Final Fantasy 2

Final Fantasy 2 SNES Box Front

Final Fantasy 2 was released in 1991 by Square for the Super Nintendo. It was one of the best RPG’s on a system (the Super Nintendo) that would later be known and remembered for quality RPG’s.

Developer Square turned a lot of gamers into RPG fans after playing this game. FF2 introduced numerous playable characters and an enormous story filled with twists and turns.

The story has twelve playable characters in all. The main hero of the story is Cecil, the Dark Knight of Baron. The story revolves around Cecil, his good friend Kain and his girlfriend Rosa. In all there is thirty to forty hours of story. The main antagonist is Golbez and it’s your quest to destroy him.

This game is actually the fourth in the series but it was only the second game that gamers got in the United States. The general consensus with game publishers at the time was that role playing games weren’t very popular with western audiences. Couple that with the fact that translating Japanese RPGs to English was a long and expensive process which was enough to scare many publishers away for such a task. It was just too much risk with what was perceived as little reward.

Even if you’re not an RPG fan this game is worth a try. The graphics aren’t anything to write home about but that’s not to say that they aren’t bad. Graphics aren’t usually that important with most RPG’s as the emphasis is normally a deep rich story and an character progression. The music is top notch. The theme song to this game is truly epic. Each character has their own theme music that helps immerse the player in the game and connect with each personality.

This game will always be one of my top 3 RPG’s of all time. It’s collectable but not priced out of the budget of the average retro gamer.

Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart Box for Super Nintendo SNES
Super Mario Kart Box for Super Nintendo SNES
Super Mario Kart Box for Super Nintendo SNES

Super Mario Kart was released by Nintendo in 1992. It was the first of a long series of quality racing games.

Super Mario Kart’s use of the Super Nintendo’s Mode 7 technology looked revolutionary. The gameplay was and still is fast paced, challenging and a lot of fun!

The game allowed you to play as several different Nintendo themed characters including:
Mario, Luigi, Princess, Bowser, Donkey Kong, Yoshi, Toad and Koopa Troopa. Each character has their own strengths and weaknesses which balances out the playing field. No character was “better” than another which kept things even and fair.

The game consisted of 4 different modes: Grand Prix, Time Trial, VS, and Battle Mode

Grand Prix:
There are 3 different racing classes to choose from 50cc, 100cc or 150cc. The higher the cc the faster the karts and the better your opponents are. You have only the 50cc class open by default but by winning races you can unlock first the 100cc and then the 150cc.

Time Trial:
Just you against the clock. You try to beat your best lap times. You can record and play a ghost to see how you did on your best lap.

VS Mode:
You race with a friend in split screen action. Compete against the computer with your friend.

Battle Mode:
You play against your friend on one of 4 tracks. The goal is to hit your opponent 3 times to win. It’s a lot of fun and one of the modes you have to try!

This game aged well and is still fun to play today. No retro gamer’s Super Nintendo collection should be considered completed without this excellent title. The kart racing formula has been copied over the years but it can never be duplicated.

Super Mario Kart is inexpensive and well within the reach of any retro gamer.

Castlevania

Castlevania Title Screen

Released for the NES in 1987 by Konami Castlevania is an action adventure platformer for the NES. This game was the beginning of one of the most famous video game franchises of all time.

You play as Simon Belmont a vampire hunter who’s quest is to destory the evil Count Dracula. Simon’s main form of attack is a whip that can be upgraded in size and power. Simon also gets additional usuable weapons which include axes, knives, boomerangs, holy water, and a stop watch to freeze time.

There are several levels to be completed and each level has an end boss to defeat. The end bosses consist of a giant vampire bat, Medussa, Mummies, Frankenstein, the Grim Reaper, and finally Count Dracula himself.

The graphics look nice for an early NES game. They aren’t all that impressive but they definitely get the job done. The levels are well drawn and designed to keep the gameplayer immersed in the action.

The control is tight and responsive. One thing that frustrates many gamers is when Simon gets hit by an enemy he will “bounce” back which can lead to many deaths due to falling in pits or into water. This gameplay mechanic definitely makes the game tougher but it doesn’t feel cheap or like it’s a bad design.

The music is truly classic. Castlevania has some of the best music on the NES. The newer games in the series pay homage and include remixes of this classic’s 8 bit tracks.

Castlevania is priced affordably so it should be within the budget of all retro gamers. This is one game that belongs in any retro gaming collection.

Konami Castlevania Box For Nintendo Entertainment System
Konami Castlevania Box For Nintendo Entertainment System
Konami Castlevania Box Rear For Nintendo Entertainment System
Konami Castlevania Box Rear For Nintendo Entertainment System

Castlevania Title Screen
Castlevania Title Screen

Castlevania Opening
Castlevania Opening

Castlevania Gameplay
Castlevania Gameplay

The Legend of Zelda

Zelda Title Screen

Released for the NES in 1986 by Nintendo

Zelda gameplay video

Nintendo NES The Legend of Zelda
Nintendo NES The Legend of Zelda

The legend of Zelda is indeed one of the best Nintendo NES Games. The length of the Legend of Zelda and the quality of the gameplay is what make this game stand the test of time. There’s rupies to collect and items to buy to help you on your quest.

You need to rescue Princess Zelda who has been captured by the Evil Ganon. There are 8 levels to explore and many items to find. Each level has it’s own special item in it for you to collect. Not every level is open and some levels require certain items in order to enter the level.

One of the best things about the Legend of Zelda was after you beat the game you got to start a second quest. The gameplay was more difficult on the second quest and items and levels where moved around. This game the Legend of Zelda a lot of replay value.

Zelda Title Screen
Zelda Title Screen
Zelda Level 1 Item
Zelda Level 1 Item
Zelda Level 1 Map
Zelda Level 1 Map
Zelda Level 1 Bow
Zelda Level 1 Bow
Zelda Level 1 Triforce
Zelda Level 1 Triforce
Zelda Menu Screen
Zelda Menu Screen

How to take apart (open) the Nintendo NES-001 (Toaster)

Nintendo NES with top cover removed
Nintendo NES
Nintendo Toaster NES

It’s very easy to take apart the original toaster style Nintendo NES. You only need a standard Phillips screw driver and optionally a dental pick tool.

Nintendo NES Tools
Nintendo NES Tools
  1. Flip the NES on it’s top and remove the 6 screws from the bottom of the NES
  2. Remove the top of the NES and set the NES on it’s bottom like normal
  3. Remove the 6 screws holding on the metal shielding
    Nintendo NES top cover removed exposing metal cover
    Nintendo NES top cover removed exposing metal cover

  4. Remove the cartridge caddy by removing the 6 screws that hold it in place. Take note that the 2 silver screws are longer and remember to put them back in the same spot.
    Nintendo NES with top cover removed
    Nintendo NES with top cover removed
    Nintendo NES view of game cartridge caddy
    Nintendo NES view of game cartridge caddy
    NES Repair remove game cartridge caddy step: a
    NES Repair remove game cartridge caddy step: a
    Nintendo NES remove game cartridge caddy step: b
    Nintendo NES remove game cartridge caddy step: b
    Nintendo NES View of Motherboard and 72 pin connector. Game cartridge caddy removed.
    Nintendo NES View of Motherboard and 72 pin connector. Game cartridge caddy removed.
  5. Remove the last 2 screws that are located near where the power supply and component cables plug in.
  6. Now you can remove the motherboard from the NES.
    Nintendo NES Motherboard with 72 pin connector removed
    Nintendo NES Motherboard with 72 pin connector removed
    Nintendo NES Motherboard Removed
    Nintendo NES Motherboard Removed

How to troubleshoot, diagnose and repair Nintendo NES common problems

How a Nintendo NES game cartridge looks in the 72 pin connector
Nintendo NES Toaster
Nintendo NES Toaster

A very common problem for the original style “toaster” NES is when you put in a game and turn on the NES that you only get a blinking red power light and the system won’t play the game…This symptom can be caused by multiple factors so lets first understand what’s really going on here.

Nintendo installed a lockout chip (also known as the C.I.C. Chip) on the motherboard of the toaster NES. Note: The newer style “Top Loader” NES does NOT have a lockout chip on the motherboard. Nintendo implemented the lockout chip to try to stop non licensed games from being produced for the NES. Because of this lockout chip every officially licensed NES game has a chip in the game cartridge that syncs with the NES’s Lockout chip when you turn on the NES. When you turn on the NES the lockout chip on the motherboard looks to sync with the game chip. If the game doesn’t have the chip present the NES will then restart once every second because it “thinks” you have a non licensed game. Now that you understand the lockout chip and how it works you can better understand how to fully diagnose the NES.

Nintendo NES Motherboard Version 10 from 1987
Nintendo NES Motherboard Version 10 from 1987
NES Motherboard with Lockout CIC Chip Highlighted
NES Motherboard with Lockout CIC Chip Highlighted

It’s pretty simple to disable the NES lockout chip. You need to open up the NES and get it down to the motherboard. I’ve attached a picture for you to see where the lockout chip is located on the NES motherboard. All you need to do is cut pin 4 on the lockout chip. The way I cut it was by using a pick tool (looks like the one a dentist uses to scrape your teeth). All I did was pull pin 4 out of the chip and viola! No more NES lockout chip! Once you do this your NES will not restart once every second if you don’t insert a game.

Nintendo NES Motherboard after Lockout Chip (CIC chip) has been cut
Nintendo NES Motherboard after Lockout Chip (CIC chip) has been cut
NES Lockout CIC Chip Close Up View
NES Lockout CIC Chip Close Up View

Repair Nintendo Problems

Another common problem with the NES is a bad connection between the game and the NES motherboard itself. This is caused by the infamous “72 Pin Connector” that the Toaster NES has. This connector is very sensitive to dirt and dust and dirty connections will almost always be the culprit. Sometimes the 72 pin connector itself is bad due to it getting bent or broken but this is more rare and a good cleaning should at least be tried to restore it back to original functionality.

I hate the Nintendo NES 72 pin connector from the Toaster!
I hate the Nintendo NES 72 pin connector from the Toaster!

Once you take apart the NES you need to slide off the 72 pin connector. Just wiggle it back and forth until it slides off.

Pulling the 72 pin connector off the Nintendo NES motherboard
Pulling the 72 pin connector off the Nintendo NES motherboard

With the 72 pin connector off the NES motherboard you can now clean the pins with a 50/50 mix of alcohol. I’ve always had good luck with the 50/50 alcohol but there are other ways you can do it. I dipped Qtips in alcohol and then scrubbed off the pins on the motherboard. Using the other end of the Qtip or a clean rag wipe off the contacts until they are clean and dry. As you scrub the contracts your Qtip will turn black. The black is all the dirt and crud accumulated of the 25 plus years the NES has been around.

Now that the NES motherboard is clean you can turn your attention to the actual 72 pin adapter. Over time it gets worn out and dirty so the first thing you want to do is clean it off using the same 50/50 alcohol.

The infamous Nintendo NES 72 pin connector in all it's glory!
The infamous Nintendo NES 72 pin connector in all it's glory!

Take a Qtip and dip it in the alcohol and run it over both rows of pins on the 72 pin connector. Use the other dry end of the Qtip to scrub the rows clean and dry. Just like when you clean the NES motherboard your Qtip will turn black.

Since the toaster NES has you put in the games and then press the game down into place, this bends the pins on the connector over time. They get stuck bent down and it give you little or no connection from the game to the motherboard. To fix this you can use a dental pick or a very small flat blade screw driver to bend these pins back up into place.

How a Nintendo NES game cartridge looks in the 72 pin connector
How a Nintendo NES game cartridge looks in the 72 pin connector

Sword Of Vermilion

Sword of Vermilion Sega Genesis Box

Sword of Vermilion

The Sword of Vermilion is a classic Sega Genesis role playing game (RPG) that was released in 1990.

You play as Erik the prince of Excalabria. Your father, King Erik IV was killed by the evil wizard Tsarkon. Due to this, Prince Erik was raised by Blade, one of King Erik’s best warriors. You have been raised to defeat Tsarkon, thereby saving the kingdom and avenge your father’s death.

The gameplay of Sword of Vermilion is that of an action RPG. It doesn’t have a menu based fighting style which makes the gameplay more fast paced. You get to control Erik during the battles hacking and slashing and casting magic spells.

The graphics look nice and show a lot of detail for an early 16bit title. The end bosses are especially well drawn and some of them take up almost the whole screen. The sound effects and music are well done. The definitely sound like it’s a Sega Genesis title but that in my opinion is a good thing.

It’s a fairly long game. You are required to level up your Erik in order to defeat stronger enemies in the various areas. Being and RPG from 1990 there are random battle encounters that some RPG fan hate. To me it’s the only way I know from growing up on games like this so I don’t find that to be a bad thing.

When this game was released it was fairly expensive (I paid around $80 for it new). Today you can pick it up for less than $10 complete in the box which is well worth it in my opinion. It’s a fun game that is challenging and the story is well done.

Phantasy Star 2

Phantasy Star 2 Sega Genesis Box

2. Phantasy Star 2


Phantasy Star 2 Gameplay Video

Phantasy Star 2 was the Genesis’ Final Fantasy. If you liked RPGs back in the day and had a Genesis chances are you played Phantasy Star 2. It was the sequel to the classic released for the Sega Master System in 1987. Phantasy Star was known for having great graphics and it was one of the first story driven games released in the US. The second game is twice as long as the first one. It takes place 1,000 years after the first one.

Sonic The Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog Sega Genesis Box

Sonic the Hedgehog was released in 1991 by Sega for the Sega Genesis. Sonic the Hedgehog become know as one of the best platfomer games ever. It was definitely Sega’s biggest hit for the Genesis and the character Sonic has spawned countless sequels and spin offs. It sold more than 4 million copies for the Genesis.

The story goes that Sonic is trying to save his friends and the world from the evil Dr. Robotnik. The evil doctor is trying to collect chaos emeralds. Whomever has possession of all of the chaos emeralds could easily take over the world. Dr. Robotnik is transforming animals into monsters so Sonic needs to save all the animals and defeat Dr. Robotnik.

The gameplay is easy to pick up and fun to play. It’s a game that people of all ages enjoyed playing. Each stage is filled with rings that can be collected and used as Sonic’s energy. If you get damaged by an enemy and have rings Sonic will lose the rings but they can be recollected if you’re fast enough. If you don’t have any rings and you get damaged from an enemy you will lose a life. If you pass act one or two with more than fifty rings you have the chance to jump into a giant ring at the end of the stage for a bonus level.

Sonic can roll up into a ball and go through loops and jumps with great speed. The speed of the gameplay is what led to Sega calling it “Blast processing”.

Sonic the Hedgehog gave Sega a game that was quality enough to compete with Nintendo’s immensely popular Mario. It wasn’t uncommon to see Sega and Nintendo comparing Super Mario World and Sonic the Hedgehog.

As far as collecting goes if you don’t have Sonic the Hedgehog it’s very inexpensive to buy on eBay. You can find the loose cartridge for around $5.00.

Sonic the Hedgehog Gameplay
Sonic the Hedgehog Gameplay
Sonic the Hedgehog Gameplay 2
Sonic the Hedgehog Gameplay 2

Castlevania 3 Dracula’s Curse

Castlevania 3 Title Screen

Castlevania 3 released for the NES in 1990 by Konami . If you enjoyed the first Castlevania for the NES then you will love this installment!

Dracula’s curse plays more like the original Castlevania than Castlevania 2 did. A nice new feature is the ability to get an extra playable character. During your quest you will be presented with the oppurtunity to allow others to join you. You are allowed one extra character at a time. Switching characters is a nice feature and it adds new interest and spin on the gameplay.

This game is a lot more difficult than it’s predecessors.

Castlevania 3 Title Screen
Castlevania 3 Title Screen
Castlevania 3 Opening
Castlevania 3 Opening

Castlevania 3 Intro
Castlevania 3 Intro
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Castlevania 3 Gameplay
Castlevania 3 Gameplay