Game Under Podcast Episode 99

Tom and Phil return to discuss Cloverfield and its political subtext, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (probably some other games, too; we can't remember), and why videogames are not art. With actual reasons. Roger Ebert wishes he was on this level.

Oh, as well as little bit about Godzilla, Cloverfield and their political subtexts. 

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Game Under Podcast Episode 98

In Episode 98 of the Game Under Podcast, Tom Towers and Phil Fogg return remastered in HD to give their final impressions of a long list of games, discuss the Cold War and make sense of Pseudo-Academic New Commercial Post-Textual Video Game Criticism. Or, as it is known to the layman, YouTube video "essays" and reviews.

Here's a bunch of games: The Cat Lady, Mafia III, Splatoon 2, Year Walk, Uncharted: Lost Legacy, SNES Mini, Yoshi's Story, Titanfall II, Yakuza 0, Transformers Destruction.

 

 

 

 

Super Nintendo Entertainment System Mini

I was able to pick-up a SNES mini a few days ago online for the Australian price of $126 (that included shipping). It was a limited window sale on ebgames.com and since I knew it was difficult to find at retail decided to take the plunge (it is currently selling on Ebay for $190).

Sits nicely in the Nintendo section. (The NES and SNES have moved to the shelf now that the Retron 5 is hooked up).

Sits nicely in the Nintendo section. (The NES and SNES have moved to the shelf now that the Retron 5 is hooked up).

I was not all that interested in the system, since I have almost all of the games that come on the system, and by last count five SNES or SNES clones on which to play them, but relented on the basis of it's convenience and reliability.  Old carts work reliably in the original hardware, but the original hardware does not display that well on HDMI.  The downside of the clones like the Retron 5, is that often the emulator does not include the cart you want to play.

This way I can play most of the classics, with the benefits of save states, with a high degree of convenience.

Inside the SNES mini, looks just like the NES mini. Photo courtesy of https://mynintendonews.com/, please visit their site.

Inside the SNES mini, looks just like the NES mini. Photo courtesy of https://mynintendonews.com/, please visit their site.

Here in Australia we get the EU version, which comes with two of the four colour buttons, as opposed the violet and purple buttons of the NTSC version. The downside is the buttons are all convex, unlike the top two buttons on the NTSC version which are concave. Oh and... the cables are too short, okay if you are outputting to your PC monitor, but in the living room you won't be able to sit on the couch and play at the same time.

The only other down-side is that you'll need to supply your own power.  Nintendo provides a USB cable, but no wall adapter.  I used a Samsung micro-USB charger and it worked fine.

All in all, it's a nice little package, and well worth the price.

For reference, here are the games on the system.

  • Contra III: The Alien Wars
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Earthbound
  • Final Fantasy III
  • F-ZERO
  • Kirby Super Star
  • Kirby's Dream Course
  • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
  • Mega Man X
  • Secret of Mana
  • Star Fox
  • Star Fox 2
  • Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
  • Super Castlevania IV
  • Super Ghouls 'n Ghosts
  • Super Mario Kart
  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
  • Super Mario World
  • Super Metroid
  • Super Punch-Out!
  • Yoshi's Island

- Phil Fogg

Bithell Games Podcast Listener E-Mail

Phil Fogg and I are both big fans of the Bithell Games podcast. It's essential listening for anyone with a casual interested in videogame development, as it regularly goes into detail about the unglamorous bits of being a world famous indie game developer, and sometimes even reflects on Mike Bithell's years in Triple A, and Alexander Sliwinski's years in the press.

But this episode is of particular interest to Game Under fans—I wrote in, and Mike and Alexander were kind enough to spend half an hour answering my question! It was very illuminating for me, and I'm sure it will be for you if you've ever wondered why videogame developers and publishers are so reluctant to speak openly about their jobs. 

Please to enjoy.

- Tom Towers

Namco Negcon

On a recent podcast Tom gave his review of a game that was designed for Namco's NeGcon controller (essentially "Twist" in Japanese according to Wikipedia) released for use for the original PlayStation in 1995. 

This highly comfortable controller is large by 1995 standards, but comparable to a modern day PS4 controller.

It has single trigger buttons (both analogue), what would be described today as R1 and L1 buttons. In place of the PlayStation symbol buttons it has a A, B, I and II button and a work-around of the then trademarked Nintendo directional cross pad.

Note that the maroon (I and II buttons) have a very high vertical profile, more than I've seen in any controller for a button (as opposed to triggers).

Note that the maroon (I and II buttons) have a very high vertical profile, more than I've seen in any controller for a button (as opposed to triggers).

The I and II buttons are analogue as well and have a deep "throw", perfectly suited to the driving mechanics that the Namco controller was no-doubt based around.

This image demonstrates the ability of the two sides of the NeGcon to twist and turn.

This image demonstrates the ability of the two sides of the NeGcon to twist and turn.

In feel the controller is a masterpiece. Even out-of-game it is a pleasure to test and turn and feels entirely comfortable to hold. It's novel without being a gimmick and like the Dvorak keyboard a work of function, passionately expressed.

Interior of the first generation NeGcon. Image sourced from Wikipedia. I was surprised not to find rubber bands, as the tension in the control felt as though it was being restricted by direct force.

Interior of the first generation NeGcon. Image sourced from Wikipedia. I was surprised not to find rubber bands, as the tension in the control felt as though it was being restricted by direct force.

The hardware is sound, in fact impressive, but how does it play? I chose to try a Namco game first, Rage Racer, the third entry in the Ridge Racer series.  The Rage Racer name is confusing, as it is emblazoned on the side and front of the game case, but the disc and title screen emphasize Ridge Racer directly over the top of the Rage Racer title, all but completely obfuscating the formal name.

The PlayStation automatically detects the NeGcon allowing games to immediately switch in alternate control layout images.

The PlayStation automatically detects the NeGcon allowing games to immediately switch in alternate control layout images.

I first tried to ascertain if the deep I and II buttons were truly analogue. Rage Racer uses I to accelerate and II to brake, and indeed the 7 mm buttons do have significant "throw". A deep push accelerated more sharply and similarly the brakes were responsive to the amount of force applied to the buttons.

With the NeGcon you don't steer at all with the directional pad, that is reserved for gear shifting, all steering is done with by twisting the control in your hand, which has a precision of the highest end driving wheels.

The first race certainly took some adjusting to, but by the second game I was sold on the NeGcon and it's tactility. It replicates the feeling of driving a vehicle with sensitive controls, much like a V8 with 20 inch rims.

Wipeout is a fair description of the NeGcon's performance with this game. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

Wipeout is a fair description of the NeGcon's performance with this game. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.

The second game I tried with the NeGcon was Psygnosis' classic zero gravity racer, Wipeout. Wipeout is by far one of my favourite zero gravity racers (see my impressions of Kinetica). But after playing Rage Racer, Wipeout felt surprising slow, floaty and unresponsive. The use of the NeGcon, which again was automatically detected by the PlayStation, felt entirely misunderstood by the developer. Responding to only the most extreme twisting  of the controller, the enjoyment of the game was depleted immediately.

Based on these experiences, if you enjoy the Ridge Racer or Ace Combat series the NeGcon is a must-buy that adds extra enjoyment to already good franchises.

The Goonies II

After we talked about The Goonies in the last episode of the podcast I looked through the library to pull out my copy of The Goonies II, the game for which there is no eponymous movie.

It's in great shape, wish I had the box.

It's in great shape, wish I had the box.

I was pleased to find it in very good shape. The cartridge looks like the day it was made with no aging whatsoever.  The manual is also pristine, but for a code that is written on it.  So what is the game about?  Let's go to the manual:

They're back! Kookie old Ma Fratelli and her slime-ball sons have returned to wreak havoc in your neighbourhood. And this time they've not only kidnapped your Goonie buddies, but your good friend, Annie the Mermaid, as well. What a bunch of low lifes, this Fratelli Gang.
Now it's up to you, the last Goonie left, to save the day. But it won't be easy. You'll have to be a quick thinker and a fast tracker to pull off this mission -- you'll have to be a regular Super Goonie to succeed! So good luck, and good riddance to Ma, her boys, and all the scuzzy cohorts awaiting your adventure into the Fratelli zone.

So Tom, there is your answer to the plot of Goonies II.  I guess I have no choice but to play this game now and see if I am a Super Goonie.

EDIT: Interesting to note that Tom's idea in the podcast became a feature article (not his) four months later: https://www.videogamer.com/features/how-uncharted-4-is-basically-the-goonies

- Phil Fogg

Game Under Podcast Episode 97

In this episode we discus Rage Racer, Ridge Racer Type 4, the NegCon, the JogCon, Titanfall 2, Titan Souls, Zelda: Breathof the Wild, Transformers: Destruction, Yakuza Zero, Goonies, Uncharted 4 and the Retron 77.  Phil also goes over his personal list of the top 100 RPG's of all time. We settle the debate on what is worse for the world, automobiles or cinema.

Phil also has a hot take on baby corn.

Phil also has a hot take on baby corn.

Please look forward to listening to episode 97.

Retron 77 an Atari 2600 with HDMI

At E3 this year Hyperkin, manufacturer of the Retron 5 as well as many other retro emulators and peripherals, showed the Retron 77 (R77).  The R77 plays original Atari cartridges and outputs via HDMI, solving one of the greatest first-world challenges of our time.

The Hyperkin Retron 77. All images courtesy of cnet.com, please visit their hands-on with the Retron 77.

The Hyperkin Retron 77. All images courtesy of cnet.com, please visit their hands-on with the Retron 77.

When I recently re-configured my gaming rig, one of the biggest problems was how to accommodate consoles made in the radio frequency (RF) days. The best solution, short of modding, is to run them through a VCR, all of which still have RF inputs, but output in composite.  These days, even finding a TV with composite inputs is difficult, but there are adapters that are readily available.

Note the similar shell case. More of a nod to their internal aesthetic, then re-using molds.

Note the similar shell case. More of a nod to their internal aesthetic, then re-using molds.

What the Retron 77 will allow is plugging your old carts into the unit, plugging the unit into your HDMI TV and then riding the Activision rainbow all night long.

A fine package. Image courtesy of CNET.

A fine package. Image courtesy of CNET.

I suspect the US price will be $77, and on E-bay through re-sellers here in Australia about $139 to $159, a fairly low price -- given the high barrier to entry being the small market limited to owners of original Atari games.

So the question is, for that price, are there enough good Atari 2600 games worth playing?  Well, if this was an all out Atari Retron 3, covering Atari 2600, 5200 and 7800, I'd say that for anyone this is a no-brainer. But, since it is covering 2600, only you'd only want to pick one up if you had direct prior experience.

For me, it's worth it. For games such as River Raid, Chopper Command, Pac-Mac, Fishing Derby, Freeway, Space Invaders, Pinball and Ice Hockey alone I'd gladly invest in the 77.

- Phil Fogg