Archive for the ‘Nintendo’ Category

NES Advantage

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

I’ve mentioned a few times around the Internet that I like the NES Advantage. It’s true, it’s one of my favorite controllers of all time. I mean, just take a look at this thing.

Advantage, NES

It’s perfect in almost every way. It’s a good size, it fits my hands, it’s got a comfortable button layout, it’s got lights so I can see how fast the autofire is pushing the button for me, it can switch from player 1 to player 2 with the flick of a switch, and so on. It’s the next best thing to having an arcade stick in your home to play all of those arcade-quality games on your NES. I could go on, but then this would turn into some kind of gushing, fawning article, and I’m not sure I want to go down that path… again.

What’s pictured above is not my first NES Advantage. I’m actually on my second one. The first one I had lasted me through the end of the NES’s life, and then met an unfortunate end courtesy of the sharp legs of an easy chair some time in 1995.

I was so disappointed that I kind of stopped playing NES games for a while. I moved on to the Super NES and then to the N64, and then one day in 2000 I went to my local Toys R Us, and they had an entire aisle lined with NES Advantage controllers. I couldn’t believe my luck, so I grabbed one (rather shortsighted, I guess) and took it to the counter to pay. The lady looked at it and asked me with a hint of disbelief in her voice, “You know this is for the regular, old NES, right?”. I assured her that I knew that and that’s why I wanted it.

The Bachelor: The Videogame

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

This is the space where I usually talk about the various video-game-related things that I’ve collected over the years, but since today’s Valentine’s day, I thought I’d change it up a little bit.

I have enlisted another bachelor, Callitot (from our world-famous Rayman Origins playthrough), to help me play a round of The Bachelor: The Videogame, and the trainwreck that followed is below.

Enjoy! And happy Valentine’s Day!

Packy & Marlon

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Video games are good for a lot of things: procrastinating instead of doing homework, making you late for appointments, saving fake princesses from imaginary lands, etc. But they also occasionally can be used to teach people things a bit more important than how to min/max your Pokemon (but maybe not as complex). Like what? Like diabetes.

No, really.

You may never have thought that there would be a video game where you would take a diabetic elephant through a summer camp while he has to manage his blood sugar, did you?


But is the game any good? Unfortunately, I don’t know. It turns out that I stumbled across this game, unopened, at a local thrift store, and this game is worth more sealed than opened. So, I’ll just have to play it vicariously via videos on YouTube.

Somehow I feel like I’m not missing much.

Super Mario Snerdles

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

I know what you’re probably thinking. Judging by the title of this entry, you think that I misspelled or misheard something. Either that or I’ve just started making up words, right?

Super Mario Snerdles

Nope, they’re a real thing.

But what is a Snerdle? Well, it’s kind of like someone took a Fruit Roll-Up, folded it into a slightly smaller square, and then jammed a bunch of the white things from the tops of Sno-caps on top of them.

In short, they sounded edible. So I bought a pack and tried to eat them. I say ‘tried’ because it became pretty apparent that whoever designed these things didn’t count on them ever being exposed to heat of any kind, and all of my Snerdles were hopelessly glued to the plastic tray they sat in, making extraction nigh impossible.

But I was able to come up with a serviceable solution. Popping the Snerdles in my refrigerator for a couple of hours hardened them up enough that they popped out of the package properly.

And what did I get for my troubles? Three squarish, vaguely fruit-ish flavored things with tasteless sugar balls mixed in. It turns out that these are way more fun to look at than to eat (although that didn’t stop me from polishing off the bag), probably because they look kind of like pixel-art.

Would I buy these again? I have proof that I’ve already purchased these once. I think that’s plenty, don’t you?

Plush Question Mark Box

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

If I ask you to think about Super Mario Bros., what do you think of? Mario? Luigi? Princess Peach? Super Mushrooms?

Maybe after several tense minutes and a bit of prodding, you’ll think about one of these.



One of the thousands of blocks that stand between Mario and wherever it is that Mario is headed. What’s inside? Goodies? Baddies? Riches? Only one way to find out: You punch it, of course. But, that looks like it might hurt. Good thing there’s this.

What you’re looking at here is a plush question mark block, which is way easier on your hands when you punch it. And what do you get for your troubles? The sweet, sweet sound of a coin popping out (but couldn’t locate the coins themselves, unfortunately). Even better is, you punch it enough times and you’re rewarded with the sound of a 1-up mushroom being awarded. What could be better? Well, a lot, actually. But this is neat, too.

The Last Starfighter

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

I really tried a couple of times to get through The Last Starfighter (the movie), but I never could do it. So it kind of stands to reason that I never sought out the video game adaptation. But that all changed this past weekend when I made an interesting find.

I didn't pay $12.95 for it, either.

I didn’t pay $12.95 for it, either.

“Big deal,” I hear you say? Well, okay. I admit that the game itself wasn’t the whole reason for me picking up this particular Ruined Cartridge. But I did find this interesting for a couple of reasons.

First, look at that case. It’s pretty typical of the cases you would get if you would rent a NES cartridge at some point in the NES’s heyday. It’s even got something approximating the box art on the front. And on the inside?

The Last Starfighter Case Internal

Pretty standard stuff… except, what is this?

The Last Starfighter Detail

A sticker for The Video Vault in Radcliff, KY? A business that no longer seems to be in operation?

Oh, right. The other thing.

The Last Starfighter Insert

What we have here is an excerpt of the manual of the game, typed out and pasted to the carved up box and wedged into the plastic cover of the game. For anyone growing up in the age of games coming in DVD cases, you might not be familiar with the concept of disappearing manuals. But if you have a manual the size of a doubled-over postcard but without all the durability, you create a situation where the first person to rent a game would get a manual, but the second person would get a manual with no cover, and the third person would get a couple of staples (if he was lucky). This seemed like an elegant solution to that problem, rather than wasting time making photocopies or some other such nonsense.

Compute!’s Guide to Nintendo Games

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Before I had ready, (practically) always-on connectivity to the sum of human knowledge, I spent a lot of time playing video games. And when I wasn’t playing video games, I was reading books about how to play video games. This is mostly due to the fact that we didn’t have a whole lot of money growing up and video games were (and in most cases still are) pretty expensive, while books are generally pretty cheap.

One of the books I spent a lot of time with was Compute!’s Guide to Nintendo Games. I mean, take a look at this thing:

Compute!'s Guide Front

Compute!'s Guide Back

How could anyone resist those bullet points?

  • Keys to Nintendo Mastery? I love mastering things!
  • Screen Shots for 45 games? They’re black and white, sure, but they’re better than nothing. I don’t have to imagine what the graphics are like
  • Special Super Secrets Chapter!? I’m so there

What I really like about this book is the conversational tone that it takes with the game reviews. They’re broken down into graphics, sound, and the bog-standard categories, but when I’m reading this, I get the feeling that it’s just Mr. Schwartz talking to me about some new game he’s played, and not some cut-and-dried analytical review. It’s a style I tried to work in to the mini-reviews posted over at

Also worked into the book is a section dedicated to controllers (most of which I’ve never even seen in person), a tongue-in-cheek review of the Nintendo Cereal System, Super Secrets, and a Parent’s Guide to Nintendo Games (which we’ll get to in a minute).

Each of the game reviews has a few hints, tips, and strategies, but the Super Secrets section has tips, tricks, and strategies that are so useful, so amazing, and so informative, that they’re almost like cheating. And to disguise these tips so that you couldn’t just idly flip back to them in a moment of weakness. The Super Secrets were printed in reverse, so that you were supposed to find a mirror to hold the book up to to be able to read them. I, of course, made myself learn how to read reversed text instead. I think I made the right call, that’s a life skill that’s proven invaluable.

But the one of the sections that kind of didn’t hold a lot of meaning for me until many years later is the Parent’s Guide to Nintendo. I’m not a parent, but there are a lot of issues Mr. Schwartz brings up that seem relevant today when he’s talking about how video games can have an impact on kids, and he advocates that parents take an active role in monitoring what their children play. Check out this section of the Parent’s Guide called ‘A Call for Better Games’

There’s little reason we can’t expect more imaginative plot lines; ones that don’t stress violence or a kill-or-be-killed attitude. It’s easy to create another violent game: kill a lot of things, reward the player with power and hit points as he does, and work up to the final confrontation with the evil lord of the monsters. It’s difficult, on the other hand, to come up with an imaginative, nonviolent adventure that rewards problem-solving skills and is still fun to play.

The portrayal of women in games could also stand some work. Other than the heroine Athena and the Princess in Super Mario Bros. 2, women are usually depicted as kidnap victims. The only nonvictims that come to mind are the whip-wielding Lindas (Double Dragon) and Pretty Amy (Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf). It’s nice to see some females in NES games, but I don’t think it’s necessary to make them gang members or add Pretty as part of their names.

I’d also like to see a greater potential for early education and more games written specifically for young children. The Nintendo is a good tool for developing eye/hand coordination and problem-solving skills. To be really useful for young children, however, games have to be created that require only elementary reading abilities, and simpler rules and controls. The Sesame Street games from Hi Tech Expressions are a good start toward this goal. More cartridges of this type will undoubtedly appear as additional manufacturers move to fill this market gap.

Keep in mind that the above was written in 1989. We’ve certainly come a long way since then, but we still have a long way to go. Games with female protagonists are still very rare and sell poorly, and (as of this writing) GameStop has 22 educational games available for the Wii (arguably the most kid-friendly platform) as opposed to over 100 shooters. If that’s all the progress that we’ve made in 24 years, maybe we do still have some work to do.

Wesley Alexander’s Werewolf Cartridge

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

If anyone knows Wesley Alexander, you might tell him that I have his Werewolf cartridge.


I was able to clean up the stray marker… er, marks, and the contacts with some rubbing alcohol.

Unfortunately, this awful game now works perfectly.

Game Boy Wallet

Thursday, January 10th, 2013


You’ve heard of the Nintendo Game Boy, right? Hand-held gaming device, spinach-green screen? Came in lots of variations and revisions including the Color Game Boy (came with colored shells), Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Color (came with a color screen), Game Boy SP, and on and on? Looked kind of like this:

Game Boy... kind of

Hm, most Game Boys didn’t come in tins, so this may not be the real deal. Let’s open this up and see what we have.

It's a Game Boy, it's a bi-fold wallet. It's madness.

It’s a Game Boy, it’s a bi-fold wallet. It’s madness.

That looks practically the same. Well, sort of. What you’re looking at here is a representation of the Game Boy in the finest leather (well, maybe not the absolute finest, but pretty close). With pockets for cash, credit cards, and ID cards, but you’ll probably fill it up with receipts and phone numbers without any names attached to them.

So, it’s almost as fun as a real Game Boy, and it uses fewer batteries. That’s pretty awesome, right?

Let’s Play!

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Back around 2006 or so, some of the folks over at the Something Awful forums apparently decided to start playing through some video games and providing commentary via screenshots and captions. Which is a great way to vicariously experience a game while you’re browsing the Internet at work.

Then, sometime in 2007, the Video Let’s Plays started to appear. This was essentially the same thing, but instead of pictures and captions, we get full video and running commentary. Kind of like one of those old hint videos in the 80s/90s, but going through the entire game. (Without the commentary, it’s what’s called a Longplay)

There are lots of kinds of Let’s Play videos, but I think I can break them down into four categories:

  1. People who play through games just to get angry and yell/cry.
  2. People who play through games without a specific goal, just to play until game over (they may or may not complete the game)
  3. People who have a vlog, but with a video game playing instead of showing their face
  4. People who play through the game to completion, showing off gotchas, tips, and tricks, while providing interesting commentary

The barriers to making a Let’s Play video these days are absurdly low. All you really need is a game to play, a video capture device, a microphone, maybe some video editing software, and an Internet connection. Since I had all of those things handy (and there are about 7 million Let’s Play videos on Youtube already), I figured I’d dip my toe into the world of Let’s Play as an excuse to play through some of the games just kind of sitting around here, but I didn’t want to do any of the first three, since they’re pretty boring to watch. So, I figured I’d give #4 a try, which you can see below.

So, if you ever wanted to know what I actually sound like, or if I actually have any video game chops, now’s your chance to find out!