Pacing the Cage

All about old-school video games. Reviews, lists and more.

Archive for the ‘Famicom’ Category

R.O.B., My Long-Lost Friend

Posted by ptcgaming on June 9, 2009

R.O.B. could have been great, had Nintendo done more for him. (Photo from Wikipedia)

R.O.B. could have been great, had Nintendo done more for him. (Photo from Wikipedia)

R.O.B., Nintendo’s Robotic Operating Buddy, could have very easily been one of the greatest creations in the history of video gaming, unlike NES flops like the Power Glove and U-Force. But the folks at Nintendo forgot to make more than two games for R.O.B. (“Gyromite” and “Stack-Up”), and it went the way of “E.T.” cartridges from the Atari 2600. Of course, none of this might matter today since R.O.B., as well as the NES Zapper, require a CRT-based television to work. This means R.O.B. can’t be your friend on your fancy plasma screen, either.

R.O.B. was the lonely gamers’ friend before the invention of online gaming. He was your buddy before “World of Warcraft” and “SOCOM.” There was no downloadable content in R.O.B.’s world, just you, he, and the old man from “Gyromite.”

So how exactly did R.O.B. function as your gaming friend? Well, that’s easy. In “Gyromite,” R.O.B. used Controller 2 (really), and with your help using Controller 1, he pushed the A and B buttons to move the pillars on the screen. Pretty cool for 1985, huh?

In “Stack-Up,” well, I never played it, so I’m not sure what R.O.B. did for you. I think he helped you match colored blocks or something like that. This game is a rare find in the U.S., anyway.

Today, you can find many R.O.B.s for sale on eBay. It’s a shame so many people want to part ways with this original gaming friend. It’s also a shame Nintendo didn’t do more with this technology. A real working robot that correctly functioned with a home gaming console sounds like a win-win situation to me. But unfortunately this story doesn’t have a happy ending.

Then again, once my CRT television set finally dies it won’t matter.


Posted in Accessories, Famicom, NES, Retro Gaming | 3 Comments »

Zeruda no Densetsu and the strange case of when classic gaming meets foreign languages

Posted by ptcgaming on October 17, 2008

Once you hear the music and take a look at the background, there’s no doubt as to what game you’re playing. The numeral “1” was added to the Famicom Mini version to clearly distinguish this was the first Zelda game in the series.

There’s a saying I heard several years ago that if you speak two languages you’re bilingual, if you speak three you’re trilingual and if you speak one you’re American. Now I know there are many people here in the States who speak more than one language, but how many people who were born here speak those other languages well? I mean I’ve learned some French, Italian and Latin in my time, but I’m in no way ready to have an in-depth conversation with the Pope.

And even though I can’t speak or read Japanese, I recently purchased the Famicom Mini version of “Zeruda no Densetsu: The Hyrule Fantasy,” commonly known here as “The Legend of Zelda.” The Mini version is a direct port of the 1990s version of the cartridge-based version for the Japanese Famicom (the Japanese version of the NES). It was originally released for the Famicom Disk System peripheral (only available in Japan) in 1986, long before we were introduced to Zelda here in the states. Not only did both have better package and label art than its North American counterpart (a common theme in Nintendo’s 8-bit era), but the FDS version was able to utilize the Disk System’s extra sound channel for better sound effects in some cases. Another reason I ordered this copy as opposed to the NES Classic Series version was price: it was cheaper to order the Japanese version and have it shipped from Hong Kong than it was to order a new or used copy from anywhere stateside.

Now if you’re afraid of playing this version of the game because you can’t read Japanese, don’t worry too much – if you fall into a certain group. Anyone who has played this game on their NES can make it through this version with little or no problem. Many parts of this version are actually in English. However, all of the in-game dialogue is in Japanese, so if you fall into the category of someone playing this for the very first time, you’re better off finding a North American version that’s completely in English. Check out eBay or Amazon for one.

You have to either know or remember what the old man, medicine woman or that bad guy in Level 7 is saying so you can solve some of the puzzles or obtain some of the items. (By the way, all the Japanese text on the menu screen says is “USE B BUTTON FOR THIS)

Checking out the Japanese versions of games such as this also gives you some insight into how games are packaged (as mentioned before) and explained in other countries/languages. As I mentioned before, Famicom games featured better, more artistic packaging and labels than those on the NES (which for Nintendo was rather sad, since many of the company’s early NES releases just showed blown-up screenshots on its covers and labels). I mean, a gold-plated Zelda cartridge is cool and all, but the artist in me would take that glorious Famicom box over “Goldie” any day of the week! The instructions for the Mini version did me no good, being in Japanese and all, so if it included the “invaluable maps and strategic playing tips,” I wouldn’t know (I don’t think the Famicom version had all the hints and cheats the NES version had included with the game anyway).
So if you’re looking to scratch that retro game itch while getting a little Japanese culture at the same time, pick up (or order) a copy of one of the GBA’s Famicom Mini series games. A few are still available in stock at, including Zeruda no Densetsu and Super Mario Bros. Playing an overseas version actually made the game feel fresh in my opinion, and having to remember what all the dialogue was in English really made me flex my brain muscles quite a bit. I recently completed the first quest and am now working on the second, which I didn’t remember was so difficult!
Side story: In the North American Zelda instructions, it says Pol’s Voice hates loud noises. However, the flute won’t kill them (only the sword or arrows will). The reason for this confusion is that the Famicom’s second controller featured a microphone in place of the Start and Select buttons. In Japan, in order to kill Pol’s Voice, you had to actually scream into the microphone. This was just never omitted from the English instructions. See, Nintendo was utilizing voice recognition in its games long before the DS!

Posted in Famicom, Japanese games, NES, Retro Gaming | 2 Comments »