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Pat Contri, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library September 13, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Books, DVD, Internet, Technology, Video, Video Games.
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A cropped photo of my copy after returning from day 1 of this year’s Long Island Retro Gaming Expo

Pat Contri was a name I’d heard of since I started regularly watching YouTube channels a few years ago, but I’d never seen his videos, listened to his podcasts, or bought his merchandise. My only exposure to him was the Angry Video Game Nerd episode he appeared in, which he wrote with series creator and star James Rolfe. My unfamiliarity dissolved after visiting Pat’s table last month at the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo. I got to meet him and his friend and colleague Ian Ferguson…:

…and I bought early episodes of the Pat the NES Punk YouTube series on DVD along with Pat’s comprehensive 2016 book: Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library.

As with Leonard Herman’s Phoenix IV last year, I vowed to read the Guide to the NES Library after the expo. After reading a couple of preface pages on the Uber ride home on August 10, I held off on the rest of the book until 12 days later, August 22. I had another day of the expo, photos to edit, a recap to write, cousins to hang out with while they visited for a few days, and a photo editing project for a friend. In my downtime, I worked my way through the three sets of DVDs. As I neared the end of the third set, my photo editing project was complete, which meant I could finally commit to Pat’s guide.

Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library is as big as an educational textbook and just as heavy. It’s 437 glossy pages long, but the last five pages are a list of the book’s financial backers. So, I read two more preface pages, then moved on to the main 432.

The book chronicles each and every game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America, from the numbered titles like 1942 and 8 Eyes to Zoda’s Revenge and Zombie Nation.

Pat is not alone in reviewing each game, as he is joined by Ian Ferguson, Asheton “Ashi” Phinney, Brett Weiss, Jim Evans, Joe Pingree, Karen Niemla, and Joey “Roo” DeSena.

Most pages are devoted to two games. An image from one of the two games is in the background while four images from each game are on the bottom. The top of the page shows the games’ cartridge designs and lists their genre, release date, developer, publisher, number of players, special features, whether the game is licensed or unlicensed, availability (from “very common” to “extremely rare”), and star rating. There are 11 ratings ranging from bomb (“awful and/or broken”) to 2 1/2 stars (“average”) to 5 stars (“classic”). Below that is the review, which can be a few short sentences in medium type or several paragraphs in small type. Then the reviewer, identified by their initials (i.e. PC, IF, JD), will add their “reflections.”

The landmark titles get their own pages with additional images. Such titles include the three Super Mario Bros. games, The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II, the unlicensed Tengen version of Tetris, and Tecmo Super Bowl.

Following 387 pages of North American releases, the book concludes with PAL exclusive games, HES (Home Entertainment Suppliers) games, special and promo cartridges (i.e. Nintendo World Championships 1990), test cartridges, label variants, the NES console and its major accessories, supplemental articles, and images of unreleased games.

It took me 21 days to read 432 pages of Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library. Along the way, I kept a journal of how many pages I read each day. I started with 12, then 14, 18, 20, 24, and 50 and 53 pages on two of my last three days. For some games, I imagined certain public figures in my head reading in their voice. I thought of Bob Costas for baseball games, Mike “Doc” Emrick for hockey games, Ahmad Rashad for basketball ones, Jim Lampley for boxing, Liev Schreiber for football, David Feherty for golf, and even Matt Ezero for some games he evaluated in his LJN Defender videos. For reflections, in the case of Pat, Ian, and Roo, I imagined them reading for themselves.

When I wasn’t reading on the first 11 days, I finished Pat Contri’s DVDs, watched all ten episodes of The Video Game Years on Amazon Prime, and caught up on most of Pat’s non-podcast videos from 2012 to the present. That included all later Pat the NES Punk and Flea Market Madness episodes.

It was neat to read about games that I previously saw in Punk episodes, like Baseball Stars, Dance Aerobics, Sqoon, and Wall Street Kid. It was also satisfying to know that some games in my collection were uncommon, such as Wario’s Woods.

The tone of the book’s reviews range from clinical to overly critical. I was satisfied with all but three reviews: Tetris 2, Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White, and Yoshi’s Cookie. I liked those games growing up, getting plenty of mileage out of them. I treated Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie as endurance tests, playing until a game over. For Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White, I played solo, hitting select during the puzzle selection each round until I finally got a big one. That meant more money to win on the wheel. In …Guide to the NES Library, Tetris 2 and Yoshi’s Cookie were dismissed as lousy cash-ins. Wheel of Fortune: Featuring Vanna White was considered a step down from the Rare-developed games that preceded it. “Pat Sajak would not be pleased,” wrote Pat Contri in the reflections.

There were sporadic typos or word omissions, and (counting Console Wars author Blake Harris’s foreword) six instances of my pet peeve phrase “at the end of the day” (thank goodness there weren’t more), but ultimately, the book was a great read.

If you grew up with the Nintendo Entertainment System, are collecting for it, or you just want to learn about the console that revived the video game industry, buy this book, available for $59.99. You’ll love it. And when you’re finished with that, be sure to pre-order Pat’s next book, a Guide to the SNES Library, which will focus on the Super Nintendo’s games. It’s also available for $59.99, or you can buy the special edition for $79.99.

Lastly, there’s a $4.99 app called Ultimate Game Guide – on Android and iOS – which contains all NES games from all regions, as well as accessories and console variants. If you select a game, it includes the statistics and review from the book, though not the reflections. You can even keep track of the games you have in your collection, and go to Amazon or eBay to check listings for the ones you don’t.

2019 Long Island Retro Gaming Expo recap August 14, 2019

Posted by Mike C. in Books, Internet, Media, Music, Personal, Photography, Technology, Travel, TV, Video, Video Games, Weather.
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Previous LIRGE recaps: 2017 (Sunday), 2018

This is a long and comprehensive post, so buckle up.

Last weekend, I attended the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo for the third year in a row and my second year for both days.

John Hancock and The 8-Bit Guy weren’t at LIRGE this year, but making return appearances were Bob Neal from RetroRGB, Jeremy Parish of Retronauts and Video Works, Kurt Kalata and Rob Russo of Hardcore Gaming 101, and video game historian and author Leonard Herman.

Among those appearing for the first time were Frank Cifaldi of the Video Game History Foundation, Pat Contri (a.k.a. Pat the NES Punk) and Ian Ferguson of the Completely Unnecessary Podcast and The Video Game Years, and the My Life in Gaming duo of Coury Carlson and Marc “Try4ce” Duddleson (as in the Triforce from The Legend of Zelda).

The Long Island Retro Gaming Expo is held at the Cradle of Aviation Museum along Museum Row in East Garden City, as indicated by these signs I took on the way there Saturday morning:

Based on the “date taken” info of the above pic, I arrived at the museum at 10:09. Before getting in line to get inside, I photographed a historic marker:

The weather outdoors was much better this year: sunny, warm, and comfortable. You could leave the rain gear at home or in your hotel room.

While on line, I passed a trailer with arcade machines inside:

This was the only time I noticed it. I was focused on what was in the museum.

I set foot inside Cradle of Aviation half an hour after arriving:

The rest of this post is divided into four parts:

  1. Panels
  2. Meeting and Greeting
  3. Pictorial Tour
  4. Pickups

Part One: Panels

After walking around the first floor for nearly 15 minutes, I made my way into the theater planetarium for the first panel:

It was Jeremy Parish (center) along with Kurt Kalata (right) and Rob Russo (left):

Titled “Love for the Unloved,” the trio discussed several underappreciated consoles, accompanied by Powerpoint slides.

Before we see the slides, here are close-ups of Jeremy:

Kurt:

…and Rob:

A few wide shots:

The slides of underappreicated consoles:

The slide for the Bandai WonderSwan went up, but they didn’t have time to discuss it:

9/26 UPDATE: The expo’s YouTube channel has posted video of the panel:

Next to speak was…

Frank introduced himself…

…and his work with Digital Eclipse…

…before moving on to the main topic:

Frank is pictured with Kelsey Lewin, who was at Game On Expo in Phoenix, Arizona, that weekend hosting a similar panel:

The last 35 minutes of the panel were Q&A:

10/10 UPDATE: Video of the panel was posted today:

I spent the next two hours touring the exhibits, buying games from vendors, meeting and greeting Frank Cifaldi, Coury and Try, Pat and Ian, and Leonard Herman. You’ll see photographic evidence in parts two and three. I made time in between to eat a few snacks from the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s Red Planet Café.

Pat and Ian had a panel after Frank’s, which you can hear in part in the latest Completely Unnecessary Podcast, starting 17 minutes in.

Then, it was on to Leonard’s panel, which was in Panel Room 2:

Leonard talked about the late Ralph Baer and Ted Dabney, and the friendships he developed with them.

After arriving on Sunday, I tried out Ralph Baer’s Brown Box with a man named Jeff:

I played poorly, but had a good time.

There were two panels that I attended on Sunday. First, the My Life in Gaming RGB Master Class:

As noted earlier, My Life in Gaming is run by Coury Carlson:

…and Marc Duddleson, better known as Try:

Coury and Try periodically ran excerpts from upcoming episodes profiling figures in the fields of video game modding, repair, and history:

Bob from RetroRGB, who was seated next to me, was included, but I kept his screenshot out of this post since he told me he didn’t like how he looked.

I found those excerpts enlightening. It put faces and voices to names I’d heard of in previous episodes. I was already familiar with Bob, Kevin, Frank, Ste, and Dan.

The excerpts can be seen in this unlisted link.

Time for Q&A:

I asked what it was like shooting the M2 documentary, seen here:

(NOTE: Unless you’re fluent in Japanese, I suggest selecting “English – Japanese Translation” in the CC [closed captioning] settings.)

More Q&A shots:

Coury made the panel available for listening here. (My attempts to embed it failed.)

After exiting the theater, Bob talked shop with fans:

The second panel I went to on Sunday, my last of the weekend, was Jeremy Parish, Frank Cifaldi, and Coury Carlson:

It was like the finale of a revue where all the acts return to play together.

After introducing themselves for those that hadn’t seen their other panels, Jeremy, Frank, and Coury talked about what avenues are available for playing old video games.

Close-ups of Jeremy:

Frank:

…and Coury:

Wide shots:

Part Two: Meeting and Greeting

I caught up with Frank Cifaldi after his Saturday panel. I told him I was in a similar situation preserving photos, videos, and documents digitally. Then, Try took our picture:

After that, Frank took a picture of me with Coury and Try:

I caught up with Leonard Herman his table before his panel:

I was finally introduced to Pat Contri:

…and his colleague Ian Ferguson:

I spent a lot of time at the table shared by Coury, Try, Pat, and Ian, along with Ian’s wife Vani. I watched as fans came by to meet them and had in-depth conversations with them. The topics ranged from games to travel to video production to my running. Coury was surprised that I had run 8.8 miles early Sunday morning.

I briefly spoke to Bob Neal from RetroRGB once I got back to the table after the RGB Master Class and Try took our picture:

Following my last panel, I briefly spoke to Jeremy Parish, complimenting him on his recently-wrapped Virtual Boy Works series. After 21 proper episodes on the 22 releases (13 in North American and Japan, 9 exclusive to Japan), he posted this retrospective:

Ryan, a staff member I grew accustomed to in the theater planetarium, took a picture of me and Jeremy before I left for the weekend:

Part Three: Pictorial Tour

This is a pictorial tour through all three floors of the expo, starting on the first floor:

This game is actually part of the museum, unaffiliated with the expo:

The second floor:

Among the musical performers were the band Consoul, who played music from several video games:

At the time, they were playing the main theme from Super Mario 64. For reference, here is the original music:

…and the third floor:

Meanwhile, the Long Island Tabletop Gaming Expo was occurring on the other side of the museum:

Next year, the Tabletop Gaming Expo will be held separately on April 18.

Time to go:

A parting shot:

Part Four: Pickups

Saturday’s pickups:

Sunday’s pickups:

Yes, even these count as pickups:

Summing up in writing, the pickups were:

Nintendo Entertainment System:

  • The Adventures of Bayou Billy
  • American Gladitators
  • Blades of Steel
  • The Bugs Bunny Birthday Blowout
  • Golf
  • Gyromite
  • Gradius (“GRAHDius”)
  • The Legend of Kage (“KAH-ghay”)
  • Lee Trevino’s Fighting Golf
  • Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
  • R.C. Pro-Am
  • Super C
  • Track & Field
  • Track & Field II

I played Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! at friends’ houses, but never had that version. I only had plain Punch-Out!! with Mr. Dream replacing Tyson after the licensing agreement wasn’t renewed. Now, I have the original. I don’t have R.O.B. (Robotic Operating Buddy), but that won’t stop from using two controllers to play Gyromite. I already do it with sports games.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System:

  • Gradius III
  • Paperboy 2
  • Pilotwings
  • Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure
  • Saturday Night Slammasters
  • Wario’s Woods
  • Zoop

I had Pilotwings 64 for the Nintendo 64, but never the original for Super NES. My sister took Wario’s Woods to her new apartment a couple of months ago, so I bought a new copy to replace it. Paperboy 2 is worth getting for the music alone, as seen in Jeremy Parish’s review last June:

Sega Genesis:

  • Columns
  • Dynamite Headdy
  • Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker
  • Paperboy
  • Road Rash
  • Shaq-Fu
  • Super Monaco GP
  • WWF Super WrestleMania

Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker was my most expensive pickup; more than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Hyperstone Heist last year. I remember Super Monaco GP in the arcade room at Baldwin Lanes. According to Joe Redifer of Game Sack, the Genesis port is better than the original. (Since I cued the video to the relevant portion, I can’t embed it.) I bought a loose cart on eBay in 2016, but I now prefer to have Genesis games in their original boxes. So, I bought one in its box on Sunday. The same goes for Columns. I bought Super WrestleMania to complement the Super NES port I’ve had since childhood. Coincidentally, today marks 30 years since the Genesis was released in North America. Last October 29 was the 30th anniversary of the initial Japanese release as the Mega Drive. And last Tuesday marked 25 years since I purchased a Genesis of my own. It was the Sega Sports bundle with a seat cushion and NFL Football ’94 Starring Joe Montana.

Microsoft Xbox:

  • Tetris Worlds

I played the Game Boy Advance version a lot in the mid 2000s. I never knew it was ported to other consoles. I like to collect Tetris games for as many consoles as I can. I even bought the unlicensed Tengen arcade port for NES that predated Nintendo’s official version. It reminded me of playing the arcade machine at Kutscher’s Resort and Country Club in March 1995.

Non-games:

  • The Legend of Zelda official keychain
  • My Life in Gaming pin
  • My Life in Gaming sticker
  • Night Trap: 25 Years Later (Blu-ray) (signed by Coury and Try)
  • Pat the NES Punk, Volumes 1 to 4 (DVDs) (all signed by Pat)
  • Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library: 1985-1995 (signed by Pat, Ian, and Frank)
  • The Video Game History Foundation sticker
  • Phoenix IV bookmark

Pat’s merchandise is available here. As with Phoenix IV last year, I will review Ultimate Nintendo when I finish reading it. And I’m enjoying Pat’s DVDs. (8/31/19 UPDATE: I enjoyed them. I watched later videos on Pat’s YouTube channel, as well as all ten episodes of The Video Game Years on Amazon Prime Video.)

This was another successful and enjoyable year at the Long Island Retro Gaming Expo. Thank you to everyone I met, met again, and bought from. Until next year.