Can You Be The Leader Of The Pac With Pac-Man 99?

Friends, while we fans of Ghostbusters were understandably freaking out yesterday over the release of a clip from the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife, it seems that Nintendo and Bandai Namco dropped an exclusive new title for the Nintendo Switch. A 99-player online battle royale featuring an updated version of the iconic Pac-Man, appropriately enough entitled Pac-Man 99. Did I mention that it is absolutely free for members of Nintendo Switch Online?

I assume that Pac-Man 99 has been released as part of the continuing 40th anniversary celebration of Pac-Man, which began on May 22nd of last year, proving the arcade icon shows no signs of slowing down since his initial debut.

Considering that it is a 99-player battle royale, it shouldn’t shock you to learn that there are a few new bells and whistles added to the overall gameplay. For one thing you are going to have to be worried about more than just the likes of Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Clyde. The biggest threat now will come from your fellow online players, who are going to be doing their level best to throw obstacles in your path such as the Jammer Pac-Man. Whenever a player gulps down a Power Pellet and then runs down and eats a ghost, a Jammer Pac-Man will be sent to one of the 99 other players. These moving obstacles resemble a ghost-like version of Pac-Man and roam freely through the maze, if a player comes in contact with one however it will slow them down considerably – making them the perfect target for the roving band of ghosts.

Also in the mazes are what Pac-Man 99 describes as Sleeping Ghosts, these smaller chain of ghosts can be gobbled up by the player at any time, with each one attaching itself to either Inky, Blinky, Pinky, or Clyde. After swallowing one of the Power Pellets though, all of the attached ghosts will also turn blue and can be gobbled up by the player, which of course sends a slew of the Jammer Pac-Man to an opponent.

Pac-Man 99 offers up power-ups for a player to use to keep in the game, like a speed boost, or even the option to hurl more of those Jammer Pac-Man to opponents who are on the verge of losing their match. There is more though, while the standard version of the game is available free of charge to Nintendo Switch Online members, you can pick up DLC packs – which offers additional play modes or even allows you to change the game theme to resemble other classic Bandai Namco titles like Dig Dug, Galaga, New Rally-X, and many others.

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY Nintendo.

So what are you waiting for, download Pac-Man 99 today and see if you can claim the title of leader of the Pac!

It’s Super Mario Bros. For The Intellivision… Wait, What?

Friends, I am sure that most of you are well aware that Super Mario Bros., the smash hit video game from Nintendo – was NOT released to the Mattel Electronics’ Intellvision back in the mid-’80s. That is not say however that games were not still being produced for the iconic home console after the video game crash of 1983 – thanks to the INTV Corporation in fact the last published game was Stadium Mud Buggies and that was in 1989. Although it is not out of the realm of possibility that there could have been an attempt at a Super Mario Bros. port to the Intellivision back in the day. After all they did produce ports of such popular arcade titles as Pole Position, Dig Dug, Commando, Congo Bongo, and BurgerTime to name a few.

VIDEO PROVIDED BY Consumer Time Capsule.

Of course when the homebrew community is making ports of Gauntlet, God of War, Gorf, Halo, for everything from the Atari 2600 to the NES – it is understandable why Matthew Kiel decided the Intellivision needed Super Mario Bros., right?

As I understand it, Matthew has used IntyBASIC to create a port of Super Mario Bros. – although I am under the impression this is just an exercise in fun. I highly doubt that Kiehl is going to attempt to make this port available to the Intellivision community. As Matthew explains himself on his video description there are still bugs in this current build of the game – but all of the stages have been implemented as well as the Warp Zones and bonus areas (the coin rooms found by way of the green pipes).

Matthew’s version of Super Mario Bros. for the Intellivision is quite impressive – from the music and sound effects to how the enemies behave just like in the original title. It might have been created just for fun but judging by this gameplay video – a whole lot of hard work has gone into it so far.

VIDEO AND ARTICLE IMAGE PROVIDED BY Matthew Kiehl.

The Atari 5200 – The Maligned System that Brought Father and Son Together

July 24th, 1978 saw the birth of Javier Ojst (that’s me!) in the small densely populated country of El Salvador, named after “The Savior” Jesus Christ. Undoubtedly I was a cute baby, and it was a day of revelry for all. Of course, I have no recollection of any of it, and it was revealed to me much later that a dear friend of the family immensely enjoyed pegging the nickname “lizard boy” on me when they saw my squirming in my crib. I guess to him it resembled more like a cage. So perhaps, Is it possible that I wasn’t that cute after all? Thanks to some dingy pictures from my parent’s photo album, I learned that the doctors assured my mom that her seven-month-old baby (yes, I was determined to see the world two months ahead of schedule) would be a girl. Either that, or she had an affinity for pink rooms. I’m rather pragmatic, so I’d like to think that the hardware store simply ran out of blue.

In 1980, my parents – who luckily decided to take me with them – fled to the United States because of the ongoing civil war that ravished everything around us. An incident that certainly motivated us to pack our stuff and move was when guerillas placed a bomb under the family car’s hood. They informed my dad in no subtle terms that he was persona non grata because he had a steady job with an established company and owned a car.

By 1992 both sides agreed to a cease-fire, not before approximately 75,000 Salvadorans were no longer with us. And nearly a decade later, many parts of the countryside were uninhabitable thanks to all the leftover landmines.

In 1986, my dad – who wasn’t a big fan of the American lifestyle and social life – wanted to return to El Salvador despite the civil war still in full force. I loved my Transformers, GI Joe, MASK, Star Wars and pro wrestling, but I soon found myself living in El Salvador once more and barely able to speak the language.

1986 was very different from how things are in 2020. No, I’m not referring to adapting to the worldwide pandemic that is COVID-19. I’m talking about things we take for granted, like the internet. Instant information and entertainment at our fingertips, obtained in a blink of an eye or even faster! When moving to another country, one can learn about its situation in a matter of minutes. Unless you choose to, it’s almost impossible to be blind to global news and current events with today’s technology.

At the time, most of our news about El Salvador came from family members who’d remained, and by perusing the local newspaper (remember those?), which was The Miami Herald. My dad is a person who prides himself as a realist and believes that no scenario is implausible. He had the foresight to record many TV programs, with our fancy new Sharp Video Cassette Recorder with a 3-speed function remote nonetheless! When planning our trip back to El Salvador, he was told everything on TV was in Spanish, and cable was unreliable, not very accessible, and rather pricey. So much of our entertainment would be in the form of rewatching these recorded programs. I saw Star Wars for the first time thanks to my dad recording it off the TV. Saturday Night’s Main Event, also recorded by him, became my gateway into pro wrestling, and I never looked back. Son of Godzilla, Godzilla vs. Megalon, Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster and many other kaiju films became regular viewings for myself and my two younger brothers.

One item that made the trip to El Salvador with us was a magnificent machine – well I certainly thought so at the time – called the Atari 5200. My earliest memories of Atari or any videogame were around 1983 with a neighbor who had an Atari VCS (later known as the Atari 2600). He proudly unveiled to all how he played games like Combat, Smurfs, Spider-Man, and E.T. Yes, HE played while everyone else watched. Years later, an uncle showed off his Intellivision to us, which claimed in advertisements as being “the closest thing to the real thing.” At the time, I agreed that it was a step up from the original Atari, but I was perfectly content watching cartoons and playing with my various action figures.

In El Salvador, to help our cultural transition not spill into all-out culture shock, my father thought this massive videogame console would help us feel at home while residing in my grandparent’s old house for a couple of months. Other than shaking the curtains and pouring scalding hot water down the shower drain to keep the ginormous roaches at bay, the 5200 would serve as family entertainment.

Video Provided by Daves Archives.

In November 1982, Atari introduced the Atari 5200, which contained the same processor as the Atari 400 and components of the Atari 800 home computer. In its prototype stage, it went by the name “Atari Video System X-Advanced Video Computer System.” The promising console never reached its potential, and only endured an 18-month lifespan. By May 1984, Atari discontinued the 5200, but not before eking out 69 games. Unfortunately, Atari’s programming team could not devote its full attention to the new console because they were still making games for the 2600. Surprisingly, the relatively primitive 2600 that most estimated would become extinct by the early ’80s proved that it was the “little console that could,” and continued producing titles until late 1991. It made cosmetic changes to their console once competitors like Nintendo came onto the scene, but it was all for naught.

So, in the glorious summer of ’86, presumably, my dad got the console and all the games it came with at a bargain-basement price – or so you’d hope! In my grandfather’s musty aged house, I enjoyed countless late nights in the dark living room in front of the glowing TV, alongside my dad. We played Super Breakout, Missile Command, Joust, Pengo, Space Invaders, Berserk, Star Raiders, Galaxian, and Dig Dug until our eyes felt crossed and dry, staring at the TV screen for hours on end. Maybe this was when I permanently ruined my peepers and wound up using glasses for years. All the previously mentioned games are classics, but all games had seen previous releases by Atari and other home consoles.

A consumer gripe, and a factor that buried the 5200, was that people who purchased the console, were paying a premium to play games the 2600 and the arcades had been offering for years. It wasn’t backward compatible with 2600 games or any of their home computer’s software, despite having similar specifications. Although the 5200 had marginally better audiovisual capabilities than the 2600, it wasn’t enough to keep the system alive, and most of the games, as mentioned, weren’t exclusive to the console. Amidst heavy competition from Intellivision, ColecoVison (cheaper than the 5200 and more attractive graphics), and the emerging home computer market led by the Commodore, IBM, and Apple, the 5200 failed.

The 5200 would be the last console Atari would produce as a profitable company. The later 7800 proved that Atari could still make quality consoles. Yet, internal strife and leadership changes pushed the console’s release to 1986 instead of the targeted 1984, which gave Nintendo enough time to push Atari off its videogame throne.

According to the experts, like IGN editor Craig Harris, the real culprit of its failure stems from the poorly designed controllers. He pulled no punches when describing the Atari 5200 controller in a 2006 article titled “Worst Game Controllers.” In the said write-up, he claims Atari’s effort was subpar in the manufacturing of the controller that “didn’t even center itself, and the buttons used materials that seemed to deteriorate at room temperature.” Former executive editor for Electronic Games Bill Kunkel described them as “Dead fish floppo joysticks” in The Ultimate History of Video Games by Steven L. Kent.

Atari 5200 Images Provided by Evan-Amos of Wikipedia.

Although innovative for its time with four side buttons, a reset, and pause function, the 5200 joysticks fell over without self-centering springs. Decades later, collectors now face an uphill battle trying to find functioning joysticks for what some would call this “ill conceived” videogame console that was the 5200.

Mark Bussler from Classic Game Room says, “There are a lot of excellent games available for the 5200, however, this is the last game console I’d recommend to anyone- unless you grew up with one in the past and want to relive the experience- or unless you’re a diehard collector or you’re crazy, you don’t want one of these.”

In episode 20 of AVGN, James Rolfe could not correctly demonstrate the system because, in typical 5200 fashion, the original controller was faulty, and the Wico Command Control joystick he bought off eBay for $20.00 plus shipping was incompatible with the console’s controller port.

I’ll tell you, though, as an 8-year old kid, I never noticed. I enjoyed every single one of those games with my dad. Maybe all except Star Raiders, which for an eight-year-old, was difficult to grasp. I guess, at the time, the side buttons were somewhat unresponsive in those crucial moments when trying to defend your cities in Missile Command, or blasting those dreaded giant insects and arachnids in Centipede. But I only noticed this years later when someone brought it up. In 1986, perhaps we just accepted the way things were, rolled with those punches, and made the best of our videogames. I preferred the “mushy” 5200 joysticks over the stubborn, almost immovable 2600 joystick.

Video Provided by Video Game Quick Clips.

But mostly, I remember playing with my dad. I’d sometimes let him win, but it was worth every bit of taunting to see him smile and laugh out loud. That was worth tarnishing a winning streak. I later moved onto the NES and SNES. I went hardcore with those consoles and lived for those games. Then dabbled briefly in the N64 pond. But the Atari 5200 holds a special place in my heart and tints my nostalgic rose-colored dreams. I no longer own my 5200 from childhood, thanks to a disgruntled cat who used it as a litter box in 1992. But I wouldn’t mind dusting one off from a garage sale or at a flea market to see my dad play Super Breakout with me one more time. Of course, now that we’re both adults, I wouldn’t let him win! Or maybe I would actually, only from time to time though…

Phosphor Dot Fossils: Arabian (1983)

Friends, Earl Green has a brand new Phosphor Dot Fossils video for your viewing pleasure, this time he is tackling Arabian, that 1983 arcade classic that was developed by Sun Electronics and distributed by Atari here in the States. Arabian is an arcade game that I first experienced at that Showbiz Pizza of my youth – one of the handful of titles that I had the opportunity to play on my first visit if memory serves me correctly. In addition I can remember the game being a little on the difficult side – it would take me a week or two before I was able to even safely guide the Arabian Prince to the second stage… and to this day I have never made it or even seen the fourth stage – besides on the walkthrough videos on YouTube that is. I am happy to say that we do have Arabian at the arcade and while it might not see as much action as some of the other arcade classic that Atari distributed, Shea made sure to place the cabinet in a prominent spot next to Centipede as well as Dig-Dug.

There is something rather interesting about the version of Arabian that Earl is playing – as he points out in the video itself – there is a change in the music that is played in the game. The version at the arcade and the one that I recall playing at that fabled Showbiz Pizza of my youth featured Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade – the version that Earl is using in his video appears to be playing the William Tell Overture and other classic music. Whatever the reason for the change in music it doesn’t affect how great Arabian is – an entry in the platform genre where the Player must leap, climb, and crawl his way to the top of four different stages to rescue the fair Princess.

So without further ado, grab your favorite snack and beverage and join Earl Green on Phosphor Dot Fossils as he plays Arabian!

Video and Article Image Provided by theLogBook.

Remember that for even more pop culture related goodness – make sure to check out Earl’s own website, the Logbook.Com – absolutely one of the best and longest running sites for all your retro needs.

This 1982 Xevious Promotional Video Presents An Epic Sci-Fi Backstory

Friends, while we haven’t gotten around to tackling the classic 1982 Xevious on the Diary of An Arcade Employee Podcast as of yet – I can assure you that it is definitely on the list. For what it might be worth this was an arcade title I first experienced at the Showbiz Pizza of my youth – in addition though I also saw it played quite a bit on the Starcade television series. It was one of those games that seemed to also pop up at the local gas stations and grocery stores with the likes of Dig Dug, BurgerTime, Pac-Man, and Galaga. Furthermore while not every arcade game was talked about during class at school, I can honestly say that Xevious was one that many of us young video game fans chatted about – it might have had something to do with the fact that the game had secret flags and towers to uncover while playing?

While I certainly remember seeing Xevious pop up on the Starcade game show quite a bit – I’ve read online that supposedly the game didn’t do as well here in the States as in Japan. I obviously cannot say off the top of my head if that is true or not – I can however point out that since most of us were not arcade game distributors there was no way we could have seen this awesome 1982 Xevious promotional video back in the day. One that adds a whole lot more to the science fiction backstory of the game than even the flyer that was sent out by Atari. That particular flyer has this description before laying out the key features that are sure to make the game popular at the arcades:

“Many eons ago, and advanced technologically oriented civilization was forced to evacuate the Earth prior to the Ice Age. Now, these Xevious people are returning to reclaim their heritage through conquest.”

I should point out that you didn’t find that information on the arcade game itself – so take a few minutes and enjoy this 1982 Xevious promotional video that adds just a little more to the story by way of a sales pitch.

Video and Article Image Provided by oritech.

Where did you happen to first play Xevious – was it at the arcade or did you experience it on a home console or computer port?

Is That Mr. Belvedere In This 1981 Atari Missile Command Commercial?

Mr Belvedere In This 1981 Atari Missile Command Commercial - Christopher Hewett

Friends, a couple of days I shared with you that Atari is going to be releasing a new version of 1980’s Missile Command at some point this Spring – entitled Missile Command:Recharged. While I will most assuredly be picking up this new version of the classic game – in that same article I stated that the original version is without a doubt one of my favorite arcade games. Even as an eight-year-old I was digging the quickly escalating tension of trying to save my six cities from the horrible fate of nuclear annihilation… a concern a lot of us kids had back then – that was three years before we saw The Day After too!

I am thankful that I have quite a few fond memories of the Golden Age of arcade games as well as home consoles – that is the reason for the Diary of an Arcade Employee podcast after all. One of the greatest thrills though is when video games really began to take off and make their way into the mainstream of pop culture – when you would see advertisements for Dig-Dug and the likes of animated Intellivision commercials in theaters before the movie started.

Video Provided by Blue Sky Rangers.

Over the years I have caught a few television advertisements that slipped under my radar back in my youth – one of those is this 1981 Missile Command commercial featuring Christopher Hewett of Mr. Belvedere fame. While it would be four more years before Hewett would appear as Lynn Belvedere – in this commercial he is a four-star general who is apparently well known at the local arcade. This TV commercial also serves to let video game enthusiasts know that they can play Missile Command at home thanks to the Atari VCS.

Video and Article Image Provided by Retropolis.

Hewett is a little more maniacal than this his role in Mr. Belvedere, wouldn’t you say? Now I found about this Missile Command commercial thanks to the April – May issue of Atari Coin Connection, a trade newsletter for arcade operators – letting them know all the important stuff that Atari was doing at the time. That Newsletter article also pointed out that a radio spot was being released at the same time as the TV ad:

“In a first-time test to measure the impact of TV advertising, ATARI has produced a 30-second television spot featuring Coin-op Missile Command and introducing the home video cartridge version of the game. A 60-second radio commercial has been recorded which will be aired to coincide with the TV ad.

The Commercials are scheduled to begin running at the end of May and continue for four week period in Seattle, Portland, Phoenix, Cincinnati, Milwaukee and Pittsburgh.

Collections in selected locations will be monitored in these cities and compared with “control” cities with no TV and radio advertising to determine the effect on play activity. Awareness levels of the ATARI name will also be checked.

If successful, future planning will include further cooperative commercials promoting both Coin-op and home video games to help build your business by increasing player interest.”

Pretty cool, right? We have a Missile Command TV commercial that wasn’t widely seen and as a bonus it features the future Mr. Belvedere. I am curious though – did you ever catch this particular television ad back in the day?

Diary Of An Arcade Employee Podcast Ep. 030 – Dig Dug

Dig Dug - Diary of An Arcade Employee Podcast Ep 030

Friends, back in the day on the Retroist site we engaged in something we called Atari Day, where on the 26th of every month – a date chosen by fans to celebrate all things related to Atari. What better way than talking about 1982’s Dig Dug on a new Diary of an Arcade Employee podcast? Bear in mind that it was indeed the legendary Namco that developed and produced Dig Dug – however it was Atari that handled the distribution of the classic game here in North America as well as in Europe.

On the show I do cover the basics of Dig Dug as well as some strategies and a bit of the more interesting trivia concerning the game. I try my best to point out the people of interest that had a hand in creating such a classic arcade title – in addition I discuss my feelings on the similarities of the gameplay to another 1982 classic title, I am referring of course to Universal’s Mr. Do!.

For what it might be worth, on this episode I was able to share a really amazing and sort of rare piece of audio – related to the advertising of Dig Dug. Which was graciously uploaded by Matt Osborne, who just happens to have been the Son of the then Vice President of Atari. I have also included an interview with Matt and The Video Game Preservation Dump on his memories of this special audio treasure.

Now then, equip your best mining gear and join us as we delve into 1982’s Dig Dug!

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If you possibly have suggestions for future episodes or want to chat about the current show – you can reach me at VicSagePopCulture@gmail.com. You can find me on Facebook or Twitter and make sure to check out the Arkadia Retrocade Facebook page. Or for daily updates you can hop on over to the Diary of an Arcade Employee Facebook page – heck -you can see videos and more fun a couple of times a week by checking out my Instagram page!

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