Monday, September 5, 2016

New Additions: July / August 2016

Just about every day I see these "look at what I just found" type of posts in the various video game groups I'm a part of on Facebook. While I don't really have anything against these type of posts, my work schedule and life in general don't allow me a lot of time to spend with my hobbies. That said I decided that I'll just start keeping track of my new purchases and share them a month or two at a time. After all, part of the fun of collecting is the hunt and sometimes one or more of the games may have a story attached to it that I thought I'd share.

All of these purchases were made or received in the mail in the last two months. Most of them were planned purchases and you may even be able to pick out a theme of sorts if you look carefully.

Working from the top to the bottom of the group picture, left to right let's take a look at what I have added to my gaming que. First up is Evil Dead: Fist Full of Boomstick and Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green. Evil Dead was found at my local G2K store for $5 complete. I've picked up most of the original Xbox games that I wanted from their two locations locally so I was pleased to find something "new" that interested me. I'm a big fan of horror movies, especially the zombie genre. I've always been a George A. Romero fan so when this Land of the Dead game originally came out on the Xbox I bought it brand new. While the game has it's share of flaws and bugs, I still find it to be a entertaining FPS. In fact, I think I enjoy this game more than the movie itself. I grabbed this one off of eBay for around $15 shipped. Next up is the Limited Edition version of Halo 5. This was a clearance purchase from Target I found while traveling for work. I've owned my Xbox One for a little over a year now and still don't many games. but this is one I've been wanting for a while that I just never got around to picking up for some reason. The clearance price was 50% off it's MSRP so I thought why not? The extras are pretty cool, but I'm just glad the game is better than Halo 4. That one was a major disappointment for me. The last game here is Song of the Deep. I usually can filter all of the garbage GameStop employees fill my ears with when checking out, but I let this one guy get to me and pre-ordered the physical copy of this game that was exclusive to GameStop stores. I've only played a little bit, but I have enjoyed it. Now that Halo 5 has been beaten (at least once), I may go back to this.

Speaking of GameStop, I grabbed Super Mario 3D World from them last week while I was shopping at the mall with my daughters, They have showed more interest in playing Mario type games, especially when they saw the cat suit in this game. Flipnic is a pretty slick looking pinball game that I saw on YouTube while researching something else. Hard to believe Capcom released this game. Haven't played it yet, bit I think I'll get my $10 worth out of this eBay purchase. Infamous was more or less of an impulse buy. I already owned the red case Greatest Hits version of the game, but my OCD doesn't like the red cases and this was only $.89 at GameStop. Wrestle War for the Mega Drive comes courtesy of Stefano Bruni on Facebook. He usually offers a great selection of games at great prices. Being a wrestling fan, the awesome cover art and the $15 shipped price tag I couldn't resist.

Stefano Bruni also supplied me with my latest Playstation import, RayStorm. I already owned the sequel (RayCrisis) and this import was cheaper than the US version. The next 3 games all came from Famicom Dojo's Vinnk. You may have read here how I adore the service he runs via GameGavel called Japan Retro Direct. He actually e-mailed me a month or so ago as he knew I was looking for more pinball games and told me he acquired a nice copy of Digital Pinball: Necronomicon for the Saturn...spine card and all. He asked if I wanted it and I thought "yeah, but how much is this going to set me back?". Little to my surprised his asking price was way more favorable than eBay prices. While I was picking that up I decided to see what else he had. I grabbed Last Bronx for the Saturn and Pomping World (aka Buster Bros.) for the PC Engine while I was shopping his store. Keep on reading as Vinnk also supplied me with more gaming goodness!

These 4 games also came from Japan Retro Direct. The baseball games were dirt cheap, but that isn't why I bought them. I love baseball and have been watching a lot more games this summer than I have in awhile. I've always wondered about some of these baseball video game franchises that never made it to the US so I thought I'd give Power League and Pro Yayku World Stadium a try. I also enjoy racing games and surprisingly I didn't already own F1 Circus for the PC Engine. The last game, Galaxy Fraulein Yuna is one of those quirky Japanese games I've wondered about for awhile. I found an English walkthrough recently too so I thought now was as good as any time to give it a try. My 5 year old daughter said this game has a pretty cover.

Handheld games are getting popular in my house, especially as my two daughters are getting older and enjoy playing their DS lites, Pinball of the Dead however is all mine. I hated I missed out on this game for the GBA when it was new so I'm thrilled to own it now. The DS games were bought more or less for my girls, wife included. Go! Diego Go! Safari Rescue worked out to be worth the $3 for my oldest daughter, however Phineas & Ferb turned out to have a little more dialog than I anticipated. Both of these games came from an awesome local shop called Retro Reboot. Tetris DS is my first import DS game and came from Stefano Bruni. It's got some features I don't recall seeing in other versions of Tetris, plus this a game I know my wife will enjoy too.

I've been working on building my Famicom collection, thanks in part that my Famicom AV system is more reliable than my "toaster" NES (before I installed Blinking Light Win I may add!) and I adore these clamshell cases Namco packaged their Famicom games in. I scored both Family Pinball and Rolling Thunder from eBay for surprisingly cheap. Both are complete and look great alongside my other boxed Namco games. Exciting Baseball for the Famicom Disk System came from Japan Retro Direct and is my first sports title for the FDS. Xexyz was acquired from one of the Facebook groups I'm a member. It's one of those games I sold a few years back and regretted so I'm glad to have it once again. Back to handheld games, the last two are favorites of mine. Burai Fighter was a one of my favorite shmups on the NES and I think I remember playing the Game Boy version when I was younger. I found a completed, boxed copy of the Japanese release for next to nothing on eBay. Pokemon Pinball is one of those games that I get odd looks at from time to time, but's a pretty solid pinball game. I grabbed it for $4 at my local G2K store.

Video Pinball for the Atari 2600 was a $3 eBay purchase. By the way, have you caught the theme yet in all of these purchases? Choplifter for the Atari 7800 was my latest $1 purchase from Retro Reboot.

Last, but not least is the latest copy of Retro Gamer. I don't often get by a Barnes & Noble bookstore, but there is one at the mall not too far from the house so I made it a point to pick this up on my last outing with my girls. Haven't finished reading the Out Run cover story, but so far it's been a great read.

I really hope my work schedule slows down a bit and allows me some free time to sit down with some of these new games. Many of them I'm dying to play. I finished the single player campaign last night (or should I saw early this morning!) in Halo 5 and I really enjoyed the game. The story still confuses me a little, but it was refreshing to play another great game on my Xbox One again. Now I just gotta wait until Dead Rising 4 comes out this fall. 

I don't anticipate buying as many games this month or over the next few months, but I'll make sure to keep up with what I do so I can come back and share them...especially the latest game I'm currently waiting to arrive that I grabbed from Stefano.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Retro Game Store Visit: Game On - Winston-Salem, NC

One of the best things about traveling for work is being able to get out and explore in different cities. Recently I found another game store on Facebook and it wasn't too far from where I was at the time so I decided to make the short trip to check them out. Game On is located off of Robinhood Rd. in Winston-Salem, NC.

Game On was in a small strip mall and I almost missed it from the road. Thankfully I saw their sign by the road and was able to make it into the small parking lot. I was greeted immediately as I walked into the small shop. He was quick to show me where everything was located. The store was small, but it was well stocked. The best thing is that most of the games were priced below what most game stores would sell them for. It appears they focus more on the current generation of games, but they did have a decent selection of retro games. From older Facebook posts, it appears that the old stuff like NES games go quick when they do walk into the store.

I ended up buying a few cheap PSP games and a PSP movie of Dawn of the Dead for a buck. Upon checking out I noticed one lone boxed Genesis game in his glass case/counter...Thunder Force II. I asked to see it and to my surprise it was in pretty good shape...and complete. $25 seemed like a fair price and I always see the game ranked pretty high or in someone's top 10 post for Genesis shmups.

I made a little small talk w/ the guy in the store and it turns out that he was the owner. He told me that Game On was the first video game store to open in the state of North Carolina. They were originally known as Player's Choice that day. I was familiar with that name as I remember trading in my whole TurboGrafx collection for a few new Nintendo 64 games at the time. Stupid me!

I would encourage anyone that is in the area to check out Game On and give them your support. Its always nice to find alternatives to the big boy dealers like GameStop.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Transformers: Human Alliance (Arcade)

When I set out to create this blog I really thought I'd share my opinions and stories of games from my home collection, however here I find myself writing about another arcade game.

If you know me well, or even look at the side bar at some of my other blogs, you should be able to tell I'm a big Transformers fan. However I'm not a fan of the Michael Bay live action movies. I've seen each of the movies once, and I really don't care to watch them again. However one good thing the live action movies brought us what the Transformers: Human Alliance arcade game.

Up until now, Transformers has had mixed success when it comes to video games. The first TF game released for the Nintendo Famicom leaves a lot to be desired. Even the follow up Headmasters game on the Famicom Disk System really isn't that great either. There was a slick looking G1 style game released for the Playstation 2, but it never saw release outside of Japan. The Armada PS2 game was the first TF game that seemed to go over well with the masses. Eventually the War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron games on the last gen hardware were hits with gamers and TF fans alike. While I never played much of them myself for different reasons, I do agree that those are some of the best TF games to date.

Now enter the Human Alliance arcade game. Every time I have ran across this game in an arcade it's the usual Bumblebee housing. Once you are sat down inside you are treated to a nice large chromed out double handle gun. In the middle of the console so to speak is a large illuminated Autobot symbol.


If you sit there long enough you can watch a little intro scene along with some gameplay. I was able to capture the game play scene when Sideswipe shows up. The game plays like many of the other sit down shooters. Player one commands a female Human Alliance officer and player two commands a civilian caught in the crossfire who is just trying to help. You aim your on screen reticule at the enemy Decepticons, plowing them down whether they are in robot or alt mode. All of the characters are based on the Michael Bay movies with some new design elements worked in. At times the screen can get crowded and you'll take some cheap hits, but it doesn't seem to take too much off your life bar. Occasionally you'll have close up moments where green targets pop up and give you a limited amount of time to shoot them before you'll take damage. The majority of the boss fighters go this way. Sounds easy, but as you progress in the game it does seem that the difficulty starts to increase as well.

To date I haven't beaten this game, but have advanced a decent way through. I find it to be a lot of fun, thanks in part to Sega's involvement in the game. Transformers: Human Alliance doesn't really offer anything new that you haven't seen before in other games, but being the TF fan that I am I do find this fun to play from time to time.

The game has been out now for awhile so your mileage may vary when it comes to finding it at your local arcade/bowling alley/barcade. If you can find it and you haven't played it, give it a whirl as you may be surprised at how much fun it is.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Collector or Gamer?

While I consider myself a gamer, I'm also a collector. Just take a look at one of the many blogs I run and you'll see I collect many different things. When it comes to video games, I'm OK with having loose games for certain consoles. Genesis games however must at least have a case, if not being complete.

Over the last year or so I've started to pick up a few cheap reproduction Genesis and Mega Drive games. I usually don't both paying extra for a case or instructions (if they are offered) as their quality usually leaves a lot to be desired. However these loose carts were really just getting on my nerve and I had to figure out a way to get them in a case. First thing I had to do however was actually pick up a few cases...but from where?

Enter the old and usually budget friendly sports titles. I'm surprised the local retro store didn't just give these to me as I'm sure most of these games have been sitting there for quite some time juding by the dust on the cases! While I may eventually end up trying the Tommy Lasorda Baseball or RBI 4 later on, these games were bought solely for their cases.

I had previously had some custom covers printed and ready to be inserted into cases so transforming these dull and boring sports titles into something a little more interesting was quick and easy. Did I have to go to this trouble for these repro games? Of course not, but they now look much better sitting on my shelves than they did before as a "naked" cart.

Pretty, eh?

Collectors like to show off their collection, whether is sports memorabilia, comic books, automobiles or in the this case video games. Sometimes I hate that I also view myself as a collector because it takes time and more money usually to track down the game in the condition and completeness that I'd like to have...versus just buying a cheap loose game and playing it. Plus it should go without saying that cases like these take up valuable real estate space on my shelves. While they look fantastic, I'm not sure how much longer I can continue to be a collector. Now if you'll excuse me I've got some games I've been waiting to play.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Retro Game Store Visit: Game Xcape - Asheville, NC

My job allows me to travel around the state of North Carolina and during my travels I like to search out stores that match up with my hobbies. So far I've been able to find a few retro game stores in Greensboro, NC where I have a few work locations I visit, but this week's trip to the mountains of NC yielded a visit to a game store I had previously only seen on Facebook.

Game Xcape is located off of Patton Ave. in Asheville, NC and hosts a wide selection of both retro video games as well as games for more modern systems. In addition to games, they also stocked some older strategy guides and a few DVD movies. They also had a long wall of HDTVs with comfy chairs that you can rent and play games. They also host gaming contests from time to time.

I walked out of the store initially with 3 games, a loose copy of Mazin Saga: Mutant Fighter for the Sega Genesis and loose copies of Burai Fighter and Dynowarz for the NES. While I don't usually buy loose Genesis games, I felt the asking price of $10 for Mazin Saga was a fair price. Once I get home it'll be dropping in on The Cover Project to print a cover for the game so it can be shelved like a Genesis game ought to be!

Burai Fighter has that annoying VOID sticker residue on the bottom and I'm hoping some Goof Off or Goo-Gone will help clean up the game. It's a fun directional shmup that I used to own and I regret selling it so this was an easy pick up...even with it's blemishes. Dynowarz...I have faint memories of the game from the pages of Nintendo Power...and that's about it. The good thing was the game was really cheap so I'll give it try.


As I was checking out I asked the guy working there if they ever had TurboGrafx-16 come through the shop and he said not often, but he thought he had a few things. In the small stack of games were a few sports titles, the obligatory complete copy of Keith Courage and surprisingly complete copies of the awesome pinball titles, Alien Crush and Devil's Crush. Both were priced in the $40+ range. On the bottom of the stack were a few boxed titles including Valis II and Valis III and Final Zone II. The Valis games were really pricey, however Final Zone was marked $34. After a quick completed auction search on eBay I realized just how good of a deal $34 was. The worker even sweetened the deal by giving me another $2 of the price of the game. What is so impressive about the game is its condition. The box still had the plastic wrapping and the jewel case, instruction manual and the disc were flawless. I'm not even sure if the previous owner even played this game. I for one can't wait to get it home and pop it in my PC Engine Super-CD 2 unit.

I enjoyed my brief time spent in the shop today and I look forward to putting this store on my places to visit on subsequent visits to the area. Game Xcape can also be found on Facebook.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Diamakaimura (SuperGrafx)

Reproductions and clone systems are the norm in today's retro gaming circles. While this avenue isn't for everyone, it has opened the doors to let gamers play games that often elude our grasps because of their scarcity and or high price tag on the secondary market. Reproduction games have come a long was well. My first exposure to repros were the cheap Mega Drive games you can pick up at various places online.

Recently I've been seeing some new TurboGrafx-16 and PC Engine repros on Facebook from a group calling themselves Turbo Reproductions. I reached out to Sakhan Shawn Yith and asked if he could make a SuperGrafx reproduction of Diamakaimura. He was more than happy to oblige. Well it arrived today and I eagerly popped it in my Retro Freak console once the kids were in bed and...nothing. The clone console didn't recognize the HuCard unfortunately. While I'd love to own an actual SuperGrafx and use that to upgrade my CoreGrafx II I have attached to my Super CD-ROM 2, that day will just have to wait.

Even though I may not have been successful at playing the game this evening, I still wanted to give the guys at Turbo Reproduction a huge shout out. The quality of the product they produced is top notch. First of all their HuCard has some heft to it. It's a little thicker than a standard HuCard and while I'm not sure what it's made of, it's not just plastic. It had a tight fit in both the Retro Freak and my PCE, but not a death grip. The label applied, while upside down from it's normal orientation, is of a high quality and looks great on the card. The case is fantastic. They use the same case and format for the insert that Peter Tuttle of Onslaught Reproductions uses. The game looked great on my shelf with my other cases I purchased from Peter earlier.

Overall I'm very impressed with the total package. They are letting me exchange the game for another of my choosing and I believe the next card will be their new black/gold HuCard! Stay tuned for more info from Turbo Reproductions and their products.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Tokyuu Shirei Solbrain (Nintendo Famicom)

Who didn't like the NES growing up? I have vivid memories of playing my Nintendo as a young kid and when it was time to head down to the local Toys 'R Us to buy a new game it was indeed a special day. Long before video game reviews were the norm, many people I suspect would buy a game based off a rental they made had previously made or by the box art of the game alone. The NES library had some wild artwork and one of the games that drew me in was Shatterhand.

As a kid I thought this looked pretty awesome. Today...yeah it has a bit of that cheesy element going on, but I've seen worse. Being that Shatterhand was one of my all time favorite NES games, I was thrilled when I found out several years ago that in Japan Shatterhand was a slightly different game. Based off a sentai show, Super Rescue Solbrain, the game looks different but pretty much plays the same.

I love the blue Famicom cart with its sentai character on the front label. It took me awhile to track down even a loose copy of this game for a reasonable price.

Developed by Angel, a now defunct subsidiary of Bandai. Solbrain features a different opening scene from Shatterhand. Instead of a dude wearing shades, a t-shirt and jeans you get to control a Power Rangers looking character.

The game starts immediately on this construction yard. Unlike most games of the time, instead of attacking your enemies with a gun or other type of weapon you get to punch your way through the level. Your character can jump, kneel and punch. After pressing the B button 3 or 4 times, your quick jabs turn into a slower, but more powerful punch. As long as you are standing in one place your punches will continue to be the slower variety.

Once you defeat the boss at the end of the opening level, you are taken to a level select screen. This reminded me of Mega Man in that you can pick the order of the levels you take on. Notice the level in the upper right hand corner. This is a carnival level, exclusive to the Famicom game. In Shatterhand, this level was replaced with a submarine level. Nintendo was known for it's censorship and I imagine the boss of the carnival level is why this part of the game was changed for it's North American release... fight two women that leap around the room. Sorry for the blurry picture, I was trying to snap the picture quickly, so fast that my camera didn't have a chance to focus. It's been awhile since I've played Shatterhand, but from what I remember I found this carnival level and it's boss to be more entertaining that the submarine level.

As you progress through the level you'll find white boxes that you can punch open to reveal a few different things. Greek letters can be collected to aid you in your fight. When three letters are collected, a drone is created and hovers over you. Depending on the combination of letters, your drone may attack with a grenade, boomerangs, a laser, fire or another form of attack. Trying to remember the different combinations to create your favorite drone can be tough. 

Also found in the boxes are orange boxes with a "P" in the middle. This is basically the game's form of currency. The amount of "money" you have is shown in the bottom left corner of the screen, just below your health. At times you'll find a large white box with a "P" in the middle. If you continue to punch it you'll get several of the orange currency boxes, larger boxes when your punches turn to the stronger version. Be careful however because some white boxes may contain a grenade that will explode once revealed.

The currency can be used to replenish your life, power up your attack or buy another life. You'll find white boxes on the ground with a number value on them. The money you collect on each level does not carry over to the next level so you might as well spend it when you can.

My personal favorite drone type to create is this one that hurls a grenade in a downward fashion in front of you. This one is created when you collect 3 of the Greek "b" letters. I should also mention that regardless of the drone you create, if you press down and A & B together, your drone will hover directly over your character and pick you up and flies you straight up into the air. This is a feature that I never knew of until my recent play through.

If you have a drone and collect a different collection of 3 letters, your current drone will simply be replaced with the new one. However if you collect the same 3 letters as the drone you currently have, it will be replaced with a larger, more powerful hand held weapon. In the case of collecting 6 "b" letters, you'll get a bazooka like weapon. I was able to make quick work of many enemies, even a few bosses with this weapon. This new firepower however is on a timer and will eventually run out and be replaced with your drone again.

Once you are able to complete all 5 stages, your selection screen shows a what appears to be a missile silo. I hope you are ready for a challenge because this level is tough!

By now I hope you have a cheat sheet handy of which combination of letters creates which drone because you are going to need some offensive help! There are many hazards on the level and the enemy characters are strategically placed to give you a fit. I got the grenade drone once or twice and it helped me make it through what I thought was the half way point. I had to fight the same boss again from the opening level of the game. Once I took him out, the level kept going. It wasn't long before I died and I expected to start right where I beat the boss...but nope! The game sent me back to the beginning of the level. Argh! I hate it when games do this.

Overall I love this game from beginning to the end. The difficulty curve isn't too bad. It's not punishingly hard, but it's not a cake walk either. Most of the enemies do follow a pattern, as do the bosses. Thankfully the enemies don't regenerate if you backtrack a little to pick up that item they drop. There doesn't seem to be a limit to the number of continues so that does help the replay ability of the game.

The game isn't that different from Shatterhand, minus the carnival level. With the high price tag of the game I can't really recommend it unless you are a huge fan. Go and pick up Shatterhand if you want to play the game. I hate the term "hidden gem", but it's a game that seems to be overlooked and it's a lot of fun to play.