Friday, June 29, 2018

Toys Я Bust

Today was the last day of operation for Toys R Us, the kids' shopping center which made its official debut in 1957. The company was massively popular in the 1980s, but fierce competition from online retailers and a mountain of debt foisted upon it by a public equity firm ultimately spelled its doom. 

Like others from my generation, I've got fond memories of Toys R Us... my most memorable game purchases came from the Lansing branch of the store. While I know there's still a Canadian branch of the retailer that somehow survived its bankruptcy, and other brick and mortar toy stores will surely fill the vacuum left in its absence, life just won't be the same without the Toys R Us from my youth. You'll be missed, Geoffrey the Giraffe. I'll pour a juice box out for you, homey.

In other "sunrise, sunset" news, Pinball Arcade will lose the rights to pinball games by Bally and Williams (a substantial chunk of its overall library) at the end of the month. If you've already purchased these tables, there's nothing to fear... they'll remain in your library regardless of where you're playing them. However, once July arrives, you won't get the chance to buy more. There's no word yet if Williams' current owner, Warner Games, will pick up the slack by distributing the tables in a collection of its own, but it seems like a safe bet.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

May the Cube Be With You

...and your father, whoo-ooo-ooo.

Anyway, I went back to that GameCube I modded last year and rescued from a Goodwill the year before. Turns out the mod chip works fine... I just burned the discs wrong. After swapping drives in my desktop and burning the mini DVDs at 4x speed, they work spendidly in my Cube. Now I not only won't need the official boot disc for my Game Boy Player, I don't even need to use a copy of Agent Under Fire as a backdoor to the software I'm using as a replacement. 

The conventional wisdom is that the Game Boy Interface is actually better than the software that shipped with the Game Boy Player, but I'm not seeing a vast improvement. However, it does play the games, albeit in a very bare-bones way, and that's all I really needed. Now I just need a better controller for them, and while I'm at it, an S-video cable without so much noise in the picture. I'd step up to component video, but my GameCube can't do that... and neither can my wallet, judging from the price of the cable. And I thought my friend was nuts when he bought his for sixty dollars back in 2003.

So what else is going on right now? There's the latest flash sale... Sony is selling dozens of games for its Playstation line of game systems at tantalizing discounts. They've been doing this every month for years so it's nothing to get too excited about, but it's at least given me an excuse to pick up Ultimate Ghouls 'n Ghosts, one of the few Capcom games that was missing from my PSP collection. The footage on YouTube suggests that it still looks gorgeous after all these years, and there's an easy mode, so what do I have to lose? Aside from a few tufts of hair torn out of my scalp from the frustration, I mean. That easy mode is only going to be easy by Ghouls 'n Ghosts standards, after all.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Another E3 in the Bag

Oh yeah, I said I was gonna talk about E3, didn't I? Well, there's not much for me to report. Nintendo pinned all its hopes on a new version of Super Smash Bros. but didn't have much else to show, and its stock price suffered as a result. Sony started its conference in a church, and led the audience on an extended tour through a series of set pieces based on its upcoming games. The audience wasn't particularly interested in taking the scenic route and just wanted Sony to get to the point. 

That leaves us with Microsoft. Most people generally agree that it had the strongest presentation at E3, although the brief recap at Comic Book WWG suggests that they're leaning pretty hard on a lot of overly familiar franchises. Gears of War, Halo, Dying Light, Forza Horizon... okay, what else you got? Evidently, the answer is Cyberpunk 2077, which looks a lot like Quantic Dream's Detroit: Become Human but will hopefully be a less story-focused experience.

Personally speaking, I've been craving more old-school experiences. After a several month hiatus, I returned to Axiom Verge, and it's just as brilliant (and melancholy) on the Playstation 4 as it was on the Vita. If you're looking for a game to fill that Metroid-shaped hole in your heart, this is the one. The Raspberry Pi is a good jack-of-all-trades source of entertainment, and its compact size and low power draw are especially appealing in a trailer that's already packed with clutter. 

Then there's the Sega Genesis Flashback... I wasn't thrilled with its performance out of the box, but hacking the system to run a better emulator and adding a USB port has made it a bit more palatable. I'm not sure how much I'll actually be using it, but it'll likely see more action than my dusty old Wii U...

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Cat's All, Folks

Some pretty exciting things are in store for gamers this June, but for me, it's hard to top the news of an Alley Cat remake. I reviewed the original a few years ago on this blog, so if you're lost I'd suggest giving it a read to better understand why I'm so excited about this release.

Anyway, Alley Cat Remeow (shouldn't it be Remeowstered? Just sayin') features all the feral fun of the first game, while adding redrawn graphics, new stages, and the option to play with three friends. The designer Joflof was kind enough to post a promotional clip of their game on YouTube, so I'll just drop that here for your viewing pleasure.

Alley Cat Remeow is free, so I'd suggest grabbing it now before its developer comes to their senses.

As for next week's E3 business, I haven't been paying much attention to that, but if there's any news that catches my eye, I'll most likely post it here. At the moment, Microsoft is currently having a pretty big Xbox sale, with games for both the 360 and One at a significant discount. You might want to take a look at that, while wondering to yourself how the hell you're supposed to pronounce "Larry Hryb." (Seriously, it's like whoever gave his family that surname had a burning hatred for tongues.)