Monday, October 21, 2019

Player 1 Up

I know it's been awhile since I've posted anything new on this blog. I've been picking up games here and there and still playing said games into the wee hours of the night, however I've just had a creative block when it comes to posting new content.

However I recently had a chance to (finally) visit a new "barcade" that moved into downtown Rock Hill, SC, Player 1 Up. I took several pictures while I was there because I thought it could make a good blog post.

While I'm not a drinker, I do love playing arcade games so when I heard this establishment was moving into my hometown I was super excited. I kept peeking through the door before they opened so I could see some of the cabinets they had. It was like a kid on Christmas Eve, anxiously awaiting for the next morning. I had hoped to go to their grand opening, but kids aren't allowed and I couldn't find anyone to watch my girls. I was OK with staying home because (for now) the place is rather small and on opening night it was jammed packed with people. Small space, lots of people = hot, not fun.

A few weeks after the opening my wife and I finally got a "date night" and we headed downtown for dinner and some fun. While we initially thought about grabbing some food at Player 1 Up, neither of us wanted to settle for bar food so we hit up favorite place of ours right on Main Street instead. Afterwards we made the short walk to Player 1 Up, paid our $5 cover charge at the door and then walked around, trying to decide which game we wanted to play first.

I was impressed with the variety of games. They had some older games like Dig Dug (that's my wife playing), Asteroids, Frogger, Donkey Kong and more. They had some great beat 'em ups like the TMNT arcade game, P.O.W., and Bad Dudes. Great fighting games like Primal Rage, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat II. My wife and I first tackled the TMNT game and played it through completion. Why not since they were all on free play?

The whole bar was decorated with video game related content - from posters, banners and even old video game marquees mounted around the top of the bar. Many of the sports game (like NFL Blitz) proved to be really popular later that evening.

I eventually made my way to the other side of the bar and I found Bad Dudes tucked away in the corner. Man I lost so many quarters to this game back in the day. While it's not the best beat 'em up (too bad they didn't have Double Dragon!) I did have fun working my way through the game.

The "upper level" of the bar housed 5 great pinball machines. I love pinball...I mean love pinball. My wife took me to the Pinball Hall of Fame in Asheville, NC and I was in heaven. I was glad to see that Player 1 Up had some great tables too, such as the classic Pinbot!

My personal favorite of the tables was Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast. I had not seen or played this table before and it was great. Jurassic Park was to the left and it was pretty awesome too.

Near the pinball tables was a dining area with some tables and chairs. Several posters from the era adorned the walls in this area, along with a projection screen. As the night wore on this place got more and more crowded. Again, since I'm not a drinker my wife and I only hung around for a few hours before we ended up calling it an evening. I should mention they have a little outdoor patio section where they have ping pong tables and corn hole. 

Overall I'm really impressed with the bar and I look forward to some of the future changes I've seen mentioned on their Facebook page. Since my initial visit I saw they brought in the awesome Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder. I'll go back just to play that game again! If you're in the Rock Hill area you owe it to yourself to drive to downtown and check out Player 1 Up.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

The search for arcades @ Myrtle Beach, SC

Located on the upper floor (or is the bottom floor?) inside Ripley's Wonderworks at Myrtle Beach, SC is one of the last arcades I've managed to find at the beach. It's a shame really because I have so many memories have taking a roll of quarters to the Pavillion area and playing random video games until the money ran out. Double Dragon was always a favorite of mine back then. Now finding arcade games at the beach isn't an easy task.

While the actual game selection was somewhat limited inside Wonderworks, the designs on the walls leading to the bathrooms (of all places!) were too cool not to show. There were several different classic arcade games showcased and underneath each was a plaque that gave a brief history of the game. You can click on any picture to view a larger image.

One of the few games I hadn't seen in an arcade before was this Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game. While it's no "Turtles in Time", I found it pretty fun to play. The graphics were very animated and the action was very fluid. I would have liked to have had more time with the game, but the upper level also included a ropes course that my daughter was waiting to go on with me.

Growing up my family took many vacations to Myrtle Beach and one of my favorite rainy day spots was the old Briarcliffe Mall. Inside was a cool arcade, KB Toys and a movie theatre. Now called the Myrtle Beach Mall, it's a shell of itself. There isn't a lot inside the mall to be honest. The movie theatre is still there, but I don't think I've seen a movie there since A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 5! However there is one two reasons to go to the mall. Player's Choice. 

Player's Choice alone is worth going if you love video games and all things pop culture. For as long as I can remember there have always been great arcade cabinets and pinball machines inside the store you could play for just a quarter. Games like Konami's Simpsons, Capcom's Alien vs. Predator, Ivan Iron Stewart's Super Off-Road and even Sega's Spider-Man arcade game. They also sold new and used video games and systems going back to the Atari and NES through current gen. Comics, TPBs, Pops! and other assorted action figures are also always in stock. I know I could spend a good bit of time in the store alone...but a year or so ago they leased the empty space next to their store and put in a full fledged retro arcade!

On my last visit I was greeted with Pac-Man and Kung-Fu at the entrance of the black light soaked room. I was never good at either of those so I continued to keep looking around.

On the left side was Dragon's Lair, Dr. Mario, Super Mario Bros., Kangaroo, Ghost 'n Goblins...

Followed by Track & Field, Joust, Burger Time, Double Dragon and an old school juke box in the back left corner. In the center of the room were a few more classic games like these Donkey Kong games.

On the opposite side was Commando, Contra, Tetris, Jungle Hunt, Q*Bert...

Toobin', Dig Dug, Tapper, Punch Out! and a few other games. Along the back of the arcade were several pinball tables, but in my haste to start plugging quarters into the games I forgot to snap more pictures!

The walls of the arcade had various video game art/logos with some 80's nostalgia mixed in. At one point I do remember looking up from my game and seeing Skeletor from Masters of the Universe! Like the games inside the Player's Choice store next door, all the machines in the arcade were just $.25. It was so much fun re-living a part of my childhood as I beat Double Dragon again. I played several other games as well, but I didn't get to play everything that I wanted to before I had to leave. Thankfully however the place we stay at the beach is just down the road from this mall so I get to frequent both the store and the arcade with each trip to the beach.

I'm sure there are other gaming spots at Myrtle Beach that I haven't quite found yet, but when I do you can expect me to be in my element.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Japan Retro Direct - A service you may not know about, but should!

Importing video games from Japan seems to be catching on with more and more gamers around the world, but especially here in the US. There are many retro games that now sell for ungodly amounts on the secondary market that are relatively affordable in Japan. However obtaining those games without having to pay a huge mark up can be difficult.

In the past I used a proxy service to acquire games from Yahoo! Japan Auctions with mixed results. While I did score Chip Chan Kick for my PC-FX for cheaper than eBay prices, it still wasn't cheap with all of the additional fees and essentially having to pay for shipping twice. So the question remains where can gamers go these days for imports that are reasonably priced?

If you aren't familiar with Japan Retro Direct, you should be. Vinnk (from Famicom Dojo fame) runs a nice little business on the side and does a wonderful job with his store. One of the best things about his listings is that most of them contain a good description about the gameplay and also feature a YouTube video embedded in the listing w/ actual gameplay. Being a gamer/collector himself living in Japan, he finds a lot of great games and passes them on for a fair price. I can also be confident that he's not selling me junk either as he tests each game thoroughly before he lists them. Sometimes he gets so hung up "testing" games that there is a small delay in new stock being listed for sale!

If you use Facebook, best thing to do is Like his page so you can stay up to date with his store updates and news announcements. Or just bookmark the actual store...whichever floats your boat. Lately he's added a "frequent shopper" program where purchases of $20 or more (shipping excluded) will earn you 1 point. Points act as store credit on future purchases. By the way, a $20 order will generally net you several games because that's how generous his pricing can be.

My latest haul from Japan Retro Direct contained 4 games...all from different platforms. First up is a loose cart of Wave Race 64 Shindo Pak Taio. This is the re-release of the game with added Rumble Pak support. I also believe some sound and music were altered in this version.

Next up is Pinobee for the Game Boy Advance. This was a game I remember seeing in the past that I wanted to try out. I first purchased this game on the Playstation, but how could I pass up on a complete, boxed copy for just a few bucks? It's a fun Hudson Soft platformer that I rarely see mentioned by fellow gamers.

I've never been a huge fan of fighting games, but the Guilty Gear series is a lot of fun. The first Guilty Gear game I played was on the original Xbox, but so many titles in the series exist that I was unaware of. GG XX Midnight Carnival #Reloaded is one of those. I have a Japanese PS2 and could use a few additional games and it was priced right. Just need to get a good fighting pad for my PS2 now.

Lastly we have Bomberman World for the Japanese Playstation. My experience with Bomberman is very limited, but this game looked fun and I needed something to bring me up to that $20 threshold to earn a point on my order. What little I've played of this game has been fun...but I'm sooo bad at it and I think I blew myself up more than I killed my enemies!

Vinnk has a good thing going here and while I'm not being paid or compensated to spread the word of his game store/service, I feel obligated to spread the news just because he's doing such a wonderful job. There are a lot of websites that specialize in importing games from Japan, but nothing like Japan Retro Direct.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Initial Thoughts: Resident Evil 4 (Xbox One)

Welcome back to another rendition of Initial Thoughts. This is where I share my, well, initial thoughts on a game (not necessarily new) that I've begun playing for the first time. Fresh off the heals of me completing Resident Evil 7 on the PS4, I decided it was time to pull that copy of Resident Evil 4 off the shelf and give it a try. Yes, you read that correctly. Not Resident Evil 2, but part 4.

As I touched on in my post regarding RE7, my experience with this gaming franchise has been spotty at best. When I grabbed RE4 off my shelf the other day I was reminded that I grabbed this game from Target on clearance for $9.98 some time ago. How much time has passed since I purchased, who knows, but I grabbed it despite owning it for the GameCube as well.

I installed RE4 on my Xbox One over the weekend, knowing I was ready to tackle the game finally. It would be a few days later before I'd actually find the time to sit down and play however. Once I did I was ready to experience a "new" Resident Evil experience. Going into the game I still knew very little, which was mostly intentional. I let the cut scenes play, setting up the story and once I got control of Leon Kennedy I immediately was reminded of how old this game was. Veteran RE fans by this time were used to the "tank" controls, but coming off of playing RE7 this game and it's controls were obviously a step back so to speak. While I have gotten used to the controls for the most part after about 5 hours of game play, I still don't like them. I will go on record and say I haven't tried to remap the buttons...if that is even possible. I've gotten down the combat mechanics, but I still hate having to press & hold the left bumper to wield the knife.

I remember people saying that RE4 was a different style of RE game and it didn't take long to realize that. Gone is the familiar setting. No cities, no police stations, replacing these with a setting somewhere in Europe. You're not evening fighting least I think. The enemies, Ganados, seem to function like normal humans judging from what you find in the first village. They even communicate, though I don't know what language they are speaking. Since I'm still in the middle of the game I'm trying to figure out what's going on, but from best I can tell from the cut scenes and what not there is some sort of mind control going on.

At first I wasn't all that impressed with this game if I'm being completely honest. I found the controls to be very cumbersome and Leon to move very slugglish. Of course after I realized I could make him run and got used to the controls my opinion started to change. I also made the game harder than I needed to as I was trying to conserve as much ammo as possible and just use my knife to attack the Ganados. I had often heard of how scare ammo was in RE games, but much to my surprise I didn't find this to as big of an issue as I thought going in. I've learned that I can't go blazing in and shooting everything, but I also don't have to be as stingy. This made the game more fun for me. It didn't take long before I was fully immersed into this game, so much so that I opted to play over watching the recent UNC vs. Duke men's basketball showdown at the other night!

So far I haven't found the game to be overly difficult, but this boss, El Gigante did give me a pretty good run for my money. While the game isn't open world and more linear, I have found that backtracking and re-visiting previous areas has it's rewards...and dangers. I may have cheated a little and used a guide at times in my early play of the game so I knew this boss fight was coming up. I tried backtracking a little to see if I could find some more health since I was running low of reserves, however I was caught off guard by several Ganados. Eventually I figured it wasn't worth the time (or ammo) and turned around to face the giant himself.

By the way, I hope you freed the dog caught in the bear trap at the very beginning of the game! I instinctively knew setting the dog free was the right thing to do, but I didn't necessarily expect the dog to come to my aid in the battle w/ El Gigante.

I continued playing after taking down the giant and proceeded back to the church to rescue Ashley, the president's daughter. Shortly after the cut scenes that helped advance the story I saved my game and quit for the night. While I did know I was on a rescue mission, I failed to really think about having to escort her to safety. Why? Because I friggin' hate escort missions! I hated escorting survivors to safety in the Williamette Parkview Mall (Dead Rising) so much that I didn't even want to attempt unlocking the "Frank the Pimp" achievement! 

There are two things in modern games I simply cannot stand. Escorting survivors and quick time events. Well if you've played this game then you know that's two strikes against the game for me already. I wasn't ready to tackle having to keep Ashley safe as we had to go back through the village so and it was late so I called it a night. However I've read up a little on what's to come next in the game and it appears that commanding her and keeping her safe isn't as bad as I thought it would. No matter because I'm fully vested in this game and seeing how the story plays out.

For me that is the sign of how truly good a game is. That despite my frustrations with the controls, or difficulty level or whatever, that I'm determined to see the game to it's end regardless. Growing up the games I played didn't have this level of story telling, so the game play had to be the thing that hooked me. Now with modern games the story has to keep me intrigued to keep on playing. I have a huge backlog of games to be played. More games than I do time. If the game doesn't captivate me early on then my mindset is why waste what valuable time I have playing a game that I don't like? Thankfully this 4th installment of the RE franchise has done a good job at grabbing my attention. Now my only regret is it taking me nearly 14 years to actually play this game since it's release in 2005.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard - Final Thoughts

Over the last two weekends I've been (finally) playing my copy of Resident Evil 7 on the PS4. I'm not an early adopter to video games usually, but that has it's advantages. I paid $20 for the game and if I had the VR headset then I could play that version of the game as it's all on one disc.

As much as I love horror movies, I'm not a big fan of the survival horror genre of games. My experience w/ Resident Evil is rather short, only previously playing RE2 on the N64 back in the day. That's it believe it or not. I have bought other versions of the game, but they have gotten lost in the back log of games to be played.

I'm not sure what drew me to purchasing RE7, but once I finally sat down to play the game I was hooked. I was on edge too. The setting of the Louisiana bayou was creepy enough, then Capcom had to throw in a old house and a crazy cast of characters. Before picking up the game, I had pretty much stayed away from any coverage of the game so I really didn't know what the story was going in, or even that the point of view had been changed from the normal 3rd person to 1st person perspective.

The game looks beautiful, even though parts of it are down right terrifying at times. The controls are really good and responsive for the most part. I'm not the biggest fan of the Dual Shock 4 controller, but the more PS4 games I play the more I'm beginning to get comfortable with the layout. Even though the game is from the 1st perspective and you have weapons, it doesn't feel like or play like a shooter in my opinion. Whether you agree with that statement or not, it doesn't take away from the feeling that this is a fun game.

I have read that parts 5 and 6 of the series were more action oriented, so Capcom wanted to take the series back to it's roots for part 7. While I haven't played much of the original game, I can see the similarities. The action in the game is up and down. It's not full on action, giving way to story telling and puzzle solving at times. I particularly liked the way the game handled the VHS cassette parts of the game.

By now I doubt I'd be spoiling the game for anyone, but you take control of Ethan Winters, trying to track down the whereabouts of your missing, formally presumed dead, wife. The Baker family (above) are your main protagonists and this scene reminded me immediately of when Sally met the Sawyer family in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Coincidence? I think not. Anyhow, you are tied to a chair at dinner time and let's just say I doubt Ethan is very hungry after he sees his choices on the table. Once you escape, you are trapped in one part of the Baker's house, looking for away to escape. During this time the father, Jack Baker, patrols the house looking for you. You also start to realize that things aren't what they seem.

As the game progresses you find more clues that not only help advance the story, but helps shed some light to the mystery of just what the heck is going on. Personally, I was on the edge of my sofa while playing as I couldn't wait to find out what happens next. As with previous RE games, there are safe houses (rooms) where you can save your game. Instead of the old typewriters from previous games, now you use a cassette recorder (it is 2017 after all - at least in the game). There are also those large storage chests where you can store your items and they'll magically appear when you find chests later in the game. Initially you are limited to the number of items you can carry so you have to be smart about what you carry with you. You can combine herbs and other items to create medicine and ammo. Later on you can find backpacks that increase the amount of items you can carry.

During the game you'll also find multiple weapons, from a simple survival knife, to handguns, shotguns, flamethrower, grenade launcher, machine gun and a chainsaw. Ammo is limited, but depending on the level of difficulty you play on the enemies will take less shots. My first play through was on easy and I ended up with a surplus of ammo for just about every weapon.

I don't recall the number of hours it took me to complete the game, but I enjoyed every minute. The story is compelling and the game play is fun. I played several 3-4 hour sessions at night once the family was in bed a few nights for two weeks before I was able to get to the end. Speaking of the end, depending on a choice you make in the game after the mid-way point, you can get one of two different endings. The choice is fairly obvious to get the better ending, but I saved my game right before you have to make this choice so I intend on going back to that other save game and playing it again to get the other ending.

I already mentioned I played the game on easy, but it was so much fun I will be playing it again on normal. I already unlocked Madhouse difficulty and an exclusive weapon, but I'm not sure that I'm ready for that yet! I enjoyed this game so much that I made me regret waiting so long to play it, but it also has me thinking about revisiting some of the previous games. If you've been sitting on the sideline w/ RE7 and you enjoy horror movies/games or even 1st person shooters, you ought to give this game a try. I really should move onto the next game in my stack of unplayed games, but I'm not sure I'm ready to leave the Bakers behind yet. There are 3 different DLC packs after you finish the main game, one of which is free! I believe all 3 of these either help flesh out the story or continue the story. I'm looking forward to jumping into those very soon.

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 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 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 $$.