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All posts by Josh Wirtanen

Turok Dinosaur Hunter

The Remastered Turok Game Feels Like a Rendezvous with an Old Friend

When I was growing up, I had a PlayStation and my step-brothers had a Nintendo 64. Each was hooked up to a separate TV in a separate room, so it wasn’t rare to see our collective attention split between the two. However, there were occurrences when a game would captivate all of us simultaneously, and we’d gather around a single TV, oftentimes passing a controller around and sharing our game time. Since I only lived with my step family for a little over a year, this was one of the few things the step-brothers and I actually got to do as a group. I have very fond memories of bonding over Jet Moto, Super Mario 64, and, of course, Final Fantasy VII.…
Spot Goes to Hollywood

The Mysterious Ending of Spot Goes to Hollywood

1993’s Cool Spot may have been an advertainment game designed to make players’ mouths water for 7up, but it was also a genuinely great game. It had some fantastic art, really neat level design, and a phenomenal soundtrack by the talented Tommy Tallarico. A sequel, Spot Goes to Hollywood, followed in 1995, but it didn’t live up to the expectations set by its mighty predecessor. In fact, it was just plain weird. In the ending credits, there’s a scene of Spot attending the premiere of this movie he had apparently been filming throughout the game, and it presented a childhood version of myself with a tantalizing puzzle. This movie shows a title card for Cool Spot 3, a fact that baffles me to this day.…
Crash Bandicoot Seattle Ad

Crash Bandicoot Gets Kicked out of Nintendo HQ in This 2-Page Ad

In the original PlayStation era, Crash Bandicoot was practically a mascot character for Sony’s new gaming machine. He was essentially to Sony what Mario was to Nintendo or Sonic the Hedgehog was to Sega (though this was sort of off-the-record; Sony and Crash never made official, and SCE’s exclusive rights to the franchise would eventually expire). If you wanted a zany mascot platformer and your console of choice was a PSOne, Crash was your man. He also starred in a series of really bizarre ads, most of which included some unremarkable-looking dude in a Crash Bandicoot costume. Sometimes he was hanging out with musclebound bodybuilders, and other times he was helping promote Pizza Hut to the lucrative gaming demographic. In the following two-page spread, he’s getting himself escorted from Nintendo of America’s Seattle headquarters. We found this ridiculous ad in the 97th issue of GamePro magazine (which is dated October of 1996).…
Turok Remastered

Turok Remastered Brings Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Back from 1997

Everyone’s favorite dino hunter, my main man Turok, is back for another round of FPS madness. Night Dive Studios (the same studio behind the upcoming System Shock remake) has taken the time to carefully remaster the original 1997 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter game (the PC version, not the N64 version) and put it back into the public consciousness. It’s available on GOG right now (and if you get it right now, you’ll save 20%). If you need any convincing at all, I’ve posted a gameplay trailer below. If the shot of a velociraptor holding a gigantic freaking gun doesn’t force a spontaneous purchase, than I have no idea who you even are.…
Bubsy Art

Bubsy for SNES Had a Great Instruction Booklet

The video game instruction booklet is something of a dying art. These days, you’re lucky if a new game purchase includes a single printed page with box art, some legal mumbo jumbo, and a controller layout that explains how to play the game. In the 1990s, though, you could expect an actual stapled booklet, full of information that was useful, informative, and fun. Bubsy in Clawed Encounters of the Furred Kind for the SNES was no exception. This 32-page tome included credits and warranty information, as you’d expect, but it also included things like this: The quirky attitude of the titular bobcat is on full display here, as he’s tricked into thinking Stephen King would be writing this page. What ensues is a rant about how he’s going to end up writing the thing himself, which he ends up doing.…
Dorke and Ymp Cover

Talking Dorke and Ymp with Piko Interactive Founder Eli Galindo

Piko Interactive is a company that distributes games for retro consoles. However, instead of reselling old cartridges, they purchase the rights to games that sort of fell by the wayside and they build new cartridges with those games on them. For example, they’re the company who pulled Super Noah’s Ark 3D out of its early grave and printed a fresh run of Super Nintendo cartridges. (They’re also selling the game on Steam.) On top of this, they also publish some brand new homebrew games for retro consoles. I first came across the company because they put out a game called Dorke and Ymp, which was a Swedish Super NES game that never saw a proper release until now. Interested in learning more about the project, I chased down Eleazar (Eli) Galindo, Founder of Piko Interactive, and spent a little bit of time chatting with him in December of 2015.…
Bad Box Art Mega Man

An Illustrated History of Mega Man Box Art

In March of 2012, Capcom launched Street Fighter X Tekken, a fighting game that pitted Capcom’s own Street Fighter characters against Namco Bandai’s Tekken characters. To top it off, Pac-Man joined the battle to represent Namco’s greater universe, and Mega Man showed up to support Capcom. But it wasn’t the classic Mega Man we all knew and loved; it was this guy: This character was officially dubbed “Bad Box Art Mega Man” and was a reference to the cover art for the original Mega Man game. Yes, on the original box art, Mega Man dressed in yellow and carried a pistol instead of having a blaster built into his arm. One must wonder, had the person who created this ever actually played Mega Man?…
Devil Dice

Whatever Happened to Devil Dice for PlayStation?

In the original PlayStation era, the Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine used to include a demo disc with every single issue of their magazine (allegedly, they were the first ever magazine to do so.) The 13th iteration of this grand tradition was a feast to behold; not only did it include playable demo versions of Metal Gear Solid and Cool Boarders 3 (both of which I sank dozens of hours into), it also included a demo for a quaint little puzzle game called Devil Dice. In Devil Dice, you played as a little devil character (who kind of resembled a kid in footie pajamas or, God forbid, one of the Teletubbies) who gleefully rode atop a series of dice. As the devil skipped along a grid that sort of resembled a checker board, he (or she, I suppose; the gender seemed rather ambiguous) would flip whichever die he/she was standing on.…
Super Mario Bros Box Art

Mario Throws Fireballs; He Doesn’t Spit Them

In the early days of the NES, game designers had very few pixels to work with when creating character animations, so there are several instances where some of the minutia was simply lost in translation. For example, in the Super Mario Bros. series, there was a general assumption that Mario breaks bricks with his head (when he actually uses his fist). Another misconception from the same game is that Mario spits fireballs (instead of throwing them with his hand). While there is a surprising amount of people who hold this belief (here’s a GameFAQ forum post where people discuss this), it’s simply untrue. Here’s where the confusion undoubtedly first began: This is Mario throwing a fireball in the original Super Mario Bros.…
Ogg

A Chat with Bubsy’s Michael Berlyn – Part 3: Ogg and the Theory of Interactive Storytelling

In the first two parts of this interview series, Michael Berlyn talks about the history of Bubsy, his departure from the game development scene, and his reemergence as a “casual” game developer. At this point in the conversation, Mr. Berlyn talked a bit about his more current projects, which you can find more about on the Flexible Tales website. Michael Berlyn: The website shows basically four interactive story products that are all graphically based and are story-driven. There’s nothing like them, nor was there anything like them when we decided to do them. My wife and I collaborated on them. She’s a writer too, and she worked on a lot of products with me, like Tass Times [in Tonetown], which she did most of the work on, and Dr.…
Syphon Filter

A Chat with Bubsy’s Michael Berlyn – Part 2: Rejection and Reinvention

In the first part of this interview, Micheal Berlyn and I talk about the history of Bubsy, which Berlyn created. He mentioned how the stress of big-budget development with growing team sizes was overwhelming and exhausting, so he took a break. Now, we talk about his return the the industry and his new-found love of the casual gaming scene. Michael Berlyn: When casual gaming came along, I had renewed interest in developing games again. At the time we shipped Bubsy 3D… my partner and I had a staff of about 24 people, and we were working on a PlayStation game for Sony called Syphon Filter, and another one for Accolade, and Bubsy 3D… And we had a kind of first-person, robotic shooter that was in development with another guy… designing it, who was very talented but couldn’t make a deadline.…
Bubsy

A Chat with Bubsy’s Michael Berlyn – Part 1: The Rise and Fall of Bubsy

Michael Berlyn is a man of many talents — he’s an accomplished novelist, musician, game designer, and more — but he’s probably most notable, at least in the gaming world, for being the creator of Bubsy. I had the chance to chat with Mr. Berlyn on Skype for almost an hour as he was putting the final touches on his latest gaming project Ogg. (You can see more of his work at the Flexible Tales website). He walked me through the world of game development in the 1990s, the heartbreak of watching the Bubsy franchise crumble, and some of the work he’s been doing since returning to the industry more recently. Read on for the full interview: Josh: Bubsy was a game I really loved as a kid — I mean, I was a kid in the 90s — and I loved it.…
Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda

Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda Details Zelda’s Translation History

Although the original Legend of Zelda was a hit with gamers in the west, its localization left something to be desired. From its indecipherable clues (“10th Enemy has the bomb”) to the misspelling of Ganon’s name in the intro, it’s clear that something was lost in the translation process. Thanks to the efforts of Clyde Mandelin, Zelda fans will finally get a peek into that process. See, Mandelin keeps tabs on video game localization (as a translation/localization expert himself with an impressive resume) and shares the details on his website Legends of Localization. (Mandelin also worked on the Mother 3 fan translation, which we here at Retrovolve are huge fans of.) The website is about to become a book series, with Legends of Localization Book 1: The Legend of Zelda out in December.…
Harvest Moon Cow

EGM Weighs in on Harvest Moon, “Cow Teats,” and “Human Discrimination”

A grand old tradition in Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine was to create an annual Buyer’s Guide issue so readers could spend their hard-earned dollars carefully. (After all, brand new video games were ridiculously expensive in the 1990s.) This Buyer’s Guide was also a place where EGM‘s staff could lampoon the gaming industry at large, poking fun of the ludicrous ads that had graced their pages that year and weighing in on hot-button topics of the time. Thumb through any of these issues and you’ll get the feeling that Buyer’s Guide editorial oversight was much more lax than that of a standard EGM issue. It’s easy to forget that the “Women in Gaming” issue was a landmine in 1998. Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft would release that year — marking the third year in a row that would see a major Tomb Raider release — and Lara Croft had become one of gaming’s first sex symbols (possibly the very first)  by then.…
Dorke and Ymp Cover

Unreleased SNES Game Dorke and Ymp Finally Got an Official Cartridge Launch in 2015

Back in the 1990s, a little Swedish company called Norse attempted to make a game for the Super NES. Dorke and Ymp was to be a charming little puzzle platformer featuring a goblin and an imp who find artifacts and deliver them to an evil wizard. Unfortunately, Norse was unable to find a publisher, so the game was never finished and never released. Until 2015. Piko Interactive acquired the game’s code, which was about 50% complete, and chased down the original programmer, artist, and composer to assemble the original development team. This team fixed bugs, added a new Volcano world with several levels, and added four boss fights based on the original game’s story. Then, Piko went full-on retro and released it on Super NES cartridges, homebrew style.…
Nintendo Entertainment System

This 1985 NES Ad Is a Nostalgia Overload

1985 was a great year for super-geeks, wasn’t it? Sure, it may have been an exceptionally cold year for a large part of the United States, but it was also year Back to the Future was initially set in, as well as the year Billy Dee Williams (Mr. Lando Calrissian himself) was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It was also the year this beauty aired: Yes, in 1985 — more than two whole years after the Famicom released in Japan — the NES finally made it to American shores. You probably noticed that the advertised NES bundle includes which was compatible with a whopping two games (until 8-Bit X-Mas 2014 was released, bringing the total to three).…
LankyMario

Mario Maker: The Skinny Mushroom Power-Up Is Now a Part of Mario History

Super Mario Maker is a gloriously addictive game that lets you finally live out every retro gamer’s biggest Mario-related fantasy — the ability to simply draw Mario levels and bring them to life on your TV screen. Buried deep within its code is a delicious treat, a new type of mushroom that turns little Mario into a tall, lanky Mario. Just look at this guy: People have dubbed this the “Weird Mushroom” (according to the Super Mario Wiki), but it’s not uncommon to hear it referred to as the skinny mushroom or the Luigi mushroom. (I like the term “lanky mushroom” myself.) It grants you powers typically associated with Luigi, like an extra high jump and less traction on surfaces. (It also gives you terribly bad posture.)…
WarioWare Ashley

Was WarioWare: Touched! Secretly Introducing Children to the Occult?

Nintendo may put on a squeaky-clean, kid-friendly face these days, but it’s not a company without its controversies. For example, the Big N was once known for having Yakuza ties, running love hotels (essentially, places where executives can bring their mistresses without getting caught), and fighting off LEGO lawsuits. But one of the most bizarre accusations Nintendo faced was that their 2005 DS game WarioWare: Touched! had super-secret occult messages hidden in its English localization. In fact, here’s a whole forum thread dedicated to this idea. If players score 15 points in the Snore Rope minigame in WarioWare: Touched!, they’ll unlock the Turntable souvenir. This turntable is where they’ll pledge their eternal souls to the demons within. There is a song called “Ashley’s Song” that, when played fast, seems to spout the phrase: “I have granted kids to Hell.”…
Robot Tank Atari 2600

How I Missed out on Robot Tank’s Official Medals

Robot Tank for the Atari 2600 was an incredibly innovative game for its time. Sure, it was pretty much Activision’s answer to the Battlezone arcade game, but it was also so much more than that. Interestingly enough, this was a very early example of the first-person shooter genre, coming out way back in 1983. That’s nine years before Wolfenstein 3D (1992) and ten years before the original Doom (1993). Yes, that means that 20 years before publishing the first Call of Duty game (2003), Activision published a first-person shooter for the Atari 2600. Granted, your character is driving a tank, but everything is seen from a first-person perspective and you shoot things. That still counts in my book. Of course, if we’re okay calling Robot Tank a first-person shooter, it wouldn’t be fair to not extend the definition to 1980’s Battlezone as well.…
Mario Graph Paper

Super Mario Bros. Levels Were Originally Sketched Out on Graph Paper

Nintendo’s prerecorded “Digital Event” at E3 2015 was a weird mix of puppetry, announcements for games that were sort of like games we wanted but not really, and the charming smiles of the always brilliant Shigeru Miyamoto. Wait, puppets? Yes, I didn’t intend for the word puppetry to be some weird, confusing metaphor; there were really puppets created by Jim Henson’s Creature Studio as a big part of the show. One of the smaller tidbits of information to drop during the presentation was a bit of insight into the process of creating 8-bit Super Mario Bros. courses (or levels), straight from Miyamoto and his good pal (and long-time designer and producer at the “House of N”) Takashi Tezuka. “Back in the day,” said Tezuka, “we had to create everything by hand.…
Mother, Earthbound Beginnings

The Original Mother Game Has Finally Made It to the United States

A miracle has happened: Nintendo has finally brought the original Mother game to the U.S.A. This comes in the form of Earthbound Beginnings, a downloadable title for the Wii U on Nintendo’s eShop available right freaking now. The news is pretty incredible, because even though the game came out in Japan way back in 1989, it’s never had an official English language release until now. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if enough people pick this one up, we might actually see the third entry in the series, Mother 3 — which is widely regarded as one of the best video games of all time — come Stateside eventually. It’s worth crossing our fingers for, anyway.…
Battletoads Banner

Rare Announces Classic Games Collection for Xbox One

At Microsoft’s E3 2015 press conference, Rare announced Rare Replay, a collection of 30 classic Rare games dating all the way back to 1983. Notables include Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, the lovably irreverent Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and — a personal favorite of mine — Battletoads. And, speaking of Battletoads, it looks like this collection will include both the original NES version of the game and the arcade version, which has never seen a release on home consoles. The collection will be out August 4 exclusively for the Xbox One. And it’s got Achievements, if you’re into that. So if you have both an Xbox One and a passion for great retro games, you might want to pick this one up. (For a more cynical take on Rare Replay, check that out at our sister site GeekParty.)…
ToeJam and Earl Hyperfunk Zone

ToeJam & Earl Kickstarter Hits Its Second Stretch Goal, the Hyperfunk Zone

ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove launched a Kickstarter to raise $400,000. It was a nerve-wracking experience for fans, as the deadline loomed closer without the project reaching its goal. However, the team at HumaNature Studios seemed to have pulled an 11th-hour feat of funkitude, hitting their goal with just two and a half days to go. Since then, the backers have been piling up in support, pushing the project through not one but two of its stretch goals. The first stretch goal allows players to use old school ToeJam and Earl skins. Not sure what that will look like, but I assume they’ll be made of pixels. The second is a bit more exciting: The Hyperfunk Zone from Panic on Funkotron.…
ToeJam and Earl High-Five

ToeJam & Earl Kickstarter Is a Success!

It’s official: The ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove Kickstarter is a success. HumaNature Studios was asking for $400,000 to help fund a brand new game in the ToeJam & Earl franchise. Today — March 25, 2015 — that goal has been reached. When that nerve-wracking line between “not funded” and “funded” was crossed, there were only about 50ish hours left in the campaign, so it came right down to the wire. For the studio, this means it’s go time. They’ve got quite a bit of work in store for them — drawing and coding and building and whatnot. For fans, though, all that’s left to do is wait.…
ToeJam & Earl Cover

How ToeJam and Earl Almost Became Marijuana-Smoking Mascots

Like most people who have played the 1991 Sega Genesis classic ToeJam & Earl, I’ve always wondered what sort of drugs had inspired the creation of such a wacky game. But unlike most people who have played ToeJam & Earl, I actually had a chance to ask series creator Greg Johnson about this. The surprising truth is that Greg has never done drugs in his life, and ToeJam and Earl aren’t into that either. However, the “high life” was one that these two funky aliens narrowly avoided. Greg told me: Here’s a little interesting tidbit for you: Mark [Voorsanger, co-creator of ToeJam & Earl] and I were approached at one point to sell the property for quite a bit of money to an organization that was focused on legalizing marijuana.…
ToeJam and Earl Genesis

ToeJam and Earl Don’t Do Drugs

I’ve always had this suspicion that ToeJam & Earl was a game that was inspired by drugs (probably marijuana, but even something harder than that never felt like it was out of the realm of possibility). So when I finally got a chance to talk to Greg Johnson, one of the creators of the franchise, I asked him about it. It turns out, I was way off. Here’s what Greg told me: I don’t do drugs, and I never have. Any type. That’s sometimes shockingly surprising to some people who are absolutely sure that ToeJam & Earl came out of some drug-induced state of mind… I understand when people make that comment because there is a certain quality to them that’s maybe kind of familiar with that crazy, associative, let-it-flow kind of humor, but that’s not really where it came from.…
ToeJam and Earl Hot Tub

ToeJam & Earl’s Greg Johnson Gets Hit with the “Love Hose”

In March of 2015, I spent about 40 minutes on Skype with Greg Johnson of ToeJam & Earl fame. He was in the middle of the ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove Kickstarter, so I brought up the fact that, with the series back in the limelight, there are all sorts of interesting stories that people are sharing about their experience with the games. I wondered what it was like to experience that fresh batch of love from a creator’s perspective. Greg told me: It’s been very eye-opening for me and for the other members of the team. And Mark [Voorsanger, co-creator of ToeJam & Earl] as well. But I’m the one that’s kind of getting it mostly directed at me.…
ToeJam and Earl Ship Piece

Talking ToeJam & Earl with Greg Johnson – Part 3: Drugs

This is the final part of a three-part interview with ToeJam & Earl creator Greg Johnson. You can read the second part here, or start from the beginning by clicking here. Josh: So, back to ToeJam & Earl… This is going to be a super weird question probably, but this is something I’ve genuinely always been curious about. How much would you say that drugs influenced ToeJam & Earl? Greg: [Laughing] That’s funny. Well, I don’t know. I mean, I don’t do drugs, and I never have. Any type. That’s sometimes shockingly surprising to some people who are absolutely sure that ToeJam & Earl came out of some drug-induced state of mind. Josh: It almost feels like, if you’re looking, you can see some references and things.…
Doki Doki Universe

Talking ToeJam & Earl with Greg Johnson – Part 2: How Race Affected Doki Doki Universe

This is the second part of a three-part conversation with ToeJam & Earl creator Greg Johnson. You can read the first part here. Josh: I’d like to transition real quick to Doki Doki Universe, because I finally did get a chance to play it. I was really blown away by a lot of the things you did with it conceptually, exploring what makes us human and what that might look like to an alien. Because you’ve got this very human character who’s a robot, and he experiences some pretty traumatic stuff (that’s kind of glossed over a little bit for kids), but it has the issue of being abandoned somewhere for 20 years [correction: it was actually 32 years] and just kind of patiently waiting for someone to come pick you up… That really affected me deeply on a lot of levels.…
ToeJam and Earl Say What's Up

Talking ToeJam & Earl with Greg Johnson – Part 1: Developing a Beloved Game Franchise

On March 18, 2015, I had the opportunity to spend about 40 minutes chatting on Skype with Greg Johnson, one of the creators of the ToeJam & Earl franchise. We mostly talked about the original ToeJam & Earl game, but we also brought up the more recent ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove (which was funded on Kickstarter in March of 2015), and Doki Doki Universe, which Johnson also created. It was an incredibly interesting conversation, in which we explored racism, drug references, linguistics, and more. Read on for the full interview. Josh: Since you announced this [ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove‘s Kickstarter campaign], there’s been so much enthusiasm. It seems like it’s almost coming out of the woodwork probably.…
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