Thank you for
your patience as this issue goes live just over a week late!
While a publication delay is never an intention, this one was
unfortunately a requirement. At the end of September the
opportunity was floated by my wife and I to relocate into a much bigger
space in the apartment community where we reside. This was always
a goal sooner rather than later but it was unexpectedly presented out
of the blue and to that end had a very narrow turnaround window.
The full-on relocation fell right around the end of October, during the
time when I complete final editing and assembly of a newsletter
issue. I communicated this both directly to our staff as well as
through out social media channels to our readership, but the relocation
was a larger undertaking than I had estimated. As I'm now
beginning to settle into my new location, things are sorted enough to
where this issue of The Retrogaming Times can finally be released.
We close out
2019 with new features and returning faces. Things begin with Merman's detailed showcase
of Commodore 64 offerings courtesy of Parker Brothers, in the first of
a multi-part More C64! feature. A new tradition is formed as a
group of The Retrogaming Times staff come together to share their
holiday gift picks in our first annual Holiday Gift Guide, this issue's
cover story. Jason "WauloK" Oakley reports on fun times had at
the Newcastle Pinball Association Pinfest, an Australian pinball show. In a
modification tutorial, support for NES peripherals can added to the
Japanese AV Famicom with a couple simple and quick connections.
The Controller Chronicles gets about as retro as possible as Todd
Friedman covers the origins of the first home video game
controller. Video Game Haiku returns to round out the year with
more from Sean Robinson in a column that you can contribute
to. All that and
more are ahead in this issue of The Retrogaming Times!
Sac Gamers Expo, December 8th 2019,
Sacramento, California, USA
video game convention founded in 2015, created by gamers for gamers.
Our show features special guests, game vendors and artists, game
developers, tournaments, free to play games, a console museum, VR
Setups, live DJ and so much more! Sac Gamers Expo is a family oriented
event for all levels of gamers. Free admission for children eight
and under with a paid adult!
Midwest Gaming Classic, April 3rd - 5th
2020, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA
Gaming Classic is a trade show featuring 150,000+ square feet of retro
and modern home video game consoles, pinball machines, arcade video
games, table top RPGs, computers, table top board games, crane games,
collectible card games, air hockey, and that’s just the start.
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!
Pintastic Pinball & Game Room Expo,
June 25th - 28th 2020, Sturbridge, Boxborough, USA
For Everyone! 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. The adults can bring out their inner child with over 200
pinball machines set on free play, all while enjoying an ice-cold craft
KansasFest, July 21st - 26th 2020,
Kansas City, Missouri, USA
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 the event.
Will you be
among the 2020 attendees? Mark your calendars for July 21-26, 2020.
Classic Game Fest, July 25th - 26th
2020, Austin, Texas, USA
retro gaming event in Texas is back on July 25-26, 2020! Classic Game
Fest returns to the Palmer Events Center in Austin, TX on July 25-26,
2020. The annual summer event will feature all the expected attractions
including special guests, live music, free play games, a massive vendor
hall and more. Vendor booth and ticket information will be available
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
links or contact information and it will be published in the next issue
of The Retrogaming Times. The event listing will remain posted
the issue following the event date. Big or small, we want to
your show in our newsletter..
these great events, shows,
and conventions and let them know you read about them in The
C64! - Parker Brothers Part 1 - The Video Games
Parker Brothers is of course most famous as a board game
company, publishing the likes of Monopoly and Risk. But it underwent
massive expansion in the 1970s and 1980s, moving into book publishing
(with the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake), a record label and a
range of electronic games. Initially its handheld releases were based
on its own board games, but the launch of the Atari VCS console saw the
company move into video games. A lucrative license to publish new games
based on Star Wars was followed by a series of arcade conversions.
These then are the games published for the Commodore 64
by Parker Brothers. Several of these were only available on cartridge
and are now highly collectible. These cartridges had a distinctive grey
box and well made cover artwork, giving the range a distinct identity
(perhaps inspired by Atari's own cartridge designs).
The classic Parker Brothers
logo, and the cover
of the Q*Bert cartridge.
Circus Charlie (1984)
This was licensed from the Konami coin-op, although it
does omit the trampoline stage of the original. Charlie must perform
five death-defying stunts to earn money and satisfy the crowd. Riding a
lion through hoops of fire, walking the tightrope, rolling a ball,
riding a horse and swinging from the trapeze, in each level there are
other obstacles/animals to avoid and moneybags to collect. Completing
all five stunts sends the game back to the start with higher
difficulty. The graphics and music of the C64 version are quite good in
comparison to the original, but gameplay is very tough - especially as
you are sent back to the start of a stunt every time you die.
Riding the lion through a
flaming hoop, and
jumping over a monkey on the tightrope.
This was a conversion of the arcade game, licensed direct
from Sega (who distributed the game in the US). Parker Brothers
apparently spent over $10 million advertising their home versions,
resulting in over three million sales across formats. Everyone knows
the premise, with the frogs hopping across the busy road filled with
cars and then the river filled with logs, turtles and alligators to
reach their home. The C64 port was available on tape, disk and
cartridge and is quite good; it features the classic music and most of
the gameplay features. There is also a choice between slow and fast
Fans of Frogger should check out the brilliant Frogger
Arcade by Digital Monastery / Hokuto Force released at Christmas 2016
the most accurate conversion on the C64.
Crossing the road, and
being eaten by a
Frogger II – ThreeDeep! (1984)
This was an original game marketed as a sequel. The three
refers to the three screens the action takes place over, with the frogs
trying to reach their "berths" at the top of the three screens.
Starting in the pond, the frogs swim upwards then hop across the
water's surface and finally climb on the back of birds up into the
clouds. As the player completes levels, more hazards are added to each
screen. A rapidly falling time limit makes this very difficult, and
while the graphics are ok it is never as addictive as the original.
Hitching a ride with a
turtle, and reaching the
clouds on the third screen.
This was converted from the Konami coin-op. The player's
ship must travel from the edge of the Solar System to Earth, destroying
waves of fighters to warp closer. Bonus waves require you to shoot all
the enemies for a big score boost. The 3D starfield was a clever
effect, with the enemies scaling (getting larger and smaller) as they
fly in and out of the middle of the screen. To achieve the number of
enemies on screen, the C64 needed an early form of "multiplexer." This
allowed more than eight sprites at once, by displaying them on
alternate screen frames (once every 30th of a second on an NTSC
screen). Although this does generate some flicker the effect is
convincing. The C64 also has a brilliant tune, covering the arcade
game's up-tempo version of Bach's Toccata and Fugue. Well worth playing.
You cannot "see" half the
enemy ships in this
static screenshot, while the ship warps its way to Neptune.
James Bond 007 (1984)
Licensed from the famous film franchise, the game itself
is heavily inspired by Moon Patrol and Scramble. Bond's vehicle can
transform to be a car, submarine, spacecraft and plane, shooting
enemies in front of or above it. Obstacles must be shot or jumped over.
Scenes from four of the Bond films inspired the levels, with a short
intro before each where the vehicle transforms:
Diamonds Are Forever (1971): rescuing Tiffany Case from
an oil rig. The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): destroying an underwater
laboratory. Moonraker (1979): destroying satellites in space. For Your Eyes Only (1981): retrieving radio equipment
from a sunken boat.
The average graphics are really off-putting, and the
difficulty level is set way too high.
The intro to a level wishes
you good luck, while
Diamonds Are Forever has bonus diamonds to shoot.
Montezuma's Revenge (1984)
This challenging early platform game featured Panama Joe
trying to steal jewels from the underground pyramid of Aztec emperor
Montezuma II. Joe collects keys to open doors, torches to light dark
rooms, swords to kill skulls and much more. The original game had been
intended for the Atari 800 and filled 48K of memory, but Parker
Brothers wanted to publish it on a 16K cartridge meaning many features
were cut. The video game crash saw Parker cut costs further, finally
releasing the Atari 800 and C64 versions on a "flippy" disk (one
version on side A, the other on side B). With 99 rooms to explore
before reaching the final treasure chamber, there is a big challenge
here. The C64 version compares favourably with the Atari, particularly
when it comes to the music (including snippets of Spanish Flea and La
Cucaracha). Perhaps the most frustrating aspect is that Joe can die
from falling too far, but at least you have infinite continues
(allowing you to carry on a game from the last screen you reach).
And for those not familiar with the term, Montezuma's
Revenge is also a colloquial expression for "traveler's diarrhea"
contracted while visiting Mexico...
One door has already been
opened on the first
screen, while more keys can be found here.
Mr. Do's Castle (1984) This was the sequel to the classic arcade game, but had
originally started life as a prototype called Knights vs. Unicorns
before the clown was added. Mr. Do has to collect all the cherries or
defeat all the monsters to complete each castle level. He does this by
knocking blocks out of the platforms with his hammer. Enemies are
killed by dropping a block on them, but they will get stuck in a gap
for a short time (filling it in when they struggle free). There are
also "skull" platforms, where hitting the skulls at both ends will
"zap" any enemy standing on that platform and knock out any enemy
standing below it. Collecting three keys reveals the shield at the top
of the battlements. By taking the shield, the enemies change form and
become letters of the word EXTRA - and they can now be killed with the
hammer. Completing EXTRA earns an extra life. The C64 conversion is
very impressive, with great graphics and sound - but it is very tough,
with fast-moving enemies and short time limits to kill the EXTRA
letters. This is another game that is worth checking out if you haven't
played it before.
The first two scenes have
with some diagonal ladders that can be "knocked" to move them.
This is a conversion of the classic Nintendo arcade game,
with Popeye having to rescue Olive Oyl over three different levels (as
one is missing from this conversion). It was also a launch title for
the Famicom in Japan. On the first level Olive sends out love hearts
(later levels have music notes or the word HELP) that fall down the
screen, and Popeye must collect them before they reach the water. Bluto
(aka Brutus) patrols the platforms and takes a life on contact, but
Popeye has two ways to fight back. The punch ball can be punched,
causing the weight to fall - and if it hits Bluto he is knocked off the
stage for a short while. Or Popeye can collect the Spinach can to power
up, making Bluto run away; catch him and he is sent flying and
disappears for a while. The Sea Hag also appears at the screen edges,
throwing bottles at Popeye (who can punch them away if timed
correctly). Wimpy appears on level 2 on a seesaw, acting as a
counterweight that can send Popeye higher. This is quite difficult to
play but looks and sounds very close to the arcade game.
Catching hearts on level 1,
and music notes on
Originally called Snots and Boogers, Q*Bert became famous
for the speech bubble and accompanying gibberish sounds that the arcade
version made. The aim is to make all the cubes of the pyramid match the
target colour, by Q*Bert hopping on them one or more times. Enemies
follow him down the cubes or hatch from falling eggs. Fortunately there
are two spinners that can the orange hero can use; the enemy will
follow him off the edge and fall to their doom, while Q*Bert rides the
spinner back to the top of the pyramid.
Q*Bert "swears" in
gibberish when he dies, and
rides a spinner disc back to the top of level 1.
Star Wars - The Arcade Game (1984)
As mentioned earlier, Parker Brothers negotiated a
license to make new games based on Star Wars. But this was actually a
conversion of the Atari vector graphic arcade game. On the C64 it does
not use vectors though; sprites are used instead. The end result is
faster moving than Domark's 1987 conversion (which did draw everything
with vectors) but is not as accurate. The end result is not quite
convincing, with the fireballs not appearing to be very big when they
"hit" you; it simply becomes a matter of timing rather than judging
based on their size. It does copy the increasing difficulty of the
arcade game. At first you only face the TIE fighters attacking, then
the trench (without horizontal catwalks). At higher levels you also
have to destroy the laser towers on the surface before entering the
trench with catwalks to fly over or under. It is fun for a quick blast,
but not worth paying a lot for the cartridge.
Fireballs need to be shot
down, while the trench
movement is limited.
Q*Bert's Qubes [Preview] (1985)
Although Parker Brothers published the Atari VCS and
Coleco versions in 1985, the manual contained instructions for C64 and
Atari computer versions that never reached the shop shelves. In 2017
the website Games That Weren't was able to find a preview version of
the C64 game. The gameplay is slightly different, in that Q*Bert must
match the cube colours in lines of five rather than simply making all
of them match. Enemies hop around or hang off cubes to block his
The preview contains a
short tutorial before you
start, and Q*Bert still swears when he dies.
So, the Parker Brothers games on the C64 are a mixed bag.
There are a couple of really fun titles but also some really
disappointing ones. As a collector, the cartridges will hold their
value and are worth tracking down if they are boxed. The Frogger II -
ThreeDeep disk is also quite interesting, being a "flippy" with the
Atari version on the other side.
In the second part of this feature we will look at the
board game properties belonging to Parker Brothers (and related
companies) that were converted into C64 games.
opinion there was no better time for video game periodicals than the
1990's into the very early 2000's. The format had become more
professional in presentation, there were dozens of different
publications that filled every video gaming niche, and you had smaller
independent magazines right along side official manufacturer
mouthpieces. I tried to read as many of them as I could
throughout their runs but the one time of the year I made sure to read
every print publication I could get my hands on was during the holiday
season. The holiday gift guide / holiday buyer's guide issues
were always my favorite seasonal inclusion in video game magazines and
on game review shows. Sure they were trying in part to push
products from their sponsors but it was also when you got to know more
about the interests of the writers and personalities behind the
productions. These issues were also always pure fun as the
industry would be pulling out all the stops to entice potential
re-launching The Retrogaming Times in 2016, we haven't really
established any traditions as previous incarnations of the newsletter
had developed over time. That changes with this issue and the
inclusion of our first Holiday Gift Guide. The intent is for this
to become a regular feature every November and begin an annual
tradition of our staff each selecting a holiday gift
recommendation. For this year the call went out to anyone who had
previously contributed to any "Retrogaming Times" newsletter over the
past twenty years. That will hold true going into the future, so
if you missed out this time and are Retrogaming Times alumni, let
me know and expect an e-mail next September for your 2020 holiday
pick! With that said we have a wonderfully diverse selection of
gift recommendations this year!
~ ~ ~
You may know
me from my regular More C64 columns here in The
Retrogaming Times. One thing that makes my life easier for the C64 is
the amazing 1541 Ultimate II, which allows me to load games from a
MicroSD card or a USB stick. But when I was approached by Geek Line
Publishing to be part of their amazing Super Nintendo Anthology book, I
needed a way to play games on the real hardware as well as emulation.
my recommendation, the SD2SNES,
comes in. Developed by
KRIKzz, the hardware resembles a standard SNES cartridge. (Mine is in
the PAL form, but a US version is available.) A small slot in the top
accepts the SD card, and anything over 8GB is large enough to store the
whole SNES back catalogue - as well as homebrew and fan translations.
The in-game "hooks" allow certain key combinations to reset the game,
return to the menu or enable/disable cheats. Best of all the firmware
continues to be updated, and the project website (https://sd2snes.de)
has helpful lists of incompatibility problems. The SD2SNES now supports
the SuperFX and SA-1 (accelerator chip) games. It really is a great way
to experience many different games.
If you're a
real retro-geek and love all things about old computers,
you can't go past Old Skool Pixels.
Mike Berry creates designs
based on retro computer games from Paradroid
to Manic Miner, Pac-Man to Ghosts 'n Goblins and my favourite:
Boulder Dash! You can buy a 3D generated photo for your wall, a
calendar, coffee mugs
I got the
Boulder Dash coffee mug for my last birthday and love
it! Mike takes great care to create designs true to the original
Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum or Arcade machines. He illustrates and
renders them in 3D and
they really look amazing. There's so many to choose from, your
biggest problem will be how many
can you buy at once. I'm tempted by the glorious Wizball panorama print
at 20" x 60" size.
My pick is a
little out there but is the perfect stocking stuffer for a
specific gamer looking to replace a specific piece of hardware.
Released as a popular add-on for the Nintendo Famicom, the Famicom Disk
System (FDS) allowed games to be distributed on magnetic floppy disks,
a novel concept for a console. Not only did this allow games to
be theoretically limitless in size, it made production far less costly
and those savings were passed on to Japanese consumers.
Unfortunately time has not been kind to the format, both due to the
nature of low cost magnetic media and an overly complex disk drive
design. This is a shame, as in addition to playing host to the
origins of The Legend of Zelda, Kid Icarus, Metroid and many others,
the Disk System adds unique audio hardware to the Famicom that the
current generation of flashcarts cannot accurately replicate at this
time. Loopy of the NESDev forums approached this problem from a
different angle. Rather than attempting to emulate the entire
Disk System component soup to nuts, he instead would replace the weak
links: the disks and disk drive.
The result of
Loopy's work is the FDSStick,
a USB based hardware
solution that completely replaces the FDS disk drive and acts as a
flash memory device for FDS disks all in one tiny package. The
advantage of the FDSStick over cartridge-based FDS emulation is that it
uses actual Famicom Disk System hardware (either the FDS RAM Adapter or
the built in RAM Adapter of the Twin Famicom) for the interface,
meaning accurate sound production and timing. As far as the
Famicom is concerned, it's just reading data off an FDS disk.
Roughly the size of a USB thumb drive, the FDSStick connects via USB to
a Windows PC using a free FDSStick loader program. Point the
loader to where the disk images (in .FDS format) are located, tell it
to apply them, and it will automatically flash the FDSStick with the
selected disk images. The current version of the FDSStick
contains 256Mbit internal flash memory, allowing it to hold up to 512
disk "sides" - more than enough space for the entire FDS library.
Disconnect from the PC, plug the other side into the Famicom RAM
Adapter, start up the Famicom and you'll be greeted with a slick menu
of what is on the FDSStick, similar to what is seen with an EverDrive
N8 or PowerPak. Pick a game and it will load as if you just
inserted the disk! Changing disk sides once a game is loaded is
super easy as well. Just press the button on the FDSStick when
prompted: press twice to flip to Side B, once to flip back to Side A,
and so on. This is one
flash solution that has totally slipped under the radar, becoming very
robust and stable over the past few years - and it's twenty bucks! So if you know
someone who is dreading replacing the drive belt on their Disk System,
surprise them with something they probably didn't even know existed!
editor David Lundin Jr., wanted to start a tradition with The
Retrogaming Times offering a holiday shopping guide like printed
magazines of the past. I thought that was a great idea. The gift I
suggest for Apple II fans is to get a subscription of the print
magazine Juiced.GS. Why
subscribe to a print magazine for a line
of computers that is over 40 years old? For one, the magazine has been
around since 1996 and will be in its 25th year of existence in 2020!
For a line of computers that hasn't been made in many years, it is
outstanding for a magazine to survive that long.
The Apple II
has had its share of magazines dedicated to it in its
lifetime: A+, Incider, Incider / A+, Nibble, Apple Orchard, II
Alive, Shareware Solutions II and probably a few others I missed.
I will admit that even though Juiced.GS has been around for a long
time, I had not subscribed to it as I hadn't actively used an Apple II
in quite some time. However, at the cost of a measly $20 per year, I
may put my money where my mouth is and support the guys who put the
magazine together year after year. I do like to read and it would be
great to see Juiced.GS last for many more years to come. Happy Holidays
Baby Pac-Man was an arcade game that
combined a video game with a
pinball machine, making it a rather unique machine for its time.
The player controls Baby Pac-Man in a maze first as she is chased by
some rather nasty ghosts. The maze has no bonus fruit or
energizers, making things much harder than in other Pac-Man
titles. Baby does have a way to get these, though. She has
to enter the escape tunnels at the bottom of the maze so energizers,
tunnel speed ups, and bonus items can be earned in the pinball
machine. Earning these, however, is easier said than done!
unique nature of this game, no home ports were ever made for
it. Well, enter Bob DeCrescenzo who has created the only port of
the game for any home console, specifically the Atari 7800. The
port recreates the maze and the pinball aspect of the game, making the
latter a video pinball table that closely replicates the original
table. This is a very unique title that any fan of the arcade
original must have if they own an Atari 7800. Not only is this
arcade accurate, it is also unique! Definitely a worthwhile gift!
The Pinfest from the Newcastle
Association is held every year in Newcastle, New South Wales,
Australia. For a few years I've wanted to attend and this time I
finally made it. This year was the 8th Pinfest. They had 80 pinball
machines on freeplay once you paid the $30 entrance fee. The website is
and they have a Facebook page with photos and videos.
The Pinfest began in 2012 and has
been supported by people who donate their machines for a few days for
avid players to get their kicks on the old machines. These days
it's held at Club Macquarie in Argenton, New South Wales,
You can see their Hall of Fame awards for people who donated their
machines at: http://pinfest.com.au/?page_id=158
These kinds of events would not be possible without the gracious
support of dedicated fans.
One of my favourite machines is the
Addams Family pinball. I love the way the electromagnets under
the table can take control of the ball. There's tons of powerups and
bonuses to try for and it's so much fun!
They had some older-style machines
with a lower-plunger you had to hit which popped the ball into the top
launch channel and then you pull a spring-plunger to launch -
There were plenty of movie tie-in
And even really old-style machines
with springs. There was also plenty of merchandise to buy from
T-Shirts to mugs -
The place was packed out when we
arrived, but it didn't take too long for us to get a go. I waited by
the Addams Family pinball machine excitedly and watched two other guys
finish their games, then my daughter and I got stuck into playing it. I
wasn't the best player but I really enjoyed playing one of my favourite
games again. After about half an hour or so there were less
people on the machines so it was quite easy to get a turn and sometimes
nobody else was lined up so you could have multiple games.
Check out their website and Facebook
page to see many more photos and videos.
Since first released in 1983 the
Family Computer, better known as the Famicom, has seen a myriad of
official reworks and re-releases. Without a doubt the most famous
of these is the 1985 redesign as the Nintendo Entertainment System, a
watershed moment in the revitalization of the American home video game
industry that continues to grow to this day. Another popular
Famicom redesign is the Twin Famicom, manufactured by Sharp
Corporation, which combines a Famicom and Famicom Disk System into a
single modern looking console. In the West the model NES-101,
better known as the Top Loader, generally comes to mind when thinking
of an NES redesign. The Top Loader more closely followed
conventional console design of its time, with a more standardized and
reliable vertical cartridge slot over the custom mechanism the NES
originally used. Unfortunately the Top Loader only featured RF
video and audio output, removing the composite video and audio
connections the NES offered as an option. At the time this wasn't
much of a concern, as coaxial RF boxes were still standard way to
connect video game systems to televisions. However for a modern
retrogamer, the RF only output and poorly designed video circuitry of
the Top Loader tend to negate any other design advantages.
A standard AV Famicom
A couple months after the Top Loader
was released in North America, a similar redesign hit Japan.
Marketed as the AV Famicom, it replicated the design of Top Loader but
added features that the original Famicom did not have, rather than
removing them. A key difference is the addition of the same
controller ports that had been used on the NES since 1985, quite a
change over the standard Famicom hardwired controllers. The AV
Famicom still features the expansion port that all Famicom consoles had
since the start, used for special controllers and other
peripherals. As featured in the name, the AV Famicom also
incorporates composite video and audio output, something the original
Famicom design did not have. However the biggest advantage of the
AV Famicom is that it features a much better video circuit that
provides excellent video output without the so-called "jailbar" pattern
that NES Top Loaders are notorious for. Yes, there were some very
rare late-model NES Top Loaders that remedied the poor video quality
but every AV Famicom features this improved video circuitry, regardless
of manufacture date.
If you're using a flash memory
cartridge, the AV Famicom seems like the ideal way to go. However
due to differences in how specialty controllers connected to the
original Famicom via its expansion port, accessories such as the Zapper
and Power Pad will not work with a standard AV Famicom.
Thankfully with a very small and simple modification, support for these
accessories can be added to the second controller port. Primarily
this is to allow use of the Zapper, as far more light gun games were
released on the NES than the Famicom. With this mod an AV Famicom
can function as an NES replacement when paired with a flash cartridge
such as a Famicom EverDrive N8.
Thankfully getting inside an AV
Famicom is rather simple if you have a standard set of security or
"game bit" tools, as all the screws are easy to access and of standard
size. Flip the console over and remove the security screws on the
underside, then flip it back over and lift off the top
shell. The PCB inside is secured with standard Phillips
head screws, and lifts out of the bottom shell and RF shield with ease
once all screws are removed.
Top and bottom of an
AV Famicom PCB, the area marked in yellow is where all modification
will be performed
The goal is to link two connectors
from the second controller port to their NES input counterparts on the
Famicom expansion connector. No additional components need to be
added, nothing needs to be removed, no traces need to be cut - we
simply need to install two short wires.
Flip the PCB over so that it is
bottom side up, with the controller ports facing toward you. All
work will be done in the lower left corner of the board, just behind
the second controller port and the Famicom expansion connector.
As if this modification was always meant to be, the second controller
port actually has secondary solder pads where the wires should be
Follow the picture below and run a
wire from one connection point marked in gray to the other connection
point marked in gray. Then do the same with another wire, running
it from the connection point marked in white to the other connection
point marked in white. Be very careful not to bridge solder
connections between the pads and pins. Additionally don't use too
much solder on the expansion port pins as excess can flow through the
via and bridge connectors on the other side of the PCB. Make sure
the wires are routed over the green part of the PCB to allow clearance
around the RF shield and plastic standoffs for reassembly.
Connect the two points
circled in gray to one another, they do the same with the two points
circled in white
With those two wires installed, the
mod is complete. Reattach the PCB to the lower half of the
console shell, careful to ensure that the wires aren't being crushed by
the RF shield or plastic standoffs. If the wires are fouling the
case, reroute them so they aren't being pinched. Set the upper
half of the console shell back on top, making sure the power switch
cover is properly mating to the switch itself and that both halves of
the shell match up evenly. Screw the shell back together from the
bottom with the security screws and you're good to go.
Do note that even with this
modification, Famicom games that use a special accessory will generally
still require the Famicom version of that accessory to be used via the
expansion port. That means the Power Pad cannot be used with the
Famicom Family Trainer games for example. Additionally the
Arkanoid controllers are not cross-compatible between regions, so you
may want to pick up a cheap Famicom Arkanoid controller (which can also
be used with Arkanoid II) and play the Japanese version instead.
However this modification will allow use of NES Power Pad games with an
NES Power Pad on an AV Famicom. While that may not seem like much
of a bonus, when using a flash cartridge such as a Famicom EverDrive
N8, it allows the most library support with the best designed Nintendo
8 bit hardware.
With the mod complete, plug a Zapper
into controller port two, power on your EverDrive, load up Barker
Bill's Trick Shooting, and enjoy using an NES light gun on an AV
Famicom! Or plug in the Power Pad and give yourself a heart
attack playing World Class Track Meet! I've owned many different
of the Famicom / NES hardware over the years. With this simple
modification, the AV Famicom easily surpasses them all as the best way
to play these games on original hardware.
It is only
that the "Controller Chronicles" features the controller and console
it all. The "Brown Box" created by Ralph Baer. Originally
Game Unit #7," this was a system and controller that would be the
starting point of home consoles as we know it. Ralph had a vision
be able to play games electronically on your TV. This "Brown Box"
creation would be the start of something huge. It is hard to
the controllers as a typical controller all gamers are used to, but it
indeed fits the description as an item used to move objects on the
screen. Ideally the Brown Box did not see the day of light for
consumers but it paved the way for the next commercial success, the
Magnavox Odyssey. The Brown Box system started as a design in the
1960's. By the early 1970's Ralph approached Magnavox to show his
creation. They were excited and wanted to go a bit further with
ideas ands designs. This is what made the Odyssey come to
life. The Brown Box that we know of today has only a handful of
Some people, like
gaming historian and author Leonard Herman, are lucky
enough to still have a prototype system that works and can be displayed
for all gamers to see in person. There were some game programs
out to demonstrate the concept of the machine. Some of those
include ping-pong and checkers. There were a variety of sports
as well as a golf game that had an extra attachment to use for
putting. The idea of playing ping-pong against a friend on the TV
sparked Ralph's creativity and devotion to the future of home console
gaming. The Brown Box utilized switches and referenced program
to know what switch combinations would need to be set to play a certain
One unique idea that
Ralph created with the system was a clear overlay
that goes over the TV to mimic players, goals, etc. This gave the
interactive feel of the game without having to program it into the
system memory. The controller was as basic as it gets. The
having two controllers was a new concept to the gaming world.
concept would carry on for generations. One controller for the
side and one for the right side. The label even said, "Left Hand
Player" or "Right Hand Player," with literally a label from a label
maker stuck on the controller. One knob labeled "HOR" and the
labeled "ENGLISH," plus an extra button labeled "SERVE."
What do these labels
represent and what do they do on the controller?
ENGLISH - Changes
the trajectory of the "ball" in play. SERVE - Press this
to put the ball in play. HOR - Moves the
player's paddle horizontally. VER - Moves the
player's paddle vertically.
On the side of the
controller was a knob that controlled the action on
the screen. For instance, in ping-pong the knob would move the
players "stick" up and down to hit the ball image on the screen back to
second player. If you opened the box you would see the archaic
of the computer board where you can switch options to make the colors
different, change the setup of the game, and restart the game.
could also change out the game boards as well to play a different game.
The late Ralph Baer
with a pair
of his Brown Box prototype controllers
Ralph Baer, called
by some as the "Father of Video Games," had a vision
of a world where people of all ages can play electronic games alone and
completely on a TV or monitor. Little did he know how his vision
turn into the most profitable entertainment medium in the world.
Millions of gamers today play games on PC, console or portable
Billions of dollars are spent on this platform and gamers today are
making a living playing video games. Over 50 years later, I know
would be smiling and happy to know that his creation started a
revolution and paved the way to the future of gaming. To think,
this started with a little "Brown Box."
Every Friday on The Retrogaming Times
we present a Weekly Retrogaming Trivia question. This
trivia challenge provided each week is an opportunity to test your
and oddball retrogaming knowledge. The answer to the question
the previous week is posted along with a new trivia question every
Below is the recap of all
answers posted between this issue and the previous issue:
08/30/2019 - WEEK 130 Question: The 1995
PC game Rise of the Triad stars a team of operatives known as HUNT.
What does HUNT stand for?
- WEEK 131 Question: What
Famicom game is the successor to Jaleco's 1987 arcade game Psychic 5?
- WEEK 132 Question: What is
the name of the first town in the NES game Crystalis?
- WEEK 133 Question: The NES
Adventures of Lolo games are based on what earlier Japanese series of
- WEEK 134 Question: What was
the very first Nintendo Game & Watch title released?
- WEEK 135 Question: What Neo
Geo game features a bonus stage in which the player controls a dog at a
- WEEK 136 Question: The
classic puzzle game franchise Puyo Puyo uses characters from what
- WEEK 137 Question: What 1982
Japanese puzzle game about warehouse keeping became one of the most
widely ported video games of all time?
Dog Distance is a bonus
round in Windjammers (left), Ball is where Nintendo's portable gaming
revolution began (right)
Answers: Week 130 Answer: High-risk
United Nations Task-force. Week 131 Answer: Esper Bouken
Tai (Esper Adventure Team), fan translated as Esper Corps in 2011. Week 132 Answer: Leaf. Week 133 Answer: Eggerland.
Even the later Japanese "Adventures of Lolo" titles differ from the
Western releases. Week 134 Answer: Ball (1980). Week 135 Answer: Windjammers
(1994). Week 136 Answer: Madou
Monogatari 1-2-3. Week 137 Answer: Sokoban.
RPG game Madou
Monogatari 1-2-3 (left) is the character origin of globally popular
puzzle game franchise Puyo Puyo (right)
need your questions! If
you have a trivia question you would like to submit for possible
in the Weekly Retrogaming Trivia question pool, e-mail it to email@example.com!
If you question is selected to be featured, you will be entered in our
year-end prize drawing!
Just like that
year four of The Retrogaming Times is in the proverbial can. This
year has been has been filled with large changes and big shifts for me
personally. In a few weeks I will be hitting my one-year
anniversary since completely shifting gears professionally. This
is the first year in awhile where I didn't take up any new hobbies and
instead relaxed into deeper enjoyment of my current ones. Then of
course the slight relocation that lead to the delay in publication of
this issue. I say it a lot these days, perhaps it's a result of
beginning to approach middle age, but this year felt like it screamed
by at breakneck speed. This year has been a lot of fun though,
and you know what they say about that.
each and every one of our readers, for continuing to come back and read
The Retrogaming Times. A massive and impossible to properly
express amount of gratitude to our contributors, for this year and the
over twenty years that came before. You truly are the lifeblood
of this publication and it is an absolute privilege to continue to have
the responsibility of publishing this newsletter. As always,
and may you all have a wonderful end of this year.
Thank you once
again for reading The Retrogaming
Times. We'll be back on January 7th with our next issue.
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