[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Super Mario Kart Photo

Monday, May 26th, 2014

Benj's Super Mario Kart Photo Screenshot - circa 1992

I took this photo around 1992 or 1993 not long after Super Mario Kart came out. I had rented the game from Blockbuster (See “Secret Cartridge Messages“), and I was amazed to see that the cartridge would save high scores (in this case, track records) between sessions.

That blew my mind a little, because it meant that the scores I saw on the screen came from previous renters of the game — I was playing against previous renters’ track times! So when I set a new record on a particular track, it carried a little extra weight.

(It struck me, even then, that this sharing of scores between players formed a sort of primitive pass-along gaming network, and coming from a BBS background, that excited me.)

In retrospect, I am positive that the track record you see in this photo is nothing record-breaking in the broader competitive Mario Kart universe. But just getting first place — as a 12 year-old, first-time Super Mario Kart player — filled me with enough pride to take a photo of the game screen as viewed from my family’s 1983 TV set.

Remember that this was the era when people used to take photos (with film cameras) of high score screens and physically mail them to Nintendo Power so they could be listed in the magazine. I’m sure that’s where I got the idea to snap the photo.

[ From a personal photo by Benj Edwards, circa 1992]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Did you ever take photos of your video game high score screens?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Tiny Pocket Ultima

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Origin FCI Ultima Runes of Virtue for Game Boy ad - 1991Ultima: Runes of Virtue for the Game Boy

I’m not a huge fan of Ultima: Runes of Virtue for the Game Boy. However, its sequel, Runes of Virtue II on the SNES (which was also released on the Game Boy) is quite an interesting action RPG to me — despite its general clunkiness. It feels sort of like a Zelda title set in the Ultima universe with Ultima VII-style graphics.

Just a small administrative note: I’m moving the Retro GIF of the Week column to Fridays. So expect the next entry in that column this Friday.

[ From Video Games and Computer Entertainment, August 1991, p.27 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: If EA made a new core Ultima game today (think Ultima X — and no, not the failed MMO), would you buy it?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Mario Paint Player’s Guide

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Mario Paint Player's Guide Ad Nintendo Power - 1993Quite frankly, Mario is stunned — just stunned — by that potted plant.

[ From Nintendo Power, July 1993, inside back cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Tell us about your most novel experience with Mario Paint. Did you make any music or animations?

[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Super Mario World 2

Monday, August 31st, 2009

Super Mario World 2 Ad - SNES - 1996“He goes all over the place (and we don’t mean Number Two.)”

Here’s a classic advertisement for Super Mario World 2 from the “Play it Loud” era. Baby Mario looks quite destructive.

In the mid-1990s, Nintendo tried to downplay its kiddie image and appeal to the “I’m-awesome-because-I-huff-Easy-Cheese” teenage set. The company’s American branch formulated a new “Play it Loud” ad campaign to directly counter aggressive advertising from Sega.

Nintendo’s new marketing theme focused on the stereotypical angsty “attitude” of youth in transition, which, in print, mostly translated to grungy fonts, eye-gougingly garish design, and scatological humor. Surprisingly to some, the campaign actually worked — Nintendo regained the lead in the 16-bit market right as that era was ending.

On another note, Super Mario World 2 is one of the best Super NES games, and definitely one of the most underrated. If you haven’t played it yet, you’re missing out on a platforming masterpiece. Drop everything and get yourself a copy. And don’t forget to play it loud(ly).

[ From GamePro, April 1996 ]

Discussion topic of the week: What’s the most underrated Super NES game?

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