Saturday, February 25, 2017

System Saturdays - The Brief and Odd Life of the Sega 32x

The Sega 32x is one of the most unusual consoles to have ever been on the market. First of all the system wasn't sole supportive like any other consoles, and required the Sega Genesis (Maga-Drive) to operate. As strange as it may sound though for the time it wasn't out of the norm for many systems of that era. The Genesis, Atari Jaguar, TG-16, and later on the Nintendo 64 (but only Japan) all had CD-Rom add-ons that required the base console to function. The odd part about the 32x unlike those other add-ons, was that it was a cartridge based system and not a CD-Rom add-on, making it all the more unusual.

Hooking up the Sega 32x up to the Genesis via it's cartridge slot is the easy part. After that it also an S-video to S-video connection between the 32x and the Genesis. It also needs it's own power too, separate from that of the Genesis, and must be directly connected (via it's own RF switch) to the TV. It's a quick and easy installation project, if you have open access to the back of your TV and Genesis, otherwise it's a bit of a pain and the equil of hooking up a free standing console. To start gameplay all one needs to do is turn on the Genesis and everything goes from there, if you hooked it up the right way. As far as playing the 32x it's as easy as playing the Genesis, as matter of fact you use the same controllers and controller ports the Genesis and Sega-CD use.

"I know nowadays it's easy to knock the 32x, PS1 or other systems of that era for their janky and sometimes ridiculous graphics, but at the time it was cutting edge stuff and the vanguard of the 3D world to come"

So what was the point of the 32x? Well, much like the Sega Game Gear I wrote about the week before last, the 32x was once again meant to be a way of Sega one-upping it's competition, while also attempting to get a new system out the the door first. Whether most gamers choose to believe it or not, Sega considered one of it's biggest threats to be the Atari Jaguar. Often times when we think of the "console wars" we think of Sega vs Nintendo, and that was accurate for the 16-bit era, but moving into the 32 and 64-bit eras we more realistically see Atari vs Sega. In my article about the Sega Saturn some months back I detailed how the Sega Saturn was developed with concerns about beating the Jaguar, and with very little attention paid to Nintendo. The 32x was designed with the same general mindset, Sega wanted something that was very next generation and could compete with the Jaguar, and then rushed to get the 32x out the door, even if it was a year later than the release of the Jaguar.

The only problem was that well the 32x was being developed so to was the Sega Saturn. The Saturn was meant to be Sega's next full console, and also a way of competing with the Atari Jaguar and its new CD-Rom add-on. This is where the controversy surrounding the 32x and Saturn began, and as well as the slow demise of Sega as a console maker. Sega, to push the 32x  as "the next big thing", marketed it pretty heavily towards the end of 1994,  that it ended up overshadowing the Sega Saturn's release in early 1995. The Saturn was so poorly marketed that many retailers were shocked to find Sega's newest systems on their loading docks in May of 1995, since very little was done to spread word about the new systems release. This lapse in marketing lead to the Saturn having one of the worst launch dates in video game console history, and some of the worst sales of all time.

When Sega executives were asked why the Saturn's marketing was so poorly, or why the 32x had to be released at all with the Saturn on the way, they responded with a somewhat more modern, and unexpected answer. Sega, apparently wanted to market the different systems at different price points and thus expand the purchasing audience. The logic was that the 32x would be aimed at those who didn't have the ability to buy a new console like the Saturn, and the 32x would allow them to play more modern games while reusing their Genesis hardware. The Saturn would be aimed at those who could afford to buy a whole new console, and would compete with current systems, as well as future ones. In many ways it's reminiscent of the current XBox marketing strategy of selling the original XBox One at a lower price, and selling its new 4k XBox One S at another, which has worked well for Microsoft in the past few months.  

No matter how modern or unique Sega's sales strategy may have been, the fact of the matter was that it ended up failing and the Saturn ended up being one of the poorest selling systems ever in North America and elsewhere despite the fact that it is a very well made system. To many the story of  "price points" seems like an after the fact excuse to cover the debacle over the Saturn's marketing. Having read a bit of Sega's history, I hate to say that it's easy to see the holes in the "price point" explanation, especially when Sega had a history of rushing items onto the market, simply to beat competition much like they did with the Game Gear.  

So what about the 32x itself? Essentially what was suppose to separate the 32x from the Genesis is what was meant to be it's so called superior 32-bit graphics. I know nowadays it's easy to knock the 32x, PS1 or other systems of that era for their janky and sometimes ridiculous graphics, but at the time it was cutting edge stuff and the vanguard of the 3D world to come. It was no longer going to be a matter of certain games with extra hardware inside producing 3D polygonal graphics, like Starfox during the era of 16-bit era, but rather moving into the world of 32-bit polygonal graphics being the standard. The Atari Jaguar, and 3DO, were also just a few of the many other systems who fell victim to this modern world of polygonal graphics which would turn from the cutting edge, to highly dated in only a few years. Much like the Atari Jaguar, and 3DO, the 32x is what I consider to have been a system that fell between generations or generation 4.5, a limbo somewhere between gen 4's 16-bit masterpieces, and gen 5's 32/64-bit nightmares. These were systems that started a new era, and pioneered what we saw in the N64, PS1, and Saturn, all while being considered to unworthy systems by later gamers.

As far as gameplay it's just like any other system, there are some really good games, some really bad and also as an unusual par for this mid-generation there are some games that look awful but play magnificently. Of the latter one pick is Metalhead, and battlemech type game that doesn't exactly look the prettiest but controls smoothly, and is fun to play. On the awful end there's the arcade port of Virtua Racing, which has awful controls and looks bad. Lastly, on the good end are games like Doom, Shadow Squadron, and Star Wars Arcade, the port of Doom is extremely good, and plays well on the 32x. The carts themselves predominantly came in cardboard boxes that allowed for the carts to be slid out in special trays, and where iconically yellow. Each cart is roughly the same height, and depth as a Genesis cart, but is about an 1/8 of an inch wider, it's not much bigger at all.

This is another Sega system I can honestly say I like. Which is  refreshing for some of you Sega fans out there to hear after my thrashing the Game Gear last week. On the flipside though I can say that I'm not entirely happy about all the extra set up. The need for it's own power, and own RF connection to the TV are things Sega engineers could have found a way around. The 32x could've gotten by with just the S-video linkup an there is even room for improvement there.

If you want a 32x, like a lot of other Sega stuff, it seems to be ever increasing in price. I got mine via a standard eBay auction for about $80 CIB, with the Doom pack-in. Currently on ebay they sell from anywhere between $30 loose without cables to about $220 CIB. The games themselves are also pretty easy to find on eBay, and range from about $5 loose to $1000 for some rare games CIB.

If you're anything like me you may feel like the 32x and Sega-CD aren't integral items to have for a Sega collection. In time though I learned they help tell Sega's story, and are both actually worth having to get a full picture of Sega and the gaming industries evolution. The 32x is a good, although unusual little system, and worth the add to any collection.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Organized Gamer: Revisiting Runner Apps Video Game Collector App

Four years ago I wrote an article about a collector's app I was using to keep track of my gaming collection, and since then I have used the app pretty extensively. In my 8-bit Friday's and Backlog's articles when I talk about "checking-in" a game, it means adding the game into this app after it's tested. To me once a game is added to the app it's officially part of  my collection.

My gaming collection has expanded exponentially for many reasons since the first article, and this app has been part of that. Through eBay auctions, gaming stores, and even gaming conventions, this app has proven to be a solid resource as a collector. It's saved me from buying stuff I already own, and helped me add titles I thought I owned but didn't. On top of all that the wishlist section of the app has helped me track the games I want for my collection, and provided me with "next buy" guidence. The point of this app is that it thinks about your collection all the time so you don't have to.
Wishlist Mode

Now, since I first wrote about this app, I decided to buy the premium version three years ago, for $5.99. Now, I want you to keep that in mind since I'm not getting paid or sponsored for writing this. If, however, Runner Apps decides to read this and wants to send the premium versions of their Music, Books, and Movie apps my way for free I wouldn't complain. The entire reason I went with the premium version is to take advantage of a few extra features. One is the camera scan, which adds games via UPC bar coding on game boxes and cases. Another feature of the premium version is that it also allows you to edit information for games in the database, which is useful for loose carts when the databases picture, or some of the other information is a bit off.

Before I go any further let me explain the app a bit. Like most of you when I started collecting I began to debate how to track my collection. The fallback for most of us is a spreadsheet of some kind, but to be honest spreadsheets are going to leave stuff out, plus there not all that portable. My biggest issue with collecting came with Atari 2600 games back in 2013 when I first started on that console. If you collect them than you know half the titles have space or star in the name and that can make for big opportunities to end up buying doubles. With my spreadsheet on my personal laptop at home, and the spreadsheet on my phone less than useful I decided to search around iTunes one day and came across several apps. Some were far too oriented to one system, and others were just basically mobile collectors guides. This app stood out though, and once I tested the free version the first weekend I got it, I found that is was exactly what I was looking for.

The Video Games, Collectors app is unique in that is features a database of games from multiple systems. It also features the ability to add games to your collection that may not be in the database, and provides you with the ability to attach box art and as much or as little detail on the game you wish via their comprehensive pre-made forms. Since first using the app I have used just about all of these features, from entering a game of my own from scratch, to just popping a pic of the UPC symbol, and done it all with great ease. On top of that the app can be networked to work on multiple devices by just logging into the app on them, plus being a mobile phone app you always have the ability to check and manage your collection on the go. If you really need that old fashion spread sheet though, the app does allow you to export a list out to the spreadsheet program of your choice.
Personal Notes Mode

I’ve also found the developers of this app to be really easy to work with as well and very responsive to suggestions, and technical support. As I’ve added more systems over the last few years I’ve occasionally found some of them, like the Fairchild Channel-F, not on the list of systems in the database. When I reached out to them about adding it they promised to add it by the next update, and followed through on that promise within a week or so. They also added a separate category for Steam and GoG games last year after I suggested it. As far as tech support I ran into a major issue I which my entire collection disappeared about two years ago, and they were quick to get back to me, and resolved it right away.

There are also other features that have always been with the app that I have just started using in the past year or so myself. Each game has a sub-form on the bottom marked “Personal”, that allows you to track prices, rate the game, and give completion and last played dates, as well as add notes and other items. Recently, I’ve been using this to add the last played dates, and personal ratings, and purchase price. When writing my 8-bit Fridays article so far this year I’ve considered using the 5 star rating system from this app to rate the games. They’re nice features that allow you to personalize your gaming experience.
The app sorted to Jaguar games

If I seem to be gushing about this app it's because of what a fantastic part of my collecting experience it’s been. This app actually has many other useful features as well, like various sorting options, a marketplace, and many other items I could just about right a book on. My suggestion is to pick up the free version, and go from there. Trust me you will never be dealing with an unorganized collection again.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Trekking Through Games: Away Missions - Star Trek: The Clone Wars?

At this point I can easily say I’ve been through just about all the Star Trek series at least 3 times on Netflix over the past year and half. Now days when it's on it’s mainly as background noise, and a kind of mental comfort food in the late evenings before bed, with revisits to Enterprise and Voyager. More or less I’ve reached the point where I need to take a break from it so as to not loose my appreciation of this great franchise. It hasn’t been easy finding something else to watch though, especially when this has been my go to programming for a while.

Among one of my favorite newer TV shows is Disney XD’s Star Wars: Rebels an animated series following the exploits of a small cell of rebels in the early stages of the rebellion against the Empire. It’s an interesting series that takes place within the 19 year period between Revenge of the Sith, and Rogue One/A New Hope, and often pulls from the character pools of both the original and prequel trilogies. Even though the show is only in its third season I haven’t been able to see every episode, but I’m happy every time I get to sit down and watch one. The one issue I have encountered is that occasionally characters are thrown in who I’ve never seen before, yet it seems like I’m expected to know their backstory. I mentioned this to my oldest son one day and told me that these are often characters introduced within the seven seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the animated series that preceded both Rebels and Disney’s Lucasfilm buyout, and that appeared on Cartoon Network. To say the least it peaked my attention in the old series, and later several podcasts I listen too including Star Wars Stacks mentioned the importance of the series to Star Wars canon, so I decided I had to begin watching through the old series on Netflix. To be honest I’m not exactly a stranger to the show, and had caught different episodes of it with my oldest son when it was on the air, as well as buying him the pilot movie on DVD years ago. I had also watched through the first season with him over the course of a few Saturday mornings back in the summer, but he went on to finish the series on his own. So when I set off to explore the series on my own recently I pretty much cherry picked through the first season for episodes I didn’t see or needed to be refreshed on, and then pushed into season two.

In case you don’t know here are a few things you need to know about the Star Wars animated series that are out there. First of all both shows are considered canonical, so whatever happens in them happens in the universe. Secondly, Clone Wars takes place in the three year period between Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith (i.e parts II and III). Lastly, both animated series occasionally draw from the non-canonical extended universe (i.e. books and video games), making some EU characters and events part of the actual canon.

Ok, with that said your probably saying to yourself, “WTF does any of that have to do with Star Trek?”. Well I can put it this way, once you begin watching The Clone Wars certain concepts are introduced into the Star Wars universe that most fans never even thought of. In Attack of the Clones we are briefly introduced to the cloning process, but it’s left morally ambiguous since it’s actually a plot point to introduce Jango and Bobo Fett, as well as the concept of a shadowy hand working against the Jedi Council. As the series itself continues on though, the moral questions of the process of cloning are introduced, as is the questionable ability to just continue to churn out clones like manufactured other military equipment. So, what does that have to do with Star Trek?

To be honest it took watching The Clone Wars to make the connection between Star Wars clones and the Jem’Hadar clones of Star Trek’s Deep Space Nine. To be honest I feel like DS9 already had to take a ration of crap over the whole Babylon 5 thing, so I’m not about to question whether DS9 ripped of Star Wars or vice-versa. After all it would be 2002 a full two years after DS9 went off, before Attack of the Clones first appeared in movies theaters, and 2008 before The Clone Wars series first appeared on TV. Not to mention the Jem’Hadar were introduced as far back as 1995, but of course one could argue a “Clone War” concept was introduced as far back as 1977 with A New Hope, although it was all of a 10 second blurb in the movies dialog.

Of course it’s not so much that both franchises have clones that I’m writing about, clones have been a normal part of science fiction for decades, but rather the use of these clones by the factions that possess them. If I describe it from a 40,000 foot view here’s what it looks like for both franchises, “A group of quasi-supernatural beings use clone soldiers to capture planets from their enemies so that they may impose their form of order on their home galaxy”. So yes when you look at it from that point of view it's utterly the same description for both franchise’s.

From the DS9 point of view the clones troopers known as the Jem’Hadar are controlled by the Dominion, a shadowy group of liquid like shape shifters who control the Milky Way Galaxy's “Gamma Sector”, with nearly an iron fist. The Jem’Hadar themselves are a reptilian like humanoid species, known for their aggression and violence in battle, an aggression which must be kept under control via the use of the drug Ketracel-White. Ketracel-White not only allows the Jem’Hadar to be controllable by their masters, but helps sustain all life functions of the Jem’Hadar.
Acting as a go between with the Dominion and Jem’Hadar are another clone species known as the Vorta, a cowardly group of “yes men”, who literally worship the Founders, i.e. the Dominion. As you can no doubt guess, with such aggressive soldiers the Dominion is hardly a force for peace Milky Way’'s “Gamma Sector”, let alone once they enter into the Federation controlled Alpha/Beta sectors.

From the Star Wars point of view the clones trooper are simply known as clone troopers. In this universe these troopers, although still treated as less than human at times especially in their ultimate fate once the Empire rises, are still at least given names once they reach a certain age. In the case of the clone troopers they are controlled by the Republic, a United States like interstellar society that wants to maintain its democratic principles of freedom throughout the part of the galaxy (a galaxy far, far away? Andromeda? Triangulum?) it resides in. The troopers are themselves human in appearance, although their maturation process is speed up. Most troopers also look alike having all been cloned from Jengo Fett, the father/brother(?) of Bobo Fett, although some seem to have different personalities, hair color, and varying degrees of intelligence. The clones are mentally conditioned to show loyalty to the Republic, part of the reason they carry out Order 66, despite their close working relationships with the Jedi. Some troopers do occasionally turn away from this mental conditioning, to go AWOL, and even start lives of their own although its a rarity.

Unlike the Jem’Hadar with the Vorta, the Clones have the Jedi as their go betweens with the Republic. The Jedi tend to respect the clone troopers, and despite Kaminion insistence to destroy less than perfect troopers during or after maturation, the Jedi’s respect for life has prevented this on a few occasions. Unlike the Jem’Hadar the Clones are designed to be soldiers and not over-aggressive killing machines, meaning at times they have been known to show compassion, especially to many of the civilians caught on worn-torn planets. Despite doing good for the Republic during the wars with the Separatist, as we find out by the end of Revenge of the Sith the clones were the Emperor’s checkmate to the Jedi.

Ultimately, in either respective franchises clones are used as a type of military leverage, even though those using them have powers beyond that of a normal mortal being. In Star Wars and Star Trek with either side, the initial use of these clones may be different but in the end the goals of each are generally the same, being a quest for ultimate power. The question of a sci-fi fan is, did one inspire and even copy from the other? The overall direction things appear in, is that there is no connection between the clone soldiers of either franchise. For instance Star Wars had a claim to use a clone army in it’s plot line dating back to the previously mentioned blurb in A New Hope between Obi-Wan and Luke, meaning once prequels were made the “Clone Wars” had to be included. As for DS9 the use of clone soldiers by the Dominion was meant to be a statement on the Founders disdain for all other living beings besides themselves. Clones represented cheap life the Founders could use to expand their empire, with an “easy come, easy go” form of life that was created for one purpose only, to kill or be killed. The Jem’Hader clones were meant to be a sharp contrast against the Federations dogma of all life having value, in a highly dramatic way.

Of course between 1977 and 2002, or the first appearance of the Jem’Hadar in 1995, a lot of Star Wars fan fiction was written and even published. In the SWEU or Star Wars Extended Universe which I will call the EU from now on, books on “The Clone Wars” were written, some of which would form the basis of 2002’s Attack of the Clones and its ensuing saga. Is it possible that DS9 writers may have drawn some inspiration from the EU? It’s possible of course since even as this article proves, a sci-fi fan can cross franchise boundaries easily, especially with the beloved nature and cultural significance of both franchises, however there is very little to believe it may go any deeper than that. In an article about the Jem’Hadar on the Star Trek fan database known as Memory-Alpha it was noted that the writers of DS9, wanted a fierce warrior race for the series protagonists to come up against, but was afraid of it having too many similarities to the Klingons. So as to differentiate them, the clone element as well as a few others differing traits where chosen, and obviously that worked since there is no confusing the Jem’Hadar with the Klingons.

On the flip side the question also needs to be asked about a whether Star Wars Clones Troopers may have had some inspiration from DS9’s Jem’Hadar. To be honest there isn’t much out there on what inspired the final on-film iteration of the Clone Troopers. Obviously, George Lucas had some concept behind them in his head long before A New Hope, let alone the prequels. The fact that the Stormtroopers combat armor seems to have evolved from the Clones armor proves this. Of course just as it was possible a DS9 writer picked up an EU book before developing the Jem’Hadar, it’s also possible George Lucas watched a few episodes of DS9 while writing Attack of the Clones.

Overall, in my opinion one didn’t sway the other as to the use of clone armies as part of the overall plot line. It is interesting to take a step back though and just see how both these franchises used the concept of a clone army in advancing the ongoing plot, even if each was used differently. So what do you think? Do you think one inspired the other in any way? Do you think it's simple coincidence and the use of a standard sci-fi meme? Let me know.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

8-Bit Fridays: The Diaries - February 10, 2017

Well, welcome back to my old school “Diaries” edition, which is where I started off on 8-bit Fridays and like returning too.

This Weeks Buy’s:

It’s been a week of lost auctions so nothing to report this week.

This Weeks Plays:

Damage Inc (PS3) - Ok, so this is actually a game that admittedly has been hanging out there for a while. When I played through a bunch of PS3 games about a month back I intentionally skipped this one. The reason being is that I didn't want to put the joystick together or find a place to it store it after. So the other night in preparation for this weekend I opened it up to take a look and was pleasantly surprised, the joystick is designed to be put together and taken apart as well as stored in the original box. So this weekend I decided to hook the joystick up and put Damage Inc in the PS3. Hooking it up was easy (being USB) but it took a bit more than that to coax the joystick into working with the game. After some plugging and unplugging and working with the settings in the game itself I got it working.

Damage Inc with the working joystick is surprisingly good. I know there seems to be a general belief that flight sticks on consoles aren't any good, most of those claims are made by pure console gamers, although there is some truth to it. In this case though the AV8R flight stick is surprisingly good since it's made by Saitek, who also makes many accessories for PC flight sims for that added bit of realism. I myself have a set of their rudder pedals, and they're very well made, and work well with most flight sims on the PC. The game itself Damage Inc is also pretty good and allows a player to get as realistic or video gamey as they wish in the settings. Obviously, coming from PC flight sims I decided to go more towards realism with an in cockpit view. However with that said it's still more video game than flight sim. The game is very entertaining in itself, and works seamlessly with the AV8R, but I do have to complain about how dark and muted the games colors are in game play. This ended up being a major detractor since at times I couldn't see what I was shooting or flying at particularly with regards to items close to the ground. Overall, based on how much I enjoyed playing it and how well the AV8R works with it, the game rates high in my book.

Bowling - Video Cart 21 (Fairchild Channel-F) - This same game although unplayed until now, was the inspiration for a 2015 article I wrote on the Channel-F. After all this time, and after being in the mood for digging out old systems and getting games played, it was finally this game's chance especially since I found having misplaced it shortly after writing the article. Anyway as with most Channel-F games this one is pretty simple. Basically the ball bounces from side to side in the alley and the challenge is hitting the controller at the right time and with the right angle to make the ball roll down the alley and into the pins. There is some skill to actually playing it and hitting the controller at the right time, but keep in mind this is one of those half-step beyond pong type games indicative of that early era in gaming.

Toy Bizarre (C64) - When my Mom bought me Park Patrol years ago for my SX-64 this was the other game she picked up with it. I had been scratching my head for years as to what the game's name was or what it was about until a little bit before Christmas when it popped up as a suggestion on my eBay lists. The first thing I did was plop the name into YouTube, and suddenly it all came back to me, every beautiful memory. To plug this into a 5 ¼ disk drive again and play it was a true reliving of my childhood. Toy Bizarre reminds me of a much more creative Mario Bros. whereby your character, a factory worker, must fend off a clockwork man and balloon breed toy helicopters, throughout the period of a night. It involves valves, jumping, popping balloons, and trap switches to deactivate your enemies. It's extremely fun, very addictive, and easy to play. Five stars in my book.

Silpheed (Sega-CD) - If you've been following my various 8-bit Friday articles at least over the last two months then you will know of my ongoing relationship with the Silpheed or Sylpheed franchise. Albeit the latter is a spiritual successor and not a direct member of the franchise, I will consider it the series third entry until there is a real third entry. Anyway, so far it's proven to be a fun and challenging series, but I have yet to travel to the franchise's origins. Silpheed started as an early computer game with the earliest entry being a TRS-80 CoCo version, but the best is said to be the MS-DOS version. Of course the game did have one console port with a version brought to the Sega-CD. In doing some research I’ve found out that each port of Silpheed stays relatively faithful to the first version, but with upgrades to each new edition  as the systems became more powerful. The Sega-CD version is the last and final port, and was the most powerful system the game would appear on. The adaptation is very good and adds a lot of graphical elements like planet scapes and asteroid fields not available on the game's predecessor systems due to hardware limitations. The game itself plays very well, and stays true to its predecessors. It's fast paced, and is a great SHMUP, right down to power ups. This is the first SHMUP I have on the Sega-CD and so far it's also the best game I have on the system. The only major drawbacks are all the read errors I had, which may be more on the part of  system or disk, than the game

Wing Commander (Sega-CD) - This in one respect is one of the best Wing Commander ports I've seen. The intro cut scenes and voice acting are all very well done being, smooth, seamless and spot on. However, gameplay is another story since the combat itself seems to slow the system down considerably, as does interacting with other space objects. It's odd to see a game graphically look and run better than the original PC versions in some respects, but not in others like the crucial gameplay. Otherwise it's a highly faithful port of the PC version, but the slowdown in action is a little bit of a downer.

PnP Finale

I know in all likelihood I should be covering these PnP systems in a different posting all together, but I figured why not just cover them as part of this weekends gaming as a nice way to end the weekend. Even though these PnP’s carry multiple games, I just wanted to play a few games on both and give my impressions of each PnP.

Pac-Man: Store & Display (PnP) - This system was originally sold in 2013 as part of a Dollar General's Black Friday sale. Eventually the system found it’s way to Target, where it is now sold with additional games added, and can be found oddly enough in their board game section. The system which is designed to look like pixelated Pac-Man, has the unique feature off allowing the cords to be stored internally after play so that in may be displayed in a simple wire free compact form.

This system connects up with the standard yellow and white A/V cables, something that's a regular for these type of PnP’s. Once plugged in, selecting games and playing it is extremely easy.  The joystick controller is, despite appearances, surprisingly comfortable to play on and works very well in the games themselves. My first pick after plugging it in was the always elusive Bosconian, which was a true joy to play here and is a highly faithful ROM to the arcade version. This system includes a total of 12 games, five of which are Pac-Man based including the Pac-Man 256, and two additional games I was unfamiliar with, Pac & Pal, and Pac-Man Plus. Overall, despite not being a well known PnP I had a lot of fun with this one, and enjoyed the games and ease of play.

Atari Flashback 7 (PnP) - With this being the newest Atari Flashback system out there I know there have been a lot of other articles, podcasts, and vlogs made about this. So I know this will be white noise but I’m just going to give my two cents anyway. Now, I know I said I didn’t think I’d ever get and Atari Flashback system since I have all the original equipment, and even now the TV that the Flashback 7 is connected to, also harbor’s my Atari 7800. So why did I ask for a  Flashback 7 for Christmas? First of all having something like this that I can always grab in go with and hook up to most TV’s is always nice. Second, having a younger child getting his feet wet in video games it’s always nice to let him play the simple games of the old Atari, even if his educational games are so much more advanced. That and these things are great for parties too.

So what about the system itself? Well, Atgames adds a little more to each one of these systems they come out with and each subsequent system carries those add-ons with it. This one feature 101 games, some the standard classics previous Flashbacks have seen, to others new to the system like Frogger, and some homebrews, overall it’s a nice collection of games. As far as controllers this one comes with two wireless controller that are the exact same size as original Atari 2600 controllers. I do need to point out that one of these two controllers is the master controller and needs to be the first hooked up, you can tell the difference by the red reset, start, and select buttons at the bottom which the other controller doesn’t feature. Both controller use 2 AAA batteries, and each controller can be turned off when not in play. As far as functionality, being someone who has used a real Atari 2600 controller lately, I can tell you they almost feel identical in game play which was something I wasn’t expecting. The system also has a cool feature of allowing you to hook up two original controllers on the front too. I have to say the system pretty much meet my expectations, but also exceeded them in duplicating the feel of playing these games on the original equipment. Overall, it’s a nice system and a nice add for an Atari fan, even if like me they have the real deal available to them.

I will leave it there for now, although I had debating discussing the Atari Flashback Portable, but I’ve been playing that since before Christmas and not starting this weekend. I was pretty impressed by the above two PnP’s though, and I’m glad to have bought them into my collection.

This is probably one of the shortest 8-bit Fridays I think I’ve ever written though. A lack of new games coming in the last few weeks, mixed with a massive catch up on my backlogged games has meant that, outside of my Win 95/98 list, there’s not much new left to play. Obviously I am hoping to get a few new items over the coming weeks, but I’m also hoping this opens me up to replaying some games I pushed through previously. Anyway, that’s it for my plays this weekend. Have yourselves a great and peaceful week! God Bless!