Videogame, Gameboy, 1991

In 1991, we didn’t have a Game Boy Player (2003) to install on our Gamecube (2001) with a WaveBird Wireless Controller (2002). These upgrades make the gameplay of some Game Boy titles, including R-Type, obscenely better.

R-Type is a port of a horizontal shooter coin-op. It’s a stripped down version that plays very well, making good use of a limited color palette. Your ship and enemies (that aren’t bosses) use red and environments use green/blue. The colors and shading pop on the white background. It’s a stark contrast built for the low light of an original Game Boy screen and I love the lack of busyness on screen. It’s challenging from the beginning but there’s a variety of cool power-ups to help you along the way. Plus, you can hold down the fire button to increase the power of your shot. Replaying levels is not so bad when you have multiple ways of dispatching your foes. Enemies are imaginatively drawn aliens or tech and the structure is a common one with stages ending with an outsized boss.

Fantastic shooter with a high replay value requiring critical thinking just as much as quick reflexes.

NEO Turf Masters


I know. The name NEO Turf Masters sounds like a game about modern landscaping rather than golf. But don’t let that dissuade you. This 1996 NEO GEO videogame has a great balance between arcade fun and technical skills. However, it’s not turn-based. There is always a timer going that doesn’t allow you to put a lot of thought into club selection and shot type.

I’ve played NEO Turf Masters a few times but not in a long while so, Game 1 was not a masterpiece. The biggest issue was that I should have been hitting high shots when trees were in my way. It seems obvious now, of course. My second game, using the same golfer and course, was much improved and I had some birdies that kept my score manageable despite an 8 on one hole.

Game 1 – Golfer: Technician, Course: Baden, Place: 27th, Score: 78 +6

Game 2 – Golfer: Technician, Course: Baden, Place 11th, Score: 69 -3

[Note: I’m using SNK Arcade Classics Vol. 1 on the Wii to play this title.]

I Can’t Carry Anymore!

UnknownEncumbrance, in role playing games, means how much you can carry. This is usually determined by the total weight of the items you are carrying. A common definition of encumbrance is “a burden” and for most tabletop role playing game enthusiasts, it’s an apt definition in more ways than one. So, it’s often ignored. I mean, who wants to limit how much of the dragon’s treasure you will bring back to your own den? In role playing videogames, it often can’t be ignored because it’s an integral part of the game. Champions of Norrath (2004) attempts to give players the best of both worlds, a limiting factor for realism and an unrealistic way to horde your winnings.

Champions of Norrath is an action oriented role playing videogame. The action comes from hitting and shooting things while the role playing comes, in part, from collecting gear to improve your character’s performance. Often when I compel my warrior, Morg, to pick up something, he will bleat, “I can’t carry anymore!” In which case, I transport Morg to the store and lighten his load in exchange for gold coins. In this game although weapons, armor and other equipment have weight, gold coins do not. This is a treat since Morg is currently holding 1,114,064 gold coins. But it’s also a bit silly.

Grade 6 Content (6.NS.B.2)


Q1:  If 1 gold coin weighs 1 ounce, what is the weight of the gold Morg is carrying in pounds?

Q2:  If a car weighs 3,000 pounds, about how many cars would it take to equal the weight of the gold Morg is carrying?


If 1 gold coin weighs 1 ounce, then the weight of 1,114,064 gold coins is 1,114,064 ounces.  There are 16 ounces in a pound so,

1,114,064 ounces / 16 ounces per pound = 69,629 pounds, the number of pounds in gold coins that Morg is carrying.

If a car weighs 3,000 pounds then Morg is carrying,

69,629 pounds / 3,000 pounds per car = the weight of more than 23 cars in gold coins.

That’s one way to bury the local cutpurse.

The Nightmare of Druaga: Fushingo Dungeon

151105-Nightmare_of_Druaga,_The_-_Fushigino_Dungeon_(USA)-1Abductions happen. But this time it’s the woman you were about to marry. Descend into the dungeon alone. Find your way to the temple. And for the love of gods, save her! So begins The Nightmare of Druaga: Fushingo Dungeon, a turn-based 3D dungeon crawler on the Playstation 2.

Here’s what I learned after my first few sessions of play.

Inherently slow pace. Do you enjoy a deliberate slog from one monster to the next? I hope it results in regular progress in the story and/or character(s) abilities. It’s too early in my adventure to be sure.

Success requires customization. Leveling up is not the only way you ready yourself for new challenges. Analyzing and tweaking, on a regular basis, what you wear and carry will impact how far you get.

Encumbrance. Okay, I was on the seventh level of the first dungeon before I tried to pick something up and read one of the most annoying phrases in RPG history: “Too many items.”

I wonder if there is much of a story after the introduction. Other than a flaming sword I found, are there interesting ways to improve your avatar’s performance? Will there be enough pay off for all the time spent grinding and customizing?

Trace Memory

tracememory_dsusbox.jpgI’m a girl of nearly fourteen years traveling to Edward Blood Island to meet my father. Until recently, I falsely believed he was dead. My aunt tells me I was protected from the truth but I feel betrayed. Though I may learn what really happened to my father, the reminders of the years with him I lost, will only bring me more sadness. Welcome to Trace Memory a mystery adventure title for the Nintendo DS. The game is text heavy, mostly dialogue, that keeps me engaged in the mysteries on the island. Solving simple puzzles moves me from one area to the next with opportunities to backtrack. Just when I begin to think Trace Memory is too easy, I find myself stuck just inside the mansion with no idea how to progress further. Before I become too frustrated, I return to the previous area and suddenly see the solution. I’m on track again and that feels good but I wonder if the puzzles will be difficult going forward. And if they are, am I curious enough about the island mysteries to stay persistent and solve them?


genesis_xmen_frontX-Men is a 1993 platformer for the Sega Genesis that cleverly brings many superheroes into the action however, awkward level design and clunky controls keep the game from being satisfying.


“Sometimes… You have to crush your enemies where they live!!!” says a menacing Magneto as this title opens. He then sends a beam that controls the X-Men training facility, the Danger Room. Aztec-ish warriors begin throwing spears your way and annoying bees are slapping you down. But you are one of the X-men! These adversaries aren’t worthy of you. Well, in the Danger Room, they might be. So dodge spears, knock out hives and soon you will be getting your butt kicked by more infamous baddies. Gambit is fun to play and the game would be better if he was the star with several lives. Instead, there are three other main heroes (Cyclops is blah, Nightcrawler is niche and Wolverine is just sad) and you will have to make do with one life each. There is a nice supporting cast of heroes (Rogue, Storm, Archangel and Iceman) that come into the game for one-offs and Jean Grey makes her presence felt, as well.


  • After choosing the difficulty level (I strongly suggest amateur), you are asked to select a hero. There are four choices but the images are too small to tell who you are selecting. However, after pressing Start, you may cycle left and right to see the choices more clearly.
  • During gameplay you may switch between the four main heroes and call upon support heroes. You do this by pressing Start, selecting your hero, then pressing Start again. The new hero does not appear on screen until you press the A button.
  • Between levels or after one hero’s demise, you can find and smash orbs that give you extra health and power.

Wings of Wor

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Videogame, Sega Genesis, 1991
A winged man and magic make this horizontal scrolling shooter an interesting departure from the norm, but it’s the strange varieties of creatures and the threats from all sides that make this game a killer shoot ’em up.
  • Difficulty Levels: Easy, Normal, Hard, Hyper
  • # of Lives: 3, 4, 5
  • # of Button Configurations: 10
  • Hold down “normal” shot button for continuous fire
  • Use “magic” shot for offensive and defensive spells
  • 7 power ups not including magic scrolls
  • Each of the first 5 rounds has 2 bosses
  • 6 rounds total
  • “Continue” places you at the beginning of the last round
This shooter has a multitude of surprises and hairy situations so begin with the safe options: Easy, 5 Lives and use button configuration 10 (B to shoot, C to turn on special effect). The story in the manual is short, weak and doesn’t jive well with the game itself but it’s a shooter so that matters not at all.
The box for this game has a beefy Boris Vallejo cover that is a mix of pulp fantasy and tech. The creature on the cover attacking Wor, our winged protagonist, is a flying, 3 nosed, sharp toothed worm with no wings or limbs but with metal tubes and mechanical eyes instead. Wor looks fearless with his blaster firing from his right hand and his left fist outstretched towards the grotesque creature as if some powerful effect is imminent. Box covers aren’t always a good representation of the game itself but this one is. Boris portrays well the unnatural amalgam of the enemy and the angelic strength of the hero.
He also foreshadows, unintentionally I’m sure, my difficulty switching between regular attacks and both offensive and defensive magic effects. On the cover, Wor may be able to prepare for a special attack at the same time as he carves holes in the enemy forces with his blaster, but not me – not yet anyway. That may explain having 10 different button configurations with game designers thinking at least 1 will work for each player.
The problem is that the “normal” shot button is held down for continuous fire and you must release or slide your thumb in order to press another button to use a special effect. You may say… so what? Well, it’s a shooter so the continuous flow of fire allows you to focus on movement, both dodging and positioning to destroy enemies. You must change your focus to thinking about which special effect you will use in addition to when, where and how you will use it.
Am I being overly dramatic? Yes, of course, but it’s one thing to lay off your fire in order to release a destroy-all bomb (as in many games) and reset yourself for the next wave than to seamlessly toggle from blaster shots and offensive and defensive special effects. I know that you can press more than one button with one thumb on the Genesis gamepad. I don’t use that technique much but maybe this game will inspire me to. It’s not that it’s a bad thing to learn a new, more complicated battle system. It’s just that it loses something as a shooter, at least until I get a handle on it. I have fewer zen moments that allow the game to come to me. Instead I’m calculating whether using special effects will actually do more harm than good by taking me out of my creature shredding zone.
That has led me to button configuration 10, which often uses the effects wastefully but takes the least from my flow of the game. One button press will turn the special effect on and then use it continuously until it’s gone rather than using the effects at will with a “magic” select button and separate “magic” shot button. It’s not as complicated as it sounds but complicated enough. So I suggest using configuration 10 until you get a feel for the game and then testing out other button assignments.
The creature art and environments in Wings of Wor are quite creative. A big part of the fun is seeing what’s around the next corner. As a result, sometimes the transitions are a little jarring like when a giant steampunk engine drops in front of you after fighting nothing remotely similar to that point. However, there are other moments in which the transitions are smooth and make almost perfect sense, in a weird way, like when you descend into the underwater world to fight creatures with wonderful methods of locomotion. The better you are at the game, the more creatures you get to experience and, of course, annihilate. That’s pretty good motivation.