Hey everybody! Yeah, I know, it's been a while, I've been having to get used to this new method of writing articles now that some of the "inner workings" ,as it were, have had a few minor changes along with the site's overall look which, I have to admit, has kind of grown on me. It's been pretty crazy around here too having lost my last job, which I had had for almost eleven years, back in February and having started a new one soon after so I apologize for the long hatius. But enough about my personal problems, on with the article.
It's-eh me, Mario!
For my big comeback I figured I would write something with a kick, so I decided to write an article about one of my favorite past times - video games! I'm also writing this in honor of the upcoming Disney movie Wreck It Ralph which promises to be a gaming geeks dream come true. Especially for us retro gamer geeks. The movie stars a video game "bad guy" named Wreck It Ralph who no longer wants to be a bad guy because, as he puts it in the trailer, "it's hard to like your job when no one seems to like you for doing it". So he decides to leave his game, the vintage 1982 hit Fix It Felix Jr., and hops into other games around the arcade to see what it feels like to be a hero for once. What Ralph doesn't realize however is that his actions could have deadly consequences. Featuring a cast made up of some of the greatest licensed characters of the digital world this is more or less a video game version of Roger Rabbit.
Here's the trailer to get your digital juices flowing:
Looks pretty good doesn't it?
For the first part of my official video game article we will go on a tour of the NES, the first great landmark in gaming outside the arcade. (Take that Atari). I can't swear to it but I'm pretty sure I got my NES in 1987 when I was seven and in the second grade. My mom got it for me as a reward for doing well in school (believe me, I worked hard for it).
Warning: The following music may get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Do not listen if you suffer from nervous breakdowns. If you should get the sudden urge to eat wild mushrooms and flowers, seek help immediately.[/align]
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We will begin our tour with one of the most legendary games of all time:
Mama mia! Super Mario Bros. acted as a follow up to the pipe crawler Mario Bros. and gave our favorite Italian plumbers from Brooklyn their first step in an action/adventure title. The evil King Koopa, aka Bowser, has taken over the Mushroom Kingdom and it's up to Mario Mario and his younger brother Luigi Mario to stop the fire breathing brute and restore peace to the land. The gameplay was pretty strait forward and the theme music has become as legendary as the game itself. Mom and I would sometimes play two player games which was nice since I didn't always have to play alone. Sometimes though I would find her playing a solo game and actually doing pretty well which always made me laugh to myself. A grown up actually enjoying Super Mario, now I'd seen everything.
For the next stop on our tour, we will visit the Nintendo Sports Arena and grab ring side seats for what is possibly their greatest boxing game.
Like Super Mario, this was another game that I was known to spend hours with. You play as Little Mac, a teenage challenger with a big heart from the Bronx who dreams of becoming the world's greatest boxing champion. With your help he may just succeed. Punch Out made boxing look like fun with it's bright, cartoony graphics, humorous characters and comedic 8-bit animations. However, after a legal problem with Mike Tyson his name and picture were dropped from the packaging and title screen. The only part of him that still remains here is his image as the final opponent, although the character is now known as "Mr. Dream". Despite the legal changes though, Punch Out is still one of Nintendo's greatest heavy weights. I also recommend checking out the new improved version for the Wii. Not only does it look better but it now has a complete voice cast and a rockin' new take on the classic soundtrack as well as a few new faces which, if I have anything to say about it, will all soon be broken. Give the new one a try if you haven't already, it's a guaranteed knock out.
Next up will be a trip to the magical world of Hyrule.
The Legend Of Zelda stars a young green clad elf-like lad named Link who must save Hyrule from the clutches of an evil tyrant named Ganon. Not to sound negative but I've always thought it should be called The Legend Of Hyrule since Zelda is the name of it's princess. Anyway, the game play is pretty simple...at first. This is an adventure game that plays like an RPG in which you guide Link through Ganon's goons and traps to restore a powerful element called the Tri-Force, awaken the princess and save Hyrule. If you were lucky you could get a copy of the game in a shiny gold cartridge. Oooh, so pretty! This game has become as legendary as Super Mario Bros. Infact I'm sorry I missed it when it first came out. I got my NES at least a year later and by the time I found out about Zelda I had mistaken it for an RPG (me being more of an action/adventure guy). I seem to remember having once known someone who had a copy of it and he showed me how to play (I could be mistaken. Being in my early thirties now my memory about certain things has faltered a bit. Hey, this was a long time ago). I had thought about getting my own copy, always staring at that cool looking box on the shelf. But alas, I never did. I did just download a copy from the Wii Shop Channel though and, I'm happy to report, so far it's blown me away.
And now for a dip in the sewers of NYC for our next stop:
Sorry if this one gets tedious after a while. I just added it for effect.
I've noticed that some of us here on retrojunk have claimed TMNT III: The Manhatten Project as our favorite in this NES series but this was where it got started. Based on the cartoon of the time and sporting the cover of an issue of the comic book series, very classy, this title uses both over head and side scrolling game play and incorporates most of the main characters from the show. It seems that old Shred Head is up to no good again. He has once again managed to kidnap April and has a new plan for world conquest. Not on the turtles' watch. It was known to entrance many a turtle fan with it's cartoon-like look and feel. And let's not forget the ever famous cheat code: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start - at the title screen (wink, wink). So, who's up for a pizza break?
I hope everyone is buckled in because we are about to take a trip to Astoria, Oregon for our next stop:
The digitized version of Cyndi Lauper's classic theme song fits the game beautifully
I told you I would get this in somewhere (see my comments in Nightwatcher's Patrol #11). This game was meant to be a follow up to the video game that was based on the cult classic movie from 1985, (although that game was not released on the NES). The game has gathered it's own cult fan following do to it's mixture of side scrolling action levels and first person exploration screens. The Fratellis have escaped from prison and captured a mermaid named Annie who is apparently a friend of the Goonies. Upon seeing a news cast about these events the kids set off to rescue Annie,...well all except for Mikey that is. Brand tells him to stay home because of his Asthma. When the other Goonies fail to return however, it's up to Mikey to save the day. Using whatever you can find as weapons, including a paddle ball, a slingshot and even Molotov cocktails, you must help Mikey find and rescue the other Goonies and Annie before the Fratellis finish them off. This also introduces a member of the Fratelli family who was not in the movie, Cousin Pipsqueak. It also features other new characters most notably Konami Man (aka Captain Konami). This game is so legendary that it was seen being played most recently in the background of scenes in two Diary Of A Wimpy Kid movies: Rodrick Rules and Dog Days. There's also a song about it called "Save Dat Mermaid" by The Gothsicles. Annie the mermaid has also appeared in several other media. It's also funny to see how badly the engrish translation was dubbed for this game. The most famous example of this is the old monk who, if you hit him, will say "Ouch! What do you do?" or if you hit him with a hammer he says "Please, help!" A great mile stone indeed for us Goonies fans. Goonies never say die!
And now for a rest stop at Lake Nintendo for some more leisurely sports.
Duck Hunt was among the first NES games to require the system's light gun. You could either hunt ducks (hence the game's title) or do some skeet shooting for a while. The ducks also came in several different colors, each one giving you a certain number of points upon it's pixelated death. You also had a furry companion who was supposed to help you out but apparently he wasn't as faithful as he seemed. If you missed every duck that flew by in a single screen the dog would laugh in your face with a very annoying high pitched giggle. Sometimes it would make me want to shoot him instead of the ducks...or just smack him in the head. It's like, I know I messed up, you don't have to rub it in. I always found skeet shooting to be more relaxing since there was no damned dog laughing at me every time I missed a shot. Don't take any of this about the dog the wrong way. I have a dog and I love her of course but she doesn't laugh at me every time I screw up in every day life either. Sheesh! Duck Hunt later shared a cartridge with Super Mario Bros., which was the first time that such a thing was attempted, and it was bundled with the NES as a start-off game. This was what my NES came with.
Next up, prepare to time travel to the year 20XX as we drop in on the blue bomber:
It's some time in the near future and robotisist Dr. Thomas Light seems to have found the answer to labor problems, the Robot Masters. This team of super powered robots has been created to help us with some of our every day jobs and they run clean to promote a healthier environment. However, the villainous Dr. Wiley steals the masters one night as Dr. Light sleeps and reprograms them. Now the Masters serve only Wiley and aid him in his quest for world domination. At first Dr. Light is at a loss for a solution, until his robot "son" Rock volunteers to confront Wiley and the Masters as the hero known as Mega Man in an attempt to stop them. Aided via holograms by Dr. Light and Roll, who is considered to be Mega Man's "younger sister", Mega Man will stop at nothing to put an end to Wiley's evil scheme. This is a well loved title among vintage NES owners including myself, but it is also one of the most difficult games on the system. What's really cool about Mega Man is that he can absorb the main weapon of a fallen Master and use it against the others. This often makes it easier to take out the bosses, you just figure out which weapon deals out the most damage to which boss. The series is so well loved that it managed to accumulate four sequels on the NES, two on the SNES and one on Sony PlayStation. Mega Man IX and X (9 and 10) have recently been released via download on the Wii Shop Channel which pretty much finally finishes up the series. Looks like Mega Man has had a great run. This is followed by the Mega Man X series which picks up one hundred years later. My best buddy was a huge Mega Man fan back in the day. I even gave him my copy of Mega Man 8 on PlayStation after I was done with it. I never actually finished it but he told he did. I also like the first Mega Man Legends on PlayStation. Good times, good times.
I've saved the best for last. For the final stop on our tour we will make a return trip to the Mushroom Kingdom.
Mario and Luigi had been away from the Mushroom Kingdom for a while but upon their return they discovered that their old nemesis Bowser had returned as well...and this time he wasn't alone. Bowser now came with a fetching new look and family of children called the Koopa Kids or Koopalings, each of whom having taken control of a different section of the kingdom. Now the Marios must stop Bowser and his kids from taking over and once again restore peace to the kingdom. This game featured some of the best power ups of the series including Racoon Mario, Tanooki/Statue Mario and Hammer Bros. Mario. There was also Frog Mario but it only helped in the water. The graphics and music were better this time (it actually sounded like steel drums. How did they do that?) and the addition of the Koopa Kids as bosses was a nice touch. This remains among my favorites in the Super Mario series, I remember spending more time with this one than with the original and I love Racoon Mario. The ability to fly made some of the levels easier to complete.
The ones that got away
There were two accessories that I wished I had gotten when the NES was still in. One was the Nintendo NES Advantage joystick.
I couldn't, for the life of me, tell you what it was, but there was something about the thought of playing my games with a joystick that had over sized A and B buttons. Maybe it was the fact that the Advantage had other capabilities that an ordinary controller didn't like the Turbo controls at the top of the pad that could actually adjust the speed of your game. Or maybe it was simply the thrill of playing my games with a really big joy pad. What ever the reason was I really wanted this controller but it always eluded me.
The other accessory I wanted was the NES Power Glove.
This was a controller that you actually wore on your hand and it was supposed to be one of the first motion controllers. I had heard that it was kind of crappy but I didn't care, all I new was that I wanted one, especially after seeing The Wizard. There is a scene in the movie where the bully kid uses the glove to play a racing game. Let me tell you, those motion controls looked amazing to my young, single digit eyes. This could also be a cool piece for a Halloween costume. Just get one of these and one of those belt buckles that looks like a classic Nintendo controller. Wear them with blue jeans, a yellow tee shirt and a red and white school jacket and viola, instant Captain N. How cool would I have looked wearing this around my middle school. No principal would mess with Night Borg (insert big echo effect here).
This concludes our tour of the NES, I hope everyone enjoyed the ride. Next up is the Sega Genesis, hope to see you there.
And as a great cybernetic organism once said: "I'm Back"!