Ludonarrative dissonance dynamic lighting experience morality choice photorealistic immerse gatekeeping customization epic legendary exotic character story location angle geometry plethora competitive esports event coordinator quadrant realtime servers HUD display skeoumorph bloom lens flare isolation horror framerate.

Sexism goobergate 2spoopy FGC yourshield xbone Nindie journalism corruption objectivity review scores qualitative metacritic press embargo payola clickbait list tragedy relationships writer longform journal integrity transparency buzz hype troll abuse provoke boost blast community.

Retro remastered HD pixels stylistic gameplay voxel polygons controller input FPS Western JRPG quest nostalgia YouTubers gifting wink nod classic console smooth download physical media conjure remind evoke skip level design stage tournament speed culture run.

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Contributed by Alan Perry.

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To begin, the simplest exercise is to consider the video games and consoles that still maintain a popular following years after their initial launch. That leaves us with a list of Nintendo classics that includes games such as Mario, Mario Kart, Tetris, Goldeneye, and Pac-Man. There is no doubt that these titles are retro classics for the ages.

Those games have even managed to inspire loyalty among new players that never even played them until years after they hit the market. Additionally, we can also consider new versions of classic games as inspiring retro interest among gamers. Although they might be new, they can still inspire affection from retro enthusiasts.

Shifting the focus from specific games, consoles also have a strong bearing on retro status. It’s safe to say that any Nintendo console from the N64 backwards has retro status. The consoles effectively act as generation markers to guide us through the history of great games. Now that we have examples of retro games, it makes it easier to discuss how to define ‘retro.’

The Retro Concept

Straight off the bat, we can say that not all games are retro – most are just dated and unappealing. That leads us to the determination that retro games must have enduring appeal, and that means they must transcend technological advances. Retro games have to be well designed and highly functional – the graphics will inevitably age, but the game must always be fun.

A second characteristic of retro games is that they have to be cool. Retro classics like Pong will still elicit an “Aw cool!” reaction from the average person. And they have to be widely appreciated for their mass appeal and reputation. Retro doesn’t really apply when just a few people are playing a niche game that the world has forgotten about.

The cool nature of retro also extends to the fact that games aren’t widely available any more. As a result, rarity plays a factor in what makes a retro game cool. People seem to like things that they can’t have, which is perhaps why the SNES bazooka and its games are still sought after.

Continuing with availability, it isn’t quite enough to play a retro game on a modern device. Playing Pokémon Red on your smartphone definitely doesn’t compare to playing it on a Gameboy Colour. Going back a decade, playing Tetris on an original Gameboy is the epitome of retro.

Can Online Bingo be Considered Retro?

In a nutshell, online bingo first hit the market 15 years ago. Since its launch, the game has generated considerable popularity among players that never even experienced it in bingo halls, which is the more traditional format. Some of those players have even transitioned to mobile bingo, which is the latest innovation.

Considering online bingo is still very much in its prime, even spawning fresh innovations, it is a bit too early for it to quality as being retro. Conversely, provided it is executed correctly, the bingo hall experience does qualify as retro with the right crowd. However, this is likely because the game has been around for decades before the birth of online bingo.

All in all, online bingo is still very much in a boom period. More and more bingo sites are cropping up with each passing week, and players have to monitor their options with directories such as BingoSweets.com just to find their way through all of them.

Drawing your attention back to the characteristics of retro, widespread availability prevents games from achieving such lofty status. In that sense, online bingo doesn’t quite qualify at the moment because of the abundance of options. Perhaps the transition will occur in the years to come.


RomSTAR.

RomSTAR.

“If you are a dedicated ball-and-paddle connoisseur, Thunder & Lightning stands as an essential exhibit to try. Otherwise, some will enjoy while others will not. At least it is nifty-lookin’ and operates hitch-free.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.

I have a soft spot for RomStar as a developer.

Both Championship Bowling and Cowboy Kid are great examples of their work. You will hardly ever see these titles in any top-10 lists, nor even as people’s favorites, yet they possess a certain sort of charm that is difficult to put into words. They are the type of games you remember fondly, and clearly came from a competent team, but just never had the full polish of a AAA title for the era.

Sometimes, the flaws are obvious: Let’s be honest, there was never a huge market for a bowling game on the NES, even with four-player capability. And the narrative shortcomings of Cowboy Kid, a game in which you spend your time constantly shankin’ Mexicans, are cringeworthy. Really, from the execution to the title, Cowboy Kid seems like the kind of game a 12-year-old thought up in the 1950’s era of gunslinger television.

Then there is Thunder & Lightning. Again, with its unfortunate flaws (see the full review for details). But, again, with flourishes that would be an unexpected surprise — they put in a two-player simultaneous mode, which is cool, if executed a little strangely (two smaller paddles that cannot pass each other) and ends up more difficult than you would think.

One problem with paddle games... the RAGE.

One problem with paddle games… the RAGE.

Unlike Arkanoid with the Vaus controller and Breakout on Atari 2600 paddle controllers, Thunder & Lightning sticks you with full reliance on the D-Pad. This means that you are presented with obvious limitations in your play.

But if you like action-oriented puzzle games, and you can embrace the limitations herein… I can honestly recommend Thunder & Lightning. The frenetic moments of power-up overlap are very satisfying, and all the little characters that pose benefits and consequences alike are pleasant enough to meet.

Give Thunder & Lightning a try, if you can. It is definitely one of those quirky, slightly-obscure titles that will better your well-roundedness as a retro gamer. You might even really like it.

NES Gameplay Tips For Thunder & Lightning: Be patient, abuse the power-ups, and limit the opportunities for sharp angle changes near the floor.

There is room to explore some neat possibilities in this 8-bit game. I uploaded a video to show one of these little tricks.

Read The Full Review For: Non-categorized thoughts for you hipster review types out there, commentary on the music and pixel art, too many words, and critique on the one very particular flaw of this game.

Screenshots!

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nes_best_of_the_best_championship_karate_title_screen

“To make it worse, half the menu options are remarkably misleading.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.

People love intimidating menu screens, right?

People love intimidating menu screens, right?

Maybe it was the popularity of Karate Kid, or the prime of Jean-Claude Van Damme.

While I can enjoy Bloodsport thoroughly, the same cannot be said of many of the martial arts knock-offs of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. One of these was actually a movie, Best of the Best, which ended up as an 8-bit video game on the NES, too.

But you should avoid this one if you are a fan of things like “having fun” or “participating in a control scheme that makes sense” or “being able to press a button and immediately see the on-screen result of pressing that button.”

Playing Best of the Best Championship Karate is an exercise in chaos theory. This is a dumb, frustrating game. I bet there are people who are very good at it, who even enjoy it – and I don’t care. I do not like it.

A tip for would-be fighting game developers: In order to enhance the fun of your title, you should pay attention to crafting a compelling pace and flow for your gameplay. This is a lesson that the makers of Best of the Best never learned.

It is tough to find a worse blend of play control and hit detection. If you want to scape the very bottom of the barrel, you will have to look at Karate Champ. I am still not sure which I would rather play, honestly. At least Karate Champ is so ludicrous as to be amusing. This? Best of the Best?

Hm. What is the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy?

It gave this hit to the CPU. Of course it did.

It gave this hit to the CPU. Of course it did.

Read The Full Review For: A fleeting discussion of the Hollywood source material, something about silky-smooth sprite animations, and generally just some more details as to why playing this video game amounts to a big floppy disappointment.

NES Gameplay Tips For Best of the Best Championship Karate: Play with a friend who will be just as amused by the game’s incompetency as you.

Do not waste your time here. None of this makes any difference.

Do not waste your time here. None of this makes any difference.

I have enjoyed video games for over 20 years, and writing for most of my life.

In hindsight, it seems ridiculous to consider how long it took to combine the two. In the late 2000s, I was a man in my early 20’s of age, living in an apartment, soon dating and saving up for the best down payment on a mortgage that I could muster.

In the evenings, if I was not hanging out with my fiancé, I was writing simple little freelance articles. Quick topical pieces that required minimal research, 500-word profiles on recent celebrity events, basic how-to features, office administration tips, etc. These were the bite-sized snacks of the web world.

I wrote for content farms typically, rather than actual outlets. This meant that the pay for most of my efforts was very low, but with an intriguing twist: I may only have gotten a couple bucks at first, but every view got me a fraction of a cent. That sounds paltry, sure, but there were nights I was cranking out three articles an hour and the best ones would make me fifty cents to a dollar per month in views.

And sometimes, if I got lucky, one would catch on, thanks to the dark magic of search engine optimization. I had a top-ten list on Yahoo! that garnered over a million views and made between $100 and $300 a month for a while. It was a weird, cool feeling, knowing that something I wrote had been read that many times by that many people.

One day, I noticed a a certain batch of gaming-related titles (sometimes I would pick my own titles, sometimes I plugged into what was available to write to) that seemed strange. Apparently, I could review NES games. Those old Nintendo games I loved, the ones I still had around somewhere, they actually had some demand for content?

Huh.

So it began. I started with titles I was most familiar with. Now, keep in mind: I had never written video game reviews before. I literally had no idea what I was doing (not that I have much better now). But, boy, did I enjoy it! That was the stuff, man, right there – writing about my Nintendo memories, essentially.

My brain was cooking with adrenaline-fueled excitement. I was banging out consistent works, but, where to go from there? Now what? I had all these reviews, and I had the stirrings of a quest that I was elated to work on, but I wanted to drive some attention to it. After all, I wanted those half-pennies for each view. How could I enhance traffic beyond simply trying to abuse SEO strategy?

Well, I needed a website, of course. And a Twitter account, yes, that would be a great fit. You could accuse me of being all about the money at the time, but please understand: I really did enjoy it, and it was fun. But, sure, yeah, I liked the idea of potentially having a profitable hobby rather than an expensive one.

I began with a basic WordPress template. Through some bizarre cosmic miracle, a certain guy stumbled across my 8-bit review blog and decided to politely inform me that it was ugly and he could design it to be much better.

That was so cool. All the pieces were in place: My own NintendoLegend.com URL, a custom theme, logo, and the Twitter account.

By far, the most popular page on the site has always been the list of NES games. People are more likely to Google “complete North American list of NES game releases” than, say, “Athena NES game review.” I really like the list page. Heck, I use it myself when I need the reference.

The question always came up every once in a while, though, concerning the format. Why do you write an informal blog post, then link separately to the full review? And the reason was always simple, if unintuitive for most people: I got paid more to host the reviews on pages where I was paid on a per-click basis. NintendoLegend.com, believe it or not, by hosting these reviews elsewhere has always turned a profit year-over-year.

I mean, not, like, a significant amount, at all, but it has paid for itself.

To be clear again: I did it primarily for fun, not out of some fantasy of getting rich by writing about 20-year-old games. In fact, I got hooked on Twitter and that became as great as anything else. Discovering the rich retro gaming community was a blessing, and I am so glad to be a part of it. That is the short way to put it.

Especially since the blog stuff got more difficult. In the first month of NintendoLegend.com’s existence, before the redesign, I wrote 50 reviews. At that rate, I would have been finished reviewing the North American release library in less than a year and a half. After that first month? A steep decline in review rate. Life got busier: Having a fiancé turned into having a wife. Living in an apartment turned into maintaining a house.

Then came Google’s understandable decisions to redo their search algorithms to negate SEO and nullify the content farms. Then came the changes in policies of the struggling content farms themselves. No more upfront payments, per-view pennies only. Eventually, one of the sites died outright. Thus the dozens upon dozens of broken links now. Sorry about that, I will get around to fixing those someday.

Hear me out: That sucked, but the best part of the gradual decline in revenue potential was a massive shift in my motivation. I went from a vague hope of maybe being profitable but having fun on the side to purely trying to be the best member of the retro gaming community I could be.

There was a really neat period of about a year or so where I was collaborating like crazy, writing a bi-weekly retro news column for Retroware, doing stupid Let’s Play videos just because I could, exchanging lots of emails with people, trying to do interviews, growing the Twitter presence rapidly, and still wanting more.

At some point, we founded 1 More Castle. To make a long (already too long) story short, I became more passionately involved in that than I did my own original personal blog – largely because, frankly, I recognized that it was so much better. Something about a collaborative community goal beats out a lone rogue’s journey into the niche. I am so fond of having a contributor team, and being about something just a little bit bigger, and doing really nifty events.

And then came unemployment, and then a new job that had me working more hours and traveling more (but I like the job), and then the pregnancy, and… here I am.

I am in this strange new place of recognizing that my time is scarce, but not entirely gone. I mean, I am writing this, after all, right? But my time is not best spent playing an obscure NES game and then crafting a quality review for it. My priorities do not quite align that way.

I could write more, about that feeling, right there, that specific phenomenon that it has taken years to go through; although, it does feel like so much navel-gazing, and so silly. I do not consider myself famous, nor do I even believe I owe anyone anything. I am merely Some Guy. I just really like old video games, and I like writing, and I like occasionally combining those two items.

Yet the idea of writing over 400 more NES-game reviews, and trying to do it well, sounds utterly exhausting. It sounds like labor. It sounds futile, at this point.

So…

… okay, I’m not shutting down the site or anything, no. No, that’s not it.

But I’m not making any promises, either.

This corner of the web will keep the lights on, even if I have no idea when the next new review will be, nor how many more I will do. I am just a man with a busy life outside of video games that wishes I could curl up under a magic time-freezing blanket and return to my old friend here more often.

I think I am more honest now. I think I am, for the first time, okay with the thought of never finishing the project – which, at points past, would have been upsetting to consider. Now, it’s okay. I am far more concerned with always striving to be a better husband, a better father, and a better person. That’s okay, too.

I think I’ll always find room for old video games somewhere in the picture, and it will take something truly devastating to take me away from 1 More Castle and Twitter, but here it is. Just something I needed to write for myself. This has been a great ride, and now is a great time to really ease off the throttle.


The animation here is beautiful, all the tanks rolling across the plains...

The animation here is beautiful, all the tanks rolling across the plains…

“The smoke bomb looks like a big turd.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.

I really wanted to like Battle Tank.

I mean, I still kinda do, I do not loathe it exactly, but it just pushes too many of my buttons. Didn’t I just review another NES game in which you have to manage fuel consumption?

Speaking of NES games I recently reviewed, I like my games to combine both thought and action. I think a game can definitely be too intellectual, but I also firmly believe that if it is 100% oriented on action, it will ultimately be a more shallow, less fulfilling, less worthwhile experience. When you hear someone describe a game as “empty,” I bet they want something more, although that could be referring to an emotional connection too.

FIRE!

FIRE!

Anyway, here is my point: Great games seamlessly blend elements of both thought and action from the player with an emotive story. Consider the Legend of Zelda series, as a whole really, as a wonderful example there. Now, a lack of emotional plot can be forgiven in the name of fun, sure.

On paper, Battle Tank seems like the perfect mix (in addition: TANKS!). I really liked MechWarrior games on PC back in the day. I like the idea of piloting a complex machine capable of widespread devastation. I like, in theory, being able to command many separate options for weaponry and maneuvers alike. I like turn-based stuff, but doing this in real time has a more gut-punching appeal.

But Battle Tank has failed me. With its A.I. tanks that seem to too readily revert to a “run away” strategy (which is Hell on those fuel reserves, by the way), the way it magically seems to ignore my controller input just at the moment I need a precise shot, the smoke bomb that simply looks like a piece of poop… too many little negative ingredients add up to equalize the positive.

I really like how the map screen is used in this game, actually.

I really like how the map screen is used in this game, actually.

Battle Tank is not bad. But it is not nearly as great as I want to be. And I do not want every game to be great, if that makes sense. Some, I am quite satisfied to let them reside in Mediocre Land.

Battle Tank is the kind of game I could have loved had it been given just a little more love first.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning?

I love the smell of napalm in the morning?

NES Gameplay Tips For Battle Tank: Move as little as possible, treat your 150MM shells as precious artifacts, apply small-arms fire liberally, use the map to your advantage (in other words: use the map a lot), @#$% those helicopters, and avoid mines (duh right).

Read The Full Review For: Thoughts on game design that I am not qualified to have, my unfairly simplistic take on game designer Garry Kitchen’s legacy, additional gameplay screenshots, and a couple pathetic attempts at jokes.


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“… do not enter the Rally with great expectations.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.

If I want to play a vertically scrolling top-down racer, I think I am just going to have to stick with Spy Hunter.

I mean, Rally Bike is not, like, monstrously bad. Look at it, this kinda looks like fun:

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Although it is certainly missing some charm from the arcade original:

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Really, though, I believe in judging the NES game on its own merits, regardless of its arcade counterpart, no matter whether the port is well-done or done atrociously. This one falls middle-of-the-pack for me.

 

Read The Full Review For: Several comparisons to other NES games, what I think of the soundtrack, additional gameplay screenshots, and what the ultimate problem of Rally Bike on NES is.

NES Gameplay Tips for Rally Bike: Go fast without hitting anything and win every race. Right? No but seriously I am not good at this game sorry.

CHAMP

CHAMP


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“But the true beauty of Rampart is the elegant interchange between each of the phases.”
– from the full review, which you can read here.

Did you know that Rampart was an arcade game?

I sure didn’t, until I spotted the cabinet at Galloping Ghost on my recent trip there. The Ghost is now on Twitter, too, by the way.

But then again, Rampart was made for many systems altogether. The Atari Lynx, the major 16-bit consoles, the ST, C64, PS3…

I love this wordy intro in the instruction booklet. Haha. What a mark of its time.

I love this wordy intro in the instruction booklet. Haha. What a mark of its time.

Like Lemmings, I suppose: A nichey little real-time strategy puzzler with enough of an addicting quality to have a broad appeal. I do like Rampart more, though. And unlike Battleship, this has a two-player mode. Granted, I think the difficulty of executing a two-player Battleship video game is much greater than most would give credit for, but…

Hey, it’s Rampart. A decent game. Good for a little diversionary fun. I would recommend trying it out, but I would never call it great. That said, it has totally aged better than many other NES titles (hello there, crappy platformers galore!), as I could see this being a very fun touchscreen title.

BOMBS AWAY!

BOMBS AWAY!

NES Gameplay Tips For Rampart: If the walls surrounding your previously cozy castle have been destroyed in such a systematic way as to make repairs very difficult and requiring of exact precision, consider the benefit of, instead, taking advantage of the blank verdant slate offered by another castle site, and build there instead. Ultimately, the two important skills in Rampart are wall-piece manipulation and cannon fire, each of which poses the kind of challenge that only practice will ultimately overcome. Good luck.

Read The Full Review For: A few decent turns of phrase I do not believe I have tried out before, yet only to dive into a lazy sort of ‘meh’ that I have been guilty of all too often. Also, my struggle to find synonyms for the word “wall.” Oh, and several more gameplay screenshots.

And that's how it's done, son.

And that’s how it’s done, son.

MAJOP PLAYOR'S

MAJOP PLAYOR’S

 

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