Archive for the ‘retrogaming’ Category

Drink’n Games Episode 1: Einhander

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Hey everyone! I know I’ve been gone for forever, and while I am beyond positive nobody noticed I’m happy to come back with a somewhat new feature. Sort of.

See, a few years ago, I was briefly employed by a British gaming website called The Game Jar. It’s no longer with us now, but through my bumbling and constant need for rewrites I made a lot of friends and learned a lot about writing, both in general and specifically when it comes to video games and the other bullshit I try tackling here.

Along the way, my editor (a gentleman named Sean who I am still pleased to call my friend) stumbled upon the idea that since my Internet presence consists largely of pictures of beer and complaining about video games, why not combine the two? He suggested I make a drinking game out of it, and write rules as to when I should drink and why, and chronicle how well it goes for me. Since the beers were always new to me, and the games were either new or at least something I hadn’t touched in forever, the results generally didn’t go well.

After The Game Jar sadly folded, the idea kind of stewed in my mind until, in a jealous fit upon seeing Jeremy Parish’s “Gintendo” series (as well as a lot of Game Center CX, a series I hold dear to my heart), the idea hit me to bring Drink’n Games back as a video series so you can see my shame live and in person!

So after a few weeks of filming, editing, and hangovers, here’s the first filmed Drink’n Games. I wanted to throw up some more helpful text but frankly this thing has taken too goddamn much of my life in the first place so I’m putting the video up to kind of exist on its own terms.

They’ll get better as I do more of them. Promise.

 

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Indoor Living – My Summer Games List 2016

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

Look, I’m not gonna sit here and pretend I’m a talented enough writer to think that you all need me to explain how important summer vacation was to a kid. We’ve all had them, we’ve all enjoyed them, we’ve all dreaded their passage, there’s not really much I can contribute to that conversation.

With that in mind, it’s fair to say they were just as important to me as they were you. I was never really a family of big summer plans; never went to camp (and thank fuck because I would have hated every fucking second of it if it wasn’t Space Camp), never went away for an entire summer, never even went to the ocean until much later in life – really, my big summer events that weren’t a long-weekend trip to Toronto or Chicago were largely spent sleeping in and/or eating too much at grandpa’s house.

Not that I’m complaining! Then, as now, I was a lonely young man who really valued his free time away from people, and what better way to spend that time than with video games? Any kind of break from school was, to me, the perfect time to catch up on video games and finally make some goddamn progress, whether it was Chrono Trigger or Metal Gear Solid or whatever. As a result, the majority of my most pleasant gaming memories revolve around summertime, and I try to uphold that tradition as much as I can by staying inside all goddamn summer and playing all the goddamn video games I can!

It gets a little harder as time goes by, though, because now there’s too many goddamn video games and as a result anything I want to remember having played in the summer has to compete with like twelve other games I’ve thought about getting into. To that end I’ve decided to try to keep a record of every summer game I play going forward, starting with these choice nuggets! Join me, won’t you?

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The Dream Of The 90’s Is Alive At My House – Dreamcast GD-EMU Review

Saturday, August 13th, 2016

So it’s no surprise to anybody that I’m obsessed with Sega’s final console, some…fifteen years and change after it shuffled off this mortal coil (an event that coincided with me having to start high school, which if I were a dickhead I’d say was some representation of me having to start the journey into adulthood or something). I play mine with a frequency, and I still lug it over to a number of friend’s houses to get back on the multiplayer for a number of games – indeed, it was really the only time I could ever claim to be good at Quake III Arena, and even then it was because I had the mouse & keyboard.

The only real problem is that they just don’t last too long. I got mine shortly after launch and it’s held up fine enough so far, but browse the Internet for any length of time and you’ll see dozens of accounts of people whose Dreamcasts have just stopped reading discs, thanks to the…er…touchy specificness of the GD-ROM laser lens. And while technology has allowed us to emulate the system well enough, it still isn’t 100%, and for a long time there was no Everdrive-like solution to replacing the need for physical games, even if you’ve been able to burn pirated copies since about a month after the damn thing came out.

Until now. Thanks to an industrious young man in Poland with the patience of a saint (and the skill with a soldering iron to match), I now have access to every goddamn Dreamcast game I could ever want to play. Even that shitty fucking South Park quiz game.

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New Adventures in Hi-Def: iScan VP30 Video Upscaler Review

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

(So let’s make this obvious right off the bat – for as nerdy as this shit gets sometimes, I freely admit that this particular article is gonna get a little out there, so apologies in advance if this isn’t a subject any of you find particularly appealing. I still felt like it was information worth getting out there.)

Thanks to a recent Retronauts episode dealing with the pains of playing old video games on modern-day TVs, I found myself confronting a problem that I’d tried so hard to run from so many times before: I didn’t have a good way to play retro games on my TV.

That isn’t to say I’m for want of systems, by any means – at this point I own god knows how many Famiclones for various purposes and needs, and I’ve recently started investing heavily in Everdrives and flash carts to make sure I’ve always got whatever games I need right at hand.

But…they just never looked that great. My current (and probable future) living situation is fairly prohibitive of me owning a CRT television, or at least one worth any kind of shit. Plugging a non-HD system directly into an HDTV will never not look like pure ass, and while there are a few clone systems out there that offer HDMI output they come with their own unique problems.

So I researched my options and finally did the thing I tried to stop myself doing so many times before: I bought a video upscaler.

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I May Have Played This Already? – Xargon

Thursday, September 10th, 2015

It’s a concept that’s nearly unheard of now, but there was a brief period in my life where I was the only person I knew with a computer.

I bring this up not to boast or imply any sort of superiority about my upbringing, merely to illustrate a story. My dad is a CAD drafter, and as such has always needed to own really powerful computers in order to handle the 3D modeling software he uses for his job. This resulted, one spring evening, in my parents taking my sister and I to the newly-opened local Best Buy where, amidst the giant Mario and Sonic statues they had on display near a wall of tube TVs straight out of a Kriss Kross video, my family bought our very first PC. It was then that the world of PC gaming was open to me, and for someone who at that point had only seen what the NES, Genesis, and SNES had to offer it was revolutionary.

My time spent with LucasArts adventure games and DOOM could fill a series of blog posts, so for the sake of brevity I’ll get to the point. Early PC gaming brought with it the concept of shareware, an idea popularized by id’s Commander Keen games wherein you give part of your game away for free and make people buy the rest. Sort of like DLC, except you’re actually being given a sizable chunk of a game instead of being forced to pay to unlock fighting game characters or some shit.

A lot of games would cross my desk as a young lad thanks to shareware – the burgeoning PC gaming community meant my dad worked with a lot of dudes just as nerdy as he and I who would gladly make copies of shareware games and pass them around so everyone got to try them. This sort of behavior was encouraged by publishers (hence the name ‘shareware’) and seems almost quaint and naive in retrospect, considering how abhorrent the idea of sharing a game must be to most publishers these days.

Most of my fondest PC gaming memories of those days that weren’t related to LucasArts, id, or whoever made the Magic School Bus PC titles, were shareware versions of games like Hocus Pocus, Duke Nukem II, or One Must Fall: 2097. I treasure these memories and love these games dearly, even if I’m…hesitant to replay any of them. Playing them under shareware, which generally just meant I had the first “episode” of the game, equal to roughly the first 10 or so levels usually, made them so much more…mysterious. Like there’s two whole other chapters to these games that I might never actually see, and it really built them up in my mind to be epic adventures the likes of which I’d never see.

One of them, however, eluded me for years. Amidst the deluge of generally good shareware games my dad would bring home, one of them never quite made the same impression on me – to the point where I couldn’t recall it’s damn name. I knew it had a map screen, I knew you played as some beefy European model, and I knew it was kinda hard and pretty to look at. A friendly NintendoAge user helped me track this mystery game down after some 20-odd years of me not really having given it any thought or effort…and it turned out my white whale’s name was Xargon.

Xargon, sure. Why wouldn’t it be called a made-up word starting with ‘x’?

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Sometimes I Miss Video Games, You Guys

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

So I’m going to be upfront with you right now – I don’t really know where this post is going to go. As is often the case with me, I’ve had a lot of thoughts and opinions swirling around that I can’t quite express or explain concisely. Maybe the point of this post is to give me the chance to do just that! So, please bear with me, as this one might get away from me at times. Screw it, that’s why people have blogs, right?

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little iffy about modern video games, and occasionally I get a little iffy about old games too (which may surprise you considering how often I write about them on this blog, and elsewhere). It’s just occurred to me more and more that the video games industry isn’t what it used to be (ugh, I know, I’m an old person now) and I’ve felt lately that either it’s losing me, I’m losing video games, or both. And strangely enough, I have The Misadventures of Tron Bonne to thank for this revelation.

tron bonne

Sadly, this wasn’t the first time Miss Tron made me…think a lot about myself. Look, whatever, I was young!

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Start a New Life Today at Offworld Arcade!

Sunday, April 5th, 2015

Since last year, a group (or just one guy, actually) calling him/themselves Offworld Arcade has been bringing their collection of awesome old arcade games to various locations all over Detroit. And when I say that, I do mean Detroit, not like Madison Heights or something. It’s hard to talk about how much you love Detroit when you only go there for baseball, guys.

But I digress! In previous months they’d held gatherings at an awesome old elementary school, which is a shockingly appropriate setting for old video games, I feel like, but for the times I’ve attended it’s been held at Checker Bar, which is now my new favorite place in Detroit with the possible exception of PJ’s Lager House, and I really don’t want to have to make that decision.

cheeseburger, checker bar detroit

You look this burger in the eyes and tell it you’d prefer the company of another burger. If you can’t, it means you’re still human.

But enough about what I ate! Let’s instead focus on the truly important part of Offworld Arcade: the games themselves!

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Feel the Urge to Surge

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
I’ve occasionally wondered how some food items can bring people of a given age or generation together better than…most other things, really. Especially to people around my/our/your age, the mention of a specific defunct fast food item tends to conjure up really specific memories of the sort that maybe you don’t experience by seeing the box art to a long forgotten game, or re-watching a beloved movie. Go ahead – ask someone about the Arch Deluxe or a personal pan pizza and see how it goes.
For people in my age group who had access to it, though, there’s probably one specific consumable that reigns supreme as far as triggering that latent “OH SHIT IT’S YOUR FUCKING CHILDHOOD BRO” impulse that exclusively powers Buzzfeed articles: Coca-Cola’s XTREME Mountain Dew competitor, Surge.

Oddly enough? It’s back!

Taken from the passenger seat of my best friend's car, likely while listening to Ween.

Taken from the passenger seat of my best friend’s car, likely while listening to Ween.

 

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I Should’ve Played This Sooner: Air Fortress

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

I feel like “space” was a really common setting for many games of the 8- and 16-bit eras. And why not? Everyone everywhere was still kind of coasting on the good vibes of Star Wars and Aliens, and the setting itself allowed for a degree of freedom; not that it really mattered a ton on the NES but making your enemies invaders from the stars meant they could look and act like basically whatever you felt like drawing and programming. I was pretty into space as a kid, but not in a scientific way – being an actual astronaut would be boring as hell, but I was always down for Rad Gravity or Solar Jetman or really any game that gave me the slightest pretense of leaving the chains of Earth’s gravity to launch myself into battle against nefarious invaders/native citizens of other planets who weren’t really bothering anyone.

Due to the popularity and/or wide-ranging gameplay styles of ‘games set in space’ (which, let’s face it, isn’t a super helpful descriptor for anyone), obviously there were going to be a few that slipped through the cracks of my youthful video game times. One, however, stuck with me a bit more than others, and now that I’m a grown up with my own money, I can finally put it to bed. Hubcap, Ironhide, what are we playing today?

WP_20140927_003

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I Should’ve Played This Sooner: Totally Rad

Monday, August 11th, 2014

Look, it’s been a while since I’ve made a post. Nobody noticed, thank god, but it bothered ME and that’s the important thing. So no tearful explanations of my absence or what I’ve been doing in the meantime, back to NERD SHIT!

 

So lately, in addition to my unhealthily expanding Transformers collection (which I can probably go a while without writing about again, lucky you) I’ve been going around buying old games. My problem is that I’ve been sort of scattershot in my efforts; sometimes I spend a month buying a ton of Game Boy games out of nowhere, sometimes I decide I’m all about Genesis and Sega CD titles, other times I remember all the NES games I’ve meant to play for years. And that’s where the idea for this (and future, similar) articles came from: now that I get to decide how I spend my money like a grown up, I’ve decided to go back and find games I’ve read about forever ago, or someone recommended to me, or whatever. There’s way too many games out there I’ve wanted to play and never did, let alone the stuff like Taboo or Pictionary that I’m aware of and won’t play because look at them why would I bother playing Pictionary on the fucking Nintendo who the fuck bought this game this is the worst Christmas ever.

With a song in my heart (The Holy Mess’ “Spencer Reid”, specifically) and fond remembrance on my mind, I want to inaugurate this series of articles with some of the most ’90s shit imaginable. What did our readers win, Swerve and Hubcap?!

The box art looks more like the opening splash from an ill-fated '90s game show, likely involving JD Roth or Mike O'Malley.

The box art looks more like the opening splash from an ill-fated ’90s game show, likely involving JD Roth or Mike O’Malley.

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