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All posts by Julian Watkins

Stadium Events

A Copy of Stadium Events for NES Sold For $35,100 on eBay

In January of 2015, a complete, sealed-in-box copy of the über-rare Stadium Events cartridge for the NES was fast approaching $100k in an eBay bidding war. Now, I know what you might be thinking, “That is ridiculous!” Even for a game as rare as this one — it’s believed to have had only 2,000 copies printed in total, of which a mere 200 were made available to stores for sale — that still seems like an exorbitant amount of cash. And of course it was. As is the case with eBay auctions like this one, there were some fraudulent bids tossed in with the real ones to muck things up. Even so, at the closing of the auction (on January 15, 2015), Stadium Events actually fetched a still-impressive $35,100, with other copies previously selling for as much as $44,000.…
Super Mario Bros

The Mysterious Launch Date of Super Mario Bros. for NES

The original Super Mario Bros. dramatically shaped the gaming experience of my childhood, informing my personal ideal of what a video game should be. I imagine this is true for countless other tykes of the 1980s, and the Mario franchise is probably still influencing today’s kids as well — just in more of a cat-suit-power-up kind of way. My brother and I spent an absurd amount of time playing Super Mario Bros. as kids, competing to see who the true master was. Since I was the younger of the two, I was relegated to Luigi, endearing me to that string-bean paisano (though really, Luigi hadn’t developed into more than just a color-swapped version of Mario by that point). I can even recall the game cartridge that it shared with Duck Hunt; the label split diagonally down the middle as if to suggest that this inferior game (in my opinion) even deserved such equality in billing.…

My Life in Quarters: Galaxian

The following is a work of fiction. I remember the day I first played  Galaxian quite vividly, back in the spring of 1980. I was 14 years old and had just gotten off of work at the local Bob’s Big Boy. It was a particularly rough day for me, having earlier asked Carmen Rosedale to the big spring dance and getting shot down in a blaze of non-glory. That would no doubt be the talk of school the following Monday, but, for the time being, I wasn’t going to sweat it. I had just gotten done with my bus shift after school and was headed to the local arcade for a late night romp before going home and starting my evening chores.…
Shadow of the Colossus Cutscene

Shadow of the Colossus Brought Us Some Truly Heart-Wrenching Cutscenes

Arguably one of the best games of the PS2 era, Shadow of the Colossus, has earned its place in the annals of gaming history. Short on dialogue or context, SotC does a ton of heavy lifting using game mechanics, visuals, and cutscenes. Transitions from gameplay to cutscene and back are seamless. This often presents the player with an impressive introduction to the next colossi, then leaves them to scrambling to figure out how to prevail. It is a great mechanic for a game that’s all about trial and error and the rewards of taking risks. The game’s final cutscene is its best, delivering a gut punch as it lays bare the consequences of the Traveler’s actions. As the game progresses, it becomes more apparent that the Traveler might not be working for the side of good; this sequence makes no bones about the fact that his selfish actions will only bring death and destruction.…
Girlfriend Construction Set

Girlfriend Construction Set Allows Me to Be a Virtual Jerk

Lately, I’ve been hearing a lot about this old indie game called Girlfriend Construction Set, and I was eventually persuaded to check this dating simulator out and see what all of the hubbub was about. Within a few minutes, I found myself becoming the very kind of jerk I loathe in reality. And Lord help me, it felt pretty good. I started out by typing my name and the name of my virtual girlfriend. I was then tasked with choosing her face. Naturally, I chose the most aesthetically pleasing pixelated mug, which coincidentally happened to be a 10. Next, I was tasked with calculating her stats: After this, it was off to the races. For our first date, I chose the default dinner option: She agreed, naturally, but during the date the waiter spilled soup on her.…
Bionic Commando

Bionic Commando Was the First Game That Ever Swore at Me

I have found memories of playing Bionic Commando with my older brother. We would invent our own dialogue and storylines to accompany the gameplay — something we did while playing most games back then. When looked at without the glare of nostalgia, the game is nothing special, but back then it was totally rad. Simply swinging around with that bionic arm, shooting dudes, and avoiding being shot was more action than my youthful brain could ask for. And those funny messages you received after hacking computer modules, or getting stuck behind that steel barrier at the beginning of one of the levels if you hadn’t acquired the bazooka… Ah, the memories. But none of that stands out more to me now than the simple fact that this was the first video game that I had played that had a swear word in it.…
Super Metroid

Super Metroid Still Stands as a Testament to Brilliant Game Design

Rarely does a title completely nail every aspect of game design, from sound to controls to story to visual aesthetic. But the incredibly well-crafted, damn-near-perfect Super Metroid somehow does it. This shining achievement stands above most of the games that have come out since then, and a majority of the ones that came before. The pacing is pitch-perfect. The rewards for exploration and trial and error gameplay were savory and satisfying. Figuring out how to eventually get that one missile reserve that has bugged you since the outset of the game — coming upon it through some mysterious back entry — was a punch of an “aha” moment. Mastering the skillset as it broadens — sometimes with nothing more than an animal giving you hints, or a row of barriers that once x-rayed reveals the correct path to break through — while running at blistering speeds creates a perfect sense of pacing. This was the first game that I felt truly spoke to me, both literally (via the opening spoken dialogue portion) and figuratively (encouraging imaginative troubleshooting and problem-solving).…
GameCube Controller

Nintendo’s GameCube Had the Second Best Video Game Controller of All Time

I recently had a face-to-face conversation (you know, the opposite of texting or private messaging) with a friend of mine about which game controllers were our number one and number two favorites. Obviously, the Xbox 360 controller is the greatest of all time; nobody is arguing against that. And, obviously, the PS3 controller is a pile of dung. Again, old news. But while thinking back on all of the official console controllers starting with the NES — which was my first foray into the gaming landscape — my choice for number two favorite controller caused a ripple in our discussion, one that reverberated beyond the close knit confines of my living room and shook the very foundations of the society within which we live.…
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! – A Bruised Trip Down Memory Lane

This past week has been one of awful tragedy, which led to massive amounts of weeping, drinking, and personal reflection. Despite its terrible nature, it somehow culminated in a cathartic get-together that ended with a bunch of old friends watching one of our own strive to defeat Mike Tyson in the NES classic Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! Sadly, his ultimate destruction was not met at the hands of my old chum Keith, eluding the conclusion of a childhood arc of utter satisfaction and elation. That said, sitting around the television huddled together on the edge of our collectives seats, hungry for such a triumph, brought me back to the good old days of my starry-eyed youth. I felt like a kid again, a feeling I haven’t really experienced lately while playing the current batch of games, even ones I love so dearly.…
Intelligent Cube

Intelligent Cube: Awesome Squared

You hear a lot of praise for Tetris, and for good reason — it is, after all, the quintessential puzzle game. But I’d like to shed some light on another, lesser-known yet singularly awesome puzzle game: Intelligent Cube. Created by Tokyo University professor Masahiko Sato and released for the original PlayStation way back in 1997, this was a true classic. I originally encountered the game on a demo disc and immediately fell in love. It was like nothing I had played up to that point, offering a satisfying challenge that required some real ingenuity and on-the-spot thinking. Basically, you’re some poor schmo running around on a grid for reasons unknown, trying to destroy rows of cubes that roll toward you and drive you ever closer to the edge of the board until you finally plummet to your death. Once you get the swing of thing, it becomes incredibly addictive to try and beat the predetermined number of moves for each wave while trying to keep the grid intact, all to ensure the highest score possible: your I.Q.…
MTV Music Generator

Generating to the Beat of a Different Genre; Whatever Happened to MTV Music Generator?

I want my MTV… my MTV Music Generator 4. Or any new music generator game, for that matter. Now, I realize that this is probably the epitome of niche gaming. Somewhere along the lines of tractor simulators and Japanese beef noodle restaurant games. But gosh darn it, I can’t be the only one out there looking to get my digital beat-making freak on. After all, there were three entries in the MTV Music Generator series alone, the first of which was released to rave reviews, including a 9/10 from IGN. And that’s not counting the numerous other variations spanning a good deal of the consoles that have come out over the last decade and a half or so. The PSOne, PS2, PSP and DS all had their own music generators.…
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