Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recent Pickups Episode 1

Androgynous crime lord in a rocket-launching Camaro, it's Recent Pickups Episode 1!

A nice last-minute deal really turned this week around. Here's what I've added to the horde:

Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance
Console: PS2
Release Date: December 2, 2001
Developer: Snowblind Studios
Publisher: Interplay
Notes: Diablo meets D&D. That's triple D! Very excited to finally give this a try

Baldur's Gate Dark Alliance II
Console: PS2
Release Date: January 20, 2004
Developer: Black Isle
Publisher: Interplay
Notes: Triple D squared! Naturally, I'm twice as interested in trying this.

Twisted Metal: Black
Console: PS2
Release Date: June 18, 2001
Developer: Incog, Inc.
Publisher: SCEA
Notes: I scream, you scream!

The Sims
Console: PS2
Release Date: January 12, 2003
Developer: Maxis
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Notes: Ahhhh! Dibba dubba wibby bah.

Dark Angel Vampire Apocalypse
Console: PS2
Release Date: July 8, 2001
Developer: Metro 3D
Publisher: Metro 3D
Notes: Shelf space taker-upper. Hello, trade bait.

Final Fantasy X
Console: PS2
Release Date: December 20, 2001
Developer: Square
Publisher: Square Electronic Arts
Notes: Every blitzer knows: when you got the ball, you gotta score!

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Console: PS2
Release Date: October 27, 2002
Developer: Rockstar North
Publisher: Rockstar Games
Notes: (Coke mirror not included.)

Console: PS2
Release Date: March 25, 2003
Developer: SCE Cambridge
Publisher: SCE
Notes: Where's the rage?

Ford vs. Chevy
Console: PS2
Release Date: December 9, 2005
Developer: Eutechnyx
Publisher: Global Star Games
Notes: Mopar rules!

Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
Console: PS2
Release Date: August 1, 2003
Developer: Core Design
Publisher: Eidos Interactive
Notes: Wait...they're still making these?

Metal Slug Anthology
Console: Wii
Release Date: December 14, 2006
Developer: Terminal Reality
Publisher: SNK/Playmore
Notes: $15,000 worth of Neo-Geo games for one low price! 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What the Wednesday?: Radica Gamester Steering Wheel Controller

Hi Folks! Welcome to What the Wednesday?, my weekly photo showcase of strange and obscure side of video game collecting.

Generally, the most cost-effective way to get into game collecting is to buy in bulk. Of course, that sometimes leaves you with an oddball game or accessory that you really had no intention of owning, or in some cases, didn't even know existed. Today's feature is a bit of both.

This is the Gamester steering wheel controller by Radica:

Thrown in with a PS One I bought over the summer, I was happy to have it over yet another  Dual Shock controller (if for no other reason than the novelty factor).

As you can see, it's a purpose-built racing controller. In lieu of traditional analog sticks, the Gamester wheel has a rubberized, rotating grip that you use to steer your vehicle left and right.

I took it for a spin this evening and it was actually a lot of fun. I wouldn't say that it's any more or less precise than using a standard analog stick, but the steering sensation makes for a fun variation on the theme. Also, it's no substitute for a true wheel and pedal setup, but it's 90% easier to live with and looks 15% less ridiculous during normal use.

I found that the wheel could definitely benefit from a few more degrees of rotation (imagine trying to steer your car with a wheel that only turned 30 degrees) and the shoulder buttons--recessed in the back of the controller--to be nearly impossible to use. Still, it beats the hell out of the Wii wheel.

It has a supplemental D-pad on the face to help you navigate menus, and the rumble feature is present and accounted for--maybe even too present. I have no idea what the mode button does. I can only assume it opens and shuts your neighbor's garage door.

Highly recommended if given to you with the purchase of something you actually wanted. Otherwise, I'd be happy to pay in the ones of dollars to buy it on its own.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Smile! Introducing the BCVGB Photo Studio!

Yup! It's in my laundry room.
Remember the TurboGrafx post?

It highlighted two things: one, that box is filled with some wondrous, amazing things (not to mention that the box looks pretty great); and two, my coffee table makes a sad excuse for a photo studio.

That black and orange carton of awesomeness reflected not only the third-best option for video gaming in 1989, but also my basement's ample amount of recessed lighting.

...It might sound ridiculous, but tonight I built a photo studio. 

I'm not going to go into great detail on how I made it, because this site has all the information you could possibly want.

Mr. K.C. Munchkin's never looked better
I think it turned out really well! It could use one more light (or perhaps I should just learn how to keep the camera's aperture open), but tonight's results are a step in the right direction.

Check out the slideshow for a few samples!

Also, come back tomorrow for the first installation of my new weekly photo feature, What the Wednesday.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

A Sophisticated TV Sent from the Past: The HERNIATOR


Progress ain't all it's cracked up to be.

Sure, penicillin, fire, and solar calculators are all great, but they've also hindered our ability to bounce back from syphilis, digest raw chicken, and solve simple equations in the dark. And what's so great about that?

Same goes for that 70" 3D LCD TV in your living room. Yeah, Tron Legacy on Blu Ray should come with a change of light cycle shorts, but your classic games (just like the ones you'd find at Flynn's Arcade) look seriously derezzed.

If you've ever tried plugging your NES into your space TV, then you know exactly what I'm talking about: that fuzzy, blurry picture you can only assume is Bump 'n' Jump looks more like Bump 'n' Dump. Yeah, that just happened.

Yikes. Red beans and rice did miss her.

The reason for this is two fold: first, imagine drawing a smiley face on a deflated balloon, then blowing up the balloon. Sure your smiley face is still going to look something like a smiley face, but in the same way that 1985 Michael Jackson looked something like the 2005 Michael Jackson. Yuck. At 1920 x 1080 resolution, your TV of the future is effectively doing the same thing to your old games. And you don't want your games looking like the moonwalker...unless you're playing Moonwalker.

Second, you're asking your digital TV to read an analog signal. You know how that goes--we didn't all pass Spanish 1. Some TVs are better at this than others, however, in my experience, none of them are great. If your TV can ask where the library is and sing Feliz Navidad, then you're doing okay.

My solution? Simple! Get an old tube TV! Remember those things? They're still around and they're cheap, cheap, CHEAP on Craigslist. If you have the space and the lower back strength, you owe it to your classic games to add one of these analog boat anchors to your game room.

Melty Blood (PS2)

Here's mine: it's a Sony Trinitron KV-32HS20--one of the last great tube TVs (lovingly referred to as the HERNIATOR). Just like Genghis Kahn and William Taft, you know it's great because it's super, super fat. She weighs 145 lbs. Baby got back (although technically, baby got front, since that's where all the weight is).

Heft isn't the only reason I love this thing; it also can display all the way up to 1080i, but it still has that old school 4:3 aspect ratio, which is what you want for those NES and SNES games. No black bars; no shrinking, stretching, or otherwise distorting the image. Just pure retro gaming goodness at its absolute best.

Another plus? Since that flat 32" picture tube makes makes such a mighty footprint, the fine folks at Sony found enough space in that big gray box to fit in a decent set of speakers. This thing pounds! The pair of 15 watt speakers really shine on Neo Geo games, where sharp and bassy soundtracks were used to attract kids from across the arcade.

Tournament Fighters (SNES)

Sure, transporting the thing was an absolute nightmare, doing considerable damage to both my lower back and my hatchback, and finding a suitable piece of furniture to put underneath it has been a real challenge (more on that in a future post), but all of the hassle has been worth it. I'm getting a lot more mileage out of my classic games and that makes it all worthwhile.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

XXX: Unboxing a TurboGrafx-16

If you owned an NES in 1989, then games like Mega Man 2, Ninja Gaiden, and Tetris were your jam. That same year, if your parents really loved you, you were getting all powered up with Altered Beast for the Sega Genesis.

However, if you were a real pain in the ass that year, your parents strode right past the NES classics and Sega's 16-bit juggernaut, and got you a TurboGrafx-16 for Christmas. That'll show you, you little bastard.

22 years later, here's what that Christmas would have looked like for disappointed little boys and girls across America.

The box for the TurboGrafx is certainly a product of the times: hypercolor orange artwork, stonewashed jeans, and a dude in a denim jacket. This is 1989, kids. Get used to it.

The sides and back are standard console box fare: screen grabs, ads for accessories, and lofty claims of "next generation, arcade-quality" graphics and sound. Right. Look closely and you'll see a pitch for the CD add-on--$400 at the time (twice the price of the base system) and the first of its kind.
Inside, you get a Macintosh-like, two-tiered styrofoam tower, topped with a very cool "Thank You" card. Cast that aside and you're greeted with a packet of printed swag, including the requisite instruction manual, registration card, and sneak preview booklet, plus an extremely well illustrated Keith Courage in Alpha Zones mini comic book to accompany the pack-in game.

The hardware is packaged nicely within, and in such a manner that no mortal could possibly return it back to the box. Top floor: the Turbo Pad controller, Keith Courage game, power cord, and RF switch. Lobby: the TurboGrafx console.

If the tidy packaging and wonderfully dated artwork didn't win you over, the folks at NEC lobbed one final salvo of awesomeness at new TG-16 owners--the most incredible poster I've ever seen. Just look at this thing. The question here isn't if I should have this thing professionally framed and hung it in my game room, but where? 

I hope you enjoyed this unboxing of the TurboGrafx-16. Be on the lookout for a full review once I get the appropriate capture equipment. Until then, like a toddler at Christmas, we'll just have to be satisfied playing with the box.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In the Year 20XX, a Blog was Created

Hello game fans and welcome to the first official post at Backward Compatible!

Our 1970s handyman special basement:
there are no winners in game rooms like this.

While woefully unoriginal, I couldn't think of a better way to tell you about who I am and what I do than with a tour of where buttons are frantically pressed and princesses are occasionally saved: my game room. (Colloquially referred to as "The Glory Hole," "Nerdatorium," and "The other place that hot chicks avoid.")

Once a shamefully creepy and depressing "man cave" finished in rainbow brown carpet, warped faux wood paneling, and similarly atrocious 1970s finery, we gutted the basement to make a space more appropriate for my ever-growing collection of awesomeness. And I assure you, it's pretty awesome.

And here's how she looks now.

I won't go so far as to say that construction is finished at BCHQ, since I'm always coming up with "one more thing" to cram in there (heh), but as an aging man-child with a nasty video game habit, it certainly suits my tastes better.

Aside from the electronic bits, just about everything in the room can be found at your friendly neighborhood Ikea. We went with the Besta/Framsta entertainment center. Assuming your Allen key and profanity skills are up to snuff, you should be able to build something similar in an afternoon with just minimal couples therapy to follow.

Storage space is at an absolute premium right now, which is something I hope to address soon (and document in a future blog post). As I've said many times before, the difference between hording and collecting is all in how it's displayed. And as fun as it'd be to swim Scrooge McDuck style through a room just flooded with games and systems, It'd be too difficult and shameful to share with anyone.

It doesn't look like much, but there's just shy of 400 games and 25 consoles hidden in, on, and around the various shelves, cubbies, and cabinets throughout the space. My collection ranges from the Magnavox Odyssey II and Atari 7800 all the way through the current generation of consoles and handhelds.

While I have absolutely zero interest in owning games and consoles that I have no desire to play, there's still plenty of great stuff out there that I do intend to own eventually. Currently on my hot list is to get a nice Sega Saturn collection going and to flesh out my selection of Neo Geo AES games, but taking advantage of the best deals out there requires a certain amount of flexibility--I'll buy just about anything if the price is right.

Virtual Boy and N64: Ultimate Bookends

Believe it or not, most of this stuff is the result of shady Craigslist deals, garage sale finds, and epic scores at the local thrift stores. Stay tuned for weekly pickup posts, with game and console reviews to follow once I get a video camera and capture device up and running. Until then, I have plenty of topics to go on about, that'll (hopefully) keep all of us entertained.

I hope you enjoyed the room tour and little sneak peek of things to come here at Backward Compatible. Check back on Tuesday for another post!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Going Gold: Welcome to the Backward Compatible Video Game Blog!

As you can see, the party hasn't quite started, but we're getting dangerously close. In fact, there's probably a torrent available if you're interested in checking out the blog before the release date. 

Before you go, how are you at untangling wires? What about unpacking, categorizing, and alphabetizing a few hundred games? Can you help me move a giant CRT down a flight of stairs?

On second thought, don't worry about it. Instead, how about taking a second to like us on Facebook? In return, you'll be the first to know when the blog goes live, plus you'll get a complementary bottle of Cristal and exclusive access to the VIP lounge.

Check back this weekend for the first (real) update, and thanks for visiting!