8-bit Pale Ale… My new favorite retro gaming themed beer!

August 14, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

You’ll notice that the tagline for this site says it covers not just retro game reviews, but culture, too.  There are lots of things that I originally hoped to cover, like books, movies, and music that relate to classic video games.  I never seemed to get around to that part of it, though… But now it’s time, because I want to share something cool.  This last weekend, I was browsing the beer selection at the grocery store, when this caught my eye:

8-bit Pale Ale – Tallgrass Brewing

Now, I like retro games (obviously), and I like beer (duh), so I figured I just had to give it a try.  I thought I might be falling for a gimmick and that it would be mediocre, but much to my delight, it was excellent!  So, now I’m doing my duty to retro gamers and beer lovers everywhere and spreading the word.  If you like your beers a bit hoppy (or at least aren’t afraid of some hops), give it a try.  You won’t regret it.  Personally?  I’ll be buying it regularly!

Check out the beer’s product page, see if it’s distributed in your state, or just enjoy the goofy YouTube promo:

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Latest Haul and Impressions: Firestriker (SNES)

August 13, 2012 by · 4 Comments 

I’ve said it several times before (including in my last review) — I’m a fan of bouncing ball games, for whatever reason.  Pong?  Breakout?  Arkanoid?  Sign me up!  So, when I caught wind of Firestriker on SNES, I knew I had to have it.  And as of last week, I do have it.  But this isn’t any old Breakout clone – it’s a Breakout clone with a twist.  It’s a really bizarre Breakout/Pinball/RPG hybrid, mixing elements of lots of different genres in a way that, as far as I know, has never been done before or since.  Check out the video below for an idea of how it works (thanks, SNESguide!)

Interestingly enough, I actually beat the game the day after I got it.  It’s not a long game, or an especially difficult one, but it’s definitely unique.  I enjoyed it, and I plan to play through it again.  The reason I’m only doing an Impressions post instead of a Review, though, is that there’s a neat two-player mode that I want to try before I make my final evaluation.  The 2-player mode is actually completely different than the main game, in that it’s a competitive mode.  It even has multi-tap support so four people can play!  Too bad I don’t have a multi-tap and three more people who would be interested to try it…

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Latest Haul: Instant Atari Lynx Collection

August 4, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

For the first time ever, I now own a non-Nintendo handheld system.  I’ve owned a Game Boy, a Game Boy Pocket, a Game Boy Color, a Game Boy Advance, a Game Boy Advance SP, a DS and a 3DS.  But somehow, I’ve never owned any of the competitors.  I think that’s probably a testament to how dominant Nintendo has been in this space.  But nonetheless, I’ve broken the streak and added to my collection.

If you follow me on Backloggery (and you all follow me on Backloggery, right??) you would have seen several new Lynx games added to my library.  I’d been thinking about buying the system for a couple of years, but finally just said “what am I waiting for?” and bought an insta-collection from The GOAT Store.  They sell pristine (but used) Lynxes, along with seven brand-new, sealed games for $50.  (Or, at least, they did.  The packages are gone from the site now, so maybe I got one of the last ones!)  I couldn’t stop there, though.  I added a carrying case, an AC adaptor (the Lynx has notoriously awful battery life), a ComLynx cable (for all those times I’ve randomly met people and thought “gosh, I wish I had a Lynx with ComLynx so we could play two-player”), Paperboy, and Robo-Squash.  All in all, I ended up with the system, nine brand new games, and a few accessories for about $100.  Not half bad.  There are several more games I plan to add to the collection, too.  There seem to be plenty of brand new games available on eBay for reasonable prices.

So far, I’ve only played Robo-Squash and Super Skweek.  I’m impressed with the system, considering it came out the same year as the Game Boy, and I’m looking forward to exploring its library.

Here’s a breakdown of all I got:

  • Lynx II system (used, but I can’t even tell)
  • AC Adaptor
  • Carrying case
  • ComLynx link-up cable
  • Crystal Mines II
  • Kung Food
  • Paperboy
  • Qix
  • Robo-Squash
  • Steel Talons
  • Super Skweek
  • Tournament Cyberball
  • Xybots

Sigh… More stuff to add to the backlog.

How to Build an Atari Jaguar S-Video/Composite AV Cable

July 18, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Official S-Video cables exist for the Atari Jaguar, but they’re frustratingly difficult to find for a reasonable price.  They’re certainly not as bad as GameCube component cables, which can fetch over $100, but there’s really no good reason to pay more than a few bucks for any cable.  There are a few homebrew solutions scattered about, but reliably finding a seller that will quickly get you a cable is still harder than it should be.  What makes this even worse is that the Jaguar only comes with an RF connection by default, and it’s an especially AWFUL RF connection, too!

The solution?  Build your own cable!  If you already have the basic tools on hand (a soldering iron and solder is all you really need, though spare wire and electrical tape are nice to have, too), then all you really need is a few bucks for the right parts and some time.

So, let’s get started.  Here’s what I recommend you have on hand:

Tools:

  • A basic, 30ish-watt soldering iron (easily found at Radio Shack)
  • Solder, appropriate for high-tech devices (also easily found at Radio Shack)
  • Desoldering braid, for fixing mistakes (again, easily found at Radio Shack)
  • Black electrical tape, for making temporary connections and insulating wires (you probably already have this laying around)
  • Spare electrical wire (optional)

Parts:

  • A flat, 24-pin, dual-edge connector, .100 DIP. (This one from DigiKey works perfectly. Other people have used connectors from ribbon cables and blocked or cut off the extra connectors.  That’s janky, but works.)
  • A combo S-Video/Audio cable (or S-Video/Audio/Composite, if you want the yellow video connector, too.  I used this one from Monoprice and cut it in half to make two cables.)

That’s it!  Now, let’s get to work.  Get out your Jaguar and take a look at it from the back.  You see the connector on the right?  The wider one labeled A/V?  Yeah, that connector already has all the signals we need running through it.  We just need something that will pass that information on to the TV!  There’s even an RGB signal on there, if you’re so inclined (I’m not).

Here’s a handy pinout reference that shows what information each pin on the conector carries.  Imagine you’re still looking directly at the back of the Jaguar, then you can read what each pin is for.  The connector you bought from DigiKey?  That just provides a nice solder point for each pin.

Now, get out your cable and slice the connectors off of one end (or cut the whole cord in half, if you intend to use it for two cables).  You’ll see a number of wires inside, each responsible for carrying a different signal.  Additionally, each wire will actually have two components: a core signal wire, and a shielding/ground wire.  The ground wire will be wrapped around the core signal wire.

Strip a half-inch to inch of the covering off of each wire. Be careful!  This step was actually harder than I expected. Some of the signal wires are pretty thin and delicate, so I kept breaking them.  In the end, here’s what you should see:

  • Audio (Right) – Red + Ground
  • Audio (Left) – White + Ground
  • S-video (Chroma) – Color varies (mine was white) + Ground
  • S-video (Luma) – Color varies (mine was black) + Ground
  • (Optional) Composite video – Yellow + Ground

I needed some trial and error in a later step to figure out which wire was Chroma and which was Luma, but there are only two possibilities, so it’s not hard to figure out.

This is really all the information you need.  From here on out, it’s just a matter of soldering the right wire to the right connector pin.  Here’s how they end up connecting, based on the above pinout:

  • Right audio: 1B
  • Right audio ground: 2B
  • Left audio: 1A
  • Left audio ground: 1B
  • S-video chroma: 8A
  • S-video chroma ground: 4A
  • S-video luma: 8B
  • S-video luma ground: 7B
  • (Optional) Composite video: 11B
  • (Optional) Composite video ground: 10B

Now, it’s all about technique and just making the connections.  Thankfully, it’s not difficult.  This was only my second soldering project, so anyone can do it!

I found it simplest to solder about two inches of wire to each of the necessary pins on back of the connector.  This was much easier to handle than trying to solder the bulky cable directly.  You can use spare wire if you have it, but I just used a couple inches of stripped wire that I cut out of the cable itself.

Make a connection between the wires in your cable and the wires on the connector by simply twisting the appropriate ones together.  For now, secure each connection with a bit of electrical tape.

Believe it or not, you now have a functioning S-Video cable!  Go test it in your Jaguar.  Make sure to note which side is the top of the connector!  It will fit upside-down, but obviously won’t work like that.  You should see a beautiful, clear picture with stereo sound the moment you turn the system on.  If you don’t see (or hear) that, then make sure your connections are all secure and to the right pins.  Also make sure there are no exposed wires crossing each other. I accidentally mixed a few connections up the first time, so give yourself a little time for trial and error.

Once you have a working cable, go back to your workbench (or dining room table, in my case) and melt some solder on each of the twisted connection points to make them more permanent.  Wrap all the exposed wires in electrical tape to prevent signal crossing.  Finally, wrap the whole thing in even more electrical tape to create a makeshift housing that will protect the wires from general wear and tear.  Don’t be shy with how much tape you use here — the more the better!  Some of the connections are very delicate, so you’ll want to protect them.

The end result?  Well, the device itself is ugly, but the picture it supplies sure is beautiful!

Sitegeist: New poll may be the hardest ever

October 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

At long last, I’ve decided to update the poll that’s running in the right-hand sidebar.  (It says it’s over three years old, but it’s not really… I promise!)  I’m happy to see several things from the results:

  1. My own pick, Nintendo, just barely edged out a close win against Sega!  Booya!
  2. The race was really really close, so it looks like we have a nice split of fans here.  Good to know!
  3. The TurboGrafx-16 fared much better than I expected it to.  Go Turbo!

But yeah, I think the new poll might be the hardest one ever.  At the very least, this is a question I’ve been struggling to answer for years!  I mean, really, is it possible to choose the superior game when the choices are Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World?  And no, there’s no opt-out, cop-out option on this one.  You HAVE to choose!

As for myself, I still can’t decide… Maybe I’ll withhold my own vote.  That also means you might just get to be the lucky first voter!

And by the way, the Polls Archive page works now, if you want to check out the results of the last poll.

Latest Haul: Cheap Master System Fun

October 5, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Well, it’s been a while since I did a Latest Haul post.  Heck, it’s been a while since I posted, period!  I figured I’d let everyone know I’m still alive and share my latest pickups.  In fact, this is the first retro gaming purchase I’ve made since the Midwest Gaming Classic over six months ago!  When you take a month off and travel Europe, gaming just takes a back seat for a while…

Anyhow, I’m back home and don’t start my new job until next week, so why not blog a bit?  I dropped by my neighborhood used games/movies/music store and saw a few interesting items on the Sega rack:

Shinobi, Cloud Master, and Gangster Town

Shinobi, Cloud Master, and Gangster Town

This shop occasionally gets a few Master System games, but almost always loose carts, and mostly sports games from the “Great” series (which, as any Master System fan knows is really not-so-Great).  This time, though, they had boxed copies of Shinobi, Cloud Master, and Gangster Town!  (But no, they’re not factory sealed — that’s just the store’s shrink-wrap.)  None of them were on my immediate “to-buy” list, but at $1.99, who can resist?  And pleasantly, I discovered that Cloud Master and Gangster Town are in complete, mint condition.  Aside from a bit of dust, they look like they’ve never been played, the manuals have never been read, and the pack-in posters have never been unfolded.  Nice!

Oh, and speaking of the Master System, I’ve been playing through Zillion.  I’m about 80% of the way through, so I may actually have a review to post this week.  Crazy, huh?

Midwest Gaming Classic: Trip Report

March 27, 2010 by · 5 Comments 

Hey all, I hope if you’re anywhere near Milwaukee, WI that you had a chance to check out the Midwest Gaming Classic!  (There’s still time tomorrow, if you haven’t.)  I spent all day there today and figured I’d give a brief rundown.  This year, it was at a new location in Brookfield, WI instead of Oconomowoc.  It was a bigger location, which meant the show was able to expand a bit.  All the old favorites, including the vendor area, the arcade and pinball machines, and the museum were back, but bigger and better.

I spent most of my time browsing the vendors and spending too much money, but I also spent a fair amount of time playing old arcade games that I don’t normally have access to — like Berserk, Battlezone (which is really cool with its scope cabinet), Centipede, Kangaroo, Ms. Pac-Man, and Outrun.  I also tried my hand at the Super Mario Bros. speed run tournament.  The goal was to get through level 1-1 as fast as possible, finishing with Fire Mario.  I played three entries, but I lost the fire power the first two times through, so I had to play conservatively on the last try just to get a qualifying entry.  It wasn’t a bad run, but probably not enough to win it.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any final rankings, so I don’t know where I finished.

The highlight of the show for me was definitely meeting Eugene Jarvis, creator of Defender and Robotron: 2084.  He was a fun guy to hear speak, and was super nice.  I had him sign a couple copies of Retro Gamer for me — specifically, the “Making Of” articles for both Defender and Robotron.  I asked him what he thought of all the twin stick shooters that have been coming out lately, and he said he thinks it’s great and that it’s just a really good play mechanic.  I can’t say I disagree!  Here’s a shot of my signed Retro Gamer mags:

Signed Retro Gamer mags

Signed Retro Gamer mags

My other highlight was a game of Pong that I played in the museum where I pulled off a dramatic come from behind win, 15 to 14!  It was like my own last second NCAA tournament win, or something… I dunno, I think I have an unhealthy love of Pong.

Anyway, here’s a rundown of everything I picked up today:

MGC Haul

MGC Haul

Left to right, top to bottom:

  • Various SNES and NES manuals
  • After Burner (32X)
  • Space Harrier (32X)
  • Zaxxon’s Motherbase 2000 (32X)
  • Mutant League Football (Genesis)
  • Outrun 2019 (Genesis)
  • Zero Tolerance (Genesis)
  • Cosmic Spacehead (Genesis)
  • Gunstar Heroes (Genesis)
  • Zillion II (Master System)
  • Sonic CD (Sega CD)
  • Plok (SNES)
  • Body Harvest (N64)
  • Comix Zone (Genesis)
  • Wonder Boy in Monster World (Genesis)
  • Marble Madness (Genesis)
  • Gargoyle’s Quest II (NES)
  • Snake Rattle n Roll (NES)
  • Transfer Pak (N64) (I don’t have any games that would use this, but for just $1, it doesn’t hurt to have on hand!)
  • View Point (Neo Geo CD)
  • Top Hunter (Neo Geo CD)
  • Super Mario Land (Game Boy)
  • Super Mario Land 2 (Game Boy)
  • Alleyway (Game Boy)
  • Tetris (Game Boy)
  • Mario Clash (Virtual Boy)
  • Several spare HuCard and Sega Card sleeves

Phew, that was a hefty list… And to think, I almost went for the Atari Lynx deal that GOAT Store had going — a Lynx plus 7 games for $60.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t interested in a single one of the games, so I figured I’d hold off and get a loose one sometime for cheaper and get games I actually want.

Anyway, that about covers it for now.  I had a lot of fun again, and will start looking forward to next year’s show!  Just one final thought about this year’s show… What’s the deal with the hot sauce?

Getting ready for the Midwest Gaming Classic

March 20, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

Though work and school have been keeping me pretty busy, I’m going to make time for the Midwest Gaming Classic next weekend.  If you haven’t been to it before, and you’re anywhere near Milwaukee, WI, I highly suggest attending.  It’s a great place to buy and play all sorts of retro video games.  Though the vendors are the main attraction for me, I always look forward to the speakers, museum, free-play arcade and pinball games, and tournaments.

If you see this post and plan to be there, leave a comment and let me know!  I’d love to meet up with a few people to play a few games in the Versus Room (like 10-player Saturn Bomberman).  Or, just keep an eye out for me.  I’ll have a badge with my Digital Press username (Mobius).

Videogames Hardware Handbook

January 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Videogames Hardware HandbookI’m a big fan of Retro Gamer magazine, despite how expensive it is to get here in the US (it’s a UK import).  It’s a fantastic classic gaming mag, jam packed with lots of great content in every issue (the typical issue is 114 pages, with virtually no ads).

One of my favorite parts of the magazine is their recurring “Retroinspection” feature.  With this feature, they give an overview of a particular gaming platform. They go into its history, its strenghts and weaknesses, relevance in the marketplace at the time, and oftentimes even interview key players involved with the platform in some way.  These articles are a great introduction to the different platforms that are out there, and the “Perfect Ten” portions where they recommend 10 games everyone should play are a great way to figure out where to start when exploring a new system.

So, when Retro Gamer released a compliation of past Retroinspections over the holidays, I knew I had to have it — especially considering how interested I am in collecting hardware.  Videogames Hardware Handbook: The Game Machine Collector’s Manual covers a 22 year timespan from 1977 to 1999 and covers everything from consoles to handhelds to odd British 8-bit computers that we never saw over here (but are crazy popular over there).  You get info on all the platforms you’d expect, like the Atari 2600, NES, Genesis (or the Mega Drive, as they call it), plus some of the more obscure, like the 3DO, Jaguar, NEC PC-FX, and 8-bits like the ZX Spectrum and Dragon 32.  Basically, it’s 256 pages of pure content covering 35 different platforms.

Unfortunately, though, it’s not comprehensive.  Since this is a compliation of past articles instead of fresh content, anything that wasn’t already covered in a Retroinspection isn’t included.  So, no Colecovision, no 32X, no Neo-Geo, and no PlayStation.  Nevertheless, if you’re into retro game collecting, I’m finding it a fascinating compliation and a great value.

Note that I’m in no way affiliated with Imagine Publishing and this isn’t a paid ad or anything.  I just really like Retro Gamer magazine and this special edition.  I want everyone to know about it!  And I want it to sell well enough that they make a second volume covering all the platforms that weren’t included in this edition…

What’s coming…

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Ah, it’s been a while since I posted a Sitegeist.  Heck, it’s been a while since I posted at all, so let’s kill two birds with one stone here.  Things are getting under control at work and I just wrapped up grad school exams, so maybe I’ll have more time to play games and post here?  Here’s what’s in the pipeline:

  • Part 2 of my Metal Gear impressions and review.  My NES was out of commission for a while, but with a repaired 72-pin adapter, it’s good to go again.  So, it’s time to finish this game!
  • Rocket Knight Adventures review.  It’s actually been a few months since I finished this game and a review has been sitting in the queue, ready to post as soon as I get some screenshots.  It’s probably time for that.
  • Top Gear 2 review.  This is the one I tackled after RKA, so it needs a review, too.
  • Castelian impressions.  I’m going to play through Castelian while I work on Metal Gear, so those are coming, too.  (In fact, I think I’ll post the first part now…)

So yeah, stay tuned!

(P.S.: I’m glad to see Nintendo finally caught up with Sega in the poll… Go Nintendo!)

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