Frogger should be banned!

Some guy in South Carolina decided to play Frogger earlier this week, but he wasn’t playing the original arcade version or any of the console or handheld ports. This guy actually ran out into a 4 lane highway and started trying to dodge cars. It ended how you’d expect, and he was struck by a car and sent to the hospital. This wasn’t some stupid 6 year old kid, either, it was a 23 year old man. Obviously the temptation to copy what we see in video games is too strong.

Source: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101229/ap_on_re_us/us_frogger_wreck

Giant Bomb at CAX

The guys from Giant Bomb attended this year’s California Extreme show and put together some great footage of their time on the show floor speaking with attendees, vendors, and show organizers. Here’s a link to the Giant Bomb page: http://www.giantbomb.com/giant-bomb-at-california-extreme-2010/17-2922/

I wasn’t able to get out to CAX this year, but am planning on getting there next year.

Beating down the cheesers in Super Street Fighter IV

So back when Street Fighter IV came out I was really excited. I hadn’t seriously played any Street Fighter games since Super Street Fighter II. Even with the Alpha series I barely touched them, and the SFIII family of games were just something I never got into even passively. I’ve always loved fighting games, so it’s weird that I went so long without playing. Anyway, I picked up SFIV and was really excited about it for about a week or two. I thought it was my return to playing Street Fighter regularly. It wasn’t. It’s not because I didn’t really like the game, I did, it was because I had no time to invest in learning the game and the new fighting engine. Eventually I sold it off, figuring I would pick it back up when SSFIV came out, if ever.

Well, I picked up SSFIV a little while back, modded my arcade stick to put authentic arcade parts (Sanwa stick with an octagonal restrictor plate and Seimitsu buttons), and sat down to play. This past weekend was the first weekend I went online to compete, and boy did it feel like old times when I’d walk down to the arcade with a pocket full of quarters to test my growing skills against the other kids and teens that were sucked into the game. Right from the get go I had success, winning my first 5 online ranked matches and earning a handful of achievements in the process. I noticed that the same sorts of players still exist–the special move spammer, the combo master, the rushdown aggressive type, the defensive player, the guy who keep jumping into your uppercuts, and that one guy that everybody hates…the cheeser.

A cheeser is a guy who basically knows 3-4 tough to defend moves and he relentlessly throws them at you. Typically this guy will just hold to this strategy, whether it’s successful or not. These guys will find out what move you’re not familiar with defending and it’s all they’ll do until the round ends. If you can’t figure out a good counter, you’ll lose.

I ran into a guy playing as Vega, and here was his strategy. Hold down and back to keep a move charged. If the other player approaches, quickly do an aerial special attack. If the player throws a projectile, he’d do a backflip to avoid it and return to his crouching charge state. It was all very annoying. After the first round where I got beat by a Super finish, I was already irritated. This was the first time I had faced Vega in SSFIV, so I was totally unfamiliar with which of my moves would take priority over his, and what counters were open to me. I reverted back to old standby strategies and made short work of him in round 2. It helped that he was being somewhat cocky and careless. In round 3 he came at me with his cheese tactics 100% again, so I had a tougher time. After a throw, he had me down to 0% on my health bar, just a sneeze would do me in. He had about 50% of his bar left, and he just let loose special move after special move. I got lucky and was either dodging or countering every single move. The round ended when he tried to unleash his Ultra 1 move, which I managed to jump over and hit him with a dragon punch to finish the round. The next 10 seconds were nothing but a stream of curses coming through his mic (I wasn’t wearing one, so it came through my TV speakers). Ahhh, it felt good. I saved that replay, and I’ll show it to my kid one day to demonstrate why his mom would choose to marry a guy like me.

A great way to punish a Blanka electric thunder spammer.

Throughout the weekend I ran into many more cheesers. They don’t seem to be as rampant as they did in the past, possibly due to the punishing Super and Ultra moves, but already I’m remembering how to deal with them. In round 1 it’s best to just play your game and see what they’re going to throw at you. If you can adjust in the first round, do it, but don’t worry if they best you at this point. In round 2 you have to start punishing those moves. Even if you win the round, they’ll stick to the moves into round 3. If you can get a lead, they’ll typically panic and start trying something else, this is when you hit them with everything you have, because they’ll be so flustered they’ll incorrectly block on cross-ups and it’ll be over quickly. After that, you’ll just have to grin and hold your tongue as they whine and cuss you out on the mic.

Ah yes, whine does go best with cheese.

A SHMUP brush up

With the release of Sin & Punishment: Star Successor for the Wii and Deathsmiles (impressions for both coming soon) for the Xbox 360, I figured I’d give a brief overview of the shoot ‘em up (shmup) genre and point out some of my favorites. The genre itself is about as old as gaming, and it’s one that has managed to survive despite their very distinct and niche attributes. I think the genre survives because it really boils down gaming into its most basic elements: shoot, dodge, advance, repeat to perfection.

As a subgenre of the shooter genre, the shoot ‘em up name applies to many types of experiences. There are fixed shooters, scrolling shooters, multi-directional shooters, on-rails shooters, manic shooters, run and gun, and a few oddball types. Let’s take a look at each one and point out some notable games.

Fixed Shooters

Fixed shooters are one  of the earliest variations on the shmup genre. Games like Space Invaders, Galaxian, or Galaga have the player at a fixed point on the Y-axis at the bottom of the screen and the player must move along the X-axis to attack enemies that move across both axes. The screen doesn’t scroll, but there might be multiple levels where variations of enemy types or objects on the screen appear. There aren’t a lot of these shooters being released today, but they do still make appearances from time to time, such as Space Invaders Extreme.

Some fixed shooters allow the player to move along the X-axis or even on both axes, but the screen doesn’t scroll nor does the player shoot in more than one direction (always shoots up or across the screen). Games like Yars’ Revenge allow for both Y and X axis movement, but the player is only able to shoot horizontally.

A Few Notable Fixed Shooter Franchises: Space Invaders, Galaxian, Galaga, Pleaids, Phoenix, Centipede, Demon Attack, Pooyan, Atlantis

Scrolling Shooters

Scrolling shooters are the type of shoot ‘em ups that are most familiar to the average gamer. They come in a few variations, including vertical, horizontal, and isometric. The scrolling shooter is nearly 3o years old, and Defender is credited with ushering in this style back in 1981. In this type of shooter, the screen will scroll either automatically (forced) or by advancing forward or backward through the level. Some of the biggest franchises in the shmup genre fall within this type of shooter. Many shooter fans consider the scrolling shooters to be the most “pure” style of shooters.

This and multi-directional shooters are the most popular forms of the genre left a live today. There is some overlap between the styles, but for the most part they’re easily differentiated.

A Few Notable Scrolling Shooter Franchises: Defender, Gradius, R-Type, 1942, Blazing Star, Mars Matrix, Legendary Wings, Scramble, DoDonPachi, Star Soldier, Espgaluda, Ikaruga, Radiant Silvergun, Guwange, Gunbird 2, Spy Hunter, and many, many, many more.

Multi-Directional Shooters

Multi-directional shooters are still quite popular today, and they are actually the oldest sub-genre in the shoot ‘em up family and as old as video games themselves. Spacewar! kicked off the genre back in 1962. It featured two ships that flew around a fixed screen and attempted to shoot at each other. This style is called multi-directional because you can travel and shoot in any direction rather than on fixed angles. Games like Asteroids and Smash TV really propelled the multi-directional shooter genre forward and they were a massive hit in arcades. This style of shooter really took off again recently with the re-emergence of twin stick and touch screen controls. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 have several games available that fit into this sub-genre.

A Few Notable Multi-Directional Shooter Franchises: Asteroids, Computer Space, Smash TV, Geometry Wars, Bangai-O, Berzerk, Super Stardust, Star Control, Time Pilot, Sinistar, Robotron: 2084

On-Rails Shooters

On-rail shooters are similar to scrolling shooters, but the player movement is limited to a pre-defined path through the environment, and in many cases so is the camera viewing angle. Many on-rails shooters give the illusion of a larger world, but the player is guided down a fairly specific tunnel. Space Harrier and After Burner are a couple of on-rails shooters that really gave the genre its start. Enemies in this style of shooter tend to be larger, take more damage to defeat, and will often remain on screen for longer amounts of time.

A Few Notable On-Rails Shooter Franchises: Space Harrier, After Burner, Panzer Dragoon, Star Fox, Rez, Sin & Punishment, and several Star Wars titles.

Manic Shooters

Manic shooters, or bullet hell shooters, really are just scrolling shooters, but they have a distinct look and feel to them that many people classify them differently. Above I mentioned several manic shooters in the notable scrolling shooter list, as I tend to prefer to conflate the types under one umbrella. But in all fairness, manic shooters do offer a different experience. The biggest difference between a manic shooter and a more traditional scrolling shooter is the sheer number of projectiles that are thrown at the player. Rather than reasonable levels of enemies coming at you, manic shooters flood the screen with both enemies and bullets. The player’s ship (or character) usually has a fairly small hit box, allowing the player to dodge and weave through the non-stop onslaught of bullets. Memorizing attack patterns is essential to surviving bullet hell games.

This style of shmup is definitely the most challenging, and as a result, it’s also the most niche. Gamers that prefer this style of shooter thrive on the constant edge of your seat gameplay and the extreme concentration it takes to survive. Many of these games will offer alternate endings, bonus levels, or other hidden gems for completing the game under certain circumstances, such as no deaths or not using any special weapons. Cave is the current king and by most accounts the pioneer of manic shooter developers; but many will argue that Treasure has a better touch for the genre.

A Few Notable Manic Shooter Franchises: Ikaruga, DonPachi, Radiant Silvergun, Ikaruga, Guwange, Mars Matrix, Strikers 1945, Castle of Shikigami, Espgaluda, Touhou

Run and Gun Shooters

Run and Gun shooters can also fit within some of the other categories, depending on their execution, but the one characteristic that sets these apart from the rest is that they’re typically games where the player controls a character or vehicle that is on the ground. These shooters can incorporate on-rails gameplay, vertical or horizontal scrolling, multi-directional controls, and even elements of bullet hell gameplay. The run and gun style of shooter is also one that’s been around for a long time. The games may have small bits of platforming mixed in with the shooting, but it’s the shooting that is the main focus in these games, by far. Arcades and home consoles in the 8-bit and 16-bit era saw practically endless releases of run and gun shooters. Today there are still releases in this style of shooter, but they’re nowhere near as common as they used to be.

A Few Notable Run and Gun Shooter Franchises: Contra, Gunstar Heroes, Metal Slug, PN.03, Alien Soldier, Rush’n Attack, Gun.Smoke

Oddball Shooters – The rest of the genre

There are so many sub-genres within the shooter genre that it would take many pages of text to cover them all, so I’ll just lump what’s left under “oddball shooters”. It’s not that these are particularly weird, it’s just that they’re not as prominent as the other types. In addition to the types mentioned above, you also have Tube Shooters, such as Tempest. Tube shooters are rarely seen, but they offer some nice action. Cute ‘em Up shooters are even more niche, and are typically a style of manic shooters; with the main difference being in the style and aesthetic. Cute ‘em Ups are generally extremely colorful, incorporate a heavy amount of cutesy art and sound, and will often times be full of innuendo. It’s rare to see a game of this nature come to the West, but they’re widely available on PC for imports for those interested. There are even more types than these, but they’re quite niche or outright experimental.

Shoot ‘em ups are not nearly as prominent as they were back in the ’80s and ’90s, but they’re still all part of a relevant genre in gaming. It’s not very likely that a shmup is going to be topping the NPD charts or sweeping the game of the year awards any time soon, but many of the games that do owe their existence to many of the roots laid down by the shoot ‘em up genre. Early first person perspective games like Atari’s Star Wars were the first logical step that eventually lead to games such as Wolfenstein 3D, a pioneer in first person shooters. Games like Robotron: 2084 were inspiration for not only modern day twin stick shooters, but also other frantic experiences such as Dead Rising.

If you’re interested in getting your feet we with shoot ‘em ups, it’s usually best to start with the old classics and work your way up to the more current offerings. Games like 1942, R-Type, Gradius, Robotron:2084, and Contra are all amazing games to see how likely you are to enjoy the genre.

Bangback: The Pinball Movie

We all loved King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters for its David and Goliath story and its peek into the hardcore geek life of competitive arcade gaming. Whether it was completely accurate or not (it was NOT, by the way), it was something that gamers and non-gamers were able to enjoy and have fun with. I’m not sure who is making this, and I’m not sure when it will be out, but Bangback: The Pinball Movie looks to be providing a similar experience. Rather than a David and Goliath story, however, this one focuses on the return of the man who used to rule competitive play in pinball tournaments. The former #1 player simply disappeared from competition roughly ten years ago, but now he’s ready to come back. Check out the trailer below.

Oh, excuse me, but I was just informed that I should not be calling it a comeback.

And as an added bonus, quite possibly the greatest music video of all time.

Steve Wiebe is the King of Kong once more! Er, Donkey Kong Jr.

Hey, it’s a start, right? Steve Wiebe is now the world record holder of Donkey Kong Jr., after taking down the record score back on April 24th, Steve now has his focus on besting Billy Mitchell’s current record for Donkey Kong at E3 this year. The official announcement for Steve’s record-breaking DK Jr. score can be found at Twin Galaxies. Here’s a copy of the release, courtesy of Twin Galaxies:

Steve Wiebe Takes Donkey Kong Junior World Record With Score of 1,139,800
Live Nationally Televised Shot At Original Donkey Kong Airing From E3 on June 2
With Twin Galaxies and the G4 Network preparing for Steve Wiebe’s arrival at E3 in Los Angeles, CA in early June, Steve has been doing some preparing of his own.

While Steve hopes he can regain the Donkey Kong World Record on live national television on June 2, he is able to lay claim to recent success on another classic Donkey Kong title.

On April 24, Twin Galaxies announced that Steve Wiebe has officially taken the Donkey Kong Junior World Record.

The new World Record mark was accomplished on March 14 and verified by Twin Galaxies Chief Referee David Nelson. Steve’s new World Record mark of 1,139,800 points takes the Donkey Kong Junior crown from fellow Washington state native Ike Hall, who was crowned the DKJ World Champ in August 2008 with a score of 1,033,000, taking the crown that Billy Mitchell had held on the game since 1985.

Sources within Twin Galaxies have learned that Ike Hall does plan to make a run at regaining his record, even as Steve prepares for a live nationally televised run at regaining the original Donkey Kong’s World Record, airing on the G4 Network at the annual E3 event in Los Angeles on June 2, with several Twin Galaxies officials there to witness and verify the attempt.

Twin Galaxies hopes to have a word with Steve and possibly with current and former World Record holders on both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Junior as this televised attempt approaches.

I will be at E3 checking in periodically on Steve’s run at E3. I guess if he takes the crown he’d be the undisputed King of Kong, owning both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. records. With G4 at the event and plenty of hype surrounding Steve’s attempt, it should make for some fun times. Good luck, Steve.

Restoring an all-time favorite…Punch-Out!!

I’ve been searching around, bidding on auctions, watching local classifieds like a hawk (a chicken hawk, to be precise), and even sent out countless emails to old contacts trying to track down a Punch-Out!! arcade cabinet.  Most of the time I was either outbid on eBay, was just a little too late with the local classifieds, or sellers just wanted too much for what they had to offer. Earlier this week I finally found a great deal on a working Punch-Out!! that didn’t have any structural or electronic issues, so I jumped right on the opportunity to get the game. Now, this thing is going to need some work to get it just how I want it, but I’m ready for some restoration work out in the garage before I move the game into the arcade room. I picked up a few restoration supplies at Home Depot yesterday, and I have some parts on order that should be here by the end of the week. Below are some of the pictures as the machine looks right now.

punch_out

control_panel

punch_out_screens

As you can see from the pictures, the machine is completely missing its sideart and the paint job is a little scuffed up in places. The upper monitor needs to have a cap kit done on it, the bezel needs to be replaced, and the control panel overlay is torn up in places. I already have a new CPO on its way, new sideart stickers, and two new orange buttons. The marquee is fine, but the bulb needs a new starter, and the marquee brackets actually need fixing.

Here is the fix list (not necessarily in order):

  • Fix marquee brackets
  • Install a new starter into the marquee bulb assembly
  • Strip down the cabinet, sand it down, fill in the holes/chips, repaint the sides, back, top, front
  • Apply new sideart and control panel overlay
  • Replace the bezel
  • Build and paint a new cabinet base (it’s currently missing one)
  • Install new casters onto the bottom of the cab
  • Install a cap kit on the upper monitor
  • Install new t-molding
  • Remove the coin doors, strip the paint, and repaint them
  • Install a cap kit on the sound board
  • Put the whole dang thing back together and pray I didn’t ruin anything in the process
  • Move the thing into the arcade room!

I’ll try and remember to take work in progress pictures as I go, but I’ll definitely post pictures of the completed project before I move it out of the garage so we can have some good before/after comparisons. This is the last of the “must have” games, so I’m pretty happy to have this one home. I also have my eye on a handful of other games that I found locally that need some restore work, but I’d most likely just get them back to 100% and flip them to other collectors.

Video of my home arcade

Okay, so this is like the third time I’ve made a video of the arcade, but it’s made some significant changes since the last time. All in all, there are ten cabs in the room, and it looks like I just have enough room to squeeze in a Punch-Out!! when I find it. Check out the video below.

Yeah, so I’m a total geek and I have decided to dedicate a room in my house to a bunch of games that are older than most of my readers.

Note: You can see a higher quality version of this video by clicking on the HD button once you’ve started playing the video.

Arcades in people’s garages

Most people use their garages for stuff like cars, lawnmowers, bicycles, and for a little bit of extra storage. For arcade collectors, however, they can often be used as workshops or even fully fledged game rooms. Here’s a gallery of images that I’ve collected from around the Internet that shows off a bunch of garages that are being used by arcade collectors. Some of these garages look like disorganized messes, while others look like swank lounges complete with bars, comfortable seating, and interesting decorations. If you have pictures that you would like to contribute, email them to me at jar155 [at] gmail.com and I’ll add them to the slideshow.

Note: You can maximize the slideshow to see the images in full screen.

First Virtual Console Arcade games release

I’m a huge arcade nut, so seeing arcade games coming to the Virtual Console service is something that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. The first four titles to release are Star Force (Tecmo), Mappy (Namco), Gaplus (Namco), and The Tower of Druaga (Namco) .

mappy

There are literally thousands of worthwhile arcade games that can be released on the Virtual Console. This could be a great source of revenue for struggling studios that have a strong arcade legacy, like Midway. I’m hoping that Nintendo decides to open up the stream of releases a little bit, because the well of arcade classics is pretty deep.