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Opinion: Gamers Don’t Want A “Netflix of Video Games”

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Earlier this week, Xbox Director of Programming Larry Hryb (aka Major Nelson) announced that the Xbox Game Pass was coming this Spring.  For a fee of $10 per month, Xbox One owners (at first) will gain access to 100 games that they can download and play.  Much like the Netflix model, the games are a rotating selection that can change each month, and they will vary from Xbox One titles and backward compatible Xbox 360 titles.  Those in the preview program have alpha access to about 20 games ranging from titles like Halo 5: GuardiansMad Max, and Payday 2 on the Xbox One as well as 360 titles like Fable IIITekken Tag Tournament 2, and Lego Batman.  This is the next step towards video games being much more like movies in that you can pay a flat rate and have access to a selection of titles and it takes those efforts one step further by allowing downloading to avoid the many troubles that streaming games currently has.  There’s just one big problem: I don’t think gamers really want it.

It’s not just the Xbox Play Pass that gamers don’t want.  We also don’t want Playstation Now, which is getting downsized at this moment to only support PC and PS4, but before that gamers didn’t really want Gaikai, OnLive, GameTap, or even the illustrious Sega Channel.  I think this is more because it not only goes against the culture of what video games have always been, but it completely ignores the fact that a large portion of gamers play online with specific games.  Personally I think this is a great idea for the non-hardcore gamer or even a house with gamer kids because it provides a steady stream of titles, some new for the month and some returning, that you can enjoy without the fear of returning a game, trading it in, or even your parents having to budget for it.  If you play console or PC video games in 2017 you do not have a budgetary constraint for $10/mo, period.  As a child my mother made me a deal to get the Sega Channel – I was of the lucky markets in the Chicago suburbs to gain access to the service – and for $15/mo I had 50 Genesis games in steady rotation that I could always play in return for the fact that I wouldn’t be buying new games.  Maybe I would have grown tired of this model, but for the year or so I had the Sega Channel this totally worked for my 12-year-old self.  As adult gamers, I don’t see this being popular at all because all adults like the freedom to choose what they do and gamers in particular are a finicky bunch dead set on keeping up with the zeitgeist.  I assure you that the current month’s, or even year’s, best releases will never be a part of the selection.

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Written by Fred Rojas

March 2, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Blog

Perspective of a Retro Gamer: Resident Evil 7

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This series is basically a review of a modern game but with the context of a retro gamer visiting the present.  As such it does not contain a review score and often speaks to concepts and franchises from the past.  This article is spoiler free outside of what is revealed in trailers and public demos, which is why the screen shots are so vague.

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Resident Evil has had a rocky journey over the last five years, up to and including the “Beginning Hour” demo for this very title.  The comparison to P.T., Hideo Kojima’s “playable trailer” for Silent Hills that has since been canceled by Konami, is unmistakable.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t want my Silent Hill getting mixed into my Resident Evil, the two should remain mutually exclusive.  Couple that with the recent missteps of Resident Evil 6, my personal distaste for Revelations 2, and whatever goal Umbrella Corps. had, it wasn’t looking good.  I for one was also a bit worried about the hodgepodge of features thrown at this title including support for 4K resolution, PS4 Pro support, Playstation VR support, and HDR support on all platforms.  To my shock and awe, every bad indicator going into the release was without merit as Resident Evil 7: Biohazard demonstrates a return to form I have not felt since the remake of the original on GameCube in 2002.

resident_evil_7_eerieSet in an old farm house in Louisiana, you play as main protagonist Ethan in search of your girlfriend Mia, who went missing years ago.  Those that played through the “Beginning Hour” demo, especially if you caught the final “midnight edition” will find the opening scenes to be familiar but clearly re-engineered.  I like this touch and I feel it was necessary for how many times Capcom made us play that thing in hopes to figuring out what was with the dummy finger and several other mysteries from the last six months.  While it’s interesting to play through – not to mention the reward you receive for completing it with the good ending and the on-edge “kitchen” demo on Playstation VR – none of this is required if you’re just jumping into the main game.  It reminds me why I’ve always appreciated the original work Capcom did on the Resident Evil series.  Whether it was “arrange mode” in the original, the way the mansion was reworked in the remake, or even the drastic differences between the shack in the demo and the main game of Resident Evil 7, you won’t be able to guess what’s coming.  After that opening sequence you will descend into a literal house of horrors and beyond that kept me on the edge of my seat and thoroughly creeped out for a majority of the game’s 8-12 hour campaign.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 7, 2017 at 3:00 pm

I Never Thought I’d Say This: GameStop is Good for the Retro Gamer Market

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This article is NOT a paid advertisement of any kind and we are receiving NOTHING from GameStop.  It is an opinion piece.  If you do not like GameStop or have vowed not to shop there, please do not take this as an encouragement to change your mind, screw ’em.  It’s merely an article about how the author has found some good prices there lately.

yoshis_island_screenshot_3The title says it all.  As of late prices on retro games and consoles have skyrocketed.  It’s not just trends, either, because the modern day releases have just as adverse an effect on the hot titles of yesteryear as the fact that the Super Nintendo generation is now entering its 30s.  Couple that with the fact that the market has started to dry up with collecting and hoarding – and I assure you I’m criticizing neither –  that retro retailers are raising prices left and right.  These shop owners track price charting, eBay, Amazon, and retro sites to keep up with a market in constant flux and are the first to put a premium on whatever item may come to pass.  This is what they are supposed to do and I commend it because without these shop owners staying in business, the market for carts will diminish significantly.  Then there’s GameStop, the powerhouse used video game chain that will buy all your games for pennies on the dollar and sell them back to you for ten times what they gave you.  It’s easy to hate GameStop, but their reach and pool for grabbing used titles is unrivaled and as of late the non-collector gamer in me has been continually impressed by the retro selection.  In short, if you’re looking for a game to play and you’re not that worried about condition, GameStop is often the best deal in town.  Not only that, but currently if you spend over $25, you get free shipping, and all games are covered by a brief warranty to assure the game works when you get it.  This is significant because GameStop often has multiple copies of a game so they can swap out non-working titles for you, whereas most sellers online only have one copy of the game and even if they will refund your money, you still have to hunt for another good deal.  These factors are why I’m actually digging buying retro from GameStop.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 27, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Blog

Perspective of a Retro Gamer: The Last Guardian

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Perspective of a Retro Gamer was formerly known as “cross talk” when I was actively involved in the B-Team Podcast.  Since I’m on a hiatus, this is the same context in that it’s a largely old school gamer playing a modern game.  Think of it as a review that’s more about my perspective as opposed to that now “traditional” definition of a product review fused with a content review.  As such, no scores are part of this series.

The Last Guardian has become synonymous with retro gaming, most likely because the design is as aged as the development itself: over 10 years old.  So while many contemporary players are walking into the title wondering if it will appeal to them, it seems like the retro crowd such as myself are expected to take to it naturally.  Couple that with the assumption that if you like previous games by Team Ico, especially the studio’s initial title Ico, you should enjoy this as well because it is similar in gameplay and design.  I’m here to say that after a wonderful initial three hours and a painstaking three more that followed, this is simply not the case.  I like old games, I like old game design, and I really like Ico, but I think I’m done with The Last Guardian.  Not only that, I find the claim that this title shares much in common with old game design or Ico to be as inaccurate as those that compared Prototype to inFamous back in 2009.  For me this is heartbreaking because the game leads you down a path with such wonder, grace, and promise that when it all gets taken away it seems cruel.

the_last_guardian_1Your journey begins as a young boy protagonist – nothing new for Team Ico games there – awakening in a room.  The first thing you will notice is the hulking body of your soon-to-be companion, Trico, fast asleep in the room with you.  This introduction was abrupt and unexpected, which was magical, as was the reality that you are stuck in a room with a creature you don’t understand yet.  There’s no prompt to do something outside of a bit of narrated exposition seemingly told to the player by a future self as well as a handful of prompts on what buttons do without a hint as to your goal.  Shortly after Trico wakes up, doesn’t do a great job of telling you what’s expected, and you have to figure it all out.  Your journey begins, you go exploring, it’s all basically self explanatory.  It’s also stunning to look at.  I will admit that the textures are stretched in areas, the shading on the game is an obvious attempt to make it look better than it should, and a vast majority of the whole art direction screams Playstation 2 game.  That said Trico is crafted to near perfection.  The way the fur or feathers all move as Trico walks or part away like blades of grass as you maneuver its body make the whole thing seem so real.  Its eyes, those Trico eyes, are a glance so lifelike that any dog or cat owner can appreciate.  Perhaps most convincing was that its movements were so familiar even though no creature like Trico has ever existed.   I loved this opening.

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 23, 2017 at 11:00 am

Posted in Blog, PS4, Reviews

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Fundraising 2017: When and How?

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It’s that time of year again: fundraising.  We love to do this show but it costs a bit of money and we need all of you wonderful listeners/readers/community members out there help us pay the dues.  Fred goes into the many ideas we have going into this year’s fundraiser and when to have it, along with the potential vision for next year’s content.  Please give this a quick listen and shoot us your feedback either at contact@gaminghistory101.com or our Contact page.


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Written by Fred Rojas

December 13, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Posted in Blog, News, podcast

Cross Talk: Nintendo Has Completely Lost Touch With Retail, Black Friday Proves This

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This sign was in several store windows on Black Friday in the KC metro.

This sign was in several store windows on Black Friday in the KC metro.

Nintendo is on somewhat of a rebound this year.  After putting the Wii U to bed both with a lack of releases and acting as if the console didn’t exist after the fall, Nintendo came out with the announcement of the Switch – its newest console slated for a March 2017 release – and a long Direct that detailed several other projects to release until then.  Of those products one of the bigger announcements was a Black Friday only limited edition 3DS in both black and white colors that would be available at all major retailers for the low price of only $100.  For those who haven’t pulled the trigger on the New 3DS but still want one and all those parents still glaring at the then $200 price point of the portable, this was a godsend.  $100 is that sweet spot for many families in the gaming world where an item becomes a potential Christmas present.  The fact that it would be so widely available and that the smiling faces of Nintendo as a whole indicated anyone who wanted one could have it this holiday season was great news.  For most, however, it’s become a freaking nightmare.  Why?  Nintendo issued so little stock of these items that they sold out in minutes across the country on Black Friday and for most retailers I asked in the Kansas City metro, has become the bane of both customers and retail employees this holiday season.

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Written by Fred Rojas

November 28, 2016 at 11:00 am

Posted in Blog

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The Big PS4 Pro Analysis Post

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Despite being a retro enthusiast, I’m also a massive tech fan as my side project has suggested. As such I recently picked up a Playstation 4 Pro and ran it thoroughly through its paces.  I tested most things I could think of: different games, different hard drives, different TVs (yes, 1080p and 4K HDR), and I kept my launch PS4 to compare with everything.  With that in mind, I think we should open with getting the simple decision out of the way for those that apply, because a majority of this post is about changes and upgrades for existing owners – which Sony is hesitant to admit is the true target for the Pro.  If you do not own a Playstation 4 and want to purchase one this holiday season, the decision is really up to you.  A slim is a rock solid purchase for anyone who doesn’t own a 4K TV (and possibly even for those that do) and it’s completely serviceable.  I was pleased with my vanilla PS4.  If you want to upgrade to Pro you simply need to consider how much that $100 is of value to you for potential future proofing (although Sony has vehemently sworn to not allow Pro exclusive games), the prospect of better performance with VR, support for 4K and HDR, and games can run/look better if support is added.  Games press likes to pretend this is a no-brainer, but frankly $100 is almost two games (possibly 3 around the holiday season) and if you don’t plan on upgrading to 4K or VR, there’s little reason to pick the Pro if saving money or getting more games is your priority.  I’d also like to interject that articles comparing the Xbox One S and Playstation 4 Pro are completely without value.  I have both and they should not be compared.  The Xbox One S upscales to 4K (but at no visual difference to games), adds HDR (and I have yet to see anything too impressive), and supports 4K Blu Ray, so in truth it’s an Xbox One that adds 4K Blu Ray support and HDR.  The Pro is a hardware boost that makes games either run faster or look better (or both), improves resolution beyond 1080p before upscaling to 4K (more on that later), and adds a much more substantial HDR in games that have supported it.  Astoundingly, however, the PS4 Pro does not support 4K Blu Ray movie playback.   For that reason it’s not apples to apples, that comes next year with Scorpio.  It’s also a weird time for PC gaming because not only is HDR almost devoid of this conversation on PC (4K PC monitors don’t currently support HDR), but I feel important factors for myself like surround sound and even quality of the port are a consistent issue on PC whereas this is much less the case on current consoles.  With all that in mind, here’s my analysis of the Playstation 4 Pro.

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Written by Fred Rojas

November 15, 2016 at 2:36 pm

Posted in Blog, PS4

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The Horror Obscura 2016: Part 2

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Rise Of Nightmares

The Xbox Kinect 1.0. Yes I’m talking about Microsoft’s first attempt at motion controls on the fantastic Xbox 360 console. The device actually sold pretty well to begin with people seemed to buy into Microsoft’s marketing for the device for about 5 minutes and then people left it on the side lines only to pull it out from the dusty corner of the living room when a new entry in the Dance Central series released. Then Kinect 2.0 happened and no one cared, so the real horror here is Kinect’s failure to capture an audience. Of course you’d have seen the title and you know that’s not what we’re here to talk about. No horror fans, today we are going to talk about the reason I kinda wanted to buy a Kinect for the Xbox 360 in the first place a little Sega title called Rise of Nightmares.

Rise of Nightmares to me is House of the Dead for the Kinect. Now I know that’s an incredibly bold statement to make since the House of the Dead series is just light gun zombie shooting bliss and Rise of Nightmares, well its a Kinect game and that just makes people just groan generally. We’re gamers right? we don’t like standing up and flailing our arms around we like to sit on sofa and be lazy. Unless of course your like Fred and you stand up to play games anyway in which case buy this game and enjoy.

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Written by jamalais

October 24, 2016 at 11:00 am

Horror Obscura 2016: Intro and Part One

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Introduction

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Back by popular demand the Horror Obscura returns for another series of terror. This year, as well as discussing some horror titles you may not have heard of, I also wanted to revisit some games which are not necessarily considered horror but have horror elements portrayed in them really well. I’ve always been quite the fan of horror. When I was 5 years old one of my parents made the big mistake of allowing me to watch Stephen King’s It. Pro Parenting tip: Don’t let a 5 year old watch It they will think Tim Curry is terrifying, Home Alone 2 to me is terrifying with his inclusion (full disclosure I’m currently not a parent). Regardless of this experience I always held a kind of fascination with horror and think deep down we all sort of do. Whether its watching a scary film, playing a scary game or doing something scary like falling in love. Okay, I know this is a gaming blog not a life lesson but I feel we all sort of find horror even if its in media that doesn’t contain a monster as my first entry of the Horror Obscura 2016 will begin with.

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Written by jamalais

October 17, 2016 at 11:00 am

Dissecting Nintendo’s Famicom Classic Edition (Mini) Differences

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This week, Nintendo announced the Eastern component to the NES Classic Edition (or NES Mini) that most of us knew were coming.  Nintendo did allow some hands on time and offer new information on the NES Classic that will probably apply to the Famicom Classic as well, so check that link above if you haven’t already.  The delightful Famicom Mini is officially called the “Family Computer Classic Edition” and it appears to be quite similar to the Western version save for the obvious aesthetic difference, but also with some details and games.  Like the NES Classic Edition it will contain 30 games, it does not accept cartridges, and it will retail for ¥5980 (which at time of writing is literally $59.80).  Those of you already hoping to import should expect international shipping to be approximately $20-$30 depending on the speed of shipment and retailer.  I’ve already checked and no one currently has it on pre-order, although some bigger import sites do have pages for it, but I suspect it will not have a supply problem as the price point for these consoles suggests it needs to sell a large quantity.

Now there are some notable differences that you should be aware of.  Of course the games will all be the Japanese counterpart and contain the Japanese versions, but the universal HDMI out means that any HDTV worldwide should easily support either console.  On the other hand the USB power supply is not included in the Family Computer Classic Edition and can be purchased for ¥1000 ($10) if needed.  Those picking up both versions can most likely use the included NES Classic Edition cable and it’s probably the common micro-USB plug type.  Also the Famicom Mini, like the original Famicom, has two controllers wired directly into the console and are not removable.  As for games, 8 titles are unique to each region, so 22 of these titles are on both consoles.  Here’s a quick list of those and you can expect a video of these region specific titles coming soon.

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