My games room – wide angle style.

December 26, 2012

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Random retro gaming

November 20, 2012

Just thought I’d give you a little window into a few of the games I’ve been playing lately. As usual, I don’t like to spend too long gaming on one system (apart from the Amiga) so there’s a fair rotation of platforms going on. If you get dizzy, just hold onto the hand rails.

First up was Virtua Racing for the Megadrive. I think I found this at a market in a box of utter trash (not the treasure kind of trash either, the ‘USB printer cables and water damaged Tazos’ kind of trash).  The cartridge box had no label, so I was pleasantly surprised when I opened it to find Virtua Racing.  As you can see from the photo the Virtua Racing card is differently shaped to a standard Megadrive cart thanks to the inclusion of the Sega DSP chip, some nifty silicon that lifts Virtua Racing from an average game to a stonkingly awesome racing simulator.

Thanks to the DSP’s polygon pushing power, Virtua Racing is a seamless, smooth 3D experience that has you hurtling around tracks in F1 cars. Based on the arcade game of the same name, Virtua Racing on the Megadrive is a flawless port. Seriously, you could just find an F1 cockpit shell, a CRT TV, a Megadrive and this cartridge and be experiencing that arcade racing feel. Very impressed.

Next up was the Amiga. I can’t stay away from this machine for long. The addition of the HxC Floppy Emulator to the Amiga 600 means I’ve got 13.5GB of Amiga disks at my disposal. Gaming overload. Recently I’ve been playing a bit of Phantasie III, one of the titles I spent the most time with back in the days when the Amiga was new. An old school RPG with turn based combat and an emphasis on exploring over land and in dungeons, Phantasie III is a great way to lose hours to simply wandering, fighting and micro-managing your party of Wizards, Priests and Warriors.

The games difficulty is equal parts frustrating and awesome.  Thanks to random encounters, you often make it all of three steps out of a town before you’re confronted by monsters whose skills and potency well outstrip your party. In a few rounds, you’ll have armless Priests, dead Rangers and a Wizard sans left hand. You’ll hobble back to town, get new members and venture out again. It can be disheartening, but it does make victories all the sweeter, and the cultivation of a decently high level party of adventurers who can survive the more dangerous encounters is a rewarding experience.

And last but not least, I received a few additions to my Atari Lynx collection recently. The pick of the bunch is Viking Child, an amusing – if slightly pedestrian – platformer.

Updated collection pictures

November 18, 2012

Just took a fresh round of photos to add to the collection page here, so if you’ve got a few spare minutes, head in and check them out :). As usual, as soon as I looked over the pictures I realised I’d left plenty of things out, but these will have to do. One day I’ll be clever enough to get a comprehensive gallery in here of everything I own.

Collector Spotlight #3: Emma from Melbourne, Victoria.

September 24, 2012

In the third installment of my look at fellow retro collectors and their shiny and diverse hoarding (er – I mean collections), I spoke with Emma from Melbourne to find out about her prized possessions, how she got into collecting game related stuff, and where it’s all headed. Enjoy!

First things first; Who are you? And where are you from?

Emma, Melbourne.

 What gaming systems did you grow up with?

When I was 6 my sister got a SNES with Super Mario world and my I loved it. Luckily I was able to play it all the time because I didn’t get my own console until I was 10, which was the Nintendo 64. I also had an original Gameboy.

 Describe your collection? What’s the focus? Where are you aiming to end up with it? When did you get started?

My collection is really focused on what I have played thought out my life and what I missed out on. I have gradually expanded to other systems and games as I have learnt more about collecting and other systems. But I don’t think I will expand beyond what was released in Australia.

 I started collecting 6 years ago when I finally purchased a gamecube and twilight princess. After that I wanted to re-play ocarina of time and an assortment of 64 games which I loved when I was young. I then decided to expand to other consoles I missed growing up but had wanted to play.

Eventually, I want the entire PAL-A 64 collection, every Zelda game on all systems and every post NES system boxed. Mostly I want to end up with an amazing collection, which is special to me.

 Why did you start collecting? A general love of gaming? Re-living youth?

I started 4 years ago. First I just wanted to have a small, modest but varied assortment of game goods. I had this fantasy as a 10 year old of an entire book case of 64 games, I really wanted to achieve that early on. I ended up really getting into gaming culture and history, which I had enjoyed as a child to. I can talk for hours about the Sega vs Nintendo saga; I just find that stuff interesting.  At first re-living my youth was my motivation, but inevitably I ran out material and was kind of disappointed by some games so now it’s a general love that keeps me going.

 Do you actively play / use your collection, or are you happy just to admire the shiny stuff sitting on the shelf?

It really depends on the item.  Some items are just interesting collectors pieces, like my Gameboy collection I have every Gameboy system but I only ever use the SP because it’s better, and play’s all the other systems games. I have a few sealed things too, which are just shiny things never to be opened J

 Would you ever sell your collection, or is it with you for life?

I may eventually sell parts of it that I never use but the stuff I originally collected is with me forever.

 What’s your single most prized piece?

Although it’s not particularly valuable, my Jungle green 64. I use it for all my 64 needs and I have always wanted one. Collection wise, it’s my Nintendo Magazine System collection. I have spent the better part of 4 years trying to get every issue. It’s been a lot of effort.

What’s the most you’ve spent on a single item so far? Go on, be honest – no-one is looking I promise.

Hmm, I usually buy bundled Items; I did spend $850 for a bundle from Adelaide and drove there from Melbourne to get it. Single item, would be a boxed Zelda Gameboy Advance SP for $120.

 What’s something you’re lusting after that you don’t have yet, and why?

A Panasonic Q, I can’t justify spending $500 on one item O_O

 How complete do you consider your collection?

I have a lot of items $0-$100 in value with a few pricey pieces in the mix. It’s those really expensive bits that take a long time to collect. I really don’t think it will ever be ‘complete’ even if I had every 64 title, I would still need to resell some and get boxed copies. After that I’d just move on to SNES.

Got any advice for people wanting to start a retro game collection? Where should they start? How should they start?

I found it easier to start with what I knew. As you go along you learn more about prices and items. Take it slow and really consider if you want complete copies of things or not, otherwise you will have to rebuy stuff. I usually buy in bulk that way I can resell the items I don’t need to buy more stuff that I want. Start with what you want to play the most, ebay is usually the easiest option, that’s where 90% of my stuff comes from.

And of course – no spotlight is complete without the juicy, juicy pictures. Feast your sense upon Emma’s assorted gaming goodies!….

AV modded Megadrive II: Audio visual bliss, or an excuse to poke holes in plastic?

August 26, 2012

Modding isn’t the exclusive modern domain of UV cabled PCs or skinned Xbox 360s. Hardware tomfoolery inside the guts of a gaming platform extends back even to the sleek black 16-bit wonder that is the Sega Megadrive. One of the most popular mods you can do to the MD is to whack AV ports into the machine so you can do away with the god awful RF cable and run your console via the AV sweetness of Red, White and Yellow audio video cable(s).

S0 why is AV preferable to RF? Simple really, it’s all a matter of quality. Running the Megadrive off RF means tuning your console signal into your TV, and while you can get reasonable picture and sound, there tends to always be some interference, or – after extended play – the signal begins to go a bit funny and you start getting snowy or black and white picture, or progressively shitty sound.  It’s like watching your game play experience get slowly drunk; starting off vibrant, crisp and ending up blurry and throwing up in a corner.

Extreme? Maybe – but a poorly tuned RF signal can dent many a good gaming experience. AV on the other hand produces a totally clear and solid audio and visual signal to your TV, meaning you’ll get the constant quality picture and sound your TV is capable of producing. No tuning, no fuss, just pixel wonder.  In saying that, I’ve never really understood all the fuss about AV mods. I’ve never felt the need to mod my Megadrive, and I’ve always just sort of ‘made do’ with the RF tuning between Megadrive and TV despite the aforementioned risks.  I recently came by a Megadrive II pre-modded with the AV connectors however, so I figured what the hell, I’d take it for a spin, see what I thought, and share my discovery with you.

The verdict? Gob-smackingly awesome. Seriously, firing up an AV modded Megadrive II was an absolute dream. Even on my tiny little CRT TV, the uplift in picture quality, sharpness and audio was undeniable. To trial Megadrive gaming under AV, I played a few rounds of Street Fighter 2 CE, Ranger X and Arrow Flash. Each game had noticeably better audio and visual quality, the sprites in SF2 CE were gorgeous while the accompanying music for the frantic action of Ranger X and Arrow Flash took on extra clarity and depth.

I feel that sickening wave of guild associated with realising I’ve denied myself something really good for a long time out of pure ignorance. What a blind fool I was to deny the power of the AV mod. If you’re clever enough to be able to AV mod your Megadrive II, do it. Just do it. Gaming goodness awaits you.  If you need more proof, check out some of the screen shots below (taken with an admittedly shoddy camera, but still….)

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Bylines from a bygone era

April 27, 2012

Retro Gamer is a fantastic magainze, because it offers retro gaming lovers like myself a chance to get a current, freshly circulated magazine filled to the brim with opinions, news and features about the games and machines we love from days gone by.  The writers do a bang-up job of hunting down the ex-employees of <insert defunct 8/16-bit game studio here> or waxing lyrical about a blockbuster title from when the Intellivision was the newest kid on the block.

But it’s not exactly the same as reading a gaming magazine from the 80s or 90s. For that, you’ve got to dust off, well, a magazine from the 80s or 90s. Luckily I have a box filled with them, so tonight I decided to drag them all out and have a flick through the pages of these  colorful time capsules of video game goodness.  It’s a treat, really.

Oh sure, Retro gamer will put out an amazing feature about the Mega Man franchise and how it rose to fame and glory on every console, but it’s almost too easy to write about retro gaming because you’re afforded a wealth of history and irrefutable opinion to back up anything you say.  You can comfortably talk about the amazing titles and the woeful flops because it’s all there on the record, written about by hundreds of people before you.

It’s something else to read a fresh review – well, fresh back then – of Mortal Kombat II, or the impending arrival of the Sega Saturn.  There’s an excitement surrounding these pieces that can’t be replicated by any nostalgic look back through time. Every game and console accessory is new and sexy, while gaming journalist are rife with speculation and conjecture as they examine  some Nintendo oddity or handheld wonder-contraption. If you dig your old games, the only way to really immerse yourself in the vibe of the times is to hunt down as many old mags as possible and start reading.  It’s a journey into gaming legend that’s far more satisfying than I can put into words here.

So do yourself a favour, and be on the lookout for old copies of CU Amiga, SEGA Megazone, ZZap 64 – whatever you can find. It’s worth it, trust me.  If you’re lucky – like me – you’ll even come across some publications that still have crisp, awesome posters inside featuring all your beloved retro gaming franchises.  I’ve just found a kickarse Mortal Kombat II poster inside an old issue of SEGA Megazone that’s just begging to be put up on the wall.

Snippet review – [Megadrive] Dragon The Bruce Lee Story

April 9, 2012

Fired up this game for the first time tonight, and was pleasantly surprised.  What it boils down to is graphically decent fighting fare where you take control of Mr Lee himself and open a can of shirtless Ninja-fu on various bad guys in a giant nod to Street Fighter style games. From the short play I had, I was suitably impressed with the levels which feature some great use of parallax scrolling, a personal favorite 2D fighting game effect of mine 🙂

I couldn’t get past the first fight however, no matter how much I punched, kicked and threw myself around the screen. This game is hard, it seems your enemy can take a massive beating before falling over and you need some careful timing to ensure blows actually land.  It could just be that the first guy you face up against is difficult, but I’ll never know what the rest of the combatants are like because I can’t freaking get to them. Maybe with a little more practice. Anyway, I thought Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story would be immensely cheesy, but from a 5 minutes test-drive might actually be a decent fighting title.

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