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Retro RGB Fully Reviewed the Mega SD (Flash Cart with Sega CD ISO Support) – All Your Questions Answered

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When you deal with the retro community there can be an overbearing attention to detail that is discouraging to many.  From time to time a product comes out that just works because the creators took the time to do it right and it appears Terra Onion, the makers behind the Mega SD, have done just that.  Previously the company made the Super SSD3, a flash cart with CD game support and RGB output for the PC-Engine and Turbografx-16, and now they’re back again with one of the most requested flash cart features of all time: Sega CD game support.  This device can plug into any Sega Genesis (Gen) or Mega Drive (MD) and play Gen/MD, Master System (SMS), and Sega CD (SCD) titles right out of the box.  If you have a 32X you can also play those titles with this flash cart, assuming it’s attached (but you’ll have to remove the 32X when you want to play SCD or SMS titles).  The only downfall is a separate adapter will be required if you want to play the 6 32X CD titles, all of which have Sega CD versions as well (so you aren’t losing any library without it).

A product like this, like all flash cart solutions, comes with a price tag and the approx. $260 (€230) plus shipping may be discouraging for some.  The excellent video from Bob at Retro RGB should assist with informing you on whether or not this is right for you.  He goes into the problems with SCD actual hardware, the quality of the Mega SD in practice, the robust feature set, and why you may or may not want this item.  It’s only touched on, but Bob makes a point to mention that voltage is correct so none of the fears of damaging flash carts trying to do too much and that sound playback was tested and approved by FireBrandX.  He is one of the leading authorities on audio playback in the retro scene and he designed the audio fix chip that I put  in my SSD3 to correct issues with that product.  Rest assured his approval means you’re safe from a quality and playback perspective.  Anyway, Bob has done a great job and it’s an interesting watch regardless.  Enjoy!

Written by Fred Rojas

June 21, 2019 at 11:00 am

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Nintendo’s Recent Annoucements In Regards to Retro

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Let’s face it, Nintendo has had a pretty crazy 2019 so far.  Whether you are a fan or not, it’s hard to ignore how much has changed in less than 8 weeks into the new year and despite what you may think a large portion of the topics are retro.  I figured it was high time to discuss them.  Let’s break down what’s been announced and the retro take on these changes.

NES and SNES Classic Editions Going Away

Okay, I know, this one came at the end of last year (announcement on Dec. 14th, implementation and shipments on Dec. 22), but one of the biggest changes this year is the phasing out of the NES and SNES Classic Editions.  It was inevitable Nintendo would stop production on these items and once they were readily available the well for demand dried up very quickly.  I’m so on the fence about the mini console craze because it’s clear that all of these items have had corners cut to a certain extent and I’m not convinced most people actually play these things.  On the other hand, the mini things look so cool when you get them into your hands and thanks to hackers you can easily side load any games you want into them so they are much more versatile.  I think of them now as emulation boxes that have the one thing other emulation solutions – like RetroArch on computers or RetroPie on Raspberry Pis – don’t have: they’re easy to make and operate.  As a person who loves tech and is intrigued by a challenge, it’s aggravating that today emulation requires a lot of knowledge and time to set up.  I get it, these are complex emulators that need complex setup, but that doesn’t help the mainstream.  I’ve already heard from several of you that it’s just so much easier to buy one of these consoles and do the dead easy process of hacking in the roms you want.  Lets also not forget that specifically the SNES Classic Edition contains Star Fox 2 in the only official release ever to come out as well as games that contain special chips like the Super FX and SA-1 that don’t work with a majority of flash carts on the market.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 22, 2019 at 3:00 pm

I’m Done With Mainstream Games Press and Here’s Why

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The first time I engaged with video game media was in the first issue of Nintendo Power back in 1988.  Granted, it was really just a subscription I paid $20 for to get a free copy of Dragon Warrior.  Back then they were filled with screenshots, reader discussions, and just about anything else you’d expect of a web site nowadays only we didn’t have the Internet yet.  It was also run by Nintendo, so the messaging was far from unbiased.  As time went on I would get more balanced reporting from the likes of Electronic Gaming Monthly and DieHard GameFan although many would be right to point out some questionable behavior at these outlets as well.  Eventually games coverage went online and with it came a whole new era of interaction along with the problems that plague the online transition even today.  A problem started eating away at me, perhaps due to my getting older, but regardless of the source I started taking issue trusting the mainstream games media.  That finally came full circle yesterday when I straight up decided I could no longer deal with what is childish, pedantic behavior from a group of individuals who would rather point fingers at each other than try to fix these issues as a team.  You know, the Internet.

What This Piece Is and What Caused It

Anytime you see pieces like this, they are vague and flooded with links that apparently convey a point but ultimately start to look like those yarn patterns detectives use in movies to find a killer.  i’m trying to avoid this, mostly because I don’t think that large issues like this are as complicated as some people would like to believe, but I provide links so you can do the research yourself.  If a situation requires a story that is too long, you start to lose focus on the core issue.  Any parent will tell you that sitting down with two kids to figure out what happened in a fight knows this to be true.  Games media has been in this state for a decade now and I’ve had it.  Let the children have their playground, I’m not interested in hanging around anymore.  For the record, “children” in this case refers to everyone involved in both sides of this discourse regarding trust in games media and has nothing to do with age.  This piece is attempting to be a clear, concise reasoning for why I reject games media in its modern form and to start a discussion here about everyone else’s thoughts.  I’ve edited this piece many times to get it here.  I do suspect, however, that few of you will respond or have a strong opinion.  This is not a challenge by any means, if I want something I’ll ask for it, but rather a concession that many of you don’t care anymore.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 7, 2019 at 12:00 pm

The Ending of Large ROM Sites Should Garner A Different Response

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With the recent fall of some major rom sites, and others pulling their own hosted files offline as a response, I’ve seen a somewhat trending reaction from the community that concerns me.  My peers are avidly going out and downloading entire collections of games and files from these sites to have on hand should we see the fall of the easy to access rom site.  Not only do I feel this will never happen, but this response is flawed and wrong.  The response you should be having is to start looking into ways to back up your own games.  It’s relatively cheap, free if you don’t need to backup carts, and it will allow you to never worry about losing another game again whether it’s damaged, stolen, or subject to the rare chip/disc rot.  Oh yeah, and it’s also not illegal.

A Little Background

Just under a month ago, web site Torrent Freak reported that Nintendo sued loveroms.com and loveRETRO.co over having open access to copyrighted material.  For those not familiar, Torrent Freak refers to itself as “a publication dedicated to bringing the latest news about copyright, privacy, and everything related to filesharing.”  The web sites in question were owned by an individual, Jacob Mathias, who ran his own Arizona-based LLC that focused on these file sharing sites.  Those who work in rom sites specifically tend to not carry certain games and files specifically for fear that something like this would happen.  While I’d never been on the site myself, the fact that these sites had direct download links to a myriad of roms (files that represent a cartridge based video game) that included Nintendo’s prime catalog is a big mistake.  The one or two sites I used to frequent would pull down specific roms that were re-released such as Virtual Console games and more recently the “Classic Edition” line of Nintendo’s library.  This other site also would pull down any game that the publisher had requested, so if you went to most Capcom titles there would be a note that the game was removed due to the publisher’s request.  Finally that other site would not host BIOS files, which are proprietary software in certain consoles that are required to get certain emulators working, which it was revealed Mathias’ sites also hosted.  Put all of these factors together and these sites had massive bulls-eyes on them for just this kind of response.  Nintendo even makes it a point in the suit to call it out, “The LoveROMs and LoveRETRO websites are among the most open and notorious online hubs for pirated video games.”

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Written by Fred Rojas

August 13, 2018 at 12:15 pm

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God of War is a Modern Masterpiece, and it Broke Me

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God of War came out in April to unanimous praise, and for good reason.  Whether you are a veteran of the series or coming into it the first time, this installment skates the line of accessibility to keep everyone happy.  Not only does this title cater to a much wider audience, but it’s a visual stunner with razor sharp graphics and particle effects abound to really sell you on this magical world.  Although some complained of frame rate issues, I felt that the game held up smoothly in most cases and hiccups never reared their ugly heads during an important battle.  Those who have invested in the premium PS4 Pro system are also handsomely rewarded with a great HDR implementation that further enhanced the gorgeous visuals with bright colors along with realistic lighting that shades the darkest pits and blinds in the brightest lights.  The Pro also allows you to run in either performance mode, which tries to maintain 1080p at 60 frames per second, or a resolution mode that accepts the 30 fps frame rate and gets as close to native 4K as it can while allowing Guerilla’s custom checkerboarding from Horizon Zero Dawn to get the rest of the way.  Regardless of which mode you pick, the more important factor is that you get to pick at all.  Finally this title is a massive open world that allows you to explore as much or as little as you like while also providing a 20+ hour campaign story that takes the franchise in a new direction and adds much needed character development to our favorite Spartan Kratos.  Yep, God of War has it all and should be heralded as a culmination of some of the best parts of contemporary gaming all wrapped into one single Playstation exclusive.  Unfortunately, it also managed to break me down and ruin the experience.

It’s Not A Bad Game In Any Sense

Don’t get me wrong, if you own a Playstation 4 and have even a passing interest in this title, you should definitely give it a try.  While I found Kat Bailey’s points in her piece to be justified, I think she had the most critical view on the game to date despite much of her recent article being praise.  Most people that I talk to delved a bit into the optional content here and there but focused on the main campaign, leaving much of the content I gripe about in this piece to never be played.  There are those of us, the completionists, that can suffer a different fate with God of War: bitter contempt.  This game’s attempts to extend the experience or challenge me felt misguided and exemplifies my issue with modern games.  I put over 100 hours into Fallout 3 and I have completed plenty of “Nintendo hard” games, but none of those titles made me a feel a fraction of the disgust that I felt here.  It bothered me so much that it even ruined my appreciation for the ending.  Fear not, I will not spoil even one moment of this game’s campaign, but I can warn that I will discuss some of the extra content you can embark on and thus can be considered a spoiler.  In the end it’s made me weary of my experience with God of War and even moreso with the types of games that Sony is currently churning out.  With that I have to concede that I don’t think these games should be changed and I think they will continue to sell like crazy as we’ve seen with God of War and Horizon, so my concerns are only for my personal game playing choices.  Enough dancing around it, let’s get right into the areas I had problems with.

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Written by Fred Rojas

July 25, 2018 at 3:00 pm

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The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 3: Quitting Demon’s Souls

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Renouncement

After more than two months since my last entry, I admit I’m in a bit of a rut.  I don’t want to go back and play Demon’s Souls and I also don’t feel I’m getting any better.  As it stands I’m trapped in area 1-4 about 15 or so hours into the game and I have no desire to play it.  Yes, as my previous entries have stated, I’ve found the right items, I’ve discovered how to outwit (and even kill) the red dragon, and I have upgraded my equipment.  I think my biggest problem is leveling, which is a grind of the grandest degree, and no matter how many times I run 1-1 to kill the red knight for my 2,000 souls it just doesn’t feel rewarding.  I’m at level 18 or so and none of the stats seem to have a large effect, especially compared to the gap from levels 1 to 5 or even 5 to 10.  This game’s jank is also starting to get to me.  Whether it’s the stuttering at the top of the stairs in 1-1 or the framerate hitches in the back halls of 1-3, I now get annoyed with the glitches.  I’ve heard all of the decries as well.  Play as a mage, do this thing here to cheat, do that thing there to by pass some of this, “git gud.”  Yeah, I’ve heard it all before and I don’t like any of it.

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Written by Fred Rojas

May 21, 2018 at 11:00 am

Midwest Gaming Classic 2018 Photo Album

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Check out all of our great shots from the show!  Click on a photo to enlarge it.

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Written by Fred Rojas

April 18, 2018 at 11:00 am

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The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 2: Beginning Demon’s Souls

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Version

Someone pointed out that I claimed to have the European “Black Phantom Edition” in my story from Part 1, but then when I posted to Twitter that I was starting this crusade I clearly had a copy of the US “Deluxe Edition” in that photo.  Keen eye, although many are aware the box art is completely different.  Yes, it’s true, I no longer own the “Red Phantom Edition” because I sold that sucker for over $250 on eBay back when Dark Souls took off and demand was extremely high.  Mind you, I did this only after walking into a local GameStop and seeing them selling a copy of the US Deluxe Edition for the standard $59.99 price tag, which I think was a discount.  In the US the Deluxe Edition only came with the strategy guide (with a worse cover), but those that pre-ordered also got the art book and soundtrack as a bonus.  The employee admitted that a pre-order had never shown to claim their copy and despite being rare and in high demand, no one in the south suburbs of Kansas City seemed to care at all.  He also admitted that one of the other employees had already snagged the free bonuses (art book and soundtrack) so I wouldn’t be getting those and thus the discounted price.  Side note: it always baffles me nonchalant GameStop employees are about the terrible things they do to their customers; this was not the first employee to flat out admit that when a pre-order goes 5 days unclaimed that the employees are allowed to descend upon it, pick it apart, open it, take it home to play it, and you get this semi-used sloppy seconds version of a game you are paying full retail price for.  The game had been out for at least several weeks in the US and, yep, this copy had been opened and clearly played but thanks to that magical circular sticker they put on the box it was considered “sealed” by the GameStop gods.  I didn’t care, I could keep my copy of the same game – now specific to my region – and it came with the most important item: the strategy guide.  It also helped that I was able to rip the soundtrack before selling my other copy and you could find quite a few amazing high quality scans of the art book in PDF form, which are still live today.  Granted, it’s not the tangible book or disc, but neither are the art books, strategy guides, and soundtracks in future versions (other than my UK version of Dark Souls III), so technically this now just matches my others.  Either way, that’s why my pic had the US Limited Edition, which is not that far in value these days from the Black Phantom Edition so bully for me.

Black Phantom Edition (UK)

Deluxe Edition (US)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to School

It was time to go back, return to the game that brought me nothing but defeat and frustration.  A game that I paid a very high price for, imported when it wasn’t in my country, and thought was utter hype garbage.  I wouldn’t be going in half-cocked, however, despite what some may think this is not a crash course in masochism.  I wanted to be prepared, not only for the rough mechanics, but also how to overcome many of the flat out bad design choices that were played off as a difficulty spike.  When a game drops a boulder on you that you cannot avoid unless you know it’s coming, that’s just bad design, not a challenge.  The easiest way to prove this is when you have the knowledge of the boulder, it isn’t a challenge at all and can actually assist you in taking out enemies you no longer feel you need to fight.  This is where and how I draw the line between difficult and bad design, and I knew Demon’s Souls was chock full of both.  So I did what any planner or student would do: I read the guide.  It was so coveted, even by me, for so long that surely it would have some helpful information.  It did, but like everything else with this franchise, it was hardly straightforward and read more like an encyclopedia than a guide.  Again with my definitions.  A guide should walk you through the process of the game, allowing you to basically follow your progress in the game along with the page number of the guide with the occasional diversion chapters for filler.  An encyclopedia just dumps all the information in one organized place and forces you to determine what knowledge you need and seek it out.  This guide had spreadsheets, characters sheets, leveling info, item lists, enemy lists, tips, and several sections on higher gameplay tactics, but it never has a single page that covers how you start out.  There are 10 starting classes all with different stats, abilities, and perks, many of which won’t even matter until you’re at least 10-15 hours into the game and at which point you may have to restart the game if you selected the wrong build.  Additionally this title is a game of melee combat, ranged combat, magic, or different combinations of these attacks so you can understand why I was puzzled by a Thief class or the difference between a Knight, a Soldier, and a Temple Knight.  If you know this game well you’re probably tearing your hair out because the differences are distinct and real, but you would never know most of this without looking it up online.  While my guide gave me the different stats of each class and some random distinguishing characteristics, it really didn’t help you decide who to go with.  Hell, I had played Bloodborne and I still didn’t know who I wanted.  In this regard, the guide was somewhat useless because although it gave me stats and told me equipment, I didn’t know what the equipment did.  I later learned that if I went over to the equipment section, I could have looked each item up, but I think it would have been more helpful to just simply say something like “Silver Coronet – increases MP” to assist.  Games typically tell you what an item does when you get it, right?

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 15, 2018 at 11:00 am

The Soulsborne Diaries, Part 1: Starting Point

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Welcome to my new series, The Soulsborne Diaries.  This will be an ongoing documentation of a yearlong journey through various video games belonging to From Software’s, shall we say sub-genre, of games that currently encompasses Demon’s SoulsDark Souls I-III, and Bloodborne.  I’m going to come right out and say that this isn’t a guide by any means – I’ve not played most of these games – and this is also not a series of deep dives into the concepts, lore, or mechanics of these titles either.  If you want that may I suggest Bonfireside Chat, a fantastic series  by the main crew at Duckfeed.tv.  The purpose of these diaries is an opportunity for me to digest my experiences in an attempt to discover why people are so drawn to them and also if I’m compatible with that drive.  This series would be best suited for the uninitiated hoping to journey vicariously with me or the seasoned veterans to get a glimpse into my process, my challenges, and my (hopeful) achievements.  In this process I do hope to open up a dialogue or at least hear out comments, but I must stress that I am no expert and undoubtedly a series with this passion may draw individuals who despise what I say or my lack of knowledge on various topics.  If this is you, please let your voice be heard in the comments below or by writing an e-mail, but I do ask that you remain civil as the treatment and response you receive will be equally respectful.  That doesn’t mean we can’t disagree and that you can’t be exasperated in your response, by all means.

Introduction

I wouldn’t say I’m particularly new to Soulsborne titles.  I got on the Demon’s Souls bandwagon before the game even came to the US, nabbing a European “Black Phantom Edition” that included an art book, a soundtrack, and a strategy guide.  Admittedly my initial draw was the popularity it was garnering on the import site I frequented at the beginning of the PS3’s life – for those that didn’t live in a region-locked world, having the PS3 region free was huge for me.  When it arrived I have to admit that I was enthralled by the art book, which was filled with grotesque creatures and massive monsters all with a medieval theme.  It reminded me of the first time I flipped through the pages of the Dungeons & Dragons Monsterous Manual, wide-eyed at the horrors you could encounter in that world.  After looking over the book and making a spot on my shelf, I didn’t touch the game for several months, a trend I’m guilty of even today, but it was particularly bad at this time.  Later, when Atlus released the game here in America, a few of my friends started asking me about this game that was apparently huge in Japan and Europe.  I don’t know that it was initially successful, but the long range sales of Demon’s Souls can’t be denied and this was definitely a jumping point for From Software to do something greater, albeit without the help of Sony Japan, who funded this first game.

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Written by Fred Rojas

February 1, 2018 at 5:04 pm

Community Question: Regarding Your Speech…

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Since we don’t necessary have a podcast coming up and a really good question was asked, I figured I’d answer it here.  It comes from Andrew and it reads:

Hello again, whoever is hosting this time. This one goes to Fred, but, whoever you are, read anyway; Fred will listen to this.

First, I do admire more effort being put in research and actually playing the games covered on the show. That is always a welcome change. However, there is ONE teeny problem. I am very much against the “GAMES ARE SRS ART THAT WILL EDUCATE US AND ELEVATE HUMANITY TO A NEW LEVEL OF SUPERIOR EXISTENCE” crap. The very moment you start taking fun seriously, you lose your ability to enjoy it. Do you really want to go there, Fred? Do you want to kill the fun, and treat games like some boring obligatory chore for mature adults such as yourself? I will be blunt: the moment you forget how to have fun and enjoy things without ruminating on the serious socio-political implications of “the experience” immediately after, will be the moment I stop listening. I am surrounded with enough mature adults who forgot what fun is already.

With that out of the way, I will sadly not be able to contribute any articles to the site. I am very picky, and only play games that I really love, meaning my personal knowledge of games extends almost exclusively to titles I played. I will not be playing anything I do not like because I have to. I could join you on a potential Jak & Daxter, Ratchet & Clank, or Sly Cooper episode, I know everything you need (and don’t need) about those series….. es. There is nothing else I can help with. Other than sending you soundtracks if you ever need them.

Well….. bye?

P.S. Thinking your perspective on a game is a fact is not rare, most people are like that.

My response is below:

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Written by Fred Rojas

January 8, 2018 at 1:00 pm

Posted in Blog