Video Works by Jeremy Parish

Let's kick off the new year by looking at 2020's hottest NES release: A reissue of Irem classic Metal Storm by Retro-Bit Entertainment (and Castlemania Games, and Limited Run Games, and so on). While Metal Storm came out in U.S. back in the day, this rerelease is actually a new conversion of the Japanese game that shipped a year after America's cart and included some new features, including an introductory story cinematic, new difficulty settings, different color schemes for many graphics, and some handy built-in cheat codes. It's new! And old! It's good.

Special thanks to Retro-Bit for this review copy. Preorders for this new version of the game are still available at

Video Works is funded through Patreon ( — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! And be sure to check out the Retronauts podcast (, where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

Hmmm... another out-of-sequence video, though this one is vastly moreso than Tower of Druaga. Batman hit the U.S. two and a half years after our current point in NES Works (Feb 1990 vs. Sept. 1987). But this episode is by patron request as a Christmas gift for his wife, so how can ya say no to that? (You, too, can make similarly heartwarming requests as a video patron: Two years clearly made a huge difference in terms of design, tech, and sophistication. Batman is a far cry from the kinds of games we've been looking at on NES Works. In fairness, it's one of the strongest NES releases from 1990, but the design skills and underlying tech boosts required for this game simply didn't exist in 1987.

The 1989 Batman film was a huge media event, and for many kids this detailed, challenging game (bursting as it was with excellent music and quirky but tight controls) was the highlight of that marketing blitz.

Video Works is funded through Patreon ( — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! And be sure to check out the Retronauts podcast (, where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

Direct download: Batman20retrospective-20Wayne20of20terror207C20NES20Works2023168.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

We're briefly jumping one month out of chronological order here in 1990, from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31, to look at a game that keeps showing up in Video Works: Namco's The Tower of Druaga. While admittedly it's the arcade game from 1984 and the Famicom port from 1985 that keep getting mention for their formative impact on Japanese games design, rather than this port from five or six hours later, this is a more or less direct conversion of the original... plus a few quality-of-life tweaks. Anyway, with this episode in the can, I don't have to explain The Tower of Druaga every time I reference it.

Video Works is funded through Patreon ( — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! And be sure to check out the Retronauts podcast (, where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

The holiest of NES holy grails arrives this week: Stadium Events by Human Entertainment and Bandai. This game is worth relatively little in its European release, and has almost zero value in its reissued "World Class Track Meet" version. But stumble across the original U.S. release and you've basically paid for your retirement. Special thanks to Steve Lin for allowing me to include actual photography of this rarity here.

For contrast, the backup feature: Winter Games, a complete botch job of the PC sports classic by Epyx. It has no intrinsic value, either as a game or as a collector's item.

Video Works is funded through Patreon ( — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! And be sure to check out the Retronauts podcast (, where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

The second and third of Nintendo's first-party releases at the GBA's Japanese launch go under the microscope here as we examine F-Zero: Maximum Velocity (a reversion of the franchise to its original Super NES style) and Napoléon, AKA L'Aigle de Guerre (a real-time strategy game, sort of). By embracing the speediest and deepest of 16-bit genres, they help reinforce just what a big deal GBA was at the time of its launch—a proper home console experience on the go! That you could barely see. But hey. Details.

Video Works is funded through Patreon ( — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! And be sure to check out the Retronauts podcast (, where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

A quick bit of backpeddling here to catch a launch title I missed: Acclaim's Turok 2, which was only a launch title in Europe (that most poorly documented of regions for console releases). You may think a 64-bit first-person shooter would be a poor fit for the Game Boy Color, but to its creators' credit, the game does its best. Not exactly a timeless classic, but surprisingly playable despite its glaring flaws. Video Works is funded through Patreon ( — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! And be sure to check out the Retronauts podcast (, where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

A double-header from Acclaim this week, which isn't as bad as you might expect given the publisher's track record. Neither of these games are particular standouts, but neither will have you praying for the sweet release of death, either. Tiger-Heli is a decent-ish adaptation of a decent-ish arcade shooter, and Star Voyager... well, it's ambitious, but not especially good. There were far better NES games, but there were certainly much worse as well.

While NES Works normally focuses on contextualizing NES games (especially those from Japan) by defining their place in contemporary video game history, and by explaining the state of the industry at the time of their initial creation (and subsequent release into the U.S., when applicable), sometimes exceptions must be made. Here we have one of those cases. While it's certainly worth understanding the import-only works that inspired Deadly Towers's genesis, a significant portion of this game's legacy came about more than a decade—or even two decades—after its U.S. debut. Here we see that sometimes a game is not nearly so remarkable as the conversation that springs up around it.

Direct download: Deadly20Towers20retrospective-20Myer20lemon207C20NES20Works2023055.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 9:00am EDT

The sequel to Pitfall! gives us an even more expansive world to explore than pioneers like Montezuma's Revenge: A system of underground caverns comprising roughly 250 screens of virtual real estate. Sure, about 50 of those screens amount to columns of empty air, but the underlying concept has merit. Pitfall II downplayed white-knuckle action in favor of unraveling the pathways and interconnections of its subterranean world in order to explore every corner, score points, and complete an objective.

Yep, it's Halloween, and that means it's time for my annual Castlevania retrospective. This time, we jump forward a decade from Super Castlevania IV...

For many long-time fans, the big selling point for Game Boy Advance at launch wasn't a kooky Mario port or a throwback F-Zero sequel—it was Konami's first proper attempt at a Symphony of the Night follow-up in the form of Castlevania: Circle of the Moon. Circle absolutely blew away anything that had ever been created to that point for a handheld system, with stunning music and great-looking graphics.

Unfortunately, Circle wasn't without its shortcomings—some resulting from questionable game design choices, and others resulting from issues with the GBA hardware itself. This tiny metroidvania juggernaut wasn't quite the grand slam it could and should have been, but don't let its flaws distract from the fact that this was an unparalleled feat in portability back in 2001.

A new series begins here to round out the entirety of the Game Boy family's history. At the very least, we'll explore the early days of Game Boy Advance and how Nintendo and their partners brought more than a decade of handheld gaming experience to bear on a system that was (generally) powerful enough to allow them to realize their grander ambitions. As we can see from this very first release for GBA, it was a transitional process....

Another Konami shooter arrives, and this one encompasses a little bit of every other shooter to have appeared on the system to date. It's also tied to a long-running series, despite having been renamed in the U.S. So why does no one ever talk about this game? Is it because it was unbearably cute? Or is it because it was overshadowed by its own sibling release a year later?

We take a side excursion into a nebulous place in NES history: Tengen's licensed trio of games from 1987. Or is it 1988? It's hard to say, because there's no firm record of when these games originally shipped. It's always tough to pin down exact American release dates for NES games, since Nintendo of America only officially cites release months... but what happens when Nintendo refuses to acknowledge the existence of a game altogether for political reasons? That's the conundrum that surrounds the first three games released by Atari spinoff Tengen under license by Nintendo—before they went rogue.

(That's "The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner" if you're nasty.) Four—count 'em, four!—companies make their NES debut here before going on to become third-party pillars of the platform. 3-D WorldRunner comes to us courtesy of Squaresoft (they of Final Fantasy fame) and Acclaim (they of, uhhh, Bart Vs. The Space Mutants infamy). Sky Kid is a Namco/SunSoft joint. None of these companies should need any sort of intro for anyone who has a decent familiarity with the NES, and this is where they both get their start on the U.S. side of the console. Nothing inspiring here, but these are the seeds for greater things.

Japanese arcade giant Irem makes its NES debut—or at least its debut as a publisher under its own steam. Spelunker and Sqoon make for interesting companion pieces to Lode Runner and Bungeling Bay, one being an Irem PC port published by Brøderbund and the other being a game published by Irem itself. Anyway, both are hilariously difficult.

This series' Nintendo 64 launch retrospective wraps up with a look back at the, uh, second N64 launch title: Pilotwings 64. As with Super Mario 64, it builds on a Super NES launch title by expanding its design into proper 3D space while also making its overall design and progression a bit more bite-sized and approachable. Although it's quite dated all these years later, you can definitely see it as a leap forward from what had come before.

Also this episode: The Japan-exclusive third launch title, Saikyo Habu Shogi.

We have yet another early Game Boy Color release that got its start in monochrome—but this one's a little different. Rather than appearing as a late Game Boy release and hastily being reworked for color, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening debuted back in 1993 and was given a comprehensive overhaul for the new handheld. While largely the same game as the original release, with few visual or mechanical changes outside of a more vivid palette, Link's Awakening DX does add new material to Nintendo's handheld classic: A new bonus dungeon, some new gear, and Game Boy Printer support. It ultimately amounts to a minor upgrade, yes, but the base game was so strong that it didn't need much in the way of an overhaul. Here, as on Game Boy, it's a genuine classic.

We look overseas this week to a notable Japan-only release for Game Boy Color: A chapter of the Intelligent Systems "Wars" series. Though not as sophisticated or charming as Advance Wars, there's still a lot to like about this import title... assuming you don't mind the significant step backward it represents from the later games that actually made their way to the U.S.

Also in this episode: Game Boy Color gets the first of many, many Pokémon clones to come in the fully tolerable but utterly unremarkable Sanrio Time Net, which comes in both Past and Future versions.

Another incremental release for Game Boy Color; like Wario Land II, Game & Watch Gallery 2 began life as a monochrome release in one territory (but not the rest). Quirky history aside, it's a fine recreation and distillation of some formative portable history. While it doesn't offer 100% verisimilitude to the source material, this is a loving recreation packed with tons of extra features and some remarkably involved unlockable content. Not bad for a collection of primitive pocket calculators.

Having explored the span of the Virtual Boy's library, let's now create a little context for its existence. There's more to this curious little system than the fact that it bombed at retail and Nintendo cut its life short. It represents designer Gunpei Yokoi's passion for interesting applications for affordable technology, prefigured some game industry design standards, and presented a remarkably solid library of software. Was Virtual Boy flawed? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean it's not worth experiencing, or remembering.

Virtual Boy Works ended on a slightly downbeat note with Virtual Bowling, a fine take on the 10-pin pastime by Athena that remains inaccessible to normal humans thanks to its alarming rarity and terrifyingly high price. Well, here's the happy twist coda: Pocket Bowling is a direct sequel to Virtual Bowling that carries forward many of the other game's core mechanics and design elements, but costs a LOT less and doesn't require a piece of fragile, hard-to-come-by equipment to enjoy. Sure, Game Boy Color can't support the immersive viewpoint and design of Virtual Bowling, but this captures the enjoyable core of the other game quite neatly. Let's hear it for small victories, eh?

Japan-only release for this episode: Warashi's Honkaku Shougi: Shougi Ou.

For Nintendo's third portable system (allowing for a very loose definition of "portable" where Virtual Boy is concerned), we once again have another platformer in the Super Mario Land family to help kick things off. But while Wario Land II may technically be a sequel to Super Mario Land, it has almost nothing to do with that game besides being a platform game inspired by Super Mario Bros. It drops the "Mario" title altogether, focusing entirely on antagonistic protagonist Wario, who finally distinguishes himself from his do-gooding rival by being completely immortal. There are no health pick-ups here, no 1UPs, none of that frail nonsense. Wario is indestructible, like all cartoon bad guys, and Wario Land II builds on that premise to create an exploratory puzzle-platform experience like nothing before it. It's a masterpiece, and a great launch title for Game Boy Color... even if it technically wasn't, originally.

Game Boy Color's second release is ALSO a portable puzzler, but one with less mass appeal than Tetris. While clearly a passion project by a small team, Hexcite is bogged down by its fidelity to an actual physical board game release and a few too many rules for its own good.

Game Boy Works travels forward in time eight years to the invention of a radical new concept in portable gaming: Color! Well, maybe it wasn't so new for the industry at large, but true color was a first for Nintendo portables. And to kick things off, the Kyoto giant went back to the well to reprise the block puzzler that helped make the original Game Boy a smash hit: Tetris. In addition to a color palette, Tetris DX also tweaked the vintage release with new modes and modified physics. It's not so much a remake as a sequel, but it's a fitting kickoff to the Game Boy Color lineup (even if it wasn't technically the first Game Boy Color release, having been beaten to the punch by Dragon Warrior Monsters).

American publisher makes its NES (and console) debut with conversions of two of its own landmark computer titles: Doug Smith's Lode Runner and Will Wright's Raid on Bungeling Bay. Neither men had any direct involvement with these conversions, which instead were handled by Japanese developer Hudson. The result is a pair of visually overhauled (but generally quite faithful) ports that go a long way toward embodying the overall tone and style that would define NES games. At the same time, these ports speak to America and Japan's shared love of great games while highlighting the stylistic differences between east and west in the 8-bit era. A solid duo of classics... though perhaps a bit slow to reach the U.S. to have true impact here.

This is it! The very final Japanese release for Virtual Boy. The final Virtual Boy game retrospective. And the most expensive Virtual Boy game by far. But you know, it's kind of nice to end this series on a high note. Virtual Bowling is legitimately a fantastic take on the sport, with great mechanics and pleasant visuals. Pity that a boxed copy will set you back as much as a decent used car these days.

One final "thank you" goes out to Chris Kohler for providing this rare gem for coverage.

Japan's next-to-last Virtual Boy release, and the only Japanese title for the platform to be based on a media license. It's SD Gundam, though, and you can bet it lives down to whatever expectations that might instill for you. A brief and unpleasant strategy game in which battles play out through terrible combat sequences, Dimension War is definitely not worth the enormous price it commands on the aftermarket.

The second of Virtual Boy's big-ticket Japan-only rarities, Virtual Lab stands out from the rest by virtue of being the absolute worst. It's a disaster of a puzzle game, riddled with derivative yet ill-conceived mechanics, terrible visuals and sound, and a lack of quality that permeates every aspect of this overpriced cartridge. Do not engage.

Thanks as always to Chris Kohler for lending this game to the project.

We're nearly done with Virtual Boy Works, but before we can put a bow on this venture, we need to tackle the four daunting Japan-only collector's pieces that shipped in the console's final month of existence in that market. First up is Space Invaders: Virtual Collection, a pretty decent recreation of and embellishment on the venerable arcade classics. It's a game that would be a no-brainer pick-up if not for the fact that its value has shot into the stratosphere thanks to its extreme rarity. Oh well.

Venture into the ineffable madness of on of Virtual Boy's most unique creations: A fast-paced first-person shooter based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft. This is one of those games whose existence seems completely inexplicable—but it's nevertheless quite welcome. Innsmouth no Yakata (sometimes transcribed as Insmouse no Yakata) is a relentless, challenging shooter that creates an impressive sense of anxiety—which means it's a pity it never made its way outside of Japan.

Next in our look at Virtual Boy's Japan-exclusive lineup is the system's sole foray into the fishing genre: A by-the-numbers take on the format by Locomotive and Pack-In-Video called, creatively, Virtual Fishing. It is... fishing. On Virtual Boy. The end.

Thanks as always to Chris Kohler for lending his copy of the game to this project.

Another Japan-exclusive Virtual Boy release, this one from minor publisher Coconuts Japan. And it's a good, if slight, creation that takes great advantage of the Virtual Boy hardware to present players with a sci-fi rendition of a popular sport. Like a lot of other games on the system, it needed a little more time in the oven to achieve its full potential—but it's both fun and interesting, making it one of the more notable imports for Virtual Boy.

We launch into Virtual Boy's Japan-exclusive line-up by heading back to the other Tetris game at the other end of the system's life: V-Tetris. This game is nothing at all like 3D-Tetris; for one thing, it's actually Tetris. V-Tetris does nothing to really take advantage of the hardware here, so it's a shame that this interpretation of the block-dropping classic has been locked to Virtual Boy—its special mode offers a unique and enjoyable take on the venerable favorite.

Two direct arcade ports hit the NES here, and boy golly are these things not necessarily created equal. About the only thing they have in common is that they're both incredibly difficult to complete. But Athena is a hot mess of a conversion, as is the Micronics way, while Arkanoid is a pretty spectacular adaptation. Of course, to be fair, Arkanoid has an advantage here: It came with its own pack-in controller, designed exclusive for use with this one game. But even without the Vaus paddle, it's still a far sight more fun than Athena. Which isn't to say Athena was necessarily a barebones package; in Japan, it came with a special bonus pack-in that Americans were denied...

If you'd like to hear the full cassette tape, I've ripped the audio into a separate video upload:

Super NES Works 1991 limps weakly over the finish line with the third dud in a row. Lagoon makes a pitiful capstone for an otherwise strong opening period for Nintendo's 16-bit beast, a hobbled conversion of a fairly respectable PC game that suffers horribly from a single ill-considered new design choice. Oh well! At least we have 1992 to look forward to...

Direct download: Lagoon_retrospective_Bad_ending__Super_NES_Works_23029.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

And just like that, we've reached the end of the American Virtual Boy library. Does this slim collection of games at least receive a grand sendoff, you may be wondering? Well... eh. Not really. At the very least, they could have given us a REAL Tetris game....

Direct download: 3-D_Tetris_retrospective_Red_rain__Virtual_Boy_Works_2313.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

We return briefly to Game Boy Works to mark the system's 30th anniversary... not that this these games are necessarily glorious celebrations of Game Boy's existence. But then again, maybe they're perfectly apt? Square Deal combines two of the system's most common genres—puzzlers and casino games—and Parasol Henbee is a licensed platformer. Together, these comprise the fundamental Game Boy experience. And while they're not amazing, they're both above average for their genres. So... a concise summary of the Game Boy experience, I guess.

It's the worst game in the world! Ha! Ha. No, not really. Despite being based on a dud of a film and appearing exclusively on a failed game console, Ocean's Waterworld isn't the most atrocious thing ever committed to silicon. Make no mistake, it's not GOOD—but there are certainly worse things you could cram into a game system. It's an interesting (albeit extremely rough) attempt to bring some classic arcade concepts to Virtual Boy.

One of two Virtual Boy bowling sims, this one stands out from its Japanese counterpart by virtue of featuring Nester, the unlikely antagonist of Nintendo Power's "Howard & Nester" comics. And his twin sister Hester, whose existence had never been mentioned prior to this game. Which shipped a couple of years after Nester's comic had been canceled. What a strange and inexplicable game.

Hudson's second (and final) Virtual Boy game sees them visiting comfortable territory with a vertical shooter very much in the Star Soldier vein. A plane-shifting layer effect makes good on a central concept of that franchise, though the realities and limitations of the hardware somewhat gum up the works...

Direct download: Vertical_Force_retrospective_Red_squadron___Virtual_Boy_Works_23101.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The second half of NES Works' look back at Metroid explores the changes it underwent in coming to the U.S., how both the flow and the music of the game help shape the player's experience, and the greater legacy of Samus Aran.

Direct download: Metroid_retrospective_part_2_Galaxy_brain___NES_Works_23048_Pt._2.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Nintendo wraps its run of summer 1987 console masterpieces with the third entry in its not-quite-Black-Box series: Metroid. Playing like a midpoint between Super Mario and Zelda but with a flavor all its own, Metroid continues the trend of NES action games striving to present players with something more substantial than arcade-style test of twitch reflexes. (Stay tuned for the other half of this retrospective next week.)

The final Nintendo R&D1-developed title for Virtual Boy pulls double-duty as the best of the batch—not just among R&D1's creations, but for the platform as a whole. Playing like a supercharged version of Wario's first solo outing on Game Boy, VB Wario Land is a fairly brief adventure that doesn't offer much in the way of challenge, and it ultimately feels a bit slight compared to other games in the series. What it lacks in size, however, it more than makes up for in terms of polish and creativity. It would be a classic on any platform, but being on Virtual Boy makes it a true standout... and annoyingly difficult to play in 2019.

Another perfectly decent game appears on Virtual Boy, this time starring Bomberman. It's not your standard Bomberman fare, but nevertheless it's a pretty solid rendition of Puyo Puyo with a bit of Bomberman flair (or should that be flare?). Fortunately, this game is a little less difficult to track down play nowadays than its VB contemporaries...

It's one of the Virtual Boy's holy grails... or should that be "unholy grails"? Jack Bros. holds an odd place in history, being Atlus's sole release for Virtual Boy, as well as the stealth debut of the long-running Shin Megami Tensei series in the U.S. But this is no RPG—no, it's something far more unique, and equally enjoyable. All of this makes a rare case of a game whose price has soared into the stratosphere but actually has appeal to more than just collectors.

Mario's second (and final) outing on Virtual Boy is a more traditional adventure for him. Exceptionally traditional, in fact, as it reaches back into the early roots of the series, well before the days of Mushroom Kingdoms and Koopa Kings, to present fans with a single-player update to the original Mario Bros. It's a remarkably complex game with a high degree of difficulty, but one that deserves not to be forgotten.

We move into Virtual Boy's post-launch lineup (and slightly out of rigid chronological order) with a sports two-fer: Kemco's Virtual League Baseball and T&E Soft's Golf. One of these is quite good, and one... is not. However, neither does anything new with two sports formats that have already been covered extensively on the Video Works series, so—on to the next!

Thanks to Chris Kohler for lending these games to the war effort.

The first third-party Virtual Boy title (sort of) and the final launch-day release (in the U.S.) attempts to give players a (technically) portable free-roaming 3D space-shooting experience. Developer T&E Soft had big aspirations with this one, but in practice it didn't quite pan out the way they evidently hoped. The result is an interesting game with a lot of promise and a control interface years ahead of its time... but the Virtual Boy hardware simply wasn't up to the task set before it.

The third launch selection for Virtual Boy may remind you of another beloved Nintendo franchise, but that's just a coincidence. A coincidence, I say! This game is NOT Punch-Out!!, even though it does happen to be a comical boxing title with enormous, personality-packed sprites. For one thing, its control scheme and interface are VASTLY more complex than that other series.... (Thanks again to Chris Kohler for the software loan.)

Nintendo's biggest and most consequential release for 1987, and one of the most important games of the year across all platforms, brings a newfound depth and maturity to the NES. Other ’87 releases have been flirting with the idea of merging action and role-playing concepts, but Zelda goes all-in with a sprawling, challenging journey across the land of Hyrule to rescue the princess Zelda and retrieve the Triforce of Power. And in the process, an instant classic is born.

(Note: The Hyrule overworld map image appearing in this video original appeared on

While I'd love to wrap Super NES 1991 on a high note, the games actually seem to be getting worse as we approach the end of the year. D-Force is easily the lousiest Super NES game of 1991, and it's a strong contender for worst-of-all-time, too. A dull, clumsy shooter that would have been embarrassing on an 8-bit console, D-Force only throws its awfulness into sharp relief by including a Super NES-specific gimmick that somehow makes the game even less fun to play. Truly, we've punch through the barrel's bottom here.

Our second Virtual Boy Works entry takes us from the tennis courts to the far reaches of the cosmos for the sole contribution to the platform by Nintendo mainstay Intelligent Systems: Galactic Pinball. With four tables and tons of gimmicks, it's a fun and interesting take on a vintage amusement that works beautifully on Virtual Boy.

Special thanks to Chris Kohler for providing the packaged material for the photography here!