Retro video game collectors look away, for in the heart of YouTube there live two guys playing through the entire NES collection available in North America. After Paul and Andy had managed to collect every NES title in the region, they set about to complete them all in 2015. We caught up with the guys to find out what they’ve discovered from their extensive library, and any retro games collecting tips they may have to offer.
My first question is basically why?! What made you guys decide to collect every NES game licensed in the US and then play them through?
Paul: Why. I started collecting for the NES when Game Stop was still selling retro games, and most of the titles were cheap. I would pick up 15 or so games a visit, and as I started to round the 200 mark, I thought “you know, I bet I could get them all!” Unbeknownst to me at the time, this became more and more of a daunting task. Rare titles were becoming even pricier, and common games were harder to find. This made those moments of finding the games even more rewarding, and I was further driven to complete my quest. With Andy’s encouragement, after 14 years, I finally pieced together a complete NES collection of 678 cartridges.
What possessed us to beat them all. Shortly after completing the collection, I was listening to a podcast where one of the hosts said when he was a kid, he wanted to get every video game made. Then he asked, “After getting them all, what is left to do?” I remember distinctly saying to myself “what do you mean what’s left to do? You play them!” Well, Andy and I began playing some of the more rare and expensive titles we tracked down (after all, we spent all that money, we were sure as heck gonna play em!) and we were beating almost every game we attempted with relative ease. Those moments made us think; anyone can simply PLAY the games. How many people have actually COMPLETED them? As far as we knew, no one had made that attempt. Playing the games filled us with so many memories of our childhood, we wanted to experience everything the NES had to offer. To find the hidden gems, or expose the overrated duds. It was Andy’s idea to record each one of the games, and start up the YouTube channel, so we could somehow touch anyone who played these games in their youth, or, at the very least, provide some form of entertainment with our struggle. Thus, with the help of two tech savvy friends, “Power Trip Gaming” was born. We started completing games in 2015, and there’s no stopping us.
Andy: The collecting was all Paul’s idea, to be honest. I had no clue how many games were in the NES library, and it seemed like too daunting of a task. When he and I met, he had maybe a mere couple hundred carts. I suppose seeing his determination sparked something inside me that made me want to help my friend attain this seemingly impossible dream. From that point on, I would go with him on his “game hunts,” keep and eye out for any titles he was missing, and even donated some games from my own collection to help see him through to the end. Helping him amass this collection is one of the proudest moments of my life, and I made a lifelong friend In the process.
Paul and I were both born in the 80’s, and grew up in the eve of the gaming industry’s rise. The memories he and I made playing these games were shared by everyone who picked up a controller in that era. When I came up with the idea to broadcast our quest, the aim was for everyone watching to experience the full spectrum of emotions these games invoke. Power Trip Gaming, in its simplest form, attempts to recapture those moments of imagination and immersion, and take it a step further by actually completing the games we struggled through as children.
Great! What a labour of love! What has been your favourite title to complete so far and which ones are you excited to run through in the future?
Paul: My favorite title thus far – “Die Hard.” I was completely disenchanted by this game the first time I played it. Being forced to plug it in, buckle down, and cast my qualms aside, it actually turned out to be quite a hit! It was an incredible game when it was broken down, and really was true to its source material! (Which is pretty hard to come by on the NES.) What resonated the most with me is that the average person would say it is a terrible game, but when you give it some time and attention, you see the labor of love and the amount of tie-ins the company tried to incorporate from the movie. It’s truly admirable.
A game I’m looking forward to – one I haven’t played yet. The best part of this journey has been finding diamonds in the rough. Discovering the gems we wouldn’t have found otherwise, except by playing through each one in its entirety. We’ve found great games that no one talks about: Jackie Chan’s Action Kung Fu, Guardian Legend, Nightmare on Elm Street, just to name a few. That being said, however, if i had to take a stab at what I’m looking forward to without prior knowledge of the game, it would have to be Arkista’s Ring. I remember thinking, “this is a rare game that no one talks about, so I can’t wait to dive into it!”
Andy: I would have to say “The Guardian Legend” has been my favourite title we’ve played, and not because I was the one who got to play through it! It is, in my opinion, a very underrated title in the NES library. It meshes the genres of a shooter and a top-down dungeon explorer so perfectly. Excellent music, beautiful graphics. It really is the whole package. Growing up, it was one of the few games that completely captivated me, and it still does to this day.
I’m extremely excited to play through “Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link.” Another personal favorite of mine, I know this game from front to back, and consider myself pretty good at it. I know a lot of people struggled to grasp this incredibly cryptic game, as children and as adults, so I’m very proud to be able to best this title.
Another game I’m really excited for that not many people have heard of, is “Ghost Lion.” It’s a “Dragon Warrior”-esque title with many neat features that make it really intriguing. Like Paul stated, that is the very purpose of Power Trip Gaming: to expose people to games that they may not be aware of or to see them in a different light.
Have you found anything about the development of NES game releases that surprised you? Are there certain trends in game design or mechanics that keep popping up that you didn’t notice before? How are the NES games changing as you play more of them?
Paul: One thing we’ve learned about the development of games, is the unjust criticism of certain game companies. The most infamous being LJN. They were responsible for most of the movie-themed games that were released such as “Friday the 13th,” “Terminator,” etc. These games are known far and wide as notoriously bad. It’s fascinating because LJN was only the publisher of these games. They get pegged with the blame, while companies such as Atlus, Bethesda, and Radical Entertainment were the actual developers.
After playing through quite a few LJN titles, we discovered Radical Entertainment was by far one of the worst developers of the NES era. “Terminator” had some of the ugliest graphics, shoddy controls, and most abysmal hit-detection we had ever seen. Little did we know, it got even worse with “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends.” Needless to say, we’re not excited to play “Wayne’s World,” another Radical Entertainment travesty. All in all, Andy and I have learned not to necessarily blame the brand we see on the cartridge. There may be an underlying company deserving of much more scrutiny.
Andy: While we’ve only scratched the surface of the NES library, we have picked up on a few things mechanically speaking that resonated with us. Particularly, the inconsistency of hit-detection in a lot of platformers. Some games have fantastically clean and crisp hit boxes, while other are bit harder to determine due to erratic sprite design, or just not being programmed properly. It makes for a frustrating play through, to say the least.
That sounds so frustrating! Power through guys! Do you have any collecting tips you’ve come up with during your time gathering all these games together?
Paul: My Collecting tips…
Know what you want, and leave no stone unturned! I think the secret is out on some spots that used to be hidden mines of gems, such as flea markets, goodwill stores, and antique shops. But any place where you think there will be collectables, check it out!! When going to used video game stores, check everything closely and have some idea of what the titles are worth or what you’re willing to pay. 3 examples of this are as follows:
1) I found Zombie Nation in a record store that also sold comics and toys, and on a whim I checked if they had any games, and it was one of two NES games they had in a basket. I picked up “Zombie Nation” for $3. This title is currently at the $370 mark.
2) at a used game store, I found Bonk’s Adventure for $9. This was already when the game was pretty expensive. Stores make mistake too, so check out everything!!
3) I once passed on SCAT for $12.99. I thought, ‘that’s way too much for that game, I’ll wait for a better deal.’ Well, I came to find that the price had jumped during my reluctance to purchase it, and i couldn’t find it for less than $50.
In a nutshell, keep the idea of rarity in your mind, and maybe a number in your head as to what you would pay for it. Sometimes you’ll luck out and find something great for cheap; however, should you find a rare game, know what your top dollar is, because you may never get a second chance at it in the wild.
Andy: My advice would be to keep a running catalogue of your collection with you anytime you’re out. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve stumbled upon a game while hunting, only to come home and realize we already have it! When a collection becomes a bit bigger, it’s easy to forget some of the more common/obscure titles you have. Seems like common sense, but I guarantee it happens more often than not!
I have one final (slightly cheeky) question…
Do you look anything up? When you’re playing these games through do you approach from the organic point of view and keep hacking away at it if you come up against something tricky, or do you relent and look up how to do it before you start playing for time?
Paul/Andy: We always try to play these games as naturally as possible in an attempt to recreate the atmosphere we would have been in as children. The bulk of the games we’ve played (and have yet to play) we’re seeing for very first time, and having to decipher the rules through trial and error until we conquer it has definitely been one of the most rewarding aspects. We try to stick to that method when playing. When we know we’re in for a longer game, or one where little progress is made overall, we do practice off camera. Our biggest accomplishment and true testament to this model was completing Castlequest; a 100 room dungeon puzzle game. Many people don’t give this title the respect it truly deserves for its difficulty. This nightmare took 20+ hours of dedication, on and off camera, to overcome. We used neither walkthroughs nor tips; just deductive reasoning and perseverance. To date, this was truly our crowning achievement.
However, on few occasions we have sought “outside help” when we found ourselves hitting a stumbling block for a prolonged period of time, typically after many hours without making progress. It’s our absolute last resort when playing. We never use codes or cheats that require a series of button inputs (such as the Konami code, for example), or use anything that isn’t referred to in the instruction manual. If we look up anything, it’s purely to find out what to do to make progress (like finding the “disguise” in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) instead of flailing around in the dark for hours. Once we make it past that point, we continue our play unaided. The wonderful thing about playing these games as a team is when one of us starts to lose steam or patience, the other is there to steer us back to sanity. It’s only when we both lose our minds that we entertain the thought of looking up a solution to the problem at hand.