Gauntlet – Retro Games

Greetings, Glancers! Yikes, it has been a while since my last retro gaming post, so why not take this opportunity to go a hells of a long way back and revisit the first entry in a longstanding and beloved series.

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Gauntlet began its life in 1985 as a hit Arcade machine. Created by Atari, and inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, this version was quickly ported to home computers, saw an expanded version with over 500 additional levels (!), and has since been re-released as recently as 2014 on Windows. The game is a top-down dungeon crawler pitting you and up to three mates against hundreds of thousands of bad guys. It mixes action, shooting, puzzle, RPG, and even a bit of survival horror, has a great soundtrack with iconic music and effects, and is played at a frantic pace. Many, if not most games from that era have dated, but while the graphics are exactly what you would expect the gameplay is still fantastic – that timeless blend of running and shooting has rarely been so perfect.

These hack’n’slash games were a dime a dozen (or ‘five lighters for a pound’ if you’re from Northern Ireland) at the time, and I had a bunch of clones and imitators at the time which ranged wildly in quality. Gauntlet had everything I needed in a game at that age – from the difficulty to the gameplay, the fact that I could play it alone or with my brother, and the fact that once you got past a certain level things began generating randomly. As a kid I loved mazes, exploration, and the idea of roaming around dungeons, fighting for you life and finding precious treasure. Movies like The Goonies, The Indiana Jones series, all those Harryhausen movies, and all the Greek and Roman myths and legends books I read all helped, but actually having control over a hero and getting thrown into the action yourself was something entirely different. Naturally, me and my school mates would spend many a lost afternoon and evening roaming the streets and fields pretending we were explorers and warriors.

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Instead of what we became

My experience of multi-player gaming was limited at the time – games were either challenge based where you took turns to get the highest score, or played in direct competition with each other. This, I think, was my first experience of working as part of a team towards a common goal. Naturally this common goal business was rarely mutually agreed, which led to fights between my brother and I almost every time we played, with someone accidentally picking up the wrong item or getting stranded behind a wall of sixty ghosts. Several times there was a last ditch communication breakdown as we frantically tried to escape with our lives, only for one of us to enter an exit without waiting for the other, or we both entered different exits (I think). Game Over. Shouts and fights. These multiplayer missions lasted for hours, and in those days there was no simple save or pause option – when you played, you played knowing that as soon as dinner or bed time came it was Game Over. We never did manage to complete it.

You see, there was one level. One level which I’ve tried to find online in Youtube videos and by googling, but one level which we could never get past. This level was basically a series of steps  – imagine viewing a long standard staircase from the side – filled with the standard series of enemies, and a few of those morph exit dealies which transferred you from one part of the level to the next. Whenever you entered one of those though, you simply got taken to another staircase and your health continued its unceasing march towards zero. We could just never work out what needed to be done, even though we could actually see the exit – there was no way to break through the wall to reach the section that the exit was on, and none of the morph transporters ever took us to that area. Still, it was great fun to play, and hope that one day that level would be skipped or we’d somehow work it out. (Note – I have since learned that there was a cheat which allowed you to walk through walls, one that was even published in Issues of Your Sinclair. So… so many hours in the bin).

But lets take a step back. When you start Gauntlet, you are hit with a character select screen, and a choice of four heroes; Thor, a Warrior – armed with sword and muscles – he is the strongest character; Questor, an Elf seemingly destined to spend his life in dungeons with a name like that – armed with a bow and arrow – the fastest character, who also looks like a cowboy; a Valkyrie whose name we could never quite work out due to pixels – she had the best defence; and Merlin – a tramp (Wizard). He was good at chucking magic. In two player we were almost always Thor and Questor, not that that helped us when it came to the stair level.

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Why can’t I be the freak in the middle?

From there, you go through the usual control scheme screen and into the first 8 levels. I still have every inch of those opening levels burned into my brain due to playing them so many times. As mentioned, I loved the fact that the levels were not all linear, and even in these opening stages there were multiple exits – some which took you to the next level, some which skipped you forward a few. Level 1 introduced you to ghost enemies and the little (what I always thought of as) fireplaces which they sprouted from. Actually no, the fireplaces were treasure chests, the bad guys came out of a bunch of bones. The enemies would keep coming unless you destroyed that source, although they only popped out at a rate of 1 every couple of seconds so it wasn’t a big deal once you had cleared the majority away. The main problem was of course that the majority was often around a hundred – even in the first level you are hit with seemingly overwhelming odds – it was like Zulu without the patriotism (racism?). Luckily you soon realise that most enemies can be defeated with a single hit or shot, and that clearing a path and then running was often a better tactic than simply blowing them all away. The enemy AI was basic, but perfect – if they saw you they would attack with no thought of their own mortality, going straight for your nuts without asking or waiting for consent.

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‘Play with us’

Here is a brief rundown of the enemies. The most common are ghosts – just like real life. They flap around, move slowly, and don’t do a lot of damage, and are only  problem due to their sheer numbers. Next up are the grunts – muscular purple freaks with no joints who strut around trying to fist you (matron), and these are followed by pigbats, or batpigs. I’m sure there is an actual name for them, but mine is better. These things are like something from Doom and then spit fire or acid or some unholy combination of both in your general direction. These bastards are annoying because they have a great aim, know how to ‘corner shoot’ (if you aim through the corner of a wall your weapon can fire through the wall) so even when you’re running away or on another screen you’re never safe.

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Ghosts, pigbats, snotballs

There are purple bearded wizard types, I was never really sure what they did aside from corner you and try to walk through you, there are cute little green children who  each have one engorged arm, and who lob snot bubbles at you accompanied by a cute noise – I love those guys. One enemy I do not love, in fact one I absolutely hate is the appropriately named Death. These hooded, transparent, Terminator fuckers will wipe you out in a matter of seconds even if you have 2000 health, and if you get a couple of them chasing you you’ll barely have time to crap your pants before they use your soul as a dildo. They charge you down, hand outstretched, and they move faster than any other enemy, reacting instantaneously to your ever move. Oh, and you can’t kill them! At least not with your standard weapon. Yes, the only way to kill these screeching harpies is to use one of your precious room clearing potions, and even then it’s touch and go.

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Their motto could be ‘Touch (you) and (watch you die) go’

That takes us nicely on to the additional items you can use. The aforementioned potions come in a variety of colours and flavours – some which rid the screen entirely of enemies, others which give you a boost of strength or health, and some which poison you. You see, your health is on a counter, always counting down, so you need regular health fixes to stop you from hitting the dirt and becoming entombed with a bunch of overly familiar demons. The best way to get a big boost of health is from the giant slabs of cartoon ham strewn carelessly throughout each stage, though you can also get a small upgrade by chomping on one of the bottles of moonshine you’ll find – beware, some of these are poison. It was difficult to tell back in the day as we’re not talking even 8bit quality games here and certainly not HD TVs – if it said OXO it was good, if it said XXX it was deadly (and of course we called the deadly one ‘AIDS’). The best item though either made you invincible or invisible for a while, I can’t remember which, but it was ultra rare and looked like a flaccid yellow penis host to a bewildered face.

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Most accurate. Description. Ever.

The final item to mention is a holdover from the Arcade days – treasure! Getting treasure racks up points, killing and blowing shit up racks up points, walking racks up points. POINTS! I never cared about points, or beating my best score etc in games, which is why stuff like achievements nowadays just pisses me off. I want to play for fun, to complete the game, to finish the story, or to get out of the world and my head for a few hours. i don’t care about points. The game featured randomly generated (I think) treasure rooms where you could romp around and collect as much treasure as you wanted – pointless for me, but still a fun and brief distraction from the carnage of every other level. For the Spectrum version, I recall the treasure rooms were the only levels to actually feature music, a bleepy bloppy tune which sped up as your time ran out (the main gauntlet theme played briefly between levels). These levels were basic mazes with multiple exits so you could leave straight away without picking up any loot. In fact, the level design throughout the game is impressive – some are truly puzzling, with locked doors and red herrings, multiple keys unlocking multiple routes – in fact I think some levels were entirely made up of exits – surely a ‘lets see if we can get away with this shit’ by the Devs. It’s just one of the charming and quirky things which made the title work so well and carve a niche in my memory.

You know, I never played any of the sequels to Gauntlet, and I’m not sure why. Obviously we never bought them, but none of my mates had them either. I never loved another dungeon crawler as much as this until the DOS Hero Quest came along, a game I’ll probably cover here one day too. As always, let me know in the comments if you ever played Gauntlet in any of its forms, or any of the sequels. And of course, be sure to check the links below for more information on the game, including how to download for yourself. It’s great.

Gauntlet at Worldofspectrum.org

Lets Play video

Retro Games – ISS Deluxe!

international-superstar-soccer-deluxe-usa

Football games – a staple of home and arcade games machines for as long as man or machine can remember, they have been an endless source of fun and vitriol for me since my Spectrum days. While I played a good many football games before getting a SNES, they mostly paled in comparison to that fateful day when International Superstar Soccer Deluxe arrived in the Nightman household. At this point, the only true multiplayer experiences I had had in my own house were on Super Mario Kart and Super Bomberman – both classics, and when ISS joined the drawer of games in my brother’s bedroom we had a new King.

There’s a strong case for ISS Deluxe being the best football game ever – sure it didn’t have real player names, and it obviously cannot compete with the graphics and sheer amount of options we have in the likes of Pro Ev and Fifa today, but for pure, terrifying enjoyment there is none better. With some ultra smooth, balanced gameplay, it was and is still a delight to play, without getting bogged down by all the realism and extras of today’s versions.

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As with all my gaming posts, this is part review, part personal recollection – more of why I liked it rather than why it is actually good. This was one of the many SNES games that I had immense fun playing by myself on, as well as with others and therefore have plenty of fond memories. To start with some review-ish comments, the game (as the title suggests) only features international teams meaning there was no local or national team rivalry when playing. When you’re young though you’ll find anything to be rivals over, such as who gets the pound coin from Granda, or who gets the five twenty pence pieces. I can’t recall how many teams were actually in the game, but it was at least 16 (probably more than 30), and featured all the main European and South American giants, along withe counties from Asia, Africa, and unlockable All Star teams. The teams did not feature real player names, due to licensing issue, but thanks to how much I played this game versus how much international football I watched I was probably more familiar with the invented player names than the real ones. Thanks to some graphical flourishes though, you could tell quite clearly who certain players were – Roberto Baggio had a ponytail, Ruud Gullit had a massive mop of dark weaving hair, while Chris Waddle had the uncanny ability to sky rocket every penalty.

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Boutros

Before you started your game there were a wealth of options, and before you got near those you even had a nifty title sequence followed by the eternal battle cry of ‘International, Superstar Soccer – DELUXE!’ On the main menu you had a variety of game modes – one off friendly match, short league, short cup, World Cup, World Series (ahem), penalties, training, and the ever popular Scenarios mode which saw you having to meet some explicit challenge such as winning a game with only a minute remaining and being a goal behind, to beating a vastly superior team with a vastly inferior team. These were a great, addictive extra, but I never could beat them all.

Penalties mode is as you would expect, while Training allowed you to hone your skills in peace. All of this was set to some funky, jazzy, and hyper-infectious music which I’m humming out loud as I type. The meat of the game of course comes in the actual competitions, and in these you had a wealth of options I had certainly not experienced before – kit types, weather types, night versus day, stadiums to choose from, how long you wanted games to be, and even changing the skills of the team and the keeper. Before starting any game you could choose your Keeper skill out of a range of 10, from essentially a man with no limbs in goals, up to essentially a brick wall. This led to many multiplayer moments of hilarious treachery as you would switch your opponent’s keeper skill down to one when they weren’t looking and laugh as every shot you hit went sailing into the net as they screamed on helplessly confused. The outfield players skills and fitness were displayed neatly as smiling faces – pink and smiling meant they were on fire, while sagging and purple meant they were at death’s door – again you could customize these to your liking. The honest way to play in the player versus computer tournaments was of course to cope with what you were given – if your best player was purple, you had to choose to risk playing him, or dropping him for some reject on the bench who never normally got a 90 minutes.

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Your typical one-sided affair

The graphics in the game are as bright and crisp as you would expect for a SNES game, but it really shines in the little details, such as player animations, and amount of stuff happening on screen. You could have multiple players on the screen, the handy map running at the bottom, rain booming down, and there would never be a drop in rate or change in how smooth the play was. Players and their kits were instantly recognizable, and there was a large selection of hilarious animations to wade through, from goal celebrations (including the Klinsman) to tackles, step overs, headers, and shrugging innocently to the crowd after being booked for snapping someone’s legs. Tackling was one of the most fun parts of the game, made even more fun by the (under-used nowadays) shoulder charge. Sometimes you would get so infuriated by your opponent, especially if they were cackling in the room beside you, as the somehow dodged every tackle and scored every goal that you would spent an entire half shoulder charging around the screen in an attempt to injure as many of their players as possible. This led, not only to a multitude of bookings and sendings-off, but also the immortal ‘DIRTY PLAY, REF!’ as you knocked someone to the ground and got away with it. Off the ball shoulder charging was great fun, and you would not be caught for doing it. Now that I mention it, you could also choose from three referees, one strict, one lenient, and one Collina. No matter who was there, I tended to get red cards more often than not for my exuberant 100 hard dash followed by elbow in the face on screen antics.

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Wasn’t me, ref

One other fun thing to do was slide tackle the goalie when they had the ball in their hands. This also tended to lead to an immediate red card, but sometimes you could get away with it which was always hilarious. In my house the SNES belonged to my older brother and at weekends he would sometimes have friends round to play Bomberman, ISS, and Mario Kart, and I would get brought into the action. This of course meant 4 player tournaments, and the dreaded two versus two, or two versus 1 player games. I think in all the games we ever played against my brother, we never beat him in a 2 versus 1. I still have nightmares about coming so close to victory one or two times, only for some mishap to defeat us. My brother’s friend Keith and I would team up. I was okay at the game, not as good as my brother, while Keith was worse than me, but for some reason we thought 2 was better than 1. I still remember leading one game 1-0 with seconds to go on the clock when Keith dove in with a Dirty Play Ref and gave away a penalty. 1-1. Into injury time I somehow had a chance and smashed the ball from all of 40 yards into the cross-bar. This somehow fell to my brother on the wing and he was able to dance his way past every challenge, glide into my box and slip it past the keeper 1-2. Final whistle. Some things are best left in the past.

Having friends round for a 10-9 Friday night thriller was always excellent entertainment, but when I played on my own my list-keeping self would always come out. I would set up my own extended super-leagues, and keep a pen and pencil record of goals scored and best performances by my beloved Brazil. I probably still have pages and pages stored of results and goals by Allejo, Gomez, Santoz, and all of my other ISS heroes. This was before I had any management sim – I would run a tight ship based on who made mistakes in my games versus who scored a glorious last minute winner. While I always played as Brazil my brother was occasionally England, but mostly Holland -led by the dreaded Van Wijk. The computer had five levels of difficulty, and each one seemed nicely weighted with 1 being exceedingly easy, and 5 being pant-fillingly brutal, but all the more satisfying to slaughter.

Scoring goals in the game was perfection, from leaping headers, to hoofing one into the top corner from just inside the halfway line. Free-kicks were difficult to score, but not impossible, while hat tricks were common place. If you did score a hat trick you would get a bonus animation shown on the stadium screen. Likewise, if you came from behind to lead you would get a further stadium screen animation. It’s these little touches that felt beautiful and helped you rub the shattered remains of your best friend’s dignity into their stinking faces. The commentary was good fun too, and would pervade my every day speech, from ‘IT’S A BIIIG KICK’ to ‘NO FOUL?’ It was all charming and effective, and didn’t distract. Some of the controls would occasionally distract, like when you were trying to get the ball off an opponent and repeatedly hitting the tackle button, sometimes they would lose the ball by mistake and your tackle suddenly turned into a massive ‘boot the ball out of play’ as you couldn’t cancel the action. It all added to the fun though. Adding to the fun too was the good old ‘turn the referee’ into a dog cheat – pointless, but pretty funny.

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ISS Deluxe is an immortal watershed in football games. It must be one of the few sports titles that truly stands the test of time, over 20 years after its release, and a reminder of a time when Konami was king. Did you have the game? What are your cherished memories of it, or are there moments you have tried to forget? Let us know in the comments!

Retro Gaming – Paperboy

Hello Gamers and Glancers! Today on The Spac Hole we look back fondly at one of the most successful games of the Arcade Generation, one which was subsequently ported to every home computer and console in existence. Paperboy was released in 1985 by Atari Games, and its blend of fast paced action, dog-avoiding, slapstick humour, camp Batman exclamations, and media delivery was an instant hit.

Holy Shit, Batman!

The Arcade version had a fancy cab to simulate the thrill of riding a bike whilst… sitting down… and featured a lot of humour which didn’t make its way oer to home versions due to hardware limitations. I remember seeing the Arcade version when I was younger, and I’m fairly certain there was a less expensive version which ditched the cabinet and the handlebar controls, but I can’t (be arsed) find (ing) proof of this. A few of my friends and family members had the game on various systems, ranging from Commodore 64 to NES to Master System, but I owned the Spectrum version and can say without any slither of doubt that it was the best port.

Gaze upon my face and weep
Gaze upon my face and weep

Converted by those geniuses at Elite, the Spectrum version provided me with hours of fun and frustration. I’ll be honest here and state that I never completed the game – in order to complete the game you had to complete 7 levels (one per day of the week) of successful newspaper delivery to subscribers, without crashing and losing all your lives. I only loosely grasped this concept when I was young, but I remember struggling to work out exactly who it was I was supposed to be delivering to, and instead simply chucked newspapers at every house – through windows, onto lawns, and otherwise missing wildly. If I’m super-honest, I can’t confidently say I completed a single day successfully, delivering to those who I was supposed to.

My attitude to virtual careers has since translated to real world careers
My attitude towards virtual careers has since translated to real world careers

But the fun of Paperboy, especially as I wasn’t forever pumping pennies into an Arcade machine, was simply racing around on the BMX, avoiding all manner of obstacles, and causing as much carnage as possible with my newspapers, Rampage style. Getting to the end of your cycle route meant you were presented with an obstacle course where you could rack up extra points – could you win back lost lives here too? I can’t recall, but again back then it didn’t matter, I just enjoyed tearing about on the jumps. You see, as a young boy in the 80s, I had a BMX. I had a skateboard too. Hell, I even had a baseball cap and backwards-wore the shit out of it. This was not only escapism, but it was an extension of those long summer days of freedom, cruising the neighbourhood with friends on our bikes, our only concerns whether or not tonight was bath night. While we may not have been launching weaponized newspapers through exploding tombstones, or decapitating the elderly as we wheelied past, the neighbourhood remained our warzone/play area, our sandbox, our Vice City, and the BMX was at once our Ferrari, our Harley-Davidson, and our trusty steed.

Looking back at my childhood, I can remember a very small number of 2nd and 3rd tier friends (you know, not your best buds, but either ones you sometimes messed about with in school or outside of school if your besties were unavailable, or those in higher or lower years in school, or even those neighbours of your friends who would occasionally get integrated into your group… you know – Gingers) who had a local paper round. I don’t recall any of them ever using a bike, instead logging around a bright orange satchel which seemed to be almost the same size and weight as the kid carrying it. Sometimes some of us would accompany the friends, or meet them unexpectedly at our local garage (Gas Station) where they would be collecting their paper round, and follow them on their route whilst talking about football or Eerie Indiana, or boobs, or Predator.

Childhood
Childhood

It wasn’t as exciting as either the game, or Hollywood made out. Furthermore it always seemed like a very American thing to be doing – racing about on BMX in perpetual sunlight, dropping off papers to early risers in their slippers who stood High Noon style surveying their meticulously preened little corner of suburbia, always on the merge of stumbling across some pirate mystery or cute alien orphan you needs your help. Where I grew up, it was dull and wet 80% of the year, there were no cute aliens, papers were always delivered in the evenings, and the only pirate was old One-Eyed McDrunky, who would sooner give you the mysterious treasure of herpes than rubies.

Save me, Obi Wan Nightman, you're my only hope!
Save me, Obi Wan Nightman, you’re my only hope!

While I’m reminiscing rather than reviewing, another semi-related recollection returns to me – that of our local milkman. Sometimes the paperboy route would overlap with the milkman route at the same time and place (I have no idea why the milkman was still driving around at that time of the day, but anyhoo). As we were on speaking/thieving terms with the milkman, we would often hitch a ride on the back of his truck and help ourselves to cartons of juice. We tried this with the local ice cream man, but he wouldn’t allow it. A warning for any kids reading – it is generally ill-advised to talk to strangers, but even more so to go out of your way to interact with them, especially when they own a multi-purpose getaway vehicle – it’s probably best to stay inside and play videogames than go outside and be exposed to such dangers as living.

Back to the game; I remember that the controls were quite difficult and sensitive, which when coupled with the many obstacles meant that frustration levels were constantly of the joypad teethmark level. The area of the screen which you could traverse was quite small, the pace of the game was high, and the pavement/sidewalk was littered with enemies who seemed hellbent on keeping you from your minimum wage bounty. There were old guys on wheelchairs, drunks wobbling towards you, sentient tyres, kids on karts, and suddenly reversing cars. The pavement would curve and bend meaning you had to slow down to get round the slight bend successfully, and there were sections where you had to cross a busy road too. There was always a lot going on on screen, and I remember it got more chaotic with each progressive day. I’m not sure I questioned why there were so many drunks on the street every day, maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember armed soldiers walking down streets during the day and thinking nothing of it. I did question why every garden seemed to have multiple tombstones.

My house only had two
My house only had one

The game didn’t have a soundtrack during levels, just some jingles before the start of each level, but there was an assortment of standard computerized blips and blaps to exaggerate the fact that you’d just plopped a paper through someone’s bathroom window. The colour pallet wasn’t too exciting, with only black, blue, and white making up the bulk of detail, yet the screen border was a little brighter. Such things didn’t concern me back then, as I’ve never been much of a graphics fiend – as long as it plays well and looks reasonable, I’m happy.

Plays well, looks reasonable – happy

I thought I would have more to say about it, but the more I thought about it the more I remembered that it was a fairly linear game that I wasn’t very good at and probably spent more time watching others play than actual play myself. So that’s all I have to say about Paperboy – a game that I had a lot of fun with in my youth, and one which I’ve had a lot of fun remembering.

For a cool comparison video showcasing around 20 different versions of the game (with a special WTF for the N64 version), check out Gaming History Source’s channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol-O1RXG_PA

As always, my screenshots have been taken from the gods at World Of Spectrum.org, and the Spectrum cover has been taken from spong.com.

And finally, if you have any thoughts and memories you’d care to share on Paperboy – which version you played, if you ever finished the game, please drop a comment below. Check out some of my other retro memories here:

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/retro-gaming-daley-thompsons-supertest/

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/retro-gaming-barbarian-the-ultimate-warrior/

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/retro-gaming/

Nintendo News 24th – 31st August 2014

It has been a quiet few weeks in Nintendo land recently, an expected part of the typical post – E3 excitement and unfortunate Summer drought. As we move towards the end of the year, a raft of new games on all of the major consoles means the run in to Christmas looks to be another fantastic one for gamers of all types. We were not expecting any major Nintendo news aside from the usual snippets about upcoming games until closer to year-end, but as always with Nintendo, they aim to surprise as well as delight. Lets review the biggest stories from the past week.

New 3DS: Earlier in the week, Nintendo announced that they would be having a Japanese 3DS focused Direct. Fans waited to see some more Smash Brothers info, and maybe an unannounced game or two, but what we got was the entirely unexpected announcement of 2 new handheld consoles – the New 3DS and New 3DS XL. Boasting a number of upgrades from the predecessors, the two consoles will be available in Japan before the end of the year, with the West following some time in 2015. This seems like a shrewd, if a little cynical move by Nintendo, knowing that the Japanese market is almost completely driven by portable devices. As more information emerged on the consoles, it has become apparent that these are more than just basic cosmetic upgrades. The sizes of each has been increased, the weight decreased; there is a new circle pad, new shoulder buttons, and new button placement and design; there is an NFC reader to enable Amiibo use; the 3D hardware has been revamped to ensure easier use, and a wider range of positions to get the best full effect; the CPU and RAM seems to have undergone some large improvement, though accounts are varying on this so far; new models now use Micro SD storage, with each console coming with a 4Gb card; some new wireless and internet security malarkey. Perhaps the biggest news, and news which has annoyed some existing users, is that a bunch of exclusive games will be coming which will only work on the new console – with a port of the Wii’s excellent Xenoblade Chronicles being the first of these. Will you be getting one? I’ve been waiting for a 3DS XL to come down in price so I can pick one up, but I may wait until next year now to pick up one of these bad boys. With a huge library already, there has never been a better time to join the Nintendo handheld family.

Job Cuts: In more depressing news, Nintendo Europe have announced that over 300 jobs will be cut. Obviously this is terrible for all employees, and we wish them all the best for the future.

Mario Kart DLC: As us Western gamers ‘eagerly’ waited for the MK8 Mercedes DLC, Nintendo dropped another bombshell with the announcement of 2 upcoming DLC packages. Coming late this year, and early next year, each package will offer 4 new characters, 4 new vehicles, and most importantly, 8 new tracks making a whopping 16 – that’s basically an entirely brand new game! Nintendo has rightly been late to the DLC game, and has proven that DLC does not need to be a cynical cash in (looking at you EA). Courses based on F-Zero, Animal Crossing, and characters such as Link have been announced, and best of all, each package is less than a tenner. Fans have been naming this Super Smash Kart, and the floodgates could yet open for countless cross-overs.

Amiibo: Amiibo pre-orders have begun, and apparently are performing very well on sites such as Amazon. Although I don’t have any interest in the figures myself, I imagine there will be a big market for this, with kids wanting to pick up each, with fans like me wanting to try out one for the novelty, and the hardcore fans wanting to have them all on their shelves.

Miyamoto Speaks: Legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto has been in fine form recently, speaking on a variety of topics. Only little pieces of his discussions have since been released, so be sure to pick up next month’s Edge Magazine. So far, Miyamoto has been vocal about Nintendo, and his own personal desire to target the core gamer audience once more, moving away from the casual market which has slowly been moving away from Nintendo, and console gaming as a whole. Nintendo have always delivered quality – large scale imaginative adventures which transport gamers out of the mundane real world, and into a joyous world of invention and excitement. As a general rule, casual gamers do not want these types of things, instead wanting a quick addictive fix on the bus or toilet – in other words, they are the type of gamer who don’t really want the sort of fully fledged experience Nintendo is known to offer. Fans have reacted positively to the great man’s words, and if it means that we get less junk and more quality, then I am all for it. Miyamoto covers a variety of other concerns, and he is known to be an always honest, humble, and entertaining interviewer, so I’m sure there will be more highlights.

Bravely Second: The first footage of Square Enix’s highly anticipated sequel was unleashed this week, presenting a gorgeous visual style and a bunch of different jobs and outfits to choose from.

Pokken Fighter: A few weeks back, there was a rumour that Nintendo would be announcing a shocking new Pokemon game. Naturally, everyone was hoping for a fully 3D, HD Wii U game, but this week the game that was unveiled was Pokken Tournament, an Arcade only beat-em up. Using the latest Tekken engine, the game looks smooth, but likely won’t excite too many Western games unless a Wii U port is announced.

An action packed week then – I didn’t even get to mention the Bayonetta 2 release date or the NES Remix on 3DS announcement – let us know your thoughts about any of this week’s news in the comments section!

Nintendo News Roundup – 4th -10th August 2014

As expected, it has been another quiet couple of weeks in Nintendo land, with a mixture of good news and bad. A number of high-profile games continue to prove that the 3DS is king, while Mario Kart 8 is still riding high in the charts, though essentially on its own. Yet another AAA game will be skipping the Wii U as it continue to struggle in grabbing those Third Party titles, but it’s not too big a deal this time round – Nintendo fans got the original exclusive on the Gamecube. Capcom are re-re-re-releasing the original Resident Evil, this time it is an HD remake of the Gamecube’s updated hit. Considering the Gamecube version still looks gorgeous today, this shouldn’t be much of a miss. Still, it would have been nicer to have than not. Here’s the most recent news:

Hyrule Warriors: We recently had another batch of Hyrule Warrior News, with Nintendo seemigly hyping this one quite a bit. A Hyrule Warriors Nintendo Direct saw Ganondorf unveiled as a playable character and a new Adventure mode featuring top down classic stylings, as well as a tonne of other info on the other characters, their weapons, the maps, levelling up etc etc. The game is out in Japan next week!

Zelda Monopoly: Everyone’s favourite table-top family wrecker Monopoly finally gets a decent Nintendo themed edition, with a superb looking Zelda version. Will you be picking this up and earning a massive stash of rupees while you become Hyrule’s latest property tycoon?

Dan Adelman Leaves: The name may not mean much to the casual fan, or even those more familiar with Shigsy and Reggie, but Dan Adelman was key over the last few years in pushing the Wii U’s Indie credentials and marketing the console’s unique qualities to up and coming developers and smaller companies. However, recent months had seen some ‘outspoken’ comments from Adelman which culminated in him being banned from Twitter by Nintendo. Since leaving he has offered his opinions on Nintendo’s latest console, saying (as many others have) that the name is ‘abyssmal’ and that the console would have already sold much better with a different name. He has stated though that the console still has much to offer and has not yet sold in the numbers its quality warrants.

Mario Kart DlC: August sees some great updates coming for all MK8 owners, with a comprehensive Mercedes DLC pack and, more exciting perhaps, some updates fans have been crying out for. How many times have you accidentally selected View Highlights instead of Next Race because it was the top option between races? Begone, foul concatenation! WIth the new update, Next Race will now be th default option. Alongside this momentous update, there are updates to online communication, Mario Kart TV, Scoreboard options, the game will remember your vehicle parts, and most importantly, the option to have an on-screen TV map. The free Mercedes DLC offering 3 new vehicles will be coming to the West too.

Nightman Games – Medey-evil Quest!

The undisputed champions of this past E3, Nightman Games is bringing the first of its newly announced AAA games to all High-Definition consoles. Medy-evil Quest combines stunning grafix with equally stunning sounds, and now you can control this game completely controlerlessly, thanks to the game’s in-built Move-7 chip. Simply think, and your character will move, and the story will unfold.

The story sees you as the nameless Knightman Edgar, a roaming Knight who must use his special potato powers to reclaim Camelot after an Alien Invasion. This open-world games means you can play your way – choose to follow the individual plot missions, or traverse the countryside and play the countless (12) min-games, such as Joust, Joust 2, Witch Dunking, And Reverse Joust 2. Band together with fellow Merry Men online, and use your combined harvester skills to increase your potato power. Spend real life money on wenches and ale in the game’s many (3) taverns, and share tales of high adventure with travellers you meet along the way.

Using authentic speech from the Medieval period (1979- July 1804), and costumes designed by Edith Head, it is the most realistic castle roaming adventure since Mario Bros 19 – Bowser’s Arse. Arriving on all consoles next week for a price of $89.99.90, this is destined to be one of the hits of the summer. To help get those pre-orders in, here is an exclusive unreleased screenshot:

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Nintendo News Roundup – 7/20/14 – 7/26/14

It has been another quiet week in Nintendo land, with the Summer Drought keeping wallets filled, and the hot weather keeping us indoors for another bout of cider fuelled Mario Kart 8. With Nintendo live-streaming at Comic-Con, we were expecting a few surprises, but so far the focus has been on more footage and gameplay for upcoming releases like Smash Bros and Hyrule Warriors. Not many rumours then, but a few interesting news items.

News

Devil’s Third: The upcoming Wii U exclusive will be set in the USA and will see players choosing to survive alone or work as part of a team. Starting off with simple melee weapons, you will gradually build up a personal arsenal and wage war. The game promises unique online elements, and up to 16 players online together. In addition, the developers have stated that they will utilise the gamepad in a variety of original ways to ensure a gaming experience not possible on any other system.

Sega: Earlier this week, Sega announced that they would be showing previously unseen games at Comic-Con, as well as giving demos of the new Sonic games. Comic-Con is still going on at the moment, so keep an eye out for any special news.

Wii u system update: The Wii U has seen quite a few updates recently, and this latest sees a few additions which really should have been available from release. Better late than never! The latest update allows the transfer of data from one Wii U to another, new controller options for browsing the eShop, and some further stability upgrades.

One Piece: Yet another game has been announced in the One Piece franchise, and it will be hitting Japanese 3DS owners in December this year. One Piece: Super Grand Battle! X will see 85 characters collide in a giant mash-up. A host of other eshop indie games have been announced too, check out Nintendo’s main site for details.

NES Remix bundle: Gamers who haven’t yet experienced the retro mini game carnage of Nintendo’s Remix franchise can buy a new bundle later in the year – this set will contain Remix 1 and 2, as well as Super Luigi Bros.

Sales

Nintendo stock prices have been on the up in 2014, and since the release of MK8, stock prices have been the highest they have been all year. A strong E3, and a number of notable releases set for the second half of the year should mean investors, stockholders, and fans should all have grins by the time the clock strikes midnight on December 31st.