Tag Archives: video game history

National Game Registry

The National Game Preservation Board selects the best video games for permanent maintenance in the United States Library of Congress National Game Registry. Only games of the highest standard are chosen. Fame and popularity are not factored into selection decisions. The NGPB maintains that many great games have been commercially unsuccessful. On the other hand, popularity and commercial success do not guarantee admission in the Registry.

*STATUS UPDATE*

The NGPB has completed its review of arcade and console video games released through approximately 1983.  The current phase involves arcade games released between approximately 1984 and 1993.  Forthcoming phases will include console games released during this period as well as home computer games released between approximately 1977 and 1993.

1962
Spacewar!
1971
Computer Space
1972
Pong
1974
Maze War
1976
Breakout
1978
Space Invaders
1979
Asteroids
Galaxian
1980
Adventure
Battlezone
Centipede
Defender
Missile Command
Moon Cresta
Pac-Man
Phoenix
Warlords
Wizard of Wor
1981
Donkey Kong
Frogger
Galaga
Ms. Pac-Man
Qix
SNAFU
Yars’ Revenge
1982
Burgertime
Dig Dug
Donkey Kong Jr.
Joust
Pitfall!
Q*bert
Robotron 2084
Shark! Shark!
Super Pac-Man
Thunder Castle
Zoo Keeper
1983
Blaster
Discs of Tron
Donkey Kong 3
I, Robot
Jr. Pac-Man
Mappy
Mario Bros.
Pac & Pal
Pitfall II: Lost Caverns
Q*bert’s Qubes
1984
Ballblazer
Gaplus
Gremlins
Marble Madness
Rescue on Fractalus!
1985
Ghosts ‘n Goblins
Rush ‘n Attack
1986
Bubbble Bobble
Fantasy Zone
Joust 2: Survival of the Fittest
1987
Contra
Double Dragon
Galaga ’88
Pac-Mania
Rainbow Islands
Super Dodge Ball
Wonder Boy in Monster Land
1988
Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Ghouls ‘ n Ghosts
NARC
The New Zealand Story
Super Contra
1989
Final Fight
Golden Axe
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

-AM- Old Computers #3: NEC PC8801

This computer never saw the light of day outside of Japan but within that repressed archipelago it was the personal computer king in the 1980s. It was used for for practical applications but also had a rather extensive gaming collection. The PC8801 and PC9801 were actually a long-running series of models updated incrementally until they basically transformed into a DOS PC by the end of the decade. The PC88’s parts and much of its software was incompatible with standard PCs, even after they switched over to Windows. I may have exaggeratingly accused Apple of slapping a different name and higher price on the same product as PC’s but that’s literally what NEC ended up doing in the waning days of their line.

But back in the early PC88 days it was unique and very successful, inspiring NEC to release a dedicated home video game console, the PC Engine (TurboGrafx-16) in 1987. That’s a nice fun fact but there is some other information that’s way more interesting to American video game nerds – Nintendo actually released games for the PC88 series! That’s right – games like Excitebike and Ice Climber were NOT NES/Famicom exclusives, they also came out for PC88. Even more interesting is that Nintendo allowed Hudson to develop alternate versions of a few MARIO GAMES for PC88. These games included Punchball Mario Bros., Mario Bros. Special, and Super Mario Bros. Special.

You can see screenshots of these games and more at this site

Don’t get too excited, though, Super Mario Bros. Special is pretty shitty but what I appreciate about it is that it shows just how delicate the formula for Super Mario Bros. really is. The running and jumping are a little different but it’s just enough for the controls to be sloppy. If the NES version had played like this it definitely would not have been a hit game. Here’s a link where you can download this game and an easy-to-use PC88 emulator to give it a shot:

link link link link

PC9801/8801 series: introduced 1982

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-AM- Old Computers Sidebar: “You Got Your Gaming Console In My Computer!” or “You Got Your Computer In My Gaming Console!” or “You Got Your Dick In My Floppy Drive!”

In ye olde days the guts and capabilities of home computers and gaming consoles weren’t that different. Actually, on several occasions one or the other was converted in some way. Examples . . .

In the early 80’s, Atari decided it needed a new console to replace the 2600 so they took their Atari 400 computer, redesigned it, and released it as the Atari 5200 Super System. Unfortunately, the dumbfucks changed the cartridge slot size so Atari 400 cartridges weren’t compatible. STUPID!

Atari tried this again in the later 80s. They took their Atari XE computer, removed the keyboard, redesigned the case, and called it the Atari XEGS game console. This time around they were smarter, as the XEGS played XE (and Atari 400) cartridges. However, the XEGS was almost COMPLETELY unnoticed.

In the early 90s, Fujitsu took their FM Towns computer, remodeled it, and released it as the FM Towns Marty, which officially has the best name for a system ever. It was also the first console to use CDs as its main medium.

Amiga did something similar with the Amiga CD32 in 1993 or so. Its guts were exactly like the Amiga and a 3rd party even released a keyboard to make it a full computer.

Finally, during the video game crash of 1983/84, Coleco discontinued the Colecovision and decided to turn it into a computer, known as the Coleco Adam, by adding a keyboard and printer. This computer was a fucking piece of shit and a disaster and BANKRUPTED Coleco. Just as a fun fact, Coleco was the company behind the Cabbage Patch Kids but the Adam lost more money than the Kids made – so Coleco died. Another fun fact, Coleco is short for Connecticut Leather Company! WTF

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related posts:

-AM- Old Computers Part 2: Microsoft (of Japan)

Since I started out with Commodore Business Machines which inarguably are gaming consoles as much as they are computers, I’ll continue in that line. In that respect I offer for your consideration: the MSX line. The MSX was the brainchild of Microsoft’s Japanese brach in an effort to create an industry standard set of specifications. Microsoft did not manufacture the computers but merely designed and developed them, allowing many 3rd party companies, notably Sony, to produce them. The line debuted in 1983 and eventually became fairly successful in Japan, Brazil and continental Europe. The US and UK were still in love with the Commodore 64 and other models and MSX never took off there.

There were 3 primary models of the MSX over the years: MSX, MSX2 and MSX Turbo R. The first 2 were well-known for their game libraries and, like Commodore 64, had cartridge slots that booted up games immediately on startup just like an NES. Many games that are typically associated with NES, such as Dragon Warrior, Final Fantasy and Castlevania were released near-simultaneously on MSX2. The system is also famous for being home to the first 2 Metal Gear games.

The MSX line faded with the beginning of the 1990s and was deceased by the mid-90s, no big loss for Microsoft, whose operating system was dominating PCs.

MSX: 1983 MSX2: 1986 MSXturboR: 1990

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-AM- Errrrrrrrrrrrrviews: Hot Diggity DOS version

All right, Tighty Whiteys, here are some old DOS games I’ve been playing lately.

Game: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Platform: DOS
Developer/Publisher: LucasFilm Games (known today as LucasArts)
Year: 1989
Also available for: Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, Fujitsu FM Towns

This is one of those LucasArts adventure games I mentioned in this blog awhile ago. This game is well-regarded in the adventure game community but not quite considered to be in the top half of LucasArts adventures, according to adventuregamers.com. I played The Secret of Monkey Island awhile ago and this game is quite similar to it, made only a year earlier. I’m still pretty unfamiliar with classic PC gaming so some elements of this game proved pretty alien to me. For instance, unless you somehow have the original manuals for these kinds of games you’re going to HAVE to use an online guide at some point. Why is that? Because back then they were so scared of piracy that certain portions had elements that require you to consult the manual to find the information to proceed.

I’m not too familiar with adventure games but this game seems pretty linear to me to be an “adventure”. In most situations, there is a specific solution required to advance without many alternatives. If you do something that’s not in the basic “script” of how events should play out, the game won’t even let you do it. For instance, if you want to do something as simple as set your whip down on a table top you’ll get a message from Indiana Jones like, “No, I don’t think I want to do that.” To actually find all the solutions on your own requires much more in the way of PROCESS OF ELIMINATION than logic or brains, which kind of sucks.

And how does the game succeed as an adaptation of the movie it’s named after? Also a mixed bag. The plot of the game follows the plot of the movie rather closely. The prologue adventure featuring a younger Indiana Jones is just an opening credits movie but when the game begins Indy is at his college in NY, then meets with Donovan, goes to Venice, visits the Castle Brunwald, heads to Berlin and finally to the temple at Iskerunde. While the plot is identical the particulars are quite different. Remember the library scene where Indy notices the big X and moves onto the next scene? In the game, the clues are much more complicated and pretty vague. Meanwhile, cool scenes like the tank battle in the desert are completely gone. The Jones boys just stroll into the temple. The other thing holding back the game as a translation of the movie is the tone: it’s just too silly. Lots of jokes, stupid gags, corny dialogue.

In spite of my criticisms, if taken on its own merits this is still a pretty decent game. The art is very attractive, the sound is decent, and some of the puzzle areas are pretty cool and actually make sense. I feel they would have been better off working with an original story instead of making this adaptation, which they eventually did with Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. The grade for this game isn’t going to be awesome, but I liked it well enough and will probably play the sequel.

Grade: B-
Conclusion: Don’t believe the hype!

Game: Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Publisher/Developer: Broderbund
Platform: DOS
Year: 1990

Ah, yes, the classic. OR IS IT?! This version is actually a graphical update of the famous game released 5 years earlier. I had the game for Commodore 64 when I was a kid and I thought it was pretty cool but maybe that’s because I was really stupid and bad at geography. If you have decent knowledge of geography the game is a cinch because there are only about 16 countries in the whole game. So you basically end up going to the same places over and over and hearing similar clues. As you keep playing the clues get SLIGHTLY harder but it’s still easy. I’m not sure how long you have to play to “beat” it or if you even can but I’ve solved about a dozen cases with no end in sight. It has its charms but it’s not very engaging.

Grade: C+
Conclusion: Curse you, childhood!

Game: Oregon Trail
Developer/Publisher: MECC
Platform: DOS
Year: 1992

Yes, that’s right, 1992, which means this sure ain’t the original version. I’m not sure if it’s just a graphical update or if there’s more to it. The original version came out in the mid-1970s and was strictly text-only but the most famous version is the Apple ][ version from the 1980s. This review applies only to the early 1990s DOS version.

I’d like to say that I think this is a great concept for a game. It’s kind of an adventure game, kind of a strategy game, and there are even action elements in the hunting sequences. I’d also like to mention that this game is PRETTY EASY, which blows my mind because I thought it was so hard when I was a moron kid. I played through the game 3 times over the last few days, each time much more quickly and easily than the last. I never died or failed. The first time I played as a doctor, which I later learned gives you the benefit of a lot of money and quick healing times for your party members. I played it somewhat conservatively until I realized I was so slow I wouldn’t get to Oregon before winter. I played as a teacher on my 2nd playthrough. The teacher only has 20% of the money the doctor has and no special skills. I played pretty conservatively and relied on hunting for food. 2 of my party members died, one with NO WARNING AT ALL. Grrrrr. Still, we eventually waddled our way into the magical Oregan valley and won. I started to realize that hunting is really the key to beating the game, at least this version. So the 3rd time I played as a teacher and bought nothing but bullets and oxen. Nothing conservative this time – we travelled at the fastest speed and ate like kings. I hunted constantly and we traded surplus food for whatever supplies we needed. I still had 2 assholes die but we made it to the end in record time and spent the rest of our lives loafing and fucking in the fertile valley. The End.

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-AM- LucasArts adventure games

In the 1980s, the adventure genre was dominated by Sierra On-Line. In 1986 they earned a competitor: LucasArts. Forget what you know about the current company that is LucasArts – there was a time when they were actually a very innovative and respected developer. Unlike Sierra, which cranked out adventure games by the dozens on a series/franchise basis, LucasArts averaged about one a year.  AdventureGamers.com maintains a “Top 20 Adventure Games” list and 8 of them are by LucasArts.  That’s pretty dominant considering they only made 15 of them.  I’m just getting into these games myself so I’m not an expert at all but here they are!

Part 1: The Labyrinth Era (1986)
LucasArts, then known as Lucasfilm Games, entered the adventure gaming market with an adaptation of the Jim Henson film, Labyrinth. In a Wizard of Oz move, the game begins strictly as a text-based game but when the main character enters the labyrinth it becomes a graphical adventure.

Part 2: The SCUMM Era (1987-1997)
This era makes up most of LucasArts’ adventuring career. SCUMM was the name of a very flexible game engine that allowed for other engines: audio, graphical, text, etc. to be inserted. LucasArts would use this engine for a decade. This era comprised a few short series and several stand-alone games.  It began with Maniac Mansion and was soon followed by Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders.  These games established the LucasArts style of using quirky characters and cheesy (bad?) humor.  Mansion was followed years later by Maniac Mansion: Day of the TentacleSam and Max Hit the Road, based on the comic of the same name by LucasArts artist Steve Purcell, continued in this vein in the early 90s.

LucasArts made more serious games, as well, starting with Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, a very well-received game that closely follows the plot of the movie.  A few years later it was followed by Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis.  An original game, Loom, used an apocalyptic, fantasy setting and used music for all of its commands.  In the mid-90s, The Dig feature a pan-planetary sci-fi adventure.  Full Throttle featured MOTORCYCLEZ.


In 1990, the company released their biggest hit and the beginning of their only long-running adventure series with The Secret of Monkey Island, followed only a year later by Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge.  Several years later, the SCUMM engine was retired with the 3rd game, The Curse of Monkey Island.


Part 3: The GrimE Era (1998-2000)
In 1998, LucasArts decided to modernize and created a brand new, 3D engine, debuting with Grim Fandango, which has gone on to become perhaps the most critically acclaimed adventure game from LucasArts.  It featured the “humor” they were best known for and dealth with themes of the AFTERLIFE.  The imagery is heavily inspired by the Mexican Day of the Dead.  The entire adventuring journey came to an end with the release of Escape From Monkey Island.  After that LucasArts began a new Sam and Max game but eventually cancelled it and fired all their employees and took a bath in Star Wars money.

Part 4: Legacy
Several LucasArts adventure developers eventually started a new company, Telltale Games. They have had surprising success, utilizing online distribution. Unfortunately, all of their games have used licenses, a couple of which are HORRIBLE licenses. For example, they have made two CSI games and have an upcoming Strongbad game in the works.  Thankfully, they’ve also worked with a genuinely cool license: Jeff Smith’s Bone.  They made games based on the first two books but have decided their current focus is on “episodic” content, which Bone is apparently not compatible with.  In other words, they’re sellouts.  Yes, I hope someone searches in Google for “Telltale are sellouts” or “Telltale Games are sellouts” so they can see this and cry over the horrid truth.  Telltale is best known for their current revival of the Sam and Max series, which is released in “episodes”.  Jeez.

LucasArts stalwart Tim Schaeffer went on to create the lauded and beloved platformer Psychonauts and he has a very cool-looking new game in the works featuring bikers and roadies, much like the LucasArts game Full Throttle.

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Brief History of Nintendo’s Development Teams

In case you didn’t know, Nintendo has been around for a long time – over 100 years. They used to make playing cards for various games of Eastern and Western original. Eventually they became a pretty big toy company. In the 1960s, they became involved in the pre-video game arcade market with lightgun-type games. Then, they started doin’ video games.

Nintendo Research & Development 1
This was the original development team at Nintendo, under the leadership of the famed Gunpei Yokoi. They were involved in both game development and hardware design. Their most famous series/creations:
Donkey Kong
Metroid
Kid Icarus
Wario Land
Wario Ware
*and*
the Game Boy!

Nintendo Research & Development 2
This group’s emphasis was on hardware. As such, they didn’t really begin developing games until the mid-90s. Their best-known “creations” are the Super Mario updates for Game Boy Advance.

Nintendo Internal Research Division
Another team primarily concerned with hardware design but they did have 2 notable series: Punch-Out and StarTropics.

Nintendo Enertainment Analysis Disivion
The big heavy-hitting team responsible for the following creations/series:
Super Mario
Legend of Zelda
Mario Kart
StarFox
Animal Crossing
Pikmin

In 2004, Nintendo EAD swallowed up the other divisions so now there is ONLY Nintendo EAD, which is divided into many different teams under various leaders.

Another first-party developer of note:
Intelligent Systems
Developers of the long-running (but only recently introduced in America) series Nintendo Wars and Fire Emblem.

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