Gaming History 101

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Podcast: Psycho Break

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This week Fred and Jam finally reunite to get back to what they do best: talk old games.  There’s a brief intro, a new schedule for podcasts, and a slightly new format (don’t worry, topics are still the first section), but otherwise it’s back to basics.  In preparation for this week’s sequel, they are discussing The Evil Within, or Psycho Break as it’s known in Japan.  The incredible art design, sordid plot, and hodgepodge gameplay are all put under a microscope, as is the game’s origins.  After that it’s some discussions on community feedback and what the boys have been up to over the last month.


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Written by Fred Rojas

October 10, 2017 at 11:00 am

The Mini Console Craze and Why It Can’t Really Work Moving Forward

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Last week Nintendo released the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, aka the “SNES mini,” to the masses.  The launch went well and most people who either pre-ordered or who went out early on the morning of release were able to successfully get their hands on a console.  For those that didn’t, there’s still hope as Nintendo has now promised to keep producing them until the supply has met up with demand.  This comes on the coattails of the debacle that was the Nintendo Entertainment System Classic Edition (NES mini), which last year was nearly impossible for consumers to find on store shelves but countless quantities were available on eBay with a considerable markup.  This has caused both consumers and business to prove, yet again, that they understand nothing of the true demand that fueled these particular consoles and why their interest and value will drop considerably once they are available on store shelves.  Not only does the mainstream not get it, but clearly video game web sites – who should know better – continue fueling the fire by making waste of text articles about their hopes and dreams for future iterations.

Let me come out and say it: there’s little hope for more “mini” consoles in the future, especially if you want anything from the 32-bit era on and anything that used a CD-ROM or larger for its games.  Here’s why.

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 9, 2017 at 11:00 am

Podcast: Top Scores, Volume 5

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Another year come and gone, a hiatus on the outs, and a co-host is now a husband.  Man, a lot has happened this year.  Oh, and we got a whole bunch of great video game tunes to share with you.  Come, relax, and enjoy over 2 and a half hours of our community’s favorite cuts.


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Track List (in order of appearance):

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Written by Fred Rojas

October 4, 2017 at 7:21 pm

GHX Ep. 17: Social Issues

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GHX has returned (and GH101 is close behind).  Fred opens the show with a statement about a certain YouTube streamer, Trees is enchanted by both Disney and a certain portable game, and Fred asks if gameplay mechanics should be protected by copyright.


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Written by Fred Rojas

September 26, 2017 at 11:00 am

Let’s Build A Raspberry Pi/RetroPie (Part 1): Building and Installing

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Description from the video on YouTube:

In this video Fred, who has no experience with a Raspberry Pi, tries to set up a RetroPie on the fly. Within the 60 mins of this video he is able to build it, hook it up, and get roms playing. Sorry for the sound sync issues at the end. Not sure what happened. Part 2 will come soon that is all about setting up the customization for a RetroPie.

Links:
RetroPie: https://retropie.org.uk/
Raspberry Pi 3 Model B at Micro Center: http://www.microcenter.com/product/461129/3_Model_B
Accessories Kit purchased on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/itm/Raspberry-Pi-3-Model-B-Retropie-Game-Console-Accessories-with-Gamepad-/192273501334
Accessories Kit Referenced on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073VDNR6X/sr=8-3/qid=1505505595

***Please feel free to shop wherever you want for your hardware, I get no kickbacks from these links or any other shopping site. Just giving people the links to where I shopped.***

Written by Fred Rojas

September 15, 2017 at 3:09 pm

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Opinion: My Love/Hate With Nintendo Continues

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I got a press release this morning, like early this morning, from Nintendo.  It wasn’t that long, but still too long for this piece, so I’ll lightly extract the important parts.  “Due to incredible demand for the upcoming…Super NES Classic Edition system, Nintendo plans to ship the retro-inspired product into 2018.”  Oh, it gets better.  The press release then goes on in the third paragraph to say, “Next summer, Nintendo will also bring back the…NES Classic Edition system with new shipments.”  I’ve already had some celebratory readers, all of which I believe were unable to snag either console to date, reach out and basically say, “we did it.”  I’d like to believe these decisions have to do with our combined outcry or even the handful of petitions available to sign online, and either way these efforts have now seen results.  With this news comes new questions, concerns, and potential futures, but for now lets just sip our coffee with a smile on our face.  While the NES Classic and SNES Classic may be the focal point of my intro, I’m taking all of Nintendo to task with both the great and terrible moves it has made in the past few years.

Why The Nintendo Hate?

This shortage of consoles is nothing new.  I think I’ve been waiting for Nintendo products to come in stock for at least 30 of my 35 years on this earth.  In 1987, I was 5, I got an NES for Christmas and wanted to go pick up two games I’d read about in the Nintendo Fun Club newsletter: Castlevania and Mega Man.  You see, my birthday is on January 6 so when I would get a new console or portable for Christmas I could usually purchase a game or two immediately following.  In January of 1988 it was impossible to get those games, but I can’t tell you whether it was the apparent chip shortage that would plague the holidays in late 1988 or some other factor.  This continued with Super Mario Bros. 3 being stealth launched in Summer 1990, frantic shenanigans to get my hands on an N64 (and Mario 64 because the two weren’t always available together) in September of 1996, then similar problems with the GameCube in 2001, and I camped in front of a Best Buy in November 2006 to get a Wii.  This doesn’t even account for the waiting for several first party games, terrible customer service on servicing consoles, woes with portables, and so on.  I’ve been waiting for Nintendo my entire life and I’ve allowed no other company to treat me this way while still getting my money.  To try to make sense of it is an exercise in futility.

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Written by Fred Rojas

September 12, 2017 at 12:00 pm

Podcast: It’s Always Better With A Partner

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This week Fred and Jam bid the show a brief goodbye with the beginning of their hiatus.  Discussions are a-plenty with talks on what they’ve been playing, the SNES Classic Edition, Raspberry Pi, and many more before eventually delving into the topic of Co-Operative (Co-Op) gaming.

Songs (in order of appearence):

  • Main Theme – Twisted Metal (PS1)
  • Funkotronic Beat – Toe Jam & Earl (Genesis/Mega Drive)
  • Rock On It – Jet Grind Radio/Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast)
  • Gourmet Race – Kirby Super Star (Super NES/Super Famicom)
  • Level 1 – Silver Surfer (NES)
  • Mountain Area – Project Justice/Rival Schools 2 (Dreamcast)
  • BCP HQ – Policenauts (PS1)


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Written by Fred Rojas

August 30, 2017 at 8:00 pm

GHX Ep. 16: Crying Over a Brontosaurus

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This week Fred and Trees are joined by Chase of the Scarcasm podcast and the conversation starts with a bunch of random ramblings for 45 minutes.  Topics discussed include today’s focus on graphics, how many amazing games are about to release, and Jurassic World Evolution.


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Written by Fred Rojas

August 29, 2017 at 11:00 am

Observer Review

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The cyberpunk genre gets tossed around a lot these days.  As with many video games, experiences can quickly devolve into power fantasies and before you know it you’re more Matrix than Blade Runner.  This is not my definition of cyberpunk.  It’s a darker concept with the emotionless merging of man and machine out of necessity, poverty, and corporate societal takeover.  It was built around the concepts of Orwell’s novel 1984, evolved by Gibson’s Neuromancer, and made whole by Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? among others.  I can understand why many don’t walk this path: games are supposed to be fun and cyberpunk is rather bleak and depressing.  That’s why it is so refreshing to play Observer and experience a game that really gets the roots of traditional cyberpunk.  It’s an internal struggle, a socioeconomic dissection, and a disturbing dive into the human subconscious.

Normally I don’t pitch trailers in a review, but the E3 2016 trailer was so compelling that I figured linking it would be beneficial as well as jog some peoples’ memories.  Observer places you in the shoes of Daniel Lazarski, who lives in Poland in the year 2084.  After a digital plague involving bad cybernetic enhancements, mega corp Chiron has taken control of Poland and created the Fifth Polish Republic. Both the plague and the new Republic brought about a class-based society, war, drug addiction, and of course oppressive martial law.  Lazarski is an “observer,” a special police unit that has the authority to hack into people’s minds and access memories in a device called, get this, the “Dream Eater.”  The game opens with Lazarski receiving a call from his estranged son seeking help and asking him to meet in one of the rougher parts of lower class living.

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Written by Fred Rojas

August 24, 2017 at 11:00 am

Night Trap: 25th Anniversary Edition Analysis

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Night Trap holds odd significance to those that grew up with it.  It basically ushered in so-called “Full Motion Video” (FMV) games and in the process managed to snag some controversy, which only escalated its popularity in the early 90s.  The game itself and the storied tale of its development and release have already been covered here on Gaming History 101, so feel free to check out that retrospective for more information on the original game.  Since then the game has achieved cult status and despite being notoriously bad, you can’t help but talk about it.  Then in 2014, the creators attempted a failed Kickstarter that led to a random developer showing the game running on a cell phone, and eventually led to that developer creating the one-man studio Screaming Villains along with a re-release of Night Trap in 2017.  By bringing Night Trap 25th Anniversary to the masses, I fear that it won’t connect with most players that didn’t appreciate it before and it brings up some heavy realities for fans.  If you’re going to take the plunge, either as a longtime fan or for the first time, you’d best prepare for some unfortunate caveats that extend beyond the concept of the original.

When Night Trap premiered it was trying to fit approximately 90 minutes of footage onto CDs and compressing it in a way the Sega CD can show off.  That means a small resolution (168×104) and a limited color palette, which were just a reality back then and no one thought much about it.  Over the years and ports the resolution and quality were expanded to 272×104 and pretty much resembled MPEG1 or VCD standard.  This is nothing compared to the massive 1920×1080 (1080p) resolution we’re currently accustomed to, not to mention 4K, which is four times 1080p. When you look at the cleaned up version of Night Trap 25th Anniversary Edition on trailers, it appears that the game is amazingly crisp, but when you boot up the game proper it reveals itself to be more akin to a DVD than anything else.  For those that have played previous versions, that’s much cleaner than any version we’ve seen, but it doesn’t hold a candle to modern video.  Granted this footage is coming off of the master tape, which is most likely a broadcast standard betamax, and therefore can only be improved so much.  The reason movies can be magically upgraded to blu ray standards is because they are on film, but this wasn’t the case with Night Trap.  For that same reason the frame rate is counter to what you expect from movies as well.  Modern blu rays follow the film standard for frame rate of 24 frames per second (fps), whereas broadcast over the air is typically still 30 fps for the NTSC (US) standard.  Since the Night Trap masters were on tape, it’s captured at 30 fps.  Oddly enough, based on the player codecs of this game the PS4 version plays at only 24 fps so at times it can seem a bit jumpy.  On the PC the game runs at native 30 fps and the action appears smoother.  In both versions, however, you can sometimes experience odd glitches with the video where what’s happening on screen doesn’t match your control console.  Sometimes you trap an enemy that isn’t anywhere near the trap, but in doing so the footage will jump to capturing him and move forward.  Other times the audio will be behind the video, which seems only a bit annoying when watching a random scene, but if you’re trying to watch some plot points or God forbid listen for a code change it can be a game-ending bug.  Since this was pieced together from archival footage, there are extra scenes that were restored in the new “ReVamped” edition that can completely change some important outcomes and endanger characters that you never had to worry about before.   Hardcore fans can relax, you also have the option of playing the “Classic” version of Night Trap that appears identical to the original.  During some of the scenes there can be some tape damage that appears on the screen, certain scenes are pieced together and thus not edited very well, and you should expect a few jump cuts.  It’s nothing to write home about, but it is noticeable.

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Written by Fred Rojas

August 17, 2017 at 11:00 am