Console Gaming

Mo’ Retro!

I’ve been a little quiet here for a few weeks with a busy schedule of life-related things. However.. you might have noticed a new menu item on the site. I shut down the “merch” link for now, since it cost me nearly $50/mo to run and added something a little different.. I’ve been exploring some “other retro” things that are nerd-adjacent, although not entirely related to arcades and pinballs.

BBS

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First of them, is the BBS. I spent some time trying to revive my old OBLiViON/2 BBS, “The Graveyard” (of course it was the graveyard, because.. I was 14) but I haven’t had a ton of luck finding it on my archives and backups.

So, I’ve been going down a route of building up a “new” BBS using a modern Node.Js BBS Platform called Enigma. Time will tell if this was a good decision or not but I’m pretty familiar with Node and this gives me the ability to host the BBS on a super-inexpensive instance on AWS. Note: I tried to use an Azure Windows instance for this but Azure doesn’t support 32 bit or earlier OS’s without a bunch of flaming hoops.

 

Over Labor Day weekend I was able to get some inter-BBS door games running via BBS Link

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My current challenge is trying to get a few local-doors set up so we can have control over game-resets and don’t have to join a game so far along in progress. I’m making progress on that front…. Hopefully this week I can get my licensed BRE running on the instance…

Getting DOS running on Linux is like herding cats.

Getting DOS running on Linux is like herding cats.

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More details on this to come…

Multi-Cartridges w/ Everdrive

In other news… I’ve been playing with some multi-carts from Krikzz, as well. More details to follow… but my initial impression is: “I’m having a great time with it.”

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This has been part of a larger “project” where I’ve hooked up the NES, N64, Gamecube, Genesis & DreamCast to a 19” Television for a retro-gaming trip down memory lane. Sadly, my Atari 2600 needs some repair but I’ll get there..

Mortal Kombat 11 (Now w/ PTSD!)

Mortal Kombat 11 boasts a strong fighting engine with excellent potential for more technical fighting, diverse combos and amplified attacks. Unfortunately, I found the enhanced gore of the animations to be a heavy distraction from gameplay rather than a motivation to keep me engaged in learning finishing moves.

Mortal Kombat 11 boasts a strong fighting engine with excellent potential for more technical fighting, diverse combos and amplified attacks. Unfortunately, I found the enhanced gore of the animations to be a heavy distraction from gameplay rather than a motivation to keep me engaged in learning finishing moves.

Tagline, 1993. I’m 14. Living in a new town, 600 miles from everything I’ve ever known. Our house is a strange mix of cable-spools and lawn chairs for living room furniture and the smell of new waterbeds wafting down the hall.. I do have a computer and I eventually have a dedicated modem line to run my OBV/2 BBS, The Graveyard. At night, Razor1911 couriers are dialing into the PC to drop 0-Day Warez and I hear mom and dad in the other room arguing -talking about “maybe going to jail” because of [wah-wah - insurance, something-something - wah-wah] that I didn’t fully understand at the time.

We lived in a hotel the previous summer - The Ramada Inn on the Causeway in Mobile, Alabama that has since been demolished - near R&R Seafood. I suppose we were technically homeless but getting a new start. Growing up on 10 acres on the edge of an Indiana Forestry I found myself for the first time with the suburban freedoms enjoyed by kids in my favorite Spielberg movies.

Me, my bicycle and a BP gas station a few blocks away with a Mortal Kombat acade machine & Taco Bell Express. My teenage mind was blown with the opportunity. I fed so many quarters into that machine and played against football-playing high schoolers that were twice my size and a tendency to menace me when they lost. Admittedly, sometimes I let the Wookie win.

Sometimes, I didn’t.

This person named Hillary Clinton was on the television talking about censoring my favorite albums (2 Live Crew, RATM, Tool, Gravity Kills, God Lives Underwater) and the dangers posed by this new menace to America’s youth: Video Game violence.

- ”Is all the world Jails and Churches?”
(well, that was VietNow (1997) but you get the point)


Agreed that is a long walk to get you into my headspace. Now that you are here, pull up a lawn chair and let’s set at the cable-spool turned-coffee table and have a chat about video game violence, 26 years later.

I remember being annoyed when Mortal Kombat (1 and 2) were finally ported to home consoles with minimal gore, no-blood and paired down graphics. It just wasn’t the same game, anymore. Mortal Kombat 1 was the first arcade game I ever bought. I own and often still play a MK4 w/ MK1, MK2, MK3, Mk4 PCBs in it. I let my 13 and 9 year old kids play it and think nothing about it.

Enter, Mortal Kombat 11. MK11 (I’m playing on the Nintendo Switch) continues a trend in the MK franchise through the introduction of mid-fight super-move sequences that can be triggered during a match when a player’s health bar reaches a critical part. MK9 called these X-Ray moves because they used an X-Ray camera view to show the devastation being wrought to the opponents skeletal structure.

If you think of MK3, where there are improbable grapples where an opponent might crack the fighter’s neck or damage their spine during the match. It’s like that. The moves do an incredible amount of damage at the expense of player control for both players but do not necessarily completely drain the opponent. As unlikely has it might seem, Liu Kang can hop back up and keep fighting after Katana snaps his neck..

Mortal Kombat 11 calls these Fatal Blows and they are a strategic crutch that either player can employ to provide momentum for a comeback or level the health meters. The thing is: Fatal Blows in 2019’s Mortal Kombat 11 are the equivalent of 1993’s MK1 or MK2 Fatalities.

Which means.. the fatalities… are more so.
How much, more?

Maybe, PTSD levels of more.

In my best Obama, “Let… me.. be.. clear:” I’m not saying that playing through MK11 gave me any form of PTSD. But I will say that MK11’s fatalities in particular probed the edges of what I’m comfortable watching and classifying as entertainment. Several points during my initial play through of the game, I had a sensation that I can only describe as my neural-net-firewall throwing a warning. “Hey, there are things going into your eyeballs that you should be aware that we aren’t sure is good for us.”

Sure, previous Mortal Kombat games were equally horrible in the fatality death of a character through evisceration, explosion, decapitation and more. This installment in the franchise pauses at the worst bits of horror while the reward and menu system delay to return user control by to the player.

For instance: You get to see Kronica tear your character in half length-wise. Pause. Put you back together through a time-rewind and then tear your character in half at the waste. Repeat as many as 6 times until the menu renders allowing you to navigate the game.

Most fatalities now end in the complete drawn-and-quartered explosive destruction of the opponent and the game developer seems pretty proud of their bloody accomplishment as featured through the game credits.

Searching the web, I found that there is at least one case of an individual who worked on the game being treated for PTSD:

http://www.nintendolife.com/news/2019/05/one_mortal_kombat_11_developer_had_to_see_a_therapist_after_violent_dreams

Take that with a grain of salt, it was picked up as click-bait by half of the internet. No such thing as bad publicity, right?

I’ve met soldiers who operated turrets from inside armored vehicles in Afghanistan. Instead of gunning from an exposed position, “Playstation Johnny" sits in the relative armored comfort of his vehicle as he mows down the enemy from a computer monitor and gamepad. Despite this, Playstation Johnny has just as much potential for combat fatigue and mental trauma as the guy with boots on the ground carrying a rife.

In the mid-90’s I found myself frowning at the Pant-Suited Politician trying to censor my video games and music. 26 years later I find myself wondering if the ratings label on this game is an adequate communication device juxtaposed to the affect it might have on an emotionally developing mind.

I feel like I should love this game but I don’t. The hazards of adulting, I suppose? If my 14 year old self could see me now, he’d probably kick me in the nuts.

“Go get laid, kid.”

RetroAdvance, Update

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Non-existent support but still a cool little device.

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As previously mentioned, my Retro Advance arrived with a pretty big flaw. Not being able to maintain power with the battery compartment door on the game was a pretty limiting.

I reached out to support via email, Facebook and a webform. Unfortunately, no one responded.

I worked out a fix ( in my case) by removing the back (just a couple small screws) and re-seating the battery pins on the PCB. I also added a dab of hot glue on the back of the connector pad to give it additional rigidity and keep it from moving under the pressure of the battery springs.

 

Conclusion

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At the end of the day, this $40 toy hit the nostalgia spot on design. Pretty cool “chill and play” size and a nice walk down memory lane. Even if it is a probably-not-properly licensed knock off from a what appears to be a fly by night company.

My general thoughts summarize as:

Pros:

  • Very good screen brightness

  • Pretty cool game list

  • Decent button-feel

  • Extra style points of the knock-off Gameboy design

Cons:

  • Slow shipping

  • Non existent support

  • ‘Meh’ off angle screen viewability

  • Dumb boot up menu language selector

  • Questionable Durability

RetroAdvance, First Impressions

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Received my Translucent Black RetroAdvance, today. Took about a month to come from over the big bond. (Insert Great Wall of China / Border Wall joke here)

It has the potential to be very cool. It feels alot like the classic system the case is inspired by and the buttons feel good.

Unfortunately.. it kinda.. doesn’t work. (Video below). I’ll give them a chance to respond, I’m sure they will make it right :)

I’m sure I could rework the connectors, shave away some plastic, shake magic electrical chicken bones at it, etc… I’ll wait to hear back before I put on my MacGyver Hat.

God of War, A Dad's Review

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God of War (PS4, 2018 Santa Monica Studio) is the best console game I've played in 20 years. 

I've loved console games for as long as there have been consoles and gamepads for my fingers to fondle.  My relationship with consoles have been largely cock-blocked by the universe to prevent me from becoming the bleary-eyed, [late-to-work because i stayed up all night playing <whatever>] gamer-addict that I'd otherwise be naturally inclined to become.   

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As a teenager, I really couldn't dedicate expansive amounts of console-gaming time because of job, chores, school, or mandatory family time.   As a young married adult, the Unreal Championship matches were thread like a needle between crazy-work hours and date-nights.  Bottle feedings instead of clan raids, tech start-ups for business equity instead of leveling up my Call Of Duty [x] stats.   

Milleniuals call this Adulting, right?..   

I do, occasionally get to eek out a mastery of a beloved title.   Played some Call Of Duty at a middle-high-level.  Tournament-level Halo before it jumped the Cortana-Terminator shark...

I think for many of us geeks-turned-dads, the barrier to entry on satisfaction for modern console games is they [have been] heavily multiplayer focused with lopsided matchmaking that requires an extensive time investment to not be frustrated.  Part of why I like arcades and pinball so much.  Coin up, play a match and move on.    For those single-player campaigns of console games that I have played, they seem shallow and a little too "on-rails" to feel any stakes for the characters.

That's what makes the 2018 PS4 release God of War such a breath of fresh air.    It feels like a game made by dads, for dads and shows a keen meta-awareness of these frustrations and solves many of them.

Don't get me wrong, I started off skeptical. 

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As a fan of the original series, the smash-and-squish-and-crush rage-monster Kratos gameplay, I immediately started to side-eye this game from the first moments.  An older, kinda craggy and slow looking Kratos hugs a tree.   

In my mind:

  Wait.  I finally get to play Kratos in 4k and he is literally a tree-hugger now?  WTF is this?  The same dude that would essentially destroy the cosmos to get       revenge.  The blood thirsty Ghost of Sparta is a peace-loving tree hugger AND he's tied up in Norse mythology now?!   I AM OUT!

Then.. I played it... and it is awesome..  

The story is epic, engaging and oh - so - good..  Krato's cringeworthy screaming-one-liners from the earlier installments have been replaced by the  vocal talents of Christopher Judge (Teal'c from Stargate SG-1).    The difference is welcome and immediately noticeable.      Chris brings Kratos into a fully developed character but still maintains the often-funny use of shortened sentences and clipped delivery.    "Indeed."    The delivery is somewhere masterfully between barely-bottled rage or zen-master calm.

The story carries you through a father-son adventure that navigates partially remixed aspects of Norse mythology.  The overall story has a ton of heart - great character beats and is a fantastic ambassador to the Norse mythos.    

I went in with an unfamiliarity with the norse mythology and left wanting to learn more.   I highly recommend Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman for those of you left with a thirst for lore in this topic.   The charming Marvel-imagined Thor is replaced with the more-ominous but equally dull equivalent from Norse myth.  More of a dumbed-down Jason Momoa than Chris Hemsworth.  In the God of War franchise, the gods are vengeful, spiteful, mean-spirited assholes.  The game remixes aspects of the mythology in service of story and it works.

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Kratos' new weapon, the Leviathon axe, is more like Jarnbjorn than Mjolnir and completely different than The Blades of Chaos.    You might say, it is not as clumsy or random as the Blades of Chaos.  An Elegant weapon... for a more civilized age..   Once you get acclimated, it is pretty awesome.  If you find yourself missing the circular-360-spastic glory of the Blades of Chaos, well: hang in there.  They have something in store for you, too. 

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The world is expansive and you are free to explore it. It includes a myriad of travel dynamics, side quests and hidden treasure.  Some of these will keep you playing even after the primary story-line.     The main story is 16 quests and took me about 6-8 hours, spread out over a week on medium-low difficulty.  Some parts had me contemplating turning it to the lowest difficulty.  I easily spent over an hour on one um, 'mini'-boss. 

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Can your kids play it?  Well, that's a parenting decision you'll have to make based on your sensibilities and the maturity of your kids.  The M rating alone, typically means No - not for kids.  If you are a strict sort of parent that shields your kids from the secular evils of the world, you won't want them playing.   If you are a "video games as a babysitter" sort of parent you'll probably let them play.  If you play video games with your kids, it is an opportunity to pass the controller back and fourth and talk casually about the violence and language when it arises and how they fit into your world view.     You do: you. :)

God of War has always been a mature franchise.    A little sexual innuendo, language and gore were staples of the franchise.  This one has no sexual content or nudity (some muscular dudity, though) some language and plenty of gore.   The majority of the language in this game comes from the blue dwarf, Brok.    I feel like the M rating is mostly attributed to a handful of F-bombs from this single character and is mostly gratuitous.   

The majority of the gore is in the creative deaths of mythical creatures and bad-guys.   Game-of-thrones inspired ice zombies spirt blue blood, etc.   There are a number of brutal hand-to-hand fistfights with powerful humanoids. There is head smashing, limb-breaking, stabbing and a particularly messy impromptu cardiac procedure with one large foe.  It doesn't "sound" like the gore is tamed down but it did "feel" a little more tame than previous games in the franchise.

Ultimately, the themes of the game story are about family, honoring those we've lost and aspiring to be better than we have been.  Excellent work Sony Santa Monica Studios.    Speaking on behalf of all of the Dads I can speak for - you rock and I'm looking forward to the next installment in the franchise.