Saturday, July 26, 2008

MadCatz Xbox 360 Arcade GameStick

I picked this up for $10 at Gamestop today. I've heard mixed things about the quality of the stick, but I wanted the spinner control and Astropop. It also came with codes for Time Pilot and Frogger, but I have both of those. I'll probably hold onto to them for use as a prize in an upcoming Sega-16 contest.

The control itself seems pretty decent. I haven't had the chance to check out the spinner in action, but the overall construction of the whole thing is pretty sound. I know I won't be using this for regular games, but it might actually be pretty useful for arcade titles. Even if it doesn't work out, I at least now have a third controller, and I'll just consider it as a bonus that came with Astropop (which is pretty cool)!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

So Long, Wii...

Growing up on a hefty diet of everything Sega, I was never really partial to a Nintendo console. I loved the NES and every iteration of the Game Boy, but the feeling was just never "there" for me for the other consoles. Still, I tried to give it another shot by buying a Wii off a friend of mine a little over a year ago. I figured this would be the console that would make me a big Nintendo fan again.

It didn't, and now, it's up for sale.

I don't know what else to do with the darn thing. I have seven games in my collection, including most of the requirements like Zelda: Twilight Princess and Super Mario Galaxy, and I even have few third party games like Zak & Wiki and Ghost Squad. Still, I take a look at the list of upcoming titles, and there is nothing that interests me at all. Compared with the laundry list of Xbox 360 and PS3 titles that are on my "to buy" list for the remainder of 2008, there really is no reason for me to own a Wii right now.

I've actually been thinking of selling it off for about four months now. My justification for holding out has been along the lines of "I already have it, so I don't have to look for one later on. It's not hurting anyone under my TV," but thinking hard about it, I doubt I'll even bother looking for one at all later on. The Wii doesn't cater to my tastes, and that's unfortunate for me. Nintendo's too busy making money to care, and I understand that it needs to do what's best for it's bottom line. All companies do, and my defection won't hurt them at all in the long run.

The thing is, I don't care at all about Nintendo's bottom line. Unlike it, I care about being entertained, something the Wii is not doing. So rather than let it sit there and collect dust, I'm selling it to buy a Playstation 3. This is what's up for grabs:

Wii console with box and everything, Wii Sports with a custom Wii case. It has the following in memory:
  • Internet channel
  • Weather channel (Lol)
  • News channel (Lol x2)
  • Check Mii Out channel
  • Kirby's Adventure
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Bonk's Adventure
  • Gunstar Heroes
  • Soldier Blade
  • Super Mario 64
  • 200 Wii points
I also have these games for sale:

  • Ghost Squad
  • Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
  • Link's Crossbow Training with Zapper (with custom Wii case)
  • Super Mario Galaxy
  • Super Paper Mario
  • Zak & Wiki
Anyone interested can simply comment here, check my sales thread over at Sega-16, or email me at

So long Wii.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Toys R Us Clearence = Happy Me!

I've been hitting up all the local TRU stores in my area, as I usually do, searching for any quality games that have dropped in price. Lately, however, I've been rewarded with some real bargains, and in this day and age of the $60+ game (here in P.R. at least), the cheaper I can find 'em, the better.

Last week I found Meet the Robinsons (Xbox 360) for only $8. Yes, I know what you're thinking. I normally wouldn't play such a game myself, but my daughter's appetite for anything Disney is insatiable. I've played through such games as Ratatouille and Cars with her, and it's actually developed into something of a symbiotic relationship: she gets new games that are easy enough for her to play, and I get achievement points. Some of those achievements can be pretty tough too. You try getting all 1000 points in Ratatouille!

This past weekend I found another Xbox 360 title, Monster Madness, for $8 as well. I downloaded the demo when it was released on the Xbox Live Marketplace, and it was quite underwhelming, but for the price I decided to give it another chance. Now that I have the full game, it's actually not as bad as I had thought. You can adjust the camera, making it completely controllable, and aside from the repetitive gameplay, it's actually a lot of fun. Anyone who liked Zombies Ate My Neighbors should look for a copy.

I'm going back to TRU later this week to see what else they have, and I'm a bit annoyed that there aren't any Wii games on sale. My poor console sports a thick coat of dust, and I'm seriously considering selling it/trading it in for a Playstation 3.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Scratch One More Game Off My Genesis List

While browsing eBay yesterday, I came across this little gem!

It had a BIN of only $5.90, so I snatched that sucker up. I've been wanting to play the Ooze for a long time now, and emulation doesn't quite cut it, since the lack of an instruction manual leaves me in the dark about the gameplay. Now that I'll have a complete copy, I can finally review this one. Of course, that's after I finally finish up the Super Monaco GP twins, two games that I've been meaning to get to for a while but can never seem to accommodate in my schedule. Parenting takes a lot of time, and with a full-time job, my gaming time is sadly limited. I should at least have the first game done by the time the Ooze arrives, and they should all give me a few good games to review as I countdown to my 100th for Sega-16.

Another reason I really wanted to play this was because I'm a big fan of the Sega Technical Institute, and this is perhaps its one game with which I haven't spent any time. Now I can remedy that and see if this truly was the innovative action title I've heard it to be.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Thunder Force VI -Finally!

I want to keep an open mind about this, and the skeptic in me tells me to reserve emotion until something tangible has surfaced, but I can't help myself. The news of a new Thunder Force game finally being released is too good to be true, and I truly want to believe that my anticipation will be justly rewarded upon its release this October 30 (Japan only. Argh!). There are some things involved with this resurrection that might raise concern, but I doubt that there's any real reason to be worried.

One thing is worth pondering, and that is the fact that this game is being done by a whole new team of people. The series has never disappointed in the past, but as they say with those products advertised on television: "past experiences are not indicative of future results," or something to that effect. The fact that the last three games rocked doesn't mean that this one will too, especially given that the development team doesn't have any experience with the franchise. Yeah, if you look at that Famitsu scan, it certainly looks awesome, but I'm still going to be a bit anxious until I see some gameplay in action. Techno Soft (or Tecnosoft, whatever...) no longer exists as it used to, and this newest sequel is being done by Sega. Considering the current development state of that company, this alone should send alarms sounding, and red flags should pop up everywhere.

There is a silver lining to this cloud though, as Tez Okano, the writer and director of Segaga for DC and the awesome Astro Boy Omega Force for GBA, is directing the project. He says that the blade weapon from Thunder Force IV (or the idiotically-named Lightening Force in America) is his favorite, so hopefully he'll try for a 16-bit feel for this game. These scans are all there is to go on so far, but I'm betting that we should hear more in a short time. The game looks to be pretty far along in development, and YouTube videos of gameplay should be popping up soon.

Glancing at those scans instantly reveals two things to me: the free-range weapon from part five is back, which may or may not be a good thing, and that the best-looking boss from Thunder Force III is returning! Yes, Gargoyle from planet Hydra can be seen there in the upper right-hand corner of the second page. He looks like he's been working out since his last appearance, but that signature flame breath looks just as deadly as ever.

It's no secret that Thunder Force III is my favorite of the bunch, so I'm hoping that the gameplay mirrors that sequel. Regardless, I will absolutely be all over this, even though I lack an import-friendly Playstation 2 to enjoy it. Hey, that's just a minor detail! Finally modding my dusty PS2 will give me ample reason to go out and enjoy other quality releases, like the Phantasy Star remakes and all those great Sega Ages releases.

It's great to see that this series is back, and I can only hope that it doesn't disappoint. I loved Gradius V and R-Type Final (despite its faults), and a new Thunder Force on my shelf is the shooter trifecta to me. This thunder is no longer broken!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Retro Game Reviews: A Different Beast?

So much has been said about whether or not game reviews are actually needed. There have been entire articles written about the topic, so I'm not going to delve into the state of the modern game review here. There is one aspect of gaming journalism that I will tackle though, and it's from a retro standpoint. From what I've read, most of the criticisms about gaming journalism seem to really fit reviews of modern games, those that can be bought in stores now or rented from the local Blockbuster or GameTap. They have little to no bearing on reviews of games from the past, but they're still given a prominent place on a lot of mainstream media outlets (like IGN, for example). Naturally, they beggar the same question:

Do we really need game reviews at all?

The answer, I think, is quite different when we're talking about retro reviews. Unlike modern games, there is no industry pressure, no NDAs (non-disclosure agreements), no media blackouts, etc. Sega, for example, isn't going to come down on me for giving Golden Axe III a low score, as most of the people in charge over there probably weren't around the company when the game was released. Today's gaming journalists have to contend with many negative things that balance their E3 press passes and swag. They have to face the prospect of losing advertising over a bad review (a dark cloud of controversy that still hangs over GameSpot), and they can even be blacklisted by publishers. For instance, Electronic Gaming Monthly was given a laundry list of demands, literally at the last minute by Konami, after its hands-on with Metal Gear Solid 4. Obviously, the same thing wouldn't happen if I decided to review Contra: Hard Corps or even the original Metal Gear. Most likely, no one at Konami would even take notice of my article.

While journalists and gamers go back and forth about the merits of game reviews, the retro scene slips beneath the cracks. I've been told that the majority of readers look for the review score first, and that it's vitally important to any review. To be honest, I included scores in Sega-16's reviews mostly out of habit, and looking back on it now, I still would have most certainly included them, but on a scale of five instead of ten. I subscribe to the belief that the score is needed, but I don't believe that it should be the focal point of the review. It might serve as a one digit summary of the writer's thoughts, but anyone who is even bothering to write a review should give his audience more credit than thinking that a single number is enough to make an informed decision.

To me at least, a retro game review is a guideline to whether or not the reader should seek out a copy of the game in question, an endeavor that is usually much more challenging and more expensive than a trip to the local GameStop. To meet that end, the review should provide information that answers the basic questions a person might have. And no, I'm not referring to graphics, sound, and gameplay. Too many writers consider these staples to be the mandatory requirements of any review, and they couldn't be farther off the mark.

Let's go back to that comment about readers only wanting to see a score. First of all, to even make such a statement is contradictory, as all the major sites currently out there include some narrative with said scores. If people only want to see a number, why bother writing anything at all? Second, to make such a blanket statement is an insult to your audience. Knowing your audience is one of the basic tenets of writing, yet so many game journalists write as though their readers were children. Whether they know it or not, they're actually talking down to their audience, and this not only offends the reader, but it also makes the writer look weak. This is a major example of the self-depreciating attitude that is so prevalent in gaming journalism and a good reason why no one takes it seriously.

If you're going to write something... anything - review, feature, whatever - you must never assume your readers to be dumb. They may be misinformed about the particular topic you're discussing, but they're not stupid. The review narrative is essential to informing the reader, and the writer must be intelligent in his effort. Don't focus on that which can be gleaned from a screen shot or YouTube video; focus on the experience of the game itself. Why should my readers track down a copy of Pepen Ga Pengo? What does that score of 9/10 mean exactly?

Of course, this doesn't mean that the basic elements of the game should be ignored. You have to cover things like presentation and gameplay. However, that also doesn't mean that they should be the whole review. Where did the game come from? How hard is it to find? Is it expensive? What were the particular circumstances of its release? These are excellent questions that can be answered in the review, and they're things that modern review writers might not be able to discuss at press time. Retro writers have no such restrictions.

I think that game reviews are essential to the retro community, and their freedom from the shackles of the modern industry gives them even more value. When I write a retro review, I feel as though I'm trying to convey the importance of a piece of history, whether it be a must-buy or a game to avoid. A simple score can't express that, and the written effort itself is diluted if the writer assumes he's speaking to idiots. Scores are nice, but anyone really interested in a game will want to know more.