Tagged "Retro"

Jan 25

It has been said that during the winter, sales of retro games boom as a lot of people spend their evenings staying in the warm and thus need entertaining. We wouldn’t be surprised if a few people hope to recreate the magic of a Christmas long gone by purchasing a vintage console off eBay too.

This month’s eBay round-up backs this up with lots of things selling for silly prices. Money is hard to come by in January? Not if you’re a retro gamer it would seem.

Quite a few Sega Master System items have caught our attention. An Action Replay cheat cartridge sold for £109 on Buy It Now, a copy of Power Strike II went for £91 and a TecToy version of Road Rash shifted for £34.

A French seller has also been listing some reproduction carts containing the Game Gear versions of Sonic Triple Trouble and Sonic Drift Racing complete with authentic looking cases but only the former found a buyer.

On Game Gear meanwhile a factory sealed system sold for £225 on a US auction, a copy of The Itchy & Scratchy Game in its fetching bright yellow box went for £79.99 while a copy of the European-exclusive James Pond: Operation Starfi5h went for £50.

From Sega to Sony. A brand new PSone “bumdle” sold for £74 after 13 bids, containing a new joypad, memory card and a factory sealed copy of Spyro. A fully working PS2 development kit with manuals and software also went for £280. The seller wanted £50 postage. Is it made out of lead?

Onto Nintendo. The highest grossing auction this month was for a factory sealed copy of 10 Yard Fight on NES, which still had the plastic shelf hanger on it. It ended at $2,125 (£1,368) after 14 bids. Selling for a similar amount was this copy of Zelda II on Famicom, sealed and marked “Not for Resale”. It really is a curious looking little thing. A factory sealed Captain Commando on SNES also ended at $1,332.98 (£858.49) from 12 bids while a sealed copy of Konami’s Metal Warriors sold for slightly more – $1,350.00 (£869.45).

The seller of this Atari Lynx bundle undersold it a bit. Well, it sold at a decent price (£154) but you would have thought he would have made a bigger deal out of it including 47 games. That’s got to be half the entire Lynx catalogue.

In last month’s round-up we covered the fact that the Sonic Generations collector’s edition has been selling for large amounts. The prices have dropped at little – this one went for £86 (8 bids) and this one for £84 (27 bids) – but a few auctions have reached almost £200, like this one.

Aug 31

Loose copies of the lazily titled Sega Game Pack 4 in 1 on GameGear are just as easy to find as Sonic or Columns. Trying to find a boxed copy, however, is an incredibly tricky task as Sega produced only a small amount. When it does appear boxed on eBay bidding is always fierce – this copy ended up selling at almost £100 after 19 bids. Why is so hard to find boxed? I assume that because it was bundled as a loose cart with the GameGear, retailers were flooded with second hand copies – a la Altered Beast on Mega Drive – and so they didn’t bother ordering any boxed ones to stick on their shelves.

From Sega GameGear to Metal Gear Solid. One of the limited edition PlayStation Metal Gear Solid: Premium Pack boxsets went for £166 (25 bids) this month. Amazing, it sold for that amount even though it was missing both the T-shirt and dogtag. Somebody also bagged £137 (18 bids) for a promotional (read: review) copy of Metal Gear Solid 2 on PlayStation 2. A set of Metal Gear action figures ended at £99.99 (2 bids) too.

All of the above are nothing compared to a promotional “Metal Gear Solid 2 Sorter” which ended at $720 (£443.73) on a Buy It Now. This appears to be a Metal Gear Solid 2: Subsistance in fancy leather-style packaging, complete with a space for a memory card. The seller notes that it was a “price of a lottery”. I think he means lottery prize.

Incidentally, it would appear that people are selling their Zavvi-exclusive Metal Gear Solid Ultimate HD Collection pre-orders for vast amounts. By ‘vast’, I mean everything from £125 to £499.

Speaking of limited editions, a seller was able to bag £180 for a copy of the Crysis 2 Nano Suit Edition for Xbox 360. Anybody else amused that the backpack that comes with it is black and pink?

Over in the world of Nintendo, a limited edition Japanese Game Boy Advance with Mario and Luigi on the bezel ended at £43.55 (8 bids). That’s around four times the going rate for a standard Game Boy Advance. A copy of the rare shoot ‘em up Syvalion on SNES ended at £450 on BIN while a boxed copy of Final Fight 3 sold for £699 also on a BIN auction. It would appear though that they’ve relisted it after it sold. Hmm. More reassuring is this copy of Mega Man X2 that ended at £250 (30 bids). Almost selling for that amount was this sealed copy of Mario Sunshine on GameCube that ended at £211 (21 bids).

Then on PlayStation a factory sealed copy of Resident Evil 2 shook £75 (16 bids) out of somebody while a sealed copy of Grandia went for £70 despite being the budget version. Unsurprisingly, nobody wanted this sealed copy of Hogs of War for £70.

Jun 29

New games for old systems aren’t as uncommon as you may think. There have been a few RPGs localised and released on cartridge for the Mega Drive recently and the Dreamcast still receives a new shoot’em up every few months. Even the Atari Lynx has had a new release recently in the form of the penguin-laden shoot ’em up Zaku.

However, Digger Chan marks the arrival of the first Sega Master System game since 1998. It has a lot in common with Namco’s Mr. Driller, only here Digger Chan is on a worldwide mission to repair milk pipelines buried deep beneath the ground.

It’s not a totally new game to the Sega Master System community – it was first released as an entry for SMS Power’s 2006 coding competition – but since then new levels, music and an ending sequence has been added. And of course, it’s now available to buy on cartridge, using all new components.

The first batch of cartridges has already sold out, but a second run is on the cards. Get your order in quick if you’re curious.

May 04

Slowly but surely, video games are starting to become associated with keeping fit. We have the extraordinary popularity of the likes of Wii Fit and Kinect to thank for this, and to be honest I’m a little surprised that fast food companies haven’t tried to get in on the act to help improve their images. A McDonald’s branded sports mini-game package for Wii, perhaps? Or a game which involves jogging down virtual streets from one Subway to the next? If you haven’t already guessed, my full time job isn’t as a game designer.

Fast food companies and video game developers have done deals many times before though. One of the earliest examples is Ocean’s Mr. Wimpy: The Hamburger Game, released on the likes of Spectrum and Commodore 64 back in 1984. For our American readers, Mr. Wimpy is (or possibly was) a giant hamburger dressed like a London Beefeater and has absolutely nothing to do with Popeye. The game itself? Not too bad, although it did leech quite a few ideas from Data East’s 1982 arcade game Burger Time.

Out of pure coincidence, Data East were actually responsible for the first McDonald’s game – Donald Land for the Famicom, released in Japan in 1988. The strange name stems from the fact that Ronald McDonald is known as Donald McDonald in Japan. There isn’t much to talk about – it was a pretty generic platformer with Donald/Ronald himself appearing in a rather badly drawn fashion.

The rest of the McDonald’s games have all been surprisingly good. That said, perhaps it isn’t a surprise given their heritage – Treasure made McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure on Mega Drive, while Sega themselves published McDonald’s: Donald no Magical World (Ronald McDonald in Magical World) on GameGear. More on those in a couple of paragraphs.

McDonaldland (known as M.C Kids in the US) was released on an array of formats (NES, Game Boy, PC, Amiga and Atari ST) in 1992 by Virgin and had a couple of nice ideas. The best of these was the ability to walk upside down to access new areas. Much like Super Mario Bros. 3 there was a map screen allowing the picking and choosing of levels and the music was suitably jolly. You could choose to play as either Mick or Mack (did Virgin think McDonald’s is an Irish corporation?) who had different skin colours and hairstyles but no different abilities. Bizarrely, the Game Boy version was later re-skinned and released in the US as Spot: The Cool Adventure. That’s Spot as in the 7-Up mascot, not the dog from the kid’s books.

Mick and Mack then went to star in Virgin’s Global Gladiators. Although Game Boy and SNES versions were developed they couldn’t be released due to legal reasons, thus it only ended up on Mega Drive, Master System, GameGear and Amiga. It had a less child-like feel to it than McDonaldland with Ronald only appearing at the start of each level. It was so loosely based on the McDonalds brand, in fact, that in a recent issue of Retro Gamer, programmer David Perry – of Earthworm Jim fame – reported that McDonald’s were befuddled as to where the burgers were.

Ronald McDonald had pride of place in both Ronald McDonald in Magical World and McDonald’s Treasure Land Adventure. The first was a Japanese exclusive for the GameGear and a very colourful one at that, with a jaunty musical score. The story involved Ronald trying to rescue his friends who had been trapped inside a map by a wizard called Mr. Joke. The Mega Drive offering is also very colourful; even more so than any of the Sonic games. Despite the exterior it was quite a challenging game, and it is now harder to find than a McDonald’s apple pie served at a lukewarm temperature.

The McDonald’s games don’t end there. In 2001 TDK released McDonald’s Monogatari: Honobono Tenchou Ikusei on Game Boy Color. An adventure game in design, it had a graphical style and perspective very similar to Pokemon. There’s only one copy on eBay at the moment, suggesting that it too is quite rare.

The rather sinister King from the Burger King adverts starred in not one, not seven, but three Xbox games. These came to exist after Burger King ran a questionnaire asking what customers would most like to take home from a visit to one of their restaurants. The most popular answer was a video game and so a deal was done with Blitz Games.

Ironically, Blitz are based in the UK, but the trio of titles were never released outside of the US. Priced at $3.99 a pop, and only available if you purchased a value meal, two of these even featured online play. Big Bumpin’ – bumper cars with power-ups, essentially – was the best of the bunch, followed by the Mario Kart-style PocketBike Racer, and lastly the slightly twisted Sneak King, which involved sneaking up on people and surprising them with greasy treats. Although all three are incredibly common on eBay, and also very cheap to purchase, they are sadly region locked.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to eat some celery…

Apr 22

Atari have revamped their retro classics in the past but usually only to the extent of a fresh lick of paint and some fancy new special effects. Yars’ Revenge – which as the loading screen reminds us, was Atari’s best selling original Atari 2600 game – is less of a revamp and more of a total re-imagining, with Sega’s Panzer Dragoon series cited as an influence.

Presumably in order to appeal to the youth of today, Yar has gone from being an insect-like organism to an anime-style female cased inside mechanised power armour. You still get to blast bugs though as you make your way through the five on-rails levels to confront and defeat her former master. Yar also gets a new set of armour about half-way through giving access to the Zorlon Cannon – a ridiculously powerful weapon that will ring a bell with fans of the original. The colourful effect that occurs when using a shield will also please retro purists.

The bosses meanwhile are a varied bunch and each have attack patterns to learn. The second boss resembles a caterpillar and only occasionally pops his head out of holes in the ground, while the third boss can only be described as Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge.

For a game targeted at both casual and hardcore gamers, Yars’ Revenge has something of a steep difficulty curve – I had to drop the difficulty level from Normal to Easy on my first play-through after failing to make it even as far as the first boss. It takes time to learn what weapons are best to use on each enemy – the crab-like tanks go down with one shot of the rail gun but take dozens of shots from the pulse rifle, for instance. Although Yar can lock onto enemies to fire up to six missiles these are not in infinite supply. Therefore it’s best to use these when there are half a dozen enemies on the screen, and not just one or two, to save wasting them. The power-ups also have to be used wisely – the shield power-up restores 50 health points so there’s not much sense in using it when you still have, say, 80 (out of 100) points left.

As entertaining as Yars’ Revenge is, it could have done with taking inspiration from Starfox 64 instead of Panzer Dragoon. Alternative routes through the levels would have done wonders for the replay value and although Yar talks to her peers throughout there’s way too much going on to be able to stop read the text. If she chatted away then we could have listened to what she had to say rather than ignoring it all.

On another note, developers Killspace have kindly included scans of the original Yars’ Revenge comic book, but because you can’t zoom in to read the tiny text all you can do is look at the colourful artwork. Err, thanks?

Fortunately these are just minor quibbles that don’t spoil the franticness of it all or deter from the fact that it’s surprisingly polished. The cel-shaded visuals are smooth, the menus are attractive and the soundtrack helps to add to the atmosphere. You’ll have to put some serious effort into it in order to unlock the achievements too as they don’t come easy. Believe it or not, the first one I unlocked was for defeating the last boss. You do though unlock a T-shirt for your Avatar to wear as soon as starting the game, which is – much like the game itself – is rather tastefully retro.

Feb 09

Released: 2000
Formats: Game Boy Color

Animal rights organisation PETA has been around since 1980 and occasionally backlash against videogames which feature animal harming for entertainment. Super Meat Boy and Cooking Mama are two titles that have recently rattled their cage… pun fully intended. It’s odd, then, that Taito’s Monkey Puncher managed to escape their attention because, as the incredibly stupendous title suggests, it’s a simian boxing sim.

The plot is both silly and simple – mysterious gangsters known as the ‘Saru Group’ have been kidnapping monkey trainers with the assistance of mind control. After their father goes missing, Kenta and Sumire (the two playable characters) decide to raise a monkey fighter of their own in order to find his whereabouts.

Best described as a mixture of Pokemon and a generic virtual pet, your chosen chimp has to be kept happy and well fed, while playing the training mini-games will improve its strength and stamina. Every now and then an invite for a monkey punching match appears, which can be accepted or declined. These matches take place in boxing rings where sadly interaction is only limited to hammering the A button to help your monkey back on their feet. When loosing a match, the trainer yells “You ass as you!” while at the end of each day he or she says “Tomorrow I’ll also work hard!” The translation may be garbled, but it does add a degree of charm to the proceedings.

Before having to fight for his life, your primate pal has to be tamed by giving him food and calling its name via the menus. Once disciplined the fun starts – you can send the critter on shopping errands and praise or “rebuke” its random purchases, send it on dates with other monkeys in hope of being able to breed a super monkey, or take it training. Training stages are pleasingly simple – pick a subject (sit-ups, punch-bag, jogging, etc) and then press the A button in good timing to get a chain going.

It’s a very basic game at heart – it mostly boils down to selecting options from menus – but it’s also curiously addictive and as cute as a button. It’s just a shame that copies are hard to come by – European publisher Event vanished off the scene as quickly as they arrived.

Jan 23

It made me smile when websites started speculating that the Kinect could end up being another Sega 32X. This is because similarities between them are vast – the Sega 32X also promised a new gameplay experience, bolted onto an already existing console, required software especially developed for it and was designed to extend the life of its host. With 8 million Kinects sold so far it’s fair to say that Microsoft’s motion detecting device hasn’t been another 32X. But although the 32X did damage Sega’s reputation, it’s still far from being the worst thing ever to be released.

Let’s start with how the Sega 32X came to be. Back in 1994 the 3DO and Atari Jaguar were gaining a lot of attention, especially from the hyperbole filled gaming magazines around at the time, and with the Sega Saturn still a year away Sega wanted something to put the spotlight back on the Mega Drive. Sega of America were in charge of designing the add-on which was allegedly sketched out on a hotel notebook within the space of an evening. Under the mushroom shaped plastic it housed two SH-2 32-bit RISC processors – the very same that the Sega Saturn would be packing. This turned out to be something of a mistake as Sega ended up fighting with themselves over parts.

As mentioned, gaming magazines were much more enthusiastic in the 90s then they are now, which is something that clearly fuelled hype for the system. It’s not particularly common knowledge that upon launch in November 1994 the system sold out in both America and Europe with stock short on the ground for months afterward. The three launch games – Star Wars Arcade, Virtua Racing Deluxe and Doom – were far all from far perfect but still pretty good, and Sega promised that many more games were on their way.

It wasn’t until a few months after launch – when the promised slew of titles turned out to be actually more of a trickle – that things started to look bleak for the add-on. Not so much in the US but Sega of Europe really gave European 32X owners a hard time and I think this is where so much negativity for the system stems from. Not only did it cost £170 (which was £70 more than it cost in the US) but new releases were few and far between and many 32X titles didn’t make it out of the US including BC Racers, Blackthorne, Pitfall, Star Trek and quirky platformer Tempo.

Europe did receive two exclusive titles though – FIFA 96 and David Braben’s DarXide, which was being primed to release alongside the Neptune – a combined Mega Drive and 32X. Japan also received an exclusive title in the form of Romance of the Three Kingdoms IV: Wall of Fire.

When it comes to collecting 32X stuff USA is the way to go. PAL games are expensive – even the common ones will set you back around £10 each – while the more desirable titles such as Knuckles: Choatix and Kolibri (a humming bird-based shooter from the developers behind Ecco the Dolphin) usually sell for £50-£100. This, however, is cheap compared to what a copy of Darxide or Primal Rage will cost. The PAL version of Primal Rage is so rare that it wasn’t known to exist until a few years ago. Generally most US 32X costs under £10, with the exception of Spider-Man: Web of Fire which was the last US release and will set a collector back around £150. A 32X systemshould only set you back around £30, but when purchasing it’s a good idea to make sure it has all the cables with it otherwise these will set you back another tenner each on eBay.

Fortunately it’s easy to play US games on a PAL Mega Drive. The 32X simply acts as a slave device and goes by what region a Mega Drive is set to, so all you need to have a region-free 32X is to have a modded Mega Drive. Many websites offer this service, such as ConsolePassion, or if you’re a dab hand with a soldering iron then you can always mod it yourself. A US 32X works fine with a UK Mega Drive II PSU so there’s no need for a step-down converter either.

It’s a usually said that the 32X has very few decent games. If you only take the PAL line-up into account then this is true, but with the larger US catalogue in mind I think it’s an unfair thing to say. It had the best home versions of NBA Jam, Mortal Kombat II, Pitfall and Blackthorne while games like Metal Head and Shadow Squadron looked better than some of the early Sega Saturn titles. Shadow Squadron was in fact converted to Sega Saturn. The Rayman-alike Tempo was a joy to play, Virtua Fighter was an impressive conversion that was better than the Saturn version due to having no loading times and although rather ancient the conversion of Afterburner and Space Harrier were the best around until Sega released Sega Ages on Saturn. Combine this little lot with Knuckles: Choatix and Kolibri – often touted as the two reasons to own the system – and I think you’ll agree that the 32X isn’t quite the harbinger of death that most make it out to be.

Jan 12

Released: 1995
Formats: Mega Drive (played), Mega-CD, SNES, PC, Amiga, 3DO

When Bullfrog started developing Theme Park for the Amiga and PC I doubt that even in their wildest collective dreams would the game end up on the humble Mega Drive. But EA gets what EA wants, and conversions for both Mega Drive and SNES arrived in 1995. Bullfrog should have just been grateful that EA didn’t want a GameBoy version.

The end result turned out pretty good – it’s better than the non-AGA Amiga version (in which all the shops are dull wooden huts) but not as good as versions released on more power systems. Here for instance there’s only one entertainer – a clown that juggles – but in the PC version a whole host of poor sweaty souls in costumes can be hired.

Navigating the menus does take a little while to master – I still struggle to find the option to delete buildings even though I’ve clocked countless hours playing it – but after half an hour or so you should get the hang of things. There are allsorts of options to play around with too, like adding extra caffeine in the coffee so that people go whizzing around the park. The odds of winning the sideshows, like coconut toss and hook-a-duck, can also be changed.

The music is both good and bad. Good, because it ingeniously changes on the fly depending on what ride is on the screen. Bad, because these music samples only play on a 10-second loop so they soon become tedious to listen to. Visuals fair better – it’s bright and colourful, and the Mega Drive copes well even when your park is packed full of visitors.

A lack of a proper save feature though means that only cash earned can be saved via passwords. Another thing I’m not keen on are the ‘handshaking’ sections where you have to come to an agreement regarding staff wages or stock costs. It seems impossible to come to an agreement in your favor.

Playing the game properly is all well and fine, but fun can also be had by using your imagination. I once opened a park full of nothing but toilets with a stupidly high ticket price just to see if any visitors came. It’s also possible to make roller coasters with dangerous bends that send your customers flying through the air. Whee!

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