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Play all of the Nintendo!

I didn’t mean to do this.

I stumbled into what will likely take a few years to complete: Play every game for NES and write a short review about it.

I got one of those fancy PowerPaks for my original NES, the same NES I had since I was 10. I promptly loaded all the games onto a Compact Flash card and giggled at the possibility of having access to everything. I had this feeling before but the main difference between this and emulators on a computer is that I would be playing with the original hardware and controllers. Nothing could be closer to actually having all these games on hand. I was always an odd purist about it, because I wanted to know in the back of my mind, that all the timings and such would be the same, that the experience would be right.

There was a second issue.

Having ALL THE GAMES comes with it a certain amount of ADD. After playing any title for a few seconds, I feel my finger creep to the power button, hungry to load up more and see what else could be in store. This, of course, leads to being bored more quickly, since no game really has the opportunity to sink its teeth into me. I had to find a better way.

So, I decided to force myself to start at the top and work my way down and to give myself further incentive by writing a short blurb about each title. I wasn’t going to try and beat each game, I’m no Wizard (sorry, Fred Savage), but I was going to give it a fighting chance to hook me. I needed enough to write something, even if that something is wildly wrong or ends up down a tangent that doesn’t have a lot to do with the game: so be it. This was an exercise in trying to write more and play more old games. I want a clear understanding of the most iconic period in games for me, on the very first system I ever owned. Where this will lead me, is uncertain. But, I’m hoping we can all have a good time on the way. I’m especially looking forward to all the random kid-centric shovelware. Aren’t you?

So without further ado, here are the first 3 titles I played:

10-yard-fight-usa-europeI spent the first part of 10-Yard Fight thinking I was on offense when I was really on defense and it took a touchdown with the points landing in “C” to convince me otherwise. I understand this is the grandaddy of all football games, but oh boy is it clunky: kickoff returns felt like I was leading a zombie horde, my possessions were magically taken away from me (I can only assumed I fumbled?), kicking looked to me like passing. Once I got a sense of offense, and actually waited the agonizing time it took for my receiver to get into position, then I just ran the same play over and over and actually scored some points. Running the ball was a mystery. When the game was done, I was told to go to the locker room because I suck. Sure thing coach, be happy to oblige and never look back. Avoid it!

1943_battle_of_midway_box_artSadly, the rom for 1942 wouldn’t run correctly, so I moved on to the sequel. I’ve always had a soft spot for shoot ’em ups, and this one still holds up, though the difficulty (like many NES games) seems to ramp up almost exponentially. The power ups and leveling system may be limited, but it’s nice to see in such an older arcade port. I am, however, a little perplexed on why the Japanese would develop a game about destroying their own airborne military in the heart of WWII. I can’t imagine the U.S. was the only market for this game and can’t recall many where you are pitted against your own country: seems especially true of America. I’m sure it exists, but it’s amusing no one seems to be bothered too much about it.That being said, it was hard for me to stop playing especially with the addition of an infinite continue screen that puts you back at the level you left, albeit at the beginning. That’s how they get you. This time I’ll get it, you think, this time I know I can blow up my own country. Play it!

3-d-worldrunner-usaInteresting thing: this game is called 3-D Battles of World Runner, but the box seems to say otherwise. This was still pretty early for Nintendo to really start pushing the hardware, but this game from Square actually does a pretty good job of trying to blow some minds. It’s a pretty simple game, some sort of Space-Harrier like runner where after your 3 lives you start all the way over again. After playing it for a bit, my goal became reaching World 2, which sadly just switched out a few enemies and changed the color of the checkerboard background. Music was the same repetitive tune as well. It did feel like an early title.I happened to have my Rad Racer 3D glasses near me and tried them on this, since in keeping with its name, it supposedly had some depth trickery up its sleeve. Sadly the tints were off a bit (they don’t make these things universal it seems) but I still got a little bit of the effect. It was like Virtual Boy: which meant I had them on for all of 30 seconds before I noped out. This game was ragged on for being basically a straight up clone of Space Harrier, which I can completely understand. It was cool to see that effect trying to be put on a home system and I applaud it for that. It felt a lot like a predecessor to a mobile game, good for a few minutes but not a lot of staying power. Try it!

Come back next Thursday for more retro goodness! Look forward to seeing you all there.

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6 thoughts on “Play all of the Nintendo!

  1. This is some undertaking! Good luck with all the crappy 8 bit games out there.

    I just built myself a small Retropie 3 this winter. It has been rather enjoyable to drop into a lot of these classic games, but I must say I have more of an affinity towards the 16 bit era.

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  2. My first thought was that the programmers for the US versions of 1942/3 just switched the graphics around to make the player an American and the enemies Japanese, and then rewrote the backstory in the manual, but I checked the Japanese Wikipedia entry, and it turns out you play an American in that version, too. I did some googling, and it turns out that a lot of Japanese people have the same question. I didn’t find a definitive answer, but one thing that someone pointed out is that while the player’s sprite is modeled after an actual American WWII plane, the enemy sprites don’t resemble Japanese planes used in World War II. I don’t know whether that’s true, and I’m not sure how much it would placate any Japanese person who took offense.

    Back in grade school, I saw some pictures of World Runner and thought the surreal checkerboard landscapes looked like the coolest thing ever. Years later, when I actually got to try the game, I was disappointed that it just wasn’t that much fun. Still, I wish there were more games that took this esthetic approach instead of just trying to look realistic.

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  3. 1943 really has that old school arcade feel to it. If not for the graphics, it would just about work as an Atari game.

    World Runner is really cool visually, but not a whole lot of fun to play. (Also, I suck at it.)

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  4. I have a semi-functional Nintendo, and I thinking I’m going to pull it out and fix it up the rest of the way. Which will include buying new controllers, because both of them have cracked and exposed cabling. (Although maybe I can fix that with that shink-tubing stuff.)

    But I wouldn’t try to play games on it. At least, not one I didn’t physically own.

    The Powerpack thing is $135, which is literally more than the NES itself cost when it came out!

    There’s a good reason for that, apparently, the NES didn’t have memory management stuff built in, like computers do, so cartridges are not just ROMs like people think, they all have various processors on them. (Which seems like a *really* dumb way to design a system, cutting a small amount off the system price in return for making every game more expensive, but whatever.) So the Powerpack actually has to do a hell of a lot of work emulating *all* of those possible memory management things that were developed over the years. In fact, it can’t do it.

    This is also why NES emulators, and other emulators of cartridge systems, still are not perfectly, whereas once you hit CD and DVD based systems, they work perfectly (Well, until you hit the online stuff.)

    But, still, $135 dollars!

    I’ll probably fix my NES up just for fun, and then eventually buy a NES to USB cable so I can emulate things properly on my computer.

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  5. DavidTC: This is also why NES emulators, and other emulators of cartridge systems, still are not perfectly, whereas once you hit CD and DVD based systems, they work perfectly (Well, until you hit the online stuff.)

    What? Emulation of cartridge-based consoles is way ahead of emulation of CD-based consoles. AFAIK the only CD-based console that’s been more or less fully solved is the original PlayStation. PCSX2 and Dolphin still have significant compatibility issues. I don’t think there are any XBox emulators that come close. Last-gen consoles pretty much don’t work at all.

    It’s true that cartridge emulation poses unique challenges for the reasons you state, but the systems themselves were simpler, and people have been working on them for longer.

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    • AFAIK the only CD-based console that’s been more or less fully solved is the original PlayStation.

      I was under the impression that PCSX2 worked extremely well. The internet certainly seems to think so.

      Dolphin is a bit weird in that it’s trying to do two systems, but I was also under the impression it worked well. Again, the internet seems to agree.

      I have not, however, ever tried either of those, so perhaps I am wrong.

      I don’t think there are any XBox emulators that come close.

      I honestly have never understood that. XBoxs do not even require ’emulation’, just virtualization.

      You also forgot Dreamcast, which has emulation.

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