Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Nazo No Murasamejou (FDS)

Despite owning several Famicom disk titles I only realised recently that I’ve only created an entry about one so far! Disk games in general feel like a treat to load each time because even though they can take several seconds (compared to the instant cartridge loading) it always adds to the expectation of what you are about to play plus with the usual unreliability of disk games it’s actually a joy when they load without any errors. I’m a huge fan of Zelda, something about the top down view appeals to me when it comes to adventure games so I always try my best to keep an eye out for similar games which is when I followed a suggestion to try out a game called Nazo No Murasamejou.

It seems to be a relatively common game for the Famicom disk system and I had no issue finding a copy on eBay for just £6 as an added bonus it was in immaculate condition. Published by Nintendo in 1986 and only released in Japan (edit. It seems there was a rerelease for the Gameboy Advance in 2004 for the Famicom mini series) it surprised me to learn that the game never seemed to have much commercial success for what is effectively a Zelda clone with enough differences to make it stand out though it did spawn a Japanese television series which was based around the games plot. I had to rely on the internet to discover the plot because nothing is explained in game basically the whole tale is set in ancient Japan when an alien descends onto Murasame castle, taking over the inhabitants with the use of evil spheres and doing the same to the Lords of four surrounding castles. Your job as Takamaru is to work your way through each castle defeating the Lords and seeking out the alien. Not the most epic of tales but compared to the first Zelda game it does have a bit more thought put into it.

It plays identical to Zelda being in the form of a top down scroller however everything seems to work at a much quicker pace. Enemies appear and rush towards you at some speed and it can require some skill in order to dodge fireballs, throwing stars and other weapons. With one button for the players sword and another for the shuriken there isn’t much choice when it comes to weapons though this does change in the form of power ups that replace the standard throwing stars. These appear every few screens and from what I’ve seen ranged from a fireball, a bomb that clears screens and a cloak that makes you invisible.

You may be wondering if I managed to complete this.....and I have to say no. It’s extremely hard with each screen throwing several enemies at once all having their own types of weapons, usually projectiles. Thankfully Takamaru can deflect some of these with his own sword but you really need to be quick to avoid the onslaught. Starting outside each castle you work your way along its gardens before finally making your way inside only to find a large maze like structure which eventually leads to the Lord. It’s fast, frantic and quite frankly a challenge but this is all in the games favour. When you manage to clear a castle Lord it actually feels like a proper accomplishment and because the game is so fast it’s never a burden to work your way through.

So was it worth the long loading times to play, which I’m sure some of you will notice in the video (sorry I couldn’t resist leaving the loading times in)? Certainly yes, for £6 I was faced with a game that could put some of the newer titles to shame, simple to learn but difficult to master it’s the ideal retro game and a real gem. If you are considering buying a disk system or even a Sharp Twin (you really should, try reading my earlier blog entry about them if you are undecided) then Nazo should be at the top of your shopping list. Highly recommended and well worth finding a copy if you can.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Legend of Zelda: Outlands

One thing that has become apparent whilst researching the many games I end up buying is just how big a homebrew community exists for the NES. From what I can tell the console seems to be a lot easier to program for than its successors with many games requiring a strange mix of code and hardware. A few comments on various forums mention things like banks, switches and numerous chips that are built into each NES cartridge capable of running a game. It was during one of these sessions that I noticed a company called Game Reproductions who are able to load a ROM file onto a NES cartridge and provide you with effectively a new game. As well as actually providing the games the company also prints and fits new labels for each title so the finished product can be akin to buying a cartridge back in the day. With the company in mind I decided to look for some of the more popular homebrew games and one title I came across repeatedly was a follow up to the Legend of Zelda, Outlands.

The story follows on directly from the first game one of the bosses from the first title has managed to survived defeat at Link’s hands stealing the Triforce of Power making its escape to the Outlands. In order to find the boss you are quested with seeking out help from 8 captured fairies trapped across the lands dungeons. Thankfully Zelda herself is on hand and will actually provide Link with weapons that can be used to work your way through each dungeon.

With the game being an effective hack of the original Zelda title there isn’t much point into mentioning the game play as it’s effectively identical. However the beauty of this title is the redesign of the whole world, gone are the familiar paths of the over world and the same puzzle filled dungeons. Instead we are presented with a whole new land (the Outlands) to explore and completely different dungeons. On first loading the game Link isn’t even provided with a sword, you have to actually wander the land to find the right cave unlike the predecessor with the sword being readily available. From the off this ads to the overall difficulty taking some effort avoiding enemies that are dotted around the map, when you eventually do discover the wooden sword its apparent that all the enemies react in different ways than players would expect. Some are now immune to the weapon and no matter how many times you strike the weapon will simply have no effect. This can make for some frantic moments as you dash back and forth but mainly provide a refreshing challenge with a much higher difficulty. One item of note that makes an appearance is the Ocarina which is a pleasing nod to fans of the series several items are actually taken from Zelda 2 so it’s a joy to see that the game isn’t limited to taking everything from its predecessor.

Unlike a lot of cart reproduction companies GR doesn’t require you to provide a donor cartridge in order to load a title and I was even given the option of choosing a suitable label for the game. It just didn’t seem right having anything other than the standard Zelda design though but the label that came with the game was of very high quality and sat next to other NES carts you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Pricewise it cost around £20 which included shipping from the US .One thing I will mention as I was worried about this before purchase is the ability to actually save your game during play, seeing as I also bought an RPG (Mother or Earthbound as its also known) my biggest concern had to be spending a couple of hours playing a game but then having to lose my place. Thankfully the cartridges come with inbuilt batteries so if a game requires saving the feature is available. One thing to be wary of is the delivery time as it can actually take up to a month for the company to make each cartridge if they don’t have any in stock. Overall they were easy to deal with and I would recommend them if you decide to buy a few homebrew titles.

As a final note the original Outlands ROM creator has a website that explains in great detail the type of changes he made so I would recommend a visit if you want to learn more:


Friday, 6 February 2009


After a long break its time to welcome you all back to the world of Arcade conversions. Popeye was originally created for the arcades by Nintendo in 1982 and was one of the earliest games released for the NES and was ported to just about every system available at the time. I first played the game way back in 1984 on a friend’s Atari 2600 (I would have been around 4 at the time). Thinking back I believe Popeye was the first video game I had ever seen let alone played so it’s to blame for the 20 odd years of interest in games. Because of this it’s always held a sort of Holy Grail status in my mind the one game my parents could never afford to buy (my first foray into games ownership was a Commodore 16 in 85, no consoles until the late 80’s for me) yet would always remain a favourite in mind. The only thing I ever seem able to recall is the first screen and none of the game play so it makes for an interesting trip down memory lane to finally get my hands on a copy for the NES.

Seeming to be one of the mid range titles price wise on eBay I was able to pick up a boxed copy for £7 which is cheap considering I’ve seen it sell for as much as £15 with the instructions as well. The box itself was a bit tatty when it arrived but the cartridge didn’t even require cleaning booting straight away which is always a bonus. One thing I’m becoming used to with the early releases is the basic title screens and Popeye’s was no different, a simple choice between 1 or 2 players with game A or B for both. The B option simply being a much harder version to play but for the purposes of the blog I’ll stick to the A game.

The game is quite basic the goal is to catch a set number of whatever Olive throws down (this comes in the form of hearts, letters or musical notes and missing an item as it falls simply means it sticks to the bottom of the screen in the ocean where you can run by later to pick it up. You might think its just a case of waiting for all the items to fall but it can take a good while for them to descend as they tend to float in a breeze like feathers and with Bluto, Popeye’s nemesis running around you constantly have to keep moving. In total there are 3 stages the first based at Olives home, the second at a port and the third on an actual ship. Completing all three causes them to loop endlessly with the main goal being to make as many points as possible. To help you on your way you can collect tins of spinach with the game kicking in with the Popeye theme from the old cartoons, his muscles growing and the chance to hunt down Bluto and punch him across the screen. Besides Bluto and some birds in the last stage there are no enemies that pose a threat however each screen does have a unique part. The first being a punching bag that can be used to drop a flowerpot on Bluto’s head for more points, a seesaw in the second screen to jump up half the screen and a moving platform in the third which is a bit uncreative though the birds do make up for it. Finally we come to the music besides the Popeye theme there’s the same constant tune hat plays throughout all the levels. I’m not sure if its a rendition of the arcade cabinet but its pretty annoying and doesn’t ever stop.

So the important question for me is whether after all these years it’s actually a good game. For a full priced NES title at the time I would have to say no due to it being short and a bit limited the game itself plays extremely well and I had no problem running around the stages controlling Popeye. Some of the item collection requires quick movements to avoid Bluto and the slick controls mean the player is responsible for being caught rather than poor controls. For an arcade title good controls are an absolute must and Popeye doesn’t disappoint in that regard. I still owe a lot to this game as it really created the gaming urge all those years ago and it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t end up with something like M.U.S.C.L.E!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

So what have I been upto?

Despite my time away I haven't given up on games! Just a week ago I purchased a fully modded SNES and Megadrive from Consolepassion as well as a suitable LCD television to play them on. I then set about converting a closet into a mini retro gaming station, right next to the bed for some late night sessions. I'm quite proud of this lot and with the press of the reset button I can easily change region on either console so theres next to nothing I cant play worldwide (I believe the Super Mario RPG wont work on region fixed consoles).

Not really NES related you might think though I am contemplating moving the NES/Famicom into the same closet the drawers in the lower part of the picture seeming the ideal spot. Plus there are a lot of sequels to NES games that I may divulge in from time to time and post a few entries on, what do you readers think? Would you like to see some SNES postings?

Monday, 2 February 2009


Sorry about the long break folks, afriad its been really hectic for me this past week so will try to get a decent entry done this week. The next game I will be looking at is Popeye for the NES.