The Definitive Sega Mega Drive Book

Sega_TitleThere have been a swag of quality books published recently based on our rich history of video gaming. This illustrates the importance of the impact and value that video gaming has played in our recent past. The cultural importance of video games has gained enough momentum that it has become our favourite form of entertainment. What these publications do for the history of video gaming is to document eras, games, systems of our wonderful industry for us to indulge in the nostalgic memories and  also act as a reference for future generations.

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Sega_8One book that caught our attention was Read-Only Memory’sSega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works‘. The book aimed to become the definitive retrospective of Sega’s 16 -bit beast, featuring development and concept illustrations of Sega’s best-loved game franchises, original developer interviews and previously unseen hardware production plans.The crowd-funding campaign of a year ago was so successful that Read-Only Memory added additional content to sweeten the already quite tasty book. The finished product not only surpassed what it promised to deliver, but it provides loads more – from exclusive interviews with legendary US developers, Greg Johnson and Mark Voorsanger (ToeJam & Earl), Naoto Ohshima (Sonic The Hedgehog) and Yu Suzuki (Space Harrier et al), to concept art and level visualisations for Vectorman 2 and detailed pencil-drawn level maps for Comix Zone.

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Sega_9For those that only know Sega as a software publisher, this book is a reminder of its former glory – making awesome gaming hardware. The Sega pedigree carried from its arcade systems to its home systems reached a pinnacle with its 16-bit world beater, the Mega Drive (Genesis for our North American gaming friends). With an estimated 40 millions consoles sold world-wide, the 16-bit beauty assured itself a place in the pantheon of great systems. This ‘Collected Works‘ book not only celebrates the Mega Drive hardware, but it also showcases the wealth of Sega’s 16-bit software titles; from blockbuster games such as Bare Knuckle/Streets of Rage, Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star, Gunstar Heroes, Super Shinobi/Revenge of Shinobi and Golden Axe, through to cult gems such as Rent-a-Hero, Vectorman and DecapAttack. This book has it all!

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Sega_15If you are after the definitive book on all things Sega Mega Drive / Genesis, then look no further – this book oozes quality and makes you want to come back to it again and again to feast your eyes on each page – from it’s well written foreword, to the never before seen Sega production blueprints, and to the great collective artwork. Even if you are not a Sega fan, this book’s historical value and page-turning ability is simply irresistible. For those not into gaming at all, we guarantee this book will get lots of attention if placed on your coffee table. This is the only Sega Mega Drive / Genesis book you will ever need. Highly recommended.

Vital Stats:
Title: Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works
Price: £35.00 (plus shipping)
Size: 216mm x 267mm
Binding: Hardback
Pages: 352pp
Specials: 8 x Gatefold Pages

Sega_12image source: Read-Only Memory 

Joystick Battles: Konix Speedking vs Commodore C-1342

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Does size really matter? What exactly are we referring to here? Get your mind out of the gutter – we are talking about joysticks! When it comes to controlling your favourite video games, everything matters – the size, feel, stability, precision, ergonomics and durability of the joystick.

Not all joysticks are made equal, some feel great when playing shoot’em ups, only to let you down when it comes to those waggle-the-stick 100m sprint games. Others are durable during those wrist breaking manoeuvres, only to leave you feeling as if you sustained major trauma to your wrist and fingers. So how does one judge a joystick objectively? It is hard, but we are willing to give it a crack.

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Let’s dispel the ‘one joystick fits all’ myth – there isn’t one. There, it has been said. In this regular Joystick Battles feature, we will pit two joysticks against each other, with the winner progressing to the last round, JoystickMania 1. The judgement criteria will be based on: ergonomic feel, precision/stability and durability. To ensure we remain objective, we will use the joysticks on a variety of gaming genres; shoot’em ups, platformers and wrist-breaking wagglers. This should sort out the wheat from the chaff.

The first joystick battle is between the Commodore C-1342 joystick and the Konix Speedking. I know what you are thinking, we shouldn’t pit a pack-in joystick with an aftermarket one. Hey, it is a free world and we can do whatever the hell we like.

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So how did the C-1342 fare against the Speedking? Lay your peepers on the below table:

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After getting all hot and bothered on the C64, there could only be one winner in this joystick battle.

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Verdict: Konix Speeding
Being an aftermarket joystick, you would have expected the Konix to breeze through this battle. The C-1342 put up a great fight, but the durability of the stick lets it down big time. The Speedking does seem gimmicky in style, but it does the job admirably and it feels great in the hand – if you are a right handed player!

 

Happy Snaps: The PowerUp Retro 8-Bit Camera

If you are a nostalgic gamer and would like to inject some retro feeling to your photos, then you may want to take note.

Available for iOS devices, sushiGrass has created the PowerUp camera app. PowerUp filters your camera in real-time so that you can take snaps using the same resolution as your favourite retro gaming systems.

When you purchase PowerUp, you get two retro gaming system filters (Genesis and NES) with the option to buy (in-app) six more – Master System, SNES, Game Gear, Atari 2600, Game Boy and TurboGrafx-16. Once you take your retro photos, PowerUp allows you to share your happy snaps on social media! Get those 16-bit selfies propagating across your social network.

So, is this camera app worth the AUD$1.29c outlay? That is a good question. If you are an old school 8-bit and/or 16-bit gamer, then you will get a kick out of shooting photos using your favourite system’s filter. The novelty may wear off, but hey, it costs less than a cup of coffee. Now you’re playing with PowerUp!

Very easy to use interface
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Before the PowerUp snap
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PowerUp snap with the Genesis filter
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PowerUp snap with the NES filter
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TAC-2 PowerUp snap with Genesis filter
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TAC-2 PowerUp snap with NES filter
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Happy Families – NES and Mega Drive (Genesis filter)
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Happy Families – NES and Mega Drive (NES filter)
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image source: ausretrogamer

Review: Retro Arcade Watch

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Forget about wearable tech wristwatches like Sony’s Smartwatch or Samsung’s Galaxy Gear. If you want a cool retro timepiece on your wrist, then look no further than ThinkGeek’s Retro Arcade Watch.

Once we received the Retro Arcade Watch, we knew a review was in order to let you know what we thought of the watch and most importantly, if it is worth shelling out your hard earned cash. Read on.

Design & Function
The Retro Arcade wristwatch is chunky. Don’t let the chunkiness dissuade you though – it sits comfortably on the wrist with no nagging bits poking and prodding your arm or hand. This is no flimsy timepiece. Made from stainless steel, the case is made to withstand normal day to day punishment. The case (arcade cabinet) is adorned with Galactic Defense decals and also has a joystick and fire-button to add to the arcade machine realism. For pure awesomeness, when the fire-button is pressed, it lights up the hour indicators and marquee in red and also makes pew pew firing sound effects. To power all this awesomeness, the watch requires a CR2032 and SR626 button cell batteries, which are included.

ThinkGeek didn’t skimp on the band either, they partnered the cool case with a black leather band with white contrast stitching. The end result being a unique timepiece that is a throwback to the golden age of arcade gaming.  

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Display
In keeping with the arcade theme, the analog-style time is displayed with a combination of dials – space rocks for the hours and minutes, and a spaceship for the seconds hand. Did I hear you say Asteroids? Well, you said that, we didn’t. As mentioned previously, when the fire-button is pressed, the hour indicator dots are lit up in red, so if you find yourself in a dark alley and you need to know what time it is, just press the fire-button.

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Coolness
It’s an arcade machine on your wrist that can tell the time and has awesome lighting and pew pew sound effects. How much cooler can it get? Well, if you could play Asteroids or Galaga on it, then I guess it would have been on the super side of cool. However, for under 50 smackers ($49.95USD) you get a watch that can tell the time and provide a coolness factor for free.

Verdict
If you are an Omega or Tag Heuer kind of watch wearer, then the Retro Arcade Wristwatch may not be for you. If you like to show-off your inner geekiness, then you cannot go wrong with this watch on your wrist. At the least, you will send tongues wagging!

 

TxK: The Killer App

TxK_topFormat: PS Vita
Year: 2014
Developer: Llamasoft
Cost: $10.35

I am going to go against the grain here and write about a current gen video game. It’s no ordinary game, it has it’s roots in the arcades dating back to 1981. The game I speak of is TxK. What praises can be written here that haven’t already been lavished on this beautiful game by the great Yak, Jeff Minter (Llamasoft).

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For starters, this is no ordinary update on Dave Theurer’s original arcade smash hit Tempest, or Jeff’s own Tempest 2000 on the Atari Jaguar. TxK brings Tempest well and truly into the 21st century. This tube shooter captures your attention and gobbles up a lot of your free time, not just the PS Vita battery. Words like mesmerising, sublime, frantic, nail-biting and intense come to mind when describing TxK.

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For those that have just arrived on this planet, TxK is a tube/web shooter, where your ship is attached to the top edge (rim) of a web playfield, shooting at enemies approaching from the background into the foreground. Your mission is to clear each of the 100 playfields and not allow the enemies to shoot you down or capture your ship. To assist you in getting further into the game, each level provides power-ups that can unleash screen-clearing bombs or provide you with an AI Droid which is handy in clearing enemies that have jumped up on the rim.

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Coupled with the gorgeous psychedelic visuals, Jeff Minter has also thrown in some catchy, rave-inspired soundtracks. With an ingenious save system and modes of play, TxK is clean, perfectly designed and bristling with high energy.

Verdict: If there is one game that will convince you to buy a PS Vita, it is TxK. It has ‘killer app’ written all over it.

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MOGA: The Mobile Game Changer

Is your new year’s resolution to become an accomplished mobile gamer? To become an accomplished mobile gamer, you’ll need some precision control. Well, I think the MOGA Pocket Controller (MOGA) might be your weapon of choice.

All work ceased when the MOGA arrived in the office. We all just gawked at this beautiful sleek package on the desk. Who would be the lucky sod to crack open the controller and put it through its paces? Well, being the editor, there are certain perks and privileges that come with the job –  I wasn’t going to let anyone else get their grubby fingers on the MOGA.

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Build Quality
The first thing that strikes you with the MOGA is its build quality – it is flawless! This little pocket rocket is one of the best looking controllers on the market. The piano black finish is gorgeous and the feel and control is akin to your PS3 and XBox 360 controllers, albeit a tad smaller for use on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets).

With dual analogue sticks, shoulder triggers and four action buttons, you will feel right at home when the MOGA is in your hands. The unit even has a ‘flip’ arm which secures your Android device up to 3.2in / 82mm in size – accommodating the market’s largest smartphones.

The MOGA draws power from two AAA (1.5V) batteries. You’ll get a fair few hours play on a pair of AAAs. We played with it for 6 hours and there was still lots of juice left in the batteries.

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Compatibility & Games
Let’s face it, what good is a controller if it can not be used on a myriad of games. Given the MOGA is for Android 2.3+ devices (we used it on a Samsung Galaxy S3), there are numerous games on Google Play that are ‘enhanced’ for the MOGA. Having said that, games that are compatible with the MOGA must run via its proprietary app, the MOGA Pivot App (don’t stress, it is a breeze to setup and use). Unfortunately, this means that your much loved retro gaming emulators can not utilise this controller. That aside, there are games being added to the library on a constant basis. You would be pretty hard pressed if you couldn’t find a swag of games that you could play using the MOGA.

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Verdict
If you are a control freak and yearn for precision, then the MOGA Pocket Controller is for you. If you tend to play MAME or other retro system emulators, then you will need to look elsewhere. This is one great little controller that we highly recommend. 

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Book Review: Ready Player One

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At the time I found Ready Player One, I was up for getting into a good, well, a great, journey book. Walking through the airport on my way home from an August conference in Vegas, this book somehow stood out as a perfect story to spend my trip being engrossed in. The description on the cover read, “Enchanting…Willy Wonka meets The Matrix”; which was exactly the perfect description to raise my interest.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is set in the year 2044 and tells the story of Wade, a young kid full of passion for the 80s, on a quest for his prize – the solution to a virtual reality game OASIS, left behind by a famous videogame designer and retro aficionado, James Halliday. Along the way were puzzles and various Easter eggs left within the game, and solving the game meant consequently inheriting Halliday’s hidden fortune.

After reading a few pages in the shop, I was hooked and had to buy the book. For me, it seemed to have just the right mix of all the best elements of honest geekiness, and lots of 80’s retro references. While the story is about a video game, the quest feels much more like an enchanting quest, closer to Journey to the Center of the Earth than say, Tron. Mix in with that feeling a ton of references to John Hughes’ movies and a sense of that “man against the machines” feel of films like Terminator 2, or The Matrix, and you’ll have a feel for what Ready Player One was like to read.

Something that really worked in the book, was the way Cline creates the feeling of a much bigger world than what is currently happening. There is a definite shared appreciation and understanding that emerges between Halliday and the young “Gunters” who are pursuing the final prize that he has hidden within his game. The book bounces between what is happening and flashbacks and quick historical explanations of why something is, and seeing the story of the quest unfold through the young eyes of Wade as he realises the full extent of evil in the corporation that pursues them so closely.

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Halliday presents the keys!
source: Ready Player One

Like the author, I grew up with arcade video games and all the referenced 80s films and music, so this book really struck a chord of familiarity and excitement with me. Even without that, the story still came across with a lot of heart and feeling. It isn’t overly technical or clinical, yet still was a great follow up to prolong the rush from the conference I’d just been to.

Without giving away too much of the story, there were also some great moments of triumph tempered nicely with the warm 80s backdrop. The pace varies throughout the book which adds some great dynamics of tension, elation, as well as calm moments of reflection in-between.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves 80s movies ranging from the science fiction of Back to the Future series to the teenage revelations of The Breakfast Club. There is an assumption that the reader is familiar with these. The geeky elements are also there to please old gamers too. Even after my flight landed, I was still glued to this book. It literally made me grin later when I realised that the author had actually followed up with running a competition and had given away a real customised DeLorean!

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Ready Player One author, Ernest Cline and the beloved DeLorean
source: Ready Player One

Reading this book was indeed a thoroughly enjoyable journey, which left me with a sense of nerdy excitement that makes you want to go and play old arcade games and hack away on a computer to 80s music. Read it now!

Ready Player One [by: Ernest Cline] is available paperback and for the Kindle.
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MARTdiaf23
Retro, science fiction, horror movie fan and breaker of things.

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