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Tetris: A Look Back (GameBoy)

Picture of 2 Tetris carts
Left: English Tetris Cart
Right: Japanese Tetris Cart
My English cart is in pretty bad condition, but I got it off of Amazon. The Japanese cart was actually from a car-boot sale!

Tetris is one of the best games ever. Rather than repeat what many people have already said, I thought I’d actually look back at the design of the game, rather than give a review (a normal review wouldn’t actually explain why the game is good, it would just give opinions on 4 main categories that don’t really apply to Tetris). As you probably know, Tetris is an outstanding game, but why is it? Well, time to find out!

There is no plot. So don’t ask about one!

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The music in this game is amazing. It is really catchy, and you could listen to it on loop for hours and it still wouldn’t get annoying. It is so amazing, there are thousands of remixes on YouTube and other video sharing sites.

The graphics are very simplistic. They don’t make your eyes bleed, and they look good for the GameBoy. The game uses 4 shades of grey (at least there isn’t 50 shades)!

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You have to place falling blocks into rows. When you get a full row, you get points and the blocks disappear. If you destroy 4 rows at once, you get a Tetris, and many more points. It’s a very simplistic puzzle game, and it is really addictive.

So, I bet you are now wondering why this game is amazing, and one of the most revolutionary games of all time. Well, I will now explain why this is a great game.

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Note: many people have different interpretations of the Tetris graph. Some believe it is much steeper, some think it is separated into chunks. The graph shown is a simplified

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Sonic Spinball (16-Bit) Review

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Time to finish off my “review worst games thingy” topic by reviewing Sonic Spinball (the Megadrive version)! Instead of reviewing a game with a bad reputation (even though it may or may not deserve it), I decided to do the opposite and talk about a game that is considered mediocre, and see if it deserves that reputation. Is this game fun? Let’s find out!

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Let’s start with the gameplay; it’s pinball. I’m assuming you already know how to play pinball, but just in case you don’t (and are still living under a rock from Pac-Man 2600), here’s a quick summary: you move a ball in a playing field to score points. To get points, you have to hit multiple targets. At the bottom is 2 plastic bats called flippers. Don’t let your ball fall in the drain!

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Well, that sounds like exciting gameplay (not). In the previous article, I stated how I despise this game. And I do. That is because of the terrible controls. I don’t mind the game being different, and “not a platformer”, as long as the game controls well, and is fun. But, they messed up this game too much for it to be enjoyable.

Casino Night Zone is 100 times better than this game, and it’s built into an already great game! It may not be a pinball game, but it’s much more fun to play, and less tedious!

There is a story, but it’s basically nothing. The back of the box says that “Dr Robotnik’s latest fortress is a giant pinball machine!” and Sonic needs to destroy it. That’s it. According to Wikipedia, there is a bigger story, but most players won’t get to hear it. It’s basically saying Tails and Sonic fly into the scene (I assume on the

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Battletoads & Double Dragon: The Ultimate Team (NES)

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Battletoads & Double Dragon:  The Ultimate Team was a brawler released in 1993 for the Nintendo Entertainment System.  Developed by Rare and published by Tradewest, the game would later be ported to the SNES and Sega Master Drive.  Interestingly enough, although the game was a cross-over between the two franchises, the game was handled by the Battletoad’s devs and the engine was a Battletoads one.

Old Nintendo Power cover covering Battletoads and Double Dragon's release.
Old Nintendo Power cover covering Battletoads and Double Dragon’s release.

The game lets you choose one of 5 protagonists.  For the first time, all three Battletoads are selectable in a game.  You can also choose either of the two Double Dragon characters.  The game follows a side-scrolling path, where you clear enemies on each screen and eventually a boss at each level.  Once the boss has been defeated, you can then move on to a higher level.

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One of the fun things about most brawlers is the co-op gameplay that can be utilized with two players.  However in this one, unlike games like Contra, the continues are overlapping:  so, whenever one player continues, then both players have to start at the beginning of the level.  This doesn’t help a team that has a non-skilled player who might need to be carried through the levels.  No more doing all the work for your little sibling, d’oh!

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Battletoads and Double Dragon was well-received upon it’s release, and is still one of the best co-op brawlers ever.  The SNES and Sega versions are usually seen as superior, though, since they are the same exact game but with better graphics and sound.  Either way, this is one NES gem you shouldn’t miss!

Battletoads and Double Dragon Links!
.: NES Dudes episode

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Silver Surfer is One of the Toughest on the NES

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There’s no doubt about it, ask anyone who has compiled a short-list of some of the “hardest” games on NES, and Silver Surfer will make that list.  Featuring a side-scrolling shooter approach, this game had many unforgiving ways to die.  It features The Silver Surfer aiding Galactus on his quest to gain possession of the Cosmic Device.  Supposedly, this is the key to saving The Universe.  However, the mechanics of this NES excursion make that very difficult for the player.

For starters, this game has some really exact techniques that must be followed.  Although there are a healthy amount of enemies to shoot-up, you can also die from touching anything on the screen.  That’s right, The Sky-Rider of the Spaceways can easily be thwarted by a well-placed wall.

Not only are the obstacles well-placed, making things extremely difficult, but the enemies come fast and furiously.  Your only weapon is some kind of energy The Surfer shoots from his hands.  You can’t hold the fire button down, so you have to literally smash the B-button continuously to stand a chance.  If you have an NES advantage, or a controller with turbo, USE IT!!

In our opinion, the graphics aren’t too bad for an NES title, but the exception is the Silver Surfer’s sprite:

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Despite the difficulty of the game, there are a few redeeming qualities.  The music was enjoyable and fun, and was praised for it’s technical accomplishments back when the game was released.

We recommend playing Silver Surfer if you want to see just how tough NES games can be!

Bonus Silver Surfer Links:
.:  AVGN Episode
.:  Soundtrack (In stereo!)
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:  NESDudes Silver Surfer episode!

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Little Nemo – The Dream Master, Not The Fish

Little Nemo:  The Dream Master, was an acid-trip of an NES game.  Released in 1990, it was an adaptation of Little Nemo in Slumberland, a popular comic strip from the early 1900’s.

The titular comic strip character, Nemo, is a young boy who is always having fantastic dreams.  The comic always started with Nemo going to bed, and then waking up in the final panel.  The dreams varied from out of the ordinary, to downright terrifying:

Little Nemo Dream Sequence
Little Nemo Dream Sequence

The NES game that was released in 1990 was meant to be a movie tie-in to a Japanese-American film about Little Nemo and his adventures in Slumber Land.  However, for some reason, the film would not debut in America until 1992, leaving The Dream Master as a stand-alone Little Nemo experience.

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The game itself is a platformer with RPG elements.  It follows the adventures of Nemo in various stages, on his way to rescue Morpheus in Nightmare Land from the clutches of the evil Nightmare King.

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You progress through the game by moving side-to-side and up-and-down around each level and collecting keys.  Nemo can feed candy to certain animals in each level in exchange for rides.  The animals from a frog, to a gorilla, or a mole. Each has its own skills needed to complete the level.

Overall, the game was regarded as being very difficult for it’s time.  Ask most gamers who grew up with Little Nemo, and they will probably tell you that they never completed it as a youngster.  Capcom was no stranger to tough platformers in 1990, having already published Mega Man in 1987, and churning out 8-bit adventure games with fury.

Despite the difficulty, the game was highly praised.  The gameplay is responsive and fun.  The music is memorable and catchy.  Today, it still clocks in …

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Underrated Retro – Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!

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The next episode of our Underrated Retro Series is the *not-so-underrated*, Mike Tyson’s Punchout.  This is the spiritual prequel to the last game we featured, Power Punch II.

Punch Out was released in 1987 in North America for the Nintendo Entertainment System, and served as a console port from the original Punch Out!! arcade game.  It was directed by the original Arcade producer, Genyo Takeda.   Because the NES was not as powerful as the arcade hardware, Takeda and his crew realized that it would be impossible for the NES port to faithfully emulate the arcade graphics. Instead of making the playable boxer wire-framed or transparent to see an opponent, they decided to shrink the playable boxer, so that players could easily see opponents over his head. Other things added to the NES version that the arcade versions lacked were a rough plot, a background music track played during fights, animated cutscenes and a password system for saving progress.

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The cover boy and final boss was a young, “Iron” Mike Tyson.  Nintendo decided to pay Mike Tyson a rumored $50,000 for his likeness in Punch Out, a period that would last 3 years.  It was a huge chance for Nintendo, since Tyson wasn’t an established champion yet.  However, it just so happens that Tyson would go on to win the WBC World Title, but later be defeated by James “Buster” Douglas.  After this defeat, Nintendo decided not to renew the licensing deal with Tyson.  They went on to create a fictional final boss, “Mr. Dream”, in lieu of Mike, and insert him into the game.

The game is centered around a fictional boxer that is trying to work his way up the ranks, Little Mac.  Mac has an extremely limited repertoire of moves compared to his many colorful opponents.

The main attacks the player …

How Have You Not Played That? Chrono Trigger.

There was a moment sometime in 1997 when I played my first JRPG, Final Fantasy VII. Being a Sega Genesis kid followed by N64, I missed out on all the “great” JRPG’s of the Super Nintendo years. The adventures of Cloud and company forever changed the type of gamer I was and I have not missed many SquareEnix adventures since.

There was always one game that I was told was the pinnacle of Square’s success, Chrono Trigger. Much to the annoyance of the Trigger fans, I had played through Chrono Cross, the “sequel” on PS1, and yet had never touched the original. Finally now, I decided to sit down, do some time traveling, and take part in the adventures of Crono and company.

Released in 1995 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System in North America, Chrono Trigger was one of the last games released by Square on the SNES. One of the most notable things about this game is its style. The art work for the game is done by Akira Toriyama, the lead artist for the Dragon Ball manga, and his art direction is fantastic. The character sprites look great even by todays standards and the character portraits are some of the best. Seeing the world change and develop while you explore it from the beginning of time to the end of time is amazing.

The world is really brought to life with a great cast and story. Watching these characters grow as the story progresses was my favorite part. I really liked the emphasis on developing different key characters in each time period. A lot of the development does come with spending extra time on side quests, but the story also introduces you to these characters in key ways. I thoroughly enjoyed the Frog and Robo characters along …

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Shovel Knight! The Vidya Bum


Shovel Knight is one of the best games I’ve played so far this year. In fact, it’s one of my favorite games that has been released in recent memory. In my honest opinion, it’s the best game to come out so far in 2014. It does have some staunch competition coming in this 2nd half of the year, though.

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Shovel Knight is an 8-bit inspired platform medley of Mega Man, Ducktales, a little bit of Zelda 2 and Castlevania, with a sprinkle of Super Mario Bros. 3. On top of all of this, however, it manages to produce some exciting and unique features not seen in any of the aforementioned games. This game is pure fun, sounds fantastic, and has some really great tunes and some beautiful artwork. Shovel Knight was developed by Yacht Club Games; whom are based out of California. The game was funded by a very successful Kickstarter campaign. The minimum goal was 75k, and Shovel Knight went on to raise over 300k before the conclusion of the Kickstarter Campaign.
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Shovel Knight has two goals in this game: To defeat the evil Enchantress, and get some answers about his lost beloved companion, Shield Knight. However, throughout his quest, he is met by staunch resistance in the form of the Enchantress’s henchmen (and Shovel Knight’s mortal foes) The Order of No Quarter. These other quirky Knights attempt to block Shovel Knight’s passage to the Enchantress, and it is up to you to guide Shovel Knight to victory. Can you dig it?

The gameplay is mostly reminiscent of platformeresque Mega Man, but then you have to add in a shovel. Why a shovel? Well, Why not? Besides being his namesake, the shovel is the Shovel Knight’s main weapon. The shovel behaves similarliry to Scrooge McDuck’s walking cane pogo …

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Underrated Retro – Cobra Triangle – The Vidya Bum

Cobra Triangle is a single-player action game, developed by Rare, and released in July of 1989 for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was designed by the Stamper brothers, who would go on to provide us with all sorts of Rare goodness for the SNES and Nintendo 64.

Following the critical success of R.C. Pro-Am, Rare chose many of the same aesthetics for Cobra Triangle, such as the isometric perspective the game is presented in. The main difference being that instead of Trucks racing, Cobra Triangle is a boat action game with some racing elements.

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David Wise composed the soundtrack for Cobra Triangle, who at the time, was an extremely prolific composer for many video games. Other games under his belt include; Marble Madness, California Games, Battletoads, and eventually even the beautiful OST for Donkey Kong Country.

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Cobra Triangle is a really enjoyable game, and in addition to racing levels, the game features several different kinds of missions such as; collecting mines from one area and depositing them in a detonation area whilst outwitting another boat trying to steal the mines back, protecting stranded people from enemy boats attempting to capture them, jumping waterfalls, and even battling enemy bosses. My least favorite stages are the waterfall levels. You must hit moving ramps at a certain speed to jump across the waterfall. If you miss, you automatically lose a life. As you can see, I died quite a few times here.

There are 25 stages in the game, each section containing 5 levels of each different type of game mode, with the 5th level generally being a boss fight. The boss fights are pretty cool too, they feature a giant sea snake (as seen on the game cover), a giant crab, and several others.

Cobra Triangle was fairly well received when it …