Preface to Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990 By Brett Weiss

Brett Weiss’s book, Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and Turbografx-16 Games, has finally been released in softcover. To mark this occasion, Mr. Weiss has given The Retroist permission to reprint the book’s preface.

Before we get to that, here’s the description of the book:

The third in a series about home video games, this detailed reference work features descriptions and reviews of EVERY official U.S.-released game for the Neo Geo, Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16, which, in 1989, ushered in the 16-bit era of gaming. Organized alphabetically by console brand, each chapter includes a description of the game system followed by entries for every game released for that console (regardless of when the games came out). Video game entries include historical information, gameplay details, the author’s critique, and, when appropriate, comparisons to similar games. Appendices list and offer brief descriptions of all the games for the Atari Lynx and Nintendo Game Boy (since they came out in 1989), and catalogue and describe the add-ons to the consoles covered herein– Neo Geo CD, Sega CD, Sega 32X and TurboGrafx-CD.

You can order the book here:

Without further ado, here’s the preface to Classic Home Video Games 1989-1990: A Complete Guide to Sega Genesis, Neo Geo and Turbografx-16 Games:

“For me, 1989 was an exciting year. After slogging away for four years at a job I hated, delivering copier machines via a bobtail truck, I took the plunge and decided to do something I would enjoy, even if it meant working for less pay. I applied for and quickly got a job with Lone Star Comics, which is a retail chain in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Ironically, I was hired not because I was a comic book expert (which I was), but because of my mad truck-driving skills. My job with Lone Star, in addition to waiting on customers and sorting and bagging back issue comics, was to commandeer the company van, delivering new comics to various Lone Star stores. (My position at Lone Star led to management and then to the ownership of two comic book stores, but that’s a story for another day).

During my first year with Lone Star, three significant (mind-blowing, to be exact) pop culture events transpired: the release of the Tim Burton Batman film, which kicked off the second wave of Batmania (the first was during the Adam West era); the debut of The Simpsons television series, which changed the face of prime time television forever; and the beginning of the next generation of video game systems with the unveiling of three new consoles: the Sega Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16 (not to mention the Game Boy and Atari Lynx handheld units).

While I didn’t get the chance to play a Neo Geo or a TurboGrafx-16 until later, I picked up a Genesis shortly after the system hit store shelves. From a sheer practical standpoint, I didn’t need a Genesis – my Atari 2600, ColecoVision, NES, and other systems were keeping me plenty busy – but I simply had to have one, thanks to the stunning, arcade-like intrigue of such next-gen titles as Altered Beast, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, and Golden Axe, and to the “oohs” and “aahs” I kept hearing from Lone Star customers and from some of my friends who had already bought (or at least played) a Genesis.

I was certainly pleased with my Genesis purchase and was doubly so with the arrival of Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), which at the time was the fastest, most dynamic platformer I had ever seen or played. The game helped make the Genesis the cool system to own. Not only that, the spunky protagonist – a blue, spiky-haired hedgehog with an attitude – quickly became Sega’s far-famed mascot, giving the company something Nintendo already had for years with Mario.

Over time, I would add many more games to my Genesis collection, including such favorites as Captain America and the Avengers, Gunstar Heroes, Mega Bomberman, Ms. Pac-Man, Road Rash, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Space Invaders ’91, Streets of Rage, Streets of Rage 2, and Sunset Riders.

Since hundreds of games were released for the system, the bulk of the book you hold in your hands covers the Sega Genesis. However, I paid no short shrift to the Neo Geo, with its plethora of bold, brash, bombastic fighting games, or to the TurboGrafx-16, with its wonderful array of quirky titles and hardcore shooters (to this day, Galaga ’90 is one of my all-time favorite games). Regardless of which console from 1989 is your favorite, you’ll find plenty of information and opinions here on all of that system’s cartridges.

Released on the heels of Classic Home Video Games, 1972-1984 (2007) and Classic Home Video Games, 1985-1988 (2009), Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 is the third book in a proposed four-volume series. It was fun to write, but also very difficult, partly because the games of the era are typically longer and more involved than the titles covered in the first two books.

When I talk to gamers at conventions and online, I’m sometimes asked why I write reference books instead of tips and tricks guides or historical accounts of the industry. The answers are simple. The Internet and the Digital Press guides have all the tips and tricks anyone needs, and Steven L. Kent (with The Ultimate History of Video Games) and Leonard Herman (with Phoenix: The Fall & Rise of Videogames) have the market cornered on history books and do a much better job of it than I ever could.

My books contain a lot of video game history, of course, what with the retro theme and all, but the emphasis is on the individual games themselves. Each entry for the Genesis, Neo Geo, and TurboGrafx-16 includes data, description, gameplay elements, and, in most cases, critical evaluation. (The games for the console add-ons, such as the Sega CD and TurboGrafx-CD, are included in appendices near the back of the book. The handheld Atari Lynx and original Game Boy are also covered in the appendices).

Another reason I write reference books is that I’m obsessed with them. It started when I was a kid during the mid-1970s and would pore over the Guinness Book of World Records. I would sit with my tattered paperback copy of that book for hours, utterly transfixed by such phenomena as the world’s tallest man, the world’s longest fingernails, the world’s heaviest twins, and the woman with the world’s thinnest waist. (In the years since, I’ve read countless other reference books to pieces, including Leonard Herman’s ABC to the VCS: A Directory of Software for the Atari 2600, which helped pave the way for my Classic Home Video Games series).

In addition to the Guinness Book of World Records, the 1970s was a decade filled with entertainments that were enticing to my impressionable young mind. These included The Land of the Lost, The Super Friends, Star Wars, the rock band KISS, Marvel and DC comic books, and, of course, video games. When such monolithic testaments to man’s ingenuity as Midway’s Gun Fight (1975) and Atari’s Breakout (1976) began rubbing elbows with my beloved pinball machines at the local arcades, I became quickly hooked. To help pay for my newfound obsession, I would pop games on pinball machines I had mastered and sell the resultant credits two for a quarter.

Shortly after I discovered video games in the arcades, various cousins and friends started receiving – as Christmas presents – these incredible machines that would hook up to their television sets to play games. I wouldn’t get my own game system (a ColecoVision) until 1982, but I was a frequent fixture at the homes of anyone I knew who owned Pong (or any number of Pong clones), an Atari VCS, a Fairchild Channel F system, or an Odyssey 2 (back in those days, no one I knew had two systems).

So, since I grew up playing video games and reading reference books, and since I always wanted to be a writer, it only made sense to write reference books about video games.

The research I did for Classic Home Video Games, 1989-1990 was exhaustive and exhausting. An addition to playing (and replaying) an insane number of games, many of which I had to borrow from friends or purchase on eBay or in various gaming stores throughout Texas and Oklahoma, I spent hundreds of hours going over every little detail – from character names to production dates to game developers – in order to assure that the information was as accurate as humanly possible.

Also, I tried to measure the positives and negatives of each game objectively. I took the era in which the games where made into consideration, of course, but if a game hadn’t held up particularly well over time, I usually mentioned it. While graphics and sounds play important roles, my bottom-line consideration each time I evaluate a game is how much fun it is to play.

The one drawback to researching and writing the Classic Home Video Games series is that it takes away from time I could be playing modern consoles, such as my son’s Xbox 360 or our family’s Nintendo Wii. Regardless, I largely prefer 2D twitch-gaming and scrolling action over 3D exploration and first-person shooting anyway, so I’m content to mine the past while others pave the way forward.

For some of you, this will be your second or third book to purchase in the Classic Home Video Games series, and I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it. For others, this will be your first experience with my work, and I want to thank you as well. I certainly hope you enjoy what you read.”


There Is A LEGO Knight Rider Set. No, Really!

That isn’t a fanmade Knight Rider set from the Brothers Brick, that is an official LEGO set – a Knight Rider set that should hit store shelves next February.

So this Knight Rider set means LEGO is going to take over the world, right?

Pretty much. At least in regards to pop culture retro related properties. I mean, please don’t get me wrong but who is it that you think LEGO is aiming this Knight Rider set to? I say it is most definitely the likes of us that visit The Retroist!

That isn’t all that LEGO is making for us retro-minded fans though. I previously shared the information about the upcoming LEGO Dimensions sets besides Knight Rider back in June. You might remember we are also getting Gremlins
The A-Team
Mission Impossible
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
and last but not least The Goonies – or at least Sloth from that film.

Why should we care about a LEGO Knight Rider though?

I know there may be a few of you out there that are asking yourself this very question. You are all dead to me. Just kidding of course – but how can you not get excited about a LEGO minifig version of David Hasselhoff, I mean Michael Knight?
Image courtesy of io9.

Image courtesy of io9.

My friends, please listen to me. We are lucky enough to live in a time where by next year you will be able to have Dr. Peter Venkman of 1984’s Ghostbusters driving K.I.T.T. through Gremlins’ Kingston Falls!
Image courtesy of io9.

Image courtesy of io9.

I kind of think that LEGO has made some amazing and excellent choices with Knight Rider and the other retro properties. In fact I believe I couldn’t be more impressed if they suddenly announced they were releasing a set for…

A huge thank you to Andrew Liszewski of io9 for the heads up on the Knight Rider set. Hey, if like myself you are geeking out over this release and need to pass the time until February, you can always keep Hasselhoff’s True Survivor on constant loop, right?

[via] DavidHasselhoffVEVO


I See Some TRON In This 1982 Worm War I Ad

Worm War I is a 1982 game that was developed by Sirius Software for the Atari 2600 and released by 20th Century Fox Games. I was able to find out that the programmer for Worm War I was David Lubar who also programmed the Atari 2600 titles Fantastic Voyage, Nexar, Bumper Bash, Space Master X-7, Flash Gordon, and Activision’s River Raid II to name a few of his accomplishments in the video game industry.

Didn’t you mention TRON?

I certainly did and I think for some very evident reasons. Let’s take just a moment and compare an image from the Worm War I commercial featuring the player’s tank in action.
All right. I now ask you to compare that image above with this quick snippet from 1982’s TRON.

I think you can see the obvious similarities between the two. Not just with the tank but even the electronic battlefield of the two seem a little similar wouldn’t you say? Considering that TRON was released the same year I believe it is more than understandable that it would have influenced Worm War I commercial design.

TV Days
I have not had the pleasure of playing Worm War I for myself but thanks to AtariAge and the High Retro Game Lord‘s YouTube channel we can see how it played – kind of a cross between Space Invaders and River Raid

Image courtesy of Atari Age.

Image courtesy of Atari Age.

Whatever became of David Lubar?
I mentioned some of the Atari 2600 titles besides Worm War I that David worked on at the beginning of the post – he also had a hand in games for the Nintendo Gameboy, Super Nintendo, and the Apple II as well as the Atari 800.

I learned that beginning in 1994 while he was still employed as a video game developer he focused on his true love. Writing. By the end of 1995 had sold six books – today he has published over 24 books.

Why don’t you take just a few moments out of your busy schedule and listen to David talk about why he became a writer yourself? I bet you will find it just as interesting as I did!

[Via] Adlit


32 Years Later I Get To Read This Dragon’s Lair Storybook!

Dragon’s Lair, the 1983 Laserdisc arcade game holds a very special spot in my heart. I have certainly gone on enough about it on The Retroist these last six years as well as the 10th episode of the Diary of An Arcade Employee Podcast.
Dragon's Lair ad
Why? Well, the easiest answer is I was totally captivated by the animation from Don Bluth and his studio but I also was at that right age to become enamored with the idea of becoming a valiant knight attempting to brave the perils of the Dragon’s Lair.

While it certainly has plenty of Players who seem to rail against the game…well…being a game on rails, I still find myself captivated by it today as when I first walked into my local Showbiz Pizza and saw the line of Players waiting their turn.

I think that the only real complaint I ever had about Dragon’s Lair was the lack of merchandising. It wasn’t until Dragon’s Lair 3D: Return to the Lair was released back in 2002 that we fans finally got our hands on some proper action figures!

So what merchandise was available for Dragon’s Lair in the early 80s?

  • There were some excellent buttons that fans could get from the Don Bluth Animation fan club.
  • Aladdin Industries Inc. released an incredible metal lunch box.
  • Dragon's Lair - Lunchbox - PJ Gamers - OVGE

  • The Don Bluth Studios published the Tele-Story Presents Dragon’s Lair storybook – which came with an audio cassette tape to listen to while reading the story.
  • A set of Dragon’s Lair flip books that you could yet again order through the Don Bluth Animation fan club back in the day.
  • Milton Bradley produced a board game based on the popular arcade title – which I just so happened to be lucky enough to get my hands on, thanks to a good friend and co-worker at the arcade.
  • There were some cheap toys manufactured by the Larami Corporation for Dragon’s Lair but these were just cheap plastic bugs and slingshots with the game’s logo stamped on the packaging.
  • I'm happy to say that I have the Dragon's Lair Sling Darts!

    I’m happy to say that I have the Dragon’s Lair Sling Darts!

  • I think one of the greatest Dragon’s Lair produced pieces of merchandise was Fleer’s exceptional sticker and rub-off game cards.
  • Dragon's Lair Stickers C

  • Last but not least Marvel Books – yes – as in Marvel Comics, released a series of coloring books and storybooks with images from the game as well as some minor puzzles and word searches.

I am happy to say that after 32 years I finally was able to get my hands on one of those Dragon’s Lair storybooks!

Are you finally going to talk about the Dragon’s Lair book?!

Yes. Calm down, friends. I was just giving you some of my personal thoughts and background info on the merchandising for the game. Yeesh. Dragon’s Lair: The Quest for the Stolen Fortune was designed by Paty Cockrum and Marie Severin – with the word games, mazes, and crossword puzzles created by Suzanne Weyn.

It finds Dirk the Daring being summoned to the Royal Palace where he is put on the trail of the dastardly and deadly Lizard King!
Naturally after the reader helps Dirk navigate the traps left behind by the Lizard King…
..they must attempt to vanquish the evil ruler.
Thankfully if a younger reader found themselves stuck they could always take a quick peek in the back of the book to get the answers they needed.
Now I know that I said I was lucky enough to get my hands on this book, the truth is I was only able to read through it when I dropped in at the arcade. You see, Shea ordered the book from eBay for one of our Players – a young boy who very much like I was at that age captivated by the Dragon’s Lair arcade game.

So I guess in truth my quest for these books still awaits!

Shoot the Core

Shoot the Core with maps of Gradius

Where I find that maps of the Konami classic ‘Gradius’ help you to discover hidden levels!

I’ve written many times before about my love for the Gradius shoot-em-up series from Konami (see here, here, here, here and here). You would therefore assume that I’m something of an expert at “shooting the core”. This is very true, I think I am, and especially so for the version that introduced me to the Vic Viper: Gradius on the MSX.

I was recently reading on online post about bonus levels. This article touched upon the four bonus levels that can be reached whilst playing Gradius. “FOUR?”, I thought. That’s odd, I only remember three. The MSX bonus levels in Gradius can be reached by flying your ship to specific points in specific levels. You can fly through the mountain in stage 1, manoeuvre between two Moai heads in stage 3 and fly through two more mountains in stage 4. How can I reach the fourth bonus stage?

gradius stage1 msx

Turning to the internet, I went in search of new knowledge, and found answers over at MSX Solutions. Here I discovered that stage 7 has one final access point to the fourth bonus stage. Better yet, they have a brilliant map which tells you where to fly, and provides the full layout for all of the stages, including the four bonus levels.

I never imagined that a simple 80’s shoot-em-up was in need of a level map. However, now that I’ve seen it, I want more! These images are works of art and I think they would make excellent room decoration. Just imagine having a wallpaper border wrapped around a room depicting the entire epic journey of the Vic Viper. Bliss!

Art from this post is taken from the Nemesis (Gradius) map by Fabio Albergaria, 2005. Original artwork is of course from the Konami game “Nemesis” on the MSX, 1986.

Custom Atari 2600 LEGO Set - PowerPig

The Custom Atari 2600 LEGO Set You’ve Always Wanted!

Custom LEGO sets are popular for a very good reason, not only does it give fans a chance to add that one item they desperately want to their collection, perhaps something that LEGO itself hasn’t gotten around to as of ye. Of course another reason is that it also allows builders to show off their considerable talent – like with this particular Atari 2600 Lego set that you know you’ve always wanted.

What is the story behind this LEGO Atari 2600?

Well this Atari 2600 set was created by one Chris McVeigh aka PowerPig and is actually entitled “This Old Basement” and is part of his pixel bundle. After taking a quick moment to hop on over to his little spot on the internet it is readily apparent that Chris has a lot of skill at creating such custom LEGO sets. It’s not just the Atari 2600 set you can pick up, yep, you can totally buy these – but there is also a set for the Intellivision and Colecovision. All of that is before you start scratching the surface of his other categories like arcade cabinets, cameras, radios, food, and even Bonsai trees!

Images courtesy of PowerPig's Builds.

Images courtesy of PowerPig’s Builds.

What is so special about this custom LEGO set?

I think that answer is plainly obvious but how about we take a moment to check out the detail that Chris has added in this LEGO set? First of all that television set should look very familiar to those of you who grew up in the 80s or perhaps just might be a fan of Stranger Things. Not only does it have those rabbit ears – but check out the control knobs…offering thirteen channels and a volume control – and a dark ‘wood’ colored finish.

As for the game that is playing on the television – to me it looks like a cross between 1981’s Lock ‘n’ Chase by Data East and Atari’s Slot Racers from 1978.

Image courtesy of AtariAge.

Image courtesy of AtariAge.

This table/cabinet looks to me like the type I remember seeing in the late 70s – a perfect place to store your opened Atari 2600 game boxes but it also marks the perfect location to place your rug. I love that this LEGO set has a trusty Luke Skywalker figure in his X-Wing pilot gear close at hand with a cold can of cola within easy reach as well – hey, gamer fuel was important then as it is today!

Custom Atari 2600 LEGO Set - table - PowerPig

Last but certainly not least in this Atari 2600 LEGO set is…the Atari 2600! While Chris brilliantly constructed it’s intentional ‘simple’ design doesn’t let us fans of the system know if this is a Heavy/Light Sixer from 1977 or the 1980 CX2600-A model. Although I have to say I love the detail McVeigh put into it all – what with the cords that attach to the the joysticks and 2600 plus that ‘wood veneer’ front.

Custom Atari 2600 LEGO Set - Atari - PowerPig

So make sure to hop on over to PowerPig’s Builds and pick up your own Custom Atari 2600 LEGO Set or see what else Chris might have to offer you for own collection!

A very big thanks to AtariAge for the use of their scanned Slot Racers box art in this post.