Saturday, March 26, 2016

8-bit Fridays - The Diaries: March 25, 2016

The continuing saga of gaming versus time, while being a responsible adult. 

I've had some pretty odd times as far as gaming goes since my last 8-bit Friday's posting. By that I mean opportunities have presented themselves that have allowed me to play games in the middle of the day, and even on weekdays since that time. At the same time though a lot of long weeks and even weekends have lead to Friday's and Saturdays of my wife and I passing out on the couch by 10:30 PM and heading quickly to bed after one we had enough energy to make it there. So late night gameplay on the weekends lately has been pretty hit or miss.

As a plus though, I've also gotten a Retron 5 and its taken the place of my original NES, and SNES in my living room, although my SMS still remains. The Retron 5 is nice to have since it has a wireless controller that allows me to go beyond cord length and having to stand directly in front of the TV to play a game. On the rare occasion I have played at night recently it's been nice to sit down on the couch and do so, and made the scenario a bit more comfortable.  

As far as games, as of this article I have a small pile begging to build up again including; SMS, NES, SNES, PS1, PS3, Wii, Jaguar, and Atari 2600 games, plus a few others. But, trying to keep up with my 8-bit Friday tradition I did make a couple game purchases this evening. 

They include:

Xexyz - This NES game that is pretty obscure, but well recommended by those who know it.

Little Nemo: Dream Master - This actually is a pretty well known game. It has some mixed reviews, but most of it is positive.

As far as gameplay for this evening:

Warbirds - This Atari Lynx game was once a pack-in for the Lynx 2. It's actually a pretty good game, which is on par from what I've experienced with the Lynx so far. It reminds me of being a portable version of Sierra's Red Baron, but perhaps a little more arcade like. 

The Hunt for Red October - This is the SNES version and it may look better than the NES version, but it plays roughly the same in side mode. Apparently, the SNES version also offers a periscope mode that was meant to be used with the Super Scope. I honestly believe the Gameboy version of The Hunt for Red October is still the best version though. 

Super R-Type - After getting a little annoyed with The Hunt for Red October I plugged this bad boy in. Classic side scrolling space shooter, with those nice 16-bit SNES graphics. Great game, but the only issue was that by 1 AM when I plugged it in my reaction times and patience where a little off, so not the best time to a game like this. In my book it's a great game I will have to come back to later. 

Raiden Trad - Also on the SNES, as you can tell I'm expanding my SNES collection. Your probably saying to yourself "If he was too tired to play R-Type than why play Raiden?". The truth is I've been waiting to play this for a while, and of course it's a matter of time too isn't it? Ok, so this game is really good, after all it's a Raiden game. Of course doing an apples to apples comparison of the SNES's Raiden Trad and to the Atari Jaguars Raiden it's obvious the Jaguar version has a leg up on the SNES version. The Jaguars version looks like it's on an arcade machine, being very crisp and fast. The SNES version however looks great, but still looks like it's on a 16-bit machine. With that said it's a great game and worth playing a little more. 

Well that's my entry (and first one) for my 8-bit Fridays diary. Of course not much in the way of 8-bit games being played this evening, but there are a few 8-bit games on my playlist like Psycho Fox, Action Fighter, and Solstice. Although the latter needs a q-tip and alcohol cleaning, and the other two are SMS games which require a little messing around with the SMS and its controller, but hopefully I can spend some time on those over the remainder of weekend. 

Happy Easter!!!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Retro Daydreams of a Camouflaged Lizard at the Connecticut Leather Company

Photo Courtesy 

Perhaps this story is just more white noise, but I felt I had to follow up on a topic mentioned in my Coleco Gemini and I article ( on Friday. In it I mentioned the Coleco Chameleon, which at the time of writing the article seemed doomed, but it's fate was still unclear. As it turns out last week was pretty big week for the Chameleon as rumors changed to facts between the beginning and end of the week. 

As it stands:

-Coleco officially withdrew its name from the Chameleon. 


-Retro VGS/Chameleon has shut down its website and Facebook page

Additionally, details are beginning to emerge (although still basically rumors) of various marketing schemes, and massive engineering issues that occurred with creating this product. So far most of it just seems kind of shady and in a grey area, but nothing particularly indicating an attempt to defraud the public, or to commit any other criminal actions. 

The current issue amongst the retro gamers is that the initial Retro VGS project, and Coleco Chameleon project have left a lot of distrust and hurt feelings in their wake. When the system was the Retro VGS, the project heads and marketing team seemed to be somewhat adversarial towards the press, and potential customers. It wasn't uncommon to see Retro VGS marketing replying to press and customers in a snarky and sometimes mean spirited nature on Facebook and Twitter especially when hard hitting questions where asked about the system. When combined with the strange crowdfunding switch from Kickstarter to Indiegogo and the projected $700+ system cost the project became even more inflamed and crashed and burned before it could get off the ground. 

The Chameleon resurrection bought new life to the project, and seemed to indicate that kinks had been worked out, and concept improvements made. At the 2016 New York Toy Fair all that came to a cataclysmic end when the Chameleon demo unit was determined to be nothing more then a video capture card in a transparent Jaguar case. Meaning after all this time concept creators had still yet to produce an actual working prototype. Perhaps if they hadn't used a transparent shell, the project may still be underway, but who knows? Right now the project is being portrayed as modern day snake oil, and with an alienated press and jaded customer base the project may just have gone the way of the dinosaurs. 

Photo Courtesy 

Above photo of Chameleon and the identified off-the-shelf video capture card at 2016 New York Toy Fair.

It's easy to jump to conclusions in this matter, and I think many have, especially  since there seems to be a general sense amongst many video game journalist, that now's the time to grab the torches and pitchforks, and drag the VGS/Chameleon creators (one in particular, who I won't name) to justice. I will openly admit that many of these journalists raise very valid arguments, but at the same time though there is a sense of some of them just jumping on the bandwagon, or seeking a pound of flesh for past treatment. Although, things may have been very shady on Retro VGS's end, I do need to point out that it honestly looks like Retro VGS was trying to create a system and not some major scam, and this is something many haven't taken into account. 

Yes I said it, I honestly do believe they wanted to give us a system. With that stated though, I also believe that the way they went about doing it was completely wrong, and garnered a lot of negative attention and enemies along the way. Thanks to that I think we can now assume the system is formally committed to oblivion, and the chance of a second resurrection seems highly unlikely. Of course only time will tell, and it will be interesting to see what is revealed to us in coming weeks and months. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Coleco Gemini and I

It's weird to hear the name Coleco being thrown around again as a hot topic, and even being dragged through the mud. Right now the big topic is the Coleco Chameleon, with its Phoenix like resurrection from the flames of the Retro VGS debacle, followed by its quick return to infamy after its appearance at the New York Toy Fair in February 2016 as allegedly nothing more then a video capture card in an Atari Jaguar case. So as some run forth to pronounce the project dead, others are patiently waiting to see what will ultimately happen. 

Part of the mystique of the Chameleon though is that Coleco name. Say the name Coleco to someone who has a recollection of the early 80's and you are bound to get a reaction. Maybe it's Cabbage Patch Dolls, maybe it's Starcom toys, maybe it's the Colecovision, or maybe, just maybe it's the Coleco Gemini.

For many Atari 2600 collectors and devotees, the Coleco Gemini is somewhat of an enigma. It's regarded as the best Atari 2600 model of them all, yet it's not officially an Atari product, licensed or otherwise. Despite that it's controllers and games are completely compatible with the Atari 2600. 

For anyone who knows anything about generation 2 systems before the crash, the proliferation of games and clone systems reverse engineered from the Atari 2600 was a common story. Among one of the biggest reverse engineering culprits was Coleco. Now, despite the Colecovision being considered to be a superior system to the Atari 2600, Coleco decided that after years of Atari garnering the spotlight and offering arcade ports of some of the best titles, they would do the unthinkable. In order to win over Atari 2600 players, or those debating which system to buy, Coleco made its Colecovision system moduler, and offered a module that could play Atari 2600 games on the Colecovision. As I heard one podcaster put it "imagine Microsoft adding a component that could play PS4 games on the XBox One, it's basically the exact same concept". Atari immediately filed a lawsuit against Coleco, but instead of producing a judgment in Atari's favor the court cleared Coleco on the basis of it not using Atari parts to produce its systems. At that, a weakness in Atari's proprietary armor had been found, and it would be exploited even further finally cascading into the game crash of 83'. 

In addition to the Atari 2600 module, Coleco also did one other sneaky thing and introduced the module in a free standing form as the Coleco Gemini. The Gemini had the benefit of 5 years of technological advancements, since the introduction of the Atari VCS (2600), and the unit was smaller, lighter, and boasted better controllers than the 2600. 

As a matter of fact the controllers where one of the systems most prominent features, and the reason the system was called the Gemini. Unlike the Atari 2600 which had completely separate joystick and paddle controllers, the Gemini featured both on one controller. This option made gaming on the system incredibly convenient as one only had to switch cartridges, and not controllers as well to go from games like Pac-Man to Night Driver. Not to mention the Gemini's controllers especially its paddle, worked better overall and stayed consistent from one paddle game to the next. Than there was the Gemini's size, which is just a little smaller then the Atari 7800 which would come later. But, for its time it was small, especially compared to the Atari 2600's "Sixer's" and late model four switch units.
The Gemini (bottom) and Atari 7800 (top) for size comparison.

Despite all that and the more then 30 million units sold, the Gemini remains a relatively obscure console in the Atari 2600's history, and in the annals of video gaming period. It's all too often overshadowed by the Colecovision and its Atari 2600 module. For those of us who had this system, however it was hard to forget. My family had two of these when I was younger, one bought after the other was taken out by a power surge. The Gemini was my introduction to Atari 2600 gaming, and frankly it's controller and the fact that Donkey Kong came as one of its pack-ins, spoiled me. 

The Gemini "Dual Command" (right) and Atari 2600 joystick and separate paddle unit (left)

In 2013 when I got an Atati 2600 Jr. I found myself a bit let down by the simple Atari controller, and the separate paddle system and quickly found myself yearning for my old Gemini all in one controllers. About two years later I was finally  able to come by one of these now elusive systems on eBay. Once I got if plugged in, it was amazing how quickly things came back to me, especially memories of all the times I had played these machines in my youth. 

So despite what the fate of the Chameleon may be, for me Coleco and its Gemini will always (and ironically I might add) be one of my fondest memories of my time gaming with the Atari 2600 as a child. 

By the way 30 million units is a lot, considering the Atari Jaguar was reported to have only sold between 250,000 to 1 million units. So if you had or have a Gemini or on of its Sears or Columbia House variants let me know. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Trekking Through Games - A DS9 Kind of a Tuesday

So I'm installing Deep Space 9: Harbinger on my computer via DosBox D-Fend, and I realized that it would be the third DS9 game I've played for the day. Basically, it was unintentional and started off with my playing Deep Space 9: Crossroads of Time on SNES, and then a while later with my installing Deep Space 9: The Fallen on my old Windows XP computer. 

Per my previous entry in this series you can probably guess that I am a bit of a DS9 fan. I'm not necessarily going to say that it was the best of all the Star Trek series, since each is generally good in its own right. What I will say though is that of all the series DS9 had some of the richest, and deepest plot lines, and at times it had an admirable gritty feel. 

Of the three games I played The Fallen is probably the best known, and the fan favorite. In just the few minutes of it I was able to play this afternoon I can tell you it's definitely something I want to come back to, and hopefully like the other two games here do a review of at a later date. 

In the meantime here are my impressions of the three games:

Crossroads of Time - Of the 3 DS9 games for me today this is the only console/SNES entry. It has a platformer feel that somehow reminds me of the Rolling Thunder games. Unlike Rolling Thunder though the game requires some problem solving and a few RPG elements.

The Fallen - This is a Windows 95/98 entry, and is actually set between the 6th and 7th seasons of Deep Space Nine. Although the game itself is not canonical with the series itself, it's often fun to see a game insert itself into a series in that manner. In a sense it reminds me  of the Star Trek FPS Star Trek: Voyager - Elite Force which is set against Voyager's 6th and 7th season as well. Unlike Elite Force, The Fallen is a third person shooter, and by that I mean one in which you can see the character you are controlling in a 3D environment. As I said previously The Fallen in many circles is considered to be a top five favorite for best Trek games. 

Harbinger - This is one of the first DS9 games pre-dating Windows 95 to the DOS era. I can best define it as a point and click adventure, which although fun in some respects isn't as exciting as many other Trek games. I guess one of the things I do like most about this game is its unique box called the "phaser" box, although I don't know why it was called that.  

I guess as far as the PC goes there is a third DS9 game The Dominian Wars which is something like the Starfleet Command games, but set against the backdrop of the Dominian Wars. Once past the 16-bit console era though not much else appeared in the way of Deep Space Nine games on consoles. Crossroads of Time had a version on Sega Genisis as well, but it's roughly the same exact game as that on the SNES. 

So happy "DS9 Tuesday" or Scott Kelly Day.