It’s been a wonderful and fortunate journey that I’ve been undertaking over the last couple of years in terms of building a library of older video games and consoles.
I started in earnest to build my PlayStation 2 library about two years ago, while I was still living in Arizona. I added a few original PlayStation games when I could, but it was easier to build my PS2 library while working at GameStop because the games were so plentiful and my employee discount made it even more affordable to do so. I could buy more PS2 games for $50 than I could buy Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 games, and pulling my GxTV out of storage allowed me to play the games on a CRT for better image quality, rather than the stretched out and blurred imagery that would show up on a high-definition monitor. Before long, my library grew into the triple digits, thanks in no small part to really cheap games for a few dollars each… even though many of them no longer had their cases or manuals.
It wasn’t long after that when I realized something: Although I was collecting games, I wasn’t a collector. I was building a library of games to play for years. Not having cases or manuals didn’t matter as much to me as having access to the games and being able to play them when the idea struck me. As soon as I came to this conclusion, my library count accelerated as I bought any games that looked like they were a decent deal.
As of this writing, my PlayStation 2 library is over 425 discs in size. Some discs are doubles, with one disc complete in case with manual and the other just a standalone disc. Some games are in their original cases, and still others are complete in cases. I have a lot of games without cases, too– more than 185, in fact. I have two small bins that I use to store the games without cases, and two plastic drawer units that I keep the games with cases in. The drawers are full enough that I have to take some out of a drawer at times when I want to get to or play something in the back of the drawer. It’s problematic, but a pleasant problem to have.
My library of original PlayStation games is more than 130 discs in size, not including digital PlayStation games that I’ve purchased from the PlayStation Store over the years for the PlayStation 3. I’d like to expand this library further, but games are harder to find locally and disc-based media is susceptible to scratch and label damage. I get nervous at times buying PlayStation games second-hand; while I’ve had reasonable success with purchases working properly, a few discs do not and just sit in the library. Video Game Castle in nearby Chicopee, MA, has a decent selection of PlayStation games… although their price points are a bit steep. I might try to expand my search this summer south of the Massachusetts border into Connecticut.
Last year, as many of you know, I added several consoles to my library: NES, SNES, Genesis, and Gamecube. My NES library is over 60 games in size, while my SNES and Genesis libraries are over 50 games each. My Gamecube library is still small– less than 20– but I’ve managed to secure many of my favorite games for the platform already. I received a Nintendo 64 as a gift earlier this year, and that library is approaching 20 titles as well. I’m still looking to get NBA Hangtime and NFL Blitz for the N64, but have been holding off until I can secure some memory paks to save game data on.
I’ve been fortunate to have friends who have helped me build this library by donating consoles and games, and I’m extremely grateful for that. It means a lot knowing that they find my undertaking worthy enough to add some items to. My NES, Nintendo 64, and Gamecube were all donations or gifts, as have several games in my library. I can’t put into words what it means to be the benefactor of such generosity, except to say that I’ve spent time playing and enjoying every gift and donation that I’ve received, and I’m very appreciative.
I still have consoles on my radar that I’m hoping to add at some point, though it’s hard to do when unemployed. I’d love to get a SEGA CD to attach to my Genesis and fire up some classic FMV games as well as hit the ice with NHL ’94 on disc. I’d also like to add an original PlayStation to my arsenal; while the PS2 does the job for most titles, I prefer playing PlayStation games on original hardware. Xbox and Dreamcast are on the radar too, but not quite as high on the priority list.
Even as the curtain fully rises on this new generation of consoles, I’m still going to spending a lot of time trying to expand my retro library. I find it very enjoyable to find decent deals or pick up games on the cheap that I’ve never played before. Tag sales, thrift stores, and flea markets can offer surprises and the thrill of discovery that we just can’t have when buying games for new-gen or last-gen platforms. I think those are a couple of reasons why I enjoy this so much, along with reliving different time periods in my life and associating certain memories with certain games.
So… no, I’m not a collector. No case? No instructions? Not sealed? Got a few scratches or scuff marks? No matter. If it plays and can add to my library for future enjoyment and fun, it’s got a place in my library. Yes, even all of the sports games that nobody wants anymore. It’s a library that I’m very proud of, and will probably be my legacy after I’m dead and buried.
I’m more than okay with that, too.
I don’t think I gave the Nintendo 64 enough credit as a video game platform.
I got the Nintendo 64 on launch day back in 1996. I was visiting a Lechmere store in Springfield, MA and saw that there was one unit left. I bought it– along with Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64– and brought it home. I’d played the import version of Super Mario 64 at Fantasy Realms, a local independent video game store, and wasn’t particularly impressed… but it was a Nintendo system and I knew that I wanted to own it.
Unfortunately, my life outside of video games wasn’t great at that time. My grandmother was in hospice care, nearing the end of her battle with cancer. She was staying with my aunt, not too far from her home, which is where I had been living. Living in the house by myself was eerie; video games kept my distracted while I was there and not working or out singing karaoke somewhere. I was desperately trying to escape from the feeling that my grandmother was going to die. She and I had such a bond, and she had looked out for me over the years of my difficult childhood and through life’s pitfalls after getting laid off from AT&T back in 1994. She always understood how much video games meant to me, and encouraged me to play. It was difficult seeing her suffer when I went to visit. She had been so strong for so many years, so seeing her frail and trying to manage the pain took a toll on me. Much like I did with the PlayStation during that time, I used video games to escape from life for awhile… and I was playing Super Mario 64 when I got the call from my aunt that my grandmother had passed.
As the years went by, I think that I always forged a link between the sadness of my grandmother’s passing and my Nintendo 64. Obviously one had nothing to do with the other, but my thoughts during the holidays always gravitate back to the loss of my grandmother and how special that she made this time of year.
I spent a fair amount of time with the Nintendo 64 until 2001, though it never got as much playing time as my PlayStation got. My memorable Nintendo 64 experiences differ from most. Whereas many will recall games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and GoldenEye 007 as signpost N64 experiences, mine included games like NBA Hangtime, Cruis’n World, F-Zero X, and Killer Instinct Gold. I viewed the Nintendo 64 as a change of pace, but never really appreciated it as much as I probably should have.
I look at my collection of classic game systems now and realize that there’s a pretty significant piece missing. NES, SNES, and Gamecube all sit either alongside or underneath my GxTV, but the Nintendo 64 being absent creates a bit of a void. The obvious gap is that it’s the missing piece in the Nintendo line of platforms, but there’s more to it than that. There’s a gap of five years that’s missing, too. There are memories that I associate with the Nintendo 64 which my PlayStation games simply cannot replace. Obviously my grandmother is a big part of that, but also the beginning of my time in retail management as a FuncoLand assistant manager has a connection with the Nintendo 64, too. Zelda, NFL Blitz, Rogue Squadron, South Park, Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth, and a few other games are synonymous with the time period during late 1998… a time when the Nintendo 64 was arguably seeing some of the better games of its lifespan. It was also the time period when my life was turning around after hitting a low point, recovering from a broken relationship and filing bankruptcy and meeting the woman that I would marry a year later.
I think that I’m seeing a secondary reason why I’ve undertaken this quest to collect older games and systems. I think that they take me back to different periods in my life, before things became as difficult and challenging as they are now. The NES represents one of the coolest gifts my grandmother ever gave to me. The SNES represents living on my own for the first time. The PlayStation represents the beginning of a 10-year history as a Sony fan. The Nintendo 64 represents some of my life’s lowest and highest points. The Dreamcast represents the first time that I went all-in on a console at launch. The PlayStation 2 represents my angry response to the death of the Dreamcast and the rise of my interest in writing and reviewing. These are all signposts in my life, and it just so happens that each has some amazing games to offer that I still enjoy today.
It seemed odd to friends and family that the Nintendo 64 was on my holiday wish list. “Isn’t that old?” It is, but it’s significant to me, as all of my retro platforms are. The games certainly have a lot to do with that, and the affordability of collecting these games is another big part, but I think that the memories and experiences that I relive and replay in my mind while thinking about and playing games on these systems are equally as important to me– if not more so.
I guess video games are for me what the flux capacitor-driven DeLorean was to Marty McFly. I hope that you can appreciate this analogy as much as I do.
EDIT: Here’s a candid video that I put together to go with this blog entry:
Baseball games are some of my favorites on the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Bad News Baseball is my go-to game, but the R.B.I. series, Baseball Simulator 1.000, Baseball Stars, and a few others are still a lot of fun for me to play even to this day. When I had the chance to pick up Base Wars after doing some work at Stateline Video Games last week, I jumped at the chance because I had some fond memories of the game. A mixture of Atari‘s Cyberball atmosphere, basic baseball mechanics, and having for fight for outs on the bases combined to deliver a unique take on baseball at the time.
When I got home and played a game of Base Wars, though, I realized that I’d been blinded at least partially by nostalgia and a bit of my own hype for the game. It’s not a dreadful baseball game, but its flaws keep it from being in the company of some of the great games on the NES.
The idea of robots playing baseball was novel at the time that the game was released back in 1991. Cyberball had been in arcades for a couple of years and had robots playing a dangerous game of football in which they could explode if they were in possession of a “critical ball” and had not scored. Base Wars has robot carnage as well, but the main draw is that the basic rule of force outs is replaced by fights. If the robot on offense wins the fight, it is awarded the base it was advancing to. If the robot on defense wins the fight, an out is recorded.
These fights are spiced up by different kinds of weaponry that the robots can equip. Guns, swords, gloves, and other items can affect how a fight proceeds. Some weapons are more powerful than others, but they require hit points to wield and this can have an effect later on in a game if that robot gets into other fights. Not all fights end in a complete loss of hit points, but multiple fights can eat away at that total and, if all hit points go away, the robot explodes and is out for the game. While it seems like a good idea to try to take extra bases if your robot is a strong fighter, parameters such as the distance to the destination base play a role in how much damage each robot can withstand.
The fighting adds a unique quality to Base Wars, and a certain amount of strategy must be employed to manage a team well. How aggressive should your team be? Which weapons should you buy to arm your players with? If your team is down late in the game, do you risk going for that extra base even though that robot is low on hit points? These decisions and more make Base Wars more than a basic arcade-style baseball game, and this strategy element helps to make the game as memorable as it is.
The problem with Base Wars is one that some baseball games have had before and after this game’s release: The fielding is flawed.
For starters, the camera works against the pitching team once the ball is in play. It sometimes can’t keep up with a struck ball and it’s possible to lose sight of where it’s going. The speed of the ball also makes it more challenging than it should be to position a defensive player to be able to make a play on it. This leads to the second problem with the fielding, which has to do with the CPU-controlled fielders. Sometimes the computer handles auto-fielding like a charm, and it has to since players sometimes can’t see where the ball is headed once it leaves the bat. Other times, inexplicably, the computer-controlled fielder winds up out of position or completely misplays the ball. This is made worse at times when a human player tries to take control of the fielder. Defense, in general, is more of a crap shoot than it should be. This means that it’s finger-crossing time for the pitching team if a ball is put in play, and that’s kind of a shame.
Unfortunately, this really damages the enjoyment of the rest of the game. Hitting is fine, although there may be a few home runs too many at times. Pitching has an interesting delivery mechanic where holding the pitch button down adds speed to the pitch and makes it harder to hit. The pitcher/batter battle is as good as many other NES baseball games, and that’s a definite positive. Base Wars does have battery backup, so players can battle through a full season with multiple customization options. Considering that only a few NES baseball games have battery backup (Baseball Stars, Baseball Simulator 1.000), it’s a nice feature to have if you’re able to overlook the game’s flaws.
I know that I’m coming down hard on a game that’s over 20 years old. Baseball games have evolved a ton since Base Wars made its debut, and complaining about a Nintendo game hardly seems worth the effort. The point here is that I let myself get burned by nostalgia. I got Base Wars for what I selectively remembered about it, and now I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t hold out for a different baseball game instead. I’m sure that this won’t be the last time that I make this kind of mistake, but it’s interesting to look at from a player’s point of view. As a collector, Base Wars is a decent addition to my growing library of NES games… but, as a player, I don’t think I’ll be playing this game as much as I will other NES baseball games going forward.
It’s been nearly a month since I added anything to my retro collection, but a trip to Stateline Video Games changed that on Monday.
In total, nine NES games, one game each for SNES and Genesis, and two PlayStation games were acquired. I had to make some tough decisions, considering how short on funds I am and with E3 just two weeks away, but here’s what I got:
Baseball (NES): Most people– NES fans and general video game fans– don’t like Baseball. It’s understandable. Players have no control over fielders, there are no stats, each team and player is essentially the same, and it’s a rudimentary game at best. Having said that, it’s also based on Nintendo’s little-known Vs. Baseball coin-op. I have fond memories of playing it in a couple of local arcades back in 1985. The premise of Vs. Baseball was to play as much baseball as you could before the timer ran out. The timer was boosted when players scored runs and lost a certain amount of time when the opponent scored. Unfortunately, the timer mechanic was removed for the home version, so players were left with a basic experience that lost a little something in the conversion process. Ah, well. I still like it.
Bump & Jump (NES): I actually played a port of this coin-op on my Commodore 64 when I was younger and never played the NES port until I picked this up. I either lost a lot of skill or this version is harder. My best effort is still under 30,000 points, so I have a long way to go. I like the mechanic of ramming cars off the road and jumping to clear obstacles is not only a neat idea… but it’s a required skill in spots. I’m a little underwhelmed after a few plays, but am happy that I added Bump & Jump to my collection.
Demon Sword (NES): This game plays a lot like The Legend of Kage, so it’s no surprise that Taito was the publisher. I haven’t spent a lot of time playing this just yet, but have determined that I’ll be reading the instruction manual at some point soon. There are a lot of things about the gameplay that I don’t quite understand, so I need to brush up before giving this game another go. Not sure I made a good buying choice here, based on first impression.
Double Dribble (NES): This is the first of five Konami games that I picked up in this haul. It was cheap ($3), and it’s a very simple game of basketball. This coin-op conversion doesn’t have the epic performance of the National Anthem from the arcade game, but it’s still fun to play in short bursts and no tokens or quarters are required. Obviously video game basketball mechanics improved after Double Dribble, and Konami would later go on to make some really enjoyable arcade-style hoops games including Run ‘N Gun (ARC), NBA Give ‘n Go (SNES), and NBA In The Zone (PlayStation). I like to look back on Double Dribble as one of the better early arcade basketball games, and am glad I found it cheap.
Jackal (NES): This was one of the tough decisions that I was talking about. I chose this over Super C, mostly because it was half the price. I’m happy with my decision here. Jackal is a bit easier to play and still carries shooting and action mechanics that are engaging and enjoyable. My first play was pretty successful, making it to Stage 3 without having lost a life. I think I’m actually better at the game now than I was back in the early 1990s. I know that I have to add some Contra games to my library, but until then, Jackal scratches my war-action itch.
Jeopardy! 25th Anniversary Edition (NES): If you read this entry in my Countdown to 40 series, you’ll probably recognize this game as one of the first NES games that I ever owned. It was part of my big Christmas gift back in 1990, and when I saw it at the store on Monday, I knew I had to have it again. This game was developed by RARE Coin-It, who put together some great arcade and game show conversions for the NES along with some awesome original work. The answers here are a bit dated now, and my memory isn’t quite what it used to be. I’ve since forgotten what the correct questions are, but I used to have quite a few memorized as I played this game often. I’d even forgotten that ringing in to answer a question was done with the D-Pad instead of button input, which cost me some easy money chances early on. For what it’s worth, a Mark Twain question sunk my chances in Final Jeopardy!, which was kind of embarrassing. Anyway, moving on…
Kings of the Beach (NES): While Super Spike V’Ball covered the arcade side of beach volleyball, Kings of the Beach is a somewhat more realistic take on the sport. The characters aren’t as detailed or as large here as in Super Spike V’Ball, but there’s a greater need for strategy in this game than raw power. Rallies can be long, and positioning spikes properly is key to scoring points. There are some neat additions like arguing line calls and kicking sand after bad plays to lend character to Kings of the Beach, but more serious players will enjoy this game than casual fans will.
Rollergames (NES): If I told you that Rollergames was basically Double Dragon on roller skates, you’d probably laugh at the concept… but that’s exactly what this game is. Based on the short-lived roller derby TV series, Rollergames moved the action from the rink to the streets as players had to beat up bad guys and navigate pits and perils. It’s not a bad game, honestly, even if you’re not familiar with the source material… but it’s not unique enough to stand out among other brawlers from the period. The music is pretty good, though.
Tecmo World Wrestling (NES): I have Pat the NES Punk to thank for my decision to grab this. While watching a video of his NES collection, he mentioned Tecmo World Wrestling and cited it– along with Pro Wrestling– as the only wrestling games on the NES worth playing. I hadn’t played this before, and I really missed out. There are plenty of characters to pick from and the controls are pretty easy to learn. Seeing running commentary of the match is unique, and the graphics and sound are quite good. I’m looking forward to spending more time with this soon.
Batman Returns (SNES): When I played this game for the first time back in 1993, I was blown away. Sure, Batman Returns is an obvious Final Fight clone… but this clone has a strong license behind it and is supported by great visuals and a soundtrack that is still very impressive, coming from a cartridge. I can see where the complaints come from; enemies are too similar, the concept isn’t original, and there’s no co-op or multiplayer. At the same time, it’s a blast throwing enemies into benches or windows and breaking them. Grabbing two enemies and ramming their heads together is very satisfying. The boss battles are a bit trying, but Batman Returns makes me smile as much now as it did almost 20 years ago. This was the most expensive purchase of the day, and I ultimately chose this ($10) over the even more expensive Super Castlevania IV ($25). I may kick myself a bit for not grabbing Castlevania, but this has proven to be a worthy decision.
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX (PlayStation): Although I spent a lot of time playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (and its awesome sequel) on the PlayStation, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX was a surprisingly enjoyable alternative. The game’s trick modifier system allows for more possibilities than ever before in an “extreme” type of game. The ragdoll physics engine is amusing for crashes, too. Seeing your rider fold like a cheap tent after a crash or bounce along the top of a train after missing a jump doesn’t get old. A strong list of licensed music tracks complements the experience, and, at $2, it was impossible to pass up.
Demolition Racer (PlayStation): After Reflections left the Destruction Derby license behind, Pitbull Syndicate tried to fill that space with Demolition Racer back in 1999. While there’s some influence from Destruction Derby apparent in this game, certain mechanics were altered to create a different racing experience. A decreasing damage meter, dropping from 100 to 0, replaced Destruction Derby‘s point of impact damage system. In this game, location-specific damage isn’t relevant and the player can focus more on driving and less on where the vehicle can sustain further damage. Vehicle handling takes some getting used to, but the driving mechanics are fairly easy to adapt to after a few races. I wonder what Criterion could do with a Destruction Derby or Demolition Racer license.
There will be more trips back to Stateline Video Games after E3, and I’ll try to share some photos of my next visit. The owner and I actually have some pretty cool ideas that he may implement in the second half of this year, like local retrogaming meetups, possible high score competitions, and more. I think I’ve found my new local home store, and I’ll share a lot more about it once the E3 rush subsides.
I’m shooting for two new Armchair Analysis pieces to hit Popzara Press this week, and then it’s E3 preparation time. If there’s something that you’re interested in having me possibly check out at the show, feel free to drop me a comment. I can’t guarantee that I’ll see it or have access to it, but it’ll be interesting to try. I’ll be meeting with Zen Studios (Pinball FX2 for Xbox 360, Marvel Pinball for Xbox 360 and PS3, Zen Pinball for 3DS and PlayStation 3), to see what the developer is working on and hopefully get a sneak peek at Zen Pinball 2 for the PS3 and Vita while there.
The countdown is on: 2 weeks until E3!
I took a trip down to Video Game Castle on Tuesday with some trade-ins and the last of my birthday money. I was on the lookout for a couple of games in particular: High Speed for the NES and PGA Tour Golf III for the Genesis. I batted .500, but walked away with a lot more than I expected. It’s more than likely going to be my last haul for some time, but it was a dandy.
I did find PGA Tour Golf III for the Genesis. It was a loose cart, but I was happy to find it. This game continued the steady improvement that the series had been making since the original PGA Tour Golf game came out in 1991, offering more courses, gameplay options, and stat tracking than ever before. Want to know what your history on the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass is? PGA Tour Golf III remembers and updates your average score. The swing mechanic is the familiar three-click system, and the timing is trickier than it appears. If you overswing to increase shot power but fail to stop the meter exactly in the hit zone, look out. Compared to EA’s later years, especially with the Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf games for the PlayStation 2 and Xbox and the games from this generation, PGA Tour Golf III seems antiquated… but the gameplay really is timeless.
Here’s the full list of Genesis games that I picked up:
- Coach K College Basketball **
- Cyberball **
- Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball **
- John Madden Football
- John Madden Football ’92 **
- Madden NFL ’94
- Madden NFL ’95
- NBA Action ’95 Starring David Robinson **
- NBA Showdown ’94 *
- NHLPA Hockey ’93 **
- NHL ’95
- PGA Tour Golf III
- R.B.I. Baseball 3 **
- R.B.I. Baseball ’93 *
- Super Monaco G.P. (Sega Classics re-release) **
- Virtua Racing *
* – case included. ** – complete with case and manual
It’s funny that Virtua Racing, a game that originally sold at retail for $100, cost me $4. There was also a sealed copy at the store, but at $20, I left it alone.
Sadly, I had no luck tracking down High Speed. I had hoped that there would be a copy available so that I could begin work on a series of reviews comparing all of the NES pinball games… but I struck out. I did, however, find a few gems that I took home. The game that I was thrilled to find, for just $3, was Palamedes. Palamedes is a pretty uncommon find, but it stuck with me as a fun puzzle game during the time that I spent with it. It’s similar to Yahtzee in that you have to create a poker hand, but instead of rolling the dice, you select your hand from descending lines of dice. Depending on how good your created hand is, multiple lines can be eliminated. Once enough lines are eliminated, the stage is cleared and players move on to the next one. NES Guide has some footage of Palamedes and a brief summary, if you want to check it out.
Palamedes was just one of the NES games that I picked up. Here’s the full list of carts I got:
- Life Force
- Little League Baseball Championship Series
- NES Play Action Football
- Rad Racer
- Rad Racer II
- R.B.I. Baseball 2
- The Three Stooges
- Track & Field II
Surprisingly enough, Cabal was the most expensive addition, at $9. I picked it up for a few reasons. First, I used to play the coin-op during my junior year of high school. Second, Game Informer‘s Dan Ryckert has talked about the NES port a couple of times in the past and I knew that I’d have to get it when I owned an NES again. Third, and most importantly, the port is another solid effort from RARE Coin-It, who really dominated NES development. I know that $9 was a bit high for this game, but since I hadn’t seen it at any of my other stops recently, I had to snag it.
As of now, I’m up to 33 NES games, 40 Genesis games, and 45 SNES games. It’s a solid start to my retro collection, and I can now start to narrow down some games to look for. The NES side is where I want to really add some games, but prices are generally more expensive for those games. Aside from High Speed (which is top priority), games like Ninja Gaiden and Ninja Gaiden II, Jackal, Contra, the TMNT series, the Castlevania series, and others tend to hold their value strongly.
That’s it for now. I do have some pretty big news to share, but details are still coming into focus. Stay tuned.
I’ve been trying to land a SEGA Genesis console for some time.
I’m a big sports gaming fan, and the Genesis delivered some of the best sports video game experiences of the 1990s. The definitive versions of Electronic Arts‘ sports games were found on the Genesis in the first half of the decade, but sports fans had plenty of options to choose from. SEGA Sports delivered running commentary by way of Sports Talk technology and the games that featured it were generally pretty good. The Genesis version of NBA Jam had a battery backup instead of the password system that the SNES version used. I’ve been wanting to relive those experiences and memories– and was finally able to land a Genesis after a stop at Stateline Video Games.
Stateline is a smaller independent game store not too far away from where I live. I’ve been in there a few times, and my search for a Genesis was the consistent topic of conversation. Every time I’d visit, the owner would check for a console for me– and we’d come up empty each time. It wasn’t always bad news, though; I’ve purchased many of my Super Nintendo games from there, along with some PlayStation and PlayStation 2 games. The owner is a great guy; very down to earth and he loves video games. That’s a big plus. The store carries just about everything.
When I visited yesterday, things were a little different. A Turtles in Time coin-op had been added to the store since my last visit, and, yes… I did play it. The owner had also added a GxTV, which is the same model I have here at home. After catching up, I figured that I’d try my luck.
“So, do you have any Genesis systems around?”
“Yup. Sure do. You looking for an original model or a Genesis II?”
Holy crap. My luck had changed. I was about to add a Genesis to my collection, which wiped out any disappointment from the dead Xbox that I’d received for my birthday. I now had to start building a game collection. All in all, I picked out 24 games to start with:
- Arnold Palmer Tournament Golf **
- College Football’s National Championship **
- David Robinson’s Supreme Court
- Evander Holyfield’s “Real Deal” Boxing **
- Greatest Heavyweights
- NBA Action ’94
- NBA Jam **
- NBA Jam Tournament Edition **
- NFL Sports Talk Football ’93
- NFL Football ’94 *
- NFL ’95
- NHL ’94
- NHL ’96
- NHL All-Star Hockey ’95
- PGA European Tour Golf
- PGA Tour Golf II
- RBI Baseball 4
- Road Rash II
- Sports Talk Baseball **
- Tecmo Super Baseball *
- Tecmo Super Hockey *
- Tommy Lasorda Baseball
- World Series Baseball **
* – game and case; ** – complete with game, manual, and case
That’s a solid start for me, considering that the most expensive game was $8 (NBA Jam Tournament Edition). Most ranged between $1 and $3. I was surprised at how many games I was able to get complete. I know that sports games are generally pretty worthless, but the point of my collection is to establish a library of games to play. I’m not looking to sell these or make any profit. Collecting these games and expanding my library is part of the fun… the other part, of course, is actually playing these games.
The Genesis I got is the original model, complete with headphone jack. The revised model is sleeker, but I wanted the original. If I can find a SEGA CD (not holding my breath at this point), I’m hoping for the original model as well. I do want to look into getting the three-tail (stereo) component cables for it, but the two-tail cable that I got works fine– especially with the Mono setting on the GxTV, like I use for the NES.
I wasn’t done. I wound up with some NES games as well, and I found some pretty good ones:
- 8 Eyes
- Bad News Baseball
- Blades of Steel
- Cobra Triangle
- John Elway’s Quarterback
- Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf
- Rock ‘n Ball
- Track & Field
I also grabbed PGA Tour Golf ’96 for the SNES for $1, although I’ve since read that it’s pretty awful.
I’m very excited that I now have most of the NES pinball games in my collection. High Speed is the only one that I don’t have right now. Pinbot and Rollerball outclass Pinball and Rock ‘n Ball (ugh). I’m also really happy to be reunited with Bad News Baseball after over 10 years. The NES is home to many fun baseball games– many of which I still need to add to my collection– but Bad News Baseball is my favorite. Cobra Triangle was a nice find, too. It’s a fun companion game to R.C. Pro-Am, which I got for my birthday over the weekend.
As it stands right now, my Genesis collection stands at 24 games and my NES collection is close behind at 21 games. I’m making one more stop today, this time at Video Game Castle in Chicopee. I haven’t been in some time, so I’m hoping to find a few more games before I relax a bit and get to playing. I’m hoping to track down PGA Tour Golf III for Genesis and maybe High Speed for the NES. Anything else will be gravy. I’ll update later this evening with any more acquisitions.
After that, look for some impressions pieces and maybe some reviews on the horizon.
It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a Time Machine update, but this one is big because I added two new consoles to my collection recently.
The first is a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, or SNES as many of us call it. Fellow video gaming fan (and super-cool relative) Sam Hicks held onto it for me until I could afford it and I was finally able to purchase a few days ago. The console still works like new, and the controller is still super-responsive. Between the games that Sam included with the SNES and trips to a local flea market and a couple of independent video game stores, my collection stands at a respectable 33 games. Here’s the rundown, with special notes as applicable:
- ActRaiser (cartridge only): Has it really been nearly 21 years since this game debuted in the U.S.? Yes. There’s something to be said for playing this game on the original hardware and with an original controller… and the battery backup still works.
- Battletoads & Double Dragon (cartridge only): I couldn’t help myself when I saw this, although I stunk when I tried it.
- Donkey Kong Country (cartridge only): This was one of the games I got with the console, and it remains as one of my favorite SNES games. Beautiful visuals, awesome sound, tight play controls, and an all-around fantastic game.
- F-Zero (cartridge only): This game is still a challenge. Although I think I prefer F-Zero X (Nintendo 64) a bit more, it’s still great to relive the memories of setting new records and seeing Mode 7 visuals shown off.
- Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest (cartridge only): For a mere $6, I couldn’t pass this game up. Still fun to play, and there’s an underrated soundtrack here.
- HAL’s Hole-In-One Golf (cartridge only): The first of many sports games on this list, it’s also a game that I appreciate more now than in 1991 as I’ve since become more of a golf fan. Love the zoom-in on the hole when putts go in!
- Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball (cartridge only): I’m not sure what it is about 8-bit and 16-bit baseball games, but I love ‘em. Never played either of the Griffey games, but heard good things from friends… so I got them both.
- Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run (cartridge only): I didn’t know this was a RARE-developed game until I tested it. Above-average visuals and easy to pick up and play. Need to be more patient when at bat, though.
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (cartridge only): Many people think that Ocarina of Time is the best Zelda game ever made, but this title gets my vote. Deep game with great everything.
- Madden NFL ’94 (complete): This game was $1 and came with box and instructions. Still fun.
- Madden NFL ’95 (complete): Another $1 complete game. First one with the FOX Sports affiliation.
- NBA Give ‘n Go (cartridge only): This game is the one that I was most excited to land. It’s based loosely on Konami‘s Run ‘n Gun coin-op (which I loved), plus it sports a full NBA license. Still as awesome as ever, despite framerate issues.
- NBA Hangtime (complete): The SNES version lags behind the N64 (best) and PlayStation versions, but still delivers a respectable arcade experience. The cheap price as a complete game hooked me.
- NBA Jam: Tournament Edition (cartridge only): I will never tire of NBA Jam or NBA Jam: Tournament Edition. Sure, there are compromises in this conversion, but it is close enough to still capture that addictive arcade magic. (I need the original BAD.)
- NCAA Basketball (cartridge only): There’s a whole lot of Mode 7 going on here, but there’s a fair game of basketball underneath all of that rotation and scaling wizardry. I spent hours on this 20 years ago.
- NFL Football (complete): It was $1. This game is significant to me because I bought it alongside Street Fighter II Turbo in the summer of 1993 and one of the two games was awesome while the other kind of sucked. You guess which one was which.
- NHLPA Hockey ’93 (complete): Another $1 find. This version sports the EASN brand, which ESPN sued to have EA change because of the similarity between the two brands. Now the two companies are friends and partners. Go figure.
- NHL ’94 (cartridge only): After the choppy framerate and experience in NHLPA Hockey ’93, EA was starting to get the hang of the SNES hardware with this game. The SEGA Genesis version is still far superior, but this isn’t bad.
- NHL Stanley Cup (cartridge only): If you thought there was a lot of Mode 7 being used in NCAA Basketball, trying playing this game and see how crazy the rotation is. Hockey didn’t translate as well as basketball, sadly.
- Sporting News Baseball (complete): This game is basically a port of World Class Baseball (TurboGrafx-16), but with better stat tracking and the MLBPA license. I have a soft spot for it, personally.
- Star Fox (cartridge only): I went nuts for this game in 1993, and went to several different venues to participate in the Super Star Fox Weekend competition. I finished first at one venue and scored a sweet jacket, which I literally wore to shreds.
- Stunt Race FX (cartridge only): I’m not sure why I bit on this. Nostalgia isn’t enough to hide the 15 frames per second awfulness that this experience delivers. It’s a piece of history… and hey, look: Super FX chip!
- Super Baseball Simulator 1.000 (cartridge only): YES. This game can be as serious or as wacky as you want it to be, all with full stat tracking. 180mph fastballs and hits that make the screen spin really fast? Both are here. Still awesome.
- Super Bases Loaded (cartridge only): The idea here is to “play a perfect game”. Easier said than done with a control scheme that takes some getting used to, but it’s still fun to try.
- Super High Impact (cartridge only): This game is to NFL Blitz as Arch-Rivals was to NBA Jam. Crazy plays, fights on the field, a loud announcer, and easy-to-learn controls should sound familiar. This arcade conversion is a little lacking, though.
- Super Mario World (cartridge only): What kind of SNES collection would I have if there wasn’t a Mario game in it? This is my second-favorite Mario game, behind Super Mario Bros. 3. That’s pretty good company to be in.
- Super Tennis (cartridge only): I used to be much better at this game, but I think I unconsciously play every tennis game like Virtua Tennis now… which is pretty much wrong.
- Taz-Mania (complete): This game, for lack of a better comparison, is F-Zero Jr. Taz has to grab tasty birds while racing against the clock to complete a course and budgeting his spin (or turbo boost) for proper use. This game is OK.
- Tecmo Super Bowl (cartridge only): I love this game. Tecmo Bowl Throwback was nice for XBLA and PSN/SEN, but the original– with all of the NFL teams and players– easily trumps it. Yes, I’m a bandwagon 49ers player. I admit it.
- Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (cartridge only): Tecmo attempted to build on its football success with arcade-influenced titles in other sports, and this was the next in line. Decent game, but controls take a bit to learn properly.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Tournament Fighters (cartridge only): This game borrows a bit from Street Fighter II, but the selection of characters from the TMNT universe and the tight gameplay make it more than just a clone. Good stuff.
- Tetris Attack (cartridge only): I will admit this here and now: The only game that I’ve ever played hooky from work in order to keep playing is this one. It’s highly addictive, in either this form or as one of the Puzzle League games.
- Uniracers (cartridge only): Thanks to a Pixar lawsuit, production on this game was limited… and it’s too bad. Fun, trick-based gameplay with lots of speed and quality animation. I was surprised to find this game so easily.
I still have many more games that I’m on the lookout for, but I’ll cover those in another installment. Look for Part Two of this column to go up in a day or two, as I talk about the other new console I got. It’s still thinking.
I wrote a eulogy back in August of 2010 for Video Game Castle, which is an independently-owned video game store in Chicopee, MA. At the time, I was still living in Arizona and had heard about the closure of the store from a story on Kotaku. I was saddened to read about it, given my personal ties and experiences with the store and its owner.
I had heard through the grapevine that the store had reopened, and one of the benefits of being back home in Massachusetts is to revisit Video Game Castle and see how things are. I ventured over there without thinking to call first, assuming that what I’d heard about the store being open was true. Upon arriving at the address, I was relieved to see an open sign in front of the store. I parked my car in the lot across the street and made my way back towards the Castle for the first time in over two years.
Upon entering the store, the owner acknowledged me and explained his hardships. He told me that he’d read my eulogy piece, which I found to be flattering, and filled me in on what’s been a challenging time for him. He mentioned that nobody followed up on the story about the store’s closure with information about the store reopening and resuming business, which was unfortunate. While the store was closed, a competing shop opened just two doors down… and that store remains open today. It’s interesting to see the competitive dynamic between two stores so close in proximity. I didn’t stop into the other store, but I do admit that it’s a good thing to have two independent stores open, regardless of proximity or reasoning.
After our conversation, I set to what is the best part of visiting Video Game Castle: looking at the varied selection of games that have accumulated over the years. I was happy to see that the NES display case was still intact and had a decent amount of games inside. Sadly, there wasn’t any NES hardware around, but titles like Ninja Gaiden, Super Spike V’Ball, RBI Baseball, and so many others that I loved playing once upon a time stand at the ready if I am able to get another system to play them on.
There are still impressive collections of games for the SEGA Genesis and the SNES. There are cabinets for each platform with loose and boxed games included. Far to the rear of the store, a cabinet with SEGA Saturn games waits for interested buyers; in fact, a Saturn console was for sale while I was there and I thought about it briefly. There was even a small number of 3DO games for sale, including Wing Commander III, Sewer Shark, and Twisted. These consoles, along with more recent ones like the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, all have their place in video game history. For me, walking into Video Game Castle and looking around is like being in some sort of museum. I had mentioned to the owner that he should reorganize the basement of the shop and open a console gaming museum of sorts. He chuckled and mentioned that he’d actually sold off a lot of that merchandise since I’d been in there last. I was happy for him that money was made, but jealous that I wasn’t able to buy any of it.
After spending most of the day visiting, I did wind up buying a few PlayStation games:
- WWF Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game: I have a soft spot for Midway arcade games, and this is one that I didn’t own before now. Surprisingly, there’s no game saving or memory card usage… but that’s OK. Dominating with Yokozuna is still a blast, even though I am a bit rusty.
- Bases Loaded ’96 Double Header: I’m not sure why I bought this, aside from seeing the Jaleco name and because the game was complete. It’s obvious how early this game is in the PlayStation life cycle. The players are blocky, the animations are deliberate, and the opening cinematic is unintentionally bad… errr… funny.
- Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey ’98: Long title, I know. Since I don’t have a Nintendo 64 right now, this is as close as I can come to playing a game that I spent tens of hours playing 15 years ago. The sound of awfully compressed and the PlayStation controller layout isn’t intuitive, but I sure get my nostalgia fix for $5.
- Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX: This game uses the engine from Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and I played the demo enough to want to own the full game. It feels like a looser version of THPS, with trick animations that unfortunately sometimes take too long to resolve. This isn’t as good as Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, but is still a solid game.
- Slam ‘n Jam ’96: This is a port of a 3DO game that sadly arrived too late to make any difference for that troubled platform. Crystal Dynamics and Left Field Productions put together a game that seemed to use Konami’s Run ‘n Gun coin-op as its inspiration. The PlayStation port added Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to try and lure players in, but the game never sold well. I liked it on the 3DO, and the PlayStation version was just fine.
I’m happy for the owner and for local gamers in this area that Video Game Castle has overcome its challenges and is open for everyone to see. It’s not the most organized store that you’ll ever see, but part of the fun for each visit is to find new things to gaze at. It won’t be around forever, so if you happen to drive through the Chicopee, MA area at some point, I encourage you to stop in and see over three decades of history… much of which is for sale.
20 years have flown by since Konami launched Super Castlevania IV for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. I have fond memories of the game. The visuals were impressive, the music was great, the challenge was fair, and it would be the catalyst that would make me a fan of the series for many years to come.
Back in late 1991, games for the SNES were still pretty scarce. Sure, we played Super Mario World, F-Zero, ActRaiser, Final Fantasy II (errr…FFIV, but who’s counting?), and others… but my friends and I were anticipating any new games that we could get our hands on. Gaming magazines had been hyping Super Castlevania IV, and I remember buying it as quickly as I could. I knew a little about Castlevania, but my exposure to the games on the NES had been limited at that time. I watched a friend play through Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest a year prior, but had little hands-on time with the games myself.
I wasn’t prepared for just how good a game that Super Castlevania IV would be.
For starters, the graphics and sound were top-notch. Some of the Mode 7 tricks were more than impressive for the time and I really liked the gothic setting and atmosphere. Areas like the treasure room and the library stood out to me, and the clock tower looked better than ever. The soundtrack was good enough that I’d actually taped it to listen to on the go, thanks to running my sound through my stereo. Now-familiar themes like Bloody Tears and Vampire Killer had arrangements that sounded fanastic thanks to the Sony sound chip and DSP that fueled the Super Nintendo’s sound output.
I also thought that the difficulty was just right. There were challenging parts of the game for sure, but I was able to play through it and was satisfied with the challenge. The experience reminded me a bit of Ninja Gaiden II versus its predecessor. Ninja Gaiden is notoriously hard, especially during the last act. Even to this day, I have not beaten it. Ninja Gaiden II, on the other hand, had a more forgiving difficulty and I was able to finish it. For me, a game is more enjoyable when it’s challenging without being cheap. Getting to experience a game at your own pace and with the feeling that the game actually wants you to succeed is important. Super Castlevania IV– like Ninja Gaiden II– felt fair. It was a ride worth taking, and a memorable one.
Super Castlevania IV provided some unforgettable moments for me. Block 4-2, with the rotating room, was imaginative. Having the room spin around you as you cling to a post from your whip was one of those “Wow” moments. 4-3 then showed the power of Mode 7 technology with the rotating room. Block 6-1 challenged my fear of heights as I leapt from one moving chandelier to another. The onslaught of bosses with Slogra, Gaibon, and Death was a nasty gauntlet to run. Then, of course, the final battle with Dracula stood between me and destiny. These are only the big highlights for me; I could play through the game today and comment on each and every event that stood out to me, and I’d still be excited.
Perhaps the biggest thing that I take away from Super Castlevania IV is that it hooked me on a series that I really didn’t have any interest in before. After playing through Super Castlevania IV, I would eventually go on to games like Castlevania: Bloodlines on the SEGA Genesis in 1994 and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the PlayStation in 1997. I became a fan, and it was this one game that pulled me in.
I managed to accomplish two separate goals this week, when it comes to my PlayStation 2 collection. I was able to locate the final game in the .hack//G.U. trilogy to complete the set and I surpassed 200 total games thanks to a couple of decent hauls.
Here are the new additions:
.hack//G.U. Volume 3: Redemption (Disc & game, no manual): Easily the most expensive game I got, I couldn’t afford to pass up complete the G.U. set. I’m now torn as to whether I should wait to play until I find the third and fourth games of the original .hack series and play all seven games… or whether I should use the Terminal Disc (which has summaries of the original .hack games) to set the stage and just play. I’m aware that I’m probably a little more excited about these games than most people, but that’s OK.
Trapt (Disc only): I had forgotten about this game until I saw it, but when I realized what Trapt was, I had to have it. Trapt is the last of Tecmo‘s Deception games, and it’s the only title in the series on the PlayStation 2. You probably recall that I found a copy of Kagero: Deception II for the original PlayStation earlier this month, and I’m a fan of the series. If you’ve not played any of the Deception games, the idea is to kill each character in a level by activating traps of your own design and placement. You can be as devious as you want. Imagine using a bear trap to hold an enemy in place, followed by impaling him with an arrow shot from the wall and then finishing him with a rock that rumbles down the staircase. It’s good to be bad… just ignore the story.
Summer Heat Beach Volleyball (Disc only): Volleyball games aren’t a common occurrence, and that’s a shame. Games like Super Spike V’Ball (NES) and Beach Spikers (Gamecube) were a lot of fun to play, adding arcade simplicity to the controls to make them accessible to anyone. Summer Heat Beach Volleyball doesn’t quite reach the same level of fun that the aforementioned games offer, but it offers a respectable volleyball experience. One drawback is that Kylie Minogue‘s “Love at First Sight” plays way too much. You’ll tap your toes at first, but you’ll find yourself reaching for the Mute button before long.
Robin Hood: Defender of the Crown (Disc only): I bit on this because of nostalgia. My first experience with Defender of the Crown was on my Commodore 64, and then I played the NES port. I wasn’t very good at the strategy parts, but jousting, archery, and swordplay broke up the rougher parts. This game is nowhere near as fun. The archery is awful and the strategy segments are needlessly complex. I’ll probably go back to this at some point, but my first impression was about as far from favorable as one can get. Yeesh.
Silent Scope 3 (Disc only): It’s tough playing these games without the rifle, as we saw on the coin-op… but this conversion delivers the full arcade experience and adds a second full game to the package. I admit to dropping quite a few tokens on Silent Scope 3 in the arcade back in 2004, so getting to play without tokens is a guilty pleasure. Using the Dual Shock controller takes some getting used to, but the game is playable. Take him down in one shot!
State of Emergency 2 (Disc only): I let my curiosity get the best of me here. The original State of Emergency was a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. I didn’t care about the story; it was a stress reliever. State of Emergency 2 delivers a lot of setup early to try and draw you into the story, and it looks a bit better than the original, but the fun seems to have gone away. Oh, well.
SEGA Bass Fishing Duel (Disc only): I remember seeing this game on store shelves a lot during 2002 and 2003, but I always passed on it for some reason. I’m not sure why. After all, I liked the coin-op and the Dreamcast conversion. For $3, I decided to take my shot on it– and it might not have been a good decision. SEGA Bass Fishing Duel seems to want to bring more realism to the fishing experience instead of focusing on the title’s arcade roots. This leads to more complex controls and having to hunt down the right fishing spots. I’m a fan of quicker gratification… which is probably why I don’t go fishing in real life. I’ll stick with the version on the Dreamcast Collection.
Shining Tears (Disc only): Do I really need another “hack”tion RPG? Probably not, but I bit on Shining Tears nonetheless. Then I remembered that I played this back in 2005 and didn’t like it too much. Whoops.
MVP Baseball 2003 (Disc only): This was the first game in EA‘s MVP Baseball franchise, and the only one that I didn’t have. I actually liked this game.
NHL 2005 (Disc only): After NHL 2003, I didn’t like the direction that EA took with the series. The NHL 2K games really took off in terms of presentation value and gameplay, while the NHL series suffered from an identity crisis. Arcade or sim? I don’t think EA knew for sure. A quick game reminded me of this. We can laugh about it now, though; the NHL 2K series is dead and the NHL series has been improving every year.
Medal of Honor: Rising Sun (Disc only): This game, the follow-up to Medal of Honor: Frontline, could have been special. In fact, the first 10 minutes of the game would lead you to believe that it is. The attack on Pearl Harbor is tense as you scurry from below-decks to see the bombardment first-hand. Manning a boat turret and trying to fight off Japanese planes is exciting, even though you know that any victory is hollow given what we know about what happened that fateful day. When the first-person shooter action starts, though, the excitement fades. It’s too easy to get lost or lose track of objectives and you spend a lot of time running around wondering where to go while trying to avoid being shot and killed. The series would never recover after Frontline, and this game is the first example.
NFL Blitz Pro (Disc only): This game is a significant departure from the earlier Blitz titles for the PS2. Late hits and blatant pass interference remain, but the running game takes precedence over crazy pass plays and the presentation feels rather awkward. Tim Kitzrow is nowhere to be heard in the booth, and the pace of the game is decidedly slower. I do like the new focus on the running game, but passing is a bit too haphazard to be a real option. This leads to a one-sided offense that becomes easier to predict and stop. Unlike NHL Hitz Pro, which stays closer to its arcade roots while adding a few more touches of realism, NFL Blitz Pro is a step backwards.
The Bard’s Tale (Disc only): This game is a cousin to games such as Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, Champions of Norrath, and Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel. It’s an action RPG with lots of hacking and slashing to be had, but the unique identifiers here lie in the ability to summon monster allies and the game’s sense of humor. Cary Elwes provides the voice for the Bard, and delivers some funny–and snarky– lines to liven up the experience. There are musical numbers, as well, such as the famous Beer Song. The pacing in The Bard’s Tale is a bit on the slow side, but not so much that it’s not playable. I’ll be spending more time with this game.
Dynasty Warriors 3 (Complete): I’m not sure why I enjoy these games so much. I’m not a history buff. The levels are far too long. The gameplay hasn’t really evolved all that much. Still… the feeling of being near-invincible on the battlefield and taking on entire armies on your own is a major rush. Story and presentation aside, I enjoy the relative simplicity of the gameplay and these games aren’t short experiences. This particular game is 10 years old this year. Let’s call buying this a commemoration of an anniversary. Yeah, that works.
I’m not sure how many more games that I’ll be adding before my move back to Massachusetts, but the promise of more independent game stores in the area means that collecting will resume before long. In addition, I’ll be on the lookout for other platforms and software. I’d like to add a Nintendo Entertainment System sometime in 2012 and begin collecting cartridges for that. I’ll have to see how my writing and back-to-school ventures go, of course, but that’s the plan at this point.
I’ve updated my online game collection at IGN and the only platform that isn’t complete is the PlayStation 3, as I have some downloaded games to account for. I invite you to check the site out and see what the collection looks like.
Also, one last (unrelated) note: With the close of September, look for a new Armchair Analysis sales piece on KmartGamer soon. NPD numbers release on October 14th, but I’m also planning a Q4 preview piece which will hopefully go up next week. Stay tuned.