Interview with NekoJonez by the Well-Red Mage

Today I want to bring you an article from a website that has totally rebranded. The website is of a good friend of mine, the Well Red Mage. Together with a lot of other co-writers he runs the amazing the-pixels.com. Before the rebranding, he did a series where he interviewed other bloggers. Now, during the rebranding, the decision was made to remove these articles. Since I personally really liked the article, I asked if I was allowed to rehome it. He agreed that I was allowed to republish the article and give it a new home here. An editorial note: this article was published at least 7 years ago. Around 2015-2016. Some information is out-of-date, and some branding has totally changed. But, please do enjoy this old blast from the past.

“Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help so much since you can feel so connected with people going through the same things.”

For our sixth blogger interview I had the pleasure of corresponding across the wide oceans with the collector extraordinaire, NekoJonez of arpegi.wordpress.com. I had a great time chatting and getting some substantial responses! If you’re interested in joining our series of interviewees, but don’t know how, then improve ze mind! Check out our post “Introducing Blogger Interviews“.

“Hello again, NekoJonez!
It is about time we started your interview! Yay, get excited! Let’s start off with the question: How long have you been a gamer?”

“Hello there, I’m pretty excited to do this. I have been a gamer since I was about 4 years old. The year was 1996. I got my first experiences with early computer games and the best handheld line ever made; the Game Boy and DS line. I wasn’t allowed to play consoles when I was a child and I didn’t get a lot of computer time… So, I played a lot on my Game Boy. I ran through so many batteries when I was little, I think the battery companies earned a fortune from my pocket money. Mario & Yoshi, Pokémon, Pac-Man, Tetris, Zelda: Link’s Awakening are just a few games I have played back then.”

Can’t go wrong with the Game Boy. Such an influential system and so accessible for us as children. What was your favorite game for the original green and black Game Boy?

“That’s a very difficult question to answer. Since there have been so many great titles on the green & black Game Boy. Games like Kirby’s Dreamland, Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Super Mario Land 2 are honorable mentions. But if I have to choose, I have to go for the most predictable of them all. Pokémon Red & Blue. There is no game in the Game Boy library that can top that and the childhood memories it created. But, truth to be told, I started playing on the Game Boy Color quite quickly since the old Game Boy brick broke… Thanks to battery acid. Yeah. Right before my birthday. Not too long after, I got my own Game Boy Color, which I still own.”

“Ooh, rest in peace, classic Game Boy.
Wherever you are. Great list of games by the way. It’s hard to overstate how insane those original Pokémon games were when they came out. Still remember your favorite first-gen Pokémon?”

“Yes, and my favorite first-gen Pokémon isn’t picked because it’s the strongest or the best Pokémon in the generation… It’s just because both my nickname and my personality. Also, I loved his character in the anime! Yes, it’s the cat Pokémon, Meowth. The Alola region variant is also in my personal favorite color. Silver-y. . Little story time: I was known as the catlover in primary school and when we played Pokémon on the playground; I always got the role of Meowth or Giovanni. Which is strange, since I’m kindhearted and caring by nature.”

“I can hear Meowth’s grating voice and urban accent already!
So beyond a love for Game Boy, tell us a little more about yourself!”

 “I’m NekoJonez. A 23-year Belgian man who works in education. My biggest hobbies are writing, playing games, blogging and acting on stage. Besides games, I like to watch anime to chill. I’m also studying to have a bachelor’s degree in computer science. I love playing games, it doesn’t matter to me when they are released. … Oh, before I forget, I also collect games since I was a child. So, I’m quite proud of my collection too.” 🙂

“Where did the name NekoJonez come from? Neko is ‘Cat’ in Japanese is it not?
I’m guessing Meowth maybe had something to do with that.”

“Well, it has a history. Neko is indeed the Japanese for cat. Because I love cats and I have a big interest in everything that’s Japanese… I added Neko to my nickname. But that addition was only added like 5-6 years ago. Jonez comes from something else. When I was 7 years old, I think, my aunt and I went to a video rental store. I was allowed to rent Indiana Jones and The Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Oh man, I was hooked. My cousin got this amazing PC game of Indiana Jones. It was called, The Infernal Machine. And yeah, I know it from the first level to the last by heart. And because of that, people started calling me Jones. And… as a child I was afraid for getting sued for copyright, so I changed the last letter to a ‘Z’.”

“That’s a charming story! So you’re like a feline treasure hunter. From Belgium!
Are the waffles really famous there?”

“Kind of, but there is one Belgian product way more popular: French fries. In some households it’s a big tradition to go and get fries each week. We also have special stores that only sell French Fries and special meat with it, besides the usual chains. But the waffles are most popular in our capital with tourists. I personally love the one with chocolate on top and sugar in it. Man, those are tasty.”

“Now I want waffles…
How long have you been writing/blogging for and how did you get started? Was it like a sudden epiphany or something?”

“The writing is something that started when I was a child. When I watched movies, read a book, played a game… I was so interested in why people got drawn into the story. So, I tried to write my own. With various levels of success. I once got in the finals of a competition in early high school with a story I wrote in 15 minutes. But in 2010, I thought to myself…. What if I can share my love of games with the world and start reviewing? I’m not too good at designing and things like that, so I ditched the video review idea. I still wanted to share my gaming life with my family, so I can avoid the usual questions of ‘what are you playing and what do you think of it?’ Around early May 2010, I created my blog. I first started to write in Dutch. Since I wanted to share my reviews and such with my family and friends. That was a fun journey. It taught me a lot on the basics of blogging. I once got into a small argument with a TV-channel here. In 2013, I both stopped my Dutch blog, archived it and replaced it with my current English blog. And when my articles got picked up by other blogs, my own blog started growing.”

“That’s pretty cool writing in different languages.
What was the argument with the TV-channel about?”

“Well, it was right around the first E3 presentation of the 3DS. Back then, there was a Belgian gaming TV-channel covering the event. And when the Nintendo event got covered, they did it in such a bad manner… I wrote a lengthy article about it, giving my views and arguments on it. To my surprise, in the next episode, they mentioned my blog by name! They also left a comment on my blog kindly inviting me to the studio to record an episode with them. Sadly enough, I wasn’t able to go, but I still have the article and comment archived somewhere. But yeah, TV-exposure really boosted my blog and from then on out, I went from 2-5/visitors a day to 20-50/visitors a day. And it was a big boost for me since they actually agreed with some of my arguments! Sadly enough, I haven’t recorded the actual shout out and the TV-channel doesn’t exist anymore. Otherwise, I would have posted a link, so it could be added in this interview.”

“Wow, that’s some really awesome exposure.
What are your current thoughts on Nintendo, the Switch or the NES Mini?”

“About the NES Mini, I’m both happy and afraid. I’m happy that people get to play retro games on a dedicated box. This would put retro games more in the spotlight. It does make me afraid though, since now it’s possible I get even more competition when I’m hunting games down at garage sales and flea markets. And the Nintendo Switch looks like an amazing concept to me. Like, it’s almost made for me. I love playing my handheld since I’m on the go a lot. But when I’m home, I can play my games on a big screen. LOVELY. I know that Skyrim is being ported to the Switch, but if I may choose one game that could be ported to the Switch, it’s the Bioshock Trilogy. But the Nintendo Switch has a ton of potential, and I’m avoiding reading up about it as much as I can. So, I can be blown away and amazed when it comes out.” 

“I think I can echo most of those thoughts as well.
Here in the states, the accessibility of the NES Mini is next to nothing. Like it’s impossible to find. I’ve got a visually retro themed blog, so obviously I’d like to get my hands on it whenever that becomes possible. I’m excited about the Nintendo Switch too! Tell me, what would be the best thing you think the Switch could do to be amazing, and conversely what would absolutely ruin the Switch for you?”

“The Switch would be great if it enhanced our way of play. I would love to see games take advantage of the fact that the Switch is portable and a console. Just imagine for a second, you go on a physical Pokémon hunt and when you plug the Switch in, you can have Pokémon battles on a big screen. Think of the possibilities.

“What would ruin the Switch for me is when the battery life sucks. It’s marketed as being portable and fun for the whole family. Also, I hope that the first games that are released for it isn’t all Wii U ports. I want something new and fresh in the launch titles too. But actually thinking about it… Something that raises a red flag is the facts it’s portable too. I am worried that developers will have trouble with it. Since the way how handheld games work versus console games… Time will tell on that. We could spend hours and hours speculating about amazing ideas and red flags for the Switch, but I think we should wait for when more information drops.”

“The battery life will be a big one for sure.
What about your collection you’re so proud of? Care to share more on that?”

“I have been a collector for a long time. It all started because my family and parents found games too expensive to buy. So, when they found out that you can buy big titles on a garage sale, they took me to garage sales. And I love it. Now, I go to various garage sales and thrift stores to let my collection grow. I also talk to coworkers and friends and ask them if they don’t need their old games anymore. So, most of my collection comes from there. I have posted some pictures a while ago, but I always wanted to write and create an updated list of my collection, but it’s such a big project, I rarely find the time for it. I love getting up early to go and buy games for my collection. Something I’m most proud of is the fact that I have a collection with games that interest me, have a history, can be interesting to review on my blog, have some major value. I also have one rule, I try to avoid buying games on sites like eBay or buying them online. I wish to find them all in the wild. And that’s something else I’m quite proud of.”

“That is really cool! You must have some good luck with thrift stores and yard sales.
Seems like nobody in my town is selling stuff like this anymore. What is one of the rarest items in your collection? And which item are you most proud of?”

“Well, I have two different versions of Pokémon Crystal v1.0 and v1.1, I have StarFox on the SNES boxed. I also have a means to play almost every Zelda game released. The most rare items are a few games that were only released here in Belgium. Like educational titles. Those are extremely hard to find in my native language. And some educational titles from other countries in Europe that got translated into English. I enjoy playing educational titles once in a while. Freddi Fish is one of my childhood favorites. If I have to pick the item I’m most proud off, well… It’s my (3)DS. Since I have played so many games on both those devices, it’s ridiculous.”

“That’s awesome! Sounds like a breathtaking collection.
I wish I could just come over for the weekend to hang out. Haha! Well in wrapping this up let me ask you for a bit of encouraging wisdom, if I may. There are many people who are lonely this time of year. What would you say to some of them if you could?”

“If you have family, go and do something with your family. If you have a pet, give it an additional present this time of year. Also, don’t stay lonely. Go out in the world and explore. Go to events and try to enjoy yourself. Instead of keeping the feeling inside, seriously talk about it with family and friends. Seriously, life will be a lot more fun this way. You will have a lot more stories and experiences. And honestly, start to blog and/or vlog. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can help so much since you can feel so connected with people going through the same things.”

“I hope those words touch someone who needs to hear them.
Well, it’s been a real pleasure talking with you across the oceans! Thanks very much for spending your time with me.”

“You’re welcome. Thanks for the interview! Have a great rest of your day!”

End Transmission.

A tale about the original Legend of Zelda

Editorial note: this article is from @timbledsoe689. The reason it’s republished here is that his website got taken down due to events out of his control. In mutual agreement, we are republishing the article here to give it a new home. Apart from fixing a few typos… there is no difference between this publication and the original.

There I was, twelve or thirteen years old, in a quiet corner of a Sears department store. It was
midday, and no one else was around the lone Nintendo kiosk with its strange rectangle
controllers. As I picked up the now iconic but then alien controller, I had no idea my life was
about to be changed.


The video games I had played before were all in the arcade. I had played Atari at a friend’s
house once, but the abstract dots and lines and harsh bleeps and bloops never caught my
attention. The arcade games were better, with better graphics and sound, and a better sense of
what you were supposed to be doing. But even the arcade games never held my attention, they
seemed like simple experiences limited to one usually burned out CRT screen. The Legend of
Zelda was different.


It was mid-summer and my dad had dropped us off at the mall for a few hours to get us out of
his thinning hair. After the usual wandering, I came across this Nintendo kiosk and started
playing. There was no time limit, no line. The opening screen had beautiful music and this
intriguing screen that promised a great adventure.

was blown away by the freedom I had exploring Hyrule. I could travel any of the four compass
directions in a land that had realistic geographic boundaries like mountains and lakes. Going
any direction was a revelation; all games I’d played before had been single screen like Pac-Man
or Centipede. Side scrolling games like Super Mario Bros. were out there, but I hadn’t played
Then, and besides, that was just one direction. The Legend of Zelda let you go anywhere! Well,
almost.


It didn’t take long for me to run into monsters that took bites out of my three red hearts, killing
me and sending me back to the beginning. Soon enough, I found the strange old man in the
cave uttering the words that are now on 1000 T-shirts, “It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this.”
Armed with my new sword, I went back and took my revenge on the beasties who had
destroyed me earlier. But I still died a lot, as each enemy moved and attacked in different ways.
It would be several months later until I even learned how to use my shield to block Octorock and
other monster’s projectiles. The Tektites were my least favorite, leaping at me from above in (to
me at the time) unpredictable frightening death dealing drops.


Avoiding some monsters, I explored as far as I could. Along the way I discovered that stones
could sometimes be pushed, some shrubs could be slashed with the sword. My sense of
wonder increased with each discovery. I found a magical fairy fountain that replenished my
hearts. More strange old men in caves selling items.


I had just discovered my first dungeon in a tree on an island, when I felt a tap on my shoulder.
Was it someone else wanting to play at the Sears kiosk? No, it was mall security. Apparently I’d
been playing for four hours, lost all track of time, and forgotten to go back to my pickup point in
the mall. My father had contacted mall security, and they were all looking for me!
That time with the demo of The Legend of Zelda profoundly affected me. Not only would I start a
lawn mowing business, so I could save up for a NES and a 13-inch TV, but my interest in gaming
was cemented At that moment. It’s safe to say that I would not be writing on games blogs now if
it weren’t for that day.


That was my own personal introduction to the Legend of Zelda, but the game had quite a
worldwide impact as well. It was a bestseller for Nintendo, selling over 6.5 million copies. The
game is almost always included in any list of influential video games that have shaped the
industry. In The Legend of Zelda, there are 8 pieces of the Triforce of Wisdom to collect before
you can rescue Zelda. In a similar vain, I thought I would list 8 great things about The Legend of
Zelda, that when combined form a greater whole.

Exploration


For its time, The Legend of Zelda had a large, sprawling map. It was divided into squares
co-responding with what could be displayed on the screen. When the player leaves the edge of
the screen, the view shifts to the next square on the grid, which might seem jarring and limited
now, but in 1986, felt like a vast wilderness to explore. There were green forests, gray
graveyards, brown deserts and mountains, and blue streams and lake. Yes, it might seem
simple by today’s standards, but the brightly colored map allowed the player to fill in details with
their imagination and there was always the feeling that something magical would be discovered
on the next screen. Game Designer Shigeru Miyamoto drew inspiration for the game from
memories of his childhood exploring caves, forests, and streams around Kyoto. “When I was a
child,” said Miyamoto, “I went hiking and found a lake. It was quite a surprise for me to stumble
upon it. When I traveled around the country without a map, trying to find my way, stumbling on
amazing things as I went, I realized how it felt to go on an adventure like this.”


Secrets


Almost every screen of the map held a secret to be discovered. That differently colored crack in
the wall? Bomb it for a secret passage. Three stones in a row? Push them to reveal a trapdoor.
Bushes could also be burned to reveal entrances, and there were a few other ways to interact
with the environment, once the proper tools were acquired. Once the player figured out a lot
was hidden under the surface, they were encouraged to spend more time in each area, and it
made the areas something to explore, not just rush through.


Items and Tools


Sometimes the player would be certain an area held a secret, but there was no way to interact
with the suspicious item in the environment. That’s ok! After playing the game for a while, the
player knew they would beat a dungeon later that would give them an item that would let them
tackle that spot. For example, maybe you can now burn that gnarled tree thanks to the Blue
Candle you just earned. By the way, anyone who says anything other than the Magical
Boomerang is the best item is just dead wrong!
Monsters
While a few monsters such as the goblin-like Moblins or Wizzrobes felt familiar for a fantasy
game, The Legend of Zelda, introduced many unique monsters. Pesky Octroks flung stones at
you from Qbert like mouths, Tektites bounced toward you like your worst nightmare, and who
could forget the crazy spinning Leevers? Seriously, were they a plant or an animal? Some of the
most terrifying (and my favorite) monsters were reserved for the dungeons. These monsters
could not only kill you, they could make your life difficult. Once you were trapped in the
snakelike grasp of a Like Like, you would lose your precious shield! Or if you were scooped up
by the ominous floating handed Wall Master, it was back to the start of the dungeon for you, all
progress lost.


Dungeons


Dungeons were the treats the game rewarded you for exploring. Twisted challenging mazes
with traps, rooms that would go dark, and their own set of monsters, dungeon were a challenge
you loved to hate. In the days before the internet, it was not uncommon to be stuck in a
dungeon for a while until you talked to a friend or gave up and called the Nintendo game play
counselor. Yes, that was a thing. And if you reached the center of the dungeon, your reward
was a special Boss monster! In a whimsical touch, the grids of the dungeons were shaped after
creatures like eagles, dragons, and demons. For all the frustration, the dungeons of the Legend
of Zelda were somehow one of the aspects of the game I remember most fondly.

Sound and Music

Composer and sound director of the series, Koji Kondo had very limited hardware to create
sounds and music for the game. Yet, with scratchy percussion and tinny horns, he managed to
create a theme that was beautiful and evocative. Although I will confess I enjoy versions of the
theme played with real instruments, I still get nostalgic when I hear it in its original 8-bit glory.
The game sounds were fantastic too. I still to this day feel elation when I hear the sound of Link
acquiring a new item!


Second Quest


Other games have done it before and since, but it was still neat that after you beat the game,
you could play “The Second Quest”. While most of the Overland areas were laid out the same,
the dungeons were laid out much differently, and the enemies were harder. Back when the
game came out, games weren’t released as often as they are now and were quite expensive, so
in effect, doubling the content of the game was a very nice thing for Nintendo to do. Word soon
spread on the playground back in the day that you could access the Second Quest right from
the beginning by typing “Zelda” as your player’s name!


The Gold cartridge


There was just something cool about seeing the gold Legend of Zelda cartridge next to all the
standard gray NES carts in your collection. Nintendo knew they had something epic and special
with this game, and I’m glad they chose to celebrate it with the extra effort and expense to
modify their normal manufacturing process and give us something nice. In the day of more and
more games being downloaded directly, something as cool as a gold cartridge becomes an
even rarer


If you’ve never played The Legend of Zelda, I hope this article gave you a taste of what made it
such an amazing experience at the time. This blog is part of a larger series explores the history
of the series and its major entries. Be sure to check out the hub article via this link for links to all the
great articles and retrospectives on this epic series.