Shop finds 12/30/11: The last finds of 2011, and a strange curiosity.

Alright, so the last time I did a Shop Finds on WordPress was several months back. Since then I was posting them on Tumblr because they were relatively small finds — Blur and Singularity for $7 at the same Goodwill on two separate occasions — but I don’t think that’s panning out so I’m gonna lump them back here. Plus what I got for this occasion is too large for Tumblr.

Game haul 12/30/11 - complete

Here’s the whole kit and caboodle. Two magazines and three games. Well, technically three games, I’ll explain in a second.

Game haul 12/30/11 - Magazines

First, the magazines. One is a recent issue of PlayStation: The Official Magazine (PTOM) from October, covering Batman: Arkham City (the RAGE picture shown is an advertisement). I got this because it was dirt cheap (50 cents!) and it was the fiftieth issue of PTOM. Technically the actual issue number is much higher, they used to be known as “PSM: Unofficial PlayStation Magazine” to distinguish themselves from the original Official PlayStation Magazine that Ziff-Davis ran a few years back. But when they got renamed to PTOM, the issue numbers reset, so I’m guessing this is the 280-ish issue of the magazine.

The other is Official Xbox Magazine (OXM) from September 2007. Talking about the then-unannounced Grand Theft Auto IV, as well as a comparison of the hotly contested music game battle of 2007: Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock vs Rock Band. Again, more for nostalgia’s sake, and this was after I stopped buying these randomly around 2006. This was the cheaper of the two, it was also 50 cents, but the thrift store had a sale where anything with a white tag was 75% off, so it was like 12 cents.

Game haul 12/30/11 - Games

Now the three games. First up is Hexen, which is a Raven Software action game on the Doom engine. Originally billed as a sequel to Heretic — until they actually made Heretic II anyway — it was different in that it was a hub-based game where you went back and forth between various areas, rather than just going through each level one at a time like Doom did. I got Hexen II several years ago and I honestly couldn’t play much of that, so I’m hoping the original is better.

Next is  WWII Iwo Jima. Famous internet website Something Awful dot com covered a game similar to this called WWII Normandy, presumably by the same developer. Since the guy who reviewed Normandy thought it was a steaming turd, I bet Iwo Jima isn’t any better. I’ll be surprised if it even runs on my Vista box.

The last one is the real interesting one of the lot. The spine calls it Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six 3 Companion Demo Disc. Featured are demos to Rainbow Six 3 (sans the “Raven Shield” subtitle the PC version had), Ghost Recon, Ghost Recon: Island Thunder and Splinter Cell. The demos aren’t the appealing part of it. It’s that the bottom of the cover mentions “new missions for Ghost Recon Island Thunder and Splinter Cell.”

Back in the days before we were downloading digital games through our 360s and PS3s, downloadable content for games on the PS2 and Xbox was very scarce and usually required demo discs or other assorted means to acquire these since not everybody had high-speed internet (some still don’t!). The original Splinter Cell came with three additional downloadable missions available for the campaign mode. These were not available on the PS2 and Gamecube versions (although the PS2 version did get a unique mission not available in the other versions), and the PC version only got it by special means. Since Microsoft shut down the original Xbox Live in 2010, all the original Xbox DLC is now lost to the bowels of time, barring any that they released in disc bundles like this. Since this happened, there was only 3 ways to play these bonus missions:

  • Hope to god you downloaded them onto your original Xbox (or 360) before the service shut down
  • Find a copy of the Collector’s Edition of Splinter Cell Chaos Theory for the PC, which had a special 1.3 patch that reinstated the missions for the PC Splinter Cell
  • This companion demo disc.

Of course, I could be wrong and this may require Xbox Live to work, but I don’t have Splinter Cell on the Xbox to check. That’s gonna be something I’ll have to look into soon. (EDIT JUNE 27: And I did, a few months later. You find the entry here, on my other blog.)

That’s it. This is probably the last shop finds of 2011, and I hope to find more goodies in 2012.


Those video game awards.

Last night, Spike TV had their annual video game awards show. For the past 5 or so years I have boycotted the event, saying it was a farce that was completely unfunny and felt like an insult to video games everywhere. I even wrote a blog on Destructoid saying what I want out of a video game awards show.

But Jason Schreier said it better than I could.

Basically, as I’ve said in the past: Don’t watch the video game awards. I got all the news following people on Twitter and IRC, and playing Modern Warfare 2 in the meantime. I bet it’s better if you watch it with friends so you can riff it MST3K-style. While drunk.

The Portland Classic Car Expo

I went to a car show last weekend. To be exact, the Portland Classic Car Expo. I’m not a big car guy, but I needed something to do and time to kill, so my friend Bennet brought me along for the ride.

There were a bevy of cars there: Old 50s dragsters, 60s-70s muscle cars, even old 1900 carriage cars. A good section was squared off to specific replicas of famous cars from movies and TV shows. Among those featured was KITT from Knight Rider, two cars from Death Proof, the Hummer from Zombieland, the Eliminator car that ZZ Top used in their music videos in the 80s, and the god damn Batmobile.

The BatmobileCue the Batman theme.

They had a lot of muscle cars from the 70s, and even a Datsun car circa 1991 that could almost fit in the modern style. My friend also pointed out how many modern car companies are making their Mustangs and other models look more like the 60s versions as a throwback. Not surprising considering how many of those there were. You can see more of the cars here.

The Classic Car Expo was a nice time-killer for the weekend, surely. Makes me want to find use for my Dad’s 1963 Ford truck. He was restoring it for a few years and now it just lies near our driveway. Wonder how much it would cost to finish it up, or at least sell it as-is…

Testing the tumblr waters.

I woke up one day thinking about Tumblr, a microblogging sort of site. I’ve thrown up a tumblr here. I’m testing it because that site seems suitable more to shorter, paragraph-long diatribes about things more than my personal blog has. If you follow the regular blog, it’d be nice if you follow the tumblr as well, as I’ll probably post short stuff on there and more longer drawn-out pieces here. At least, I hope that’ll be my goal.

My problem as of late is trying to find an audience. All my hits these days come from the blogs where I wrote reviews about two television shows. I get fuck-all views for everything else. What am I doing wrong here?

Game haul: Retro Gaming Expo edition.

Hello gentlemen (and ladies!). I am back with some random goodie buys, partially because of a recent event called the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. a small little convention for old and new school gamers alike. Most of the booths were selling old games from the 2600 to the PS1, but also some current and last-generation games, so it was more of a gaming flea market than a mini-version of PAX or anything like that.

Among seeing plastic statues of Master Chief and Naked Snake, I saw a bunch of arcade units including Capcom Bowling and Vs. Super Mario Bros. I also met Pat the NES Punk but missed out on the opportunity to see David Crane of Pitfall and early 2600 fame. Clearly I had my priorities straight. I also spotted a dude wearing a Whiskey Media shirt (Giant Bomb, Comic Vine, etc), didn’t catch his name though. Perhaps that was for the best, he might’ve been a fan of Comic Vine. (I kid, I also saw him at the convention).

Game haul for 9/24Game Haul for 9/25

Picture on the left’s the haul from Saturday the 24th, the other is from yesterday on the 25th.

So there’s a lot of Quake games in that first picture. Quake (Saturn), Quake II (PS1) and Quake III Arena (Dreamcast). The PS1 Quake II has a few features unique to that version, as well as a prologue level not seen in the PC version. I honestly bought it because I was curious how that version handled.

Quake Saturn was made by Lobotomy Software, and actually uses the Slavedriver engine used to run PowerSlave on the consoles rather than reverse-engineer John Carmack’s Quake engine to run on a system not built for 3D. Duke Nukem 3D on the Saturn was also a Lobotomy project and reused the Slavedriver engine as well, which is baffling because the Build engine is not a taxing piece of hardware.

Quake III for the Dreamcast was rare at the time for having cross-platform play with PC owners, as well as mouse/keyboard support. If you were still rocking a 486 in 1999 and couldn’t play any modern game, the DC version was probably one worth checking out. Granted, you wouldn’t get levels like Chronic on the DC, but maybe that’s for the best.

Soldier of Fortune on the Dreamcast was, like almost every game I bought, more for curiosity’s sake. See, back in the day PCs were drastically more powerful than the average console, thus it was interesting to see developers tweak and modify PC games to run on older, weaker hardware. Soemtimes to even give incentive they’d add new stuff to that version. I bet Soldier of Fortune was a bare-bones port but hey, at least I can play it since my PC copy refuses to install on my Vista box.

The World is Not Enough for the PS1 was a random impulse buy because I’m always curious on the James Bond games not called “Goldeneye.” While many people still think there hasn’t been a good Bond game since Goldeneye, some of the EA games barring junk like Goldeneye: Rogue Agent were actually pretty good. This was made by the same guys that gave us the Syphon Filter-esque Tomorrow Never Dies a year prior, but this is a FPS. I have no clue if it’s any good.

I bought considerably less on Sunday, but I bought Aladdin on the Genesis (Pre-Shiny Entertainment game, complete with Dave Perry and Tommy Tallarico!) and Toejam & Earl III (mostly for my mom, she loved that game). Lastly, that Nintendo Power is to replace a destroyed copy I’ve been mysteriously holding onto for years. I knew a friend who had a cousin who had Nintendo Power issues, and most of them got damaged or ransacked, but I was able to pilfer a few issues from them, including issue 28, which featured the new SNES hit Super Mario World. My copy was missing the front cover and the first 10 pages. Now that I have a complete issue, I should probably use the destroyed issue as a firestarter. You think retro game fans will go nuts for me destroying an old gaming magazine? 😛

Spotted: Sega CD SnatcherWhuh... why do you exist?

Also spotted at the convention was a copy of Snatcher for the Sega CD for too damn much ($250!) and Cardcaptor Sakura Tetris for the PlayStation ($50). Yeah, I don’t know what to say about that last one.

I wanna say the Retro Gaming Expo was pretty sweet, and I hope they do it again next year, because I’ll totally go again. Maybe the price of Duke Nukem 3D on the Saturn won’t be $25, or how one booth was selling Mr. Gimmick and Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels reproduction cartridges for $65-75. (Another booth was also selling SMB: Lost Levels for a more modest $35.)

(Crossposted to my Giant Bomb blog.)

Game Center CX, Prince of Persia, and random buys.

Lately I’ve been watching fan-made subtitled episodes of the Japanese TV series Game Center CX. The premise is that Shinya Arino, one half of a Japanese comedy duo, plays random old video games with the goal of completing them. These were usually Famicom (NES in the US) titles, some well-known such as Super Mario Bros. and Ninja Gaiden (the original on the NES), others that never came to the States like Umihara Kawase. Unlike some gamers, Arino is somewhat of an amateur, sometimes making the most simplest of mistakes. Kotaku, a site I’ve voiced my opinion of in the past, has been recently airing episodes of these under the title Retro Game Master, with a overdubbed announcer and subtitled everything else. Problem with their dubs is they’ve chosen games like Clock Tower and S.O.S., little known text-heavy games that they don’t translate the in-game text, which make it hard to follow. Not only that, they remove any segment that’s not part of the “Arino’s Challenge” of the show, so it’s basically castrated for American audiences. Avoid the Kotaku dub at all costs.

Anyway, a random episode I stumbled upon was Game Center CX tackling the Super Nintendo version of Jordan Mechner’s platforming classic Prince of Persia. The SNES version featured additional levels (20 levels to complete in two hours as opposed to the original’s 60), a remastered art design and a specially made soundtrack, making it feel like a “Deluxe Edition” of the original game. This lead me to watching a play through of the SNES Prince of Persia on another channel, then to me finding Mechner’s website, where he compiled all his old journal entries from 1986-1993, which mostly go over the history of him making Prince of Persia as well as his brief dabbling into scriptwriting. To realize that when I was a baby that this 20-something (at the time) man was making one of the more influential video games of the early 1990s is really fascinating. Unfortunately he stops before he goes into his later work, including The Last Express, which would probably be more of a fascinating tale today.

In addition to finding this stuff, I went out on a brief buying spree yesterday. Found two games, Illusion of Gaia and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask at a Goodwill for $7 total, and snagged The Running Man, Hard Boiled and Navy Seals on DVD for about $30 total. The games were because I thought they were both rare (they weren’t), and the movies are to start a more robust DVD/Blu-ray collection. I’ve also been wanting to do reviews/retrospectives on those action movies, which is another one of my ideas brewing in my head. Hopefully I’ll act out on it, I think it’s fascinating stuff.

Remembering September 11: Where was I that day?

It’s the tenth anniversary of the day when some religious extremists decided to hijack some of our airplanes and killed a bunch of people, destroyed one landmark and damaged one other. It’s a day that will live in modern infamy. I guess I’ll tell my story on what I saw that day, before I get into a little rant.

I was 15 years old, going through high school at the time. I wake up at 7AM, which was the normal time for me to be awake. Dad tells me to turn to channel 8 or 6 or one of the networks. I saw the first tower already attacked. I kept watching the news stories reporting this, stunned in horror at what was happening. I think I even saw the second plane hit the second tower. By then I was running late for school, so I had to get in the car and miss what happened after. Back then, it was harrowing to find out a tragic event has happened in your country and you were alive to see it.

That being said, it’s unfortunate for all the losses we suffered, as well as all the families who grieve for their losses daily. It annoys me that even ten years later I have to be constantly reminded of it every damn year. Sure, the first anniversary and the second I could let it slide, even remembering the tenth year of the tragedy. But every September 11th since the attacks, I’ve had people go “9/11 NEVER FORGET” and to remember who we lost and such. Haven’t we given enough of our condolences during the attack and in 2002 on its first anniversary? Why must we constantly remind ourselves of this every year? We don’t do this during the anniversary the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor during World War II, we don’t do this during the anniversary of one’s death, so why must I constantly be reminded to remember and grief for our losses every year for the past ten years?! In fact, I’d honestly rather forget that it happened. Telling someone who lost a family member in the attacks to remember 9/11 has to be even worse for them than for me, considering how much their life changed in that one instant. To me, it’s inconsiderate and insulting.

If you lost somebody on that fateful day, somebody you cared for, somebody you loved, I am terribly sorry for your loss. If you’re one who constantly beats that drum of “9/11 never forget,” forget about it already. We’re at that point where the 9/11 tragedy should be a footnote in a news story, and only remembered on specific anniversaries. If I didn’t see any more 9/11 dedications until 2016, that would be perfectly fine by me.

Rockin’ up to PAX Prime 2011.

In two days, PAX Prime will be happening up in Seattle. And I’m gonna be there.

Honestly, PAX is one of the few events I actively anticipate every year. This is my third year going to PAX, and every year I had fun with occasional bouts of sadness. Part of that sadness is when I realize it’s all over. The rest is because of my slight social anxiety. Granted, I realize that there’s people even shier than me. But I missed out on primo opportunities to say hi to some people whom I’ve recognized in the industry in many ways. Well, that isn’t happening any more. Because fuck that shit.

There’s no need for me to be shy to anyone, they’re just ordinary dudes with jobs whom have moderate to large fanbases. Much like how I have a minuscule fanbase, they just have bigger groups of fans who are willing to recite dumb shit about Wizards or strapping it on. I’m not that kind of person, I’d rather just have regular conversations with them, which tends to bring out funny or interesting stories.

If you’re going to PAX, I hope to see you there. It’ll be fun as hell. Honest. Better than that dumb thing Tim Buckley holds every year.

A review of Bar Rescue.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not big on watching television these days. In fact, a few days ago I had thought it was better to watch 6 hours of 24 than watch anything that was on TV at that moment. Since most of my blog hits as of late come from my Restaurant: Impossible review from a few months back, I thought I might as well review yet another Kitchen Nightmares knockoff that debuted recently. This one comes from Spike TV and it’s called Bar Rescue.

Our host and expert for the show is a guy named Jon Taffer, who may not have a Wikipedia page but does have an official site that lauds him for managing and rescuing various bars. Certainly better credentials than Robert Irvine, anyway. Bar Rescue seems to follow some of the trappings of Kitchen Nightmares, where a famous chef/entrepreneur observes a failing establishment, tries to find the cause(s) of the problem, and fix them in the course of a few days. Bar Rescue feels different, and in a good way.

The show starts out almost identical to KN, where Taffer and his wife observe the booze and food, as well as the decor. Afterwards he meets up with the staff and tries to find out the problems of the bar, with help from a few specialists in mixing and food preparation. This isn’t a bad thing, everybody has their specialties and passing yourself off as a jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none isn’t a good thing.

One other thing that I saw that Bar Rescue does compared to its competition is that they seem to show the “science” of running a bar. Showing that overpouring liquor can cost a bar money, that having common liquors in the same place result in serving drinks quickly, even how cooking certain foods can be a loss leader but still make money when people buy alcohol with it. This is something I wish shows of this ilk did more: Thinking about the business side of how a bar/restaurant works. That’s a slight problem with a lot of these shows: You can only improve the decor and clean the place up so many times before it becomes very boilerplate and repetitive every show. Showing precisely why your business is failing is something I wish Kitchen Nightmares touched on a bit more.

Is this show worth watching? I’d say yes. I’m not a bar goer, but watching this made me understand just a few reasons why some bars are successful and some look like absolute shitholes. It’s miles better than Restaurant: Impossible. But then again, you could do a local knockoff of Kitchen Nightmares and it would look a million times better than R:I.

Shop finds 7/14: Crash Bandicoot, game collections, and weird Japanese imports.

Right, after I did the last shop finds, I wanted to visit a pawn shop that was in the area. Unfortunately it was closed since it was a Sunday. I decided to come back to that place on Thursday and see if it had anything good. Ooh boy. The shop felt like it overpriced a good chunk of stuff — NES games like Super Mario Bros. 3 were $15 with just the game — so it limited what I could get. I did snag a few good games, then went to another pawn shop several blocks further down and snagged some more games. I had $39 when I started. I now only have a single $1 bill. I probably paid far too much for a few of the things I bought, but I couldn’t help but grab them.

7/14/11 game haul

Right at the top is Crash Bandicoot (PS1). It doesn’t really need an introduction, but I’ll give it one anyway: A 3D mascot platformer developed by Naughty Dog and briefly was considered the face of the PlayStation, even showing up in ads to slam the competition. I had already picked up Crash 2: Cortex Strikes Back a while back, so it made sense naturally to get the first one for $6.

Under that is Die Hard Trilogy (PS1). Considered to be one of those licensed games that didn’t blow ass cheese, it was three game modes in one game: a third-person action game that loosely recreates Die Hard, a rail shooter that recreates Die Hard 2, and a driving stage that mimics the bomb defusal parts from Die Hard with a Vengeance. Heard it was a classic, probably worth playing. There’s apparently a sequel that did a unique story with the same “three separate game modes” gimmick but wasn’t very good. Paid $5 for this one.

Now to last-generation stuff. First, we got Return to Castle Wolfenstein: Tides of War, an Xbox port of the pretty awesome PC game. I’ve always been fascinated by console ports of PC games — I own several versions of Doom, for example — and this one was no different. Not only did it add some exclusive single-player missions, it also had two-player co-op and a shotgun weapon that’s not in the PC version. It also had online, which would be kinda cool if Microsoft didn’t shut down the original Xbox Live servers last year. It’s probably still an interesting version to look at for $5.

Next, Mega Man Anniversary Collection for the Xbox. I have only played 1-2 Mega Man games in my life, and only own the first NES game, complete with that godawful US cover that people constantly ridicule it for. I had been looking for Anniversary Collection for a while, and I could’ve chose any of the three versions as they all hold the same games — Mega Man 1 through 8, plus the rare “Power Battle” and “Power Fighters” arcade games — but I kinda got shafted on the bonus features. I get a bonus interview video, but I get an episode of the anime MegaMan NT Warrior. PS2 owners got the pilot episode of the Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon from the 80s instead. Shafted. Oh well, worth it to have the complete collection for $6 without having to hunt down the later Mega Man games, which are probably hard to find.

Spy Fiction needs an explanation. Anyone who’s been around the gaming circles may have heard of Deadly Premonition, a mediocre survival horror game themed loosely after Twin Peaks that became one of those cult hits last year. The designer, Hidetaka “SWERY65” Suehiro, lead designer on Deadly Premonition, worked on Spy Fiction, which was his first project as a director. Apparently it’s an interesting Metal Gear Solid knockoff. This was the most expensive at $10, but the game seems to have barely been used.

So, uh, Mobile Light Force 2. I could try to explain it, but I think MarzGurl of That Guy with the Glasses fame explains it better than I can. Basically it’s a bad American localization of some Japanese shootemup. Bought it more for the kitsch factor than anything else. $4.

Finally, Amplitude. Before there was Rock Band, before there was even Guitar Hero, Harmonix was making music games for Sony, starting with Frequency in 2001 and its followup Amplitude in 2003. Whereas Frequency had a lot of DJ and techno mixes in its soundtrack, Amplitude grabbed more famous rock and pop bands for its soundtrack. It basically worked like Rock Band in which you had to press buttons to the beat of an instrument, but you were playing the notes to more than one instrument, and could swap to any instrument at any time. Rock Band: Unplugged on the PSP is the spiritual successor to Frequency and Amplitude. This was also the cheapest of the lot, being in the clearance aisle at $2.

To wrap up the day, I decided to peruse a Wal-Mart and walked out with this:

EGM Mass Effect 3 cover

I had known Electronic Gaming Monthly was resurrected by original founder Steve Harris about a year or so ago, and the most recent gaming magazine I have, coincidentally, is the last one Ziff-Davis published in 2009 with X-Men Origins: Wolverine on the cover. Since I was shopping for other things, I decided to grab it, not just because of the Mass Effect 3 cover, but because it was the magazine’s 250th issue, and I’m a sucker for any magazine milestone issues. When I got home, I realized the pretty hefty $7 price tag on it. Yeesh. No wonder gaming print magazines are slowly dying.

With that, I have very little cash to work with for a while until August rolls around. This isn’t a bad thing as I’ll be camping for a weekend at the start of the month, and going to PAX in Seattle later in the month, giving me ample time to hold on to some cash and buy some more random shit.