Retro Gaming is a huge passion of mine. There's nothing better than going to a retro gaming market and seeing your favourite childhood games and consoles neatly lined up ready for you to browse through and buy. More intricately, over the last five years I've noticed some gorgeous custom Super Nintendo's, Game Boy's, Game Cube's and more. Adding a splash of colour to a SNES Shell certainly adds a level of personality and charm I would have never expected. So when Rob from R.A.W Talent Art approached me to collaborate I jumped at the chance. I got the chance to catch up with Rob to talk about some of his work in the console modding community and we find out just what is it that inspires him?
So Rob, tell us a bit about yourself?
I'm a 37 year old father of two. I live in Norwich, Norfolk but without the accent, luckily. I'm a creative sort that's a bit of a perfectionist who is currently learning the art of patience. I enjoy playing consoles with my kids and revel in showing them the Retro games I grew up with. Only when they get older will they realise that not every child has access to almost all consoles every released!
How would you describe Console Modding to someone who didn't know about it?
To me console customising and modding is a passion, an escape, therapy, hobby and a job I guess. Its most peoples wish to be paid for something they are passionate about and I've worked hard for almost 8 years to get to the level I'm at now.
What got you in to console modding?
Before I customised consoles I was an illustrator/artist. I was commissioned to make paintings of various things, namely Marvel characters, books covers, abstract work. I became disillusioned with the way I had to acquire work, bidding for jobs against other artists who could afford to do the work for less as they still lived at home with few commitments. I couldn't survive this way so buckled and became a driver for a big supermarket for a few years. This was OK but not my aim in life and soon felt like something was missing from my life. It dawned on me that that thing was creativity. With a full time job and two young children spare time was almost non existent. I started to think of a way to get back into being creative artistically with limited time. The paintings I made previously were VERY time consuming. I asked myself what my passions were, art was an obvious one and the other was gaming. So I came up with a way of combining my passions into a hobby.
Guest blog post by Ben Rai @BenRai
Sometimes you just need an adventure in life. Sometimes this urge for adventure can be fulfilled with a good video game. Graphics are becoming increasingly more life like and the worlds are open and seemingly never ending. The problem is not all of these modern games appeal, and we don't always have the time to explore these gigantic worlds due to the realities of life. This is where retro games come in handy. They provide an escape and can often be experienced in full within anything between 30 minutes to a couple of hours.
Though as much as I do love retro games, sometimes I feel as if I am living in the past, completing the same retro games I am comfortable with over and over. This is a feeling you can easily experience with your personal life too. I wanted to look forward and escape my zone of comfort while simultaneously taking solace in something somewhat nostalgic. The truth is this 'adventure' that I had planned was something more than just simply wanting to play a game I had never played.
Ultimately playing a game is for fun, but the competitive side of me wanted to dedicate time to learning, mastering and conquering something within a month. I wasn't content just playing a game for fun I required a test of fortitude. I pondered what this could be for a short time.
Flicking on my brother's SNES mini while visiting his house I scrolled the games on offer. Contra 3. Finished it on hard mode. Super Mario World. Finished it 100% more times than I could ever count. Super Castlevania IV? Already played it this year. Super Ghouls 'N' Ghosts...never dared to play it. So that is what I decided to do, without any real thought. I wasn't really looking for it, but I had found it. I had a very limited experience with this game. I was just aware that it was notoriously hard and I had witnessed my brother die an unrelenting amount of times on it back in the 90s. A fire in my stomach erupted - I am going to do this.
I opened the options menu to see what the deal was — an otherwise simple black option menu with an obscurely over elaborate and majestic blue winding vine design with red gems adorning the screen's edges. Strangely beautiful for a game which is so willing to chew you up and spit you out even on it's "Normal" difficulty setting. Almost like an alluring treasure which once taken would trigger a hellish trap. The default difficulty setting alone is what gives a majority of people grief.
So to my surprise there was a hard and professional difficulty too. What maniac would ever try that? Isn't the punishing normal difficulty enough? Apparently it wouldn't be for me, and so the journey begins — on normal difficulty anyway.
The game (infamous for sending you right back to the beginning in order to complete it for a second time to get the true ending) begins in the classic Ghouls N Ghosts graveyard stage. You know — the stage 90% of people attempting to play this game give up on.
Despite it being one of the earliest games by Capcom on the SNES the pixel art looks fantastic and the music is absolutely haunting. In fact, it was composed by a female composer called Mari Yamaguchi, she also did the soundtrack for Mickey Mouse's Magical Quest. Strangely, as different as the games may be they share a very distinct sound and I came to the conclusion long ago that the same composer must have been involved. Mari has a way of painting the haunting landscapes of the frozen forests and stormy seas with sweeping mysterious melodies, while conjuring up a sense of dark menacing evil and urgency in the third stage's fire dungeon full of flames and bloodied spikes. There is always a sense of something foreboding or mystical.The soundtrack is one that did not hit me as immediately as other games. However the soundtrack began to really become highlighted during the trials and tribulations of completing the game. Remember, we were going to die a lot of playing this game — so we needed music that would be cast upon our minds in a residual way, as opposed to be a quick fast jingle which could become increasingly annoying with each restart.
Some Retro Games suck! That's right, there are some video games that completely missed the mark when it came to impressing gamers. This is not a good thing clearly. I want to be fully immersed in a game if I pop a cartridge in my Super Nintendo. I don't want to be struggling to get to even ten minutes of gameplay. Sometimes we have to admit defeat: some retro games suck. Here are five retro games that I feel are not worth your hard earned cash or valuable play time.
Shaq Fu (1994)
Imagine a famous basketball player becoming a character in Street Fighter 2. Now imagine that game game being absolutely awful in every way. Back in 1994 Shaquille O'Neal appeared in his very own 2D fighting game on the Sega Mega Drive and Super Nintendo. If this wasn't torture enough Shaq Fu also found its way on the Sega Game Gear, Amiga and Nintendo Game Boy in 1995.
What makes Shaq Fu such a terrible game? Not only is the idea of Shaquille O'Neal becoming a legendary fighter a terrible one the gameplay is simply awful. The moves were very difficult to execute making gameplay feel more like a button mashing contest than a game based on skill. Not only that the punch and kick sound effects were incredibly dull. Multiply the button mashing with the dull, out of context sounds of kicks and punches and you pretty much have Shaq Fu. The music is also very painful and does nothing to heighten the experience of this wannabe fighting game. Luckily Shaq Fu does not grace my very own retro game collection, it would only serve to taint it.
Star Fox or rather Starwing in Europe made a huge impact on Super Nintendo players back on release in 1993. Personally I remember being flawed by the 3D rotation combined with fast paced gameplay, ultra kick ass sounds and with incredible 3D visuals; Star Fox was like no other game from that time. Do you remember the first time you saw the 4 ships blitz down the tunnel to the sound of the overarching alarm? Then the camera switched to the outside of the tunnel on to Corneria and we were off doing barrel rolls like never before.
At the time the graphics looked incredible thanks to the Super-FX Chip; technology that was designed by Jez San’s Team; Argonaut. The Super- FX chip allowed 3D rotation and stretching of sprites and polygons. It was hailed a success by Nintendo so much so that a handful of Super Nintendo Games went on to utilise the technology such as Stunt Race FX and Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island (Yoshi’s Island used a slightly more advanced version of the Super FX chip). Only a total of eight Snes Games used the chip. Arguably that is not a lot considering the size of the Super Nintendo Game library.
I often wonder if Star Fox would have been as great of a game if the Super FX chip was not included. Would it have been possible at all? I don’t believe it would. The graphics in Starfox perform well thanks to the Super FX chip even by 2018 standards. Starfox has not aged that badly. With the fast paced gameplay, explosions, rockets and enemies the frame rate seems reasonably consistent.
Right at the start of the game, Star Fox is frantic! Back in the day I remember having trouble trying to keep an eye on my team’s Starships when they got in to trouble. More often than not I’d be navigating through various flying objects, falling pillars and rockets in order to rescue Falco, Slippy and Peppy from peril! At times when I revisit Star Fox I realise that I had never quite mastered the art of saving my team as they always incurred damage.
Star Fox alternates between first and third person view. Right in the to second level we clamber inside to the cockpit view. A whole new challenge ensues with this. The physics seem a lot more sensitive when in first person mode compared to third. Personally I felt Star Fox opened up a lot more in the second level. Blasting through asteroids (amongst a ton of enemies) really made me feel engrossed in first person mode.
No matter which route you take on the map in Star Fox; there are four levels to beat in order to each reach the final stage: Venom. Once at Venom we face Andross. Back tracking slightly, the four previous levels contain sturdy boss battles of their own. As a kid I could never beat the third level. Sad times ultimately but looking back I realise at just how tricky Star Fox was. Having gotten my hands on a SNES Mini and played the legit release of Star Fox 2 I firmly believe Star Fox 2 to be a much less challenging experience.
There’s no doubt that Star Fox is a fast paced game. At times it may seem like a little too fast. For me this adds to the challenge at being able to navigate through and around the enemies whilst trying to stay alive.
Guest Blog by Carl B @ Carl's Blog
In the late 1980s, Nintendo was under pressure. Its 8-bit Famicom (Nintendo Entertainment System in the West) had been upstaged by Sega’s Genesis. Their black beauty was cooler, faster, better looking and had a wide library of games including hits such as Altered Beast, Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle and Golden Axe.
Despite the critical and commercial success of Super Mario Bros. 3, at the turn of the decade the world waited to see what Nintendo would come up with in response to Sega’s growing dominance.
The Genesis had been released in October 1988 in Japan, just a week after Super Mario Bros. 3 had hit the shelves. However, the response from Nintendo wasn’t instant. The company spent more than two years perfecting its next hardware offering, the Super Famicom (Super Nintendo Entertainment System elsewhere) along with its launch titles. One of these was to be Super Mario World, which made its bow on November 21st 1990 in Japan amid fevered anticipation.
When we rejoin Mario and Luigi, we found that they have left the Mushroom Kingdom for a much-needed holiday in Dinosaur land, but their vacation is interrupted by serial kidnapee Princess Toadstool being snatched by Bowser (for some reason or other).
It’s fair to say that SMW doesn’t exactly take the series in a new direction when it comes to its plot, but if that’s why you’re playing it then frankly you’ve got the wrong game. After a couple of introductory moments, the player is quickly into the game, with Mario setting off from Yoshi’s House. What hits you first is how great this game looks. A gorgeous colour palette, vibrant sprites and clean, polished backgrounds are complemented by neat little touches such as the way Mario’s cap wafts up when he descends from a jump, combining to form a feast for the eyes. Then there’s the sound. Koji Kondo once again creates music that fits a given level perfectly, from echoey underground themes to the bouncy, frantic ‘athletic’ music of the forced-movement stages. Aesthetically, the game is timeless.
The overworld map takes the original concept from SMB3 and extends it, allowing its layout to change as our hero progresses and uncovers new zones. The game also allows the player to access already-completed levels, whereas SMB3 didn’t have the capacity for backtracking to previous worlds at will.
The levels scroll vertically and horizontally and include a perfect blend of well-placed obstacles and varied enemies which, in accordance with Nintendo’s famously-perfect learning curve philosophy, get progressively tougher as the adventure goes on.
In many stages, the player is teased by the presence of dotted line blocks which, if solid, provide a mushroom or cape, allow access to out-of-reach areas or help suppress an enemy. These only become ! blocks when the corresponding switch palace is located, encouraging players to backtrack and re-enter levels.
The end of most levels is marked by giant gateposts with a moving finishing line between them. The player is rewarded depending on how high the bar is when crossed, with a maximum of 50 points available. Once the player has amassed 100 points, Mario enters a mini game where up to eight extra lives can be won.
Not that these should be needed, though, as players will earn far more lives than they lose for most parts. As well as collecting 100 coins within a single level, players can nab hidden 1-up mushrooms and exploit a top-secret area which yields infinite lives.
Blog post by Gemma @ Juicy Game Reviews / TheGebs24 (originally written by Gemma and published on Retro Collect)
Something wonderful happened on the Super Nintendo back in the mid-nineties. In fact a lot of amazing moments derived from that 16bit King Console. Long before the days of Grand Theft Auto on the Playstation 1, DMA Designs were hard at work designing a Super Nintendo game that I deem was one of a kind...
Unirally as it is known here in the PAL regions (Uniracers in North America) boasts some of the most eccentric ideas I can recall alongside Earthworm Jim. You take the role of a single Unicycle and your mission is to race your opponent to the finish line. What's eccentric about that? First off, the Unicycle's are completely riderless. It would seem that DMA Designs created each Unicycle with his/her own mind and personality not so much in unicycle's being to ride riderless but in the flamboyant celebrations after winning a race. I specifically recall my yellow Unicycle mimic a form of bow; a form of Chivalry I wouldn't expect to see from a Unicycle?! Nonetheless, this captures the essence of Unirally so well and it would seem that the fun never ended.
Unirally takes place on colour popping 2D tracks (another ingredient to the loud and bashful nature of Unirally) and operates over a split screen when in 2-player mode and single screen when played against AI. With just about every twist, turn and loop you can imagine it's up to us to gain as much momentum as possible to reach the finish line in first place. Executing stunts is a crucial part of the core gameplay mechanics as you're rewarded with a speed bonus. Speed can be both an advantage and disadvantage and herein lays the challenge of Unirally for even the most seasoned of players.
#1: High Speed can kill
It sounds like a TV advert: High speed can kill but in Unirally there has never been a truer point to discuss. As we gain momentum by landing tricks and stunts the speed seems to increase ten-fold. I often got a little too confident at these points by trying to pull off the most elaborate tricks and landing smack on my seat! What does this mean? That's when you lose all of your speed and the other unicycle flies ahead.
At times it feels like you're moving in slow motion to try and re-gain that momentum again. Adding insult to injury there's a really neat feature that shows you how many seconds behind your opponent you are. By making one mistake you can easily fall five to ten seconds behind which seems almost impossible to re-gain.
#2: Practice doesn't always mean perfect
The first track on Unirally is incredibly simple to win and win comfortably. It's a straight line which means you can pull off simple jump tricks to gather the all important speed. That's right! There's no need to fear the punishing twists, turns, loops and drops, that litter the proceeding tracks.
It seems no matter how much I play Unirally I never seem to master the tracks. Being able to anticipate the next turn or loop is crucial in planning what tricks to pull out. At times the tracks seem very tight which make plenty of room for error. Have you ever won a race (aside from the first straight track) on the first go? Perhaps you have but I would imagine that it would be a small number of people. DMA Designs must have had a heap of fun designing the levels in Unirally but it's very difficult to dislike.
Perhaps it's one of those games that was created with a deliberate attempt to just be difficult!?
Blog post by Gemma @ Juicy Game Reviews / TheGebs24 (originally written by Gemma and published on Retro Collect)
In the early nineties there was a huge Zombie outbreak. The dead overran streets and dwellings and they were all seeking one thing: me. Well this is what it felt like as I sat for hours on end playing Zombies on my Super Nintendo. Known as Zombies Ate My Neighbours in NTSC regions LucasArts published the game in September of 1993 in North America and January 1994 in PAL regions. Zombies is a 2D run and gun game that takes a top/down perspective over each level. The overall interface (map, weapon select and health bar) are neatly placed in the top left had corner of the screen with the added bonus of being able to turn the map on or off.
Zombies is great fun to play in two player mode but is as equally as entertaining in single player mode. Zeke and Julie are the characters to choose from; neither of which have any perk differences. In fact I’d say Julie and Zeke have more in common aside from their clear gender differences. The common bond they share is mediated through the games wonderful story: rescue the neighbours at all costs. Each level contains residents that are scattered around the map and we must reach them before the flesh eating zombies get their dastardly mits on them.
It sounds simple but Zombies posed numerous challenges along the way. As the levels progressed I found more obstacles to rescuing my fellow neighbours. Thorn bushes, bins, walls and locked doors are additional obstacles to success. Fortunately, Zombies holds a great deal of opportunity to overcoming these. One of my personal favourites was finding a Bazooka and blowing huge gaps in walls to rescue survivors. Other weapons are not so appealing, for example, I never used the soda cans as they had a ridiculous arching loop once thrown. Either that or my aim was off! Ultimately dealing with a Zombie outbreak (and of course I mean in the gaming world) means we have to cautious about the weapons we choose.
Guest Blog by Carl B @ Carl's Blog
When the Super Nintendo Classic Mini was announced back in June 2017, there were notable omissions from the system’s 21-game list. No room for Pilotwings, Super Bomberman and Chrono Trigger, and despite the presence of the original Donkey Kong Country, the most glaring omission was its magnificent 1995 sequel Diddy’s Kong Quest. The Super Nintendo (Snes) is home to some of the best video games of the 16but era. Rare’s Donkey Kong Country 2 - Diddy Kong's Quest is widely regarded as the finest of the three SNES adventures in the series, so let’s strip the game down and explore just why it’s such a satisfying experience. Here are 6 reasons why Donkey Kong Country 2 - Diddy Kong's Quest is a masterpiece.
The game is enriched by the appearance of various colourful allies, all of whom may help the player during their adventure.
Animal buddies include the return of favourites Rambi the rhino, Squawks the parrot and Enguarde the swordfish, with Rattly the rattlesnake and Squitter the spider making their debuts. The player can ride these creatures and even transform into them at certain points in order to overcome obstacles and reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
Four members of the Kong family appear, each of whom help the player in return for banana coins while offering a fun break from the main quest.
Interactions with Monkey Museum curator Cranky Kong deliver a helping of Rare’s famous humour, with the old curmudgeon offering players hints. Cranky refers to the game as an “unnecessary sequel,” a “ridiculous quest” and a “ludicrous adventure,” while warning the player about “the limited fun you’re trying to get out of this shoddy product.”
Ghetto blaster-wielding Funky helps players travel between already-visited levels and areas via his barrel plane, which comes into its own when trying to find those last few DK coins and bonus stages.
Found at Kong Kollege, headmistress Wrinkly offers information on the game’s controls and items, although she’s most handy for allowing you to save your progress.
Game-show host Swanky’s Bonus Bonanza rewards players with extra lives for answering trivia questions about the game itself. However, with in-level bananas and extra life balloons plentiful, not to mention the fact that extra lives reset when the game is turned off, Swanky is the game’s least-useful Kong.
Spider-Man has always been my favourite Marvel Comics character and with Spider-Man Homecoming just getting a release it seemed fitting to talk about 4 Spider-Man video games you must play. It was Marvel UK’s US Spider-Man reprint comics that led to my love of the character 25 years ago. Spider-Man is of course one of Marvel’s most beloved creations. Over the years, Spider-Man has become more of a marketable figure outside of comic lore; the new movie Spider-Man Homecoming will be the 6th in just 15 years. The same can be said for video games, with 30+ releases across almost every platform in the last 35 years. Here I recommend 4 of Peter Parker’s best single player releases; heavy on the mythos, and not a Marvel vs Capcom game in sight.
Spider-Man: Maximum Carnage:-
The early 1990’s gave birth to two major new villains for both Spider-Man and Peter Parker: Venom and Carnage. Venom (aka disgraced journalist Eddie Brock) quickly became a fan favourite. After terrorising Peter and wife Mary-Jane Watson in some of the comic’s most haunting scenes, he was even given his own series for a time. Once the murderous offspring Carnage (aka serial killer Kletus Cassidy) came on the scene, Venom became a good guy of sorts. Determined to stop this symbiotic progeny, a truce was called with Spider-Man in order to stop Carnage. And so began the huge comic book crossover that was Maximum Carnage, and the SNES/Sega Mega Drive title it inspired.
Despite this Final Fight clone not holding up so well more than 20 years on, it’s devotion to its source material is still commendable. Panels from the actual comic are used to tell the story as you progress through simple yet challenging waves of bad guys and bosses. Despite being a Spider-Man comic, Maximum Carnage did feature a strong supporting cast of heroes such as Captain America and Iron Fist. These can be called upon as special moves should you feel overwhelmed in combat.
The stages, scenes and characters all appear as if taken direct from a comic book. This gives Maximum Carnage a sense of authenticity and respect to its continuity, despite its gameplay frustrations.
Imagine your perfect Super Nintendo games. Your ideal lineup of Snes games that you’d happily have sitting on your gaming shelves. What would they be? Super Mario Kart is my favourite video game of all time. A timeless classic of a packed Nintendo lineup of familiar faces like Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, Donkey Kong & more. Though perhaps you would prefer to play the classic Super Probotector (Contra III The Alien Wars in North America). Battling your way through the levels collecting flamethrowers, bombs and other deadly weapons! I could sit here all day and talk about how important the 16bit era was to me as I am sure you can to. The Super Nintendo, for me, is the most pivotal console of all time bit just in terms of game lineup but in terms of cultural influences too.
Back in school there were two groups of geeks: those that had a Sega Mega Drive and those that had a Super Nintendo. I had the Super Mario All-Stars Super Nintendo action set. We’d joke and banter all day long at which console was superior and which had the best games. Sonic Vs. Mario was another angle to approach it from. Luckily today I adore both but the Super Nintendo will always hold a sacred place in my heart.
Here we are in 2017 with the upcoming Snes Classic Mini. Simply a mini build of the Super Nintendo (PAL and NTSC design) packed with 21 of the best Super Nintendo games of all times. Let us pause and hail the fact that Starfox 2 will be among the classic ones games. The unreleased title that was completely finished by never got a release. I was lucky enough to interview Dylan Cuthbert; one of the lead designers behind the original Starwing/Starfox and Super FX Chip. You can catch the video below in which I interviewed him about his work on Starfox 2 but be warned it’s a few years old.
Retro Game Reviews. Mega Drive, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast and more
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