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Welcome New Members From The Sunflower State!

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The Retro Gamers Society is excited to have expanded into the great state of Kansas!  With many members along the Missouri border and in the Topeka and Wichita areas, it was only a matter of time until the RGS would have to expand north into friendly territory.  We’re excited about the influx of new members we’ve been adding and want to extend a warm welcome into our rapidly growing group.  Stay tuned to the Facebook Group for news on when the first meet-up will take place, and be sure to hit up the Exchange for trades and sales in your area.

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First Texas Meet-Up Brings Solid Numbers!

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I believe it is safe to say that the first TXRGS meet up was a success. Everyone in attendance had a ton of fun. Games were being swapped everywhere, hot dogs were enjoyed, and Mr. Arcade even won the back-lit Game Boy. Whether it was a manual for Final Fantasy II or a Contra Force cart they’ve been looking for forever, everybody got something that they were really wanting.

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We actually were having so much fun the whole thing lasted three hours more then planned. It was really great to meet everyone that came. I personally hope to see you guys again at future meet-ups, and I hope to meet many more of you in the future.

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As mentioned, a back-lit Gameboy was given away at this meet-up — won by Johnny Arcade.  At the recent OKRGS meet-up, we also gave away one of these handy little treasures, with the spoils going to Luis.  There will be more giveaways, more meet-ups, and more fun coming soon.  So stay tuned! ♦

David Chauncey Clothier

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RGS Exclusive: The Ten Must-Have Games For The NES (PART 2)

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Here it is: the much-anticipated finale to the Retro Gamers Society’s Ten Must-Have Games For The NES!  Check out the first half of this list if you missed it.  While there were a couple of obscure or unusual titles included in the first half of our article, part two contains a few more notable selections.  Remember — this isn’t the our list of the top 10 NES games of all time, but the top 10 you need to have on your shelf right now. Here we go!

Tetris

Micah Heath

TETRIS

How can we even begin to describe it? So deceptively easy, yet so incredibly difficult as it progresses. This is the game that taught us to appreciate Russian culture, eased tensions during the Cold War era, and forever changed the way we do simple household chores such as arranging closets, stacking groceries, and filling the dishwasher.

Originally released in 1984, Tetris made its way to the United States in 1986. Nintendo officially released it in 1989 on the NES and Gameboy, and the strategy/puzzle genre has never been the same. The basics of the game are incredibly simple; arrange groupings of four blocks (tetrominoes) as they fall, trying to create a solid horizontal line where they land. The higher the level, the faster they fall. Such a simple premise for a game that’s sold well over one hundred million copies and shows no sign of slowing down — especially in the handheld/mobile market.

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Tetris was originally programmed and designed by Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Sadly, he received very little compensation for his work until over ten years later. The Soviet government however, was raking in millions in royalties. It wasn’t until the mid-1990s that Pajitnov began to make a real profit from his now-legendary creation. Tetris, being such a phenomenon, has been the subject of numerous scientific studies. According to some research, playing Tetris can boost the efficiency of your brain by thickening your grey matter. When playing for extended periods, many people report the game pervading their thoughts, mental images and dreams. Most people who have played extended stints of Tetris will attest to seeing falling blocks as they drift off to sleep. Or, imagining buildings, furniture, or boxes as blocks to be stacked. This is called the Tetris effect, and it’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes classifying the many ways in which Tetris can affect the brain.

Honestly, while preparing for this article, the author had particular difficulty in deciding what to include. How does one write about something so well known, yet so multifaceted and so phenomenal? It’s a little like being asked to write a brief article about the U.S. Constitution, The Rennaissance, the pyramids of Egypt, or space travel. Are we saying that Tetris is on equal level with these things? Well… maybe.

Mega Man 2

David Chauncey Clothier

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The Mega Man series is one of the finest platforming/shoot-em-up series ever. It is also one of the best on the NES. Of all the Mega Man games that have been made, there is no better than Mega Man 2. In only their second attempt, Capcom managed to get everything right.

Creator Keiji Inafune almost never got his 1988 masterpiece out to the public. Although a great game, the original Mega Man didn’t sell that well on the Famicom and NES. Because of this, Capcom wanted Keiji to use his team’s resources to develop games that they deemed more ‘worthwhile’. Keiji had to treat Mega Man 2 as a side project, utilizing only a small team for development. It was the pet-project nature of this game that, in my opinion, made it turn out so well.

There are many factors contributing to the success of Mega Man 2, one being the way the game pushed the NES color palette and graphical abilities to the absolute limit. The music composed by Takashi Tateishi is some of the best ever in 8-bit midi era. The gameplay is superb — it is a very difficult game (but in a good way). The controls are perfect, and there are no unnecessary villains or sprites of any kind. The addition of two more bosses brings the total to eight (previously six).  This adds to the difficulty of the game. The story is just as good as any visual, audible, or mechanical feature of the game.

The story arc is very simple, yet eloquent.  After being defeated in the first Mega Man, Dr. Wily builds a new fortress and crew of robots to get his revenge. Sent by Dr. Light, you control Mega Man to defeat the crew of robots and eventually battle Dr. Wily.

If you haven’t played this game yet, you are really missing out. The Mega Man series, for the most part, is pretty affordable.  Of all the Mega Man games, this is the second least expensive one. Also, since it is the best selling one of the series — with a little over 1.5 million copies — it’s not like it’s hard to find. So you have no excuse not to pop that bad boy in the toaster and travel back in time to 200x!!!!

Bubble Bobble

Brandon Cole Phillips

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This pseudo-puzzle-solving, sorta-platforming, somewhat adventure game by Taito began ever-so-humbly as an arcade cabinet.  But as its popularity grew – so did its number of ports.  And when it landed on the NES, it became both a rental and a retail success.

Its unique gameplay style involves blowing bubbles to trap your enemies with, and popping the bubbles to turn the villains into food or treasures.  Some screens have pits that you can fall into and emerge from the top of the screen, whereas others require a calculated mix of strategy and ‘bubble-jumps’ to scale the obstacles above.  Beware Baron von Blubba if you take too long to finish a screen!

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With a sometimes fun/sometimes frustrating co-op play and over a hundred levels (and two endings!) to traverse, Bubble Bobble provides hours (and days) of frustrating, annoying, and rewarding gameplay.

Bubble Bobble didn’t change the world of video gaming, but it succeeded in making it much more fun to experience with a friend!

The Legend of Zelda

David Chauncey Clothier

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The Legend of Zelda, a classic story about a young lad who must defeat evil forces in order to rescue the princess. LOZ truly is so much more than just a game to many of us. I was 5 the first time I saw LOZ — it was at my neighbor Jara’s house. We were looking through her NES games to find one to play. I was mesmerized as soon as I saw it.

“What is that?” I asked.

“It’s Mom’s, we didn’t want to play it, it’s really boring!” she replied.

I didn’t believe her — I couldn’t believe her. The way the light danced off of the gold cart I knew it had to be something special. It wasn’t until I was 9 that I was able to prove her wrong.

As a kid my mom liked to take me to garage sales, a pastime I have come to love over the years. It was a late September morning and I remember it being kind of chilly. As we were waiting for the sale to start I was scanning the tables in the distance to see if there was anything I would want. Sticking out of the top of a box I saw light shimmering off of a gold surface in the exact same way it was at Jara’s house. Instantly knowing what it was, I ran towards it. I reached into the box to fish out my treasure and up came the Adventures of Link. I was beside myself, I didn’t know what to think. So I decided to investigate farther into the box for more golden treasure. After looking through the whole box, I didn’t find any more gold — though I did find the grey version of Zelda.

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Regardless of color, I knew I had to have this. I searched the box for a price, but could find nothing. So I decided to ask the lady running the sale how much. $20 she replied, only having $5 I was heartbroken. The look on my face must have been very obvious because she asked me if I thought that was too much. I looked right at her and told her I only had $5. She told me she couldn’t go that low but would take $10. I knew at that moment my only option was to beg my mom for $5. This was going to be no simple task since my mother hardly ever surrendered extra money (this was to encourage me to budget and negotiate). I mustered up all the charm I could and went to her hugging the box.

“Mom I found this video game and the lady wanted $20, but I talked her down to $10…… Can I have $5 so I can buy it?”

She looked at me, looked at the box I was holding, then back at me.”What do you need that for”? she asked.

I knew I had to come up with a good reason or I was never going to get to play Zelda. “Um….well..” Then it hit me, the go-to for every desperate kid. “It can be my birthday present.”

Damn it! Why did I say that? If it was going to be my birthday present I wasn’t going to get to play it until November, I couldn’t wait that long. Then all of a sudden the look on my moms face changed.

“Alright if you want it that bad here is $5, and it doesn’t have to be your birthday present.”

I couldn’t believe what was happening.  I ran to the lady and paid her then went directly to put my treasure in the car.

We stopped at a few more sales before going home which seemed like it took hours. After what seemed like an eternity we were finally home, I unloaded the box from the car and ran to the basement. Once in the basement, I dumped the contents onto the floor. Looking at the heap of cables and electronics I realized I had no idea what I was doing. Like a possessed child I grabbed the system and started to look it over examining all sides of it like you would a Rubik’s cube before you got started. I instantly knew what to do as if by instinct. I swooped up the necessary cables and my Zelda game and went to the TV. After hooking everything up and changing the channel I was ready. This was my moment of glory, I anxiously pressed the power button and bam!!!! Nothing but a blank gray screen. I checked everything to make sure I didn’t screw something up, but it all seemed right. Then I remembered this happened once at my cousin’s house and he put the game in his mouth and blew on it. So I pulled the game out stuck it in my mouth and blew on it until my face turned purple (then I blew on it some more). I put the game back in and that seemed to do the trick. It was working.

There it was, The Legend of Zelda, with some of the most epic music I’ve ever heard playing as accompaniment. After hitting a few random buttons the game finally started. In front of me was a small green boy named Link — and I was in control of him. The first screen had a cave in it, so I went in. Inside there was an old man handing out swords so of course I took it and went on my way. I decided to go right after leaving the cave. At first there wasn’t anything on the next screen.  Then all of a sudden 4 guys that looked like Q-Bert came in and started pelting me with rocks. I knew I had to do something to defend myself, so I went at them wildly swinging my sword. I took one out, then another, to the right was a third. I turned to work my way up the screen and take him out. The thrill was amazing, I imagined really being In Hyrule bashing octoroks in the head with my wooden sword. This was great, then all of a sudden I look down. There was one behind me at the bottom of the screen. It had just spit a rock at me and I didn’t have time to react, it hit me!!! Beep, beep, beep I was almost dead and the game was taunting me by beeping at me. I knew I had to do something — couldn’t die now, not like this. He shot another one, my shield deflected it as I walked towards him. Then another rock was shot and deflected. When I finally got to him I clicked the button to raise my sword and at that exact moment the octorok shot one final rock at me. I was dead, I hadn’t even made it past the first set if enemies and I was dead. I thought to myself, ‘I fricking love this game’, so I restarted.

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I spent the next 8 hours playing that game, I’d find a new enemy and I’d die. I’d find a new dungeon and I’d die. I must have died over 100 times. Even with all the dying I learned a very valuable lesson that day: Jara had no clue what she was talking about.  When it came to games, Zelda was freaking awesome . Unfortunately all the progress I had made that day didn’t get saved right, so when I went back to play a few days later, I was pretty pissed, which made me want to try out the other games I had recently acquired. It wouldn’t actually be until after I started college at KU that I actually defeated Gannon and saved Princess Zelda. But I’ll always remember that first time I played The Legend of Zelda and how it sparked my imagination.

Super Mario Bros 3

Brandon Cole Phillips

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Could the final entry on our list be anything other than the most anticipated sequel of all time?  So many factors played into the success of Super Mario Brothers 3 — condensing it all into a single summary is difficult.

The media blitz was insane: there were the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, the hoards chanting Mario’s name, the TV show based on the game, and who can forget The Wizard starring Fred Savage?

But it wasn’t just the epic-scale advertising campaign that won over the hearts of millions – the gameplay itself was damn near unbelievable!

The game pushed the NES cart’s chipsets, memory, and sprite capability to the upper limits, accompanied by tight controls, vivid worlds, and a full musical score rivaled only by that of Hollywood.

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Well over a third of the NES library has aged positively over the last three decades.  Many games still hold a considerable amount of replay value.  But SMB3 is a different breed of game.  It set the stage for the revolution just a couple of years away on the SNES and Sega Genesis.

Super Mario Brothers 3 transcended other video game franchises in a special, personal, and endearing way.  It was a game that so many still consider to be their game.  And in this reviewer’s opinion, that makes it the best NES game of all time — so far.

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RGS Exclusive: The Ten Must-Have Games For The NES (PART 1)

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Every gamer wants to know just what games make or break a collection — if you aren’t collecting a full set, clearly you want to make certain you have the best-of-the-best for your limited shelf space.  Fortunately, the RGS staff has worked tirelessly to compile a top ten list of the greatest games made for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Just follow our lead and you won’t be able to tear your buddies’ grubby mitts off your NES controllers for weeks.

 

Tecmo Super Bowl

Brandon Cole Phillips

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My cousin Trevor was one of the first people in my life to introduce me to video games.  This had the welcomed side-effect of my inheriting all of his hand-me-down games when he would transition consoles.  This is what led to my acquisition of such greats as Bubble Bobble, Double Dribble, and Tecmo Bowl.  The original Tecmo football foray was a mind-blowing sports title for the time.  Gameplay felt like the action of a fast-paced fighter overlaid on top of one of the few fun football video games of the era.

Going back and playing Tecmo Bowl now, it seems pretty bare-bones, but at the time this was an innovative flurry of fun.

Two years after Tecmo Bowl was released, we got a sequel – Tecmo Super Bowl.  And everything changed.

Tecmo Super Bowl had intro screens, the roar of the crowd, incredible variety of music, an enormous roster, improved graphics and colors, and full licensing by both the National Football League and the NFL Players Association (a first for a video game).  This game did on the NES’s 8-bits what other games desperately tried to do on the Genesis’s 16-bits.

To this day, a cult-following has led to the Tecmo Super Bowl ROM being updated and released every year with the latest teams and rosters.  Tournaments are held.  People bet on it.  It’s a big deal.

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Tecmo Super Bowl raised and set the bar for sports titles across the board, its effect coursing like a tsunami to push other sports games to be a little better and do a little more.  Nowadays, collectors tend to stray from sports titles.  Indeed – there is a significant market saturation when it comes to this genre of games.  Tecmo Super Bowl, though, still commands a respectable price.  Not because of rarity, however.  Tecmo Super Bowl holds an intrinsic, timeless quality that makes it a solid leader on this list.  If there’s a single sports title to own for the NES, this one is it.

 

Faxanadu

Micah Heath

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You may be wondering, “Faxa-whaaat?” Why is this underdog of a game making anyone’s top ten list? For one, the premise; an unnamed wanderer, returning from a long, untold journey, to find his city in decay and his homeland overrun by monsters. You are the final hope for the dying civilization of elves. (Despite being the last hope for survival, stores still charge you full price.) The gameplay follows standard a side-scroller/platformer style, but with many RPG elements. There are magic spells, potions, swords and shields. Throughout the game, the player will encounter cities, dungeons, new weapons and some of the strangest, freakiest monsters you will find in any classic game. (Seriously, look them up.)

Several things really set this game apart. For one, Faxanadu’s color palette. Rather than bright colors and outlines, it uses different shades of browns, reds, and grey to create a more realistic and gritty feel. Throughout most of the game, the soundtrack is very catchy. It’s also fun and rewarding to watch your character’s armor and weapons change as you level up.

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This game is fairly straightforward. The dungeons are simple enough that they don’t become frustrating (unless you forgot to buy the right key while you were in town.) The “bounce back” that occurs when you get hit can be irritating at times, but for the most part, the smaller enemies are fairly easy, balanced by the more difficult and sometimes challenging bosses.

The only downside to this incredible game? Rather than a battery save, it uses a very complex password system. This can be looked at as something of an upside however, as older cartridges have a tendency to lose stored information as they age.

Overall, this game is fun, challenging, and wholly underrated.

 

Mike Tyson’s Punch-out!!

Aimee Phillips mtpo

One of my favorite games on the NES from my childhood is Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!. I’m not sure that it’s a favorite because it’s actually fun (even though it kind of is), but mostly because of the really funny looking characters in it. As a wee girl watching my brother play, I would give each of the characters my own name, my favorite being “Titty-man” (actually named “Super Macho Man”). He always flexed his pecs a bunch when he was standing there, and I always thought “Titty-man” was so funny that I’d make my brother play through just to get to him.

The game is from the view of “Little Mac”, a name loosely satirizing the McDonald’s “Big Mac”, and also representative of the characters small features. He was made so small, not because it’s supposed to be victorious of this little twerp to beat all the other characters, but so that he did not take up much of the screen. After all, the player had to see what moves were being made by the opponent!

 

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! was in circulation for only about 3 years, because that’s how long Tyson was paid for use of his likeness as the final boss. However, they updated the game to just Punch-Out!! after those three years were up, changing to a similar character renamed “Mr. Dream”.  The game sold about 2 million copies, so I’d say others are in the same boat as me when they say it’s a favorite!

 

Batman

David Sollars batman

The year was 1990, the company was SunSoft (Blaster Master anyone?), and the game was BATMAN.

We’ve all seen the movies, TV shows, and read the comics. Most of us probably even consider the Caped Crusader to be one of our favorite superheroes. Unfortunately, we’ve also probably played a superhero game (the most recent round of Batman games excluded). So does this entry into to wonderful world of movie-based games deserve a spot on your shelf? In short, absolutely!

Batman on the NES consists of 5 levels, 6 bosses, multiple weapons, solid mechanics, and awesome music. The levels are broken into segments (1-1, 1-2, etc). Each separate segment offers more of a challenge than the previous. For example, in level 1-1 you simply move from the left of the screen to the right, killing enemies along the way. In level 1-2 you are introduced to the wall jump (think Ninja Gaiden without the ability to cling). Level designs are varied and intriguing. The color pallet is interesting, albeit dark, and some of the visuals are quite impressive for the time. Major level transitions are broken up by short cut-scenes which include a few nods to the 1989 film.

There are four ways to defeat your foes in Batman: fists, bullets, the batarang, and a bat speargun. You start out the game with a standard punch. While the reach isn’t far, it’s more than adequate. When you defeat a baddie they will occasionally drop a box with a bullet emblem. These boxes allow you to utilize your arsenal. You will need these boxes, so keep your eyes peeled. While I’m sure it’s technically possible to defeat the game without using any weapons I wouldn’t recommend trying it on your first go.

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The game mechanics are solid. When you want to punch, you punch. When you want to jump off a wall, you jump off a wall. There’s no input delay. I’ve heard complaints in the past concerning the jumping. My typical answer to these complaints is, “This isn’t a Mario game.” When you hit the jump button you jump, but it’s not as fast as you move from left to right. I feel like it makes the game a bit more realistic. If you were jumping from platform to platform with 10,000 volts of electricity sparking about under you, I doubt you would just casually take the leap Mario style.

The music in the game fits the motif. Actually, it fits brilliantly. It’s memorable and exciting. Here’s an example:

In conclusion, Batman is one of those unique gems for the NES. If you like 8-bit games and you like good superhero games, you simply can’t go wrong.

 

Dragon Warrior III

David Chauncey Clothier

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Dragon Warrior III (or Dragon Quest III in Japan) is one of the finest RPGs on the NES. It is the best seller of the series — and for good reason. It’s also the game that made the Japanese government force Enix to have a Sunday release date so children wouldn’t skip school to buy it. This game was going to be good and everyone knew it.

Enix had set the stage for the modern JRPG and had no choice but to deliver something epic. If the first Dragon Warrior game introduced the JRPG, then Dragon Warrior III defined what the JRPG should be. Enix had a special way of doing subtle updates with each title that made the games better in a big way. These changes build on each other, creating a special recipe that makes each game that much better than the previous. This game had it all: better graphics, better sound, better story, and a huge immersive world to explore.

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One change that greatly improved the game was the bank system. You could store your money away instead of lose it in battle. The best change by far, though, was the class system. It was nice being able to choose a class, but it was even better being able to change your class mid-game. Sure, you had to start over at level 1 every time you changed — but you retained your previous stats. This meant that you could work your way up as a warrior, then switch to a mage. This would, in turn, give you powerful physical attacks and powerful magic attacks, as well as good defense. One last really cool feature is the day/night cycle which changes as you progress through the game.

If you’re an RPG fan (and JRPG fan in particular), you should definitely play this game. It is absolutely worth the high price it is currently fetching. So go forth, descendants of Erdrick: and play Dragon Warrior III.

 

Check out part two of RGS Exclusive: The Ten Must-Have Games For The NES