Thursday, April 9, 2015

Double Your Pleasure!

You'll pardon this brief indulgence before I begin today's blog post. I just received the Performance MegaRacer controller in the mail today. This torture device has a dial in the center that's supposed to simulate a racing wheel, but it has an annoying habit of snapping back in place when you release it and functions only as an analog stick when you connect it to a computer, making it useless for games like Arkanoid. I've heard that it works like a real arcade spinner with select titles, but with just three games confirmed to be fully compatible with its jog wheel mode (two of the Ridge Racers and Tempest X3), you probably won't be getting much mileage out of it. 

The MegaRacer costs about seven dollars with shipping on eBay. I'd suggest investing that money in something that will cause you less pain and suffering, like a cheese grater you can run across your knuckles. Why is it that every time I try to find a way to properly play dial-based games on MAME, it always ends like this?

Luckily, I've got more encouraging news to report. Recently, I came across a pile of LCD monitors at a ratty Goodwill store in Nogales. I'm not even kidding about the pile... seven or eight displays were unceremoniously dumped into a table resembling a shallow trough. They weren't exactly concerned with presentation at this store, let's just put it that way. However, this was easy to forgive when each monitor cost just four dollars, and several included DVI-I ports that can easily be connected to HDMI devices. They got eight dollars, and I got a monitor under each arm.

And what exactly did I intend to do with these two orphaned displays? Well, the monitor I had been using with my gaming PC wasn't cutting it... it was dull and blurry and in desperate need of replacement. So that was finally retired, replaced with a SyncMaster 731B that looked terrific after I rubbed off the scuffs with a few deft strokes of a pencil eraser. However, I still had one monitor left, an LG 1933TR, that worked just as well. It would be a shame to leave it in the corner to rot. What to do, what to do...?

Of course! You're brilliant, quickly forgotten taco spokestyke! My video card lets me connect multiple displays to my PC, so after digging out a tangled handful of cables, I did just that.

After setting up the two monitors, I fired up MAME, eager to try an old childhood favorite the way it was meant to be played...

It's Sagaia! This shooter was originally designed for dual monitor displays, giving the player a panoramic view of the action while letting Taito dish out twice the bullets and metal-plated guppies. Naturally, the home versions of the game were scaled down, with the Genesis version having shrunken down graphics and the Saturn port letting players zoom the screen in and out. Although technically a more accurate conversion, the Saturn game was arguably worse because it forced players to choose between a small portion of the playfield or a full view littered with tiny, scrunched up sprites. No longer, though! It's 2015, and you can have it all!

Look at the size of the Silver Hawk! Look at that sea set against a rocky shore! Look at those wispy clouds and the island in the distance! You weren't getting that kind of detail in the Genesis version, let me tell you.

Emboldened by the results, I decided to try another multi-monitor Taito game, The NinjaWarriors. I may have bit off a little more than I could chew with this one, though.

See, The NinjaWarriors was designed for three monitors, and although I had the displays to spare, I was starting to run out of power outlets and desk space. Besides, you don't really want to play The NinjaWarriors. Not when there's a much better version of the game for the Super NES... one that doesn't require a friggin' Jumbotron to play it.

You'll notice that I used my old monitor for this game. I just found it less disorienting to have two similarly sized displays, even if one of them doesn't look quite as nice as that recently acquired LG.

Oh yeah, now we're talkin'! This is Konami's X-Men, a beat 'em up so legendary it's still referenced in games twenty years later. (If you're wondering, the characters look a little goofy because Konami used the designs from Pryde of the X-Men, an animated special that aired years before the more familiar Saban series.) The X-Men game came in two flavors; a four-player model that used a single screen, and this one, which accommodated six players and stretched the action across two displays so everyone could fit.

The six player version of X-Men has one vexing flaw when you play it in MAME... player one is automatically assigned Cyclops, whose Type A personality rubs me raw and who looks like a futuristic condom mascot in this game. (Really Scott, lay off the spandex. Even the Power Rangers are laughing at you.) On the other hand, his optic beam makes short work of enemies, and really, just about anybody is better than Dazzler.

Not many games in MAME support multiple monitors, and it's not always a helpful feature in the ones that do. Having to scan two screens for bullets in Sagaia is a bit overwhelming, making me long for the humble but more merciful Genesis version I owned as a teenager. However, the technology is incredibly exciting and immersive in the small handful of games well suited to it. Once you've played X-Men with two monitors, it's hard to imagine it any other way.

No comments:

Post a Comment