Sunday, May 19, 2019

MY NEW YOUTUBE SHOW - Tales from a Retro Gamer #1: My First Video Game

I’ve been gaming since the mid-1970s, collecting since the late ’70s, and writing professionally since 1997. Sorry if that sounds like some kind of a sad bragging montage, but my point is that I’ve been doing this for a very long time, and I’ve got stories to tell. So I’ve started a new YouTube show called Tales from a Retro Gamer, the first episode of which is now online. I discuss my first video game, dating all the way back to 1975. You can watch it below or check it out in full screen by clicking HERE.

Thanks for watching, liking, and subscribing!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the Game Boy Color - Review

Back in the late ’90s and early 2000s, I wrote for the late, lamented All Game Guide. It was a fun writing gig, and I became an editor as well. The company, which was based in Ann Arbor, Michigan would send me games to review (unfortunately, I usually had to send them back). Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my favorite TV show at the time, so I jumped at the chance to review the Game Boy Color cartridge based on the program. Here’s that review:

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Publisher: THQ
Developer: GameBrains
Side-Scrolling Platformer


Into each generation, a Slayer is born. One girl, in all the world, a Chosen One. Or so the legend goes on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a weekly horror series airing on the WB. Created by Joss Whedon, the show follows the exploits of Buffy Summers, gorgeous college girl by day and vampire hunter by night.

Using her super strength, heightened agility, lethal weapons (primarily sharp stakes) and wicked one-liners, she patrols the town of Sunnydale, which sits on the threshold of the Hellmouth, a vulnerable spot where forces of darkness are frequently unleashed upon the Earth.

Joining Buffy in her fight against the undead are members of the so-called Scooby Gang. The Scoobies include Willow, a computer hacking witch; Xander, a wisecracking wiseacre; and Anya, an ex-demon with a propensity for social faux pas. Watching over the group (and Buffy in particular) is ex-librarian Giles, an erudite British gentleman with a fondness for arcane, mystical reference tomes.

Buffythe Vampire Slayer for the Game Boy Color finds Buffy in a world of trouble. Mesmerized by vampire Ethan Rayne's reading of the Book of Ancients, a coven of vampires from different countries has descended upon Sunnydale by way of the Hellmouth.

There are six standard types of vampires in this coven: Tux Vampires, Punk Vampires, Disfigured Vampires, Tribesman Vampires, Euro Vampires and Guardian Vampires. Master vampires (bosses) include Ninja Vampires, Viking Vampires and Beast Vampires.

These creatures of the night are raising hell in various spots around town, including the old mansion, the graveyard, the zoo, the cemetery, the sewer and the city streets. They've even crashed The Bronze, which is the local hangout, and The Initiative, which is a covert military facility that captures and/or kills vampires and demons.

As the Scooby Gang's key member, Buffy Summers, you'll run, jump and slay your way through eight levels of vampire-infested action. To vanquish a vampire, you must hit it and/or kick it until it falls beneath your slayer might. Once a vampire is down, you must stake it and watch it turn to dust. You can also throw the undead, block hits, roll on the ground and perform super leaps.

If you get knocked down, a vampire will jump on you and drink your blood. No matter which level you are playing, you will face only one vampire at a time. Arrows point your way to each successive bloodsucker. Throughout the game you can find soda cans that will enable you to do super punches and kicks. Paint cans and other items are scattered about for use in throwing at enemies.

In between each level you can watch a series of cut-scenes featuring dialogue between the characters. One scene even refers to Angel, the Buffy spin-off featuring her ex-boyfriend, a vampire with a soul. Angel's secretary Cordelia phones to warn Buffy of a dream that Angel has had in which Buffy is in danger.

A game of Buffy the Vampire Slayer ends when Buffy's life bar has fully depleted. After each level, a password appears, giving you a save point for after you shut down your game system.


As expected, Buffy makes her way around various locations throughout Sunnydale and kills vampires. What wasn't expected was just how mundane this could be. No matter how far you progress in the game, Buffy only goes up against one vampire at a time. Apparently, being undead makes the creatures of the night brain dead and they never think to pair up or form a pack. Buffy is supposedly going up against a coven of vampires, but they never act very coven-like.

Until you reach the Hellmouth (the seventh level), the game is ridiculously easy. To defeat most of the vampires, all you have to do is punch them a couple of times, then do a lower kick to knock them down, then stab them with your trusty stake. For the average gamer, it is entirely possible to beat the game in one sitting. The bosses are about as easy to kill as the standard enemies.

The levels in Buffy have no obstacles (such as electrified fences) and no traps (such as fiery pits). On some of the levels, you do have to jump up to reach platforms, but your life is never in danger while you are jumping. Even worse, there are no non-vampire enemies to fight. Where are the werewolves or the demons? There's not even a lousy rat to trip over. You can see the eyes of the hyenas at the zoo, but they are merely background eye candy.

And what of hidden items, alternative weapons and secret passages? None to be found. Sure, occasionally you can pick up a can or something to throw at the vampires, but this feature is all but useless. It's easier and more expedient to simply engage the vampires in hand-to-hand combat. When a vampire isn't onscreen, you can't even pick up the items.
The graphics are actually quite good. The animation is nice and the levels are replete with detail such as armor in the mansion and hieroglyphics in the Hellmouth. Buffy fights smoothly and with style. The vampires are fairly well drawn and come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The theme from the television series has been replaced by generic, forgettable songs. The sound effects are solid.

Overall, Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the Game Boy Color is a disappointment. Watch the show; skip the game.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

SNES Omnibus Writer Spotlight #48 - Earl Green

I met super geek Earl Green in 2003 at the Classic Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. Right away, I could tell he was more than an attendee and video game fan. He was documenting the event on film and in general looking busy and important. The next year, I saw him at the Oklahoma Video Game Expo, where he was selling nerdy merchandise, and we’ve been friends ever since.

Earl is a good man, a devoted father, a fine writer, and a purveyor of all things pop culture, especially Star Trek, Doctor Who, retro video games, and movie soundtracks. He’s always interesting to talk to and is sharp as a Klingon bat'leth. I’m proud to say Earl and I both wrote for the All Game Guide and Classic GamerMagazine, and that he has a decidedly unique and even touching story in TheSNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 2 (N–Z).

Sadly, CGE and OVGE are no more (the AGG and CGM are ancient memories as well), and I haven’t seen Earl in several years. Hopefully, I’ll run into him at another show one of these days. (Earl—you need to go to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo!) It will be good talking to him about Fatherhood, Fandom, and Fading Out, which is the name of one of several books he has written.

Here’s Earl’s bio as it appears in The SNES Omnibus Vol. 2:

Earl Green is a dad to two boys and a cushion for a bunch of cats and a dog, and has somehow found time to write the Doctor Who guidebooks VWORP!1 and VWORP!2, a similar Star Trek guide, WARP!1, and the memoir Fatherhood, Fandom, and Fading Out. He also hosts the Don’t Give This Tape To Earl podcast and Select Game, a podcast devoted to the Odyssey2 console and its games. Earl can be found lurking, somewhat suspiciously, at

Friday, May 3, 2019

Atari 2600 Flea Market Find - Canton First Monday Trade Days

Four years ago, I went to a giant flea market called First Monday Trade Days. It is in Canton, Texas, which is about an hour east of Dallas. I met up with my cousin and other family members, made a major Atari 2600 score, and wrote about for my find for my monthly AntiqueWeek column, The Pop Culture Collective. Here's that story:

As with most collectors, I love going to flea markets. Pricing at flea markets is oftentimes higher than the typical garage sale, but the advantage is that you’ve got many sellers in one area, meaning you don’t have to keep driving from place to place, looking for more sales. Plus, many flea markets are open year-round.

The biggest flea market within driving distance of my house in Fort Worth, Texas is First Monday Trade Days in Canton, which is actually held on the Thursday through Sunday before the first Monday of each month. Spread over 100 acres with spaces for more than 6,000 vendors, it’s the largest and oldest continually operated flea market in the country.

Despite its relatively close proximity to where I live (Canton is about an hour-and-a-half from Fort Worth), I hadn’t been to First Monday Trade Days in several years, so when my sister sent a text wanting me to go with her and several family members, I jumped at the chance.

A few days before the trip, which was on a recent Saturday, I drained my PayPal account so I would have plenty of money for treasure hunting. Even in this day of convenient credit card readers for smart phones, many sellers of second-hand merchandise only take cash.

The trek to Canton was uneventful, but fun. When we arrived at First Monday Trade Days, I was blown away by it sheer scope and size—I had forgotten just how big it is. After finding a parking spot, my wife, mom (pictured in the photo), sister, and I hooked up with my cousins and aunt, who met us there.

Upon entering First Monday Trade Days—a veritable Valhalla of vintage valuables—we headed for the indoor pavilion area (not my idea), where we browsed shelves filled with new things I cared nothing about, such as decorative wooden letters, leather and denim western wear, and hand-crafted college sports team memorabilia.

It was fun catching up with the cousins, and some of the food vendors were handing out free samples (always a plus), but, after an hour or so, I was more than ready to leave the craft and clothing area for the sunny outdoors and check out the real draw—at least for me—of First Monday Trade Days: the aisles and aisles of books, comic books, magazines, toys, games, trading cards, lunch boxes, DVDs, and the like.

So off we went, in search of pop culture artifacts.

Once we were outside in the true flea market areas, I resisted the urge to run from table to table like a crazed hyena, grabbing anything that looked cool, old, and under-priced. However, even at my slow, civilized shopping pace, it only took a few minutes to fill my backpack. In short order, I found two thermoses from the 1978 Superman film for $5 each, plus eight Dr Pepper Happy Days drinking glasses in near mint condition for $4 a pop. Sticking with the Happy Days theme (by sheer coincidence), my wife happily snatched up four paperback books based on the classic TV show, priced at two for $5. I also found a number of old paperbacks in excellent condition at the same price point, including a Philip K. Dick Ace Double and a 1958 edition of Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth.

But the fun had only begun.

Just as my backpack was beginning to burst at the seams, and just as I was starting to unfold the recyclable shopping bags that my wife had wisely brought along, I spied something curious at an otherwise non-descript table. It was a large, beat-up old suitcase with the lid propped open. From my vantage point, I couldn’t make out what was inside, but there was no mistaking what was sticking out of the box sitting next to the suitcase: three vintage Atari 2600 video game consoles.

My heart skipped a beat as I excitedly approached the suitcase, hoping I would find a bunch of Atari 2600 game cartridges inside and not a pile of threadbare socks or tighty whities. As I approached the table and anxiously peered over the edge of this potential treasure chest, I was delighted to discover that it was indeed filled with Atari carts, spine-label side up. I could tell right away that there were many uncommon titles, and that there were probably more than 100 games total.

As an avid video game collector and player, especially of the older stuff, I was pumped. Finds like these were relatively common during the late 1980s and throughout the ’90s, when most people considered this stuff junk, but in these days of retro gaming mania you rarely find any pre-Nintendo games at garage sales, thrift stores, or flea markets—most end up on eBay.

Staving off the impulse to simply hand over everything my wallet, I calmly asked the vendor how much he wanted for the games.

“Two dollars apiece,” he said.

Now, two bucks is about average for a common Atari 2600 cartridge like Pac-Man, Defender, or Space Invaders. Those games were super popular back in the day, and millions were produced. However, for some of the harder-to-find games for the console, $2 was a steal, so I began rifling through the games in the suitcase, setting aside the titles I knew to be worth their weight in gold (or at least bronze).

To my disappointment, there were no truly rare titles in the suitcase, such as Air Raid ($2,800) or Video Life ($1,200). However, there were plenty of oddball and obscure games, some of which I never even saw when they were new in stores, including: I Want My Mommy ($25), Tax Avoiders ($15), Miner 2049er ($15), Private Eye ($15), and Spacemaster X-7 ($12). In total, there were 122 different games, which is more than a quarter of the entire Atari 2600 library (U.S. releases).

As my pile of games grew, it occurred to me that I should just ask the seller how much he wanted for all of them, so I did. He quoted $75, including the three Atari consoles (which are worth around $60-$75 each). I countered with $50. He offered to meet me in the “middle” with $60, which I gladly accepted.
With my backpack already full and my newly acquired Atari stash cumbersome to carry, it was time to trek back to the car, dump the stash, and get back to buying, which is exactly what we did.

While the embarrassment of Atari riches was easily my best find of the day, the oddest acquisition I made was a bucket of 82 Smurf figurines, much to the amusement of my family. The vendor wanted a buck apiece for the plastic blue toys, but seemed happy when I offered him $40 for the lot.

“Someone earlier offered me $20,” he said. “That seemed a little low.”

Why would I want 82 Smurfs, you may be wondering? I’m not a fan of the classic cartoon, but I can package the little guys in Zip Lock baggies and sell them in four-packs for $5.95 in my antique booth back in Fort Worth. The figures are only a couple of years old, but they look great and will fit in well with the other pop culture items I offer for sale.

Speaking of my antique booth, one of the reasons I wanted to go to First Monday Trade Days in the first place was to restock the booth with sports cards. As fate would have it, I found several factory sealed boxes of Upper Deck and Topps StadiumClub baseball cards for $8 each, which was nice, but kind of sad. When I was co-owner of a comics and cards store during the baseball card speculator boom of the early 1990s, these were some of the newest, hottest cards on the market, and now here they were, covered in dust and selling for pennies on the dollar.

I talked the sports card seller down to $24 for four boxes, which is a real bargain since they will sell quickly at a buck a pack in my booth, mostly to nostalgic husbands, and to moms trying to keep their kids occupied while they shop.

All in all, it was a fun and profitable day at Canton’s First Monday Trade Days, and I’m already looking forward to a return trip, which I’ll probably make sometime this summer. Here’s hoping I’ll find another suitcase full of treasure.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Monday, April 22, 2019

Kids Say The Darndest Things About Video Games - Fortnite, Mario, and Mr. Do!

Funny Easter story about my five-year-old great nephew Cooper (pictured here with my niece Emily, his mom). He asked me about my favorite video game. I told him what I tell everyone: "Mr. Do!" After giving me a funny look, he told me his favorite was "Fortnite."

Then he ask me how many games I know about. I told him thousands and said, "Did you know I write books about video games?" He asked if he could see them, so I showed him my Super Nintendo book that my mom keeps in the living room. He said, "Oh, I've read that." He then opened the book to the "M" section and showed me how far he had gotten in the book: almost to the end. (My mom told me later that he had sat in a chair with the book in his lap one afternoon going through it page by page.)

Then Cooper asked if I had written any other books with pictures. I showed him my"100 Greatest" book that covers 1977 to 1987. He flipped through it and asked me about several of the games since he didn't recognize them. I then turned to the "Super Mario Bros." chapter with the pixelated image of Mario. He said, "Oh, there's the 'Minecraft' Mario."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

My Top 5 Blog Posts of All Time

I looked up my five top blog posts of all time and decided to share the results with you guys and gals. In order of most clicks, here they are:

#1. KISS is one of the most popular bands of all time, so it only makes sense that “My Interview with Lydia Criss, Ex-Wife of Original KISS Drummer Peter Criss” gets the top spot. You can read it HERE.

#2. It seems that everyone wants to sell their old stuff, or at least likes the idea of being a retailer on a small level. This explains why “Opening a Booth in an Antique Mall” is a popular article. You can read it HERE.

#3. When cheating scandal over Dragster for the Atari 2600 made news, it hit the mainstream. Thus, my feature called “Todd Rogers - A Funny Thing Happened at a Video Game Convention” is a perennial favorite. You can read it HERE.

#4. I was pretty wild during the 1980s, and people seem to get a kick out of reading about the times when I met famous rock stars. Check out “I Was a Teenage Concert-Goer--Or, How I Met Ozzy Osbourne & Paul Stanley” by clicking HERE.

#5. People like to sample before they shop, so “Look Inside - Brett Weiss's Retro Gaming Books” gets lots of clicks. You can read sample pages of my books HERE.

Thanks for the clicks, and thanks for reading!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Retro Video Game Review - Outlaw for Atari 2600

Atari 2600
Publisher/Developer: Atari
Fixed-screen shooter


One of the first games designed by David Crane of Activision fame, Outlaw for the Atari 2600 is both a target shooting contest and a shootout game in one cartridge. When playing by yourself, you score points by shooting a moving target. When challenging a friend, the two of you (one gunslinger on the left and one on the right) fire away at each other.

Outlaw features 16 variations of play. In each of the games, an object such as a cactus, a wall, or a stagecoach moves or stands between the gunslingers, or between the lone gunslinger and the target. In the two-player games, the first player to score 10 points wins. In the one-player games, you've got 99 seconds to score a maximum of 10 points. Outlaw was patterned after Midway’s Gun Fight, which hit the arcades in 1975.


Some things, like going to amusement parks and sporting events, aren’t much fun by yourself. You can add playing Outlaw to that list. Played alone, Outlaw is an overly simplistic and boring game. Played with a friend, however, it is a kicking good time. You'll laugh a lot as you and your frenemy duck behind and break through the various obstacles, taking potshots at one another.

Like most of the early Atari VCS games—Fun With Numbers and Maze Craze come immediately to mind—the graphics in Outlaw are barebones to say the least. With his cowboy hat and crouching shooting stance, the gunfighter is recognizable as such, but overall the sprites and color schemes are basic. When compared to other games of the day, however, Outlaw doesn't look too shabby.

One appealing aspect of Atari VCS cartridges from the late 70s was the number of gameplay variations. Many titles boasted at least 16 different games in one cartridge. While these extra games were generally minor variations on a basic theme, at least it seemed like you were getting more for your money. In Outlaw, the variations are certainly welcome. The difference between shooting through a wall and shooting past a stagecoach is indeed significant in terms of the strategies used for hitting your opponent while avoiding his or her gunfire.
 Outlaw is an imminently playable game that offers a good amount of enjoyment. Shooting through the obstacles to get to your opponent is a blast. However, when compared Combat, which is the best two-on-two shootout game from the era, it comes up a little short. With its tanks and planes, Combat offers more challenges, variations and excitement.

Check out my Atari 2600 book HERE.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Retro Video Game Review - SlamScape for PlayStation

Publisher/Developer: Viacom New Media
Vehicle Shooter


SlamScape for the PS1 is a 3D, behind-your-vehicle shooter set in a surreal world of bomb-throwing ferris wheels, deadly teddy bears, exploding balloons, bottled brains on unicycles, a Scary-Go-Round, a spinning seagull named Gullicopter, a monstrous creation called Crabzilla, and other bizarre enemies.

Your objective is to pilot a rocket-mounted pile driver called a Slamjet while shooting, blasting, smashing, and jumping most everything you see throughout four dangerous regions. Derived from your subconscious, the regions contain four heavily guarded Orb-Ids needed for level progression. Once you obtain these items, you'll take them to a central location within that level. You must employ a different strategy for each orb you wish to obtain.

Obtaining the Orb-Ids won't be easy as you're going up against 16 blood-thirsty opponents lusting for victory. While the default weapon is a Shockball, there are a variety of special weapons including Minetraps, a Fasterblaster, a Ripstar, and a devastating Torp, which is the most powerful item available. While flying in your futuristic craft, Nodensnaggers and Power Leeches will land on top of you, zapping your energy and draining your power.

SlamScape features a 3D graphics engine running at 60 frames per second and supports analog controls. Electro-rockers God Lives Underwater lent their musical talents for the interactive soundtrack.


If SlamScape weren't so limited in scope, it would be difficult to know where to begin this review. The game fails miserably in just about every area of gameplay. For starters, the Slamjet is terribly hard to control. It bounces around in the general direction you intend to go while spinning and sliding unintentionally into a wide assortment of strange but unappealing enemies.

Precision moves are nearly impossible to perform. When you do manage to land a shot, it usually just barely injures whatever you're firing at. On other hand, your ship is killed easily after just a few hits. You're better off trying to avoid most of your adversaries than taking them on directly. Needless to say, this gets boring and frustrating very quickly. To make this game even more of a pain, off-screen enemies suddenly appear without warning and leech themselves to your vessel, sucking your energy dry. As if the game wasn't difficult enough already!

Most of the better shooters involve the destruction of hundreds of enemies as many people play these kinds of games, at least in part, to blow off steam and relieve stress. Other gamers simply get a kick out of wanton (but harmless) destruction. SlamScape offers almost nothing of interest in any of these areas. If anything, playing this game will make you want to pull your controller out of the PS1 and “slamscape” it into the wall. Everyone needs a few hard games in their collection, but poor controls and undue frustration do not make for a fun game.

Included in this package are three music videos by obscure alt-rock grunge/electronic band God Lives Underwater. Although tolerable, they're not a great band by any stretch; their music is as hackneyed as their name. Sadly, the music videos are the best thing about SlamScape.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

2-Volume Super Nintendo Book Set - ON SALE!

Amazon has a great deal going: The SNES Omnibus two-volume set is on sale for less than $67.34, which is a nice discount off the combined cover price of $99.98.

As of this post, The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 1 (A–M) is $34.28 while The SNES Omnibus: The Super Nintendo and Its Games, Vol. 2 (N–Z) is $33.06.

Check out sample pages from Vol. 1, which is available now, HERE. 

Check out sample pages from Vol. 2, which is shipping April 28, HERE.

With the two-volume set, which was written by an author (me) who has been gaming since 1975 and writing professionally about video games since 1997, you’ll get:

*Two deluxe hardcover coffee table books, each with a colorful centerfold featuring your favorite SNES characters
*More than 470,000 words; More than 870 pages
*Write-ups for EVERY U.S. release for the Super Nintendo; Each game gets at least one page
*More than 4,100 full-color images: box art, cartridge scans, screenshots, vintage ads
*Nostalgic stories from prominent YouTube celebs, programmers, authors, and other industry insiders
*Quotes from vintage magazines *Memories *Historical info *Reviews
*Essays on the Super Game Boy, the Super Scope, the Console Wars, and Super Metroid