My Shadowrun Story

December 6, 2017 by · 3 Comments 

Image result for shadowrun snes logo

Sometimes a game just calls to you.  For me, Shadowrun on the SNES was one of those.  For years, it’s been an old friend patiently and repeatedly calling me up to spend time together, but for some reason, I was distracted and always just let it go to voicemail.  I’d hear it calling and I’d think “Ah, right, I need to get back to Shadowrun.  We have so much to talk about!  Soon, I promise.  We’ll do lunch!”  For nearly twenty years, it would try to get my attention.  Sometimes more loudly than others, sometimes more frequently than others.  And always the neglectful friend that I was, I would think “later.”

I first encountered Shadowrun for the SNES as a teenager, tinkering with emulators and trying out random ROMs.  I have no idea what inspired me to load it up, but I still remember playing it for the first time. I was immediately intrigued.  It just checked my boxes.  Maybe I tried it because I’m a sucker for cyberpunk–movies like Blade Runner, books like Snow Crash and Neuromancer and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  Something about grungy, dystopian, techno-thrillers about shadowy, anti-authoritarian hackers and corporate corruption just appeals to my aesthetics.  Or maybe I tried it because I love point-and-click adventure games.  I grew up on the likes of Sierra and LucasArts classics like Kings Quest, Space Quest, Monkey Island, Sam & Max, and Maniac Mansion.  Or maybe I tried it because I enjoy games with light RPG elements.  I love a bit of story and character development, but want to show me a 20-minute cut-scene and make me manage 10 different sub-systems, collect random items to craft my armor, and run fetch-quests for 100 hours?  No, fuck off.  Or maybe I just tried it because I have an odd soft spot for isometric-styled games, likely dating back to formative years playing Marble Madness and R.C. Pro-Am.

Whatever it was, I tried it.  I liked it.  And then I always thought “I’ll really dig into this later.”  Years went by.  I went to college, I graduated, I got a job, I bought a home, and I became a retro game collector.  I don’t remember what inspired it, but one day, I finally told myself “I’m going to do it.  I’m going to play Shadowrun.”  And since I was already a collector by that time, I had to play it for real.  I went on eBay and bought myself a boxed copy.  But there was just one problem – the manual was missing.  No biggie, right?  Well, when the game came, I loaded it up and immediately got destroyed.  Simply walking around the first city got me killed because snipers and hit men would shoot me and I had no weapons or armor to defend myself.  The memories of my initial emulator-based encounter with the game were hazy and I couldn’t remember what to do first.  “Alright, I need to come back to this later,” I told myself.  “And I want to do it right, with the real manual like a proper retro gamer does!”

Unbeknownst to me, it would be years more before my saved eBay search for “Shadowrun manual” would bear fruit.  By then, I would have quit my job, moved, started work on a PhD, and largely gotten away from collecting because of the combination of skyrocketing prices and drastically reduced income.  But that moment finally came last month.  Several years and $11 later, I now had a truly complete copy of Shadowrun for the SNES.  And with that, I also no longer had any excuses.  It was time to finally play the game.

And play it, I did.  I escaped from my slab at the morgue where I was left for dead.  I tracked down a pistol from a dead body in the sewers.  I survived being kidnapped and I defeated all challengers in arena combat.  I met my spirit guide.  (A dog, no less!)  I joined forces with a shape-shifting fox woman.  I killed a vampire.  I killed a dragon.  I hacked computers.  I made deals in seedy bars.  I invaded corporate skyscrapers and dank sewers and gang hideouts.  Ultimately, I prevailed.  I conquered not only the men who wanted me dead, but also my own neglect.  Shadowrun, I heard you calling.  I finally answered.  And it was good.

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…

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.

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 · 6 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…

Sega’s disjointed hardware strategy: A story in pictures

November 4, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

It’s no secret that Sega was all over the place towards the end of the 16-bit era in terms of their hardware strategy.  There were two models of the base Genesis, two models of the basic Sega CD, the CDX combination system, third party hardware like the JVC X’Eye and other licensed devices, the Nomad, and, of course, the 32X.  In other words, what a mess!

So, I always knew things had gotten complicated for Sega fans around the time of the 32X’s release, but now that I’ve picked up a new-in-box console myself, it’s really become clear how bad it really was.  One of my favorite parts of getting an unopened gaming item from years past is looking through the stuff that comes in the box.  Not just the game, systems, or manuals, but especially the advertising inserts.  Opening these old games and systems is like a time capsule, and the 32X was especially interesting.

I figured a few other people out there might be interested in seeing some of the same things, so here are a few shots of what came in the 32X box, which really emphasize how much of a mess Sega’s hardware strategy really was.

Let’s start off a little easy.  First of all, we have a flyer for the Genesis six-button controller.  This controller did a nice job of segmenting the Genesis market.  There were those who had the three button controller and couldn’t make the most of the hottest games of the time: fighters.  Mortal Kombat?  Street Fighter II?  Eternal Champions?  Forget it, if you didn’t have a six-button controller.  Sure, you could play them, but why would you want to?  I give Sega the benefit of the doubt on this one, though.  The three-button controller was well past its prime and six buttons were practically required.  Besides, controller changes are almost always for the better.  This one was a fantastic upgrade, just like the NES dogbone controllers, and the Xbox S and Saturn revisions that would follow.

Six Button Flyer

Six Button Flyer

Sure, an upgraded controller segments the market, but it was probably a good business decision in general, since the older controllers were so lacking.  But this next one is odd.  Did Sega really need to get into the business of making power strips?  Well, they were  kind of forced to.  After all, if you had a Genesis, Sega CD, AND a 32X, then you’d have three separate AC adaptors.  The best part?  Most standard power strips can’t fit three separate AC adaptors… So, Sega was there for its devoted fans:

Sega Power Strip

Sega Power Strip

So, getting all your systems plugged in is a bit difficult, huh?  Well, that’s nothing compared to this next picture.  Just think about all the different possible hardware combinations those power supplies were feeding.  In fact, there were even different cords required for attaching the 32X to different base combinations!  This picture sums it up nicely, but actually underestimates the problem.  Where’s the X’Eye?  Where’s the LaserActive??  Oh, and remember that the number of combos doubles once you add in the 32X!

Too many Sega combinations

Too many Sega combinations

The best part of all this?  Even Sega themselves couldn’t keep their different hardware combinations straight.  As the next two pictures show, there was some definite confusion over the CDX.  Was it supported or wasn’t it?  It seems they thought it was, but at the last second, decided it wasn’t, so they slipped a warning card into the box and a sticker on its front to correct the out of date printed instructions.  Oh, and how were people supposed to know that the 32X audio might not work properly for their model of Genesis if gamers only got to see this warning card after buying and opening the system?

32X Warning Card

32X Warning Card

Conflicting Information

Conflicting Information

Ahh, that was fun.  I hope you get as much amusement out of all this as I did.  It’s sad to see Sega out of the hardware business, but when I see stuff like this, it’s obvious they have nobody else to blame but themselves.  Can you really hold it against consumers for being skeptical when Sega released the Saturn?  As great as the system was (and really, the Sega CD and 32X aren’t awful platforms, either), I can understand why things turned out the way they did.

Oh, and as for my Genesis/CD/32X setup?  Yeah, it’s a mess, too.  To make matters worse, the system just ends up flat out freezing when I play anything on the 32X.  Fun!  Notice the extra A/V cord for the Model 1 Genesis, the otherwise useless piece of spacer plastic for the Model 2 Genesis, and the two totally different controllers.  Plus the Sonic & Knuckles with lock-on Sonic 3!  Maybe “disjointed hardware strategy” is an understatement…

Sega 32X'Eye

Sega 32X'Eye

A new addition to the family (Sega 32X)

October 24, 2009 by · 3 Comments 

New Sega 32X

The latest addition to my console collection arrived today — a brand new, still in the box, complete, unopened Sega 32X.  I was an SNES guy back in the 16-bit days, and it’s really only recently that I’ve come to love the Genesis, too.  There’s really a lot of good stuff hidden beneath the mountains of old sports games!

But anyhow, my point here is that I’m exploring more of the Genesis era, so I recently purchased an X’Eye, and now I have the 32X.  With all that in tow, I now have access to the entire Genesis/CD/32X library.  Now I just need to get some 32X games, and more than one Sega CD game!

A Virtual Spanish Surprise

September 30, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

I recently bought a few Virtual Boy games off of eBay and they came in the mail yesterday.  The interesting thing about this transaction is that I bought them from a seller in Mexico.  The set came with Panic Bomber (loose), Wario Land (complete), and Teleroboxer (complete).  Well, when they arrived, I discovered that not only were Wario Land and Teleroboxer complete, they were still sealed!  But then, on closer inspection, I noticed they weren’t quite sealed.  Both games were very purposefully slit open at the top.  Collectors sometimes do this to keep everything in the most pristine possible condition, so I didn’t make much of it.  Until I noticed that, strangely, the shrinkwrap wasn’t cut enough to actually open the flaps and get the games out.  What was the point of that?

Well, once I opened them the rest of the way (yes, I’m a dirty sealed-games opener), it became obvious.  Remember, the games came from a seller in Mexico.  They’re identical in every way to the US release.  In fact, they probably are the same as the US releases, except for one thing — someone went through and slid a printout of Spanish-language instructions into them!  It’s pretty trivial, but as an enthusiast, I found it to be an interesting discovery.  In fact, it made me realize I hadn’t even considered Mexico as much of a gaming market.  I wonder if this is how they get most of their games?  Hand-me-downs from the US, stuffed with Spanish instructions as almost an afterthought?

Anyway, for you collectors out there, I guess there are a few extra pieces of official documentation you have to pick up to have a complete set!  Have a look:

Official Spanish instructions for Wario Land and Teleroboxer

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