NES sized Gameboy game cases?

In the years prior to my hardcore vintage collecting addiction, I paid most of my attention to my Xbox. Within the last year and a half I’ve bought quite a few games for the NES, and when the games started to pile up I went searching for cases to put them in. All my NES games prior to this were in their own cases, whether it be a clear case with a big red Nintendo logo or a yellow, pink, purple or blue case that said Gameboy on it.

Wait, did I just say NES games in a Gameboy case? Yes, yes I did! Somewhere among my childhood I had acquired four Gameboy cases that were the same size as the NES (clam shell) cases.

Size comparison

Size comparison

I forget exactly where I got them and with all the local NES games that were floating around back then I could have gotten them from anywhere, but the fact is that I still have them. It came to me one night that I had a collection of game manuals stashed away inside one of them, so I started ripping through boxes to find out where they were. After I found them a whole new level of amazement dawned on me, which for some reason never dawned on me before, that I had never seen these things before and haven’t seen any since.

What I find remarkable is that these things are the exact same size and color as their NES counterparts, but emblazoned on the front is a black Gameboy logo, instead of Nintendo. Inside the case were 4 tiny corners, clearly cut out to fit a Gameboy game cartridge. I’m going to make a bold assumption that these were produced to accommodate the Gameboy players who wanted to keep the manuals with their games, as the manuals fit better in these cases than they would the smaller ones, obviously!

Sadly NES games wouldn’t fit inside these cases without a little modification, which I eventually did. Looking back I wish I hadn’t, but I needed more NES cases because I had plenty of the tiny Gameboy clam shells. You can still see the remnants of the corners that held the Gameboy game, but NES games and their manuals fit perfectly, although they do slide around a bit (sans the protection the Nintendo version afforded).

Remnants of the four corners that held the Gameboy games.

Remnants of the four corners that held the Gameboy games.

I can’t find information on these cases anywhere, so I have no clue how many were made and how many different colors were available. To my knowledge there may only be 4 different colors because I have been fooled by VHS cases that are the exact same colors as these, while gaming hunting, but I’ve never seen anymore for the Gameboy. I would love to own a full set of these (unmodified!), although I probably won’t use them for Gameboy games, I just want to own them because I find them fascinating.

Posted September 28th, 2011

Sam’s Scores: SNES Jr. (aka SNES 2)

It seems lately that I’ve had a lot of luck on my thrift store hunts. I’m either finding huge scores, or nothing at all. You might remember the $5 Atari Jaguar I got about a month ago, well today I’m going to present to you my Super Nintendo Jr. find!

I’ve owned a normal Super Nintendo for about 12 years, but the poor thing rarely gets much love. I am a MASSIVE RPG fan and as we know the SNES’s library was rife with great RPGs, but that also means these games are either impossibly difficult to find or amazingly expensive! That isn’t to say my SNES game collection is small, I just haven’t been focusing as much time on it as I have my regular NES collection.

When I do find SNES games they’re generally sports titles, although I did score Batman Returns at a flea market a few weeks ago, which will be part of it’s own article later. Needless to say my SNES collection exists, but it isn’t as great as I wish it could be.

So every Tuesday my schedule is pretty much the same as I hit a handful of places and usually find little to nothing, but on some occasions I find great deals! The store where I found the SNES Jr is pretty hit or miss with what they have, but that day I walked along the electronics wall and saw it sitting in a clear plastic tub with 2 controllers, the power supply and the AV cable. When I went to pick the tub up, I noticed it was all taped to a shoe box underneath. I gave the box a shake and the unmistakable sound of SNES cartridges clanking around poured out of the box.

I saw the price tag and I needed to make sure it was all one price, even though it was all taped together. I found the nearest employee, who almost started having a childhood flashback right there in the store, who told me that yes it was that price and that I should probably go test it on their TVs, which I promptly did! The system had Tetris Attack already plugged in and ready to go. After getting everything hooked up the system powered on and Tetris Attack started working perfectly!

I didn’t even know what games were in the box until I got out of the store and gave them all a good once over. There was a total of 12 games, which I will be listing in the spoiler below, and sadly none of them were RPGs as I had highly hoped. Luckily most of the games that came with it are well worth the purchase, especially one in particular. The controllers included are 2 SNES controller variants I had never seen before, the SNS102 (embedded Nintendo logo instead of printed) and a normal controller with a painted L and R on the shoulder buttons.

I’ve only seen the SNES Jr on two or three occasions at Disc Replay, and even though I think they ask about $55 for the system alone they never seem to stay in stock for too long. My main goal in hunting has been to snag an NES 2, but I’m still searching high and low. Hopefully soon I’ll be able to pair one with this system, it can only be a matter of time, eh?

Super Nintendo Jr w/ 12 games and hookups -$13

Tetris Attack
Family Feud
Jurassic Park
Road Riot 4WD
Yoshi’s Cookie
Super Play Action Football
Super Empire Strikes Back
Super Mario World
Super Mario World 2 Yoshi’s Island
Super Mario All-Stars
Contra 3

Posted September 19th, 2011

Driver 1 & 2

two·fer (noun) \ˈtü-fər\ – Two articles available for the price of one.

With the recent release of Driver: San Fransisco, I figured I would take the time to review the origins of the series. Both Driver 1 and 2 were given their own individual releases for the Playstation, but were also later released together as a twin pack. Driver was originally released in 1999, Driver 2 in late 2000 and the twin pack in 2004. All three of these also saw a release as the Greatest Hits series.

In the Driver series you play as Tanner, an undercover cop with exceptional driving skills who puts them to good use to bring down crime syndicates. In both games you’ll be presented with the same premise, to perform different driving based tasks to accomplish your goal without totaling your vehicle.

There are 3 base modes to play: Driving games, Take a Ride and Undercover. Driving games offers short driving missions that are based on what you’ll be doing undercover, so you can use these to brush up on your skills or just enjoy making and beating high scores. Take a Ride is where you get to openly explore and roam each city. Undercover is the main story mode of the series.

Each game gives you four different cities to explore as you progress in your undercover missions. The original Driver offers Miami, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York while Driver 2 takes you internationally to Havana, Cuba, Rio de Janeiro as well as Chicago and Las Vegas. These cities are expansive, wide open and they’ve done a good job of making you feel like you’re actually driving around these cities.

Driver is fairly simple and although you’re playing as Tanner you never really play any character, as much as you’ll be driving around assuming Tanner is behind the wheel. The cities are fun to explore with plenty of hidden areas and jumps to find but the roads are all straight and nothing more. In Take a Ride mode you can choose Day or Night in all but Los Angeles, as well as you’ll be limited to one vehicle to explore each city in.

Driver 2 is much the same as Driver, but it’s gameplay is a bit more polished. A very useful feature in Driver 2 is the ability to exit vehicles (as long as the cops aren’t on your tail), making missions and exploring the cities even more fun as now you can ditch a nearly wrecked vehicle for any other vehicle on the streets, as well as find switches to unlock hidden areas and cars. The four new cities are once again expansive and this time the roads actually bend and curve, adding a nice touch of realism. Take a Ride, this time, offers a handful of different vehicles to start exploring each city in, or you can just take anything else driving around.

The Driver series was among the leading edge of open world games, allowing you to explore on your own terms and throwing a lot of interesting twists in along the journey. Although the series has expanded as the gaming systems have, I have to say Driver 2 is my favorite. Despite Driver 2’s graphics being a bit grittier than the original, the fact that it doesn’t really make much use of the ability to exit your vehicle and sometimes the frame rate can drop pretty drastically, it still retains the true heart of the Driver series, which seems to have been lost after the first two installments.

Posted September 11th, 2011

Wario’s Woods

Warios Woods

Nintendo’s last game for the NES. Usually by the end of life on a game system, developers learn how to push the system to it’s limits and make very good games. It has to be a good game right?

I recently got a chance to play this “gem” and you’re wrong. It’s horrible.

The story is simple: The woods are filled by monsters and Toad is tasked to blow them up with bombs.

Pretty much there are different colored monsters and you need to stack them up and arrange them by color. Then you drop a bomb of that color on them to eliminate them.

Sounds fun right? Nope.

The game is made by the same developers that made “Dr Mario“, “Tetris Attack” and “Yoshi’s Cookie“. All are decent puzzle games. Of course all of them have the same basic idea for the game: Match the color of the game piece to eliminate it.

It’s almost like they couldn’t think of a better idea for a game.

I’m sorry, I wanted to like it, but it’s just a bad game.

Another thing about the NES version. Wario is wearing a purple hat. I know the NES has a limited color palate and can’t display a lot of colors at once, but they could have tried to make him have a yellow hat. At least the SNES version has a yellow hat.

Not everything I have to say is bad. I loved the music on both games. Shinobu Amayake & Soyo Oka on the NES version and Hiroaki Suga & Tadashi Ikegami on the SNES version made some very entertaining music.

The NES intro showing Wario in purple (And some Gameplay)

Bonus video showing some SNES Gameplay
Posted September 7th, 2011

Atari Jaguar Review

In 1993, while Nintendo’s Super Nintendo and Sega’s Genesis were duking it out for supremacy, Atari stepped back into the home console market after six years of going silent. With the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, we were told that more “bits” were better and although most of us were children and didn’t even know what a bit was, we knew the bigger the number, the better the system. Atari took an interesting concept and way over estimated their security in an all out war between the big two consoles of that year, creating one of the worst console failures in gaming history.

The SNES and Genesis were both 16-bit systems, the graphics and sound were vastly enhanced over the NES and Master System, but Atari was already hard at work on 32-bit (Panther) and a 64-bit (Jaguar) consoles. Somewhere along the line the Panther was scrapped and the Jaguar pounced into position to be Atari’s comeback that would not only put them back into the home console market, but also on the lips and minds of gamers everywhere. With everything in place, Atari tested the Jaguar in select markets in the United States, obviously things went well as they decided to widen the release and thus the Atari Jaguar was launched!

The Atari Jaguar boasted 64-bits, which was four times that of any console on the market. Atari must have hoped that the larger number would garner gamer’s attention, but sadly it never caught the attention of the game makers. The Atari Jaguar did have big titles such as: DOOM, Wolfenstein 3D, Bubsy and NBA Jam TE, as well as a slew of other great titles for the system, but most of them didn’t look much different than the SNES and Genesis versions. Many gamers felt that they already had a system that would play these games and more, so there was no need to purchase another system, simply based on it’s numerical optimism.

With the lack of game development and gamer support, another nail in the coffin was the Jaguar’s controller. The controller is massive and includes a numerical keypad. The keypad helped you quickly execute commands or other features, without having to cycle through with a D-pad and button combo in a rush. Certain games even came with overlays to tell you exactly which key did what, so you didn’t have to fumble around pressing them all. Overall the controller is comfortable, the keypad is useful, but it just seemed a bit too much.

Original (Left) and Revised (Right) Jaguar Controllers

Atari later decided to give the Jaguar an add-on, which turned out to be yet another shot to the dying Jaguar’s backside. The Jaguar CD was launched in 1995 and although I never owned one, from what I understand it pretty much died on the spot. With a very slim selection of titles for the add-on and the fact that some of them simply refused to work, the Jaguar CD was a massive failure in and of it’s own.

The Atari Jaguar’s roar was reduced to a retreating hiss as in 1996 the system was discontinued, after only selling approximately 200,000 units. To put that to a comparison, Nintendo’s Virtual Boy sold approximately 750,000 units, and the CD-I sold approximately 550,000 units. In the history of gaming consoles, the Jaguar only managed to outsell the Apple-Bandai Pippen.

Although Atari gave up on the Jaguar, it didn’t die. In fact Hasbro snatched up the rights to some Atari properties and in 1999 they released the rights to the Atari Jaguar, giving rights to the fans to develop software for the console. [Hasbro Release] The Jaguar’s casing molds were sold off to a dental imaging company and turned into the Imagin Hot Rod and the game casing was turn into it’s memory pack.

Imagin Hot Rod

With all the Jaguar’s shortcomings of the controller being massive and the games never pushing the technology inside the Jaguar, or perhaps it simply wasn’t all it was marketed as being, the system was and is still a great system to own. The Atari Jaguar is a very easy system to overlook, but there are many titles that are well worth a play through. Today fans try to keep the Jaguar alive, making their own homebrews for the system. I’ve never had a chance to check these games out, but I think its a really cool thing for both the fans making the games as well as Hasbro to let the fans keep the system alive. An idea other companies might want to try. (ahem! Nintendo, I’m coughing at you!)

Being that the Atari Jaguar is somewhat of a rare beast, I’m extremely glad to have found mine. Not only for the price and nostalgia, but simply because I thoroughly enjoy this system and it’s games. Something noteworthy is that inside the box of my Bubsy game I found a receipt dated 1996 from Electronics Boutique (EB Games). I find it fascinating that this game came with a small history of sorts as I didn’t even get my first Jaguar until about a year or two later. Though the Jaguar was but a mere blip on the radar, it still remains and has a strong underground following.

Posted September 6th, 2011