Monday, November 4, 2013

The Retro Video Game Addict reviews: Tekken 2 for the PS1!

     We all remember when fighting games first became popular. Who could forget? The arcades were raking it in on popular fighting titles like Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat and those two games ruled the 16-bit generation with their amazing home console releases. But that was just the beginning. In the mid 90's arcades were seeing more and more 3D fighting games with hits like Virtua Fighter and Tekken and people were exposed to a much more flowing style of one on one combat in digital form. One of which I'm going to review today, and that would be Tekken 2.
     Now, I didn't actually own Tekken 2 during the height of it's popularity, instead a friend of mine who was getting the original Playstation along with this game was the one who brought it to my attention. I had seen the ad's for the original Tekken but I was too caught up in Battle Arena Toshinden to pay it any mind. Both games were considered heavy hitters in the 3D fighting genre at the time but when Tekken 2 hit the arcades and the Playstation in late 1996 it helped to pull the Tekken franchise away to become the premiere fighting franchise of it's time. It was just heads and shoulders better than the first Tekken and sported slightly better graphics and fighters that had a crazy amount of flexibility to them while playing the game. Sure, Tekken 2 would soon be trounced by Tekken 3 (a far superior game) but for it's time Tekken 2 was considered the end all of home fighters and helped to move it's share of Playstation consoles.
     My friend was so in love with this game that when we talked about video games he often talked about Tekken 2 and how much he was playing it or how much the game meant to him. He must have played this game non-stop (along with NBA Live '97) on his Playstation for the better part of the year until he started getting more and more games, but I'll never forget how excited he was to be getting Tekken 2 and his Playstation for Christmas. Oddly enough, that Christmas I received an Atari Jaguar. Yeah, that may seem like a downer to most people reading this blog but the Atari Jaguar was a system I fell quite hard for and I really enjoyed a good chunk of it's library, despite the popular belief that the system was garbage.
     Honestly, I didn't own Tekken 2 until I re-purchased a Playstation out of nostalgia in the summer of 2007. At that time I had also purchased Tekken and far prefer it to Tekken 2, though both are really great games to own if you have a Playstation console in your collection. It was during this time that I would fall in love with the PS1 and play a huge number of games for it I've never experienced before, mainly the Tekken series and Final Fantasy VII, and I finally began to put it on a pedestal alongside consoles like the NES and SNES. It's funny too because I owned a Playstation upon launch in 1995, then I had re-bought one sometime in 2000 (getting rid of it soon after), and then got one again in 2007 out of nostalgic reasons. It was the 3rd time owning the console that did it for me and I've been playing it quite regularly since then.
     Anyhow, it's now time to discuss Tekken 2 as a game. To kick things off the game controls pretty smooth and has a nice breezy feel to it, I would rank this among one of Tekken 2's bright spots as it gives you a nice free flowing experience while engaging in combat. I wouldn't say the controls are perfect but it's certainly something that stands out when playing the game. Graphically it was probably a lot better looking back in 1997 than it is now in 2013 but that doesn't really matter one bit as I'm enjoying playing it again after quite a while and graphics NEVER sway my opinion on a game. It's blocky but it looks a lot better than the other 3D fighting games it was up against at the time like Virtual Fighter and Battle Arena Toshinden, both of which didn't have sequels as of yet when this game was released. Sure, the graphical difference between Tekken 3 and 2 are pretty vast but so wasn't the difference between part 2 and the original, so it's definitely improved upon it's previous game and that goes a long way. The music in this game is pretty standard fare as well as the sound effects, nothing really shines in this department and all in all I'd say it's nothing special and was even beat out by earlier PS1 fighters like Toshinden. That's a complaint I've always had with the Tekken games on the PS1, they just never nailed down a good audio track or gave us any good sound effects, they seemed to really want to deliver a pretty looking game and that was it. The music, if you're wondering, was not much more than cheesy sounding techno music that played while you were in combat.
     But it was fun, and at the end of the day that's really all that matters when it comes to video games. I enjoyed it, my friends enjoyed it, and it still holds up among retro gaming fans who still love to fire up their original Playstation systems. And as long as original Playstation gamers are still retrogaming on their beloved PSone's than Tekken 2 will always have somebody to play it. A timeless classic? Nah. But it's a good fighting game that was a huge system seller back in the day and a title that was a part of a franchise that helped the PS1 dominate the gaming scene in the late 90's. And that's all it needs to be.

Graphics/Visuals - 8.0
Sound/Music - 6.5
Control/Handling - 8.5
Fun/Enjoyment - 8.0

Twitter - @OfficialRVGA

© 2013 Bill Mulligan

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Video Game Visits" by The Retro Video Game Addict

 Remember a time way back when you were young and there was something really special and magical about visiting a Toys R Us, Toy Works, Funcoland, or any random department store that sold video games? Sure you do, we all do. It's a feeling that's etched in out brains for eternity and brings us moments of joy when we look back on them. Well, today that's a base I'd like to cover on my blog through a little post I'm going to call, “Video Game visits”.
     I remember back when I was a kid and my mother would go out shopping and I would tag along and she'd stop off at places like the supermarket, or maybe a quick outing the mall for some clothes or housewares. It was always fun as a child to go out and go shopping with her, it's one of those cool childhood memories that will always live on inside my head. But sometimes, not always mind you, but sometimes I'd get lucky and she would be stopping into one of my favorite stores and I'd get a chance to visit the video game section. And what a joy it was!
     Now, back in the day when the NES was king of the mountain the local department stores proudly displayed their NES wares in giant glass cases that often donned the famous “World of Nintendo” light up display sign at the top. To flesh things out there would often be an NES hooked up to a monitor that would be displaying whatever the latest hit game was and you could play it for a few minutes before either someone else wanted a chance or the demo would loop back to the start screen. It was really quite a glorious time and something I remember quite fondly as a child. The games were marvelously displayed in the glass cases and it reached out and drew you in with colorful boxes that sported amazing artwork on the front that made you just want to beg your parents for a new game. It was the most colorful part of almost any department store aside from the toy section and the sounds coming from the games being demonstrated was enough to draw your attention from whatever your parents were looking at and put you into a state of pure bliss.
     Today it seems as if department stores don't even carry video games anymore, in fact not a lot do. I remember JC Penny, Woolworths, Sears, Caldor, Ames, Bradley's, and other major stores all used to carry video games but now many of those companies are out of business and the remaining ones sell mainly clothing and housewares without a trace of video games to be found. Sad isn't it? Yeah, now you can only find video games at Walmart or Target, unless you're seeking out a destination store like Best Buy or Gamestop. Heck, even Toys R' Us doesn't sell video games in the bulk they used to. Yup, their video game department has been somewhat renovated into a general electronics department that houses video games among many other gadgets.
     Back in the day Toys R' Us had rows and rows of video games, almost as far as the eye can see, and they also had systems set up so you can try out whatever the hottest new release was. But I remember the TRU by me didn't have the games stored in glass cases, instead they had the backs of the game boxes laminated on a single sheet with tickets attached that you would take up front when ready to purchase whatever title it was you desired. The great part about that was that you could see screen shots of the games on the laminated sheets and read the descriptions on the backs as you browsed, it was really quite genius of Toys R' Us to do that. These days they have the games out in protective cases for the consumer to grab, which is more convenient but since they don't stock much it doesn't really matter anyway because nobody buys games at TRU anymore.
     Once in a while I was lucky enough to be treated to something special and my mother or father would take me to the store specifically to buy a new video game. Man, knowing that when I returned home I would have a brand new game to play and a whole new experience to endure was really quite a feeling and the ride home was always so painfully long. Yeah, those long car rides home where you had the box in your hands and you would read the back of it along with the manual a dozen times over before finally arriving home and being able to play the game. You know exactly what I'm talking about.
     This didn't happen too often though, most of my video games came on birthday's and on Christmas, only on a few occasions before my mid teens did I ever get to enjoy a trip to the store to actually buy a game. But man, when it happened it was always the best. Birthday's was always a big time for me to get a game or two and knowing that I'd be receiving one always made the week leading into it a slow and painful one. Same went for Christmas and it was probably ten times worse knowing that I may even be getting a whole new console. The Christmas I got my SNES I had found out about a month before and let me tell you, that month dragged ass like you wouldn't believe.
     Anyway, I'm rambling on and on and I just wanted this to be a quick blog about those special feelings you'd get whenever you visited the video game section of a department store or had the chance to actually go to a Toys R' Us or any of the various other toy stores out there to look at or purchase a new game. There was just something special about it back then that seems to be lacking here in the ol' 2013, I guess the wonder of gaming has been lost to the sands of time and the age of “uniform” gaming displays within retail is upon us (or has been for some time).
   No matter what though, those classic feelings and the memories we have of our childhood and going to the store to look at video games, or to buy one, will live within us all until the end of our days. It's comforting enough for me to know that all I have to do is close my eyes and envision these moments and I can be taken back to a time where retail treated their video games with respect. These moments may be lost to the sands of time but yet they're so alive and vivid in my head, and yours too. Gotta' love it!

Twitter - @OfficialRVGA
© 2013 Bill Mulligan

Monday, September 23, 2013

Project Superpowers: Then & Now by RVGA!

 Back in 2008 a comic book company known as Dynamite Entertainment unleashed upon the industry a brand new universe of superheroes that have been lost to the sands of time since their popularity decades ago. These golden age heroes, many of which have not been heard from for 40-50 years, finally had a world all their own to share and many fans within the industry stood up and took notice as Project Superpowers landed on comic book shelves all over the world. The premise was simple: Take as many classic golden age heroes that can be acquired and bring them into the modern age and give the readers an explanation as to where they've all been over the past several decades. Use this as a launching point to create a line of comics that would eventually compete with Marvel and DC's superheroes and connect with fans both new and old who would either fall in love with these characters, or have already loved them for years and years.
     The line of books launched to a huge world-wide audience, the #0 issue landed in the top 10 of the Diamond Comics top 300 ordered books list (near the top) and several of the first volume issues lived healthily inside of the top 100. The fans who were reading the first chapter were insanely dedicated and blew up the official Dynamite forums and the Comic Book Resources forums with discussions about the title and the story going on within it. It thrilled fans of classic characters from the golden age and it excited readers who were used to reading books written for today's market, and through heavy promotion Dynamite successfully launched a popular and well received universe of superheroes. Finally, fans of shared universe style storytelling had a brand new line of comics to enjoy and follow from the beginning without 40-60 years worth of continuity to brush up on. It was fresh and new and fans didn't have to suffer through the same ol' same ol' that was going on within Marvel and DC at the time. What a concept it was.
     As the success kept on coming, Dynamite launched spin-off titles to support the line and tried hard to keep fans interested, but over time the sales and orders of the Project Superheroes franchise began to level out and the spin-offs just couldn't reach the success of their mother series. A lot of things could have been the reason for this. Mainly, when Dynamite launched Black Terror it released the first 4 issues and then said that the book was going on hiatus until Project Superpowers chapter two was to be released. This move left the Black Terror title in limbo for months and confused fans and casual readers about the status of the book, many thought it was just going to be a 4 issue miniseries when this happened. When things were back on track Dynamite released a couple more series of comics based on characters from the franchise, mainly Death Defyin' Devil and Lady Masquerade. These books were both very well done but didn't find the level of success that Dynamite had hoped for and basically only sold to the Project Superpowers die hard's. We were also treated to another 4 issue miniseries called “Meet the Bad Guys” which was an odd group of books based around a hand picked member of the group and their encounters with their biggest villains. It was kind of a neat idea, but didn't really make much sense and didn't really resonate with fans very well.
     When the second volume of Project Superpowers was complete and fans were as thirsty for a third chapter as they were for the second, Dynamite quietly let the franchise fade away and fall into a void. Die hard fans and casual readers were left with absolutely nothing to satiate their thirst for these books and it seemed like the party was over aside from a Christmas special that was published some time after chapter 2 was done. Month after month passed by with absolutely no word from Dynamite as to what was going on with Project Superpowers. It was strange, but there was a shimmer of hope in very early 2012 when Dynamite's President and CEO told fans that an announcement would be made regarding the series shortly, and by shortly that pretty much meant a year from then but I suppose we will cover that in a few minutes. Again, month after month crept by and people were still asking question on the official Dynamite forums and over at Comic Book Resources, it was as if Dynamite had forgotten about this franchise and just killed it for good. Until now. 
   Just recently Dynamite announced that they were going to publish a miniseries based on The Owl, a character within the Project Superpowers universe, and that it was going to be a bridge series to another series that would come in time. That series is heavily rumored to be the third volume of Project Superpowers. Fans who have been jaded by Dynamite's treatment of the franchise have returned and are still begging for more, while fans who have remained loyal continue to cry out in hopes that the rumored title to come is the next chapter in the series. Either way, Dynamite is sitting on what could be a goldmine if they treat the property correctly this time around and if they approach things slowly they could re-launch what could become the third biggest superhero universe in all of comics. The critical praise for the first two volumes of Project Superpowers was great and the fan response was tremendous, now they just need to nurse the baby until it's ready to stand up and walk on it's own (which may not take as long as you think with proper promotion). Time will tell as to what Dynamite has up their sleeve for this franchise but I'm hoping that it's going to be every bit as sweet as it would’ve been had the publisher not dropped the ball all those years ago. After all, these golden age heroes need a home too, right? Sure they do! But seriously, I do urge everyone who is reading this who hasn't done so yet to check out the first two volumes of Project Superpowers as well as some of the mini's and spin-offs that were released between 2008-2010, I think you'll fall in love with these heroes as much as I have and I really believe that the market needs these forgotten characters to keep the superhero genre fresh and on it's toes.
     Sure, the pulp books seem to be the big thing right now (and rightfully so) but there is still room for skin-tight spandex and heroic figures who want to serve justice in a non-bloody and death induced way. But if you're chomping at the bit for some of these classic characters now and don't want to wait than you can check out Masks, a series by Dynamite that is mainly pulp but add's in The Black Terror and Green Lama for a bit of balance to the book. Oddly enough the Green Lama was once a pulp hero himself, but I guess that's another conversation for another time. Well, that's it for now but like I said, get out there and go get yourself some of the Project Superpowers books and enjoy a universe that once was.....and may will be again.

Twitter - @OfficialRVGA
© 2013 Bill Mulligan

Monday, August 12, 2013

"From Beep to Bloop: A Looking back at the Atari 2600" by The Retro Video Game Addict

I wanted to do something special in remembrance of the Atari 2600 (or VCS, whatever) so I sat down today to write out a short but detailed history about the first successful video game console the world has ever seen. I'm going to call it, “From Beep to Bloop: A Looking back at the Atari 2600”. Not a bad little title, eh?
     Most people may already know what I'm about to discuss and that's fine, many may not known the detailed history of Atari and it's first major breakthrough in home video game consoles, so I'll take my time and explain it all so newcomers can understand. Heck, maybe you've been a 2600 fan and collector and still don't know the interesting details of the consoles life, if that's the case and you happen to be reading this than allow me to thank you for taking the time to do so and please get comfortable and enjoy the history lesson.
     In the early 70's a guy named Nolan Bushnell created a game known as Pong that would help to launch the arcade movement and bring electronic video games into the public eye. After founding Atari in 1972, Bushnell decided that Pong was going to be the company's first major foray into what would be known as “video games” and launched Pong into a few remote locations in hopes that people would pay to play the unit. The game began to bring in a steady income for Atari and eventually Bushnell and the rest of his Atari crew released the machine into more locations and eventually manufactured a home unit in 1975 that would go on and become popular with consumers. Once Bushnell saw that there was a market for playing video games inside of the home he went to discuss with it team that there may be a market for a machine that could play more than one game, that maybe they could create a console that would play individual games that people could purchase to play on the unit. It didn't take long before things were rolling and the “Atari VCS” (Video Computer System”).
     Now, the VCS wouldn't be the first home video game machine to play cartridge based games, that would go to the “Fairchild Channel F”, a console that went on sale about a year previous to the VCS but lacked games and a user base. The Fairchild saw a very limited release and had an even more limited library of games and the folks behind the unit quickly faded after the machine went to market. Atari knew they had already won over consumers with Pong and that they could change the way that people spent time with each other in their living rooms and Nolan wanted to release a machine that would launch a revolution. After a year or so of messing around with demo units and production kits Atari finally finished the project and released the VCS in the Fall of 1977.
     The system launched with 9 games but it took a while to catch on with consumers and Atari struggled with the VCS during the Christmas seasons of 1977 and 1978, it brought Nolan Bushnell to believe that maybe Atari should discontinue the VCS and move onto something else. The fact that copycat consoles that played VCS games were coming out almost weekly just added more feul to the fire and Nolan was adamant about Atari dumping the 2600 in favor of new technology. Atari would have done just that too if not for Time Warner purchasing Atari in 1976. The reason for the sale is that Time Warner saw some profit in Atari prior to the launch of the VCS and bought the company from Nolan for about $32M. When things began to run quirky for Atari after the 2600 saw life on retail shelves Warner brought in a man named Ray Kassar to oversee the daily operations over at Atari in hopes that he would discover what wasn't running properly and fix it. Kassar was a true professional in every aspect and Warner knew that he could step in and right the ship toward success, something Atari heavily needed and quickly. Instead of agreeing to new technology Kassar did some research and found some ways to improve the VCS and to build a user base who would purchase games for the unit.
     One of the first things the company decided to do was to license a highly popular arcade game known as “Space Invaders” for it's VCS system, which was something that has never been done before and a move that Atari hoped would become the first must have game on their home console. It worked. Atari began moving 2600's out of their warehouse in tremendous speed and Space Invaders became the highest selling home video game of all-time at that point in time, the mothership was happy and Kassar looked like a genius. The problem was that behind the scenes things weren't looking so hot for Bushnell as he created a lot of issues behind closed doors and his actions brought Time Warner and Ray Kassar to let him go. Luckily for Bushnell is that because of contractual obligations he was still going to receive a paycheck based upon the success of the VCS and he stood to make a killing for doing absolutely nothing. Nolan, forever the hungry business man, would eventually make a comeback and go on to create a highly popular chain of pizza and arcade restaurants known as Chuck E. Cheese.
     Meanwhile at Atari things were off and running. On top of the success of the 2600 Atari decided to release the 5200 sometime in late 1982, yet the 2600 remained the king of the mountain of video game consoles. The 5200 was not a commercially successful unit at all and was discontinued a mere 2 years after it's release. As the success of the 2600 continued to rise the company licensed more highly successful arcade games like Asteroids, Missile Command, and Defender for release on the VCS and the system was finding it's way into homes from from coast to coast, Kassar and Atari couldn't have been more pleased as their financials skyrocketed and the 2600 was gearing up for another remarkable year. At one point during this stretch of success it's been noted that Atari was bringing in a third of Time Warner's income and profit, that's a lot of revenue to be bringing in for a massive media mecca such as Time Warner and the folks at Atari were on top of the world and extremely happy. Well, the powers that be were happy I guess I should say, not the developers.
    Eventually more massive hits would find a home on the VCS with companies like Activision and Imagic coming into the fold. The short of the story here is that many of the game developers and programmers at Atari became very upset over Kassar's rule of not wanting game developers being credited for their work and eventually branched off to create their own companies. Some of the 2600's best games would come out between 1981-1982 with huge titles like Pitfall, Cosmic Arc, and a slew of sports games that would bring a whole new dimension to Atari's console despite Atari's disdain for these companies to be producing games for the VCS. Atari would even fight the case in court, but came up short multiple times.
After enjoying a few years of much needed and much deserved success in the home video game market, Atari began to make some poor decisions and blew away hundreds of millions of dollars in an attempt to scoop up as much licensing as possible. The Colecovision and the Intellevision were both on store shelves and were considered threats to Atari's throne for a short while and many consumers were left unimpressed by many of the games that saw release on the VCS in 1983/1984. Two of the biggest games in question were the arcade port of Pac-Man and the movie adaption of E.T, two games that Atari had poured millions and millions of dollars into in hopes that the games would help to move more 2600's into living rooms. They manufactured more cartridges than people owned VCS units and paid out the nose for Pac-Man and E.T to find a home on their console which helped to buy Atari a massive loss in 1983 and cause the higher up's to re-think the brand as a whole.
     Pac-Man was released to huge numbers despite the game not resembling the arcade version whatsoever. Millions of people purchased the game with most being disgusted at how the game looked and controlled in comparison to the arcade, this caused a lot of returns and a stream of negative press that hurt Atari's reputation in a medium in which they had the biggest hand in creating. Personally, I loved Pac-Man on the VCS as a kid and played the game to no end and still even enjoy it to this day, but I can see where people would be upset with it seeing as how it's nothing like it's arcade father. But hey, I was a kid and had no idea that Pac-Man was a “bad game”, but as an adult I can see it's flaws and can see that the game was very rushed and very unpolished.
     E.T was the final nail in the coffin. The game was over manufactured much like Pac-Man was but the issue was is that the sales figures couldn't keep a title like this afloat and when orders for the game ended up being poor to mediocre at best Atari was left with warehouses worth of product that they couldn't move. I was surprised as an adult to read about E.T selling poorly, especially since most ever kid I've ever known owned a copy of the game back in the mid 80's when I was actively playing. Heck, I didn't even know there was a video game crash going on, I just played the games happily in my room and ignored the real world. In fact, I played E.T quite often as a child and really liked it. Well, because Atari was left with millions of unsold carts they decided to do something that still hangs in video game lore to this day. As the tale goes, Atari crushed, dumped, and buried what was rumored to be between 10-20 dump trunks worth of inventory in a desert landfill in New Mexico. When they realized that the dump site was being looted by locals they sent in more trucks to pour cement over the lot so that it would become inaccessible.
     The story of the dumping has become such a huge part of video game history and lore that people from Atari have both confirmed and denied the rumor, but it all depends on who you talk to. More to the rumor is that it wasn't just E.T cartridges that were buried in the landfill and that many rare prototypes, games, and systems were a part of the dumpings too. Whether it's true or not still remains a mystery to this day and it wasn't long until Time Warner sold Atari off and the VCS and the 5200 found themselves heavily discounted in retail outlets until they were phased out all together.
     Well, that's it for now! That's my account of the history of the Atari VCS/2600 and I personally hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Until we meet again dear friends, keep on retro gaming!

Twitter - @OfficialRVGA
© 2013 Bill Mulligan

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Retro Video Game Addict reviews: Rygar for the NES!

 You want to talk about some bullshit? Okay, let's talk about some bullshit. Rygar for the NES is bullshit and it isn't just because the game features jerky graphics and poor gameplay, but mainly because the game gives you a life bar worth 3 hits and no continues. Yeah, you read that correctly. Rygar for the Nintendo Entertainment System gives the player a 3 hit life bar but yet throws enemies and obstacals at you faster than a cowboy on crack, it isn't even close to fair in that they seem to take joy in watching the player struggle through the levels as they try to progress through the game. The sick part of it all is that there is a lot of backtracking to do and when you go back to areas you've already visited all of the enemies and hurdles that you've tackled come back to haunt you. Yep, it's one of those games, pretty much all NES gamers know exactly what I'm talking about here.
     You know something? I like a good challenge. As long as the challenge is fair and the player has a way to complete it without taking unavoidable damage or without over the top tasks that require dumb luck to complete than sign me up. But if you're going to load the screen with a million enemies that re-spawn faster than steroid injected rabbits reproducing than you can just kill it and take it back to formula because I simply
will not tolerate it. It's sad too because Rygar could be a fantastic game if modified just right, I mean, the game has some fun aspects to it and offers some fun stages but it's over the top challenge and frustrating gameplay keep it from being a top challenger in the side scrolling action/adventure genre.
     The game does has some things going for it that don't totally suck, I suppose. Mainly the musical score, which is okay at best, and if you can get past the heroically annoying tune that strangely grows on you while you play than you'll dig the tunes within the game. The control is pretty tight too which is nice because, well, it's always nice to have a quality control scheme while trucking through level after level of horse crap. But almost instantly you'll soon notice that no matter how good the control on Rygar is that you can't avoid some of the bullshit traps and damage you'll take while progressing through the levels. But yeah, all I can really say good about this game is that the music doesn't totally suck and the control is surprisingly good. Now back to the bullshit.
     Rygar is one of those games that I used to see at the video rental stores back in the day when I actively rented games for my NES but yet I never took it upon myself to rent this one. I did play it at a friends house momentarily back in maybe 1991 or something but that wasn't enough time to fully decipher whether or not I liked the game, but maybe there was an omen there that barred me from ever asking for it for a birthday or renting it from the store. Heck, even when Funcoland sold NES games back in the day I'd see it for $3 or $4 and still always passed it up in favor of something else. I guess my “Spidey Sense” was tingling inside and warning me to steer clear of this game. Either way, my experience as of late with this game has been less than inviting and aside from having it as a part of my collection I doubt I'll ever truly bother with it again. In fact, I'd rather know what it feels like to get fucked by a rabid bear with a katana sword strap on than play this game again. Well, on second thought maybe it isn't quite bad enough to let a bear fuck me with a sword. But you get my point.
     So it's got tight control and some pretty interesting music, but the said could be said for the average NES game and I find this game to be much less than average when compared to other similar NES games. With all of the things this game got wrong I would place the 3 hit system coupled alongside the no continues bullshit as the one thing that really keep this game from being mediocre at best and place it in the “do not play” pile. It's sad too, because with a few modifications this game could have really been something special within the NES library, but instead it takes it's rightful place in the annals for video game shitfests. C'est La Vie.

Graphics/Visuals – 5.0
Sound/Music – 6.0
Control/Handling – 6.5
Fun/Enjoyment – 3.0

Twitter - @OfficialRVGA 
© 2013 Bill Mulligan

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Retro Video Game Addict reviews: Super Mario Bros. for the NES!

     The readers have demanded I write it, my friends have demanded I write it, and even I have demanded that I sit down to write this. Today I sit down and write a review for the game that put a dying industry on it's shoulders and carried it to new heights, today I write a review of Super Mario Bros. for the NES.
     As many who are fans of the industry know, in late 1983 and early 1984 the video game industry was suffering it's legendary “crash” and many stores that once proudly sold video games had either heavily discounted them or stopped carrying them as a whole. The entire landscape of home video games was in shambles and it looked as if this “fad” was about to finally come to an end after a rash of titles with poor quality began infesting shelves across the country. Something was desperately needed to put some spark into the video game industry, something was horribly needed to take this floundering entity and give it a boost, and Nintendo has just the medicine that was needed to put it back on track. That medicine came in the form of Super Mario Bros. for the Nintendo Entertainment System and home gaming as we knew it was once again very much alive.
     The game was sold as a pack in title with a new home video game machine marketed by Nintendo in 1985, but Nintendo didn't want you to think you were buying video games and demanded that the console be sold and marketed as an “entertainment system”. They tried to hide the fact that the NES was a gaming console by originally adding the zapper gun and a toy robot known as “R.O.B”, but consumers quickly saw past the gimmick and R.O.B was quickly abandoned. Nintendo was just scared that marketing a video game machine after the big crash was a risky move and wanted to find a new way to sell an old product. Any which way, they didn't have anything to worry about thanks to the console selling well in test markets before it's national launch and the well received pack in game having a huge factor in it's success.
     Super Mario Bros. is a side scrolling action game that stars the world renowned Mario and his brother Luigi and follows their adventure through the Mushroom Kingdom while, depending upon which player you were, searched for Princess Toadstool who was captive in a secret castle. For it's time the game sported graphics that were head and shoulders better than any home video game before it and had a musical score that was more advanced than anything the Atari 2600, 5200, Colecovision, or Intellivision could achieve. Everybody knows the Mario theme, it's been etched in the minds of almost anyone who grew up in the 80's or spent significant time with the NES during it's heyday and has been used in everything from commercials, movies, and even the recording industry. It's a staple in American culture.
     I've actually played the arcade version of this game back in 1988 at a pizza shop that used to exist in a small town near the big city I grew up in. They only had two arcade games, the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (not part II) and Super Mario Bros. and whenever we would order a pizza there and go visit my grandfather my mom would give me some change to play those games. Man, the memories I have of that will live on in me forever. I'm just glad I can say I've played the original Super Mario on an arcade cabinet, knowing that kind of gives me goosebumps.
     Anyhow, I'm sure you all have played this game at least once in your lives so I won't go into great detail about it, instead I'd like to discuss some of the memories I have of SMB and share some thoughts on the game as a whole. I remember bringing my NES home and watching my mom set it up as I held my
Mario/Duck Hunt cartridge in my hands, eager with excitement to begin playing and experiencing what many were raving about. I didn't get my NES until a few years after it's release because I had an Atari 2600 at the time and I was still having a blast with it in the late 80's and both my parents and I felt I didn't really need to take the next step. But let me tell you, when I finally did I was so happy because games on the NES were light years advanced when compared to the ol' 2600 and I was having a blast playing the system morning, noon, and night.
     I remember my neighbor (who was about my age) came upstairs and played the game with me the night I got it, I didn't know he already had a Nintendo and when I watched him pull off some of the tricks and things that were hidden within SMB I nearly flipped out. It was awesome and I made sure I remembered them all and did them myself after he had left to go back downstairs. I felt like the king of the world as I uncovered secret 1up's, went down pipes, collected hidden coins, and traveled through warp zones. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. It's rare when you get these kinds of feelings while playing video games these days, I can only think of maybe 10 times in my entire life when I felt this way while playing video games but this moment was definitely up there as the top dog of “awe” worthy excitement.
     Super Mario 2 (my personal favorite), and Super Mario 3 would later come out on the NES and continue to grow the Mario brand beyond belief, but this is the game that started it all and because of my fond memories of SMB it will always have a small section of my heart all it's own. With that said, it's my 3rd favorite Mario game on the NES behind 2 and 3 as odd as that sounds. I just loved SMB 2 and 3 to death and both games are solidly within my top 10 list while the original is just outside it, but that doesn't mean I don't love the game. How can you not?
   Along with it's legendary score that I mentioned earlier, the game is an absolute dream to control thanks to it's simplistic style of gameplay and the wonderful NES controller being so perfect for side scrolling platform games such as this. Mario stops on a dime, jumps in cohesion with you pressing the buttons, and the game just feels amazingly responsive which adds to the game being so fun. Don't you hate games that have laggy controls or are just clunky to move around in? I know I do and SMB is NOT that game. It's just a fun experience all around, especially if you're playing it for the first time and are discovering all of the hidden easter eggs located within the game. But what are the chances of someone who's reading this never having played Super Mario Bros. before?
     It's true when I say this, for it's time this game was absolutely above and beyond anything video games had ever seen with long and drawn out stages to pretty graphics, this game just had it all. A musical score that everyone knows and loves, hidden underwater worlds, secrets and glitches, and other little nooks and crannies that people will never forget as long as they live. Super Mario Bros. is a timeless classic that will never be forgotten as long as a controller is in the hands of someone who knows where it all began.

Graphics/Visuals – 8.0
Sound/Music – 9.25
Control/Handling – 9.25
Fun/Enjoyment – 9.0


© 2013 Bill Mulligan

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Retro Video Game Addict reviews: Astyanax for the NES!

     Ever hear of a fun little side scrolling arcade port for the NES called Astyanax? Well if you haven't before than you certainly have now. This little gem is one of those games that I knew existed back in the heyday of the NES but yet I never really had a chance to sit down and play it until now, but let me tell ya', I was really missing out on some fun side scrolling hack n' slash for all these years.
     Astyanax is very similar to games like Casltevania in that it's a side scroller that focuses on killing enemies and making it to the end of the level while collecting power up's and other such things along the way. It features very nice graphics for the NES and I would say that graphically it's one of the nicer games to come out during the early 90's for the system, definitely better than many other games that were out at the time. It's fun too, if not a little frustrating at times thanks to obsticals that almost force you to take damage unless you pull off a fancy move or know the patterns of every enemy in the game. But this is heavily steriotypical of many Nintendo games of that era. But it doesn't hinder your experience with the game very much and difficulty can be a good thing if it's not in your face with bizarre obstacles and insane enemies.
     The bosses in this game are kind of neat, they're not overly hard but some of them can take an absurd
amount of hits before you kill them, but if you take the time to learn their patterns and strategy than they're not too difficult. The levels themselves aren't too long either and some feature mini-bosses that are fun and interesting, you'll actually have to face them all a second time because before you make it to the final boss you're put into a gauntlet where you have to challenge them all one after another. It's the most frustrating and difficult part of the game because there is little in the way of spell and/or health potions during this time, but they make sure to fill you up before you face the final 2 bosses of the game. Yeah, you read that correctly, there are actually 2 main bosses in the game that must be challenged one after another. I can see why this would happen because this is based off of the arcade game and games manufactured for the arcade are meant to drain you of your quarters and are usually insanely hard. So it's to be expected that the boss battles toward the end of the game are Taylor made to bleed you dry with little to no help.
    To some people, all these insane boss battles may deter them from trying the game out but I really didn't think it was overly excessive and if you're playing the game with the help of Game Genie than you should be all set. It just becomes a matter of time before you make it on through. But for those who are not using Game Genie than I suggest you learn the patterns of the boss fights as good as you can and save up you're spells because you're going to need them. Also, time you're jumps and make sure no enemies are near the ledges that may pop up and kill you, they're everywhere in this game and you know what that means. Classic Nintendo bounce back upon taking a hit which will cause you to lose a life from falling into a pit. Fuck.
   One big gripe with this game I do have is that the enemies are pretty repetitive throughout the course of making your way through the levels. You'll run into skeletons constructed of every color in the rainbow, the same plant-like creatures that crowd the edges of pits that will cause you to fall down, and other similar bugs and things that fly around that you'll notice you've already faced in previous levels. I guess it's just the way it is with this game, but the experience of making your way through the game is enjoyable so it didn't hinder my view on Astyanax much at all but it would have been nice to have more exciting enemies to fight along the way.
     Other than the repetitive enemies I really enjoyed my time with this game, I'm a big fan of arcade ports as well as side scrolling hack n' slash titles so Astyanax was right down my alley. It's just a shame that I missed out on it for all these years, though. I do remember in 1995 going into a Funcoland and seeing it on the price sheet and thinking it sounded interesting, but when I asked to see the cart the guy working behind the counter told me it wasn't that good of a game and that I'd be better of getting some other game for the Genesis that was similar but with better graphics. Goes to show you that you shouldn't always take the advice of the sales clerk because not only did I not get Astyanax on that day but I ended up going with his recommendation and the game he sold me was utter crap. Oh well, you live and you learn.
     All in all the graphics and the control in Astyanax are stellar with large and well detailed characters and amazing cut scenes for the time, as well as tight mechanics that make it a smooth experience to play. In my opinion this is a gem that everyone should have in their NES library because it's one that houses some very enjoyable elements, it's definitely on par and surpasses many side scrolling action/adventure games that appeared on the NES at the time. The game, much like many NES titles, also has some incredibily awesome music that help with the experience and make playing through the levels an absolute joy. There was just something about the NES and the music that it was able to produce that has become legendary in the eyes of many retro gamers, it's just something to behold.
     As of this writing the game can be found for as cheap as $3 or so from local video game stores and as cheap as $5 or so on eBay, so give it a whirl and see for yourself if you're up for the challenge. Astyanax is most certainly worth it.

Graphics/Visuals – 9.0
Sound/Music – 8.5
Control/Handling – 8.5
Fun/Enjoyment – 8.5

© 2013 Bill Mulligan

Friday, June 21, 2013

RVGA ponders Dynamite Entertainment's "The Black Bat" and coins the "PulpX" phrase and hashtag.

     I just wanted to take a minute to discuss a comic book that I've become quite passionate about in the short amount of time it's been in publication. The comic book in question here is called The Black Bat and it's published by a company called Dynamite Entertainment. If you're not familiar with them I suggest you check out an earlier blog post of mine where I discussed Dynamite and their amazing line of comic books based on classic pulp heroes of the 30's and 40's in depth. It's an interesting read and a nice introduction to the modern pulp genre. A genre I am un-officially dubbing “PulpX”. If you follow either Dynamite Entertainment or myself on Twitter than you'll know that I coined that phrase recently and it was re-tweeted and adopted by Dynamite to describe their line of pulp hero books specifically, this being aside from their other styles of pulp they publish. This was a real highlight for me and I'm truly honored to be a part of it. But enough about PulpX for now as I want to spend some time discussing this amazing series at hand.
    The Black Bat is only on it's second issue as of this writing, but it's 2 published issues have lead me to absolutely fall in love with the character portrayed in this title as well as the surroundings and atmosphere this book gives off. It's writer, the very talented Brian Buccellato, has truly crafted a tale that is both refreshing and engaging with a main character so rife with life's hardships that it's a miracle he hasn't jumped off a bridge. Well, come to think about it he actually tried in issue #2, but that's besides the point. The point is that the hero of the story is at a severe disadvantage thanks to being blind and struggled to adapt to the society around him, but yet still finds a way to take out the criminals who litter his city. It's really neat. But what's even more neat is that he has solar-like vision that allows him to see in the dark, which is when most criminals tend to strike anyway so it works out in the end.
      On top of the amazing writing by Mr. Buccellato, the book features really nice interior art by an artist named Ronan Cliquet, who's work I actually didn't like a whole lot when he was penciling Green Hornet: Legacy for Dynamite prior to the “Legacy” branding. Ronan's style has been refined and he's pumping out some high quality artwork in The Black Bat, the dark settings and character visuals tend to work better for him more so than the colorful outfit of The Green Hornet and the daytime scenery in which he was working with before. All in all Cliquet's art is much improved and he gets a tip of the cap from me for his efforts in this comic, it's pretty crisp stuff and really worth checking out if you're into interior artwork like I am.
     The first issue was great. You get to see the city that the Black Bat protects from his POV while he takes on thugs and puts the word out that he's looking for a criminal known as The Brute, but while all this is going on you're taken back in time to see how he got his sonar vision as well as other personal traits that brought him to the current day. In the second issue we get even more current day story mixed with personal issues that took place previously that are masterfully woven together to make a thrilling and someone touching tale that brings you closer to the man behind the mask more so than the vigilante himself. Perfecto! This is storytelling stripped down to it's very core and layered with seasoning to bring forth a compelling tale of a classic hero who has been re-imagined in a new era.
     For those who don't know who The Black Bat is, well, there has actually been a couple pulp based characters known as The Black Bat. This particular incarnation came out right around the time that Batman did in the late 30's and both the publishers of the pulp novels and the creators of Batman spent some time bickering with each other until both characters changed up their look a bit, which in the end pleased all parties involved. To be honest though, the original Black Bat pre-dated Batman by several years and even though this incarnation is based on what I believe to be the 3rd version of the Black Bat I still think that he was created shortly before Bob Kane created the legendary “Dark Knight”. With that said, it does piss me off a little when I see some uneducated forum member online come into a thread pertaining to not only The Black Bat, but other pulp heroes too, and refer to them as rip-offs of current popular DC and Marvel characters. Some people just aren't hip to the fact that these pulp heroes predated them all. Damn shame, really. But for every fan who writes this series off as “Batman with guns” there is a fan who knows the true history of the character and realizes that this book stands on its own as being something quite special.
     I seriously can't comment enough about how much I love The Black Bat and I really hope that those who are reading this blog entry who enjoy comic books will give this one a shot. Trust me on this, it's damn good and you have a chance to hop on something fresh while it's still in it's infancy. It's one of those situations where you'll thank me later for suggesting it and I fully believe that based off of this one title you'll soon be investing in the rest of Dynamite's PulpX books. What do you have to lose? $4? You can dig that up out of your couch cushions and from underneath all the 2 month old pizza boxes you've got scattered throughout you're studio apartment, so go ahead.....purchase, read, and enjoy. Catch you on the flip side!

     On a side note: Since I hit Twitter this past week and coined the phrase “PulpX” it's really been taking off among the community of fans who read the Dynamite pulp heroes line of comics. But what does PulpX really mean? Well, to be honest, I don't really know. Whenever I read something that ends in an “X” like how kids/teens of the 90's were dubbed “Generation X”, or how they ad an X to the end of things to signify it being new or the next step in the evolution of a product it's always sort of resonated with me. So picture it like that. This new wave of pulp comics by Dynamite Entertainment is very much a new revolution for the genre, and with pulp now on the mind of comic book fans around the world I figured adding an X to the name would really give it a cool spark, and so far it has. So there you have it!

#PulpX lives on.

© 2013 Bill Mulligan

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Retro Video Game Addict reviews: The Legend of Zelda for the NES!

     Alright boys and girls, it's finally time for me to sit down and do a review of the king of the hill when it comes to adventure games on the NES. That's right, this is my official review of The Legend of Zelda!
     I think everyone agrees that The Legend of Zelda is one of the best games for the Nintendo Entertainment System and one of the best video games ever created. It's one of those timeless masterpieces that people still get the urge to play some 25 years later and it's definitely a game that remained popular throughout the life of the NES. See, many games come out for modern gaming consoles and are lost to time and forgotten about less than 6 months later because the modern gamer has become so fickle that they can't figure out what it is they want to play. A new game comes out and then interest in whatever they were enjoying previously comes to an abrupt end and the game is cast aside and never touched again, if not traded away (I hate that). These kinds of things didn't happen much during the NES day's and the popularity of the original Zelda lasted well into the early 90's, some 4-6 years after the title hit stateside. That's a remarkable feat, especially since Sega had two gaming machines on the market, Nintendo had it's Gameboy, and Turbo Grafix had their TG-16 console readily available.
     What The Legend of Zelda did upon release was refine a genre that heavily needed it. But the game didn't have an easy time upon it's release, oh no, Nintendo of America almost canned it because they believe that it may be too hard of a game for an American audience. That's right, The Legend of Zelda almost never came out in the United States! What Nintendo of America did was hold sessions with study groups and allowed players to spend time with the game, after the sessions were over the powers that be asked the members of the groups what they thought of the game. It was almost unanimous that the players didn't like The Legend of Zelda with multiple people claiming the game was “shit”. Well, regardless of the study sessions the game eventually saw release and went on to become one of the NES' top selling (and top rated) titles.
The premise of the game was fairly simple: A hero dungeon crawled his way through multiple labyrinths in
hopes of finding pieces of a legendary triforce in order to save the kingdom of Hyrule. And the gameplay mimicked the story. Link, our timeless hero, scoured 9 different dungeons as he collected helpful items and pieces of the triforce before meeting an enemy named Ganon in a final epic encounter. The land of Hyrule was littered with surprises and easter eggs that left the gamer planting bombs to uncover hidden caves, lighting trees on fire to find hidden temples, and using the gadgets they've found along the way to find secret hearts and other fun prizes. There was truly nothing like this game at the time and the player was rewarded handsomely if they uncovered these special secrets, which were literally all over the map. For the completion mongers out there it can be quite a daunting task trying to discover and uncover all of the secrets that Zelda has to offer, but it can be fun and I've spoken with many who have attained this feat.
     The game itself isn't overly hard at first with the first 2 or 3 dungeons being easily beatable if you're a seasoned gamer, but once you hit the 4th dungeon and beyond the game gets difficult. You find yourself inside of rooms with statues shooting fire at you while you try to kill 6 or 7 enemies floating around the room, it can get pretty infuriating trying to deal with the amount of stuff the game throws at you at one time. Also, if you haven't played the game since you originally owned it or if you're tackling Zelda for the first time, you'll notice that many tips they give you are very cryptic and it's almost impossible to navigate and find every dungeon without some kind of help from a guide. This is classic Nintendo and something I've come to expect from many games in the NES library and it often makes me wonder how I figured all this stuff out when I was younger. Back then if you didn't subscribe to the Nintendo Power magazine or have a slew of friends who were playing the same games as you than finding things was heavily trial and error based before the days of the internet.
     While I've played The Legend of Zelda back in it's heyday, I was more of a Zelda II: The Adventures of Link fan and owned that game instead of the original. I would rent Zelda from time to time and I always got to play it at friends houses and whatnot, but I wouldn't go on to fully own the game until 1995 when I bought
it along with a refurbished NES from FUNCOLAND one day in what I believe was March. Sadly, I had sold all my NES stuff to a flea market a couple of years before hand and was starting out from scratch again with the NES and decided to get some games that I've either never owned or have never even played. I used Game Genie and spent hours bombing my way through the game and eventually beat it, which gave me an inner feeling of joy and happiness that I couldn't even begin to explain. I beat the game again the following year after a friend of mine and I created a mini “game room” out of my bedroom, We decided to play the game and take turns as we progressed. We had a blast trading off the controller on certain dungeons until we met up with Ganon, in which I personally had the pleasure of taking him down. Fond memories, indeed. I beat the game for a third time again in 2005 and then again just recently, which the most recent time being probably the most difficult since I didn't use Game Genie right away and waited until late in the game to do so. But no matter how many times I revisit The Legend of Zelda I always enjoy my time with it and am forever amazed at how fun it is to play.
     Despite the game being a classic I do have a few gripes with it. First off, the music. Yeah, I know, the games soundtrack is considered to be one of the best in video game history, and believe me it is, but sometimes the dungeon theme can get a bit repetitive and after an extended play the overworld theme can drone on a bit too. I love both themes quite a bit, so don't get me wrong, but the overworld theme starts to wear on you when it restarts over and over after bouncing in and out of hidden caves and the such. But even with that said, I can't deny that Zelda has some of the best and most recognizable music in video game history.
     My second complaint would be the sheer difficulty later on in the game. Whether it's hidden rooms that an only be accessed by sheer luck or sections of a dungeons that have way too much going on at one time, this game is no joke as you progress and should be played cautiously. But challenge can be fun and if you choose to go in without the help of Game Genie than be warned that it's not going to be a cake walk, but most reading this know that by now anyhow. But despite it's difficulty it's a blast to play and the fun outshines the
hardship and the game is an absolute joy to play thanks to it's wonderful control, fun soundtrack, interesting enemies, familiar world, and intense hurdles.
     I'm sure about 90% of those reading this blog have already played this game and if you're a game collector than you no doubt own it, but for those who have not had the chance to play this timeless classic I urge you do go give it a try. There is lot's to be said about retro gaming and this game is one of the reasons the hobby is as big as it is, so what do you have to lose? You've got so many different options to play it too whether it be owning the original cart, playing it on the Nintendo Virtual Console, or by playing it on an emulator, but either which rout you choose you'll no doubt leave the kingdom of Hyrule with a smile on your face. That I can guarantee.

Graphics/Visuals – 8.0
Sound/Music – 9.25
Control/Handling – 9.0
Fun/Enjoyment – 9.25

© 2013 Bill Mulligan

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Retro Video Game Addict checks out the Retro Entertainment System!

 The original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was a wonderful machine. It was the video game console that popularized video games and made gaming cool, even more so than the Atari 2600 which brought the medium into the limelight but then flipped the switch off in the early 80's after they over saturated the market and released a slew of what consumers felt were bad games. When video games crashed in 1983/1984 it was Nintendo who picked up the pieces and ushered in millions of new players with their incredible system that featured some of the most recognized and well known games in the history of the business. But here we are about 28 years later and you can still buy an NES through major web sites or from small video game stores throughout the world, but the problem is that they may not work correctly anymore. Some people have even gone ahead and changed out the 72-pin connector inside of the console, but there have been so many complaints about the new connectors not holding up and ruining games that many have given up on finding an NES that works properly. That's where clone system (or “Fami-Clones”) come into the picture. These clone systems started seeing the light of day sometime in 2005 after the patent on the NES ran out and 2 small companies went to work on creating their own Nintendo Entertainment System consoles, those companies were Yobo and Play Messiah. I have Messiah's “Generation NEX” system and it's a wonderful NES clone that looks like an NES would look if it were manufactured in 2005. It was small, sleek, and sexy, it supported original Nintendo carts as well as Famicom games, and it offered support for wireless controllers. What a machine! But today we're not going to be talking about the Generation NEX, instead we're going to be talking about a machine by a company called Retro-Bit who in 2011 created the Retro Entertainment System (RES).
     The Retro Entertainment System itself is an extremely small unit that is no bigger than an actual NES cartridge except that it's much thicker, it also comes with two controllers that most who have used the system either love or hate. Personally, I don't think they're too bad at all and the buttons have a nice clicky feeling to
them that compliment the Genesis style D-Pad nicely. All in all this is a very capable controller, it even has an indentation on the back which helps to give it a better grip. For those who don't wish to use the controllers that are bundled with the system than that's fine, the connector ports allow you to use official Nintendo controllers as well as every Nintendo based accessory such as the NES Advantage or NES Max.
The console is made of a cheaper plastic and is very light, but it's not cheap enough to break after a small fall or anything, I just wouldn't be too rough with it if you plan on having it last a very long time. This isn't first party Nintendo quality here, but it's not a weakling either. Just be gentle with it, especially when removing NES cartridges from the unit itself, it grips the games pretty good and may require you to brace down the system when taking the games out. This is common with almost every clone system on the market, though. The quality of the controller is about the same. While it's a responsive controller when playing games and the buttons give you a good click, it's fairly hollow inside and the cord is really think and feels like it could separate if given enough force. So the mantra here is to be gentle with the Retro Entertainment System, especially if you want it to last a good while.
     Like with most of the clone consoles on the market the RES does not have 100% compatibility. It does not play games like Castlevania 3 and there is a small list of other titles that are incompatible on the unit, luckily some of them I don't own and for the ones I do I can play them in my original NES so this isn't a problem for me. Luckily it does handle the Game Genie nicely, which is a huge plus for me since I do enjoy using the cheat codes while playing certain games, especially those that are such ball busters that I can't get out of the first level. Yeah, you games know which ones you are you bastards.

     There seems to be a lot of debate over whether or not someone should invest in an NES clone. To me there was no debate, mainly because I love to collect hardware and I am in the boat that believes that eventually the original first party hardware is just going to fail and that the 72-pin connector swap is mainly a band-aid fix that has been met with so-so results. So why take the risk? Sure, every good collector has an original NES system in their collection, some may even have a top loader, but there is absolutely nothing wrong in investing into a clone system that will handle the job while the classic consoles rest nicely in retirement. Think about it this way: Let's say that you were a business owner and old Henry was 80 years old and couldn't handle the job very well anymore but yet he's a good friend and a loyal employee. Wouldn't you want to try to find a way to keep him around while you hire someone extra to pick up the slack in the downtime? Sure you would! Think of a clone system as doing just that and it will quickly become not such a bad idea. The Retro Entertainment System, the Generation NEX, the Yobo, the FC Twin, the RetroN 3 (and soon to be 5), and the Retro-Duo do just that and they do it well. Besides, some of these clone systems you can get for next to nothing on eBay and/or Amazon, so in essence you don't have a lot to risk in picking one up. I suggest you do it and if you do, please feel free to let me know how it all turned out, I'm not hard to find.

UPDATED on 10/6/13: Well, the thing didn't make it past September and is no longer working. Too bad too, it was a fun little unit but I guess the Generation NEX or the upcoming Retron 5 would be better substitutes for the real thing if you're looking to put less wear and tear on your original hardware.


© 2013 Bill Mulligan

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Retro Video Game Addict covers: The Dynamite Entertainment Pulp Revolution.

Yeah, yeah. I know what you're thinking. “Why is there an article about comic books on a retro video game blog site?”. Well, to tell you the truth, I'm not exactly sure. I was just laying around doing nothing and I suddenly felt the need to sit down and type out my feelings on the pulp storytelling movement that is currently happening over at Dynamite Entertainment. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, relax, this won't hurt (I swear!) and you may find yourself kind of interested in what I have to say. But before I do I have to let you in on a little secret. You ready? Here it comes.....

     Superheroes no longer have to wear spandex.

     There, I said it! Dynamite Entertainment has enlisted quite the crew to bring us comic book readers some of the absolute best comics on store shelves right now and these characters are not spandex clad and do not leap tall buildings in a single bound. They're normal human beings just like you and me, but with a few dollars in the bank that allows them to do what they do. These characters were popular back in the 30's and 40's but have basically been absent from the public eye for several decades until a company known as Dynamite Entertainment picked them up and decided to publish comics based around these characters for both fans of the originals and a bold new modern audience. This was a risky task considering modern comic book fans are used to their heroes having superpowers and being either mutants or tricked out in some colorful superhero gear. Not these heroes! These guys are packing heat, wearing fine business suits, ankle long trench coats, and many of them protect their identities with cheap eye coverings and fedora's. Take that Spider-Man!
     This style of “pulp hero” is something that actually found popularity before the traditional superhero ever graced a comic book page. Comic books started finding their ways to newsstands sometime in the mid 1930's while pulp books have been printed since the very early 1900's, and the differences between a superhero and a “pulp hero” is that the pulp hero will shoot you clean between your eyes and leave for you for dead while the superhero will try to rehabilitate you. Pulp storytelling is a violent, take no prisoners, affair that has found it's way back into readers hands for what appears to be a long haul and something I've personally taken to over the past couple of years.
      Dynamite publishes a lot more pulp characters than the ones I'm going to discuss in this blog but I'm choosing to discuss the pulp heroes in the traditional sense. They publish comics based on John Carter, Zorro, Lone Ranger, Tarzan, and a few others, but this blog entry is geared more toward The Shadow, The Spider, Green Hornet, The Black Bat, Miss Fury, and others. For me (and many others) Dynamite hooked me on the pulp characters when they first started publishing The Green Hornet sometime in 2010. The Shadow in May of 2012 was another title that hooked me and then soon after that they began putting out comics based around The Spider and before you knew it more and more started trickling in. Luckily pretty much all of the books within this line have been extremely well written and feature art that fits the mood of the books. In other words, it's been a hell of a ride.
     I like the fact that these heroes are not scared to kill their enemies as opposed to the traditional superheroes you get from DC and Marvel, it gives the books a sense of unpredictability that you won't find elsewhere. These classic heroes swear, smoke, drink, engage in adult “situations”, and kill with the best of them. But all in the name of “justice”, of course. And why not? Sometimes to preserve the law you need to break the law and if killing a man who poisoned a city or who tossed an elderly woman off of a rooftop after wiping out a bank full of hostages is the only way to get the job done, than I say go for it. The only alternative is either rehabilitation the criminals by locking them away in Arkham, or delivering a super powered psychopath to the boys in blue. And I think we all know how that turns out, you see what I'm saying?
Now, I'd like to take a few moments to talk about a few of the specific titles within the pulp line Dynamite had going on. The firs title I would like to discuss with you would be their flagship book, The Shadow, which was launched by the legendary writer known the industry over as Garth Ennis. The opening arc was a mixed bag to many fans, it seemed like they either loved it or hated it (I enjoyed it quite a bit) but the sales remained strong and the story was quite compelling. The artist on the book illustrates The Shadow and his 1930's surroundings perfectly and the artist that took over the book on it's 12th issue gives the title a flair that is up there with some of the best pencilers in the comic book industry. It's just remarkable. The story is dark and violent and The Shadow pulls no punches as he fights criminals in New York and over seas, bringing justice in the only way he knows how: Through the barrels of his double pistols. Make no mistake here kids, this isn't you're friendly neighborhood Spider-Man or your classic red cape who is vowing to bring us “justice in the American way”, no, this head crackin' to the 10th degree and definitely not for anyone under the age of 14 or 15.
     The Spider is very similar. This book features a hero who is defending his city against crazed lunatics on a daily basis while trying to keep an eye on the woman he loves who just happens to be married to his closest friend, the police chief. Most of the book is written with The Spider trying to use the police to help him solve mysteries while trying to keep his identity safe while he desperately wants to win back his true love. It's remarkable how this book cliff hangs and pulls you in for the next issue, it's definitely underrated and deserves all the readers it can get. In fact, Dynamite almost pulled the plug on it as of it's 12th issue, but fan outcry on the Dynamite forums and on Twitter helped to #SaveTheSpider and the book is solicited to it's 15th issue as of this writing. The writing in this book is top notch and some of David Liss' finest work, the art was phenomenal as well with the original artist and even better with Ivan Rodriguez since he's taken over pencils as of a few months back. Stellar colors and inks set this book apart as a real looker too, everything is just solid all around.
     The Green Hornet is off to a masterful start as Mark Waid takes the character back to his original roots. Don't confuse this book with the existing Green Hornet title that was launched by Kevin Smith, though! That Green Hornet title has been rebranded as “Legacy” and follows the adventures of the original Hornet's son in the modern day while Waid's book follows the original Green Hornet in his native setting. Both book are great and should be given a chance but the newer of the two GH comics is the top dog in the eyes of Dynamite and their readers. Waid's art and Indro's pencils couple to make a kick in the ass that reviewers all over the world have said is the best rendition of The Green Hornet to date, which is a huge compliment seeing as how the character has been around since the late 30's or early
40's. And the book is just getting started too, lot's more is on it's way including a crossover title between The Green Hornet and The Shadow and more from the “Legacy” book. For me, this character has the making of becoming something truly special in the world of comics, especially with a top tier talent like Mark Waid at the helm and art that pop's out at you the way that it does. Phenomenal!
     I could go on and on about these pulp titles. MASKS, Miss Fury, The Black Bat (a personal favorite), and more.....but instead I'll just kick back and let you be the judge. That's right. I CHALLENGE you to give these books a shot whether it be through single issues, trade/GN's, or digitally through Comixology and tell me that these aren't some of the most enjoyable comics you've read in a while. Seriously, I think that as successful as they are they've yet to truly scratch the surface and I believe that this whole revolution will be something special that we'll remember for quite some time to come, especially by those who embraced the movement. So, with that said I want you to get down to you're local comic book store or grab you're closest iOS or Android device and snatch up some of these Dynamite Entertainment gems, I truly think you'll see what I'm talking about and stay on board for the long haul. If not than at least you can say you tried them, but yeah, prepare for a long and blissful stay upon the S.S #PulpComics. Cheers!

#PulpComics #SaveTheSpider

© 2013 Bill Mulligan