Hori Retro Arcade Sticks


The Hori Fighting Stick PC

During the 8-bit era, arcade sticks were a niche market. Nintendo offered up the NES Advantage, which was a solid if not workmanlike option. It was heavy, with high build quality. It offered adjustable rapid fire as well as the sometimes-effective slo-mo feature. In hindsight, it was the best option available in North America. Third party controllers were becoming a thing, but most of those were cash grabs, uninterested in longevity or quality. When Sega ushered in the 16 bit generation, the Arcade power Stick soon followed. Sega built its branding on accurate arcade ports during the early Genesis years, and the arcade stick was a necessary presence to maintain that image. It was also well built, with similar options as the NES Advantage, sans the slo-mo feature. When the Super Nintendo arrived, a sequel to the NES Advantage was released by Nintendo, unimaginatively named the "Super Advantage". Out of necessity it had more buttons, but the granular control of rapid fire rate was lost to low/hi turbo settings, which is a step back in my opinion. The sturdiness of the stick was roughly on par with the original. The Turbografx-16 had the official Turbostick, which also had switchable rapid fire as well as slo-mo. These aforementioned arcade sticks all hovered around the $50-$80 range at the time. 

Meanwhile, in Japan, a little controller company named Hori was building home console arcade sticks closer to the standards of arcade machines. Arcades in Japan had joysticks with microswitches, which give tactile and audio feedback as to the registered input by the joystick. This was not the case in North America. The intent of the microswitch is to increase the accuracy of the inputs, which can be tested by using a program that detects inputs, like the 240p test suite, for example. The conductive rubber membranes that are inside most retro controllers were also used in cheap arcade sticks, and the effectiveness will eventually decrease as the rubber ages. This extra mechanical nuance of microswitches increases the longevity and cost of the joystick.

In addition to improved precision, the entire outer housing of Hori arcade sticks make an impression. They are larger and heavier than anything released stateside, with mostly steel hulls. One of the problems with the domestic options was that they were all too small to play comfortably on the lap.  The Hori sticks are all significantly larger, spanning over both legs and in general are much more comfortable. Rapid fire options are individually present on each of these, but the slo-mo feature is not present. 

Hori Fighting Stick SF

The PC Engine and Super Famicom versions have a rugged steel hull, and that adds the overall weight and presence. The two sticks are basically identical in build and form, aside from the different color schemes for buttons. Each has six action buttons, along with start (run) and select. The buttons are serviceable, if a bit "plungy". The cord length is roughly five feet, which is long for a Japanese controller, but short for North America. 

Hori Fighting Stick Dual

There are two sticks released with multiple system capabilities, called the Fighting Stick Dual and the Fighting Stick Multi. The Dual has a diminutive footprint, and is compatible with the Genesis/Mega Drive and Super Nintendo/Famicom. The cord has controller plugs for both at the end. It does not have microswitches in the joystick nor the buttons, but the rubber membranes provide more feedback than typical controllers. There is almost a "thud", a catch point that is detected with the movement of the joystick that is hard to describe, so it is somewhere in between microswitches and membranes as far as tactile presence. 

The Fighting Stick Multi is versatile

Hori Fighting Stick Multi

The Fighting Stick Multi is compatible with Mega Drive/Genesis, Super Famicom/Nintendo, and PC-Engine. To accommodate three different console plugs, the cords are removable. While this makes sense, it also makes them easier to loose. If you scan through eBay, most of these will be missing at least one of the three cords. The size is a on par with the steel versions mentioned earlier. The hull is plastic, and the stick has lead weights inside to give it some additional heft. The stick is micro switched, but it does not have the same short throw that the steel brethren have. The buttons have rubber membranes as well, reducing the sense of overall quality. Still, it is a very versatile and economic stick covering three major consoles, and a good choice if storage space is a concern. 

Hori Fighting Stick Neo

The next three models are back to being system specific, called the Hori Fighting Stick Neo, Hori Fighting Stick SS (Sega Saturn), and the Hori Fighting Stick PS (Playstation). These all share the same body molding, footprint, build quality and styling, except for the button count. These sticks feel really solid, perhaps more than the PC Engine and SNES versions. Even though they are not entirely encased in steel, the joints and panel seams are very tight, making the sticks compact and dense.  The joystick is micro switched as well are the buttons.  Individual turbo switches are present for all buttons. This is a boon for the Neo, as many Neo Geo games benefit from rapid fire, and that was not a feature present on any official Neo Geo controllers.

Hori Fighting Stick SS

It may be a product of its time, but all of buttons on these Hori sticks are smaller in diameter than what is standard now (30mm). Modern arcade sticks are much larger today, with a wide foot print, and the larger buttons make sense. However, with the smaller base of retro sticks, the 30mm buttons would look ridiculous. 

Hori Fighting Stick PS

When the Virtua Fighter craze came home on the Saturn, Hori released the Real Arcade VF. This stick was dedicated to that game, and only has three face buttons. While it is an odd design decision, having just the right amount of buttons makes for a simpler gameplay experience. Sometimes, with too many buttons, inputting presses can get convoluted in the heat of the action. I find this stick surprisingly effective for many shooters, as nearly all of them require three buttons or less. The stick is micro switched, and this now includes what would be come the standard button size of 30mm. 

Hori Real Arcade VF

Can you imagine if sticks with this level of quality came out here in the states back in the day? Maybe they would have sold well, maybe not. Given the prevalence of shooters in the early 16-bit days, its not too much of a stretch to think there would have been a market for them, especially considering how many trash controllers were sold during the era. 

Hori continues to make arcade sticks today, and their line of Real Arcade Pro sticks are some of the most prevalent on the market. Those are all well and good, but I wanted to focus on their sticks that they released in the silver age of home video games, where arcade sticks were less prevalent. 

The Sega Genesis Mini II, the Last Mini Console?


After a six month preorder, the Sega Genesis Mini II finally arrived at my doorstep today. Like its predecessor, it is meticulously crafted.  Every detail of the original is recreated, like operating switches, opening cartridge flap, removable extension cover, and so on. The emulation is solid as expected from M2, with the same video options, and new is the choice of audio from a model 1 or model 2. It is loaded with 60 games, by far more than any other mini console released to date. Going further into the Genesis' library, this rendition includes Sega CD titles, unreleased games, deep cuts, and includes a six-button controller.

What is odd is that it was exclusively sold by Amazon Japan. You could buy in on Amazon, which would then ship it from Japan, but there is no Prime shipping. There was no explanation for this, but my guess is that it has to do with the licensing of six-button controller to Retro-Bit here in the US, and so this is a necessary work around in order to include the six button controller.

The included game library seems to fill in some of the gaps on the first Genesis mini, although that game library was pretty good. Included are Streets of Rage 3, Outrun, Crusader of Centy, Herzog Zwei, Lightening Force (Thunder Force IV), Phantasy Star II, Ranger-X, Revenge of Shinobi, Truxton, Shining Force II, Hellfire, among others. Still, there are some big ones missing, like Snatcher, ESWAT, Mercs, Rocket Knight, and MUSHA. Some of the games on the mini II seem a bit forced, like Spatter, Star Mobile, and Super Locomotive. I'm not sure why these were included, these were not released domestically and have no following here. There are some titles that I really wished would make an appearance here, but due to licensing fees I absolutely understand why they are not here. TMNT Hyperstone Heist, The Punisher, Batman, Captain America and the Avengers, and Robocop vs. Terminator. Including those games would have significantly increased the price (I would be ok with that, but most probably wouldn't be). There are some games that could not be included, probably due to recent re-releases in cartridge form, like Gaiares and the Valis games. Then there are games that I don't think would have been expensive to include, like Fire Shark, Raiden Trad, and Gleylancer. I would have absolutely loved an M2 version of Alien Syndrome, my favorite arcade game when I was a kid. I know it was released on the Astro City Mini Arcade, and it wouldn't make sense as it was not a Genesis game, but still.

The Mini II boasts the largest included library yet!

The Sega CD inclusion is a boon to the appeal of this mini console, but therein lies a divided appeal. Final Fight CD, Sonic CD, Shining Force CD and Silpheed are all right on the mark from a gameplay perspective. Sewer Shark and Night Trap may have game title recognition, but are not necessarily considered good games. Those campy, grainy, FMV games were pioneering, but also terrible. Are they included as a piece of history, or are they genuinely revered by the producers of this product?

Controllers are a 1:1 match to the original

When taking a step back and surveying the landscape of the mini consoles that have materialized, I am hard pressed to suggest which console will be next to venture into the mini console craze/fad. The Playstation Classic had arrived as a spectacular disappointment. It was plagued with issues that hardcore gamers were quick to realize and point out, like the improper region encoded games (PAL 50 hz instead if NTSC 60 hz) and the omission of obvious games like the Crash Bandicoot and Tomb Raider. Sony massively overestimated demand, and shortly after its release the Playstation Classic was being clearanced out for $20 a piece. Had they done their homework, and stretched a bit more to include more favorites, it might have been more coveted. Ironically, once it was hacked and gamers learned how to add any games they wanted it became a hit at this discount price.

Chronologically, the Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn would appear to be next up, but these systems are notoriously difficult to run on SOCs, or system on a chip boards. While all of these mini consoles are emulation based SOCs, the N64 and Saturn require more processing power than is viable with this level of hardware. Home computers and laptops can run emulators of these consoles, but that is much more processing power than these minis can provide. To beef up the processing power of these mini consoles would be cost prohibitive.

Technical challenges aside, the revitalization of mini consoles is dependent upon a target demographic that is large enough to make economic sense. Would a company be able to profit from such a release? The NES, SNES, and Genesis mini consoles were all no-brainers, they had tremendous mass market appeal. The Turbo Grafx-16 did not have as large of a fan base due to its limited success, and as such not too many of the mini consoles were produced.

The N64 was not the best selling console of its generation, losing to the Playstation. Would there be enough aging gamers willing to be drawn in by the siren song of N64 retro nostalgia? Many of the best selling games were developed by Rare, like Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and others. Rare was subsequently scooped up by Microsoft, so their chance of inclusion is next to zero. Would there still be enough appeal? My guess is probably so. First party Nintendo games will always be system sellers, and Nintendo has garnered enough family goodwill to be able to sell nearly anything. 

What about the Sega Saturn? It has become a cult hit among retro gaming circles, but did it have enough of a presence in its initial run to draw people back in? I don't think so. It sold so poorly domestically, it would not make financial sense here in the US. I could see a Japanese release being viable since the popularity of the Saturn in Japan was strong, selling much better overseas. The Japanese game library dwarfs the US library, nearly three to one. The shoot'em ups and 2D fighters are flagship titles in my opinion, and the vast majority of them were Japanese exclusives. 

What about consoles from the sixth generation like Dreamcast, PS2, Gamecube and XBox? With today's tech, only the Dreamcast runs on such SOC platforms such as the Raspberry Pi. The Dreamcast was in production for only two years, would it even have enough of a fan base to make to make financial sense for Sega? The others are definitely not possible at the same price structure that the minis are at. 

I suppose it is possible for there to be sequels to the NES and SNES classic. Both of those consoles did have console revisions, and the game libraries are so deep that finding games would not be a problem. I imagine these would sell just as well as the first minis. But as far as progressing along the historical timeline, we have hit the limits of what is possible. So, as much as I love the mini consoles and all the nostalgia, functionality, and fun that they represent, I do think we have come to the end of the line. Sega said themselves that they produced one-tenth of the number of Genesis Mini II's compared to the first Genesis Mini. They pushed out one last console for the love of the games, and because we wanted it. 

Arcade Sticks for the PC Engine

During the third and fourth generations, arcade sticks were available, but high quality arcade sticks were uncommon. Most people remember the NES Advantage for the NES, or the Power Stick for the Genesis. Aside from being joysticks, those both had features that made them appealing, such as adjustable turbo fire. The Turbo Grafx-16 had the Turbo Stick, a rough equivalent of the aforementioned sticks. There were plenty of subpar offerings here, but virtually no options existed that would be considered high-end. The Japanese received several excellent options. I will highlight four arcade sticks released for the PC Engine that are excellent options for use, even today.

The Ascii Stick

This was manufactured by Ascii, which was a ubiquitous peripheral company back then. It's design is uncannily similar to that of the NES Advantage, having the same features, same dimensions, same weight, same joystick, and so on. The base of the stick is rather small, so playing directly on your lap in uncomfortable unless you have a lap desk, something to set the stick on. The joystick and buttons have membrane contacts, just like inside a standard controller.  It is a solid stick, but it only scratches the potential that arcade sticks can become.

The Hori Fighting Stick Multi

This stick has six action buttons, and as the name implies, its design is intended for fighting games, (probably Street Fighter II'). The joystick has microswitches, which was common in Japanese arcades, but completely absent in American arcades. The buttons are a tad mushy but serviceable. Turbo function is available for each button individually, but not adjustable. There is considerable weight to the stick, so it feels secure and stable in the lap. The stick has detachable cables specific for the PC Engine, Mega Drive (Genesis), and Super Famicom (SNES). The value proposition is high, considering the quality and versatility. 

The Hori Fighting Stick PC Engine

This stick is the very definition of heavy duty. Encased in steel, it is as solid as they come. It is the heaviest stick for the PC Engine that I have come across. The stick has micro switches, and the throw distance is very short. The stick tension is rather light, as was common in those days. The buttons are snappier, an upgrade over those in the multi stick. Individual turbo switches are present. Playing on this stick gives gameplay an entirely different feel, especially vertical shooters. This model was also released for the Super Famicom and is identical except for the button colors and labels.

The Denpa XE-1 Pro HE

If the the Hori Fighting Stick was a tank, this is a Ferrari. It is fairly small in construction, has a very tight, micro switched joystick with adjustable four or eight way gate. This is joystick is the most precise of all the sticks reviewed. There is absolutely no slipping, no dead zone, and no physical lag. The button panel angle can be rotated, which I never though I needed until now. The buttons are micro switched, with adjustable turbo rates. There is even an led that lights up at the same rate that the buttons are pressed. An unexpected feature is that the stick doubles as a turbotap! You can connect four additional controllers to it for some multiplayer action! 

Although I don't like small arcade sticks, due to needed some kind of support underneath, this stick stands out as premium. Similar models were produced for the Famicom (playable on an NES with a controller adapter cable), Mega Drive/Genesis, Super Famicom/SNES, MSX computer, and others. Due to their rarity, they command a higher price than most arcade sticks of the era. 

Since these are all Japanese imports, they all have cables that are fairly short. They would be fine for play on a table top if have a CRT or screen close by, but if you are playing on a couch you are most likely going to need a controller extension. As mentioned, the sticks of smaller stature would be more comfortable to use on a lap desk or similar hard support.  

I wonder how products like these would have fared if they were released here back during their original run. Would American consumers be willing to pay premium prices for these arcade sticks? My thought is probably not. Nintendo would have done their homework when test marketing the NES Advantage, and they targeted that level of quality here.  Perhaps these would have been a success and we are underestimating the dedication of the hardcore gamer, or the number of people willing to pay that premium. Either way, these can be found now through online international sales, auctions sites, proxies, etc., and that is a good thing.

Bringing 2D Shoot'em Ups (shmups) to Modern Consoles

The shoot'em up, or "shmup" genre has a history as old as video games, dating back to the 1970's with Space Invaders, Galaxian, etc. In the 1980's and 1990's, games like Gradius, R-Type, Thunder Force, Soldier Blade and others were headlining home console offerings. It was a genre that had great prominence,  and tapered off once the 3D era of gaming matured during the 6th generation of consoles.  

 The retro gaming scene has ballooned in popularity of late. Possibly due to kids growing up and yearning for the games that played in their youth, the rise of YouTube retro gaming content, and other factors, the resurgence has been palpable. This has led to increased numbers of rereleases and retro-inspired games on current generation consoles. 

A recent poll (n=95) I conducted on the Shmups Facebook page indicates that the Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch are tied as the favorite current consoles to play shmups on. This is surprising to me as there is some debate about the Switch's extra input lag when compared to consoles with more powerful hardware.  For example, the Psikyo Collection Alpha has some of my favorite shmups, like Strikers 1945. I have this on PS4 and Switch. There is a noticeable difference between the two versions, with the Switch exhibiting more input latency than the PS4 version. I know this game like the back of my hand, having owned the original on Saturn for a long time. Perhaps the only people noticing this are people who have a long history with the game. 

Fortunately, this is not always the case. In games like Ikaruga, which I have on Switch and PS4, I cannot notice the difference in latency between the two consoles. You would think that Ikaruga is a more demanding game (originally of the 6th generation of consoles, whereas Strikers 1945 is from the 4th/5th generation) so this is puzzling. The difference must come down to programming the ports. Maybe the team who programmed Ikaruga have better chops than the team that did Strikers. It seems that games programmed by M2 Shottriggers have the fewest latency issues on any of its ports, whether on Switch or PS4.  

Many people participants cited the portability of the Switch as a deciding factor. People like to play in at work, during a commute, between classes, etc. While the idea of a portable console sounds good in theory, my eyes are not what they used to be, so squinting at small screens is not really enjoyable to me. If you don't mind small screens, more power to you. 

Some have mentioned processing power favors the PS4, but this seems kinda silly when you consider that for the vast majority of shooters, 2 dimensions is the norm. We're not talking about system pushing specs and ray tracing for graphical fidelity here, nearly everything is sprite based. Even if there are polygons, the movement plane is still 2 dimensional, so any current generation system should be more than capable.

As far as game availability, it seems that amount of games released for both consoles are roughly equal. Besides a few exceptions, like Battle Garegga (2016) and Ketsui Deathtiny, games are now being developed for both. Many of these games are not physically released in North America, so importing games from sites like Playasia is a common solution. With shooters there is not much of a language barrier, and modern consoles are region free. Games are also released through small limited vendors like Limited Run Games, Strictly Limited, etc. 

Being retro, there are people who prefer to keep it retro and play on as much original hardware/equipment as possible. CRT TVs and legacy consoles will always win the input lag test, so if that is what you're all about then you are not the primary audience here. Most people do not have the space (or family members willing to tolerate) for the extra bulk of CRTs. Consider also that old CRTs and consoles will start failing, and there are fewer and fewer people that can fix them. Parts are not being produced anymore, making maintenance even more of a hassle. 

What do you think about the resurgence of shoot 'em ups on modern consoles? Are you fine with playing them on modern screens? Does the requisite amount of input lag inherent to modern consoles bother you? Do you mind buying these games again if you already own the originals? 


Retro Gaming Collections I'd Like to See Released for Modern Consoles

During this resurgence of retro game popularity, many game collections are being produced for modern consoles. Recent examples are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cowabunga Collection, Mega Man Legacy Collection, Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection, Sega Genesis Classics Collection, Contra Anniversary Collection, Castlevania Anniversary Collection, The Aleste Collection, just to name a few. Even though I have the majority of the original retro games ton these collections, I still love the fact that these are being released. Not only are they being released, some of these are receiving archival bonus material, interviews, artwork, and more. These extras can justify the re-purchase of these collections, and make for a well rounded package. 

Specifically, the Mega Man Legacy Collection and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Cowabunga Collections, both produced by Digital Eclipse, are shining examples of how to curate a retro game collection. For those who don't know, Digital Eclipse is headed by Frank Cifaldi, who is also the founder of the Videogame History Foundation. He takes game preservation pretty seriously. The production documents, art assets, interviews, variants, and promotional materials are just some of the extras included. The emulation is very good, with every glitch and peculiarity included, like the line flashing on the Mega Man 3 stage select screen.

I know that some people bemoan the release of yet another game collection, but I for one wholly support these collections if it means developers can continue to unearth these long forgotten games and wrap them together in a context that does them justice, and makes them conveniently available (and affordable). With retro gaming as popular as it is right now, there can be new life for these older franchises as they are introduced to younger generations, and treated with modern amenities like save states, rewind, screen shots, difficulty settings, etc. Also, the value proposition of buying all of the games together for a price lower than what their collective cost would be on the secondary market can't be ignored. 

Here are some collections that I would very much want to see released, and would be day one purchases.

Thunder Force

Shoot'em ups are getting kind of expensive these days, and the Thunder Force series is king on the Genesis/Mega Drive. There were even releases after the 16 bit era, with TFV released on Saturn and Playstation, and even TF VI on the Playstation 2, which was only released in Japan. If these were collected on all on the same disc, imagine the value. I know some of these were ported by M2 (renowned retro game reprogrammers) to the Switch online store, so half the work is already done! Sega owns the IP, so there is no messy red tape or royalties to contend with. It's a no-brainer. 

P.S. There was a collection of sorts back in the 5th generation, titled Thunder Force Gold Pack 1 and 2. Each of these contained only 2 games. This was a paltry offering for the time, and we can do so much better now.


What started in the arcades with the landmark original continued on the Genesis with three more spectacular games. Two dimensional Ninja action platforming hit it's peak with this series, and it should be collected. The innovation of Ninja Magic added a spark that stood out from other games of the era. The platforming is tight, and art design iconic. The arcade game is a fixture in my mind of Sega arcade action, and it had a plethora or ports (not all good). The Master System port was respectable, given its limitations. The real meat of the series is in the three Genesis releases. These games were shining examples of excellence in the Genesis library, and some of the first titles referenced when conducting a console wars debate. There was an original Game Gear game made that I hear good things about. Additional games include Shinobi: Legions on Saturn, and a bunch of third person action games on the PS2/PS3/XBox consoles. Those later games take an entirely different style, so those should be a different collection.  

Star Soldier

There actually was a Star Soldier collection for the Sony PSP back in 2008. This was a fantastic idea! It included the four PC Engine games: Super Star Soldier, Final Soldier, Soldier Blade, and Star Parodier. There could be some 8-bit games added in here as well, like the Famicom version of Star Soldier and Starship Hector (I think it is related somehow). Maybe the caravan versions could be included as well. Heck, even include the N64 game. These games play fast and input lag could be an issue, so it would require a top tier developer to port it, namely M2. 


For a shooter series as revered and popular as Gradius, you would think that this would have happened already. Although the gradius arcade game was included in a Konami Arcade Classics collection, along with other early Konami games, that did not do the franchise justice. There were so many Gradius games that are itching to be collected and released. Gradius II never received a North American release, nor did Salamander (Life Force is not the same game). Gradius Gaiden, a title that many consider the best Gradius game ever, was never released here. There were Gameboy and GBA games as well. The spin off series Parodius, which has at least 3 entries, can be included. Again, these are all Konami titles through and through so there should be no extra licensing or royalties. It can and should happen! 


Capcom's 1942 was an early 1980's arcade hit, and launched a deceptively deep franchise. The most visible titles were 1942 and 1943 as those were on the NES and produced in large print runs. There were several other games that most people don't know about, which is a shame because each one is solid. 1943 Kai, 1941 Counterattack, and 1944 are all forgotten games and could be enshrined along with their brethren in a compilation. Each game has is different in some way, game design had evolved with each new entry, so playing through the series offers up some variety. 


The R-Type franchise has a disjointed history, with releases few and far between. The original title was released in arcades, and ported to the 8-bit home consoles. R-Type II, also an arcade game, was rehashed and retitled as Super R-Type as a Super Nintendo exclusive. Following that was the excellent R-Type III: The Third Lightning, also a SNES exclusive. Years passed and R-Type Delta was released for the Playstation. The "Delta" in the name referred to it being the fourth game in the series (delta is the fourth letter in the Greek alphabet). Another generation passed and R-Type Final was released on the Playstation 2. With such a wide-spanning yet sparse catalog it is unclear what makes sense to include in a compilation, but I would say the 2D games (arcade and home renditions), and the 3D games could be a separate collection.

Golden Axe

While the Genesis trilogy has been released several times over on the seemingly annual Genesis collections, the game that has unavailable up until its recent inclusion on the Astro City Mini Arcade is Golden Axe The Revenge of Death Adder (RDA). Considered the real sequel to the arcade original, RDA fell through the cracks as Sega decided to make Golden Axe II on the Genesis a completely different game. This was most likely due RDA being on Sega's System 18 arcade board, which was more advanced that the System 16 board, on which the Genesis was based. Additionally, a fighting game spin off titled Golden Axe: The Duel was a Japanese exclusive for the Saturn. The last game is mediocre, but what is really needed is the inclusion of RDA with the rest of the Golden Axe series. 

Streets of Rage

Another Genesis Trilogy that was released several times over on Genesis compilations, I think that a dedicated SOR release with extras would be amazing. Yuzo Koshiro authored the soundtracks for all three games, and a soundtrack would be the ultimate selling point. It would be nice to have the Japanese version of SOR3, Bare Knuckle III, translated as it is the superior version of the game. The recent sequel, Streets of Rage IV is too advanced to hope to include on this one. 


Why Nintendo has not compiled the rich Metroid franchise into a collection is baffling, but Nintendo has always marched to its own beat. Imagine all the 2D games together in one package: Metroid, Metroid II, Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, and Metroid Zero Mission. The Metroid Prime games were collected and released on the Wii, so why can't we get the legacy games? I suspect that since the NES and SNES games are available on Nintendo's online service, there is less motivation for Nintendo to spend time and money on a product that they have already technically rereleased. 

With so many retro franchises to resurrect, there is hope that some of these will see the Digital Eclipse or M2 treatment. Which franchises do you want to see released?

Trilogies on the Sega Genesis

To see three games form the same franchise released on a single console is now rare. It happened more frequently in the days of cartridge consoles, and was a sign of success for both the system and the franchise. Sequels to popular games are common, as are franchises that span more than one generation, but three games subsequently released on the same console was a cool thing. I'd like to recount the trilogies that were released for the Sega Genesis. Some franchises went beyond three games, and there are spin offs as well, but I'll try to keep to the main line of each franchise. There may even be more. 

Double Dragon

Double Dragon II: The Revenge

Double Dragon III: The Rosetta Stone

Double Dragon IV: The Shadow Falls

This is a tale of disappointment on several levels. The arcade original was a landmark brawler, and it was heavily anticipated when announced for the NES. The game was understandably stripped down for the 8 bit processor, and restructured to work within the limited confines. It was a good game, but two player co-op was removed. When I heard that this was released for the Genesis, I thought it must surely be just like the arcade. Well, it is but it isn't. The two player co-op is there, the graphics are there, but the gameplay is kinda broken. The enemy speed is laughably fast and erratic. This is such a shame, a wasted opportunity. Double Dragon II the Revenge was also an excellent arcade game, and was also released to the NES to critical acclaim. Unfortunately, it was only released in Japan and not released here in America for some unknown reason. When the series did return to the Genesis for the exclusive Double Dragon III and Double Dragon V (what happened to IV?), the gameplay appears to be programmed by people who have no concept of what made the first two games great. This sort of thing is common, when a series remains with a certain publisher but the talent responsible for the series' name has moved on. A tragic tale of botched opportunities.

Golden Axe 

Golden Axe II

Golden Axe III

This is an example of an homegrown Sega arcade hit that was proof that the Genesis could bring arcade action home. It was one of the first medieval themed brawlers, which was refreshing in an age of games with urban themes. There are three selectable players to choose from: the standard warrior, the axe-wielding elf, and the Amazon. Each has different strength and weaknesses, and varying skill with magic. The magic was one of the highlights of the game, the other being two player co-op. Even though is may seem rudimentary when compared to the brawlers that appeared later in the system's lifespan, this is still a top ten Genesis game for me. Golden Axe II was the console exclusive sequel, which was a fine game in its own right, but paled in comparison to the impression that the first game had. Golden Axe III was released in Japan only, which was a shame, as it was in some ways the deepest of the three game. GA3 had branching paths, different endings, a more robust albeit difficult move set, and new playable characters. The magic was a disappointment compared to the first two games, but it definitely should have been released domestically. It is playable now on a plethora of Sega game compilations and online services. 

James Pond: Underwater Agent

Jame Pond II: Codename Robocod

James Pond III: Operation Starfish

A cartoony platformer where you control a fish, the first game garnered much praise for its charm. Loosely tied to a spy theme ("Pond", as in "Bond"), your missions vary and the cuteness is eventually besmirched by its difficulty. EA invested more into the sequel: Codename: Robocod. Eschewing the spy motif, James Pond now sports a metallic appearance, with the ability to extend his torso to reach high platforms. This new mechanic keeps the gameplay fresh. The third game drops the robotic theme and introduces a bevy of gadgets that can be used such as spring boots, bombs, a fruit gun, jetpack, and so on. The series not too popular on the Genesis, but it was also released for various computers, and so that explains the justification for continuing the series.

Jurassic Park

Jurassic Park Rampage Edition

Jurassic Park The Lost World

Movie licensed games will always exist, but back then they were generally tied to a specific movie. Jurassic Park games are loosely based on the movies, taking the action approach whenever possible to maximize the excitement of the dinosaurs. The first two games: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition are both standard run'n gun platform games with not much innovation. The third game, The Lost World, stretches the capabilities of the Genesis to new heights with impressive sprite scaling and psuedo 3D effects. It is very much a poster child of games that took advantage of the collective knowledge on how to program for a system by end of its lifespan. 

Micro Machines

Micro Machines 2

Micro Machines 96

Micro Machines Military

An Unlicensed series by the small toy car franchise, Micro Machines is a decent overhead racing game franchise, evoking RC Pro AM, but maybe not as tight nor engaging. The game comes in an odd, arch-shaped cartridge. Playing the game alone is OK, but the real essence of the game comes through multiplayer. The competitive racing is compelling, the tracks fun and inventive, and the control is serviceable. There were four games in the series, although I think that only the first was released in North America, and the later three were not brought over. The later games came on cartridges that had two additional controller ports to allow four player simultaneous racing. 

Mortal Kombat

Mortal Kombat II

Mortal Kombat 3

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3

The notorious frame-capture fighting series that was a prime weapon in the 16-bit console wars, Mortal Kombat's blood code on the Genesis steered many kids towards the blast processing side of the aisle. There were four games released for the Genesis, each one adding more and more characters and features. There's not too much to say that hasn't already been said.

Phantasy Star II

Phantasy Star III: Generations of Doom

Phantasy Star IV: The End of the Millenium

The first Phantasy Star game on the Master System was a tour de force, and is still overlooked as a cornerstone of role playing game influences. The series continued on the Genesis and had a very strong showing. PS2 was a mammoth adventure, the first RPG that I ever played. It came with a thick hint book and a map, without which I would have been lost for sure. The story blew me away, bringing in mature existential themes and solid character development. The graphics were sharp and music was catchy. I loved everything about it. By the time the third and fourth game arrived I had stepped away from gaming so my experience with them is limited, but I await the day to start those adventures as I did as a fifteen year old with PS2.

Road Rash

Road Rash II

Road Rash 3

Electronic Arts was leading the charge in the early days of the Genesis, with more releases than any other third party developer/publisher. Road Rash is a gritty, innovative motorcycle racer where you set upon street racing campaigns, earning cash and upgrading your bike all the while. The kicker is that you can attack other racers, literally knocking them off their bikes. This adds an interesting dynamic as they develop a memory, and interactions change based on how you have interacted with the other racers, who ride the same circuit that you do. The gameplay is smooth even though the frame rate is understandably choppy, but you do feel the sense of speed, and environmental hazards play a large role in the races. The sequels offer up more of the same.

Shining in the Darkness

Shining Force

Shining Force II

I don't have any experience with these games, another series for me to explore when I retire.

The Revenge of Shinobi

Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi

Shinobi III: Revenge of the Ninja Master

This series is perhaps my favorite on the console. I first played the Revenge of Shinobi in 1989 at my friends house the summer before eight grade. I was blown away by everything about it: the realistic graphics (compared to the NES), the amazing soundtrack, the ninja magic, it was all revolutionary. The game is filled with cameos from Hollywood lore, such as Rambo, Spider-Man, Batman, the Terminator, and Godzilla. These would be altered in later revisions. Shadow Dancer, while not a direct sequel, was a faster paced game with arcade like action. Player movement is faster, shiruken are faster, there is no life bar, but bumping into enemies does not cause damage. You now have a dog companion, who follows you around and helps to immobile enemies so you can take them out.  The music is great, although it does not compare to ROS. This game is very underrated, perhaps because it plays differently than the other games in the franchise. It just might be my favorite of the bunch. Shinobi III picked up after ROS, and tweaked it for a smoother control, adding feature like running, air attacks, hanging and climbing. The graphical detail is increased, This game seems to be the fan favorite, and I get it. All the games are qo good, they are the quintessential Genesis games.

Sonic the Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 + Sonic and Knuckles

Often referred to as the game the boosted the Genesis into the mainstream, Sonic needs no introduction. President of Sega of America, Tom Kalinske was clairvoyant in deciding to replace the pack in game of Altered Beast with Sonic in the summer of 1991. Along with the growing library teen oriented games, the aggressive ad campaign, and Electronic Arts sports games, the Genesis found its legs and took off. The game itself was a spectacle to behold; no other game imbued the same sense of speed as Sonic the Hedgehog. This visual of Sonic racing through the loops of Green Hill Zone are forever etched in commercials comparing the Genesis to the newer Super Nintendo. The bright and colorful graphics, the poppy music, and fast gameplay made Sonic a watershed game. The console wars were legit. The sequels offered more of the fast gameplay, introduced new characters, and in general improved upon the formula. Interestingly, Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles were intended to be one huge game, but deadlines were not met, and a game had to be produced for the holiday season, so the decision was made to split the game into two, and release the first half as Sonic 3, the second as Sonic and Knuckles. This is why Knuckles has "lock-on" technology, allowing for both carts to be connected and played as one. 

Streets of Rage

Strees of Rage 2

Streets of Rage 3

The beat' em up genre of games was arguably at its most popular in the early 1990's. Arcades were fraught with them, people couldn't get enough of them. Sega realized this, and Streets of Rage was released. Wisely prioritizing 2 player co-op, the game was a smash. Satisfying action and collision detection, excellent graphics, a fantastic soundtrack by Yuzo Koshiro (known for the Revenge of Shinobi soundtrack), and an over the top special attack that calls for a police aerial bombardment, the game was another statement game from Sega. Streets of Rage 2 improved on everything without changing the premise. The number of playable characters increased from 3 to 4. The gameplay has been amped up, with each player have a more robust move set. Koshiro pulls off the impossible by topping his previous soundtrack effort. This is the game that is generally regarded as the best beat 'em up of the 16-bit generation, and deservedly so. Streets of Rage 3, while a great game in its own right, takes a bit of a step back. The gameplay is good, but the enemies are tougher than ever, so the challenge is greater. There are some graphical changes made to the domestic release, such as censoring certain character sprites, and changing the color of Axel's outfit to yellow and black. While noticeable, this is not a big deal. The music has taken a severe experimental turn, and comes off as unhinged and more noise than composition. I prefer to play the import version (Bare Knuckle III) for the "normal" level of difficulty and restored character sprites. Even though the third entry is weaker, this trilogy is synonymous with the heyday of the Genesis.

Desert Strike: Return to the Gulf

Jungle Strike

Urban Strike

Electronic Arts scored a massive hit with Desert Strike. It is a cross between a shoot 'em up and a strategy game. Displayed in an isometric view, you pilot an apache helicopter on various missions. This game is not played like a typical shooter, there is limited speed, ammunition, and armor. Movements and attacks need to be measured and deliberate, or you will end up a smoking wreck. The sequel, Jungle Strike takes place in South America, focusing on the war on drugs. The third game, Urban Strike, takes place on US soil, as you battle domestic terrorism. 

Thunder Force II

Thunder Force III

Thunder Force IV

Just as Streets of Rage is the definitive beat 'em up series on the Genesis, the Thunder Force series is shooter equivalent. TFII was a launch title, and possible the of the launch lineup. TFIII is my favorite. The amazing graphics (see Gorgon the flame level), the power ups, and the music are all S-tier. The game requires a mix of reflexes and memorization, and can feel a bit easy to those who have played it over and over, but I don't consider that a bad thing. TFIV was renamed "Lightening Force" when it was released domestically for some reason, but the game is identical. This game boots up to a metal anthem the makes the capacitors of the Genesis pop with vibrancy. The visuals get yet another boost, with multiple scrolling background layers, and enemy fire originating from the background and seemingly merging with the foreground. Halfway through the game your ship gets fitted with the impressive Thunder Sword weapon that has limited range but is devastatingly powerful. It would have been nice to have more than just one game on the recently released Genesis mini, especially since Sega owns the rights. Maybe someday a collection will be released.

Valis II

Syd of Valis

Valis III

The school girl acton platformer genre was more common in Japan, but third party publisher Renovation decided to port over Valis to the states with little fanfare. I don't suppose it sold very well, since copies seem to be rare. It's a decent game, if not a little underwhelming. The second game released here was Syd of Valis, which was Valis II, but with super deformed character sprites. Valis III is more like a proper sequel, and added is the ability to play as three different characters. 

I don't think there is another system with more trilogies than the Genesis, but I could be wrong. If you know of any that I missed let me know!

Are Physical Game Releases Worth Buying Today?

With internet-capable consoles appearing in the seventh generation, purchasing games digitally online was realized, allowing for the convenience of buying and playing a game without leaving the house. Games were still produced in physical form, but availability in a store varied. The Wii storefront was the first offer licensed games in digital form. This was novel, and possibly contributed to the resurgent interest in retro gaming. All of the sudden, people had access to games that were long forgotten, at reasonable prices. While hardcore retro gamers were alway keen on the classics, casual players on modern consoles were drawn towards the nostalgia drug, increasing interest.

With advances in console technology, the level of production, complexity, and size of game files increased exponentially. This led to many physical games being released incomplete, with updates required before playing for the first time. This practice is now commonplace, and often expected. Some games have update files much larger than the initial game that was shipped, like Red Dead Redemption 2 on PS4. Take Cyperpunk as an example. The game is allegedly unplayable without the updates.

How long will modern games continue to be supported?

This begs the question, can a new game even be played today without the initial update? If you have to update up to 50% of a game in order to play, is it worth buying the physical copy of the game? It almost seems as if the games are mere license holders in order to download the game. In some cases, they literally are, as on the game box there may be a statment mentioning that no physical game is included, only a download code. The argument that was held for a long time was, if a server gets shut down, you can still play the game if you own a copy. Is this even true anymore? Let's say your PS4 or Switch dies. You have a copy of a game, but it required a large update. You buy a replacement console, and try to play that game, but the server is no longer active. Can you really play the game as intended? Maybe the game will start up, but might it be missing the second half of the game? Old game cartridges will always play all the way through, no internet connection required. The same cannot be said for modern games. 

Additionally, an interesting phenomenon is currently underway with gamers applying a collectors' mindset. People are buying new games and keeping them sealed, hoping the value will increase over time. This occurs with sealed retro games, why would it not here? The difference is that back in the 1980's and 90's, if a game was left sealed it was due to circumstance, not intent. A game may not have sold well, and thus had become overstock, for example. Kids back then did not buy two copies of a game; one to play and one to keep sealed. Games were relatively expensive then compared to today's prices, and the games were always opened and played.  There was no investor speculating. 

We have been seeing industry move at a glacial pace towards eliminating physical media. Then Microsoft initially released the XBox One not allowing for game sharing. The public backlash forced Microsoft to renege. Sony used that as a dig towards their direct competitor, by releasing a commercial that exemplified how game sharing could happen on PS4. Meanwhile, the online stores for all consoles continue to grow. In what could be considered the 9th generation of consoles, the PS5 and XBox series X both released digital-only and disc-capable consoles. This could signify the inevitable end of the collectable game. 

Some game collections include a download code as not all games are on the physical game

For those digital-only consoles, to what extent will the continue to be supported after the end of their natural life expectancy? It is not a guaranteed that all the games will be transferable to the next generation console. Even if you accept this, and try to keep the console alive, the failure rate of modern systems is higher than the legacy cartridge-based consoles of yesteryear. Will simply backing the games up on a hard drive be a sufficient safeguard to ensure that you will be able to play these games indefinitely?

I know the general sentiment of wanting physical copies of games is still strong. Companies like Limited Run Games, Strictly Limited Games, Ultra Rare Games, and others capitalize on this for their business model. I will commend those companies for ensuring that the game is complete with no more updates before pressing physical copies. Those copies will indeed be future-proofed, and that is important. But for the large, triple-A releases with lots of expectations and fanfare, who knows how that will be handled. 

This is an interesting topic to bring up as we are now at a watershed moment in video gaming. How companies handle patches and updates for games beyond the scope of their life will be interesting to watch. For me personally, I have the deepest attachment to the older games, which were shipped complete and have no reliance on downloads. While I do primarily buy physical copies of games for the current consoles, I am questioning that practice. How about you? Do you stick with collecting physical copies of games? Do you buy digital copies only? What are your thoughts on this shifting landscape of game media?

Brook Adapters: Using Modern Arcades Stick on Retro Consoles

Arcade sticks are plentiful for modern consoles, regardless of platform. Whether you own a Switch, Xbox, or Playstation, the popularity of established fighting games ensures that there will be new versions of arcade sticks. If you have ever searched on eBay or Amazon for one, you know what I mean. This is not the case for retro consoles though. While there might be one or two arcade sticks available for each of the consoles from the 80's and 90's, the selection is entirely lacking. The NES had the Advantage, the Super Nintendo had the Super Advantage, the Genesis had the Arcade Power Stick (in 3 and 6 button versions), and the Turbo Grafx had the Turbostick, and so on. For those sticks mentioned, the quality of them were OK for the time, as it was all we knew. However, they don't hold up too well today, especially compared to modern sticks. 

The Hori Real Arcade Pro has been given a new lease on life

Arcade sticks have come a long way as far as quality. Microswitches have replaced spongy, rubber membranes, for the better. I have a Hori Real Arcade Pro stick that I bought during the Playstation 3 era. I would classify it as mid-tier, as it's not the cheapest one around and not the most expensive either. It has a large base which rests uniformly and comfortably on my lap. The cord is ten feet long, within reach for a couch or easy chair. At 45 years old, sitting on the floor is not as fun as it once was. I have replaced the joystick and buttons with arcade-quality Sanwa parts, and it fits my needs as a non-competitive player perfectly. 

It is surreal using a modern stick on an old CRT TV

While most retro games are perfectly playable with the default pack-in controller, there are times when the experience can be taken to another level by using an arcade stick. Shooters (2D) and fighting games come to mind. These games are born of the arcade, and the arcade sticks were an integral part of the experience. Playing a port of an arcade game at home with a control pad is fine, but you can't help but feel something is missing, especially if you first experienced the game in the arcade.

The company Brook makes controller adapters that allow for modern controllers / arcade sticks to be used with retro consoles. They have an extensive product catalog, spanning nearly every configuration of console. They are branded as the Wingman series, and I have three of them: Wingman SNES, Wingman SD, and the PS3/PS4 to Mega Drive/PC Engine Super Converter. That last one is not named Wingman for some reason, but it serves the same function as the others (?). Anyway, those adapters allow for my USB arcade stick to be used on a multitude of older consoles. 


The Wingman SNES has has two controller plugs, allowing for NES and SNES compatibility. This is amazing value. I can effectively replace my Advantage and Super Advantage sticks for one superior stick. While most of the games on the NES were platformers, which are more suited to the original pads, b
eing able to use my Hori stick instead of the Advantage for shooters is a huge improvement. The SNES had a decent amount of shooters, more than people think. It also had a glut of fighting games, and even though the SNES controller has six buttons, I have always thought that using shoulder buttons was awkward for the 5th and 6th buttons. The adapter allows for button remapping if so desired. 

The PS3/PS4 to Mega Drive/PC Engine Super Converter does what it's lengthy name says it does, except that I have a Genesis instead of a Mega Drive, which does not change functionality. The Genesis and PC Engine are both homes to the vast majority of shooters released during the fourth console generation. The official Sega arcade stick is OK, but definitely not up to modern standards. It's rubbery membranes do a decent job considering its era, but the responsiveness pales in comparison to the microswitches that we have become accustomed to. I have an Ascii PC Engine arcade stick in the same style as the NES Advantage, but its just OK as well. It has a small base, and is awkward to position on your lap. I need a larger base, so I used a text book to keep it from sliding around, which was not much more comfortable.  Since the Genesis and PC-Engine are my favorite consoles, this converter definitely gets the most use!

The Wingman SD allows for modern controllers on the Sega Saturn, and Sega Dreamcast. While I do have the official white Saturn Virtua Stick, but it's not holding up too well. The parts are not quite arcade quality, and while it was awesome in its time, it is not as smooth of an experience anymore. I do have the official Dreamcast Ascii arcade stick, which I modded with Sanwa parts years ago, so it is in great working order. But if I'm going to buy this for the Saturn, I may as well use it for the Dreamcast as well. The Dreamcast has an extensive library of shooters and fighting games as well. The Wingman SD has 200 blocks of VMU memory built in, so swapping VMU units is no longer necessary. 

I know that most people who are interested in these Brook convertors are primarily using the modern PS4, PS5, Xbox, and Switch controllers for their bluetooth functionality. More options are great and I'm glad that the functionality is there, but I specifically bought these for use with my arcade stick. To me, the original controllers are not improved upon by using modern bluetooth controllers, the original pads were mostly fine. The arcade stick is a different animal, and provides a vastly different experience, filling a need that was until now unmet. I highly recommend any of these Brook convertors for your retro consoles.