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April 2023 Featured Member: Tabonga

Reed Rothchild


What originally brought you to NA and VGS?

Let's see - I don't remember how I heard about NA since it has been awhile - might have been from Bighab or Daria who were also fellow members at Shining Force Central Forums.  And then someone from NA contacted me about VGS...

Yeah, me!¬†ūüėÜ

I wasn't sure but I thought it was - verified it in the banned thread later.  Anyway, I decided to lurk about (under a different name) at first since I had some misgivings about NA - VGS seems to have avoided most of the things I considered problematic about NA.

Story behind your username(s)?

This is likely atypical - I settled on an avatar first and found a name to match.  My snake/tree is actually an old Hing Fat toy that was originally in a monster bucket they made.  They are now collectible and go for way too much on ebay - oddly enough you can still get them in a different manufacturer's toy bucket and you get two of them (along with a strange assortment of other toys) for under $20.  I have about 20 of them as part of a fantasy playset I put together.  Tabonga was a demon inhabited tree that killed people on a South Seas Island - found in a pretty cheesy 1957 horror movie called "From Hell It Came".

What about Natty Bumpoo? [it was his handle on NA]

Natty Bumppo was the real name of Hawkeye from the James Fenimore Cooper series of novels that "The Last of the Mohicans"  was part of.  He had a whole passel  of different names - I don't remember them all but there were at least 8.  We got to read things like that in junior high way back when.

Where do you hail from?

Originally from Eden Prairie, Minnesota - then went to Yankton, South Dakota and then moved to the Denver area where I still am.

What do you do for a living?

I am retired after slogging though the State of Colorado's classified employee system - generally miserable job (not because of the work but because of their horrible management system).  I was able to survive long enough to qualify for an ok state pension - not getting rich but it keeps the wolf off of the back stoop.

Top ten favorite games of all time and why?

I hate these lists - not enough room - I am gonna cheat somewhat though.

1.  Dark Wizard (Sega CD) - Awesome game for the time (despite having an AI that is dumber than a box of rocks - something that most strategy games suffer from).  Large overworld with large battlefields that have hex grids and ZOCs.  Armies of up to 40 units that are pretty much totally customizable. Lots and lots of secrets to find. Easily the game I have played the most often to try different things.

These are in no particular order.

2. The Legend of Zelda - A Link to the Past.  Don't think I need to justify this one!!   I wish Nintendo would get off its ass and redo this one like they did Link's Awakening.  They owe us after jacking around with the release of Advance Wars Reboot for so long.

3.  Advance Wars 1/2 - great games with an amazing amount of play both in the campaigns and the supplemental menus.  The only major complaint I have is that you can't go into the campaign battles so you wind up having to play through everything to get at the alternate battle paths and to try different strategies.  Hopefully they will address that in the upcoming (finally) reboot edition.

4. Nectaris (Ps1)  - Not an SRPG but a straightforward strategy game based around the classic Military Madness (which is included on the disc) on the TurboGrafx.  The game has some unique mechanics with hex grids and ZOCs.  A lot of the scenarios play out as puzzles (has to do with how you get reinforcements) as well as strategy ones. There are a whopping 108 scenarios - any of which (after the first play) you can go into and play but itself to try different strategies.  It is probably IMHO the best Ps1 game that can still be had for a reasonable price.

5. Brigandine - Legend of Forsena (Ps1) - another SRPG with hex grids and ZOCs (did I mention I like those in games?? ^____^) You can play any of six countries with knights that recruit up to 7 monsters that also upgrade with changing skills.  The monsters can suffer perma death while the knights go off for R&R for a month and are unavailable.  Lots of gameplay as you can play the game from many many different approachs.  The battles last no longer than 12 turns so gameplay flows really quickly.

6. Shining Force 1/2/CD (Genesis/Sega CD) - lumped together since the gameplay is pretty much the same - SF1 was the first SRPG (along with Master of Monsters - also for the Genesis) I got (which I played immediately). Simple gameplay so it is almost relaxing to play - there is a storyline to each game but each of the 30 characters in each game has a short story,

7. Final Fantasy II (SNES) - This one holds a special place in my memory - it was one of the first two games I got with my SNES (the other was Tetris).  It really intrigued me since it was my first console RPG and long enought to keep me engaged for god knows how many hours.

8.  Any of numerous Sokoban games (where you are a hapless warehouse drone who has to pack crates in the most poorly designed rooms imaginable).  Not a lot of replay in any one of them but they were wildliy popular in Japan - and you don't need any knowledge of Japanese to play them (with the possible exception of Power Sokoban).  I always thought the Genesis version of one of them had a really funny title - "Shove It!".

Now for a couple on the switch.  

9. Mercenaries  series by Rideon - six games in the series with a seventh one not yet translated.  The mechanics are the same in all of them so not really a learning curve after the first game.  The skill tree is simple.  The differences in the games are found in the equipment which can imbue character qualities and the characters in all the games have different but similar skill sets.  And the battles are fairly challenging since terrain plays an important part in them.  They really reward replays since accumulated weapons and the attached skills carry over - and each game has at least one alternate path.

10.  Banner of the Maid - kind of a sophisticated Shining Force game set in an alternate Napoleonic era France.  No magic but it does have an interesting mechanic where you have to weave through support from the various factions  in Paris to improve weapons.  A lot of interesting battlefields where the terrain is as much a factor as the enemy.

Well, you're obviously a major "tactics" guy, so I'll ask your thoughts on the following [I grouped these based on his replies]:

Ogre Battle, Tactics Ogre, Final Fantasy Tactics

While I have various iterations of these I never could maintain interest in them to get very far.  If something doesn't grab me from the get go I often lose interest.  I also tend to go with stuff I like since I only have so much time avaiable.

Fallout Tactics, Myth, Close Combat

Not familiar with those - likely on formats I don't have or maybe PC - we usually only had one PC and I deliberately stayed away from games on it since it would take too much time away from Mrs. Tobanga's time.

Panzer General

I have that and Allied General on PS1 - played them but neither  impressed me that much - real historical stuff doesn't seem to provide as good of a game basis as fictional stuff.


I really liked the original (one of the first 4 Genesis games I got - the others were Master of Monsters, Phantasy Star II and Shining Force I) despite the cannon fodder soldiers.  The only real weakness was the one serpent knight class which was a neat idea but became useless very early in the game. I particularly liked the first battle where you could stick around and win (with a lot of skill and more than a little luck) rather than slink off like a whipped cur like the game wanted you to do.  You only got a little bit of gold and a little bit of experience but it was a rush to accomplish it.  

The switch redo was ok - they shrunk the maps and added the not so hidden treasures - most of which were pretty lame.  It was nice to be able to play the second one in English though.


I really liked Wargroove - I pretty much ignore time limits and go for total conquest a la Golden Horde where I slowly take everything on the map.  I even have the little pennants they originally made for each country in the game.  They also have a DLC package with three more characters and some challenging gameplay.

Vandal Hearts

I really like both Vandal Hearts PS games despite the serious flaws both had.  

VH1 had pretty gory graphics and solid gameplay except for the Vandelier class (which had the goofiest helmet ever - looked like the hats in Leningrad Cowboys Go America) - once you achieved that the hero could just sit back and cast plasma waves every turn with absolutely no fighting whatsoever.

VHII had gorgeous maps and the ability to interact with the terrain was neat (the block making was very much like giant legos in the war zone).  Also had my favorite magic spell in any game - "Grave Stench" - where the animations featured the afflicted characters choking in a puke green miasma cloud. Unfortunately the game was saddled with that horrible simultaneous movement system.

(As an aside the strategy guide for the game was great - full color glossy maps of all the battlefields with hidden locations and all the charts you would need. 

X-COM, Fire Emblem, Into the Breach, Disgaea, Triangle Strategy

Have them (more than one where applicable) for the switch and they are in the queue - as is par for the course with me - I always wind up buying more games  than I can play.

What else do you collect?

Other things I collect,  All sorts of stuff - I have going to thrift stores, flea markets and yard sales since I got out of college.ht

Here are some highlights. 

Lots and lots of books - I don't collect them (although I do have some rare ones - a coffee table The Raven by Poe from the late 1880s with the Dore steel etched engravings. A 1740 chess book by Philador - first edition but 6th printing.  Those are probably my best ones) but I tend to keep books I like after reading them.  I do have a lot of vintage paperbacks - including a complete run of the Ace Double scifi books - they were two novels bound back to back and upside down from each other - published between 1952 and 1978.

Favorite movie?

Favorite movie is for sure the Road Warrior - hard edges* and other than a few techical impossiblities it a believable scenario. (The Feral Kid was my avatar at NA.  And it never really lags.

*It says a lot that Toady getting his fingers sliced off passes for one of the few bits of humor in the movie.


Favorite book is by a historian (no surprise huh?) named Otto Bettmann.  He was a Jew who escaped from Nazi Germany and founded the Bettmann Archives - consisting of historical prints and photos - stuff from that is used in virtually every US history book that uses images.   The book is entitled "The Good Old Days - They Were Terrible!"  (The cover has an image of a garbage scow if that tells you anything.) It covers various aspects of everyday life in the US from roughly the close of the Civil War to 1900.  People whine about things today - but everyday life for most people was sheer drudgery and a constant struggle to survive at even a minimal level. We've come a long way baby

Favorite piece in your collection?

My favorite piece is the canvas map I had made from the excel file I created for the overworld of Golden Axe Warrior (which by all rights should have gone in my top ten - I likely could have weaseled it in with Link to the Past somehow).


A few other things I collect:

Movies - both on laserdisc and dvd

Boardgames - both vintage and not so vintage

Old metal bookends

Fanatasy/Rpg cloth/canvas/vinyl maps - mostly from video/computer games but other ones that catch my eye - I even have a touristy handkerchief map  of Andorra.  I have about 10 tablecloth sized vinyl maps from various Zelda games (including a Zelda game that doesn't actually exist).  

Old plastic Staunton chess sets.

Associated with those above are the briefcase  game compendiums I collect - mostly from the thirties through fifities.

What's your prize piece in each (sub)collection?


That is like asking which of my children is the best!

Movies - I have a Hong Kong laserdisc of Night of the Comet.  Pretty rare - especially since the Hong Kong market was mostly a rental one so the often got damaged just through normal use.  And at some point in time a lot of them were melted down to recycle the materials.

Boardgames - I have a mint copy of Message From M - probably the rarest of the James Bond games.

Bookends - I have a pair of Buddhas in  creche-like enclosures that I  gave the late Mrs. Tabonga as an anniversary present. So they are pretty neat but have great sentimental value to me.

Two faves in the maps - the world map for Golden Axe Warrior I made and the game map for the Zelda game that doesn't exist - it was originally created as an April Fool's joke and that was pirated by a couple sellers on Ali-Express.

I have a bakelite Lowe combined chess/chess checker set in a briefcase.   The chess sets are relatively common but the variation with the checkers is much rarer.

I have a Crisloid combination set that has never been used - still has all the tissues wrapping everything. It is odd in that it has a small chuck-a-luck cage - not unheard of in these sets but decidely on the rare side of things.  Crisloid chess pieces were generally made of hollow plastic with a weird green snap on base cap.  There is a note from the manufacturer that the pieces  can be filled with sand, salt or sugar to weight them!

If you could make any board game a video game, and any video game a board game...


Somebody made a homemade board game from Link to the Past that looked really sweet.  I would like to see something like that made.

There was an old Avalon Hill game (Blitzkrieg) that was an elaborate fictionalized version of WWII complete with minor countries.  It was pretty crazy since you had large armies wherein the units could be broken down in smaller units - so a unit with a strength of 10 could be broken into 10 smaller units.  The whole thing was too cumbersome to really use on a board game.  Properly done with a console to handle all of the routine stuff it would make a good videogame.  They also had a game based on the Battle of Jutland with counters for all of the ships present - it took up several square feet of floor space and you had to track damage to all of the ships. Plus a lot of maneuvering on paper before you could place your ships.  We never managed to finish a game.  Really doable with a console thought.

Do you still talk to @Daria (she registered since I started this interview) much?

I first met Daria at Shining Force Central Forums (Bighab was there too) and I was off work for several weeks after my first heart attack in 2000.  We had just got our first pc and I came across that site.  We have kept in sporadic touch - last time was after she moved from Florida - I got the impression that she had moved on from video games to other aspects of life.  Which is too bad - I immensely enjoyed her videos on youtube.

Beer, wine, or liquor?

I don't really drink anymore - I think I have had one screwdriver in the last 10 years and a handful of beers.  When I was younger I generally preferred beer and probably drank too much in college.  I got by with mostly free beer because I am one of those people that can open their throat and pour liquids down.  Never lost a chugging contest in that time period.  I had a buddy who would follow up by chugging a beer whilst standing on his head.  (By that time we were betting small amounts of money rather than beer.)

Coffee or tea?

Ice tea - I think I have had at most two cups of coffee in my life.

Favorite restaurant?

[Think he missed this question, but @Tabonga feel free to let us know!]

You've met up with JamesRobot once or twice.  What did you guys do?

We had a period where we went out to lunch every other week - we would take turns paying.  He has been busy for the last few months and we haven't met.  We are actually going out to lunch this Friday to re-establish that habit.


Ever go to Casa Bonita?

I went there a couple of times when I moved to the Denver area - I wasn't terribly impressed with it - but I have never been a huge fan of Taco Bell.  I plan to check it out when it reopens since I live really close to it.

Did you ever meet the rest of James' crew?

I never did - I am not a super social person - became a bit more so after Mrs. Tabonga passed away.   Besides James I have about 6 people I go out to lunch with on a regular basis - which for me is progress.

Star Wars or Star Trek?

While I liked the first season of Star Trek a lot it got cheesier as time went on and a lot of the episodes are now embarassing to watch.   And the whole concept has really outlived its shelf life IMHO.  The original 3 Star Wars* were awesome to watch in the theatre and the first especially was light years (as it were) beyond anything up till then - despite being based on the old cliffhanger serials - I suspect most peeps here are not familiar with those - but they were a pretty unique chapter (again as it were) in American cinema.  (Raiders of the Lost Ark was also based on the old cliffhanger serials.)  *I haven't kept up with all the subsequent stuff but the franchise seems to have lost its luster.

Serials - Yeah, I've never actually seen one, but I'm aware of them through whatever form of pop culture osmosis.  Like when Annie Wilkes is railing against them for "cheating" in Misery.  Did you manage to see any back in the day, or had they already died out by then?


The last two made in the West were done by Columbia Pictures in 1956.  I think there was a Japanese one in 1957.  So those were a bit before my time. I did see a couple of Flash Gordon and/or Buck Rogers ones that a museum ran when I was in high school.  Over the years I have seen maybe 60 - I have about 35 on laserdisc.   

In 1983 Firesign Theatre released a video called "Hot Shorts" - which was their own dubbing over (mostly) clips from some serials.  That is one seriously (usually) funny production.

As an addendum a lot of the serials were re-edited as feature films - didn't work all that well since they were pretty choppy to begin with (it was largely hidden since viewers at best saw them weekly - assuming they didn't miss any) and editing out a bunch of footage didn't help (I think most of them were around 200 minutes for 12 chapters - longer for the 15 chapter ones) so most of the footage wound up in the circular file - made for some seriously challenged continuity in the final cut.



We were all greatly saddened to hear of your wife's passing several years ago.  What are your favorite stories with Mrs. Tabonga that you like to remember?


Thanks - her loss is still felt - as I tell people while things don't get better with time they do get easier.  If that makes any sense.

When I moved to Denver I got a job working in a small private college library.  I was in the media department but we all worked where needed to cover things since the library staff was very small in number.

I had barely been there two weeks and hadn't even really learned my main job let alone the other ones.  Everyone else had to go to a meeting and they left me in charge of the circulation desk despite the fact that I could check out a book and that was about it.

The not-yet-Mrs. Tabonga came in and wanted to check out some books.  Since we were a private library we didn't have a public patron policy.  She had registered for the fall semester but unfortunalely she didn't have anything to prove that.   So I wouldn't check out the books to her.

When she started school she worked as a student in the library and that is where we got to know each other and the rest was history..


When we were dating we used to go to a local arcade and play air hockey and the old game "Joust".  She used to call Joust "flop" since the dragons (or whatever the mounts were) more flopped/flapped around than anything else.

Did she enjoy many of your hobbies with you?

She played a few video games - mostly Sonic and Ecco.  She was also a heavy reader - although we tended to read different things.  She had other hobbies such as knitting and she liked working in the garden.  We each mostly did our own thing - which meant we gave each other a lot of space - which in our case was a good thing since we were both pretty independent people.  We did enjoy going to movies together - especially after we retired.

How's retirement treating you?

All things considered life isn't bad.  I have survived more than one major health crisis and just keep chugging along like the energizer bunny.  While I am not getting rich the wolf isn't  on the back stoop pounding on the door either (I think he is lurking somewhere in the alley though...)

Before we had video games, what in the world did you do for fun?

I have always read a lot and played board games.  Plus we watched a lot of movies - laserdiscs were a big move forward for us and then dvds.


Normally I tell people to walk us through a day in their life.

Please walk us through a day in your life.



Please also walk us through the entire life story of Mr. tabonga.  I can't imagine how many interesting stories you could tell.

Well I get up (which I figure every time that happens I am ahead of the game), check email etc, shave etc.   Check in here at some point in time.  I do a lot of reading and play a lot on the switch.  (Usually listen to ambient stuff on the chromebook while this is going on.)  I have a small group of friends who I go out to an early lunch with - about every two weeks for each person - we take turns paying.  Aside from occasional trips to the grocery store etc that is abou it.  I do not lead a terribly exciting life!

Lets see - we lived in Bloomington Minnesota when I was born.  When i was pretty little we moved to Eden Prairie (which is now an expensive suburb - back then it was the sticks).  It was nice though since  my family owned about 7 acres - mostly wooded - so we had lots of space to roam around on whilst growing up.

We grew up dirt poor but it was pretty enjoyable - never really  realized how poor until I started slowly working into the lower middle class over the years.

Went to college in 1970 (although I wanted to work a couple of years first- but that would have involved a side trip to Vietnam so that was not a good option.  I went to school for 3 years in Yankton. South Dakota and dropped out (mostly due to boredom) since the draft had  ended.

I then worked for the State Psychiatric Hospital for two years - mondo strange job - was hard but it was really hard on my head.

My family in the meantime had moved to the Denver area so I went there and got a job in a library in a small private college where I met the not yet Mrs. Tabonga.  We got married the day after she graduated.  In the meantime I finished my BA there since I could take free classes since I was an employee.

The college folded in 1988 and I got a job at the state university in Denver shortly thereafter where I stayed until I retired in 2014. (Mrs Tabonga also worked for the state and also retired at the same time.)


One odd story involves the theater at the college where I worked.  Although not a theater major I (as a hobby basically) worked on sound for theater productions.  Right after I started to work at the college I offered to run sound for a summer show.  I would go the theater after work (4:30 or so) and work for an hour or two on stuff there. 

The theater (like just almost all theaters) was supposedly haunted although I had not heard the stories yet.

I went over one afternoon and there was no one else in the theater since they were off eating.  I was laying down zip cord and was behind some flats - from where I could see the stage exits from the flats and the main stage entrances  were two sets of stairs on the opposite wings.   It was a large theater - 1000 seats and the stage area was commensurately large.

I heard someone walk across the stage from one of the wings and they stopped mid stage.  I called out and got no response - so I got up and walked to one of the flat entrances and there was no one there.  if they had exited via either wing I would have heard them since they would have had to  move pretty quickly to not only to get off the stage but to the back of the house (or trip one of two spring doors) .  They didn't leave via the stage since I could see those exits.  Not sure what happened - but I decided it was a really good time to go have supper!

Any big plans for the rest of 2023?

Nothing big planned - although my immediate future is going to heavily involved with Advance Wars Reboot! Looking forward to that one a lot.

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That was an awesome read! I'm very fortunate to have called Tabonga a friend for 20 years. A lot of fun discussing collecting and trading together early on. I'm grateful for his weekly emails that show his sense of humor and others that show his excitement over new Switch games he thinks I may like.

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2 hours ago, spacepup said:

Thanks for sharing Tabonga ūüôā¬†¬†

You are indeed welcome!

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Wait, hold the f up…..

Casa Bonita is a real place!!! Can you dive off the top into the water!?!

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Posted (edited)

51 minutes ago, a3quit4s said:

Wait, hold the f up…..

Casa Bonita is a real place!!! Can you dive off the top into the water!?!

Yes.   And no -  I like my spinal column just the way it is thank you!!!!!



At the original some of the staff would dive off small cliffs into the water.  I assume that will continue in the revamp but who knows for sure?


Edited by Tabonga
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Nice! I've been waiting for another one of these 'Get to know...' interviews; they are always fun reads and - over the past few weeks - I've found myself wondering when another would come ūüôā Thanks @Reed Rothchild & @Tabonga!

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@Tabonga wait, what's the story on this? i am super interested:


Two faves in the maps - the game map for the Zelda game that doesn't exist - it was originally created as an April Fool's joke and that was pirated by a couple sellers on Ali-Express.


good interview as always, @Reed Rothchild. thanks for doing these!

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1 hour ago, twiztor said:

@Tabonga wait, what's the story on this? i am super interested:

i long time ago I bought 10-12 tablecloth size vinyl Zelda maps* from various games and there was one I couldn't identify.  Sometime after I finished the GAW map I joined a forum devoted to videogame maps - mostly to show it off I admit. 

The founder/admin had made a Zelda map as an elaborate April Fool's joke about a non-existant Zelda game.  Which is how I found out what it really was.

*I got them from Aliexpress so they were pirated. 

Edited by Tabonga
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While we were talking about cliffhangers I forgot to mention this film - "Flesh Gordon" is a spoof/homage to the 3 Flash Gordon serials - the film started out being made as an adult film and during production it was softened to an R film - if you like serials it should appeal.   Obviously low budget it still does well.  Here is a stop animation clip from it:

(And yes - the spaceships in the originals did pretty much look like that one here!)

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