome to find a podcast out there to help walk me through this system to get to know its games with those who know and have played the system for a while. I actually wrote about my first experiences with my Master System in January with a follow up article in April, you can find them here: and I found the Master System Masterpieces: The Mega Podcast Plus shortly after publishing these and all I can say is that it was nice to see this system get some love, and also see that it had a pretty good following dispite the fact that it was the era of the NES, or at least it was here North America. Be sure to check Master System Masterpieces: The Mega Podcast Plus out.

A Special Thank You!

I want to thank Francisco, Paul, Hugues, Rob, Phil, George, and Eric for their truely awesome podcasts which have bought me hours of entertainment, and expanded my appreciation for gaming in its entirety. I would also like to thank some some of the other podcasters who are working on their answers as I write this. The question I asked can be a big one for you if you feel strongly about what 8-bit means to you and I'm hoping I can do a part 3 to get those answers in.

So what is 8-bit? 

Francisco, Paul, Hugues, Phil, George, and myself all lived in, and have memories of an era when 8-bit was all there was. To be honest "bits" in games never mattered back then, and much like Phil stated  "Growing up, I first recall hearing about bits around the time the Sega Genesis arrived in the US.", this is an important statement because up until that time all we really know was that our NES's, 7800's, and SMS's, could do a lot more than our Atari 2600's and Colecovisions ever could. 

Of course nowadays you don't hear about "bits" anymore on modern systems, and we really haven't since the N64 and the muddled mess that was the 32/64-bit era. But, by that same token we also live in an era of snarky video game journalist who believe the world of gaming started at the PS2, and look at anything considered "8-bit" to have the quaintness of the Lascaux cave paintings. They often mistake, and far too often consider the games of this era, to be overly simple in design and gameplay. Sure, there weren't hours of cinematic plot line in every cut scene in games of that time, and  of course games where mostly two dimensional, but theses games where anything but simple. To quote Fransico above  "It represents a time when games were mostly too hard but some how were still funner then a lot of games nowadays", this is the thought process of many gamers who have traversed gaming since the 8-bit era. Gaming back then may have seemed simple in appearance, but by know means where the best and most memorable, easy. Games such as the Castlevania series, Metal Gear, Alex Kidd, Midnight Mutants and Metroid for instance all have gained infamy over the years for being notoriously hard to beat, and those are just some of the better known titles.  

The five answers to my question, "What is your definition of 8-bit?" may have been varied but they all seem to have the same soul. 8-bit is seen as a time when the act of gaming itself was simpler, but the games themselves where not. It was an era where you knew your system by name, and not by its technical specifications. It was also a time when we plugged a game into a system and left it there, returning to it after school, and early on weekend mornings till we beat it. We didn't teach ourselves how to play games with lengthy in-game tutorials, and Internet walkthroughs, but rather through a trial and error process resulting in the many senseless and even stupid deaths of our on-screen personas. Lastly, there was just something special about the way 8-bit looked and felt, with its vibrant colors, and its imaginative representations of objects, and characters that stirred us with excitement and a sense of adventure and unlimited possibilities. It was a look that would slowly but surely disappear from gaming as 3D, and realism took over the realm of gaming in future generations.

So the only thing left for me to ask is, what is your definition of 8-bit?



Friday, October 2, 2015

I Emulate You Man, I Really Do: Part 2 - Together Yet Separate

Ok, I know its pretty much been forever since I last visited this series and its a little odd coming back to it after two years. At the same time though I've learned a lot in the last two years and have had the chance to experience emulations in a lot of more ways than I had originally thought I could. In that same respect I have also found out that there area lot of folks out there who want to give emulation a try but have no idea, how or where to start.

Legal Warning

Due to copywrite laws it is technically illegal to emulate a game unless you own a hard-copy of said game (i.e. a cartridge, CD-Rom, Etc..), or have purchased your emulated copy through a reputable provider (ala Steam, GoG, Nintendo Virtual Console or the like) and have license to hold an electronic copy of said game.

This is just one of those FYI things, although its nearly impossible to know who has "illegal" copies, and/or where they got them from. I can suggest however, that buying electronic copies of old games from Steam or GoG isn't a bad way to go, since Steam and GoG provide you with well supported methods of playing these older games.

Understanding Emulation

Essentially there are two different ways of emulating games Hardware Emulation and Software Emulation, and both have their benefits and drawbacks:

Hardware Emulation:

This means that your are using some sort of device to emulate games from another and/or older system. To be honest this is nothing new and has been a fairly good way of emulating in the past, and has been a favorite method of Nintendo's up to the current WiiU and 3DS. For instance look at a little device known as the Super Gameboy from the SNES era. This enlarged SNES cart was actually fitted with Gameboy hardware inside, and using that hardware it played any Gameboy game put into it, and only used the SNES console as a way of projecting screen output, and of receiving user inputs via the SNES's D-pad controllers. Since then systems like the GameCube had hardware add-ons for playing Gameboy, and GBA carts, the later Wii could play GameCube games, and the current WiiU can play Wii games (although some would argue, the WiiU is just the HD version of the Wii). On Nintendo's portable side, the early models of the small screen DS could accept GBA games through a cartridge slot on the bottom, while the 3DS can play DS games (although once again there is little difference in the two systems to begin with).

Outside of the world of Nintendo, hardware emulation has crept up elsewhere. Some in the form of the various Retron systems, up to and including the Retron 5. Other examples come from early gaming like Sega's Power Base Converter which allowed the Sega Genesis (Mega-Drive) to play Master System games, and the Atari 2600 Game Adapter, which allowed the Atari 5200 to play 2600 games. Of course you could also say that the Atari 7800 hardware emulated Atari 2600 games, but once again you are getting into a similar Wii to WiiU, and DS to 3DS debate (oh and PS1 to PS2).

Lastly. and more strangely there is also Sega's 32x which was essentially a reverse emulator allowing the 16-bit Sega Genesis (Mega-Drive) to upwards emulate the supposedly 32-bit games of the 32x. Although the 32x had its own hardware inside the unit relied heavily on its 16-bit mothership to allow playablity.       

Software Emulation:

A video game or any software program is usually stored on some sort of media as a ROM (Read Only Memory). ROM storage devices have been cartridges, CD-ROM's (doy!), floopy disks or whatever method a system might use, meaning every video game from Pong on arcade machines to Halo 5 on XBox One is stored on something in its entirety as a ROM.

Software emulation is basically taking a ROM, and through some sort of software or another opening and playing that ROM. DOSBox for instance is a modern program, that allows you to use DOS based applications on a modern computer such as one running Windows 10. One great example of this in action is the afore mentioned online game store GoG (Good Old Games) which will not only sell you a legal copy of a DOS based games ROM in electronic format, but will also provide you with a DOSBox front end to play that game. Here DOSBox acts as an interface between the ROM, and the modern system, DOSBox manages this by taking what it needs from the system to play that game as it was meant to be experinced, even if that means its essentially dumbing down the newer systems capablity's. GoG, of course is just one of many examples on PC, on consoles we have Nintendo's Virtual Console on Wii, Wii U, and 3DS, XBox Live on Xbox 360 and One, and PSN on PS3 and 4, all three of these services offer older games, with a built in emulator to allow these overpowered Gen 7 and 8 systems to play these games while also  enhancing them in some cases.

But, not every game you want or miss from your past is going to be available on one of these sources. This is where other forms of software emulation come in and there are many of them for all different types of platforms. There are emulators and ROMs online for everything from actual arcade games to something as new as DS and Wii, with stops in between for rarer systems like the NeoGeo, Sega 32x, or Atari Jaguar. The only major issue here though is that the hunt for good emulators and ROM's can lead you to some really skeezy websites, and get you a destructive virus, spyware, or ad based Trojan rather than your favorite game. However have no fear, having been playing with emulators over the past two years I have come up with a good source that I can share with you. If your looking for system emulators or ROM's, you may want to check by a Emuparadise ( Emuparadise is one of the few emulation sites I have found that isn't laden with potential computer disasters. The only downside is that you may have to sit through a 30 second ad to download your ROM or emulator, but hey 30 seconds of toothpaste ad is a fair price to pay for the hours of joy The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords, or whatever your choice is, may bring you.

Emulation Isn't Perfect:

Although it may sound like the best of both worlds being able to play old games on new systems, they do have their drawbacks.

Control Issues:
Both hardware and software emulations have at times been known to have control issues within the games themselves. By this I mean that an emulated program may have a delay between your control methodology, and what happens on the screen. For the most part we are talking no more then half a second or so, but in some games that half second delay may make a game unplayable.

Music and/or Sound Effects:
It's also not uncommon for there to be issues with game music or sound effects with software emulated programs. This may be in part to the ROM or the emulator one is using,  but the complaint is one I have heard before and often. Sometimes the sound effects or music are too loud, or the original music has been swapped out for something else, or the music or sound effects are heavily distorted. No matter what the issue is though these things and a variety of other issues may happen.

Glitches and Bugs:
This is a problem that happens on both hardware and software emulation with the latter being (you guessed it) the more common of the two. We talking about ROM's being uploaded and downloaded with the chance of file degradation along the way, as these programs travel and are used outside there natural environments. This is bound to happen from time to time.

Nasty Stuff:
As previously mentioned hunting for ROM's and emulators online can be tricky, and you may end up with a disaster on your hands.

Emulating an Upside:

Hopefully you have taken something out of this that will serve you well as you journey to relive your favorite games via emulation. Keep in mind that emulation does allow you to play games from different platforms without having to invest in all those original platforms and games. Emulation is inexpensive because you can either buy titles cheaply on sites such as GoG, Steam, or on a virtual console or find them for free. This means you can build a huge library of games that won't cost much or take up any space. Also, some emulators offer save states on games save states never existed on to begin with, which is a nice feature especially if you are an adult with kids.

A Final Suggestion:

Image result for homeworld remastered pic
 Get it here:

One of my current emulated (semi-emulated) loves has to be Homeworld: Remastered available through Steam. Homeworld was a classic RTS on the Windows 95/98/ME platform and has since, do to a lot of loving fans, been remastered for 4k HD. The remastered part is basically a Windows 8/10 program, but you also have the option of playing the original version which is emulated from the Windows 95/98/ME original. You may want to check it out.

Good Luck, and have fun with your old games on emulation!!!