Almost Hero – NES Beat ’em Up Homebrew – First Impression, Tips & Review

FIRST IMPRESSION: (1h into Gameplay)

My buddy Lincoln and I were about to throw in the towel.  Yes, we had a good time playing, but progress felt like walking through mud.  We were figuring out the game, but our repeated deaths were even faster.  Rather than giving up and powering down, we clicked the reset button to switch from 2-player mode to 1-player, and spent the next ½ hour making some huge breakthroughs.

THE GOOD:

Almost Hero brings a solid mix of old-school 8-bit NES challenge and humor.  The character’s sprite shapes look nice, bust some faces and kept reminding us of River City Ransom or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT).  Once we figured out how to grind out enough coins for upgrades, it was a whole new game.  The sense of accomplishment and progression was nice.  Additionally, we appreciated having infinite lives and the ability to keep upgrades after each death.  The throwable items added a nice touch to gameplay, and we went nuts over the green turtle shell.

THE BAD:

Targeting enemies is super tricky.  Early on in the game, this is especially frustrating as it’s basically trade of blow for blow.  It’s also frustrating that punches and kicks cannot be made while moving.  It made for that muddy gameplay experience mentioned earlier.

FINAL IMPRESSION: (1.5h into Gameplay)

It’s pretty amazing that in 2017, Mega Cat Studios is creating new, homebrew titles for the original Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).

“Almost Hero” flies about as well as a brick.  Being that this is a Beat ‘em Up, a flying brick is a good thing.  Yes, it’s not a heat-seeking missile, but it’s a period appropriate piece of ammo for the NES lineup.  It flies straight and packs a punch!

TIPS:

In our 1-2 hours of gameplay, Lincoln and I made a bunch of discoveries through sheer trial and error.  I’d suggest you stop reading and just buy the game if you’re the kind of gamer who enjoys figuring all that sort of stuff out yourself.

  • UPGRADE TIPS:
    • Vendor Menu:
      • New Cola ($2): Small health fill
      • Strato Soda ($4): Fills health entirely?
      • Fifty Tints ($25): Adds two health bars.
      • All Pros ($35): Faster movement.
      • 1001 Punches ($35): Faster punches.
      • Foot Passion ($35): Faster kicks.
    • Always have a cola in your inventory.
    • The $4 cola is significantly better than the $2 cola.
    • Grind, grind and grind bonsai seeds. $35 is your target.
    • Backtracking is essential for farming and buying more cola. This also works forward.  If you beat a boss, you can now bypass mobs and run to that boss.
    • You lose half your cash (seeds) when you die. PS…you die a lot.
    • 2-Player:
      • You can only buy items for yourself.
      • Upgrading means one guy grabs all the coins.
  • FIGHTING TIPS:
    • Hit & run
    • Auto attack.
    • Jumping is always a jump kick.
  • STRATEGY TIPS:
    • Cola and other items will disappear.
    • Each level is a one-way street. One screens are cleared, you can run through them.  This is super handy for boss farming.

Have a tip that’s not on our list?  Let us know!  We’d love to hear from you in the video’s comments.

LOOKING INSIDE THE CARTRIDGE:

Thank again to Mega Cat Studios who provided us a free copy of this game in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

Let’s Build Our Own Mini NES Classic Edition

Say what you will about the new Nintendo Entertainment System: NES Classic Edition, but Nintendo got one thing right.  Retro gaming is needs to be in more hands.  Tons of kids never played 8-bit NES games, and the rest of us just love reliving our childhoods.

Since Nintendo’s newly released NES Classic Edition is going for crazy money on eBay right now, I figure it’s time to 3D print up a mini-NES and to slap a Raspberry Pi running Retro Pie in that bad little baby.

  • HDMI – check
  • 4 Player – check
  • Super Tiny – check, check, let’s print!

Fortunately, people on Thingiverse are way ahead of the curve on this DIY project.  Less than two weeks into owning my Robo 3D R1, this project is on like Donkey Kong!

You’re seeing a time lapse of one of my 3D printing a case for my RetroPie setup. The print came out surprisingly nicely. I’m blow away by how snugly the babyNES’s door attached. The only trick was finding the right size size of screws (see link below). Even then I did some light drilling to get the screws to advance smoothly.

Here are all the links you’ll need to do the same project.

Printing: BabyNES Raspberry Pi B+ case
Designed by: jrebeiro
Downloaded from: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:449877
Printer: Robo 3D R1 http://amzn.to/2eZ2JoK
Filament 1: Silver/Grey http://amzn.to/2gfxuef
Filament 2: Glow in the Dark Blue http://amzn.to/2gfGkZN
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B: http://amzn.to/2fUHWDI
Screws: 3/4″ Length, #3-48 http://amzn.to/2gfzL9o

New to RetroPie?

Here’s a great guide for people new to RetroPie.
Plus, an awesome RetroPie Facebook group for sharing tips.

Happy retro gaming!

Protecting Your Boxed NES SNES & N64 Games: Clear Plastic Box Protectors

With the Video Game Museum collection steadily growing, we’ve been working on our methods for preserving our collection.  Just like collecting comic books and baseball cards, a good collection has to be handled with care and properly protected.

NES Box Protectors on Amazon & NES Box Protectors on eBay

Our goal at VideoGameMuseum.com is to provide the best repair tools and preservation materials possible to retro gamers.  With that in mind, we’ve custom designed custom NES, SNES & N64 box protectors to beautifully fit and protect original game boxes. They fit in smoothly and snugly with just enough extra empty space for the best protection. (Certain NES games from independent manufacturers like Color Dreams run larger and won’t fit.) These cases are perfect for protecting your favorite boxed and sealed original Nintendo NES, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64 games.  Cool thing is that SNES & N64 game boxes are the same size, so that model will work for both boxes.  See photos for a closer look.

QUALITY FEATURES:

  • Archival Grade PET Plastic
  • Strong 12 Gauge Thickness
  • Locking Tab Design
  • Crystal Clear Clarity
  • Scratch-Resistant Coating
  • Acid Free Plastic
  • BPA, Lead & Phthalate free

VIDEO GAME MUSEUM ARCHIVAL QUALITY: Each of our boxes is Video Game Museum branded so that you know you’re getting the highest quality product possible. These are manufactured in Canada using materials created in the USA. (Most other sellers cut corners by buying from Chinese suppliers and cannot guarantee our level of production or material quality. That’s not a risk we want to take with our collection, so we want to offer only the best to our customers’ collections.)

NES Box Protectors on Amazon & NES Box Protectors on eBay

SNES & N64 Box Protectors on Amazon & SNES & N64 Box Protectors on eBay

 

 

Shrinking a Neo Geo MVS into the Omega Entertainment Machine

Every kid dreams…

Some kids dream about arcades…

Some kids named Quan dream about shrinking arcades and putting them in their backpacks!

Neo Geo Omega Entertainment Machine (27)While I may have been awestruck by the Neo Geo MVS as a kid, Quan at ArcadeWorks.net took his dream to an entirely different level. He’s one of those nutty, mad-scientist guys who loves to do things to old arcade machines that even their own creators couldn’t have imagined. Plenty of guys consolize arcade machines.  The Neo Geo MVS is a pretty popular consolization project.  However, Quan did something that no one else has been nuts enough to do.  While the one ring was being forged in the depths of Mount Doom by his elven buddies, Quan was using a bit of lava, magic, and that childhood dream to forge his own “precious.”

Creating a 100% custom casing, Quan painstakingly designed his dream casing.  Additionally, he invested a boatload of cash (we’re talking many thousands of dollars) into setting up a custom mold and into the first production run.  The creation was his Omega Entertainment Machine, and boy is she pretty!

Why consolize an arcade machine?

Neo Geo Omega Entertainment Machine (19)Back in the day, if you were interested in the Neo Geo, you basically had two options.  If you were the average kid, you’d look for that cherry red Neo Geo MVS cabinet at your local arcade, and you’d pump quarters into it until your pockets were dry.  And, afterwards, we’d head home to our NES or Sega Genesis and dream of being rich.  Because, we knew if we were rich enough, we’d have enough money to buy the incredibly expensive Neo Geo AES home system.  It did something unheard of.  The Neo Geo AES played the exact same games as the MVS although it had a slightly different cartridge shape.  Even now, the Neo Geo AES is one of the most expensive gaming systems to collect.  AES cartridges are just terribly pricey.  Yet, with arcades closing down all over, the MVS cartridge counterpart always seems to be cheaper by a landslide.  Bummer is, most people can’t fit an entire Neo Geo MVS arcade machine in their apartment, condo, etc.  That’s why a consolized MVS is so brilliant.  It’s the size of the AES but plays the cheaper MVS games.  It’s the best of both worlds.

Geek or Artist?

People get pretty creative consolizing an MVS.  It’s where geeks get to shine.  It always starts the same.  There are some pretty minimalistic designs in which you basically have a franken-system that works but looks about as good as, well, Frankenstein.  Then, there are people who create gorgeous woodworking to fit around that ugliness to create a better presentation. Finally, there are people who modify existing plastic casings or make their own.  Quan seems to blow this third category out of the water with the Omega. If you haven’t already, check out my hands-on video taking a look at this Neo Geo marvel…

Neo Geo Omega Entertainment Machine (1)
AES and Omega Side By Side

Appearance:  Its shape, size, color, and even the texture of the plastic closely match that of the Neo Geo AES.  If you saw this hooked up to your buddy’s TV, you might do a double take before you realize it’s a consolized MVS.

Graphics:  As if the magic of putting a Neo Geo on your home’s TV isn’t enough, the Omega’s graphical output looks beautiful!  (See the video above for footage.)  The colors are rich, and the picture is clear and super clean.  I just hooked it up with the s-video cable, and I was amazed at how great everything looked.

Neo Geo Omega Entertainment Machine (9)
Simple Setup and Switch

Setup:  Setting up this system was as easy as plugging in any other home console I have.  It came with an AV cable and a standard power cable (the same type that you have on the back of your desktop computer).  The power switch is located on the back.  That’s about it: simple.

Sound:   I piped the sound through my TV and out my receiver, and was absolutely pleased.  Quan explained to me that he uses the MV-1C PCB, which doesn’t natively have stereo sound.  He mods it to make sure that the final product does.

Neo Geo Omega Entertainment Machine (23)
Compatible with AES Joysticks

Compatibility:  I tested it out with several of my MVS games, specifically Blazing Star, Metal Slug, and Metal Slug 2.  Each looked and worked great.  I used both my full sized AES joystick and my Neo Geo CD controller, and both worked perfectly.  Remember that this system doesn’t come with a controller, so make sure you have one of those two options.

Software:  The Omega came with the Unibios software installed.  If you haven’t already heard about this, check it out!  It has a ton of options including the ability to soft reset from your controller, switch regions, use built in cheat codes, and a ton of other stuff.  This is how the Omega is able to boot into freeplay mode to look like a home system rather than an arcade machine.

Price: It costs $499.00 USD.  Ok, at first glance, this is a big number.  Right now I’d price the AES or an MVS into the $350-500 range depending on what each comes with.  So really, they’re all in the same ballpark.  If you’re trying to decide between an AES and an Omega, I’d say that the cost savings of MVS carts solves that one.  And if you’ve though about throwing cash at the Neo Geo X that recently came on the market, here’s a way better use of that cash.

Weaknesses:  I’ve fallen so in love with the Omega that it almost feels wrong to raise any criticism, and in all honesty my suggestions for its improvement are little details.  Unfortunately, the MV-1C PCB doesn’t come with the option for a memory card, which is why there isn’t a slot for one on the system.  I’m guessing some fancy modding would make this possible, but it would also obviously drive up the price quite a bit.  Last, when I tried out the component cables, I couldn’t get it to work with my HD LCD TV. Quan explained that some modern TVs have trouble displaying 240p over component, the native resolution of cart systems in that era including SNES and Genesis. However, it looks amazing when hooked up to a CRT TV, which he was able to demonstrate for me.

Final Impression

There’s a Neo Geo MVS in my living room.  It’s called the Omega Entertainment Machine, and it’s beautiful.  Plus I didn’t even have to wrestle Gollum for it!  If you love the Neo Geo and have ever thought about buying a consolized system, this one knocks it out of the park.  I’m impressed by Quan’s dedication to the Neo Geo can’t wait to see what project he comes up with next!

(As a note, Quan’s presently having ArcadeWorks.net redesigned.  If the site looks like it’s presently under construction, that’s because it is.)

 

 

Fixing Cheetahmen II: Kickstarter vs Dr. Morbis!

Oh Cheetahmen II…are you finally getting fixed?!

For decades, the Cheetahmen have been locked in a bitter and futile struggle against Dr. Morbis.  In Cheetahmen II, every two levels a different Cheetahmen becomes available.  Theoretically, a player starts with Apollo (crossbow) for the first two levels, gets to play as Aries (fists) for the third and fourth levels, and uses Hercules (dual clubs) for the fifth and sixth levels.  Unfortunately, the Cheetahmen’s feline courage and ninja skills have not been enough to pass the mutant Ape Man boss at the end of the fourth level.  A software bug has thwarted years of insanely skilled and strangely dedicated players from ever getting to level five.  Ironically, it turns out that beating Cheetahmen II is even more rare than this holy grail of NES cartridges.

Broken Ape Man boss fight in Cheetahmen II

Will we finally be able to help the Cheetahmen defeat Dr Morbis?

Last week, I had the opportunity to chat on the phone with Greg Pabich find to find out about his newest project.  Since I was polite enough not to record the conversation, here’s a paraphrased version of our discussion:

Mark:  Hey Greg, how’s it going?

Greg:  Mark, I’ve been pretty busy!  I’m excited about our next Cheetahmen project!

Mark:  Ha ha!  Oh dear!?!  What’ve you been up to?

Greg:  Well, you know how that pallet of Cheetahmen II cartridges never made it to market?

Mark:  Yeah, collectors love them, but what a frustrating game.

Greg:  When Active Enterprises was about to go under, I’m guessing Vince Perri abandoned them either because money wasn’t coming in on the Action 52 like he figured or because he realized it was an incomplete game.

Mark:  Yeah, you can only even play the first four levels, right?

Greg:  Exactly!  So here’s what I’m up to.  I think the world needs to have that game up and working.  Love it or hate it, it just needs to get finished and put on a cartridge.

Mark:  Now that would be interesting.

Greg:  The original Cheetahmen II game carts are selling for thousands of dollars now.  Most collectors can’t even begin to afford them.  I want to put together a playable cartridge that will have all the levels working.  Apparently, it was originally designed with more levels, but it was just too buggy to let anyone play them.  Once we have a working game with all its original levels working, I’d love to put them into NES collectors’ hands.

Mark:  What’s the game plan going to be for doing that?

Greg:  I put a small fortune into producing and distributing the Cheetahmen Creation cartridge last year.  Between development, production, marketing, and selling a repaired version of Cheetahmen 2, I know it’s going to cost some serious cash.  I’m thinking Kickstarter will be a great tool to launch this project.

Mark:  That’s probably wise.  Plus, from one married man to another, I have a feeling your wife might like the Kickstarter plan a bit better than trying to fund it all yourself.  So, I know people love, hate, and pretty much love to hate Action 52 and Cheetahmen 2.  What’s going to get people to back this project?

Greg:  Kickstarter has a great model of letting people support a project and get something unique as a thank you for their support.  We have some pretty reasonable donation levels, and based on how much people donate, we’ll have things available ranging from exclusive posters to actual cartridges of the game once we get it produced.  I’ve got Mario Gonzalez, one of the original designers of Action 52/Cheetahmen involved, and he’s created some fantastic new artwork for the posters and will be signing certain items!  Plus, most items will be numbered and hologram stickered as limited editions available only to contributors.

Mark:  Actually, that a pretty good plan.  I’m a pretty big NES collector, and this might be a much more reasonable way for me to get a copy of Cheetahmen II into my collection even if it isn’t the original.  I’m guessing you could get some good buzz in collecting circles around this.

Greg:  Actually, we’re going to go bigger than that.  By sheer coincidence, the Angry Video Game Nerd (AVGN) just did a video on Cheetahmen II!

After seeing it, I contacted him to see if he’d be interested in getting involved in this.  The AVGN signed on, which is going to be a ton of fun and nuts as usual!  I got Pat the NES Punk involved as well.  We were sponsors in his last NES Marathon, which turned out to be a huge success.  Plus, the Game Chasers guys from Retroware TV are involved and basically putting it all together.

Mark:  Wow, seriously, that’s an amazing lineup!  Are you making any video appearances yourself?

Greg:  Yeah!  It turns out that acting isn’t so easy though.  I’ve finished working on my parts.  The Game Chasers are putting it all together.  It’s 100% top notch production and coming along nicely!  I think people are going to be blown away by the AVGN, Pat, the Game Chasers, and some possible appearances of the Cheetahmen themselves…

Mark:  Greg, sounds like you’re going 100% in as usual.  When are you launching this?

Greg:  The Kickstarter campaign should go live 8/7/2012.

Mark:  And, any idea when you’re hoping to have new copies of the fixed Cheetahmen II game available?

Greg:  In good Active Enterprises spirit, sticking to Vince Perri’s 3 month development window would put us in November or December.  Either way, I’m guessing we should probably get this done before the world ends in 12/12/12.

Mark:  Ha ha, nice!  Even once it’s fixed, I’m hoping that Cheetahmen II won’t be the last NES game I ever play.  But seriously, I’ve got to hand it to you.  It sounds like this is going to be a ton of fun and a huge success.  Best of luck with it!

Greg:  Absolutely!  Thanks for helping to spread the word on Cheetahmen II: The Lost Levels.

Update 8/6/2012:  The Kickstarter project CHEETAHMEN II : THE LOST LEVELS is live!  Best of luck Greg!

Cheetahmen Fever!

“I saw an internet article on the 10 most valuable games in the world.  Mine was on it, and it was a prototype!”

Shortly after making that realization, Greg Pabich contacted me at VideoGameMuseum.com and several other forums.  The man was on a mission.  He wanted to figure out what he had and what he should do with it.  Not only was Greg able to confirm that he had a unique prototype, but upon testing it, he also realize that he had an entirely different Cheetahmen game from that which was released on the normal version of the Action 52.  He’d discovered the long lost Action Gamer.

While he first contemplated auctioning it off, “The more I became involved in it, the more I learned about the fact that it could be duplicated.”   It wasn’t long before Pabich’s entrepreneurial imagination took off.  He loved the reaction people were giving Cheetahmen on the internet.  “What gets me is that people either hate the game or go peeing-your-pants crazy about it!”

“All I’ve done is taken a game that everyone loves to hate and that isn’t very playable by today’s standards, and I’ve tried to create value and added value.  I’ve done everything to make it a full-scale professional game:  a nice box, high-end t-shirts, CDs with cheetah music, posters, hologram label, etc.  I’ve been working on an entertaining website.  I’m trying to tell the story, to convey history, and to entertain people.”

So what exactly has Greg Pabich been working on?  Well first off, not everything is finalized.  However, he’s put together two purchasable “Cheetahmen: The Creation” packages:   a Special Collector’s Edition and a Regular Edition.

Cheetahmen: The Creation Special Collector’s Edition includes the following:

  • Factory-sealed game (clear cartridge) and box
  • Unsealed game (green cartridge) and box
  • Classic Cheetahmen: The Creation Comic (reproduction)
  • “Cheetahmix” Music CD
  • “Audacious” Cheetahmen T-Shirt (Sizes Large or X-Large)
  • Cheetahmen Poster (Size: 15” x 9″, which will be folded in half to fit in the box)

This Collector’s Edition will be limited to a run of 500 sets.  Greg explains that the game cartridges, sealed-game box, and outer collector’s box will all have matching hologram serial numbers ranging from 1 to 500.

Cheetahmen: The Creation Regular Edition includes the following:

  • Factory-sealed game (red cartridge) and box
  • Classic Cheetahmen: The Creation Comic (reproduction)

Pabich explains that this edition of the game will be limited to 1000 games.  These will also be hologram-numbered and will follow the sequence of 501 to 1500.

Perhaps you’ve already preordered one of these sets.  But all this begs for a few questions to be answered:  Who on earth is Greg Pabich?  And what could inspire a person to wrap up his time, energy, and finances in such a project?  Is this what Cheetahmen fever looks like?

7-Eleven Game Rooms 

I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Pabich last week.  Greg explains that he was the marketing manager for 7-Eleven in South Texas during the late ’70s and early ’80s.  He helped to develop and market 7-Eleven’s line of popular breakfast burritos.  “It had to be something a person could eat with one hand while driving.”  It wasn’t long before Pabich made the leap from microwave food to gaming.  If you played an arcade machine at a South Texas 7-Eleven, chances are, Pabich helped to put it there.  He worked to develop game rooms in his stores.  Originally 7-Eleven stores had pinball machines but no dedicated space for them.

“The idea was to get game machines out of the storefront area.  We needed a dedicated space for pinball; electronic video games were just coming out.  Those were going gangbusters!  I added mirrors to rooms, changed lighting, added ash trays, and held game tournaments, which were tied into a Muscular Dystrophy Association.  That must have been about 1986 at its peak.”

Pabich’s original training wasn’t in electronics, computers, or anything gaming related.  “Before 7-Eleven, I got a degree as an accountant and did that for a few years, but I really didn’t like it.  As a creative entrepreneur, I wanted to do something more.”  Pabich did just that.  He purchased a convenience store and built a dozen more.  “I was reading an article in Time magazine on Pong, and I was fascinated by it.  Atari was out of Los Gatos, CA in 1974 if I remember correctly.  There wasn’t any internet or Google.  I had to track down someone who knew about it.”  Once Pabich got a hold of Atari, he ordered a machine for one of his stores.  “The response was weak.  People weren’t as enamored with it as I was.  I was 10 years too early.”  Eventually Pabich pulled the machine from his store and put it in his living room.  Sometime after that, he donated it to a school for the deaf.  “That was the beginning.  Looking back, I wish I’d held onto that arcade.”

Placing Arcades in Theaters

Pabich sold his convenience stores and was hired by a  gas station company to convert gas stations into convenience stores.  Following that job, he was hired by 7-Eleven as previously mentioned.  Pabich was having enough success with the game rooms at 7-Eleven that he started a side business.  Pabich got a contract to do the same sort of thing for a theater chain in the Houston, TX area and put games like Defender in the lobby.  These were immensely popularly.  “Games cost about $2,100, which was a lot of money.  But we could generally pay for a good game in about 17 days!”  Pabich went on to explain the monetization process.  “My company would have a key to open and service the machine.  The theater manager would have a key to the coin box, and there was a coin counter inside.  That kept everyone honest.”  He chuckled as he recounted, “There was one machine that wouldn’t play after a couple days, and the business owner called me complaining.  I came over to service it and found out it wasn’t working because it was packed full of quarters.  Apparently the same thing was happening all over the place.  These were so profitable that Texas limited our payout of machines to business owners to 50%.”

With 7-Eleven’s game rooms taking off as well, the 7-Eleven sold their gaming and equipment portion of the stores to a third-party business who offered to run it.  Pabich recounted that the business paid something in the millions-of-dollars range and went under about six month later.   No longer managing the gaming rooms, Pabich went back to focusing on his duties as marketing manager.   At about that same time, Pabich sold his theater arcade game business.

The Advent of VHS

“We was transferred to Austin in about 1982.  My daughter was about seven years old and was having a slumber party.  I tried to rent a VCR and a video and it was impossible to do.  You had to pay $100 to become a member, $4.95 to rent the movie, $9.95 to rent a VCR, and no one had any of them available.  Those were the early days of VHS.”  Pabich explained, “If you can’t get anything for love or money and there’s that much demand, then there’s money to be made.”

Pabich found a guy who wanted to place videos in 7-Elevens.  “We tried this in two stores.  There weren’t many new releases at this time compared to today where new movies come out on video every day.  Within a year, there were video stores popping up everywhere.”  He kept feeding the idea to corporate.  It cost $20,000 to outfit a 7-Eleven to rent movies.  Movies had to be purchased new at a cost of $70-90, and “We didn’t have good tracking systems at this time, since there weren’t computer systems or anything for that.  Our test stores were doing well.  People were renting a movie, buying things, bringing it back, and buying things again: beer, chips, soda, etc.  However, at $20,000 times 7,000 stores nationwide (900 in Texas), it was too much money even for 7-Eleven.

Resigning from his job at 7-Eleven with the agreement that he could get a contract for 7-Elevens in Texas, Pabich raised money and found a distributor for used movies  out of Portland, Oregon.  His new company V.D.O. installed video rental in 200 stores.  At the same time, Pabich helped a friend Jerry Welch get a job as president of a similar company Stars to Go Inc.  Pabich eventually took a job working as the VP of Development of that company.  “We immediately moved the corporate headquarters to Los Angeles.”  He signed contracts for 35,000 convenience stores throughout the US: Circle K, Wawa food stores, some 7-Elevens, etc.  “The contract required a minimum monthly payment by the stores.  We took that to the bank and financed the contract.”  Things were doing well until Black Thursday in 1986 when the stock market dropped.  “Our stock dropped from $27 to 13 cents, and Blockbuster went public.  I was out of a job in 1987.”

Rags to Riches

Being unemployed, Pabich saw a magazine ad for a guy buying used movies.  “I called the guy and asked what he was looking for.  I knew used movies were worth about $25 each.  Then I contacted a friend who was still at Stars to Go.  He said he’d send me a couple pallets of used VHS tapes and that I could pay him once I sold them.  Next thing I knew, there were 8,000 VHS tapes delivered on my driveway.  They filled the garage.  I had no idea what I had, so my family and I manually created lists, collated the lists by hand, and then I called this guy.  I Xeroxed my handwritten list and FedEx’d it to him. He wanted to buy them all at $11.25 each!  I shipped them all UPS COD and got paid with a cashier’s check.  I made $65,000 on the first deal.”  In that move his new business Movies & Games 4 Sale was launched!

Pabich must have an understanding wife, because he explained that his next order of VHS tapes filled not only the garage but also his living room.  According to Pabich, he then rented a warehouse, which led to a $25,000,000/year business with 127 people on payroll, and a 30,000 square foot warehouse.  “Blockbuster was killing mom and pop’s stores.  We would buy out inventory from closing stores and resell it to new Blockbusters.  Then people started asking for games.  I had trouble finding anyone who had a lot of games since that was just getting started.”  Pabich approached Babbage’s and encourage them to buy used games.  “I felt that people would only buy a car if they could trade in an old one.”  They merged with Software Etc which became NeoStar Retail.  “I handled their trade-in program, and I was the largest creditor as NeoStar declared bankruptcy.  There were bids for who would buy, and I got to put in my preference for Barnes & Noble.  They paid me $1.3 million.”  Eventually, Barnes & Noble would create the gaming giant GameStop.  According to Pabich, they did so by adopting his model of buying used games.  He notes that he also had a buyback program with Toys R Us.  “I was the only guy back then who could handle the quantity.”

From Prototype to Collector’s Edition

As perhaps any retro gaming geek would be, I’ve been intrigued by this game, its story, and Pabich’s process of bringing Cheetahmen: The Creation to the light of day.  In putting all this together, Pabich explains, “I’ve met a lot of interesting people.  The guy who did the commercial did a great job.  I have a friend who did the artwork, who did a fantastic job.  Most have been quite helpful and positive.   Uncle Tusk has handled boxes, comics, posters, box label printing, and game label printing and has done a fantastic job!  I was amazed at the quality of his work.  RetroZone has handled the cartridges.”

Hearing Pabich’s story, it’s no wonder to me that he managed to meet the infamous Vince Perri and to obtain the earliest known Action 52 prototype.  As a reminder, his prototype contains a unique early version of Cheetahmen called Action Gamer.  “This game seems to be the turning point at which Vince put real time into the game, developed an idea of franchising a character, comic, and cartoon.  I’m trying to capture that.”

Pabich’s history is full of his taking ideas and opportunities and running with them.  As I try to put my finger on his motivations for turning his prototype into playable NES cartridges, it seems clear.  Pabich is an entrepreneur.  He’s a risk taker who isn’t afraid to invest his own money, time, and pride into something as crazy as releasing a new playable Cheetahmen cartridge.  Will he sell his 1,500 Cheetahmen: The Creation sets?  Are there enough hardcore collectors out there to buy these?  Will there be a new surge of Cheetahmen fever?

As a retro gamer and collector, I’m excited to see anything new land itself in a playable 8-bit NES form.  Overall, I’m personally fascinated by all of this and am intrigued to see how it all unfolds.  For those of you following this as well, it gets better.  Pabich is working on more Cheetahmen projects as I write this.  Yup, that’s true Cheetahmen fever!

 

 

References:

7-Eleven Photo: Image via Flickr: jacob botter

Plotkin, Hal. “A Blockbuster Video Idea.” Inc. Magazine 15 October 1997. http://www.inc.com/magazine/19971015/1482.html 20 October 2011.

“Space-Age Pinball.” Time Magazine 1 April 1974. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,904070,00.html 20 October 2011.

VHS Pile Photo: Photo via MakeLessNoise

Weber, Mark. “NES Action 52 Prototype Cart?” VideoGameMuseum.com 3 June 2010. http://www.videogamemuseum.com/2010/06/03/nes-action-52-prototype-carts/

Weber, Mark. ” What’s Rarer: A Prototype Action 52 Cart or a Person Who’s Met Vince Perri?” VideoGameMuseum.com 24 June 2010. http://www.videogamemuseum.com/2010/06/17/whats-rarer-a-prototype-action-52-cart-or-a-person-who-met-vince-perri/

Weber, Mark. ” The Evolution of the Action 52.” VideoGameMuseum.com 3 June 2010. http://www.videogamemuseum.com/2010/06/24/the-evolution-of-the-action-52/

 

Rare Game Showcase: Stadium Events and a Can of Snake Meat

As per usual, there are a good number of fantastic rare video games and collectibles on eBay.  So which will be more valuable, can of snake meat or a custom portable NES?

Games / Systems

Stadium Events NES NTSC Cart Sold Sept. 8, 2010 for $1255.00 USD.

I met the owner of this cart at the Tetris World Championship where he gave me the inside scoop on finding this game.  I’m going to respect his confidence by not disclosing exactly where he found it.  However, he did find it as a random retro video game shop.  According to him, he got it for something like $10.  Bringing it up the the register, he was sure that the owner, who was plenty game savvy, would recognize the game as being rare and reprice it.  Apparently the title had just slipped under owner’s radar, and the guy sold him the game.  He, it does sort of look like a worthless sports game, doesn’t it?  Moral of the story, go check your local video game shops…you never know.

Entex Adventure Vision Arcade Cartridge System Complete in BOX Currently at $710.00 USD with 17 hours to go

Uncharted 2 Fortune Hunter Edition Playstation 3 Game This listing is currently active with $620.00 in bids.  It’s a bit fishy that the seller is using a stock photo.

Wood Custom Portable Nintendo NES Apparently, guys in Turkey make fantastic looking NES handhelds.

CONTINUUM SERIES 1 – THE INFERNAL TETRAMORPH Vectrex Game Boxed Set Sold Sept. 1, 2010 for $212.51 USD.

Given the cool $1,026.51 USD that someone recently spent on an another Vectrex homebrew…all I have to say is, homebrewers…keep on brewing!  Here’s a bit of info from the game’s author:

LIMITED EDITION BOXED SET – 10 SETS ONLY!
Each boxed set is numbered:  __ of 10 on the back of the box.
The game is also numbered in the program, matching the box.

BONUS PUZZLE!
Each special edition cartridge contains one bonus puzzle!
The Series 1 bonus puzzle is:  THE INFERNAL TETRAMORPH

BONUS ITEM!
Each set contains a Sector-X/Continuum themed bonus pack-in item!
The Series 1 bonus item is:  THE SECTOR-X NIGHTLIGHT SET*
2 awesome collectible nightlights from the Sector-X tetralogy!
1 CONTINUUM NIGHTLIGHT + 1 ADDITIONAL NIGHTLIGHT (chosen randomly)

PRINTED BOXES!
A deviation from our normal stock labeled boxes, these are ultra high
quality sturdy shiny retail boxes complete with bonus item window display!

more info

CONTINUUM SERIES 2 – THE 7 PILLARS OF PURGATORY Vectrex Game Boxed Set Ended Sept. 9, 2010 at $330.51 USD.

LIMITED EDITION BOXED SET – 10 SETS ONLY!
Each boxed set is numbered:  __ of 10 on the back of the box.
The game is also numbered in the program, matching the box.

BONUS PUZZLE!
Each special edition cartridge contains one bonus puzzle!
The Series 1 bonus puzzle is:  THE INFERNAL TETRAMORPH

BONUS ITEM!
Each set contains a Sector-X/Continuum themed bonus pack-in item!
The Series 1 bonus item is:  THE SECTOR-X NIGHTLIGHT SET*
2 awesome collectible nightlights from the Sector-X tetralogy!
1 CONTINUUM NIGHTLIGHT + 1 ADDITIONAL NIGHTLIGHT (chosen randomly)

PRINTED BOXES!
A deviation from our normal stock labeled boxes, these are ultra high
quality sturdy shiny retail boxes complete with bonus item window display!

more info

Action 52 NES Game New Sealed Sold Sept. 9, 2010 for $234.47 USD.

Accessories

Sega 3-D Glasses New Complete Sold on Sept. 8, 2010 for $202.56 USD.

Collectibles

Metal Gear Solid 3 – Promotional Can of Snake Meat This auction is still live and has bids up to $117.00 USD.

Only the Metal Gear franchise can boost a game’s success by handing out cans of snake meat.

Wolf medallion from The Witcher – Rare This auction is still live and has bids up to $67.00 USD.

World of Nintendo Neon Sign 1987 This item didn’t sell for the seller’s steep asking price of $800 USD; however, it’s a pretty gem none the less.

Death Race by Exidy Arcade Game Flyer Sold Sept. 4, 2010 for $14.99 USD.

If you’ve never played Death Race, it’s an experience in itself. You drive a car using an arcade steering wheel with the purpose of running over skeletons.  Each time you do, it leaves behind a tomb stone.  The skeletons are pretty quick little guys, so its trickier than it sounds.  As innocent as that sounds by today’s standards, when I played it for the first time, it was undeniably creepy.  I can only imagine the reaction when this game first came out.

Rare Game Showcase: Valuable Vectrex Homebrew & Mario Shoelace Biters!

It seems that rarely a week goes by without someone dropping a cool $1,000 on a video game.  Check out the rare and interesting items that popped up on eBay this past week.

Games

VeCaves Spikes Spree CGE 2002 Vectrex Homebrew Sold Sept 7, 210 for $1,026.51 USD!  Seriously?  I had no idea that there was such a market for Vectrex homebrew.  The seller states that there were only 20 of these made and that this was number 4.  This game was sold complete in box.

Vec Sports Boxing CGE 2002 Vectrex Homebrew COMPLETE Sold Sept 7, 210 for $174.60 USD.

Cube Quest CGE 2002 Vectrex Homebrew COMPLETE Sold Sept 7, 210 for for $137.50 USD.

Collectibles

21″ Game Boy Color Display Unit Sold Sept 5, 2010 for $31.00 USD + shipping.

4 Foot Tall Super Mario Statue Sold Sept 3, 2010 for $663.54 USD.

New Super Mario Bros Shoelace Bow Biters Sold Sept. 6, 2010 for $12.38 USD.  Let’s fact it, these are probably the coolest item on this list.