Monthly Archives: December 2012

The 12 Video Games of Christmas: Midway Arcade for iOS

Virtual N.A.R.C.

Today we start our 12 Video Games of Christmas feature, where we spotlight a game a day that would jingle a retrogamer’s bells this holiday season.

In the stocking today is the Midway Arcade app for iOS devices.  It is a universal app that works for both iPhone and iPad.  It is a collection of 10 classic titles from Midway, one of the first manufacturers of arcade video games and producer of such classics as Gunfight, Sea Wolf, a little number imported from Japan called Space Invaders, among many, many others. This app features some of the later games of Midway.

The in-game Menu has you moving through a virtual re-creation of a classic arcade, faithfully replicating the noisy din of a typical video game hangout.  As you shift from one rendered classic cabinet to the next, you can choose to step up to one of the 10 games included for the initial $1.99 purchase:

  • Defender
  • Spy Hunter
  • Rampage
  • Root Beer Tapper
  • Arch Rivals
  • Joust
  • Four skill games: Basketball, Pool, Air Hockey and Roll Ball (Skee-ball)
Available for in-app purchase are two game packs, for $0.99 each:

Fantasy Game Pack

  • Gauntlet
  • Gauntlet II
  • Wizard of Wor

Action Game Pack

  • NARC
  • Total Carnage
  • APB
Start flapping

It gets to be a bit of a broken record with reviews of classic game emulation on mobile devices, but a real problem here are the controls. There aren’t many options for adjusting the nature of the virtual joystick, and the tilt-controls are a bit wonky too.  Driving games like APB and Spy Hunter are a lost cause.  A mitigating factor here is that Midway Arcade supports the iCade, a mini-arcade cabinet with a joystick and button array,  which you just might see under the tree later in this series.  Since the iCade lacks a steering wheel, it doesn’t help much to control the vehicle games.

Midway made some great games for the arcades, and Midway Arcade brings that shifty, smokey coin-op jive right onto your iOS device.

Available on iTunes

Star Trek Crew Invades the Big Screen, 33 Years Ago Today

Indelibly mixed in my memory with blasting rocks in Atari’s Asteroids and shooting Space Invaders at the local arcade, as well as seeing video games coming home with the Atari VCS and the then newly-minted Mattel  Intellivision, is Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which was released to theatres in North America on Dec. 7 1979,  33 years ago today.

Detailing the return of “Admiral” James T. Kirk to the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, as a giant cloud menacingly approaches Earth with unknown intent, the film was savaged by critics at the time, calling it over-long, glacially-paced and too full of itself.  The film series righted itself commercially in the next iteration, the rollicking Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn, but I’ve been swayed over the years that TMP is a more pure Star Trek movie.  Later films narrowed plots to episodic TV dimensions, but the original movie seems more true to the idea of exploring the unknown, grandiose nature of the universe.  The effects by visual master Douglas Trumbull also seemed barely constrained by even theatre-sized screens.

Star Trek was my pop-culture obsession before video games beamed in, and Star Trek: The Motion Picture was a milestone on that journey.

King of Consoles: The NEOGEO X continues the fun!

[I’d like to introduce Andrew Pine, who joins TDE as a blog contributor.  Based in Australia, he is an authoritative voice in later gen games and consoles such as the Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn and TurboGrafx-16, and graciously lends his support to the site.  Welcome, Andrew! – ed.]

[UPDATE: Various retailers earmarked to carry the NEOGEO X are reporting that delays have pushed back the release of the system until Dec. 18.  We will post a short blog entry on that date to remind readers; for now, here is Andrew’s announcement post]

Neo Geo fans rejoice. Today (if you’re in Australia get your wallet ready because it’s the 6th already!) the NEOGEO X is released. If you preorder the handheld, SNK Playmore and Tommo Inc. will throw in a copy of Ninja Masters for free. The NEOGEO X is a handheld that is rated for four to five hours of playtime per charge. The X also supports HDMI via the AES style docking station and if you want to play with a friend you can play two player games with an additional arcade controller.

The most interesting thing about the $199 dollar piece of nostalgic wonder is the fact that it is expandable with additional game cards to augment the list of 20 built in games. That is pretty good value for arcade lovers.

For those catching up the Neo Geo was released in 1992 as the AES (Arcade Entertainment System) based on the arcade MVS (Multi Video System) which allowed arcade owners to easily swap out cartridges instead of boards in cabinets. The AES was incredibly pricey when it was released at a recommended retail price of $649.99; this was in 1991 so you can imagine not too many people were able to pay that price for a home console. To put this in perspective the Sega Genesis cost $189.99 when it was originally released in 1989.

Despite the high price of entry the AES would prove to be pretty popular for SNK and throughout the 90’s many high profile properties like Metal SlugFatal Fury and The King of Fighters would thrive on the MVS and AES hardware. No other console could touch the supremely colourful sprites and backgrounds the Neo Geo hardware could render and it maintains the legacy of introducing removable memory storage to console gaming.

If you’re interested in getting a NEOGEO X to satisfy your nostalgic cravings or you just want to dabble in the world of Neo Geo then North Americans can head to Gamestop, Target or order online. In Europe you can order online only and in Japan the console is only available through Amazon at the moment. Here are some links to make life easier for you.

USA:
Target
Amazon

Canada:
EBGames
 
Europe:
Blaze

Japan:
Amazon

Official NEOGEO X page

Have fun Neo Geo fans!

Visual Cortex: Explosive Invaders

Where we pull a visual bauble out of the treasure chest of images at TDE and examine it with a loupe.

Today in the cortex, a flyer for Space Invaders, which helped solidify video games as popular entertainment.  Invaders’ biggest contribution to the North American video game industry was probably how it brought coin-op games out of bars and bowling alleys, and into restaurants, coffee shops, hotel lobbies and other mainstream venues.  Such did video arcade games move from a smokey niche market and into popular consciousness.  
But that’s nothing compared to how Space Invaders affected Japan when original manufacturer Taito released it there.  The game was so popular, with so much change being dropped into the machine to play, that the Bank of Japan had to triple 100-yen coin production to keep it in circulation.
This flyer sent by North American licensee Midway to distributers is mighty explosive.  A fitting graphic for a game that set the world on fire.  For more information on Space Invaders, consult your local Dot Eaters entry.

Video Games, Are They Art? The MoMA Says Game On!

Facing Their Doom

When Roger Ebert reviewed the film ‘adaptation’ of id Software’s seminal FPS PC game Doom in October of 2005, while savaging the movie he also fired a shot at its source medium:

“The movie has been ‘inspired by’ the famous video game.  No, I haven’t played it, and I never will…”

This dismissive attitude towards video games raised a few hackles from gamers,  and fires were further stoked in Ebert’s Answer Man column, where he continued to state he considered video games as not worthy of his time.  He finally dropped the hammer on any possible artistic aspirations of video games in his column that November:

“I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art.”

And so the debate has raged for years, “Can video games be art?”.   A counterpoint to Ebert’s protestations otherwise has come previously in the form of the 80 games of various genres inducted into the Smithsonian American Art Museum in March of 2012.  And now, the Museum of Modern Art will be displaying a collection of video games starting next March.  Some of the initial entries will include Pac-Man, Myst, The Sims and Portal, with the museum aiming to add the likes of Space Invaders, Street Fighter II and even Minecraft at a later date, totalling 40 games in all to be interred at the MoMA’s Philip Johnson Galleries.  A particularly interesting entry will be Zork, the classic text-only adventure by Infocom.  Such an example of the brilliant prose found in video games will make an excellent addition.

Kandinsky’s Composizione VIII

Are video games art?  Yes, definitely.  If I were to classify categories, I would say that early video games fall under abtract art.  The sparse mazes, outlined mountains and  geometric characters are all iconic representations of reality.  You could say the renaissance arrived with the lush visuals of games like Dragon’s Lair and Myst.   Modern day entries represent an on-going attempt by game artists and programmers to approach hyper-realism; in lighting, physics and the human body.  Yes, it is art.  To ride the ranges of Red Dead Redemption, as a burning sun sets behind a wide, rusted mesa, is to ride through a Bierstadt or Moran painting come to life. Yes, video games are art, as much as Picasso and Matisse are art.   Especially considering the limited technological canvas most of these electronic artists had to paint on.

via The New York Times
Composizione VIII available at art.com