Sunsoft was one of the major third-party developers of the NES era, and Blaster Master was arguably the company’s most enduring hit, spawning quite a series of spin-offs, sequels, and remakes, very certainly including the much-maligned Fester’s Quest. Sunsoft declined rapidly after the third generation came to a close, however, and, while the company still exists today, its last release of any significance was 2003’s Clock Tower 3. Blaster Master Zero, a comprehensive reimagining of the 1988 original, was licensed out to the Japanese action-platformer specialists at Inti Creates, who have attempted to recreate the magic of the NES original while simultaneously bringing the gameplay into the modern era. Well, that was the plan, anyhow; so did it work?
Posts tagged NES
Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight is the poster boy for overpromising in one’s Kickstarter campaign. Due to Yacht Club’s exuberance, they were left on the hook to produce three free DLC campaigns for the game, of which number Specter of Torment is the second. Indeed, it’s mostly free: all owners of Shovel Knight get Specter of Torment at no additional charge, though the price has increased for those who don’t already own it.
What should one expect from a free DLC campaign? Yacht Club, to its credit, is not phoning this in; Specter of Torment features ten entirely new levels, completely new play mechanics, boss fights that have changed in substantial (and sometimes surprising) ways, and an all-new tale of shovelry. Unlike Plague of Shadows, which was set contemporaneously with the original game, Specter of Torment is a prequel, telling the tale of how Specter Knight came to serve the Enchantress, and why he recruited the Order of No Quarter. There is a rather darker tone to the story this time around, full of melancholy and angst and all those other things you kids like, but not so dreary and lifeless as it could be. The main storyline is pretty bleak, but the supporting cast is still colorful and fun, and the incidental dialogue is lively. Worth noting is that Specter of Torment is not a good jumping-off point into the world of Shovel Knight; it definitely assumes that the player is familiar with the characters and events of the original game, and isn’t going to make much sense otherwise.
Retro video gaming, as I’ve mentioned before, is big business these days. Not everybody seeking to capitalize on nerd nostalgia is making retro hardware, though; many are the books coming out on the subject, as well, including today’s offering: Bitmap Books’ The Unofficial NES/Famicom: a Visual Compendium. It’s a big title, but that’s only fitting, since it’s a big book, measuring 9.75 x 7.25 x 2 inches and weighing just over four pounds. This is a hefty tome, and it comes inside a sturdy and attractive slipcase, fronted by a neat lenticular "A to Z" graphic celebrating many of the NES’ most famous games. The graphic is sharp and attractive, and the lenticular effect is fun (and appropriately 80s!); the only problem with the case itself is that the lenticular panel is pasted on to the front of the slipcase rather than embedded into it, meaning that it does have a bit of a hard ridge around the edge that can foul other books it’s shelved next to, potentially even being torn off if you, for whatever reason, jam it onto a shelf particularly violently. So don’t do that.
Oddly enough, the book is contained within both the slipcase and a dust jacket, which is an odd setup I don’t believe I’ve ever seen before. The dust jacket has exactly the same design as the slipcase (minus the lenticular panel, of course), even down to the bar code and MSRP printed on the back. Charmingly enough, removing the dust jacket reveals a third instance of the exact same design printed on the covers of the book itself, with yet another copy of the bar code and price tag. This is not a problem in any way — it certainly doesn’t interfere with one’s enjoyment of the book — but it is a bit of an oddity.
Retro gaming is big business these days, and the king of retro systems is unquestionably the Nintendo Entertainment System. The market is flooded with cheap "Famiclones," usually ARM-based Android systems running software emulators. The Big Red N has even gotten in on the game itself, launching the fantastically-popular NES Classic Edition, which allegedly costs $60 (when there’s one available for purchase, anyhow) and comes with thirty games built in.
Into this booming retro NES market wades RetroUSB with its new console, the AVS. The AVS costs $185 and comes with zero games. On the face of it, this seems like it would be a hard sell as against the NES Classic Edition, and indeed it is; the catch is that RetroUSB is not aiming at the same demographic at all. The AVS is actually quite a different beast from most of the "Famiclones," including Nintendo’s official entry, and, while it’s surely not for everybody, there’s definitely a niche out there the AVS aims to satisfy.