Friday, January 27, 2017

Retro Game Store Visit: Edward McKay - Winston-Salem, NC

More of a used book store than a game store, Edward McKay is a chain of stores throughout North Carolina. Located in college markets, these stores carry everything from books, movies, pop culture items (toys) and of course video games. My first exposure to this chain was in Raleigh, NC. I was in awe of their selection of retro games and consoles. I believe that is where I picked up my complete copy of Alien Crush for the TurboGrafx-16 a few years back. It had been awhile since I've darkened the doorstep of one of their stores until a recent trip (March 2016) to their Winston-Salem, NC location off of Oakwood Drive.

I actually stopped by this store a few months back, but didn't buy any games. I saw one Master System game that I passed on and after leaving I regretted. Thankfully on this most recent trip the game was still sitting in one of their cabinets. Kenseiden was Sega's attempt at a atmospheric action/adventure game in the vein of Castlevania for the NES.

 I've often heard good things about the game and the store was only asking $15 for it. Turns out the game was also complete which just sweetened the deal. As of this post I haven't played the game yet, but I do eagerly await sitting down to play.

Along one side of the store they have these small locked cabinets with most of the retro games and accessories. They had loose games, boxed games, expensive games and cheap games. Everything from NES to Atari Jaguar in these cases. Prices for the games ranged from eBay prices to reasonable prices to cheap.

The more modern games were placed on nice wooden shelves that lined the side wall of the store. Most of them were turned face out so it was easy to see them. They had a decent selection of games. The PS2/PS3 and 360 selection was the largest.

In addition to Kenseiden I grabbed two loose handheld games I saw on a clearance rack when going to check out. To be honest I don't know much about the Desert Speedtrap game, but it was really cheap and I'm looking forward to picking up the Sega adapter for my RetroFreak console. The GBA game is Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2. I remember playing this franchise on the original Xbox and thought it was fun. Plus my daughters are starting to discover GBA games via their DS units I recently bought them and I thought they may enjoy this one.

I love the sheer variety these stores offer and I really wish I had one closer to my home. They have another store near by in Greensboro, NC and while I haven't made it there yet I do plan on getting over there sometime soon to check out their gaming offers.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Crest of Wolf (PC Engine)

Crest of Wolf
Westone / Hudson Soft
Super CD- ROM, 1993

Crest of Wolf, also known as Riot Zone on the TurboGrafx CD is your standard fare beat 'em game. I don't know if it was intentional or not, but there are a lot of similarities with Capcom's Final Fight. Being that I'm playing the Japanese version, I wasn't able to follow the dialogue in the animated scenes that set the story. I don't need to read though to find out its your basic rescue your kidnapped girlfriend, beating up thugs along the way.

You can take control of either Hawk or Tony. Hawk is the blonde wearing a white t-shirt w/ blue jeans...he's basically this game's version of Cody from Final Fight. Tony is the big dude with the mohawk...this game's Haggar. Both players do play a little different and feature different animations in their attack, but like most beat 'em ups does it really matter who you choose?

Upon firing up the game I noticed that the game looks and feels as if its almost unfinished. The graphics are kind of ugly in places and the character designs leave a lot to be desired. At least the enemies are varied, but there are a LOT of color pallet swaps to make the additional characters. The animation for your character, as well as the enemies seems stiff. Hit detection is decent, however many of the enemies would land a chain of attacks on you that I just could seem to block or get away from. Thankfully the game didn't have any slow down of flickering that I noticed when there were multiple enemies on the screen.

Going back to the characters, do these enemies remind you of a particular ninja that garnered fame on various Sega platforms?! I fought a couple of shirtless fat guys that seemed to resemble Karnov as well. The big guys in the game run around like the big, fat bald guys in Final Fight. There are guys that slide kick across the floor just like the guys w/ knives in the previous mentioned game. At least there was some originality in the level design after the first level or so.

The one positive thing I have to say about this game is that the soundtrack is pretty great. There are a few tunes that I didn't care for, but overall I really enjoyed the guitar heavy metal. I felt it fit the game really well and I wish there was a sound test. At least you can listen to the game's entire soundtrack in the YouTube video above.

After you beat the boss of each level, you'll see your character walking down the street and up to a poster with an image of the boss and a reward listed below. You'll thing plunge a knife into the poster before the screen fades and loads the next level.

The boss battles throughout the game I found to be fairly easy, however the boss(es) of the first stage proved to be tougher than most. You fight an Asian martial artists by the name of Mr. Lee. Once you get his health to about half way, a female armed with Wolverine type claws joins the battle. Not overly difficult, but the lady did get some cheap hits in on me as she jumped around the screen.

Stage two's boss, Shauna, appears to be some type of dominatrix. When you first approach her, she is laying down on a board stacked upon cinder blocks. She has a sexual look to her, even though her character model really doesn't show that much skin. I can see this character being heavily altered/censored if this game ever appeared on the Super Nintendo. Despite her wielding a whip, she was a real push over.

Stage three's boss took place in what appeared to be a doctor's office? You see this guy sitting on a desk who jumps down, then all these spikes protrude from his body. He looks way more menacing than he actually was. Next.

Remember when you jumped into the wrestling ring in Final Fight to fight the boss, Sodom? Stage four's boss isn't some Japanese shogun warrior, but a big sumo wrestler named Fuji. I don't know if it was his larger size that made it easy to land hits on, but I was able to take him out fairly quickly.

Stage 5 has you eventually invade the enemies base, a penthouse at the top of a skyscraper. Why does that seem so familiar? I can't remember the name of the boss, but he has that pretty boy look. Kind of reminds me of one of the guys from the first Die Hard movie, only this guy knows martial arts. I didn't find him too terribly difficult to beat, in fact I thought I had beat the game. Did you notice those statues in the background? Well one of them there is more than meets the eye.

The final boss of the game is Toro, a statue that comes to life after you beat the pretty blonde guy. He attacks with a sword and if he gets any distance on you he'll fire a slow moving fireball your way. For the final boss he was way to easy to beat. Like with most characters and bosses, you could pin them in the corner and lay down on your attack button...or just use the handy built in turbo switches to really take it to them.

Once he falls, you walk into the next game and the love of your life runs into you arms. There are more animated scenes that help wrap up the story I presume. After that you are greeted by a screen with "Congratulations" spelled out in large characters. Roll credits and put a fork in this one because you are done.

Without changing any of the default game play settings, you get five lives. I was able to make it to the 5th and final level before I had to continue as I had earned a few lives based on my score. The levels are a tad long and the overall difficulty did seem to ramp up a little on the final level. I believe I had to continue twice in my play through. I don't know if the continues are unlimited or not, but when you do have to continue you get to pick up right where you left off. No going back to the beginning of the stage here.

Overall the game is OK. Games like Final Fight or Streets of Rage are far superior, but I still enjoyed it thanks in part to the soundtrack. The game isn't overly expensive and unless you really want to know the story behind the game, there isn't any reason to pay more for the US version. Plus the PC Engine version has the far superior cover art. If you are fan of beat 'em ups you at least owe it to yourself to try this game.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Nintendo Switch...Will it Live up to it's Hype?

If you're reading this blog, then I'm pretty sure you like video games. If you like video games, then you may have been like me and stayed up late (well, late for me at least) on 01/12/17 to watch Nintendo's presentation for their newest console, the Switch.

I haven't poured over much of the content today on social media, but what I have it seems people are firmly on one side or another when it comes to this new hybrid it or hate it. I really haven't seen many people that are straddling the fence. 

You have your Nintendo loyalists that of course love it and will buy it day one. Then you have your hardcore gamers that turn their noses up towards Nintendo for a myriad of reasons. Where do I stand? That's a good question. Let me see if I can explain my stance, but first let me take a walk down memory lane and explain my relationship w/ Nintendo.

I like Nintendo. I always have. I grew up in the Atari age, in fact the last console my dad said he would ever buy me (and my older brother) was the Atari 7800. This would prove to be mostly true, then again "Santa" gave me an NES a few years later. I loved the NES. I have many fond memories of pulling weeds at my aunt's house to earn money to buy one of my first NES games, Bubble Bobble. I remember sneaking NES games with me to Jr. High school to trade with friends. I remember the first TMNT game on the NES pissing me off. Those were the times.

When the SNES came out, surprisingly I wasn't interested in games. Blame it on girls I guess. My younger brother eventually would get an SNES and I'd play it sparingly, but I really didn't do much with games until the N64 was announced. That was the first console that I bought w/ my own money. I remember the day I got the call from Toys R Us that my console was ready to be picked up. Talk about living on cloud 9. Mario 64 was utterly amazing and I couldn't put it down. Sadly, the console would ultimately disappoint me as the caliber of games just didn't capture my attention after the novelty of Mario 64 wore off.

I followed the news of the GameCube and would eventually get one for Christmas after it had been out a year or so. I thought it was a great little machine, but by that time Microsoft had already wooed me away w/ their original Xbox. It seemed if Nintendo was starting to get lost in the shuffle with more competition and as much of a fan I was, my attention (and dollars) went elsewhere. Nintendo would eventually reel me back in w/ the Wii. I bought it at launch. I remember sitting outside a Super Target in the freezing cold w/ my wife and brothers waiting to get it on launch day. I also picked up Zelda and fell in love with the game...until I had to go fishing in the game for something. 

Ironically enough, I think my favorite Nintendo console, outside of the original, is the Wii U. I agree that Nintendo didn't do the console any favors with the name and the marketing for it was horrible. I didn't buy it on launch, but eventually ponied up the money and bought a Zombi U bundle from GameStop. Today it's the most played of all of the modern consoles I have. My 7 and 5 year old girls enjoy playing Super Mario World, Yoshi's Wooly World and other games. They fight over who gets to use the tablet controller. Heck, I love the tablet controller and opt to use it over the Pro controller on certain games. 

Now comes the Switch. So far I think Nintendo has done a pretty good job at showing off the hardware and describing it's many play styles, but what concerns me still are the games. Granted a few of the launch titles and upcoming titles look good, but what I'm waiting for (as many others are) is to see what the 3rd party support is going to be like. Frankly, Nintendo hasn't had good 3rd party support for a home console of theirs since...the N64? 

The console itself is very intriguing to me. I'm not a big portable fan so that feature isn't a big draw for me, but I can see myself playing it sitting on the couch while "watching TV"...similar to what I do now w/ the Wii U. The Joy Con controllers, while small, looks to be better than I originally thought and may make playing retro games on the Switch that much more authentic if you will. I'm very happy to see a Pro style controller coming and that it's design hasn't changed much from the last generation.

I get people's concerns that the Switch may not be the savior that Nintendo needs. However what I'm already sick and tired of hearing is that it's not 4K, it's under powered, it's this or it's not this. People are complaining that it's not even as good as the PS4 or the Xbox One and why won't Nintendo just release a "regular console".

Let's face it people. This isn't the 1980's or even the 1990's. The landscape of video games has changed a lot in the 30+ years I've been on this planet. Competition isn't what it used to be and Nintendo isn't the king of the hill anymore. I believe Nintendo knows this and they've come to grips with it. Instead of trying to complete with Microsoft and Sony, they decided to take a different path and it all started with the Wii (some may argue it started w/ the GameCube). Nintendo isn't afraid of trying something new and I commend them for that. That isn't to say that things don't blow up in their face, but what I don't get is why are people bashing Nintendo for trying to be different? What's wrong with being different? Most gamers have more than one game system these days; so if they want that super powerful mega house game system to play 4K HD super graphic heavy games they can. I believe Nintendo is just trying to find their niche in this crowed market place and there is nothing wrong with that. It's fine if you don't like it. Go back to one of the other two big companies, but Nintendo is banking on people playing their games and consoles to have fun, to enjoy the gaming experience.

With the GameCube, Nintendo finally decided to use optical media for the first time...but went a different route with their mini-DVDs. Now they are going a different route w/ flash media...and I think that's pretty cool. Heck, this is one of the features on the Switch that intrigues me the most. The Sony PlayStation Vita has blown me away with the type of games they can cram onto an SD card and honestly that alone has given me hope that Nintendo will be able to replicate that (and take it to another level?) on the Switch. Even the images of the games' packaging that recently came out is starting to get me excited.
Will the Nintendo Switch live up to it's Hype? I think it's way to early to say. I think it'll perform better than the Wii U, but then again that isn't saying much. However taken how dominate Nintendo has been with in the handheld market ever since the original Game Boy was launched, I see them being able to market the Switch to that group as well as the home console market. I think the Switch has a lot of great things going for it, but like any platform it's the games that make the difference. While I'm glad to see that Zelda is going to be a launch title, I believe having a new Mario game ready on day one would have given the Switch a tremendously large boost. Then again, it'll take me forever to get through Zelda so I can wait until the holiday 2017 season for another big game. I know I'm in the minority here however.


So, did I pre-order a Nintendo Switch like the millions of others last night or in the wee early hours of 01/13/17? Yes. I kinda talked myself out of it, but then all of those great Nintendo memories rushed to the forefront of my thoughts. That and the whole Classic Nintendo debacle at retail for those who didn't pre-order. Not long before noon today I searched out various vendors online to see who still had pre-orders and it didn't take me long before I realized they were pre-selling out fast. GameStop, gone. Amazon, gone. Walmart, gone. Thankfully I did get an order in for the Switch (and Zelda) at Best Buy. The neon colored bundle was already gone so I had to settle for the basic package, but with young girls in the house that may be a good thing as I could see them fighting over who gets to play with the red or blue Joy Con controller!

Just like the video game market has changed over the last 30 years, so have I. While I still love games (obviously), I'll be 40 in a few months, have a family and a job that requires me to travel and takes up a good bit of my time. I have a lot of other hobbies as well that are constantly fighting for my attention. I'm not that 20 something guy that can sit on the couch and play games all day. If I play games now for more than 2 or 3 hours straight I feel as if I wasted my time. I don't need the Switch to be a blockbuster PlayStation or Xbox killer. I just need it to provide me with some quality, fun to play titles...which I know Nintendo will deliver on. If they get the 3rd party support that most of us would like to see, that will just be a bonus. I buy Nintendo consoles to play the Nintendo franchises. If I really want to play a big budget title I can always fall back on my Xbox One. 

March 3, 2017 can't get here fast enough for me. I'm excited about this new path that Nintendo is taking. I'm prepared for a little disappointment here and there, but I have faith that the powers that be at Nintendo will deliver on their promises. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

SALE ALERT: Retro-Bit Generations only $35!

I mentioned earlier that I received Retro-Bit's Generations plug and play console for Christmas and this evening I noticed that the price has dropped to just a mere $35 w/ free shipping on! If you've been on the fence about this, now is as good a time as ever to give it a try.

The game selection alone was enough to warrant a purchase for myself, especially if you are a fan of Capcom games. Knights of the Round, Ghouls & Ghosts, Super Ghouls & Ghosts. Throw in shmps like Super R-Type and Image Force.

It's no NES Mini, but for the price and game selection you really can't go wrong.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone! While I had a good amount of time off from work to enjoy spending time with my family and time away from work...reality reared it's ugly head today and I hard to return to the "real world". While I didn't get to play as many games as I wanted to over the holidays, I did end up getting a few good things for Christmas.

All of the Disney Infinity 3.0 items (minus the Captain America set) were actually joint gifts to my girls, as was the Nintendo Amibo of Rosalina. They both really enjoy playing the Wii U and we picked these up for mega cheap at Walmart a few weeks before Christmas. I think the starter set was $8 and the individual characters were $1 each. The Inside Out set I believe was $3 or $4.

Not surprisingly my girls got me Pokemon Moon for the 3DS. I go in spurts playing Pokemon and as they get older (and thanks to Pokemon Go) they enjoy the Pokemon concept and characters more and more. I sat down to play it over the weekend while I was out of town, but my 3DS was dead. Once I get my work out of the way this week I'm going to sit down and finally experience what everyone has been talking about since it's release.

I decided to fore go the Nintendo Classic with it's horribly availability and price on the secondary market and went the Retro-Bit Generations path. With my Retro Freak recently dying on me I put this system in it's place and haven't been disappointed yet. I may do a separate post on the plug and play console in the near future, but for now I'm enjoying playing the arcade version of Knights of the Round!

My wife and I's anniversary is on New Year's Day so we skipped town for a few days and headed down to Savannah, GA to celebrate. While there I found a retro game/toy store that was pretty awesome (look for a post on that soon too) and while I was there picked up a few games that aren't pictured. I grabbed Kid Klown in Crazy Town for the SNES, a pinball game for the SNES and Qix for the original Game Boy.

The holidays were great, but I'm kind of glad they are over so I can get myself back on a regular schedule again. I still have lots of new content planned for the new year and can't wait to share it with all 2 readers of this blog! Seriously though, thanks for the support in 2016 and here's to a new year!