Retro Rewind: The Sega Dreamcast

rr_dc_feattopSega’s final home console, the Dreamcast, is often considered to be “the last classic games console” – whatever that means. The console itself wasn’t a financial success, but it was forward thinking and powerful enough to run many arcade games of the time (like Street Fighter 3, and Marvel vs. Capcom 2), making it the perfect system for fighting fans who couldn’t afford a Neo Geo.

Having said all this, the Dreamcast was doomed from the start. While it was technically more powerful than its rivals, the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, it paled in comparison to the upcoming console generation, like the Gamecube, PS2, and Xbox. By 2004, the Dreamcast had been shuffled into the bargain bin.

The Dreamcast, which was called “Katana” while in development, was equipped with a dial-up modem and was built more like a PC than a typical console. It actually ran on Windows CE. This allowed for more flexible designs than had been seen by game systems of the time. The controller was also innovative. It featured a single analog stick, much like the N64, but shared more aesthetics with the PS2 and even more with the Xbox, which makes sense when you remember that Microsoft collaborated with Sega on the Dreamcast’s Windows-based operating system. This controller also housed a memory card called VMU or “Visual Memory Unit.” It had a small LCD screen that could display simple graphics and allowed the user to play certain mini games via a small controller on the front. In retrospect, it feels like a precursor to the Wii U’s Gamepad.

DreamcastVMU

Sadly, it was not successful. Only three years into its life, the Dreamcast’s price was cut down to $50 in order to clear out any remaining stock. Sega had officially left the console market to focus on software. It’s a sad tale, but if it weren’t for this move, we wouldn’t have any Sega titles on Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo systems. And Sonic would never have been able to rumble with Mario in Smash Bros.

That’s the story of Sega’s last console. It was cool for the time but never really found its the groove. I think it was great that Sega left the hardware business on such a unique high note, though. The Dreamcast will always have a special place in gaming history.

Seasons after Fall Shouldn’t Remind Me of Sonic & Knuckles, But It Does

Seasons after FallSeasons after Fall is an upcoming indie platformer from the folks at Swing Swing Submarine. It includes an adorable fox character and what appears to be a season-shifting mechanic that allows you to swap between seasons (the trailer only shows winter and fall, but I’m told the final game will include all four seasons). It’s very interesting stuff.

But I can’t stop comparing it to Sonic & Knuckles.

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Retro Rewind: Gunpei Yokoi

gunyok_feattopToday’s Retro Rewind is focused on just one person: a man by the name of Gunpei Yokoi. Yokoi was the designer of many of Nintendo’s most popular products, including the Game & Watch, Kid Icarus, Metroid, and the Game Boy.

But Yokoi’s contributions to the gaming industry are even more impressive than they might initially seem. If it wasn’t for Mr. Yokoi, the great Shigeru Miyamoto may have never become a successful game designer. When Miyamoto developed Donkey Kong, it wasn’t approved until Yokoi, who had been with Nintendo for much longer, brought it to the president’s attention.

Gunpei Yokoi was also responsible for the cross-shaped D-pad, which has been featured on nearly all game consoles since the NES. Yokoi created the D-Pad in response to the growing complexity of handheld games.

When his Game Boy was being developed, Gunpei was tasked with creating a scaled-down version of Super Mario Bros. Thanks to his creativity, he was able to make something truly unique for the handheld: Super Mario Land. The game was a hit, and numerous sequels were released.

super mario landAfter leaving Nintendo, Yokoi went on to form his own company, Koto. He later developed the Bandai Wonderswan, which was immensely popular in Japan. Thanks to his experiences with the Game Boy, Yokoi was able to keep costs low and availability high.

While Gunpei Yokoi lost his life to a car accident in 1997, his legacy lives on. He was one of the most important individuals in video gaming, and modern games owe a lot to this man.

Stadium Events Approaches $100k in Silly Bidding War

rsz_stadium-events-gioco-nintendo-bandai-da-collezioneA complete, sealed in box copy of the uber-rare Stadium Events cartridge for the NES is fast approaching $100k in an eBay bidding war. By the time you read this, prices may have climbed even higher.

I’m a great lover of video games, don’t get me wrong, but this is ridiculous. It seems like the game collecting scene is constantly driving up the monetary value of old games, even if many of them are only valuable because they’re so rare.

rsz_2362255-nes_stadiumeventsI’ve always believed the value of a game lies in its quality, not its scarcity. Blowing $100k on a game that most people probably have never heard of or have any interest in playing just seems silly to me.

And even if Stadium Events is a fantastic game, the $100,000 price tag seems bananas. I mean, $100,000 could buy you a Batmobile. Isn’t living out your Batman fantasies better than staring at a game in its shrink wrap?

Though I guess if you’ve got $100k to blow, you might be Batman anyway.

Retro Rewind: Nintendo’s Failed Partnerships

RetroRewindLogo

Nintendo was the company that helped pull the industry out of the proverbial bargain bin after the great crash of 1983.

Along with Sega, Nintendo brought video gaming back into the living room, setting a quality-control standard and ushering in an age of affordable, dedicated video game machines. Having been in the toys industry before delving into video games, Nintendo was always looking to innovate with new ways to entertain.

However, not all was mushrooms and fire flowers in the land of the big N. Back in the 1980s, Nintendo very much wanted to break into magnetic and optical media for use with its consoles. The Famicom Disk System, while a huge success, was worrisome because it was piracy fodder. Nintendo wanted the Super Famicom to have a disc-based edge that was hard to duplicate, so the company contacted Sony about developing a CD add-on for the SNES, a deal which famously fell through. Oddly enough, this led to Sony using the CD technology to develop its own console, the PlayStation, which was originally going to be the Nintendo Play Station or SNES-CD.

rr_nintBut even without the Sony deal, Nintendo wasn’t ready to give up on optical media. Enter Philips, who co-developed the CD-ROM XA technology with Sony. This partnership also ended prematurely, and once again bore a console of its own: The Philips CD-i. Unlike the PlayStation, though, the CD-i was a huge flop (though due to contractual obligations, Philips was allowed to make a mediocre Mario game and three hilariously poor Zelda titles). However, the system was famous for being one of the first with internet connectivity, and sported a vast array of educational titles.

So that’s your history lesson for the week. If it weren’t for Nintendo, the PlayStation might not have existed, and we wouldn’t have classic CD-i titles like Stickybear Math.

Retro Rewind: Professor Layton’s Art Style Is Strangely Nostalgic

lay_featttopUnlike most Nintendo DS owners, I was very late to the Professor Layton party. I didn’t pick up the games until long after they’d captivated people across the globe.

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Internet Arcade Review: Super Hang-On

Super Hang-On LogoIt’s been a long, arduous road. In fact, it’s a downright miracle that I made it this far and still remain one step ahead of the blood-thirsty cabal of ninja assassins hunting me down. If not for my rapacious wit and pristine physical stature, I’m sure I would have been mincemeat by now. But it’s taken a toll like you wouldn’t believe, not just on my mental state but on my wallet as well.

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What Weezer and Resident Evil Have in Common

Weezer BlueBack in the 1990s, I was convinced that Weezer was the greatest band on the planet.

They were such an unassuming group of guys, a collection of misfits you might bring home to take care of your pets or cook dinner for Mom, not some panty-dropping, hotel-room-trashing rock band. Just look at the cover of their breakout self-titled record and you’ll see a Rivers Cuomo who looks maybe 15, a Matt Sharp who looks like he’d gladly help you with your homework, a Brian Bell who looks like he’d silently play with TI calculators all day long, and a Patrick Wilson who looks strangely like a teenage version of Damon Lindelof.

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Retrovolve Takes a Look at Freedom Planet

fp_topGeekParty’s own Louis Garcia already took a look at Freedom Planet, a Sega-inspired indie platformer, but our friends over at Retrovolve just discovered this gem and wanted to share their take as well.

Freedom Planet isn’t just a retro-styled game like Super Meat Boy or Hotline Miami. It’s something I’d describe as “full retro.” It doesn’t wear a vintage gaming costume but instead opts for the full monty, tightroping that fine line between merely ripping off classic franchises and ripping them off with style.

Comparisons to Sonic The Hedgehog and Gunstar Heroes aside, Freedom Planet has gorgeous graphics and animation with innovative level design, huge challenging bosses, and some pumping tunes for a true sensory feast.

Go check out Retrovolve’s review and gameplay footage to get a better idea of what Freedom Planet has to offer.

Internet Arcade Review: Bio-Attack

Bio-Attack Logo

Every week, GeekParty’s editor asks Julian Watkins to review a few retro titles from the Internet Arcade. But instead of cooperating, Julian makes things up. We don’t even know if he’s playing these games.

Deep within the bowels of Frederick “Rick” Moranis, Bio-Attack takes us on a journey to fight his inoperable colon cancer and rid him of this awful, deadly malady. In fact, rumor has it that Mr. Moranis had cancer inserted into his body to get into character for this role. Though, there ended up being no actual mention of his involvement in this game upon release.

Mr. Moranis filed a lawsuit against Taito, Bio-Attack’s developer, after the game became internationally successful. The company used his likeness but refused compensation. He was denied  13% of the game’s net profit, a deal he had struck with Taito after it had become clear just how successful this game would become. Taito only agreed because they were sure they had a real dud on their hands and just wanted to get the damn thing out so they could be done with it.

Bio-Attack 1

Little did they know that Mr. Moranis, a then unknown choreographer, would skyrocket to fame. His career would go on to span 20+ years, garnering him 3 Oscars and a cavalcade of accolades from the Hollywood elite.

In fact, rumor has it that Mr. Moranis even tried to option off the rights to make a Bio-Attack movie, but these efforts would prove unsuccessful in light of the bad blood that would forever remain between Mr. Moranis and Taito. When the dust had settled, Moranis was the victim of several costly lawsuits, and he was passed over for the role of John McClane in the original Die Hard movie. The role would eventually land in Bruce Willis’s hands, only receive direct-to-video release dooming all hopes of kickstarting a lucrative film franchise.

Mr. Moranis would later succumb to his battle with colon cancer. It was impossible to remove an inoperable cancer from his body, unlike inBio-Attack, where you can simply blast the cancer cells with your tiny doctor ship.

He is survived by his two sons Armando and Riviera Moranis.