Thursday, December 31, 2015

Retro Gaming Console Nerdgasm

This is not an advert. This is NOT sponsored content! (Thanks South Park for my continued education.) I am stupidly, ridiculously excited about this new (to me) thing.

Meet my toy! This sweet little machine will play Gameboy games from the original brick all the way up to Gameboy Advance cartridges. It will play NES games. It will play SNES games. It will play the Famicom carts for those generations as well. It will play Master drive and Genesis games. It does all of this on one system. It connects to my tv with an HDMI cable and upscales (read this as smooths the rough edges) the graphics. It has a brick of a wireless controller that works well enough with all these game generations, but it also has ports to support corded controllers for the NES, SNES, and Genesis.
Ladies and Gentlemen the Retron is simply amazing. Feel free to delve after the real sales pitch at the manufacturer’s website here. Now that the generic gushing is out of the way, let me get to the real talk.
The Retron 5 is cheaper (even ignoring inflation) than the NES purchased in 1987 or the SNES on its release. I paid 139.95 for mine at McKay’s Used Books and CDs. I hear that you can also find these in Books A Million Stores and they are about $10 cheaper on The price of this little beauty blew my mind. It has been worth every penny.
I unboxed it expecting to find a catch. Instead, I was further impressed. The HDMI cord is LONG… I mean around 6 feet. The power brick cord is slightly less but is still ample. The USB 2.0 cord that connects the controller to the console to charge is 10 feet. I didn’t expect a game built in and as far as I have explored there is not one.
Half a decade ago I stupidly sold off my collections…to “grow up” for my fiancee. The girl didn’t stick, but my stuff is still gone. Among that stuff were all my “vintage” video games. I have missed them terribly. The time has come to remedy that in the form of the great game hunt of 2016.
The night my wife and I picked up the system I owned 4 games that would play for the system. Perhaps ironically they may be the biggest money savers in the coming hunt. For Gameboy Advance I had:
Legend of Zelda: The Adventure of Link (screw you haters! I love this one)
Final Fantasy IV Advance
Final Fantasy VI Advance
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past with Four Sword Adventures
Those are all (yes even the first one) great games and if I had to run them down in the original cartridges might cost me a pretty penny. I booted up the Retron, dropped in A Link to the Past and was almost instantly amazed at how great the Gameboy Advance graphics scaled up onto my flat screen. I loved the game…it was true to form. I didn’t love the blocky Retron controller. It is functional and wireless but it clicks a little loudly for my taste.
I solved this problem by switching over to a wired SNES clone controller. It functioned identically to the original in my memory. I felt 12 all over again. Hesitantly, I turned off A Link to the Past to play games with the wife. We had picked up a couple of platformers that I want to share with my oldest daughter. We bought:
Sonic the Hedgehog ($4.99)
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 ($2.99)
Super Mario World: Super Mario Advance 2 ($10.95)
It’s worth noting here that I also bought two Tomee SNES clone controllers at $9.95 each for those of you adding up my purchases (like I am).
We both really wanted to play Super Mario World. In two stops I wasn’t able to run down the original SNES cart. I was able to get the Advance release, but I realized that we were not going to be able to play it 2 players. That wasn’t a big deal to me in the short term because when I grew up most of the games I enjoyed were single player and my friends and I shared and took turns.
I also realized that none of the system link features of Gameboy games are going to function on the Retron (that I know of). This means that yes I can play Pokemon on the big screen, but no I cannot trade Pokemon with real people on my Retron. It means that I will have to solo playthrough Four Sword Adventures (again). For the love that I give that system this is a small price to pay.
The Retron is the perfect solution to my retro game desires. Now I just have to track down the carts that I really want and a few controllers. It is very worth noting that while talking to a “game pro” at a local retro game shop I was told that Duck Hunt and other Zapper games will not function on a flat-screen TV. They require an old CRT. I really wanted to play Duck Hunt so I hope this isn’t true as it presents a difficult to overcome challenges.CRT screens do not have HDMI inputs. There may be an easy workaround or this may not be a problem. That will be the subject of a blog to come.
So… It is time to make a shopping list for the Retron. My goal is to get as much of this as possible during 2016 as cheap as I can make it happen. If you are reading this and want to work as my agent bless your heart and it might earn you a seat on the couch for retro gaming night. Here goes the list:
2 NES Controllers or Clones
1 NES Zapper Gun (yes I have to try the experiment but it is not a priority)
NES Games :
  1. Advance Dungeons and Dragons: DragonStrike
  2. Advance Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes of the Lance
  3. Advance Dungeons and Dragons: Hillsfar
  4. Advance Dungeons and Dragons: Pool of Radiance
  5. The Adventures of Bayou Billy
  6. Back to the Future
  7. Back to the Future Parts II & III
  8. The Bard’s Tale
  9. California Games
  10. Castlevania
  11. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
  12. Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse
  13. Contra
  14. Double Dragon
  15. Dragon Warrior
  16. Dragon Warrior II
  17. Dragon Warrior III
  18. Dragon Warrior IV
  19. Duck Hunt
  20. Excitebike
  21. Galaga
  22. Gauntlet
  23. Gauntlet II
  24. Ghostbusters
  25. Ghostbusters II
  26. Ikari Warriors
  27. Ironsword: Wizard’s and Warriors II
  28. Joe & Mac
  29. Karate Champ
  30. The Karate Kid
  31. Kid Icarus
  32. The Legend of Zelda
  33. Marble Madness
  34. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out
  35. Ninja Gaiden
  36. Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos
  37. Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom
  38. Paperboy
  39. Skate or Die!
  40. Spy vs. Spy
  41. Strider
  42. Super C
  43. Super Mario Bros.
  44. Super Mario Bros. 2
  45. Super Mario Bros. 3
  46. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  47. Wizards and Warriors
SNES Games:
  1. Breath of Fire
  2. Clayfighter
  3. F-Zero
  4. Final Fight
  5. Gradius III
  6. Illusion of Gaia
  7. Killer Instinct
  8. Paladin’s Quest
  9. Prince of Persia
  10. Rival Turf!
  11. Secret of Mana
  12. Star Fox
  13. Street Fighter II
  14. Super Mario Kart
  15. Super Scope 6 (probably has the Zapper Gun problem)
  16. Super Star Wars
2 Sega Genesis Controllers or clones
Genesis Games:
  1. Altered Beast
  2. Art of Fighting
  3. Ghoul’s N Ghosts
  4. Golden Axe
  5. King of Monsters
  6. King of Monsters 2
  7. Mortal Kombat
  8. Mortal Kombat 2
  9. Mortal Kombal 3
  10. Phantasy Star
  11. Primal Rage
  12. Strider Returns: Journey From Darkness
  13. Shinobi III
The Gameboy games wishlist is going to be posted at a later date and time.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Magic: I have been doing it wrong

I do not like it when people self-diagnose. My most frustrating moments with this comes from people claiming to have OCD or ADHD (or any variants thereof) simply because they like things tidy or because they have trouble focusing. With that said, I understand how people feel this way, at least when it comes to Magic the Gathering.
Since I returned to the game at Gatecrash I have been endlessly organizing and reorganizing my cards in ever more elaborate systems. I am searching for a perfect method that puts the cards I want directly at my fingertips. There are about a million reasons for this, not the least of which is that frustrating thing I do when I buy cards only to find out I had multiple copies already in my set. If I were inclined to consult Doctor Google and self-diagnosing this malaise I would call it MTGOCD. I would be an asshole, but there it is.
If you have had the unfortunate experience of being near me while I brainstorm a deck you might apply a diagnosis of MTGADHD (you would be less of an asshole). While working on my standard landfall deck (which totally failed me last FNM), I had an idea for a commander deck, mentally built another modern deck, made a backup decklist to add blue to this deck, and finally wrote this blog. UGH!
I have both an MTG toolbox and a big case just for carrying all my decks. I have over 30 built. There is no way I could ever play that many. I mean that is an event-level amount of decks…and I carry them with me. That is stupid. Moreover, it goes against the original vision of the game. Richard Garfield developed Magic as a fill-in game for standing in the line at the movies or for while you wait on your game group to show up on game night. The entire point of a card-based game, at least to Dr. Garfield’s brilliant mind, was that each player only needed one deck which could easily fit into a pocket.
The game has evolved from that original vision, but I think I need to save myself from all the wasted effort I put into Magic. To do that I first need to figure out exactly what I need. Here goes the list:
  1. 2 standard decks polished for competitive FNM play
  2. 1 commander deck
  3. 2 competitive level Modern Decks
  4. 1 casual legacy deck
  5. 1-3 Pauper deck(s)
  6. 1 polished Assassins Deck
  7. 1 CUBE
So why is this my list? Allow me to explain. (God, I love talking to myself)
1. 2 Standard Decks- I LOVE FNM! I enjoy keeping up with Standard. The fact that the environment changes so frequently appeals to the deck builder in me. I want two Standard decks because I want two distinctly different approaches to winning FNM. I want to be able to change things up. I also want to be able to toss a friend the other POLISHED deck to play test against my own skill. For the record, this also means I am going to build 4 standard decks because the wife plays FNM with me. She is amazing and this more than scratches my need to deck build and experiment.
2. 1 Commander Deck- Commander is the format of champions. Board stability isn’t a thing. This is all about making Magic fun and having strict deckbuilding guidelines. Commander has one of the broadest card bases in all of the formats and can get VERY expensive. For that reason, it is worth polishing up 1 commander deck and sticking with it.
3.2 competitive level Modern decks- My thought process here is simple. One deck should come from the metagame. The other deck needs to be something to beat it that no one else is playing.
4. 1 Casual Legacy Deck- Legacy games end on turn one or turn two in the competitive world. I don’t want to play that game. Of all the categories I struggled most with this one. I like Legacy because I like old cards. I could scratch most of that itch with Commander, but sometimes I just want to play a regular game of “old school” Magic. The good news is I already have two built and we rarely play Legacy. Polish will come with time.
5. 1-3 Pauper decks- Casual is great. As a Tournament Organizer, it is the best thing to have running continually in the background. Running a Pauper League is great for new players and veterans alike. Pauper is cheap to build. Budget Magic is amazing. The reason I say 1-3 Pauper decks shall remain a mystery…and a tease for things to come at my shop.
6. 1 Polished Assassins Deck- The Great and Wonderful Erik Hess taught me this format. I spread his gospel lovingly. It is my favorite multiplayer variant. If you don’t know about Assassin’s you must come to me at the shop to learn. Muwahahaha
7. 1 Cube- All the drafting with none of the cost of buying the cards each time. Yes, please.

So, I have been doing it wrong, but I am going to fix that going forward.

December 2nd Comic Books on a Budget