The Retrogaming Times
- The Bimonthly Retrogaming Hobbyist Newsletter -
|The Retrogaming Times|
It seems every issue of The Retrogaming Times that I edit ends up expanding the backlist of games I want to check out. Whether I'm introduced to new hardware or a game I overlooked or a genre I never got into, every issue there's something new that sparks my interest. That's pretty impressive when old video games are the topic at hand. I hope that's the same for all our readers. If you're reading and have something that you'd like to introduce to the retrogaming community, then please submit an article to a future issue. March is a bit of a special month at The Retrogaming Times, as it was the month in which this generation of the newsletter began. With that in mind, I officially welcome all readers to the beginning of our third year with the outstanding issue presented before you.
This issue's run begins with Merman showcasing a collection of several winter sports themed games in More C64!, just in time for the conclusion of the 2018 Winter Olympics. While the Apple II computing platform saw a release of nearly every popular video game of its day, Donald Lee muses about games that were somehow missing in action in the Apple II Incider. Held back for wide release until 1986 due to Atari's corporate restructuring, the Atari 7800 ProSystem would be the final classic era Atari console. Todd Friedman takes a look at the 7800's back to basics design philosophy in The Controller Chronicles. Arcade content returns to The Retrogaming Times with the introduction of Arcade Obscure, a new column showcasing lesser-known arcade games that deserve further attention. Jump Coaster, a game clearly derived from the concepts of Donkey Kong, begins this new feature. Mateus Fedozzi returns to detail Brazilian Sega Master System releases that remained his favorites even in the wake of more powerful hardware. Fishing video games are a popular but often overlooked genre and a new column, Catch and Release, will see how they weigh in. All that and more are ahead in this issue of The Retrogaming Times.
I want to again remind our readers if they
have comments or questions about anything covered in the newsletter, or
there is something they would like featured in a future issue of The Retrogaming
Times, to let us know via The Retrogaming Times on Facebook at facebook.com/theretrogamingtimes
or contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Of course submissions are also always open. If you have something
ready to go, the address is the same, email@example.com. "If
there is something you want to write about, send it in!"
Midwest Gaming Classic, April 13th - 15th 2018, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
The Midwest Gaming Classic is a trade show featuring 100,000+ square feet of retro and modern home video game consoles, pinball machines, arcade video games, computers, table top gaming, crane games, collectible card games and air hockey, and that's just the start.
The Midwest Gaming Classic is about celebrating gaming, trying new things, learning about the gaming hobby, about meeting others who share the love of gaming, and having fun doing it! No matter if you have one console and a handful of games or thousands of games in every room of your house, you'll find something to celebrate with us!
For more information, visit http://www.midwestgamingclassic.com/
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ZapCon 6, April 21st - 22nd 2018, Mesa, Arizona, USA
ZapCon is a weekend-long classic arcade and pinball party, with all of the games set to free play! This sixth show will held at the Mesa Convention Center in Mesa, Arizona, April 21st - 22nd, 2018.
For more information, visit http://www.zapcon.com/
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Pintastic Pinball & Game Room Expo, June 28th - 20th 2018, Sturbridge, Massachusetts, USA
Do you love pinball? Are you looking for a little relief from the hot summer sun? Look no further than Pintastic New England, which is the first of its kind, centrally located in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. This expo is 30,000 square feet of fun for the whole family. The kids can have never-ending excitement with a caricature artist, face painting, friendly clowns, balloon animals, yo yo and juggling show. The adults can bring out their inner child with over 200 pinball machines set on free play, all while enjoying an ice-cold craft beer.
For more information, visit https://pintasticnewengland.com/
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Video Game Summit, July 14th 2018, Villa Park, Illinois, USA
Remember how much fun you used to have playing Atari, Nintendo and all kinds of games on your computer? Well, you will have the rare opportunity to play these great games again at the Video Game Summit, Chicago's premier video game trade show.
The Video Game Summit, now in its 15th year, brings together classic and modern generation gamers from all over the country to swap stories and games. Best of all, admission to The 2018 Video Game Summit is only $10.00 per person (kids 12 and under with adult is free). We will have Early Admission this year again due to positive response from last year.
The Video Game Summit is being held on July 14th, 2018 from 10 am until 6 pm at The Odeum Expo Center, 1033 North Villa Ave., Villa Park, Illinois.
For information on the show visit us at: http://www.VideoGameSummit.net
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KansasFest, July 17th - 22nd 2018, Kansas City, Missouri, USA
KansasFest is the world's only annual convention dedicated to the Apple II computer that revolutionized the personal computing industry. Held every year in Kansas City, Missouri, KansasFest offers Apple II users and retrocomputing enthusiasts the opportunity to engage in beginner and technical sessions, programming contests, exhibition halls, game tournaments, and camaraderie. Any and all Apple II users, fans, and friends are invited to attend this year's event.
This year marks the 30th time that this event has been held. In July 1989, Resource Central held the first A2-Central Developer Conference, focused on the individuals and companies who were still producing hardware and software for the Apple II and IIGS computers. Within a couple of years, the event transformed into a conference for Apple II developers and users alike.
This year, KansasFest welcomes back one of its alumni, Roger Wagner. Though 2018 will mark Wagner's third time as a keynote speaker for the event, most current attendees haven't had the opportunity to hear him speak because his last appearance was 23 years ago. He has deep roots in the Apple II community, back to the beginnings of the platform.
For more information, visit http://www.kansasfest.org/
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ReplayFX, July 26th - 29th 2018, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Gamers behind the Replay Foundation & PAPA are taking over the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and filling it with more than 1,000 full-sized modern and classic arcade and pinball machines, over 2,000 retro console games playable on more than 250 console gaming stations dating from the 1970’s right up to the newest consoles like the XBox One, Nintendo Switch, and PS4, an entire section with dozens of tables dedicated to tabletop and board games, a showcase of new products by game developers, magicians, live musicians, balloon artists, face-painters, competitions offering over $110,000 in prize money, and more!
The Replay FX Arcade & Video Game Festival will feature the largest public collection of working pinball, arcade, tabletop, and console games anywhere in the solar system, and all games are free to play with the price of admission! Attendees are also invited to attend a series of seminars dedicated to gaming and its associated tech-culture, browse merchandise in the marketplace, watch the world's greatest pinball wizards compete in the Pinburgh Match-Play Championship, or enjoy a series of fun and wacky daily challenges at no additional cost!
Replay FX will include multiple live musical performances, a high-energy cosplay contest, inflatable obstacle courses, and more in a show floor packed with over a quarter-million square feet of entertainment! Over $110,000 will be at stake for the competitive player. Thousands of games will be available for the casual fan. A family-friendly atmosphere will be available for the kids, and no one has to leave the galaxy to attend!
For more information, visit https://replayfx.org/
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California Extreme 2018, July 28th - 29th 2018, Santa Clara, California, USA
California Extreme is pleased to announce July 28-29, 2018 as our official dates for the 2018 California Extreme Arcade and Pinball Show. It will be held at the same fantastic location - the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clara, California. Please join us for our 22nd show with hundreds of your favorite arcade and pinball games, both past and present, all gathered together for another fun-filled weekend of pure arcade excitement for folks of all ages!
We are working on this year’s lineup of seminars, guest speakers, and other arcade-themed events that make the show so much fun each year. The hotel will start accepting reservations at a later date. Please do not contact the hotel until we let you know the block is open as you will not be able to get the special CAX group rate.
Start making your plans, requesting time off work, making reservations by planes, trains, automobiles, and especially trucks to come out and join us for another crazy, arcade-filled weekend!
For more information, visit http://www.caextreme.org/
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Retropalooza, September 29th - 30th 2018, Arlington, Texas, USA
A celebration of all things retro! Retropalooza was started in 2013 in Arlington, Texas by a couple of guys who enjoy all things retro; from toys to music, to video games... especially video games. As video game collectors, they spent a lot of time and money looking for retro games when they figured it would be easier to bring the games to them. Thus, Retropalooza was born.
The goal of Retropalooza is to bring nerds from all walks of life together for an enjoyable, family friendly time. Good old fashioned fun with like minded people where it will always be affordable, and forever improving.
For more information, visit http://retropalooza.com/
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If there is a show or event you would
like listed here, free of charge, please contact David directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please include a short official blurb about your event along with any relevant
links or contact information and it will be published in the next issue
of The Retrogaming Times. The event listing will remain posted until
the issue following the event date. Big or small, we want to promote
your show in our newsletter. Check out these great events, shows,
and conventions and let them know you read about them in The Retrogaming
There have been many multi-event simulations
on the Commodore 64, and several focused on the Winter Olympiad. Following
the recent games in South Korea, Merman looks back at the contenders and
the medal-winning games.
DISQUALIFIED: EDDIE EDWARDS SUPER SKI
Released by Loricels in 1988, this was inspired by the British ski jumper Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards who took part in the Calgary games, finishing last. There are four events here, with the option of training or competition against up to four opponents (that can be human or computer). The slalom, downhill and cross-country races all use a fairly average 3D view and the ski jump shows the jumper going down the ramp in 3D. It's a very average simulation, the graphics are fairly poor and sound is terrible. The menu system tries hard to be slick with its icons but fails. Just like Eddie, this one falls short.
Eddie Edwards prepares to jump, and a view of the Slalom event
ALSO-RAN: THE GAMES - WINTER EDITION
Epyx revisited the winter sports arena with this game themed around the 1988 Calgary Olympiad (which shows in the title and intro sequences, with Mounties and the stadium appearing). However, this was nowhere near as good as the original Winter Games. The Luge looks impressive, but is less playable than the original's Bobsleigh. The Figure Skating has a complex choreography section and tricky to understand icons for timing a move. The Ski Jump shows a 3D view down the ramp before a large figure appears side-on and must be landed. The Slalom's isometric view is OK, but the first-person Downhill is exceptionally tricky. Cross-Country soon gets wearing, and although there are large well-animated sprites the Speed Skating is too easy to fail at. It does not live up to its predecessor and is a step backwards in terms of controls.
The torch is lit in The Games - Winter Edition, and the luge event with its changing viewpoint
PLUCKY CONTENDER: OLYMPIC SKIER
Made by budget label Mr Chip (Shaun Southern and Andrew Morris), there is a certain charm about this 1984 release. The game is split into three parts. First the player must ski through the downhill gates, but miss three and they are disqualified. Then they must pump the fire button to speed up on the ski jump ramp and land safely. Finally there is the downhill obstacle course, but crash into the rocks and logs and the player is airlifted to hospital. Simple graphics and sound, but a witty assessment of the player's performance will keep them coming back.
Hurtling down the Olympic Skier jump, and being carried away by a helicopter after crashing
MISSING OUT ON A MEDAL: SKI OR DIE
Skate or Die was a huge success for Electronic Arts, so a snow-based sequel should be fun – right? Sadly the execution lets the game down, but there is still fun to be had from the five events. Snowboard Half-pipe shows a view down the tube, Acro Aerials catches some big air off a ramp, Innertube Thrash sends the player down a frozen river filled with hazards and Downhill Blitz sees the player ski down the mountain as fast as possible. The Snowball Blast is perhaps the most fun, with the player's view either north or south from their ice bunker as kids pelt them with snow. Graphics are a mixed bag and sound is not up to the quality of Skate or Die.
The Ski or Die half-pipe is fairly good, but the Snowball Blast is more fun to play
BRONZE: WINTER OLYMPIAD ’88 (AKA WINTER CHALLENGE)
Tynesoft made multi-event games for both summer and winter games. It follows the Epyx formula pretty closely, with the events including Slalom, Giant Slalom, Two-man Bobsleigh, Ski Jump, Biathlon (cross-country skiing and target shooting) and Speed Skating. Graphics are above average and with some interesting viewpoints. Sound is OK for the most part. What does let it down is the controls, with some events trickier than others.
Taking part in Winter Olympiad's Downhill, and ready for the ski jump
SILVER: WINTER SUPERSPORTS 92
Many of the Tynesoft team joined new software house Flair in the north-east of England, and it shows in this unofficial follow-up from 1992 (the year of the Albertville Olympics, followed in 1994 by Lillehammer as the schedule changed to alternate Summer and Winter Olympics). There are eight different events to try. Competition allows multiple players to take on one or more events, while Challenge sees one or two players play through all eight to get the highest score possible. Downhill, Slalom and Speed Skating are straightforward, and there is also the choice of Bobsleigh or Luge (using a similar 3D view). Skidoo Racing takes place on a very narrow course, splitting the screen between players (or player and computer). Pro Ski Challenge sees two players battling to complete the downhill course first. Finally Bale Jumping adds obstacles to the speed skating, shown from behind the skaters. There is some nice 3D going on here, but what keeps it from the top of the podium is the repetition of similar events and feeling less playable than the top-rated game.
The challenging Speed Skating event shown in third-person, and the tricky Skidoo racing
GOLD MEDAL WINNER: WINTER GAMES (Epyx, 1985)
After the success of the original Summer Games, Epyx followed it up with this icy spectacular. There is a nice opening ceremony with the torch being lit, using the familiar Epyx running man sprite. The menus allow the player to compete in one or all the events, or practice one event. World Records are saved to the disk for posterity and can be viewed. Having chosen the player name(s) and country they represent, there are seven events to tackle. Hot Dog Aerials sees the skier go down a ramp and perform tricks and flips to earn a mark out of 10. Biathlon sees the player make their way across snowy terrain before picking off targets with a rifle (shown in first-person, with the heartbeat affecting the accuracy of the aim). Ski Jump requires the player to get into the perfect position to fly further before landing safely. Speed Skating requires a good but fast rhythm to complete the course quickly. Figure and Free Skating both use the same side-on view, with Figure Skating requiring set moves to be attempted and Free Skating allowing the player to choreograph to the music. Bobsleigh is all about making use of the turns to gain speed without tipping over. The great thing about this is the way the controls have evolved beyond mere waggling (although some is required to climb hills in Biathlon). Mastering the events will take time, but they are great fun while the player is learning. This still stands proud on the top of the podium, with great presentation throughout.
Scoring big in the Hot Dog Aerials, and taking on the challenging Bobsleigh
Bouncing around on Facebook last month, I noticed a very active group called "Apple II Enthusiasts." I can't remember if I joined prior but I did get into the group and there were a ton of people posting about their old experiences, their systems and other interesting topics. One of the topics that came up last night was if Pole Position (by Atarisoft) was released on the Apple II platform. Most people thought no but some indicators online say yes. Who knows what happened. But this did get into thinking about games that I liked that never made it to the Apple II platform. So here's my list:
Galaga is easily my favorite arcade game. If I see the game anywhere (bars, arcades), I usually will dump in some money and get entertained for 15 to 30 minutes. It's interesting that Wiki states that Galaga was released in 1981. I don't recall playing the game until much later (in my teens, around 1986 or after). The other odd thing is that there were no home translations of Galaga until a version popped up for the Atari 7800 (1987). I would have imagined someone would port the game over but it seems it never happened. Could the Apple II have done justice to Galaga? Who knows but it would have been cool to find out.
2. Donkey Kong Jr.
In researching if Pole Position was released for the Apple II, I found on old post (2011) on Atari Age that discussed the issue. The poster also mentioned that Donkey Kong Jr. was completed for the Apple II but never released. That's too bad because Donkey Kong Jr. was a pretty fun ride back in the 1980's. I don't think I ever clamored for a home version but given that the game was complete, it would be nice to see how the game was. Given it's 2018 and it seems like no one's made any discoveries, I may never get my wish. But if anyone does find something out, let me know!
3. Ultima VI
My first experience with the Ultima series started with Ultima IV. While I got close, I never did finish the game. I then went back to play Ultima III which I did finish. Then, just like Star Wars fans, I eagerly awaited the release of Ultima V and I picked it up on the first day it was out. I finished the game a few weeks or months later and of course looked forward to Ultima VI.
Per wiki, Ultima V was released in 1988. That was the peak period of Apple II activity. The Apple IIGS had been released in 1986 and was picking up steam. The older Apple II's, while aging, were still popular in schools.
Alas, Ultima VI never came. I seem to recall reading that Origin wanted Apple II fans to write in to show interest in Ultima VI (which I did). Later on, I seem to remember receiving a letter from Richard Garriot himself stating that the Apple II market had diminished to the point that development of Ultima VI wasn't feasible. Wiki has a different take stating that advancements in the game made it impossible to develop Ultima VI on the Apple II (8 bit computers at least).
I just did a Google search and found an article that seems to corroborate both versions of the story I just wrote:
https://www.filfre.net/2017/04/ultima-vi/ (offsite link)
In any case, Ultima VI never did make it to the Apple II which was a shame. I never did play Ultima again as I didn't get a PC until 1996 or so. By then I had moved on to different games and had lost interest in the RPG type games.
4. NBA Live / NBA 2K
If you look at the available sports games for the Apple II, you'll notice there's a steady stream of baseball simulations (Computer Baseball, Micro League Baseball, Earl Weaver Baseball) that simulate a real game and in the case of Micro League and Earl Weaver, have some graphics with it. There weren't many football simulations. The only one I can think of was John Madden Football which eventually led to the current Madden series.
But when it comes to basketball, the choices are limited. You had some text sports simulations with the Lance Haffner game series. But when it came to actual games you could play, you were limited to One on One by Electronic Arts, Street Sports Basketball by Epyx and GBA Basketball by Activision. Note that One on One was a half court game. The other two games were full court but the courts were split in half and when the ball crossed half court, the Apple II had to switch to the other court. Also none of the games featured 5 on 5 play (One on One / GBA were 2 on 2, Street Sports was 3 on 3).
So in a piped ream world, it would have been nice to get a full court 5 on 5 basketball game for the Apple II. But just like Ultima VI, the technology for the Apple II (heck even the Apple IIGS) just didn't have enough juice to support the type of games that modern platforms can do today.
But one can dream can't they???
See you next issue!
This issue we discuss another Atari system, much different than the original 2600 system. The Atari 7800 is the third in the Atari family following the Atari 5200. The 7800 came out in 1986 which was delayed two years by Atari. When it did finally come out the fans were not as excited as the NES came out one year before. But die-hard Atari fans were not going to let Nintendo beat them and at a price of $140 at launch, it was worth the wait. The best part of system was you could play your old 2600 games on the 7800. This was the first backwards compatible system to come out in those days. The controller for the 7800 was a longer version of the Atari 2600 controller and a design step back from the 5200 version with the control pad not having the number pad of the 5200. You could even use the Atari 7800 controller on the Atari 2600 system if you prefer the sleek design.
The controller is actually very easy to use and an upgrade to the previous 5200 models. Atari went back to the basics of using the controller stick and two red buttons on the side to trigger the action, removing the numeric buttons from the 5200 controller. The sleek rectangular design is very comfortable and nice to use while gaming. Having the button on the side makes gaming easier and more precise based on the grip of the controller. The games itself were closer to the original arcades than the predecessors. Games like Pac-Man, Galaga, and Pole Position looked very similar to the arcade versions.
One of my favorite games of all time is Dig Dug. This game played great on the Atari 7800. The control stick would move around your character and either one of the two red buttons would fire your weapon to stun the monsters and eliminate them. The faster you hit the button the faster they would disappear. Controlling your character was easy and flowed well. You could also kill any of the monsters by dropping a rock on them by moving your character and digging a path under the rock. I still play this game today and never get tired of any of the version, but the 7800 is one of the best in my opinion.
Dig Dug and Galaga
Another popular arcade classic that transformed well on the 7800 is Galaga. This classic game is still one of my top ten games of all time. The controls are simple and yet difficult to master. Move your ship left or right to avoid the ships that drop upon you as well as the bullets they fire. Using the trigger button will fire your weapon and destroy the enemy ships before they destroy you. The sounds of Galaga are pretty close to the original arcade version and the extra ships, the bonus rounds and the double ship tactic are all present in this version of Galaga.
Some games need both buttons control the on-screen action, such as Double Dragon and Rampage. Just as in the arcade version of Double Dragon, you need to kick and punch your way to the end of the levels. In this version the Punch button will be the left trigger and Kick will be the right trigger. This makes a two-button game very easy to control, opening the path to victory. To head butt your opponent you would tap the control stick twice towards the enemy. More advanced moves such as the reverse jump kick, take some practice and precision. This requires you to move the joystick diagonally toward the enemy and then hit the right button to reverse kick. Sometimes you can pick up a weapon and use it on the enemy, to use the weapon hit the left trigger button. This game is a fun replica of the arcade version and utilizes all the abilities of the characters with straightforward controls.
Rampage and Double Dragon
With the new movie coming out, it would not be a 7800 review without discussing the game Rampage. This huge arcade hit still holds up as a fun and entertaining, multiplayer demolition game. To walk right or left, move the joystick in the direction you want to move. To climb a building, move right or left to approach it, then move the joystick up to climb. You can also grab onto a building as you jump past it by holding the up on the joystick. To punch, hold the joystick in the direction you want to punch, then press the left joystick button. To jump, simply press the right joystick button with the joystick centered. Whenever you punch certain enemies or innocent bystanders, you'll automatically gobble them up. If you run out of energy completely, you'll automatically turn into a measly human. To transform back into a monster, press a button before you exit the screen. If you have already exited or been eaten, press the a button and the Rampage blimp will deliver your new monster. You may bring in a new monster and continue building on your current score two times only. This fantastic version of the arcade makes a great time with friends or to play solo.
The Atari 7800 has proved to be an underdog
system and is not as popular as the 2600 was, but in my opinion in still
held weight and is fun to play. I like going back to when graphics
were getting close to the real arcade yet still simple enough to control.
Alternate controllers came out as well for the 7800, but they were very
different than original 7800 joysticks. It could have had a longer
cord but back then it was not needed. I would highly recommend this
system if you are an Atari fan and would like to play the oldies but goodies.
Next issue we will discuss what at the time was the future of 3D gaming
technology, but never took off and remains a retro failure, The Virtual
Boy form Nintendo.
I tend to enjoy a lot of arcade games that either fall outside the mainstream or have next to no attention paid to them at all. With the mass proliferation of MAME, the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator, over the past couple of decades it's pretty easy to stumble upon arcade games one would otherwise never encounter. Jump Coaster is one such game, developed by Kaneko and released to arcades in 1983. Many years ago I was a regular on the Digital Press online video game forum community, which hosted a few MAME themed community events. The most formal of which was the Digital Press MAME League in 2005, a competition spanning many months with normalized scores and competition brackets. Through a series of consistent second and third place finishes, I was able to take the overall third spot in that competition. A few years later the Monday Morning MAME Club was formed, a more informal affair with forum members playing and discussing a different arcade game every week. The very first selection for the Monday Morning MAME Club was Jump Coaster, an interesting mashup of Donkey Kong and Bagman.
Information on the background of Jump Coaster is hard to come by and the actual arcade PCB is beyond scarce, so most of the specific details concerning the game's backstory and release history remain clouded. The player controls a masked and caped hero that must rescue his girlfriend from a group of monkeys that have taken over what appears to be an amusement park. The monkeys not only climb along overhead ropes, they also ride around in roller coaster cars and must be avoided at all costs. The hero must also avoid security guards patrolling the grounds. Security guards move at different speeds and seem to jump randomly, lending themselves to unpredictability that is a hallmark of Jump Coaster. While the roller coaster cars seem to move in predictable patterns at first, the more complex trackwork of the later areas mixes things up quite a bit as the cars can take different paths or change direction. Monkeys that climb along ropes can throw both bananas and apples which will knock the hero to his death and temporarily stun security guards. Unfortunately a stunned security guard is usually a bigger hindrance than a moving one as often they will block a ladder or jumping corridor while frozen in place. Additionally the bananas and apples seem to be thrown in random frequency, meaning sometimes they will be little issue and other times a monkey will rain down deadly fruit in rapid succession.
Stage one features ladders that can be safely dropped off but not reached from below (left), stage two introduces ropes to scurry across (right)
Reaching your girlfriend will complete the stage immediately and seems to be the main objective at first glance. On the first two stages this requires the hero to get to the top of the screen and jump up to grab the gondola she is trapped on. This is a bit like grabbing the helicopter at the top of the building in Crazy Climber. The third stage simply requires the hero to reach his girlfriend at the end of a long platform. The fourth and final stage requires the hero to jump up to a trapeze at the top of the screen and then dive down to his girlfriend below. The attract screen for the game refers to this as a "switch" so maybe his girlfriend is strapped to a bomb or rocket, it's hard to tell exactly what her predicament here is. After completing the fourth stage the game restarts on the first, with increased enemy speed and frequency, similar to Donkey Kong and other arcade games of this vintage.
Money bags are scattered around each area, which introduces a unique twist to the "climb up to the damsel" style gameplay of Donkey Kong. While reaching your girlfriend will complete the stage and award a 1,000 point bonus, it's not the best strategy to build a high score. Collecting the small green money bags will award 200 to 500 points per pick up, and grabbing all of them in a stage will cause a larger red money bag to appear. Collecting the large red money bag will not only award a 10,000 point bonus, it will also complete the stage. That's right, the game makes the player decide between rescuing the girl or collecting the money for more points. I can't think of another game, especially one based around such a simple premise, that features opposing goals such as this. It would be nice if there were intermission screens between stages that would show a different message depending on the goal achieved but sadly there are none, the game simply advances regardless of the path the hero chooses.
While Donkey Kong is a game known for requiring precise control, Jump Coaster allows the player to finesse things a little more. The hero isn't locked into climbing or descending ladders strictly dead center, instead being able to stand a bit to the left or right. Generally this is required to avoid the roller coaster cars on ladders that pass close to roller coaster tracks. Jumping also has a bit more flexibility than in Donkey Kong and while the controls are somewhat loose in comparison, they respond quickly and accurately. Control mistakes in Jump Coaster usually have more to do with the player learning the geometry of a stage and how the platform hazards function. Collision detection can be a bit strange here and there, namely in picking up the large money bag on the second screen. However for the most part the game doesn't throw too many curve balls at the player outside of the pure chaos of things to avoid. The audio package here is serviceable but far from anything as memorable as what is heard in Donkey Kong or Bagman. Kaneko seemed to decide to use a loud sound for pretty much every action. While there are little musical interludes here and there, they're a bit too grating on the ears to be very memorable. The volume level isn't the issue, it has more to do with a narrow range of tones used throughout.
The difficulty ramps up in stage three with dangerous rope areas (left), stage four is a combination of all previous hazards (right)
With all the love and attention Donkey
Kong derivatives, clones, homebrews and bootlegs get, I still don't understand
why Jump Coaster rarely comes up in conversation. Of all the arcade
games I've ever seen, Jump Coaster comes as close to the original Donkey
Kong in both presentation and play style than any other game I can think
of. Perhaps the rarity of original Jump Coaster boards is what keeps
arcade enthusiasts away but as single-game MAME cabinet builds and custom
PCB creation become a more common part of the arcade hobby, one would think
the timing couldn't be better for Jump Coaster to garner awareness.
While the game itself is reasonably simple and the challenge generally
lies in the seemingly random chaos of each screen, it is also extremely
addicting. Since first playing it I've felt that if it had wider
distribution it would have easily been an early arcade hit. Sadly
the only home conversion Jump Coaster ever received was in 1984 for the
MSX computer. While not as visually detailed, the MSX release is
an admirable conversion of the game that plays well, although it only features
the first and third screens of the arcade game.
Video game rental shops were a common trend in Brazil during the 90's. Kids would either rent a game for a whole day, or play it inside the shop for one hour (R$1,00 = 1 hour of fun). While my brother and I enjoyed spending our allowance playing International Superstar Soccer on the SNES, Tekken on the Sony PlayStation and Sonic 2 on the Sega Mega Drive, we still nurtured unconditional love for the Sega 8-bit machine. Received as a birthday gift in 1996 from my grandmother, our second video game console (the first was a Chinese portable Brick Game 132-in-1) reigned as the supreme king of the living room during the hot afternoons of the following four years, until being succeeded by a powerful Nintendo 64.
Since game cartridges were far too expensive, the rental shops and my uncle's huge collection were the main sources of fun. While he preferred platforming, it was the time of the Street Fighter craze and kids were enamored with fighting games. That means he would lend us Sonic and Mickey while we rented Mortal Kombat and played the three of them all day long.
Although the first 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog was a pack-in for the system, my favorite was the third outing in the series: Sonic Chaos, a much easier game. It had only five stages and we could beat it with Tails without worrying about any Chaos Emeralds, which were only necessary to see Sonic's true ending. Tails could also fly, which was impossible even on the Mega Drive games.
Since I was a huge fan of the European Mickey Mouse comic books, enjoying Land of Illusion was a no-brainer. By far the most complex game in the whole Illusion series, the sequel to the 8-bit version of Castle of Illusion was also one of the best platform games on the system. It had a world map! You could return to previous stages with a recently acquired item to open new secrets on said stages! Compared to the huge library of strictly straightforward platformers on the SMS, this one was truly something else.
Street Fighter and Killer Instinct were out there, but Mortal Kombat was on the Master System! Not only that, it was a good conversion of the game, with pretty graphics and decent controls. It was missing one of the characters, Kano, and it only had two background stages, but we could still play with Sub-Zero or Scorpion, and this is what really mattered. And again, it was 8-bit one-on-one violence!
Soon enough would come the time of starting a collection, and with it new classics would be discovered. But these games, borrowed or rented, were the games defining my tastes forever. Platformers and fighters still bring a smile to my face.
NOTE: None of these late Master System
titles were released in the USA, since the system had a much shorter life
span in this region than in Europe or South America. But with emulation,
there are no boundaries over gaming anymore, and I recommend you give Land
of Illusion a try.
Most wouldn't think of fishing video games being an established sports sub-genre until after the Sega Dreamcast, with Sega Bass Fishing and its optional fishing reel controller. However there were quite a few fishing games before Sega Bass Fishing made them relatively mainstream. Video game developer Hot-B actually introduced the concept of a fishing simulation video game with The Black Bass in 1986, originally released on the Japanese MSX home computer. The Black Bass was eventually ported to the Nintendo Famicom and its sequel, The Black Bass II, would be renamed simply "The Black Bass" and released in the USA on the Nintendo Entertainment System. 8 bit fishing would then hit its peak with another Hot-B title, The Blue Marlin, before fishing games became established on the next generation of hardware. Many of those games were developed by Hot-B as well. When Hot-B went out of business in 1993, the company's assets were purchased by former staff and it was reestablished as a new developer, Star-Fish. Amazingly, Star-Fish continues to release fishing games to this day, including new entries in The Black Bass series on current hardware such as the Nintendo 3DS. One could say that Hot-B, either as the original company or currently as Star-Fish, are the masters of the fishing video game genre. After all, they flat out invented the now standard and expected mechanics of a fishing game. While bass fishing was proven to be Hot-B's bread and butter, (or is that bait and tackle) they followed up the excellent diversion of The Blue Marlin with another specialized type of fishing: salmon. King Salmon was released less than a year after The Blue Marlin and utilized a lot of what that game had to offer, combined with the smaller catches of the earlier Black Bass games.
King Salmon plays a lot like a combination of Hot-B's earlier bass and marlin titles, meaning proper skippering of your boat has as much to do with hooking a fish as as bait selection and reeling technique. The game consists of four competitions in four areas, with each featuring both a "big" and "small" map to navigate. The C Button throttles your ship forward on either map, with the objective on the big map to find areas where salmon are running. Pressing the A Button while cruising around will move to the small map if there are salmon in the vicinity. If the area is bad for fishing you will be told so and nothing will happen, so continue searching around for a better spot. Although the idea of grafting the larger area wide maps of The Black Bass onto the trolling action of The Blue Marlin sounds like a good idea on paper, more often than not you'll simply mash the A Button while driving around until you find a good spot. Now if the spot is good then you are taken to the smaller map - a zoomed in view of the area you are fishing in.
The small map takes a page right out of The Blue Marlin as your boat now drags a lure behind. Shadows will appear in the water from time to time, representing herring in the open sea competitions and salmon in the river areas. Salmon follow the herring so the idea during the open sea competitions is to keep your lure on them in an attempt to hook the prized catch. Speaking of lures, there are multiple bait types but they tend to be competition specific, removing much of the customization and strategy of the previous Hot-B fishing games. Five line lengths are also available however they have absolutely no difference on your ability to hook fish. On the other hand, line depth is far more important as fish reside at different depths based on the weather conditions presented at the beginning of each day. Additionally when fishing the rivers, good areas can often be found around rapid currents. When the lure begins to flash then you're on the fish and the bite window may appear.
Get used to seeing this... thrilling (left), Unfortunately this is the best the game ever gets, and it's three minutes in (right)
Once you have a bite, a window with a fisherman in it will be displayed. His rod will bob up and down, occasionally taking a more pronounced dip down. When this happens press Up on the directional pad. If done at the right time, you will enter a battle. Although this all sounds pretty simple, it is very inconsistent and frustrating. You will spend many hours mashing the Up direction in hopes of getting a hit. No matter how much I played the game, no matter how proficient I got at getting the bite window to appear, no matter how well I knew the fishing areas, never once did the seemingly simple process of pressing Up at the right time feel or correct or consistent. Even worse is if the game thinks you're not pulling up at the right time, then the bite window will simply go away. As each day of the competition has a time limit, beginning at 7:00am and ending at 4:00pm, wasted time is a huge issue. It's like boiling the whole process of casting and reeling to entice a fish in The Black Bass down to a haphazard and random feeling button press.
If the planets align on the night of a full moon and you are somehow able to get a hit, you will be taken to the battle screen. Here the C Button reels the line in. If the line goes out beyond 700 feet then it will run out and you will lose the battle. During the fight you can attempt to recover stamina by pressing the A Button to flex your hand but this tends to let the fish run out the line at a moment's notice. Pressing Right on the directional pad will thumb the reel, slowing down the fish while keeping pressure on the line low. Pressing Left will pull up the rod and halt a fish from running but it also prevents reeling and puts stress on the line. The key is a series of quick pull and reel combos, known as pumping. Additionally once or more during a battle an event may occur. These are problems with multiple choice responses that in turn lead to further multiple outcomes. These outcomes can vary, even when asked the same question under the same conditions of an earlier time. While this adds some unpredictability, and there by a tiny bit of realism, the randomness usually feels unfair.
As you fight fish through the four fishing areas you will build levels as you catch salmon. These build in three categories: strength, stamina, and technique. The "strength" level represents your reeling power with higher levels allowing you to reel in larger catches. Higher "stamina" ratings allow longer battle duration before your fisherman will become fatigued. "Technique" on the other hand, is increased when you successfully navigate through the random multiple choice events and will increase your "luck" in subsequent events. In other words the technique statistic is self perpetuating and serves no real purpose in the game. Gaining levels is determined by the weight of the fish caught and is only awarded for pulling in salmon. While this sounds fine and levels were a big part of The Blue Marlin, the work / reward system here is completely out of whack. As an example, I had to work all my statistics up to level 91 before being able to pull in a fish weighing over one hundred pounds, the objective of the final challenge of the game. In other words the objective of the game is to fail day after day, continue your game, spend hour after boring hour building your levels, just so you can reach the threshold where the game says "okay, this number is high enough" and awards you the last catch. Doesn't really sound all that entertaining when you get down to it, does it?
Although there are four types of fish that can be caught in the game, they all look the same during battle. Well, that is except for sharks or as the game calls them, "dogfish." However even the sharks are unidentifiable until pulled almost all the way to the surface. Unlike in The Blue Marlin where pulling in a catch other than swords would still help to build your statistics, sharks in King Salmon award no such increase. Fish renderings are drab, undetailed and all the same with the only variance being in their size. The graphics that show the scenario during a special event popup aren't bad but are still small and low in detail for a Genesis game. Battle screen graphics are completely uninspired, with the water resembling a bad sweater pattern that slowly scrolls by and comes across as both lazy and cheap at the same time. The graphic of your fisherman's reeling status is reused from the bite window and is equivalently small and undetailed. The weigh-in screen also uses the same fish graphic, scaled for size, for all three salmon varieties. This is probably why sharks reward no statistic increases as the developers were too lazy to make a graphic showing them being weighed, even though they show up in catch records. The overhead views during the boat navigation phases look like bad RPG map screens with low detail and flat colors. Considering how little is going on during these parts of the game, the least the developers could have done is given us something nice to look at. I should stop making the comparison but remember all the details like cars driving around, flashing signs, airport traffic, and trains speeding along bridges in The Blue Marlin? None of that here.
From the moment power is switched on, King Salmon's unappealing music begins, opening with what has to be one of the worst title screen themes of all time. It in no way matches the atmosphere or mood of the game you're about to play and sounds more like something from a low budget pachinko game. While other Hot-B fishing games, at the very least, had music that was unobtrusive the same cannot be said for King Salmon. None of the in-game music is catchy and is comprised of the most generic guitar riffs, while the sound effect of your boat driving around gets annoying fast, and the sound effects during battle are completely throw away. That last one is the biggest deal breaker for me as sound is often how these early fishing games alert the player to changing conditions during battle. I suppose it only further shows that King Salmon is a game where the player really has very little control over the outcome. I'm shocked the sound is so poor as anyone who has played Hot-B's other fishing games will remember the downbeat and classic sounding music of The Black Bass and the bright yet somehow incredibly moody and atmospheric music of The Blue Marlin as a high point in either game.
It's like fishing in someone's bad holiday sweater (left), Good luck, the repercussions seem to be completely random (right)
This is a fishing game that lays out how to catch fish, which in all honesty isn't that complex, and then makes it nearly impossible to do consistently. Keeping your lure on the salmon in the river areas is a complete pain in the ass made even more frustrating by the aforementioned issues with getting your fisherman to pull the rod up at the right time to get a hit. The game also likes to mess with you as it will often bring up the bite window right on the edge of the map where it is impossible to get a pull before the edge of the game world. Why even make these inaccessible areas a hotbed for salmon strikes? Navigating around is pretty easy but there are always rival fishing boats which must be avoided as ten collisions on a single day will end your tournament. Sometimes on the narrower rivers it is nearly impossible to avoid collisions, especially considering how easy it is to get hung up on the terrain. Control in this game is simply a nightmare, pain and simple. For example, while fishing in close quarters you have to tap the C Button to throttle the boat forward and keep your line on the fish, tap left and right to steer the boat as you move with the fish to avoid rival fisherman and terrain, keep an eye on the bite window so you can futilely tap the Up button when the rod bows down in an attempt to get a strike, and on top of this your boat speed and control tend to speed up and slow down unpredictably. It's just not the speed of the action on screen but the input rate also feels influenced by what can only be described as slowdown. Yes, slowdown in a Sega Genesis fishing game. All these little quirks pile up one after another to make this an extremely frustrating game to play.
I really like fishing games and for whatever reason I always have. However if this was my first encounter with the genre I would have been soured on them from the start. What you see on screen and what is actually going on in King Salmon seem to be fundamentally disconnected. A great example is during the special event sequences. Upon making successful choices a comment such as, "The fish looks tired" will be displayed, yet have no bearing on the actual battle. Additionally icons over the fish have no relation to reality, especially if you're familiar with the iconography from earlier Hot-B fishing games. For example a "sweating" or "dead" fish icon over a fish should mean the fish is tired or completely exhausted but often the fish can still run out over two hundred feet. Alternatively a fish displaying a "strong" icon can sometimes be easily pulled in with no effort what so ever. The fisherman's "Too easy!" comment never relates to the actual situation either. At first I assumed that the icon status was swapped with what it should be but no, the display icons and indicators don't follow any pattern of reason.
The cheapness and flawed design doesn't stop there however. The "hook not being properly set" event simply imposes a hidden time limit on the battle. Additionally the line tension randomly comes into play from one battle to another. An audible "ting - ting - ting" alerts you when this is happening. Unfortunately there is nothing that can be done in this instance as nothing eases tension on the line. Essentially this is a randomly occurring quick time limit, a "screw you" more or less. While these events were present in The Blue Marlin, there was almost always a way out of them using proper technique and your skill as a player (and a little luck), but the same can't be said for King Salmon. This game is simply a terrible mess and I am completely dumfounded that it generally holds a favorable reputation with classic gaming fishing fans. It's like some strange aborted sequel to The Blue Marlin.
The game is artificially lengthened by requiring you to be at the highest of levels before you are able to pull up the world record salmon and close out the game's fourth and final tournament. This is also apparent in how after a battle, win or lose, that area of the small map becomes "dead" for awhile, forcing you to move to another location. Maybe the fish realize what a crappy game they're in and don't want to be embarrassed. The worst part about all this is after hours upon hours of senseless grinding, looking at the same ugly sweater pattern moving back and forth, the game suddenly allows you to pull up the mythical world record setting salmon and the credits roll... Only to use the box art of the Japanese release as the ending screen. Cheap and lazy from beginning to end, that's King Salmon.
Throw this one back!
Every Friday on The Retrogaming Times Facebook page (facebook.com/theretrogamingtimes), we present a Weekly Retrogaming Trivia question. This just-for-fun trivia challenge provided each week is an opportunity to test your arcane and oddball retrogaming knowledge. The answer to the question from the previous week is posted along with a new trivia question every Friday!
Below is the recap of all questions and
answers posted between this issue and the previous issue:
01/05/2018 - WEEK 48
Question: An Americanized rework of The Money Game II, what NES game has a final objective of purchasing a castle?
01/12/2018 - WEEK 49
Question: The Sonic Wings series of arcade shooters is known by what name outside of Japan?
01/19/2018 - WEEK 50
Question: TurboGrafx-16 pack-in title Keith Courage in Alpha Zones is a localization of a Japanese title based on what 1980's anime series?
01/26/2018 - WEEK 51
Question: Square One Television was an educational program began in the late 1980's that featured parodies of Pac-Man and Q*bert. What were the titles of these two arcade game parodies?
02/02/2018 - WEEK 52
Question: When Sega's 1991 arcade racer Rad Mobile was ported to the Sega Saturn in 1994 it underwent a name change. What name was the Saturn version released under?
02/09/2018 - WEEK 53
Question: What is the name of the rarely seen arcade sequel to BurgerTime, released in 1984?
02/16/2018 - WEEK 54
A re-imagining of Activision's Star Raiders, what Namco game was the company's first Famicom game not based on an arcade title?
Mashin Hero Wataru - the basis for Keith Courage (left), Pauline's Perilous Pyramid on Square One Television (right)
Week 48 Answer: Wall Street Kid.
Week 49 Answer: Aero Fighters.
Week 50 Answer: Mashin Hero Wataru.
Week 51 Answer: Mathman (Pac-Man) and Pauline's Perilous Pyramid (Q*bert).
Week 52 Answer: Gale Racer.
Week 53 Answer: Peter Pepper's Ice Cream Factory.
Week 54 Answer: StarLuster.
Your ultimate goal laid out in the beginning of Wall Street Kid (left), RadMobile's lackluster Saturn rework - Gale Racer (right)
Don't be left out! Be sure to follow The Retrogaming Times on Facebook for a new retrogaming trivia question every Friday!
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in the Weekly Retrogaming Trivia question pool, e-mail it to email@example.com!
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With the addition of two new columns this issue, "Arcade Obscure" and "Catch and Release," it may seem like we're beginning to spread ourselves a little thin. This couldn't be further from the truth, as although these columns may not be regular features in every issue going forward, they will be returned to sporadically. Having an arcade specific column back in the general rotation is something I've wanted for awhile but I wanted it to be a bit more focused than the earlier "MAME Reviews" feature. While I don't want to cover a fishing game every issue throughout the year, there are a few of them I would like to explore in depth. The genre features some true gems and I have quite a bit to say concerning them, as was evidenced in this issue. Of course this also means the stable of reoccurring columns grows larger, meaning more variety to return to. If anyone reading has an idea for a column, please send the suggestion to me for development - or even better, contribute yourself!
Thank you once again for reading The Retrogaming Times. We'll be back on May 1st with our next issue. Be sure to follow The Retrogaming Times on Facebook and join our community for the latest updates and information! I sincerely hope you enjoyed this issue and that you will return to read the next issue and possibly submit an article yourself. Remember, this newsletter can only exist with your help. Simply send your articles directly to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out the submission guidelines on the main page. Submit an article today and join a great retrogaming tradition!
See You Next Game!
Content and opinions on this
page are those of their respective writer(s)
Assembled and published by David Lundin, Jr. on March 1st, 2018 at ClassicPlastic.net
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