Retro VS Modern Gaming: What We Put Up With Back In The Day

I’ve been playing video games since the early ’80s, ever since I got my very first Colecovision system. Since then, I have owned countless consoles along with a plethora of games. Thinking back to the good ol’ gaming days of yore reminds me of all the things younger kids today will never know about. From getting your NES cartridge to play just right, to waiting for the next issue of Nintendo Power, gamers of this generation can’t begin to fathom what we put up with in the early days. Here are a few of the things from back in the day that the youngins of today will never know the pleasure (or displeasure) of.

In no particular order:

  1. Blowing in the NES cartridge to get it working – We ALL had our own system getting an aging NES game to work. For me, I first had to blow in it, then, I had a specific way of inserting the cartridge that I knew would get the games working every time. Who can say if this actually increased the chances of success, and yet to this day, we all still blow in the cartridge with the hopes that our 30-year-old carts will light up screens once more. There was something special about the way we got our NES games to work over the years, even if it was all for nothing.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. Cleaning kits – Continuing with the NES, who out there remembers that acidic cleaning solution you were supposed to rub on the actual chip of the cart? NES carts could get dusty if stored wrong, causing the game to load improperly. Several cleaning kits were on the market back in the day, but I‘m pretty sure they were doing more harm than good. The one I remember having, consisted of some kind of mystery solution and a flat cotton applicator. You simply soaked the cotton with the mystery solution and wiped it back and forth on the circuit board. Thinking back on it now, that sounds insane. This black gunk would always come off, but I just know I was wiping off something important. To this day, I can’t believe I put some weird chemical on my precious games, even if it got the Nintendo Seal of Approval. That was a thing, look it up!

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. Throwing controllers in a fit of rage – Say what you want about ’80s and early ’90s tech, but that stuff was built to last. I can’t tell you how many times I threw my controllers in a fit of rage. Those little plastic enablers bore the brunt of my wrath as I attempted some of the most infuriatingly hard games ever. If I saw someone doing that today, I think I would have an aneurysm on the spot. It costs $70 plus tax for a Switch Pro Controller, so you can better believe that thing is never leaving my hand with any measurable velocity. Come to think of it, it’s a shame, because I always found controller throwing to be rather therapeutic.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. Wired Controllers – Let’s stay on controllers for a moment shall we? Back in my youth, controllers required a wire that connected them to their respective consoles. Cords were never long enough; they significantly hampered the distance we could sit from the television. Wireless adapters eventually came to market, but they were never commonplace, and I’m sure they cost a hefty buck or two. Gamers today have no idea how good they have it with the freedom of movement cutting the cord has wrought. I was actually stunned when I saw third party manufacturers offering up a cheaper, wired pro-controllers for the Switch. I know it’s significantly less money, but I just can’t see myself buying one. Once you’ve tasted the delight of wireless gaming, it’s exceptionally difficult to ever be tethered again.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. The Anticipation of my next issue of Nintendo Power Magazine – Nintendo Power ceased publication a short while ago, but its legacy will last a forever. I adored that magazine and the heavenly content contained within. The covers were beautiful, sometimes containing live action pictures of our favourite animated characters. I think my favourite was this Zelda II cover (shocker), which looked like a modern day cosplayer keeping watch over a sleeping Princess Zelda. This was where we got all our news, tips, tricks, and previews for everything coming out in the near future. I can’t remember when I stopped my subscription (decades ago), but even I was teary eyed when they announced the end of publication back in 2012. It was certainly the end of an era, and gamers who never grew up with it are definitely missing out on a piece of gaming history.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. Crazy peripherals – There’s one thing you can’t deny about the early days of video gaming: companies had no idea what consumers wanted. There were so many different kinds of accessories and peripherals to get people lured in. Nintendo, always the innovator, offered up some choice accessories of their own. Let’s name a few: Zapper, R.O.B, NES Advantage, Power Pad, Game Genie, Super Scope 6, Power Glove, LaserScope, NES Max, and the Joycard Sansui SSS are just a couple of examples of what the Big N released. There are dozens more to choose from, most of which, didn’t really aid in increasing the gaming experience. Sure, we have accessories and peripherals today, but none as whacked out as some of the offerings from over two decades ago.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. Batteries, Batteries, Batteries – Today’s portable devices use rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Once the charge is gone, simply plug in your device (or battery pack) into the wall, and boom, you have a fully charged machine in no time. This, as we all know, wasn’t always the case. If I am not mistaken, the original Game Boy needed four batteries, while the Game Gear tipped the scales at a whopping six. I can’t imagine having to keep a healthy stock of double and triple A batteries just to play my favorite games on the go. The bulk of handhelds back then were already oppressive, but with the added weight of a billion batteries, they became more cumbersome than I feel they were worth.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

  1. LAN parties! – Playing your friends online these days is as simple as turning on, logging in, and press start. As long as you pay the monthly PS Plus or Xbox Live subscriptions, you can play people all over the world in an instant, for as long as your bladder will allow. If you wanted to play your friends back in the early ’90s, however, you had to have a LAN party. For those youngsters who have no idea what that is, please allow me to explain. The internet was a fledgeling thing back then, and most companies didn’t have dedicated serves for gamers to use. Instead, if we wanted to play one another, we had to tote our computers to a friend’s house and wire them all up together. Once linked together, we could go to town on some awesome Duke Nukem 3D. I feel it’s important to mention that flat screen monitors weren’t a thing yet, so along with our heavy PC towers, we also had to lug very large and heavy monitors. LAN parties were annoying, frustrating, time-consuming, and tedious, but damn, were they fun as all can be. I love the fact that I can play anyone, at any time, and in any place in today’s gaming world, but I’ll go on record, as saying there was nothing more fun than a whole bunch of my friends coming together and playing some awesome ’90s PC greatness.

Retro VS Modern Gaming

There you have it fellow gaming enthusiasts, just a few items and experiences that this generation missed out on. Wired controllers and buckets of batteries are things I can definitely do without, but sometimes I just want to sit down, play a NES game, and throw the controller while reading a Nintendo Power as I slip on a Power Glove surrounded by my friends at a LAN party nerd-fest galore. I miss those days!

Looking Back: Top Eight NES Games I Never Beat

For those of us who grew up in the age of Nintendo, there are countless stories of NES games we simply couldn’t beat. Whether they were difficult, poorly designed, or simply made no sense, here is my list of the top 8 NES games I just couldn’t beat:

  1. Ikari Warriors – Released in 1987, Ikari Warriors was a formulaic run & gun arcade game, which my brother and I were obsessed with growing up. The game wasn’t necessarily hard, just incredibly long and time-consuming. Each mission lasted forever, and the action never stopped. We spent hours upon hours playing that game and never came close to finishing it. Going at it solo was an exercise in futility and most of the time when playing co-op, one of us would give up, throw the controller, and vow never to play the game again; we always came back.


  1. Gauntlet – Everyone knows Gauntlet. The game has had countless iterations on a multitude of platforms, with sequel after sequel popping up every generation. The original game was no slouch in the difficulty department, always finding a way of infuriating you as hordes and hordes of creatures came pouring out from their bullpens. this was only made worse with the constant grunts and moans of your character every time something touched you. I never could beat this game, though; I suppose I never really tried.


  1. 3D Worldrunner – An unnecessarily hard third-person rail shooter that made me want to destroy controllers on a regular basis. Part terrible level design, mixed with uneven gameplay, and a splash of awkward controls, this game was ridiculous. Countless times a simple jump miscalculation would bring your character to his demise. It was infuriating, especially if you were certain you had made the right move. Although I never came close to beating it, I would pop that sucker back in any time and try again. The music, however, was fantastic!


  1. Ghosts N’ Goblins – RAGE! Pure unbridled rage! This game was incredibly difficult from start to finish. Not only did you have just three lives, but exhausting all those lives, say at a boss fight, would see you start the whole level over again. To this day, I don’t think I’ve made it past level 3. Ghosts N’ Goblins is an NES classic, but I wish Capcom wasn’t a mecca for gaming masochists, hell-bent on destroying your sanity. To be fair, I thought all sequels and iterations thereafter were also difficult in their own right.


  1. Xenophobe – WHAT WAS THIS GAME. No seriously, can anyone tell me the point of this game.  The goal was to eradicate all alien invaders from the various moon bases, planets, ships, cities and more. I can’t tell you why I loved it, but I do know I never did beat it; I don’t even know if there was a real ending or not. To some, this might be an excruciatingly boring game, but to me, there were definitely enjoyable parts; I just can’t remember what they were anymore.


  1. Trojan – Another in a long line of side-scrolling action games, Trojan was never going to redefine the genre. Armed with a sword and shield, you made your way through a post-apocalyptic landscape, battling baddies along the way. Someone probably should have told our hero not to bring a sword to a gunfight, but it all worked out. I found it amusing that your character used an archaic sword, but mixed into the action were enemies with guns and bombs (and swords, maces, axes, and daggers). I’ve always had a soft spot for Trojan but never could beat it. With clunky controls and uneven enemies, the game can give players a run for their money; or whatever they use for currency in the apocalypse.


  1. Metal Gear – Has anyone actually played the original Metal Gear lately? I have two distinct memories of this game; one from my childhood when the game hit shelves, and again when I was a teenager and picked the game up after several years of it collecting dust. When Metal Gear first came out, I had no idea how to play. The game is impressively complex for something released on the NES. At the time, I don’t think I made it inside the main compound. Cut to years later, sometime during the mid-90’s and I decided to give my older self another shot. This time, I actually figured it out and fell in love with the game. So many aspects we’ve grown to love in the sequels have their origins (albeit simplistically) in this original instalment. It was fun, suspenseful, dynamic, and well thought-out. To this day, I can remember exactly where I left off; still having no clue how to beat the part I had reached so many years ago. Maybe one day I’ll pick it up for a third time, and finally play it through to the end.

metal gear

  1. Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link – The much-debated sequel to arguably one of the greatest games ever made, has infuriated players for over two decades. There are those who love this game and its fresh take on the original source material, while others simply can’t stand it. I am somewhere in the middle. Growing up, I was never a huge fan. I hated the redesigned overworld, new play mechanics and controls; everything about it seemed off. It was and still is, one of the hardest games I’ve ever played. The combination of twitchy controls and overly difficult enemies frustrated me the most. Half my life I didn’t even think the game made any sense.  I started replaying the game recently, but damn, it’s still exceptionally difficult. If my controllers weren’t over thirty years old, I would have chucked them against a wall out of frustration. Not only did I never beat this game, I never even got past the second dungeon. I also hated the music; there I said it!


There you have it fellow gamers. I’m curious to know which games stand out from back in the day that you never beat. Did you beat one of the games I mentioned above and want to rub it in my face? Awesome! I look forward to hearing about which games gave you all a hard time.

Honorable mentions: Battletoads, Rambo, Wolverine, and Karnov.

A Look at 2 New NES Cartridge Titles from Mega Cat Studios

Mega Cat Studios has been hard at work building a collection of retro cartridge titles to add to your dusty library of classics. Bringing back the true nature of traditional pixellated gaming, these developers are hoping to grab the attention of the old-school ‘fanboys’ of yesteryear; while reeling in the newcomers who have grown to love the classic retro mechanics found in countless indie titles to date.

I recently had the opportunity to play through a couple of titles from the Mega Cat collection, the first being the arcade sporting competition – Log Jammers; followed by the beat em’ up martial arts adventure – Almost Hero. Along with the games, customers have the option to receive the full package including the cartridge game, the game manual and art box for safe keeping. Just like the early days of living room consoles, the instruction manual proves helpful when the ever-present question of “how do I?” sets in, while the box provides important storing to keep the dust and other particles from damaging your expensive retro title.

Log Jammers

Log Jammers is a fast-paced arcade sporting title unlike any other in the NES sports game collection. Choosing between six creatively named and unique athletes, you’ll compete in a simple sporting event which includes chucking wood-cutting axes into one another’s goal. After 3 sets played to 12 have been won, the match is over. Though the rules are simple, plenty of arcade like power-ups drift across the playing field, to further enhance the gameplay.

There’s not much to Log Jammers, and while simple and to the point, it’s easy to spend countless hours on this title, either playing against AI or running your own tournaments with friends in 2-player mode. If audacious enough to pull through the single player tournament, the final big-bearded lumberjack contestant should prove a difficult challenge for any hard-core sporting competitor. Either way, this new retro cartridge title is well worth the time digging up your old Nintendo hardware.


Almost Hero

In Almost Hero players will fight off evildoers and bring back the rather specific and long-lost art of Bonsai Tree decorating. With a loose and humorous narrative, this entertaining martial arts style action side-scroller is packed with challenging bosses and enemies, as well as clever nods to legendary throwback gaming icons.

almost hero1                                    almost hero2

Through 5 levels where waves of enemies are set to stand in your way, it’s your role to help the creative Master Chow Khan retrieve his bonsai seeds from the vile antagonist – McRibs. Various bosses and themes poking at different themes across the gaming universe, light dustings of TMNT, Pokemon or Super Mario are found throughout the addictive title.

Making your way through brutal dungeons, coin and loot are collected to help aid you along your journey. By returning to Master Khan, you are able to purchase different health items which you may only carry one, as well as different character enhancements, like the traditional ‘speed shoes’ – giving your character improved speed and quickness. Anything and everything proves useful when challenged by the powerful villain, McRibs, and his quirky henchman. Almost Hero is a short and sweet adventure title, leaving a sense of nostalgia and familiarity borrowed from other arcade beat em’ ups from the NES era.

game and booklet

Mega Cat Studios has a long list of more retro based titles on the way, and even a handful more set to release in 2017. Keep updated with D-pad Joy as we bring you more news and reviews on the yet to be released cartridge titles from the up and coming indie developers, Mega Cat Studios.