Atari’s Forgotten Arcade Classics (1972-1975)

Thursday, June 8th, 2017

Atari's Forgotten Arcade Games

Rolling Stone recently launched a dedicated gaming site called Glixel, and just recently, EGM alum and Glixel’s General Manager, John Davison (of whom I am a big fan), asked me to write something for the site.

So I did. Atari turns 45 this month, and I thought it would be fun to look back at some of Atari’s early coin-op titles that very few people have heard of. The result is called “Atari’s Forgotten Arcade Classics,” and you can read it now over at Glixel.

If I weren’t so busy with other projects, I’d dive more in-depth into the origins of Atari — I certainly have a lot to say about it. But that will have to wait until another time. Until then, I hope you enjoy this piece.

[ Retro Scan ] Lufia and the Fortress of Doom

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016

Taito Lufia and the Fortress of Doom Super NES SNES Advertisement Scan - 1993“A VAST RPG WORLD IN STUNNING GRAPHICS!”

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1993, p.123 ]

Discussion Topic: What’s your favorite RPG on the Super NES?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Ultima VII For SNES

Monday, November 16th, 2015

Origin FCI Pony Ultima The Black Gate for SNES Super NES Ultima VII port advertisement - 1994This keychain looks like it would hurt in your pocket

Here we see an ad for the Super NES version of Ultima VII: The Black Gate. Apparently, when VII received its port to Nintendo’s console, its Roman numeral designation got the axe. As a result, the title became merely Ultima: The Black Gate.

I’m not a big fan of the SNES ports of the Ultima games (VI and VII). In the process of chopping things down to fit in a reasonably-sized ROM cartridge, a lot of content and features were lost (including the Roman numeral in this case). But at the same time, those ports likely gave console fans a taste of the Ultima universe that they would not have had otherwise.

As for me, I was lucky enough to originally play the Ultima games on the PC (and the Atari ST, in the case of Ultima III), so I guess I am spoiled.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1994, p.100]

Discussion Topic of the Week: In your opinion, what’s the best console port of any Ultima game?


See Also:

Ultima VII Immortality Contest (RSOTW, 2007)
Ultima VI (RSOTW, 2009)
Ultima V (RSOTW, 2009)
The Savage Empire (RSOTW, 2010)
Tiny Pocket Ultima (RSOTW, 2013)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] PlayStation Sampler CD

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Sony PlayStation 1 PSX PS1 Interactive CD Sampler Pack Volume Three 3 CD case cover sleeve - 1996That is one intense swirl, man

Twenty years ago this week, Sony released the PlayStation in the United States — on 9/9/95, in fact.

The first time I remember seeing a PlayStation in person was a demo unit at my local Blockbuster video rental store. At first they had a single kiosk playing Battle Arena Toshinden. A few months later, they upgraded to a new kiosk with a trio of PlayStations arranged in an outwardly-facing triangle formation (if that makes any sense), with each running a different playable demo. I think that two of the three games were Battle Arena Toshinden and Twisted Metal. The third escapes me.

I rented a complete PlayStation system from that Blockbuster not long after it came out, along with two games: Loaded and Twisted Metal. I had read in a positive review in EGM that Loaded incorporated Gauntlet-like elements — overall, I was not too impressed with its gritty atmosphere or gameplay. But I did enjoy putting the Loaded CD in my computer’s CD-ROM drive finding that it had a compatible file system on it, and that I could take a peek at the game’s file structure. (Although that was irrelevant to gameplay, it raised the system’s cool factor in my young tinkerer mind.)

Twisted Metal was a blast. I loved that game. I remember playing as Hammerhead (the monster truck) and running over everybody repeatedly. There is fun in digital mayhem.

In 1996, my brother’s best friend bought a PlayStation and Twisted Metal 2 (released Oct 1996), and he brought it over to our house to play with us a few times. We loved it. After that, we knew we had to have one. In my mind, Twisted Metal 2 was the system’s killer app — until Symphony of the Night came out, of course.

(I also rented a Nintendo 64 from Blockbuster in 1996, but I didn’t buy one of those until summer 1997. Speaking of renting systems, I also rented a Virtual Boy from Blockbuster in 1995. I write all this down for my benefit as much as yours, so I can try to keep all this history straight.)

So after asking kindly to our parents, my brother and I got our PlayStation as a joint Christmas present in 1996. I was 15; my brother was 20. Having gone through prior console phases with the Atari 2600 (and 800, which we treated like a console), NES, TG-16, Super NES, and Jaguar, we felt like we were growing up along with the video game industry.

The scan you see above is the front and back of the sleeve of the sampler CD that came packed in with our new PS1 in 1996 (titled “Interactive CD Sampler Pack Volume Three”). I would have scanned the disc as well, but I seem to have separated it from this sleeve — maybe I put it in a jewel case long ago. I know I still have it somewhere.

[ From PlayStation Interactive CD Sampler Pack – Volume 3, ca. 1996]

Discussion Topic of the Week: When did you get your first PlayStation 1? What were your favorite games for it?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Game Boy Lemmings

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Psygnosis Ocean Lemmings for Game Boy advertisement - 1993Biggest Lemming I Ever Seen

My brother received the IBM PC port of Lemmings as a gift (probably for Christmas) in the early 1990s. It made a distinct impression in my young mind, with its vivid VGA graphics, a playful MIDI soundtrack, and charismatic little creatures that you could bid to do your every whim.

I have never played the Game Boy version, but this ad caught my eye.

When I wrote a feature about the most ported games of all time for 1UP.com back in 2007, Lemmings featured prominently with ports to 28 systems up to that point in time. What can I say — Lemmings is a classic.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1993, p.48]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s the best Lemmings-like or Lemmings clone game? (Other than Lemmings, of course — The Humans and Baldies come to mind.)

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Meaty Evil Legend

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Meaty Evil Seika Legend SNES Super NES video game advertisement - 1993MEAT IS NEAT

I thought I had some Halloween-themed scans saved up for this year, but it looks like I don’t. My magazines are in cold storage at the moment (buried somewhere under the Arctic tundra), so I can’t get to them to scan a new one.

Time to fall back on some old scans. This looks pretty scary, right? I wouldn’t like to run into that zombie warrior in person.

Thinking back, I recall that I scanned this particular ad for Seika’s Legend in 2006 while working on my Game Ads A-Go-Go column (Simon Carless thought of that name, by the way) for the now defunct GameSetWatch. Back then, I didn’t keep track of which issue each scan came from, so I’ll have to come back later and update the post when I run across the ad in a magazine again.

[Update: 09/07/2015 – I found the source for this scan and updated the info below.]

As for the game this page advertises, I know very little about it. I just now played Legend in a Super NES emulator to refresh my memory. It is a fantasy-themed arcade beat-em-up similar to Golden Axe. It controls like sludge (your guy moves with the speed and agility of a slug) but has two-player co-op (always a winning feature) and is fairly fun if you have the patience to stick with it.

Me? I don’t like walking at 0.3 miles per hour in a game, so I only played it for two minutes.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1993, p.90]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s your favorite beat-em-up game?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Risk Bodily Harm with STD

Monday, September 29th, 2014

STD Interact Handy Boy Attitude Push it to the Edge Wheelbarrow construction site advertisement - 1994Push your friends to the edge — literally.

There is a certain irony to this pair of products by STD: one of them, the Handy Gear, makes your portable game console more rugged and less likely to break. The other, the Handy Boy, makes your console less rugged and more likely to break.

And both of them make you want to kill your friends, as this ad shows.

But seriously. One of my friends as a kid (who is amazingly still living) owned the Handy Boy accessory that snapped onto and around your Game Boy. The controller extension part looked cool but was useless and made playing games more difficult. But the magnifying glass and light were genuinely useful (especially the light part), since the Game Boy was notoriously difficult to play in low light conditions — which meant just about anywhere indoors.

By the way, long, long, long time readers of VC&G might remember that I lampooned this ad eight years ago in a column for GameSetWatch. But I just realized that I never featured it as a proper Retro Scan, so here it is.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly – November 1994, p.87]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you (or do you) own any notable Game Boy or Game Gear accessories? Tell us about them.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sega Channel

Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Sega Genesis Sega Channel advertisement - 1995“Get hooked in.”

Since its debut in late 1994, the Sega Channel remains one of the most fascinating footnotes of video game history. Essentially, the system had two components: a hardware cartridge that a customer plugged into his or her Sega Genesis, and a premium subscription cable TV service (usually $14.95 a month) that provided a selection of games the customer could download.

Games, when downloaded, were saved temporarily to DRAM in the cartridge (which lost its contents when the system was powered off), and the customer could download up to 50 games a month. The service also provided news about video game releases in the form of text displayed on the screen. The information transfer was one-way, however, so Sega Channel could not provide truly interactive online content.

When news of the Sega Channel first hit, I called my local cable company as the ad suggests. Unfortunately, we never received Sega Channel service in our area, so I didn’t get to try it out myself.

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, September 1995, p.39 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever subscribe to Sega Channel? Tell us about your experiences.

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Capcom’s First PC CD-ROM

Monday, August 19th, 2013

Mega Man X CD-ROM advertisement - 1995Digging up video games in a mall ashtray

I was a huge fan of Mega Man X when it first came out on the Super NES in 1993.

…Well, I rented it, anyway, and I played it more than any other side-scrolling Mega Man game before or since. I loved finding the secret Hadoken fireball power up, which I read about in Nintendo Power.

Much to my present-day surprise (even though I owned this magazine when it was new), Capcom produced a version of Mega Man X for the PC, and on a CD-ROM no less. Has anyone out there played it? I’m wondering if the adaptation was any good.

[ P.S. Shortly after writing this entry, I tracked down a warez copy of Mega Man X for the PC, and it’s surprisingly well done. However, its utilization of MIDI music provides for a pretty surreal Mega Man experience — surreal in the sense that the tunes generally sound horrible compared to MM games that are famous for their music. ]

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, September 1995, rear cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: What’s your favorite Mega Man game of all time?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Tiger Barcodzz Handheld

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Tiger Barcodzz Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Handheld Electronic Game Ad - 1993DUUUDDE, BAAR CODZZZZ, MAAN

Never played it, never wanted it. Amusing idea though. See also: Barcode Battler

[ From Electronic Gaming Monthly, November 1994, p.163 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a barcode gaming device?