I Bought Stuff! 11/22/2019: Portland Retro Gaming Expo 2019 Edition (and more!)

Another year, another Portland Retro Gaming Expo. The con’s been getting bigger year after year, with it starting to significantly fill up the space given at the Oregon Convention Center. The consequence is there being a few things I didn’t see, a couple typos I saw on a few signs, and a bit of confusion of where everything was. At least them introducing a quiet room to recharge and relax was a godsend on one of the days.

I tagged along most of it with friend of the site and playing card aficionado Weasel, who now tweets about his daily decks of cards on Twitter. Hell, even in a goodwill gesture I had given him a deck of cards that had the wheel from Wheel of Fortune on the back that I had gotten from a game show convention many years back.

At this stage, I have most of what I want, and anything else available is a bit too much out of my price range. However, PRGE is more than just a bunch of vendors selling their wares. I saw some cool people, got to check out a panel or two, even played some classic video games.

I’m still proud I was able to crash Sonic the Hedgehog in a public place, the loud piercing note blaring through the convention hall.

This is probably the least I’ve spent at PRGE to date. Nothing over $5. Most of my purchases were on Sunday, which I always figured is the “fire sale” days since some of the booths are based outside of Portland and the less they have to take back with them, the better. It helped I also checked many stores in their bargain sections where the most forgotten games are there for a buck.

But there was also a general goal I was going for this year, which I’ll explain momentarily. So let’s get into it.


$2:

      • Call of Duty 2: Big Red One (Xbox)

      • SWAT: Global Strike Team (Xbox)

One thing I’ve been slowly doing is trying to get what is considered the “best” version of a certain game. When it comes to stuff from the early to mid 2000s, 9 times out of 10 that’s on the original Xbox. The Xbox versions of multiplatform games often looked nicer, ran smoother, and came with features not available on any other platform. So these cheapo purchases were the start of this game plan.

Big Red One is a game I got way way back on the PS2 around 2005-06, and it was a decent little title in the Call of Duty series. They basically tried to be more like Band of Brothers, though with it coming out the same year as Gearbox’s Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30, it came off as a mediocre copycat.

Big Red One is Treyarch’s debut to the Call of Duty franchise. Technically, it’s also Grey Matter’s last, as the studio would be dissolved and have members shifted over to Treyarch after both companies had games canceled on them by Activision in 2005 – Treyarch’s Dead Rush and Grey Matter’s Trinity: The Shatter Effect. Since the actual Call of Duty 2 was a PC and Xbox 360 exclusive, plus there still being lots of people with PS2s and Xboxes, Activision pushed development of this game out in less than a year. Treyarch would do that again with Call of Duty 3 the following year. While both of those are not god-tier games in the series, they’re not as awful as other installments.

SWAT: Global Strike Team was Sierra trying to make some of their dormant franchises relevant in the then-new console space. The game is a mix between a tactical shooter and a more traditional action game. It was made by Argonaut Software, the company best known for using Nintendo’s Super FX chip to bring us Starfox and Stunt Race FX. And a lot of licensed junk afterwards, which this came out around that time. It’s been mostly forgotten by everyone, but it’s probably a decent little time-waster.

Wreckless: The Yakuza Missions (Gamecube, $5)

This game is the most expensive game I’d paid for at the whole con. Which is saying something, really.

While my car combat game experience begins and ends at Twisted Metal, I had heard about this lesser-known gem from various websites and gamers, saying it was a fun, yet oddball kind of game. It’s the kind of game that doesn’t exist much these days except maybe as a Steam Early Access title.

It came to all three platforms – the Xbox got it first, followed by Gamecube and PS2 a year later – but I had heard that the GC version was the “best” version of the three, so I opted to grab that as opposed to the original Xbox version. This happens sometimes: Dead to Rights ended up getting a “balance” update when it got ported to the Gamecube and PS2 after the Xbox original was considered too tough by some.

Since the “best version” of a game is rarely on the Gamecube, this means my collection on that system will consist mostly of Nintendo first-party games and whatever exclusive games there are, barring some exceptions. Unless they were utilizing the hardware to its fullest, like Capcom’s Killer7 and Resident Evil 4, it was barely better than the PS2 version in some cases. It’s a shame, but Nintendo was basically the oft-forgotten middle child during the GC/PS2/Xbox era.

Kill.Switch (Xbox, $4)

The second most expensive game I spent money on. Ironically, cheaper than what I spent on it before, since I spent $5 for the PS2 version years ago. Yes, this is another “replace the version I got for the ‘better’ version” purchase. This was basically a trend for a lot of games I bought at the con.

This was a revolutionary shooter for its time, being one of the earliest to emphasize a cover system. While not the first – Winback on the Nintendo 64 came out earlier – it’s one of those games that’s been credited by designers as influence for later games like Gears of War and Uncharted. I’ve seen people play this on streams years ago and it looked somewhat fun, so I might give it a shot this time.

Call of Duty: Finest Hour (Xbox, $1)

This is the last “replace the version I got with the ‘better’ version” purchase. And it’s the cheapest thing I got.

Finest Hour was the first console Call of Duty, developed by the later-infamous Spark Unlimited, who brought us such classics like Legendary and Turning Point: Fall of Liberty, as well as their butchered takes on both Ninja Gaiden and Lost Planet. Unlike someone like Rebellion Developments, where they release an okay game sometimes; every single game Spark made was mediocre to absolute crap.

I played this on the PS2, and never finished it. It has a lot of dumb quirks that were uncharacteristic for Call of Duty even this early on its life, such as cutscenes not in first person, frustrating level design, and even annoying protect the vehicle missions.

I doubt playing this on the Xbox will be an improvement, but I own a majority of the Call of Duty games, it’d be foolish to stop now.

$5:

    • Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter Limited Special Edition (Xbox)

    • Rock Revolution (360)

    • Killzone 2 (PS3)

    • Transformers: War for Cybertron poster

The most expensive bundle. And with more recent platforms this time!

Okay, so you’re probably familiar with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter. Either the 360 version that was one of the system’s early killer apps, or the later PC version made by GRIN that was more in line with the first game. But since this was 2006 and the Xbox and PS2 were still modest sellers, they also got GRAW.

But it wasn’t a downgraded port of the 360 version. It was a unique version that shared elements of the other versions. It was a first person shooter like the PC version, but with a single squadmate the whole time.

Naturally I got the better version of the two. I doubt the PS2 version’s any different besides graphical fidelity and gameplay. But this is a version that’s been mostly forgotten by everyone, and I bought it out of morbid curiosity. The “Limited” part is just a behind-the-scenes DVD about the game, something that was fairly common for games around 2004-07.

I’m a sucker for plastic music games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, but I realized I didn’t have any of the games that tried to muscle their way into this space. Rock Revolution was Konami’s stab at it, and they bungled it in all the worst ways: Using cover songs when both their rivals were pushing “the original songs” that year, sticking with the clunky vertical scrolling that’s been there since GuitarFreaks, and even trying to shove their own drum controller out there to make it more like DrumMania. Hell, there’s even that E3 demo from 2008 that showed a pretty awkward demo of the game where they failed out of “Blitzkrieg Bop,” which segued into one of the people demoing it performing it live with their Ramones tribute band.

Instead of trying to carve their own niche and bringing some of the J-pop and J-rock that the previous games were known for, they thought they could compete with the big boys. And got rightly trounced.

It’s probably better than the other game that tried to go into this genre – Power Gig: Rise of the SixString – but not by much. Though I’m not gonna hunt down the Rock Revolution drum controller, I got enough plastic rock cluttering my house.

Killzone 2 was me realizing I hadn’t gotten some of Sony’s first-party exclusives besides Resistance and Uncharted. This was the game that was front-and-center of the whole fiasco where Sony used doctored CG renders and passed most of them off as actual gameplay in 2005.

The game itself seemed to do alright even with Sony fans saying “This is the game that’ll knock off that suckbox 360” despite multiple other PS3 games being touted as the 360 killer, including Folklore, Metal Gear Solid 4, and HAZE of all games. Thankfully it did well enough as it got a sequel, an HD remaster of the original, and games on the PSP, Vita and PS4. So it’s probably a fun little action game.

Since the booth I got these from were doing “3 for $5,” and Killzone 2 was a good third game.

As for the Transformers poster, it was given to me as a gift for buying said three games. It’s likely one of those pre-order incentives game stores got for stuff like this. Since Transformers is based on Autobots and Decepticons fighting each other, it’s a double-sided poster showing Optimus Prime on one side and Megatron on the other. I’m not a megafan of Transformers, but War for Cybertron was surprisingly a solid one despite me not caring much about Transformers lore. A shame I have to look for second-hand sources to find the other games as Activision let the Transformers license expire, causing those games to be delisted digitally. Our Digital Future™, everyone.

I might offload this poster to someone else, I don’t have a place to place posters, plus it should go to someone who appreciates Transformers compared to me.


That’s all the stuff I got at Portland Retro Gaming Expo, but I did buy a few more things since, so I’ll add them here to give a bit more meat to this post.

Haze (PS3, $6)

Yes, I bought the game that Korn’s Jonathan Davis proclaimed that “Gaming for [him] was a religion and Haze is the shit” in a press release for the game. The song itself is okay, it’s no “Freak on a Leash” but what is?

In my journey of “buying the best version,” I end up owning the same game on multiple platforms, or end up with versions of games I already own on PC. Since I don’t see the need to own Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on three platforms, I opted to sell off a bunch of them to a local mom and pop game shop, Video Game Wizards. A store that’s been frequently mentioned here in the past.

But since I didn’t wanna just sell stuff and leave, I opted to get this, since it was affordable enough.

As mentioned earlier, Haze was one of the games touted by PS3 fanboys as the game that’ll crush the Xbox 360 – spoilers: it didn’t – the only thing it crushed was developer Free Radical, as it was a commercial and critical failure, causing the studio to basically fall apart. Free Radical no longer exists, but a fair share of the developers are still around, working on Crysis games for Crytek and the infamous Homefront: The Revolution.

I was feeling a bit picky on what game to choose, but this one has such a bit of infamy to it that I couldn’t resist giving it a try. If only to see what the deal was with nectar knives.

Pokemon Lucario plush ($20)

The last thing isn’t even a game, but it’s cute enough that I couldn’t resist.

A friend tipped me off to this item being in GameStop and Thinkgeek, and when I bought this from a ThinkGeek, I was probably their first purchase that day. Both stores seem to be floundering lately due to bad business practices alongside thinking people want a wall full of Funko Pops and game-related toys for sale rather than Actual Video Games.

It’s kinda weird for me to own this. I don’t buy plushies much these days, let alone ones based on video game characters, but also because I’m not big on Pokemon.

Lucario was introduced during Generation IV – Diamond and Pearl. The last Pokemon game I played was around 15 years ago, and it was a Generation II one: Crystal. Traded a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time Master Quest for it. Never finished it. Probably can’t even play it these days because the battery’s likely dead.

I honestly can’t remember where I heard of Lucario or why I’ve become attached to them despite not being big on Pokemon. Probably was all the cute fanart. But I couldn’t resist grabbing this one.


 

I don’t spend a lot of money on games these days, but that’s because I got caught in a habit of buying games and not playing them. I’ve been getting better at actually playing games, and since I’ve only spent about $40 worth of stuff over the past month, I don’t feel too much regret from it.

Maybe I’ll make that Lucario my new mascot or something. Nintendo won’t object to that, right?

There will be actual new content Soon™. There’s a licensed title I’ve been playing lately that is begging to be given this treatment, and since it’s almost Turkey Time, I think it’s time for me to write about another turkey again.

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B.J. Brown

B.J. Brown is the creator and sole writer on You Found a Secret Area. Casually writing since 2010, Fascinated by dumb things like game shows, music, and of course, video games. Also on Twitter. You can support their work on Ko-Fi or Patreon.

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