Nintendo Goes Retro: The Mini NES

Mini NES.jpgWe know that Nintendo has a new HD console in the works with the NX, but we don’t know a hell of a lot of details about said console. But this week Nintendo announced a different console, one that’s aimed in a different direction. Coming this November 11, Nintendo is bringing a Mini-NES to us, complete with HDMI video out, a classic NES themed controller and 30 pre-installed classic games. I think this is an excellent way to bring what made Nintendo so special to us older gamers to a younger generation, the kids just starting to play games now who never had the opportunity to play the NES. They’ve never had the joy of getting a cartridge to work after you spend 10 minutes blowing on it and the console; they know the names of the classics but haven’t (most likely) ever had the chance to play the originals. It’s also a fantastic way for us older gamers to reacquaint ourselves with our favorites, especially if you’re like me and gave your original NES away back in junior high and just haven’t been able to find another at the local retro shop since.

A lot of the games that will be part of the new Mini-NES are available already in other forms, mainly on the Virtual Consoles for Nintendos current group of consoles. That doesn’t mean that this is a rehash though – based on what Nintendo has said about the controller being based on the NES one, there’s something very different about playing those classic games on that controller, it’s a special feeling playing the games with the exact controller they were designed for. We don’t really think a lot about that these days, the controllers on the big two consoles are functionally identical, it’s just a few minor design and layout details that differentiate them. The NES controller is such a different feeling and looking controller compared with what we’re used to now – it’s blocky, almost uncomfortable in your hand; it’s incredibly simple in its design, two buttons and a D-pad. It’s actually something I’m really curious to see how the younger generation of players will react to – it’s a weird situation because there are tons of players who are familiar with the controller, but just as many who aren’t.

Mega Man 2 American Box

What they are familiar with, at least more so, are the games the Mini-NES will come with. The list of 30 games hits some of the biggest games that the NES had, including games that started franchises we’re still playing to this day. There are plenty of Nintendo favorites on there, along with a couple other third party gems. The full list includes:

  • Balloon Fight
  • Bubble Bobble
  • Castlevania
  • Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Double Dragon II: The Revenge
  • Dr. Mario
  • Excitebike
  • Final Fantasy
  • Galaga
  • Ghosts’N Goblins
  • Gradius
  • Ice Climber
  • Kid Icarus
  • Kirby’s Adventure
  • Mario Bros.
  • Mega Man 2
  • Metroid
  • Ninja Gaiden
  • Pac-Man
  • Punch-Out!!
  • StarTropics
  • Super C
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Super Mario Bros. 2
  • Super Mario Bros. 3
  • TECMO Bowl
  • The Legend of Zelda
  • Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Just looking at the list there are plenty of games that I’ve already played and beaten time and time again, but keep wanting to play another time. Games like Super Mario Bros 3, Mega Man 2, The Legend of Zelda and Metroid are some of the best NES games of all time. There are a couple deeper cuts in there that younger fans might not have ever played – StarTropics in particular jumps out to me. If you’re a new fan to gaming, or you’ve been playing for a handful of years, this is an incredible collection of games that forms the foundation of modern gaming. If you want to get a history lesson while playing some really amazing games at the same time, this Mini-NES is a must have this November.

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Mega Man Legacy Collection – The Games Ranked

Megaman Legacy CollectionTaking a little break from what’s been a pretty Destiny heavy couple weeks lately, I wanted to put down my ranking of the six games that are present in the Mega Man Legacy Collection. I already talked a bit about the game as a whole, and in the past I’ve talked about the classic series as well. But now that those first six NES games are easily available on current-gen systems, I thought maybe people would like to know which are the better games in the collection.

Mega Man 3 Title Screen

We’ll start with what I think is the very best Mega Man classic game – Mega Man III. it has the first example of story shakeup, with the Doc Robot stages, Break Man’s presence and the two Dr.s working together. Add in the best play control seen in the series to that point, and really the foundation for the 8-bit games moving forward. Rush opens up all kinds of different movement options, making for some pretty clever platforming. It’s also got one of the better sets of Robot Masters, with great music to go with them. I know Mega Man 2 gets a ton of talk about being the best – but I think the series really started to shine with the third game. Play them both back-to-back and I think you’ll start to come around.

Mega Man 4 Title Screen

Next up, I think the next level actually is a tie. I would put Mega Man 2 and Mega Man 4 together, but for different reasons. MM4 is my very favorite game in the series, mainly for nostalgic and personal reasons, but I do think it stands up there pretty close to the top. It’s got that same level of player control – which gives the player incredible precision, which then extends to awesome platforming sections. Rush is still in there, and then they added in the two items to increase the options. I do think that the Robot Masters are also awesome. MM4 is also the first game to add in a second castle section with Dr. Cossack, and really added in a little bit of depth to the story. Mega Man 2 on the other hand is up there for a different set of reasons. It’s the first one that truly feels special – the original had a great start, but the sequel is when the series really takes hold. The precision is stepped up, the detail in the levels is increased, the Robot Masters are a bit more inventive and there’s more variety in weapons available to the player. Not only that but the game has perhaps two of the most recognizable pieces of music in the series and it’s really hard to argue against Mega Man 2‘s place on the pedestal.

Mega Man 2 Title Screen

Next up on the list, just missing the podium, is another set of two games that I think are pretty comparable. Just like the last set, I think it’s a different set of reasons that keep them pretty close: Mega Man 5 and Mega Man. The original needs to be here, for historical reasons mainly. It’s the beginning of the franchise, which keeps it from being the worst out there. Yes, it’s probably the hardest in the collection, mainly because of the lack of E-Tanks and passwords. Yes it has only six Robot Masters and a pretty simple set of them to boot. But looking at it within the context of the collection it’s hard to say it’s the worst Mega Man game. With MM5 though, I think we hit that point where Capcom ran into a bit of a wall. The story is very similar to the previous game – a first boss that is a red herring, complete with a whole castle to fight through. The actual play control is still at that same level, nothing really changes from Mega Man 4 onward. I think the Robot Masters are a real mixed bag in MM5 though – there are some cool ones, but there’s also some kinda lame ones. Music that is mediocre in its arrangement also doesn’t help. MM5 is really where the series started to show its age – five games in just a few years is pretty rough. That’s why I think the Mega Man X series really came in at the perfect time.

Which brings us, of course, to the final game in the collection – Mega Man 6. While it’s not a bad game, per se, but when you compare it with the other games it really struggles to stand out. Losing Rush’s separate forms in exchange for the power adapters really I think was a poor move. The storyline is the third time in a row that there’s a doppelganger villain before Dr. Wily is revealed to be behind it all – complete with two castles to deal with. What I think really hurts MM6 is that a lot of the Robot Masters feel boring. There are a few that feel like retreads of previous themes, and other that just don’t really come across as exciting to fight. Mega Man 6 wasn’t actually made by Capcom, and it shows – it was a Nintendo made game. Again, it isn’t a bad game – but I think once you’ve played through all the games in the Legacy Collection, you’ll agree it’s probably the weakest one in there.

Mega Man Legacy Collection Impressions

Megaman Legacy Collection

While we haven’t quite made it to the Triple A busy season yet, we are starting to get some new games. I already talked about the Rare Replay collection last week, and today we’ll look at another anthology – the Megaman Legacy Collection. You may remember a Minecraft sprite project I was working on before my last computer met with an accident featuring the Megaman games. If you do, it should come as no surprise that I am very much in favor of this collection.

We’ll start with the games included. This is the third anthology of Megaman “Classic” series games, and the second to come out in the US. The first only was released in Japan as the Rockman Complete Works collection and featured the NES games with some neat extras. Our first collection was the Anniversary Collection, which was the first eight games in the series. It was the first time that Megaman 8 appeared on a Nintendo console (Gamecube); and conversely, the first time the first seven games appeared on Sony and Microsoft consoles. It wasn’t the best collection though in my mind – the Megaman 1 port was missing a feature unique to that game. The select trick that is present in the NES original wasn’t in the Anniversary Collection. The Megaman 8 port was also the PSX version of the game, which is missing two hidden bosses that I think really should have been in the collection – Wood Man and Cut Man.

Mega Man 2 Title Screen

Which brings us to the current Legacy Collection. It’s a simplified anthology, only featuring the first six games – the NES classics. The controls make perfect sense, and the unique quirks to each game remain in place. The first game’s select button “faintwarp” trick is still in there, Megaman 2 still retains the “normal” mode from the US NES version and there are even a few little sprite flicker elements. There are a few different visual options to pick from – you can make the game full or wide screen, in addition to the original screen size. If you want an extra bit of classic feel, you can put a filter on the screen to make your picture look more like a CRT display too. These don’t really have any impact on actual gameplay, but it’s a really nice little touch. The games probably haven’t ever looked this good on a console – they run really smoothly, and it’s easy to see every detail in the sprite work.

Mega Man 4 Title Screen

It’s no secret that the Megaman games have always been my very favorite games, of all times. This is a fantastic collection for a new player to get acquainted with the Blue Bomber. And for longtime fans, this is probably the best NES collection of his games out there. But what really makes this a real treat for longtime fans is the extras. Each game has a database showing off each enemy, including their health and damage, along with what weapon they’re weak against. That’s an awesome detail for new and old players alike – there are 46 robot masters in the game, and that’s a lot of weaknesses to have to remember. I find myself looking through the database just to see some more about everything in the games. Each game also has a museum associated with them, showing off the art from the manuals, as well as any other promotional artwork, including the boss contest submissions. It’s a really cool detail – I love the museum for the original game, since each weapon has two pieces of art: one from back in ’87 and one from more recently.

Mega Man 3 Title Screen

The last part of the collection is the Challenge section. They’re bitesized bits of Megaman goodness. They range from completing a screen or two from each stage in a game, to boss rushes, to beating levels under very specific circumstances. They’re great ways to give longtime players a little different kind of challenge. The Megaman games are well known for being pretty tough to begin with, but like most platformers are based on patterns. The more you play, the easier they get. The challenges shake the formula up and push you to learn new patterns – something that isn’t super easy after 20 years of playing the games. The Legacy Collection I think is a really awesome way to enjoy six of the best games that ever graced the NES. Megaman is a franchise that I think younger gamers don’t have the same appreciation for that a lot of older players do, mainly because Capcom has been loathe to make new Classic series games. Hell, the Blue Bomber in general has been on Capcom’s backburner for far too long I think. I’d love to see this collection, along with the success of Mega in Smash Bros. maybe get them thinking that the time is right for him to come back. We’ll just have to wait and see. Regardless, I really think you should go pick this up – it’s only $15, and it’s six amazing games.

The Second Most Exciting Game Announcement of the Month

Megaman PALAs I’ve been saying for about the last week now, I cannot wait for Fallout 4. It surpassed Star Wars: Battlefront as my most anticipated game of the year. I certainly didn’t expect another announcement before E3 to get me anywhere near that same level of excitement. That was before Capcom changed that earlier this week with the Mega Man Legacy Collection.

I’ve talked plenty on this blog about Mega Man, from my currently on hiatus Minecraft project, to my thoughts on how perfectly the games illustrate excellent game design. I’ve always said that for all the great games in the last 10-15 years, my favorite games of all time are still the original Mega Man games. This isn’t the first time that Capcom has put out a collection of the classic games – 10 years ago for the 15th anniversary of the series they put out a collection of the first eight games. I bought that game then, and I’ll buy this upcoming collection too.

Mega Man 4 Stage Select

I actually think that this Legacy Collection could end up being the better product. Not only is it a more focused game, only featuring the first six NES games; but it’s got the added benefit of the new console power. I expect them to run smoothly – at this point there shouldn’t be much of an issue with any emulation for them. I’m also looking forward to the prospect of achievements/trophies – it’s on the Xbox One/PS4/PC. Depending on how they structure them, they really could open up a series of amazing games to a whole new audience. I really think that of the six games in the collection, four of them are absolute must-play games, and the other two are still really strong games. Those first four Mega Man games are absolute gems – not only individually, but as a series those first games are such a great example of refining the games features and updating the series. The idea of sequels is that they take the previous games’ strengths and weakness, and make better the strengths, and get rid of the weaknesses. Those first four games do that pretty much perfectly.

Megaman 2 Stage Select

Fallout 4Rock Band 4, and Star Wars: Battlefront had been my slate of games that I considered my must-buy list for the later part of the year. Over the course of the summer though, the Mega Man Legacy Collection has definitely popped up into the list. I’m definitely looking forward to playing through my favorite series all over again this summer.

Minecraft Monday: Title Screens Always Take Forever

Mega Man 2 Title ScreenAs of the writing of this, I still have a little work to do on the Mega Man 2 Title Screen for my Mega Man Land project. All that’s left is the actual logo of Mega Man, which as I said a couple weeks ago during my Mega Man 3 work, has proven to be a pain. So I’ve been taking the whole screen a little slowly – tackling it one section at a time to make sure I didn’t miscount. Unfortunately that plan didn’t quite work out for me. I’ve already made one counting mistake, luckily one that wasn’t a tough fix. As for those details that I mentioned in last week’s post, the building and Mega Man himself; those were actually really quite simple to do. The building’s toughest part was not losing count on the vertical edge. Once I had that set, the sections are all divided up enough where the count wasn’t enough to really be an issue. The windows, which have some extra detailing in them, also went really smooth.

The biggest problem I have with doing the Title Screens so far though is just the sheer amount of black wool I need to place. And it’s really not even a problem, it’s more that it’s just such a slow process that it makes me less interested in doing the screen for long periods at a time. The Stage Select screens are a different beast because there’s so much going on – even though there’s a lot of blue wool in each screen, it’s broken up with all kinds of extra stuff. And the Sprite Field is totally different as well, in fact, the sprites have become my favorite part of the project. They’re quick to do, they look super cool when their all finished, and I think they add a little bit of extra flair to the project.

Megaman 2 Stage Select

So going into this week the plan is to finish up the Title Screen and get going on the sprite field. Depending on how fast the Robot Masters go there’s a good chance that I’ll finish it all this week. The question with this one is what to put in the extra space – there’s no Doc Robot or Protoman to fill the blank space. My early ideas are the three Item power-ups as well as Doctor Wily in some form. Then it’ll be on to the game I’ve been dreading – the original Mega Man. I’ll explain why when we get to it.

Minecraft Monday: Mega Man 3 Finally Finished With, Progress Continues On

Mega Man 3 Box ArtWhen I started this whole project, I knew that this was going to be a huge undertaking. Six NES games to do, plus two more 8-bit styled ones in Mega Man 9 and 10 – not to mention the possibility of doing the fan-made 8-bit de-makes of Mega Man 7 and 8. That’s a whole hell of a lot of Minecrafting to do. What I didn’t expect was that Mega Man 3 – the second game I tackled – would be so damn frustrating. I already have mentioned my continual messing up while doing the Title Screen, and also found another small error I had made in the Stage Select. Thankfully, it was only two blocks that needed to be fixed, so it didn’t mess up much. I only even found it because I was going overly detailed with one of the new additions to the sprite field. I decided to put in Break Man (Proto Man)’s portrait in, which was actually pretty cool, thanks to his scarf breaking out of the border. I did something similar with Dr. Cossack in Mega Man 4, but since Break Man is actually named like the other Robot Masters, I put his name below the portrait too. Of course that meant applying the background too – I made sure that the placement of the “Mega Man III” matches up with the center portrait on the screen. That’s where I found my error – I had messed up on the “M” in Man on a couple in the screen.

Megaman 3 Stage Select

Once that was dealt with though, I had a bunch of blank space to fill in with the sprite field. After digging around for a good sheet of Rush, I was able to put in Rush with Coil and Jet in there, along with all of the weapon energy and health energy pick ups. I got a little lucky there, in that there was just enough space for each pick up. While I was in pick up mode, I finished up the buffer zone between games, carpeted the whole thing, and called Mega Man 3 completed.

Megaman 2 Stage Select

I was still feeling the Minecraft though, so I went ahead and moved on to Mega Man 2. I set up four stacks of 64 blue wool, switched to survival, and set up the bottom row of 256 for the Stage Select. The thing with Mega Man 2 is that the Stage Select is a lot more sparse than Mega Man 3 – there’s not much going on, so to get started there was some counting of pixel rows. Moving back a game also adds in another little detail – for each Robot Masters’ name, in the later games, the white pixels are bordered with a row of black to add some depth. That row of black doesn’t exist in Mega Man 2, so the letters look a little weird right now. Since I was on a roll, I went ahead and finished up Metal Man and Flash Man – both were pretty easy to do, although Metal Man isn’t quite an exact match. The early Mega Man games use what is basically a really dark magenta color for deep red – which doesn’t exist in Minecraft, so I just used red wool and pink clay, like I have for the rest of the red Robot Masters. All in all, the Stage Select should go pretty smooth, it’s the Title Screen I’m looking at – there’s a lot more going on with it than any other one.

Minecraft Monday: Mega Man 3 Sprites Completed, Buffer Zone in Progress

I shared last week how I went about tackling the Robot Master sprites for Mega Man 3. Much like with those sprites, I took a little different approach to the Mega Man sprites with the weapons. With Mega Man 4, they were all bundled up together into one set – which looks alright with the fences I use for dividing and orientation removed. With this set though, I wanted to take a little more organized approach, hence my breaking the Mega Man sprites out into a separate section. In order to keep everything on one level, my plan was to put a standing sprite of Mega Man (with one exception), and the weapon’s sprite below him, followed by the menu icon. Aside from Top Spin, the plan worked pretty well – there’s a little variation, thanks to the fact that some weapons have big sprites – Spark Shock and Shadow Blade – while others are really quite thin – Gemini Laser and Needle Cannon.

So the organization worked out pretty well, but there were a couple other little things that still rub me wrong a little. First is Top Spin. As a Mega Man fan, it’s a crap weapon – I only think people use it to kill Shadow Man, and that’s it. It’s unreliable with its energy usage, and on top of that, it’s a melee weapon that requires you to spin into enemies with – and you can only use it while jumping. From a Minecraft pixel art perspective though, it’s even more annoying. One of the two colors for Mega Man’s armor is easy to match – the grey on his legs, hands and helmets. The problem is with the highlight color. According to the game artwork – it’s supposed to be a yellowish color:
Top Spin ArtHowever, the in-game sprite coloring looks a bit different. That yellow, which would be no problem replicating in Minecraft, isn’t in the sprite:Top Spin Sprite

Instead, that looks a lot like a pinkish-grey color. And while there is is a pink wool, and even pink clay, both have too much red in them to really act as an analog. So I ended up using the pink clay, but I’m not super happy with out it turned out. If there’s an update down the road that offers a better option, this is definitely one detail that I’ll go back and change. The other issue was also with Top Spin. It doesn’t actually have a weapon sprite – when you fire it in mid-air, you spin around a whole bunch – that’s the attack. So I used the jumping sprite for Mega Man, but instead of also using the crappy pink color for the spin lines, I just decided to forgo them completely. So Top Spin is a little off compared with the rest of the Mega Men.

Once I had finished up the Mega Man work, I decided to look at the buffer zone between Mega Man 4 and Mega Man 3. I had originally planned on putting in various sprites of Mega Man, Proto Man, Rush and even Robot Masters that I liked. What I instead went with was a repeating pattern of the 1-Up power-up (Mega Man’s Head) and the E-Tank pick-up. I had left a bit too much space horizontally, so when I go ahead on to Mega Man 2, I know to leave a bit less, to give me a nice even split. I think 20 blocks will let me have two free spaces on either side of the widest parts of the sprites. But the nice thing is that with the white carpet placed down after, it looks pretty good. It’s certainly better than just having blank space – it gives a bit of a feeling like wallpaper to me.

Which brings me to my plan of attack for this week. I still have a bunch of free space in the sprite field, so much like I did with Mega Man 4, I’m going to add in an extra portrait. Instead of making the one for Wily, which would go with theme, I think I’ll do Break Man (Proto Man) and if there’s still space enough, I will do one of the busted ones from the Doc Robot phase. After that’s handled, I need to extend down the buffer pieces down to the sprites, carpet it, and then it’s on to Mega Man 2. I would say I’m probably only a couple hours away from moving on, which I can’t wait. Mega Man 3 definitely has been a much more complicated project than Mega Man 4 was. I don’t expect Mega Man 2 to be that rough, but I will be making sure to not add in more user error like I did this time around.