Life Goes On

There’s not a lot to write about in my life.  I tend toward things remaining the same in my life, nothing really new that I haven’t already mentioned in other writings (back when I used to write…).  Still at the same job, doing the same thing, going to church, leading 4th and 5th grades, haven’t been in a show since December, still never go out socializing, etc.  As retrogaming me I did get two new products toward that end.  Well, one has been ordered but not shipped yet as they never emailed me on it.  That would be a small bluetooth game controller called the Zeemote that I understand actually works with my phone.  You see, my phone has crippled bluetooth (oddly by HTC, not AT&T) that doesn’t allow most game controllers to function.  People have bought and used Wiimotes with Android, but any phones like mine that use HTC Sense cannot use this and other controllers.  In fact the one I ordered won’t work as a controller, but as a generic input device that replaces the touch keyboard.  As such, it has to be enabled only when used, then turned off when done so the touch keyboard will work again.  Oh, well.  The other item I ordered and have been using is a Supercard DSTwo for my DSi.  This allows me to play older games on the DS, though it lacks good Atari and Genesis emulators, and some emulators don’t exist at all like Intellivision and Atari 5200/7800.  Of course newer devices like Playstation, Saturn, N64 and later generations can’t be reasonably emulated on the DS.

So, other things?  I have my eye set on a musical production called Noah next fall (same group as Wonderful Life), or if not MoS will be doing Dracula the Musical, another co-production with another group like they just did for Jesus Christ Superstar.  Six weekends- wow.  I just went to see it today- it actually wasn’t that bad.  I think they toned down the original to make it less disrespectful of our Lord and Savior, but there were still a few of those elements there.  I suppose there is only so much one can do without starting to rewrite it.  It’s a little surprising though that they did anything at all, not being a Christian group.  Do either of my readers happen to know if there are character roles in Dracula besides the title role?  I fully expect that role to go to their resident lead.  I suppose I am not a romantic lead type in any event, which is part of the role, in a way.  Still, he is part character like Jekyll and Hyde (same writer by the way) so who knows?  Maybe the lead will be busy with other things.

On a similar note, can anyone see me as Archibald in Secret Garden?  That’s a role I still want to do at some point if the show isn’t completely dead.  There’s also Les Mis, but there is truly small hope in that show for the foreseeable future.

The Handheld Addiction

From the dawn of the console video game system- well, from the Atari VCS/2600 anyway, close enough to the beginning in any event- I have been an avid partaker of home video games.  Starting with the Atari, then moving onto Colecovision, NES, Sega Master System & Genesis, then slowing down a little, eventually getting a Playstation, 3DO, and a Gamecube.  Absent from all this was any sort of handheld system.  Well, if you don’t count the single-game LCD games from the early 80s- I did have a handheld Donkey Kong.  But as far as interchangeable handhelds, this era just passed me by.  From the Gameboy and its successors to the Atari Lynx, Sega Gamegear and Nomad (official portable Genesis) I have known of their existence and even played other people’s systems, but as far as owning one…?

A few months ago that changed when I picked up one of these little guys:
DSi XL

Actually, it’s bigger than the picture looks- it’s the Nintendo DSi XL Super Mario Bros 25th anniversary edition.  While others have gaming tastes that lean toward strategy games, shooters, and online games, I have gravitated more toward the Nintendo-esque platformers and adventure games.  That is, Super Mario Bros and Legend of Zelda.  Currently my library consists of just eight games, but I have access to more through my library.  In fact, that got me interested in a puzzle series, “Professor Layton.”  That is one of my games that I have yet to fire up aside from testing.  Besides that game I have three Mario games (Mario & Luigi II, Super Mario 64- an enhanced version of the old N64 title, and Mario Kart DS which came with the system), Zelda Spirit Tracks, a couple Sega titles (Sonic Rush and Phantasy Star 0), and a Konami game collection.  I eventually plan on getting the other Zelda title, the New Super Mario Bros, and the two Atari Greatest Hits collections.

So far, only two have had a lot of play time- two of the Mario games.  I have been playing the Mario 64 title most recently.  This game consists of the original 15 courses and the secret stars, and adds a bunch more.  I believe there are 30 more stars to obtain than the original.  Despite being called Mario 64, you actually get to play as four different characters, another of many changes from the N64 days.  In fact, when you start you can’t even play as Mario- you start as Yoshi and have to rescue Mario, Luigi, and Wario before you can play as them, though on many courses you can pick up a hat to play as a particular character until you get hit and lose the hat.  In the original, Mario got special abilities from blocks such as flying Mario, transparent Mario, and metal Mario (I’m sure I am not remembering the names correctly).  In this game, each character gets one of these abilities from the block, and it adds breathing fire for Yoshi.

To make things more interesting, there are things placed in courses that only one character can access.  There are things in ice blocks only Yoshi can melt with his fire ability, giant black blocks only Wario can smash, and of course the various things requiring the special abilities.  So far, I have completed over half the courses, and a few stars each from a couple more.  I have also collected several castle stars, some of which are not in the original game.  And remember the rabbits Mario had to catch?  Well, they increased that- a lot.  Now you catch rabbits for keys to play mini-games (I haven’t played any yet, but my guess is they are like the Mario Party mini-games) and there are different color rabbits depending on who you are playing as.  There are also eight glowing white rabbits- if you catch all of them, you can open a special door to get who-knows-what.  So far I have only seen and caught four or five of the eight.  I think I have some 110 or so stars, well over enough to do the final battle with Bowser (80 required) though I haven’t yet.

Controls are a little different from the original as the DS doesn’t have an analog control like the N64 did.  Instead, they go back to the classic style with a walking speed, but then you can go faster by holding a button while walking.  There are a couple other styles by mimicking analog via the touch screen, which shows a map throughout the game, but it just doesn’t work for me.  The new 3DS adds an analog control, but it will be a few years before I get one of those.  Anyway, here’s a video you can watch.  It’s the first part of a walkthrough of the entire game:

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Here are a few videos for other games I mentioned:

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What’s old is new

Isn’t that a common statement for fads and fashion?  Well in this case I am referring to something else.  Once upon a time, one Nolan Bushnell founded a gaming company that would become big- very big.  In 1977 they would put out not the first, but the most popular video gaming system of the time with interchangeable games.  The same company also produced popular arcade machines and computers.  Well, sort of- there was a split at one point into Atari Games and Atari Corp, but I am not sure which company did what- I believe Atari Games was strictly the arcade division while Atari Corp was everything else.  In any event, following the dreaded video game crash of 1984 (1983?), Atari was never quite the same.  The 16-bit successor to their 400/800/XL line of computers, the Atari ST, was fairly successful, but that would be pretty much be the last of the computers, aside from the short-lived 32-bit TT.  As for the consoles, they would never again achieve the success of the VCS/2600 though they would try all the way through the Jaguar in 1993.  Of course, these failing years, and many of the successful ones too, were not run by Bushnell himself as he “left” the company (read: fired) in December of 1978 according to Wikipedia.  The failing years were in fact with the infamous Jack Tramiel in the hot seat, who not only oversaw the failing of Atari but Commodore as well, but that is beside the point.  The point being Nolan Bushnell, who is now in fact on the board of directors of the current company that calls itself Atari.  Make no mistake, this is not the same company that Bushnell founded, but rather the French company formerly known as Infogrames who found itself with Atari’s assets when they purchased Hasbro Interactive in late 2000.  However, it is nevertheless interesting to find Bushnell on the board of directors for Atari for the first time in over 30 years.  Will anything come of this?  I don’t know, but here is a link to an interview with him.  It has some mistakes, like dating the 2600 to 1984 instead of 1977, but is an interesting read:

Atari Founder Nolan Bushnell “Returns”

(added quotation marks mine)

A couple of old Atari commercials on Youtube:

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Nothing much…

But if you have noticed my countdown in the last couple of months, you know there is a movie I am waiting for.  A new trailer has just been released:

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And if you are an old school PC gamer, you may be interested to know that a fan-game based on the old Sierra adventure game series, King’s Quest, has finally seen the light of day after being hit with a cease-and-desist not once but twice by two different companies as the old Sierra assets have been passed around.  Well, the first chapter of The Silver Lining has been approved by Activision and is now available for your enjoyment.  You just have to sign up for their fan club to download it.

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http://www.tsl-game.com/

As long as I’m posting Youtube videos, I might as well add a third item to the post I just read about.  It can be seen as retro-gaming related as well, as it is an easter egg that allows you to play snake in any Youtube video that uses the newer interface.  Rather than trying to summarize the news, let me just point you to where I read it:

Neowin: Easter egg on YouTube lets you play Snake

A Retrogaming Post

As I promised to JustJ, my next post is a retrogaming one!  I decided to make it about a single game, one that spawned many versions and was the first arcade game from Nintendo’s famed Shigeru Miyamoto, a new hire at the time who was charged with making a game that would be used in the many leftover cabinets of a game that didn’t sell so well.  In arcade terms, a conversion kit.  If you know any Nintendo video game history, you know this is the man who came up with the hot selling Super Mario Bros and Legend of Zelda series.  In video games, he is a creative genius.  But this post isn’t about Mr. Miyamoto, it is about his first smash hit called Donkey Kong.  While I was sort of a general arcade game junkie of the time, this one game was my absolute favorite.  For those who have been a long time away from the game, here is a short video of the arcade game in action:

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I remember I was so jealous of a kid named Jason who was in my boy scout troop.  He was so good at the game that he could make it all the way to round four.  By that, I don’t mean the fourth screen, I mean the fourth level set which always started with the barrels screen and ended with the blue rivets screen where, once won, the feared ape would fall to his doom and the hero Mario, then just known as Jumpman, would rescue his lady only to start over in the next round.  Myself, I could only make it to round two or, on a very lucky day, round three.  Never past though.  But Jason made the game seem really easy.  Of course he was no King of Kong (see the recent movie about record setters Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe and their quests to maintain (in Mitchell’s case) or break (Wiebe) the world record on Donkeyt Kong) but still a world away from me.  If I made it to round three, Kong would hand my butt to me on the second elevators screen.

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As a fan of the game, I owned or played several iterations of it in the next several years.  The first one was the Nintendo Game & Watch version.  Their Game & Watch games were sort of a precursor to their Gameboy system in the late 80s.  These games had set LCD graphics that allowed only one game per system.  You can see all of these lit up briefly at the start of the next video before the game starts.  Believe it or not, you can actually play this and other G&W games on your PC using simulators (LINK)- in fact, that’s just what is used in the video:

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My favorite memory of this game is first playing it in school when a kid named John brought one back from a visit to Japan.  I was bummed that it was an import I couldn’t get until one day I actually saw it in the store and convinced my mom to get me one (it was likely a birthday or Christmas gift, I can’t remember)!  Cheesy as it was, I played it to death.  My eyes later opened really wide when a new video game system came out with Donkey Kong as a pack-in game- the Colecovision!  Up until this time we owned an Atari VCS (later rebadged “2600” when the 5200 was released) on which Coleco simultaneously released a far watered-down version of this title that would sell their own game:

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It is almost certain they made this, and other Atari versions of their Colecovision games, laughably bad in order to make their own look even more superior in order to make sales of their console.  This game system was absolutely a Christmas gift- no affording this sort of thing during the rest of the year!  The graphics were not quite up to par, and a level was missing, but it still looked spot on to my juvenile mind!  Needless to say, I played this one to death too:

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Sometime during all this, I was introduced to games on the Apple ][ computer.  Our school had them, and so then did the library.  I am not sure if there was an official version of Donkey Kong on it, but if there was I am sure I never played it.  However, there was a very difficult ripoff from the big software publisher of the time Broderbund called Cannonball Blitz, and the library had it.  I am not sure why the image in the video is all yellow- perhaps a bad camera recording a monochrome amber display?  There is only one other video that I could find on youtube of it running on an Apple ][ emulator on an Android phone, but it was small and the sound was very soft.

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Eventually, following the infamous video game crash when people stopped buying game consoles due to the glut of shovelware (absolutely terrible games) that was released for the systems, Nintendo decided to test the waters with their brand new Nintendo Entertainment System that we all fondly call the NES.  Okay, it wasn’t really new as it had been sold in the Japanese market as the Famicom for over a year, but it was new to us!  Once again, the pack-in title caught my 15-year-old eye because it looked identical to the game I had been playing in the arcades- Super Mario Bros.  I asked for and received the cheap version (no light gun or robot) for my birthday.  However, SMB was really not the first game released for the system.  Remember, the Japanese had it for over a year.  However, one of their first releases was- you guessed it- Donkey Kong.  This version looked even more perfect than the Colecovision one, but for some inexplicable reason it was still missing the fourth level, the pie factory.  They also discarded the opening sequence.  If any version should have been complete, it was this one.  Donkey Kong Jr. had all four of its levels, so why not Donkey Kong?  Oh, well.  Anyway, I don’t recall ever owning this one, but I did play it, so here it is:

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Donkey Kong of course lived on in an updated version for Gameboy, and in spirit in the Donkey Kong Country games for the SNES and Gameboy, Donkey Kong 64 for the Nintendo 64, and others.  In any event, that’s the end of this long post about one game over many systems- I hope you enjoyed it!

Legend of Zelda video bonanza

On the topic of The Legend of Zelda I brought up a couple of posts ago, here are a few videos I turned up at Youtube/Google Video.  Enjoy!

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Hilarious live action parody.  College video, so has some foul language at a couple of points.

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Japanese Legend of Zelda dance.  ‘Nuff said.

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Different live action video.  Funny soundtrack too.

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Remember I mentioned getting so into the first Zelda that I had a book of maps I drew?  Well, this could have been me if I had a video camera at the time and was more outgoing…

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Legend of Zelda the movie!  Wait, what was that release date again?

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Two in one- Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda live in concert!  Be warned, this is a two hour video and has the music from these games in the styles of Jazz, Latin, Country and Bluegrass.  Performed September 14th, 2003 at the Nihon Seinenkan Hall in Tokyo, Japan.  I haven’t watched this yet but it looked interesting enough to post here.

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Legend of Zelda

Okay, I’m shifting gears for a post.  I really have nothing exciting to report for the last couple of days.  The second 6th-grade day went much like the first, though my perception of it was better because I really enjoyed working with the kids.  5th and 6th are probably my favorite age group to work with, though sometimes with a class that is a real problem I might let that get in the way and no longer enjoy it.  Friday was an ELL primary day.  It was a resource class so I worked with groups an hour at a time.  All we did was play board games.  Educational board games, but still.

So, why not talk about probably my favorite game series of all time?  I believe 1986 or 1987 was the year that the first Legend of Zelda was released here in the US.  When I received this game (gift I think) I was impressed with both the gold-colored cartridge and the fact that it actually saved games, no need to enter a long password to continue a game.  Never mind that later I would find out the consequence of this battery-backed save system was the game periodically being erased, something that couldn’t happen with a password system, though incorrectly writing down one could generate the same frustration.  I played and played this game, making my own book of maps which I still have somewhere.  When the quest was finished it really wasn’t because now there was another quest to play and map.

Legend of ZeldaAdventure of Link

About a year later a new game game out- Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.  Though very different than the first, I still played this game a lot though I don’t remember mapping it like I mapped the first.  There is an interesting story to this one.  The US wasn’t the first to get a release of this game.  I was able to get an imported copy of it for a little over $100 at Gamer’s Paradise.  This was apparently a European release, or at least it had a multilanguage manual indicative of European releases.  The funny part of this story is that our admin here may have provided Gamer’s Paradise with the very copy I purchased, according to him!  I hadn’t even met him at this time but now of course we are close friends.

The third and fourth games in the series, for the SNES and Gameboy I had to wait to play as I didn’t own the systems.  I think C lent me his SNES to play that Zelda game, but the Gameboy one would have to wait for emulation on the computer before I would play that one, the color version of course.  Similarly, I would play the two Oracle games this way as well.  I never did try linking the two games with the emulator to get the bonus content that owners of both games would get after completing both.

A Link to the PastLink's Awakening

In 2000 two programmers would make waves in the emulation world, fielding the wrath of Nintendo with their release of an emulator for a system that was still selling in stores- the Nintendo 64.  It required a 3DFX card and didn’t play many games, but one of the games it was made to play was none other than Ocarina of Time- the first Zelda in 3D.  Nintendo did an excellent job updating this game for 3D which was unlike many older games updated to a first-person 3D perspective and I soon found myself buying a 3D card for my computer to play this game.  Why didn’t I just spend my money on the N64 system and Zelda?  I don’t know- I guess I am more computer-centric and it must have been cheaper.  When the next title came out, Majora’s Mask, and it didn’t play well with emulators, C came to the rescue again and lent me his N64 this time so I could play this.  Different than the first N64 title, but still quite fun.

Ocarina of TimeMajora's Mask

Over the last several years my need to play games, including Zelda, has been waning.  I did eventually obtain a Gamecube with Windwaker and eventually Twilight Princess (which I stopped about halfway through over a year and a half ago and haven’t picked up since), but I haven’t played games like the Four Swords adventures, the Minish Cap, or the Phantom Hourglass to name a few.  One of these days I may pick up a used DS, but considering how much I actually play games these days my money is probably better spent on other things.

Want to play Zelda-style games for free?  I’m not talking about emulation here, and certainly not about theft :o.  I’m talking about a program that can make and play games in the style of the original Legend of Zelda.  While the games are in the style of the original NES game, the graphics and sound on the adventures many people make are more in the line of later systems.  Some even use custom graphics to make non-Zelda games.  Zelda Classic can be had for Window, Linux, and OSX.  You can get Zelda Classic and quest files (the custom quests) at:

Zelda Classic main site (http://www.zeldaclassic.com/) (You can also get the main program for Windows here)

PureZC (http://www.purezc.com/)

Both sites have forums too, for discussion of Zelda Classic and quests for it.  If you want Zelda Classic for Linux, OSX, or just recent builds for Windows (only recent builds work correctly with Vista) you have to get it at http://www.shardstorm.com/. You will have to scroll down to find the latest Linux or OSX builds as the most recent are for Windows only.

Well, I hope you don’t mind my post on retrogaming.  I’ll get back to subbing news when I have something interesting to post.  Until then.