Archive for the 'Gaming History' Category

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Crystal Quest for Game Boy

Monday, April 21st, 2014

Crystal Quest for Nintendo Game Boy Advertisement 1991Game Boy: The Final Frontier

Fans of early Mac games will no doubt remember Crystal Quest, which (I believe) was the first Mac game to use color graphics just after the Mac II came out in 1987.

Crystal Quest on the Mac played like a space-based Robotron: 2084 controlled with the mouse, albeit with a loose trackball feel because your ship kept moving in the direction you nudged the mouse until you corrected its course. So I'm not sure how it played in this obscure Game Boy port from 1991. Perhaps I'll fire up an emulator right now and find out.

[ From Video Games & Computer Entertainment, August 1991, rear cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Can you think of any other game that started on the Macintosh then received a port to a Nintendo console?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Super Game Boy Commander

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Hori SGB Commander Super Game Boy Controller Super NES SNES Box 1994Like a Game Boy outside your pocket on a leash.

Ah, the Super Game Boy. What an enchanting peripheral it was. (I wrote about my feelings for it in eighth-ever RSOTW entry back in 2006.)

In case you missed it, the Super Game Boy was a special cartridge that let you play Game Boy games on the Super NES using a TV set and a SNES controller.

Around the time the Super Game Boy came out in Japan (1994 I believe), the always-amusing Hori released a special controller that partially simulated the look and the feel of the original Game Boy unit itself — right down to the speaker grille in the lower right corner. The resulting product, the SGB Commander, never saw the light of day in the US, but that didn't stop me from importing one about a half decade ago when they were on sale at NCSX for a very reasonable price.

As far as controllers go, the build is sturdy and responsive. It works as well as any decently-made controller with the Super Game Boy, although I'm not sure it was entirely necessary. For that reason it remains a very neat oddity in the history of game controllers.

By the way, here's what the back of the box looks like.

[ From Hori SGB Commander (HSD-07) product packaging, circa 1994]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite game to play with the Super Game Boy?

Top 1000 Video Games of All Time

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

The Top 1000 Video Games of All Time

Today, PC World published my latest slideshow, The Top 1000 Video Games of All Time.

The in-depth piece — split into 1000 separate slides, each with its own paragraph of text — took over two years to create.

You may be asking yourself how one person could create such an epic work. Well, I got a little help from custom algorithms I programmed partially in Haskell — and partially in Minecraft's redstone circuitry using Boolean algebra.

But I didn't just rely on computer wizardry. Much self-deliberation went into choosing the order of the items on the list. I argued with myself for hours while sitting on the bench at a local park, on the bus, and in the North Regional Branch of the Wake County Public Library. After being arrested 13 times (twice in the nude), I decided to perform future deliberations in the privacy of my own bathroom. I feel that it made the results more pure.

Here's a sneak peek at the bottom 11:

1000. Halo (Xbox)
999. Silpheed (IBM PC)
998. Sewermania (TI-99/4A)
997. Quadrapong (Arcade)
996. Section Z (NES)
995. Pooyan (Arcade)
994. New Super Mario Bros. (DS)
993. Popeye: Beach Volleyball (Game Gear)
992. Lloyd the Squirrel (???)
991. Snafu (Aquarius)
990. Descent (PC)

And here's a selection from somewhere near the middle:

555. Superman (2600)
554. Bioshock Infinite (PC)
553. Slipnosis (iOS)
552. Star Trek: Phaser Strike (Microvision)
551. Farmville (Flash)
550. Deadly Towers (NES)

As for the top 10, you may be in for a surprise. My Haskell program determined with scientific precision that the 10 greatest video games of all time are, in fact, different versions of Ms. Pac-Man:

10. Ms. Pac-Man (Apple iPod)
9. Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 2600)
8. Ms. Pac-Man (TI-99/4A)
7. Ms. Pac-Man (ColecoVision)
6. Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 5200)
5. Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 800)
4. Ms. Pac-Man (IBM PC)
3. Ms. Pac-Man (Intellivision)
2. Ms. Pac-Man (Arcade)
1. Ms. Pac-Man (Atari 7800)

Oddly, my redstone program placed Super Mario Bros. 3 in the top 10 seven times — that's how good it is. But I can't do the same game on the same platform in multiple spots, so I compromised. To see the full, final list, you'll have to check out the slideshow yourself. I hope you enjoy it.

And remember: unlike most of my previous ranked lists, I used computer algorithms to ensure its accuracy, so don't get mad if you disagree with the list. You're completely wrong.

—-

Discussion Topic: What are your top 1000 video games of all time?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega IR 7000

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Sega IR 7000 Haldheld Portable PDA Infrared Advertisement 1994"Whispering is for gutless weasels."

In the early-mid 1990s, Sega experimented with a few electronics items that veered away from mainstream console gaming. Case in point, the IR 7000 PDA, seen here (and don't forget the Sega Pico).

I've never owned an IR 7000, but I have to admit that I wanted one badly back in the day. The thought of sending secret wireless messages to other kids in class (I was 13 at the time this came out) excited me.

[ From Flux, Issue #2, 1994, p.7]

Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what was Sega's weirdest product?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Nintendo World Championships 1990

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014

Nintendo Power Nintendo World Championships 1990 Advertisement 1990"Children everywhere will be crushed and digitized by the trophy of power."

There's a certain ultra-rare golden NES cartridge out there that originated at Nintendo World Championships 1990. Here's an advertisement for the event itself on the back of a vintage Nintendo Power magazine from 1990.

Kinda makes you want to go back in time and attend, doesn't it? Call 1-900-HOT-4NWC to find out more!

[ From Nintendo Power, May-June 1990, rear cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Video game competitions: interesting or boring? Debate.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Pro 200 Super Electronic Handheld Gaming System

Monday, February 24th, 2014

Protech Pro 200 Super Electronic Handheld Gaming System Catalog Advertisement 1998Plays the 200 variations of Tetris that Pajitnov rejected.

I must admit that I wanted this "Pro 200 Super Electronic Handheld Gaming System" upon seeing it in 1998 — even through I knew it was almost certainly a piece of junk. Not to play it, per se, but to collect it and to admire its gloriously gimmicky nature.

If history is any guide, I'm guessing that the Protech Pro 200 didn't actually ship with 256 (or even 200) built in games. Rather, it likely contained 250 variations on a handful of distinct games — like most "1000-in-1″ cheap off-brand multicarts from back in the day.

16 years since its release, I have still never played the Pro 200, so I can't say if it had any play value. I did find this commercial on YouTube though.

Has anybody out there played one of these?

[ From Spilsbury Puzzle Co., Holiday 1998, rear cover]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's the cheapest, crappiest piece of video game hardware you've ever bought (think peripherals too)?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Super Mario Mac & Cheese

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Kraft Super Mario Bros. Macaroni and Cheese flier flyer Advertisement 1994The princess has lost her floatation powers…and Yoshi loves bongs.

My mom saves everything. Case in point, I ran across a mountain of mid-1990s coupon flyers — the kind that arrive stacked in an envelope through the mail — at her house this afternoon while I was looking for some old papers. This particular 30-cents-off coupon for Kraft's Super Mario Bros. Macaroni and Cheese from 1994 caught my eye. It measures 4.5″ x 7.5″ (for those of you at home keeping notes).

I've never eaten Super Mario Bros. mac and cheese, but I bet it was every bit as delicious as the regular noodle variety. And besides — there was an adventure in every bowl.

[ From a coupon flyer mailing pack, ca. 1994]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever eaten any food products based on licensed video game characters?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Epyx Winter Games

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Epyx Winter Games Summer Games Summer Games II Advertisement 1985Just in time for Sochi. Sorry for the page fold.

[ From Compute!, November 1985, p.37]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite winter sport(s) video game? This is mine.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Stickybear Games

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Weekly Reader Educational Software Stickybear Educational Game Software Advertisement 1983"Stickybear," in retrospect, is a kinda disgusting name.

[ From Personal Computing, November 1983, p.108]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What's your favorite educational video/computer game of all time?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Virtual Boy Wasteland

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Nintendo Virtual Boy Wasteland advertisement- 1995Virtual Boy: The #1 video game console on Mars.

When the Virtual Boy first launched in 1995, I rented the console (yep, the whole console) and a few games from my local Blockbuster store. Prior to that time, I don't remember Blockbuster offering any other systems for rent; I think it was a joint effort with Nintendo to get the novel machine into people's hands to try it out. (Later, I also rented a Nintendo 64 and a PlayStation from Blockbuster. But I digress.)

In fact, here are some early digital photos of that Virtual Boy rental, courtesy of my Snappy Video Snapshot. The first, dated 8/29/95, shows one of my cats sleeping in the plastic hard case the Virtual Boy arrived in when rented from Blockbuster. The second shows the Virtual Boy sitting alone on a stool in my room, and the third (dated 8/30/1995) shows my friend playing the Virtual Boy.

Virtual Boy Snappy Shots

The Virtual Boy was an interesting experience — not exactly mind-blowing, but neat. Its display was all red, all the time, but with stereoscopic 3D. I remember that it seemed expensive (MSRP of $179.99, which is $275.26 today when adjusted for inflation), and I remember thinking that if it only cost less, it could be successful.

But as we now know, the Virtual Boy failed to take off. Nintendo killed it the same year it launched in Japan, and the company pulled the plug in the US the following year. At that time I bought a Virtual Boy new in the box on clearance at Toys'R'Us for $30. I still have it; in fact it's sitting next to me as I write this. Wario Land ranks among my favorite games for the system, and I always wished that this odd 3D console had lived long enough to receive a proper Super Mario Bros. title.

Why did the Virtual Boy fail? I wrote about some of the reasons in this 2009 article on Game Console Design Mistakes for Technologizer. I also briefly analyzed the Virtual Boy for my History of Stereoscopic 3D Gaming slideshow for PC World in 2011.

In some ways, it's a shame that the system died so early, but in absolute business terms, its early demise made perfect sense. The Virtual Boy was an odd machine without broad appeal — one of Nintendo's rare flops — but it makes for a heck of a video game collector's item today as a result.

[ From Computer Gaming World, September 1995, p.8-9]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever played the Virtual Boy? What's your favorite game for the system?

See Also: Virtual Boy Vortex (RSOTW, 2012)
See Also: The History of Stereoscopic 3D Gaming (PC World, 2011)