Welcome to the Archives!

Below you will find articles, stories, and quick-facts we have written about the games of yesterday. Some pretty interesting things can be found in here, so have fun and enjoy!

The Mysterious Mario Statue

(Written in January 2018, this article shares an experience that happened in July 2017.)

It’s amazing what you can find right in your own back yard.

First and foremost, before I go any further, please note this isn’t meant to be a bragging session in any way shape or form. In fact, the only reason I am taking the time to type and share this story is to set the record straight, and to give credit where credit is due. Up to this point there has been little to no information on what is known as the four-foot tall, life size Mario statue, and what info could be found was mostly rumor and innuendo.

In the summer of last year (2017) I was browsing Craigslist on my phone and stumbled upon a rather unusual ad. The title read; Mario Nintendo Merchant Store Display Figure NIB. It looked to be made out of plastic, and depicted Mario smiling and holding his finger up in the air as if to say, “Look at me! Ima numba one!” In the photo the author used you could also see a Fox Mccloud statue of the same size. He had made a separate ad for this and had just used one picture for both. My initial reaction to seeing the Mario was, “Wow that’s really cool, and would look great as part of a Start Over Games display!”. This excitement was soon dashed however, when I saw how much he was asking for each one. Even though the Fox was a little cheaper, it was still what I thought at the time to be a little on the pricey side. I responded to his ad, and asked him if I would buy both, could he lower the price? I quickly received a response letting me know that his prices were firm and no discount would be given. Slightly frustrated I looked at the ad again, and even though I had no idea what it really was, I sent an email back saying I would buy it for the asking price.

The Zelda Cabinet: Week 7

Week 7: Finished!

Finally it was done, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. What do you think?

The Zelda Cabinet: Week 6

Week 6: The end is in sight.

We left off last week when I finished wiring the control and button panels on the cabinet. At this point there wasn’t a whole lot left to do, just make the rest of the connections, install the back door, and start installing the software I would need to bring it to life.

Before we go there though, I should get into what I chose to run the cabinet, a Raspberry Pi. I could have gone with a full-blown computer, but for what I needed, it would have been overkill. Yes it is true, I could run bigger and better games from a PC, but my arcade experience ran from the early 1980’s to the late 1990’s, and a Pi would have no problem running games from that era. And of course, it was the more cost-efficient way to go. A Raspberry Pi will run you about $40 plus whatever size Micro SD card you choose to put in it.

The Zelda Cabinet: Week 5

Week 5: Something to look at.

I was finally ready to put the cabinet together and couldn’t have been more excited.

The Zelda Cabinet: Week 4

Week 4: Starting to manifest.

In less than a week the cabinet arrived, well kind of. I should say a very big, very heavy box containing everything needed to assemble a cabinet showed up on my doorstep. Everything was unpacked and inspected. After going through it and finding it complete and undamaged, I began the assembly process.

The Zelda Cabinet: Week 3

Week 3: Practice makes perfect, or not.

At this point I felt that I had learned enough in G.I.M.P. to be able to make what I wanted. I went ahead and purchased the graphics kit which in return gave me the templates I needed to make my design. And for the design, I had landed on what I wanted to do… I asked myself, “What would it look like if Nintendo released a Zelda arcade cabinet back in the late 1980’s?”. I took inspiration from other Nintendo cabinets of the era; Donkey Kong, Super Mario, Play Choice 10, and went to work.

I used art mostly from the NES and Famicom versions of the original Legend of Zelda. The reason I say “mostly” is because I needed a few pieces that didn’t exist in the manuals. First there is the image of Gannon. His absence in the manual is something Nintendo did intentionally to create a sense of mystery in the game. He is mentioned in the manual, but no picture is found. The picture I used seemed to fit well with the Link and Zelda I used, so I went with it. I also used some fan made art for the enemies sprinkled throughout the design. This was done because the manual art for the enemies was different than what I wanted.

The lack of actual in-game images was done intentionally. This was common practice, as arcade cabinets are really nothing more than immobile salesmen, trying to sell you their product while the competition stands right next to them. If you saw what some games actually looked like, you would be less inclined to buy, even for 25 cents…

There were 2 things that I had originally wanted to do differently, but because of the shape and size of the cabinet I just couldn’t. The first would be a “How to Play” section on the control panel, but with 16 buttons and 2 joysticks on it, there just wasn’t enough room. The second was the side design. Nintendo cabinets of that time were squarer and had more surface space. Since tube monitors are no longer a thing, the bartop has more slanted sides, and less room.

The last thing worth mentioning are the colors I chose. Most of you will think of green and gold when I say Zelda, which also happens to be the colors of a certain football team. Needless to say, extra care was taken to make sure it would be recognized as a Zelda cabinet, and not a Packer cabinet.

When I finally had everything the way I wanted, (marquee, both sides, control panel, button panel, and bezel), I emailed my design to Ryan at Game Room Solutions. I received a response shortly after telling me the sides and the marquee would not work since the images were not layered. Awesome! The lesson to be learned here is that in order to print the designs the template must be removed. When I combined, or flattened all the layers, it made it impossible to this. So I went ahead and redid the three pieces, submitted them again, and this time everything was approved. At this point I had had enough graphic design for a while, and took a sigh of relief when the go ahead was given. I ordered the cabinet, and called it good for the week.

Time Spent This Week: 14 Hours (10 hours designing the graphics, 4 hours kicking myself and redesigning the graphics)

Total Time Spent: 27 Hours

The Zelda Cabinet: Week 2

Week 2: Brainstorming and getting to know G.I.M.P.

When I decided to build an arcade cabinet, I never thought I would need to learn how to use new software. I was wrong.

One of the things that really appealed to me about the Game Room Solutions kit was the ability to have custom art on it. I initially fell in love with one of their previously made kits, a cabinet made to look like a NES system. However, after thinking about it I decided I wanted to make something one of a kind.

It didn’t take long before I knew what I wanted to do. I was going to make a cabinet with The Legend of Zelda as my inspiration! A series near and dear to my heart, it seemed like the logical choice.

I then started researching how to go about designing the cabinet graphics. Game Room Solutions had a video that explained what needed to be done. In the video Photoshop was used, a program I did not have, great. I emailed Ryan the owner, and asked him what options I had. He quickly responded saying I had two options, either download a free two-week trial of Photoshop, or download a program called G.I.M.P. (GNU Image Manipulation Program) for free. Since I didn’t want to put myself on any type of clock when designing my cabinet, I chose the latter. (A quick side note here… After spending quite a bit of time with G.I.M.P. at this point, I must say I am really impressed by it. If you are looking for some image editing software, and don’t want to spend the money on Photoshop, I would definitely recommend it. (www.gimp.org))

So I pretty much spent the entire week learning how to use G.I.M.P. and gathering images I thought I would use for the cabinet. Sounds boring, but I actually had a lot of fun with it. Unfortunately, I would not receive the actual templates for the cabinet graphics until I purchased them, so everything I was doing was just practice. At this point I still didn’t know what the cabinet was going to look like, but the more I used G.I.M.P., and the more images I found, the clearer the picture was becoming.

Time Spent This Week: 8 Hours (6 hours learning to use G.I.M.P., 2 hours searching for Zelda images on the Google machine)

Total Time Spent: 13 Hours

The Zelda Cabinet: Week 1

(This article was written over the summer of 2016 and was shared on a weekly basis on our Facebook page. It follows the process of designing and building a bartop arcade cabinet from scratch. Enjoy!)

Summer is finally here, and while I have not felt the feeling of boredom in quite some time, lately I’ve been thinking about how I used to pass the time on summer vacation when I was little.

The first thing that comes to mind was frequent trips to Blockbuster Video and Dean’s Game World. For a few bucks you could roll the dice, rent a game, and hope it was fun and not unbearably difficult. And if it wasn’t very good, well a different one was only a couple days away. Although I have many fond memories of doing this, it isn’t what I’ve been missing.

There was another part of my summer vacation that involved video games. It required me to go somewhere that was filled with bright lights and loud noises, and didn’t require a headset or an internet connection for social interaction. It was a magical place that guaranteed you happiness as long as you had a quarter in your pocket. Of course, I’m talking about an arcade. (Come to think of it, I guess I could have been describing a laundromat too…)

Growing up they were everywhere. Malls, restaurants, movie theatres, even most bars had a couple of arcade games. For the most part though, they have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Sure, they still exist in some form, but swiping your pre-paid card and paying two dollars to play a giant Candy Crush game for two minutes at Dave and Buster’s just doesn’t feel quite the same. It’s hard to explain, but there was just something about early 1990’s arcades that can’t be created today.

The bottom line is I miss the feelings and experiences that I had from old arcades, and I am going to try and do something about it. So my project for this summer will be to build an arcade cabinet. I have never done anything like this before, so it is sure be interesting. I plan on providing weekly updates here on the page in hopes that you will find my adventure both educational and interesting. At the very least it will break up the monotony of the games and systems for sale on the feed. If you have any questions as I go, feel free to ask.

So as some plumber once said... “LET’S-A-GO!”

Retro Bits: The Legend of Zelda

(Published on November 22nd 2016)

Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the Legend of Zelda, grew up in a small town in Japan. His family didn't own a TV, so he spent most of his days exploring the countryside. One day he stumbled upon a miniature cave system. This would lead to the inspiration to create the game many years later. Just think if Miyamoto's parents had owned a TV we may have never gotten the Legend of Zelda series.

Both the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers were being created at the same time. Anytime a new element to one of the games were being considered, Miyamoto decided whether or not it was more of a Zelda element or a Mario element. This lead to some things ending up in both games. In Zelda, the enemy known as Manhandla is a four-headed piranha plant which look almost identical to the Mario plants.

Originally, you started the game with the sword. However, during focus testing too many people complained that the game was too difficult and that they had no idea where to go or what to do. Miyamoto decided to make the more difficult rather than easier, and one of the changes was to start the player weaponless and make them find the sword. The thinking behind this was to make the gameplay more communication based, and in the pre-Internet world, this meant comparing notes and sharing secrets with friends. Anyone who grew up in the '80s knows that the Legend of Zelda was one of the most talked about games on the school playground.

The game was originally titled the Hyrule Fantasy in Japan, with the Legend of Zelda serving as the subtitle. When the game was ported to North America the Hyrule Fantasy was dropped and the Legend of Zelda became the title. This lead to the Hyrule Fantasy name being phased out quickly in Japan as well.

The game originally started out as a dungeon building sim. The Legend of Zelda started on the Famicom Disk System, which featured rewritable floppy disks. To take advantage of this feature, some early versions of the game allowed players to design and share their own dungeons. Eventually this feature was dropped.

After you defeat the game, you unlock a second quest. This is actually pretty well known, as well as the fact that you can go straight to the second quest by entering Zelda as your name. However, what's not as well-known is the only reason the second quest exists is due to a programming mistake. It turns out that once the game was almost finished the developers realized it only used about half of the data they thought it would. It was Nintendo's policy to use as much of the available cartridge capacity as they could, so they decided to double the length of the game to use up that storage space.

In Case You Missed It: Pols Voice (The Legend of Zelda, 1986)

(Published on November 20th 2016)

The Legend of Zelda manual lists out some of the enemies Link faces on his journey. One of them is Pols Voice, where it says he's a ghost with big ears. It also mentions he has a weak point, loud noises. If this sounds odd to you, it's because the second controller on the Famicom in Japan has a microphone. In the Famicom version you can kill Pols Voice by yelling into the microphone. Even though we didn't get a microphone in the US, they still mention the loud noises in the manual.

In Case You Missed It: Boo Diddly (Super Mario Bros. 3, 1988)

(Published October 17th 2016)

Happy Halloween everyone! Mario has to deal with some ghostly enemies, and we're looking back at one of the most iconic, Boo. First debuting in Super Mario Bros. 3, Boo was referred to as Boo Diddly, which you can see in the picture from the manual. It's definitely a pun on the name of the late rock and roll star Bo Diddley, or maybe he's a long lost relative? Either way, in his next appearance in Super Mario World his last name was dropped and now just goes by Boo.

Retro Bits: Super Castlevania IV

(Published on October 3rd 2016)

Super Castlevania IV is actually considered a “soft” remake of the original. Better controls and new features were added to make the game less frustrating and more enjoyable to play.

The dancing ghosts that Simon fights at the end of stage 6 are named Paula Abghoul and Fred Askare. These names are a parody of Paula Abdul and Fred Astaire who are both known for their dancing skills.

Some of the things that were changed from the Japanese version of the game include topless statues, rivers of blood, a picture of Jesus Christ on the password screen, and a cross on Dracula’s tombstone.

And speaking of Dracula’s tombstone, in the Japanese version of the game the word “Dracura” can be seen on it. This is thought to be a translation error, or perhaps just a case of some good old Nintendo “Engrish”.

Konami did not allow the people who made Super Castlevania IV to use their real names in the credits of the game, meaning all end-credit names are fictional.

According to the game’s story, it takes place in the year 1691. It also mentions that the Belmonts (a clan of vampire fighters), fight Dracula every 100 years. Super Castlevania IV was the 4th game in the series and released in 1991, exactly 400 years from the story…

If you would like to see and learn more about Super Castlevania IV check out our YouTube channel for a full play through:


In Case You Missed It: The Naboo Starfighter (Star Wars Rogue Squadron 1998)

(Published on September 19th 2016)

By entering a series of cheat codes within the game, the player can unlock a ship called the Naboo Starfighter. What is interesting about this particular ship is that it had never been seen in the Star Wars universe until Star Wars: Episode One was released in theatres on May 19th, 1999. Star Wars Rogue Squadron was released for the Nintendo 64 on December 3rd 1998, predating the movie by five months…

Retro Bits: Tecmo Super Bowl

(Published on September 5th 2016)

Tecmo Super Bowl had eleven players on each side, which is regulation. Tecmo Bowl only had nine on each side.

Three quarterbacks were not part of the NFL Players Association during the production of the game, so their names were omitted. However, they are included in the game under generic names. Randall Cunningham is listed as QB Eagles, Jim Kelly as QB Bills and Bernie Kosar as QB Browns. Even though they have generic names, the game designers used their real-life stats and abilities.

On a similar note, Eric Dickerson was in Tecmo Bowl, however, he had an issue with the NFL Players’ Association about not receiving enough money for his likeness in the game. As a result, he was left out of Tecmo Super Bowl. Unlike the three quarterbacks, he was left out entirely, and not given a generic name.

Many believe that there was a programming error in assigning stats for defensive back Lonnie Young, reversing his abilities. As a result, he’s actually the fastest player in the game.

During the game intro prior to the title screen, press down seven times on controller one. After doing this, you can hold select and press A to pause the game or hold B to slow the game down.

Hold B and press left on the title screen to get to Sound Mode.

Originally released in 1991, this year marks the game’s 25th anniversary and it’s still one of the most popular sports games of all time. Players have hacked the Tecmo Super Bowl ROM and release a new version yearly with all 32 modern teams and players. Tecmo Super Bowl tournaments are held all over the country.

Sega's Little Blue Charm

(Posted on August 29th 2016, this article covers the creation of Sonic the Hedgehog.)

Ask anyone who the most recognizable video game character of all-time is, and nine times out of ten Mario’s name will come up. Nintendo’s red and blue plumber rose to the top during the late 1980s and to this day has never been dethroned. Over the years Mario would face plenty of competition though, and one of his biggest battles for iconic supremacy took place against a blue hedgehog created by Nintendo’s biggest rival, Sega.

In 1989 Sega chose to release their third home console, the Sega Genesis. It had released one year earlier in Japan, stuttering at its launch due to Super Mario Bros. 3 being released at the same time. And even with positive coverage and reviews, it was not able to overtake Nintendo’s Famicom as the number one Japanese console. Sega would then set its sights on the American market with hopes of stronger sales. When the Genesis hit U.S. shores it was given a specific marketing campaign that would target the Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega’s biggest competitor. The campaign focused mostly on what the NES wasn’t. Commercials and ads often made note of how the Genesis was a 16-bit system while the NES was only 8-bit. They were also quick to mention how the Genesis contained “Blast Processing” which supposedly made it run better and smoother. (The jury is still out on that…) This was also when the phrase “Genesis does what Nintendon’t” would come to light. One of the most interesting parts of Sega’s Marketing campaign was how they named their games. Knowing that Nintendo had the most well-known games and characters in the United States, Sega chose to give their games names that Americans would recognize, like Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, and Joe Montana Football. Despite all of this, it still wasn’t enough to get Nintendo off the top spot.

Sonic the Hedgehog was created for two reasons, to give Sega a recognizable figure and to compete with Mario. Up to that point the closest thing Sega had to a mascot was Alex Kidd, a character that looked like he was crossed between a human and a monkey. It wasn’t Alex Kidd’s look that made Sega question his ability as a mascot though, but rather his lack of charisma when compared to Nintendo’s Mario. To defeat Mario, Sega knew they would have to create something that had never been done in the world of video gaming before, and set out to do it.

In Case You Missed It: Mario’s 50 Block Sprint (Mario Mania Player’s Guide 1991)

(Published on August 22nd 2016)

This page shows how fast Mario could sprint in all of his different games. What’s interesting is that his slowest time, besides the frog suit, is from Super Mario Bros. 2. This more than likely is due to the fact that Super Mario 2 was originally a completely different game called Doki Doki Panic. In said game, the characters did not have the ability to sprint.

Retro Bits: Pokémon

(Published on August 8th 2016)

Pokémon means “pocket monster” Japan.

The concept of Pokémon came from the creator’s childhood fascination of collecting bugs.

The Pokémon Koffing and Weezing were originally supposed to be names Ny and La because of the smog that New York and Los Angeles are known for.

When the Pokémon cartoon was first being planned, Ash was going to be given a Clefairy instead of a Pikachu. If this had happened it would have made a Clefairy the official Pokémon mascot.

Speaking of the Pokémon cartoon, Ash never actually caught them all.

There were only 151 Pokémon in the original Game Boy games. Today there are over 700.

The Pokémon Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee are named after Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee.

Due to a programing error in the original Pokémon games, it is possible for the player to trigger a Pokémon named MissingNo, which stands for Missing Number. This glitch occurs when the game tries to pull non-existent data.

Satoshi Tajiri is the creator of the Pokémon franchise, and responsible for one of the most popular video games series in the last 20 years. He is a billionaire five times over. Satoshi is also autistic. Moral of the story? Don’t let anything stand in your way, ever.

Nintendo’s Beginnings Part 2: From Japan to Your Living Room

(Published on August 1st 2016, this is a continuation, covering Nintendo’s history)

Welcome back! When we left off last time, Nintendo had just decided to break into the arcade market, dominate it, and make a name for themselves in video gaming. Though it would soon be time for their next move, a move that would prove to be more successful than all their other ventures combined.

Enter the Nintendo Family Computer, or Famicom for short. It would be Nintendo’s first entry into the home video game market and was released in Japan in 1983. Nintendo’s goal was to create a system that would appeal to someone who wanted both a video game system and a home computer, with more emphasis put on the latter. They designed an 8-bit system (it was actually supposed to be 16-bit) that included both a keyboard and disk drive but at release time, customers received something else.

Nintendo ended up shipping units that included just the system and two controllers, with the console including a few differences that were not in the original design. It was given an expansion port on the front of the console, which was used mostly for third party controllers and the light gun. The system also featured a lever in the top-middle of the system to help eject games (Nintendo would later admit the lever was completely unnecessary and was just put on the system to entertain children). Additionally, the Famicom used a 60-pin connector for its games, unlike the infamous 72-pin connector we would receive in the United States. Finally, the average size of a Famicom game was around 350 KB. (No, that’s not a typo and yes, it’s okay to laugh.)

In Case You Missed It: Solid Snake Looks Like Who? (Metal Gear 1987)

(Published on July 25th 2016)

Over the years American Sci-Fi movies have influenced many games from Japan. Not sure if this was an intentional tribute to the movie Terminator, but it would certainly would appear that Solid Snake and Kyle Reese are one in the same…

Retro Bits: Goldeneye

(Published on July 11th 2016)

Due to the success of Donkey Kong Country it was suggested that Goldeneye should be a 2D side-scrolling game to be made for the super Nintendo.

The developers originally wanted the player to remove and reinsert the Rumble Pak into the N64 controller to reload guns in the game. Nintendo wouldn’t allow it.

Eight million units of Goldeneye were sold worldwide. It was the third bestselling N64 game behind Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64.

The intention during the first few months of development was to make the game an on-rail shooter similar to Virtua Cop. This was obviously scrapped, but Virtua Cop still influenced the final version of the game.

Rare did not receive a final version of the Nintendo 64 developer kits from Nintendo. This caused them to use a modified Sega Saturn controller to develop and test Goldeneye in hopes that when the N64 was released, Goldeneye would play without issue.

Windows in the game were designed so that the enemies could not see through them while the player could. This was done to encourage the player to spy on enemies and use stealthier tactics.

In addition to the N64 game, a Goldeneye racing game was in development for the Virtual Boy but was canceled before release.

Towards the end of Goldeneye’s development, Shigeru Miyamoto sent a fax to Rare suggesting that the game had too much killing and was too tragic. Miyamoto’s suggestion was to have James Bond shake the hands of all his enemies while in a hospital at the end of the game.

Nintendo’s Beginnings Part 1: Cards, Love Hotels, and Video Games

(Posted on July 5th 2016, this two-part article covers a brief history of Nintendo.)

I wanted to take the time over the next two Retro Write-Ups to focus on Nintendo’s early days as a company, and to give a short overview of the first systems they released in Japan. So if you kindly would, let’s hop in Bill and Ted’s Phone Booth, or the DeLorean if you prefer, and take a trip to 1889…

That’s right, Nintendo, (which roughly translated from Japanese means “leave luck to heaven”), was formed way back on September 23rd 1889. Its product of choice? Playing cards! It still makes them to this day, and they are some of the coolest looking cards you will ever see. But by the early 1960’s Nintendo was looking to expand. This caused them to venture into several “niche” type businesses which included a cab company, a tv network, a food company, and my personal favorite, a love hotel chain. And by the way, a love hotel is pretty much what it sounds like. None of these ventures really took off for Nintendo, but luckily for them the 1970’s were on the way.

The 1970’s would be the decade in which the world would be introduced to video games. Called simply a fad by some, the popularity of both arcade and home video games had grown so much that even a playing card company from Japan couldn’t help but take notice. Nintendo had found their next venture, and this time it had nothing to do with love hotels.

Eager to get into the profitable video game market, Nintendo began designing arcade games. One of its first releases was a game called Radar Scope, which was built in a red arcade cabinet, (take a note of that). It was a game designed to be a knock off of already popular arcade games like Space Invaders and Galaxian. It was a huge flop for Nintendo, who had manufactured 2000 cabinets of it. To minimize loss and to keep from manufacturing another 2000 arcade cabinets, an idea was hatched to make a new game, that would use the same hardware specs as Radar Scope. With all of the company’s top game designers busy with their own projects, Nintendo launched an internal competition to come up with a new game that could be put in the Radar Scope Cabinets.

In Case You Missed It: The Mysterious Sunken Ship (Super Mario World 1991)

(Published on June 27th 2016)

Included in the manual for the game is a small map of Yoshi’s Island, the area where Super Mario World takes place. Towards the middle of the map a wrecked, half sunken ship can be seen. The manual confirms that this ship is actually one of Bowser’s Air Ships from Super Mario 3. If this really is the case, it conflicts with what Miyamoto said just last year, in which Super Mario 3 was actually a play. But that is an “In Case You Missed It” for a different day…

Retro Bits: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 4: Turtles in Time

(Published on June 13th 2016)

In the arcade version of the game, Splinter is actually mean to the Turtles. If the player sits idle for long enough, he will pop up on the screen telling you to move along. If the player continues to not move, he drops a bomb that kills them. This was believed to be done to prevent people from stumbling across a game with credits already in it.

One of the levels in the game is called Neon Night-Riders. This takes place in New York in the year 2020, which is now only four years away. And we still don’t have hover boards.

The level Return of the Technodrome was a stage made exclusively for the SNES version of the game.

And speaking of exclusive, Bebop, Rocksteady and the Rat King were exclusive to SNES as well. This is odd since Rocksteady and Bebop were very popular characters in the series.

The Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 technology was taken advantage of during a battle with Shredder, were his robotic suit is in the forefront of the screen.

The attract mode in the arcade game uses the song “Pizza Power”, which was taken from the TMNT live concert known as Coming Out of Their Shells Tour.

The game's true ending can only be seen by beating the game on normal difficulty or above!

A Sense of Accomplishment

(Published on June 6th 2016, this article asks; Is making games easier a good thing?)

Something I remember from when I was young, that pertains to video games, was a conversation I had with one of my grandma’s friends. I couldn’t have been more than 10 years old at the time and was completely enthralled in my Gameboy when she asked me a question, “Don’t you just love how hard video games are and what they teach you?”

I responded like the 10-year-old smart-ass that I was and told her, “Yeah, they teach you how to use cheat codes.” She chuckled at me and then went on to explain how video games teach people persistence and problem-solving skills all while giving a sense of accomplishment. At the time I really didn’t really give it much thought, but as of late I keep going back to what she told me. She was right.

I was fortunate enough to start what would be a lifetime of gaming in the mid 1980’s. For those of you who weren’t aware, this was a point in which video gaming was changing. Generally speaking, most video games released before 1985 were what I call “point games”. Games like Centipede, Pac-man and Donkey Kong all focused on how many points the player could accumulate. About the time I started gaming the technology used in video games had advanced enough that developers could make games longer and incorporate a story into them.

I don’t mean to take anything away from “point games”. Actually, the older I get and the more my free time comes at a premium, the more appreciation I have for them. Although those games are difficult in their own way, when I think of hard games I think of story driven games.

So what made them hard? Well for starters most didn’t have a battery back-up or password system. And even if they did, what little kid wants to write down a 24-character password, with both upper and lower-case letters and also numbers including “0”? (I’m looking at you, Metroid.) In most cases, you found yourself playing the game from the beginning every time and to make things worse, most games gave you a limited amount of lives and/or continues.

There was also very little support for the games back then. Yes, it’s true we had the game manuals. That lasted about 3 days before they were lost. And we had the Nintendo help line, which charged you every time you called and was usually followed up by your parents yelling at you for racking up the phone bill. In most cases we had to figure them out ourselves.

In Case You Missed It: Uncle Steve’s Letter (StarTropics 1990)

(Published May 30th 2016)

Stapled with the game’s manual was this letter which was needed to progress in the game. At a certain point in the game, the main character (Mike) is asked to use a code that is hidden in the letter which he received from his uncle. The player (in real life) needs to submerge the letter in water, revealing the code, and essentially turning it to pulp. This made progressing through the game rather difficult for kids who rented it.

Retro Bits: Super Mario World

(Published on May 16th 2016)

The rhino-like mini bosses faced at the end of the fortress stages are called Reznors in the US version of the game. They are named after Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. This follows the same format of the Koopalings, all being named after famous musicians.

The game’s ending shows Mario wearing red shoes, while Luigi is wearing green. However, both brothers wore brown shoes during the rest of the game.

The 2 ammunition type enemies in Super Mario World are named Bullet Bill and Torpedo Ted. In Japan they were simply called “Killer” and “Torpedo”. Since they were named Bill and Ted for the US version, it is believed this may be a tribute to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Party on dudes!

The symbol shown on top of the “Special World” is actually the symbol for the Super Famicom, Japan’s version of the SNES.

Waiting in the “Special World” for a few seconds will actually trigger a remixed version of the Super Mario Theme to Play!

The shape on Yoshi’s mailbox is the symbol for the Japanese Postal Service.

In the Japanese version of the game, Yoshi can eat the dolphins. This was changed for all other versions of the game. The thinking behind it was Nintendo may have been worried about cultural differences, or just wanted to make the level easier since you can use the dolphins as platforms.

The forest in Super Mario World is called the Forest of Illusion, while The Legend of Zelda’s forest is called the Lost Woods. In the Japan though, both are called “Mayoi no Mori” (Lost Forest). Since the standard exits loop you in a circle, it shares a similarity with Zelda returning you to the beginning of the forest.

Early screenshots of the game contained Mario wearing the raccoon suit. This would eventually be dropped and replaced with the cape.

The Rise and Fall of the Golden Seal

(Published on May 9th 2016, we take a look at how Nintendo’s Seal of Quality has changed over the years.)

Dubbed as one of the most important innovations in video gaming history, the Nintendo Seal of Quality helped reassure people that the days of buying low standard junk games were over. The seal was one of Nintendo’s many quality control measures, and although still used today, it was never more meaningful than it was in the mid to late 1980s.

If you have taken the time to read some of other Retro Write-ups, you may have heard me mention how Nintendo was scared to enter the U.S. market because of the Video Game Crash of 1983. Though I don’t mean to beat a dead horse here, it needs to be noted that this is where the seed for the Seal of Quality came from. In short, poor quality games were partly responsible for the Crash, and Nintendo wanted something to show people that that wasn’t the case anymore.

Nintendo created the Seal of Quality to show customers that any game that had the seal stamped on it, had met their standards, and in return was a quality game. This meant that Nintendo had to test and play every game that was made for the NES. If the game was found to meet Nintendo’s standards, it earned the seal, and was allowed to be released on their system.

In Case You Missed It: Cranky Kong (Donkey Kong Country 1994)

(Published on May 2nd 2016)

In the manual for Donkey Kong Country, it states that Cranky Kong is actually the original Donkey Kong. So does that make the Donkey Kong Jr. the main star of Donkey Kong Country?

Retro Bits: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

(Published on April 18th 2016)

In Europe, the word “ninja” was considered to be too violent, thus the name of the game was changed to Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles. This would also include any other products from the franchise.

The box art from the game shows all 4 turtles wearing red masks on their faces. This was taken from the comic books where they did not have colors to distinguish them because the comics were printed in black and white.

Oddly enough the NES/Famicom version of the game was the first TMNT product to be released in Japan. It was called Legend of the Radical Ninja Turtles.

TMNT was the 7th bestselling game on the NES with over 4 million copies sold. This may be because of the popularity of the series though, as it was received poorly due to its difficulty.

The Ultra Loophole

(Published on April 11th 2016, this article tells the tale of how Konami got past one of Nintendo’s policies.)

There’s a good chance that if you’ve held a NES controller (or Gameboy) in your hands on more than one occasion, you have played a game published by a company called Ultra Games. Responsible for such games as Metal Gear, Skate or Die!, and 2 of the 4 NES Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles games, Ultra Games only managed to survive from 1988 to 1992. So how could a company that had the 7th bestselling game on the NES, (TMNT with 4 million copies sold), only last for 4 years? The answer may not be what you would expect.

Our story begins with Nintendo, as they often tend to do. Not the Nintendo we know today though, but rather a company that was just breaking into the home video game market, who was taking every precaution necessary to make sure they succeeded. And in this case, a precaution that haunts them to this day.

The precaution I’m typing about here is the quality of video games. Part of the reason behind the video game crash of 1983 was the fact that many of the games being released were not very good. The reason for this was because many of the companies making the games were in a quantity over quality mode. This means that they believed that they could generate more revenue by having more titles available, rather than having fewer games that were made well. Nintendo was wise to this, and decided to do things differently on their home console.

Nintendo came up with a policy to help ensure that quality games would be released on the NES. This policy stated that any 3rd party publisher, (basically every publisher except Nintendo themselves), would only be allowed to release 5 titles on the NES per year. Ha!

In Case You Missed It: Birdo (Super Mario Bros. 2 1988)

(Published April 4th 2016)

Here we have 2 different versions of the Mario 2 manual. One has the names for Birdo and Ostro switched, while both clearly state that Birdo is actually a boy pretending to be a girl!

Retro Bits: Contra

(Published on March 21st 2016)

In Germany, Contra was released under the name Probotector. This was due their strict laws that limited the access of violent video games to children. The characters were changed from humans to robots, while the enemies were given a more “robotic” look.

Contra was not the 1st game to us the famous Konomi Code. The Up, Up, Down, Down… code that granted you 30 lives in the game made its first appearance in the game called Gradius. However, since Contra was a bigger success, it is usually associated with it.

Does that guy on the cover look familiar? It would certainly appear that the likeness of Arnold Schwarzenegger was used on the cover of the game. Specifically, a likeness from the movie Predator, which oddly enough also dealt with aliens.

And speaking of aliens, in addition to many of the of enemies resembling the creature from James Cameron’s movie, the game is also tied to it in another way. It has been said that the two main characters’ names, Bill Rizer and Lance Bean are actually taken from the actors of the movie. Bill Rizer is a combination of Bill Paxton and Paul Reiser, while Lance Bean came from Lance Henriksen and Michael Biehn.

In the arcade version, level 2 was a little different. It contained a map and time limit, and gave the player the choice of which direction to go. This made it more of a maze, versus the straight forward level that the NES received.

The Black Box Truth

(Published on March 14th 2016, this story shows how Nintendo didn’t want to pretend to be something they weren’t.)

On October 18th, 1985 the Nintendo Entertainment System launched in the United States. It brought with it 17 launch titles that covered just about every genre a gamer could want. These titles, and an additional 13 released over the next couple of years, were all published by Nintendo, and all contained a similar look.

The 30 titles would later be known as Nintendo’s “Black Box Games.” This was due to the fact, (you guessed it), that they all came in black boxes. In addition to the boxes, Nintendo also went ahead and made the manuals and game labels black as well. It's because black is always in style, am I right?

So let's ask the question, why did Nintendo do that?

While it's not an uncommon thing to see launch titles share similarities, Nintendo had a specific reason for doing this for the U.S. release of the NES. If one was to look at the picture provided, he or she would see that the Nintendo games all have the same type of picture printed on them. These pictures all appear to be a zoomed in part of a screenshot, taken right from gameplay itself. When we see the pixelated images today it more than likely brings back some nostalgia, and gives us that warm fuzzy feeling inside. However, Nintendo wasn’t going for that back in 1985.

To help see the point I’m going to make, let’s take a quick look at the art on the Atari games in the picture.

Retro Bits: Pacman

(Published on February 15th 2016)

Wish you could play some Pac-Man? You can, just google it!

Originally called Puck-Man in Japan, his name was changed by the time he made it to the United States. They decided that “Puck” sounded a lot like that certain 4-letter word that we all should never use, and would get us grounded as kids.

All four ghosts are actually programmed to act differently in the game. Known as Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde, their real names are actually Shadow, Speedy, Bashful, Pokey. Shadow was programmed to always chase Pac-Man, while Speedy and Bashful would try to position themselves in front of him. And as for Pokey? He would chase Pac-Man most of the time, but would move to the lower left corner of the screen if he got too close to him.

The Atari 2600 version was first time the enemies were called ghosts. Technical limitations of the Atari hardware caused them to flicker like ghosts on the screen, and the name stuck.

Although Pac-Man was designed to never end as long as the player had lives remaining, the highest level anyone can get to is 255. A game breaking bug causes half of the level to go crazy and does not allow the player to collect all the pellets.

If you were to google an image of Pac-Man, it would actually be a larger file size than the entire original game!

Retro Bits: Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!!

(Published on January 18th 2016)

There is a hidden 4th circuit in the game. By using code 135 792 4680, holding the SELECT button, and pressing A and B together at the same time, you can unlock “Another World Circuit.” In said circuit the order in which you fight your opponents has changed, and once you lose, the game is over.

Soda Popinski had a different name in the arcade version. Originally called Vodka Drunkenski, Nintendo decided to change and gear his name towards their younger audience. His catch phrases between rounds remained the same however.

By entering Nintendo’s customer service number (800 422 2602) as a password, you will set off a busy signal. This goes along with Doc Louis shamelessly promoting Nintendo Power Magazine between rounds in the game.

Tyson was only paid $50,000 for his use in the game. He was contacted by Nintendo early in his career, before he was a champion fighter. Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa had attended a Mike Tyson bout, in which he was so impressed by Kid Dynamite, he chose to offer him a contract for his name and likeness.

In order to get the timing right to knock Bald Bull down while he’s charging, look for the camera flash in the crowd.

The Famicom's American Makeover

(Our first article! Published on January 11th 2016, we cover the changes Nintendo made to the NES before shipping it to the United States.)

Hello there! One of the many things I wanted to achieve when creating Start Over Games was to make sure that it would be more than just another business based strictly on the buy-sell-trade aspect of retro gaming. I want it to be something that will help people find nostalgia, rekindle old video gaming memories, and help them learn more about the games and systems we all enjoy.

In my personal experience I’ve found that besides actually playing games, nostalgia and memories can best be revived through story and discussion.

Now with that said, we would like to start rolling out a few different types of articles that we feel should help with these things. The first of these being “Retro Write-Ups”. They are designed to be short, cover a wide variety of subject matter, and contain plenty of interesting information. (Some of which may be considered pretty common knowledge and some that you hopefully have never heard before.)

We encourage anyone who takes the time to read them to share, comment, ask questions, and click the like button. Doing so will let us know we’re not wasting our time with this.

Finally, we need to ask a few additional things of you. First, please take these articles solely for the purpose of what they were written for, entertainment. We do not know everything there is to know about retro games, nor do we claim to. Some information in these articles should be considered opinion and not be taken as fact. Second, please be constructive with comments. If you have something to add that pertains to the subject, please share it. Lastly, please be polite and considerate of others with any comments you leave. Everyone who visits this page shares an interest in video gaming, but please remember we are all at different levels when it comes to knowledge about them. The last thing we ever want to see is someone scared to ask a question for fear of being ridiculed.

Rant over, enjoy the write-up! -Rob