16-Bit Gems

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Tired of commentaries that only handle the bad games of yesteryear? "16-Bit Gems" is a series of video reviews that looks back at games from that era and examines those that were truly exceptional, but lost in the hype of the time.

Episode Description

1

Earth Bound Prototype Hands-On

It's one of the rarest video game cartridges in existence. Earth Bound (Mother) was fully ready for release on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990, but only got as far as a handful of prototypes. Roo has acquired one of these rare carts and is going in depth to give you all the info he can on it. Where do each of the carts that have escaped Nintendo of America live now? What's on the circuit board? What does a play through look like? All this and more brought to you courtesy of the Clan of the Gray Wolf.

2

16-Bit Gems Review

It may seem a bit meta to review a reviewer, but that's exactly what Robert Million has done with our very own "16-Bit Gems". He was nice enough to ask if this was ok a few months ago and I of course gave him the thumbs up. A few of you have already found this and posted about it in the forums, so I thought it would be a good idea to highlight it here.

3

Video Game / Pop Music Similarities

Did you ever get a feeling of deja vu when playing a video game - a feeling that perhaps that music was just a bit too familiar? Whether by accident or design, some VG soundtracks sound a lot like pop music that preceded them. Expanding on a subject he touched on in his EarthBound review (16-Bit Gems #11), Roo explores several more 16-Bit games that have very similar music to copyrighted songs of the past. WARNING: Considering these games came out in the early 90's, there is a lot of 80's influence here. Leggings and Members Only jackets are recommended.

4

Illusion of Gaia with Commentary

To start off our week of anniversary-related videos, we have a question for you. Have you ever wanted to watch the very first video ever released by CotGW with Roo rambling over the audio? Well, your wish is granted. Plus you're very strange. Enjoy our very first commentary video!

5

EarthBound - A History with Commentary

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of EarthBound's release in North America, Roo revisits his most popular video in order to share insight on his feelings toward the EarthBound community, Nintendo, and Five Guys Burgers and Fries

6

North & South with Commentary

To celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the Clan of the Gray Wolf, discover all the secrets behind Roo's April Fool's vid for 2011!

7

EarthBound Zero Prototype at the Retrogaming Roadshow!

This past weekend at PAX East 2012, Roo and Commodore attended the Retrogaming Roadshow, where learned people from the world of video games will authenticate and try to price merchandise from the attendees. This year, the panelists included Chris Kohler of Wired, Joe Santulli of Digital Press/The Videogame History Museum, Steve Lin of GREE, & Frank Cifaldi of Gamasutra. Roo happened to bring his EarthBound Zero prototype along, and hilarity ensued. You can watch the whole panel below, but the pertinent part begins at 34:11.

8

Game Quickie: Bubsy

Bubsy's one of the worst video games ever made... or is it? Let's take a quick look and actually give it a critical eye.

9

Cleaning Retro Video Game Cartridges

Waiting for that lazy slob to make more 16-Bit Gems? Wash your disappointment away as Roo shows you some tips and tricks to make your neglected video game cartridges look like new... -ish. Clean your retro games and keep history alive in the latest 16-Bit Gems Extra!

10

Game Quickie Yoshi's Safari

11

8-Bit Gems: Back to the Future

Episode Description

1

Illusion of Gaia (SNES)

Illusion of Gaia was an adventure game distributed by Enix for the Super Nintendo. Released in North America in 1994, it offers a unique twist on a formula made famous by the Legend of Zelda.

2

EVO - Search for Eden (SNES)

EVO: Search for Eden was an adventure game distributed by Enix for the Super Nintendo. Released in North America in 1993, it has some of the most unique gameplay of the time, as well as a plethora of options to upgrade your creature as you travel through Earth's history.

3

Star Trek - Starfleet Academy (SNES)

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy Starship Bridge Simulator. Great Star Trek game, or greatest Star Trek game? Roo finds out in this latest episode. Other important questions that will be answered: Do the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few (or the one)? How many lights do you see? And just who is the Rock-it Man?

4

ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron (Genesis/Mega Drive)

How funked up are you? There's really only one way to find out. Travel back. WAAAY back to a time when backwards hats and boomboxes ruled the Earth. Or in this case, Funkotron. Join Roo as he examines the red-headed stepchild in the ToeJam & Earl series: Panic on Funkotron.

5

Secret of Evermore (SNES)

How great was Secret of Mana... er, Evermore? Better than you may remember. Roo will guide you down memory lane and challenge the discontent you may have felt from this game being released instead of Secret of Mana 2. So why wasn't the sequel to Mana brought to the West? Was Evermore really the only Square RPG never released in Japan? And what game-lengthening tactic really sticks in Roo's craw? Find out in this video review of Secret of Evermore.

6

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive)

The Commodore joins Roo in this very special episode for a 2-player review of Zombies Ate My Neighbors. Continuing our celebration of Halloween-fest-tober 2009, we take you back to when Lucasarts was a game studio in its prime. High off of the success of titles such as the Monkey Island series, they created what on the surface would seem to be a standard action game involving two teenagers fighting zombies. But when you add in a bevy of weapons, tons of stages, and that classic off-the-wall humor, the product is much more than the sum of its parts. Kinda like Frankenstein.

7

Mega Man - The Wily Wars (Genesis/Mega Drive)

It's 4 game reviews for the price of 1! What a deal! Roo dives into one of the first compilation games ever made. Why have I never heard of this game? Can you remix the best music of the NES and make it better? And does this game in fact offer the greatest single event to ever happen in a video game? Roo will perhaps get around to answering these questions in his review of the rare and elusive Mega Man: The Wily Wars.

8

ActRaiser (SNES)

We're digging early in the Super Nintendo's life cycle this week to bring you a game that many people didn't play, but the few that did will never forget. ActRaiser may have gotten lost alongside such classics as Super Mario World and Castlevania IV, but it deserves it's place in the pantheon of early SNES greats with its unique mix of action and town simulation stages. Watch Roo's review to see what you may have missed, as well as just how many Mel Brooks jokes he can squeeze in to one review.

9

Aladdin (SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive)

Roo takes on the irate gamers of the world in order to prove that just because a game (or two) is licensed after a hit movie, it doesn't mean it should be given a shoddy review. In this episode, we have two reviews in one. First, the hidden gem of Aladdin for the Super Nintendo, which is then compared with the much more critically acclaimed Aladdin for the Sega Genesis. Which one wins out, the forgotten or the favorite? And what can be done to stem the tide of undeserving negative nostalgic reviews? With an epic speech, anything is possible.

10

EarthBound - A History

For his 10th 16-Bit Gem, Roo celebrates by taking a thorough look at the history of perhaps the biggest cult hit video game series of all time. He'll explore the twists and turns of how a poor-selling, quirky Japanese RPG gained a massive following - culminating in one of the most devoted video game fanbases on the internet. Enjoy what we believe to be the most comprehensive video history of EarthBound ever made.
Episode Description

1

EarthBound - The Review (SNES)

Roo finishes off EarthBound-a-palooza with a thorough review of the game itself. By examining the story, writing, graphics, music (good God, the music), and all the other little touches that make EarthBound great, hopefully you'll feel compelled to give this king of the overlooked games a playthrough - whether it's your 1st or your 101st time.

2

TurboGrafx-16 Retrospective & Ninja Spirit

In this episode, we not only take on an underappreciated game, we take on one from an underappreciated console... that's meta. Roo warms up with a history of the TurboGrafx-16, which spawned innovative firsts in gaming - like the TurbGrafx-CD and TurboExpress. Then he goes on to review Ninja Spirit, a classic arcade port that isn't afraid to smack you around a little. You know, like in the good old days of gaming.

3

Star Trek - The Next Generation (SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive)

In this episode, Roo takes on not just an underappreciated game, but one that's outright maligned. But is all the bad press this game has gotten just a misunderstanding? Perhaps all the public needs is the right info and a guiding hand to see the merits of Star Trek: TNG for SNES (Future's Past) and Genesis/Mega Drive (Echoes from the Past).

4

Legend of the Mystical Ninja (SNES)

The first American release in the popular Japanese "Goemon" series, Legend of the Mystical Ninja was an early entry in the Super Nintendo's lineup that unfortunately was ignored by many kids of the day. But those that looked past its strange qualities were rewarded with one of the best games of the 16-bit era. With anime, manga, and para para dancing all the rage now, perhaps the West is ready to give this gem another shot.

5

Terranigma (SNES)

To wrap up our first anniversary, we have the most requested game to review from our fans. The sequel to Illusion of Gaia - Terranigma. The very definition of a hidden gem, this game never even saw a North American release. So how does it stack up to the forebear? Roo breaks it down in this special 15th episode of 16-Bit Gems.

6

Alien Soldier (Genesis/Mega Drive)

Roo explores one of the best run & gun games ever made - and one that didn't originally make it to America - with Alien Soldier. This game has it all: Tons of bosses, great weapons, a cyborg chicken... In fact, you could call the game not just a gem, but a "treasure". Yuk yuk yuk, thanks folks, we'll be here all week. Try the veal!

7

Castlevania - Rondo of Blood (TG-CD)

There have been many great Castlevania games over the years, but would you believe that one of the best hasn't been available to the West until very recently? Roo takes up the mantle of perhaps the greatest action-oriented Castlevania game in order to show everyone what they've been missing. Throw out your FMV games, plug in your CD peripheral, and get ready to explore the checkered past of Rondo of Blood!

8

Liberty or Death (SNES, Genesis)

In a title that could be named: "America: The Video Game", Roo finds a historical strategy game that winds up being one of the very best that this sadly limited genre had to offer on 16-bit consoles. It's Patriots. It's Redcoats. It's prudently maintaining your gunpowder supplies while you write gazettes to maintain the support of the people. It's Liberty or Death! PLEASE NOTE: Many jokes made at Great Britain's expense were with tongue firmly planted in cheek. We here at CotGW would never mean to offend those limey bastards.

9

The Lost Vikings (SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive)

Vikings, time travel, and rocking out. It's your standard video game plot from the early 90's - but Blizzard Entertainment went the extra mile in bringing these elements together to create one of the first ever example of the puzzle platformer. And in doing so, gave a hint of their masterpieces to come. So join in for a look at Blizzard's early past in The Lost Vikings, a game released on... just about everything.
Episode Description

1

BS Zelda (& Satellaview Retrospective) (SNES)

In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Legend of Zelda, Roo tackles perhaps the rarest set of Zelda games out there (and no, the CD-i ones don't count - ever). Released on the Nintendo Satellaview in the 90's and broadcast via satellite, BS Legend of Zelda & BS Zelda: Ancient Stone Tablets were big hits in Japan... but are they worth a look today? Find out in this episode, along with a retrospective of the Satellaview system thrown in at no extra charge!

2

North & South (NES)

It's amazing that it took Roo until April 1st to review this - one of his favorite games for the NES. North & South is a strategic action platformer about the Civil War that was created by a French company and based off of a Belgian comic. What's so strange about that? You'd have to be quite the fool to pass up this unheralded classic from the 8-bit era.

3

Lufia II (SNES)

Let's face it - Square dominated the RPG market in the 16-Bit era. However, their long shadow covered up several gems from little-known developers that deserve to see the light of day. In this case, that gem is Lufia II, the sequel that's actually a prequel and perfected gameplay mechanics of the day in order to create a game that was more than the sum of its parts. Not many have played it - but most who did became Lufia fans for life.

4

seaQuest DSV (SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive)

Ah, seaQuest. Wait, didn't we do this one? About the sci-fi show from the 90's with the large ship, boy genius, and opening monologe that... oh SEAquest! Right, that old game that most people didn't know existed and the rest derided. Well behind that deep blue exterior lies the heart of a solid entry in the world of sci-fi TV franchise liscensed video games. See for yourself in this episode on seaQuest DSV.

5

Pulseman (Genesis/Mega Drive)

What did the developers of Pokemon make before there was Pokemon? Games about mad scientists who impregnated artifical cyberspace life forms in order to create unholy abominations of electricity and matter... obviously. Luckily, this unlikely plot for a game belongs to a great 2D platformer by the name of Pulseman. A (mostly) Japanese exclusive, the West finally has a chance to sample this classic.

6

Soul Blazer (SNES)

To celebrate the 2nd anniversary of Clan of the Gray Wolf, Roo completes the Gaia trilogy by taking on the game that started it all - Soul Blazer. One of Quintet's earliest titles, this game set up the action RPG style that was used to such brilliance in Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma. So settle in for an examination of the cornerstone of one of the best "series" the Super Nintendo had to offer.

7

Super Adventure Island II (SNES)

We all know what we're in for when we play an Adventure Island game: Puzzles, swords, magic, and... downthrusts? No, Super Adventure Island 2 may not be the game you'd expect, but it's so much more. Join Roo as he shows off his favorite game in this storied series, as well as its surprising pedigree. Zelda 2: The adventure of Link anyone?

8

Sunset Riders (SNES, Genesis/Mega Drive)

This Konami arcade classic was once ported to both the Super Nintendo and Genesis. But how well did they stack up to the original? And which one took quite a departure from its initial version? Roo examines each in this rootin'-tootin' episode.

9

Clock Tower (SNES)

Believe it or not, there were survival horror games before Resident Evil. Not many... but still. Clock Tower for the Super Nintendo was one of the pioneers of the genre, bringing creepy atmosphere, a chilling plot, and homicidal children all together in full 2-dimensional glory. Find out why everyone should give this overlooked gem a chance this Halloween.
Episode Description

1

Pac-Man 2 (SNES, Genesis)

A Pac-Man game is a Pac-Man game is a Pac-Man game, right? Not when it's Pac-Man 2 - Namco's unexpected foray into point and click adventure. While it threw Pac-fans for a loop in the 90's, we can look back now and give this quirkly little title its due. Find out why it's worth your Pac-time in this Pac-episode.

2

Rise of the RPG - A History - Part 1: The West

Roo presents a retrospective on the rise of the Japanese Role-Playing Game - running from tabletop wargames up through Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy - and discusses their impact on the genre as a whole. Learn about the major players - including Gygax, Garriott, Woodhead, Horii, Sakaguchi - and how their efforts led to the 16-bit RPG renaissance.

3

Rise of the RPG - A History - Part 2: The East

Roo presents a retrospective on the rise of the Japanese Role-Playing Game - running from tabletop wargames up through Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy - and discusses their impact on the genre as a whole. Learn about the major players - including Gygax, Garriott, Woodhead, Horii, Sakaguchi - and how their efforts led to the 16-bit RPG renaissance.

4

Dragon Quest VIII (PS2)

Roo takes advantage this April 1st to talk an RPG that gets just about everything right - Dragon Quest VIII, for the Playstation 2. Watch for an explanation of why this is a game any JRPG fan can't pass by.

5

Dragon Quest I & II

16-Bit Gems is back! After a short haitus, Roo continues his mini-retrospective on the Dragon Quest series. This time, he looks at the definitive versions of the first two games, and examines how they influenced dozens of console RPGs to come. So grab your horned hat and watch the slimes draw near – the Dragonlord’s not going to leave Tantegel Castle alone without a fight!

6

Dragon Quest III

Roo brings back 16-Bit Gems in style with the finale of the 4-part Dragon Quest retrospective! After looking at the history of RPGs, the Super Nintendo remakes of DQ 1&2, and the modern classic of Dragon Quest VIII, he brings things back to the most popular entry in the series – Dragon Quest III. Find out why this game was so popular across the Pacific, and how even this 15+ year remake makes it accessible to modern audiences.

7

Plok!

Roo is back again with a casualty of the “cutesy character flood” of 1993. Plok looks like any number of platformers on the Super Nintendo, but look deeper and you’ll find one of the most original and fun games on the system. With a worthy challenge, to boot!

8

Back to the Future

Roo is back with yet another 8-Bit Gem… but not one you might expect. Back to the Future on the NES has a horrible reputation, as well as the company that released it – LJN. But is that criticism fair? Well, considering it’s the subject of this episode, you can guess as to what Roo thinks.
Episode Description

1

ActRaiser 2