Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Welcome to the BCVGB "Recording Studio"

While it might not seem like it, I solemnly swear that my blog is still a thing. In fact, it's more of a thing now than it's ever been, which ironically, is the reason I haven't posted anything in a while.

In case you haven't heard, Backward Compatible is going Hollywood, baby! Okay, not Hollywood, but YouTube...wood. And that's essentially the same thing. Besides, what's the point of blogging about video games without a little video?

Hauppauge HD PVR working hard amid a sea of wires.
Here's the thing: two weeks ago, I had absolutely no idea how to make videos, let alone edit video, record voiceovers, and upload them to the YouTubes. Today, I'm happy to report that I'm half way there.

Since I'm working with a three-year-old Dell XPS laptop, capturing gameplay onto the hard drive isn't as easy as simply plugging the PS3 into a capture card. Instead, I'm using a Hauppauge HD PVR. Essentially it's the same thing as your TiVo or DVR, just without a hard drive. Instead, it works as a pass-through, streaming the data (up to 1080i resolution) from your game console simultaneously to your computer and your television. Surprisingly, it mostly works!

I've had to fidget with the PVR settings quite a bit, but I'm pretty happy with the quality. Check out these raw video samples and see for yourself (disclaimer: if you follow me on Facebook, these videos will seem very, very familiar):

Metal Slug 3 (PS2)

Guilty Gear XX (PS2)

We Love Katamari (PS2)

Not bad, right?
And just for fun, here's my "recording studio."

You might notice some quality issues, which is to be expected as I work out the kinks. What I can't work out is why the older consoles succeed only in freezing up the PVR. It's not too big of a deal, though, as there are some low-cost options for recording non-HD video. Dazzle, anyone?

Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10 will shoulder the editing duties (it's the software recommended by Hauppauge and is on super sale at Amazon--how could I go wrong?), and I'm still on the fence about the microphone. More on that later.

Give me a couple more weeks and I should have something that looks like a game review put together! Any requests?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Now where am I going to put the cat tree?

The difference between collecting and hoarding? Shelf space.

For the last couple of months, I had crossed over the line from video game collector to video game hoarder, and it wasn't pretty. Shelf space was at 0%, but collecting hadn't stopped. As a result, games, consoles, controllers, cables, and whatever the hell else I came across was just stacking up, spilling out across any available horizontal plane. Oh yeah, and I started taking in stray cats.

Thankfully, a couple very gracious friends allowed me to piggyback onto their recent trip to Ikea, and I was able to snag some desperately needed shelving (more LACK floating shelves) and nudge the needle back into "collector" status.

After cleaning up a bit and finding a home for all of my most recent finds, it only seemed appropriate that I snap a few pictures of the game room. After all, it probably won't look this good again for quite some time.

But enough gabbin'. Enjoy the latest game room tour!

Find in the photo: Pirate Raft, Lunch Box, Book (ew.)

Dear Nintendo, please cool it with the console variations.
My shelving budget is out of control

I highly recommend picking up a sound bar for your flat screen.
It and the subwoofer (far left of the entertainment center) make a huge difference.

Another shelving nightmare: Neo Geo boxes.
There's supposed to be a divider through the middle of this cubical

HD Sony CRT. The only way to play your
old school consoles. Now on special for $0.50/lb.!
Controller family tree. Look for a full
review of this in an upcoming post


My NES collection, a Virtual Boy with 33% of the US releases, the creepy
Mario DS holder, some random GB Advance games in a black caddy, and
a Pikachu top whose original I can't remember.

Games I'm no longer any good at. I've gotten soft.

I've logged a lot of ass time on that couch. Thankfully, It's not comfortable enough
to encourage long visits. Also, enjoy the professionally photographed
NES pictures--they're of the same console sitting on the shelf!

Custom "Solid Smokes" canvas my wife had made for me.
Huh? Whose cigarettes are these?

More consoles--on display courtesy of fresh shelving.


I hope you enjoyed the updated room tour!

As you can see, I'm still just one good Craigslist score away from reverting back into full-on crazy cat lady mode. Which is really unfortunate, because I have some unhealthy MAME cabinet desires bubbling up and no desire to slow down on the game and console collecting.

Where's the Fancy Feast?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fireball Island > Skyrim

So there I was, ready to delve back into the world of Skyrim following a two-week hiatus on account of game-crushing bugginess, ready to download the latest patch and get back to crafting the finest set of dragon scale armor on Nirn. (By the way, update 1.4 is live, Skyrimmers.)

Game updates are nothing new. This generation has been absolutely plagued with patch releases, fixing errors that would have never made it past QA ten years ago. And before that, glitches like the Super Mario Brothers minus world were just plain awesome.

What's not awesome? Bi-weekly Playstation Network updates, that's what. Especially when I have to download one on top of a patch. Now I'm an easy two hours away from fulfilling my Skyrim destiny.

So where does a boy go when his video games have been taken away? He goes to FIREBALL ISLAND!

Please allow me to get you appropriately pumped up. I'm talking CAPS LOCK pumped up:

Fireball Island, the dimensional adventure game of pitfalls and perils, came bowling mercilessly into living rooms in 1986, leaving nothing but flaming wreckage and domestic violence in its wake. I'm not surprised if you haven't heard of it; Fireball Island leaves few survivors.
Vul-Kar guarding his cursed treasure.

This ain't no Chutes and Ladders, kiddies. In Fireball Island, you ascend a perilous mountain full of winding paths and hidden dangers in a quest for a priceless jewel. Meanwhile, the horrific idol Vul-Kar hurls deadly fireballs your way in an attempt to guard his treasure. Once the jewel is in your grasp, it's an all-out race back down the mountain, avoiding Vul-Kar's wrath while preventing your fellow adventurers from stealing it away. The first to the boat with the jewel wins! The rest are eaten by the savage island natives.

The pitfalls and perils unfold on a very impressive, very innovative three-dimensional game board complete with deep forests, creepy swamps, dark caves, rushing rivers and waterfalls, a giant snake that looks like a peanut, and the greatest topper in board game history: Vul-Kar. Go fuck yourself, pop-a-matic bubble.

The adventure begins at Dead Man's Plateau (an ominous start)--roll the die and head up Witchlord Trail, over Witchlord Step, down Thunder Alley and Skeleton Head Beach; then you climb Blister Run, grab the jewel, make your way over the treacherous rope bridges, through Viper Pass, down Dock Run, onto the boat to safety!
This way to unimaginable wealth, dog meat!

But if you roll a 1 or lay down a fireball card, kiss your ass goodbye, because it's time for Fireball Island to live up to its name. Push a fireball from any of four locations on the map or straight out of Vul-Kar's hideous, gaping maw. If you're awesome like me, you'll yell "FIREBALLLLLL!" as it barrels over your former friends. And if your piece is hit--even nudged--you'll spend your next turn face down in the nearest slag pit, picking tar and the bones innocent out of any number of orifices.

On top balls of liquid-hot magma rolling your way, every roll is followed by fast and furious card play. In fact, I think this is the only game I've ever seen where you can  play as many cards as you want, whenever you want. Move players forward and back, steal their cards, give them a fake jewel, roll and stop fireballs: it's all ridiculously confusing, infuriating, and hilariously fun if you're playing with friends you don't mind repeatedly calling "bitch," "asshole," "cock sucker," etc. Swearing and fisticuffs are actually highly encouraged. It's right here in the manual.

FIREBALL! The playing cards are decked with fantastic,
Choose Your Own Adventure-style artwork.

Being that the game is legally old enough to rent a car, it can be a bit hard to track down in the wild, especially with all of the the various pieces intact. I'd recommend keeping your eyes peeled at your local thrift stores and garage sales. And if all else fails, there's always ebay.

One way or another, I highly recommend tracking down a set and giving it a try. Or, if you'd rather, come on over to my place and we'll take a trip to FIREBALL ISLAND, asshole.

Slides from my last vacation on Fireball Island:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hey Mario, hold this.

I hate going to the mall with my wife.

Okay, I don't hate it--after all, the company's good and she's great at helping me dress like a fancy boy--but I always, always  get stuck holding her purse.

I suppose I should be flattered that she trusts me with all of her worldly possessions, but I never know what to do with the damn thing. Do I hold it way out in front of me like some sort of dead animal? Should I tuck it under my arm and strike the Heisman pose? Hell if I know.

But you know who never has an issue holding my shit? Mario.

A little while back I was given this most excellent DS holder, shaped like everyone's favorite mushroom-popping plumber. Mario stands about 12" tall, is made of sturdy plastic, and--I can't stress this enough--is expertly painted. But as nice as he looks on his own, his primary purpose is to hold your DS, DS lite, DSi, or 3DS. Sorry DSi XL--you're just too big. 

Here's Mario holding a DS lite:

Sadly, Mario doesn't have any working joints, so the scope of his usefulness is somewhat limited. Without something in his hands, he's just standing around with his arms outstretched and his palms up, like he's weighing options or waiting to be handcuffed. However, just because this figure is a single-tasker doesn't mean he's a one trick Yoshi.

For example, here's Mario holding a DSi:

And Mario doesn't care if it's tiny. Here he is making a Gameboy Micro look huge:

Past your prime? Mario don't care. Here he is rocking a Gameboy color:

Have stock in Energizer? Mario will gladly pimp a Game Gear:

Connoisseur? Mario's got you covered:

Mario palms Link:

K.C. Munchkin under control:

24-bits of holding power:

Oh Jesus. Now Mario's just holding himself like a gangster:

Mario! Where the hell did you get that?

Monday, February 6, 2012

Recent Pickups Episode 5: SNEStravaganza!

Believe it or not, this haul had everything to do with an AC adapter. A whole box of 16-bit gaming goodness and what pushed me over the edge was the lowly plug. (Hey, I needed one for a set I was putting together for my brother.) The rest? That's my finder's fee!

Super Nintendo (SNS-101)
Release Date: October 20, 1997
Acquired From: Craigslist guy with a cardboard box
Condition: A little scratchy, not not bad.
Notes: I've wanted one of these things for quite some time, for no reason in particular. Technically, this is not the SNES you want to own, due to the lack of S-video support. But it's just so darn...cute! You won't see too many SNES minis out in the wild, since they weren't terribly popular (they were released well after everyone else had moved onto the N64, Playstation, and Saturn), so pick one up if you find it for cheap!

Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest
Console: Super Nintendo
Release Date: November 21, 1995
Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Acquired From: Craigslist guy with a cardboard box
Condition: Good enough
Notes: Sequel to the game that proved the SNES was still relevant in the 32-bit era. Remember when Rare made great games? On the other hand, a Donkey Kong game without Donkey Kong sort of feels like the Snake/Raiden switcheroo, and that makes me sad.

Clayfighter: Tournament Edition
Console: Super Nintendo
Release Date: November 22, 1994Developer: Visual Concepts
Publisher: Interplay
Acquired From: Craigslist guy with a cardboard box
Condition: Gray plastic, shiny label. Yup, it's all there.
Notes: Clayfighter is not a good game. Why anyone would want to hold a Clayfighter tournament is beyond me. Despite all of this, I'm glad I own it...because I actually won a Clayfighter tournament sanctioned by Blockbuster Video. I had my displayed in the store, so all could bask in my clay fighting superiority. God, I'm awesome.

Killer Instinct
Console: Super Nintendo
Release Date: August 30,1995Developer: Rare
Publisher: Nintendo
Acquired From: Craigslist guy with a cardboard box
Condition: That sticker. That God damn sticker.
Notes: Remember how bad Clayfighter is? That's how awesome Killer Instinct is. Hands down, one of my favorite games of the era. Somehow, Rare had managed to squish the mind-blowing Ultra 64 game (heh) down to SNES size and keep all of the combos, characters, and pointy CGI boobies intact. ULTRA COMBOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Side Note: I tried everything to get that awful pricing sticker off the game label, but over time the glue has fused the two together, making it impossible to remove one without the other. Those butchers.

Super Mario Kart
Console: Super Nintendo
Release Date: September 1, 1992
Developer: Nintendo, yo
Publisher: Nintendo
Acquired From: Craigslist guy with a cardboard box
Condition: Mama mia! That's a nice!
Notes: If I had a dollar for every copy of Super Mario Kart I've owned, I'd have $4. Luckily for me, a copy of Super Mario cart sells for a lot more than a dollar. This one's in great condition and even came with the snazzy dust cover. What this all boils down to is that I have another copy of Mario Kart for sale. Want it?
Alien 3
Console: Super Nintendo
Release Date: May, 1 1993
Developer: Probe Entertainment (heh, "Probe")
Publisher: LJN
Acquired From: Craigslist guy with a cardboard box
Condition: It looks just like I feel.
Notes: Alien 3 is far from perfect, but that's to be expected when you consider the source material. What I find interesting, though, is that with the overwhelming odds, dark setting, tight corridors, and regular lack of ammo, Alien 3 plays sort of like an early survival horror game, well before we had a catchy name for those types of games.

Console: Super Nintendo
Release Date: September 1, 1995
Developer: Williams Entertainment
Publisher: Williams Entertainment
Acquired From: Craigslist guy with a cardboard box
Condition: Super clean, with box and manual!
Notes: Hell yes, the Super Nintendo had a Doom port. And you know what? It ain't bad! Thanks to the black voodoo magic and virgin blood instilled deep inside every Super FX 2 chip, it looked, sounded, and played better than the technologically superior 32X and Jaguar ports. More importantly, it came in that bad ass red cartridge. Just look at it.

Super Metroid
Console: Super Nintendo
Release Date: April 18, 1994
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Acquired From: Goodwill
Condition: Super!
Notes: Here's the thing about Super Metroid: it's awesome. If I could only have five Super Nintendo games, Super Metroid would make the cut. (Sorry, Clayfighter, you were this close.) I could go on and on about the graphics and gameplay, but you're better off just finding a copy (either on the SNES or Wii virtual console) and playing it for yourself. You'll see. It's friggin' Super Metroid.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

All I Do is Lose, Lose, Lose.

Lately I've been all hot and heavy with The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. With its combination flashy graphics, compelling gameplay, and sheer volume of things to do, it's easy to get completely lost in the game. However, I'm certain that over time, it'll lose its luster and I'll move on to the next big thing.

However, there's another game in my life that seems to hold a permanent spot in the rotation. I've been playing it for years with no intention of stopping. No, it's not World of Warcraft or some other soul-sucking MMO. It's Mario Kart DS. 

Five days a week for the past three years my coworkers and I have dedicated the last 20 minutes or so of each lunch break to our highly contested, ongoing Mario Kart DS super series. This points race has been going on for so long that two new Mario Kart games have been released since we started. When we started racing, Sarah Palin hadn't yet seen Russia from her house. When we started racing, Beyonce hadn't yet put a ring on it. You get the picture.

Just for kicks, I checked my win/loss record and was a little disappoint at what I saw. It turns out that the game can't count up to 10,000. (What an absurd thing to complain about.) As such, it's only counting losses. Maybe I should go on an ice-cold losing streak just to max out my stats?