Welcome to Part 2 of “The Middle Shelf”. This is an in-depth look at some of the games in my collection that I'm most proud of.
If you haven't read Part 1, check it out right here:
So given the extra week I took off to let some travel battle scars heal up, I don't think I should dilly-dally any longer:
Tecmo Super Bowl
Nintendo Entertainment System
I'm a big sports fan. In high school and college I was the kid that bought the new Madden every year and would buy an NBA and MLB game every couple of years to boot. Now, in recent years that dynamic has changed (I now only get the new “MLB The Show” game each year), but I still love me a good game of football.
And hot damn, is this a good game of football.
If you've dodged this game just because it's a sports title, my friend, you are doing yourself a large disservice. With a simple play-style, yet an incredible amount of depth, and even a strong meta-game once you do discover the nuances of the game (zig-zag running, who the dominant players are in the game, etc). Add in a full 3-season schedule, the Pro Bowl game (with fully customizable rosters), and even a fun little “coach” mode that allows you to call the plays while the CPU plays the game, and you have what is, in my opinion, the by-a-mile best sports game on the NES and a strong claim to being the best sports game ever made. Other, more balanced versions were also released on the Sega Genesis and SNES (the latter was used as the basis for the “classic” mode in the PS3/360 digital title, “Tecmo Bowl Throwback”). In fact, a 2nd and 3rd version were released on those systems as well (TSB 2 being a pretty difficult game to find on both systems). But most people view the NES version as the king of the Tecmo mountain.
To this day, this game is still played by retro-gaming fans, some of whom even own ROM-hacks featuring updated rosters (this and NFL2K5 are the only two games I've heard with such a strong “roster update” following...and rightfully so). Because of this, finding a copy of this loose isn't the easiest thing to do. It's not a super-rare game, or even uncommon, but expect to fork over just under $30 for this game, which is rather uncalled for when it comes to a sports game with an outdated roster. I came across this particular copy in Springfield, and got it for just around $30 at the time, and was ecstatic about the purchase. Even in rough shape, I plan on holding this copy tight.
Super Mario All-Stars/Super Mario World
I really don't have much to say on this, as anyone reading this is probably familiar with Super Mario World and the All-Stars collection. This specific edition was released late in the SNES lifespan at the end of 1994, and while it was sold in retail, it was also available in an SNES console bundle. Growing up, my cousin owned the console bundle this game came with, and there was a long span of time where anytime I visited, I was pretty much glued to this game. Revised versions of Super Mario Bros. 1-3, including both the American and Japanese versions of SMB 2, and the incredible Super Mario World to boot? It's a full out gallery of gaming masterpieces (and the Japanese SMB 2). Even now, the game isn't the most common on the SNES, with copies going for around $40-50. It'd probably be more cost efficient to get copies of Super Mario World and the normal Super Mario All-Stars separately (or even just get the Wii edition of Super Mario All-Stars).
Not much of a problem for me though, considering I got my copy as a gift from my friend Devin. Thanks, man!
Game Boy/Game Boy Color
When I was younger, I was a full out Pokémon nut. Had the games, watched the show, traded and battled with my younger brother, battled friends in the hall before school and disconnected constantly because there was no way to get a decent battle in before the bell, created a custom hand-drawn badge to give to anyone that beat me......good times.
Yeah, I was a bonafide, five-star nerd.
Funny thing was, I kindof fell out of love with the series when Gold and Silver hit. These two games were always these monsters on the horizon. Everyone knew they were coming, and for me the wait was too painful to be sitting around months and months with just Red and Blue, which me and my brother had totally gutted every bit and byte of. Trying to get Mew behind the truck, the MissingNo/M glitch that duped rare items, playing through the game with every starter multiple times, finding a friend with a Gameshark that could hook me up with a Mew until he accidentally deleted my file so he started me with a Mew but then also started Gary with a Mew but that was OK because Gary's Mew never learned anything...
Yeah, I was a bonafide, five-star nerd.
But the younger brother stuck around for Pokémon Gold, and was in for a treat. To this day, it stuns me an 8-bit game built for 8-bit hardware contains such a high amount of content. A real-time clock that is the basis for the game's day/night cycle (and also why save batteries burnt out so quickly), over 250 monsters, two territories to explore (including a renovated Kanto region from the Red/Blue editions), a large, excellent soundtrack...it's no wonder the game was not only remade on DS, but that the remakes are among the most highly demanded and rarest games in the entire DS roster. My brother still insists Gen. 2 was the best Pokémon generation, and seeing what Pokémon Gold/Silver pulled off, it's hard to argue otherwise if you ask me.
So recently, when someone in a retro game collectors group I'm in put an unopened copy of Pokémon Silver up for grabs in return for a couple of uncommon games I had, I didn't have to think that hard to take such a deal. As of the time of this writing, this is the most valuable piece in my collection.
As for if I'll ever open the box up.................we'll see.
Mr. Gimmick (repro)
Nintendo Entertainment System
This one needs some explaining, as only in recent years has this game become a more well-known commodity.
Mr. Gimmick (a.k.a. “Gimmick!” in Japan) was a platformer released in Japan in 1992 by Sunsoft. It didn't receive much praise in the shadow of the SNES' release, and had a fairly lukewarm release. Sunsoft's American division turned down a release in the states, despite a prototype being completed. In fact, the only non-Japanese official release was in Scandinavia, where copies are incredibly rare, going for over $1,000 US dollars for a complete-in-box copy. It can also be found on the “Memorial Series; Sunsoft Vol. 6” compilation for the Japanese Playstation, but even that is an expensive option as used copies go on Amazon for around $250-300. And in a moment that left me stunned, eBay shows no history of the compilation ever being sold there. So yeah, good luck on that front.
The American prototype was eventually leaked, and the reproduction community went to town. The most notable release being the RetroUSB edition (famous for also creating the reproduction carts for the Nintendo World Championship/Campus Challenge cartridges), which since going out-of-print goes for triple-digits on eBay (which I'll even admit is a silly amount for a reproduction cart). The awareness of the game rose exponentially when Pat the NES Punk, a YouTube personality and videogame collector famous for owning EVERY American released NES game (including limited editions and unlicensed games), gave glowing praise to Mr. Gimmick and even went so far as to state that Mr. Gimmick would've been a legendary game in the US NES roster had it been released. The reasons for this are plenty, and it would take some time to run through (gotta save something for the review), but I'm glad to have obtained a RetroUSB reproduction of this lost classic.
A 2D platformer, “Mr. Gimmick” stars a green dinosaur doll that a young girl receives for her birthday. Her other toys become jealous, kidnap her and disappear. It's up to Gimmick to journey through many VERY difficult levels to rescue her. Gimmick's main weapon is a star that he can throw and bounce around the stage. Another hook to this ability is that Gimmick can actually ride the star, which is necessary to cross gaps and discover secrets throughout the game. The stages are a masterclass in level design, and the music is absolutely amazing. It's stunning to hear simple melodies from early in the NES' lifespan, and then hear the dynamic, multi-layered compositions that this game offers on the same console hardware.
It truly is a shame this game never received a mass release and hasn't seen a Virtual Console/eShop release from Nintendo. Maybe someday we'll get just, but otherwise, importing or finding a repro are the only real options.
There IS one last game I recently added to the lineup. I haven't had a chance to play it yet, and it's actually pretty common. But I have a doozie of a story to it, and have never played it before for myself. Yeah, I've heard the stories about it, seen a couple video reviews, but I've become a “gotta experience it yourself” kind of guy over the years.
I'll be getting to you soon there, Supes.