The Retrogaming Times

- The Bimonthly Retrogaming Hobbyist Newsletter -

The Retrogaming Times
Fortieth Issue - September 2022 - Page One



Prepare to Qualify
by David Lundin, Jr.

Greetings everyone and thank you for reading this issue that is special for a number of reasons.  As described over the past year this will be our final issue but before we get going with that, I want to say a couple things.  The origin of this newsletter began in 1997, twenty-five years ago this month.  Not only was retrogaming different then, but the Web as a whole was as well.  Fansites, forums, newsgroups, and chat rooms were generally where you went to discuss retrogaming and pretty much everything else online.  Looking up information, sharing knowledge, having conversations, and learning about new stuff was the core of it all - and nearly all of it was powered by hobbyists.  For all the talk about social media in the current era, it's funny to think back a couple of decades when the whole online experience was social.  The spark of this newsletter was created during that time and we have tried to carry that flame for a quarter century.

For twenty-five years people have written for these newsletters for no financial gain.  In fact, some have sunk large amounts of money into keeping them going.  The biggest investment however hasn't been financial, but that of time.  Everyone who has ever sent in anything to be published in these electronic pages has invested their time in doing so.  Our readers have invested their time as well.  I am amazed, especially as online publication and information has changed, that I had the opportunity and privilege to continue the legacy of this newsletter and to publish so many great articles from our staff over the years.

This issue is no exception.  For one last time, welcome to The Retrogaming Times!

Our final issue is not only a celebration of our silver anniversary, it is also one of our largest issues ever.  Much of our staff contributed an article detailing their favorite game, retro or modern, to mark this special occasion.  Things begin with Merman taking a look at lightgun games and accessories for the Commodore 64, a genre many may not associate with the hardware.  Donald Lee takes a look back on how Apple II fandom has changed over his years with the newsletter in the Apple II Incider.  The praises of an Atari 2600 joystick are sung with an ode to Spectravideo's QuickShot.  Mateus Fedozzi writes about discovering and contributing to the newsletter, in addition to one of his most important SMS Memories.  The California Extreme arcade and pinball show returned to full strength this year and our annual show report returns as well to chronicle the event.  Eugenio "TrekMD" Angueira not only covers his favorite game but also its various home conversions as Bentley Bear dashes through Crystal Castles.  Premiering way back in our second issue, A Pirate's Life For Me finally reaches its conclusion with the last games on the CoolBoy 198 in 1 multicart.  Dan Pettis returns to a familiar franchise as he shares his experiences with his favorite game.  Then get recruited by the Star League with a review of The Last Starfighter, the classic video game film that isn't about a video game.  George "mecha" Spanos presents a complete record of the partnership between id Software and GT Interactive, giants who brought the FPS genre to the masses.  Merman casts a spell with his favorite game, a concept that takes the shooter in a unique direction.  Champ Games is given a second spin on Don's Desk.  Set out on a journey across the world that will reshape reality with a review of Illusion of Gaia.  New contributor David Torres gives an account on the discovery and history of a previously lost arcade game.  Then Donald Lee goes modern with the pick for his favorite game.  In a collaborative article, staff come together to remember their time with the newsletters and what lies ahead for them after we wrap.  All that and more are ahead in this final issue of The Retrogaming Times!

This is a special two page issue, be sure to follow the link at the bottom of the page to go onto the second half!

Upcoming Events
Compiled by David Lundin, Jr.

NOTICE: Due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, many shows and events have canceled, postponed, or modified their dates.  For the latest on the events listed below, please visit their individual websites or contact their relevant customer support channels as the current situation continues to unfold.  Thank you.

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Retropalooza, October 22nd - 23rd 2022, 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

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Sac Gamers Expo, December 17th - 18th 2022, Sacramento, California, USA

A 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, and so much more! Sac Gamers Expo is a family oriented event for all levels of gamers!

For more information, visit

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Thank you to all the shows and events that contacted us over the years to be listed here!  Big or small, it has been our honor to promote your shows, events, and gatherings in our newsletter!

Check out these great events, shows, and conventions and let them know you read about them in The Retrogaming Times!

More C64! - Let There Be Lightguns
by Merman

Over the years I have enjoyed playing with lightguns, and I own them for different systems. I thought for my final More C64 column I would look back at lightgun games on the Commodore 64.

Note: in the screenshots, you may notice a small crosshair. This is superimposed by later versions of the VICE emulator when set to emulate the lightgun.


The earliest example of a lightgun for the C64 was released by Stack in 1983, who also produced a lightpen and other accessories. The Stack Light Rifle was shaped more like a traditional rifle than the Nintendo Zapper or other lightguns.

There were three games released by the company that work with the Stack Rifle, all published in 1983. They are all quite simple ideas, using the built-in Commodore font.


First, you get to choose the distance and speed of the grouse, setting the difficulty of the game. Then you see the title screen and pull the trigger to start. The grouse - in white and yellow - fly up and across the screen. Humans and dogs are running along the bottom, which you must not shoot. Over time darkness will descend and the weather will turn worse, until it becomes too severe for you to continue shooting. Then you are given a score based on how many hits and misses. The graphics are incredibly simple, and this is an extremely basic shooting game.


In this Wild West inspired game, the varmint is going for the dynamite! You must shoot him before he reaches the plunger, sending his hat flying into the air. It's simply a case of scoring as many hits as you can. The graphics here are even simpler, with a very bland background and a single enemy sprite. I do like the way his hat flies off and the big bloodstain appears on his chest though.


This is the simplest game of the three, with a white square trying to bounce out of the arena. The player has five shots to shoot it before it leaves on either side. Hitting five squares takes you to the next level, and every six levels sees the speed increase.

While researching this article, I found mention of INDIAN ATTACK by Anirog from 1983. This game sees you shooting waves of Native Americans on horseback, and any you miss then dropping down the front of the screen to attack you. Sites online mention the Omega Software re-release as APACHE RAID being compatible with the Stack Light Rifle, but I was unable to find a copy that worked with that device under emulation. The same problem applies to COSMIC COMMANDO also from Anirog, re-released as SPACE PIRATE by Omega. This is meant to be compatible with the Stack Light Rifle but isn't working in emulation. Another Anirog title, the Missile Command-inspired STARBASE DEFENDER is meant to be compatible too (but this may be the Omega re-release as well).

Other games listed by Stack in advertisements and referred to online are CROW SHOOT, ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ, and RATS & CATS.


Next up in 1988 there were two releases by the Spanish software house Dinamic. These are probably the least well-known lightgun titles on the C64 - as they required Dinamic's own Gun Stick lightgun that was not widely available outside Spain. These titles and the gun were also available on Amstrad CPC, ZX Spectrum and MSX.


In this game, you can choose between one or two players simultaneously by shooting the target on the title screen. Then you see the opening level, set in a park. You are the detective Mike Gunner, and you must clean up the city of Robbland by shooting enemies. But you must be careful not to shoot children and policemen; there are also enemies disguised as busking musicians who will break disguise to shoot at you.

Unfortunately, I was unable to play this properly as I lacked the correct hardware, and it is not currently emulated in the VICE emulator. The graphics are quite good, and the sound is OK though.


This second Dinamic game also requires the Gun Stick. It has two different modes, selected by shooting the icon on the title screen. The clay pigeon or skeet leads to the skeet shooting, which is like the same section from Duck Hunt on the NES. Shooting the wasp / insect on the title screen leads to the other game, where you must defend a roast chicken from being attacked by flies and wasps.

Again, I was unable to play this properly. The screenshots here are taken from Mobygames and the Gamebase64 collection.


We move forward to 1989, and a trilogy of games from Mindscape. This tied in with the Commodore "Light Fantastic" package released around the same time. This came with a Cheetah Defender lightgun, shaped like a futuristic pistol, and 3D glasses.

There were three games in this package.


The General gives you a briefing as you face three days of shooting practice. For each day you start with a set number of bullets and the required hits to qualify. Day 1 is the indoor range, with silhouette targets and large square targets. Day 2 is clay pigeon shooting, and you are told not to shoot the wildlife (birds and rabbits, but there is no big penalty for hitting them). Day 3 is the outdoor range, where targets pop up and then disappear. Complete the three days and you go round again, with a higher hit target. This is a reasonably good game; the graphics do their job, and the sound is OK.


You are the new police officer in town and there's trouble in three different scenarios. Much like Army Days, each round has the hits target you need to reach. In the first scene, Jailbreak, prisoners are escaping from the local jail. Round 2, Escape, is viewed from overhead as the gangsters make their escape in cars. You can shoot them but must avoid shooting the police cars; hitting the cops restarts the round. Occasionally clouds will float by to obscure your view. Finally, in Rendezvous, the gangster hole up in Charlie's Bar and you take aim from across the street. Shoot the bad guys as they pop up in windows and doorways, but don't shoot the innocent civilians. This is good all around. The first scene is quite simple and the graphics throughout are adequate at best, but the later rounds add variety and at higher levels, it becomes taxing.


You are the Time Traveller, and to protect the balance of power in your future world you must warp to the past and protect it in the three world wars. First, you must defend the trenches against biplanes. Miss too many planes and your troops will be depleted. Then, your battleship is under attack from helicopters. Take too much damage and you sink. Finally, you are in a spacecraft high above the planet, shooting down missiles. Again, miss the missiles and the damage will result in your demise. The title sequence and accompanying music are good, the in-game graphics are quite good (although not giving a convincing 3D effect) and the gameplay does get a bit repetitive. However, it is a fun addition to the pack.

One thing I would criticise all three games on is that the Light Fantastic version takes a long while to load, even though it is using the Cyberload fastloader. In 1995, Polish publisher Marex would release new versions of these three games that were controlled with a joystick instead of a lightgun. However, the control here is not as fluid as with the lightgun. The animated Marex logo is quite good though.


Also in the Light Fantastic package from 1989 was Ocean's Blaze Out, compatible with a lightgun. This gathered sections from five previous games - RoboCop, Combat School, Hyper Sports, Platoon & Rambo III. They were all reprogrammed and loaded one after another from the tape. RoboCop had you trying to rescue a hostage by shooting the bad guy, Combat School's contribution is three of its shooting galleries, Hyper Sports plays through the skeet shooting event, Platoon has the Tunnels and Night Patrol levels, and Rambo III reuses its final first-person level. It is a fascinating and unusual title, but there are issues with each of the games. The hostage shootout from Robocop is difficult to beat and Platoon forces you "on rails" to deal with the Tunnels. Reaching the points targets in Combat School is tricky too. It all ends with the ending message of Rambo III edited to say they hoped you have enjoyed your new gun.


Also known as the Magnum, the Light Phaser was released in 1990 with either a disk or tape containing six games. Five of these were original titles, created by Software Creations for the pack. Software Creations were behind the amazing Bubble Bobble and Bionic Commando (UK) conversions from the arcade. Each game had a calibration option, by pointing the gun at the onscreen target and holding / pulling the trigger until it was complete.

The sixth game in the Action Pack was Operation Wolf. Originally this offered the choice of joystick or mouse controls. This reprogrammed version offered joystick or lightgun. It was a particularly good conversion of the Taito arcade game, and it plays surprisingly well with the gun; you do still need to press a key to launch the rocket grenades, as the Magnum only has one fire button. (Sources online claim that the sequel Operation Thunderbolt is also playable with the Magnum Phaser Lightgun, but I have not found a working version of that).

The five original games are:


Baby is sitting under the tree, threatened by the descending spider and swooping birds. Shoot them to stop them from stealing Baby's milk, which can be replenished by shooting the milk bottle on the toy train that passes by at the bottom of the screen. The aim of each level is to pop enough balloons before you run out of ammo. The targets are tricky and the attacks relentless. The graphics are good, and the Geoff Follin music is excellent, but the gameplay is basic


Defend the galaxy by shooting down waves of enemies against a spiraling starfield background. If you miss enemies and they leave the screen, you will accumulate damage and when that reaches 100% it is game over. You have limited ammo to start with, but you can earn more by shooting the As that appear now and then, with the golden Gs offering extra points. Reach the end of the level and there is a bonus based on your accuracy. Then you enter the bonus round, when you must match shapes hidden on the screen; for example, two squares and two circles appear then disappear, shoot a square and you must then find the other square.

Interestingly, the control panel of this game shows the name "INSPIRALG." Perhaps this was its working title, or what it was originally going to be called before it was repurposed for use with a lightgun. There is nice variety in the enemy sprites and attack patterns, and another nice Geoff Follin tune. It does get quite tricky after the first couple of rounds though.


The town of Deadman's Gulch is haunted - and now the Blackheart Gang is hiding out there. You slowly walk down the street, your hand shaking as you try to reload. Shoot the ghosts at the windows but be careful not to shoot the innocent women (costing you ammunition). Make sure you shoot down the gang members walking by and take out the hanging men by shooting the box from under their feet. A macabre tune by Geoff Follin and good graphics set the tone. Unfortunately, there is only one level to conquer, and it is repeated with less ammunition each time. Behind the glossy presentation is another simple shooter.


At the Higgins and Higgins Country Club, it is time for the annual Goosebusters competition - but the members have all sworn not to shoot wildlife. Each round of the competition gives you unlimited ammunition to hit a certain number of targets. These start off as simple clay pigeons, but later there are balloons and round targets to hit as well. There are also bombs and mechanical geese but shooting either of those reduces your hit score by one. Simply survive to the end of the time limit with a greater hit count than the qualifying target to move onto the next round. This is probably the best executed of the original games, with plenty of targets to hit and satisfying gameplay as you progress. Graphics are once again good, but the in-game sound is limited to explosions and simple jingles.


The final original game also has a Wild West theme. As the new Marshal of Badlands City, you must take on three types of shooting. At the Corral level, shoot the pop-up targets of the cowboys. In the Log Cabin level, hit the pop-up round targets. And finally, take on the Ludlow Gang hiding out in the Saloon. Each level requires you to hit 50 targets as fast as possible, offering a reward for remaining ammo. And then, just like Ghosttown, the levels are repeated with a smaller starting amount of ammo. Praise must go to Martin Holland Haydn Dalton for the graphics in these original games, although the Saloon background and enemy sprites here are recycled from Ghosttown. Another nice Geoff Follin tune is rendered repetitive because it restarts at the beginning of each level. It's a fun but short-lived addition to the collection.

These Software Creations games have also been hacked, adding cheats and joystick control. For example, Magic Disk 64 published a joystick-controlled version of Baby Blues in 1994, while Triad produced cracked versions of others (Cosmic Storm gives you the option of joystick or lightgun control, for example). Marex also published a joystick version of Ghosttown in 1995. Triad fixed bugs in the various games too, so these can be the best version to play.


There are three more games to deal with in this round-up, but in the strictest sense, they do not use a lightgun. The Gamma Strike package from GamesWare had three titles included - COMPETITION SHOOTOUT, THE ALIEN TEAM, and VOYAGER 19. These were designed to be played with a special target set that plugged into the C64. This pressure-sensitive target could be shot with the enclosed pellet gun, which fired small rubber balls at the target using air pressure. The target sent co-ordinate information to the game, which reacted to each hit. It's a very unusual and rare piece of hardware.

Competition Shootout simply adds up your scores, with up to four players competing over between one and nine rounds. Voyager 19 requires you to hit the target, and the higher your score the faster your rocket moves up the screen. This can be a one or two-player game, and the cracking group Triad have at least produced a version that lets you press number keys (1-5, 1 being the bullseye) to register a "hit". Intriguingly Voyager 19 also has sampled speech and a nice graphic of the target. Games That Weren't helped to preserve the third game, The Alien Team. This is an unusual combination of styles. First, the player must choose a "team member" to defeat. Then they fly through the alien defences controlling a spaceship with a conventional joystick. This is a horizontally scrolling shoot ‘em up with some average sprites and a parallax scrolling effect. Then you face off against the chosen alien team member (either Snake, Cannibal or Fangs). This is a quick-draw contest with each side having nine lives. Sadly, this is another one that doesn't work properly without the target, despite Triad's best efforts to hack it.


Of course, the biggest problem with lightguns (the Wii being an exception) is that they no longer work with HD televisions - requiring an older CRT. There are workarounds and solutions, such as the Sinden lightgun. Here's a list of the lightguns I currently own for various formats.

- C64: Light Phaser
- NES: Zapper
- Spectrum: Magnum (essentially the same as the Light Phaser with a different connector; there was a Spectrum +2 package - the James Bond 007 Action Pack - with the lightgun and seven games)
- SNES: Super Scope with the 6 Pack of games
- PlayStation: G-Con (bundled with Time Crisis)
- Saturn: an official lightgun bundled with Virtua Cop 2, and an unofficial gun
- Dreamcast: The official lightgun with House of the Dead 2 (in the US, only the Mad Catz lightgun was available)
- PS2: G-Con2 (designed for use with Time Crisis 2; this gun has a special AV connector that plugs into the PS2)
- Xbox: Mad Catz Blaster (bought this to play House of the Dead III)
- Wii: the official accessory that came with Link's Crossbow Training & two pistol grips (designed for use with House of the Dead Overkill; the Wii has great lightgun games, including Dead Space Extraction and Ghost Squad)

Apple II Incider - That's a Wrap!
Looking Back at 16 Years at Retrogaming Times
by Donald Lee

It all began rather innocently back in 2006.  I wrote my first Apple II Incider column for the December 2006 issue of Retrogaming Times Monthly.

With this being the final issue of The Retrogaming Times, it is appropriate that the final Apple II Incider column will look back at my involvement with the Retrogaming Times family of magazines for the past 16 years.


I don't know about the other writers, but my first exposure to Retrogaming Times Monthly was as a reader.  Its been so long since I started reading the magazine that I don't even recall how I got exposed to it in the first place.  Thinking back to the late 1990's to early 2000's, I do recall being interested in playing old arcade games on home systems.  During the late 1990's and early 2000's, the main option was using MAME on old Windows 95, 98 or newer XP machines.  CHAMP Programming also had their conversions as well.  I could imagine searching the web (using Alta Vista as Google wasn't quite as big yet) and stumbling upon Retrogaming Times Monthly.

The most memorable part of the magazine back then was "The Many Faces Of" column.  Nothing against any of the current writers who have all written great content, but in all long running publications there's always going to be something that stands out. "The Many Faces Of" is what stands out to me.  As I write this, I wonder if maybe we can get Alan Hewston to write one final "Many Faces Of" column for us.


As I noted in the intro, my first Apple II Incider column was in the December 2006 issue of Retrogaming Times Monthly.  Looking back at the column, I have to say that I haven't deviated too much from that style of writing through the years.  I just like to share memories instead of writing hard reviews with scores.  The times I tried to write certain topics were a struggle, as sometimes the topics were a tad more technical and detailed in nature and that just wasn't how I usually wrote for the magazine.  As a side note, the website I referenced in that first issue ( is still active.  I haven't touched that Angelfire site in years but some of my writing is still there for prosperity.

While the Apple II was my first love, I later delved into topics such as the Atari 5200, the Vectrex, PC gaming, magazines and other anniversaries (Pac-Man, Atari, etc).  Looking back at some of the old issues in recent months, I'm quite proud that I discussed so many topics throughout the years.  The era of 1980's gaming was a pretty special time that I got to live through.  While today's modern systems can do more things than any of us could have imagined back in the 1980's, it's good to remember where we came from.  That being said, knowing the final issue of magazine was coming, I made sure I revisited some of my old columns one final time in the past few months before we ended our run.

Also in 2006, there was only one Apple II magazine: ( Juiced.GS started in 1996 and in 2022 it is still publishing.  I have to give props to the Apple II community for keeping the Apple II alive for so many years.  I guess the old adage "Apple II Forever" still applies after all these years.  I don’t have as much connection to the other retrogaming communities that I wrote about, like the Atari 5200 and Vectrex.  But I know the Atari community (especially the 2600 / VCS) is quite active and will go on for years and years.

While I was primarily a writer, I briefly took my turn at editing Retrogaming Times Monthly for a few issues.  I don't want to rehash the whole story as I have talked about it before in past issues, but I took a turn as editor to keep the magazine going so it wouldn't stop.  I felt it was an important thing that we needed to keep it going.  We did manage to keep the ship running for a while, though Retrogaming Times Monthly did eventually stop publishing.  However, I want to go on record to thank David Lundin, Jr. for reviving the magazine in its current iteration and allowing us to write for the past few years and giving us a chance to give the magazine a proper farewell.

An Ode to the Spectravideo QuickShot I
by David Lundin, Jr.

Atari, Mattel Electronics, and Coleco all have one thing in common when it comes to their home video game systems - their base controllers all sucked.  Some would say since it was the early days of home video games they should get a free pass on this, as there was no precedent to follow.  Others will cite the challenges of meeting a price point and hitting mass production targets.  No matter your opinion, the primary controllers included with these systems were far from ergonomic and had design decisions that in some cases bordered on mind-numbing, such as the Intellivision's tiny little fire buttons.  So much innovation and creativity, only to be saddled with some of the worst input devices ever.  Subsequent Atari home joysticks for the 5200 and 7800 didn't fare much better.  While elegant in engineering, the Atari 5200 analog joysticks were an absolutely impractical approach to controlling the vast majority of home video games at the time, which didn't demand such input.  The pack-in Atari 7800 Pro-Line joysticks were possibly even worse and may be one of the most uncomfortable controller designs ever manufactured.  At least the Atari 2600 paddles and driving controllers were always pretty solid but you can only play so much Super Breakout and Indy 500.

This is where aftermarket manufacturers came in, creating all sorts of replacement joysticks and other control accessories, both for game consoles and home computers.  I can recall an older cousin of mine having a bat handle Wico Command Control joystick that he would always have with him.  I mean that quite literally, if there was any possibility of playing Atari somewhere he was going, then he had the joystick out in the car.  He was also very cautious of letting anyone else use it and handled it very carefully, a prized possession no doubt.  After seeing his more advanced joystick I wanted one of my own.  Later on while at a Kay Bee Toys, where most of my Atari games came from as a small child, I found one that looked interesting and was affordable.  That joystick was a QuickShot I, manufactured by Spectravideo.  It must have been early 1987, having received an Atari 2600 Jr. for Christmas just a couple months earlier, which would make me five-years-old at the time.  Although re-launched as a value gaming system in the wake of more modern offerings from Japan, most stores in Silicon Valley still had rather robust game and accessory offerings and I was pretty much spoiled for choice when it came to Atari stuff.  I remember what intrigued me most about the QuickShot was that it had suction cups on the bottom.  My mom bought it for me and once giving it a try later that evening, there was no going back to the little rigid joystick that Atari included with the 2600.

A magazine advertisement for the QuickShot I

A QuickShot is a relatively simple joystick at its core and isn't as overbuilt as a Wico Command Control nor does it feature arcade style leaf switches like a Wico.  The stick's base is a bit larger than a standard Atari, with fully rounded edges on both the left and right.  The left side has a fire button in the same location as an Atari stick but there is extra grip molded into the base on this side that allows it to be held comfortably in the hand, with the fire button falling just under the thumb.  The four suction cups on the base can easily be removed per player's preference but I've never found them to be a hindrance when holding the base.  When I was a kid I would usually stick it onto the chair between my legs like a flight stick, which made playing driving games a lot of fun.  The suction cups are incredibly strong for being for being so small and pliable and they continue to work to this day.  Seriously, if you stick it down on a clean, smooth surface it simply will not move.  On the other hand, giving one side a bit of a lift or pulling up on the base will release the suction cups with ease, so it's just a great design all around.

The actual stick shaft is where the difference with a QuickShot really shows.  The grip itself is very ergonomic, with smooth ridges that fall between the fingers naturally and a shape and contour that is comfortable to hold.  The entire assembly is hard plastic, rather than a flexible rubber boot as with an Atari stick but feels miles more comfortable due to how it sits in the palm.  A second fire button is located atop the stick and is pitched back slightly to fall perfectly under the thumb, with both fire buttons having the same function and operating independently of one another.  Additionally the stick has a very short throw and extremely positive control, pivoting smoothly through all directions and allowing instantaneous movement in any of them.  It never feels like you're pushing a bunch of plastic folds and contacts around like with an Atari stick.  Instead, if you press left for instance, you're at full left throw immediately.  Internally the directional switch contacts are upward bent metal tabs that are pressed down by the joystick plunger to make contact.  This is why it has such a rapid response and is almost like a hybrid leaf switch, with one side of the switch being the circuit board itself.  The fire buttons are kind of interesting too as they are very snappy with very little resistance.  They're somewhat unconventional, as inside each plastic button there is a metal assembly that comes to a point at the center.  The button springs rest against this assembly as well as the circuit board's button contacts, acting as a conductor between the circuit board and the metal assembly inside the button.  When the button is pressed down, the point at the middle makes contact with the circuit board and completes the circuit.  This also means the only resistance the button has is the spring, there's no pad to push down or connector to bend.  In essence there really isn't a switch and the button itself is bridging contacts when it bottoms out against the circuit board.  This gives the button assemblies extremely short throws and very responsive action.  You tap it, you fire - immediately.  In a game like Asteroids you can tear through screen after screen and you can't hope for faster response in a game like Demon Attack or Megamania.  Truly, it is almost like having rapid fire.

My love for the QuickShot wasn't blind, it wasn't as if I didn't have experience with the standard Atari joystick prior to it or even prior to receiving an Atari 2600.  My first experience with video gaming was actually a few years earlier with my uncle's Atari VCS and the game Grand Prix.  He had a huge duffel bag full of cartridges and since it was around 1983, the home video game industry was on the edge of falling apart but still quite huge.  There was one evening when I was watching him play games, I believe I was two-years-old at the time.  He asked if I wanted to play a game and dug around in the duffel bag, retrieving Activision's Grand Prix.  He showed me how the game worked by holding down the fire button to accelerate and moving up and down to position the car, then handed me the joystick and reset the game.  I was literally off to the races, playing my first video game.  As blue was my favorite color as kid, I avoided the blue cars while smashing into all the others, referring to them as "diaper bags" for whatever reason.  It's the strangest thing but I recall it so vividly.  After that evening my gaming would be made up of playing Atari with my uncle occasionally, a Red Baron arcade cabinet at the local grocery store (which barely ever worked), and Pac-Man and Millipede cocktail tables in the waiting area of a local Marie Callender's restaurant.  There were of course local arcades and the much missed Bullwinkle's Family Food 'n Fun location in Santa Clara, but Activision's Grand Prix is where it all began.  I still have the very cartridge I first played that evening, which my uncle gave me along with all his other games a few years later, once his Atari VCS developed a problem and he had moved on to the Nintendo era.

My original constantly used QuickShot I and the actual cartridge of the first video game I ever played

Having one QuickShot joystick wasn't enough, as any friends or family wanted to use the same stick when we were playing against one another.  While I would have a second QuickShot, I don't remember exactly buying it - at least not in the regular sense.  Now my mind is a bit fuzzy on this story but I remember there were some kind of shenanigans involved.  What I do remember is a conversation with my Mom about returning something to Kay Bee to get another QuickShot joystick, however something about the process wasn't totally above board.  Perhaps I received a spare standard Joystick along with my Atari that was never opened and that's what was returned for store credit, which would be no big deal.  Yet what I've always remembered in part is something along the lines of putting a regular Atari joystick in the box from the first QuickShot and then exchanging that for another QuickShot joystick.  This would essentially be a fraudulent exchange but that's always seemed to me like what went down.  Who knows, maybe the thought was "a joystick is a joystick" but either way I ended up with a second QuickShot and as I said, there were shenanigans involved.

Over three decades later I still love the QuickShot I.  It has remained my preferred Atari 2600 / VCS stick for something like 36 years and that same QuickShot from way back then is the one I use to this day.  I've tried and owned many other joysticks for the 2600, and while I think the Wico offerings are very nice and a properly rebuilt early standard Atari joystick is okay, nothing matches a QuickShot I in my opinion.  I know it's not the best engineered or most professionally built joystick in the world but it takes a practical approach to making a comfortable and affordable joystick for the home games of the early 1980's.  I actually cleaned up and rebuilt my original joystick just prior to writing this article, cleaning out almost 40 years of grime from constant use since I was a kid.  The body, grip housing, joystick shaft, buttons, circuit board - everything - was obviously used but in immaculate shape inside.  The contacts for both the joystick and fire buttons only had the smallest amount of oxidation.  After applying a tiny bit of molybdenum hobby grease around the joystick pivot it feels like a brand new stick, although it was working great even before.  With how they've held up over the years, I wouldn't be surprised my QuickShot joysticks outlive me.

SMS Memories - The Third Isn't the Last
by Mateus Fedozzi

I don't like to say goodbye. I'm not good with words. I'm not confident around people. Saying goodbye is difficult, because it is the kind of thing that asks for more... More words, more feelings, and I don't like to tell how I'm feeling. That's one of the reasons I won't say the word, even though this is the last Retrogaming Times you'll read. As the Phoenix and the Super Mario brothers before it, this newsletter has had a strange power of returning to life again and again - each time slight different, but always relevant to the retrogamer.

Starting with Tom Zjaba back in 1997, the newsletter has always brought retrogaming content with a personal touch. Zjaba is the person I try to mimic when writing about retrogames (and I think much of the older RTM and RT staff also did so), because he always put his personal memories and observations in the texts - making them feel warmly human. This is no unimportant part of videogaming: their history is our histories, the gamers' histories. Telling our personal tales is also a way of game preservation.

Then came others. All of them important in their own way, each of them with their own preferred subspace in the retrogaming universe. But two were very important for me in the way they made me look at older games so as to deeply understand these classics. One of these authors is Alan Hewston, with his "Many Faces of..." series of articles, which analyzed the different versions of a game in depth. You won't find anything like Hewston's series of articles on the internet - even to this day, I assure you. If you want to learn how to dissect games in a scientific way, or if you want to learn everything about arcade game design, I recommend them. They were the basis for the only game I've ever made, Alien Invaders (made on Klik & Play!).

The second of these other authors that influenced me is Scott Jacobi with his "Nintendo Realm" series of short Famicom reviews written in chronological order. Before his articles, I'd never put much thought on how a game's year of release and also its geographical origin are important to make us understand some of its designer's mechanics and / or artistic choices. Also, his articles showed how the countries were widely apart in the 80's, with radically different videogaming preferences - and how the regional markets had to adapt to these preferences.

These people, as the games they wrote about, will live as long as the newsletter keeps returning to life. And it will do exactly this - every time a new reader will open a PDF from the carefully crafted Legacy Archive (thanks, David!) and navigate all these sweet written memories. Like what used to happen to a video game superhero, these authors will come under no shortage of 1UPs. They have beaten the game of Life's hardest boss... Forgetfulness.

Or maybe this is Life's second to hardest boss? Because, obviously, the hardest boss is Dr. Robotnik on Stage 3 of 8-bit Sonic the Hedgehog... At least that's what 10-year old me would say. To end my series of Master System articles, I shall once more remember the game which was the very first I ever owned, the game which I play again and again, whenever I feel tired, sad, sick or mad at anything, even after all these years, and the game which most terrorized me when I was a kid... Because of the 3rd stage's boss.

He brought insane days of frustration over me. My little hands were untrained in the hidden arts of side scrolling platformers and still he required me to simultaneously avoid his flying machine above Sonic's head and its bombs moving under Sonic's feet. Days went by without any progress. Whenever I avoided a bomb, there came another over Sonic's blue spiky head. Sometimes, I would get Sonic run over by Robotnik's machine in the middle of a jump. Worse still, even the bomb's smoke was fatal to the hedgehog, and I didn't learn this the easy way. A month went by. And suddenly I beat it. I beat it and then I had to jump over a gap on the floor to reach the stage's exit and... You guessed, I fell in the gap. There went Sonic with his eyes wide open - the eyes of a very dead ex-blue blur.

My younger brother beat the game before me. My uncle visited us and beat the game. A school classmate who owned an SNES came home and beat the game. It seemed everybody could beat my game, except me. The thing is... I was afraid of the 3rd boss. Afraid like we are afraid of doctors and robbers in real life. A humiliating year went by... Until Taz came along. A completely different type of hero, Taz couldn't care less about appearances. He only cared about eating an egg at the end of his 8-bit game, which was a very easy game, and became the very first game I'd ever beaten. Thanks to Taz-Mania, I returned to Robotnik, now focusing on what was happening on the screen, instead of worrying about who had beaten the game before me. Nothing mattered anymore, the past, the present, the future... Only the safety of the animals of South Island mattered and, spending all my energies and reflexes on this objective, I beat the boss and went straight to the endgame in a single day!

Was that a "goodbye, Sonic?" No! As I wrote at the beginning of this article, I really don't like goodbyes. And I could never say goodbye to a game of beautiful sights and beautiful songs that were the background of a reality quite more welcome than mine, 3rd boss notwithstanding (it was the year when my parents divorced, I changed schools and, the worst, the year I lost my grandfather). Despite the frequent negative feelings brought by repeated defeat, I felt alive and happy playing Sonic, even if it was mostly the first three stages over and over. Now, it would be the whole game over and over. It still is. It always will be, as long as I live. Sonic is part of me. As is Retrogaming Times, in all of its incarnations. These are things that will endure, and will be important parts of many other important lives, because of me, because of you. Because of David, because of Merman, because of Donald Lee, because of Dan Pettis. Because of those who came before, because of the internet. Because of Sega, and Nintendo, and indie developers, and all game creators. We're story-tellers. And story-tellers don't say goodbye: they say "see you next game!"

Show Report - California Extreme 2022
by David Lundin, Jr.

For the first time since 2019 the California Extreme arcade and pinball show returned to the Hyatt Regency, Santa Clara on July 30th and 31st.  The 2020 show was postponed due to the unfolding pandemic situation, with a smaller 2021 show held in San Jose.  Although I have attended every year since 2008, I opted to skip last year due to a number of reasons, including my scheduling not working out and the perceived smaller scale of the event.  However for 2022 the show was back in full force, returning to the venue that has seemed the perfect fit for the event since relocating from downtown San Jose in 2009.  California Extreme began in 1997 when a group of arcade enthusiasts and collectors gathered together to exhibit their games, allowing their games to be played not only by other collectors but the public as well.  The event has continued to grow over the years, hosting panels with industry veterans, new game announcements, rare and one-of-a-kind prototypes, vendors and distributors, tournaments, contests, film screenings, live concerts, and anything else one can think of related to arcade and classic gaming.  At its core California Extreme remains a grass roots celebration of the arcade era, the people who created the games, the collectors who restore and maintain them, and the enthusiasts who continue to play them.  All games at the show are free play, meaning the single entry fee is good for two full days of arcade gaming and pinball action.

Prior to 2020 the show had grown to not only occupy the entire Hyatt Regency event space but also parts of the adjacent Santa Clara Convention center.  For 2022 the entire main ballroom of the Hyatt was configured as a single massive main showroom where the arcade games were located, in addition to vendor tables located at the center and along one side.  Unlike the last few years, there was no additional smaller ballroom just off the main entrance, which wasn't surprising considering that event attendance is down a bit everywhere currently.  Even with that in mind the main showroom was packed with games to play and things to do.  On the other side of the Hyatt lobby they had the usual conference room for speakers and panels, with the room above it used for a number of pinball tournaments.  Across from the pinball tournaments another large ballroom is used as a console gaming area, including even more vendors, and a stage that hosts live music performances on Saturday night.

While California Extreme is a collector and hobbyist convention, built upon the dedication of arcade enthusiasts who bring their games to the event every year, vendors also host exhibition areas within the show.  As in recent years, Marco Specialties had a large area displaying the latest pinball offerings including Stern's biggest new games - Godzilla, Rush, and The Mandalorian.  They had a ton of these machines on offer and the area was always busy but had short wait times as there were so many machines.  It's a great opportunity to see the differences between each tier of a machine, comparing how the game plays and what your extra thousand dollars here and there would get you.  As with the rest of the show, all the machines are on free play and available to be enjoyed by every attendee.

Naughty Boy (left), Warp Warp (center), Pleiades (right)

Rather than attempt to chronicle the hundreds upon hundreds of games that can be played at the show, I often like to spotlight a few games in my show report that stood out from the crowd or are my favorites.  Tucked away in the middle of the back row was Jaleco's Naughty Boy, a reasonably obscure game that was distributed in the USA by Cinematronics.  The player controls the titular Naughty Boy, who must stun and then defeat monsters by throwing rocks at them.  The first hit will stop them in their tracks while the second will cause them to explode, making the rocks seem more like bombs.  Destroyed monsters will eventually return, and while defeating them is the primary way to earn points, it's not the objective that will clear a level.  At the top of each vertically scrolling level are a number of flags.  Knocking all the flags down with rocks will cause the fortifications to burst into flames, again looking more like something caused by bombs, and advance to the next level.  Enemies can be baited away by destroying randomly appearing question mark areas, adding some additional strategy, but the throwing physics are what really make the game unique.  The longer the "throw" button is held down, the farther a thrown rock will travel, landing once the button is released.  If you like blowing stuff up, Rock-Ola's Warp Warp was also on the show floor.  A licensed version of Namco's Warp & Warp that I've mentioned in previous show reports, it's a maze shooter that plays a bit like Bomberman of all things.  One screen has your character shooting monsters with a gun, spawning a higher value monster by shooting three monsters of the same color in a row.  After a while the center area of the screen will activate, serving as a warp to the alternate screen where now you're armed with bombs.  This area plays pretty much like what would be seen in Bomberman, which was actually developed around the same time so it's doubtful either game cloned the other.  Pleiades is a cool shooter and interesting in that the game's title can't seem to decide how it wants to be spelled, as the title screen reads "Pleiads."  Pleiades was probably the intention, being named after the star cluster but I suppose no one will ever know.  The game begins simple enough as a ground-based shooter with swarms of enemies descending from overhead.  After they are defeated your ship blasts off and is met by swooping enemies that grow in size as they approach, a pretty cool effect.  Next is a battle against the alien mothership, a stationary target that drops clusters of shots while aliens work to defend it.  Once the mothership is destroyed you must land at a busy spaceport, weaving through parked ships to set down on a landing pad before doing it all over again.  The game is surprisingly addictive and I really like the visuals and sounds - one to try if you haven't played it.

Ponpoko (left), Yue Ar Kung-Fu (center), Super Speedway (right)

Sigma's Ponpoko is a game I hadn't heard of before but it's typically strange as most Sigma developed games go.  The player controls a tanuki who must gather all the fruits and vegetables on a stage while avoiding snakes and caterpillars.  Ponpoko can make a short hop by pressing the jump button or a longer leap forward when combined with left or right on the joystick.  While Ponpoko can hop over large gaps in the platforms and the strange number of tacks that litter the ground, he cannot jump over enemies, so planning movement and positioning is key.  That strategy is what kept me coming back to the game throughout the weekend, since the game isn't difficult so much as it is tricky.  If you're looking for an influential game, Yie Ar Kung-Fu was one not to be missed.  While Karate Champ (which was also at the show this year) established the basis for what is considered a two-player fighting game, Yie Ar Kung-Fu created the spectacle and variety that continues to be a core part of the genre to this day.  The player controls Oolong, a kung fu master who must defeat eleven other martial arts masters to claim the title of Grand Master.  In addition to having a unique appearance, each opponent utilizes a different fighting style, with some of them even using weapons and spiritual techniques.  Oolong has an arsenal of moves at his disposal, activated by a combination of button actions and joystick movement.  The whole setup is much more conventional in hindsight than the dual joystick input scheme of Karate Champ but the resulting movements can be equally as complex.  What Yie Ar Kung-Fu established that has continued to be used in virtually every traditional fighting game that has followed, is a health meter for both the player and opponent.  It's still a very well designed and fun to play fighting game.  Another I kept returning to was Chicago Coin's Super Speedway, an electro mechanical driving game.  The steering wheel moves a transparent plastic car on the end of a rod back and forth.  The car is behind three spinning plastic discs - one that has illustrations of a roadway on it, one that has illustrations of yellow opponent cars in an outer lane, and one that has illustrations of blue opponent cars in an inner lane.  The discs all spin at different rates, creating an illusion of movement and speed.  Light is projected through the discs and up to where the player can see into the cabinet, forcing a perspective that further enhances the illusion.  Pressing down on the pedal increases the rate at which the discs spin, causing the cars to move at different rates.  The objective is to weave through the traffic, earning points through distance covered, with what amounts to a free game added by achieving a high enough score before a timer runs down.  I think what kept bringing me back was the feeling of weight and motion while pressing down on the accelerator, feeling the motor turn the linkages in the cabinet.  The whole thing was very tangible in a sense, which added to the sensation of movement and the excitement of carving through traffic, lifting off just before a collision, and hearing the score counter tick over.  A really fun game and one I saw a lot of people enjoying over the weekend.

Of course there were my usual favorites including the Exidy prototype Teeter Torture and Taito classics Elevator Action, Qix, Zoo Keeper, and Crazy Climber.  I had pretty much my best Qix score ever, somewhere in the low 40,000's - nothing to write home about but a game I really like that is infamously unforgiving.  A cabaret version of Bosconian was on the show floor as usual, another of my all time favorite games and a hugely important and influential title in Namco's golden age arcade catalog.  I put down a decent score of 139,530 points, not bad for not playing in nearly three years.  There are few sounds in arcade gaming that create a sense of dread more than in Bosconian, when a spy ship gets away and the game continuously proclaims "CONDITION RED... CONDITION RED..." while enemies swarm your ship.

Vendor tables were really good this year and it was nice to spend a bit of money with those that can be back on the show circuit.  There was a really good mix of arcade and pinball products and merchandise but also a lot of general video game ephemera that a convention like this should have.  Don't know why the vendor selling bootleg poster prints is there every year but I digress.  Prices were kind of all over the place, which is a given, but there were some really solid deals on console games from a larger vendor in the main ballroom.  I've moved to flashcarts and optical drive emulators for a good deal of my retrogaming but I did pick up some Famicom cartridges from him to give away as prizes at other events.  I was thinking of buying a lot more but talked myself out of it, as again, it's unnecessary for me to own a bunch of cartridges.  I also bought a huge Dig Dug wall tapestry from one of the larger vendors, in addition to a Pole Position lapel pin.  Most vendors were also selling the 1/6th scale Replicade tabletop arcade cabinets.  Them being available at the show wasn't surprising, nor was seeing virtually every cabinet in the series for sale there.  What was almost shocking were the prices being asked by some vendors and then attendees paying those prices.  Upwards of $400 for a Replicade Centipede?  I know the games are released in limited quantities, which I still disagree with as it benefits no one except resellers, but that's crazy.  Granted, I've purchased both a Numskull Quarter Arcades Dig Dug and Ms. Pac-Man but those were in the $160 range, are 1/4 scale, and are made out of wood.  They also went back into production after the initial quantities of the first games sold out.  When tabletop novelties start to approach the price range of the full size, it's time to take a step back.  Vendors can ask whatever they want but in the case of these, it's the buyers are who are causing the pricing insanity.

The cocktail game area was back in the main show hall this year, having been relocated to the secondary ballroom during the past few shows at the Hyatt.  I liked that there was plenty of room between the cocktail tables this year and that the power cable management was pretty clean between them.  Often the machines are simply too close to one another to play comfortably or at all.  There were also a few cocktail tables out in the hallway, which is something that was done away with a few years back.  Unfortunately people can't seem to understand maybe they shouldn't be leaving their trash, food wrappers, cups, beer bottles, you name it on people's machines - even if they are cocktails.  I believe this is the reason that the tables were moved into the ballrooms starting a few years ago.  That was also one thing that I thought was a little lose this year, wristband verification and preventing people from bringing drinks into the main ballroom.  It wasn't horrible but a bit surprising how many people I saw walking around with drinks, although I did see a few get stopped at the door.  Every attendee signs and acknowledges the show's house rules so I don't know why it comes as a surprise to people.

Godzilla (left), Joust (center), Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man (right)

It's no secret that there haven't been many new pinball games released in the past decade or so that I really enjoy.  Sure there are some solid tables and theming that appeals to me and I can have a good time playing, however there hasn't been anything new that I'd actively seek out.  That changed after playing Stern's Godzilla, especially in Premium trim, which features more playfield toys than the base Pro package.  The theming of Godzilla is perfect for pinball and the game represents classic Godzilla films with respect but still emphasizes the fun of the movies.  Seeing Jet Jaguar spin around on the display when totaling a loop bonus is a perfect example of this.  The game also plays really fast with great flow and satisfying shots that make the whole package an absolute pleasure to the play.  It really feels like a 90's Data East table in that regard, which was my favorite era of pinball and my favorite manufacturer, who was actually born from Stern.  A table that is often at CAX but one I've never had the chance to play until this year was Joust, a two-player head-to-head pinball game based on the arcade title.  I was able to get a couple of games in against my wife on Sunday night and found it to be crazy fun with some surprising strategy involved.  Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man is another pinball that I had never played until this year and also really enjoyed.  It plays like a conventional pinball machine, with a grid of lights in the center that are used for a more traditional Pac-Man mode, changing direction with one flipper and advancing a space with the other.  The art package is a little strange but the game is solid and very entertaining.  There was also a good assortment of rhythm games and and more exotic Japanese imports, including the 2017 version of the train driving game Densha de Go!!  I love the Densha de Go!! games and the 2017 release is not only a new game on its own, it also features recreations of the first two arcade games.  I actually had some time on the cabinet at another local convention earlier this year, where it was exhibited by the same vendor who brings many of the large Japanese games to CAX, Game Saru.

Me playing a modern game of Densha de Go!! on Saturday morning

Nostalgia is always a big pull for an event such as this but if arcade events and classic arcade gaming is to survive, I think it's time to move a bit beyond nostalgia for a bygone era alone.  It's one thing to have grown up in the golden age of arcades and have a fondness for that time, but that sensation of ambiance simply can't be the lone driving force to continue to inspire people to take up the mantle.  These games are still fun, they are still engaging, they are still unique, they still have beautiful artwork, they still bring out friendly competition, and above all they are still entertaining.  None of this is because they are old or retro or no longer commonplace.  It's because they are as enjoyable now as when they first rolled off the assembly line.  Getting people to experience that enjoyment is how we'll capture the next generation of those who will keep them operating and continue to have the generosity to share them with everyone else who may want to play.

Three years after the previous full-on California Extreme it was great to have the show return as it was before.  Even with a little less space, even with the new challenges that hosting an event like this now brings, I had a spectacular time.  It really felt like a show from the first couple years when it moved to Santa Clara.  Not as crazy busy as it was from about 2017 onward but with just as many games to play and as much unique stuff to see.  The convention facilities were also very nice as usual and recently renovated, although with no California Extreme stuff being hosted on the Santa Clara Convention Center side this year, they shut that area down pretty early.  As always a tremendous thank you to the Extreme Team, all exhibitors, voulenteers, vendors, and attendees for keeping this great show going in the Bay Area.

More information about California Extreme can be found at, maybe I'll see you at next year's show.

Bentley Bear's Atari Adventures
Cystal Castles - My Favorite Game
by Eugenio "TrekMD" Angueira

Back in 1983, I remember going to the arcade to enjoy some games and I was met with a new game that I had never seen.  That game was Crystal Castles.  I was immediately fascinated with this arcade game and many quarters were spent controlling Bentley Bear in the many castles where the gems were scattered.  I can easily say this is among my most favorite arcade games and I'm going to share with you some history about Crystal Castles in the arcade and the Atari home ports.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy...

The Arcade Game

Crystal Castles was released by Atari in the arcades on July 8, 1983.  The game was designed by Scott Fuller and programmed by Franz Lanzinger and Sam Lee.  Crystal Castles introduced us to the character of Bentley Bear, a character that should have become Atari's mascot much like Mario is for Nintendo or Sonic for Sega.  In the game, Bentley Bear is tasked with collecting gems found on castles, presumably made of crystal, while avoiding the various enemies that populate these castles.  Some of these enemies will also be collecting gems and it is important for Bentley to collect the final gem at any given level to get a bonus score.  The player controls Bentley with a trackball and there is an action button that is used to get Bentley to jump over enemies.

The game includes nine level of play, each with four castles.  There is a tenth level with a single castle that marks the end of the game should the player finish this level.  This makes Crystal Castles one of the first arcade games to have an actual ending rather than continued play, as other arcade games would only end when the player loses all lives.  Each castle is rendered in an isometric view and each one is a different maze-style structure.  On these castles the player will find elevators, stairs, and tunnels which can be used to reach areas of the castle with gems or to escape from enemies.  If Bentley collects the final gem at any castle, bonus points are given and a short tune from the Nutcracker is played.  An animation then moves Bentley to the next castle, which is rendered before the player can start collecting gems.

The enemies Bentley encounters on the castles include Berthilda the witch, a swarm of bees, Nasty Trees, a Ghost, Dancing Skeletons, Gem Eaters, and Crystal Balls.  Berthilda only shows up in the final castle of each level.  Berthilda only moves in a certain area of the castle but is deadly to touch.  The swarm of bees will first come down to a honey pot but will target Bentley aggressively.  The Ghost appears in the Hidden Spiral levels and moves about randomly.  The Dancing Skeletons will show up usually on higher ramps in the castles, while the Gem Eaters roam around eating gems, as their name suggests.  The animation of these Gem Eaters with the gems moving from their feet up to their heads is rather cool.  While the gems are moving up, the Eaters can be killed by Bentley if he runs over them.  The Crystal Balls are a bit aggressive and will target Bentley directly, so you have to move around to avoid them.  The Nasty Trees are quick on their "feet" and can be stunned by Bentley if he jumps over them.  Both the Crystal Balls and the Nasty Trees can also collect gems and steal the bonus.

Besides the gems, the castles also have other items that Bentley can collect for points or for other purposes.  The magical hat earns the player 500 points and it makes Bentley invulnerable to all enemies.  It also allows Bentley to defeat Berthilda.  A honey pot will also appear that, if collected quickly, delays the appearance of the bees. The honey pot is worth 1000 points, while killing Berthilda is worth 3000 points.

Crystal Castles has a few interesting features.  When Bentley is killed by the enemies, speech balloons appear that have different messages depending on how many lives are left.  If there are three or more lives left, you'll see the word "Bye" appear.  If there are two lives left, "Oh, no" will appear.  If only one life is left, "Ouch!" appears and if you're at your last life, the symbols "#?!" appears, implying Bentley is behaving like Q*bert and uses profanity before dying.  Another interesting feature, which is also a first for arcade games of the time, is having warps at special locations on the castles that let Bentley jump to other levels, get extra points, or even get extra lives.  The final feature that is also cool is that the first castle's shape is modified to include the initials of the player with the top score.

Crystal Castles is fast-paced and quite a bit of fun to play.  The trackball control is very smooth and does take some getting used to but it is essential for its gameplay.  The graphics are beautiful and colorful and the music is well harmonized.  The cabinet itself looks fantastic and the trackball actually lights up in red.  The red color does not have anything to do with gameplay but does look cool.  The cabinet does have a custom trackball controller chip called Leta, which was first used on this game.

The Atari 2600 Port

Atari released a port of Crystal Castles for the Atari 2600 in 1984.  The game was programmed by Peter C. Niday, Michael Kosaka (graphics), and Robert Vieira (sound) and what they accomplished was nothing short of astonishing.  Given the limitations of the 2600, achieving any sort of isometric view for the castles was nearly impossible, yet the team was able to create castles that emulate a pseudo-3D environment.  None of the castles look like those of the arcade but that is something I would not have expected.  Despite this, the game retains the gameplay of the arcade as well as the sound effects and the enemies Bentley faced in the arcade version.

The castles and the gems (which are just lines) are rendered in the same color but the castles do have different colors for each level.  The programmers crammed plenty into the 16K found in this cartridge!  The enemies may be pixelated but they are all easy to recognize.  While many of them (Crystal Balls, Berthilda, Ghosts, Skeletons, and Bees) are rendered in one color, the Nasty Trees and the Gem Eaters are rendered in two or more colors.  Not only are all these characters recognizable, they are nicely animated!  The Gem Eaters even have the animation of their eating the gems just like in the arcade!  Bentley Bear is also rendered in one color and is probably the least recognizable of the characters.  Surprisingly, most of the sound effects and music from the arcade was also adapted to this port.  Despite the system's limitations, the music and every sound is a very recognizable replica of their arcade counterparts.

Crystal Castles on the 2600 does not have true trackball control and must be played using a joystick.  This makes the movement of Bentley Bear feel a bit slow but it does work just fine.  You do have the option of playing the game with the 2600 Trak-Ball controller but it has to be used in "joystick mode" as there is no algorithm for using it in true Trak-Ball mode.  Unfortunately, it is not possible to hack the game to do this either as it would require a total rewrite of the game's code.  This is unfortunate as it would have been great to move Bentley as swiftly as in the arcade version.

Despite the compromises, the 2600 port of Crystal Castles is very well done and quite the feat of programming.  As is the case with many arcade ports to the system, replicating the arcade original was not possible but capturing the spirit of the arcade game was.  Crystal Castles on the 2600 retains pretty much all the elements of the arcade, making this quite the fun game to play at home.

The Atari 8-Bit & XEGS Ports

This port of Crystal Castles did not see release until 1988 as a cartridge for the Atari XE Game System.  The game was developed in 1984, like the 2600 port, but it was not completed for release at that time.  As one would expect, this port of the game fares better than the 2600 version.  This port was programmed by William Jahnke and Paul Metz in 1984.  It is unknown who finished the game for the 1988 release as Bill Janhke had left Atari by this time and Paul Metz declined to complete the game. There are also two versions of the game, one that works on the 400/800 line of computers (16K) and one that only works on the XEGS (64K).

The Atari XEGS port of Crystal Castles is able to replicate all the castles found in the arcade original, though they do not have the level of detail of the arcade.  Despite this, the castles are all isometric and they are all beautifully rendered.  The gems, though, look like X's and have the same color as castles themselves.  Bentley is rendered in two colors and is not wearing his boots but he is recognizable as a bear.  All the enemies are easy to recognize and several of them are rendered in more than one color (Gem Eaters, Nasty Trees, Berthilda, and the Bee Swarm).  All the characters are beautifully animated as well.  For some reason both Bentley and the Nasty Trees are wider than they are supposed to be but this does not detract from the gameplay.

There are a number of differences between the 16K and 64K versions of the game.  The graphics for Bentley Bear, the Nasty Trees, Bees, and Magic Hat are better on the 64K version.  The gems change colors to the castle colors on the XEGS port but remain either red or blue on the 16K version.  The XEGS port has more music and the sound effects are more complete.  Also, when Bentley dies, we do see the speech balloons on the XEGS port instead of Bentley just standing there while the death music plays seen on the 16K port.

Like the 2600 port, these versions are controlled using a joystick.  There is support for Atari's Trak-Ball controller but this is also in joystick mode and not in true trackball mode.  This is unfortunate because this version replicates the arcade original so well that it would have been great to be able to move Bentley as quickly as in the arcade version.  The Atari XEGS version of Crystal Castles is quite difficult to find.  Most copies of the game, without a box or manual, sell for over $100 on eBay.  It is possible, however, to find the binaries online to play the game using a flashcart.  I highly recommend playing this version of the game.

The Atari ST Port

Atari did also release a version for the Atari ST but I've never played that version.  The ST version has nice graphics but does not have very good character animation.  It does make some changes to the graphics to make the characters look better than in the arcade version and it also changes some of the music.  This one can be controlled with the joystick or the mouse.  This port does include the animation of Bentley as he moves between castles, which is missing on the other Atari ports.


Crystal Castles is a fun game whether played in the arcade or at home.  Despite the limitations of the 2600, the port captures the arcade elements well enough to make it enjoyable.  The 8-Bit version is superior, though, and it is one of the best versions to enjoy at home.  It is unfortunate that none of the home versions have true trackball control compatibility because that would make the home versions even more enjoyable.  Regardless, Crystal Castles remains one of my most favorite games to play.

For those who prefer a more arcade-accurate version of their games, you can find Crystal Castles on the Atari Vault, which is available on Microsoft Windows, macOS, and Linux using Steam or the Atari Anniversary Edition for Windows or the Sega Dreamcast.  Either way, have fun gem collecting!

A Pirate's Life For Me - Eleventh Journey
CoolBoy 198 in 1 Real Game, Games 191 - 204
by David Lundin, Jr.

Welcome back as we finally complete our voyage with the CoolBoy Real Game 198 in 1 bootleg Famicom multicart.  If this is your first journey with us, a bootleg pirate multicart is a video game cartridge containing multiple games that would otherwise have single cartridge retail releases.  Pirate multicarts have become bigger and better over the past few years.  Although these days you have options such as flash memory cartridges if you want to play a bunch of games off a single cartridge, there's just something about these bootlegs that appeals to me.  I've found collecting multicarts a fun collecting sub genre since the early to mid 2000's.  Two very popular multicarts are branded under the "CoolBoy" name and are generally known as "198 in 1 Real Game" and "400 in 1 Real Game" and these cartridges are usually sold together as a pair.

CoolBoy "198 in 1" and "400 in 1" cartridges along with a custom made Famicom to NES converter

While the 400 in 1 cartridge contains more total games, I find that the 198 in 1 contains a more interesting mix of titles with less filler.  This is due to the 400 in 1 cartridge containing more pirate originals, including a rather large library of games released by Thin Chen Enterprise, the Taiwanese company better known as Sachen, history's most prolific producer of unlicensed Famicom games.  While these games are an interesting collecting sub-genre unto themselves, and a sadly forgotten part of modern NES and Famicom collector culture, they're not necessarily all that fun to play.  It should also be said that the back half of the game list for each cartridge is generally filled with these type of Taiwanese and Chinese pirate original games.  The 198 in 1 cartridge isn't too bad in this respect, with fifty or so games falling into this category.

This scope of this ongoing column is to evaluate the 198 in 1 cartridge, fifteen games at a time, until the entire list is completed.  Additionally each issue will also evaluate a single game from the 400 in 1 cartridge that does not appear on the 198 in 1 counterpart.  For the entire duration of this column, each cartridge is played on an original toaster-style North American NES console.  To convert the bootleg Famicom cartridges for play the NES, I use a Famicom to NES converter cartridge built from parts out of an early release copy of Gyromite.  The abbreviated title given after the game number is how it appears in the on-screen menu.  As a final note, many of the games contained on these bootleg cartridges have their title screens altered to strip away any copyright dates or the like.

Now, back on to high seas and high excitement!

Here we are, land in sight, as we prepare to pull into port and complete the journey.  This column began way back in May of 2016 with the second issue of The Retrogaming Times!  Today we have a whole bunch of Kunio-kun games, a few great Konami titles, some really strange hacks, and a couple randoms.   It has been a long time coming, and a much more arduous journey than originally planned, but we're almost ready to drop anchor.  Let's get to it!

CoolBoy Real Game 198 in 1, Games 191 - 204:

Nekketsu! Street Basket Ganbare Dunk Heroes and Ike Ike! Nekketsu Hockey-bu Subete Koronde Dairanto

191. Hot Blood Basketb - This page of the multicart menu is dominated by titles starting Kunio-kun, Technos Japan's high school delinquent mascot that is better known in the USA as the star of River City Ransom.  Although many games in the series were released on the NES, there were tons more left in Japan, and many of the games that were released stateside had localization changes.  For the most part the games are known as the Nekketsu series, "nekketsu" generally translated to mean "hot blooded."  The first game here is Nekketsu! Street Basket Ganbare Dunk Heroes, which sees Kunio and the gang playing in an over-the-top and ultra physical 2-on-2 basketball tournament.  Each match-up has a different environment based upon its location, featuring some really cool and comedic details.  The actual basketball mechanics are pretty simple, with a series of stacked backboards and baskets on the left and right edges of the screen.  Since it's a Kunio game a big part of the action is beating the snot out of your opponents and fighting just as much as scoring points.  If you've played River City Ransom you should be right at home here, something that will ring true with many of these titles.  Courts are also littered with various objects that can be used while fighting, adding a bit of variety to the fisticuffs.  Many people love this game but it has always taken me a while to get into the rhythm of the game flow.

192. Hot Blood Ice Hoc - Easily the best known of the Kunio-kun sports games that wasn't released on the NES, Ike Ike! Nekketsu Hockey-bu Subete Koronde Dairanto sees the teenage brawlers hit the ice - literally.  Ice hockey is the perfect sport for a series that began as a beat 'em up and the action here doesn't disappoint.  Strangely enough of all the sports games in the series, this one has the least emphasis placed on straight up brawling, instead focusing on very solid 3-on-3 hockey action.  The game plays like a condensed version of Blades of Steel or Nintendo's own Ice Hockey, with simple controls and fast movement.  Input feels good and is predictable, with players having weight and momentum in addition to good puck physics.  There are just enough special moves and trademark Kunio-kun fighting to mix things up and keep gameplay from feeling stale.  It is an outrageously fun multiplayer game and really should have been released on the NES.  Apparently a release was planned at one time, as Crash 'n' the Boys Ice Challenge, but was sadly scrapped.  Hockey video games are generally pretty good, especially in this era, and this is one to try if you're unfamiliar with it.

Bikkuri Nekketsu Shin Kiroku! Harukanaru Kin Medal and Kunio Kun no Nekketsu Soccer League

193. Hot Blood New Rec - One that should be familiar to most NES players, this is Bikkuri Nekketsu Shin Kiroku! Harukanaru Kin Medal, which was reworked for release in North America under the title Crash 'n' the Boys Street Challenge.  A more logical sports game for a bunch of high school delinquents, here we see the Kunio cast engaged in track and field events with a bit of an urban twist.  There are a handful of events that are slight variations on usual high school athletics, with the expected addition of brawling with your opponents.  The visuals are nice and it's a cool concept but I am absolutely terrible at this game.  My complaint has always been the control input, as rather than taking a page out of Hyper Olympic / Track & Field, it is instead controlled like a Kunio-kun brawler.  It just doesn't work very well for this type of game and I have found it frustrating since renting the NES version as a kid.  I've always wondered if poor reception of that release is why we never got the ice hockey game.

194. Hot Blood Soccer - This is another one that should seem a bit familiar to NES players.  Kunio Kun no Nekketsu Soccer League is the sequel to Nekketsu Koko Dodgeball Bu: Soccer Hen, which was reworked into Nintendo World Cup for the NES.  Nintendo World Cup was pushed reasonably hard for awhile by Nintendo and it's still my favorite four-player NES release.  The sequel takes the reasonably standard concept of Kunio and the gang playing soccer and mixes it up with terrain and environmental hazards.  In these games excess usually adds to the fun and chaos but they may have went a little to far with this one.  All kinds of weather and field status changes may really mix the game up but they also slow it way down.  One of the reasons I enjoy the first Nekketsu soccer game so much is that it plays really smoothly, not fast but predictable.  That all goes out the window here as the game is just constantly throwing more garbage at the player with not much rhyme or reason.  While it looks pretty good I don't find it very much fun as it often feels like I'm fighting with the controls for input response.  They can't all be great and I recommend the original or the original's NES conversion instead.

Nekketsu Koko Dodgeball Bu and Jackal

195. Hot Blood Volleyb - Here we go, an all-time favorite for many.  Nekketsu Koko Dodgeball Bu is the game the launched the Kunio sports series, giving a lot more longevity to the brand.  A popular game in all regions, it was slightly reworked into Super Dodge Ball for the NES by switching the teams around a bit and dropping the Kunio-kun series references.  The gameplay is reasonably simple, pitting the Nekketsu High School crew against rival teams in strangely by-the-book (for the series anyway) dodgeball matches.  Each team has a group of freely moving attackers as well as sideline players on the opposite side of the court.  Players can catch the ball, avoid it, jump, pass the ball, and of course hurl it at another player.  There are some special moves and more powerful shots that can be performed with the correct combination of actions.  Each player has a health bar and once it is depleted they are out, with players becoming winded once their bar becomes low.  A team wins once all attackers on the other team are out.  Although the version on the multicart is reasonably unaltered, it feels like it plays just a bit slower than the Famicom or NES versions, as if a hack to remove the title screen hurt the already poor optimization.  I say poor optimization as the game is a pretty big flickery mess but that's how the real cartridges are.  It's still a fun game just the same.

196. Jackal - Leaving the Kunio-kun series, Jackal kicks off a series of three Konami arcade conversions on the multicart that were either enhanced or reworked for their home releases.  A vehicular take on the overhead run-and-gun, Jackal was one of those NES games that everyone seemed to know when I was a kid.  Greatly expanded over the arcade original, the objective is to drive a jeep into hostile territory, destroying enemy installations and rescuing POWs.  The jeep is equipped with a machine gun that will always fire upward, while a secondary explosive weapon will be launched in the direction the jeep is facing.  Rescuing POWs who are officers will upgrade the secondary weapon, increasing its firing speed, distance, and explosive range.  Jackal has superb visuals, an excellent soundtrack, and extremely tight gameplay.  The NES version is what is included on the multicart, as the Japanese release was on the Famicom Disk System and is actually a much smaller and less featured game - a rare instance of North American gamers getting more than their Japanese counterparts.

Life Force and Rush'n Attack

197. Life Force - Another NES favorite, Life Force is a Gradius sequel that isn't exactly the sequel to Gradius.  Originally released to arcades as Salamander, the game had a number of different revisions that changed everything from the power-up system and graphics, to the title and backstory.  Additionally every home release seems to be just a bit different from every other.  Eventually it was converted for the Famicom, taking a bit of the original Salamander and a little of the Japanese release of Life Force and combining them.  Some new areas and enemies were added and others were removed.  Salamander on Famicom switched to the Gradius-style power-up system, using collected capsules to advance a selection bar, rather than individual power-ups of the original arcade release.  This was the version of the game reworked for the NES release, with a few more tweaks such as reducing the number of "option" power-ups by one and removing the Famicom's multiple endings.  The version of the game included on the multicart is a pirated release of the NES version, originally released by the bootleg outfit NTDEC.  NTDEC released many pirated versions of popular Famicom games, manufacturing tons of bootleg cartridges, including the NES Caltron 6-in-1 multicart.  Life Force is a great shooter, easily one of the best to be released on the NES.  It has outstanding music, beautiful graphics, engaging gameplay, excellent level design, huge bosses, and is a core two-player experience on the hardware.  The NTDEC version plays as expected, the Konami code works fine, and other than the modified title screen it's the NES version of Life Force.

198. Rush'n Attack - A popular title among early Konami offerings on the NES, Rush'n Attack is a home conversion of an action game that would be a run-and-gun if the player didn't primarily use a combat knife.  Tasked with destroying an enemy secret weapon, the player takes on the role of a Green Beret, parachuting deep behind enemy lines.  Very limited secondary weapons can be obtained by defeating specific enemies, including a rocket launcher used to clear large groups of enemies, and grenades that can be used to blow open secret areas.  Rush'n Attack is one of the few games where using Up on the directional pad to jump actually works fine and responds accurately.  What has always stood out to me most about Rush'n Attack is that it's an action game that requires a more methodical approach, similar to Irem's Kung-Fu Master.  Success is dependent on understanding how the different enemy types will attack, getting them to react, and then responding accordingly at the correct moment.  It's a game with a rhythm to success, again like Kung-Fu Master.  Charging head-on into enemies without understanding this will lead to a quick game over and the game can feel ruthlessly difficult if played in such a way.

Where Dad Went To and Boonie Bear 2

199. Where Dad Wentto - Okay, now we start to get into the really weird ones on the multicart.  Early releases of the 198 in 1 cartridge stopped at exactly 198 games, however later releases have seven extra games, for a total of 204.  Three of the extra games are bootleg hacks that apparently reference Chinese TV shows.  The first of these, Where Dad Went To, is a hack of the NES release of Adventure Island II.  Sometimes hacks such as these are pretty decent but that's not the case with this one.  The new sprites are glitchy with strange colors and stray pixels in addition to very poor graphical design.  The player character, Master Higgins, has been changed to some kind of weird looking kid.  A big part of Adventure Island II is riding around on dinosaur companions.  The replacement sprites for the dinosaurs are very strange, leading to the player character essentially piggybacking on pissed off looking dudes with goatees who run around wearing garish suits.  The pteranodon rework is particularly poorly done and looks absolutely ridiculous.  It's not just the dinosaurs and the player character that look bad.  The stone axe looks like, well there's no other way to say it, a hunk of crap that the player throws - although it's probably supposed to be some kind of root vegetable.  The new sprites simply don't fit the sizing of what they replace, making everything feel just a bit off, although the game plays fine otherwise.  The text graphics are slightly tweaked as well, appearing somewhat corrupted.  Interestingly the large dinosaur that appears on the warp screen is unaltered, showing the bare minimum was done to change the graphics.  Adventure Island II is a great game but this hack is just strange, regardless of the subject matter it was intended to represent, and should be avoided.

200. Boonie Bear 2 - Following suit with game 199, this is a hack of Takahashi Meijin no Bouken Jima, known in the west as the original Hudson's Adventure Island.  Another hack apparently based on a Chinese TV property, this one is far more competent than Where Dad Went To.  It features decent sprite reworks for Takahashi Meijin / Higgins, most enemies, and items.  The new sprites keep similar sizes to the graphics they are replacing, which maintains the proper aspect for their objects and allows the game to feel good and play as it should.  Even the reworked title screen looks okay and isn't a glitchy mess - a rarity for most of these quickie pirate reworks.  As with Where Dad Went To, the text graphics have been messed with a bit, creating a slightly corrupted appearance but it's not as bad as the other game.  It also seems like the end of level text is now in Spanish, which is pretty strange.  For all the graphical changes put forth, the bosses are untouched from the original game, a bit of a disappointment to be honest.  I've actually completed Hudson's Adventure Island, one of the most surprisingly difficult games ever created in my opinion, and a title that looks like some easy kids game on the surface.  If you have yet to experience how brutal this game quickly becomes, then I suggest giving it a try, as beating this one years ago remains one of my personal top gaming accomplishments.

Hero Alliance 2 and Flying Hero

201. Hero Alliance 2 - This yet another hack, this time of Ninja Ryukenden III, which is the game that was reworked into Ninja Gaiden III for the NES.  Think of a Ninja Gaiden game with all the cutscene text removed and all the story taken out - that's what you have here.  The sprite hacks for Ryu Hayabusa are laughable and look ridiculous, again apparently done to re-theme the game after a Chinese TV show.  The sprite hacks aren't even that thorough as half of the time in the cutscenes it's regular old Ryu, showing double minimal effort.  It's hard to imagine playing what is considered a cinematic game with all the text missing.  I have to give it to the pirate outfit though, they actually found a way to ruin Ninja Ryukenden III more than the overly difficult and botched NES release - that's really saying something.  I've always thought the series peaked with Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos, which is also one of my favorite games on the platform outright, but I know the third game has its fans, especially the Famicom version.  That doesn't matter here though, as this hack is totally not worth playing even as a curiosity.

202. Flying Hero - Getting back to licensed games, this is a fun one.  Flying Hero is a firefighting and rescue game that plays like a ball and paddle game.  Two firefighters at the bottom of the screen launch a third up into the air on a trampoline.  The player controls the movement of the firefighters on the ground and the objective is to direct the airborne firefighter to rescue trapped people, extinguish flames, and dislodge bonus items.  Bonus items must be caught by the team below to count but if they miss the falling firefighter then the player will lose a life.  One big quirk of the game that seems to often throw people off, is that the movement of the firefighters on the ground will automatically speed up if they aren't beneath the flying firefighter.  This can be a bit unpredictable when trying to catch items and may even come across as a glitch.  A number of power-ups can be collected, many that will be familiar to anyone who has played Arkanoid.  These include trampoline extensions, an additional flying firefighter, extinguishers that will put out a burning trampoline, the ability to clear a stage immediately, and others.  One special item will send the flying firefighter inside the building where he must extinguish flames and search for a key to advance to the next stage.  The interior sections look a bit like a game of Elevator Action and are a nice addition to mix up the ball and paddle gameplay.  There are quite a few stages in Flying Hero with a lot of variety and completing the game is a solid challenge.  Sega Mark III collectors may also recognize this game, as it's a semi-sequel to one of the few Mark III games to require the paddle controller, Megumi Rescue.

Gun.Smoke and Saiyuuki World

203. Gunsmoke - A home conversion of Capcom's Wild West take on their arcade hit Commando, Gun.Smoke is another of my absolute favorite NES games.  Unique to a run-and-gun, Gun.Smoke's player character Billy Bob is always in motion.  Additionally while the B and A buttons are used to fire his guns, the direction shots are fired is in relation to what button is pressed: B to fire to the left, A to fire to the right, and B and A together to fire forward.  This all makes the game much faster moving and smoother to control than pretty much any other overhead shooter on the system.  This would be an awesome game to have on the cartridge if it wasn't for the fact that the European PAL version is what is included here.  Of course this means the game runs too fast on NTSC hardware, ruining the excellent music and souring the experience with overly frantic gameplay.  It really is a tremendous shame as Gun.Smoke is a ton of fun, very challenging, with unique gameplay that makes it totally different than any other ground-based shooter.  If you haven't played it before, check out the proper version for your region, even if it's only to hear the awesome theme of the first stage.

204. Saiyuuki - A Famicom adaptation of Wonder Boy in Monster Land, Saiyuuki World is themed after the Chinese novel Journey to the West, hence the game's name.  Many works have adapted Journey to the West in some form, and Wonder Boy in Monster Land would be re-adapted many times, so both crossing paths here is pretty interesting.  Control Son Wukong, the monkey king, as he sets out to free captured monks.  We've already seen the more action oriented sequel, Saiyuuki World II: Tenjokai no Majin, which was reworked into Whomp 'Em for the NES and included on the multicart as game number 176.  Saiyuuki World further refines the Monster Land formula, shedding its arcade confines by finally removing the timer and expanding the story, creating a more console-specific experience.  There's a lot of Japanese text here but if you've played Wonder Boy in Monster Land a couple times you may be able to feel your way through.  If the game sounds interesting, there's a pretty solid English fan translation from 2016 that is worth checking out.  Certainly not a spectacular game, everything does look a bit flat and the sequel was a significant jump up in visual fidelity, but it's decently entertaining.

Bases Loaded 4 and MagMax

205. Bases Loaded 4 - The very end of the list of over two hundred games is capped of with a baseball game of all things.  Bases Loaded 4 is the final NES game in the long-running Jaleco baseball series, known in Japan under the "Moero!! Pro Yakyuu" banner.  If you've played any of the other games in the series things will be familiar.  The trademark television-style presentation makes its return, with realistic graphics and good animation.  Preference as to which game in the series is best is all down to individual taste, as they all are just a bit different with their own quirks.  I had a friend when I was in the fourth grade who absolutely loved the original Bases Loaded, knew everything about the game, and was spectacular at it.  Based Loaded 4 may not be my favorite NES or Famicom baseball title (that would be Baseball Stars and Softball Tengoku, respectively) but it's a solid game and closed out the NES era of Jaleco baseball.

CoolBoy 400 in 1 Real Game, Spotlight Selection:

112. Mag Max - My final pick for a spotlight game included on the 400 in 1 cartridge is Nichibutsu's MagMax, a home conversion of their 1985 side-scrolling arcade shooter.  A few things make MagMax stand our from other contemporary games on the Famicom, as well as in the arcade.  Each stage has both an above ground and an underground area that can be moved between by riding transporters that appear throughout the stage.  The underground areas play like a conventional shooter, while the above ground areas play in a 3/4 perspective, with the ship skirting the surface of the terrain.  The power-up system is a bit different as well, as it involves collecting components that allow the ship to be built out into a giant robot on the fly.  These increase the ship's firepower and will also absorb damage by being blown off if hit.  The game itself is pretty simple and it's actually really short in length, looping only after a few minutes.  However it has always been a game that comes to mind when I think of early Famicom shooters that are still fun to play.  Strangely enough I never knew anyone back during the heyday of the NES that had this game.  My first encounter with it was much later in my collecting, when I bought a bunch of NES games from a friend and co-worker around 2001 or so.  It may not set your world on fire or anything but MagMax is a perfect quick play shooter, what would have been a perfect rental game back in the day.

With that we have reached the end of the cartridge, 204 unique games!  I didn't expect it to take so long!  Originally the idea was to get through the entire cartridge over a couple years of issues, but it became pretty easy to get burned out on playing and talking about so many games each time.  I honestly don't know how people who cover games chronologically or play through entire libraries do it.  When I began, the CoolBoy 198 in 1 and 400 in 1 multicarts were super popular and a lot of people were talking about them, becoming almost mainstream among retrogamers.  In the time that has passed since then, bootleg multicarts have returned to being an extremely niche way to play games.  A big part of that has to do with wider adaptation of flash memory solutions as they have become more robust and more affordable.  That's the way I play most of my cartridge games these days.  For those who have been here for the entire run of the "A Pirate's Life For Me" column, thank you very much for accompanying me on the journey!  Check out some pirate multicarts and set out on an adventure of your own.

Bucky O'Hare Memories - My Favorite Game
by Dan Pettis

In the era before smart phones, video game collecting was a completely different beast. Without instant access to reviews, YouTube videos, and pricing guides, there wasn't a lot to go off of when you bought a game. Sometimes you looked at the box art, and if the front was cool looking enough, and the pictures on the back convincing enough, and you had a good feeling about it, you just went for it. That is how I acquired my favorite game of all time: Bucky O'Hare for the Nintendo Entertainment System.

Now, I didn't go into this purchase fully blind. I had seen the cartoon show a few times, and I also remembered seeing discounted Bucky action figures at Wal-Mart. But what really launched my Bucky Mania was the Konami Bucky O'Hare arcade game from 1992. I first played it at the furthest Chuck E. Cheese from my childhood home in the Milwaukee area. The game was a combination of many of the best Konami arcade games of the time. It features the relentless beat 'em up action of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, the gun toting combat of Sunset Riders, and the screen clearing special powers of the X-Men arcade game, and it was all wrapped up in a sci-fi for kids package. I was instantly hooked.

Imagine my sheer joy, when shortly after experiencing the arcade game for the first time, I found the Nintendo Bucky game at a now closed mom and pop game shop. Without any information to go off of except the rad art on the loose cart, I was convinced I needed it. For the low price of only twenty dollars, my parents gladly agreed to purchase it for me.  My hopes that the game would be similar to the arcade game were instantly shattered when I powered the gray box on. Instead of another high quality Konami brawler, this game started out with all of Bucky's allies kidnapped and a selection screen of colored planets to choose from to start your rescue mission. I was instantly a little disappointed and saddened. But since I had no real disposable income at the time, and tons of free time, I decided to give it a shot.

What I found was an arguably even better experience than the arcade game. It was my first experience with a Mega Man style, shooting platforming game. The more I played it, the more I grew to love it based on its own merits. It's a seriously fun game with tight controls, beautiful pixel art, cinematic cut scenes, catchy music, and diverse levels. As you rescue your teammates, they become fully playable on the fly. Blinky the robot can hover and destroy weak blocks, Jenny the fox fires a psychic beam, Deadeye the duck can climb walls and has a three way shot, and Willy the human has a powerfully deadly charged laser beam.

The immense high quality of the game only fueled my budding Bucky mania. In the Winter, I pretended to be Blinky the robot, and pretended to break ice blocks on the Blue Planet with my laser eye. In the Spring, I made a terrible Bucky pinata for a birthday party out of construction paper that was so poorly constructed it didn't even break properly. In the hot summer months, I was coloring in my official Bucky O'Hare coloring books. When I drew doodles of what kind of video games I wished I could make in the future, they were totally influenced by this game.

Eventually I grew older, and as the world forgot about Bucky, so did I. My original Bucky cartridge was left at my Dad's house and lost when I moved away to college. But many years later, when I decided to begin playing and collecting games on the suddenly retro NES, I reacquired the game and rediscovered the same sense of joy that the game gave me as a weird, dorky kid. Buying the game again was integral to the re-awakening of my gaming passion. I also finally managed to complete the game which felt like a true accomplishment, since I never was able to complete it as a kid, topping out at the latter parts of the game when it the crew must escape on mini-space ships in Gradius style levels.

Bucky O'Hare was peak childhood perfection for me, and will always hold a special place in my heart as my admittedly sentimental pick for favorite game of all time. It even helped lead to one of my childhood dreams of writing for a video game publication coming true, as my first article for The Retrogaming Times was my retro review of Konami's underappreciated masterpiece. Are there other games that I've played that are objectively better? Maybe. Lots of games featuring Mario and Link come to mind. But none of them will ever match the sheer joy I get every time I fire up Bucky O'Hare for the NES.

Be sure to CONTINUE TO THE NEXT PAGE to read more of this issue of The Retrogaming Times!

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