Archive for February, 2007

Great Moments in Video Game Violence: Carnival Massacre

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Carnival Massacre - Atari 800I have to admit that I've murdered more than my fair share of virtual people. I always go for the head shot in Gears of War. I run down pedestrians in Grand Theft Auto like it was going out of style. There's something about the thrill of spilling innocent pixelated blood while hearing digitized screams of absolute terror that keeps me coming back for more, time and time again. And until the McClinsky-Grinhold Virtual Rights Act of 2042 passes, I should be free to indulge in the simulated murder-violence of virtual humans.

Seeing that this is a "vintage gaming" site, I thought I would take a look at some of the "great moments" of digital simulated violence in the past. My only complaint is that, prior to 1989, video game graphics were not sophisticated enough to depict gushing, free-flowing rivers of crimson plasma with any regularity. You kinda had to use your imagination to fill in the blanks. Bummer. Nonetheless, in this column we'll be taking a look at an early pioneer in senseless virtual bloodshed, Thorn EMI Video's Carnival Massacre for the Atari 800 computer system. Carnival Massacre is a 1983 classic that, with a few minor changes, could quite possibly have been the greatest game of all time.

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Retro Scan of the Week: GTE ActionStation XT300

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

GTE XT300 TerminalHaven't you always wanted your very own personal desktop information terminal? With a 9″ monochrome monitor? That requires a $15-an-hour text-only information service to use to its fullest? For the same price as a full-fledged PC? Neither did anybody else, and that's why it was on clearance in 1986.

The XT300 ActionStation came with "$15.00 of free usage" for CompuServe, which, according to the catalog, "will vary between 1 and 2 hours" of connect time "depending on when it's used." This makes the old "100 Hours Free!" AOL offer look like a bargain!

Here's some more info on the GTE XT300, from Communication News, February 1985:

GTE's XT300 ActionStation combines an ASCII terminal with build-in modem and nine-inch high-resolution screen with a full-feature electronic telephone, speaker phone and large-capacity speed dialer. The ActionStation's two-line capability allows simultaneously voice and data transmission, and the unit provides access to a wide range of data transmission and retrieval services, including GTE's Telemail electronic mail service and online public data-base services. A personal directory permits storage of 50 names and telephone numbers, and eight computer sign-on procedures. It also stores 12 frequently used commands, report names and data file names of up to 36 characters.

[ Scanned from a COMB Catalog, ca. 1986 ]

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

Retro Scan of the Week: Baton TelePlay Modem for NES and Genesis

Monday, February 19th, 2007
Baton Teleplay Modem Advertisement
When I first saw this ad in EGM around 1992-93, I wanted one of these modems so bad. I was hugely into BBSes and computer telecommunications at the time, and the thought of using one on a console to play games with friends was awesome. My best friend called my BBS, and my imagination went wild thinking about all the fun we could have with a pair of these modems. That is, assuming the games were good.

Eventually, I convinced my mom to call Baton (being a about 11 or 12 years old then) to see if she could order one, but by that time either the phone number was already disconnected, or she didn't get an answer. Or maybe she did talk to somebody — my memory's fuzzy on that point. I was hugely disappointed. Crushed. The Teleplay modems never showed up in stores and I never heard anything about them again.

I did get excited when Xband modems came out some years later (for the SNES and Genesis), but I found the experience with their service somewhat lacking. I wanted a direct player-to-player connection with no game broker or middle man.

For more on the story behind the Baton Teleplay modem, check out Frank Cifaldi's investigative piece at Lost Levels Online. I'm really glad he took the time to research the company so that their story isn't completely lost to history.

Unfortunately, I forgot to document the issue number this ad appeared in when I scanned it some time ago.

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

Name Those Pixels: Challenge #9

Friday, February 16th, 2007

Pixel Challenge #9 - 1I see now that my previous weeks' challenges have been too easy! Either that, or you guys are just too good. Time for a real challenge. This week's theme is "Fantasy Beat 'Em Ups." Think Golden Axe, but not. That should help you pin them down. The first block is to the right, the other two are below. As always, post your guesses in the comments section of this entry, and don't be bashful. Good luck!

Pixel Challenge #9 - 2    Pixel Challenge #9 - 3

The answers to the last challenge are after the break.

[ Continue reading Name Those Pixels: Challenge #9 » ]

Super Game 64 Advance DS: The Nintendo Game Naming Formula Revealed!

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Super Game 64 Color EX Advance DS '99 BoxWhat's in a name? Well, if it's the name of a game for a Nintendo console, there's a strong chance that part of the system's name will make an appearance. Popular examples of this practice include the game title Super Metroid for the Super NES and Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64. I call this phenomenon "system-naming," for lack of a better term.

System-naming is largely isolated to games produced for Nintendo systems due to the company's penchant for adding "upgrade" prefixes (the "Super" in "Super NES") or suffixes (the "64″ in "Nintendo 64″) to their system titles. We'll take a look at some instances of non-Nintendo system-naming near the end of the article.

So what does "system-naming" matter? The answer, quite simply, is nothing. Really — nothing at all. This is an exercise in pure console nerdlyness. Information for the sake of information. So if you're easily scared away by the academic study of trivial minutia, turn away now!

Still there? Ok. Let's take a look at each Nintendo system, tally up their system-named games, and see which system ultimately wins the battle of the names. All percentages have been rounded up to the next whole number. Sources for the data presented are listed at the end of each section.

[ Continue reading Super Game 64 Advance DS: The Nintendo Game Naming Formula Revealed! » ]

Retro Scan of the Week: Bentley Bear Touched My Bum!

Monday, February 12th, 2007
Crystal Castles Advertisement
After seeing what Bentley Bear is capable of, I'm not really sure if I want his "tip."

[ From Electronic Games Magazine, December 1983 ]

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

A Long, Strange Trip Comes to an End

Monday, February 12th, 2007

Benj Finishes EarthboundJust a few hours ago, I completed an epic journey that I began over ten years before.

I finally finished the game EarthBound for the Super Nintendo.

I know, I know. Usually, completing a game is no big deal, and most people probably finish EarthBound in the span of a week. But in this particular case, the accomplishment meant something much more to me. I began playing the game in 1996 when I first acquired my copy of EarthBound used from a local Blockbuster store (a video rental chain in the US). I have slowly played through the same saved game a little bit at a time, usually about once every year. There might have been a period or two over the last decade where I didn't play it for a few years straight, which would partially explain why it has taken so long. Picking up the game again every year was always a challenge because I'd have to spend hours just reacquainting myself with what was going on in the game's storyline at the point of my last save, and I'd also have to figure out what to do next. Sometimes, I'd get too overwhelmed and just give up figuring it out…and promptly put off the task until the next time I picked up the cart.

Benj Finishes EarthboundWell, just this month, I felt my yearly EarthBound cravings coming on again (they usually hit sometime during the first two months of the year), so I pulled out the 'ole SNES and fired it up. This time would be different, though: I dedicated myself to finally seeing the game through — all the way to the bitter end! 2007, I figure, is a good enough year to finish a game that came out in 1995. I'm usually a traditionalist about these things, but my original SNES wasn't feeling quite right on my fancy new TV, so I figured I'd put a little modern technology on my side to aid me in my quest.

I've recently been playing a number of SNES games on an old iMac that I have more or less turned into a dedicated SNES emulator machine. I thought it would be nice, for a change of pace, to play EarthBound on there. Using my Super WildCard DX2, I transferred my EarthBound cart's SRAM data to a file (which contains all the game's save information) and Benj Finishes Earthboundloaded it up on my emulator. I played through the rest of the same game I started in 1996 on the emulator with an authentic SNES pad (via a Super SmartJoy USB adapter, which I've been meaning to review for a year or so now). I'm not going to lie to you; save states are the Emulator God's gift to gaming, and without them, I probably would have completed a few bosses as usual and put off finishing the game until next year. The save states made playing through the game an absolute joy over the past few days, removing all sorts of time-wasting save-related hassles and just generally smoothing out the experience. Screw the purists — it was incredible fun, not a logistical pain in the neck, like playing a game should be.

Now that the journey is over, I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. In one way, I'm ecstatically happy to have finally accomplished something by playing my way through such a masterful game, and in another way, I'm heartbroken that it's over, as EarthBound is probably one of my favorites of all time. But if it's one of my favorite games ever, why did it take me ten years to complete?

Maybe I'm just weird like that. Or maybe I didn't want it to end.

Benj Finishes Earthbound

Retro Scan of the Week: Pizza Kid Caption Contest

Monday, February 5th, 2007
VCG 3rd Caption Contest Image
It's that time again folks — time for another Retro Scan of the Week caption contest! This will be our third contest. Our last was in October of 2006 and our first was a few months before in August. Here's how it works:

Anyone out there may enter the contest (multiple times is fine by me) by writing a comment on this post. Simply write the best (i.e. funniest) caption you can think of for the image above. The winning caption will be selected by me and glorified before the whole world as the best caption ever. But of course, it's not really about winning; it's about the self-satisfaction you'll gain by entertaining your peers and the joy of participating in a community event.

So join in the fun. Let's see what you guys can come up with for this one. Study the image carefully and use every detail to your advantage.

If you use this image on your site, please support "Retro Scan of the Week" by giving us obvious credit for the original scan and entry. Thanks.

Name Those Pixels: Challenge #8

Friday, February 2nd, 2007

Pixel Challenge #8 - 1Welcome back! This week's pixel challenge involves flying bullets. The theme is, appropriately, "Shooter Games." That means all three of these pixel blocks came from video games considered to fit in the "shooter" genre. That should help you pin them down. The first block is to the right, the other two are below. As always, post your guesses in the comments section of this entry, and don't be bashful. Good luck!

Pixel Challenge #8 - 2    Pixel Challenge #8 - 3

The answers to the last challenge are after the break.

[ Continue reading Name Those Pixels: Challenge #8 » ]

The Basement Mac Museum

Thursday, February 1st, 2007

The Classic II Mac BarDeep in the heart of Missouri lies a secret underground bunker full of Apple Macintosh computers. Within its stark white walls, you'll find the computer collection of Jeremy Mehrle, a professional graphic designer with a decided preference for Apple hardware.

Actually, Mehrle's presentation more closely resembles a swank nightclub than a bunker. The monochromatic color design and minimalistic furniture arrangement compliment the Mac collection perfectly, while adding an incredible touch of class to the makeshift museum. Dozens of compact Macs (mostly Classic IIs), which automatically run screen savers when turned on, engulf a tall bar area in one corner of the basement. In other section, there's an eye-catching wall full of candy-colored iMacs. And don't forget to take a stroll down the row of various all-in-one Mac models that includes the rare Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh. Eat your heart out, "Mac Shelf."

Mac LineupMerhle, who also goes by the handle "soyburger," posted some pictures of his basement Mac collection on Flickr in August of last year, and links to the gallery have been virally spreading around the web ever since. I just recently ran across the photos myself and was so impressed with the aesthetically adept setup that I decided to contact Merhle and conduct a short email interview, which you can read below. There's a lot more to see of Mehrle's basement than the pictures here, so don't forget to check out the full gallery as well, on Flickr.

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