The SNES Classic Mini Is In Da House

We may have missed out on the NES Classic Mini, but we were determined not to repeat the same mistake twice!

When the SNES Classic Mini was announced earlier in the year, we jumped in early to lock in our pre-order. Well, the wait is finally over and we have our grubby mits on Nintendo’s latest (and best) Classic Mini system.

Our initial impression is that it is so small and cute! Leaving the aesthetics aside, the console connects easy to any newer TV (via HDMI) with the correct aspect ratio. You can power your SNES Classic by connecting it to your TV’s USB interface – no more worrying about a power outlet. The most important part of this whole Classic Mini thingy are the games, and what a stellar list! The bundled SNES Classic Mini games reads like a who’s who of the greatest games of all time. Just when you thought Nintendo could not top this, they have also thrown in the previously unreleased Star Fox 2!

Did you get yourself a SNES Classic Mini? If you did, we would love to know what you think – hit us up on Twitter or Facebook!

Anyway, enough chatting, time to play!

 

The Classic PAX Aus 2017 Ticket Giveaway

*** THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED ***

Wanna go to PAX Aus 2017? Do you want an easy way to enter a ticket giveaway? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then you are in luck!

Thanks to our great friends at PAX Aus, we have 3 x double passes for Sunday (October 29) to attend one of the biggest and best gaming events in the southern hemisphere. To score one of these double passes all you have to do is tweet us your favourite retro gaming item(s) – be it a console, computer, game or accessory, we want to see what tickles your nostalgic nerve. Don’t forget to tag us in your tweet and use the hashtags #PAXAus and #ausretrogamer.

It doesn’t get any easier than that! So get cracking on photographing those retro gaming items, as entries close on October 4th at 8:00pm!

If you need convincing of how great PAX Aus is, then check out last year’s event.

For those of you that like to read T&Cs, here are the finer details of this most awesome giveaway:

  • Entries open to Australian residents only
  • Entries close on Wednesday October 4, 2017 at 8:00pm
  • To enter the giveaway, tweet us your retro gaming photos with the appropriate hashtags (#PAXAus and #ausretrogamer) and tag @ausretrogamer and @PAXAus
  • Entrants must follow ausretrogamer (to receive a DM if you are the winner!)
  • Winners will be notified via Direct Message (DM)
  • Winners will receive their tickets in the post (via Australia Post)
  • The winners (if interstate) will be responsible in arranging their own transport and accommodation in Melbourne

PAX Aus 2017 is on from October 27 to 29 at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre. Tickets / Badges are available here.

 

How a Mario Kart Movie Could Work

By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

Nintendo’s Mario Kart 64 was one of my favourite video games growing up. I played the racing game regularly after school and on weekends with my friends.

2008’s Mario Kart Wii and 2005’s Mario Kart DS are two of Nintendo’s top selling video games; roughly 60 million in combined sales. With sales like that for just two versions of the iconic game, you would think a film adaptation of Mario Kart would be in the works by a film studio. But most films based on video games have failed miserably at the box office and with critics.

I wish I could erase my memory of seeing the confusing, badly edited Assassin’s Creed adaptation that was released last December.

A Mario Kart movie could work if handled correctly. Movies based on video games have always taken themselves so seriously; especially the Resident Evil franchise. If a director or screenwriter did something fun with the world of Mario Kart, like what Phil Lord and Christopher Miller did with The Lego Movie, it could be a really entertaining film. It would have to be animated and the humour would have to be smart for kids and adults.

Although, a live-action Mario Kart could be hard to get greenlit by a major studio because 1993’s Super Mario Bros., with Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo, bombed magnificently at the box office. But an animated version, perhaps even a Lego Mario Kart, could be successful if the right filmmakers who know the Mario Kart world write a clever, original script.

A Mario Kart film about a single race through several stages could be interesting if the characters are fleshed out. The game’s world is vast; there’s a treasure trove of situations and conflicts that could make for a fascinating film.

Until then, I’m sure another instalment of Resident Evil is in the works. The franchise has made $1.2 billion worldwide. The last film was The Final Chapter… sure, we’ll see about that.

 

Atari Panther: The Extinct Cat

In 1988 Atari Corporation’s Jack Tramiel ordered work to begin on the successor to the Atari 7800 and XEGS. Work quickly begun on the Panther and Jaguar consoles – yes, the Jaguar! The Atari Panther was being developed by Flare Technology (Flare One and Konix Multisystem) and was scheduled for release in 1991, directly competing with Nintendo’s SNES and Sega’s Mega Drive.

The Panther platform was going to be a mash up of the Atari ST and Transputer “Blossom” video card, once again blurring the lines of “is it 16 or 32-bit?”. For the record, the Motorola 68000 CPU was going to run at 16MHz (compared to the Mega Drive’s 8MHz and the SNES’ 12MHz) which was going to be paired with a 32-bit graphics card running at a whopping 32MHz! On paper, Atari was doing their math(s) right!

As the Panther and Jaguar were being developed in parallel, Atari Corp. started favouring the Jaguar as it was progressing quickly and presented far more impressive and superior technology. Atari eventually decided to scrap the Panther and forge ahead with their 64-bit console. The cancellation of the Panther meant that Atari had no hardware presence in the home console market between the discontinuation of the Atari 7800 in 1992 and the launch of their Jaguar in 1993. This gap weakened the Atari brand and likely contributed to the failure of the Jaguar console.

The cancellation of the Panther was poor timing, which in retrospect Atari wishes they had pursued it to market, as it would have given both the SNES and Mega Drive one hell of a fight!

The Atari Panther blueprint!

Looking good – front, back with nice sides!

The press release that got us drooling!

image source: Atari-Explorer via Wayback Machine

 

Super Nintendo Empire: The Vader Challenge

By: D.C. Cutler, U.S.A.

Darth Vader is such a fascinating film character. He goes away for a while, and then he comes roaring back into our pop culture conscience, better than ever.

After the spectacularly imaginative ending to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Vader is once again as popular as ever. There is something gratifying about seeing people of all ages wearing Darth Vader t-shirts again.

Like the original film trilogy, Super Nintendo’s The Empire Strikes Back, released in 1993, was the best of the Super Star Wars game series.

If you were a talented enough gamer to ultimately advance to Darth Vader, he was very difficult to defeat. That’s what made the game so good. Vader was a challenge, and battling him as Luke Skywalker was really a treat when I played the game as a kid.

Empire has the best lightsaber duel of the entire Star Wars film franchise. And I don’t care what anyone says, the Empire duel between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in Empire is more dramatic and thrilling than their final duel in Return of the Jedi. Just because it’s the coda of the original trilogy doesn’t make it the best lightsaber battle; satisfying, yes, but not on par with the duel that leads to Cloud City’s central air shaft.

image source: Pinterest

The lightsaber battle in the game is very similar to the one at the end of the 1980 film. However, Vader is a lot taller than Luke in the game; he’s almost giant-like compared to the young Jedi. As a child gamer, I found Vader’s height to be a little intimidating.

I spent many entertaining hours fighting Vader; to a point where I would keep track of how long it would take me to defeat him…if I defeated him. Vader’s not messing around at the end of the game. My friends and I called it “The Vader Challenge.” It was an ideal way to reenact the battle at the end of one of my favourite films.

The rest of the game action is enjoyable, but nothing is as testing and exceptional as the duel with Vader. Battling the AT-AT Walkers on the planet Hoth is really fun as well. The graphics are exceptional and the degree of difficulty adds a layer that makes this a game young Star Wars fans should try playing if they can find a Super NES copy.

It’ll stress you out a few times, but “The Vader Challenge” at the end is worth the anxiety.

 

Lack of Order

‘Press X to Jason’ the screen reads, as you play through Heavy Rain. ‘Press X to pay respects’ the screen offers, as you begin Call of Duty Advanced Warfare’s campaign. These scripted moments are something that try and engage the gamer but often feel as though they are awkward moments, much like when a parent says to ‘Make sure you send grandma a thank you card for the $5 she gave you for your birthday!’ You sigh; “But, why?” is the silent question, grandma knows you love her, after all.

In games, being prompted to perform an action is something that is here to stay. Be it through a quick time event or something that is set to move the plot, being told how to play a game is a break of immersion that is unfortunately commonplace. To say that all prompts shouldn’t exist is completely foolish as well. In the Batman Arkham series, an enemy can be countered as the prompt flashes over their head. In the Metal Gear Solid series, stealth is achieved best by being aware of what the enemies are doing or how they are reacting to the player movements – if they are curious, we know, if they know we are there, we know. Past this, games that offer tips to playing the game, such as Uncharted, can be a welcome addition, prompting the player to look in a certain place, even with the prompted option of ‘Hint’ appearing on screen when a puzzle takes a player too long to crack.

source: The Turbulence

How then, did we get here? When we say that moving narrative through a button press may not be the best choice, what does the alternative look like? The answer I have found is in Minecraft. This argument is not built on Minecraft alone, but rather, the use of its crafting system and completely wonky puzzles. Do you want to build a pickaxe? Boards in a row on top, then sticks underneath, which, is the only logical way to form a pickaxe. This type of crafting and puzzle solving works because it falls onto something that was all but forgotten in games – the intelligence of the player.

source: Xombit Games

I have a collection of Super Nintendo games, which I consider to be the height of gaming history. That opinion was formed due to playing games as a child and then replaying them as an adult. In assembling the collection, I swore to myself very early on that I would play each cartridge as much as I could. I did this to ensure the games still worked and to also understand the system better. I would also refrain looking up about the game. If I was to play them, it would be without the help of the internet, just like it would have been while growing up. My approach led to moments of utter frustration (trying to use the special skills and moves in Batman Forever) and fantastic exploration (shooting accidental fireballs in Mortal Kombat) but the thing that was never questioned was my ability to progress, built out of desire, I pushed myself into the games devices and was rewarded by being able to play the game.

source: alphacoders

Games used to be taken on their own terms and merits. Donkey Kong Country was about saving a giant banana and using an array of jungle animals to do so. The original Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat arcade games did not have character bios built into the game for players – none of that was the focus. If it feels out of place to give advice or to try and add context, it’s because it probably is. None of the old games needed reason to have the player do what they did (looking at you, James Pond) but they presented common ideas, and then let the player go.

source: The Escapist

As I continue to play games, now on the Xbox and Playstation, I wonder about this time. The time when games handed us pieces and nothing more and if it is truly fading away, and if it is, what do I do? I am playing Darkest Dungeon at the moment which has the same incredible thought tucked into it – “What if I pour holy water onto an altar?”, I thought to myself late one night. I poured it and moments later I was texting a friend with complete thrill that it worked! These moments continued as these thoughts, now written here, wrote themselves in my head. How much of the player’s intelligence will you remove from the game, before you realise that the desire to learn and struggle until success, starved until the sensation of winning, will always be tied to human nature just as much as story telling or visual appeal?

Press X to pay respect to the player’s intelligence.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Matthew Squaire
Matthew hosts the Matturday Podcasts with amazing people in video games. He can also be found on Twitter

 

 

 

 

The Retro Freak: It’s Freakin Awesome

retrofreak_titleWhen we received the Retro Freak console from Play-Asia, we put our thinking cap on to try and find a way to review the unit objectively. Our thinking cap must’ve worked, as we came up with an ingenious idea – take the Retro Freak to the biggest gaming expo in the southern hemisphere, PAX Aus 2016!

By having the Retro Freak available to play at PAX Aus, it gave us the opportunity to observe attendees playing on the console and gauge their unfiltered and objective feedback. With thousands in attendance, we weren’t short of people having a go. There were youngsters and older players, families and couples all having a go. The overwhelming responses from players was, “What is this console?”, “Where can I get one?” and “How much is it?”.

Play your old school carts on the Retro Freak!
retrofreak_top_carts

For those that are not aware, this awesome console from Cyber Gadget allows you to play your original game cartridges/cards from your Famicom, SNES/Super Famicom, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, PC Engine, TurboGrafx-16, SuperGrafx, Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance. By supporting these legacy systems, the Retro Freak ensures that you only need the one console setup in your games room to play all of your favourite classic titles! Hooray, you can finally declutter!

Let’s put on scanlines!
retrofreak_avsettings

We love the clean and easy-to-use interface
retrofreak_screen

The Retro Freak pumps out its audio visuals via HDMI, supporting 720p upscaling, which makes your old school games look great on newer TVs – so no more needing that 20 year old CRT TV! Well, we would suggest that you still hold onto your CRT TV *winks*. The other cool features that will freak you out (in a good way) include; filters, backing up of games from cartridge onto the console (on MicroSD card), instant save states and cheat codes (for certain games).

For control, there is the pack-in SNES-style controller, which does the job well, or if you prefer, modern gamepads such as the DualShock 3 and DualShock 4 can also be used (via USB). The Retro Freak Premium pack ships with a controller adaptor that supports Famicom/NES, Super Famicom/SNES, Sega Mega Drive/Genesis, and PC-Engine/TurboGrafx-16 controllers. If you prefer bluetooth control (perhaps you dislike wires!), you can procure the 8bitdo Retro Receiver, plug it into the controller adaptor and use any one of your PS3, PS4, WiiMote or Wii U controllers you may have lying around. Oh yeah, you can re-map controller buttons to suit your style! We love the flexibility that the Freak provides!

The pack-in controller does the job! At least the USB cable is 1.8M!
retrofreak_snes-controller

One side of the Controller Adaptor – connect your fave gamepads!
retrofreak_controlleradapter

Other side of the Controller Adaptor reveals more classic controller ports!
retrofreak_controlleradapter2

So how does it compare to playing on the real hardware? We threw all kinds of games at the Freak, and it ran them without a hitch. We didn’t encounter any incompatibility issues, which ensured we didn’t rage quit and turn off the console. The transferring of original game cartridge data to MicroSD is as easy as breathing, thanks to the user friendly interface. One niggle we did have was with Cyber Gadget’s support page being in Japanese – it made it difficult to ascertain the firmware and application updates required to ensure the Retro Freak was up to date. Google did came to the rescue here by pointing us to a forum that had the instructions in English on how to upgrade the firmware.

The elephant in the room is the obvious comparison to the RetroN5. With quality issues hampering the RetroN5, we know which system we would prefer to use – if only the Retro Freak was as good looking as the RetroN5! If you want to be able to archive your original game carts and declutter by only having one console to play your classic games on, then you can’t go wrong with the Retro Freak!

If you are keen to check out the Retro Freak console, then head to Play-Asia now.

Play Operation Wolf straight from the PC-Engine HuCard, OR…
retrofreak_opwolf

Backup the Operation Wolf HuCard to microSD! It’s the best of both worlds!
retrofreak_opwolf_backup

The Retro Freak makes it to PAX Aus!
retrofreak_pax

Family gaming together!
retrofreak_pikachu

The Retro Freak was a hit at PAX Aus 2016! The Sega Mega Drive version of Aladdin was quite popular.
retrofreak_girl

Super Famicom F-Zero action aplenty!
retro_freak_fzero

Time to SUPER SMASH (some) TV!
retrofreak_smashtv

Thanks to Play-Asia.com for supplying the Retro Freak used in this review.