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Ah, the Red Book CD audio standard. Introduced in 1980, it set the standard for audio for the next three and a half decades. But this time, we’re looking at a small portion of that audio standard.

When it comes to video games, CDs were a god damn revelation back in the day. Before then, people were working on cartridges that barely held a few megabytes. CDs held up to 700MB, and developers found out they could use that extra size for things they couldn’t have before on cartridges. Unfortunately, this led to a lot of crappy full motion video games around the mid-’90s, but they also brought us something amazing: CD quality audio.

No longer were developers constrained by the YM2612 and SPC700 sound chips, musicians could now make the music as it was intended to be heard: with live instrumentation (or a close approximation). A fair share of CD-based systems like the Sega CD, the Turbografx-CD, the PlayStation, and Sega Saturn had CD audio support. While playing these games, the rich CD audio played through your television, giving you music that you’d never heard before in video games. Okay, that might be a bit of a stretch these days, but it was a god damn revelation if you were around back then.

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Back in December, I decided to trade in my hunk of junk six year old HP Pavilion PC for a new custom built PC. Running on an Intel i5-4570, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB HDD with Windows 7, I was in PC gaming heaven. I couldn’t quite afford a new video card, so my 3 year old Radeon HD5770 was put into the PC as a stop gap until I could afford a new video card. It worked out great, pushing most of the PC games I had to high settings.

But then, tragedy struck. I saw graphical artifacts while playing Crysis, but thought nothing of it at the time. Several days later, my video card started spinning its fans loudly while I was idling on my PC, temperatures rising by the second. Even with a quick dusting, the card still got loud and didn’t show a picture. It happened to me again: a video card died on me. I got the HD5770 as an emergency replacement for my dead GeForce 8800GT back in 2010, and now I had another dead video card. I was amazed the Radeon lasted that long, maybe pushing all those polygons in those two months was a bit hard on the old gal.

So, for the past month I’ve been playing other games, such as binging on Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit from 2010 and playing through Call of Duty: Black Ops II on my 360. After being annoyed that I couldn’t play much on the PC, I decided to test something. All CPUs these days come with a integrated graphics chip. PC gamers won’t use this, opting to buy a video card to do all the heavy lifting for their gaming needs. I thought I’d give my i5 processor’s integrated graphics chip a shot in the meantime. After installing the newest drivers, I tried a bunch of games on Intel’s own integrated graphics, the HD4600 and saw the results. Boy, I was surprised.

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So, Sega recently announced a new Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon titled Sonic Boom, which comes with a video game tie-in. This was buzzing around the internet for the past couple of days, most notably because everybody couldn’t stop complaining about everybody’s character redesigns.

I lost interest in Sonic years ago, the last game I played was Sonic Generations and that was not a fun game for me. Before that, the last games I played were Sonic Adventure 2, Sonic Battle and Sonic Rush. So I’m not an authority on Sonic or anything.

After the announcement, I realized that this will be the fifth cartoon featuring that blue hedgehog. So I decided to watch a few episodes of the previous cartoon series: Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Underground and Sonic X; and write a bit about them. This will be a fun time indeed. So let’s take a travel through time, and look back at Sonic’s cartoon past.

Took me an hour in GIMP. Put more effort into this than I normally do.

Took me an hour in GIMP. Put more effort into this than I normally do.

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Today, I thought that it’d be interesting to dabble more into my game library, as I have a fair share of games that I’ve gotten or bought over the years. Plus, it’s been a while since I talked about a game on the site, I’m long overdue for this.

Ah, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. An awesome skateboarding game that was fun even if you couldn’t do sick tricks on a real skateboard. A long-standing franchise that eventually got the usual Activision treatment of “pump these games out until they stop making us money,” and now pretty much lives on through nostalgic memories of the early games and the occasional new Tony Hawk game that they trot out just to prove the franchise is not dead. Though, the less we talk about Tony Hawk Ride, the better.

I do remember playing the first two games at some point, but since I wasn’t big into skateboarding I missed out on the later games. Thanks to watching Tony Hawk’s Underground speed runs and Giant Bomb playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 online a few years back, it’s fueled my interest into the franchise now, and I’m kicking myself for missing out when it was king.

Let’s go back a bit and talk about the original game. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater came out on a bunch of platforms, like the Dreamcast, Nintendo 64 and PlayStation. But I wasn’t expecting the first game on this system:

Yes. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater on the Game Boy Color. That’s not the weird part, though, this is the weird part:

This game was made by Natsume. The Harvest Moon guys. I can’t think of a weirder choice for a developer of a portable Tony Hawk game. Honestly, I didn’t even know they made games beside Harvest Moon until I had played this one.

I don’t even remember how I got this game, I think a neighbor had a copy of it years ago and just gave it to me. The only other thing I remember about this game is that I wrote a scathing user review of this on GameSpot. You can probably find it if you look around there, but I’d rather not remember it, much like most of my past writing.

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I’ve mentioned in the past that I collect a bunch of unusual things, such as demo discs and promotional DVDs. I covered a Nintendo Promo DVD from 2002 last year, and mentioned that I had other promo discs that I intend to write about. Well, here’s another one of these.

This is a special promo DVD from Nintendo Power, released around mid-2005. 2005 was a dark age for Nintendo. The GameCube was literally on its last legs, the DS was floundering and the GBA was the only success for the big N. This was before the Wii (or the “Revolution” as it was called) was even revealed. Like the 2002 promo, this disc is chock full of demos for the hottest new games on Nintendo platforms.

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Naturally, the biggest game on display was the E3 2005 trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. I never enjoyed the 3D Zelda games, and know little about this game except Midna, Wolf Link, and 8.8. (Giant Bomb and old school GameSpot fans will know what the last one means.) Nintendo Power was so proud to have this trailer that they boasted it being in DOLBY DIGITAL! You can literally be amazed at the audio quality, provided you had the audio setup.

When I said this was “a dark age,” I was going by what other games were featured on the disc. While there’s a few standout games like Mega Man X Collection and Viewtiful Joe Red Hot Rumble (here called “Viewtiful Joe VFX Battle”), the rest are licensed schlock such as Hello Kitty Roller Rescue, Digimon World 4, One Piece and Zatch Bell! games. The only other interesting trailers in here are for the Fantastic Four movie game, with a trailer for each of the Fantastic Four characters with an appropriate licensed song for each.

DOGS

There’s also trailers for DS games like Kirby: Canvas Curse, Nintendogs, Yoshi Touch & Go, Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow (just titled Castlevania here), and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. It’s a pretty good lineup for the DS, with a few standout games and a couple lesser-known titles like Lost in Blue, Polarium and Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble. (like the last Viewtiful Joe game, it’s just called “Viewtiful Joe DS” here.)

Finally, the GBA section. Much smaller than the previous sections, with licensed junk like Atomic Betty and Dragon Ball GT: Transformation (from the makers of other Dragon Ball games on the GBA!). Though there are some highlights, such as Mega Man Zero 4, Rebelstar: Tactical Command (from the maker of X-COM: UFO Defense) and RPG Riviera: The Promised Land. Riviera‘s trailer is Japanese with sprinkled English text, which is pretty lazy on Atlus USA’s part. Handheld games were never my forte, but there’s probably some good games on that list. Hell, I bet the Nightmare Before Christmas GBA game is actually playable.

That’s it. Nothing but trailers. No DVD-ROM bonus content like wallpapers, screen savers or even outdated HTML files to old websites. What you see is what you get. Though, for what gamers were going by in 2005, this was a nice treat for Nintendo Power readers, even if there isn’t a whole lot of cool stuff.

I decided to start a Facebook page for the blog for those interested. Give it a like and a comment. There’s even a Google+ page for the 3 of you who use that. Giving a like and a comment here helps too. :)

Sega Hot Wheels, from 2003.

Back in late 2012, I wrote about Atari Hot Wheels. These were Hot Wheels cars based on old Atari games that had rather dubious car choices. At the end of the article, I had mentioned that I also had Sega Hot Wheels, and that I’d get around to writing about them someday. Well, now is the time, because I finally completed the whole set a few days ago.

So the Atari ones were not the first video game tie-in Hot Wheels cars. These Sega ones came considerably earlier, from 2003 to be exact. By this time Sega had already abandoned their console heritage and started publishing games for the other game systems like the PlayStation 2 and the Xbox. Each car is based off an existing Sega game from around that time period, and like the Atari Hot Wheels, a few of them are based on unique Hot Wheels lines than real cars. But enough about that, let’s look at the cars themselves:

  • A car from the “Fandango” series based on Space Channel 5
  • A car from the “Phaeton” series based on The House of the Dead III
  • A 2003 Lotus Esprit, based on the Shinobi reboot
  • A car from the “GT Racer” series based on Super Monkey Ball
  • and a custom 2003 Mercury Cougar based on Jet Set Radio Future.

These cars give a perfect snapshot of Sega from this period. This was back when they were experimenting with old series frequently and making sequels to games like Jet Set Radio. This was back when Sega actually cared and made cool new games, as opposed to today where they’re content with pumping out mediocre Sonic the Hedgehog games while making decent bank on the Total War and Football Manager series. But I digress.

The Sega Hot Wheels look considerably cooler than the Atari ones, as they’re based on car lines that would seem grounded in reality rather than the weird toy cars they made for the Atari ones. You could probably use these on those Hot Wheels racing tracks that were super popular twenty years ago. I think I still have mine kicking around somewhere…

As for how I got these, it’s a little more complicated than paying $12 at a Bi-Mart for them. I already had the Space Channel 5Shinobi and Super Monkey Ball cars as they were in a giant bin full of 2001-2004 era Hot Wheels cars that we have that probably have little to no value. I found the House of the Dead III car at a garage sale last year, and picked up the JSRF car at an antique store in Milwaukie, OR for the low low price of 50 cents. So now I have two complete Hot Wheels sets. This, along with having a Back to the Future DeLorean Hot Wheels, makes me have a pretty modest Hot Wheels collection now. Though, I probably won’t start collecting all of them, I do have my limits.

Now, I’m willing to bet that these aren’t all the video game Hot Wheels out there. Knowing Nintendo’s crazy marketing frenzy in the early ’90s, there might be a Mario car. There might’ve been other companies willing to make deals with Mattel for more Hot Wheels tie-ins. If there’s any more like these, let me know in the comments (or on Twitter, Facebook, et al) and maybe I’ll be back here again talking about other Hot Wheels cars based on video games.

What a way to start 2014, with more silly game trinkets…

It’s time to the return of “Video Games According to TV/Movies.” After a several month long hiatus, we’re back with another one that hit the internet waves several years back. Previously, I looked at David Caruso chewing the scenery and giving us the most meme-worthy quotes as I checked out CSI: Miami‘s Urban Hellraisers episode. (You can check that out here.) As we bring the series out of moth balls, we look at another TV show that depicted video games in the silliest way possible.

This time, our suspect is Life, a short-lived police procedural that aired on NBC from 2007-09. Damian Lewis plays Charlie Crews, a former cop who was imprisoned for 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Now as a police detective, Crews must solve crimes while trying to solve the mystery of who actually caused the crime he was imprisoned for. It’s like Monk, but instead of an obsessive-compulsive man, we have an eccentric ex-con.

As opposed to Urban Hellraisers, which I watched without watching any prior episode of CSI: Miami, I actually did watch the pilot to understand the premise of Life.The acting is solid, Lewis does a fine job showing off Crews’ personality traits. Though, expect to see a lot of “haha technology has changed since he was in prison” jokes, where in the first episode, I saw him fumble with a cell phone and trying to understand how he’s answering phone calls from his new sweet-ass car.

But I’ve stalled enough. The episode in question is “A Civil War,” from the show’s first season. The episode starts with two Persian-American employees of a gas station killed and stored in a refrigerator, with “GO HOME” splashed on the windows in motor oil. Crews tries to find out who caused it, finding out it’s a hate crime by three perpetrators. Later on in the investigation, they find out there’s a third person, Amir Darvashi (Oren Dayan) who was kidnapped being held for ransom, and they ask for help from the gas station’s owner, Nina Myers Mary Ann Farmer (Sarah Clarke).

I'm sorry, but after watching so much 24, it's hard to see her as anything but a psychopath that might kill anybody at any moment, even in a show like this.

I’m sorry, but after watching so much 24, it’s hard to see her as anyone but a psychopath that might kill at any moment, even in a show like this.

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A few days ago, I had snagged this wonderful gem:

Streets of Rage 2, a Sega Genesis classic, for $5. Initially I passed on this, but then I realized it’s Streets of Rage 2, a freakin’ Genesis classic. That Yuzo Koshiro soundtrack! Who could pass that up? The dummy writing this. Thankfully, I was able to correct my mistake and grab it as a wonderful addition to my Genesis collection, along with a Sonic cartridge compilation called Sonic Classics.

Granted, it’s just a cartridge copy and it isn’t in the best of shape, but it’s nice to have. There’s something special about this cartridge: The giant “NOT FOR RESALE” label on it. Anyone who’s into collecting Sega Genesis stuff may have also seen the big “NOT FOR RESALE” stickers on copies of Sonic the Hedgehog. My Sonic the Hedgehog 2 came with my Sega Genesis long ago also with a “Not for Resale” sticker on it. Many pack-in games on the Genesis also came with the “not for resale” sticker on them. It made me wonder: Why is this ugly text on there, and what was its purpose?

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Remember True Crime: Streets of LA? It was a decent Grand Theft Auto clone developed by Luxoflux (RIP) and published by Activision in 2003. While it didn’t reinvent the wheel, it was a decent shooter, driving game and beat-em up. While I was doing my Game Fuel hunt a few weeks back, I had stumbled upon this mysterious gem in the DVD section at a Goodwill.

This is True Crime: Streets of LA Uncovered. A promo DVD for the game, presumably given to GameStop employees or people who pre-ordered the game. For $3, I couldn’t pass this up.

This promo DVD is chock full of interesting videos that highlight the game’s mechanics, a few behind the scenes features, even a video advertising the (now-defunct) truecrimela.com. There’s even a trailer for the original Xbox version of the game, which looked somewhat better than the other versions of True Crime.

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Half-Life is my most favorite game of all time. How I got to experience it for the first time is a story for another time, but one thing that really caught my eye was the mod scene for Half-Life. Much like Quake and Doom before it, people were messing around in WorldCraft making maps for the internet masses. Some were interesting, others were bizarre, then there’s the classics. The mods that did really interesting stuff for Half-Life, and end up being the must-play mods for the game. Such as today’s entry. Since Halloween is around the corner, let’s look at the zombified single player mod They Hunger.

They Hunger was originally released in 1999 as a PC Gamer demo disc freebie, followed by two additional episodes in 2000 and 2001. Neil Manke, who had made the Half-Life mod USS Darkstar for PC Gamer earlier in 1999, was already familiar with game modding for promotional purposes such as Coconut Monkey Adventures for Quake II and Soldier of Fortune for Quake. (Not to be confused with Soldier of Fortune by Raven Software, this SOF was based off a TV show.) Naturally, They Hunger looked to do something most Half-Life mods didn’t do at the time, and it definitely succeeded.

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Guess what’s back? I’ll give you three guesses, first two don’t count.

Yes, returning for the fifth time, Mountain Dew and Doritos collaborate with a video game company for a limited edition soda. This time around, Microsoft comes back to the well for the third time, advertising the forthcoming Xbox One with Mountain Dew Game Fuel. This time, we’re given not one, but two flavors of the wonderful special edition drink. This is the third year in a row that the specialty drink has been available, which quashes my previous theory that they’d only push this out every other year, as they did in the past. Looks like this might be a yearly thing now.

While I was at PAX, Mtn Dew was fairly prominent at the show. Spread around the convention hall were QR codes that you could scan in to redeem points, either for small prizes like Game Fuel or to win a chance to get an Xbox One early. Alas, while I did scan codes like a goof, I did not redeem a single point, which probably screwed me out of getting Game Fuel three months early. So I got this stuff at a 7-Eleven like an ordinary person who buys promotional drinks advertising video games.

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Lately I’ve noticed how much video games are penetrating our food and drink. Last year I had covered Mountain Dew Game Fuel, which made its triumphant return. While I haven’t found this year’s model of Game Fuel yet, I found something just as interesting:

Monster Energy has decided to team up with Infinity Ward and Activision to advertise Call of Duty: Ghosts on cans of Monster. Ah yes, Call of Duty: Ghost Dad, the tenth major installment in the Call of Duty franchise. Unfortunately my interest in Call of Duty waned years ago, mostly in part due to how over-the-top Modern Warfare 2 got, along with releasing a new game every year just made me fall behind. (I still haven’t played Black Ops II.) Thus, I am not at all hyped for Call of Duty: Ghosts of Sparta.

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Another year, and another PAX has passed by. I played games, met with people and thankfully I’m not recovering from some nasty post-convention flu. (I am sleeping a lot more, though.)

Alas, there wasn’t any big outside-of-PAX events that I was aware of, nothing as awesome as last year’s Final Fantasy 25th Anniversary expo thing that Square-Enix did with playable copies of FF2 and 3 on the original Famicom. (you can see that blog entry I made of it last year here.) What I did notice around the Seattle area was a flood of gaming-related entities. From seeing ads for games, to seeing retail stores show their slight understanding of video game culture. So I took a few pictures of them while I was around Seattle.

Most people who were walking to or from the convention center saw this one from the nearest Starbucks (out of about the 50 other Starbucks in Seattle). I have to give credit to the sign-maker for making a Ms. Pac-Man reference.

I don’t drink coffee, so I didn’t go in and try it. Was anyone else willing to give that a whirl?

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In my recent pick-up video, I had mentioned I found this unusual soundtrack: Music from the Xbox Video Game NHL Rivals 2004. Before I get into it any further, I should explain this soundtrack’s existence. Let’s go back a decade, as we talk about Microsoft’s failed attempt at a Sports game brand called “XSN Sports.”

Back in the day, Microsoft tried to make their own Sports franchise against EA and Sega. (This was before Take-Two bought Visual Concepts from Sega.) In 2003, they introduced XSN Sports as their flagship sports game brand. Under this banner, Microsoft’s sport-focused games featured tournaments and leagues that players could make in-game to share on the respective website. The games included NFL Fever 2004, Links 2004, and Rallisport Challenge 2. Alas, they couldn’t make a dent in the competition, and the XSN Sports brand was folded one year later. The XSN service was later shut down in 2006, presumably to shift focus onto the then-new Xbox 360.

As a promotional tie-in, they released the first in the “XSN Sports Soundtrack CD Series,” featuring various songs that come from the game’s soundtrack. However, despite saying “Volume 1” on the cover, there was never a Volume 2, which is funny in retrospect.

The soundtrack CD also comes with a bonus DVD, featuring some NHL highlights from the 2002-03 NHL season, some Wayne Gretsky promos, and DVD-ROM features of the game’s cinematics, trailers, and some wallpaper. Not much to say about all this, it’s a hockey game after all. My experience with hockey games begin and end at Blades of Steel.

Licensed soundtracks are hardly new, sports games have been doing this for a long time. Hell, bands used to be hyped for having a song in the new Madden game. What makes this special is the song selection, which seems unusual for a hockey game. Then again, I don’t watch hockey, so maybe this fits in some weird way. Let’s go track-by-track, shall we?

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Man, when’s the last time I did a game finds video? Back in January, to be exact. Well, after several months in the making, I finally got around to making the damn video a few days ago.

Boy oh boy, there’s a lot of stuff in there. A bunch of PlayStation games, cheap magazines, games from across the ocean, and undeniably my biggest game find yet. Give it a look and see what you guys think. Expect something more substantial later this week, maybe about that soundtrack I mentioned in the video.

One more thing: I will be at PAX Prime again this year. I might do a blog entry or two after the event, since I won’t be able to bring a computer with me to liveblog anything. It’ll be more fun this year since it’ll be four days long.

(If you’re viewing this from a place where you can’t watch videos, or you like handy dandy lists instead, there’s a list of everything I got under the “Read More” link below.)
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