You Found a Secret Area!

A dedication to Red Book CD audio.

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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Experiencing PC gaming with integrated graphics.

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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A look back at Sonic the Hedgehog cartoons.

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.

It’s like Tails is going “Man, what is with these people complaining about us?”

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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Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, on the Game Boy Color.

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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The Nintendo Power 2005 DVD Special.

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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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…

Video Games according to Life: A Civil War.

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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NOT FOR RESALE: The mystery of this weird message.

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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True Crime: Streets of LA Uncovered.

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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Mods and Maps: They Hunger for Half-Life.

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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