Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

You would be hard pressed to not have noticed the return of hand-crafted pixel art to the world of gaming. Some of these have launched indy developers into mainstream success. Some big name developers are jumping on board as well. I can’t say I mind. I was always a huge fan of a well crafted sprite. I once designed a series of sprites for a (long since abandoned) RPG years ago. It brings back a welcome nostalgia as well as challenging artists to work within a much more limited palette. Here are a few examples over the last few years.

Minecraft (2009)-“Wait a minute” I hear you say. “This game is in 3D!” Well, yes. It is. But everything is built, primarily, of 3D pixels. I put this here because it helped modern, younger games get used to the aesthetic. For so long, games were “MORE BETTER FASTER” but along comes Minecraft with its charming low-def polygon cubes and it became about the gameplay. Not exactly on point, but a good starting point!

Mega Man 9 & 10 (2008/2010)-One of the kings of old-school games, Mega Man is looked on with nostalgia and reverence. They made many, many sequels as well as spinoffs, but sometimes you just can’t beat the old classics. So, Capcom, paying attention this once, went back and published a sequel years after the fact, going all the way back to Mega Man 1-6 for inspiration. The whole production screamed NES.  This was in large part to the success of downloadable legacy games on the consoles. The old master, Keiji Inafune, was back to his roots making the kind of games he wanted to again. Nostalgia was ramping up!

They Bleed Pixels (2012)-A strange combination of Super Meat Boy and Castlevania. Very retro looks with lightning fast gameplay. Not for the easily frustrated!

Retro City Rampage (2012)-This game started as a low def, NES version of Grand Theft Auto. It slowly took on a life of its own. Now, it is a nostalgia bomb with a look and feel reminiscent of the era without being completely hamstringed by the technology.

Hotline Miami (2012)-Less on homage and more an inspired by, Hotline Miami is a hyper-violent, top-down shooter in the vein of Smash TV, but amped up to splatter-flick levels. More colorful than most NES style games, but still having a similar look.

Thomas Was Alone (2012)-Talk about low-resolution! You play as several undefined boxes. Surprisingly deep with a very engaging narrative.

Shovel Knight (2014)-The current king of the retro pixel video game world. This one looks, sounds and feels like an old NES game despite being in high definition with none of the technical limitations of the era. Absolutely amazing that a new game from a new franchise (I have no doubt sequels are forthcoming!) could bring up such nostalgia. Definitely one to put on your list!

Boss Monster (2013)-Whats this then? Its not a video game. Its a card game! Featuring pixel art. Seriously. Highly recommend if you have a friend or two that like to sit and play games the old fashioned way while still feeling nostalgic about video games. Lots of fun and simple to grasp. In a stroke of brilliance, they are bringing things full circle with a video game adaptation over on Kickstarter. You can even buy the physical version as part of your pledge.

Obviously, this trend is fairly new, but doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Art can truly be at its best when given limitations. It forces the artist to consider things in a different way, giving rise to something truly special. What new games are you enjoying that use this throwback art style? Let us know in the comments!

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JoJo’s Bizarre Technical Issues

Posted: August 28, 2014 by Kane Blaireau in Nostalgia, Technology, Video Games

Let me just start by saying, unabashedly, the Dreamcast is one of my top consoles of all time. So many under appreciated games. Not the least of which were the Capcom fighting games that ran better there than any console before it, giving us a full, arcade quality experience. Not to mention Phantasy Star Online, Jet Grind Radio, the original Soul Calibur etc.

Of course, hooking up such an old console to a modern, hi-def LCD is…eye burningly difficult. Its not that the games themselves look bad. They have actually aged well. But, the console came with a composite video cable, only one step above the coaxial connections of the ancient consoles. Luckily, this new tv has a new-fangled VGA input! Unfortunately, Sega stopped supporting the Dreamcast over a decade ago. TO THE INTERWEB!

Finding a Dreamcast compatible VGA cable was quite simple. Was only about $15 to boot. Showed up in a few days from Amazon. Plug everything in and, like magic, 480p video output! I must say, even though that is “low-rez”, the graphics still look quite nice. Everything is sharp and colorful if slightly pixely around the edges. HUGE improvement over the composite cable.

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This is what awesomely weird looks like.

Fast forward to day three. I was having technical issues with a PS2 game on the gen1 PS3 (long story for another article) and decided we would pull out the weirdest fighting game on the Dreamcast: JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure! Still have my original copy from way back when. I mount the disk and power up…why is the load screen yellow? WHY IS THEIR AN ERROR MESSAGE?! OH GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH MY DREAMCAST?! Giving in to sleep, I told myself I would solve it the next day.

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Not even my TV! Apparently this is fairly common…

I woke up on Saturday (sleeping in despite my troubles) and decided to try it on my computer monitor. The TV had an HDMI port go bad (which fried the HDMI on the PS3…yet another story for another time) so I figured, maybe, just maybe, it caused an issue with the VGA port as well. Plug into computer monitor and…yellow. WHAT?! OK. Calming myself, I started wiggling the cord. It would turn white, then yellow. Jiggling the cord, it stayed white! OK! Progress. Pulled the cord out EVER so slightly and it continued to stay white with no hint of yellow. Turns out the aftermarket cable had a plug just slightly too long that was causing a bad connection. Problem: SOLVED! Alright back to the TV.

White load screen! Error message. WHAT?! Try other games. No error message. Whats going on here? Did an internet search and it turns out some Capcom fighting games only output video at 240 lines of resolution. The VGA cable only does 480. Crap. OK, is their a fix? YES! Using a DC-X (which is primarily for playing imports without modding your system), you can trick the system into outputting a 480 signal. BINGO! Alright. It worked! Sort of! All 240 lines are at the TOP of the screen. See, they were meant to have scan-lines in between each line to make it fill the whole screen. Later Capcom games, it turns out, took this into account and included the option to put the scan-lines back in. JoJo’s, sadly does not. Only way to play is going to be the (shiver) composite cable or get an S-Video cable. On the bright side, all my other Dreamcast games look spectacular. Sorry JoJo.

 

Booty Bin

Posted: January 14, 2014 by Noccie in Life in a Box, Noccie, Nostalgia
Tags: , , , , ,
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Booty Bin – “A Kid Again”

There are three nerdy subscription boxes. The Booty Bin is from Virgina. The cost is $24.00 plus $5.00 for shipping. They include 7-10 items in their boxes. They ship on the 1st of every month and you have to be signed up by the 20th to get the box for the month. Each month they choose a theme. January was “A Kid Again.”

All the items in the box had to do with being a kid or reliving your childhood.

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They included temporary Marval Avengers tattoes and three sheets of cool stickers. I am probably going to stick them to my coffee table. We’re trying to redecorate the scuffed surface by covering it with stickers. I especially like the mustach stickers.

This little block is a magic towel! It’s super compressed but is about the size of a hand towel. The design looks like Spider Man in this case, I haven’t opened it yet.

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I swear they must have had a meeting with Nerd Block because they included this growing Zombie. The Nerd Block included a Zombie Wall crawler with sling shot.

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Dog tags are the cool thing right now. Actually they were when I was a kid in the 80’s too. These three are plastic, but very cute and I will probably attach them to my Emerald City Comic Con badge. 🙂 YAY SCHWAG!

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Childhood wouldn’t be complete without CANDY! I loved push pops when I was a kid. Back then they only had grape and cherry flavor. This one is watermelon. I find this ironic because I was just telling my assistant how they make artifical watermelon. I remembered reading some where it was made from a hormornal secretion from the anus of a beaver but now I don’t find that anywhere on the internet. Damn you Cracked! I swear it was an article I read on their website. I’m going to eat the darn thing anyway. I haven’t had one in years.

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The best thing in the box where two Hex Bug Nano’s. These are version one of the Hex Bug Nano. They are a small robotic insect. There is a little motor inside that vibrates. The vibration shakes it enough that it moves but it only works on hard surfaces. I played with these for a long time. The company that makes them is pretty awesome. They are also Decepticons! The but is shaped just like the Decepticon logo! These glow in the dark so you can find them.

The night we got our Booty Bin we also had a few kids around. They went nuts for these Nanos. I can honestly say, Kid tested, Nerd Approved!

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The Booty Bin is a winner. The price point is a little higher but I am going to get it for at least another month. I really want to see what else they come up with.

Picture 1983, I am four years old. My brother and his best friend Scott is over, they are ten years older than me. Sitting in front of the television, they had the Atari 2600 hooked up. I wanted to play the game because they were playing the game. The game was Pac-Man. This was a fairly common day in my house. Pac-Man is the first video game I remember playing. The second game I remember playing is Burger Time. It was advertised in the back of EVERY comic book up till the mid-80’s. Why, I remember playing these games, I just don’t know. When I think back though, I don’t just remember playing the games. It’s really the whole situation of being with family and friends.

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My generation, those between their 40’s and 30’s, really grew up in the first generation of video games. It’s true that there were games before like pin ball machines and pong but we brought complex electronic games into our homes and made them a lifestyle.

Fast forward to 1985, my family moved across country and the world was changing. That year my Dad brought home our first personal computer, a brilliant Commodore Vic-20. The new computer fascinated all of us.

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My Dad had worked on programming massive machines with punch cards years before I was born. Now he was bringing the same power home in a box he could carry with one arm. The programs worked through two different systems; floppy disks and cassette tapes. There wasn’t really a monitor. You hooked a keyboard up to a television and the controllers and other equipment worked through the keyboard. This old-fashioned PC has sentimental value for me. There was a game I used to love on the computer and my Dad managed to get it for our personal computer. This was the very first program my father ever pirated called Webster. He brought it home on a cassette tape from work. The whole point of the game was that you were a spider and had to eat the bugs in your garden. You have to avoid the scorpions though. Let’s call this the first casual game experience.

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Today we turn on our computers and run Windows, Apple OS, Linus or whatever. Back then games were accessed via dos prompt. Although, we had the first windows program but it was mostly a word document program. Turning on the computer brought up either a black or a green screen depending on the system you had. It ran through a bunch of script and you had to tell the computer what to boot up.

I can list the best games we had growing up and the computer systems as we upgraded through. At one point we had three computers in the home and a lap top my Dad would borrow from work. The most upgraded was the Tandy 1000. The Tandy 1000 used a dos interface to access programming until we installed the very first incarnation of windows. My Dad and I would go to Babbages, Egg Heads and other hilariously named computer stores and gawk at the boxes full of programmed floppy disks. On the Tandy 1000 I had Thexder, Karataka, Eye of Horus, Goofy’s Materhorn, Reading Rabbit, Alf’s Game, and many flight simulators. My Mother had her own games like Zork, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Marple Manner. These games were all text based choose your own adventures that were iconic.

My favorite game, out of all the ones we had, was Thexder. Thexder was a robot that could turn into a jet and fly. The best part of the game was the theme song, Moonlight Sonata. I guess I was a strange child because I could play this game for house just listening to the music. I was TERRIBLE at the game and never finished it but I played for hours. My second favorite was Eye of Horus. This was an interesting early plat-former based off Egyptian mythology.You passed through levels trying to collect the parts of your Father, Osiris. Returning the parts together helps you to defeat Set. Your character could run around as a man or turn into a hawk. I was equally terrible at this game but I was also obsessed with Egypt. Nothing could keep me from playing Eye of Horus and dieing, time after time.

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The Tandy 1000 was a fantastic computer and we actually had it well into the 1990’s. The computer was easy to upgrade as time went on, only the casing was original by the time the 1990’s hit. It had an external modem, external hard drive and an external hard disk drive (a 3.25 disk drive). That was when I threatened my parents. I said if they didn’t get a computer with a CD ROM drive I would run away from home. I really wanted to play Civilization and got tired of switching disks. Games like, Sid Meier’s Civilization, my Dad would take to work, copy from a CD to disks and bring them home. Using the disks I would play, switch disk, play, switch disk and so on. It became tedious. As games became more advanced, it was really burdensome and I wanted to play games!

I didn’t have many consoles growing up but we had tons of computers. We didn’t get a Nintendo till 1992. We were in some weird minority of the United States that just didn’t have a Nintendo. Once I finally had one, I owned only a few games and they all had Mario in the name. Super Mario, Dr. Mario, Super Mario 2 and Super Mario 3. Luckily I had a friend that seemed to own most of the Nintendo library. He brought them to my apartment in a suitcase and I played Paperboy for days. My favorite Nintendo game was Castlevania III, Dracula’s Curse. My Brother’s girlfriend rented the game and we all took turns for a week playing it. At one point I called my cousin for help because the Nintendo hotline was more expensive than long distance. When we collectively won against Dracula, we were all proud of the hard work we had put into the game. Then I went about playing it over and over again myself. When my Brother returned it the late fee was some obscene amount. My parents had to help him pay the fee.

The next computer we had was a Compaq. There was nothing special about the computer, I was used to having them around. Maybe though, it was special because it had a CD Rom drive. I no longer had a reason to run away from home. This started my decent into the world of real gaming. On our Compaq I played the very first… Tomb Raider. Lara Croft was one of my first girl crushes. This was the most hard-core game I owned for years because my parents wouldn’t buy me Doom or Castle Wolfenstein. At the time my friends had them and I didn’t need to play them at home. Playing those games over at their place was good enough for me. Then Civilization 2 came out and I was sucked away from raiding archaeological artifacts from their resting places and being chased by T-Rexes. Civilization 2 was a time sucker. I wasted whole weekends playing that game. I still played Nintendo games, but they were an after thought. There were other games that I loved and were probably inappropriate purchases for a young teen like Voyeur and Phantasmagoria. These were CD-rom games that involved using live motion capture actors and puzzles. They both involved sex and violence.

Everything was down hill from there. I was totally hooked on games and computers. In future posts I am going to talk in depth about some retro games I love.

Do you remember the first game you played?