Thursday, May 28, 2020

Transformers A.R.T.S.: Mega Drive Megatron

Nearly 5 years ago two of my favorite hobbies collided...Transformers and video games...specifically the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis in the west). Takara Tomy created a new line of Transformers entitled A.R.T.S. and the first (and only) releases were Megatron and a Sony Playstation themed Optimus Prime.

Even to this day I'm not sure how or why this collaboration happened, but I'm glad it did as it's one of the more interesting versions of Megatron in my collection.

Megatron comes packaged in a beautiful box with some nice artwork. The background has a nice space image with a transitioning G1 style grid in the center. "16-BIT" is very prominent in the center of box, which is an obvious reference to the original Sega Mega Drive video game console.

The back of the box has some nice images of Megatron in both his video game console form as well as his robot form. It also shows off some of the features of the toy such as the reset button on the console, the included controller and even a small Sonic the Hedgehog video game cartridge.

The front of the box is actually a flap that opens up to reveal Megatron in is robot mode. Inside the box flap you can see the classic Japanese Mega Drive logo that Sega once used, above the Mega Drive console. Leave it to Takara Tomy to have a beautiful overall presentation to this release.

Megatron is packaged in a form fitting plastic tray. His "fusion cannon", Sonic cartridge and Mega Drive controller are also packaged beside Megatron. No twisty ties or plastic bands are to be had! I did have fight a little to get him out of his "plastic prison" however.

Megatron's fusion cannon is actually the side of the Mega Drive console. Front the front its not as obvious, but from the year you can see the console's reset button and headphone volume slider switch.

While some liberties were taken with the overall look of Megatron's robot mode, there is no mistake who this is meant to be. Just look at that head sculpt! I don't personally care how the 16-BIT logo looks on the lower portion of Megatron's chest, but overall I do like the look of the robot.

Surprisingly he features all your normal points of articulation in his arms, hips and legs. At first I had a hard time getting him to stand, but I later noticed I didn't have his heel pieces extended.

Where this toy shines in my opinion is in console mode. The detail they were able to cram into this thing is amazing. Granted this came out before the current Sega Mega Drive / Genesis mini video game console, this was the smallest version of the iconic hardware I have seen. All of the features are here...from the raised ring around the cartridge slot, to the blue power button and the headphone volume slider.

Obviously this is a non-working video came console, but I love how it also came with a tiny Sonic the Hedgehog cartridge and a controller that actually plugs into the console! By the way, the cartridge doesn't do anything. It doesn't transform, but it does have a nice re-creation of the original Japanese Mega Drive Sonic label. It can he inserted into Megatron's chest in robot mode...but why would you want to do that?

The included controller is modeled after the original 3 button controller. The d-pad does move as well as the face buttons can be depressed ever so slightly. As you can see from the line down the center of the controller, this does split into halves and can be stored on the back of Megatron in robot mode. I didn't care for this as it made it look like Megatron had wings and just looked silly to me. My other gripe about the controller is the cord is too short. It's a minor complaint as it serves its point and looks great when plugged into the console.

Since the release of both Megatron and Optimus, Takara Tomy has released several other Transformers outside of the current series. We've had transforming pens, cell phones and now I believe a watch is coming out next. I know these type of releases aren't for everyone, but in this case this was a marriage made in heaven for me. Today on the secondary market this version of Megatron may set you back $100-$150. It's a fun piece, but definitely for die hard collectors only.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

GI Joe: War on Cobra

While I'm not a huge fan of mobile gaming, every once in awhile a game comes along that I find interesting enough to download and take up some precious memory on my iPhone. The latest game that I seem to be playing for a few minutes each day is GI Joe: War on Cobra by Emerald City Games.

I'm going out on a limb to guess this game was released as Hasbro is gearing up another run of GI Joe action figures for retail shelves later this summer with GI Joe Classified. I say this is just a guess because the art style in the War on Cobra mobile game is more stylized and definitely different than the more serious tone the Classified series of action figures seems to be going with.

Upon downloading the game and launching it for the first time it had a very familiar feel. If your familiar with or have played the Transformers: Earth Wars, this is more of the same basically. If you enjoyed Earth Wars then this is good news. If Earth Wars wasn't your cup of tea, you still may want to try this one out.

The premise of the game is quite simple. 1) Build your headquarters to defend itself from the opposition's attack. 2) Go out into the field and attack the opposition's headquarters to win medals and materials. Each character or vehicle will have a predetermined point value (battle points), shown with a small red lightning bolt and a number. This is what it "costs" you to deploy that character/vehicle. You'll start with so many battle points to launch your attack. With each item or weapon you destroy of the opposition you'll be rewarded with more battle points. You can constantly launch your characters as long as you have battle points available. Once you run out and your last character dies, you have lost the fight and you'll go back to the map.

The interesting thing about War on Cobra is that you actually get to play both of the warring factions. I've always enjoyed the Cobra side of GI Joe more than the Joes themselves so I started off by selecting the Baroness and Cobra. This is where I've spent the most of my time playing the game - building up my volcano based headquarters with all sorts of weapons and traps. However playing the Joes has been fun too as I've unlocked different types of characters and vehicles to use and this keeps it fresh - going back and forth between the two factions.

If you select the Joes the first character you get to use is Roadblock. I love the Sigma-6 esque look to the character models. Roadblock will lay down a heavy layer of fire for you, but it's fairly slow moving on the battlefield.

Each character/vehicle has a different class. Roadblock falls into the Epic class, which is basically the top tier. You can level up your character/vehicle with gold and cards you get in the game. This will help improve the stats - health, range, damage and speed. You can also rank up your character using different items you unlock or are awarded with.

This is one of those games it tempts you to spend real world money on. Build your mini gun turret faster, buy in game currency to level up your get the drill. If you are patient and come back to the game at least once a day, you are awarded with free loot that will range from cards for your characters/vehicles to gold or even diamonds...which is basically the games currency.

I've been playing the game for several weeks now and have enjoyed it. Since starting I've managed to unlock several characters such as...

Each character has their own characteristics and attack style, making it tough sometimes to choose your army for attack. Snake Eyes for example will make short work of Cobra Troopers, while Gung-Ho or Bazooka can take out stronger enemies and weapons much faster. There are drawbacks for each character as well such as the larger characters are usually slower and land mines can take them out.

Once you've played the game for a bit you can start to unlock vehicles. This is where the game can really get fun...and tough at the same time. Knowing what vehicle to use makes a difference. Add one of your characters to the vehicle will unlock even more firepower.

All of the levels take place on the coast so you have a limited area where you can deploy water based vehicles. Sometimes you may have a battle that consists solely on the water, but most of the time is both land/water battles. I started with a lowly Devilfish, then unlocked the more powerful Megalodon. Most recently I unlocked the MOBAT and I love using it.

Above is what the map looks like. This is where you get to launch your attacks from. If the icon with the name shows a character, GI Joe in this case, then you are attacking the base of another player. If the icon is a generic crosshairs I believe these levels are just generic. The number below the icon tells you the level of the base. Obviously the higher the number, the more difficult the fight could be. As you level up your HQ's radar dish, you can expand upon the area on the map in which you can attack. The more options you have the better because your army may not be quite ready to take on some of the higher levels. You do have however the option of spending gold to swap out that tougher HQ. It may be replaced with a lower level or it may be replaced with an equally tough fight.

Earlier I mentioned that I started the game by choosing Cobra. I'm glad that (most of) the characters are different and play different as it makes it fun going back and forth playing both sides. I've devoted most of my time and resources to building up the Cobra side of things.

You start off your Cobra army with the Baroness. She starts off a little weak in the health department, but her ability is one shot, one kill on most enemies. Deploy her behind your front line of B.A.T.s or Cobra Troopers and she can be a pain in the butt for the Joes.

Eventually I unlocked Destro and Storm Shadow. Destro is meh in my book so I don't use him much. Scrap Iron is a lot of fun as he deploys and controls from a distance a little rocket pod. This is one of first characters you can use to take out airborne enemies. Storm Shadow is quite versatile and plays a lot like Snake Eyes.

I love deploying armies of B.A.T.s, then following them up with a some ground fire by a group of Cobra Troopers or SAW Vipers that I recently unlocked.

Cobra has always had some awesome vehicles and I'm glad to see that some of these have made their way into the game. Like with the Joes vehicles, drop a character into the vehicle and you'll have more firepower. The Maggot for instance. Standalone it will fire a machine gun from the front. With a pilot it will use it's massive cannon to launch spiked projectile bombs at your enemies!

I understand that mobile games can't compare to console games, however that doesn't mean that they can't be least in small chunks. Being a GI Joe fan I'm just happy that there is something new out there. The fact that the game is well designed and fun to play is a bonus. If you decide to download the game (it's free by the way) just pack some patience. Don't spend your real hard earned money on anything in the game just because you get frustrated or you don't want to wait. To me at least it's made to be played in short sessions. Enjoy it for what it is...a fun and somewhat addictive mobile game. Yo Joe!

Friday, May 8, 2020

Final Thoughts - Detroit: Become Human

I realize that I haven't been as active with this blog as I would have liked to be. While I have been playing a few games here and there, it's been awhile since I really dove myself into a big thematic modern video game. I recently however came back to a game I started last fall and finished it so I thought I'd do another "Final Thoughts" type post.

I received Detroit: Become Human the Christmas of 2018 and unfortunately it sat on my shelf for almost a year before I finally took the shrink wrap off the case and installed it on my PS4. I asked for this game because I thought it looked beautiful and sounded interesting. It did remind me a little of Until Dawn's gameplay, a game I had previously completed and enjoyed. I know the game didn't live up to it's hype and it didn't take long for the game's price to be reduced to $19.99, but that didn't stop me from wanting to try it out first hand.

Once you start up the game you're asked to take a survey. This survey asks you all sorts of questions regarding androids and your thoughts on them among other things. Obviously I wasn't expecting this when I first fired up the game.

This android also helps walk you through the set up of the game, asking you questions about the settings and for confirmation. I immediately knew I was in for an immersive experience.

Detroit: Become Human is less of a typical video game and more of an interactive movie or story. If you're old enough to remember the old youth "Choose Your Own Adventure" books, this is basically what you are getting. You get to control the actions and make decisions for 3 different androids in each of their own stories. The setting is a future Detroit.

The game opens with a hostage scenario where you are introduced to and control Connor. He has been programmed to track down these "deviant" androids that are breaking free of their programming. He is tasked to partner up with a Detroit detective, Lt. Hank Anderson (played by Clancy Brown). You've already seen via Markus and Kara how some humans view, interact with and treat or think about androids, but the relationship and story between Connor and Hank takes it to the next level.

Throughout your journey with these android characters you'll see how your choices are influencing the story in game. Right off the bat you have to negotiate with a deviant android who has taken a little girl hostage. As you do try to unravel the events that lead to this point, you'll see that the more info you have and how you talk to the deviant your chances at a positive outcome are.

Next we have Markus, an android that is the caretaker for an elderly painter. The game starts out pretty simple, your task is to retrieve a paint order from the local store. On the way back to the bus stop you see a small group of demonstrators that have gathered in a common area of town. The organizer of the group has a megaphone and he's talking to the crowd about how androids cost him his job and how androids will be the downfall of the human civilization basically. This is where you have your first choice to make. Once spotted, do you chose to interact or ignore? When accosted, do you fight back or do you remain civil? A little bit later you are introduced to the painter's son, who comes by the house a little intoxicated. He asks for money, which he is denied. The son thinks that his dad cares more for the android than him. This causes the son to get in the face of Markus, yelling obscenities and again making you make choices that will effect the story. This is where Markus reaches his breaking point and seems to break free of his programing.

Lastly you are introduced to Kara, a housekeeper type android. She is just coming back online after being repaired and is now inside a CyberLife store waiting to be picked up by her owner. The guy mentions to the sales rep that his android was hit by a car, but immediately I begun to think that didn't seem right. Once you get him you are introduced to the owner's daughter, Alice. While doing some menial housework, her story starts to unfold even more. The father turns out to be a real douchebag and I immediately felt resentment and anger towards him. Then when he abuses his daughter, Alice, it made me want revenge. Kara is told to stand still, but when she sees him go upstairs with a belt in his hand she betrays that command and "breaks free". 

The game is broken up into chapters for each character. Throughout each chapter you'll find yourself facing multiple decisions. Sometimes the "correct" decision may be obvious, but not always. If you view yourself as person with morals or even faith, you may find yourself answering the questions as if you were a part of the story yourself. Or you can chose to approach things with a more aggressive approach...which is easy considering how nasty these android characters are treated as the story unfolds. At the end of each chapter you are giving a map of sorts showing you the choices you made. This is where you'll see all the different branching paths for that character's journey. Answer correctly and the story goes a little longer. Answer wrong, and that chapter may end abruptly. Thankfully after a chapter is completed you can re-start that chapter if you want to answer the questions differently to see how it effects the overall story.

I give the creators major props for this game. While it may not suite everyone's tastes, the story is very captivating and heart breaking at times. If I'm being honest I found it hard to answer some of the questions. Of course I'm trying to figure out the correct answer, or the answer that will take me the furthest, but being who I am I tried to answer all the questions honestly. I tried to "do the right thing". The whole plot of the story is that these "deviant" androids are wanting to be recognized by humans as being living beings, wanting to be free and want to abolish slavery. Perhaps this resonated with me so much because I've been helping my 4th grade daughter with her homework on the Emancipation Proclamation. Or perhaps it resonated with me because I have morals and that I recognize that slavery is wrong. That's what kept me playing this game and ultimately brought me back to finish this game. The story is powerful. The story is sad. The story is captivating.

In closing I can see why this game may not have sold that well. This game is different. This game tackles real world social issues...from a different angle of course. It's not a fast paced, intense action oriented game. It's a slow paced, methodical game. If you're up to trying something different then I highly recommend the game. It does seem like you're watching a movie more than playing a game, but if you do decide to give it a try then buckle up as you're in for a rollercoaster of a ride (and maybe emotions?).

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Gaming Relics

If you're into collecting retro video games (and I assume you would be if you've visiting this blog) then you've probably heard of Custom Game Cases. In fact, I've done a post on them and showed off their work. While this is a good company, the lead times in getting orders filled can take months. I've been looking for an alternative and I've finally found one...Gaming Relics.

Gaming Relics use the same awesome type of hard plastic clam shell like cases that Custom Game Cases uses, but they'll get your order to you in a matter of days after your order has been placed. I recently placed an order last Tuesday and the order arrived Saturday. I'm located in SC and they are located across the country in CA. Best of all, their prints are beautiful and make your loose carts look so much better on your shelves.

My recent order just consisted of 3 cases, 1 NES and 2 Super Famicom (SFC). I'm slowly working on having cases made for all of my loose NES and SNES games. I can't find many custom SFC covers so when I noticed that Gaming Relics had cases for Chou Makaimura (Super Ghosts 'n Goblins) and Super Mario: Yossy Island (Super Mario World 2) I wanted to check them out first hand.

I'm very happy with the outcome and I've already placed them on my shelves. From what I can tell these are more or less feature the game's retail artwork that just wraps around the case...which I'm OK with. These were priced a dollar less than their SNES cases at just $4.99.

I only have a handful of NES games left to get cases made for. I'm going alphabetical order to get these done so the next up was Bible Adventures. 

If you aren't familiar with these case, they are about the same size as an original NES or SNES cardboard box. The plastic is a smokey dark gray and very sturdy. The cases snap shut and features a firm grasp. The inside of the case has two clips (left side) to hold the instruction manual in place. The other side (right) has a place designed for the different type cart and has 4 clips that hold the cart in place. The outside of the box has a clear film that allows you to insert you own artwork or the artwork that places like Gaming Relics offer.

I mentioned I just placed an order for 3 cases because that is their optimum number of cases you can order and they can still ship via USPS 1st class for around $5. This is my second order with Gaming Relics and I couldn't be happier. I will be placing additional orders in the near future as my OCD just can't come to grips with a shelve full of loose game cartridges!