NES- The State of Retro Gaming 2018

 

There was a time that retro gaming took the form of running to the yard, or garage, sales. Dropping by the local pawn shop or flea market. Even the local mom & pop media type stores carried the game carts. We were after that game we missed and if we found it complete with box and manual, we were elated. Gradually people were dumping their childhood by cleaning out their closets, attics, basements only to find a desire to return years later trying to catch a glimpse of those memories. There were NES games everywhere. There is that generation of gamers that understand. Those places have since dried up and no longer exist. Online auction sites are the last resort for many of us from that era.

But there have been other generations, since then, that have entered the world of gaming which did not experience that era. They have found bits and pieces only in the virtual console services. Over the years many have found satisfaction in emulation, either home PC, phone, or some hacked portable. In those early years you had to find the original cart to experience the fun on the original hardware, the way it was meant to be. But we have entered a period that it has become harder and harder to find those gems of the past. Many have found the value of those games in the market place. As a result they have priced many games out of the reach of the average gamer. It has become a collectors market. And anyone wanting to get back to those older games would find it very difficult to acquire a collection.

China, who doesn’t mind the business of pirating, has found that market profitable. It started as a trickle and has become a flood. Clone systems of the real thing like the NES console was just the beginning. The NES clones, at the beginning, were very limited in their compatibility with the real games. But over the years that has changed, with only a hand full you would find unplayable. Graphics and audio quality is still problematic. Not only will you find clone systems plentiful, but you will now see reproduction game carts, boxes, and pamphlets, or included manual. Much looking like the genuine article.

There are the multi carts which may include anywhere from 4 to over 600 games. They can include original NES games and also hacked games. They may be, for example, all of the Mega man games on one cart. A very tempting option for anyone wanting to sample those days of the NES era.

The recent release of the Nintendo Mini in a limited run left many gamers angered. But China saw the opportunity and responded to fill the gap to Nintendo’s bumbling and dropping the ball. The China market released their own Minis with not just 30, but, we’re talking, 500 to over 800 games in the same size package, or foot print. And you can pick up one of the China clone minis for as little as $16.95 free shipping.

Many of the consoles, or systems, have their nuances, but they still sell to a niche market hungry for those retro delights. With the advent of built in games or multi carts, it has become very easy for someone with an appetite for the old NES magic to acquire possibly the  complete library of games requiring almost no space for storage. In the newer generation of gamers there is no desire to own those older consoles of the past. There is no nostalgia in it for them. They were not there at that point of gaming history. It is easier to just walk in a modern day game store and purchase the clone. And in many of those stores, that cater to retro gaming, they push the clone systems. For others that remember, and was there, they may find the convenience of the China stuff welcomed. They are wanting their kids to experience what they did at that age. (Or the clone is one of those things that your Grandparents purchase for you, not knowing it is not the genuine article.) Whatever the case may be, it sells. And it has effected, and changed, the whole retro gaming scene. It has clouded and made it a field of deception and confusion in the collectors market when looking for the “real thing.” One now has to collect with much caution when purchasing. There are those positive and negative aspects of the flood. And it keeps pouring, refining, and defining itself adjusting to the market needs.

There is only that one group of gamers that understands and knows what it was like in the NES era. To have and hold the original cart in your hand, push it down into the original console, turn it on, and playing it on that old CRT TV. Those days are gone.

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Gamerz Tek’s 8-Bit Boy

I am having an NES revival at the moment.

Been diving in over my head in playing NES games on my 8-Bit Boy. Just thought I would share some of my experience with this thing.

First I would like to make this very clear, this thing is not portable in the way that we think portable. Meaning it is not something you put into your pocket. (Unless you have some cargo pants that I don’t know about.) But it is portable on a long trip if you are retro and want some of that NES on the go.

This thing comes in a nice bag that will keep the dust away. You also get an HDMI cord, two NES controllers, a two-controller adapter, two screen protectors, one system stand, and AC adapter/charger.

Feels great in your hands and I think that is because of the way it has been designed. It seems to be, made to be held. I keep wanting to feel shoulder buttons, but they are not there.

Aspect ratio you can change on the fly. Play your NES the way you want. I would say if you are that concerned, you wouldn’t be using a clone system. I prefer full screen. It doesn’t bother me to have that little stretch. (Fat little Mario running around.) Really it doesn’t look all that bad. Some games it is more noticeable than others. This works with it being hooked to your flatscreen HD TV too.

With the adapter, you can invite a friend to play along on those two player games. It works with the system whether you are playing using the 8-Bit Boy screen or with your big screen TV.

And the games look good even with their old fashioned blockiness. There seems to be some Anti-Aliasing going on to give a smoothing effect. I think that is good being that you are playing this on an HD TV. The games are going to look dated no matter what you do because they are retro. They come from a different day and age in gaming history. And some people love them, like me, because of their simplicity and addictiveness.

The neat little stand that came with it is a great added bonus with the kit. When you are playing with someone else from just the system, or the TV, it serves its purpose well. (It has a full size HDMI output.)

I have had trouble adjusting to the button layout. When you are running and want to lean your thumb to jump, or shooting and want to lean your thumb to throw a bomb, (man I missed) awkward. Only a gamer will understand that sentence. The rapid fire buttons don’t work for me either. I can do without them. Some might find them useful and a welcome addition.

The battery icon seems to be a complaint for a lot of people. It stays there on the screen whether it is just the system in your hands or on the TV screen. I personally find no problem with it. I did notice it a lot at first but I only think about it now if I need to save and it is getting close to running out. It is helpful to me and I understand why it is there.

Now for the bottom line.
I think this is good to just, kick back somewhere in the house, take to a friend’s house, or a road trip. It is not something you will carry around like your 3DS. I enjoy the large 7″ screen. The NES games look really good on it. And I wish I had a SNES portable with a screen like this. I will mainly use my 8-Bit Boy just hanging around the house.
One thing to really keep in mind is this system is formed around an SOAC, it is a clone system. Meaning that the colors and sound of the original games are not going to be the same as you remembered. There will be distortion as with all clone systems. This thing is no different even though it boasts 97% compatibility. I do not have a complete set of the NES game library to test their claims. But I have been satisfied with the games that I do have. Their 8 bit systems do a good job with their hardware emulation IMHO. (It will only play NES game carts, I have found it will accept multi-carts. I have read that it will not work with an Everdrive. I do not have one to verify.)
Although responsive, there is a difference in the feel of the buttons on the system and their controllers. Their controllers seemed to be highly sensitive. And I haven’t had any problem playing any game either way.
Battery life, I have no idea because I haven’t timed or tested that angle of the system. I rarely do unless it is very noticeable, shortness gets my attention. So I do not know if 6 or 8 hours is the norm. It would be effected by the game you are playing as usual.
So… yes…. I like this big awkward thing. It is a handful and I find it very hard to put down. I just keep playing. It just feels right. I smile over the two speakers for a mono system, good volume. It does have a headphone jack too. The hardware does what it is supposed to do the best that it can under the circumstances. The NES games are why we play. Thumbs up here. Good show Gamerz Tek!

If it dawns on you the size of this system by the photo below, then you have found your mojo.

Project X Zone for the 3DS

The different dimensions, worlds, universes, are converging, crossing over. Why? Who is behind this thing? Why is this happening? And this is the basic concept behind the storyline for this game. The characters are being pulled from their world into different realms.

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In case it hasn’t dawned on you this IS a fan based game for anyone wanting to see characters from Bandai, Sega, and CAPCOM together in one game. If you are expecting to use the characters the way you use them in their respective games, you will not be satisfied. And you might find this game disappointing.

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How does the game play? Seemingly it is a visual novel in between fights and that is how the game relates the story to you. There chapters, stages, to the story. (No roaming or exploring.) And the story gives you a reason for the confrontations. Strategy RPG elements are used in the battles, the only time you can actually move your character, confrontations are mixed with fighting game influences, but you are limited in your character control. Many have considered this an RPG game. If it is classified as such it is not in the traditional sense. I found no purchasing of armor, or supplies, to buildup the fighters other than just leveling up after a battle. Any potions, or food, etc, are only obtained after a successful battle. After the battles you can equip your fighters. Each battle is mission based, kill all enemies, get the boss guy, etc. Story, battle, story, battle, story, battle, is the way the game plays, and the battles might be too repetitive for some.

Odd concoction of gaming elements that seem to work together.  The strategy element during the battles to reach your goal is what has hooked me. The fights consist of button mashing, with special moves initiated by the directional button. You are sometimes given a character you can call in CAPCOM style to help in a fight. And when you have several pairs of characters on the board to use in a fight, if you are close together, you can call on them to help. I have had six fighters battling the boss all at once.

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Graphics and animation are smooth and fun to watch, awesome. I purchased this game locally in a used media store for $8. And I have liked it so much I purchased the second one in the series.
I find it a hard game to recommend. It might not be for everyone.

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Run & Gun Gaming on the GBA!!

I consider the Gameboy Advanced SP, with the bright screen, the pentacle of Nintendo’s achievement in portable gaming design. Even though they have introduced other, more advanced, portables over the years, I still maintain this perspective concerning this little console. It fits so well in your pocket and still offers plenty of gaming that has aged well.

Gunstar Heroes was a pleasant surprise back in the golden era of the Sega Genesis. It appeared in the latter half of the system’s lifespan. With me, it became an instant classic and has stood well the test of time. And it only made sense to bring this to portable gaming with a release of a sequel in Gunstar Future Heroes for the GBA. Excellent, story, hand to hand combat, run and gun gaming that brings joy to any lover of the genre. If you do any retro gaming and love the GBA SP you owe it to yourself to pick up a copy. Especially if you love the genre. But if this only wets your appetite for this type of gaming and want more, I got something for you. These are my recommendations if you love this type of gaming.

Alien Hominid: Only released in Europe, as far as I know. I managed to get me a copy. And wow, this is my game. Unrelenting humorous pure run and gun action, agents pouring in from everywhere, love this game so much. A totally must own. The one game I run to when I just want to shoot.

Metal Slug Advance: This is Metal Slug. If you have not played a Metal Slug game, then may I ask, where have you been living? Fun, humorous, Contra like, pure run and gun continuous action. If you liked Alien Hominid then you will love this one too. There is just some magic in the way the Metal Slug games are designed.

Astro Boy: The Treasure touch is strong with this one. I remember being blown away by this game back then. (But then I am an Astro fan.) This is run and gun Astro style in a Gunstar sort of way. It begins with a good training mode, which is needed to know how to use Astro. Even though you can see, and feel, signs of Gunstar, there is enough here to differentiate and take it to a whole new level. You have a good story to follow and the ability to choose how to level up your character. The leveling of your character, and multiple weapons, moves to learn, is what stands out to me. So I really don’t feel that it is more of the same, even though it is more of the same, in a way. You will have to play to understand. But this is still Treasure at their best.

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Fei Hao Sega Genesis Clone with HDMI

I have three Sega Genesis consoles, Original first one, Genesis two, and the portable Nomad. They all work perfect, fine, good, gaming machines. But I have this quirk about me that I love messing with clone systems, always comparing them to the original hardware. Recently I picked up the Fei Hao Sega Genesis clone which contains HDMI output, my main reason for wanting this console. Here are some of my first impressions as I test drive this console.

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Console:

The cosmetic design of the console shell is taken from the first original Genesis, or Mega Drive as it was called across the pond. And really it looks just like that original Mega Drive outwardly more so than the US release of the console, colors match. It almost leads you to believe that they used the same molds for the plastic shell as was used for that original Sega console, with a little modification. The reason I say that is because it has the snap out area where you would normally plug in the Sega CD, but there is nothing there to attach the CD system. No mother board in that area. There is very little on the inside as with all clone systems, typical. And the snap out cover will fit my old Genesis exactly. The console will even fit the CD system base. One could gut this thing and use it to mod your old Genesis for HDMI, maybe. Just a thought. And no it will not take the 32X because there are no hook ups and the cart connection sets lower due to no motherboard.

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Same setup as original console. Below the  original Sega controller is in the middle.IMG_1152

One thing they did include was the headphone feature with the volume control. I am glad they kept that, but one thing that is lost, which is a deal breaker for many Fans I am sure, no stereo. I don’t understand why. The original Genesis one had stereo in the headphone jack. The original didn’t have stereo out of the back, but it did in the headphone jack. Audio is, what word am I looking for, shallow? Not as deep and rich as the original? But it is better than a lot of clone systems that I have come into contact. I don’t get that gritting of my teeth, or wincing while playing. I can enjoy playing the game.

It has both HDMI and RCA outputs, so you can use it on HD flat screen and old CRT televisions. It has a switch on the back so you can toggle between Japanese and US games, sorry, no PAL. Cart slot on top has no guide for the US games that we are use to, reason for that is because you could not use a Japanese game if it did. So you need to be careful as you push a cart in and sort of feel your way into the correct position. Not as bad as you would think but still something you need to be aware of if you plan to get one of these things. Not sure of the damage that can happen because of that, or durability.

In The Package:

You get the console, two wireless controllers, one wired controller, HDMI cable, RCA cable, AC adapter, instruction leaflet (how to hook it up), and they threw in an 11-N-1 multi cart. If you get it in the box, the name Fei Hao is on the package. There is nothing on the console or any of the accessories to indicate the name of the manufacturer. For some reason they took mine out of the box but left the stuff in the box divisions that were inside. It resulted in the same dimensions as it would have been if only they had left the outward box intact. Go figure. It was tripled bubble wrapped then taped, shipped.

Controls:

You can use the original Sega controllers which is a big plus. But it also comes with a couple of 2.4ghz RF wireless six button controllers. I put these controllers to the ultimate test this week. I pulled out all my Genesis shoot’m ups, including Gunstar Heroes, and some platforming. Responsiveness was spot on and I did not detect any lag. I set 15 feet from the console. The controllers, themselves, felt good in my hands, but they are noticeably smaller than the original. Buttons, for some reason, set high, clicky, and the directional, a bit floaty. Other than those oddball quirks, it played well, I had no trouble using them, and never thought about those things, which might be annoying for some. There was one other controller that was included in the package that was close to the size of the original, wired. There is a switch on the bottom that I have no idea what it is for. It also has the feature of attaching an arcade stick to the middle of the directional button. The directional button has this annoyance, for me, of being able to push down into the controller. What is up with that? None of the included controllers are like what you have grown to love about the original. But that is what is nice about being able to hook up your tried and true favorite Genesis controller. I, personally, will use the wireless, for now, just because I want to get the feel for them and I like the idea of having wireless for the Genesis. At one point I will return to the original controller, maybe, for certain games.

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Graphics:

As for playing the games in HDMI? You have to keep in mind that these games were made to work on the old CRT televisions which depended on the scan lines for them to look good. They are pixel, sprite graphics which have a tendency to look a bit blocky with jaggies. If you hook the original Genesis to your HD flatscreen, this is what you see, stands out, and shocks most diehard retro gamers. Or it concerns them and is what retro gamers find offensive. With the HDMI hookup on this console there seems to be a smoothing effect, sort of like there is some anti-aliasing going on in the output. I am speculating, but, I am thinking that they have done that, there is some sort of up conversion going on. This makes everything look softer and pleasing to your eye. There are those games in which it works better than others.

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I have tried Phantasy Star IV. It read the saved game and saved back to that file with no problems. I saw a bit of shredding in the graphics of one of the sub boss sprites in Grind Stormer. But over all it played everything that I have thrown at it so far, including reproduction carts and the Sega Everdrive China version. Played games like, Soldiers of Fortune, Street Fighter 2 the New Challengers, Gauntlet 4, Sub Terrania, Contra Hardcorp, Ms. Pacman, Lightening Force, with basically no issues. I did have problems pulling off fire balls in Street Fighter with any of the supplied controllers. Switched to my original controller and had no problem. That directional button made all the difference. Ha-Do-Ken!!!

Lockout

The Japan Mega Drive game cart is the one on the top. This was part of the region lockout used on the Sega 16-bit consoles.

I have tried a good chunk of games, but I have not played anything completely through. Did not have Virtua racing out, I usually play that game on 32X. If I can’t find it, I will purchase it. I want to know.

Last Words:

What is the best way to play your Sega games? Simple, on the original hardware. You can pick up a Sega Genesis or Mega Drive cheaper, or close to the same price as I paid for this clone, $60USD range. There is that concern of playing your games on an HD TV. This is only one alternative, there are others. And it is not that bad, IMO. On the down side, you are limited to using only the game carts. Personally, I have been more satisfied with this clone, more so, than any other Sega clone. If you don’t mind the cons with this console, this might be for you. The plus side is the HDMI, wireless controllers, and the ability to play both Japanese and US games. What is my recommendation? I will let you decide. So just set back and think real hard about what you can live with and be satisfied.

Major Update: This system does not boot Virtua Racing. All I get is a green screen as with other clone systems.

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Family and Gaming

The scenario begins like this. You see a fellow worker who can just barely keep their eyes open. You ask if they are okay. They begin to explain that they just got this new game and they have been staying up until 3AM every night playing and that I should get it too. (They make it sound like they have just won an award, or became a man. And their long late hours into this is proof it is great. It is really such a mega fantastic super colossal game as their story goes.) Work starts at 7AM and they commute 45 minutes. Now this is a disaster waiting to happen in many ways. One should not even venture from their home in that condition, especially if it could have been prevented. If there is a wife, and children involved one can only imagine the problems in relationships festering. And it could also apply to the wife if she is an avid gamer, but nine times out of ten it is the guy. We obsess.

My main point of all this, is, if you are going to continue being a gamer, you have to set guidelines and standards for yourself. You have to set priorities. It is totally unhealthy if you don’t, both mentally and physically. Ummm….your not a kid anymore.

As my Daughter was growing up I integrated some of our Family time with gaming. Bomberman was a fun Family activity. Everybody was an equal and everybody got blown up. Fighting games also was a popular item. If anyone walked up to our front door in the middle of a session, they would think an actual fight was taking place on the other side of that door. There was a lot of yelling and trash talk.
Those were some fun Street Fighter days. Any multi player game was worth a try.

But I know priorities when it comes to personal gaming time. The Family may not always want to game. And then there is yard work and other necessary things that make a home and Family work. I love my gaming but I know “when to” and “where to” game. Spending time with the Family where “they are at” is worth more than avoiding them so you can spend hours upon hours into the night with your game. When you are young and single, no problem. But when there are other people in the house, you are sharing your life with them. You gotta make that happen.

My Wife recently found games that she personally enjoys on the DSi xl. I let her have the DSi xl to keep. I had two DSi xls of that color anyway.

Majora’s Mask New 3DS xl

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Okay…. the price was right…. and my money was right. And really, this is the only way I would have purchased another 3DS system. And it is nice, very good, well taken care of. Got the box and everything. I couldn’t be happier. I even slipped in my copy of Majora’s Mask N64 here for a cameo appearance. There are only two tiny light scratches on the top, which I am okay with. The person said there was one dead pixel on the top screen but I have yet to notice. And the head tracker tech really works well if you get into playing your games in 3D. This should have been the launch system and this is the one to own. But I am sure that Nintendo did not fully explore every angle of the new 3D feature and its flaws at that point in time. Seems to have a better camera than any of the other portables in the 3DS and DS family of handhelds. Handles low light better and is sharper. The unit even feels better in your hands as there is a total redesign of the shell. If this had been my first 3DS I would have not looked in purchasing another. Love the Majora theme. Hate to say this, but my launch version 3DS xl will probably catch dust now. Other than the “New” internals which makes the system more powerful, it is still the 3DS. And you will not notice the power unless you have a game that takes advantage of it. And sadly there are only a few available. There is a noticeable difference in some games running a little smoother, but that is not the selling point for this system. The worse thing about this version of the 3DS xl portable is microSD access. You need a screw driver to take out two tiny screws and remove the bottom of the 3DS xl. That is crazy and messed up. I have a 32gig microSD in there and feel that I will never need to go into my unit, hopefully.

If you want a 3DS I would highly recommend the New 3DS xl. And I would strongly suggest you look for a theme you would enjoy. It is just part of the fun. And no, this does not take me away from my 2DS xl. I think the New 3DS xl compliments my 2DS xl. Because I found some games that I might be able to enjoy playing in 3D, like Ridge Racer 3D and Animal Crossing. And that is saying a lot for the head tracker tech. I could not play not one game in 3D with the launch version of this system. My eyes just could not handle it. I will play my games I like in 2D on the one and keep a game I like in 3D in the other. I am like that.

Now all I need to do is pick up a copy of Majora’s Mask 3D……