Birthday Reflections: I am Level 43!

April 22, 2015 1 comment

Birthday Shirt

As I celebrate my 43rd birthday in less than an hour, I’m grateful for a lot of things. I’m grateful for being able to focus on school and getting my teaching degree. I’m grateful for my family, who not only has been so supportive of me… but who have also put together an awesome birthday for me this year, between gifts and a trip to Dave & Buster’s to celebrate the big day. I’m grateful for being at least somewhat healthy, even though battling hay fever this season has been challenging at time.

I’m also grateful for the retro video gaming community, which includes retro stores, retro-related writing and video talent, and everyone who talks with me about the games that I enjoy so very much. Three years ago, when I turned 40, the retro community came into my life at a time when I really needed something positive… something to focus on that wasn’t having to do with how difficult my life was at the time. I had moved back to Massachusetts from a failed living experiment in Arizona, having lost many of my possessions and with very little money remaining. It was a humbling experience to move back in with family and figure out how to start over. My self-esteem was shattered, I had no focus, and I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do with what was left of my life.

In the spring of 2012, just before my 40th birthday, I was turned on to a site called Retroware, and a fellow called Pat the NES Punk whose videos were housed there. I had recently scrounged the money together to purchase a Super Nintendo from my cousin and my interest in older games and systems was growing. He recommended Pat’s work to me– notably his Flea Market Madness series– and I binge-watched the rest of his videos. His focus on the NES for reviews stoked my interest in that platform again, much like I felt before getting a system back in 1990. I wound up receiving an NES for my birthday from an Internet friend, and my mother took me to a local flea market to find some games for it. My course was set, and I was excited to be “collecting” games like so many others in the retro community.

Yeah, that's me. Over the hill.

Yeah, that’s me. Over the hill.

Three years later, I’ve managed to build a library of older games and systems. I bought some myself, thanks to trades or sporadic occasions when I had saved a bit of money. Thanks to stores like Game Depot and Game Xchange, even a little bit of money has managed to go pretty far in terms of adding games to my library. I’ve also been extremely fortunate in that friends and family have donated or bought games and even a couple of systems as gifts. I’ve also been honored to be contributing articles to Retroware, the site that I became such a fan of three years ago. Finally, I’ve been creating my own video and written content, taking inspiration from the many talented and driven creators whose work I’ve admired: Pat the NES Punk, Norman “The Gaming Historian” Caruso, The Game Chasers, Joe “SpaceKappa” Walker, Matt “Cygnus Destroyer” Ezero, the Living in 8 Bits team, RetroLiberty, Joe and Dave from Game Sack, Classic Gaming Quarterly, and many, many others.

Being a part of the retro community for the past three years has been the gift that truly has kept on giving. It’s provided me with inspiration, excitement, focus, a desire to continually increase my knowledge, and a platform to share my memories and experiences of the video games that I hold so dear.

The clock has struck midnight, and I’m now Level 43! Thank you for celebrating with me, for your support, and for being so awesome.

Consoleation Event: RetroWorld Expo (Wallingford, CT)

I know that it’s only April, but circle October 3rd on your calendars. (I’ll wait.)

Why? Well… it’s because the First Annual RetroWorld Expo is taking place on that day, in Wallingford, CT… and it’s kind of a big deal, as hopefully you’ve seen in the video above. There will be video games to play and to buy, plus you can do some trades. There will be tournaments. There will be special guests. And– most importantly– it’s a new video game-related event that isn’t sold out months in advance!

As a proud member of the Retroware team, I am more than excited to be attending this event. The video games are certainly the stars of the show, but getting a chance to see/meet people that inspired me to not only be a more active member of the retrogaming community, but to also start creating my own videos, is a pretty amazing thing. I can tell you that the official guests already on the schedule have panel experience and are pretty amazing people behind the microphone or just in casual situations. It’s not too often that you get to meet the people who inspire you, either.

Fans of on-camera and writing talent aren’t the only people who will enjoy RetroWorld Expo. There will be the opportunity to buy and sell video games at the show, so whether you’re a new collector or if you’re established and maybe just looking for a few games for a specific platform… there’s a good chance that you’ll find at least a few gems here. One of the event’s collaborating groups, Retro Games Plus, has several stores in Connecticut (which I really need to visit this summer) and a constantly changing stock of classic games in their inventory… so I’m guessing that some of that sweet software (and hardware) will be making its way to the show floor. There are other vendor booths in the works, too, from what I understand.

More information and specifics about RetroWorld Expo will be coming as we get closer to the event, but it’s not too early to get tickets and make plans. Tickets in advance are $30 for the day or $35 at the door, plus children under 10 get in free (2 children per adult ticket).

I will be at the show for certain (although I’m not sure yet what my schedule will be), and I sincerely hope that I will see many of you there! If you are going, feel free to drop me a line at pete@consoleation.com and let me know– I’d love to meet up and say hello!

New Consoleation Video: A Little Perspective

Consoleation Episode #3 addresses console generation comparisons.

Many of us engage in making these comparisons, or in naming “the best” or “the worst”. It’s not a bad thing; I honestly do enjoy reading different opinions, as they help me get to know the content creator’s preferences and to see how they compare (or contrast) with my own. It’s also interesting, as someone who knows a little bit about video game history, for me to read how these opinions are supported. If solid arguments are made, it usually gets me to see differing (or even opposing) viewpoints on a topic.

This piece— presumably a promoted blog post on ScrewAttack— grabbed my attention when it was sent to me. It wasn’t because I disagree with the assertion that the fifth console generation was bad, but the arguments that the writer uses to support his position didn’t hold much water… due to what I consider to be a lack of appropriate perspective.

I honestly don’t believe that content about older games and systems should only be written by those who played them during their heydays. Heck, the NES is 30 years old, so someone with actual NES era experience has to be in their mid-30s, at least… if not older, to solidly recount specific memories and experiences with the console and games. That’s just unrealistic, given the wave of popularity that the NES and its games are enjoying once again.

What I do believe, however, is that content creators who want to fairly cover older games and consoles should do so with the proper perspective and appropriate frame of mind. If you weren’t born yet when the NES was popular, it’s still possible to gain proper perspective by finding out what technology was like at the time and how the NES compared to that. If you weren’t around in 1983 when Dragon’s Lair was popular in arcades, you may not understand why what many people consider to be “less than a game” today was such a big deal back then unless you do some research or ask around.

For example, in the ScrewAttack piece, the author mentions “Clunky single analog FPS” as something about the generation that he didn’t like. Dual analog sticks really didn’t come into popularity until Sony’s Dual Shock controller was released in the US back in 1998– three years into the PlayStation’s lifespan. Even then, it took time to be adopted as the standard controller type; many who bought the PlayStation before the Dual Shock controller was introduced were content to stick with the packed-in digital controller. The big problem with this argument, however, is the citation of games from the sixth console generation (TimeSplitters and Halo); simply put, it’s an unfair and imbalanced comparison to make… even as the author overlooked games in the genre that did use twin analog sticks, such as the Medal of Honor games (released in 1999 and 2000 for the PlayStation).

During the episode, I mention other arguments that the author uses, such as loading (disc access) times and memory cards… both of which were also notable things during later generations of consoles. It’s arbitrary to cite these things as reasons for one console generation being a “least favorite” and yet not have them drag down other generations which carried these things over.

I’m not advocating for the author to change his position; our viewpoints on the value of Gen5 don’t have to agree at all. My hope is that content creators will consider and even challenge the relevance of their supporting arguments when it comes to putting together blog posts, articles, or even videos like these. If you’re going to swing for the fences with a strong opinion, then your case should at least equally as strong. Not only will you gain more interest and respect from your readers or viewers, but you just might change a few minds or at least get people to consider your position… and that’s a pretty big compliment, indeed.

Thanks, as always for reading and/or watching my work.

Review A Great Game Day: Bad News Baseball (NES)

 

BadNewsTitle (2)

It just so happens that Review A Great Game Day falls just after the start of the Major League Baseball season, and, when thinking about the dozens of baseball video games over the years… I always come back to Tecmo’s Bad News Baseball.

It’s not the most feature-filled baseball game around.

It’s not the best-looking game.

It’s got a rabbit for an umpire.

At least the rabbit got the call right.

At least the rabbit got the call right.

These things don’t matter much to me; in fact, they haven’t mattered since I first played the game more than 20 years ago. Here are some reasons why I think so highly of Bad News Baseball:

It’s simple and easy to play: This description fit several other baseball games, especially from the 8-bit and 16-bit era, but Bad News Baseball‘s simplicity makes it great. Pitching requires a single button press, with the option to put movement on it by pressing the D-pad in a certain direction. Batting is also executed with a single button press, with varying results based on the timing associated with when (and where) the bat meets the ball. Fielding, as with many baseball games of the period, takes the most practice to get a feel for… but it’s very responsive and “advanced” moves like diving for a ball or jumping to make a catch are controlled with a button press and moving in the direction of the ball.

The outcomes aren’t always obvious: Player statistics and tendencies aside, Bad News Baseball is very much like a box of chocolates: You never know how each game is going to end. Some games can be utter blowouts, and the Mercy Rule keeps them from getting too far out of hand. If you’re up 15-0 at after the bottom of the third inning, the game is over. On the other hand, a really tight contest can develop when you least expect it. For example, a game I recently played saw my team fall behind by five runs early; I chipped away (despite making five errors in the field) and tied it in the top of the ninth inning. The game surprisingly ended in a 5-5 tie after 12 innings… which is something I had never seen before. There are no “stacked” teams in Bad News Baseball, either; each has its own strengths and weaknesses, so skill generally wins out over power statistical imbalances.

BNBTieGame

The infamous 5-5 tie. With 5 errors. Yuck.

 

Coming back for more is still fun: Bad News Baseball doesn’t have a “season”, per se, but it does offer solo players with the chance to take on and beat all of the teams in the game. After each successive win, the CPU opponent gets a bit tougher to beat, so your skills need to improve along the way in order to defeat all comers and “beat” the game. Unfortunately, a rather lengthy password system is used instead of a battery backup in order to save progress if you need (or want) to stop playing. The good news is that, thanks to modern technology, you no longer have to write down the passwords; instead, you can take a picture with your smartphone or tablet and keep that as long as you want.

It’s lighthearted: Sure, baseball is a competitive sport, and it can get very serious at times. In Bad News Baseball‘s case, though, it’s as much fun as it is competitive. For example, when a baserunner is forced or tagged out, he falls to the turf with stars orbiting his head. Tecmo’s skill with in-game cutscenes also adds to the less serious nature of the game. Home runs come with a selection of different cutscenes, such as a screaming baseball flying through space or a player slapping hands with his teammates after crossing home plate. The character designs are all kids (except for the coach, who always seems to be sleeping in the dugout), and the music consists of peppy anthems for each team that play while they’re at the plate. Bad News Baseball is closer to the spirit of Little League Baseball than a more intense Major League Baseball game, but even SNK’s Little League Championship Series title lacks some of the lightheartedness that Bad News Baseball has.

High fives all ar... hey! Who's that on the end?

High fives all ar… hey! Who’s that on the end?

It’s cheap: Sure, this doesn’t have anything to do with the technical merits of the game, but adding Bad News Baseball to your NES library shouldn’t set you back too much. In fact, according to PriceCharting (as of April 7th, 2015), the game’s value is less than $10– even complete in box! Not having to pay a lot for a great game certainly helps.

Perhaps it’s my love of arcade games and favoring simplicity over substance that elevates Bad News Baseball to being my favorite baseball video game of all time. Maybe it’s nostalgia tugging at me, or maybe it’s even my inner kid wishing that I had a game that got me into baseball like this when I was younger. In any event, perhaps now you will give this game a try, too; then maybe we can add Play A Great Game Day to the calendar, not long after Review A Great Game Day.

Be sure to check out 1 More Castle, creators of the Review A Great Game Day project, for lots of great and original retro-related content.

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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