Nightwatcher's Patrol #28: NES Revisited Part 1
A look at Retrojunk memories past and my new HD machine for my old 8-bit games
Well, I just got inspired again! It's hard to believe now but it has been around ten and a half years since I wrote my first article that mentioned NES games. Looking back on them now, "Nightwatcher's Halloween Part 1" (October 2010) and my first NES article, "Nightwatcher's Patrol #12: Gaming Revolution Part 1" (October 2012), weren't what one might call perfect but bare in mind, it was very early in my time here on Retrojunk and I was a twenty-somewhat-year-old kid who was excited to be writing articles on a website where I could talk about my fond childhood memories with other people who felt the same way about the same decades, and I was even more excited every time one of mine got posted. I also could have chosen better games to list in the Halloween article but I've since (hopefully) made up for it in the last entry, "Nightwatcher's Halloween Returns" by finally adding Castlevania and Splatterhouse. Yeah, major video game nerd blasphemy, I know. My bad.
Back in "Nightwatcher's Halloween Part 1", I mentioned the NES Friday The 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street games (more on those, again, in just a bit) and I got this comment from fellow retrojunker segafanboy10:
Now admittedly I didn't know what AVGN was back then, in fact this was before I started spending so much of my free time on YouTube, and I didn't ask about it so it went right by me, along with this one from The Outlaw:
I found out about the AVGN (Angry VideoGame Nerd) more recently and have become a huge fan...starting in 2019...yeah, I'm really on top of things, aren't I? It is kind of embarrassing seeing as how the series started on YouTube in 2006 which, ironically enough, was also the year that I started here on RetroJunk. It's okay though, I've gotten myself caught up and I've even gotten a copy of the the AVGN BFG of Blu-rays so, it's all good. Just one thing though: is it sad that I agree with almost all negative things he says about retro video games? I guess you might say it's...
* takes deep breath * Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way, it's time for the real meat of this article. I still have my original NES front loader from my childhood (and got the internal pin connector replaced) and I purchased a top loader a little while ago that's specially modified with RCA ports (yellow, red and white) in the back which cost a whopping $260.00. However, it would seem that I've found the perfect console in recent months. It's called the AVS (Advanced Video System) and it's the best modern solution I've found for playing old school NES cartridges on televisions of today.
This little beauty has an exterior design that's reminiscent of the original NES and also takes inspiration from the real AVS console, a prototype of the NES that was shown only once at the 1984 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas...and has never been seen again since.
Oh, wait a minute...
I almost forgot about this special display of the console from a more recent exhibit. The main unit is on the left, it was an audio cassette drive, notice the cosmetic resemblance to the new unit of today. It also had two controllers, a joystick (all of which look very familiar), a key board and a special light gun. The controllers, joystick and light gun were all reworked into the ones that we have now but the keyboard was dropped from the set. Can you believe that this was considered "cutting edge" back in 1984?
The AVS's modern counterpart pumps out 8-bits in eye popping 720p HD and in stereo sound, and it doesn't screw up the sound either, like in most cheaper clone consoles. It also has built in Four Score in case you have three friends to play games with that accept up to four players, such as California Games or *ahem!* A Nightmare On Elm Street. It also has built in Game Genie so that you can cheat to your dark little heart's content and now there are five lines of wishes instead of three. There is also a built in leader board function if you are into that (it can be hooked up to a computer for firmware updates and this also allows you to post your high scores to the web so that you can show off if you want, although this really has no meaning if you've been using Game Genie). There are also settings menus for adjusting the AVS wireless controllers (you can use your old ones BTW!) and the picture. My suggestion would be to turn on the "More Sprites" option, this bumps up the number of pixels so that you don't get that weird shimmering effect where characters and objects look like they are blipping in and out of reality. The NES was only meant to handle just so much on screen at once, so if there was to much going on some pixels would start blipping out sometimes causing weird effects. With "More Sprites" turned on the picture should now be clean and crisp. You want to see the difference between regular RCA and AVS? We will use our friend Mega Man as an example, take a look for yourselves.
Amazing, isn't it? The difference is like night and day! And if Mega Man himself looks this good, imagine what the whole game looks like!
The only drawback that I've noticed here is that not all NES cartridges are compatible with the AVS, which I found out the hard way when attempting to play Terminator 2: Judgement Day.
The game wouldn't play properly in the AVS so, naturally, I thought it was broken. I took it to my buddy at his retro video game hobby shop in the next town over, where I've obtained the majority of my collection from. He cleaned the pins (note to self: find out what chemical solution he uses because it seems to work), popped it in his top loader and, presto, it worked! So I took it home and put it in the AVS, same glitch problem as before. Then I thought, "Hmmm, maybe if I tried it in the top loader...", so I hooked up the old girl, popped the game in, started it up and...well holy crap, it works! Evidently the T2 game works in the regular consoles but not in the AVS. I have opened it up and noticed that it has a differently colored circuit board than most NES cartridges, a pale, semi-translucent green instead of the usual solid, shiny green.
Not sure if that has anything to do with this incompatibility problem but it is interesting. It's also kind of ashame because T2 is a pretty cool game but I can't play it in HD. * sigh * Oh well. It's still part of my collection, I just have it placed off to the side for now.
On a more positive note, the AVS has an added bonus feature: it can also play Famicom cartridges if you happen to have any lying around...although the method of insertion could use some work.
Seriously, I know the original Famicom is a top loader, but what kind of way is this, I mean WHAT - KIND OF WAY - IS THIS, to load a game, even a Famicom game, into a console that has a lid THAT CLOSES DOWN OVER THE CARTRIDGE?! Not to mention that simply tapping the lid down on the Famicom cartridge with just a little to much force can make the game glitch up (yes, I have done it, at least once). Fortunately there is a better way. There do exist Famicom cartridge adapters that allow those games to work on Nintendo consoles in other parts of the world, the most common of which being a small, grey cartridge that goes into either Nintendo console with the Famicom cartridge perched on top...and facing the wrong direction, and has a black fabric ribbon to pull it out of a front loader with. The best one that I know of though, is the My Arcade adapter which is like a regular Nintendo cartridge with a big space in the middle to accomodate the Famicom cartridge and it allows the cartridge to lay flat in a Nintendo front loader, or AVS, so that the lid can actually be closed over it. The Famicom cartridges also have a nice firm connection once inserted.
What a novel concept! The only problem with this method is that most oversized Famicom cartridges won't fit in this adapter so you really have no choice but to use the smaller one for those. As an extra blessing, you can also use Game Genie with most Famicom games on the AVS! Yep, nothing like playing The Goonies for Famicom on a newer console with infinite health! On a side note, The Goonies on Famicom is definitely one of the better titles in that library, albeit, a little repetitive.
Get this: unless you find and rescue all the Goonies, and I mean ALL THE GOONIES, the game will go through the same six stages over and over again, including the restaurant, before allowing you to FINALLY reach stage seven, the pirate ship, where you rescue the final Goonie, the only girl out of the bunch here who looks like she is supposed to be Andy. It seems that the Famicom version is the most movie accurate out of all of the versions that were released, although, it would have been nice to play as Sloth like in the other versions and have the Goonies ACTUALLY NAMED instead of playing as an unnamed kid, who we have to assume is supposed to be Mikey, rescuing a bunch of other random unnamed kids. Yeah, we don't know if these kids are even really the Goonies but, they need rescuing, so hop to it!
So where can you get one of these little miracles and how much damage will it do to your wallet? Your best bet is to go straight to the manufacturer's website, retrousb.com, and it costs $189.00. Add tax and shipping and it cost me $208.00 all together which may sound like a lot to some but compared to what I paid for my specially modded top loader, it was a pretty good deal. Also, if you are going to head over there, don't forget to pick up a copy of their NWC (Nintendo World Championship) repro cart.
It's the one that was featured in the AVGN episode that revolved around the NWC cartridges guest starring Pat Contri (The NES Punk) and it's a lot cheaper at $75.00, a steal compared to how much a real copy of video gaming's holy grail usually goes for these days. I just found a real copy of the gold cartridge on EBay for...Are you ready for this?...One million dollars! I kid you not! Don't believe me? Just take a look at this screenshot that I took of it and get ready to have a heart attack!
Yeah, "Holy Grail" is right, this is probably how much some people would be willing to spend on the real Holy Grail. If you have a million dollars to spend on this 21 year old, over priced collector's treasure then by all means, go ahead and treat yourself, but not this guy. I can't call a Nintendo article complete without at least a quick a mention of it, but purchasing it would make me broke. And before anyone says anything, yes, for the love of Miyamoto, I am aware of it's extreme rarity. Twenty six of them were made as giveaways from Nintendo Power magazine following the championship in 1990 and the whereabouts of only half of them (that's thirteen for those who are trying to keep count) are known. Personally, I think that they should be donated to video gaming museums (yes, such places do exist) where they can be kept safe and we can all go and worship them all we want.
Also, having mentioned Pat Contri, I would like to throw in a quick shout out for his awesome (and very insightful) book.
I have to give praise where it's due, right? The Ultimate Guide to the NES Library is the essential tome for the serious NES collector. As suggested on the cover it lists the entire NES catalogue from A-Z, both licensed and unlicensed, with basic information, colorful screen shots, a brief summary and some personal memories that the guys involved are able to share about each one, and I like the CGI rendered images of the cartridges so that the reader knows what they look like in case they are trying to find them...like me. There are also some short articles written by the contributors on varying topics including one about horror movie games on NES by James Rolfe (AVGN). I have a copy on digital to read on my tablet that I got from Pat's website, the-punk-effect.myshopify.com. I LOVE it and use it as my regular reference point for my collection. For those who are interested, there is also an SNES edition (I may just check that one out too sometime) and even a Super Famicom edition!
Well, now that I'm done talking about my new 8-bit tech and giving shout outs, I had planned to go into reviews of a few titles in my collection that stand out for particular reasons, but it looks like that will have to wait until next time because this is already getting kind of long. Join me in part 2 for such favorites as Wally Bear and the NO! Gang (yep!), New Ghostbusters 2, Journey To Silius, and even updated reviews for Friday the 13th and A Nightmare On Elm Street. Hope to see you there.