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Episode 242 – Across Time and Parallel Realities

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This week on the Retro League we get out our SNES mousepads and discuss whether mixed martial arts is more dangerous than pro wrestling. We bring up baseball multiple times and er mah gerd we’ve got Goosebumps! There’s some game-to-movie adaptations that got it wrong and we’ve got another Another World re-released. We’ve traveling to the plains of Africa and then beyond the bounds of time and space in this episode!

This Week in Gaming History
July 14, 1992 – Mario Paint first released on Super Famicom

Hot Topics
Play Ball!
Inafune + Kickstarter • Money (/MegaMan) = Animated Series?
Video Gaming Comfort Food

Virtually Retro
Bases Loaded (Wii U Virtual Console, 3DS Virtual Console)
Quest for Infamy (PC)
Q*Bert Rebooted (Steam)
Another World 20th Anniversary Edition (PSN)

News
This DIY Game Boy Pocket Uses A Raspberry Pi To Bring You Absolute, Unending Joy
New Homebrew – Sega Master System Brawl

Random Links
SEGA Nerdcast: Episode 57 (The wrestling special)
5 Video Game Versions of Movies That Add Insane Plot Twists

Games of The Week
Chrono Cross (PlayStation)
Lion (PC – DOS)

Freeloader Games of the Month
Game of Thrones 8-bit
TerraFire

Watch the live recording on YouTube


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Archives – Launch Titles Series

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We’re happy to announce our first episode archive release – our Launch Titles series from 2012.

This series contains 20 episodes running over 34 hours long. In each episode we examine a system launch, the impact it had on the market, and of course its launch titles. We cover everything from the Atari 2600 through the Game Boy Advance. Included in this album is a bonus track where we pick our favorite, and least favorite, launch titles.

This album is available DRM-free on Loudr.fm for under 4 cents an hour. By supporting this first archive release you will enable us to work on re-releasing more episodes including ones from our early days that haven’t been available in over three years.

Get this series at Loudr.fm

Episode 241 – Bob Smith’s Water Polo: The Movie: The Game

Episode 241 art

 

This week on The Retro League we’re joined by Chewie from The Mana Pool to talk about our favorite (and not so favorite) films of 1994. So many great films are turning 20 this year and we just had to make a slight detour to talk about them. We also make the usual rounds of retro gaming headlines and re-releases of course.

This Week in Gaming History
July 5, 1950 – Bandai (who would later merge with Namco) was founded

Hot Topics
Pitch that (MST3K) game!
Mario Quiz Cards
What if the Gameboy Didn’t have Tetris

Virtually Retro
Denny’s Atari Remix (iOS)
Mario Tennis: Power Tour (Wii U Virtual Console)

News
Grandmother buys old building in Japan, finds 55 classic arcade cabinets
No Grade: An Investigation into the Video Game Authority
This is why our brains lied to us about blowing into Nintendo cartridges
Ouya offers all-access pass to 800 games for $59.99

Random Links
Jon’s Basketball Game: Creating a sports video game has proven to be rather difficult

Freeloader Games of the Month
Game of Thrones 8-bit
TerraFire

Don’t forget to support The Mana Pool’s Kickstarter!

Watch the live recording on YouTube


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Live tile for Windows 8.1

Attention Windows 8.1 users, we now have a live tile for your desktop. Adding it is really easy…

1) From our homepage, open your Internet Explorer favorites and click the Pin icon:

Pin our site

Pin our site

2) On the Start screen you’ll now have a shiny new tile:

Our live tile

Our live tile

3) Activate the tile to get all the latest news & stuff from The Retro League:

Live feed

Live feed

Episode 240 – Extraordinary Games Require Extraordinary Evidence

Episode 239 – Licensed Soundtrack Themed Party Supplies

Episode 239 art

This week on the Retro League we have to make some corrections to miscommunications and misconceptions. We’ve got some obscure old games-of-the-week and some history from the dawn of computers. We find out live on-the-air about a recent port of Doom and we ramble about teen sitcoms. People are finding new tricks for old games and selling their world-recording-setting collections of games in this episode.

This Week in Gaming History

June 22, 1979 – Infocom, Inc. officially founded
June 22, 1910 – Birthday of Konrad Zuse

Virtually Retro

Another World – 20th Anniversary Edition (Wii U eShop, 3DS eShop)
Super Dodge Ball (Wii U Virtual Console, 3DS Virtual Console)
Bit Wars – Browser based turn-based strategy with a cool soundtrack

News

World’s biggest video game collection goes for $750,000
A Fresh Super Mario Bros. Infinite Lives Trick Has Been Discovered
Prototype: Rastan Demo for Atari ST Discovered by Ocean Software
1MoreCastle: Top 10 Beach Levels
20 Computer Games That Should’ve Made ’80s Console Players Jealous

Random Links

McDonald’s next Happy Meal to feature Mario Kart 8
This Is Where Unwanted 3DS And DS Games Go To Die

Games of The Week

Happy Trails (Intellivision)
Mr. Do’s Castle (Atari 5200)

Freeloader Game of the Month

Lost Vikings


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Episode 238 – We’re getting old

Episode 238 art

 

This week on the Retro League we continue to podcast through some growing pains. We can finally play Retro Game Challenge 2, sort of.  Despite growing more familiar with exactly how old we are getting we still don’t know anything about Shin Megami Tensei. We do have some ideas about podcasts that are centered around TV shows and we also cover some simple but fun quasi retro games.

This Week in Gaming History
June 17th, 1988 – Blaster Master (Chô Wakusei Senki Metafight) first released for the Nintendo Famicom

Hot Topics
New forum URL – http://forums.theretroleague.com/

Virtually Retro
Pac-Land (Wii U Virtual Console)
Pac-Man Collection (Wii U Virtual Console)
Soccer (Wii U Virtual Console)
Double Dragon II: The Revenge (3DS Virtual Console)
Eternal Sunshine (PC)
Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga 2 (PS2 Classic)

News
Sonic the Hedgehog Movie Confirmed, Being Produced by Neal Moritz
GameCenter CX: Arino no Chousenjou 2 in English patch released
Seattle Retro Gaming Expo – June 28th & 29th

Random Links
http://you.regettingold.com/

Games of The Week
Crazy Taxi (Dreamcast)
Groundskeeper 2 (OUYA)

Freeloader Game of the Month
Rock N Roll Racing

Watch the live recording on YouTube


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Episode 237 – Square Island

This week on the Retro League we’re talking Final Fantasy and also games that are not Final Fantasy. We’ve got 2-d Zelda and an NES keytar. We discuss storytelling and the biggest video game collection going on sale. Lastly we find out what handheld games would be good for extended stays on lonely islands.

This Week in Gaming History

June 11, 1983: Capcom Co., Ltd. – CAPCOM Co., Ltd. is established in Hirano, Osaka with the express purpose of selling software.

Virtually Retro

The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (Wii U Virtual Console)
Arcade Ace

News

Metal Gear remake given the go-ahead by Konami

Everything found in the Atari desert dig and where it’s headed

Final Fantasy VI explores human pain through its shattered geography

World’s Largest Video Game Collection Goes Up For Sale

Unreleased Super Nintendo Platformer ‘Dorke And Imp’ Due For Release On Cartridge

 

Random Links

Game of Thrones Remix on NESKeytar (8-bit)

 

Games of The Week

Rad Racer II (NES)

Final Fantasy Origins (PS1)

 

Freeloader Game of the Month

Rock N Roll Racing

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RetroN 5 Review

By: Josh Davis

From the moment the RetroN 5 was first announced, the retro gaming community has had an extremely mixed reaction. Some saw it as a revolution in the way retro games would be played. Others thought it was completely pointless compared to their current setup. Now that the machine is finally here, what’s the verdict?

Well, I suppose I should start with some basic information first…

The RetroN 5 – What it is & What it isn’t

console02

The RetroN 5 is the newest in the RetroN line of multi-platform clone systems from Hyperkin. These are new, modern-day systems designed to play games from different, older systems of yesteryear. The RetroN 5, specifically, plays games from the following systems:

  • Famicom (Japanese NES)
  • NES (NTSC or PAL)
  • Super Famicom (Japanese SNES)
  • SNES (NTSC or PAL)
  • Sega Genesis (NTSC US)
  • Sega MegaDrive (Japanese or PAL)
  • Sega MasterSystem (NTSC or PAL, requires the Power Base
    Converter)
  • Gameboy (all regions)
  • Gameboy Color (all regions)
  • Gameboy Advance (all regions)

What makes the RetroN 5 noteworthy compared to its predecessors and competitors isn’t just what systems it plays, but that it works in a fundamentally different way.

Traditionally, these clone systems work using miniaturized, “system on a chip”, versions of the original hardware. This may sound like a great idea, simple taking the original hardware designs and just making them smaller and cheaper with the more advanced technology of today, but it’s invariably imperfect. Many clone systems have trouble with more advanced games that used uncommon chip sets, such as Castlevania III on NES or Super Mario RPG or StarFox on SNES, and some don’t recreate the original system’s color palette or sound very well. These have been getting better over the years, but they’re still not perfect.

The RetroN 5, on the other hand, is running a custom version of the Android operating system and plays the games through software-based emulators after dumping the ROM from your cartridge. Compatibility isn’t 100% through this method either, but the difference is that anything the RetroN 5 doesn’t play perfectly out of the box can be fixed with a software or firmware update down the line (and Hyperkin have already released one of each of these). It also allows for a lot of fancy capabilities that other clone systems lack. One of the most noteworthy of which is HDMI output.

HDMI? HDMwhy?

If you’ve ever hooked up an old videogame console to an HDTV, you’ve probably noticed that the picture quality is pretty bad. It’s a blurry mess. You can improve the quality a little by buying higher quality cables if you system supports it, but without modding the system or spending at least a few hundred bucks on a good upscaler, those systems just aren’t going to look as good on your HDTV as they did on the old CRT TVs they were designed for.

Not everyone has room to keep a CRT around just for their old games, and even for those of us that do, those TVs aren’t going to last forever. By outputting video over HDMI, the RetroN 5 gives us an easy means to play these older games on a modern TV with a pixel perfect picture… or, if you don’t like sharp-edged pixels, to smooth them out with various graphical filters (more on that in a bit). It was originally also going to have composite output, but this was removed during development for cost reasons.

Control Yourself

The controller options on the RetroN 5 are multiple. There’s two NES ports, two SNES ports, and two Genesis ports built in so you can use the actual controllers from back in the day, as well as a wireless controller packed in that… Isn’t very good.

controller01

As you can see, it has a thumb stick where you would expect a d-pad to be. This isn’t an analog stick (as many would think), but a clicky micro-switch thumb stick similar to the one found on a NeoGeo CD controller or the NeoGeo Pocket. This works pretty good with some games, but not nearly all. It also has two (unlabeled) shoulder buttons; six face buttons bizarrely labeled +, -, ↑, ↓, ←, and →; select, home, and start buttons; and two unlabeled hotkey buttons tucked away in the upper left and upper right corners. The buttons are also all micro-switch based, so they all click loudly when pressed. The default button mapping isn’t very good, the shape is very uncomfortable, etc, etc, etc. I just don’t recommend using this thing at all.

As for the original controller support, (almost) everything seems to work fine. Regular controllers for NES, SNES, and Genesis and anything that acted like a regular controller (like arcade sticks) works fine. Light guns don’t work, which is kind of okay because they don’t work on HDTVs anyway. The SNES works both in-game and to navigate the RetroN 5′s operating system (a nice touch).

I don’t own a Master System controller, but they reportedly do not work. NES controllers are very similar to them, though, and even allow you to pause the game from the controller. Atari 2600 controllers (which if you weren’t aware do work on a Sega Genesis… and vice-versa) also do not work. No word on the Power Glove.

You can choose to use any of the supported controllers on any of the games, remapping their face buttons (and shoulders for SNES) as you like, and can use a combination of the controllers for games that would normally use a multitap.

The Bells & Whistles

So, let’s talk about all the other extra features this thing has that make it noteworthy. The first, and in my mind foremost, is save states.

A standard feature of most emulators, save states let you save your progress anywhere, at any time, in any game, regardless of whether it originally supporting saving. The RetroN 5 has two types of save states: an automatic save state that is generated for each game when you exit out to the main menu, and the save states that you can make or load manually using either the RetroN’s in-game menu or a hotkey combination of your choosing. You get 10 slots per game for these manual save states, and you can select which slot to load or save from the in-game menu. By default the system will automatically load the most recent save state when you select to play the game from the main menu (which you can turn off if you prefer to start from the title screen every time). So even if you never manually save a save state, as long as you exit the game properly it’ll resume where you left off, much like games on Nintendo’s Virtual Console.

Another common emulator feature present here are the image filters that I mentioned earlier. These all use pretty similar techniques to smooth out the picture, but different formulas to achieve their intended look. I’ll go ahead and list these out here:

  • 2xSaI
  • Super 2xSaI
  • Super Eagle<
  • Scale2x
  • Iq2x
  • hq2x

I’m not a huge fan of these personally, but to each their own. There’s also a scan line overlay that can be applied separately or in addition to the filters, to simulate the scan line effect of traditional CRT displays. It is a simple overlay, not scaled to the resolution of the game you’re currently playing, so the lines don’t match up perfectly to the pixels. It works well enough, though, especially at a distance.

Speaking of recreating CRT experiences, there’s also an overscan option to recreate how CRT TVs cut off or hid the edges of the incoming video signal… But it’s not perfect, either. You see, with some games back in the day (especially on NES) developers would take advantage of this “hidden area” to hide a lot of garbled graphics that resulted from making the NES do things it wasn’t really designed to do (like multi-directional scrolling). Unfortunately this option is a little conservative on how much it cuts off vertically, so a lot of that garbled graphics are still visible. I know they’re working on this one, since I’ve talked to Hyperkin reps about it, so it should be better in future updates.

In addition to all these graphic-enhancing options, there’s also the sound enhancement option… which “enables Audio Interpolation, a method of taking the original audio sample and creating higher quality sample, thereby creating a cleaner, smoother audio output.” I’m quoting from the manual because I’m a little hard of hearing and can’t tell the difference. There’s also options to boost the bass and/or treble.

Let’s see, what else… You can set the game to either fill the screen as much as possible while maintaining the original aspect ratio (leaving bars on the sides), fill it completely by stretching it out, keep the original aspect ratio while filling it width-wise (cutting off the top and bottom), or scale to the largest exact-multiple of the original resolution for a nice pixel-perfect image with black on all sides.

You can force a specific region and refresh rate or let the system automatically use the one for the region that game is from.

If you have an SD card you can take screenshots… but they don’t include any of the filters and are saved as low-quality jpegs.

Also making use of the SD card is the built-in Game Genie support. You just download a cheat code database from their website pop it into your SD card, and as long as the system recognizes the game you’ve put in, you can select the cheats you want turned on from the menu. They don’t have the cheat database up just yet as of this writing, though.

Compatibility

Compatibility is sort of a big issue with these clone systems, so let’s talk about that a bit.

As I mentioned before, it doesn’t work with lightguns, but neither do modern TVs, so that’s one that probably won’t be getting fixed.

A lot of homebrew and repro cartridges aren’t working just yet either, although Hyperkin are working on that since they want to support the homebrew community.

Any sort of cartridge with special hardware in it, the RetroN can only dump the software off of and cannot access the hardware. So anything with a motion sensor like Kirby’s Tilt ‘n Tumble or WarioWare Twisted isn’t going to be playable (they would be very hard to play on it anyway). Similarly, the e-Reader cannot read cards while connected (but you can play games saved to the e-Reader’s memory). Gameboy/GBA games with built-in rumble won’t rumble but are otherwise perfectly playable.

At present anything that connects through another cartridge isn’t working as the RetroN is only able to detect and dump the cartridge directly connected to it. This includes the Super Gameboy and Game Genies, which are superfluous anyway, but more importantly Sonic & Knuckles’ lock-on functionality isn’t working. Hyperkin are working to fix this.

A problem with testing compatibility on the system is that if a game’s pin connectors are too dirty or damaged, the system will have trouble dumping it and will either not be able to play it or might be able to run it but can’t recognize the game since it didn’t match the system’s database. An unrecognized game can still be played, but may have errors since it didn’t dump correctly and won’t have access to the game genie cheats.

I did a quick testing of all of my games the for the supported systems. Out of my 369 games, 18 are either not being unrecognized or not running as of this writing. I have tried cleaning them, but they may still not be clean enough. This is ignoring the above-mentioned hardware compatibilities (lightgun games, Sonic & Knuckles, etc)

NES/Famicom

Supervision 76 in 1 (Pirate multicart)†
Batman: Return of the Joker
Pinball†
Super Mario Bros./Duck Hunt/World Class Track Meet†
Yoshi*¥
Battle Kid 2 – Mountain of Torment (homebrew)†
Mr. Gimmick (repro cart)†
Nintendo World Championships 1990 (repro cart)†

SNES

Contra III*
Kid Klown in Crazy Chase*¥
Maui Mallard in Cold Shadow*
Megaman X2*
Super Metroid*
Out of this World
Yoshi’s Island

Genesis

Sonic the Hedgehog†

* = “Unknown Cartridge”
† = “No cart inserted” (system did not detect
the game at all)
¥ = Working fine, as far as I can tell

Some of these I know are issues with my copies. Both Yoshi and Sonic the Hedgehog have been confirmed as recognized and working by other people. So take all of these with a grain of salt.

Final thoughts

So what’s my personal opinion on the RetroN 5 after using it for a few days?

Many retro enthusiasts dismissed the system early on, because it’s just emulation and will never perfectly match the original hardware. This is true to a degree, as I don’t expect it to be able to magically play lightgun games on an HDTV, but it’ll get closer than most clone systems, and it can do a whole lot of things that the original systems and other clones can’t.

Many emulation enthusiasts dismissed it early on, because their emulators on their computers could already play all of these games without them having to buy the system or cartridges. This too is true, but also illegal.

For me, the RetroN 5 is a box of convenience. It means five less systems I have to keep hooked up, and the ability to actually finish all of those old games that didn’t have save files without leaving a system running for days on end. It’s a perfect middle-ground between the authenticness of the original hardware and the added functionality and customization of emulation. It’s great.

And if I ever feel like playing Duck Hunt, I can always pull my NES off the shelf and hook it up.

Order the RetroN 5 at Amazon.com

Episode 236 – Burning Water Rides

Episode 236

 

This week on the retro league we’re talking 90′s grunge music and the Angry Nerd’s 10 year anniversary. We’ve got an excellent 16-bit shooter and amusement park management for games of the week. We ramble about which movie versions of Street Fighter were good and aren’t sure about this Sly Cooper thing that the kids seem to like these days.

 

This Week in Gaming History

June 1, 1992 – Super Star Wars released on the SNES

 

Hot Topics

Pic’s from Animazement game room, Raleigh, Memorial day wknd

In defense of CluClu Land

 

Virtually Retro

Klonoa: Empire of Dreams (Wii U Virtual Console)

Mega Man Xtreme 2 (3DS Virtual Console)

Lemmings Touch (PS Vita)

Sly Cooper Collection (PS Vita)

 

News

AGVN 10 Year Anniversary Episode – Desert Bus

‘Yellow creature’! Which ’80s newscast described Pac-Man best?

Live-action Street Fighter Web series is a total kick

 

Games of The Week

Theme Park (Saturn)

Axelay (SNES)

 

Freeloader Game of the Month

Rock N Roll Racing


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