RoundUp 102 – A Mechanical Catastrophe

April 29th, 2016

Hardware Flashback – (00:00)
Dinosaur Pie – (27:19)
Guinness Gaming Records – (1:19:04)
Kickstarter Corner – (1:20:18)
Electric Dragon: Paranormalizer – (1:32:14)
CGE 2014 Vectrex Panel – (1:39:31)
Top Ten Worst Pinball IPs – (2:38:21)
Gaming Trivia – (4:27:46)
Chris Huelsbeck: Apidya – Challenge – (4:28:11)
Ali Express – (4:32:23)
Live News And Listener Views – (4:53:42)
URLs And EMails – (7:28:14)

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Retro Youtube: Who remembers Captain S, the video game defender?

April 29th, 2016

You may be reading the title of this blog thinking that I am mistaken. Captain N was a saturday morning cartoon featuring numerous Nintendo properties (and many, MANY continuity errors like a green Mega Man and an egotistical Simon Belmont.) However, I am indeed talking about Captain S.

Captain S was a live-action YouTube show that lasted one season in 2007. Taking influence from Captain N as well as Full House, it was a very entertaining series created by PBC Productions, who also produced the Little Miss Gamer show (another very well made series). During an era on YouTube where any retro game review had the typical “angry video game reviewer” style, captain S dared to be different. Its in depth story arc, joined with a fresh (albeit intentionally cheesy) family friendly style, was a breath of fresh air in the caustic YouTube world. It was not only well filmed, but well acted as well, with the actors putting forth a great effort in their roles.

The plot follows Chad Belmont as he purchases a Mega Drive cartridge which contains “The Head”, who dons him Captain S, the Video Game Defender. Chad defends videoland in multiple game worlds inside his Mega Drive (Genesis) while balancing his real world life at the same time, finding that soon the villains in video game land have enlisted someone in the real world to invade and take over both worlds. It’s a fun story, with the story arc culminating in an epic showdown, wrapping things up well while leaving a few ideas open for a second season. Season two was planned, but unfortunately never happened due to financial and time constraints. The series was released on DVD, but is now out of stock. I am very happy to have gotten my DVD back in 2010, which was well packaged and included a few extras like a page from a Little Miss Gamer script and some stickers.

I have combined all ten episodes of Captain S and the Captain S/AVGN Christmas Crossover (yes, this was a thing and yes, it was epic indeed) into one movie length video you can watch below. Join in with me and lets raise a virtual shot glass to the PBC Productions guys that did this series.


Was game music in the past better than it is today?

April 24th, 2016

While being on a Final Fantasy binge, I realized that the older titles have significantly better music than the newer titles. Every track in the NES game is a classic, and the music is quite strong in the US version of 2, and hit its stride in the US version of 3, easily the strongest music in the series. The PS1 debut had some decent tracks in 7, 8, and 9, but the soundtrack seemed to fall apart in 10. Most recently I played 13, which had very few memorable tracks at all other than the boss theme music.

This isn’t a problem that’s only in the Final Fantasy series. The NES Mega Man games had great music, and again, the SNES Mega Man X had a wonderful soundtrack. However, once the X series hit the PS1, the music seemed to take a turn for the worse. The gameplay was still great, but the music tracks just weren’t as memorable. Even Mario, known for it’s great music and gameplay, suffers from this. I am almost willing to bet right now, you could hum the tunes to Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3. Probably Super Mario World as well. Now try New SMB on the DS. Maybe you will get that one, but keep going forward. Can you remember ANY of the tracks from Galaxy 1 or 2?

For some reason, those early chiptune soundtracks have incredible staying power against todays modern orchestrated compositions. Much like gameplay of some games, musically some games try to overcomplicate things to add “depth” to their game and it ends up taking away from the game instead of adding to it. If you want a great example of this, listen to this video ( All those 80’s PC sound cards have this feel to them that just fits, culminating in that Roland LAPC 1988 card that just sounds spectacular. Now fast forward to the final track, the digital CD version. Doesn’t it feel like something is missing? In adding more instruments and audio quality, the music loses something that the original MIDI version had that detracts from the feel.

For some games, the orchestrated soundtrack fits. But it feels like EVERYTHING is switching over to these professional, orchestrated audio tracks. Mario doesn’t need an orchestra backing him as he is taking on Bowser. Mega Man sounded best with it’s synthetic electric guitar blaring riffs. If you compare the soundtracks of Mega Man X on the SNES to Maverick Hunter X on the PSP, the SNES blows the newer version out of the water.

In closing, I wish game developers would more often side with the sound choice that fits the game, not the one that sounds more grand. If the game needs that grand sound, it’s fine to use, but for many titles, a simpler soundtrack would equal a better feel for the game.


Original Hardware vs. Aftermarket

April 12th, 2016

A lot of retro gaming purists frown upon using an aftermarket gaming setup, and for good reason. Early clone systems were laden with games that weren’t compatible, glitches in games that worked, poor build quality, and even some add on incompatibility. Even modern clones suffer from these issues, such as the Retron 5. The Retron 5 is currently the best clone system avalable in the US, with its only real competition coming from the Retro Freak (currently only available in the Japanese market, with no English settings). The Retron 5 suffers from being, at its heart, an Android based system, using emulators to run your game carts. While this isn’t a horrible scenario, the emulators used are not the top ones available, and the build quality is too low. Thin plastic and cart slots that seem to be built cheaply make the premier system a far cry from the original system. However, the Retron 5 also offers benefits such as HDMI upscaling, filters for making your games appear closer to the way they did on your tube television, and save states.

Of course, original systems have huge benefits. Authenticity is a major one, as you will be guarenteed to have 100% compatibility. The build quality of all of our retro consoles is rather high, and replacement parts are easy to come by in the chance you need to repair your unit. Also, there’s the feeling of playing the games as they were meant to be played. That’s something that no aftermarket console or emulator can ever replace. Sure, you can plug in your original controller on a Retron 5, but it still feels different sticking your cart in the Retron 5 than it does your SNES or NES, and it sure looks different seeing the console as well. It’s not all good in original hardware land though. One of the biggest problems is incompatibility with modern televisions without using a converter. While many televisions have composite cables, some are dropping composite altogether in favor of HDMI only. Also, if your battery backed up game gives out, you lose your data, whereas on an aftermarket system, a save state might recover your game.

My personal solution is the best of both worlds. My game room has all original carts and systems on a wall, with an older CRT television they all hook up to. My carts are all stored in a large walk in closet area. I’m lucky enough to also have room for my arcade machines in the game room, as well as its own bathroom off to the side for game parties. My living room, however, has a different setup entirely. I used to run a small PC from the television with emulators and ROMS for my games, but recently had the good fortune to switch to a Jri-Rigg Silver edition. For those not in the know, a Jri-Rigg is a Raspberry Pi board, with a solid aluminum casing that is leagues better than any aftermarket systems thin plastic case, and SD cards for both gaming and media. One card is set up with Emulation Station, all you have to do is add your ROMs and you are set. The other offers media center usage with OSMC for television and movies. Two controllers, and a media remote tie off the package as a setup thats perfect for a living room setup thats very slick looking.

But whats good for one isn’t good for all. I recommend users out there to first get their original systems, original games, and play the games as they were intended. But after that, if you are looking for something more convenient, get your aftermarket system or build your own using a Pi and whatever case and accessories suit your needs. I even use my Android phone with emulators and a Moga controller as an on the go gaming system while I am out and about, paired with a 64 GB SD card so I can carry all my games with me. No matter your preference in style, there’s a gaming setup out there to suit your needs.

-Chris Leathco


Can Mike Kennedy and the retro community reconcile?

April 5th, 2016

The biggest story in the retro community recently has been the saga of the Retro VGS/Coleco Chameleon. I won’t restate the facts here, but if you don’t know about the story yet, please check the Retro Gaming Roundup forums, the AtariAge forums, and the Pat and Ian CUPodcast for more information.

The community learned a lot of lessons from this fiasco, but I also think the community may have forgotten some things in the process, and I am guilty of this as well, as can be seen from some of my posts on the RGR forums. While the entire Chameleon project was stricken with poor decisions and easily uncovered lies, a lot of people forgot a few things about Mr. Kennedy. The same guy gave everyone years of entertainment via the Retro Gaming Roundup podcast, and Gamegavel started off as a great idea for gamers to buy, sell, and trade, and I feel it only stagnated when Mike ignored it in favor of Retro Magazine. Even Retro Magazine was a good idea, as the US could really use a well made physical retro gaming magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine focused on the wrong areas and the quality has diminished over the past few issues, to the point where backers and subscribers are owed two issues with no delivery date in sight.

We also know Mike could be a generous guy at times. A friend of mine gave me the story of how he told Mike he didn’t own an Atari 2600, and Mike found one at a swap meet with a good amount of games and sent it to him gratis. They weren’t close, just internet acquaintances. He also gave away many prizes from his own personal collection and swap meet finds on the RGR podcast during the live news segment. However, Mike has done severe damage to his credibility. Is it possible for Mike to regain the respect he previously had in the Retro community?

I think there is that chance, but it requires a lot of time and work to come back. Even then, I’m sure the Chameleon will be a black eye that will forever mar him, and he will always be ribbed for it. However, he can still regain his standing as an upstanding member of the retro community even with that on him.

The first step is the hardest: Mike has to come clean about the entire situation. Complete transparency is a necessity. I am sure Mike and Scott at RGR would give their former co-host a platform to clean the slate if Mike were serious about it. It would be a hard step not just for Mr. Kennedy, but also for Scott and Mike, who were hurt emotionally and financially by the situation, but I think if Kennedy were to come clean, they would help him do it publicly.

Next, he would need to make amends to everyone who has taken a hit either financially or to their credibility. Scott Schreiber I know has a financial stake in GameGavel and Retro Magazine that is probably irreparably damaged. At one time Scott was the only such stakeholder outside of Mike’s family. Perhaps if Mike offered some form of compensation, that could go a long way toward repairing that damage. It doesn’t have to be financial compensation, but maybe sending Scott that Stunt Pilot arcade machine or even offloading those doomed Atari Jaguar molds to Scott might be a good start.

Finally, he needs to step away from trying to use the retro market as a business venture. To regain that trust, he needs to give something to the retro community instead of trying to profit from it. Stepping back, focusing on Gamegavel, and making it an entirely free marketplace to buy and sell, plus giving the site a revamp to fix the current problems and making it more user friendly would be a great start. Begin making videos talking about gaming memories, perhaps game reviews, and writing articles about why he enjoys retro gaming.

Mike used to show how heartfeltedly he loved the community before he let the business side take over. The business side needs to die, and he needs to go back to his roots of why he enjoys these games in the first place. And to everyone else out there reading this, we need to remember that Mike is human. He has made many mistakes, but he has also done a lot of good for this community, and, like all people, he deserves the chance to make things right. I realize he has had the chance to make it right in the past and failed to do so, but some people must hit rock bottom before they can make the climb up again. I hope Mike has the strength to do so.

-Chris Leathco