Monday, July 5, 2021

New Nintendo Documentary Coming to The History Channel!

If you’re not super into video games, you may not know that Nintendo began as a playing card company way back in 1889. Or that the NES, home to Super Mario Bros., was NOT the company’s first gaming console—It was the Color TV-Game (of which there were five iterations), introduced in Japan in 1977.

You can learn these arcane facts and much more by watching Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story (2021), a five-part series currently available on Crackle, a streaming service that is similar to Netflix, but is free of charge (unless you consider having to watch commercials a form of payment).

Why am I mentioning this? Because I’m actually in the documentary. That’s right, little ol' me appears periodically throughout all five episodes, talking Nintendo history amongst such luminaries as Wil Wheaton (“Wesley Crusher” in Star Trek the Next Generation), Tommy Tallarico (legendary video game music composer), Howard Phillips (former Nintendo spokesperson), Nolan Bushnell (Atari co-founder), and Tom Kalinske (former president and CEO of Sega of America). Sean Astin, famous for such films as The Goonies (1985), Rudy (1993), and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003), is the narrator.

I was in Playing With Power because I’ve written several books about Nintendo, and it probably doesn’t hurt that I know the director, Jeremy Snead, and that I live about 30 minutes from Dallas-based Mediajuice Studios, the company that produced the documentary. Regardless, I was extremely flattered to be asked, and it was a fantastic and rewarding experience, especially after being interviewed for two other video game documentaries—Video Games: The Movie (2014) and The Bits of Yesterday (2018)—and not appearing in either. (My appearance in the former was cut due to time constraints and the latter because the sound quality for my interview was poor.)

Well, I’m going to be in another Nintendo documentary, but this one was filmed in a place far, far away.

Earlier this year, I received the following email from Lucky 8 TV and The History Channel:

“I'm producing expert interviews for a new show that's unpacking the histories and business dealings of iconic companies. I'm in search of experts, historians, and journalists that could speak to the history and product line of Nintendo, and I'd love to connect with you for a potential on-camera interview. Might this be something you'd be into?

If so, we could schedule an introductory call this week and dive into some details. Thank you in advance and please don't hesitate to reach out at your convenience.” 

After considering the proposition for about half a nanosecond, I said that yes, I would love to take part. A few weeks later, they flew me out to New York City to interview for a "snack-sized" episode of The Machines that Built America, a series debuting on The History Channel this summer. I’m not exactly sure when the Nintendo episode will premiere, but you can bet that I’ll be too nervous to eat popcorn while I watch myself on the small screen, trying to sound like I know what I’m talking about. In all seriousness, it was a wonderful trip and a great interview, and they treated me very well.

Lucky 8 TV hosted me for two nights at a hotel in Manhattan, but I decided to stay an extra night because I LOVE exploring New York City. My favorite way to do so is on foot, because you miss a lot if you travel by subway. Two of the four days I was there I walked nearly 20 miles, exploring the sights and sounds of a robust, multi-borough town that appears to be recovering very nicely with Covid restrictions finally being lifted.

I trekked across the Brooklyn Bridge, got a slice at Joe’s Pizza (twice), ate some amazing falafel from a food truck, rode a bike through Central Park, caught a ride on the Staten Island Ferry, hung out with the crazies in Times Square, saw a cool grunge band at the historical CafĂ© Wha?, checked out the new releases at Midtown Comics, and even did a little thrifting, antiquing, and used bookstore shopping. One thing is clear: vintage collectibles cost a lot more in New York City than they do in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, likely because real estate is much more expensive in The Big Apple than in Big D.

I also visited Nintendo New York, a two-story retail extravaganza in Manhattan loaded with memorabilia and swag, much of which you won’t find at Target or Walmart. The store even has a little museum featuring such items as a Famicom (the Japanese equivalent of the NES), some Game & Watch handhelds, a Virtual Boy (a failed 3D console), and a Color TV-Game console. You can watch my walkthrough of the store HERE.

So, while the interview was only an hour-and-a-half or so, I got the full New York experience, at least as much as you can in four days.

Now that I’ve appeared in Playing With Power: The Nintendo Story and will soon be seen on The History Channel, I’m ready to quit my writing job, move to Hollywood, get an agent, and lobby for a star on The Walk of Fame. Well, maybe not, but both experiences were fantastic, and I’m already looking forward to doing something similar in the future. After all, I love talking about video games, and if there happens to be a camera on me when I’m doing so, that’s a bonus.

If you haven’t already downloaded Crackle—which is, as I mentioned, a FREE app—you should do so. Not only does it feature my TV debut, it hosts a variety of movies and television programs, including the first two seasons of The Partridge Family. Groovy!

Monday, June 21, 2021

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns - 35th Anniversary

In 1989, I quit my job driving a bob-tail truck around the Dallas/Fort Worth area, delivering photo copier machines (someone had to do it), and got my lifelong dream gig of working at a comic book store, Lone Star Comics in particular. Ironically, they hired me because I had experience in delivery, not because of my prodigious comic book knowledge. They needed someone to drive the company van, pick up comics at the local Diamond distributor, and take the comics to the various locations of the eight-store chain.

The new job was a cut in pay, but I loved it. I sorted and bagged comic books, cleaned and swept the “Batcave” (which is what they called the backroom), and, of course, delivered boxes and boxes of the new releases each week. After a short time, I began working out front in the store area, waiting on customers and ringing up sales, and within a few months I worked my way up to store manager. (A year or so later, I partnered up with my brother-in-law, and we opened up two stores of our own—Fantastic Comics & Cards—in the Fort Worth area, but I digress…)

One day, while I was manning the register at the main Lone Star location in Arlington (home of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Rangers), a customer came in who I knew from working at Luther’s Barbeque when I was in high school (I graduated in 1985). He was eight years older than me, but we had been good friends as we shared a lot of common interests, including rock music and old horror and science fiction movies. I had absolutely no idea he cared anything about comic books, as I rarely discussed my interest in them with “civilians” (admitting you liked comics during the 1980s was basically like saying you were a child or hopelessly brain damaged), but there he was, checking out the new issues—it was great catching up with him, and we had a lot of laughs over the old days at Luther’s. Better yet, we struck up a (now lifelong) friendship and discovered we had something else in common: “funny books.”

Glenn had grown up reading The Amazing Spider-Man, The Avengers, Iron Man, and other Marvel staples, but, like many fans who reached adulthood and became distracted by cars, girls, bills, and the like, he abandoned them. However, in 1986 he read a review of DC Comics’ mature-themed The Dark Knight Returns in Rolling Stone magazine, and it drew him back in. Not only did Glenn purchase each issue of the groundbreaking, four-part series, he began collecting again in earnest, purchasing Marvels he had grown up reading and even buying new issues of such DC titles as Justice League and Superman.

Glenn’s story is hardly unique. Not only did The Dark Knight Returns, a grim, gritty alternate future story of a grizzled, almost fascistic Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement to be Batman again and battle a gang called the Mutants, attract many people to comics books who had never read them before, it also brought many lapsed readers back into the fold.

Written and drawn by Frank Miller, with pencils by Miller, inks by Klaus Jason, and colors by Lynn Varley, The Dark Knight Returns took an aging Caped Crusader back to his 1939 roots (more or less) as a grim avenger of the night, as opposed to the sci-fi stuff published in the ’50s or the campy Batman inspired by the Adam West TV show of the late 1960s. Miller was clearly influenced by manga (Japanese comic books), especially in terms of panel flow and dynamic page layouts. Other creators, such as writer Dennis O’Neil and artist Neal Adams, had treated Batman seriously, but The Dark Knight Returns garnered much more mainstream attention. Plus, it was published in a prestige format, with each issue costing $2.95, which was about four times as much as a standard comic book.

DC Comics printed 125,000 copies of that first issue. According to then-DC Comics Executive Vice President Paul Levitz (writing for 13thdimension.com), this was a huge gamble as Ronin, Frank Miller’s prestige format project from three years before, had a first-issue print run of around 87,000.

“If we were wrong, we could actually lose money on the project,” he relates.

It turns out that DC was indeed wrong, but in the other direction. They had printed far too few copies as the issue quickly sold out and stores were putting in heavy re-orders.

“It was good news,” Levitz writes, “EXCEPT we hadn’t done a second printing of a comic for decades. I think the last may have been the Batman 3-D comic magazine in the ’60s fad, or it may even have been one of the earliest Superman titles in the Golden Age. All long before comic shops and serious collectors. So, there was a real debate around the room about whether we should print more. Were we going to be unfair to collectors who had bought second, or multiple, copies in hope of appreciation? They were an appreciable portion of our audience at the time, we thought. If we didn’t, were we going to lose out on the biggest opportunity DC had since the comic shop market began? Sounds silly now, but then it was a serious conversation.”

Of course, DC printed more. In fact, they did four printings of that first issue for a total of approximately 400,000 copies. To appease collectors, they labeled subsequent printings as such in the indicia, making first printings more desirable and ultimately worth more in the collector’s market.

Levitz recalls, “[This was] a massive number for an expensive book (our regular titles were 75 cents), an emerging market (that was around the time comic shops would pass the newsstand in sales), and a publisher that was a distant No. 2.”

Calling the phenomenon “unforgettable,” Levitz further explains that strong sales were just one aspect of the wide-ranging influence of The Dark Knight Returns: “It was just the beginning. The trade editions would really change the field, establishing the graphic novel format in America (along with Watchmen and Maus).”

The series influenced future Batman (and other superhero) comics and movies as well.

The trade edition of all four issues of The Dark Knight Returns collected into one book that Levitz refers to has gone through numerous reprintings itself and has also sold a ton of copies. To read the story today, this is the easiest and cheapest way to go as you can hop on Amazon or eBay and grab a dog-eared copy for just a few bucks, or you can get a new edition for about $20. If you want a complete set of the four individual issues, all first printings, and all in nice condition, it will set you back around $200 to $250.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Brett Weiss Video Game Book Update & GIVEAWAY CONTEST!

I'm super excited to announce that I completed the manuscript for book #13! The book will release next year. To celebrate, I'm giving away a signed hardcover copy of The 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987. To enter the random drawing, all you have to do is comment on THIS VIDEO. US residents only. Thanks for playing! I will announce the winner July 1.

 **Here's the Amazon description of the book I'm giving away:

There have been many top 100 books before, but rarely one like this. Here are the best of the early video games, shown in over 400 color photos and described in incredible detail in the entertaining and informative text. Each game’s entry features production history, critical commentary, quotes from industry professionals, gameplay details, comparisons to other games, and more. This book celebrates the very best of the interactive entertainment industry’s games from this highly crucial, fondly remembered decade. This pivotal period was marked by the introduction of the indispensable Atari 2600, Odyssey2, and Intellivision, the unleashing of the underrated Vectrex, the mind-blowing debut of the next-gen ColecoVision and Atari 5200, plus the rebirth of the industry through Nintendo’s legendary juggernaut, the NES. Whether you’re young or old, new to the hobby or a hardcore collector, this book will introduce you to or remind you of some of the greatest, most historically important games ever made.

WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING:

*You can always depend on Brett Weiss for the world's most thorough deep-dive on vintage 80s and 90s gaming. There's no one I know that's more knowledgeable on the game systems we all fell in love with years ago. His books are a must-have for any modern-day gamer wanting to get an old school fix. His books won't just prove a dose of nostalgia, you'll also discover games you never even knew existed! - Adam F. Goldberg, creator of "The Goldbergs" hit TV show

*This is an amazing book...detailed information...very high quality all around. - 8-Bit Eric

*Truly beautiful from cover to cover...It should be a fixture on every coffee table in a video gaming household...Each section of the book is well-written and accompanied by high quality artwork and photos. - Patrick Scott Patterson

*Author Brett Weiss knows his stuff...a respected name in the classic gaming community...he provides insightful behind-the-scenes information...the book is suitable for just about any type of video game fan. - The Video Game Critic

*If you love video games and have a fondness for the Golden Age of gaming, 100 Greatest Console Video Games: 1977-1987 by Brett Weiss will bring you back to those simpler days when games were just plain fun. Even if you owned an Atari, Coleco, Mattel, or Nintendo game console, Weiss' book adds additional context and info that will interest any gamer who loved this era. - 8-Bit Central

*Whether you're an avid collector, or even just casually interested in gaming history, 100 Greatest Consoles Video Games is a must-own. Weiss has written exactly the kind of guide knowledgeable enthusiasts will savor as a handy reference, while those with a budding passion for console gaming will find it a revelatory guide for navigating through the format's incipient offerings. If he has any intention of doing so, I certainly hope he takes on subsequent eras of consoles leading up to the present day. - Marshall Garvey (Last Token Gaming)

*I was really impressed with this book...high quality...I really like it...a nice item to have - John "Gamester81" Lester

*Ever crack open a book and instantly know you're going to love it? This one's kind of like that...One of the best things about these write-ups is that Weiss doesn't try and hide his enthusiasm in the least. Not sounding like a dull history lesson, he actually gets excited just talking (well, writing) about his favorites, and that makes him come across like the game fan that he is. As a fan myself, that's refreshing and makes for a much more interesting read...a joy to read...beautifully illustrated and put together, with fantastic box art, screenshots, and even occasional cartridge pictures...Its colorful presentation is printed on some excellently heavy stock as well, with big and glossy pages that are easy to thumb through and just plain fun to read. - Brutal Gamer

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Help Me Open and Unbox These FACTORY SEALED Atari 2600 & Intellivision Games!

Help Me Open and Unbox These FACTORY SEALED Atari 2600 & Intellivision Games!

I've got eight vintage factory sealed video games I'd love to open in a (near) future video: Ms. Pac-Man, Dig Dug, Space Attack, Venture, and Jungle Hunt for the Atari 2600, and Space Armada, Space Spartans, and Triple Attack for the Intellivision.

YOU CAN HELP ME OPEN THESE FACTORY SEALED GAMES!

Here's how it works:

If you--US residents only--place a $25 (or more) order for any of my gaming or pop culture books via https://brettweiss.square.site/ by June 7, and then mention your order in the comments of THIS VIDEO, I will open/unbox the game you mention in a subsequent video. I will also plug your website, YouTube channel, business, or anything else in that unboxing video. So, with your book(s) purchase, you are also getting a free plug on my channel, as well as the fun of watching me open a factory sealed game(s) in a video. And I will be happy to sign the book or books that you order. :)

Keep in mind that you are NOT buying the game or paying me to open the game--you are buying a book (or books), getting a free sponsorship on my channel, and helping me open a factory sealed game (your order offsets the fact that opening factory sealed games devalues them). There can be more than one sponsor for each game. For example, if three people purchase $25 or more worth of books for me to open Dig Dug, I will mention all three people and plug their channel/website/business in the subsequent Dig Dug unboxing video.

The one exception to the $25 price is Ms. Pac-Man, which will require a $50 (or more) order since it is a more expensive factory sealed game, and opening it will devalue it more than the others. (BTW, if you order $100 or more of books direct from me, shipping is free.)

So, US residents, get your book orders in by June 7, comment on the video which game or games you'd like for me to open, and I will do so in a subsequent video. And I will plug your gig! Thanks!

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) - One of the Greatest Consoles of All Time & One of My Favorites!


The NES is one of the greatest game consoles of all time, home to such legendary titles as Contra, Castlevania, the original Super Mario Bros. trilogy, Metroid, The Legend of Zelda, and the classic Donkey Kong trilogy (Donkey Kong 3 is so underrated!), as well as such hidden gems as Trog!, Cowboy Kid, and Felix the Cat. I could go on all day about the excellent library of games, which I in fact do in The NES Omnibus volumes 1 and 2.

The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 2 (M-Z) is currently on Kickstarter, and you can back it HERE. There are only a couple of days left, so if you miss it, you can still do a standard pre-order for the book HERE. And you can read sample pages from the book HERE.

You may be surprised to know that I didn’t actually play the NES until I got my console for Christmas in 1987. I was 20 years old at the time and was no longer going over to friends’ houses to play video games. I was still gaming on my Atari 2600, ColecoVision, Intellivision, and Odyssey2, but my social life consisting primarily of working, dating, shooting hoops, and hanging out with friends in bars, restaurants, and the like. In addition, I never saw the VS. System version of Super Mario Bros. in the arcades until later. I had heard of the game, though, and was absolutely floored by it when I first booted it up. I was especially impressed with the cartoonish nature of the game, the secrets and surprises, and the near-perfect controls, at least when compared to what came before.

I went on to amass an awesome collection of games, and I’ve written about the NES for the late, lamented All Game Guide, Old School Gamer Magazine, AntiqueWeek, and various other publications. I even wrote the WORLD’S FIRST book featuring write-ups for EVERY U.S. release for the console.

In short, I’m a huge NES fan, and I love playing the games and writing about them and the system.

Long live the NES!

Monday, May 10, 2021

NES Memories from The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 2 (M-Z) - NOW ON KICKSTARTER!

In addition to reviews for 350+ games and all that goes along with that, such as history, box art, screenshots, developer info, and the like, The NES Omnibus Vol. 2 (M-Z), which is NOW ON KICKSTARTER, is loaded down with essays on and nostalgic stories about many of the games featured. This book was a labor of love for myself and all the contributing writers involved, including such noteworthy talents as 8-Bit Eric, Chris “The Irate Gamer” Bores, John “Gamester81” Lester, David Warhol (former Intellivision and NES programmer), Greg Sewart (former Electronic Gaming Monthly editor and reviewer), and many other content creators and personalities. The NES Omnibus Vol. 2 (M-Z) will ship Oct. 28. Enjoy an advance look at this terrific Metroid essay by artist and developer Kale Menges:

Few games have had an impact in my life like Metroid. Without a doubt, it is my favorite video game of all time. In fact, it is the game that most inspired me to become a developer. I first played Metroid in the autumn of 1989 at a cousin's house and was immediately entranced. Being a somewhat introverted kid growing up, and at the time coping with my family's recent cross-country relocation, I found myself easily relating to protagonist Samus Aran's isolation and loneliness in her quest to eradicate the devastating bio-weapons being harvested by space pirates on the planet Zebes. There was something so incredibly surreal about the way Metroid seemed to defy the 2D platforming conventions of the time. The game was just so amazingly innovative from both a creative and a design perspective.

After playing so many other platform games on the NES back in the day, merely being able to scroll left was mind-blowing. The morph ball power-up was a stroke of genius, a design decision the team arrived at when they simply couldn't figure out how to effectively animate Samus crawling (the technical limitations of the NES hardware were what made so many of these 8-bit games so great). Samus' screw attack, a special ability that allowed her to somersault right through enemies like an energized saw blade, remains famous as one of the greatest power-ups in the history of gaming.

The game's password system (the cartridge version's replacement for the original Famicom Disk game's writable save feature) provided players with what basically amounted to a primitive hacking tool that opened up a unique dimension of experimentation and exploration rarely found in console games. Metroid's non-linear gameplay, set in an exotic and hostile ecosystem where the player is the alien exploring a vast subterranean landscape of labyrinthine caverns and ancient ruins of a forgotten alien civilization, creates a fantastic gaming experience that crafts a wonderfully unique experiential narrative that somehow always feels personal. Even the soundtrack is perfectly attuned to the game's atmosphere and ambiance. There is something almost romantic about it all, in a classic pulp sci-fi sort of way.

I have no idea how much of my life I've spent navigating that hostile planet's dark interior, desperately searching every nook and cranny for hidden power-ups and secret passages. Metroid remains one of the gold standards for how to do hidden secrets in game worlds, and it succeeds so well at teaching players to explore and experiment (rather than just holding their hand and spelling everything out for them all the time), and to view roadblocks as signs that they're on the right path. Even the game's protagonist, Samus Aran, represented a veritable ace up the sleeve as the game's ultimate secret, her true identity only being revealed if the player finished the game within a certain time limit. Nowadays, Metroid's design philosophies are central tenets of the genre it helped create, taking 2D platform games to a whole new level of depth and challenge well beyond mere running and jumping.

I don't know how many times I've defeated that mechanical life vein known as the Mother Brain, but I can draw out the entirety of the game's immense map from memory. I still do a play-through of the game at least once a year, even three full decades since the first time I played it. And yet, despite the game's technical shortcomings (pervasive slowdown in enemy-crowded areas and quite a few exploitable glitches), and even though I've thoroughly relished and enjoyed all of the games in the Metroid series over the years, the original NES game still stands out to me as more of a pure, focused experience whose simple narrative perfectly complements its wonderfully organic game design. - Kale Menges, artist and game developer

Monday, May 3, 2021

Twitter Autographed Book Giveaway! The NES Omnibus: The Nintendo Entertainment System and Its Games, Volume 1 (A–L)


Hey, I’m giving away a SIGNED copy of The NES OmnibusVol. 1 (A-L) over on Twitter. US residents only.

To be entered into the random drawing, all you have to do is retweet the contest Twitter post, which you can find by clicking HERE. The contest will end Wednesday—thanks for playing!

Below are a couple of reviews of the book, including one by HP Lindsay, who is Papa Pete on YouTube.

Anthony E. Micari

5.0 out of 5 stars

A definitive work for all NES fans!

Reviewed in the United States on December 21, 2020

Brett Weiss has been writing amazing Video Game compendiums for years. Ever since I stumbled upon his SNES Omnibus, I have been a fan. This one does NOT disappoint! I like to read these kinds of books cover to cover, and Weiss fills this with interesting reviews, anecdotes and facts on every game in the NES Library (in this case A - L). The quality of the hardcover is great and everything is nicely laid out. I can't wait for the next volume coming in 2021. I also suggest that anyone interested in video game history or collecting check out his other books.

HP Lindsay

5.0 out of 5 stars

The True "Ultimate" Nintendo NES Encyclopedia

Reviewed in the United States on February 8, 2021

Like Weiss' prior releases, the SNES Omnibuses Vol 1 & 2, The NES Omnibus Volume 1 is the most thorough and appealing guide to the NES Library that's available today. Covering games from A-L, author, Brett Weiss provides extensive descriptions, screen shots and other details on on every licensed and unlicensed game released for the system. Many of the games also include personal stories from various members of the retro game and YouTube communities, to accentuate that particular game.

The clean, clear layout of each page...and every single game gets at least one full page of coverage....is extremely easy and appealing to read, much different from other books on the same subject, which are so cluttered and "busy" that it takes away from overall experience. This isn't an arbitrary review book. This is an encyclopedia, where Brett Weiss covers each and every game, in a fair and unbiased manner. Overall, as a lover of all retro video games, I have to say that this is by far the best compilation available for the Nintendo Entertainment System, today.