Video Works by Jeremy Parish

A bit of an emphasis on day jobs this episode, but fortunately one of these games offers more than mere workmanlike effort. Activision's Rock'n Bolt stands out this week as one of the SG-1000's most appealing puzzlers—certainly a more interesting take on the genre than Soukoban, which gets credit for its primal nature but not for possessing any sort of audio-visual flair. And then there's Elevator Action, a perfectly decent arcade game done dirty by the console's hardware. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the SG-1000's limits do more to hamper this conversion than any other game we've seen on the system to date.

Production note:

  • SG-1000 footage in this episode was captured from a combination of Sega SG-1000 II with (with Card Catcher; RGB amp mod by  @iFixRetro ) and  @Analogue  Mega Sg with card adapter module and DAC.
  • Video upscaled to 720 with  @Retro Tink  5X.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more! Also available in print: Virtual Boy Works Vol. I Hardcover


More arcade ports for SG-1000? Say it ain't so! These titles aren't especially well known in the U.S., since they've never seen a proper console release here (outside of maybe some collection that doesn't come immediately to mind), but both merit a close look.

Taito's Chack'n Pop may not impress quite as much on the technical front as the more familiar Famicom version, but it features better level design... albeit with an absolutely unforgiving difficulty level.

Sega's own Bank Panic plays like a clever attempt to capture the spirit of Nintendo's Wild Gunman without the use of a light gun, and the results end up being quite a bit more successful than you might expect.

Production note:

  • SG-1000 footage in this episode was captured from a combination of Sega SG-1000 II with (with Card Catcher; RGB amp mod by  @iFixRetro ) and  @Analogue  Mega Sg with card adapter module and DAC.
  • Video upscaled to 720 with  @Retro Tink  5X.
Direct download: Chackn_Pop__Bank_Panic_retrospective__Stick-ups__Segaiden_020.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

This week brings us two SG-1000 releases that feel miles removed from the console's earliest days of serious-looking war game: Doki Doki Penguin Land and Drol. Rather than involving the relentless destruction of military vehicles (and, by extension, the squishy humans inside them), these two titles see you doing your best to protect children. While some retributive violence is involved here, those polar bears definitely had it coming.

Of the two, Penguin Land feels like the more meaningful work. It really elevates the production values of SG-1000 games and speaks to a Sega that's getting serious about its home development efforts: A wholly original creation for console that contains ample depth and subtle, precise controls and interactions. It's a real stand-out. Drol admittedly doesn't fare quite as well, but it has its merits, too.

With this episode, I think it's safe to say SG-1000 has turned a corner, and you can expect to see more games on Penguin Land's level of quality in the coming episodes as the console sunsets into Mark III/Master System.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more! Production note:

  • SG-1000 footage in this episode was captured from a combination of Sega SG-1000 II with (with Card Catcher; RGB amp mod by  @iFixRetro ) and  @Analogue  Mega Sg with card adapter module and DAC.
  • Video upscaled to 720 with  @Retro Tink  5X.

Beginning with this episode, I'm knuckling down to wrap up as much of the SG-1000 video series as possible by the end of 2021. There are only about half a dozen episodes to go after this! It's a pretty small library, but the best times are ahead of us. This episode looks at, technically, three arcade conversions: Zoom 909, Choplifter, and Pitfall II. Of course, the two latter games got their start on Apple II and Atari 2600, respectively, but around the same time these carts hit stores, Sega also reworked them into pretty good arcade games. The question is whether or not that arcade magic rubbed off on these releases...

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Production notes:

  • SG-1000 footage in this episode was captured from a combination of Sega SG-1000 II with (with Card Catcher; RGB amp mod by  @iFixRetro ) and  @Analogue  Mega Sg with card adapter module and DAC.
  • Famicom, NES, and Atari 7800 footage captured from  @Analogue  Nt Mini / Nt Mini Noir. Video upscaled to 720 with xRGB Mini Framemeister and  @Retro Tink  5X.

Halloween season is upon us, and you know what that means: Where other people decorate their homes with cobwebs and giant skeletons, I decorate mine with a Castlevania-related video. This time around, it's a look at a Castlevania spinoff called Kid Dracula. Well, technically, this video is about Akumajou Special: Boku Dracula-Kun! Or just Kid Dracula. It's a little bit Castlevania, a little bit Mega Man, and just a few minor quirks shy of being an all-time Famicom classic.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Production notes:

  • NES and Famicom footage in this episode was captured from  @Analogue  Nt / Nt Mini / Nt Mini Noir via RGB out.
  • PS1 footage captured from PlayStation hardware via RGB cable.
  • Super NES footage captured from Super NES model 2 via JP21 SCART cable. - Standard definition video upscaled to 720 with xRGB Mini Framemeister and  @Retro Tink  5X.

I may have gone a little overboard with this episode, but it seemed worth doing. For one thing, the creator of the Golgo 13 series, Takao Saito, recently passed away. And for another, upon revisiting this game in the context of its original release chronology on NES, I came away deeply impressed by how much the developers attempted to do here. Did they nail it? Oh, lord, no. But where this game is easily written off as a kludgey mess when viewed in light of the entire nine-year NES release library, back in autumn 1988, it tried to do a LOT with the limited resources and collective game design wisdom of the time. Containing a good half-dozen presentation and gameplay styles, a globe-spanning storyline, and a genuine good-faith effort to recreate the essence of the manga property it's based on, Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode is damn impressive for what it is. (Albeit a heck of a mess.) Kids: Beware of tiny 8-bit boobies and blood spray.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more! Production notes:

  • NES and Famicom footage in this episode was captured from  @Analogue Nt Mini Noir via RGB out.
  • Standard definition video upscaled to 720 with xRGB Mini Framemeister and  @Retro Tink  5X. There is a small amount of visual distortion in the upper portion of some footage that the latest Retro Tink firmware update appears to address.

We have a follow-up to a 1986 classic here, in deed if not in name: Life Force, the sequel to Konami's Gradius. Well, sort of. It's complicated. But since we never saw the actual Gradius II on NES, this will have to do. Life Force makes use of the same excellent power-up system as Gradius with some refinements, including a new weapon option, new handling of Options, a revamped shield, and perhaps most importantly a far more forgiving respawn system upon the player's inevitable demise. Along with these improvements, Life Force also incorporates two-player simultaneous action and introduces a unique dual-format scrolling system seen nowhere else in the Gradius series. It's quality fare, and a real technical and gameplay highlight for the NES... a feat that becomes all the more impressive when you consider how it had to be scaled back from the Famicom release to work within the constraints of U.S. cartridges.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Production notes:

  • NES and Famicom footage in this episode was captured from  @Analogue  Nt / Nt Mini / Nt Mini Noir via RGB out.
  • Standard definition video upscaled to 720 with xRGB Mini Framemeister and  @Retro Tink  5X. There is a small amount of visual distortion in certain vertically scrolling sequences that the latest Retro Tink firmware update appears to address.

This episode focuses on perception, especially vis-a-vis Bases Loaded. A certain demographic of NES owners LOVES Bases Loaded. However, in my experience, people who discovered the NES later (when better and better-looking baseball sims were available for the console) tend to find it lacking and shallow. And then there is the Japanese Famicom owner's perspective, in which Bases Loaded (aka Moero!! Pro Yakyuu) is almost universally reviled. How could so many people hold such contradictory points of view?

This episode delves deeply into that question. This episode also talks about Lee Trevino's Fighting Golf. (Yes, I am aware of The Simpsons' parody. No, it's not germane to this discussion.)

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Production notes:

  • NES and Famicom footage in this episode was captured from  @Analogue  Nt / Nt Mini / Nt Mini Noir via RGB out.
  • Neo Geo footage was captured from a consolized MVS.
  • Standard definition video upscaled to 720 with xRGB Mini Framemeister and  @Retro Tink  5X.

It feels like Famicom is kind of playing catch-up with SG-1000 this episode, as every game appearing here arrived on shelves in the wake of a Sega-published equivalent—either the exact same game (as in Space Invaders), one exploring the same root concept in different ways (Soccer), or a game with almost suspicious conceptual and mechanical similarities (Formation Z). Of course, the Nintendo version of these games absolutely eclipsed Sega's, right? Well... maybe not always.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Production notes: NES and Famicom footage in this episode was captured from an  @Analogue  Nt Mini via RGB out. Arcade footage (when possible) was captured from MiSTer (special thanks:  @MiSTer Addons ). Standard definition video upscaled to 720 with xRGB Mini Framemeister and  @Retro Tink  5X.


1985 starts the Famicom on some familiar footing with a couple of future Black Box releases (one great, one meh); two shooters previously seen on SG-1000; and a Commodore 64 conversion from Hudson that would show up on NES under the aegis of its original publisher. No big surprises here (including the apparent Nintendo debut of TOSE, and the fact that the games previously seen on SG-1000 fare a lot better on Famicom), but that won't be the case for long. By the midpoint of 1985, the Famicom library will look wildly different from the NES's as more third parties (and, specifically, more third parties of wildly variable quality) stake their claim on NES.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Production note: Footage in this episode was captured from an  @Analogue  Nt Mini via RGB out. Video upscaled to 720 with xRGB Mini Framemeister and  @Retro Tink  5X.


Sega's 8-bit family goes on a diet this episode, with the SG-1000 media format suddenly slimming down from chunky cartridges to the svelte MyCard format, a credit card-sized chip that was so well-received that Hudson ripped it off wholesale for their PC Engine/TurboGrafx HuCards. Of course, this is really just a cosmetic change; the SG-1000 wouldn't enjoy proper technical enhancements until later in 1985 with the arrival of the Mark III. (Well, that was probably later in 1985; as this episode once again explains, Sega did a godawful job of tracking SG-1000 software launch dates.) As for the games, well... we're right on the cusp of the MyCard renaissance, but this is a pretty unimpressive lot. Another version of Othello for those who didn't buy a Multivision (so, basically, everyone); possibly the first-ever Japanese console adaptation of Taito's Space Invaders (possibly in that Nintendo's might have come first, maybe? Again, awful launch date tracking); and a well-meaning but unwieldy clone of Irem's Kung-Fu.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Production note: SG-1000 footage in this episode was captured from a combination of Sega SG-1000 II (RGB amp mod by  @iFixRetro ) and  @Analogue  Mega Sg with card adapter module and DAC. Video upscaled to 720 with xRGB Mini Framemeister and  @Retro Tink  5X.


Sega winds down the cartridge format for SG-1000 in favor of a new media type, and this corner of the console library unfortunately wheezes to a half-hearted ending. Somehow, Sega even managed to completely squander Konami's brief show of support for the platform by turning in a pair of clumsy arcade conversions in the form of Shinnyuushain Tooru-kun (aka Mikie) Hyper Sports (a cousin to Track & Field). On the other hand, GP World does at least innovate a little bit in SG-1000's well-trodden racing lineup, and Tekhan's Star Force puts in a respectable showing, even if it's not quite up to the standards set by Hudson's Famicom/NES conversion.


Sega enters 1985 with the hottest game of 1982, and the good news is that Zaxxon looks and plays far more convincingly than its sibling release Congo Bongo did back in 1983. This adaptation of the arcade hit makes some curious tweaks to the game's flow and design, and it adds a bit of background music, which sets it apart from other conversions of the game. But in a good way, mostly.

Champion Pro Wrestling fares less impressively, especially in hindsight. Apparently we have Sega to blame for how Tag Team Wrestling turned out on NES, with the sluggishness and the menus and the whatnot. Stupid Champion Pro Wrestling.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Direct download: 015_Zaxxon_SG1K.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

A pair of arcade shooter adaptations leads us into the second half of 1988 for NES Works, both of which deserve attention for entirely different reasons.

Defender II sees the publishing debut of HAL Labs (via HAL America), a well-deserved turn of events for a studio that was so essential to the early success of this platform. And this conversion stretches all the way back to those early days, speaking once again to the close relationship HAL and Nintendo shared as the latter made its way into the world of selling game consoles—including a bit of borrowed audio that raises the question of who pilfered from whom? Come for the footage, stay for the educated speculation.

Meanwhile, Iron Tank transforms T.N.K. III into a fairly ambitious (if not entirely refined) combat adventure with branching paths, a progressive power-up system, and even some narrative. Finally, we begin to see a glimpse of the quality that fans have come to associate with the name SNK.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!


Technos (by way of freshman NES publisher Tradewest) follows up on Renegade with a home conversion of a massive arcade hit that plays extremely fast and loose with the meaning of the phrase "home conversion." Double Dragon on NES may as well be a completely different game than the coin-op smash, as it adds several new mechanics, expands the game environments, introduces platforming sequences, helps invent the one-on-one fighting genre, and—whoops—loses the cooperative gameplay feature that gave the game its name in the first place. The end result is a game that doesn't sit well with those who demand absolute fidelity in their arcade ports, but that nevertheless stands out as one of the most ambitious, polished, and attractive games yet seen on the platform.

From this point on, arcade-to-NES adaptations will lean heavily on the "adaptations" angle, and (along with Rygar and Punch-Out!!), Double Dragon is one of the first works to truly define what NES coin-on conversion would look like in the coming years.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Direct download: Double_Dragon_retrospective__Bimmy_Lees_solo_debut__NES_Works_081.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

One of the most beloved franchises of all time makes its debut on NES, though not its actual debut; the Metal Gear Nintendo fans knew and enjoyed back in the 8-bit era was in fact a port of a minor hit for MSX/2 home computers that had shipped about a year earlier in Japan. Although Metal Gear gets the broad strokes right on NES, it trips up over a lot of minor details. And some major ones, too. Still, if a compromised take on a classic is the one that a million former NES owners knew and enjoyed back in the ’80s, there's something to be said even for that clumsier rendition of the game.

Also worth noting this episode: The debut of a brand new publisher! Well, sort of.

Video Works is funded via Patreon — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!


It has been three decades since Nintendo launched its first next-generation console in the U.S.: The Super Nintendo Entertainment System. On the occasion of its 30th anniversary, Super NES Works returns for a limited-time engagement to wrap up this look at the system's launch window by looking at the system itself. What did the Super NES represent to fans, parents, developers, and Nintendo itself when it arrived in the midst of a burgeoning games market whose revival had been precipitated by the Super NES's own predecessor and opened the door to some ferocious competition?


A curious case here on Game Boy Works: A game that is somehow two games. While Klax on Game Boy plays about the same as the Klax we've already seen on Atari Lynx, it takes two very different approaches to its presentation depending on the region you bought it from. The American release from Mindscape, which actually shipped in 1991, has the same vanishing perspective seen in other versions of the game. The Japanese cart from Hudson, on the other hand, looks like no other rendition of Klax to be found on competing platforms. It's two separate takes on the same property by two different studios. Ah, but which fares better on Game Boy?

As for Ginga, the game's full title is Card & Puzzle Collection: Ginga, and that's exactly what it is. It's a video version of all the disused traditional games your grandparents kept in a storage bin in their basement. But you can call it Tornado Appetizer, if you're nasty.

Direct download: 125_Klax_JP_GB.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Puzzle platformers are in their Game Boy; all's right with the world.

Yes, this episode brings us not one but two—two!—puzzle action games for Game Boy. As if we'd have it any other way. As often happens, one of these is far more fun and playable than the other in hindsight, reflecting poorly on the lesser of the two. For once, the better game received a U.S. release while the merely-OK one remained stranded overseas.

Nail'n Scale from Data East offers much: Two-player simultaneous action, fluid and friendly jump mechanics, and a fun platforming gimmick that also doubles as the key to the puzzle-like level designs.

Pri Pri: Primitive Princess... doesn't have these things. It's not terrible, but its plodding pace does not pair well with its unforgiving, trial-and-error design. Weirdly, this one's from Sunsoft, whom you'd expect to have presented a more respectable showing than Data East... but there are no rules on Game Boy! Nothing makes sense! 


Game Boy turns its focus to the far east this episode, with an action game based on Chinese martial arts and an RPG centered on battling (and being) Japanese yōkai. Neither one is particularly world-shaking, though Kung' Fu Master does have a direct line to the early days of the NES, and ONI kicks off the Game Boy's most prolific exclusive game franchise that I'm aware of (there's probably some pachinko or mahjong franchise I'm overlooking) as the first of five adventures created exclusively for the platform. Of course, none of those ever reached the U.S. Americans? Playing RPGs!? What a strange notion. 


By request of Peter LaPrade, this week brings us another look at a Famicom Disk System exclusive that ended up being stranded in Japan until fairly recently: Nintendo's own Nazo no Murasame-jou. A brisk, challenge action title with a structure loosely patterned after The Legend of Zelda, Nazo no Murasame-jou seems like the kind of thing that probably would have done fairly well for itself had Nintendo localized it alongside their other FDS titles (Zelda, Metroid, Kid Icarus, and Volleyball) in mid-1987. Instead, it languished in Japan for decades, though it has exerted a small presence on modern games like Smash Bros., meaning you could be more familiar with this game than you realize.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!


By request of Joseph Adams, I've attempted this episode to explore the history of (and explain the concept of) devices powered by NES-on-a-chip tech. I'll admit up front that this is by no means a definitive or comprehensive history, as a considerable portion of this topic falls into poorly documented spaces: Unauthorized clone consoles, piracy-focused devices, and ventures in territories veiled behind other languages and cultures (not to mention less methodical documentation than you see for mainstream Western/Japanese consoles like the NES itself). Hopefully I've still assembled an accurate and interesting enough narrative to justify the time and research involved...

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!

Direct download: A_Brief_History_of_the_NES_on_a_Chip__NES_Works_Gaiden_026.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

By patron request, this week's video shifts up the temporal alignment of the NES Works Gaiden series to leap forward from the end of 1984 for Famicom to the end of 1992?! Yes, that's right, we spring forward in time here to look at the Japanese equivalent of the Aladdin Deck Enhancer, except one reliant on an even bigger gimmick than simply packing in universal game chips in order to accept smaller, less expensive sub-cartridges. Bandai dared to push the bleeding edge of what the market would bear here by forcing players to make use of collector cards emblazoned with bar codes in order to be able to play their video game at all. It's a bold innovation! And a terrible one! Learn all about it here.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — support the show and get access to every episode up to two weeks in advance of its YouTube debut! Plus, exclusive podcasts, eBooks, and more!


Well, I survived. I made it all the way through the Othello Multivision's library. If you thought the first four games were unimpressive, that's only because you had no idea what Tsukuda Original had up its sleeve for 1984: Yet another mahjong game, a glacial Xevious clone, and Video Works' very first (of many...) horse race-betting sim. But at least there's a somewhat inventive golf title and a solid conversion of a beloved (albeit crazy difficult) James Bond game. This version fixes a titling error from the previous upload.

This episode's titles:

  • San Nin Mahjong
  • Challenge Derby
  • Okamoto Ayako no Match Play Golf
  • Space Armor
  • James Bond 007

Special thanks to Omar Cornut for his assistance with this episode!


While Segaiden has covered every SG-1000 release through the end of 1984 at this point, there's technically still a set of games for the system that need to be touched on. Eight (or technically nine) unique releases for SG-1000 appeared in 1983 and ’84, under a non-Sega publisher, branded for release on a different console. Nevertheless, they're a part of SG-1000 history, as each of them runs on the system with no fuss.

Yes, this episode we look at the SG-1000's semi-official clone, the Tsukuda Original Othello Multivision. With eight unique carts and one built-in ROM, it's worth exploring... but only barely. These games are generally of MUCH lower quality than Sega's own releases. In this episode, we explore:

  • Othello
  • Q*Bert
  • Guzzler
  • Space Mountain

Buckle in. It's a pretty bumpy ride.

Special thanks to Omar Cornut for his assistance with this and the next episode!


The other two mid-’88 releases for Atari 7800 consist of yet another computer port and—wow!—the console's first original creation. Although this original creation ended up being ported to several other Atari systems, which rather undermines its exclusive appeal. Still, it's good to see a game on 7800 that hadn't already shown up in arcades and on computers four or five years earlier, you know?

Video Works is a patron-funded project. For early video access, exclusive podcasts and mini-zines, and more, please support my work at patreon.com/gamespite — thank you!


Before we continue with the Sega and Nintendo stuff, Atari deserves a brief stopover to see what the 7800 was up to for the first half of 1988. As it turns out, the answer is "not a whole heck of a lot." Happily, the one game to ship during this period—Lucasfilm Games' Ballblazer—has more than enough history and content behind it to support most of this episode before we jump into summer ’88 and, ironically, Winter Games from Epyx.

You'll notice a change in the hosting segments here, as I've begun recording them on period-appropriate media (VHS tape) for authenticity, or something. Clearly I need to iron out some bugs and get my playback head cleaned, but I'm working on it...

And yes, I made some generalizations about the relationship between Atari 5200 and Atari 8-bit computers, but I'll be going into more detail on that one of these days, when I tackle the XEGS (which technically counts as a console that debuted post-crash, sort of, making it arguably eligible for inclusion in Video Works).

Video Works is a patron-funded project. For early video access, exclusive podcasts and mini-zines, and more, please support my work at patreon.com/gamespite — thank you!


I haven't forgotten my other child. Metroidvania Works has reached a weird place in its chronology, where it's kind of entangled and overlapping with NES Works—as you can see from the fact that this episode's back-up feature covers the next title that will appear on that series. Of course, the main event here is a game that never reached the U.S., so it's worth looking at here—especially given how influential it was on at least one major metroidvania work that appeared nearly two decades later.

Video Works is a patron-funded project. For early video access, exclusive podcasts and mini-zines, and more, please support my work at patreon.com/gamespite — thank you!


1984 comes to an end for the Famicom with a trio of releases that American fans will recognize from the Black Box launch era of the NES. Arriving singly in 1984 rather than en masse a year or two later amidst dozens of other games with a similar visual vibe, benighted NES releases Urban Champion and Clu Clu Land stand up a bit better here. (Excitebike, of course, rules no matter what the context.)

Also this episode, Namco's Mappy brings the company's most uninspired mascot of the early ’80s to Famicom in another respectable home adaptation that flatters the Famicom hardware when held up against contemporary conversions. And that's it for Nintendo and Sega's ’84 offerings!

When NES Works Gaiden resumes later this year, we'll be in the heady days of 1985.

Video Works is a patron-funded project. For early video access, exclusive podcasts and mini-zines, and more, please support my work at patreon.com/gamespite — thank you!


Two Nintendo games and two Namco (Namcot??) titles this week to bring Famicom's 1984 lineup streaking toward its finale. I'm not sure any of these games will set anyone's heart on fire here in 2021, due to (1) the kinda mundane nature of Nintendo's releases and (2) overexposure to Namco's games. But pretend you are a small child in 1984! In that context, these games are pretty great. Except Mahjong. No child wants that.


Another step along the Road to NES Works this week as we look again at the next round of software releases for Nintendo Famicom. Unlike last time, only one of these games made its way to the U.S. on NES, the other two (Galaxian and Devil World) seemingly being skipped over due to datedness and, uh, satanism? What was this, 2021?


A couple of follow-ups to 1983 releases this week, as well as a couple of games that appear to have been held over from 1983. Yes, SG-1000 begins 1984 with a hangover. Pachinko II is the affordable and expanded follow-up to Pachinko. Golgo 13 is not a sequel, despite the number in the title. It's a tie-in with a long-running manga and anime series, presumably tied to a big theatrical release. Orguss is another anime property, this one related to Macross and its ilk. You know what that means: Transforming robots. Home Mahjong brings multiplayer competition to the console mahjong space, using a fascinating physical accessory to make such a thing possible on a single television.


Now that we've seen both Nintendo and Sega's offerings for 1983, we move along to 1984 and the first wave of Famicom releases. All but one of these titles have already put in an appearance on NES Works proper as entries in the 1985 and ’86 Black Box NES launch rollout catalog, so the first half of this episode is simple a recap and reminder to give a sense of these games' place in the context of their 1984 debut in Japan. The second half, however, downshifts into low gear to take a leisurely cruise through a game that is generally regarded as a joke (thanks to its title) outside of Japan, when it's regarded at all: Hudson's Nuts & Milk. My hope is that after viewing this episode, you'll have a better appreciation for the place Nuts & Milk holds in video game history—not simply for how it represents a key change for Nintendo's business model, but also for how radically Hudson reinvented it to appeal to Famicom consumers.

(You may, of course, continue to chuckle at its name. Titter, even.) Games this episode:

  • Tennis
  • Pinball
  • Wild Gunman
  • Duck Hunt
  • Golf
  • Hogan's Alley
  • Donkey Kong 3
  • Nuts & Milk

This week we hit on the two most expensive games for the SG-1000. Every console's gotta have at least one of them, right? The ultra-rare collector's chase piece that hits the brakes on any reasonable dream of ever owning a complete set? In this case, those disasterpieces are Space Slalom, a mere slip of an almost-racing game, and Pachinko, the pachinko sim so busted they recalled it. Yes, the great console gaming tradition of incredibly expensive games also being incredibly undesirable for gameplay purposes really begins here, with the SG-1000. On the plus side, there's also Zippy Race, a pretty good conversion of a minor Irem arcade hit, and Exerion, a Jaleco arcade port that tries really hard, bless its heart.

And that wraps it up for 1983! Next up: 1984, surprisingly enough.


Sega has always been an arcade powerhouse—even now, they run arcades in Japan. They've become fan destinations for more than just playing games; I bought taiyaki in the shape of the Sega logo at their Akihabara location a year ago. And this episode showcases just how heavily Sega plowed the arcade-to-home conversion furrow from the very start, with four games based heavily on arcade properties or concepts:

  • Sega Flipper, arguably the first true arcade-style video console pinball game;
  • Pop Flamer, a port of a weird Jaleco coin-op;
  • Pacar, a sequel in all but name to Head On; and
  • Sega-Galaga... which is just Galaga, but for Sega.

They're not all winners, but they're mostly good! Just pretend Pop Flamer never happened. That game could never live up to its delirious box art, anyway.


Only two games feature in this week's episode, because both are interesting enough (and contain a rich enough history) to merit a more in-depth discussion. First, Sindbad Mystery brings the maze chase genre to SG-1000 by adopting a number of elements seen in early games from the genre—ranging from Heiankyo Alien to Crush Roller—but approaching these concepts in a fresh and entertaining way. And then, of course, there's Monaco GP, one of the real heavy-hitters for this console. While more constrained by technology than its arcade forebear, this SG-1000 racer acquits itself nicely with a great sense of speed and a variety of on-track hazards to manage.

This series has been made possible in part by the work of Omar Cornut, the Game Developers Research Institute, segaretro.org, iFixRetro, and Analogue Co.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.


A few more Sega arcade conversions this week, featuring—unbelievably enough!—shooters and sports games. You sense a theme taking shape here, maybe?

Yamato covers a lot of the same ground (so to speak) as SG-1000's earlier ocean warfare shooter, N-Sub, though it mixes things up slightly by focusing on surface warfare.

Meanwhile, Star Jacker is a scrolling shooter that plays a little more smoothly than Borderline, though its bizarre central premise and mechanic make for a curious inverted gameplay difficulty curve.

On the sports side, Champion Tennis and Champion Baseball maintain the vibe of Champion Golf: Console ports of someone else's game, decent enough for 1983 but lacking in hindsight due to the massive upheavals and improvements those sports genres had lurking in the wings of history.

All in all, not the most inspiring set of games ever... but definitely better than last episode's.

This series has been made possible in part by the work of Omar Cornut, the Game Developers Research Institute, segaretro.org, iFixRetro, and Analogue Co.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.


Beyond the initial trio of Compile-developed shooting games for SG-1000, we have the next four titles in the platform's library, all released on some indeterminate date in 1983. While they do help diversify the system's lineup to include something beyond shooting and combat, none of these releases manage to be particularly inspiring nearly four decades later—and one game in particular, which should have been this week's big triumph, misses the mark so badly it's best forgotten about. I promise things will get better from here, though!

Special thanks for this series go to Omar Cornut, the Game Developers Research Institute, segaretro.org, and Analogue Co.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.


Our first dive into the SG-1000 catalog covers the three games that the internet seems convinced comprised the console's day-one releases. It's difficult to say when SG-1000 titles actually debuted, as Sega hasn't been especially granular with its published historic information. But these three carts are the first three items in the SG-1000 catalog (Borderline, Safari Hunting, and N-Sub are G-1001, G-1002, and G-1003, respectively), so that seems like a good basis for an argument here.

These games share a few details in common. They're all three conversions from the VIC-Dual arcade hardware Sega and Gremlin designed in the late ’70s, which was very similar in terms of components and capabilities to the SG-1000; and they all three appear to have been developed by a newly formed studio called "Compile." I don't know, maybe you've heard of them? Special thanks for this series go to Omar Cornut, segaretro.org, and Analogue Co.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.


35 years ago this week, Nintendo launched the Disk System expansion for Family Computer—one of the most important (and one of the few successful) console add-ons ever. Boosting the power, capabilities, and storage capacity of the Famicom, the Disk System helped usher in a new generation of console games... and then, console games caught up with the Disk System, rendering it obsolete. Nevertheless, in its brief lifetime, the FDS gave us major franchises like Zelda, Metroid, and Castlevania, while also changing the way players interacted with their television games. This episode pays tribute to the Disk System and its impressive legacy.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

Direct download: Famicom_Disk_System_retrospective__Error_35__NES_Works_Gaiden_18.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

The road to NES Works begins here!

It's difficult to know what the year 2021 has in store for us, but you can at least look forward to one constant (fingers crossed): This comprehensive deep dive into the Sega 8-bit catalog. Beginning this week, most of my effort for much of 2021 will be focused on exploring the history of the Sega SG-1000 before rolling into the American Master System launch, bringing these compact Sega overviews into line with NES Works 1988 (which we'll still be checking in on from time to time!). I'll also be producing extremely brief summaries of the Famicom games released in Japan in parallel to these SG-1000 titles throughout 1984 and ’85, all the way through the American NES launch.

This episode kicks things off with an overview of the Sega SG-1000's launch, which happened to fall on the same day as the debut of Nintendo Famicom, and the hardware itself. Special thanks for this series to: Omar Cornut, segaretro.org, and Analogue Co.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

Direct download: Sega_SG-1000_retrospective__The_real_family_computer__Segaiden_003.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 9:15am EST

In the year 198X, an elite American ex-soldier traveled into the jungle for a stealth mission that ended in a showdown with a Soviet HIND-D helicopter. Sound familiar? No, this isn't Metal Gear (that's next episode), but instead a game based on a film that very clearly has served as a primary text for Hideo Kojima through the years: Rambo, aka First Blood Part II. Rambo for NES is widely reviled as one of the worst games ever released for the platform. Not only is this a factually incorrect perspective, it grievously sells short the actual ambition behind this game—not to mention the many ways in which it actually pushed the envelope of NES releases (thanks in large part to the lengthy delays that its own inspirations, Zelda II and Castlevania II, suffered en route to their U.S. localizations).

Rambo is a long way from being a great game, but it's a game that makes a sincere effort to do something interesting with a licensed property. It trips over its combat-bootlaces more often than not, but you definitely have to respect the hustle... especially within the context of its original release window. And "context" is what this video series is all about.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

Direct download: Rambo_retrospective__Stallone_in_the_dark__NES_Works_079.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 9:11am EST

Echoing last week's episode, this week we see a decidedly dated-looking game (City Connection) that nevertheless manages to be entertaining enough to transcend its relative age and sit comfortably in the 1988 NES lineup. On the other hand, Freedom Force is anything but dated, with some of the most stylish visuals seen to this point on NES. I'd rather play City Connection, but there's no denying the primal visual appeal of Freedom Force's attract mode....

Also, a bit of housekeeping: The host segments will be a little unusual for the next few episodes as my office space is currently unavailable for filming, forcing me to tape next to my portable photo box for the time being. Also, I realized while reviewing this episode that I made a point unclearly—I said Freedom Force is the first example on NES of a Japanese and American studio collaborating, which obviously isn't true. It's the first example I can name of the Japanese and American branches *of a single studio* collaborating on a project.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

Direct download: 078_City_Connection.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

A pair of old-school sports games this week—one whose quality and playability transcends its visuals, and ones whose quality and playability... do not.

Nintendo's Ice Hockey, developed in collaboration with NES Volleyball creators Pax Softnica, distills the essence of the sport into a take whose simplistic style makes possible some truly accessible, fast-paced gameplay that transcends its genre. It's a remarkable game in many respects!

Major League Baseball is a mediocre Famista clone whose sales pitch consists entirely of, "We have real team names." Your mileage will vary, greatly.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.

Direct download: Ice_Hockey__MLB_retrospective__Sports_memorabilia__NES_Works_077.mp4
Category:Video Games -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

This week demonstrates the danger inherent in covering two games per episode as fate lands a one-two punch of mediocrity from two of the console's most dire creative combos: TOSE and Bandai, and Micronics and SNK. The results are about what you'd expect. That is to say, not so great.

Dragon Power, of course, is another halfhearted attempt by Bandai to bring a Japanese game based on a manga or anime license to the U.S. without making the effort to license or localize the original work. Where Dragon Power differs from the likes of Chubby Cherub is in the fact that its source material—Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball—would go on to become one of the most successful and beloved Japanese properties in the entire world rather than just a local phenomenon. This makes Dragon Power's superficial changes all the more conspicuous in hindsight.

As for Ikari Warriors II, it's just as crummy as its predecessor. But way more interesting, as developer Micronics made a real effort here to spruce up the NES port with some new mechanics. It wasn't a successful effort by any means, but you have to respect the hustle.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.


By patron request of Jon, here's a follow-up to the Mega Man Legends episode from several months back: Its wonderful prequel, the Misadventures of Tron Bonne. No, it's not actually a Game Boy game. It's fine. You'll be fine.

Misadventures is a weird little game, a shoestring-budget spinoff of a spinoff of a series whose sales figures were already beginning to flag. I have no idea how it was greenlit, how it was localized, and most of all how it turned out so well. But it did! It's a breezy, whimsical game packed with variety and tons of heart. It admittedly doesn't maintain its energy and confidence throughout the entire adventure, but with so many activities and so much optional depth on offer, the weaker moments never bog down the experience—in fact, you can skip them altogether. A truly one-of-a-kind creation from the end of a different era of video game publishing.

Video Works is funded via Patreon (http://www.patreon.com/gamespite) — 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 (http://www.retronauts.com), where I (and many others!) tackle a much wider array of classic gaming topics each week.


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