Sorry guys, you won't be getting a Top Games of 2015 list from me. For one, I don't own a current generation console to play games released this year on, and secondly, my list of my favorite games I played it 2015 will be available early next year when you listen to the RF Generation Playcast (http://rfgenplaycast.podbean.com/) .....shameless plug!! Instead, I'll be focusing on a topic that has baffled and frustrated me (and probably you) for years and that is, "What import games can I play on my North American consoles without having to import systems?" I certainly won't be able to cover every system, but I'll try to cover the more well-known and most-owned consoles. I understand that some imported games can be burned or pirated for play on North American systems; however, since this method is frowned upon by a large majority of the community, I will not be covering or suggesting this method for any system here. I hope many of you will find this article useful and please think of it and my research as my holiday gift to you!
**DISCLAIMER: Please be advised that I have not tried several of these methods myself and that the great majority of the information that I have assembled here has been compiled through research. I have verified as much of the information as possible, but some of it may be incorrect. If you find that something is incorrect, please send me a PM and I can verify and edit this post. Thank you!**
Continue reading Is it Region-Locked or Region-Free?
Publisher: U.S. Games
Developer: Western Technologies, Inc.
Rarity (according to AtariAge): 4 = Scarce+
Number of Players: 1 player (against computer) & 2 player (head-to-head)
Average Cost: approx. $2 - $5 loose
Also Available On: Only available on the Atari 2600
Tagline/Description: "Defend your future civilization's energy supply against waves of devious attack missiles. Your energy stations stand vulnerable...use your ground based Photon cannon and pit yourself against computer controlled missiles; or, let another player guide the missiles, and do battle head to head. Each wave of missiles becomes more aggressive and intense. Grab your controller and prepare for a furious battle."
Continue reading Banana's Rotten Reviews: M.A.D.
Publisher: Atari, Inc.
Developer: SNK Corporation
Designer(s)/Programmer: David W. Payne
Rarity (according to AtariAge): 2 = common+
Number of Players: 1 - 2 (turn based)
Average Cost: $.50 - $2 loose, under $10 CIB
Also Available On: Atari 5200, originally an arcade coin-op (Vanguard II later released, arcade only).
Tagline/Description: "Join the Vanguard expedition on a thrilling space odyssey. Through perilous tunnels you will fight your way to the fabulous City of Mystery and the great Gond."
Vanguard is a vertical and side-scrolling cave shooter for the Atari 2600. Your goal is to pilot your spaceship to the City of Mystery, which is located at the end of a heavily guarded tunnel, to battle the creature Gond. Your spaceship is equipped with lasers that can fire in four different directions, however your speed is decreased when firing. You will also need to keep an eye on your fuel gauge, a solid bar, located at the bottom of your screen. Your fuel depletes at a rapid rate, and your ship will crash if it runs out; fuel is replenished by destroying enemies. The tunnel is broken up into several different zones, called the mountain zone, rainbow zone, stick zone, stripe zone, bleak zone, and City of Mystery. Each zone features a variety of enemy spaceships to dispatch and earn points. In the mountain and stripe zones, you will come across energy pods marked with an 'E'. When you pilot through these pods, your ship temporarily becomes invincible to the deadly cave walls and enemies which are trying to stop you. When you finally make it through all the various zones of the tunnel and defeat Gond, the game will repeat at a more difficult skill level.
Early 80's Atari commercial for Vanguard. Every good video gaming home needs a Luther.
What makes Vanguard such a great game for the 2600 is it's concept. As many of you already know, the majority of games produced for the Atari system (besides sports titles) have no real ending and were primarily points based. Vanguard not only allowed the player to accumulate points, but also had one of the earliest defined endings in a video game, which also incorporated a boss. Though Gond, the overlord of the City of Mystery, is a one-shot pushover, the ultimate goal and challenge of Vanguard is to successfully navigate the tunnel and make it to the boss. Modern day gamers might be disappointed at such a lackluster boss battle. However, and I speak as someone who grew up on the 2600, because I grew up with no preconceived expectations of what a "boss battle" was, this ending was quite epic.
The fierce and all-powerful GOND!!!! (insert sarcasm here)
Vanguard is not the easiest game to finish and since the game repeats at a much quicker and more difficult skill level, one could argue that there is no strictly defined ending. Before battling Gond, you must navigate through seven (7) zones (the rainbow zone is repeated a few times). There are always a plethora of enemies on the screen: ones that shoot back at you, as well as those that attempt to ram your spaceship. The developers of Vanguard made sure that players are never comfortable for long within the tunnel; in some zones, you travel from left to right, while at other times the game becomes a vertical shooter in which you must navigate from down to up, or up to down. Since the game is a 4-way, multi-directional shooter, players must make full use of the joystick and fire button, since enemies approach from all directions. Areas within the cavern can get very tight on occasion and my only complaint with the controls is that your ship may move slightly when trying to direct your fire with the joystick. Since Atari controls are typically very stiff anyway, attempting to fire in a specific direction can cause you to lose control of your ship and plow into an enemy.
Though the handling can be a little frustrating at times, Vanguard is an excellent port for the Atari 2600. The graphics are superb under such limitations and the exceedingly vibrant use of color creates an other worldly atmosphere. Though Vanguard lacks a soundtrack, it's omission is masked by the constant zinging of lasers and exploding enemy starcrafts. The lone piece of music in the game occurs upon collecting an energy pod. Fans of 1980's "Flash Gordon" and/or Queen may recognize a familiar tune entitled "Vultan's Theme: Attack of the Hawkman" (http://www.the-top-tens.c...s-theme-attack-197148.asp). Some dispute their similarities, but it's quite hard to brush it off as coincidence.
Vanguard is one of a handful of tight scrolling shooters for the 2600, similar to Fantastic Voyage and Super Cobra (a Scrabble clone). If you are a fan of early shmups, this title can easily be picked up at a great price either individually or in a large lot of 2600 commons.
**video courtesy of googoo11672
RATINGS (on a scale of 1-4: 4 being the highest):
Sound Effects/Music: 3
Replay Value: 3
Cart/Box Art: 2
Overall Score: 3.17
Developer: Bally-Midway Manufacturing Co., Inc.
Designer(s): Marvin Glass
Rarity (according to AtariAge): 6 = rare+
Number of Players: 1 - 2 (turn based)
Average Cost: currently, usually $10 - $30 loose, depending on condition
Also Available On: Arcade cabinet, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, PC, Mobile phone, Xbox 360 (XBLA); also released in the compilation "Midway Arcade Treasures" for PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, and the PC.
"Side-splitting, soda-flinging laughs and spills!
The Official Home Version of Bally/Midway's Arcade Sensation.
Five belly-busting screens of Soda Fountain Fun, including:
-- Four mad-capped barrooms of soda-starved, clamoring cowboys, sports fans, punks, and space creatures.
-- Plus a head-spinning Soda Bandit Bonus Round
Awesome color-packed action graphics.
Just try to keep your cool as hot-headed, crazy customers blitz your bar for another cold one."
In Tapper, you control a beer tapper (bartender) and have to serve beer to demanding customers. Customers shuffle up the four bars toward your beer taps and you must slide them drinks in order to keep them satisfied and make them go away. You start out with 5 lives and these lives are lost as follows: (1) if a bar patron reaches the end of the bar without receiving their beer, (2) if you slide an extra beer when there is no customer and accidentally spill beer needlessly, and (3) if a patron throws you back an empty mug and you fail to catch it. You can score additional points by competing in a bonus round between every few stages. In these bonus rounds, a masked bandit creeps into the bar and shakes up all but one, of six available cans. The cans then flip around in a shell-game fashion and you must keep your eye on the one that was not shaken. You then select the can you deem undisturbed and the bartender opens it; if you are correct, you are awarded bonus points, if you are wrong, the tapper receives a heady bath.
Tapper was originally a coin-op machine marketed in conjunction with Budweiser and intended to be sold only to bars; many of the cabinets were designed to look like bars with a brass rail footrest and drink holders. The controller was designed to look like the tap handles on a real keg (see photos below). It's also rumored that digitized belches were also recorded, but never used. In order to broaden their target market (and to not lure the kiddies toward the "sauce"), Bally/Midway created coin-op cabinets and tabletops known as Root Beer Tapper. The Atari 2600 version is simply called Tapper, which apparently leaves it up to the consumer, or pre-video game advisory warning parents, to determine which frothy beverage bar patrons are actually chugging in game. However, in between clearing a few stages there is a bonus stage, brought to you courtesy of your good friends at Mountain Dew. It's not clear whether or not Tapper on the 2600 was trying to "C.I.A." by employing the soda company's logo, but by doing so, the ad's presence resulted in one of the earliest examples of marketing within a video game.
Tapper is a great game and probably one of the best ports to the Atari 2600. Not only is the concept original and the gameplay simple and attractive, but the sound effects and music (yes, actual music on a 2600 game) are wild west saloon-like and second to none. The graphics are as good as they can be due to the limitations of the system and all characters and settings are well defined and recognizable. My only real knock on this game is the controls. You use the joystick to move the tapper up and down, while using the orange button to fire off brewskies. Like many other 2600 games, Tapper is hampered by the rough and often rigorous directional tapping of the joystick. Because the action is so fast paced, and gets even quicker as you progress through multiple stages, the 2600 joystick cannot keep up and it often results in a few misfired mugs. One would do well in achieving higher scores by obtaining a European CX78 controller and popping this game into the ole 7800.
Even though the controls can be a bit sticky, Tapper is still one of the best games for the 2600. Though the rarity and price point make it a harder game to come by, you can easily snag a loose copy at a good deal with a last minute, no reserve auction bid. No matter what price you pay due to condition or completeness, Tapper will be one of those games that you will be proud to own.
**video courtesy of Hairman9252
RATINGS (on a scale of 1-4: 4 being the highest):
Sound Effects/Music: 4
Replay Value: 3
Cart/Box Art: 4
Overall Score: 3.50
Game: Space Cavern
Publisher: Apollo, Inc.
Developer: Apollo, Inc.
Designer: Dan Oliver
Rarity (according to AtariAge): 3 = scarce
Number of Players: 1 -2 (turn-based)
Average Cost: approx $1 - $5 loose
Also Available On: exclusive to the Atari 2600
Tagline/Description: "You command an intergalactic starcruiser that has landed on a mysterious planet riddled with smokey caverns and inhabited by savage Electrosauri whose horns generate deadly electro-molecular charges. The Elecrosauri stalk you, their horns crackling and sizzling. If even one blast of energy strikes you, your skeleton will glow as you disintegrate. Warning: Beware the shaggy marsupods [last sentence added for blue cartridge version only]."
Space Cavern is a very simple space shooter created by Apollo Games. Apollo only officially released 10 games for the 2600, which does not include three (3) unreleased prototypes and an original (and very rare) version of Shark Attack called Lochjaw, that was removed early on from the shelves due to a lawsuit claiming that it's title was too similar to the movie "Jaws." Two versions of Space Cavern exist, a red box/cartridge and a blue box/cartridge. Neither version is more rare than the other, the blue version was released by Apollo later only as a means of cutting costs by using a simpler and more cost-effective color palate.
Unlike the more popular Atari space shooters, in Space Cavern, you do not control a ship fending off enemy starships in outer space, but instead, command laser wielding astronauts who have crash landed on an alien planet. Sounds cool right? Well, that's certainly the draw. Apollo was masterful in their marketing; if you don't believe me, take a look at the cover art for such super lackluster games as Lost Luggage, Infiltrate, or Final Approach (heck yeah a game about landing planes). I mean what early 80's video game playing kid wouldn't want to buy Space Cavern after seeing it in the store? Badass cover art - check! Cool description - check! Being hit by deadly "electro-molecular charges" and disintegrating - I don't even know what the hell those are, but DOUBLE CHECK!!!! The reality is that Space Cavern isn't all that great, but for an Atari fiend like me, it isn't all that bad either.
(Apparently someone took out their frustrations for being duped by this game.)
There are three (3) enemies that commonly fill the sky of Space Cavern and they are collectively called Electrosauri; however in my adolescence, they were affectionately named: egg beaters, toilets, and scissors -- I'll let you figure out which enemies fit these descriptions. By pressing the orange button, your astronaut fires his laser into the sky and is awarded 115 points (wow, random) for each Electrosauri he/she shoots down. These particular enemies are fairly colorful and typically either bounce in an up and down pattern or diagonally across the screen. When you zap one, they change to a pale blue and actually fall from the sky, which is pretty creative. After 20,000 points, smaller and much harder to hit versions of Electrosauri appear in the sky; at each 20,000 points you are also awarded an extra life.
The only other enemy in the game is the Marsupod (200 points each), which are dull gray in color and come out of the caves from the left and right corners of the screen. Since the orange button only allows you to fire into the sky, your must press the joystick up or down (up = left: down = right) to fire at and dispense with Marsupods - pushing the orange button to fire left to right is not necessary. Though you'll fire the wrong way several times, recovery time from firing is quick and becomes second nature after continued play.
There are 48 variations of gameplay, which can be set to adjust the number of participants, the number of Electrosauri that appear in the sky at one time (4 max), the presence of Marsupods, the random angles of enemy lasers, and the difficulty (i.e. speed of the enemies).
Space Cavern is tough to review, since I get a bit nostalgic when returning to play it (**see eggbeater, toilet, scissor discussion above). The controls are perfect for the 2600 system, since you only use the four (4) main directional positions on the joystick and the fire button. The sound effects are pretty good: shooting down an Electrosauri sounds like R2-D2 speaking in tongues and blasting a Marsupod is rather blunt and effective. There is really nothing that bad about this game, other than the replay value. Let's face it, there's not a whole lot going on in this game, and after about three to four rounds, you'll probably want to put it away if you are playing it alone. As far as Apollo releases are concerned, I'd put Space Cavern at the top with the Pac-Man clone, Shark Attack. If you're a serious collector, or just a casual 2600 gamer, the small price tag makes Space Cavern worth picking up.
**video courtesy of Highretrogamelord89 (this video does not represent the more difficult setting which includes Marsupods) **
RATINGS (on a scale of 1-4: 4 being the highest):
Sound Effects/Music: 2
Replay Value: 2
Cart/Box Art: 4
Overall Score: 2.83
Publisher: U.S. Games
Developer: Western Technologies
Designer(s): Jeff Corsiglia & Tom Sloper
Rarity (according to AtariAge): 4 = scarce+
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Average Cost: approx $3 - $8 loose
Also Available On: 2600 only
Tagline/Description: "You and your team of archeologists have fallen into the "catacombs of the zombies." There's no time to look around; these guys are after you, and they mean business! Your only salvation is that you have discovered the secret to the "make-break." Grab them, and you can break through walls when you get stuck, or create a wall behind you - if you are being chased. The longer you survive, the faster you have to move. Explore alone, or two archeologists can work together or compete in a frenzied trek through the catacombs."
There was probably no more diverse or stranger catalog of games than the fourteen (14) titles released by U.S. Games, a subsidiary of Quaker Oats (uhhhh....yeah), for the Atari 2600. Like several other companies (i.e. Purina, Johnson & Johnson, etc.), but with a larger volume than most, the Quaker Oats Company tried to cash in on the video gaming craze of the early 80's. Titles released by U.S. Games include:
Sneak n' Peek (a game of hide and seek);
Space Jockey (a horizontal, UFO shooter);
Word Zapper (a spelling shooter);
Commando Raid (a parachuting android shooter);
Eggomania (a Kaboom clone where you can fire back);
Piece o' Cake (a cake decorating game);
Picnic (a fly shooter);
Raft Rider (a river rafting game);
Gopher (a vegetable protecting game, similar to Activision's Oink!);
Squeeze Box (a prisoner trying to escape a constantly closing Tron MCP Cone);
Towering Inferno (a firefighting/rescue game);
M.A.D. (an improved version of Atlantis); and
Name This Game (an octopus shooter).
While some believe that a few of these games are among the worst titles for the 2600, I'd have to say that the overall catalog is pretty creative and solid (and fairly cheap). Where else can you fend off an octopus and fill your diving tank with air from a guy with long, flowing hair in a speed boat?
Entombed is another of these strange games in which you control an archeologist trying to escape a zombie-filled catacomb. While navigating a random, vertically scrolling maze, your only defense from zombies and dead end walls is an item referred to as a "make-break." A make-break allows you to knock down a square section of wall or place a similar section of wall in an open area to fend off zombies (similar to Lock n' Chase). However, make-breaks are not abundant and are collected 3 at-a-time in the form of side-to-side moving rectangles, throughout the maze. Scoring in Entombed, for the 1-player game, is determined by how deep into the maze your archeologist goes. You are awarded one point for making it through an undefined section of the maze; there are no treasures to collect or points for killing zombies. As you might have noticed, scoring is not one of the stronger features of this game.
Another poor feature of the game is it's graphics. Zombies, which should be very cool, instead look like arachnids, your archeologist is merely a semi-mobile stick figure, and the make-breaks are, well, just blocks (a hammer, or some sort of device would have been cooler). There is no music and the only sound effects are a series of extremely monotone beeps (only when zombies are near) and an electronic gurgle when you pick up a make-break.
With all of its faults, Entombed is a pretty good game (yeah, stick with me here). I remember loving this game as a kid and playing it every time I went to my neighbor's house. When I saw it in a pawn shop several months ago I grabbed it up quickly, even though it had a bit of label damage. So what is it that I liked so much about this game? Well for one, I enjoyed the pace of the game (how it continues to get faster as you complete every level) and the frantic dodging/escaping from zombies while collecting make-breaks to ensure mobility; you lose lives by either running into a zombie or by being forced into the top of the scrolling screen when you are out of make-breaks and are unable to escape a dead end. The controls are adequate for a 2600 game, since your only movements through the maze are vertical and horizontal; however, setting make-breaks correctly in open areas to avoid zombies can sometimes present a challenge.
While the originality of the game is great, the best feature of Entombed has to be its 2-player option. In two player mode, both participants play at the same time, instead of the Atari turn-based style that is typical with most 2600 games. Two player mode can be played in two different ways (as determined by the participants): (1) you can battle against each other to see who can make it deeper into the maze (whoever dies first loses), or (2) you can work with each other, hoarding and best using make-breaks, to see how far you both can go. Being somewhat of an a%$, and torturer of my wife and friends, I tend to prefer the former.
Though there is nothing particularly exceptional in terms of graphics and sound in Entombed, the gameplay is fairly solid and the cost of the game is typically low. For a few bucks, Entombed should be worth heavy consideration if found in the wild.
**video courtesy of Highretrogamelord89**
RATINGS (on a scale of 1-4: 4 being the highest):
Sound Effects/Music: 1
Replay Value: 2
Cart/Box Art: 3
Overall Score: 2.34
Back in the 1970s, in a time when video games began to increase in popularity after the success of games such as Pong, companies, such as Atari and Magnavox released home versions of the game. Then, Atari's engineers designed a way to play video games at home via cartridges, making it possible for home gamers to own one system, but play many different games. Finally, in October 1977, Atari released the Atari Video Computer System, or Atari 2600. The system didnt become an instant success until around 1978, when Atari gained the rights to the game Space Invaders, and ported it to the 2600, becoming the world's first ever ported arcade game.
Now, like many of you on the site, along with me, consider the Atari 2600 to be one of your favorite video game systems. Many of you may remember the hours you spent in front of your tv playing favorites such as Missile Command, Asteroids, Pitfall!, Berzerk, Combat, Centipede, and Ms. Pac-Man.
Looking at the system, you see that the system is very simple, despite the number of switches on it. Originally, the first run of Video Computer Systems came from the Sunnyvale, California plant with black plastic, a woodgrain front, and six switches. The weight of the system and the number of switches on the front, the early run of the systems became known as the "Heavy Sixer." As time went on, Atari continued to downsize the system. Some revisions were a 6 switch with less weight (Light Sixer), woodgrain front with 4 switches (4 switch woody), and an all-black 4 switch model (the Darth Vader model).
Another good point of the system was the controller. It remains today as one of the simplest controllers for a video game system. The controller is simply a joystick and one button. The other controllers made for the system are the paddle controllers and the driving controller. The paddle controller is a simple spinning knob made for pong and breakout style games. The driving controller was the same as the paddle controller, but the paddle is a continuous 360 degree spin. On top of this, literally hundreds of third party controllers were designed and released for the system.
As the 80s came around, more arcade games made more possibilities of ports for the 2600. Unfortunately, these were also the years when the 2 worst 2600 games were released. First off was the 2600 port of Pac-Man. The biggest problem with the game was the fact that it looked nothing like the original arcade game. This was because of the fact that when Todd Frye, programmer in charge of the game, presented the prototype, Atari released the prototype. Millions bought the game and were extremely disappointed. The other game is the infamous E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The game was so bad that the 5 million unsold copies were buried in the New Mexico desert.
In the mid 1980s, fierce competition came from companies such as Nintendo, causing people to begin to abandon the 2600. At this time, Atari redesigned the 2600 as the new Atari 2600 (called the Atari 2600 Jr.), with a new "The Fun Is Back" campaign. This boosted sales of the 2600 for a few years. Finally, Atari discontinued the Atari 2600 in around 1992
As you can see from this review, the Atari 2600 has had a very long and exciting history. As of late, popularity of the 2600 has exploded, and fandom of the system is alive and well. Recently, homebrewers have began creating and releasing brand new Atari 2600 games, via Atariage. http://www.atariage.com/store/ (link to the atariage store)
Even though I wasn't even born when the system was out, it has become one of my highest rated video game systems. This one deserves a perfect 10/10.
September / October, 1982 (26 years ago): E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial is released for Atari 2600 (Sources are unclear on exact release date).
October, November, December 1983 (25 years ago): North American Video Game Crash of 1983 begins due to the market flood of poorly made software.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is one of the most famous games ever made, mostly because it is also one of the most poorly made and over-produced games. The reason for the rushed development and overproduction is clear: the movie of the same name was an instant hit, and became the most financially successful film at the time of its release (yes, surpassing Star Wars). It only made sense to think that a game based on such a hit movie would become a bestseller, so Atari reduced development time to only six weeks, skipping audience testing in the process.
Certainly, E.T. was not the only reason for the subsequent Video Game Market Crash; there were other low-quality games made around that time (the terrible "flickering ghosts" port of PacMan comes to mind). Imagine how confused parents must have been, deciding on which console to buy: Atari 2600, Atari 5600, ColecoVision, Intellivision, Astrocade, Odyssey 2, Fairchild Channel F, to name a few, and that is not including Sears clones or other, more obscure consoles. Other contributing factors for the crash were an abundance of start-up companies trying to make some cash and hoping that customers would buy any video game regardless of how bad it was, as well as the availability of cheaper and usually more versatile computers, such as TI-99 and Commodore VIC-20.
Most important effects of the crash were:
- End to 2nd generation of video game consoles;
- Slowdown of the video game hardware development;
- Many third-party game development companies shutting down, including Coleco and Magnavox;
- Activision taking years to recover;
- Atari never recovering from the blow and eventually leaving video game hardware business;
- Almost complete lack of retailers' and customers' interest in Video Games for several years afterwards;
- Resurrection of video games industry by Nintendo and its NES (note that it is called an "entertainment system", not a "console");
- Beginning of Japanese video game domination, primarily by Nintendo and Sega;
- Introduction of strict rules regarding licensing third-party made games.
In my own opinion, the E.T. game is terrible. Should a person unfamiliar with the movie play this game, he/she might think that the movie consists of E.T. walking around places with many, many deep holes in the ground, constantly falling into them, slowly "levitating" out of them, just to fall back in, and again, and again. If you are one of the fortunate ones who never played this, ask your Atari-loving friend (I am sure he has this game somewhere) to let you play, just for educational purposes.
Other events for this month include:
Continue reading This Month in VG History: E.T. and the Market Crash