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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Learning to Love The Nintendo Wii

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

So, for people like myself that can’t stop talking about old video games, toys, and movies, there’s one constant, unavoidable problem that I (and assume others) find myself running into:

Given enough time, everything is old.

The march of time and its resulting onslaught of entropy and decay means that every single thing you experience will one day be considered ‘retro’ until you no longer experience anything. I bring this up not to be morbid, merely to illustrate the existential dilemma anyone on the internet is inevitably going to face when trying to discuss old movies, retro video games, old bands, or anything. I primarily spend my time on this blog writing about things I liked as a child (NES games, Ghostbusters, Transformers) but the farther my life goes the more sobering truths I have to face about how everything I like will be old one day.

Such as this: the Nintendo Wii is going to be TEN YEARS OLD in November.

And you know what? I almost like it more now than I did then.

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Fuck off, 2006, I spent most of that year wearing skinny ties looking like a dipshit in a ska band (because I was) cruising in a haze of caffeine and X-Files torrents, I don’t need to feel bad about that

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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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I’m Beginning to Cave In on the New Ghostbusters (And It Feels So Good)

Sunday, July 12th, 2015

If you’ve ever spoken to me for any length of time, or even read a certain previous article wherein I was mega-sad about Harold Ramis passing away, you know that Ghostbusters as a movie series (and, really, just as a concept) remains super-important to me, and has been since I was a child. Few movies have impacted me like the two Ghostbusters movies did, and I’ve met a lot of friends and had a ton of fun memories through the entirety of my life thanks to the very idea of being a Ghostbuster.

So you can imagine my mixed reaction when I found out they were making a new one. I have to absolutely stress that my hesitation is in no way related to the fact the cast is all female – actually, the fact they were going to all be women was sort of a saving grace for me, since I feel like most reboots don’t do enough to set them apart and having an all-female cast was at least a start.

And yet…I couldn’t shake the feeling this movie just didn’t need to exist, just like basically no remake does. Ghostbusters was getting remade, and even if everyone involved was pretty cool, I didn’t see much need for it to happen. But then I saw one picture that started to change my mind, and I’ve been slowly finding myself in favor of it ever since.

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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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Rent A Hero’s English Translation: You Stepped In A Pile Of DOO DOO!

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Alright everybody, new year, new me, same old Videotron! LET’S DO THIS!

Show of hands: anyone recognize the name Rent A Hero? Sega fans might, and/or anyone obsessed with importing Japanese releases back in those wonderful halcyon days of the Dreamcast, but otherwise no. And please don’t feel bad about that.

We’ve been constantly denied Rent A Hero releases; the first game (released on the Genesis) never made it our way, and when the second one was released for the Dreamcast and later ported to the original Xbox, there were plans for an American release…that were promptly shut down and discarded. So to stem the rising tides of “not having Rent A Hero ever in America”, an intrepid fan translator named Paul Jensen began work on a patch for the original Genesis release, in hopes that maybe one day more than five Americans (including the allegedly sent-to-magazines review copies of the Xbox port) could play a Rent A Hero game.

In keeping with perfect Rent A Hero tradition, real life interfered and he had to abandon work on the project. Not that I blame him.

But guess what? Someone out there on the internet calling themselves “NikcDC” picked up the completed text and finished it for release! For the first time, totally in English, there was a playable Rent A Hero game!

I bet you’re now asking “Well that all seems fine, but what is it and should I bother playing it?” The answer? Uhhhhhhh…it’s complicated, and maybe.

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WEEZER_OPINIONS.TXT

Saturday, November 8th, 2014

Alright, so I wanna start this by apologizing for not posting a Halloween-themed post. I wanted to, I really did; Halloween is my favorite season, and as far as I’m concerned the year is basically over with afterwards. But I couldn’t think of anything that wasn’t super derivative, painfully generalized, or both, so I figured it better to just not bother.

And thank god, because that frees up time and space to subject you all to my opinions on Weezer’s new album!

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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?

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