Back to Bits

Artists pay tribute to NES games with a collection of GIFs

Videogame GIFs are one of my favorite things on the internet. Retro game nostalgia less so, but that hasn’t stopped me enjoying the NES game-inspired GIFs that are being showcased on Back to Bits. The website launched today and is a curated animation project created by Washington-based artist Jerry Liu. His reason for putting Back to Bits together is simple: he wanted a way to bring likeminded artists together and to celebrate the games of his and their childhood. a range of different art styles and approaches The GIFs that you can see today were created by more than 40 different…


Composer makes Metroid even more eerie with new synth soundtrack

In 1986, Metroid was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Since then, Hirokazu Tanaka, Metroid’s composer, has been revered for helping create the game’s iconic, eerie atmosphere. To up Metroid’s creeping feeling of loneliness some 30 years later, composer Luminist is rerecording the game’s music using actual synthesizers. “My initial interest behind doing this was thinking that if the technology were available back then to put hi-fi recordings into a videogame, they might have done it this way with Metroid,” Luminist said. “I’m just interested in bringing out more of the inherent alone-in-space factor that the original gave us with bleeps and bloops.” So far, Luminist has…

NES Classic Edition

Nintendo’s new mini console relies on your memories of the ’80s

Between Humble Bundles and Steam sales, everyone loves a good collection of cheapo games. In the spirit of bundle-based generosity, Nintendo has announced a kind of physical manifestation of their Virtual Console in the form of the “NES Classic Edition.” The size of a 10-dollar sandwich, the NES Classic Edition will have a fixed library of 30 NES games, 28 of which are currently available on the Wii U Virtual Console. For the first time ever, Bubble Bobble (1986) and Final Fantasy (1987) will be legally playable in 1080p, having only been on the lower-resolution Wii Virtual Console and NES…


The greatest Famicom-based game jam returns this week

What do you get when you combine the world of fake Famicom case cover art and game jams? The “A Game By Its Cover” jam, actually, which is making its triumphant return on June 30th. Being the Japanese precursor to the NES, the distinctive red-and-white Famicom has a great deal of nostalgic power over people who grew up in the early 80s—even if it doesn’t closely resemble the American, VCR-looking version of the console. The A Game By Its Cover Jam sorta banks on that. It encourages game makers to spend a month creating games based on faux Famicom cover fan…


Mega Man, in love and death

I get why Mega Man fans are insatiable. Even after 10 games to the main series’ and at least double that if you include spin-offs and variations, it wasn’t enough for me as a child. I remember browsing the game rack at Bonanza Video and being unable to taper the thirst for more of the series’ Robot Masters. It didn’t matter if I could actually beat any of the Robot Masters, those meat shields made of metal for the nefarious Dr. Wily. I’d have my ass handed to me by every Frog, Skull, and Air Man. I just wanted to…


The forgotten politics behind Contra’s name

Do a quick Google search of “contra.” Browsing the first few pages, you should see a saturation of links about the videogame—the now-primary version of the word—sprinkled with other definitions. Next in the deck is contra as preposition: “against, contrary, or opposed to,” suitingly enough. Then, a “contemporary New York cuisine” restaurant; contra-dancing, a folksy flirty form adaptable to many musical styles; the second album by Vampire Weekend; and eventually, peeking through before being closed out again, you’ll stumble upon the elephant in the room. Contras are the name of the group of soldiers from Nicaragua that Ronald Reagan cultivated…

Super Russian Roulette

Super Russian Roulette turns a beloved childhood console against you

No matter how old we get the NES is seen through the same preserved lens—that of our youthful pupils. Our bodies grow hair, stretch, they wrinkle. But that classic grey plastic will remain supple for our entire life span (it will degrade slowly, over the centuries). It remains a steadfast icon for our childhoods. This may explain why there are those that want to drag the NES through the decades with them, re-purposing it, assigning new and probably less innocent memories to its cartridge slots and controllers. Perhaps this is why Super Russian Roulette exists. It’s a subversive piece of software…


Introducing the world’s first 8-player, 360-degree NES

The memories a lot of people share with the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES for short) are typically rooted in solitude. Running across World 1-1 for the first time, embarking on a quest to confront Ganon at Death Mountain, venturing through Zebes to kill Mother Brain—all, for the most part, alone. Multiplayer existed in the realms of games like Dr. Mario, but was always confined to only two players. That changes now. Disney Researcher Bob Sumner and the ETH Zurich team have created the world’s first eight-player NES, one that also projects onto a 360-degree display. Not modding or hacking the system…


In praise of Mega Man X

Going fast is easy—the challenge is in reacting to the unwritten near-future while maintaining environmental awareness to avoid running into shit. For all the risks to life and limb, the human brain and body craves the thrill of speed. As such, even relatively primitive virtualized acceleration titillates. In the 16-bit era, games like Sonic the Hedgehog and F-Zero managed to create a placebo of velocity; my muscles tingled at every near-miss and last-second pass, or more often my ears throbbed with the rage of repetitive crashes. A lack of larger peripheral vision is what held back the otherwise stylish and…