Reproduction Games: A Retro Gamer’s Musing?

(All photos included in this article are reproduction games.)

As a retro gamer, I like having a hard copy of my games. To me, it is just part of the experience of hunting down a copy of (place name of game here), purchasing, and holding it in my hands. It used to be so simple, but things have changed. The waters are becoming muddled. I have become cautious in my purchases. I am somewhat concerned.

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I first ran across fake games years ago, as I made an attempt to purchase a copy of a GBA game as a gift. I loved Astroboy for the GBA and wanted to give it to someone. As I received it from an ebay auction, I noticed a weight difference and the cart shell felt thinner. Yes it was that big of a difference and it was one of those awkward moments. Opening it up I found a glop in the middle of the PC board. I got scammed?!! I paid very little for it so I kept the game because it fascinated me.

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Technology has presently advanced so much that it has become easy, and commonplace, to manufacture carts of retro games from the 80’s and 90’s. And they are getting so good at manufacturing the cart that it is getting very difficult to discern authentic from fake. These things are starting to pop up on eBay at an alarming rate. Words used to describe the game in the auction are names like “new parts version,” “reproduction,” or “custom.” I have occasionally seen some that do not acknowledge it as a reproduction, but you can tell by looking at the cart. Or at least you can tell that some carts are not the real thing. It is getting to the point that if you want the real thing, you had better ask the Seller to post a photo of the PC board so that you can see for yourself. So many are starting to look so authentic, labels, plastic shell, that you cannot tell from outward appearance. The PC board have chips, which means a lot has went into designing and manufacturing the game. The only thing you have left to tell? Well, a real Nintendo PC board will have the name Nintendo written on it. So far, the fake Sega Genesis cart have a glop on the PC board. I have not had a chance to purchase a N64 game yet. Even the boxes and manual are being reproduced. Only a matter of time as people purchase, then comes that day in which they will want to resell….? And that is really my point. Most retro gamers want to collect, usually the real thing. If I paid $80 for a rare sought after game, it had better be the real thing. On eBay many of these reproduction games are starting to demand a high price, especially if the game title is a rare collector item. I have difficulty with digesting that and wrapping my head around it. I understand the value of the real thing but not the reproduction. And I have noticed that a lot of Sellers with the real thing are starting to show the PC board in the auctions. Interesting……………. isn’t it?

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I guess most people, or gamers, may have, either, mixed feelings, or no thought, about a reproduction game. Some out right refuse to even own one. Those gamers oppose the idea. I personally, as a budget gamer, have purchased some reproductions of rare high priced collector item games because I just cannot afford the real thing. The real game cart is just out of my reach financially. But I have purchased the reproduction games knowing what they are. And I have not paid over $20 for one. Anything over that, I find myself in the ballpark of considering the real thing.

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As a kid, I would go out to the driveway the next day after a Summer rain. I would look down into the puddles of water. It would be crystal clear. You could see everything at the bottom. I would take a stick and begin to poke it in the bottom of the puddles. After continuously doing this, the water would become cloudy and muddy. No longer would the water be clear. Somehow I see all this in the same way when it comes to reproduction games.

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Super Famicom: Darius Twin!!

(Original Cart, original hardware, on a retro cathode tube TV. The way it was meant to be.)

In this weekend of gaming, my obsession has been “Darius Twin.” I have this for my SNES, but it is relatively inexpensive, so I had to have it for my Super Famicom. You don’t need to know Japanese, menus are in English. It is one of those shmups, shoot’em ups, space shooters, whatever you want to call them, from the past. In those days, they filled the arcades and those early consoles. Love this sort-of stuff, I cut my gaming teeth on them. Shoot everything that moves, high score, repetitive, and all your enemies come in patterns type gaming.

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The enemy ships are mostly shaped like fish or some sea creature in this series of shooters. The graphics are colorful and bright. Parallax scrolling going on in the backgrounds gives the stages that “depth” feeling. Each stage basically has their own particular bunch of enemies with some reappearing from earlier stages. Everything has their own patterns, and direction of entry, in which you can memorize and learn to avoid, hopefully, get those reflexes involved. That is, I guess, a part of the fun, challenge, and typical of this genre.

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The gameplay is simple, dodge, power up, dodge, shoot everything you see, dodge, and it moves at a good pace, not too slow, not too fast. Curious that it doesn’t have a hard mode of play, only easy and normal. And looking at what I would normally call a world map, there are twelve stages where you only go through seven because you get four choices between stages. Only subtle differences between the top and bottom stages, maybe a difference in difficulty? Sort-of a choose your own route. I like the fact that if you lose your ship, you return to the same spot and keep all your power-ups. And you power up your ship to be a powerhouse able to blast everything. But your not invulnerable to all the flying bullets, gun fire, even though you do have shields, which does help to a certain extent. I find this game so enjoyable.

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What “wows” me about this game is that it was an early game for the system and it had no slow down which was characteristic of several other early shooters. It also has two player gaming! And there was a later Darius entry, Super Nova, which, I think, Darius Twin is the better game. Just this gamer’s opinion. Hey, I can only get to the next-to-the-last-stage at the moment, but having a great time doing it. Big thumbs up here for a fantastic shooter. Highly recommended if you are into this sort of stuff.

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Saturday Morning Super Famicom Marathon!

(Original Cart, original hardware, on a retro cathode tube TV. The way it was meant to be.)

What other way to start a Saturday than to dive into a pile of games? Just going to give here a short burst of thought on each game as I play, I’ll stop, and give impressions.

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Super Valis IV seems to be an adventure platformy, exploration, slasher treat. Enemies seem sparse at times, but that is why I included exploration. You run around exploring the level hunting for these gray blocks that I am thinking are some sort of power ups which adds to your attacks and, or, abilities. You use the “B” to jump, “y” to shoot, or slash, and the “X” for items. And you run across these enemies, more frequently in some areas. The easy level gives you a longer life bar. And that is only “one” life with some continues. You also get the item area prefilled. Normal level is more challenging with more aggressive enemies and so forth. And there are bosses at the end of each level. Only wished I could double jump because there are some places that I have not figured how to reach. Jumps are precise with the items hidden in unexpected places. The game grows on you as you play. No knowledge of Japanese needed to play this game. Everything I see is in English except for the stills in between that give a sense of a story. Can be found relatively inexpensive. Good Game!!!

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GRADIUS III is my game. This was the first game that I purchased with my SNES back during the 16-bit era. Hours upon hours spent on this game. It was the relaxer for me after a hard days work. Still holds its own even after all these years, at least it does to me. Just had to have this for my Super Famicom too. This is the shooter (also called shoot’em up, or shmup) to have and the occasional slow down does not bother me. This is one of those shooters that I arm my ship to the teeth and if I get half way through the game then suddenly lose my ship, I turn it off or reset. I don’t want to start at the bottom piloting a puny little ship with nothing. Very English friendly. Can be found relatively inexpensive. Fantastic Game!!!!! Though I am bias toward this genre.

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The COMBATRIBES is an arcade 2D side scrolling beat’em up with a mixture of Double Dragon and Final Fight. Got to clean up all that crime in the streets, no one else seems to care, right? This is pure repetitive beat’em up madness. If you like that sort of thing then this is total heaven for you. I love it. I find it humorous and fun. LOL, that first boss who comes out with what looks like a 2x12x10 ft (3 meters) board and starts to beat the tar out of me, whut? Only a life bar? I have to depend upon continues? Whelp guess who got beat to a pulp? I know there are those gamers that just can’t handle mindless stuff like this, but hey, this is arcade fun and it is what made the arcades the “arcade” back then. Then there are those “clowns” in the next stage……………. Only the story part is in Japanese, and it is very English friendly in gameplay, believe me. This can be found moderately expensive, but if you like this sort of thing, I’ll say that it is worth it. Great Game!!!!

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Puyo Puyo 2 is one of those type of puzzle games I find intense and at the same time relaxing. The idea is loosely based on tetris in its concept, yet different enough to offer you a fresh experience. Love this sort of arcade gaming and find it does stimulate your thinking in a fun and enjoyable way. I found it easy to stumble my way through the menus, everything is in Japanese. And I was playing in no time. The gameplay, itself, is simple and English friendly. Can be found relatively very inexpensive. Great Game!!!

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Super Ghouls n Ghosts (Chōmakaimura) considered a side scrolling platformer, with a bit of shooter element. A little guy in armor can so easily end up in his undies. The armor only protects you for one hit and then you are running for your life in your undies trying to find that power-up that will put you back in your armor. This game is one of those type games in which it seems difficult yet addicting at the same time. Very fun to play and intense. The gameplay makes you feel it was your fault that you just got turned into a pile of bones. I didn’t do that. Did I do that? If I can just, one more time, WAIT A MINUTE, that blasted ghost!! The game is well worth a purchase. Very English friendly. This can be found moderately expensive, but like I said, worth every penny. Fantastic Game!!!!

Hmmm.. this ends this marathon of gaming for today. I shall have more of these. I usually just purchase the cart by itself, but there are a few games here that I will, sooner or later, want the box and manual. And I like the Japanese artwork, so much more colorful and a lot of times with that manga or anime touch. And I hope this has been helpful for anyone looking to purchase a Super Famicom. Most often there are a lot of games in which you will find that the Japanese counterpart is less expensive than the US release on the SNES. And still accessible to anyone that only speaks English.

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Celebrating Today!!

My 62 trips around the sun riding on a planet moving 67,000 miles per hour. And my hair is not even messed up. Though I have lost a few on recent trips.
Hmmm…..sixty-two years old? It is at this age, that I feel, I have reached a milestone in my life. The mark of success is that I have survived life. The option becomes available to “exit stage right.” But I have decided to continue working until sixty-six rolls around. It is something to ponder in that, this part of my life will change at some point. Just having to reorientate your mind is unsettling. Usually a person define themselves in their work. It becomes a part of who you are. Let’s face it, you spend and give your whole life to whatever provided your income. The question you must now answer for yourself is, “What do you do when you start to fade?” Preparing to retire is that transitioning period that you must begin to attach yourself to another norm which in most cases is the unknown. That motivated focus and drive must find new meaning and purpose. The daily grind and drive will turn to a slower relaxed atmosphere. No more rat race, obstacles, trains, snow, disorientated drivers in front of me. It will put a smile on my face as I think about the younger generation out digging in the snow at 4:30AM, that struggle against time, agonizing. It will be like an inside joke. Maybe that is what they meant about this being the “golden years.”
The question in my mind, is, will I wait that long, I will be open to listen to my body, judging if I need to consider something before then. Believe me, the older you get the more you realize that these are not the “golden years” that they keep harping about. It is all a sham, hoax, propaganda, or brainwashing. You can’t eat what you want anymore. And you have to deal with that “second childhood syndrome.” You can’t run anymore either. Remember the wobbles you dealt with when trying to walk as a toddler, well they’re back. And you feel like you are back to walking like a toddler. There might be that one day I wake up and tell myself, I just can’t drag this carcass into work anymore. (Just looked on line and the definition of carcass is, “the remains of a cooked bird.”)
But knowing I can opt out at any time gives a sort-of relaxed restful feeling, and a sense of accomplishment. At the same time it offers new challenges in life, like, how to stay active when you don’t feel like it. Keeping my mind engaged, my intellect, my reasoning intact. Which would need to be more than just TV. Television only turns your brain into mush (mush means; a soft, wet, pulpy mass). TV just doesn’t offer any solid activity to motivate thought. There is no complexity, only simple unreal fantasies. Everything is like teletubbies, politically correct liberal dead intellectualism. Good books will become more of a focus, the only way to shake your brain. And I do not wish to forget video games. More “puzzle orientated” are nice and those that make you think. Which means, I will totally be doing retro gaming. Modern gaming consoles take all of the challenges out, giving you “hand holding” all the way through, requiring “no skills” from the player. Seemingly you always win, what’s the fun in that? Which also brings up the thought that jigsaw puzzles will take on a whole new meaning. The challenge will be trying to piece one together with cats around. I can physically stay active around the yard. There is so much there to occupy my time. And there is always some dancing exercise game using the Nintendo Wii. Of course there is that time spent with my Family which will be rich. But behind all this is the foundation of my life, serving Jesus Christ, my King and Saviour. The journey on that road never ends. That is the only “golden” I see in these years.
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A Look Back at the Gameboy Pocket

There was an outcry from gamers everywhere and Nintendo listened, sort-of, well maybe not. The cry for color and backlighting seem to fall on deaf ears. Out came the successor to the Original Game Boy, the Game Boy Pocket. The internal hardware was slimmed, trimmed and shrunk to make an even smaller Game Boy. Remember this is still the same old “Original Game Boy” technology. Prehistoric technology that still sold like crazy. There was only some minor changes, like the screen and size of the overall system. You could say that this was only life support of the Original Game Boy resulting in an extra two years. Nine years was pretty good for an aging gaming system back then. Hey, I ran out and got one and so did a lot of other people.

The Pocket’s compact size feels better in my hands. The change was good. The old games seemed new in the nice new clear screen size. And the introductory price was smaller, easier on the pocket, $59 USD. During those years my daughter and I linked to play Pokemon with the Pocket. A lot of fun on this one. Sneaky Snakes is another good game for linking.

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Screen: The “Pea Green” transparent overlay is gone. Instead of the 2.5” screen that was on the “Original Game Boy” we now have a larger 2.6.” Woo Woo! Even though the size different doesn’t seem that much, it is very noticeable. The new LCD offers a much clearer screen experience which is a lot easier on the eyes. The 4 shades of gray give better contrast, but still gives you a blurring with any fast action. The analog contrast control has moved to the right side. Shame there is no backlight.

Controls: The buttons are the same as on the “Original Game Boy” only smaller. The analog volume control is now on the left side along with the link port. The link port has been redesigned and sports a smaller size. In order to link with the “Original Game Boy” you would need an adapter, or a new cord to enable both to be linked for any two player games. The power switch no longer locks in your game cart when switched in the on position. The headphone jack still remains at the bottom.

Power: For some reason smaller size means smaller and less batteries. The unit uses 2 AAA batteries giving you a 10 to 14 hour play time. And power consumption always depends on the game being played. The AC adapter jack has moved to the bottom of the unit. The battery light has been renamed as “power.” Light now diminishes as the battery power diminishes.

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Games: Being that this is the same internals as the “Original Game Boy,” all of the previous releases of Game Boy games are fully compatible, instant game library. I think that it was about this time that the Pokemon craze started. Yeah, I got caught up in it too. (Something that helped sell these units.)

Pros:

The LCD is clearer, bigger, and easier to see.

Large deep game library, same as Original GB

Cons:

Still blurring on screen graphics, maybe worse, or more noticeable

Need an adapter to link up with the Original

Diminished playing time

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Final Thoughts: At some point they started a “Shout” line of the Original Gameboy which offered color units to replace the drab grey. But with the Gameboy Pocket a change of marketing began. The Gameboy Pocket was released at the start with a limited amount of colors to choose from, for that outward shell, instead of the standard gray. One feels that it is a bit more personal when you can choose a color that you want or like. I prefer the Pocket over the Original, I think because the redesigned improvements make it just so much better and nicer to hold. If one really wanted to go back and smell the roses, I would recommend the Pocket over the Original. It still makes a good little system to carry with you for that Tetris urge. Just make sure you are in a “well lit situation.” Presently, I occasionally still pull out one of my Pockets just to play some of the the Original Gameboy games. A big thumbs up to something good made better.

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Can There Ever Be a “New Console Entry” into The Gaming Industry?

I think the market environment and mindset is so set toward being “more powerful and total realism” that it makes it seem too risky for a “new box.” But it has been the market itself that has pushed this perspective into the mind of the gamer. That is how it has sold us a new console every 5 years, or whatever. “You can’t play those 16-bit games anymore, you need our super graphic console to have fun.” A new entry would think they would have to sink too much into something competitive that would have a high probability of tanking. Plus everyone depends on 3rd party support for their system’s success. And that is where some of the problem lies. It is the “same same” game.

But the days of the big home consoles might be at an end. Not saying that there might not be another Playstation or Xbox, but it seems to be headed toward more mediocrity. Nintendo’s last generation console, which was a more powerful Wii, crashed and burned, big time. It was one of their worse selling consoles. Compared to the “Wii” 100 milion to the “Wii U” 10 million units, is dismal to say the least. The Virtual Boy, with 770,000 units, positions itself right under the Wii U. Somehow it did not make it into the gamer’s “gota have” mentality. For a company that reawakened the gaming industry, I question if they have lost their way for a moment. They have been the shakers in innovation that has pushed the gaming culture for so long. I am thinking that this failure seemed to cause the company to do some changes in direction which is yet to be seen as being wise. They are abandoning the traditional concept of the home console and portable in exchange for a tablet. The jury is still out on this one.
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A new entry would need to have something very fresh and would tap into the heart of the gamer. It would need to be all about the games and forget about power being the push “all up in my face” sort-of thing. I don’t think an outsider would take a chance. It would need to be a third party motivated by some fresh concepts and the feeling they could impact the industry in a way that the leaders are failing. They would need a partnership with someone willing to go with them in a joint venture. Something similar to what NEC and Hudson soft had, PC Engine, Turbo Grafx 16. It is not impossible for something like this to happen and shake the gaming culture. The question would be, who would suffer, Microsoft’s Xbox or Sony’s Playstation. I think Nintendo’s present direction probably creates a vacuum for a new entry so it might not effect those two giants. At the same time, those two giants need to rethink their strategy. Sony needs to consider whether they are serious about the VR enough to point the direction of their next console. This would leave Microsoft to continue in the traditional console gaming offerings. There needs to be a shake up like this to revitalize and bring some new excitement into the gaming world. Nintendo with the tablet, Sony with VR, and Microsoft traditional, I think the gaming culture is mature and big enough for that.

I personally don’t like Nintendo’s direction. I don’t want to lose my 3DS. I love the concept and the clamshell design. The high price of these more powerful consoles have forced me out of the market of even considering the next generation. I know price effects the industry. There needs to be some technological breakthroughs for the gaming world to lower costs. There needs to be change in a lot of areas. I think change is coming, it has to. But will it be the right kind of change? Will companies make the right choices? I see the leaders heading toward service or cloud gaming, digital downloads. I see the DVD drives as old technology and will, at some point, be absent from future gaming systems. Internal memory will be the focus, maybe solid state drives? Will some company out there see an opening to impact the gaming world? Someone will strike the right note and everyone will turn in that direction.

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SD HIRYU NO KEN (Flying Dragon)

(Original Cart, original hardware, on a retro cathode tube TV. The way it was meant to be.)

Flying Dragon or basically the first game of the series that I know of on the Super Famicom. I know two followed this one on the N64. Some of the same fighters followed over onto the N64. You have 15 fighters to choose from, each with their own signature moves. You even have an evasive move in the top right shoulder button.

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Love the character design which are super deformed, or chibi. Graphic styling are reminiscent of Street Fighter, or SNK games, with most of the stages well animated. Most because there are those few that are not. Two of my favorites are the one where it is raining and the field that has the wind blowing across it.

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There was a time or two during the fights that I felt there were frames of animation missing from the fighters. The only thing that I dislike about the game is no points awarded for the fights and no name entry for your progress, or wins. I am puzzled by that being left out. It takes away from the arcade feel of the game. I am still discovering moves of the fighters, which is fun. This has quickly become a favorite and I just took it out of the mailing envelope only hours ago.

A big thumbs up.

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