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ralph mcquarrie atari

The Strange and Wonderful World of Atari Box Art

In the age of Atari, games couldn’t sell themselves on graphics alone. Games needed ways to spark players imaginations, to convince them that their villains and heroes were more than awkward clumps of pixels. And for that, they relied on box art. While some video game companies gave little thought to their cover art, Atari made it a priority. “I felt fundamentally that this was a consumer product that needed all the care and attention that a record album did,” explained Atari’s founder, Nolan Bushnell.. “I wanted the artwork to have a consistency to it, so that immediately, when you glanced at our packaging, you knew it came from Atari and you knew it was beautiful.” One of the first artists Atari partnered with was Cliff Spohn, a commercial artist with a distinct detailed style.…
realms of the haunting

5 More Classic Horror Games Available for Under $6 on GOG.com

There’s nothing quite like a good scare. As it happens, you’re filled with a surge of adrenaline, and in the aftermath, you’re soothed by feelings of relief. Many people are addicted to the rush that fear brings, and some experts have even argued that being frightened is good for your health. If you’re a thrill-seeker who loves video games, you should find all the scares you need and more at GOG.com. It’s packed full of classic horror games, and many of them are available for less than six bucks a pop. Below are five examples. (For more spooky fun, check out this list of five more budget-friendly horror titles.) Realms of the Haunting Many horror aficionados think the haunted house setting is overused.…
Berzerk

How Many People Has the Berzerk Arcade Game Killed?

The Berzerk arcade cabinet is a fascinating piece of video game history. It was one of the first games to use voice synthesis, which was an insanely expensive process back in 1980. In fact, it’s estimated that Berzerk‘s 30-word vocabulary cost $1,000 per word to produce due to its expensive Linear Predictive Coding. The game was also notable for introducing the world to “Evil Otto,” an antagonistic smiley face that would chase the player down if he or she spent too much time in a single panel of the maze. (It’s no coincidence that Evil Otto shares a surname with Dave Otto, a security officer who had worked with Berzerk designer Alan McNeil.) Perhaps the most macabre piece of trivia about this arcade game, however, is that it’s infamously known as the first arcade game to be tied to the death of its players.…
Super Mario Bros 2

5 Reasons Super Mario Bros. 2 Was Better Than Super Mario Bros. 3

I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but I actually consider Super Mario Bros. 2 to be superior to Super Mario Bros. 3. How could I enjoy Super Mario Bros. 2, the much-maligned re-skin of Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic, more than Super Mario Bros. 3, one of the most beloved video games of all time? Well, here are five reasons: 5. Freedom of Choice Super Mario Bros., as a series, has not exactly been known for having a plethora of character choices. Yet when Super Mario Bros. 2 came around, it proved that you could make character choice a genuine part of level planning. Who doesn’t remember using Toad for the desert levels, because Toad could pick up things and dig faster?…
Project Dream

Project Dream: Rare Shows Footage of Legendary Unreleased SNES/N64 Game

Rare is the company behind beloved games like Battletoads, Banjo-Kazooie, and GoldenEye 007. They served quite a long stint as a second-party developer for Nintendo, working on classics like Donkey Kong Country. Needless to say, they’ve long been an influential and important development studio with an impressive list of masterpiece games on their resume. Of course, there was one game, commonly referred to as Project Dream, that never saw the light of day. It was originally going to launch on the Super Nintendo, but then focus re-shifted and the game was going to come to the N64 instead. While it never actually came out, it sort of served as the fertile soil that Banjo-Kazooie would be planted it. Rare has finally told the story of its development, and has shown of some footage of the game that never was.…
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.…
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.…
little samson nes

Cocoron and Little Samson: Mega Man’s Secret Siblings

When people mention Mega Man, they often bring up Keiji Inafune as well. It’s easy to see why; Inafune worked on the series from the first game onward, and was the character’s biggest advocate in the years that followed. Fans frequently refer to him as the “father of Mega Man.” But like most successful creations, Mega Man has many fathers. One of them is Akira Kitamura, who directed the first two Mega Man titles and came up with the character’s initial design. Kitamura opted to leave Capcom before development began on Mega Man 3, citing a desire for more creative freedom. He and another ex-Capcom employee, Shinichi Yoshimoto, co-founded a small company Takeru. Shortly after, they began work on their first Famicom title: Cocoron.…
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?…
crash bandicoot ad

Crash Bandicoot Starred In the “Worst” Ad of 1998

In the late 90s, video game ads had a bit of a Wild West quality to them. Gaming had become a billion dollar industry, which meant that publishers were willing to pump plenty of cash into print campaigns. However, even the biggest magazines still had minimal oversight, allowing companies to run advertisements that were genuinely shocking (at least by today’s standards). Occasionally, Electronic Gaming Monthly took advantage of this lack of oversight and openly criticized a few of their advertisers. In their annually published Buyer’s Guide issue, they named the best and worst ads they’d seen that year. More often than not, the ads they called out deserved a good dressing-down. Past winners were exceptionally gross, dumb, or just plain tacky.  …
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.…
shenmue soccer ball

The Relentless Twitter Campaign to Save Shenmue Continues

When Twitter launched in 2006, most gamers assumed that the Shenmue series was dead in the water. The last game in the series, Shenmue II, had released back in 2001, shortly after Sega exited the console market. The big-budget franchise had earned rave reviews, but it also cost Sega a small fortune to develop. Between Sega’s financial woes and the years of radio silence, a third game seemed all but impossible. But like Ryo Hazuki, the protagonist of the Shenmue series, fans were incredibly persistent. They used Twitter as a rallying point, banding together to share their love of the series. On the third day of every months, hundreds, then thousands of users would tweet alongside the hashtag #SaveShenmue. It didn’t matter how hopeless things seemed; they were determined to see Ryo’s journey through to the end. On June 15th, 2015, the impossible happened.…
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.…
baby t-rex game boy

Baby T-Rex Was the Little Game Boy Game That Could

On June 25, 1993, a Game Boy game titled Baby T-Rex was released to little or no fanfare. Five months later, We’re Back came out for the Game Boy, with similar results. By the year’s end, two more titles, Bamse and Agro Soar, hit shelves, neither of them receiving much attention. Although there are plenty of forgettable titles in the Game Boy’s library, the circumstances surrounding these games is slightly unusual: Every one of them is the exact same game. In the 80s and early 90s, it wasn’t particularly unusual for a game to be re-purposed. Yo! Noid was a re-skinned version of a Famicom game called Kamen no Ninja Hanamaru. Sports-A-Roni, a Commodore 64 title, was ported to the Famicom as a Donald Duck title, and was released again for the NES as Snoopy’s Silly Sports Spectacular.…
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.…
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.…
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.”…
pantless link

A Link to the Past and the Mystery of Link’s Missing Pants

Long ago, in the halcyon days of pixels and wired controllers, an instruction manual was a treasure. Within its pages, you could discover tantalizing tidbits of backstory, admire beautiful character art, and pick up all kinds of useful gameplay tips. But while perusing these manuals was often a joy, they occasionally revealed more of a character than anyone wanted to see. In the instruction manual for The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Link wears a tunic, and nothing more. There are no flesh-colored leggings, no modesty-protecting shorts, and no attempts to keep undergarments covered. Whether he’s smashing a pot, swinging a sword, or simply sitting under a tree, he consistently throws caution to the wind. An aversion to dungarees is a strange trait for an adventurer, but what really makes Link stand out is his exhibitionism.…
earthbound

This Game Stinks: How Nintendo’s Marketing Failed EarthBound

Like many beloved niche titles, EarthBound — known as Mother 2 in Japan — was ahead of its time. The game’s cutesy graphics and unabashed weirdness belied its dark and meaningful storyline. At a glance, it’s no great surprise that it initially failed to find an audience. But when you look closer, you’ll find that EarthBound had everything it needed to be a success. A dedicated localization team ensured that every offbeat cultural reference was translated perfectly. Moreover, it had an impressive marketing budget, with ads for the game appearing in most major gaming magazines. Unlike most obscure gems, EarthBound was favorite of Nintendo superstar Shigeru Miyamoto. Prior to the game’s release, he had never completed a single RPG on his own.…
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.…
controllers

N64 and the Miraculous Success of Expensive Toys

Looking back, it’s easy to point to Nintendo’s use of cartridges as the N64’s biggest misstep. Knowing what we do now, the choice makes Nintendo look like a stick-in-the-mud, a company too stubborn and out of touch to realize that the times were a-changin’. But in 1994, things weren’t quite so clear-cut. Back then, CD-Rom technology was still fairly costly, and to many, they looked like an easy way to price yourself out of the market. When Nintendo announced their decision, many praised them for their business acumen, believing that high-priced CD-only systems would never be embraced by gamers. One of those people was Ed Semrad, then-editor of Electronic Gaming Monthly. Semrad’s comments are particularly interesting not just because he praised Nintendo, but what he praised Nintendo for: for understanding that consoles were essentially expensive toys.…
Princess Shokora - Wario Land 4

Whatever Happened to Princess Shokora from Wario Land 4?

In Wario Land 4 for GBA, Wario sets out to an ancient pyramid to make a quick buck,not knowing that he’s being accompanied by the ex-princess of the pyramid, Princess Shokora. The princess is trapped in the form of a black cat for most of the game, but she’s eventually turned back into her true form by Wario. What you might not have noticed is that during each boss stage the black cat runs into an “Items Shop” where she transforms into a Game & Watch-type character who sells Wario items to help defeat the boss. So it’s inferred that this character is actually Shokora, and she’s helping Wario overthrow the baddies in her pyramid. Throughout the game, Shokora takes the form of ten different characters, giving her a hefty representation in the game’s character list.…
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.…
generic rpg town

How to Tell If You Are a Character in an RPG

It happens to the best of us. You’re living your life, just trying to get by, when suddenly, you realize you’re not actually a sentient being at all, and are instead a character in a video game. Man, what a bummer! If you’re worried you might be suffering from this strange affliction, take the time to read over this checklist. What you learn may save your life, or at least remind you to go use that save point. Everything in your village was peaceful and idyllic, until one day it wasn’t, and you got a sweet sword. Even though you’re in the middle of a war, people seem pretty cool with you barging through their unlocked door and rifling through their stuff.…
Link Controller

The Controller Conundrum: Gaming with a Third Hand

Can you imagine if every time you opened a book, you had to skip through a section on how you were supposed to read it? “Begin at the word in the left-hand top corner. Proceed from left to right until you get to the end of the line, then start at the left-hand side of the next line. When reaching the bottom of a page, grip the right-hand side of a single page between your thumb and index finger and pull it from the right to the left and you will reveal the page beneath.” And so on. Or how about being confronted with a similar message every time you want to watch TV? “Press the ‘CH Up’ button to increase the channel number.…
The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker Is a Beautiful, Profound Masterpiece

There are certain video games that are considered canon by many, titles that anyone who writes about video games should feel some obligation to fawn over. These are revolutionaries, the heavy hitters that really meant something to both the games industry and the gaming community, the standouts that left a lasting impression. I try to play as many of these as I can, and, for the most part, I tend to really enjoy them. There’s been one longstanding exception to this rule for me, however: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This is baffling and frustrating for me. I adore the Legend of Zelda series, and I respect Ocarina of Time for all of the revolutionary things it did for gaming as a medium.…
Spot Goes to Hollywood

Spot Goes to Hollywood Was a Dark, Bizarre Piece of Advertainment

Virgin Games was inexplicably successful with Cool Spot, a blatant advertisement for 7up in Genesis/Mega Drive cartridge form. The game was more than just competent, it was enjoyable and memorable, with great art and a phenomenal soundtrack. As happens with a vast majority of successful games, Cool Spot spawned a sequel. You’d think Virgin would stick to the formula that worked so well with the first games, but they really, really didn’t. They outsourced the project to Eurocom, who decided upon a very strange direction for the series. The result was Spot Goes to Hollywood, a game that — more than it does anything else — simply confuses me. The original Cool Spot was a 2D, side-scrolling platformer. Spot Goes to Hollywood abandoned that completely, opting for an isometric viewpoint.…
Metal Gear Solid

Visually, Metal Gear Solid Has Aged Really Well

During the PlayStation/N64 era, technology was evolving rapidly, constantly pushing video games into exciting new territory. This was the rise of polygons, of three-dimensional, explorable landscapes. This was when Resident Evil was born and when Link first rode Epona across the wide open fields of Hyrule. This, however, was not an era known for its beautiful visual quality. Time has been absolutely brutal to the graphics of games of PSOne games. In fact, of all the generations of gaming, it’s the PSOne/N64’s that has aged the absolute worst aesthetically. The 8-bit and 16-bit eras circumvented this problem by crafting highly stylized, colorful, cartoony visuals built from pixels, whereas far too many PSOne games aimed for a “hyper-realistic” look — a look that simply couldn’t be pulled off with limited technology.…
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Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
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Pokemon Nintendo Power
Nintendo Power Predicted a “Pokémon Trade War” in 1998