Monthly Archives: July 2013

Larry Chases his lost love

Larry Laffed: A Documentary Project on Sierra On-Line

Currently looking for funding on Kickstarter is a documentary film project titled Heroes: The History of Sierra On-Line.  The filmmakers have travelled the country securing footage and interviews with those involved, to tell the story of how Sierra On-Line helped revolutionize the PC game industry and created one of the best-loved genres in gaming history: the graphic adventure.

Now they need help in securing financing to assemble the film and polish it up in order to do justice to such a fascinating company and compelling story.  You can kick in some cash at their Kickstarter page, here:

After the jump you can read an interview I conducted with co-producers of the project, Luke Yost and Patrick Clark:
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The Famicom, a home video game system by Nintendo 1983

30th Anniversary of the Famicom

Atari might have created the video game industry, but it was Nintendo who brought things back from the dead after the disastrous video game crash in the U.S. in 1983-84. They did so via the Nintendo Entertainment System, but it was only through the development and subsequent success of the earlier Japanese version of the game console, called the Family Computer or Famicom, that Nintendo had the confidence, technical know-how and financial means to take on America.

Who knows how many years it would have taken for video games to come back without the Famicom? Five? Ten? It’s hard to deal in hypotheticals, but what we can do is take a look back at one of the most important consoles in video gaming history. 30 years ago, on July 15th, 1983, Nintendo released the Famicom in Japan. Here’s how it happened:

Bitstory: The Famicom

Title screen for Super Mario Bros., a video game for the Famicom by Nintendo 1985

Celebrating Famicom’s 30th – Super Mario Bros.

Here is the last of the TDE articles detailing various aspects of the Famicom, as well as the NES, the North American version of the console released in 1985.  These posts celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Famicom, and lead up to the full history of the Famicom, to be posted tomorrow. The post today also falls on the 30th anniversary of Mario Bros., so two koopa’s with one fireball, so to speak.  While Famicom project lead Masayuki Uemura and his team at R&D2 labs at Nintendo do great work putting together the hardware of the famed video game console, it’s the games for the system that give it longevity.  And there’s few games that boost Famicom and NES sales as much as Super Mario Bros..

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The connection

Celebrating Famicom’s 30th – The Famicom Network

TDE continues a series of posts concerning various aspects of the Famicom and NES, leading up to the 30th anniversary of the ubiquitous Japanese video game system. This time, we look at Nintendo’s first cautious steps towards online connectivity with the Famicom.

Just the Fax

In America, video game companies have tested the waters of console-based online services, such as PlayCable for Mattel’s Intellivision in 1981, and 1983′s Gameline for the Atari 2600. Nintendo starts its own flirtation with online services for the Famicom in 1987, with the development of the Disk Fax System. Used in conjunction with the Family Computer Disk System, the scheme allows players to purchase special blue-coloured disk versions of games, onto which they can save their high-scores. They can then take these to Disk Fax kiosks in participating stores, where their high scores are read and sent to Nintendo via phone line to be entered in contests run by the company. Games used in the competitions include the two versions of Family Computer Golf: Japan Course and U.S. Course, as well as 3-D Hot Rally and Famicom Grand Prix F1 Race. Top scorers receive awards such as gold versions of disk cards, ensconced inside of elaborate packaging.

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Title for The Wizard, a video game movie by Universal 1989

Celebrating Famicom’s 30th – The Wizard

As part of our celebration of the upcoming 30th anniversary of the Famicom, the Japanese video game system by Nintendo that was later adapted for the North American market as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), I’m posting my review of The Wizard. It’s a 1989 Fred Savage vehicle that many consider as simply a 100 minute commercial for Nintendo. I made this initially for Ten Point Review, where we rate a movie according to four criteria, and then add and/or subtract points as we see fit in order to come up with a numerical rating between 0 – 10. Time to watch people play games!

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Masthead for Nintendo Power, a video game magazine published by Nintendo 1988

Celebrating Famicom’s 30th – Nintendo Power

The 30th anniversary of the Famicom is nigh! TDE is celebrating with Updates posts concerning various aspects of Nintendo’s hugely important and influential game console. We’ll also cover details of the NES, the North American version of the Famicom, released two years later in 1985. These posts will lead up to the full Famicom and NES Bitstory articles that will be published here in mid July.  As had happened before with the Atari VCS, a console that helped create the video game market in the first place, the NES becomes a cottage industry for peripherals and other products associated with the console.  Today, we’re looking at an integral part of the immense and long-lived success of the NES.  Today, we’re playing with Power!

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He's coming from inside the plumbing!

Evil Mario and Wil Wheaton

From the archives:

Image of Wil Wheaton and Mario

It’s a me, MARIOOOOOO

This picture comes from the first issue of Nintendo Fun Club News, a newsletter sent out to NES owners that was the precursor to Nintendo Power magazine.  Here we see a 14 year-old Wil Wheaton and his younger brother Jeremy, winners of the first ever Super Mario-A-Thon in 1987.  I think it’s terrific that celebrities pitched in to raise money to keep kids off drugs, and I’m impressed that Wheaton scored 239,400 in 10 minutes in Super Mario Bros..  Especially with that demonically possessed Mario looking on.  He stares into my soul and whispers “Mama mia, it’s game over for you, pisan”.  That’s the look you get after washing the guts of the 10,000th Goomba you’ve squished the life out of from the sole of your work boot.   Yes, it’s-a me.  Your worst friggin nightmare.

blog-dirk-glances

Dragon’s Lair Turns 30

If you entered a video arcade on July 1, 1983, you’d probably wonder what all the fuss was about. You’d be met by a huge crowd of people gathered around a new game. There’d be such a large crowd that the arcade owner would have installed a monitor on top of this game so everyone could watch it being played. If you checked out what was on the monitor, you’d see a video game like none other before it.

You’d be seeing Dragon’s Lair, released 30 years ago today. With rich, vibrant animation by Don Bluth, driven by laser disc technology from Rick Dyer and his RDI Video Systems company, it truly seemed like the waning days of the arcade had just gotten a huge shot in the arm. No matter that, due to the extravagant cost of the game to arcade operators (averaging $4,300), it was the first game to cost 50 cents to play. No matter that, despite the lush visuals, gameplay locked players on a rail that was minimally interactive. It was new, it was cool, and it was wonderful.

Even though Dragon’s Lair and the laser disc game phenomena that followed in its wake were conceptual dead-ends that were quickly left behind by gamers, their memories remain. I don’t think there is another game that so typifies the 80′s video game arcade to me as much as Dragon’s Lair.

To go for a spin through the development and aftermath of Dragon’s Lair, please check out our article on the Laser Game Craze.