Consoleation Status Report: March 24, 2015

March 24, 2015 1 comment

Hey there, friends!

There are several things going on that I wanted to share:

First, the rumors are true: I recently got a PlayStation 4. It was certainly unexpected, but a few things fell into place that made this happen. GameStop’s recent $175 trade-in deal for PS3 toward a PS4 was spotted by family, and the deal was that if I traded in my PS3 and physical games… the rest would be covered as part of a (very early) birthday gift. The kicker was a free year of PlayStation Plus, on top of GameStop’s trade-in offer. So, despite eating a healthy dose of crow, I’m relatively happy with the new console.

I’ve even started to do a bit of streaming, mostly of pinball games. I’m considering doing some specific, timed streams for certain pinball tables to share my own strategies and gaming memories, and then uploading them to the YouTube channel. I also literally just found out that Mat Mania– one of my favorite coin-ops– just got a PS4 release, so I’m trying to scrounge up enough money for a PlayStation Store funds card. Rygar is also available, so that would make for a couple of retro-related streams… and hopefully more will come.

Secondly, as the other part of my “big” birthday gift, I received an iPad Air 2. While I mostly use it for school, the device also shoots 1080p video… so I tried it out today:

 

While I think that it looks better than the laptop webcam that I’ve been using since 2013, I’m not sure that this will be the way to go as I move forward. I do have the ability to do some editing on the fly before uploading to YouTube (definitely a learning process), which is needed since I have to start the camera before taking my seat in front of the camera… and then I have to get up and turn it off. That said, if you check out the video above, I’d be interested to hear what you think about this video quality versus my laptop camera.

It’s also worth reiterating something that I say in the video. Unless I do streams or footage capture from the PS4, I really don’t anticipate doing any retro game footage capturing from my GxTV. Aside from the expense of the device, I honestly know very little about capture technology and my time for editing capture footage is pretty limited. I tend to follow the Alpha Omega Sin model of video ideas; I take a topic of my choosing, sit/stand in front of my game library or my GxTV, and share my unscripted thoughts on that topic. I do understand that gameplay footage is a bit more engaging or interesting than watching a guy sit in front of a camera for 10 minutes, but it’s something that I just don’t know that I can really make happen… and it kind of compromises the ideas that I had for my video format initially. I’m not ruling out footage in the future, but it’s likely going to need to wait until I’m working for a living again.

As far as future content goes, I’m in the middle of a High Five written piece that gives more detail and insight into the baseball video games that I talked about in the first Consoleation video that went up last week. Transitioning back to classes this week and getting back to homework has been a bit tougher than I expected, but I’m shooting for getting it done by week’s end. As for the second Consoleation video, I’m planning on shooting it next week. I’m holding off for now to see what feedback I get (if any) regarding using the iPad versus my laptop to film with.

Finally, some of you have asked about whether I’ve put together a birthday wish list, like I did last year. The answer is that it’s in progress. The big day is April 22nd… Earth Day. (And yes, I think the Earth and I are about the same age.) It’s mostly games that I’m looking to add to my Retro Library that I haven’t found in the wild locally, especially PlayStation, Genesis, and SEGA CD games.

And… that’s it. I hope to hear from at least some of you about the iPad versus laptop filming feedback. That’s going to be a big help in determining what I use to film videos from now on, and how I want to approach filming (time of day, time needed to set up, etc.). If you’d rather shoot me an e-mail instead of a comment, drop me a line at pete@consoleation.com and I’ll be sure to read what you send.

New Video: Consoleation Episode 1: Top 5 Baseball Video Games

For this first video episode of Consoleation, I decided to meld it with my High Five writing format and picked five of my favorite baseball video games. As with my previous High Five piece, the only stipulation was that the games that I picked had to be in my library… and, considering how many baseball games I own (HINT: Too many), picking only five was tough to do.

I’ll be expanding my reasoning behind my selection of these five games with a written High Five piece soon. For now, I wanted to get the video out there and stir up some conversation about what others might have for their Top 5 lists.

I’d love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below with your list of favorite baseball games. Remember the rule, though: Only five!

New Video: Spring Break 2015 Pickups

 

It’s a shame that Spring Break 2015 is almost over.

As this video shows, it’s been a tremendous time for adding games to the Retro Library. I’ve managed to grab games for almost every platform that I own, scoring NES, SNES, Genesis, SEGA CD, N64, PlayStation, PlayStation 2, and even a Gamecube game over the past few days.

The highlights of this latest video are definitely the acquisitions of Battletoads/Double Dragon for the NES and Final Fantasy III for the SNES. The former was sold to me at well below market price, while the latter was picked up after passing on it the first time I saw it. I’m also excited to have added some more quality RPGs to my PlayStation library, complementing what I already have. There are dozens of hours of gameplay in just those games, let alone the other titles that I had picked up.

In case you missed the earlier grabs I got at the start of Spring Break, this video will catch you up:

 

 

Two pickup videos in less than a week is rare for me, and next month will return to the usual VLOG/pickup video, which will come after my birthday on the 22nd.

Now to reorganize and put everything away… a “problem” that’s nice to have.

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Consoleation Time Machine: The NBA Jam Adventure

NBA-Jam-Genesis

NBA Jam arrived for the SEGA Genesis and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System 21 years ago this month, back on March 4th. The fact that these games are now of legal drinking age has caught me a bit off-guard. It really doesn’t feel that long ago, although I do distinctly remember that I had to embark on a rather harrowing journey in order to get my copy of the game on launch day.

Back in early 1994, I was living with my grandmother; I had recently been laid off from my job as an AT&T long-distance operator in Worcester, MA and had moved back in with her while I was regrouping. Money was tight, but nothing was going to keep me from getting the console version of my favorite arcade game. I had squirreled away some money and traded away a few games to pay off a preorder at an independent game store in the Fairfield Mall, which was less than 2 miles from where I was living. I kept crossing the days off on my calendar until March 4th finally arrived. I was extremely excited that I was going to be able to play NBA Jam without tokens or trips to the mall, and it would take some of the sting out of what was a rough time in my personal life.

FairfieldMall

The Fairfield Mall, which is no longer a thing.

 

Unfortunately, Mother Nature seemed to have other plans on that day. Schools and even a few businesses had closed after nearly 6 inches of snow had fallen during the overnight and early morning hours. When I woke up that morning, I looked outside and sadness crept in. How was I going to get to the mall and grab my game? Our cars were stuck in the driveway, waiting for our plow driver to come later that afternoon… and my 1980 Oldsmobile Cutlass was NOT going to make that trip with any degree of safety, even if it was only a couple of miles away. Finding out that the store was open and that my game was waiting made my heart sink even lower, but then… I got an idea.

I bundled myself up, loaded a Pearl Jam cassette tape into my Walkman, and began my walk to the mall. I wasn’t going to be denied.

Make no mistake– it was a challenging trip; sidewalks were covered in snow, so I walked along the side of main streets and crossed a couple of busy highways (six lanes of traffic just before the mall!) to make my way to the mall. Snow flew into my face. My headphones became wet and then ice-covered. My socks were soaked as snow made its way into my boots. None of that would matter once I reached my destination as I kept powering ahead.

It took a little less than an hour to arrive, and I was drenched. I stopped by the Just Fun arcade first to warm up and dry off a little.

“What happened to you?” the arcade attendant asked me. I explained everything, and he thought I was crazy for not waiting until the next day to come down. I changed a couple of dollar bills for eight tokens, enough for one game of NBA Jam before I picked up my own copy. I played as hidden character Mark Turmell– one of the creative forces behind the game. MJT. March 22. I wasn’t interested in my own stats that day. I just wanted to play. I just wanted to shatter that backboard. I just wanted to hear Tim Kitzrow shout “From downtown!” I didn’t know if these would be in the Genesis version of the game, but I could count on them here. The game went as most Jam games did for me; I ran out to an early lead, the CPU mounted a huge comeback, and the 4th quarter was back-and-forth fare until I finally put it away with 20 seconds or so left.

NBAJam_ArcadeCabinet-546x728

 

I had been cold and wet when I’d arrived at Just Fun. I was now warm and relaxed. I thanked the arcade attendant and headed down to the game store, where my copy of NBA Jam was waiting.

Upon entering the store, the owner wasn’t at all surprised to see my face.

“I knew you’d show up today,” he said with a grin as he grabbed my game and put it into a bag. I thanked him for the game and left with a smile. The walk home would be long, but the trip was so very much worth making.

Upon arriving back at home, I sprinted upstairs to my room and began playing. I didn’t even take my jacket off until after I’d won the first game. It wasn’t quite the same as playing the arcade game, but it was close enough that I quickly put the differences out of my mind. I played (and won) eight games in a row before taking a breather and having some dinner. It had been a day that I thought I’d always remember… and that still rings true today.

When I get another Genesis for my 40th birthday back in 2012, those memories came flooding back. I played a few games of NBA Jam on that day, too, and I won them all– just as I had done back in 1994. I still play the game with regularity on my Genesis; in fact, I play that version more than my SNES or SEGA CD versions. I guess that it’s the version that I most closely identify with because it’s the version I played first, and that I played the most.

Well… aside from the arcade version of NBA Jam, that is. It’s one of my favorite arcade games of all time, but that list is something we’ll come back to some other time.

I hope you enjoyed this ride in the Consoleation Time Machine. Be sure to unbuckle all safety restraints before disembarking, and please… watch your step. 

Consoleation Status Report – March 2015

Hello once again, friends!

As I prepare to enjoy Spring Break from classes this coming week, I’m happy to say that more updates will (finally) be coming! After all of the snow, the cold, the stresses that come with a full load of college classes, and battling an ankle injury– all in the span of the last 6 weeks– I’m back in a position to start being creative again.

For starters, I’m hoping that you liked my inaugural High Five piece, which went up earlier this week. I know that Top __ lists are a really common thing online, but I like the idea of limiting lists to five entries. It forces me to make sometimes difficult cuts and decisions, which makes writing the pieces more challenging. I have lots of ideas for lists, so expect more of them.

Next, as for my Retro Unscripted videos… I am making a rather significant announcement. I have– thanks to a very early birthday gift– assumed control of the consoleation.com domain, and will be merging (for the last time) all of my work under one “brand”. That means that this blog, all future videos, and the series of pieces that I write for Retroware will all be united. While I’m taking a bit of a risk by consolidating, this move makes the most sense as I continue to create both written and video content. The rebranding will be explained on camera next week, but this is the first announcement. The first Consoleation video will basically be the “second season” of Retro Unscripted, as the transition takes place.

I am also thrilled to announce that I will be at the RetroWorld Expo, which takes place on October 3 in Wallingford, CT. While I can’t say just yet what my plans are while there, it is the first gaming expo that I will be attending as a member of the Retroware team. It’s the inaugural year for the event, and it’s great to have one here in the Greater Springfield, MA / Hartford, CT area. I hope, that some of you will try to make it out for the event… and if you let me know you’re coming, we can definitely meet up.

Finally, while it’s not directly related to my work, I wanted to talk about Pat The NES Punk’s newest DVD set. It’s available for preorder now, and it’s going to be filled with content… including a few episodes of Flea Market Madness (the series that got me into retro game collecting), some of his reviews, and a bunch of extra stuff. I know this sounds like an advertisement– I guess it is, kind of– but Pat is one of the driving forces behind my love of retrogaming, which really started in earnest back in 2012. I’m a big fan of his work; he’s knowledgeable, personable, and funny. He kind of reminds me of me, but with much more talent in front of the camera and a MUCH bigger collection of games. In all seriousness, though… Pat’s videos are very much worth watching, and proceeds raised from these sales help to keep him creating and working. I ordered one of the DVD sets myself (with the rest of the early birthday gift card I got), along with a PlayStation system, via a preorder perk. That PlayStation will come in handy for a project I’m working on for later this year…

So, there you have it. It’s a pretty exciting time for me, as a content creator. I’ve never had my own domain before, and it’s really given me incentive to reorganize and push forward. I’ll still be working hard on my college classes for the rest of the semester, but I’ll be making time to get some content done. Thanks to all of you for your support; whether you’ve visited this site over the last 7 years, you’ve checked out my video work, or you’ve read my writing on Retroware or elsewhere… it means a lot to me.

High Five: My Favorite Mario Games

March 11, 2015 2 comments

March 10th– Mar10, or “Mario” Day–  got me thinking about what my favorite Mario games are. It wasn’t easy to put them in any specific order, or to finalize which games made the list and which ones didn’t… but here’s what I decided on. This is my first High Five… my five favorite Mario games!

5. Super Mario 64: Hearing Mario talk for the first time in 1996 was both jarring and amazing. I mean… Mario had been the silent protagonist for years, so hearing him talk blew my mind when I first saw Super Mario 64 at Fantasy Realms in Springfield, MA. Moving Mario around in a three-dimensional world was also both jarring and amazing; having the freedom to move around in any direction instead of just left or right was so different, and yet the charming simplicity of the earlier games was lost a bit. In fact, I’ve never managed to “beat” this game. I’ve felt so overwhelmed and intimidated by it that I stopped trying years ago. Super Mario 64 is also a tough game, and I spent many nights trying to get through certain Bowser stages, only to end in failure too often. Nevertheless, Super Mario 64 is memorable for me in many ways… and playing it helped me to escape a bit from some rough times in late 1996 and early 1997. That earns it a spot in the Top 5, edging out Super Mario RPG and Mario Party 2.

Bowser stages are so cool... and yet so damned tough!

Bowser stages are so cool… and yet so damned tough!

4. Super Mario Bros.: Ah, yes. The game that really started it all. I remember seeing it for the first time as a coin-op in 1985 while visiting a roller skating rink in Chicopee, MA. There was quite the crowd around it; I squeezed in to get a look, and the person playing seemed to know just which blocks to hit to get items, like coins or mushrooms. Little did I know back then, but this game would become a hit for what would eventually be my favorite home console of all time. While Super Mario Bros. is also difficult, I never felt terribly frustrated with or overwhelmed by it. It was simple to learn and difficult to master, and it still is. The music is iconic, the level design is still easy on the eyes, and I still have fun testing myself to see how far I can get without continuing. Super Mario Bros. easily deserves a spot in my Top 5 list, even though there are games I favor a bit more.

The game that started it all.

The game that started it all.

3. Super Mario Galaxy: Oh, boy. I found so much to like about this game. The sound, the visuals, the new suits and powerups, the level design, the just-right level of challenge and difficulty… I could not put this game down for a solid week when I played it back in 2007, and it remains the last new Mario game that I “beat”. After being disappointed with Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy was a fantastic return to form and ultimately wound up being my second-favorite Wii game, behind Wii Sports. If/when I add a Wii back into my library of game consoles, Super Mario Galaxy will be one of the first games that I get. I really want to play through this game again– perhaps more than any other Mario game, on this list or otherwise.

This is the one Mario game I want to replay more than any other right now.

This is the one Mario game I want to replay more than any other right now.

2. Super Mario World: Boy, it’s a close call between this game and #1. When some friends of mine and I picked up our new Super Nintendo consoles in the fall of 1991, this was easily the first game that we all played individually– and then together as we gathered at my house or someone else’s. Mode 7 effects blew my mind, with scaling and rotation, giving Super Mario World that “next-generation” feeling that the aging NES just couldn’t deliver. The soundtrack and music sounded amazing as they came through my stereo speakers, with left-to-right channel separation and reverb effects. Multiple paths for certain stages added a measure of replayability that I hadn’t seen before in a Mario game. Yoshi was a neat addition. The boss battles were fun. Super Mario World did so much right and easily justified the money I spent on the SNES that year… and yes, it still holds up very well almost 24 years later.

"When did Bullet Bill get so huge?" Me, September 1991

“When did Bullet Bill get so huge?” Me, September 1991

And… at the top of the list…

1. Super Mario Bros. 3: While I was ecstatic that I finally got my own Nintendo Entertainment System for Christmas back in 1990, receiving Super Mario Bros. 3 with it sent me over the top with joy. I’d played a bit of it at friends’ houses, but owning it and getting to spend time with it made me see just how great the game is. There’s lots of variety to the level designs, each with its own challenge and theme. Temporary flight with the raccoon or Tanooki suits added new areas to explore. Boss battles were as much about making it to the boss as it was about the challenge that awaited. Minigames for extra lives and items were enjoyable diversions from the arduous task of making it to the final showdown with Bowser. Sure, it could be argued that Super Mario World wins the aesthetic battle with Super Mario Bros. 3, but there’s just something about what this game was able to accomplish in scope and in technical ability for the time and the hardware involved. In fact, I prefer playing this game on original hardware instead of ports on the SNES (Super Mario All-Stars) or other systems. I can replay Super Mario Bros. 3 over and over again on my NES, and it never gets old or painfully frustrating. It’s all joy for me, and it’s the Mario game that I would choose 10 times out of 10 if I could only own one.

My GOAT Mario game. Jimmy Woods agrees.

My GOAT Mario game. Jimmy Woods agrees.

Bear in mind, of course, that this is my own list. I have my own preferences, just as I’m sure that you do. In fact, I’d love to see your own personal Top 5 Mario games list– but remember: It can only be five games! Feel free to use the comments to share your list… or you can Tweet at me and tell me what your list is.

As always, thanks for reading. Look for more content here soon, now that Spring Break is near. In the meantime, you can check out my YouTube channel, which has some fairly recent videos… including a couple of new Retro Unscripted episodes, which were fun to put together.

Shooting Straight: Ninten-disappointment

January 15, 2015 Leave a comment

It’s more than 24 hours later, and I’m still seething over Adaptergate. I think though, that between yesterday’s blog post and today’s video, I’ve said just about all that I can say about it and have to force myself to move on.

If you look back at entries on this blog from a few years ago, you’ll see other examples of questionable business decisions that I called other companies out for. This is something that I got away from, because honestly it never mattered to anyone else but me. Things like questionable DLC and the industry’s perception of used games were never going away, especially not because some random guy said they should.

Adaptergate bothered me more than anything in the last year or so, because I was keen on the New 3DS. I wanted to get one. It seemed great with its small improvements that would be nice to have along with a new unit with a fresh battery… but I can’t, in good conscience, spend $200 on a device that doesn’t come with a way to charge it after two hours of use. That’s akin to telling Nintendo, “I have no problem with your fleecing me. Please do so again next time.”

It’s a reminder to me of why I’m moving away from modern video games, in general. The industry doesn’t just want consumers’ money– it wants more of the consumers’ money. It’s never enough. I never thought we’d go back to the days of the Game Boy Advance, where we were responsible for batteries to get the thing working… but here we are. It’s not $200 for a New 3DS. It’s $215. And you have to buy two items– not just one that includes the other. When we buy new video games these days, publishers are always pushing for not the $60 I paid for the game itself, but the additional $20+ for DLC… much of which was announced weeks before the game hits store shelves. We also no longer expect our games to work as advertised on the first day it’s released. We’re expected to wait a few days, because games are complex, or too many people are playing, or some other excuse.

It’s disappointing, to be certain.

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