Retro Rewind: Nintendo Entertainment System

So far in my Retro Rewind series, I’ve talked a bit about classic coin-op arcade games, as well as some of the earliest home console games made popular by the Atari 2600. But no discussion of retro gaming is complete without mentioning the Nintendo Entertainment System. This is the machine that took gaming and changed it from being just a casual pastime, and turned it into a real hobby.

Now, I’ve discussed the NES and many of its classic games in great length on this site in the past, so I’m not going to rehash any of that with this post. Instead, I want to talk a bit about how best to experience these classic games today.

In recent years, a number of NES titles have been available to gamers through both the Wii/Wii U virtual console service and the 3DS eShop. Sadly, the Virtual Console does not exist on Nintendo’s most recent hardware, the Nintendo Switch. Instead, Nintendo has replaced it with a subscription-based online service. This service features a number of classic games already, with new ones rolling out as time goes on. This is great for some. But many gamers, myself included, don’t like to sit and wait on a specific game to become available for play.  So what’s the best option? Well, if you’re asking my opinion on the best way to experience classic NES games today, I’d have to point you to the NES Classic Edition.

Much like the Atari Flashback console I discussed in a prior post, the NES Classic is an all-in-one box. You simply plug it into the TV and go. It’s just that easy. The system comes pre-loaded with thirty games, many of which are fan favorites. Let’s take a look at what’s included:

Balloon Fight, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania, Castlevania II, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Double Dragon II, Dr. Mario, Excitebite, Final Fantasy, Galaga, Ghost n’ Goblins, Gradius, Ice Climber, Kid Icarus, Kirby’s Adventure, Mario Bros., Mega Man 2, Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, Pac-Man, Punch Out!!, Star Tropics, Super Contra, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2, Super Mario Bros. 3, Tecmo Bowl, Legend of Zelda, Zelda II.

That’s certainly an impressive list. But one that includes some interesting gaps. For example, the NES Classic features Double Dragon II, but not the original Double Dragon. Same thing with Mega Man. Now, I understand the reasoning behind this. Double Dragon II offers a much better two-player experience, just as Mega Man 2 is a much more iconic game that the original Mega Man. But what if you still want to play these or even other old school NES games? Well, there’s a solution. But, this is where things get a bit shady…

You can put other games on the NES Classic. It is possible, and actually quite easy to load your own ROMs onto the system. In fact, it’s almost as if Nintendo purposely built the unit with this in mind. First off, while the NES Classic only comes with thirty games installed, it actually has enough free space to hold hundreds. Installing other titles is as simple as plugging the system to your PC via USB and moving files over. Of course, actually getting game ROMS is the sketchy part of the whole equation. It’s not illegal to possess, or even use ROM flashes of NES games. But it is illegal to download them without possessing a copy of the same game. Of course, Nintendo ROMS are readily available all over the internet if you know where to look. So, do with this information what you will…

That being said, if you ever wanted to experience rare Japanese-exclusive games like the original 8-bit version of Final Fantasy II or eve the controversial Megami Tensei games without having to resort to setting up emulator software, this is your best solution. No more tinkering with controller settings or setting up the emulator to work with your device. Just drop the ROMs in the directory and go.

For this reason, the NES Classic is what I recommend for everyday 8-bit NES gaming. Now that I’ve taken a moment to discuss this system and its potential, I’ll be using it to fill in some of the gaps in my backlog for future posts. Thus making Retro Rewind Reviews a recurring feature on this site.


Project: Retro Rewind

Now that I’ve completed all the games on my 64-bit Generation playlist, I’m excited to announce a new project. Before I dive into what is, for the lack of a better term, the “128-bit era”, I’m going to take some time to do a bit of a refresher on some of the generations I’ve already covered on this site.

In one of my very first posts, I lamented about my experiences as a child with various arcade games. Having been born in 1978, I grew up in the golden age of video games. The first video game I ever had the pleasure of playing was the arcade version of Centipede. The local Pizza Hut had one and I remember being seduced by the flashing lights and hypnotic sounds. Then, by the time I was in the first or second grade, my parents got tired of all my begging and pleading and finally brought home an Atari 2600 console. And as they say, the rest was history.

As I mentioned above, I briefly touched on this in some of the earliest posts on this site. But instead of discussing the Atari-era at great length, I jumped right into my NES playthroughs. So, what I’m going do is “rewind” the discussion on this site for a bit. I’m going to go back and revisit each of the classic retro consoles. For the systems I didn’t talk about the first time around, I’m going to discuss some of their most iconic titles. This means I’m going to be taking a a closer look at the Atari 2600 and the Sega Genesis, for example. For consoles that I did discuss, I’m going to be digging up some of the more obscure, but still classic titles. I’m going to do the same with some of the classic PC games that neglected to mention.

I’m also going to discuss how players today can best experience these retro classics. I feel that the time is right for this discussion. At the time I started this blog in 2012, retro gaming was still something that only us old grognards seemed to care about. Now, it has reached the mainstream.  Retro console reissues like the NES Classic and the Atari Flashback are flying off the shelves. Collected works like the Mega Man Legacy Collection are seeing the light of day all the time.

I’m going to take a brief pause from the backlog to discuss some of this, before resuming my regular routine. Stay tuned!

Review: Final Fantasy

522595_28411_front-5B1-5D finalfantasyanniversaryedition_PSP-5B1-5D Final-Fantasy-Origins-BOX-255B1-255D

I know that recently I’ve spent a little time covering random new releases such as Sleeping Dogs and Tomb Raider, it is still a main focus of mine to re-live my early gamer days by chronicling my favorite games of yesteryear in a semi-accurate timeline. So far in the blog, I’ve covered my gaming experience starting with my days in a coin-op arcade, then moving on to first-gen home consoles like the Atari 2600, to the godfather of them all; the NES. Sure, I’ve gone off on a few tangents like my Mega Man and Castlevania series playthroughs (in which I skipped around between various generations), but I’ve tried to keep a semi-linear timeline as the overall theme for this site. Before moving on from the NES to the Game Boy days, I would be amiss if I didn’t take the time to remember what may be one of the most legendary 8-bit RPGS of all time, Final Fantasy.

I can’t remember which game I experienced first, Final Fantasy or Wizardry. I was introduced to both of them around the same time in my life. I was living in Japan at the time Final Fantasy was released and I remember asking for it on a whim. I had never heard anything about it, and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was not disappointed. The summer after my sixth-grade year was spent either at the beach or in my room jamming to Paula Adbul (don’t ask) and grinding away at Final Fantasy. I put that game through its paces – trying every combination of character class, exploring every nook and cranny, and leveling, leveling, leveling.

I’ve bought this game in one form or fashion many times of the years. In my current collection I have Final Fantasy 1 in the following formats:  NES, PS1, GBA, and PSP.

For this review I decided to play the most modern rendition, the PSP version. Aside from a few added dungeons, a sight modernization of the spell system, and a few extra monsters, the game is largely unchanged from the original in terms of gameplay. All of the new optional content can be found pretty much in one out-of-the-way dungeon and thus easily avoided if you’re a purist. The main reason to suggest one of the more modern versions is of course the sound and graphical upgrade. For the 20th anniversary release, Square Enix has really taken the time to make this game shine. Allow me a moment to break down the different versions of the game:

For purists, the original 8-bit version will always stand out.
For gamers who want original content, but updated sound and graphics, I recommend the PS version.
For people who want the best translation the most definitive version of the game I recommend the PSP version.
The GBA version falls somewhere in the middle.

ff1-tiamat-255B1-255D Final-Fantasy-I-Psp-1-5B1-5D

 Original NES Version    vs    Modern PSP remake

This is the game that started it all. At the time it was released it was a fantasy game unlike any ever seen. The storyline is simple; Four youths awake on a beach just outside of a grand kingdom. Each one possesses a dim crystal and has no memory of who they are. Throughout the game, they learn that the world is slowly being drained of its elemental power and that their arrival has been prophesied as the ones who will restore order by bringing light to their faded crystals.

What starts off a simple tale of fantasy soon becomes quite a complicated plot involving a demon-possessed knight, a hidden conclave of sages, and a one thousand-year time loop that keeps repeating over and over and over…. Yeah, typical Japanese stuff.

The player gets to choose from four of six classes when creating their character:

Warrior, Thief, Monk, Red Mage, White Mage, and Black Mage.*  (In the original English version Warrior is known as Fighter, and Monk as Black Belt)* — These classes can later be leveled up to Knight, Ninja, Master, Red Wizard, White Wizard and Black Wizard.

Unlike the other games in the series, there are no default names provided to the characters, so players will get to name them anything they want. The biggest trick to the game is learning how to manage four different characters in a variety of situations. You must learn the strengths and weaknesses of each party member and how to balance these out in a party situation.

To me, this game is a gem. But surprisingly, there are many that disagree and cite the title’s weaknesses compared to future games in the series. One thing most everyone agrees on, however, is the magic of the game soundtrack. Composed by Nobuo Uematsu It was pretty impressive for an 8-bit system, and the subsequent remakes have really brought a whole new level of wonder to the soundtrack with fully orchestrated music. In my opinion, Uematsu is a very talented composer. If he been born several centuries prior, perhaps he’d receive the level of praise he deserves.

This game included many things that would remain staples in the FF series as a whole. It contains jobs, characters, themes, and monsters that would reappear in later games in series.

Despite having played this game from start to finish over a dozen times in my life, I had a blast playing this title again. The new PSP exclusive dungeon and bosses were quite a refreshing challenge. This game is a true classic that has withstood the test of time.


Difficulty: MediumThe modern day version of the game is quite a bit easier that the original 8-bit release. That being said, the PSP version adds a new extremely challenging dungeon. Many people have been critical of the watered-down difficulty of the modern remakes, but honestly, I think it makes for a good starting point for players new to the series.

Story: On it’s surface, the game story seems simplistic, but as you progress it becomes quite deep and convoluted. In the end, I’m not even sure I understand the subtle details of the whole time-loop scenario. The story is unfolded only by talking to NPCs.

Originality: For computer gaming, this was the start of something new. It was culture clash of both western D&D style fantasy and the exotic Japanese anime style. The game itself combined the overhead view introduced in games like Legend of Zelda with a framed, menu-driven combat system. It was the start of a new era

Soundtrack: Fantastic, catchy tunes. Just as enjoyable on the original 8-bit hardware as they are performed by a full symphony orchestra.

Fun: For me, this game is top tier. It doesn’t seem to get old. For anyone just getting into the RPG scene, I always recommend this game as a nice introduction to the genre. All of the core elements are here in one form or another. It’s a perfect litmus test for the aspiring RPG gamer. Hours of enjoyment. 

Graphics: The original release is a bit rugged in many spots, even for it’s time. But considering all the things on the screen at once, it could have been worse. Over the years, the game has been improved upon. First, by giving SNES quality graphics and then upgraded even further.

Playcontrol : This is not really an issue with this type of game.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 Stars – To me, this is one of the all-time classic NES titles. A must have really, regardless of the system you want to play it on. Perhaps I’m biased, but Final Fantasy is one of the greatest games of all time.

Available today on: Wii Virtual Console, PSN, and PSP.

Other Reviews In This Series:

Main Series:

I – II – III – IV – V – VI – VII – VIII – IX – X – X2 – XI – XII – XIII – XIII 2 – XIII Lightning Returns – XIV – XV 

IV: After Years – VII: Dirge of Cerberus – VII: Crisis Core – VII: Advent Children (Movie) – XII: Revenant Wings – Type-0 – XV: A King’s Tale – XV: Brotherhood (Anime) – XV: Kingsglaive (Movie)

Misc Titles:

World of Final Fantasy – Explorers – Mystic Quest – 4 Heroes of Light 


Tactics – Tactics Advance – Tactics A2


Dissidia – Dissidia 012 – Dissidia NT

Crystal Chronicles:

Crystal Chronicles – Ring of Fates – My Life as King – My Life as Darklord – Echoes of Time – Crystal Bearers

Mobile Titles:

Dimensions – Dimensions 2 – Record Keeper – Brave Exvius – Mobius Final Fantasy  – Justice Monsters V – King’s Knight  – Dissida Final Fantasy Opera Omnia

Review: Wizardry – Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord


With the North American release of Wizardry Online only a few days away, and my playthrough of legacy Nintendo titles at an end, I recently decided to revisit one of my favorite RPG game series of all time: Wizardry.

I mentioned early on this blog that Wizardry was one of the first PC games I had ever spent any real time with. My family didn’t own a PC until I was in my early teens, so originally I played Wizardry on my friend’s old black and white Macintosh. A few years later, Wizardry  and Wizardry II were released for the NES. I spent a lot of time with the NES ports as a teen. However, the NES versions lacked one critical feature that really made these games unique: the ability to transfer characters between the games.

Many years later, a collection known as the Ultimate Wizardry Archives was released. For the first time, the first seven games in the series were bundled into one package and I was able to play through them all again (including Wizardry III and IV – which I missed the first time around).

The story of Wizardry 1 is quite simple, the evil wizard Werdna has stolen a magical amulet from the kingdom’s overlord, Trebor. Desperate to retrieve it, Trebor is recruiting any adventurers brave enough to accept the challenge. To play, you must create a variety of characters and assemble them into a party of no more than six members. Once a party is formed, they venture down into the depths of Werdna’s great underground labyrinth. The maze is filled with monsters, traps and treasure. The challenge is not to be taken lightly, one wrong move and you might find your whole team obliterated.


The PC version of Wizardry  is actually one of the most inferior versions of the game. The controls are not intuitive. They are actually a bit clunky. But, you do manage to get used to them with time. Also, on the graphics front, the PC games leave a lot to be desired. This version of Wizardry is nothing but a black screen with white wire-frame lines to represent the maze. The only color graphics in the title are used for monsters and treasure chests. It’s important to note that several enhanced versions of the game exist in Japan, but only the NES version has seen the light of day in the US. This is a shame too, as I would absolutely LOVE to experience this game with modern day visuals and ambient sounds.

To play the game these days, a DOS emulator such as DOSBox is required. Luckily, this program is available for free online and a simple Google search for “Dosbox” should bring up plenty of options.


Wizardry has the reputation for being an extremely hardcore game. The maze has no distinctive features and everything looks the same. There are traps and tricks to confuse the player, so following a map is a must. Actually, back in my day, I would map my progress on a piece of graph paper. To survive, players must be extremely patient. Progress can be slow at the beginning. Running back to town to rest after every other encounter is almost a requirement. That’s right, aside from healing spells, the only way to restore your HP is to go back to town and rest at the inn. That’s also the only way to actually level up your character. So, there is a lot of backtracking in this game.

If one of your characters does die, you have two chances to bring them back to life. If the first attempt fails, the character’s body is reduced to ash. If the next attempt fails, the character’s soul is lost forever and you must replace them. In the event that your entire party is wiped out at one time, you can send a new group of characters into the maze to retrieve the corpses. However, your new party will need to be strong enough to survive the journey.

While many aspects of the game may seem simplistic, there’s actually a lot here to digest. There are advanced classes for your characters to achieve, legendary treasures to uncover, and of course Werdna himself. Once your party has defeated the evil wizard, they are awarded with a Chevron that appears on their character profile.  ( ”   >   ”  )  – Characters that have earned this honor can still explore the maze in search of better treasure, but they can also be imported into the next scenario.

I spent countless hours with Wizardry as a kid. Despite looking crude and basic, it was one of the most mind-blowing games I had experienced. It left a huge impact that stays with me to this very day. It’s no wonder that it is still considered the Grandfather of all RPG Games.



Difficulty: Difficult – The game is certainly difficult. There’s no doubt about it. However, due to today’s technology it’s quite easy to cheat. Avoiding death is a simple as sneakily restoring a previously saved character file. But you wouldn’t do that…. would you?

Story: The storyline seems quite basic, but the observant and imaginative player can actually glean a few interesting pieces of lore from certain events that occur while exploring the maze. Admittedly, it does seem that the storyline for this scenario is quite weak and serves only the basic purpose of giving players are reason to set foot in the maze in the first place.

Originality: For many, this game was the first taste of an RPG. The first person view of the maze was something pretty new at the time. It’s obvious that the game was heavily influenced by the tabletop version of Dungeons & Dragons.

Soundtrack: The original Apple and PC version of the game has no soundtrack or sound effects (other then the occasional click or blip). The NES version of the game was the first to include music and was filled with quirky catchy tunes. The Wizardry Theme included in the NES version is legendary.

Fun: This game can still be fun today, if you have a good understanding what you’re getting into when you play it. Patience is a must, and you have to be willing to shed the skin of modern games and let yourself go back to a simpler time.

Graphics: The PC version graphics were pretty bad. Compared to the Macintosh and Apple versions of the game, the PC makes out the worst. That being said, there’s really not much that could be done at the time. This game was released during a time when PC gaming was in it’s infancy.

Playcontrol: Navigation of the maze it handled with the arrow keys. Other commands are executed either using the number keys or various hot keys. All options are displayed on the screen at all times, so you’ll never forget. It’s definitely archaic by today’s standards. Luckily, the game is not fast-paced and you have plenty of time to make your decisions and figure things out.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Despite it’s age and many of it’s shortcomings. This is a classic game and probably my favorite of the original Wizardry scenarios. This is the game that started it all. Without Wizardry, there would be no Final Fantasy or Elder Scrolls. The game hooked me a kid, and still enthralls me to this day. Unlike most games today, Wizardry gives you the foundation, your imagination takes over the rest of the way. That is something that is sorely missed these days.

Not currently available.

Other Reviews In This Series:


Forsaken Land – Labyrinth of Lost Souls – Wizardry Online

Review: Double Dragon III

Well, I’ve discussed Double Dragon and Double Dragon II in length, so why not go for a home run and share my thoughts on the third game in the series, Double Dragon III. But, before we get too deep into the discussion, let me clarify something that may not be obvious to everyone – there are technically TWO Double Dragon III’s. As fans of the series know, the first two entries were originally released as arcade titles, then ported to the NES for home use. In most cases, the arcade version proved to be technologically superior, while the NES versions usually ended up being better games – but as a general rule, the storyline and level designs were largely the same overall. That is not the case with Double Dragon III – instead they are two completely different games, each with a slightly different title, yet both of them claim to be the “official sequel”. Confused yet?

The arcade version is called “Double Dragon 3 – The Rosetta Stones“, while the NES version is titled “Double Dragon III – The Sacred Stones“. Both games share a somewhat similar story, but any similarities fall apart pretty quick once you get into the meat of the game. I’m going to go ahead and state up front that nearly anyone you could ask will unequivocally tell you that The Sacred Stones is the better version of the two – in fact, even the authors of the game stand behind this assessment. But let’s talk a little bit about why that is…

As one would expect, the arcade version offers vastly superior graphics and sound. It’s also offers three-person co-operative play. So far, everything sounds great! But there’s one feature of the arcade version that is universally panned: it includes an in-game shop that features items and buffs that can be bought with real money! That’s right, aside from the coins the player must deposit to even play the game, they can pump more quarters into the machine to unlock in-game features. The money-grabbing attempt was so blatant, that many players boycotted the game as a result. In fact, the backlash so severe, that when the game was released outside of the US, this functionality was removed.  Aside from that, game itself was largely unimaginative. By this time, beat-em-up’s were a dime a dozen and Double Dragon 3 offered nothing that allowed it to stand out in a crowd.

(Rosetta Stones – Arcade Version)


So now we come to the NES version of the game. Yes, the graphics are inferior and it doesn’t offer the 3-player option of the arcade machine, but as a whole, it manages to be an overall better game.

Like Double Dragon II, this title also offers a cooperative option. What makes this game stand apart from its predecessors, is the introduction of new playable characters. These characters are unlocked as you progress through the game’s levels. Once available, the player can switch between characters at will. Each character offers unique skills and weapons. This offers both a new level of strategy and replayability to the title.

The biggest complaint most players have with the NES version is the difficulty. Unlike all other entries in the series so far, Double Dragon III only offers one life per character. So, being killed early on in the game results in a game-over. But, if you manage to unlock one of the additional characters, even if your primary character is defeated, you can still continue one with one of your others until all characters have been eliminated.  So, even though in a way you do actually have “multiple lives”, that doesn’t change the fact that the game is hard as nails.

In the end, what we have is a very strange but compelling entry in the Double Dragon franchise. This game is an often overlooked oddity in the series.

(Sacred Stones – NES Version)

Difficulty: Hard  – As mentioned above, each character only has one life in which to complete the entire game. There are multiple characters that are unlocked as you proceed, but there’s no denying that this game is extremely punishing.

Story: The story varies slightly depending on which version you are playing… but this is actually the result of localization. In Japan, both the arcade and the NES version share the same story. (The Lee brothers must seek out and locate three sacred stones that will allow them to become the greatest fighters in the world). But for some reason, the US NES version includes another boring narrative involving a kidnapped girlfriend, who can only be located if the heroes find and claim the same “magic stones” referenced in the arcade version. Both scenarios seem a bit lame, but the official NES narrative is just unimaginative at this point.

Originality: I have to give the arcade version some points for trying to be original with their cash-shop… despite it being a terribly greedy thing to do. The NES version also gets some points for introducing new characters to the mix. Sadly, this is deflated a bit by the “done-to-death” story narrative.

Soundtrack: The quality of the chiptunes on the NES version is an improvement over the other games, but sadly the score is largely uninspired and boring. So any technological advantage is pretty much dead in the water,

Fun: I feel like this is a game that had some real potential, but it was completely squashed by it’s extremely high degree of difficulty. For many players, even veteran gamers, the difficulty level feels a little too brutal. So much so, that for many, the game is just simply not very fun to play.

Graphics: The arcade version of the game is miles over the NES version in terms of graphical power. But, putting that aside, this 8-bit game is actually an improvement over the other two NES entries in the series. This is by far the best looking Double Dragon title on the NES.

Playcontrol: By this point, the stiffness and clunkiness that plagued the original game have been refined to the point where the gameplay is fluid and smooth. Hands-down this game offers the smoothest play control of the trilogy thus far. No issues here.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – Despite offering several new features and upgrades from the previous NES version, the extreme level of difficulty and uninspired storyline give players little to hold on to. Rabid fans of the series and sadists are likely to enjoy the title, other players will probably want to give this one a pass.

Currently available on: Currently not available   *** UPDATE:   Wii U Virtual Console (NES version)    Steam (Arcade version) [as of  2015]

Other Reviews In This Series:

Canon games:   DD – DD2 DD3 – DD4

Side games:  Super DD -DD5 – DD Neon

Review: Double Dragon II – The Revenge

I recently discussed the classic arcade/NES title, Double Dragon. So, I figure I’ll go ahead and touch on some of the sequels that it spawned. The first is, of course, Double Dragon II – The Revenge.

Like the original game, DD2 was first released as an arcade title. It was later followed by a version designed specifically for the NES. As one might expect, the arcade version featured superior graphics and sound when compared to the home console version.  The storyline of both ports remains largely the same. At the beginning of Double Dragon II, Marian (the girlfriend of the game’s lead hero) is brutally murdered by the gang members. So, our hero (or heroes) set out to kick some thug-butt and avenge her death.

This time, both the NES and arcade versions feature co-operative play, this is a big plus and was no doubt included due to high demand from fans.

Arcade version of Double Dragon II 


Aside from the better graphics and sound, the arcade version of the game actually has a hard time competing with the NES release. The home version features a better narrative and redesigned levels/battles that are almost universally considered to be superior to what is found in the arcade version. This is true to the point that many fans of the series, myself included, actually consider the NES version of Double Dragon II to be the “true” version of the game.

In fact, it’s difficult to understate just how incredible of a game the home version of Double Dragon II is, especially in co-operative mode. When compared to the other games in the original trilogy, DD2 is arguably the best.

This title is a favorite with my kids. It’s actually one of the few games  that they will sit together and play as a team. That’s quite an accomplishment!

NES version of Double Dragon II


Difficulty: Variable  – The arcade version features a single level of difficulty, naturally. But the NES version does technically offer three difficulty settings. However, if you want to see the entire game, you’re required to choose Hard mode – as the final level is only available in this mode of play.   That being said, this game is generally quite a bit easier than the original Double Dragon, even in hard mode. Playing co-op with someone who is even slightly competent, lightens the load even more.

Story: This time, we’ve upped the ante from “your girlfriend is kidnapped” to “your girlfriend has been murdered – let go kick their ass!”.   Tropes galore! But, let’s be honest – who expects much in the way of storyline from these types of games.

Originality: On the arcade front, there’s honestly nothing new here. But, for home players the ability to play through the game co-op was a big deal. Even though co-operative games already existed on the NES at this point, having the ability to do so for “Double Dragon” was a godsend.

Soundtrack: The music in this title is nowhere near as good as what you’ll find in the original Double Dragon, but to be honest – few NES games boasted a soundtrack that incredible. All in all, this music is pretty decent and there are indeed a few really catchy tracks but when looking at the big picture, there’s nothing to write home about.

Fun: The game is entertaining on it’s own, but it REALLY shines in co-op mode. If you can scrounge up a friend to play the NES version with you, it makes for a really good time.

Graphics: As mentioned, the arcade version of the game featured state of the art 16-bit graphics (for it’s day), the NES version is still stuck with an 8-bit palette. But, this game does represent an improvement of the original.

Playcontrol: Double Dragon II features a much improved experience from that of the original game. This is true regardless of which version of the game you enjoy. Combos feel tighter and more precise, and the overall ease-of-use is just a better experience by far.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – The NES version of this title is the way to go. It’s a solid title and a classic in the arsenal of any NES collection. Co-op play, improved graphics and playcontrol actually give this title an edge up on it’s predecessor.

Currently available on: Wii Virtual Console (NES version)          * update –  Steam (Arcade version) [as of  2015]

Other Reviews In This Series:

Canon games:   DD – DD2 DD3 – DD4

Side games:  Super DD -DD5 – DD Neon


Review: Double Dragon


There’s always a first time for everything. For me, Double Dragon was the first time I had ever seen a “beat ’em up” game. For all I know, it may have actually been the first of its kind. I first encountered this title in an arcade and it completely blew me away.

The concept behind the game is simple. You’re a hardcore dude from the streets and you have a really smokin’ hot girlfriend. One day, some thug walks up and punches her in the stomach, throws her over his shoulder and takes off with her. Well, that rubs you the wrong way and you (and your brother – if playing in 2-player mode) decide to track him down and get her back. From that point on, it’s one big slugfest all the way to the final boss.


  Arcade Version of Double Dragon

I spent many many quarters punching and kicking thugs, but I never managed to reach the end. Then one day, I saw an amazing sight. There on the shelf of my local store was Double Dragon for the NES. I begged, pleaded and did a bunch of extra chores – and within a month’s time I had earned my reward… Only to be shocked and somewhat disappointed when I got it home. The NES version of Double Dragon, was nothing like what I had played at the arcade. It was uglier and it seemed very watered down. But, while the NES version was not as pretty as the Double Dragon I saw in that arcade cabinet, for many (including myself) this was the version of Double Dragon that we all came to know and love.

Looking back, I realize that the NES hardware was simply unable to re-create the experience of the arcade machine. The arcade version looked to be a 16-bit game. The color palette and processing power just didn’t exist in a home-based console at the time.


  NES Version of Double Dragon

By today’s standards, either version of the game is very antiquated. But at the time there was really nothing like it. As you progress through the game you can unlock new moves and fighting abilities. Many of these depend on the direction you are facing mixed with various button combos.  It’s actually quite impressive how much they were able to pack into a controller with only two buttons.

On the NES, once you reach the end of the game, you realize that your lady was actually kidnapped by your twin bother. This is a big difference in terms of storyline from the original arcade version.

While the NES version of the game does feature a standard 2-player mode, it’s not a co-operative system like the arcade version. Instead, it’s a turn-based system. Something else that was a bit of a disappoint for me. However, fear not, in lieu of co-op play, there is an option that allows two friends to engage each other in combat. Sadly, it too is a bit limited in its scope, only allowing two of the same characters to battle each other. Strangely enough, this alternate mode seems to have much better graphics and character detail than the main game.

Despite these limitations, Double Dragon is one of a kind. It spawned several sequels over the years, all of varying quality. The second game in the series is arguably better than the first, while the third is almost universally panned. A fourth and fifth game were released for the SNES, neither gaining much interest. Recently, a reboot of the series was released called Double Dragon Neon. This is a game that I’ll be talking about in great length in another post. For now, I’ll wrap this review up.


Difficulty: Difficult  – The game starts off easy, but gets tougher as you go. Aside from combating thugs, you eventually have to deal with environmental hazards as well. Everything from pits to booby traps. The stage bosses can also pack quite a punch.

Story: The main premise of “go rescue your girlfriend” has been done to death. But somehow, when put in a street thug setting, it’s somewhat forgivable. The NES version also tries to tie the appearance of repetitive adversaries into something having to do with twins… odd stuff.

Originality: For me at least, this game presented a brand new concept. I had never played a street fighting game before and this title has it all. Martial arts, weapons, what more could you want?

Soundtrack: One of the best things about this game is the music. Hands down. These tracks are awesome. The title music alone is fantastic. I would love to hear the theme played with a real rock band… and that guitar solo. Damn.  I’m sure it’s been done. In fact, I’m going to have to scour the net now to see what I can find. Definately not a disappointment here.

Fun: Overall, this game presents a really good time. Even today, it’s good way to kill an hour or two. I let my nine-year old play it and he had a blast. That’s always a good indicator

Graphics: Even for an NES title, the graphics left a little bit to be desired. Compared to the arcade version, it is garbage. But, It’s not really fair to make that comparison. That being said, Double Dragon 2 is a big step up from the original and it was also an 8-bit title. I feel that a little more time could have spent to improve the look of the game. 

Playcontrol: In my opinion here, the game suffers a bit. The play control can at times, feel a little imprecise. Messing up combo moves happens often, and a lot of the time it really feels like you nailed it right on. After a while, you do tend to get the feel for things, but it just seems harder than it should be.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – There’s a lot about the NES port of the game that was wrong. But there’s equally a lot of things about it that are done right. This is definitely a title that’s recommended for anyone who enjoys retro games, despite it’s flaws, it’s a classic. 

Currently available on: Wii Virtual Console (NES version)          * update –  Steam (Arcade version) [as of  2015]

Other Reviews In This Series:

Canon games:   DD – DD2 DD3 – DD4

Side games:  Super DD -DD5 – DD Neon


Review: Metal Gear


I have waited a long time to write this review. As a kid, one of my favorite games on the NES was the stealth-based, military themed Metal Gear. Despite it’s funky translation issues, this was one game that hooked me from day one. So much so, that I would daresay this game is what sparked my interest in other military-themed games and even films.

Metal Gear was not your typical NES game. It was not a side scrolling platformer, nor was it a fast paced action game. Instead it is a screen-by-screen overhead stealth-based title. In some respects, the play controls and style are a bit like The Legend of Zelda. Except, in this game, instead of rushing into an area headfirst with guns blazing, you want to sneak by undetected if possible.

The story of Metal Gear is actually pretty involved. But you’d never realize that by reading the game manual that came with the North American version. For some reason Konami (publishing under the name ULTRA), had a bad habit of turning many of their serious games into a comical mess during the localization process. Why the felt the need to do this, I’ll never understand. The North American instruction booklet gives goofy names to all of the villans, etc. If found it to be completely pointless and ridiculous.

In this game, you play a black-ops Special Forces agent code-named: Solid Snake. Snake is a member of a secret unit known as FOXHOUND. in the game, he is sent on a search-and-rescue mission. His goal is to free another FOXHOUND agent known as Gray Fox, who is being held in a secret military installation called “Outer Heaven” somewhere in the jungles of Africa.

Gray Fox was previously sent to infiltrate the base and determine the validity of reports regarding a superweapon known as Metal Gear. However, during his mission, Gray Fox was captured and imprisoned.


The game itself begins with Solid Snake sneaking into Outer Heaven. It’s the player’s job to try to avoid detection while collecting intelligence needed to locate Gray Fox. One really neat feature of the game is the “Transceiver”. This is essentially a radio that will sound off from time to time to give the player hints and background information. Initially, the only person you can contact on your radio is your commander, known only by his codename of “Big Boss”. However, as you progress through the game you will make contact with other team members.

Eventually, it becomes clear that the Metal Gear project is real. Metal Gear is a heavily armed walking tank, equipped with a nuclear arsenal. Thankfully, it has yet to be completed. As this information is uncovered and Snake dives deeper into the secrets of Outer Heaven, it becomes clear that he was never intended to succeed in his mission. The whole thing was a smoke screen. Despite this, Snake manages to destroy Metal Gear. But as he escapes the compound, he is confronted by none other than Big Boss. It is revealed he was the mastermind behind Outer Heaven all along. He had been using his connections to steal military intelligence, establish his own mercenary force, and fund his activities. His goal was to send a rookie in, hoping to have him captured and feed misinformation to authorities, but he underestimated Snake in the long run.

What a great story right! Sadly, if you’re playing the NES version of the game, you get a really watered down version of the above events. The translation team did an absolutely horrid job on the localization. Not to mention the various spelling errors and senseless text littered throughout the game.


  Oh.. “have” it?

In fact, the NES version of the game is in reality a very poor port of a much superior version. The original Metal Gear was actually released on an obscure home computer system known as the MSX. Thankfully, the original version of the game has recently been made available in the USA. Having played thru the NES version countless times, I decided to experience the original MSX game for the sake of this playthrough.

Several differences were immediately apparent. First of all, believe it or not, the music in the NES version seems to be vastly superior in my opinion. The Nintendo port of Metal Gear is packed with a great in-game soundtrack. While the MSX version seems really weak in comparison. But aside from the soundtrack, the MSX version is without a doubt the definitive Metal Gear experience.

In it, Snake infiltrates the compound via an underwater channel instead of parachuting into the jungle. Also, in the NES version, you never actually battle with Metal Gear itself. Instead, you have to blow up the super computer that controls it… what sense does that make? There’s certainly some very weird decisions that were made for the NES version of the game.

This puts me in a weird position. I still like the NES release for many reasons, but I have to admit that the original version is definitely the one that a new player should pay attention to.

Above: NES version of Metal Gear
Below: Original MSX version



Difficulty: Medium  – Once you have mastered the art of sneaking around and you’ve managed to earn a little gear, the game is not overly difficult. However, until you reach that point things can be pretty tough.

Story: This game features an EXCELLENT plot and it’s told very well in the original version. It’s like playing through an action-packed spy novel. Really incredible stuff.

 Originality: The whole concept of “try NOT to fight” was something completely new at the time. When playing the game, you have pay attention to which direction guards are facing. Walk in front of them, and they will see you and attack. Patience is key, you have to learn to hide behind walls, and only to move at the proper time. This was really some great innovation at the time.

Soundtrack: As I stated earlier, the NES version wins this hands down in my opinion. The MSX music is appropriate, but it doesn’t seem to be very inspiring.

Fun: It doesn’t matter how times I play this game, it’s always fun. As I said earlier, patience is key. If you intend to storm through this game “Leeroy Jenkins” style, you won’t have a very good experience.

Graphics: For the most part, both ports of the game are similar graphically. The MSX version does seem to win here. I feel that either one could have looked a little better with more effort, I’ve seen better art in 8-bit titles. But in a weird way the gritty, dirty look of the game is actually quite fitting.

Playcontrol: As far as response goes, there’s no issues at all. Sneaking around takes bit getting used to, but the game handles well.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 4 – Even though I’m officially reviewing the canonical MSX version, both games get four stars from me. Metal Gear is one of those must have games. I highly recommend it.

Currently available on:  PS3  and Xbox 360 (MSX Version is included in the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection and Legacy Collection, as a bonus game)

Other Reviews In This Series:

MGMG2MGS – MGS2 – MGS3 – Portable Ops – MGS4 – Peace Walker -MG Rising: Revengeance-  MGS5 Ground Zeros- MGS5 Phantom PainGhost Babel – Acid – Acid 2

Review: Kid Icarus


Flipping thru my retro collection, I found myself playing another classic Nintendo title, Kid Icarus. One of the quirkier first-party Nintendo titles, Kid Icarus is often compared to Metroid in the sense that it is both an up-and-down and side-to-side platformer. However, unlike Metroid, the world is not open and the player cannot progress backwards.

The storyline of Kid Icarus borrows greatly from Greek mythology, but it takes quite a few liberties. In this game, the world is ruled by two goddesses, Palutena and Medusa. As it turns out, Medusa is evil and dislikes mankind so she summons her army from the underworld and invades Palutena’s palace in the sky. Using her powers, Medusa imprisons Palutena and turns all her bodyguards into stone. The angelic residents of the palace are imprisoned in the Underworld while Medusa rules supreme.

The game begins when the young angel Pit, escapes from his prison and begins his ascent back up the heavens. His goal is to find the three sacred treasures needed to defeat Medusa and rescue Palutena.

Recently, an enhanced 3D remake was released for the Nintendo 3DS. For the purpose of this retro review, that is the version I played. As a kid, I spent countless hours with the original version of the game, so I was very curious to see what an “enhanced version” would be like. I must say, the enhancements make a huge difference. I’m not a fan of the whole 3D thing, so I usually turn it off. But the new sprites and backgrounds are a huge improvement over the original. The new version of the game saves after every level, so the old password functionality is gone (thankfully). I’ve read that the difficulty has been lowered slightly, but I don’t really see it.

Original and Remake comparison

This is one of the classics from my youth. Back in the 3rd and 4th grade, this game really sparked my interest in Greek Mythology. At the time, I remember finding the game very fascinating but also very frustrating. The game is divided into several liner stages. At the end of each world is a maze-style palace. The palaces are open, so you can revisit areas previously accessed. At the end of each palace is a boss, once the boss is defeated, Pit recovers one of the sacred treasures and can progress to the next world. Eventually, once the full arsenal is recovered, Pit equips himself and flies to the final stage to do battle with Medusa.


The content of the game is what kept me fascinated as a child. The ascetics of both the graphics and music leave a lot to be desired. (Which is really bad, because I hear that the graphics for the US release were an upgrade from the original Japanese version). On top of that, the game is frustratingly difficult. It spares no mercy, even on the first few levels.

Having completed the new version, I found it to be a nice trip down memory lane. But sadly, this is one game that has not aged well in my opinion. Recently a long-awaited sequel has been released and I look forward to playing it soon. I purchased it for my son some time ago and he thoroughly enjoyed it.



Difficulty: Very Difficult  – This is your standard 8-bit platformer. The monsters are the same every time, so with practice and memorization it gets easier. But it’s still pretty brutal. This is more true in the beginning of the game. Once you acquire several upgrades things do tend to get a bit easier. That being said, the last level of the game is pushover. It’s the grind to get there that is tough for many.

Story: The backstory is a pretty interesting mix of real life legend and fantasy concepts. Aside from what is printed in the instruction booklet, there’s very little story in the game itself. Although, this was common back in the old days 😉

Originality: While there was really nothing NEW brought to the table with Kid Icarus, it is certainly a unique game. Looking back, a lot of the game feels like various ideas all duct-taped into one cartridge. It’s flimsy, but yet it manages to hold itself together.

Soundtrack: I found the game soundtrack to be poor in quality but good in composition. With one exception.. the DAMNED REAPER TUNE. Never before in the history of gaming has their been a more annoying and yet, mocking tune composed. The funny thing is, I think that’s *exactly* what they were going for. If you’re not sure what I’m referring to, you’ve obviously never played the game. — Side note: the fortress music is classic!

Fun: If you a person that is not easily frustrated, this game can be a lot of fun. However, for many, it’s a really nice way to get pissed off in record time.

Graphics: The original version was pretty nasty looking, even by 80’s standards. The new enhanced version is a nice upgrade. It kind of brings the game up to a 16-bit color palette with very nice background rendering.

Playcontrol: Pretty spot-on as far as the controls go. As a platformer, there are many precise jumps needed; so steady hands are a must. The character of Pit is not particularly agile, so first-time players will need a little time before getting the feel for it all.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 2 – This game represents attributes of both a good and bad game. It’s hard to give such a poor score to a classic title, but in all honesty, it’s not a very good game. I have read that it was a rushed work, and it really does show in the final product. Dispute my low overall score, I do feel it’s worthy of a purchase either on the Virtual Console or the eShop.

Currently available on: Wii Virtual Console or Nintendo eShop

Other Reviews In This Series:

Kid IcarusMyths and Monsters – Uprising

Review: Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest


Back for the next installment of the Castlevania playthrough and review. As one might predict, the success of Castlevania brought a sequel. However, it is not what you might expect. Castlevania II is not merely an update to the original stage-by-stage platformer. It is something altogether different.

The game takes place 7 years after the original. In this story, we learn that during his battle with Dracula, Simon was inflicted with a curse. As the years have gone by, the curse has slowly weakened him. Through his research, Simon learns that the only way to break the curse is to gather the remains of Dracula, return them to Castlevania, where they should then be burned.


Instead of being thrust right into the action, this game is quite different then the original. Simon begins his quest in a town. Here, Simon will interaction with NPCs who often provide some insight into his quest. Some give valid clues, while others send Simon on wild goose chases. Simon must use this information to uncover the location of various haunted mansions that are scattered through the countryside. These mansions house the relics of Dracula that Simon must collect in order to complete his quest. These relics consist of: Dracula’s Rib, Heart, Fingernail, Eye, and Ring. Each relic grants a particular boon when collected. For example, the rib can be used a shield, while the fingernail increases the damage Simon can deal to his enemies.

For the most part these relics are easy enough to collect. To do so, Simon must make his way to depths of the mansion and strike a crystal ball that contains the item with an Oak Stake. In most cases, it is as simple as that. However, two of the relics are guarded by mini-bosses: Death (aka: The reaper) and Carmilla’s Mask. In reality, both of these battles are laughably easy. Defeating them also earns Simon a special item or weapon.


Aside from collecting the remains, Simon can also gather various other objects: Magic Crystals, Holy Water, Garlic, to name a few. Simon can also upgrade his whip multiple times, ending with a Whip of Flame. By the time the game is over, Simon has visited multiple towns and is geared to the gills with an arsenal of weapons and items.

One of the more unique aspects of this game is the Day/Night system. As Simon travels around the land of Transylvania, time continues to pass. The game distinguished between night and day. During the day, enemies are weaker and more sparse. But as night, they are stronger and harder to defeat.

This time around, Castlevania itself is a cinch to navigate, in fact, it is empty. There’s not a single monster in the whole castle until Simon reaches the end and sets the relics on fire. This spawns a ghostly version of Dracula, that if you let it, will fly around the room and attack Simon. However, in another example of how ridiculously easy this game is, Simon can continually toss a holy flame at Dracula, both immobilizing him and damaging him at the same time.

Once defeated, you are treated to one of three endings. In one ending, both Simon and Dracula perish in the fight. It mentions that the Belmont family will continue to hunt evil for many generations to come. In the second, Simon wins, but eventually dies from his wounds nonetheless. In the third and true ending, Simon wins and lives a long healthy life, but in classic horror movie form, the players then see Dracula’s hand erupt from the ground by his gravesite. Hinting that the Prince of Darkness will one day return.

All in all, and despite it’s faults, I love this game. It holds a lot of dear memories for me, and will always be a favorite of mine. As kids, my old buddy and I were nuts for it. We couldn’t wait for the weekend when I’d sleep over at his house so we could stay up all night and play this thing. We wanted to see all the endings and figure out what all the strange and mysterious items were for.

Despite all this, the game has some major shortcomings. The translation is just atrocious, and the game itself is way too short, and easy. You can sit down and play thing from start to finish is about two to three hours if you know what you’re doing.

The Castlevania series ends up having a pretty convoluted timeline, so to keep things understandable, I’m going to help track the games for those that might not be familiar, I will amend this list with each review:

1691: Castlevania – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula
1698: Castlevania II – Simon Belmont vs. Dracula

Difficulty: Easy –  This game is not very difficult at all. Perhaps at the very beginning there’s a bit of a challenge until Simon has grown in strength, but if you don’t go wandering too far you’ll have no real trouble. Monsters are stronger at night time, but not by a very noticeable degree. Some of the mansions feature fake floors that will plummet you to your death, etc. But their locations can be detected by tossing some holy water on the floor.

Story: I like the concept of Simon being inflicted by a curse and having to resurrect Dracula in order to break it. One might expect a simple “Dracula has returned!” plot, so this is a nice treat. Aside from that, there’s not much lore that unfolds in the game. Some of the locations are named roughly after certain areas of Romania and Transylvania, but there’s no elaboration in game.

Originality:   This is certainly not a rehash of the first game. The development team took a big risk by making the sequel radically different.

Soundtrack: The music in this game is the pinnacle of NES beeps and bloops if you ask me. Great stuff, I still hum it today whenever I think of the title. Some of the classic melodies from the Castlevania series started right here.

Fun: For me, this is great fun title. It has a more serious tone than the original in some ways. It also is a bit more atmospheric. This is probably my favorite of the 8-bit NES Castlevania games. 

Graphics: The graphics here are very different than the original. I consider them to be an improvement. There’s a lot on the screen at times, and this game will occasionally choke up. But in terms of aesthetics, I do not have any complaints. Good 8-bit artwork.

Playcontrol:  A big improvement over the original. Simon feels much more flexible and easy to control. Switching between equipment is pretty simple and painless. Everything is precise and responsive as it should be.

Overall rating (out of four stars): 3 – While this title is a favorite of mine, it received a lot of criticsim during it’s time. Many fans of the original title were turned off by the difference between the two games. I personally feel that the boss battles should have been a bit tougher than they are. Many of the puzzles in the game are bit unusual and don’t make much sense. (Thank god for Nintendo power, or many of us would still be trying to figure out what to do with the red crystal.) Regardless of these issues, I love the game.

Available now on: Wii/WiiU Virtual Console


Other Reviews In This Series:

CVCV II – CV IIICVACVA II – Super CVDracula X BloodlinesSotNCV64 – CotM ChroniclesHoDAoSLoIDoSCoDPoROoECVA RebirthJudgment 

LoS Los: Mirror of FateLoS II