Retropalooza is now two weeks away

I am two weeks away from attending my first ever convention. This year I will be going to Retropalooza, a retro video game convention held in Alrington, Texas. I chose this one to be my first because it was the easiest one to get to considering I am about an hour away from Arlington.

I decided since this will be my first convention I would double it as an opportunity to do my first cosplay. Since that is the case I will be going both as THERAT and Stephanie to this thing. I am not sure what it will be like walking around in public for the first time dressed as a woman but I am excited for it. I am trying to build up anticipation so that I don’t chicken out.

Gearing up for the trip I have set up an interview with a YouTuber who is known as a Transgender gamer. She will be making an appearance on my podcast to talk about being trans and a geek, plus gamer stuff and other topics. I am so looking forward to this much needed vacation. Stay Cool.

The story of a home brew part 2: A case study of one game that did it right

The Immortal John Hancock, a prominent YouTube gamer, posted a thread on June 3, 2016, to a Nintendo collectors’ forum asking for a programmer for a potential project. Antoine Fantys was the programmer that answered that call.

From his early days as a programmer fiddling around with BASIC on his Commodore 64, Fantys wanted to be a programmer.

“I came across a Commodore 64. The beauty about this machine was that you could learn BASIC programming and program simple games directly on the computer.” he said.

“I ended up learning BASIC and coding my first games on a retro platforms, which included text adventures and a horse racing game of all things.” he added.

His interest in retro games began with his NES games on a Game Boy Advance, which later developed into full blown passion once he discovered YouTube.

“I found footage of the first Super Mario Bros. on the NES. Finding out about Super Mario Bros. and all those games of yesteryear sparked my interest in retro gaming, and especially the NES” he said.

When Hancock made the call asking for a programmer, he jumped at the opportunity. It was his chance to do something for the community, and make a name for himself while honing his programming skills. He reached out to Hancock via that forum and they two went to work.

“The game was John’s idea. I believe the game was a favorite of his. It’s based on an old 1981 Stern/Konami arcade game called ‘Turtles.'” he said.

He knew right away it was a project he wanted in on.

“As soon as I saw the video of the game John sent me, I knew I would like to work on this game because such arcade games are fun and easy to port on a console like the NES.” he said.

Fantys got his start on the NES doing, in his words “crappy rom hacks.” From there his interest grew. He found his way onto a Nintendo fan site that had a home brew section and he began learning the programming language of the NES.

For the most part, he works alone. He will occasionally bring on help with the music, in this case he did it all.

Once the game was finish John Hancock shared the story to his YouTube channel. From there John Riggs took the game and turned it into a charity work for an gaming expo he was a part of. With the help of prominent YouTubers, Fantys was able to get his name, and work, to a wider audience.

When it comes to ROMS and the home brew scene. Fantys tends to play it safe. He doesn’t make his roms he owns available, choosing to just sell carts if he can. He indicated he would consider using a form of DRM if it was a work he owned the rights to, yet he did claim he often sells the rights to his games.

This is where the gaming community and the home brew scene can come together. While I believe it to be okay to download roms of games nobody is profiting off, of course except the re-sellers making cash on second hand merchandise, I think original games have a right to be protected. On the other hand, when it comes to games like Pac-Man, Mega Man, Mario, Zelda, etc., then the user should make a attempt to purchase, or obtain, a legal copy before pirating. In this case I tend to favor supporting the Nintendo eShop, the PSN, Xbox Live Arcade and Steam. It sucks paying money for a ROM of a game you already owned at some point in time, yet you do have to remember once you sell the physical cart you sold your rights to the program on that rom. Also owning physical carts does not automatically give you the right to the program stored on the carts rom chips.

All things considered Fantys took a game someone else already made, an arcade game, and ported it, at the request of a collector in the industry, and made it available as a clone to those who were interested in obtaining that version. Since the game in question is based on someone else’s property, it stands to reason the gamer who does wish to play the game would be better served tracking down a legit copy, or playing it on MAME if they have no other option. The real need to play a ROM of a port of an arcade game to the NES, decades later, seems kind of counter intuitive. Is it scummy, shady or illegal what Fantys and Hancock have done? I don’t think so. They made it very clear every step of the way it was a clone of an arcade game, they made it very clear they were making it available to collectors who wanted physical copies, and it was done as a labor of love to the community of home brew gamers, programmers, collectors, and retro gamers in general. All in all this is how you do a retro/homebrew based on existing works the right away.

Now if they called it Turtles, basically recreated the original game in its entirety line byline and tried to sell it a their own without recognizing the original rights owners, that would be a different story entirely. Kudos to Fantys and Hancock for creating a project that was done out of passion for the scene, the community and the love of retro games. While it is easy to get caught up in who owns the rights to what, which degree of piracy counts as infringement and where the line should be drawn, at the end of the day all that really matters is gamers get to enjoy the works of programmers who enjoy making games for others to enjoy. It’s the circle of gaming.

Be sure to check out his YouTube video discussing the game Here

 

 

 

The Spiders Lair Podcast Episode 5

In this episode I discuss two movies I watched recently, Power Rangers and War of the Planet of the Apes. I talk about if I might get into record collecting. And I talk about why it’s a good idea to collect for the PS2 generation, and why I have determined that was, probably, the greatest generation in gaming.

 

*UPDATE*: Since I recorded this I did check out prices on Amazon for records and they were actually very reasonable so that one point I made is probably invalidated. I only remember looking at a few in the “Customers bought this also liked” section a few times and seeing outrageous prices for records.

30 NES games to get started

In a few months Nintendo is planning on releasing the SNES Classic Edition. As a follow up to the popular but under-produced NES Classic Edition, I expect this thing to be quite popular with gamers and collectors. However, due to scarcity and the fact the NES mini has already been discontinued, I thought I would write a 30 NES games to start up a collection for the lapsed gamer who might want to get back into NES gaming, but who doesn’t want to shell out the money for an NES mini. This list is based on my own preferences but I think it should be a good reflection of the NES library. I think these are 30 games that any gamer should pick up early on when starting their NES collection. I might write similar guides or lists for other consoles if I enjoy this enough. Also I am not ranking these, this is not a top 30 NES games, so the order is not that important these are just the 30 games I personally feel every NES collectors should get right away.

1. Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt

The first game every collector should have is the most obvious one. Seriously, if you are trying to go back in time to revisit the NES, or you are a kid just discovering it for the first time there is no other game as iconic or important as this game. There are different variations and combinations of these two games, but the classic SMB/Duck Hunt cart is the most obvious one to get.

2. Duck Tales

This game gets a lot of attention, and with good reason. The cartoon was classic, the tune is catchy, the characters are very retro and the game play is fantastic. What more can I say? I was trying to avoid games that rely so heavily on nostalgia, but fortunately Capcom recently upgraded this game on modern consoles as DuckTales Remastered, so it has the potential to reach a younger audience thus not relying entirely on nostalgia.

3. Batman

Probably the best action/platformer on the console and certainly one of, if not the best, comic book/super hero games in the NES library. A great game with good music, fun game play, decent challenge, and great graphics for the console. Also based on an amazing movie that is still worth revisiting while you are at it.

4. Iron Tank

Not everyone is going to pick a random tank combat game, but I think if you are going to get serious about NES collecting you need this game in your collection. It’s not as well known as some of the other games you hear banded about, but it’s still a lot of fun. This is one of those “NES hard” games where the difficulty is going to turn some people away, but the game play, the graphics, and the challenge all make it a very worthy game to add to your collection quite early on.

5. Legend of Zelda

Most people this will be either their first or second purchase. This game is so icon it practically defines the entire NES generation. I can’t say enough good things about this game, I played it to death as a kid, so much in fact the battery died in my cart.

6. TMNT 2: The Arcade Game

I could just say buy all 3 games, 4 if you count the fighting game, but I think this is probably the one to start with. Save the first for when you are padding your collection and get 3 when you are ready for more beat-em-ups. I say start with 2 because it’s the easiest to pick up and play, its the most iconic, it is based on the arcade game so it has that retro arcade feel to it, and it’s the one based most off the cartoons so would be the most familiar to a lot of people. The first game is good too but I recommend 2 for an early collector.

7. Dr. Mario

It shouldn’t take you too long to pick up this game. It’s arguably the best puzzle game on the console, and certainly a higher priority to me than Tetris. Although Tetris is well known, chances are you have multiple copies of Tetris spread across however many gaming platforms you have, so why not put off getting Tetris and start with the, in my opinion, superior game anyways?

8. A Nightmare on Elm Street

I know this game gets a lot of hate, especially since a certain Youtuber trashed it so famously. Still it’s actually not that bad of a game. The common criticism of it not having that much to do with the movies aside, which I would argue it actually does the job of re-creating the nightmare just fine, it does have its flaws. Still, as a HUGE Nightmare on Elm Street fan, I personally love this game, warts and all. It’s actually a decent, crazy fun 4-player experience. Sure you likely won’t beat it without cheating, but honestly how many NES games can you beat without cheating anyways? Also, part of the charm in collecting NES carts is revisiting the 80’s, and nothing is more 80’s than Freddy Krueger.

9. Casltevania

I try not list the obvious games but since this isn’t a top 30 list and it certainly isn’t a list of hidden gems, I figured this is just one of those iconic games every NES collector needs in their collection, and fairly early on too. I won’t get too into it, the game launched one of the longest running horror franchises in gaming history.

10. Super Mario Bros. 3

I would almost suggest getting these games in reverse order, starting with 3, then 2 and ending up with 1. Either way, all three of them belong in your NES collection, but the first and 3rd certainly belong in your first 30 for sure.

11. Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man

Take your pick, get either the Namco licensed ones or the unlicensed Tengen carts, Mr. or Ms. Pac-Man both games are good, and either one should be early purchases. I strongly believe that both of these games are just true staples in gaming history that should never be over looked. Personally I love them both equally and can never choose one over the other. But for the sake of this list, and because money could be an issue for most people, you should be good to pick one and have hours of fun from time to time.

12. P.O.W.

I love arcade games. A lot of the best arcade games from the NES library can certainly be found on modern consoles for sure. If you are going to start a collection, I would recommend going after this game over some of the more common, heavily talked about games. You might be surprised at how much you enjoy it. Sure it’s not the best game to begin with, but it’s a good pick up and play action game for the NES reminiscent of the classic arcade experience.

13. Contra

Speaking of great arcade ports… Seriously Contra is practically *the* NES game to collect at this point. It’s a great run and gun, it’s a great 2 player action game, and it’s a fantastic port of an arcade game. Most people say this version is actually superior to the real arcade version it is based on, I happen to be one of those people.

14. 3-D Battles of the World Runner

You are going to be collecting NES games you have plenty of time to pick up the staples. Why not get a quirky game that makes good use of the 3D gimmick while also being another throw back to awesome arcade game play. It’s a pretty decent “Space Harrier” clone if you want to get down to it, and it’s a lot of fun.

15. Popeye

Another arcade classic. I played Popeye so much as a kid. I actually enjoyed it even more than the famous Donkey Kong arcade hit. Granted the game hasn’t aged all that well and yes it mostly is just a Donkey Kong clone, albeit an official one if you want to get down to it. Still the game is fun, the music is catchy and if you are looking for a nice little arcade game to get you going this is as good a place as any to start, and let’s be honest do you really want to just get DK like everyone else or wouldn’t you rather have this, a game that is unique and probably a little more collectible than DK? I know I would.

16. Ninja Gaiden

I almost didn’t want to pick this one, first, it’s too obvious, second, its super hard. But let’s be real if you are looking to collect NES games this is going to be one of your first 30 purchases for sure. It’s a great game totally worthy of all the praise. Is it hard, HELL YEAH, but it’s also very fun.

17. The Simpsons: Bart vs. The World

You need at least one bad game in your collection to start off with, might as well get one that makes for a good talking piece right? Is the game bad, yes, but let’s be real the purpose of collecting the physical carts if you are going that route is to relive the 80’s, Simpsons games were terrible but we all played them, we all rented them over and over knowing they were bad but somehow hoping against all hope that if we just got good enough we might uncover a good game underneath. Also it’s not all bad, it does have some decent mini games and unlike the other games, it does have a coherent story, at least as coherent as an episode of the cartoon.

18. Zelda II: Adventure of Link

Love it or hate it you need this game in your collection ASAP. I personally loved it. In fact I can’t decide which Zelda game I enjoy more, I honestly put equal amounts of time into playing each one. I have owned every re-release of both Zelda NES games and I highly recommend both as a good starting point, and bonus, you get a little variety in the gameplay if you get this one and the first early on.

19. Blades of Steel

I don’t typically recommend getting sports games right away. I prefer to put them off until I have had a good library of non-sports games and then slowly pick them off one at a time. This is one of the better sports games on the console. Even if you don’t like sports NES sports games are mostly pretty good. This is certainly more fun to play than a game of baseball or golf, in my opinion. I might even do a separate list of the best NES sports games, who knows.

20. Joust

I know, another classic arcade game. What can I say, the NES was billed as an arcade in your living room, and it was so much better at delivering on that promise than everything that came before it. Joust is a good game, it’s a fairly good port, and I think it’s a game any collector should pick up because it’s just so easy to pick up and play.

21. Battletoads

It’s divisive to most but it’s still a good game, mostly. This is another one of those ‘NES hard’ games that is more frustrating than fun, but it has so much 80’s charm it’s just totally worth buying just for the humorous moments. Grab a friend and just have at it. The game is not just hard it is extremely hard, but any NES collector who wants to be taken seriously needs to add this game to their collection as early as they can.

22. Anticipation

One of those quirky NES games that just captures the spirit of the decade perfectly. Over the top, lots of mini games and puzzles, multiplayer, and it’s just got so much going on how can you turn this down?

23. Mega Man 2

I could just say pick any random one but we all know 2 is the one to get.

24. Little Nemo Adventures in Slumberland

I don’t know what the internet reaction to this game is, I haven’t really read many reviews, but I personally enjoyed it so much as a kid. Now, A Nightmare on Elm Street is one of my favorite movies, and part of that is I love the idea of a dream world. This game, and the movie, both do a very good job capturing that part of the imagination. This one is hard also, but seriously if you are playing NES games you should expect to pick up a few hard ones as you go.

25. Blaster Master

Here is a game that does get named a lot, but usually in hidden gems discussions. With the recent remaster on Switch, what better time than starting up a new NES collection to buy this classic? The game might not be on the top of anyone’s lists, it’s still a super fun, not overly difficult action game with some pretty original gameplay.

26. Ghosts N Goblins

If you thought I was going to make a list of 30 NES games to start your collection and leave off this game, you were nuts. Again, yes, it is an arcade game, and yes it is difficult, but by now hard/arcade ports are pretty much the best games to get on the NES, at least when you are getting back into it or just getting started.

27. Star Wars

I know the SNES games are better, but it’s Star Wars how can you not get excited? I happen to enjoy the 8-bit version slightly more than the SNES one at times because the driving isn’t as clumsy as it is in the 16-bit versions. They only made 2 for the NES, both are good but this is the one to get first.

28. Kid Icarus

It was either this or Metroid and I think getting started you will have more fun exploring a game that doesn’t have a bazillion sequels/remakes. The game is fun, but hard and this time it’s not even based on an arcade game.

29. Wild Gunman

You need more than one light gun game especially if you do get Duck Hunt early on with the Zapper, you’re going to want a second game to justify having the Zapper and shelling out money on that CRT tube TV set you had to in order to get it to play right. Also it was featured in Back to the Future, albeit as an arcade game which it was not originally. Still a fun game and very much worth getting early on.

30. Chip N Dale’s Rescue Rangers

Much like DuckTales this game is just a blast to play. The 2 player action is fantastic, the game really captures the essence of the show quite well and despite being released recently on modern consoles, it still holds up quite well as a great retro NES game.

There you have it, 30 great NES games to get you started on your journey to collecting for one of the greatest, most beloved home video game consoles of all time.