Monday, January 7, 2019

What do you do w/ a naked HuCard?

That was the question I've been asking myself for quite some time after tracking down a cheap, but loose copy of Mesopotamia for the PC Engine. If you aren't familiar w/ the game, then perhaps you know it by it's TurboGrafx name - Somer Assault. Still doesn't ring a bell, well I can't blame you because it's a odd game that I can't believe sold very well...in any market.

I've done business w/ Mega Box Reproductions in the past so it was time to revisit their Etsy store and see if they could create a jewel case for my naked HuCard. Of course they were able to bang out a beautiful case and it arrived the other day...check it out!




I wasn't sure how the back of the case was going to look since the original HuCard cases had a solid black back, but dang if they didn't nail it! I really don't know how they find scans of everything like they do, but I'm very impressed with the case.


I hate buying loose PCE games, but thankfully with MegaBoxReproductions this time it paid off...at least for me. 

If you need a custom case for one of your loose games, or are looking for a high quality reproduction of a highly sought after game, head on over to their store and let them create something for you too!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Latest Haul from Japan Retro Direct

If you're looking to import games from Japan but are sick and tired of the crazy asking prices from eBay sellers, all is not lost! Enter a great new way to acquire Japanese games at a fraction of those high prices...Japan Retro Direct.

You may have heard me mention them before as I've been doing business with them since their early Game Gavel days. A few weeks ago I saw a few things in their latest Facebook page update and as soon as I sold a few things of my own, I made a small order and it finally arrived over the weekend.


From left to right, I got Caravan Shooting Collection for the Super Famicom. This is a collection of Hudson's 8-bit shmups originally featured on the Famicom/NES. I've already given each game a few rounds of play and I was quickly reminded of how horrible I am at these simple shmups, but also how much fun they still are to play.

Next up is Space Invaders for the PC Engine. I haven't given this one much time yet as I was out of town last weekend with a surprise trip for my daughters to the mountains. However this version of the classic game has a little different spin so I'm looking forward to spending more time with it. Good PC Engine games go quickly when added to Japan Retro Direct's store so you have to act quickly...after all, they are priced to sell.

Also in my package was a set of Pokemon stickers (which my 7 year old daughter quickly confiscated) and a rather cool fold out (promotional?) poster for the upcoming Super Smash Bros. game for the Nintendo Switch.



The poster is so big I couldn't figure out a good way to photograph it all unfolded! One side features gorgeous art of the cast of characters while the other side gives you a little bio of sorts for each character included in then new game.

Although I'm not the biggest Smash Bros. fan, I really appreciated the small token added to my latest package. I'm currently trying to find the best place in my game room to display this cool piece of video game art.

Make sure you jump on over to Facebook and like their page so you can keep up w/ the latest stock updates so you can score some great games and save a little $$.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Retro Halloween Horror - Part 2

Yesterday we looked at some good retro games to play this Halloween from the 8 and 16-bit generations, so today we're going to take the next step into the 32-bit and more modern generation. Let's start with a great puzzle game for the Neo Geo.

 

Nightmare in the Dark was released in 2000 for the Neo Geo MVS arcade system by SNK. You play as a gravedigger who finds graves that have been desecrated and you attempt to stop more damage from being done. You attack by using your lantern, swing it at your enemies which causes small balls of fire to fall in front of you. Initially it stuns the enemy, but if you keep hitting them consecutively the enemy will envelope into a large ball of fire, which you can wield and throw. This ball of fire acts as a bowling ball and will keep carrying on, knocking out enemies in it's path until it hits the wall. The gameplay is rather simple, yet it's difficult once you get past the first few handful of levels. Very addictive gameplay. 

 

I love a good light gun game and while House of the Dead may be the first light gun game Saturn owners think of when it's spooky outside, I decided to go w/ Crypt Killer instead. In this game you are a crypt raider of sorts going through six different levels. You get to chose with level you want to take at the end of each level so it helps add to the replayability. Along the way you'll face skeletons, mummies, lizard people and more. The game was also released on the original Playstation, but I have more light gun shooters on the Saturn so I went with this one. Beware though, it can be pricey however you can opt for the Japanese release, Henry Explorers and save a little money.

 

I never got into Resident Evil when it first debuted on the original Playstation, however for some reason I gave Parasite Eve a chance and I'm glad that I did! The game plays a lot like RE, including the tank controls, but once you get used to navigating the character you'll find yourself immersed in the eerie atmosphere. The visuals, including the cut scenes that help advance the story are beautiful, as is the soundtrack. I don't see this game get mentioned much on the various retro sites or YouTube channels I visit and I don't know why. This is a very heavy story based game, but that just helped me get more and more into the game. If you've never played it, you need to give it a try.

 

Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler's Green for the original Xbox was released in late 2005 by Brainbox games and published by Groove games. I only included this game on the list because I'm a huge George Romero fan and this game is based off of the movie of the same name. Let me say that this game isn't all that great as far as first person shooters go. The controls are sluggish, the visuals are muddy and the zombies are way too hard to kill. You can get the shotgun right off the bat, but it seems to be nearly useless. I stuck with the game and I enjoyed it, but I had to look past it's many flaws. Had I not been a big fan of the zombie genre then perhaps I wouldn't have enjoyed it as much? The game is tough and I was only able to beat it by finding some hidden book towards the end of the game that taught my character king-fu moves where I could easily take down the dead. Yeah, it's as stupid as it sounds. Like I said, this game was panned by both critics and fans alike, but it's not completely broken. Fits the Halloween season quite well and if you ask me, the "story" in the game is better than the actual movie is based upon.

 

Another light gun shooter on the list? You betcha! I am a big fan of Namco's Time Crisis series so when I saw they made another light gun game I had to give it a try. If the name of the game does explain why I've included this on the list then I don't know what to tell you. The game plays a lot like the Time Crisis games, better enjoyed with a second player in my opinion. If you have a PS2, a GunCon 2 and a CRT television, then you owe it to yourself to pick up this game.


Hmm, how can I describe Blood Drive for the Xbox 360 (and PS3)? Let's just say it's Twisted Metal or Vigilante 8 with zombies. If that description isn't enough to get you playing this game then I need to check you for a pulse. This is your standard vehicular combat game with upgradeable vehicles to chose from, bloody zombie kills and a rocking soundtrack. The game doesn't take itself too serious though as the PA announcer and characters you'll hear during the game sound silly and say dumb things. I guess it just helps add that bit of campiness that fits the horror genre. It's been awhile since I've sat down with this one, but I think I may have to play a round or two tonight!

 

This is the only game on the list from my collection that I've yet to play. I know, I know...what's wrong with me. I bought it not that long ago once it hit $20 and it ended up on my shelf and forgotten about shortly later. A month or so ago when I got the idea for these posts, I started to comb through my game library to re-play certain games. When I came across this one I was all jazzed to sit down and play...and then a certain PS4 exclusive super-hero game came out and I found myself immersed in that world. Halloween may come and go before I sit down and experience this new Resident Evil, but it's one that I really look forward to playing...with the lights on of course!

 

This is another game that I was late to experience, but once I finally sat down to play I was instantly hooked. Calling this a game is being generous. I like to think of it as a interactive movie more than a traditional video game. You take control of a group of college students that are at their friend's mountain home, reuniting one year after twin sisters have gone missing. What makes this game stand out so much to me are the characters. Yes you have your generic horror movie characters, but instead of watching them make stupid decisions that lead to their death, you get to make those choices now! Everything you do effects the overall story of the game, which will bring you back to play through time and time again. The characters are voiced by and modeled after some good actors and actresses, such as Hayden Panettiere (Heroes, Nashville), Brett Dalton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Rami Malek (Mr. Robot). You get to control all of the different characters at different times during the game and the object is simple...keep everyone alive Until Dawn. Easier than it sounds. I've played through this game about 3 times now and I still have yet to get everyone out alive. It's partly because of the quick time events. If you aren't a fan of quick time events then you may want to steer clear of this game. However if you can tolerate them then you'll most likely find yourself wrapped up in this game. It's super cheap and it's available in the PSN store so there isn't any excuse to not give it a try.

And with that it's time for me to bow out as the trick or treat kids are already starting to come. Hopefully between yesterday's list and today's list you found a new game or two to try out. Thanks for stopping by. Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Retro Halloween Horror - Part 1

I've neglected slowing this particular blog some love as of late (like most of 2018!) and with Halloween quickly approaching this week I thought it would be fun to make my own "Top Ten" style list of some of my favorite retro horror style video games.

While there are a lot more games I could add to these lists, I've tried to pick out games from my own collection that maybe aren't as widely known about, or at least played, but fit the theme. I've tried my best to stay away from some of the obvious candidates, however there may be a few games that sneaked onto the list that you'll be familiar with.

I've also decided to break up the list into two different posts, starting with games from the 8 and 16-bit generation. Look for another post tomorrow that contains games from the 32-bit era including a few modern games.

Let's get started shall we? Let me preface this with these games aren't ranked in any kind of order as I enjoy all of them too much to assign a ranking too.

 

The tough as nails Ghouls 'n Ghosts is often overlooked on the Sega Master System platform, however that is criminal as this version of the game is very impressive. While it won't surpass it's "big brother" version on the Genesis/Mega Drive, this 8-bit version features some impressive graphics. The soundtrack isn't too shabby either and most importantly the controls are good. It's still a tough game to master and complete, however it's the better of the two games in the franchise when it comes to the 8-bit platform.

 

This great Castlevania inspired game sadly wasn't available for the Master System in the US, however this European version of the game plays just fine on US hardware. I feel there was a time where this game flew under a lot of gamers radar, however now it's existence is more widely known. The game may look and play a lot like Castlevania, but unless you're not a fan of the classic Konami franchise then you'll find this to be a good thing. The gameplay is pretty solid and it's a lot of fun. This was one of the first Master System games I purchased for my collection years ago and it remains one of my favorites to play, not just at Halloween.

 

If you're a fan of video game pinball, then you're probably familiar with Alien Crush and Devil's Crush games that were available for the TurboGrafx-16 and PC Engine systems. However it seems that not as many people knew of the third game in the "crush" family, Jaki's Crush. Made exclusively for the Super Famicom in 1992, this game features more of the same great pinball formula. Scrolling table, eerie atmosphere and addictive gameplay. I purchased a boxed copy of this game years ago when it was dirt cheap, but the price seems to have increased a bit since then...perhaps it's because of it's exposure on popular YouTube shows like GameSack? Either way, if you're a fan of digital pinball games, you need to try this one.

 

Musya, the classic Japanese tale of horror has a great ring to it, doesn't it? While this game may not be high on everyone's list, I thought it was worth including. The Super Famicom exclusive Majyuuou (King of Demons) may be the better of the two horror themed side scrolling action games, but since I don't own Majyuuou I'll stick with Musya. The game was released in 1992 by Seta and while the game has it's share of faults, it's still a fun game to play. The visuals are one of the best parts of the game as the creatures you'll combat are well designed and have a creepy vibe. Controls are a little stiff, making the game tough to play at times. Overall though the dark and creepy atmosphere lend themselves to making an appearance on this list. It may not be the best game in the SNES library, but still worth giving a try if you've never played it before.

 

Undeadline is a port of the 1989 MSX2 game. It was ported exclusively to the Sega Mega Drive in 1991 by Palsoft and was never released outside of Japan. Some may question why I'd include this shmup on the list when there are so many other games that I could have gone with. Well for starters, I love shmups and this is my list! Seriously though, the game fits the Halloween motif pretty well as you fight all sorts of scary monsters. Undeadline offers a unique style of vertically scrolling shooting action and I find it refreshing. The original Japanese Mega Drive version of the game can fetch quite a pretty penny on the secondary market these days so I'm happy to stick with my Genesis reproduction version.

 

How can I make a list like this and not include Castlevania: Bloodlines? While I've never been as good as Bloodlines as I am other games in the series, I've always thought the franchise's one and only outing on the Sega Genesis was fantastic. Perhaps the different characters you can choose from with their own distinct attacks that made this game stand out, or perhaps the beautiful orchestrated musical score? Bloodlines is truly a gem in the Castlevania series and one that I don't mind re-visiting often.

 

Now here is a game that I'm betting may have flown under your radar. Little Red Riding Hood's Zombie BBQ has to be one the best video game names out there! I first discovered this game at my local Game Stop and picked it up, 1) for the cover art and 2) it was a $20 budget title. I had no idea how difficult to find it had become until years later. The game is a vertically scrolling shooter where you control Little Red Riding Hood on the lower screen of your Nintendo DS. Using your stylus, you slide her along the bottom of the screen, while holding in one of the face buttons to shoot your enemies. As you can tell from the video, it doesn't take itself too serious, but that's part of the charm. This game is fun to play, but hard to master. I've never been all that great at it myself, but it's one of the few DS games that I return to when I find myself traveling and want to take some games on the go.

 

One of my absolute favorite games hands down to play anytime of the year, but especially during Halloween is Castlevania: Rondo of Blood. I'm so glad that this game is more readily available now as when I first learned about the game I had to track down a used PC Engine Duo system, not to mention fork out a little over $100 for the original game. While I don't regret my decision, I am looking forward to replaying this game as part of the new Castlevania collection made available on the PS4. What is there not to like about this game...say other than it's difficulty? Rondo of Blood is a return to the classic Castlevania gameplay, featuring great graphics and animated cut scenes, new enemy designs and one of the best video game soundtracks from it's era. Rondo of Blood is one of the crown jewels in the Castlevania family and deserves to be played no matter the time of year.

Come back tomorrow for round 2 of my retro Halloween Horror fun!

Friday, October 19, 2018

CustomGameCases.com - A Review

If you are like me and take pride in how you display your collection, then you may have heard of or used CustomGameCases.com before. A lot of people are fine with just shelving their loose games on a shelf and calling it a day, but my game room is out in the open on the lower level of my home and I want the game shelves to look as nice and clean as possible. Enter custom cases.

I've printed my own DVD covers for Sega CD, Sega Saturn and Sega Dreamcast games in the past and even did several Game Boy Advance covers for old DS cases, but this is my first time branching out and wanting to case my loose NES and SNES game library. I had heard good things of Custom Game Cases before, especially in the forums over at The Cover Project so I decided to place an order earlier this year.

Back in January I placed an order for a 2 NES cases, 2 SNES cases, 1 N64 case and 1 Game Boy Color case. The GBC case was for an import game where they would have to build the cover so I knew it would take additional time, but I had no idea just how long it would take.

Fast forward to May of this year and I still didn't have anything from my order in hand. I sent in a few emails via their website asking for an update and eventually I got half of my order in the mail. While I appreciated the gesture, the lack of communication was frustrating to say the least. I was told that the vertical SNES and N64 artwork I had requested was still being built and was pretty far down in the que. I was also asked if I follow them on Instagram (which at the time I didn't even use Instagram) as they did post an update there that included my custom GBC cover/case. I asked if I could substitute those SNES & N64 cases with NES cases for different games and they did get me two cases out pretty quick...however they didn't ship my GBC case! Several emails went back and forth before they finally shipped my GBC case...which arrived earlier this week.




The case turned out beautifully. I've owned this loose cart of  Ketto Transformers Beast Wars: Beast Senshi Saikyo Ketteisen for several years now, acquired for fairly cheap in a Yahoo! Japan auction. I've never seen a boxed copy so having a case made was the next best thing. 


As you can see, these cases are made by Custom Game Cases themselves and specifically made for Game Boy games. In addition to Game Boy, Atari Lynx carts fit in the case great too. There is a place on the left to securely hold an instruction booklet, but as you can see that is something that my copy of the game is lacking.

Over all I LOVE these cases. At $4.00 each they won't break the bank, however shipping will...more on that later. I don't have enough room on my shelves to case my whole loose Game Boy collection, but these are so nice I may have to case some of my favorite games.



I also decided to try one of their NES cases. I've previously tried a Bit Box that Stone Age Gamer offers, but found them to be too bulky and I worried about how they would hold up in the future. These cases are very sturdy and bout the same size as your typical Sega Genesis case. The quality of the printed insert is good and mimics the original box art perfectly.

I like how the spine is laid out, with the black block at the top w/ the Nintendo Entertainment System logo. I've seen designs that leave this off and stay more true to the box art, but I love how uniform these cases look side by side on my shelf.


Similar to the Game Boy cases, the cart fits snuggly in the case on the right side. The left side has two tabs that will hold the instruction booklet securely in place. When closed, the case snaps together tight and will keep out dust or other contaminants.



The only SNES case that I was able to get with vertical artwork was for my Musya game. I'm not sure why I chose this particular game to get cased first, but it turned out beautifully. I like the vertical artwork over the original horizontal layout, simply for the fact that the spines match the NES cases. 


The interior of the SNES case is nearly identical to the NES case, only with the cartridge area shaped differently. I did find out that the cart only snaps in with the cart's spine label facing to the right as shown.

A few pros and cons regarding the cases and my first ordering experience with Custom Game Cases:

PROS:
  • Fantastic quality in both the cases and the prints. At $4 each the cases are affordable.
  • To save on money you can also order a blank case and print your own cover.
  • Great selection of covers available for selection.

CONS:
  • Shipping. I don't know how they base their shipping, but to ship 6 NES cases to my home is about $18! In my opinion they could use the flat rate shipping products from USPS, or just use normal USPS Priority mail and ship for less. The shipping is one reason I've not placed my second order yet.
  • Communication is lacking. They need a better way of communicating with their customers. I understand it takes time to build custom covers, but keep the customer in the loop - don't leave them hanging!
  • Not all cover art is readily available. I originally purchased a N64 case for Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth and requested the vertical artwork. I was told much later that the artwork had to be made and my order was like 19th in line...basically it wouldn't be ready anytime soon. I wish they wouldn't give the option between vertical and horizontal if they aren't ready to be printed.
I don't know if this business is the primary business for the owners or if it's more of a side project, but they seem to have a lot of orders coming through at all times that I wonder if more hired help would benefit them. As frustrated as I was that my initial order took 9 months to be completed, I do plan on placing smaller orders to case my loose NES collection. After that I'll move onto SNES and maybe N64. I'm not a fan of the Universal Game Cases so I'd like to get rid of the N64 cases I have...but it'll take a lot of time, money and patience going through these guys. Recommended, but be ready for delays.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Tomy Mini Nintendo Capsules

If you have a dedicated game room, you may be like me where you like to adorn your room or shelves with video game related toys and knick knacks. You've probably seen these red toy capsules at your local Target or other retail store in your area. When I came across a few that were on clearance I finally took the plunge and bought one out of sheer curiosity.


I believe the MSRP on these capsules is $5.99 and for that price I just wasn't willing to give one a try. Clearance price of $2? Sure, why not. After all, I had the chance of landing a cool Famicom controller I could put on my keychain.


At least with this wave, there were 5 different controllers randomly packaged inside the capsule. The classic Famicom, Super Famicom, N64, Wii and Wii w/ Motion Plus controllers. I was really hoping for either the Famicom or Super Famicom myself. Instead, I was lucky enough to pull the...


The Wii controller. At least I got the black controller w/ Motion Plus. Despite it not being the controller I was hoping for, it's actually not that bad. The level of detail put into it is quite well. The clear translucent A button can actually be depressed. The is a hole in the top of the controller and I initially thought that maybe there was an LED bulb inside...but it's hollow. None the less, it's still a neat little Nintendo branded item to place on my Nintendo gaming shelf. 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Retro Store Visit: Matt's Game Exchange

I first learned of Matt's Game Exchange when I picked up managing a few locations for my company in Greensboro, NC. I have visited the store a few times and made a few purchases over the last year or so, but I never thought to do one of these retro store visit type posts. I'm not sure when I last visited the store (I'm going to guess sometime in the fall of 2017) so these pictures are probably outdated now, but I've got them sitting on my laptop's hard drive so why not share them?


This particular store is located at 2924 West Gate City Blvd., Suite A in Greensboro, NC. The store isn't that far of I-40 and it's pretty easy to get in and out of. The store is located in a strip mall and is a rather large store. So large in fact that their shelves help create a smaller shopping area, while the rest of the store is used for storage (?). They never seem to have huge inventory of games, but their selection is pretty varied and they seem to have a good flow of trade ins.


Most of the higher end (i.e. expensive) games are kept in the glass cases over near the register, but that doesn't mean there aren't some good games out on the shelves. The first section of games that you can easily browse is their NES section. Here you can see a decent amount of loose NES carts as well as a few boxed games. Looks like I spy a few boxed SNES games too.


I swear everyone's SNES section these days seems to be filled with the same sports and low budget titles. I don't remember anything in this section standing out to me...though I have been know to buying a baseball game if I find one I don't already own.


Below the SNES section was their Genesis selection. A good bit of boxed games, something I'm always glad to see. I'll buy those cheap priced boxed Genesis games sometimes just for the clamshell case. I believe I purchased Double Dragon 3 from this location in one of my previous visits. Plenty of loose carts on the shelves below, but I rarely even look at those.


My guess is now that Hyperkin has released their Retron 77 that old Atari 2600 carts may start moving a little faster. Their selection was small, but they had a few decent games for just a few bucks each. Crystal Castles anyone?


The next section over contained GameCube games. This is one system I'd like to have more games for, but it's getting harder for me to find games that want and aren't priced too high.


Playstation 2 was the next section and I was surprised to see that it barely filled up the 4 foot section it was given. Usually finding PS2 games isn't hard. At least their selection (on this visit) wasn't all sports titles.


If I thought the PS2 selection was sparse, check out how bare the Xbox 360 section was during this visit! Either they have been moving a lot of 360 games or people just weren't trading them in.


The Playstation 3 section however had a few more games to chose from. Nothing that grabbed my attention, but I wasn't a huge fan of the PS3.



Their Xbox One and PS4 sections were filled in a little more. Decent selection from what I can remember, but I usually look for more retro stuff when I visit these type stores.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get any pictures of their display cases, but they had some great retro games under the glass. Everything from NES to TurboGrafx. I enjoyed talking to the guys that worked in the store. They were courteous and I could tell that they knew their stuff. It also seemed as if this particular location was smaller than the the store located in Florence, SC. I haven't visited that location, but I'll have to try and swing by there on my next trip down to Myrtle Beach.

Overall the store is pretty cool, but like with many retro stores you may not find necessarily what you're looking for on your first visit. Stores like this you have to visit often and be ready to jump on that "rare" game when you find it as the inventory is constantly changing. Their prices overall are about what you'd expect to find in a brick & mortar retro game store. Not super cheap, but not quite eBay prices either. If you're ever in the Greensboro area or just passing through, you oughta stop in and give them a whirl.

You can find Matt's Game Exchange online or check out their Facebook pages for more information.