Zap: The Rise and Fall of Atari

Yet another good retro video game book I found on Scribd: Zap: The Rise and Fall of Atari.

Zap is actually about as old as the video game history it covers.  It was published in 1984, a fact that really becomes evident in the later half of the book.  Though it would be easily to laugh at or complain about some of the dated material in that half, it still remains that Cohen gives us a pretty decent history of the very early games of Atari.  If you are reading these books just to connect with your childhood (as I am), this book will suffice.  I recommend checking it out.

 

Also be sure to check out my video game books ANESthetized and Arcadian, or listen to my Atari 2600 podcast with author Justin Kyle.

Contra Evolution

The NES version of Contra is one of all my all-time favorite games.  I remember the first time I played it.  It is a love I’ve never gotten over.  I’ve always kept tabs on the games and its sequels.  Recently, I discovered the Android app Contra: Evolution.

Evolution is an updated version of the NES version.  It has the same levels in the same arrangement.  It has the same two soldiers and the same weapons and same music.  But it has all been improved.  The graphics are finer and the music sharper.  There are also a couple of female soldiers, a boss rush mode, a mission mode (beat certain levels under a certain time and with a certain score), and weapon power-ups.  There is in-app purchasing as well.  I didn’t try that, but you can apparently buy better weapons with it.

It seems like there is some sort of PC version of Evolution out there.  I don’t know if it was only released in Europe or something, but I could never find it.  I only found pictures of a game that clearly wasn’t my Android app.

I also really missed my gamepad.  I would have dominated Evolution if I could play with an actual controller.  Even so, the controls were better than what I’ve experienced with other Android apps.  I was able to play through the entire game and do okay with the mission mode.

Nothing is going to take my heart away from the original.  But if you’re going to remake and expand on a classic, you could do worse than Contra: Evolution.  I highly recommend it.  And if you find out anything about a pc version, let me know!

And if you liked this post, check out my video game books ANESthetized and Arcadian.

100 Computer Games To Play Before You Die

I’ve bragged about my free Scribd account before.  Yesterday, I used it to read this book: 100 Computer Games to Play Before You Die by Steve Bowden.

100 Computer

Bowden fills this book with 100 reviews of great video games from both the classic and the modern eras.  The reviews are short (usually 3 Kindle pages) and yet seem pretty info-packed.  This results in the desire to keep reading.  It did for me, anyway. I always wanted to see which game was next and what he said about it.  The entries are in alphabetical order, and since they span the entire video game era and not just the retro era, they include only a few retro games (Donkey KongDefender) or franchise (Super Mario Bros.Legend of Zelda, and Metroid are each represented by later games, not the originals).  And being limited to 100 keeps a lot of good stuff from being included.  Still, it is a fun and quick read which I recommend.  If you don’t have a Scribd account, you can get it from Amazon.com here.

 

And after you finish with this one, check out my video game books ANESthetized and Arcadian, or listen to my Atari 2600 podcast with author Justin Kyle.

E.T. In Alamogordo

At least one urban legend is true.  Or maybe we should say the story about a truckload of 2600  E.T. cartridges being buried in a New Mexico landfill is not an urban legend at all.  However you parse it, cartridges were indeed found in that spot.  You can read about the discoveries in this article.

On one hand, this is relatively awesome.  Not only is a “stranger than fiction” story true, but a veritable time capsule of Atari 2600 merchandise has been released.  On the other hand, though, this is rather horrible.  I actually like E.T.  I remember playing and beating it as a kid.  I recently gave it a play as an adult and still find it enjoyable.  Do I think it is a great game.  Not really.  But I think it is better than the Pac-Man clone Spielberg originally pitched.  The fact that truckloads of this game, as well as all the other cartridges and gear, were just discarded in such a way is pretty shameful.

Still, it will make a good documentary, and I look forward to watching it.  If you are looking forward to it as well and are looking for something to fill the time until it is released, check out my video game books ANESthetized and Arcadian, or listen to my Atari 2600 podcast with author Justin Kyle.

Atari 2600 Manuals and Nintendo Club Magazines on Scribd

As a Smashwords contributor, I was recently given a free subscription to Scribd. I found a way to sideload the Scribd app on my Kindle and immediately searched for Atari and Nintendo stuff. I was very happy with what I found. There were several collections of Atari 2600 Manuals and several issues of both Nintendo Club and Nintendo Power magazine.
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Access to these manuals and magazines is just more of my portable nostalgia. It is bits of my childhood that I can check out and spend a few minutes with anytime I want. If you ate similarly looking for portable nostalgia, I suggest you get the Scribd app and look around. Also, my books ANESthetized and Arcadian are there. Apparently you can get them there for free. If you do, please give me a good review at Amazon.com!

My Loser Phase

I love the self-published ebooks that ereaders and ebook sellers have made possible.  I love them for several reasons.  One is that they are much cheaper than other ebooks.  What can I say?  I’m cheap.  The other, though, is that I believe they are primary historical sources.  When you learned history in high school (if you learned any at all), you probably learned most of it from secondary sources.  Your text book was not written by someone who was there to witness that history but someone who had learned that history in someway.  That’s fine (if they learned it right, anyway), but it is not as good as consulting a primary source.  And that is what we independent ebook writers are producing.  Amazon Direct Publishing, YouTube, and blogs are turning us all into historians, recording the history we see playing out before our eyes.  And the materials we are producing are much more valuable than those a secondary historian could produce.  They are much more valuable even if they are erroneous in some way.  Even if the authors or filmmakers have their facts wrong, they are still recording history as they saw it, and there are few things more valuable than that.

I bring all this up merely as an introduction to a ebook I came across recently called My Loser Phase: Tales of Video Game Retail 1992-1997.

This book has a lot in common with my books Arcadian and ANESthetized.  Both were about video games.  This one, though, covers a later era of gaming than mine, and it covers it from the vantage point of a guy who is slogging his way through the retail world.  If you loved the Genesis, SNES, Turbografx-16, Playstation, and computer peripherals of the mid-90s, you will like reaing Johnson’s account of how they appeared in the stores and were received by customers.  And if you worked in retail (as did I), you will like his thoughts on those experiences as well.  Even though this era is not my favorite era of gaming, I did live through it and enjoyed the memories Johnson’s writing evoked.  I sympathized with his customer service and college experiences as well.  Overal, I really enjoyed reading this primary historical source, and if you like my books and this blog, you probably will, too.  Check it out here.

Wikipedia’s List of Video Game Books

Researching the Pac-Mania books led me to Wikipedia’s list of books about video games.  I knew there were a lot of such books, but I never knew there were this many.  Some of the books are technical, covering game design, but a lot are history or memoir or “how to beat” books.  I’ve read or at least seen several on the list, such as Extra LivesThe Ultimate History of Video Games, and Racing The Beam.

The only bad thing about this list?  Arcadian is not on it!

More NES Class Act Binders

A couple weeks ago, I told you about the Nintendo Get With It Kit, a Nintendo-ized Class Act Binder.   I still haven’t scored one of my own, but I did recently come across a few variations of this kit on Ebay.

This one is a darker color than the one I showed you in the first post.  I at first thought this was a variation, and it might be, but on second thought, I wondered if it wasn’t age or dirt or dark photography conditions.  If not, the darker color is cool.

This one is the same as the one from the previous post (I think), but it shows us what is actually inside.  You can see the “Pak Source”, which I’d really love to have.  There is also a Nintendo Power index, a Mapping and Data Book (which I think is just a fancy name for notebook) and, perhaps coolest of all, gamepad skins.

Here’s a better angle on the Mapping and Data Book and the gamepad skins.  I think the Angry Video Game Nerd has some of these skins on his controllers.

These things are still a little more expensive than I’d like them to be, but I’m still hoping to score one someday.  I wouldn’t mind having the books and skins, either.

 

 

Music To My Ears

I was at the rock climbing gym last night.  Usually, the management plays either classic rock (which I love) or techno (which I don’t) over the sound system.  Last night, though, as I was working my way up a rather complicated 5.10D, I heard something I hadn’t heard before.  It was a cover of the overworld theme of The Legend of Zelda.

This isn’t exactly what I heard last night, but it is close.

I’ve known for a while that individuals and bands and orchestras were all recording versions of the 8-bit Nintendo music.  And it doesn’t surprise me, because as I said in ANESthetized, that music is good music.  Here are a few of these versions.

Quite possibly the best recording of The Legend of Zelda theme ever.  This girl really goes all out!

Metal version of Castlevania.  Not sure if this is “Vampire Killer” or not, but it is cool.

Awesome version of several Metroid themes.