Retro/Classic Feed

The Many Faces Of Sonic The Hedgehog

Sonic the HedgehogThe original Sonic the Hedgehog for the Sega Genesis has to be one of the most ported games of all time alongside arcade hits like Pac-Man.  For what was meant at one time to be a console exclusive, Sega has sent Sonic out to as many devices as it can.  Over at Fanbyte, De'Angelo Epps has chronicled many of those ports (the list stops short of appearances over the last decade; the article is dated December 1969 so I do not know when it was written) and denotes the little technical details that make them all different in their own unique way.  There's versions without sound effects, versions split into multiple parts, versions with broken physics... something for everyone!  Here's a bit on the Mega Play Arcade version (which is also now available on Nintendo Switch):

I bet a lot of you had no clue that Sonic the Hedgehog appeared in arcades. Well, back in 1991, Sega developed an arcade board capable of running Genesis/Mega Drive games in an odd attempt to bring the home console experience to arcades. Of course, Sega’s mascot had to make an appearance on such an artifact.

Mega Play Arcade Sonic the Hedgehog is just about the same exact game as its home console father. Besides the removing the continue system in favor of credits, the biggest change was the complete omission of Marble Zone and Special Stages, along with the removal of Act 3 from Labyrinth and Scrap Brain Zone’s . Funnily enough, these stages are some of the least-liked portions of the original game. Depending on how much of a purist you are, this might be the best version of Sonic the Hedgehog yet!

Notably missing from the list is Sonic's inclusion in the Sony PlayStation 3 version of Sonic Generations where the game is a bonus unlockable, Sonic Classic Collection for the Nintendo DS which takes a common ROM file and corrupts it just enough to work in the DS's weird little Genesis emulator, and of course Sonic Origins which includes the iOS version from Christian Whitehead with additional features.  For a totally complete list of all of the platforms on which you can play the game, check out Sonic Retro.  This game gets around!  You can get Sonic the Hedgehog just about everywhere and I'm sure we haven't seen the last of it.


David Crane Reflects On Bringing The Ghostbusters To The Commodore 64

GhostbustersOne of my very first computer games was Ghostbusters for the Commodore 64, and being a fan of the animated The Real Ghostbusters (at age six, I hadn't seen nor did I even know there was a movie yet!), I eagerly played the game to completion many times over the years until my parents sold the C64 in favor of a Windows 3.1 PC from Gateway 2000.  It's a tightly structured game that allows players to start their own Ghostbusters franchise and is just as much about money management and inventory than it is about zapping and trapping ghosts.  There's even sections devoted to driving the Ecto-1 around New York City while vacuuming up ghosts.  Here's a video of the game from start to finish to check out if you're unfamiliar with it.

Back in 2007, developer David Crane discussed the making of the game in an interview with Next Generation, although that article has since been lost to time.  I even covered it here on PTB.  I happened to come across it again via the Wayback Machine and thought it was worth bringing back around now that there have been several new Ghostbusters games produced since it was published. 

But a team wasn’t enough on its own – it also required a head start. Happily, at the time the licence came his way, Crane had been hard at work on a game called Car Wars. It was this title that would help Crane crystallise the unusual design concept for Ghostbusters.

“In Car Wars you customised a car with weapons that you would use while driving around the city. Sound at all familiar?” says Crane. “There was no hope of finishing a new game in time without using work already in progress, so I had to tie the driving sequence to the Ghostbusters concept. And what better way than to change the weaponry on the car to ghost-catching tools? Of course, at no point in the film do the actors drive through the city vacuuming up ghosts, but why not? Let’s add a ‘ghost vacuum’ to the car and suck up wandering ghosts.”

I think the reason this game works so well is that it mirrors what the original film did.  The game is essentially a business simulator with some shooter elements, and even director Ivan Reitman said that the movie is more of a "going into business" story than it is a straight sci-fi horror tale.  It's a relatable touchstone that brings players in more than just shooting at ghosts and calling it a day.  It's not enough to stop Gozer; you need to watch out for the bottom line, too.  Crane didn't work on the many ports of the game to other computers and game consoles, and it definitely shows.  The Nintendo Entertainment System version added more ghostbusting tools, but also tried to fix what wasn't broken and created a lesser experience.  The Sega Master System version sticks closer to the source material and looks better, but is still just an imitation.  There's some definite magic in that C64 version that wasn't duplicated anywhere else.

Flashback: Satoru Iwata's 2004 Comments On Nintendo DS

Satoru IwataStephen Totilo recently found an old interview tape from 2004 in which he interviewed Nintendo's Satoru Iwata about the upcoming Nintendo DS and how Sony's new PlayStation Portable seemed poised to steal away the handheld gaming market from the world of Game Boy products.  Totilo has published the recovered audio and transcribed some of the more interesting parts of the interview for us to enjoy.  I know hindsight is always 20/20, but I found this to be an interesting window into Iwata's thoughts at a critical fork in the road for the company.  He had a lot to say about why Nintendo was pursuing the DS philosophy that would eventually bring in lots of money.  Remember, at the time of this interview, a device like the Nintendo DS with its two screens and touchscreen was unheard of in the gaming space.

The tape is crackly, and the live translation is not the best. Mr. Iwata, then two years into his tenure as Nintendo’s president, listens to my questions in English, answers in Japanese and then waits as his comments are translated for me.

The topic is the Nintendo DS, a then-upcoming Nintendo handheld that proved one of gaming’s biggest successes but at the time seemed like a potentially disastrous idea. Could it even be the end of Nintendo?

I want to share parts of the Iwata interview with you. But I need to first give you some set-up about the Nintendo that Iwata inherited and the jeopardy the company appeared to be in when he and I spoke.

Nintendo’s big problem at the time, or so I and many other reporters, pundits and industry figures thought, was Sony. Nintendo, the company that had saved the home console industry from the Atari crash of the early 80s with the introduction of the Nintendo Entertainment System, had then won a multi-generational dog-fight with Sega. But an attempted partnership with electronics maker Sony curdled, and Sony entered the console business with 1994/1995’s PlayStation, which would crush 1996’s Nintendo 64, 102 million units sold lifetime vs. 33 million

Go read the whole thing.  I won't spoil any of the fun details.  One thing I did come away with that I will share is that the industry as a whole is poorer without Iwata.  I wonder what he would say about business today if he were still with us.

Power Button - Episode 371: Grab Bag Goodies

Power ButtonThis week's podcast is a hodgepodge of smaller topics that don't have the structure needed for a full hour of discussion, so it's a lot more easy-going and breezy than the average show.  Join us as we flit around for 75 minutes through Sea of Stars, Magician Lord, Starfield, simulators for mowing lawns, simulators for power washing, and whatever else is on our minds as we clear out some mental baggage.  Also, I have an important update about my health and how it will impact the recording of upcoming episodes.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, subscribe via iTunes, Amazon Music Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way. 

Listen To Me Discuss Classic Nintendo Comic Books From Valiant On The Retronauts Podcast

RetronautsWhat it says on the tin, folks!  Recently I was invited to the popular Retronauts podcast to discuss my affinity for the old Nintendo Comics System comic books published by Valiant in 1990-91.  I still have all of my old issues of Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, Captain N: The Game Master, and Game Boy!  So many happy memories, so little time.  Join host Nadia Oxford as she leads me and Daniel Kaszor through a fascinating discussion of these strange little stories.  I had a blast talking about them, and hopefully you'll enjoy listening just as much.  It's Episode 554, now on their paid Patreon feed and their free feed.

Power Button - Episode 368: The Making Of Karateka

Power ButtonJordan Mechner was a man with a dream: a dream of making a game for the Apple II about a karate man who punches and kicks his way past minions to save a princess.  Forty years ago he created Karateka, and now Digital Eclipse has partnered with Mechner to create The Making of Karateka for modern platforms.  This digital documentary exhibition features video interviews, design document scans, and playable prototypes of Karateka as well as a modernized remake.  On this week's podcast, we spend an hour discussing this first in Digital Eclipse's new Gold Master Series of making-of titles to see what all the fuss is about.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, subscribe via iTunes, Amazon Music Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way. 

Power Button - Episode 365: Forty For Famicom

Power ButtonWe're celebrating the fortieth anniversary of Nintendo's Family Computer in a big way on the podcast this week with a supersized discussion about the history of the console, its unique accessories, special games, and fun facts.  Don't you dare say it's the fortieth anniversary of the Nintendo Entertainment System!  We're not doing that episode until 2025. Also, there's more to say about Doctor Who: The Edge of Reality from last week.  Download this week's episode directly from PTB, listen with the player below, subscribe via iTunes, Amazon Music Podcasts, and Google Podcasts, toss this RSS feed into your podcast aggregation software of choice, and be sure to catch up on past episodes if you're joining us late. Remember that you can reach us via , you can leave a message on the Power Button hotline by calling (720) 722-2781, and you can even follow us on Twitter at @PressTheButtons and @GrundyTheMan, or for just podcast updates, @ThePowerButton. We also have a tip jar if you'd like to kick a dollar or two of support our way. 

Sonic Goes Underground

Sonic UndergroundSonic the Hedgehog has enjoyed quite the run in animation over the years, spanning Saturday mornings to weekday syndication to streaming exclusives and beyond.  It can be difficult to keep all of the shows straight.  Which show was slapstick comedy and which was darker and serialized?  Which one had Sonic's human friends?  Wasn't there one where Sonic was a prince and in a band with his brother and sister?  Say what?  Yes, that last one happened for forty episodes in 1999 in which Sonic, Manic, and Sonia the Hedgehogs used the power of residual payment-generating rock music to fight back against Dr. Robotnik's forces while they searched for their mother, Queen Aleena.  It's Sonic Underground and Dan Larson at Toy Galaxy explains just how this show happened and how it was tossed aside once it had made enough money on a thin budget.


I wasn't into the Sonic cartoons when I was a teen, but I remember knowing they were out there and being confused by Sonic Underground's promos.  The premise is so far removed from the plot of the games that I figured it had to be a totally different concept that had the Sonic licensed grafted onto it in order to get it made.  We're talking about a Sonic show where Sonic has siblings that are not part of the games, but can't find space to include Tails.  Building a series around original music that the animation studio could use to generate additional revenue ahead of the needs of the story feels slimy as well.  While Sonic was meant to be be in a band in the original pitch for the Sega Genesis title that made him a star, the concept was dropped early in development.  This could've been a fun throwback to a discarded idea, but certainly doesn't feel that way.  I'm glad to know the history of Sonic Underground, but I don't feel that I missed out on much.

A Tale Of Two Link Commercials

LinkTime is making fools of us all again as Nintendo's Game Boy classic The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening turns thirty years old.  Thirty!  How on earth did that happen?  The gaming community is celebrating, of course, and as part of the discourse, a pair of commercials for the game have reappeared.  If you want to know how different the culture was between Japan and the United States in 1993. just watch these two advertisements.  The Japanese commercial features a peppy song and the game's cast appearing as dancing puppets, while the American counterpart is a man on a castle set rapping nonsense lyrics that tell us nothing set against projected footage of the game.  Which one makes you want to play this game more?


Ghostbusters: Special Edition Hack Adds New Characters And Surprises

Ghostbusters: Special EditionThe famed Ghostbusters franchise has spawned many video games over the years ranging from the original 1984 business simulator from Activision to last year's Ghostbusters: Spirits Unleashed for modern platforms, but one of the games that tends to be forgotten is a 1990 title for the Sega Genesis developed by Compile.  Titled simply Ghostbusters, the game is a basic action platformer featuring an original story in which players can choose between Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, and Ray Stantz to walk, jump, and shoot through a series of standard 2D levels, as was the style at the time.  It's a fun diversion, but fans noticed the absence of the fourth member of the team, Winston Zeddemore, who is entirely missing from this adventure.  Now, decades later, game hackers BillyTimeGames!, Linkuei, and Danielo Dias have worked together to create a special edition of the Genesis game that not only adds Winston into the mix with his own unique graphics and moves, but also adds a built-in save feature, new uniform colors, a more challenging difficulty level for those who want it, secret cheat codes, and even the fifth Ghostbuster himself, Louis Tully, as an extra playable character (his stats are the worst of everyone)!  Check out the to learn how to apply the patch file to the game and give this expanded experience a try.