Who Is This Guy (Super Mario)?

What’s the game you start to play when you want a nice platform game and you don’t mind if it is a bit retro? Of course you play Super Mario Bros or Super Mario Land or Super Mario Bros 3 or the New Super Mario. Whatever your choice is one thing is certain – there are lots of options here. That’s basically because there seems to be no limit to how many and how varying game titles have been released in this video game characters lifetime.

The featured image of this blog post is the cover of a book about how Nintendo and Mario “conquered” USA. Of course this character made its way into the minds of all gamer’s across the whole wide world. Super Mario was chosen to be the main character that represented the whole Nintendo as a company. There are lots of games and also some other material in which Super Mario has been used.

But who is this guy actually? We get to understand that he’s a plumber. He has a brother named Luigi. I think he’s a plumber too. Mario has the tendency to try to be a hero and he is always trying to save the princess. Mario is a bit softer than Sega’s mascot Sonic. Basically Mario is a product of the beginning of 80s while Sonic seems to be from the end of 80s and also from the beginning of 90s.

Of course all the real hardcore retro gamers know that Crash Bandicoot took the title of the most fascinating video game mascot back in the 90s. But you have to realize that Mario was the first of them. Nintendo was the brand that made gaming great again after Atari had effed up the whole game with it’s foolish strategy on releasing poor quality video games. Basically, back then, Atari just got too greedy.

And only Nintendo is able to come up with this kind of material. At the same time it seems a bit naive and childish but do you know what kinds of mushrooms he actually is able to consume? A mushroom that looks like Amanita Muscaria and makes him to grow. Wow! How did that happen and how did it happen so fast. Maybe there is something more to it than we at first can observe. Maybe parents should look after their children despite the fact that Nintendo seems to be so settled with its in game content.

Super Mario remains as a character that is a bit mysterious. You don’t get to talk with him in deep conversations. You might remember him from your childhood. Is he the one that is responsible for luring all these people in to video gaming? There haven’t been so many interviews or story lines in games that would have described his personality. Yet you definitely recognize his voice as he says “It’s me…Mario!”.

Why are things this way? Maybe it has everything to do with how under developed video games were. We had two dimensional pixel graphics and the audio quality was poor. There just weren’t enough space for this character to form some kind of a more progressed image in our minds. I think this is also a strength for him. He is kind of abstract figure. He was made to be simple and easy to approach. So Mario is at the same time very simple and also very attractive in a mind of a determined retro gamer.

Playing Game Boy Games (And Not Taking It Too Seriously)

This thing in this featured image is Super Game Boy. Can you guess what it can accomplish? Yes, to play Game Boy Games on Super Nintendo. So there’s an adapter and a Game Boy game which happens to be a good Game Boy game and it is…Super Mario Land.

Why and how did I start getting into Game Boy games? I just figured that there might be something interesting here. It all started as I played Zelda – Link’s Awakening. You know, that’s a Game Boy game and a good one, I can tell you that. So I started to get an idea out of this.

So, there are games being developed for some system. If you happen to be a game developer you have to take in consideration many things about on what device the game can be played on. Game Boy certainly has limitations but just look at these two games that I have mentioned here. They are of very good quality.

How limited is Game Boy as a gaming system? We can start from the screen resolution…or so called resolution. Game Boy actually has a resolution of 160×144 pixels with an aspect ratio of 10:9. That’s a small screen for a handheld gaming console. It’s actually so small that sometimes while I was testing Super Mario Land, just moments ago, I felt a bit of clumsiness because there just are so few pixels for controlling and actually moving your character.

What are some other limitations? There are only a limited amount of colors. Originally Game Boy had four shades of green on the screen. Where Game Boy really excels is the battery life. You can play 16 hours with four AA-batteries. To make a comparison Game Gear provided playing time of three to five hours with six AAA-batteries. Also Game Gear had a colour screen of 32 colors. What about sound? It is a bit limited. But you have to consider that this handheld gaming device came to markets in 1989.

Playing Game Boy games with Super Game Boy is fun. I have a total of five games for Game Boy at the moment. I also got myself a Game Boy Color some time ago. I am not so excited right now about it. Actually I found out that the screen was very dim and it makes playing it a bit of a pain. So I prefer my Super Game Boy adapter.

So I found some time today to spend with games and gaming. I am content that I also had time to write this blog post. I have been lately busy with work, reading books and making music.

The Book About Console Wars

In the beginning of 1980s there were lots of games and gaming systems available. All of the products targeted for home gamers just weren’t good enough. Some of them were actually garbage. It didn’t take long for consumers to understand what was going on. Remember that E.T. game that is called the worst video game ever? Well, that’s what we are talking about right here.

This however wasn’t the end of home gaming consoles. Nintendo released their Entertainment System in 1983. As they kept in mind all mistakes that earlier game consoles had made with too low quality in released games they were actually able to release a gaming system that was good enough for consumer markets. Gaming became popular again.

The demand for a home gaming console was still there. NES delivered a good quality 8-bit console. They didn’t have so much competition. This was about to change as Sega released their new 16-bit system in 1988. This is when the console wars started to take their form. And this is what the book “Console Wars” is all about.

So as you can figure I haven’t yet read this book all the way through. I have currently read maybe 150 pages of it. The book starts off with a funny foreword by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The book is actually written by Blake J. Harris and it was released in 2014.

As the book starts to describe how Sega entered the game with their 16-bit gaming console Sega Mega Drive it gives a view of what kind of a situation it was in the beginning of this console war. Of course Sega already had some experience of gaming markets as they had released Master System already. What really changed the scheme was the design of Sega’s own mascot Sonic The Hedgehog.

Sega got their idea for the icon of their gaming system through thinking about other cartoon figures and action hero’s of children and young human beings. There were several figures that influenced the shaping of Sonic. We can mention Turtles and Masters Of The Universe and even Barbie dolls. There is something also in these first 150 pages about Electronic Arts which had many very good quality sport games out there in the 1990s. Of course this gave its own influence in this console war.

Finally Nintendo answered and delivered for all of these gamers another even more powerful gaming console Super Nintendo. Of course there is also the battle between all these handheld consoles released. There were handhelds released by Nintendo (Game Boy), Sega (Game Gear) and Atari (Lynx). Game Boy finally became the most popular one of these three. It had some nice games and while Game Gear delivered a color screen their console battery life was way worse than Game Boy’s.

I find this book very interesting. I am glad that it is available for residents in my area (Finland). While it is written in English I still can understand it clearly. I find reading books written in English to work for my benefit. If you like to reminisce over some classic retro systems and are curious about how the actual history was written I can recommned this book for you.

Game & Watch – How Nintendo Got In to Video Game Business

I watched a video on YouTube about how Nintendo got the idea of producing original Game & Watch devices. I will link the video to the bottom of this blog post. That video inspired me to write this post.

You might not know what Nintendo Game & Watch device is. It reminds a calculator a bit. The idea was born when Gunpei Yokoi, the designer of Game & Watch, and later Game Boy, saw a man traveling in train. The man had a pocket calculator. He was looking very bored and seemed to tap randomly some numbers in his calculator.

Yokoi visioned that Game & Watch would be somewhat a tool to avoid boredom during for example long train trips. Nintendo needed some help to come up with a product like this. So, the design would rely strongly to the technology of pocket calculators. The device had a LCD screen. It was powered with batteries and it featured a D-Pad and some other buttons to control the game.

This was all accomplished in a world that wasn’t yet conquered by Nintendo Entertainment System. We had maybe some Atari 2600’s or something like that in our living rooms but the world and also Nintendo were very different from what it became in the 1980s later.

Game & Watch became very popular. There were several products released by Nintendo between years 1980 to 1991. Of course there was recently two Game & Watch consoles released. I got myself a Zelda one. The other Game & Watch had Super Mario games on it.

I can tell you a bit about my Zelda Game & Watch console. I think it cost about 70 euros. It came with Zelda games that were originally released for NES and Game Boy. It can be charged with a USB-C-cable and it has a good battery. You can see how the game can be controlled from the picture above this blog post.

And here is the link to the video that  got my inspiration for this blog post:

Gaming Has Evolved

I have been playing video games all my life. It all began in the 1980s. I first played some PC games on our family’s computer that was running some version of MS-DOS. I really can’t remember it so clearly but I played games like Bubble Bobble and Leisure Suit Larry. These gaming session were a bit short as a young boy was starting to get attracted to gaming. And games were different in those days.

I took another step in my path to being a gamer that I am today. It was probably 1993 as I got a Sega Mega Drive. This was something different. I had played some NES games with my friends. Now I had a 16-bit gaming console. The first game I played on it was Sonic The Hedgehog. It came with the system. I remember playing it and some other games for some hours. I maybe played for three hours. I never played longer than that.

Gaming was progressing but it was still mostly considered to be something for children. If there were some older people playing Sega or Nintendo they were considered to be a bit childish. And that’s how games were back then. They were mainly targeted for not so mature audience. What would you think? We had a plumber collecting mushrooms to become larger and a blue hedgehog that was running really fast. But there were some role playing, fighting and sports games that were going to make some adults gamers too.

I was beginning to mature. And so did video games. It was around 1997 when I got a PlayStation 1. It was the first gaming console that also a bit older people would play. It made way for gaming as a hobby for a person of any age. There were no limits anymore. You could find your friends father playing video games. And it wasn’t even that awkward. Not anymore. How exactly were games now different? They had much more to give for gamers. There was action. But there was also a sharp detail of graphics. 3D modeling brought better experience. Games also had a story that would keep you entertained for long period of time.

I played longer sessions with my PlayStation than I did with any other console earlier in my life. I remember playing Diablo for six hours one week end as I was a young boy. So the time I could spend playing had doubled. I remember that I had at least 20 games for PS1. It might have had even 30 games. I had beat most of them. I think I spend maybe 20 hours for a game. That’s a lot of playing video games for a young person. This was actually nothing if you think about how much time beating a video game today might take. To make a comparison I can tell you that I have recently played Diablo II Resurrected for almost 50 hours and Gran Turismo 7 for 30 hours. And I haven’t finished them yet.

You can have gaming as your hobby. You can also spend a lot of time playing games. There are several devices that you can play games on. There are gaming consoles, mobile devices, handheld consoles and computers. If you are good in playing video games there are things today like eSports that can transform your gaming hobby to being a professional competitive gamer. If you like gaming you can do like I do and write to a blog or even to some gaming magazine about games. So you can become a game journalist. If you are interested in the technical side of video games you can try to become a game developer or game programmer. You can even be a game designer that doesn’t even program. There are lots of roles in gaming industry if you want to make your hobby also a profession.

Gaming has really evolved. I started getting into gaming as a young kid back in the 80s. I grew up playing games. It has been a hobby for me for a very long time. On my path I have seen how games have become more realistic and the audience has grown and it has also become more diverse. Now everyone can play. It doesn’t matter that you are old. It doesn’t matter what gender you are. Everyone can play video games today. And that’s one great thing to keep in mind.

Some Notes About Kid Icarus

How it feels to play a game that has been released over 35 years ago? It feels amazing and so nostalgic. I didn’t play Kid Icarus as a child. I was so small kid back then. I think I might have seen someone else playing this. But I never played this back in the 80s.

I picked up Kid Icarus as I was browsing a local game shops NES games. It isn’t a pricey game. It cost me 35 euros. I ordered also some other games. I now have a total of seven games for Nintendo Entertainment System right now. I am playing these games with my Retro Trio Plus console.

Kid Icarus is a simple platform and shooting game. You have unlimited amount of arrows that you can use to eliminate enemies which are flying or crawling and attacking you. When you kill an enemy you get hearts. With one controller button you can jump. The other button is used for shooting an arrow. You can shoot to your left or right or even up. You also come across some enemies that take lots of arrows to kill. You can find the ground to be slippery or icy at times.

You basically move upwards in a level and keep shooting at ghosts and other monsters. When you reach a certain stage the game gives you a check point where you can continue your game from. As is usual with NES games the saving is not possible. There is some kind of a password system but I didn’t get so close to utilizing it.

Kid Icarus is a fun game. And it’s a very old game. I don’t know if it’s so interesting after you have played it for a while. If you are really into some 80s stuff and NES I can recommend this game for you. I just don’t think it would be so valuable as a game for someone that likes to play the greatest or latest games.

As times have progressed Kid Icarus is a blast from the past. It makes me think how designing of games has evolved. It makes me think about all the limitations these developers faced in 1986. So, to sum it all up I have to say that it is a nice game but I don’t think its worth to spend an eternity playing it. So, today I’m going to play my Gran Turismo 7 for a while and maybe I have time to try to finish Diablo II Resurrected. Who knows?

 

Is the Era of Audio CDs Really Over?

I remember when I first got my PS4 back in 2014. I came to understand that from the beginning it didn’t have support for audio CDs. I had to rely on another device for listening to my huge collection of CDs. A while ago I quickly counted how many CDs I have today. It seems that I have over 500 CDs.

My collection of CDs is huge. It has grown more as I have bought several classic hiphop, trance and dance CDs from flee markets. I have this old CD player that I bought for a cheap price. It was used when I got it. It probably didn’t even cost 20 euros. You can today get a new CD player for about 100 euros.

My CD player was always connected to my amplifier through RCA-connection. Earlier today I ordered an adapter that allows me to connect my audio device to any device that supports Bluetooth. Wireless connectivity is a common feature among new CD players. Now I got an update to my device. And it cost me only 40 euros.

So, is the era of CDs actually over? This format of audio has been present since the 1980s. It once decreased sales of vinyls considerably although listening to music from vinyls never completely stopped. When I was a child in the 90s every kid had a CD stereo system and some CDs in their own room. You also had to have a portable CD player since there were no mp3 players or if there were they were very expensive.

Today CD still provides digital quality of audio for different audiences. Some artists still release their music on CDs. Streaming services have made listening to music easy and cheap. The latest gaming console that I have that also supports playing audio CDs is PS3. You can get many kinds of music very cheaply on CD from several flee markets. Prices are for used CDs something form 0,50 euros to 3 euros.

The surface of a disc is very sensitive for getting scratches or dirt on it. When gaming went to storing games in CD format consumers were thinking that children wouldn’t be able to keep these discs working. Nintendo even decided to use cartridges when Nintendo 64 came available. What was the impact of mp3s becoming so popular? It waas clear that you could easily have more than just 700 MB of digital music with you. Actually you soon had something like 4 GB (thats 4000 MB) of space and the advancement of smart phones made the transition to listening music with mp3s or as a streamed service.

I still listen to CDs. I still sometimes even buy new CDs. If I do get some new record I often rip it for my personal use. I transfer then the music to my phone so I can listen to them everywhere I happen to go. Mostly I listen to Spotify. Sometimes I listen to it from my personal computer, like I do right now, and sometimes from my tablet computer. I rarely listen to Spotify from my phone. Spotify seems to be the new standard for listening to music. You can definitely see this when you think about audio CDs and how they are supported by newest gaming systems. Damn. We have this digitality coming from everywhere. We have more and more games and consoles that are only available as digital and not physical. I guess that’s just how the future is currently shaping.

Some Characteristics of Sega Mega Drive

The image included here displays my Sega Mega Drive Mini. I have three controllers for it. One them has six regular buttons and two of them that were originally packaged with the gaming console that have only three buttons on the right hand side of the controller. I think original game pad is better than the updated one.

Today I have a free day. So there’s no work for me today. I had some good time playing some Mortal Kombat. It seems to be one of the best games on this gaming system. Other very nice picks are Castlevania – The New Generation, Dick Tracy, Kid Chameleon and Golden Axe II. There are several titles more that are worth playing. It’s not possible to go through them all here. Maybe I write another post about it later.

It is said that Mega Drive games repeat themselves and the gameplay is rough. It is sometimes said that Mega Drive games are worse than Nintendo games of the same era. I wouldn’t say it like that. You can compare these systems, NES and Mega Drive, but to think clearly, you should consider them to be different. You might like Nintendo games more. Or you might think like I do and I think these consoles are both good in a certain way.

Sega’s games are maybe harder to play. They definitely are more violent. In some ice hockey games there is fighting and in Mortal Kombat you can see blood as you hit or kick your opponent. NES’s games are more complex and maybe a bit more better when considering gameplay. But Nintendo’s games can be called childish. In a matter of fact this is a case of sense of taste and you can’t really argue on these.

When it comes to 16-bit devices Nintendo might have better performance in SNES than Mega Drive. That’s natural as SNES was released years after Mega Drive. I think Mega Drive had good graphics. SNES maybe had a bit better ones. But it is clear that these two represent the best quality of their own time. In the 90s you found some good games that brought you maybe the best graphics that were possible to produce as 2D graphics. When the next generation consoles were released they were heading strongly towards 3D.

I have greatly enjoyed my Mega Drive Mini. It’s price tag was about 60 euros. As I mentioned in the beginning of this blog post it came with two controllers. It takes days of two to three hours of playing to really understand this console. You will find the best parts of it. And of course you will also find the limitations that this device has. Things have progressed in designing of games and of course the technology has advanced. We might even see some new games to be released for Mega Drive even today.

Altered Beast and The Showcase of Sega Mega Drive

Altered Beast is a game that was available when Sega Mega Drive was launched back in 1988. You have to consider that this game was one of the first games ever released for a game console like this. Nintendo had its 8-bit system in the markets. Sega gained the position of the most powerful gaming console in the industry. At that point SNES wasn’t yet released. I think SNES had a bit more power to it when compared to Mega Drive.

I am mentioning this detail because you know how it is when a console launches. It usually has only a few games and these games aren’t the best ones that will be made for this console. Everyone seems to understand and know this. You need a game that you can play right? So you have to choose at least one from the ones that are available. This pattern was recognizable also when systems like Saturn and PlayStation launched.

Altered Beast is a nice game. You control a character that gets waken up from grave to beat all kinds of beasts. You basically control the character with three buttons of the controller. One button gives you jump, one gives you a hit with a fist and one makes you kick. You can also crouch with down button. This game reminds me a lot about Splatterhouse 2 that was also released as a Mega Drive game later. You also get upgrades. When you get enough of updates your character transforms into a beast that is faster and stronger than it was earlier.

The game play isn’t perfect. Still this game kept me playing for some hours or maybe about three hours. I couldn’t get past through the boss at level 2. Like any Mega Drive game this game also gets you easily frustrated. This is a common feature in Sega’s games. There is a bit of a repetition going on. But it’s not the worst game of Mega Drive I have played and I think it showcases the abilities of this gaming console nicely.

I think for me this was a nice pick up. I paid about twenty euros for this game. I think it is a huge part of gaming history and also part of the legacy of Sega Mega Drive. This wasn’t the only game I ordered as I also bought two PlayStation 1 games. These other games were Bomberman and Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX Maximum Remix. So this time I bought three games for a low price.

Biggest advancements in technology of personal computers

There have been some significant steps in the technology of personal computers. As we look to the past we can figure that first computers that were called as personal computers came to markets in late 70s or beginning of 80s. This was surely the first big step. Computers were finally affordable for home users. They were small enough to fit in an office. It was this time that Apple brought it’s products to the market also.

First computers didn’t have a mouse. This was also a big step forward. First mouses were clumsy. They had two buttons. I don’t remember or know exactly how an early 80s mouse worked but I can guarantee that they were nothing like the ones we use today. My first experiences with a computer’s mouse were with one that was connected with PS/2 and it had a ball inside it. Mouses have later progressed. They are today connected with USB and use infrared to make sense of where the cursor is moving on the screen.

When PC’s first came to be there were screens but they had poor graphics or only text. This matter developed a lot and has been developing for a long time. We went from displaying only text to our present Full HD or even 4K or even better than those screen resolutions. 3D animations also brought many big improvements to gamers and also to designers. Gamers can today also enjoy many different USB controllers like game pads or driving wheels or even something else.

The biggest changes that I have had an opportunity to witness took place in the 90s and 2000s. I am talking about the advancements in the speed of internet connections, the expansion of  hard drives space and the impact of CD-R drives. I am actually currently reading a book about Spotify. It describes how this change in technology impacted on many things like the music industry and how things changed and developed. There were more space to store your mp3 files. There were lots of piracy.

Today we are in a situation that movies, games and music are sold through internet more and more instead of people buying physical products like CDs or DVDs. This has been possible because we currently have fast internet connections almost worldwide. Things have progressed fast. I have also seen times when we used to watch VHS tapes.

The fast development of technology has made it a bit hard to keep up with the latest advancements. It is also a bit pricey. There is and always will be those people that are in the front when it comes to buying newest technology. There will also always exist people that want to also remember the past. So these people are going to keep those retro devices working so they can enjoy things as they once used to be.

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