Retro Power: Issue 3
Helloooooo, reader folk! So nice to see you again. We hope your new year is going well so far– we automatically renewed your Retro Power subscription for you! You’re welcome!
Last month’s discussion question was: “What games have changed your life?”
My entry is Counter-Strike 1.6, I would go to a local Internet Cafe (remember when those were a thing?) and hang out with other local guys in the clan. We would get online and play for hours. I think those experiences are what helped to keep my interest in computers/technology, which has set me up for success in adulthood.
I remember being 7 years old, walking in a Blockbuster (remember those?) and seeing the biggest, most brightly coloured box I’ve ever seen. Little did I know that this gargantuan box would be something that would change the way I grew up.
Earthbound wasn’t just another RPG for me, I mean sure, Final Fantasy II was fun, but everything in this game just hit struck a chord with me. The bright, Saturday morning colour palette. The catchy soundtrack. Even that player’s guide that I carried around with me day in and out.
Playing the game when I did, I wasn’t a character, I was Ness, and looking back, the game taught me so many things about what it means to be an adult, but through terms that I could understand. Corruption, brutality, cults, even just the simple fact that not everything that we come across is always exactly what it seems.
Earthbound taught a quiet kid like me that it’s not about the destination, that it’s the journey. That it’s the friends you make and have in your life that make that hard journey, easier. That when you know yourself, you’re stronger than you were.
Maybe most importantly though, Earthbound taught me that you should never stop looking at the world through a child’s eyes.
Readers, we have a special treat from 1MoreCastle’s own Tom Hall. He may be the world’s greatest uncle.
Two years ago, at Thanksgiving, I brought my Nintendo 64 to my parents’ house with me for the long weekend. My intention was to relive some memories with my dad and have some fun with my sister and brother in law. What I could not have calculated for, though, was my then three year old niece, Shelby. She was enamored with my N64 and was soon pulling cartridges out of my bag and demanding I play them, assigning adorably incorrect names to the games. For example, Donkey Kong 64 was Monkey and Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire was Lego Man due to seeing her father play Lego Star Wars. Since then, she has had a love of video games, even kidnapping my 3DSXL this year to play Smash Bros.
Fast forward to this year. One day, my sister started asking me questions about how to purchase a Nintendo 64. After some discussion, she revealed that she was considering purchasing one for Shelby for Christmas. I was elated but after my sister realized how many variants there were on consoles and value, we decided that I would buy the console and she would get games. I decided that the console that would be most likely to excite a now five year old Shelby would be the Pikachu N64.
I searched everywhere I could here locally. I really wanted to keep the money local but alas, no retro shop, thrift shop, flea market, or yard sale I stumbled on could help me. Off I went to the jungle that is eBay. I found a listing, in fact this one:
I want you to look at that. Note how A) this is pictured as a complete unit and B) the listing specifically says “The cover that goes over the jumper pak is there.” The seller had a great feedback rating and I thought I had seen all I needed to make the purchase. So I did. What happened next was, in fact, my nightmare before Christmas.
About a week later, a box was sitting outside my door when I came home from work. Here, let me show you:
Yep, they wrote what was in the box on the outside of the box and then left it outside my apartment for God knows how long. Super. Note how it says “no lid.” Surely that can’t be good. And it wasn’t. Here is what I pulled out of the box:
First of all, this looks like it was exhumed from an ancient tomb. Absolutely filthy. Also, WHERE IN THE NAME OF FARORE IS THE DIN-FORSAKEN EXPANSION BAY COVER? I, now fuming at a level you can not begin to imagine, contact the seller immediately. While I wait for a response, I order a 3rd party replacement cover. I can ill afford to trust the seller to make this right. I also take to social media to vent because, as I may have mentioned, I am angry with the fire of a million suns. This is not just a console. This is my niece’s present and her very first console. It has to be perfect. Absolutely perfect. No exceptions.
The seller responds and tells me that they only have black covers. Cool story, bro. That is really helpful. About this time, my Breaking Bits podcast partner and all around good fella, Eric Hunter sees what is happening. Now Eric had just told me a story at the last Breaking Bits recording about how he had saved a non working Pikachu N64 from being tossed by a friend. He offers to not only send me the cover, but the Expansion Pak. Christmas is saved!
Well, things have a funny way of working out. Eric’s package, thanks to our glorious US Postal Service, didn’t arrive until December 26. However, I still had that order for the 3rd party cover which arrived on time! I pulled the Expansion Pak out of my personal N64 and proceeded to clean up this filthy animal.
It cleaned up quite nicely and the time came to package it all up. It bears mentioning that the controller was included and the stick was good and tight. It isn’t in any of the pictures. Remembering the earlier photo, look at the difference:
SHINY!!! Now I am excited. This is the console Shelby deserves. This is how I can begin to pass down a legacy of retro gaming to my oldest niece. I don’t mind admitting, I was even a little emotional at the thought. I’m ready for Christmas.
Christmas comes and Shelby opens the package. I’d like to tell you that she had a N64 kid style freak out and declared me the emperor of all uncles, forever to rule every uncle ever. What really happened, is that she was already a bit overwhelmed from a morning full of new toys and presents. She looks very angry, which in no way does she get from her uncle, and exclaims “Why did I get a boy thing?”
After realizing it wouldn’t be cool to fist fight a five year old, I played a game of patience. It wasn’t long at all before she asked me to hook it up. The time was now. I got it running and fired up Pokemon Snap. She was bit frustrated at first learning the controls but soon she was taking pictures and bragging about how many she had taken in each level. After a few runs, she no longer needed to ask how to navigate the menus.
So it begins. The next night, she even spent a couple of hours playing Smash Bros with her parents while I watched, knowing none of them were paying attention to the smile on my face and the tear in my eye. I have a picture of that but I really like how my sister isn’t currently trying to murder me and I’d like to keep it that way. What I wanted was finally reality. She was enjoying gaming on her own console and building her own memories with her parents as I did with mine. Who knows, maybe one day she will even be the N64 Connoisseur. As for me, for all of the trouble this thing caused and all of the headaches it was to get it for her and get it ready, every single bit of it was worth it for this one moment.
Alex has a friend who designs pixel art. Please take a moment and take a look at his portfolio. He has done some great work
I’ve created a couple of pieces of born again pixel art including the lumberjack from Timberman and a Paper Mario-esuqe version of ShyGuy (as shown at the end of the article). ShyGuy has quite the history after reviewing the Wiki, and has always been a fun character for me.
In addition, I’m inspired seeing today’s Google Play and iOS App Store platforms where developers are able to successfully create animated sprites out of pixel art, and gamers love them! Maybe it’s the classic nostalgia, maybe it’s just the simplicity and fun qualities of a cartoon-like character.
Nevertheless, we can see, even in today’s gaming world, things don’t have to be made with millions of polygons as long as the game is fun and also social. That’s why I play games!
– Josh Miller
Nathan Crowe is a good friend of Alex’s who happens to run his own YouTube Channel. He specializes in thorough Let’s Plays of Harvest Moon games. Alex was very happy to get a chance to interview him.
Alex: What got you into gaming in the first place?
Nathan: It probably goes back to the old NES that my brother and I played when we were young. It was something I would do with him, or by myself. It was just a lot of fun to play some of the old Mario games like Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. When I saved up and bought my N64 I was pretty much hooked on gaming.
Alex: You jumped from the NES to the N64?
Nathan: No, We had an SNES in between. My brother and I had to each save up and pay half for it. I paid my part immediately, and he took his time because he didn’t save his money like I did. I ended up buying the N64 for myself, and that’s where I really started getting into gaming big time. I kind of got into in with the SNES, but the N64 era I really started buying my own games.
Alex: It’s when you came into your own in gaming, right?
Nathan: Yeah I guess so.
Alex: Was the SNES a source of tension between you and your brother? How about video games in general?
Nathan: No, not really. The biggest source of tension was when I was young I did not know how to connect the Super Nintendo or the NES to the TV to play it. So I had to have him do it, and if he was busy or gone or my parents weren’t around, it was kind of frustrating. There wasn’t much tension otherwise. We played a lot of games together. For example we rented a Sega Genesis, and played Sonic the Hedgehog 2. He was always Sonic and I was always Tails. We had fun with games like that, so for the most part there wasn’t really any arguing over it.
Alex: So it was a good way of bonding with your brother who is how much older than you?
Nathan: He is 5 years and 364 days older than me. And I’d say it was a good way of bonding. It was a time when we were playing together and not fighting.
Alex: Would you consider yourself a retro gamer?
Nathan: Um, not exclusively but yes. I like a lot of video games, especially the ones that appeal to me. I’m not as big into the newer games as most gamers today are, but I’ll always have a soft spot in my heart for anything N64 and older.
Alex: Give us an overview of what systems you have, and what games you have picked up at yard sales, and what you look out for.
Nathan: I really look at anything from the N64 era and older as a gem, and it also helps that they’re cheaper (for the most part) than newer games.
Alex: You consider them gems even if they aren’t a quality game?
Nathan: Yes, I have some games for the N64 simply because they’re for the N64. I really base what games I want by what looks fun and appealing to me. I love platformers, I love RPGs. Really any game that looks like it has potential and has a good price at a yard sale is what I will buy. When it comes to buying new games, I don’t do it often except when it comes to Harvest Moon. I tend to pick a franchise and stick with it, not just Harvest Moon but also games like Mario. I currently have a Wii, a PS2, a Nintendo 64 (the same one I bought when I was young), and a Super Nintendo. The only new system I have is the Nintendo 3DS.
Alex: Why do you like Harvest Moon so much?
Nathan: To be honest, I still enjoy playing it but I don’t get into as much as I did when I was younger. I rented the original SNES Harvest Moon countless times from our local rental shop. I loved the game, I love the social aspects, I loved the achievement aspect of it. It was really innovative. When the N64 version came out, I bought it as well and it further cemented my love for the franchise. Pretty much anything that has been labeled Harvest Moon since I have purchased. Very much out of habit, and also I find that I can do well with those games. Once you know how one works you have an idea of how the next one works, and I think it’s something I can be pretty successful at.
Alex: What pushed you to start your own YouTube channel?
Nathan: I bought Harvest Moon for SNES on the virtual console to see if I could get some high scores, something I wasn’t able to do when I was younger. I started looking on YouTube and other places on the Internet for some guidance. I began to notice there were few if any Let’s Plays of Harvest for SNES. The ones that were up were either incomplete or didn’t get a very high score. I thought that I could do better than that, and started making up the theoretical commentary while playing before I started recording. It motivated me to ask for a video capture device for my birthday. I really wanted to put out a quality Let’s Play of Harvest Moon for SNES, and after that it just became a hobby.
Alex: So you wanted to make something that you yourself would enjoy if you were an audience member?
Nathan: Yes, probably so.
Alex: What were your expectations of the channel when you started it?
Nathan: My expectations were to be a decent sized channel quickly, but soon realized that was a mistake. I had a quarter of my Harvest Moon for SNES playthrough done before I started getting subscribers. I had been rather depressed because no one was watching my videos, and no one was commenting on them. My wife actually made a secret YouTube account and commented on one of my videos to make me feel good about myself, and I found out about it later and got very upset about it.
Alex: You should feel good about that; it was so nice of her!
Nathan: Yeah, I know it was very nice of her. It was very sweet, it bothered me at the time but it was very sweet of her. But now I have lots of views and lots of comments. A few hundred views per video almost. It’s much more active now, but for a while I considered giving up because no one was watching it. So I guess my expectations started pretty moderate, and then dropped pretty low and then rose higher.
Alex: Is it safe to say you look more for the interactivity with your viewers rather than just views?
Nathan: It’s kind of hard to tell what’s more important. Viewership shows me that people are watching and I assume enjoying the videos. With the interactive nature I get to know some of my viewers personally, and get to make friends with them which is a fun experience. I find that probably on average probably 1 in 20 viewers will ever comment on a video. If it were only a few people commenting and no view count it would be depressing because it would look like hardly anyone was watching it. But then again if there was a bunch of views yet very little comments it would make me wonder if anyone was even enjoying it. So it’s a tradeoff either way.
Alex: Do you have any favorite viewers that you’ve gotten to know?
Nathan: Yes, I have several. I have some that have been with me from the start, and some I have developed personal friendships with and are friends with on Facebook. I’ve enjoyed talking with them and have enjoyed getting to know them on a more personal level. I’d say there’s at least two or three that I have gotten to know through the channel.
Alex: What are some misconceptions people may have about Let’s Players?
Nathan: One is that Let’s Players are either grown men who aren’t doing anything productive with their lives, or that they’re just a bunch of little kids playing with their brother’s camera. And neither of those is true in the least bit.
Alex: Do you think there is a viable spot in the gaming community for LPers?
Nathan: I think so on a couple of different levels. LPs are valuable in that you don’t just see a game played; you get to know the player. You get to know their personality and the way they play a game through the commentary. There are a lot of benefits in that you can see how games are played, and learn about the game and in a sense get a feel of the game before a decision to purchase is made. It’s also valuable in my opinion for game producers because it entices viewers to buy the game they see played. I have had multiple multiple viewers ask me where they can purchase the game I am playing through. I think it’s because when they get a taste of it they want to buy it for themselves and put their own personality into it.
Alex: Can you think of one video game that has changed your life?
Nathan: Would it be too generic to say Pokemon?
Nathan: Wait let me think about this for a second. It’s hard to pin down a specific title.
Alex: Maybe a genre or system?
Nathan: I’d say some of the most influential games for me are RPGs or strategy games, or games that involve critical thinking. I think they have developed my personality and how I think about doing things; they have helped me become a little more efficient.
Alex: You and I have been friends for a long time, would you talk a little bit about how video games have had a role in our friendship?
Nathan: Video games played a big role in starting our friendship. When I first came to the church where we met, one of the first people I met was also a gamer. He happened to be you. That’s what got us started talking as friends. Since then it’s been a fun hobby that we share. It’s been valuable in maintaining our friendship. It gives us projects to work on collaboratively and stuff to talk about, and even a reason for you to visit me. It’s been valuable, I wouldn’t say essential but it’s been very valuable in giving us a common denominator to build our friendship on.
That’s it for this month. Thanks once again to our spectacular readers for contributing such good content. Please feel free to email us your retro game inspired art, and pictures of your gaming hauls. We also would love for you to ask us anything retro game related, or better yet answer our reader question of the month. Submit all pictures, messages, and inquiries to retropower1MC@gmail.com by February 20th to be featured in the next article.
Next month’s reader question is
“When did you rediscover your love for retro gaming, or did that passion never die?”