Retro Reviews is a new series from Epicpower Gaming. Each week I’ll review a retro game or accessory as if it was a new title. No nostalgia goggles here. The Retro Reviews highlight items that deserve a review without bias. Here is the second review in the series about R.O.B. by Nintendo. 

 

R.O.B. The Robot was an accessory for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in the United States in 1985.

The Robotic Operating Buddy, or R.O.B. for short was developed by Nintendo as a Trojan horse for the Nintendo Entertainment System to enter the US market after the video game crash of 1983. Prior to the Nintendo Entertainment System, retailers were very hesitant to carry any video game systems since it was very clear that consumers had abandoned the home platform all together.
In the early days of the Nintendo Entertainment System era, it was marketed as a toy instead of a video game console. To help solidify that persona, Nintendo released the R.O.B. simply as a toy that could play the game with you. Using the same technology as the Zapper, the R.O.B. would perform a handful of operations and to complete tasks displayed on the screen.

Setting Up Your R.O.B. 

The R.O.B. requires 4 AA batteries and 1 D battery to operate. The 4 AA power R.O.B. and the 1 D powers the gyro spinner. It wasn’t a problem locating AA, but not too many devices take D batteries so those were a little harder to track down.
After the batteries are in place, there’s no real hardcore set up required. Simply place the proper pieces for the games in the appropriate slot on R.O.B. and you’re good to go. Just make sure his eyes are pointing toward the TV and turn him on. It also should be noted here that R.O.B. requires a CRT TV to operate. He will not work on modern televisions.

Games that R.O.B. works with

The Robotic Operating Buddy is only compatible with two games, Gyromite and Stack Up.

How R.O.B. works with Gyromite

Gyromite is the more popular of the two because the accessories needed for the game came packed in with the Nintendo Entertainment System Deluxe set. This game uses gyros to place on plungers that then press either the A or B button on the NES controller to progress through the level.

Gyromite has you guiding Professor Hector through a series of platforming levels to collect dynamite. Professor Hector does not have any abilities other than picking up radishes and moving left or right. There are red and blue pipes blocking his way and that’s where R.O.B. comes in. Pressing start enables Professor Hector to send commands to R.O.B. and have him drop the Gyro on either the red or blue plunger which presses the A or B buttons. There is also a time limit and enemies that can only be killed by squishing them under the pipes. If that’s too tricky, you can distract them for a small amount of time with radishes located around the level.

Nothing more retro than R.O.B grinding to move Gyros

A video posted by @the_starship on

 

The game gets trickier as the game progresses even requiring you to have one gyro on one plunger while working on getting the next plunger down. This is done by bringing over the gyro to the spinner, then picking up that spinning gyro and dropping it on the plunger of choice.

Overall Gyromite is very tedious with R.O.B. and it’s much easier to just play with the second controller in your hand.

How R.O.B. works with Stack Up

Stack Up is the other game that R.O.B. is compatible with. This game requires you to stack blocks in different designs shown on the screen. Since the game has no way to know if you’re actually doing what’s required in the level, it relies on you the player to be honest and only progress when the level is completed. There is no time limit and you need to try to complete the pattern on the screen in the lowest amount of moves. Points are awarded for every move under par and if time allows, a bonus.

Stack Up also allows the player to program moves into R.O.B., but I use that phrase lightly as it’s essentially creating a macro to tell R.O.B. what to do. There’s also a Bingo stage which causes R.O.B. to perform a certain move after bingo is achieved.

Stack UP with R.O.B.

A video posted by @the_starship on


Stack Up is one of the rarest titles on the Nintendo Entertainment System to find complete. While the game itself is easy enough to find, the parts are a completely different story. Stack Up requires 5 platforms and 5 different colored bricks. In order to grip the bricks, R.O.B. needs special claws as well. Complete copies of Stack Up have been known to fetch up to 300 dollars depending on the condition of the box. Since I’m not made of money, I bought the Famicom version from Japan for 80. The only difference is the color of the platforms which are white to match Japan’s version of R.O.B.

 

R.O.B. Durability

R.O.B. is over 30 years old and the technology in him wasn’t designed to last longer than 10. R.O.B. has some issues with durability and one of them is the axels that drive his body up/down and left/right. Nintendo used some really cheap glue that eventually degraded over the years causing R.O.B. to remain stationary when given a command. Mine was unable to move left or right so I took him apart and found that, yes, my axle had become unglued. I spent 15 minutes taking him apart and then an hour putting him back together because all of the pieces need to be placed perfectly before closing the housing.

R.O.B. gears

The R.O.B. is powered by a series of gears

R.O.B. is a gimmick. Plain and simple. He’s slow, loud, and his functionality is severely limited. Even when he does work, he doesn’t work well. The one biggest fault about R.O.B. is that he only recognizes 1 action at a time and cannot stop that action until it is completed. This can be pretty frustrating when you accidently pick the wrong move for R.O.B. to perform, but it’s incredibly frustrating that R.O.B. isn’t very precise. There are plenty of scenarios where I would choose to pick up the Gyro but it wouldn’t let me place it on the platform because R.O.B. can’t just stop right above it. Apparently there’s a way to calibrate R.O.B. to be compatible with each game, but it doesn’t seem to work for me.

R.O.B. has gained popularity lately by being a playable character in Super Smash Brothers for Wii U and so demand for the physical version have spiked. Finding a complete, working R.O.B. will cost you a pretty penny and even then, you need to be on the lookout for people who have purchased Famicom parts to drive up the price of their unit.

Overall, unless you are a collector who really wants this as a talking piece you shouldn’t buy a R.O.B. he’s simply not worth the cost and the headaches. If you were to find a broken one for a really good price, you should snap him up and put him on your shelf because that’s all he’s good for nowadays.

Power Glove header

Retro Reviews is a new series from Epicpower Gaming. Each week I’ll review a retro game or accessory as if it was a new title. No nostalgia goggles here. The Retro Reviews highlight items that deserve a review without bias. Here’s the first in the series about the Power Glove from Mattel. 

The Power Glove is a motion controller made by Mattel for use with the Nintendo Entertainment System. The original retail price was $75 ($143 adjusted for inflation)

The Power Glove has become notorious for being bad. Everyone likes to reflect on how terrible it was and how ashamed Mattel should be for even thinking this would ever be a success. But how bad is it really? Well it’s not that bad. For something that came out in the eighties and cost less than $100 it was a pretty awesome concept. You can control video games by moving your hand around and even making a closed fist would control another part of the game. I got one for Christmas in 1989 and it was promptly returned before New Year’s. Like many kids, I just didn’t have the patience to use a controller like that when a traditional pad did the same job. Plus you had to keep your arm up which even now, gets old fast.

Since then, Power Gloves have become quite the collector’s item and if you have one downstairs in the basement, they’re worth a decent amount of money. Especially if it comes with the sensor bar. I picked one up 10 years ago in an eBay lot for $40 and have had it ever since. I don’t use it very often, but I figured I’d bust it out for this review. If you haven’t seen one in person, you probably know the Power Glove from the cult classic “The Wizard” where Lucas, the antagonist used one to play the Rad Racer. It was so amazing that almost every kid had it on their Christmas list that year.

The Glove
The Power Glove is so eighties. It’s everything you would think an electronic “virtual reality” glove would be from that era. The glove is grey with a ton of buttons on it for entering codes. The codes are necessary because you need to program the glove to work with a specific game. For my adult hand it fits pretty snug but unfortunately the foam underneath has rotted so it does tend to come off on my arm after some use. The cord is about six feet long and connects to the sensor box which connects to the Nintendo. Overall the glove feels very comfortable even though I’m tethered to the Nintendo.

Power Glove Box

the sensor bar has a switch box. You plug your Power Glove here

Set Up
The Power Glove doesn’t plug directly into the Nintendo Entertainment System, it needs sensors that transmit radio signals to determine the location of the Power Glove. These sensors are placed on the TV. They don’t sit flush on my TV so I had to tape them in place. It’s important that the sensors are facing forward or else the controls will go erratic.
Once you have the Power Glove all set up, you need to program it for each game. Most of the codes are located in the instruction manual. If you don’t have one, there are plenty of sites that have searchable codes.  The only exception to that rule is when you’re playing Super Glove Ball and Bad Street Brawler. Those two games are the only ones designed to work with the Power Glove from the start and even include exclusive moves for players that use the glove.

Power Glove sensor bar

The sensor bar fits nicely on my Trinitron, but I needed to tape it on

The Games
The games is where the Power Glove falls short. There are only two official games designed to work with the Power Glove, however there it does work with almost all the games. I picked 3 games out of my collection to play with the Power Glove.

Double Dragon
Double Dragon is hard enough as it is without the Power Glove and using the glove makes it damn near impossible. This uses more gestures than the other games that I tried so it took some getting used to. You bend your pointer finger to punch, bend your thumb to kick and bend the other three fingers to jump. To move right you just move your hand right, and to move up you put your hand in and to move down you move your hand back. The control scheme is pretty neat and uses all of the Power Glove’s abilities, but if you want to get anywhere in Double Dragon, just stick with the classic controller.

Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out is a game that was what the Power Glove was made for. While using the glove, you were able to use real punches to control Little Mac. While using Star Punches were much more satisfying, it would take a significant amount of practice to be really good at the game. I’m sure there are people who have beaten Mike Tyson using the Power Glove, but I simply don’t have the time or the patience to do so.

Power Glove Punch Out

Punch Out is one of the best games for Nintendo. But the Power Glove makes it harder

Super Glove Ball
Super Glove Ball works surprisingly well with the Power Glove. You can grab and throw the ball, the glove moves with your hand so there’s no need to wait for the controller to point it. The downside of all that is it takes forever to blow through a level because the controls aren’t that precise and you have to wait to clear the entire level before progressing. Using the regular controller will allow you to progress through the maze when the red arrows pop up.

Power Glove Ball

So futuristic. The game is set in 2005.

Conclusion
Overall the Power Glove gets a bad rap. It was a financial flop, but it did what it was advertised to do. Motion controls from that era were very rare and for the Power Glove to do anything that it said on the box is revolutionary. But it just didn’t have any practical use and it was much easier to use the traditional controller than the Power Glove. Perhaps if there were more games designed for it than just two mediocre games, it might have had a better place in history.

If you have the means to try or buy a Power Glove, do it. While it’s just another eighties gimmick, it still has its place as one of the coolest Nintendo accessories of all time and you’ll gain a much better appreciation for the tech if you try it yourself.

This is so darn interesting. In fact it is a piece of cherished history that most of humanity aged 30 and above have in common. World 1-1 of Super Mario Brothers is a staple of game design and simplicity that continues as a living process in game introductions for users to pick up the basic elements of a new video game.

This is a video by Eurogamer that I found on YouTube. Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka discuss the thought process applied to designing World 1-1 in Super Mario Brothers, and how it was one of the last levels created. They also discuss the feelings and emotions they wanted the player to feel while playing Super Mario World. Near the end of the video there is some detail about when Mario first became 3D for the Nintendo 64 and how it would impact the player’s expectations and emotions.

SO DARN INTERESTING!

For the past 2-3 years, retro video games (PS2 and Older) have been rising in price and popularity and it seems that not too many people know why. With Gamestop finally throwing its hat in the ring, the retro video game market has finally hit its stride. Battletoads is an incredibly difficult game, and the two player mode was broken. The series only has 4 titles (the last being Battletoads & Double Dragon released in 1993.) and attempts to capitalize on the game’s brand fell flat with an ill-fated cartoon show that has only one episode. So why is Battletoads expensive? Well why is anything popular these days? The internet.

No one really knows how things like this catch on, but one of the reasons that Battletoads is expensive is because it’s a popular meme. According to Know Your Meme, in September 2007, Anonymous targeted numerous Gamestops and started making prank call requests for BattleToads 2, Battletoads for the Wii and some other oddball requests. Many Lulz were had and even today when I say that I work in a retro video game store, the first question people ask is “Do you have Battletoads?”

Yes, we do sometimes have Battletoads in stock. I currently have it in my collection. It’s a difficult yet fun game that every collector must have in their NES collection. But is Battletoads expensive because of a meme? Not really. The meme is 7 years old and prices for this game didn’t really take off until about 2 years ago with the rest of the NES titles.

So the real reason that this game is expensive is that it’s popular and desirable. It’s currently trending at about 25 dollars loose, which is actually a pretty good price to pay for a good game. Prices will continue to rise, so if you see a copy of Battletoads for 25 dollars or less, buy it! It’s bound to go up with the impending announcement of an HD remake in June.

 

Gamestop is going to start taking older video games back to the Nintendo Entertainment System starting with a small market in New York. This pilot program will eventually lead to Gamestop selling retro games on their website to take advantage of a growing economy that has focused on playing games from the good ol’ days.
This decision shouldn’t really surprise anybody interested in picking up used games on older systems. Gamestop has been selling their games more at the market rate for the better part of two years. They know what this stuff is “worth” and are making sure they get their cut. The best example of this practice is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D – the game is no longer in print and since Majora’s Mask 3D was announced, the price has skyrocketed. Used copies are fetching well over 50 dollars even though the digital version on the eShop is $39.99. Gamestop sells (if you can find it) copies for $54.99 and you have no guarantee that you’re getting a complete copy.

Cart only for 55 is a bargain compared to eBay prices

Cart only for 55 is a bargain compared to eBay prices

So what’s going to happen to the retro video game economy when this goes live? Will there fabled video game bubble burst and cause prices to bottom out? Doubtful. Unless Gamestop all of a sudden keeps a steady stock of Earthbound and Chrono Trigger in stock and keeps the price reasonable, the market prices will stay at a high level.
The only issue I do take with Gamestop selling retro games is that the overall quality of the item (Manual, box, label) is not guaranteed. For the majority of the population interested in purchasing retro games, this isn’t an issue. But for collectors interested in near mint items, they may want to steer clear of the website unless Gamestop starts posting pictures of each and every item they have in stock and price accordingly.
Gamestop will be just another contender in the retro game market and I don’t think anybody will take too much notice unless they start selling the retro games in the stores. So relax, people. This was an inevitability and I’m honestly surprised it took as long as it did.

Larry Hryb aka Major Nelson(@majornelson) tweeted the news earlier this morning  that Battletoads HD will be coming to Xbox One this fall as a Gamestop exclusive. “We’re excited to announce that finally Battletoads is coming to next gen!” The game will be an HD remake of the original NES Battletoads that has gained notoriety as of late due to its co-op gameplay and impossibly hard level design.

Major Nelson announces Battletoads HD

Major Nelson announces Battletoads HD

Rare has also tightened the graphics on level 3 and also allowed users to turn off same team damage in two player mode making it a tad bit easier for today’s gaming market.

In an offer available for today only, those who call their local Gamestop to pre-order Battletoads will receive a bonus unlockable character Pimple – who was not a playable character in the original game. While I’ve recommended against pre-ordering before, this might be one worthwhile if it turns out that Pimple isn’t an unlockable character.

Battletoads is one of my favorite NES titles and I’m really excited to see Rare produce a non-Kinect title again. Maybe we’ll finally see Banjo-Kazooie?

Battletoads HD cover art

Battletoads HD cover art

When I was a kid, my parents didn’t buy me too many games. I usually got one or two a year and if I wanted to play the latest and greatest, I would have to rent them from the local rental store, “Alltendo” This store only rented video games. The owner boasted about having every game from NES to Turbo Grafx. Alltendo boasted having over 500 games to choose from and multiple copies of each and the cost was 5 dollars for 5 days which included the manual.. I used to play Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past so much, that I knew which copy had my saves on it. Super Mario Kart was a big one too. I rented that so much, my parents bought it for me because it was cheaper that way. Mega Man 7 and Mega Man X were fun to play and I wish 10 year old me had enjoyed them even more since Mega Man 7 is so ridiculously expensive nowadays.

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Hey sportsball fans! Did you know that a big championship game is coming up this Sunday? The 49th Super Bowl is this Sunday. The New England Patriots vs the Seattle Seahawks. It should prove to be a good game. The Seahawks are coming off of a surprise comeback win against the Green Bay Packers and they’re looking to win their second Super Bowl title in a row. The Patriots made easy work of the Colts, but not without controversy. They’ve been accused of deflating balls to increase grip. While both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick deny reports of any wrongdoing, the balls will be firmly held.

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I work part time at a retro video game store. It’s not all glitz and glamour like they make it out to be in the movies, but I do get to learn a lot about video games that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else. One of my responsibilities is cleaning the games and systems that we get from trade-ins. While some games are in an acceptable condition, a lot have been stored in a basement or attic for 20 years and have dust, cobwebs and marker that aren’t aesthetically pleasing.

I have put together a couple of tips to get your games in collectible shape.Continue reading