Episode #750: SUPER SPIKE VOLLEYBALL!


What do you do when your YouTube channel reaches the incredible milestone of 750 episodes? Play one of your all-time favorite, most under-appreciated NES games, of course! What could be more enthralling than watching two dudes stream an ancient sports game? Don’t move and don’t click away—this game is awesome and we’ve been trying to tell you for years. Enjoy!

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Ranking the Top 10 NES Games (Comicon Panel)


Simeon and Scott were graciously invited to rep Two Button Crew, and all Nintendo fans, at Lilac City Comicon 2018. It’s been a lifelong dream to run a convention panel, and if we say so ourselves… it went over flawlessly.
…Except for maybe the list itself! That was whack! With audience participation, we formed the “definitive” top 10 NES games of all time. Watch the chaos unfold and tell us if you agree in the comments.
“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Super Mario Bros. 3, the Pinnacle of Mario?


The game that MANY would consider the best title on NES is here: Super Mario Bros. 3, the greatest platforming threequel.

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Bionic Commando for NES


In our previous video, we tried to guess video games using only 3-word clues. That was not easy. The game we’re playing today is even LESS easy! Bionic Commando was voted (by our Patrons) as today’s Let’s Play Classic pick. When will they ever give us a break to try something easy?!

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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8-Bit Batman (NES [But LOOKS Like SNES!])


This game is insane. It’s absolutely nutso-butso, if we’re being completely honest. It’s an NES game that looks like a Super Nintendo title. Sunsoft knocked it out of the park, making a title that’s true to Batman, challenging for the player, beautiful to progress through, and fun to play.

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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SHOULD Switch have Virtual Console?


Almost everyone is saying a big, loud, resounding “YES,” Switch needs to have Virtual Console! But Simeon and Scott are both coming at this topic from a different perspective. Before clicking that downvote thumb and leaving a nasty comment, watch the video to the end and see if we present any compelling cases for why Nintendo should abstain from selling their old retro releases to us, once again, on a digital storefront.

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Kid Icarus: Remember to Hold “Up”


Kid Icarus was forward thinking for its time, but it never really earned the title of a great game. It’s fun to play for a little bit, but Simeon and Scott will be pointing out some of the game’s glaring shortcomings, and stick around for the end to discover why the NES Classic Edition version is potentially the worst!

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Episode #666 – Devil World (NES)


How could we not make a video about Devil World for our 666th episode? We practically had no choice. There was no better time to take a look back at one of Miyamoto’s first creations for the Famicom. This Pac-Man clone had some features that stood out and made it quite unique. Too unique to be brought to North America, in some ways!

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Kickin it 8-bit: Super Mario Bros. (NES)


We’re throwing it all the way back to Super Mario Bros. on NES! The Nintendo Entertainment System: Classic Edition is getting busted out for some “not-so-speedy” speedrunning of this original 8-bit platformer that started it all.

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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What a Wonderful (Super Mario) World


Super Mario Odyssey might be all the rage right now, but Super Mario World was also released this year! On the SNES Classic Edition, of course. Simeon and Scott are taking a trip down memory lane to a game that many still consider the best of its class. Super Mario World changed things dramatically for the Mario series, and introduced many beloved mainstays.

“Exit the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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Let’s Pretend we’re Good at Contra!


Oh my good gracious. Thank goodness for that 10x life code, or else Simeon and Scott would be up a creek without a paddle! We’re attempting to conquer the Contra game known as Super C, but it’s going to take all our patience and focus to make it past a level or two.

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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What if Classic Editions were Switch Cartridges? Scott’s Thoughts

“It’s so hard to find the NES Classic Edition! Why can’t Nintendo just put all those games on a cartridge and call it a day?”
It was the same story with the Super Nintendo version.

Nintendo fans and collectors, left baffled by supply issues, often bemoan the fact that these collections of retro games aren’t made available for Switch.

What if Classic Editions weren’t miniature reproductions of the original consoles, but simple game carts or eShop downloads?

Pros:
+ More convenient
+ Cheaper
+ Portable
+ Easier to purchase
+ Less clutter

Cons:
– You don’t get the original controllers
– Only lasts one console generation
– Less of a collector’s item
– Not as nostalgic
– Well… you can’t hack it to add more games.

Personally, I’m really glad Nintendo chose to recreate the consoles. I’ve been wanting NES to return to store shelves for a decade, but I never predicted the genius of shrinking it down to the size of your palm and preloading it with games.

I can also now say that I own an SNES, which is the only console I missed while growing up.

It’s easy to beg Nintendo to make things more convenient and cut some corners, but the experience just wouldn’t be the same.

What Does “8-Bit” Mean?

Ah, pixel art…Nothing says “video games” quite like a 32×32 pixel sprite. Retro sprites are a fascinating art form: unlike many other mediums, the conventions of pixel art were born of technical limitations, not creative freedom. While the nuances of the medium are often lost on modern developers, who see the limitations as an excuse to churn out overly simplistic animations, classic games would often feature impressively detailed animation frames. To this day, even single frames of these animations are downright iconic and instantly recognizable to fans around the world, something that few other animated works can boast!

Pop quiz! Which of the following are 8-bit images?

Probably should've added some negative space to the top and bottom...
Please excuse the fact that these aren’t in chronological order.

Believe it or not, only the second one from the right is 8-bit. “B-but, but the NES and the Gameboy were both 8-bit systems!” you say. Yes, well, maybe it’s time we actually examine what exactly “8-bit” means.

In Computer Imagery

Let’s start with what bits mean for pictures. There are two basic ways of composing pictures: color channels and indexing. In a picture that uses color channels, each color is represented by a mixture of primary colors with each primary color composing one of the image’s color channels. These colors are red, green, blue, and sometimes an additional “alpha” channel that represents opacity (i.e. how much you can’t see through it). Every pixel in the image is a combination of these channels.

The number of bits dedicated to each pixel is known as the image’s color depth. As you may know, bits are binary digits, hence the name (binary digit). Because of this, every sequence of bits can represent 2n values (where n is the number of bits used). That means an image with a color depth of three—which is to say one bit per channel—can have two shades of red (fully black and fully red), two shades of green, and two shades of blue, which combine for a total of eight (23) colors. In today’s day and age, most images either have a color depth of 24 for plain R.G.B. or 32 for R.G.B.A., dedicating eight bits (one byte) to each color channel. That means R.G.B. images these days can contain up to 16,777,216 colors. Any more than a byte per color channel results in diminishing returns.

The number of bits dedicated to each pixel is known as the image’s color depth.

As you can imagine, three bytes per pixel adds up quickly on a console that only has 2 kilobytes of video R.A.M. While it’s easy to forget in this age where most computers typically have four to sixteen gigabytes of R.A.M. and terabytes of storage, space—both memory and long-term storage—was a valuable commodity back in the 80’s and 90’s. That’s where color indexing comes into play. Instead of storing color values per pixel, indexed images have a set of color values stored in a lookup table (i.e. the palette) with each pixel being represented by a single number that refers back to a position in the lookup table. For instance, if the color in position 5 of the table is red, then every pixel with the value 5 will be displayed as red. While this would limit the number of colors in an 8-bit image to 256, that’s 256 out of any of the thousands or millions of 16-bit or 24-bit colors available.

So, knowing this, where does this leave the NES’s graphics? An NES sprite consists of four colors, three visible and one transparent. That makes NES sprites 2-bit sprites. Don’t look at me like that, it’s the truth!

Now I’m sure some of you are thinking, “well, just because the sprites are only 2-bit doesn’t mean NES graphics aren’t 8-bit. The NES could produce way more than four colors at a time!” Okay, while we’re stretching terms a bit (or more accurately, crumpling them up and chucking them into the fireplace), I’ll be generous. The NES used the YpbPr palette, which consisted of 64 colors. So if we were to hypothetically classify the NES’s graphics in regards to the total number of colors available, that would mean the NES has 6-bit graphics. To add insult to injury, only 54 of the colors are useful, as many of them are identical shades of black. That said, the NES did include an additional three tinting bits (one for each primary color). While this increases the theoretical number of colors to 432, the tint is applied globally, meaning all sprites and tiles on screen were tinted at the same time. So, in actuality, it really just had 8 sets of 54 colors. What are we at now, 9-bits?

Note the conspicuous lack of yellow. No wonder Sakurai wanted Kirby to be pink!
All 64 colors the NES could produce prior to tinting.

What Does 8-Bit Really Mean Then?

So why is it we call sprites from the NES “8-bit” when they’re actually 2/6/9-bit? Simple, they were from games released on an 8-bit console. Of course, that begs the question: “what’s it mean when we say a console is 8-bit?” The number of bits ascribed to a console refers to its central processing unit. The NES used a Ricoh 2A03 processor (or its counterpart the 2A07, used in P.A.L. consoles), which is an 8-bit processor.

Looks kind of like one of those "Hexbugs" I see on TV.
The CPU of the Nintendo Entertainment System.

So what’s makes an 8-bit processor an 8-bit processor? When someone says a processor is “X-bits”, they are referring to the processor’s word size. In computer science, the term word refers to the standard computational unit of a machine. That means an 8-bit processor has a word that’s eight bits long, which in turn means that the C.P.U. processes eight bits in one operation.

My System Has More Bits Than Yours!

Just how important is a system’s word size? These days, manufacturers don’t even mention their consoles’ word size, but back in the 80’s and 90’s, it was a major part of a platform’s marketing. The logic was if a system had a 16-bit C.P.U., it could process twice as much data as a console that only had an 8-bit C.P.U., right? Unfortunately, the reality isn’t that simple.

While technically a 16-bit C.P.U. processes twice as much data bit-wise as an 8-bit C.P.U. per calculation, we need to keep in mind what that data is actually representing. Consider the following binary numbers:

  • 00011001

  • 00000000 00011001

Both the 8-bit value and the 16-bit value equal 25, with each representing the contents of one word for an 8-bit and a 16-bit system, respectively. Notice how they appear identical save for the number of leading zeros? Words can be thought of like boxes: if the number placed inside is smaller than the box, then the excess space is filled with packing peanuts… or, zeros. This way, the processor doesn’t have to worry about how long the number’s binary representation is and instead just performs whatever calculations are needed on the entire word. All of that is to say that unless the calculation in question requires numbers that exceed the maximum value that can be represented with the number of bits in the system’s C.P.U., there isn’t actually any speed boost.

That said, when the largest number you can handle at one time is 255, those extra-bits really do make a difference, so maybe the 8-bit and 16-bit divide isn’t the best example.


In the end, the reason we call sprites from NES games “8-bit” isn’t because the graphics themselves are 8-bit, but because of a sort of linguistic cross-contamination. The systems of the 80’s and 90’s were advertised by exploiting consumer ignorance to turn technical terms into marketing buzzwords, resulting in the systems having much of their identity tied to these terms. Because of that, anything associated with the consoles from that era is going to be collectively referred to by the one unifying descriptor available: 8, 16, 32, or even 64-bit. In the end, it’s ultimately harmless; these terms have an understood meaning and are thus perfectly descriptive in the context in which they’re used. Really, the only real confusion this causes is that I’m somehow okay with it; normally I’m the type go on a long rant whenever anyone says “Ethernet cable” when they really mean “Cat-5”.

Are Classic Editions the New Virtual Console?

We will be attending Classics Anonymous.


“Virtual Console” isn’t a term that we hear much these days, especially compared to all the buzz surrounding the SNES Classic Edition and the NES version before it. We’re wondering: Are these special retro consoles here to stay, while VC takes a back seat? Will we ever see Virtual Console on Switch? Let’s discuss!Footage credit: Polygon

Footage credit: Polygon
“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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What’s the History of Mario’s Design?

Heh. Tom Selleck. Heh heh.


#581 – The man, the myth, the mustache… Mario himself. Did you know that Miyamoto originally wanted to use Popeye as a mascot? Do you know who Mario is named after? Prepare for your mind to be blown – we’ve got all the details!

Footage credit: Kotaku

“Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

The Golden Age of Gaming

Remember the good old days?

Longtime fans of Nintendo will often reference the past fondly, maybe even going so far as to say that the company has since lost its way.
Look, I get it. We named this brand “Two Button Crew” out of our nostalgia for Nintendo’s first game console and its simple controls.
But before we continue focusing our infatuation with what has been, I’d like to pose a question: What if the Golden Age is actually now? Have you stopped to wonder if we could be experiencing Nintendo’s best efforts currently?
I think so. Allow me to prove it by examining each era individually, and by the end, you might just agree!

NES

A strong case can be made for Nintendo’s debut home console. It made arcade-worthy experiences accessible in the home; revolutionary at the time. The hardware and controllers were simple and intuitive, and developers used the limitations of the day in creative ways. The resulting game library was expansive, full of memorable games that were easy to pick up, but difficult to conquer. We owe the NES generation for nearly all of the franchises we continue to enjoy.

SNES

The Super Nintendo period was one of refinement and perfection. Just as the console received a “Super” upgrade, so did each of Nintendo’s tentpole series. The Holy Trinity of Super Mario World, Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid is a trifecta of “Best Game Ever” contenders. Titles like these succeeded by taking the formulae of previous games and maturing and enhancing them.

Nintendo 64

How we played video games was forever changed. Dimensionality increased by 50% with the introduction of polygonal 3D, and with the help of the analog stick, we were invited into Nintendo’s imaginative worlds with an all-new plane of immersion.
Another innovation must be credited to the 64: Group gaming. Yes, multiplayer modes existed previously, but this console fully realized the idea by including four controller ports and bringing people together with games like Mario Kart 64, Super Smash Bros., and the Mario Party series.

GameCube

This era was all about modernization. Nintendo’s competitors were beginning to steal the spotlight with their specs, and the Big N didn’t want to fall behind. However, they still wanted to provide the affordable alternative, so the resulting console suffered a bit of a hardware identity crisis. The upgrade from N64 was similar to the one seen between NES and SNES, where the approach remained largely the same but games improved alongside technology.
Nintendo was not afraid to experiment with software on GameCube, bringing us fresh experiences like Luigi’s Mansion, Pikmin, and Animal Crossing. Many classics from this era like Super Smash Bros. Melee, Metroid Prime, and Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door are viewed as best-in-series games, and are begging to be played to this day.

Wii

Nintendo’s brand awareness exploded. A video game console with two letter i’s became a household name overnight, and Nintendo wasn’t ready. Production of the motion-controlled units couldn’t keep up with demand, and the company had to reevaluate their target audience on the fly. Development and marketing efforts were split between catering to core Nintendo fans and the newly-tapped blue ocean markets. It was great to see Nintendo topping the charts, but some of the decisions came across as tone-deaf to longtime Nintendo fans, like their focus on casual experiences during gaming press conferences.
Certainly, some strong titles were released during this era like Super Mario Galaxy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, and Excite Truck (don’t look at me like that!), but the console was crippled by its outdated, low-res graphics and weak online support.

Wii U

The misbegotten console. In a clear attempt to capitalize on Wii’s success, the branding stayed along with attempts to appeal to the casual crowd. What Nintendo did not anticipate was how sharply those users would pivot to mobile gaming. By the time Nintendo shifted their focus back to their faithful followers to deliver core titles like Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, Super Mario 3D World, and Star Fox Zero, it was too late. Slow sales lead to a lack of 3rd Party and Indie games, leaving fans to wait for 1st Party releases while Nintendo delievered the best games on its more successful 3DS handheld.
Wii U’s GamePad controller was useful for (spatially-limited) off-TV gaming, but its other implementations often got in the way of fun by splitting players’ attention across two screens. Solid software attempts weren’t enough to save Nintendo from the lack of buzz around their system. This console generation firmly knocked Nintendo off their pedestal and left them hungry.

Switch

At present day, Nintendo has launched their new console/handheld hybrid and are following it up with a stream of top-notch software. Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild paired with the sleek hardware made an enticing match. Splatoon 2 and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe brought the best experiences from Wii U to where more gamers could enjoy them. A level of hype surrounds Switch that hasn’t been seen since the Wii days over a decade ago, only this time… Nintendo fans are the ones generating the noise. Nintendo appears to be pulling out all the stops to support Switch with mainline entries in their top IP, from Super Mario Odyssey this holiday to Metroid Prime 4 and a Pokemon RPG in the future. If this is how the first few years look, imagine what we’ll be talking about in half a decade.
Indies love the platform… 3rd Parties are coming into the fold… Nintendo hit a real home run with this one, having crafted a console this a joy to play, feel, dock, and reconfigure.

I declare the Golden Age of Gaming… NOW!
We’re living it today, The momentum that Nintendo has entered into this console generation with is insane.
Many people “got it” the instant they watched the reveal trailer. Some critics doubted it at launch, but in the time since, the console has earned its way into the hearts of many unsuspecting fans.

And I believe it’s here to stay. We will likely see more iterative updates for Switch hardware, in line with what Nintendo has always fone with their handhelds. Joy-Con XL, anyone? Switch VR Headset?

Grab yourself some games and enjoy them with friends! Nintendo’s going all in on Switch, so do the same.
Enjoy the Golden Age of Gaming.

Embrace the good new days.

You Might Be a Nintendo Fan If…

Keep score as you watch!


#572 – Nintendo fans are starting to grow in number again. But there for a while, it was a lonely title to have. Often misunderstood by our Microsoft and Sony brethren, Nintendo fans have to band together and stick together. We have a lot in common, after all, and that’s what this video is all about! Identifying ourselves as who we are: Nintendo fans.

“Tech Live” & “Escape the Premises” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0
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