Saturday, May 5, 2018

Initial Thoughts: Horizon Zero Dawn (Playstation 4)

My two daughters love to read and my family takes frequent trips to the public library for them to restock on books. Not too long ago my wife informed me that the library started to carry video games for modern consoles (Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One). My first trip to see what they had wasn't all that successful, ended up w/ Street Fighter II for the Switch. However last weekend I was pleased with the larger selection. They had several games for the Switch that interested me (Disgaea 5 on the Switch), one of the Forza racing games for the Xbox One and something else on the PS4 that I can't quite put my finger on at this time. I went home with Marvel vs. Capcom Infinite for the Xbox One and Horizon Zero Dawn for the PS4. I'm not a huge fighting game fan, but the Marvel vs. games usually are good. Horizon Zero Dawn was just one of those games that I've heard a little about, but never looked too much into it. Unfortunately for me it was a full week later before I had time to sit down to play. Good thing I get to keep both games for 2 weeks!

This weekend I finally had a chance to jump into Horizon Zero Dawn. I knew of the game, but really hadn't looked into the game. I watched a Facebook friend livestream some gameplay, but that's about it. When I first started the game, I really didn't know what to expect. I was a little surprised to find out I started playing the game as a young Aloy. I knew the game would be a big budget cinematic story and the story itself had to be set up. However I thought it was a little on the sluggish side starting out. Now that I've played a good 12-15 hours I now see why the beginning was necessary as it helps advance the story that much better. I was expecting combat right out the gate, but instead I was given a lot of story and a little exploration.

I knew that I needed to give this game time and I'm glad that I was patience as I am marveled by everything about the game. Of course the visuals are absolutely stunning and pleasing to the eye, but the musical score also fits the atmosphere as well. The voice acting for the most part is top notch and the story is something I actually like.

I've leveled up my character to level 16 thus far and have enjoyed every hour. I'm still getting used to the combat, but part of that is I'm not as familiar w/ a Playstation controller as I am other controllers. For the most part the controls and combat are very intuitive, however I don't like the jumping/scaling/climbing system. That's a very small complaint as overall the game is magnificent. I kinda hated I didn't pay this game any attention until now it's so good. I will most likely purchase the new version of the game that contains the DLC pack as I hate that I have to return the game to the library next weekend.

I haven't played many AAA PS4 titles, but I can see why this game has sold so well. I look forward to advancing the story and eventually getting to the aforementioned DLC as well. If you are a fan of open world style games with a action RPG element, then this game is for you. Then again, I'm sure most of you reading this have already discovered what I'm just discovering for myself.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Berzerk (Atari 2600)

Stern Electronics
Stern Electronics, 1982

I have a lot of fond memories of the Atari 2600 as it was the first home console my family had. Long before I received my very on NES, all of my gaming occurred on the 2600. Of the many games we owned back then, Berzerk was always one of my favorites.

The premise of the game is very simple. You control a stick looking figure across simple mazes that filled the screen. Robots were littered around the room, trying to prevent your exit. Depending on the level, there may have been one or two exits, represented by an opening in the outer wall. Your objective was to advance level from level. 

Shooting the robots was essentially optional, but necessary most of the time if you wanted to advance. Later levels the robots would return fire. A single shot from them would kill your character. You could also lose a life by touching the walls...which were apparently electrified, or by being touched by a robot. Your character's arch nemesis is Evil Otto, who in the game looks like a large smiley face. Otto is indestructible and pretty much is there to prevent you from lolly gagging on the level. He can advance through walls and be a real pain in the butt.

Two players can play the game, but alternate turns using the same controller. My older brother and I would play this game often, competing for the highest score since the levels weren't really numbered. The game still holds up well in my opinion and I often pop it in my 7800 to play when I'm in the mood. Berzerk began its lift in the arcade, but was then ported to the 2600 and eventually to the 5200 and Vectrex. The 2600 version of the game is the only version I've played and can be had for just a few dollars typically on the secondary market.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

RIP Nintendo Wii Shop Channel

As most video game fans know by now, Nintendo will be closing the Wii Shop Channel in just 4 days, 03/26/18. After March 26th, you'll no longer be able to add Wii Points to your account. Come January 2019, the entire channel will be shut down.

With the deadline quickly approaching to add Wii Points, I accessed the Wii Shop channel last weekend on my Wii U and grabbed several games that I've been putting off. It's been a long time since I've even accessed the channel, so it was a little overwhelming looking at all of the titles that were offered across the different gaming platforms.

I've never been too interested in downloading NES or SNES games, so I kept to the titles in the TurboGrafx-16 library for the most part. Even though I own the original TG-16 hardware, the games have become stupid expensive on the secondary market and these digital versions were about $6 each. While I don't always care for digital games, this just made sense.

The first game I downloaded was the arcade version of Ninja Gaiden. I had fond memories if playing this game at a time share resort my parents used to take the family to up in the NC mountains. The download was reasonably priced so I went with it. After playing it the other night I'm afraid to say that this is one of those games that hasn't aged well. The controls seemed really stiff and the gameplay was just average. Granted I was playing with the Wiimote and not my Classic controller. I'll have to give it another go with the better controller and see if that helps.

I already owned a few of the excellent titles that were released on the WiiWare channel, such as Blaster Master, the Konami Rebirth titles (minus Gradius, that will be my last download) and even the shmup I never see mentioned anywhere, Star Solder R.

Thanks to several recommendations online, I grabbed the Famicom game Bio Miracle Bokutte Upa. I'm a big fan of Hudson and I've always wanted to play this, however I figured I'd just pick up the actual Famicom cart instead. This is another one of those games that thanks to YouTube, the price for the cart has steadily risen so this just seemed like the logical way to own the game (for now). I already had Ice Climber (my wife's choice) and Super Mario Bros. 3.

I grabbed a few TurboGrafx-16 shmps that sadly I don't own anymore, such as Blazing Lazers and Dead Moon. Again, the US version of the games are getting expensive and so are the PC Engine versions. I'll still pick up physical copies eventually, but for now that was a good $12 spent in my book. I also grabbed Ninja Spirit, a game that I've never played but have always heard good things about. I had a great time running through that game the other night.

I looked at several Neo Geo games as well, but I own an AES console and have an MVS adapter cart and have a pretty good SNK compilation on the PS2. Between the MVS games and the PS2 collection, I am pretty well covered. I do plan on going back and downloading the CD exclusive shmup Iron Clad while I still can.

I know I and many others keep waiting for Nintendo to make some kind of announcement for the Switch, because otherwise there are a lot of great games that will be disappearing very soon. Many of these games aren't available digitally on any other platform so I hope Nintendo works something out before the WiiShop Channel closes for good in January 2019.

Monday, March 5, 2018

New Acquisitions: February 2018

February seemed to come and go before I even knew it. It's already a short month and it went by so quick. I don't have a lot to show for the month, but I did pick up a few new games and one item for my game room. You can see above that my pick ups were all for Sony platforms, a rarity for me.

Hermie Hopperhead is a game I first saw on somebody's YouTube channel. It's an import friendly action platformer from Japan. I've only played it in small quantities thus far, but so far it seems to be a lot of fun. Best of all it was really cheap too!

I'm a shmup fan at heart so it's always a good day when I land a new shooter. I've always been a big fan of the original Raiden, but surprisingly I don't own a version of the original game since I sold the Atari Jaguar version. Just need to find myself a good arcade stick for the Playstation and then I'll be all set!

I originally imported this game from, but the language barrier was just too much for me to get past. I didn't think a game with anime chicks that transform into cars would get a western release...well I was wrong. What I have been able to play of this game I liked. Now that I'll be able to follow the story I'm looking even more forward to revisiting this game.

I know nothing of this game. I ran across it last month when I found Drive Girls and it was priced pretty cheaply and looked interesting. Haven't played it yet. Haven't even searched out any YouTube Let's Play videos. I noticed after I bought the game that it was also released on the PS4. Hopefully the Vita version holds up well.

Early in February I was treated to perhaps one of the best new additions to my game room in a very long time...a nice couch. Previously I had two Lazy Boy recliners, but they were hand me downs and starting to show a lot of wear. My chair in particular wasn't very comfortable after an hour or so. Playing games with my whole family meant my girls either had to sit in someone's lap or on the floor. I've been wanting to upgrade my seating for awhile, but couldn't find what I wanted that was in my price range. Finally my great step-father was able to find this like new couch at a Habitat for Humanity retail store and gave me a hand picking it up.

Now regardless of what system I want to play, I have a good view of either TV in a very comfortable setting. This makes long video game sessions much more fun as I melt into the couch. I'm starting to feel like my game room is nearing completion with this latest furniture addition.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Custom Nintendo Famicom Cases

Being a collector of action figures (Transformers) there came a time where I started to care more about how I displayed my collection. In the past I used open air track shelving, but in recent years started to remove some of the shelves to make room for glass cabinets from Ikea. Then I started to tweak each shelf more by using acrylic risers to get the look that I wanted.

This mind set has eventually manifested itself with my video game collection. While I've always had my games organized on media shelves, I decided to take it a step further to improve the look of the games on the shelves. While I understand that not everyone will understand why I've done what I've done, it's OK. There is no wrong way to collect or to display your hobby.

I'm blessed to have a second living room on the main floor of my home. I'm super blessed that my wife has graciously allowed me to set up an arcade machine, two televisions, over 20 video game consoles along with 5 media shelves that house my games. With my room being wide open on the main floor my wife's one rule is that I keep the room clean and nice looking. While she hasn't specifically told me I needed to "box" my loose cartridge games, it does look the shelves look a little nicer in my opinion.

While there are many options to "case" loose cartridge games like NES, SNES and more, I've yet to find a pre-made hard plastic case for loose Nintendo Famicom games. I know that Namco and Taito released some of their games in hard plastic cases, but even if I could find a supply of cases to use I still wouldn't have the artwork to place inside the exterior sleeve. I've looked all over the web for some type of solution to help me with my dilemma and I finally found what I was looking Russia of all places.

Thanks to eBay seller bitspixels, I now have two hard plastic cases for the games Holy Diver and Tokkyuu Shirei Solbrain (Shatterhand). These are small clamshell like cases, think Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. They snap shut tightly, have clips on the inside to hold the cartridge in place and have a clear film on the exterior of the case for artwork. 

I haven't seen anything like this on The Cover Project's website or in the forums, so I'm assuming this seller is making the artwork himself. I've already been in contact with him to see if it was possible to have artwork created for games I own that he doesn't already have in his eBay store. It'll take some time I'm told, but is doable.

The cartridges fit snugly inside the case with two tight clips on each end to hold the game in place. There are four small raised corners so you know exactly where the cartridge should go. There isn't a clip or a designated place for manuals and unfortunately I didn't have a Famicom manual handy to test. I do believe they'll sit right on top of the cartridge itself, but I don't know if it'll move around once the case is closed.

The plastic seems to be of a good quality. It doesn't feel cheap or brittle, very close to the same quality of a Sega Master System / Genesis case. The clear film on the exterior of the case is just a smooth translucent plastic. I did notice it wasn't perfectly cut above the seam and there was a small piece that overlapped the top or bottom of the case. It was barely noticeable and doesn't detract from the case's overall look. The artwork looks nice, but up close you can tell the level of print quality is sub-par when compared to other custom artwork I've seen online. That said, I've never seen this format anywhere so I may be a little more critical than necessary.

I love how they look spine out on my shelves. As you can see, they are very similar in size to the hard plastic cases Namco used for some of their games. While the case is virtually the same height of the Namco case, they are a little thinner.

I only have one boxed Taito Famicom game and as you can see the Taito case is taller and wider than bitspixels' cases. The depth is about the same however.

These cases sell for $6.99 each plus shipping. The cases I ordered took about two weeks for them to be delivered by USPS. I would've gotten them sooner, but I had to sign for the delivery and they came on a day I wasn't working from home. Overall I'm impressed by these cases. The overall quality is very good and they look beautiful on my shelving. I'm already in the process of reorganizing everything to make room to case all of my loose Famicom games. It'll take some time and money, but I think once it's all said and done it'll be worth it. I'll try to post updates as I'm able to.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

New Acquisitions: January 2018

The pick ups for January were pretty slim. Coming off of Christmas I just didn't feel the need to go and search out deals or hit the local stores. That said I made two purchases, one online and one in store.

While I like the concept of what Limited Run Games does, I really haven't felt the need or had the desire to sit in front of my computer and keep hitting refresh, waiting for games to be made available for sale. Most know that Limited Run sells through their allotment for each game pretty quickly, so if you aren't on your toes you'll miss out.

When I got the email that Double Dragon IV and River City Ransom were being made available, for the first time I put the 10 AM Friday sale in my phone's calendar. I skipped the more expensive collector's editions and went straight for the cheaper, regular editions. I still have yet to crack them open so I can't comment on the games themselves (I don't usually download many digital games), but now that football is over I should have some more free time Sunday afternoons and these were be some of the first games I try.

Being a comic book fan as well, I was intrigued when I heard that Battle Chasers was being made into a video game. I originally was going to buy the Switch version of the game, then the reviews came out and they weren't all that favorable. I guess what I read was true as Target clearanced out both the PS4 and Xbox One versions pretty quickly. Both versions were $9.98. I usually buy multi-platform games on the PS4 since I have a bigger HD, but the only PS4 version they had the disc was rattling around inside the case. Despite the lackluster reviews, I still look forward to sitting down with this game and seeing if I agree or disagree with the critics.

That's it, just 3 new games for the month of January. Since we're already a little over a week into February, I can say that the next New Acquisitions post will have more content. I've already made a pretty big purchase for the game room so make sure you come back in a few weeks. Until then, game on!

Monday, January 22, 2018

A Certain Kind of Gamer

I'm always looking for new gaming blogs and YouTube channels to entertain me and recently I ran across a fairly new blog on Wordpress, A Certain Kind of Gamer. Akumojoebelmont1 appears to just be getting started, but so far this content has been well thought out, polished and most importantly fun to read.

I actually have ran across a good many of video game blogs/sites that I feel are worth checking out and this one is no exception. In fact, I just added it to the reading list located on the left sidebar. Give him a try and tell me if you enjoy his content as much as I am.