The Future of Baseball is nearly upon us!

I don’t really like ‘real’ Baseball as a sport. Playing it can be fun, but the need to follow so many rules can really make it drag out.

That said, I am hugely excited about the game because I have seen its future. In only three years time – in 2020 – you’ll be seeing male, female and robotic players in the field!

Yes, the future of baseball is almost here!

The Future of Baseball is here

In the world of Super Baseball 2020, robots jostle with human players in the Cyber Egg Stadium. To properly complete, human competitors can be equipped with powerful armour, computer sensors, and jet-packs for improved offence and defensive skills. Jet-packs!

Even the commentators are going to look cool!

Wait? What the hell is that robot? That one looks hostile! Those glowing red eyes suggest that baseball might only be the start of the robot revolution.

Super Baseball 2020 by Marc Ericksen

The image above, the one with the evil robot, can be found on the website of artist Marc Ericksen. Marc was asked to create the piece for Electronic Arts in 1994 after they had seen an earlier work created for GamePro magazine around a Japanese baseball game called Bases Loaded II: Second Season.

As you’ll see from this fantastic artwork, the future might actually involve laser swords instead of bats. You need this sort of kit if you’re going to be hitting balls thrown at light-speed by robots.

Bases Loaded II: Second Season by Marc Ericksen

Experience the future, in Super Baseball 2020, on the Neo Geo, Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis. You can see a great comparison video over on the Retro Core Youtube channel.

The side-by-side comparisons from around 10 minutes into the video are a great way to get a glimpse of the future.

This post marks the start of a new series from me:
An irreverent and artistic A-Z of Neo Geo Gaming. Catchy, right?

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:
https://www.amazon.com/Classic-Home-Video-Games-1989-1990/dp/1476667942/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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.”

Retro vs Remake: The Speed of Molasses

Don't blink, or you might miss him.

Today’s Retro and Modern Games: Sonic 1 & 2 vs Sonic 4

Sonic the Hedgehog took the gaming world by storm when he sped onto the console scene in the early nighties. He propelled the struggling Sega Genesis console to mainstream stardom and completely unseated Mario as the reigning video game mascot.

Sonic’s game was a simple platformer, much like Mario; move left to right, avoiding enemies and obstacles to reach the goal. What Sonic did that Mario didn’t was the sense of speed and action. While Mario was trudging and hopping his way through the Mushroom Kingdom, Sonic was blazing through unique and colorful worlds like his feet were on fire. The Spin Dash move, where Sonic would curl up into a ball for extra speed, also lent itself to some unique level design and exhilarating loop-de-loops. And finally, Sonic’s “spin” on the health bar or lack thereof was a nice departure from the one-hit-wonder Mario. Instead of dying after one (or two) hits from an enemy, Sonic merely dropped all the rings he had collected throughout the stage. As long as you could hold onto at least one ring, Sonic was nigh invincible. Of course if the stage or boss level didn’t have any rings to collect, you were back to the one-hit-wonder.

That little brown furry guy does indeed have two tails.

Sonic 2 was the perfect sequel, improving on the previous game in almost every way. Sonic was leaner, meaner, and this time he brought back-up. Tails the fox follows Sonic through nearly every level providing minor assistance against Robotnik and his baddies. If you happen to have a second controller, a friend can drop in at any time and control Tails themselves. Sonic could also perform/charge his famous “spin dash” move while stationary so you wouldn’t get stuck if there was a steep incline. Sonic 2 also featured a massive variety of levels, many more than the original. From the traditional Emerald Hill and Chemical Plant to Mystic Cave and Flying Fortress, you never quite knew what to expect around each corner. The Special Stages also received a, in my opinion, much needed overhaul. Instead of the dizzying, rotating, float-y mazes from Sonic 1, your sped through quasi-3D half-pipe tracks, trying to collect the required number of rings to earn the Chaos Emerald. Also as an upgrade from Sonic 1, if you managed to collect all seven emeralds, they don’t merely unlock the “good” ending to the game, they give you the “ultimate” power-up in the game: Super Sonic. Once you have all the emeralds, as soon as you collect fifty rings within any stage and jump, you transform into a glowing, invincible, yellow version of Sonic that can leap to the moon and move at ludicrous speeds. No seriously, if you’re not careful when controlling Super Sonic, you could easily send yourself off a cliff and to your death. As a way to temper this power, you don’t get to keep it indefinitely. As soon as you transform, your ring count begins to drop one a second and when it reaches zero you become normal Sonic, with no rings. So rings not only become your source of life, but your source of ultimate power.

It looks promising...

Ok, so Sonic 1 & 2 are incredible games, even today, but what about the recent Sonic 4? Originally heralded as “Project Needlemouse” this game was suppose to hearken back to the Sonic games of old. So how did it do? Let’s start with the graphics.

The visuals in Sonic 4 are beautiful HD renderings of the stages from Sonic 1 & 2. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, certainly not for nostalgia, but for a game that is suppose to be a “sequel” seeing the exact same levels from the first two games is a bit odd. Enemies and bosses are also ripped straight out of the first two Sonic games. The design and layout of the actual levels is decently done, but there are several cheap “death traps” that serve only to frustrate and drain all your hard earned lives.

This game has all the makings of a good remake, except for one thing: physics. The physics in Sonic 4 are atrocious. Sonic runs like he’s trudging through molasses spread across black ice, he jumps like a lead weight and his homing attack, a carry-over from more recent Sonic games, feels clumsy and unreliable. Even the special stages, a direct clone of the spinning maze from Sonic 1, suffer from whacked-out physics.

While Sonic 4 has all the indications of an awesome remake/sequel, the blue blur ultimately falls flat on his face, surrounded by memories of what was and what could’ve been. As a devote Sonic fan, I have to say that the original Genesis Sonic games beat Sonic 4 to the goal by a long mile.

Great Video Game Music: The Amazing Spider-Man vs. The Kingpin

Over the next few weeks I will be scouring the retro gaming scene for the best video game music.

This game has been ported on a few systems namely the Megadrive/Genesis(1991), Gamegear and the Master System (ick) but the platform I draw your attention to  is the Mega/Sega CD port (1993). Now we all know that this console was terrible because almost all of the games were awful but this is for one reason. Only a handful of publishers  could actually write for the hardware (Ok I will admit the unit had a few hard-wired fatal errors) one game that uses and aspect of the platform correctly is this one. The storage capability’s of the CD format are now well known (now) but back then technology hadn’t caught up. Using recordings of music is defiantly this game’s strong point and this particular track is full of guitar licks/widleywee/screeching. In fact the whole soundtrack is very rocking but this one is my favourites!

To talk about great video game licks/widleywee/screeching or even to disagree with my choice of descriptive words come and join us (and Spiderman himself!*) at the Forum

*Spiderman has not and never will have existed and even if he did he would not frequent our Forum as he would be far too busy fighting crime and having great responsibility for great power (Read: Making really bad movies)