Metal Gear S&M

I recently completed Metal Gear Solid for the first time (my pirated copy stopped working after the raw eroticism of the Grey Fox struggle), which we’ll hear all about if we ever record another show.

On sating Grey Fox for a second time I was reminded of a fan fiction parody I wrote for my GameSpot blog, and thought I may as well post it here. Don’t forget to bring some tissues, as it’s a bit of a, nudge nudge, wink wink at a blind bat, tearjerker.

As a bonus, here’s a rhyming review for Metal Gear Solid 4 that I have no recollection of having written:

Oh Kojima what were you thinking
You had a great game
That ticked all the boxes
Then you did some tinkering
And took Dawkins’ influence too far
And ruined the ending
It was really bizarre.
All you had to do
Was end it at the sunset
Instead you ham-fisted it
And ended it with a bum-fest.

  It is always by way of pain one arrives at pleasure. - Sade

It is always by way of pain one arrives at pleasure. - Sade

Game Under Podcast 106

In episode 106 of the Game Under Podcast, Tom and Phil celebrate ten years of the VG Pressrom Podcast, and with the help of their randomly appearing, but always special, guest Aarny, they discuss the Devil May Cry series.

Just how good is this series? You can find out here.

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Game Under Podcast 105

In Episode 105 of the Game Under Podcast, Tom and Phil return to discuss both industrial and "wild" fires, the podcast's influence on Australian politics (having had the same two hosts for a hundred or so episodes, we can't be blamed for the yearly purges), developments in game criticism, and pose the question:

Is Resident Evil Remake HD the greatest mansion simulator yet? Regardless, It certainly simulates the atmosphere of summer nights in Richmond; whereas Richmond itself simulates foggy winter nights in Silent Hill. 

You will find the answer to this important question here.

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Toshihiro Nagoshi

Tom brought this forum post from Resetera.com to my attention. As a subscriber to Edge magazine I look forward to my next copy, where they have a feature on Toshihiro Nagoshi, a favourite developer of the Game Under Podcast. (which the link above includes some excerpts).

 Any resume with Yazuka and Super Monkey Ball on it allows you to dress like this.

Any resume with Yazuka and Super Monkey Ball on it allows you to dress like this.

With a gameography as below it's no surprise as to why Tom and I enjoy Nagoshi's work so much:

Virtua Racing - Game Designer
Burning Rival - Director
Daytona USA series - Director
Scud Race - Director
Shenmue - Supervisor
SpikeOut - Director
Planet Harriers - Director
Super Monkey Ball series[12] - Producer/Director
F-Zero GX/AX - Producer
Yakuza series[13] - Producer/Director/Executive Director
Binary Domain - General Director
Hokuto Ga Gotoku - Executive Director

Here is a link to the excerpts, thanks again Tom for bringing it to my attention.

- Phil Fogg

Game Under Podcast 104

In this episode, Tom Towers and Phil Fogg cover everything from IGN's plagiarism scandal, the NES Classic, cats and fashion, Santo, Sam and Ed, and whisk[e]y—and that's just trademark banter!

More importantly, the two return to their dissection of Silent Hill; revealing even more fascinating parts of its complex anatomy.

You don't want to miss it. You can't miss it, if you click here.

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Australian Hardware Review - Hyperkin Retron 77

Just over a year ago, I was very interested in Hyperkin's Retron 77 announcement at the 2017 E3 conference in Los Angeles. Hyperkin, who has a mixed record with emulation and product quality, was showing promise by releasing hardware on which you could use your own Atari 2600 cartridges, or homemade ROMs, on modern televisions by use of an HDMI cable.

As any Atari owner knows, hooking up an Atari to any television made in the last twenty years or so is not without it's challenges.  The Atari 2600 relied on a coaxial radio frequency (RF) connection -- not something that you'll find too often (though I did, check out this story).

 You no longer need one of these to re-visit your Atari 2600 collection.

You no longer need one of these to re-visit your Atari 2600 collection.

Which is why an HDMI Atari 2600 clone was so promising.  But would it come to Australia? And would it have some of the difficulties of the Retron 5, with ill-fitting cartridge slots that make you feel like you are destroying pins every time you use it (not to mention the questionable provenance of the emulation engine).

 The unopened box is a good start. Very high quality with the Hyperkin dog-eared edge to the upper right corner of the box.

The unopened box is a good start. Very high quality with the Hyperkin dog-eared edge to the upper right corner of the box.

The Retron 77 has not yet had an official release in Australia, but a store in Sydney, which I've been buying games from for over 30 years is selling what appears to be imported North American versions and selling them for $155 (they sell directly from Hyperkin in the United States for $69 USD ($94 AUD). The delivery time was prompt, and for an Atari 2600 fan, the price was right. Aussie buyers please note that you will need to buy an adapter to connect the USB power source to an Australian power supply, but to most Aussie's this is not a new thing, you can find them on Ebay for less than $5 or at any airport or Big W for slightly more.

 The console itself evokes the original "woody" design, and is embellished with the Hyperkin dog ear on the front right-hand side. replete with blue LED back lighting.

The console itself evokes the original "woody" design, and is embellished with the Hyperkin dog ear on the front right-hand side. replete with blue LED back lighting.

When first confronted with the Retron 77, I experienced a feeling of measured satisfaction with the industrial design. It's small, because it makes sense, less than twice the width of an Atari 2600 cartridge this is a pleasing choice, regardless of the technological  and economic factors which lead to the finished product. When put in a world of Nintendo's miniature consoles the choice by Hyperkin makes even more sense.

 The Retron 77 compared in size to one of the most famous releases from Atari (right up there with Warren Robinet's, Adventure).

The Retron 77 compared in size to one of the most famous releases from Atari (right up there with Warren Robinet's, Adventure).

What left me a less satisfied was the quality of the wood grain sticker and die-cut of the plastic molding. Clearly the design was set to the best intentions, but the fabrication could not meet the same level. Even so, it's the best that Hyperkin has managed to accomplish to date, and for the price understandable.

 Hyperkin really went all out in terms of giving players options available on the original Atari 2600 and then some more.

Hyperkin really went all out in terms of giving players options available on the original Atari 2600 and then some more.

On the front of the system you have original Atari 2600 controller ports (more on this later), skill levels for both players (nice touch), a mode selector and reset button. And, new to an Atari-like device a Save and Load button.  The appreciation that Hyperkin included six option buttons was not lost on me (a likely tribute to the six switchers that preceded the four switch option Atari's).

 Even more mystery's onthe back with a FRY and Memory slot

Even more mystery's onthe back with a FRY and Memory slot

Moving to the back of the box (Game Under Podcast fans rejoice), Hyperkin included even more tributes, which when you think of the extra expense they could have excluded,  no-one would have complained. They include a black and white colour option, which is completely unnecessary, but appreciated. They included  a memory slot, which appears to have a Micro SD card inserted. I tried to remove it to see what it was, but there was some resistance, so rather than potentially damage my unit I relented.

There is a video ratio button which enables a choice between 4:3 and 16:9, which for classic Atari players is not a choice at all.  In fact, one of the few disappointments with the console is that this must be selected each time you play, (to change to 4:3, which really should have been the default).

Hyperkin also included a "FRY" button, which to me, was again an indication that the designers of this hardware were devout in their actual appreciation for the Atari 2600 or at least consultative with the Atari community.  "Frying" a cartridge was an activity of turning the off and on button rapidly, either by itsel,f or in combination with other inputs while playing. This would often lead to the game "glitching" in an entertaining manner, sometime opening up later levels of a game prematurely.  This is something Hyperkin could easily have left off the design, but chose to include, which even if I don't use more than once, is appreciated.

 Identical? Read the review for more.

Identical? Read the review for more.

As for the included controller, a lot of reviews say that the Retron 77 and the original are identical.  This is not the case, as you can see from the photograph above. The dimensions are slightly different, but not in an unpleasant manner. If one did not have the direct comparison you would not discern the difference.

Hyperkin has pleasantly dog-eared both lower corners of the controller, consistent with their aesthetic, but also more ergonomic than the original controller.

While they were in an accommodating mood, they also tipped the hat to the lefties out there by providing a second button (much as Atari did with they Lynx design).

 It really is more comfortable.

It really is more comfortable.

The only substantial difference from the original controller is that the buttons on the Retron 77 have half (yes half) of the "throw" of the original button. While the original has a spring, the Retron 77 is purely digital.  This more responsive button makes most twitch games way too easy.  Fortunately, you are able to plug in original Atari 2600 controllers.

For those that do enjoy the Retron 77 controllers, the uncomfortable question arises, what if you don't already have an Atari 2600 controller for a second player?  As of now, you cannot buy a second controller from Hyperkin.  Given that the system requires actual Atari cartridges, it is unlikely that you would not already have a second controller ready to go as an aficionado.

Another difference (thankfully) is that the Retron 77 controller has a cable twice the length of the original Atari 2600 controller, a choice that sadly Nintendo went in the opposite direction with it's NES classic.

In terms of actual use, I put almost every cartridge I could find in the Retron 77 and it worked perfectly with both Atari and second party games from Imagic and Activision.

I cannot but heartily encourage Atari 2600 owners to pick up a Retron 77 -- the only way they cold have improved it was by having it emulate Atari 7800's, let's hope that is in the plans.

- Phil Fogg

9/10

Game Under Podcast 103

Join Phil and Tom on the awesome adventure of amateur podcasts, as they discuss the prequel to Life is Strange season 2 (does it stand up to Papo y Yo?), petrol sniffing, Harlan Ellison's legal legacy, C-Span, the present state of the internet (part 2 of a trilogy), and whether or not Silent Hill is a church—God took umbrage at this, and cut us off; but we will return to the subject in the next episode!

In the meantime, listen to the current episode here.

 Takayoshi Sato single-handedly produced the FMVs, living in the office for 2 and a half years.

Takayoshi Sato single-handedly produced the FMVs, living in the office for 2 and a half years.

Postcards From Silent Hill

I happened to be up in the early morning (watching Australia lose to Peru) after finishing Silent Hill so, as one does after completing what is widely considered to be one of the most terrifying games ever, I decided to go on a walk in the dead of night*—only to discover I had been transported to the foggy fairyland of Silent Hill itself!

I wouldn't advise parking here.

I decided to document my discoveries as if I've learnt anything at all from classic horror games, it's that you must make a record of what you witness; if only so you may continue once you die. But rather than put pen to notebook or ink ribbon to typewriter, I made a photographic record instead. Which is a completely different mechanic from Siren that has nothing to do with saving, but discovering ghosts.**

Oops.

Luckily I survived.

—And maybe I even found a ghost or two?

You be the judge.

Oh! And please look forward to my full impressions of Silent Hill, coming in episode 103 of the Game Under Podcast! 

As you can see here, it really is fog; not just the auto-focus failing in lowlight.

*The early morning being the night is a bit confusing, isn't it?

**I think. I haven't actually played it.

Game Under Podcast Episode 102

Having filled the entire front page with filler, Tom and Phil finally return with a new episode of the Game Under Podcast. 

There's some stuff about games in it, some stuff about the internet, too, but the real attraction is Phil's new feature, Tom's Five in Five.

Please look forward to hearing it in all the podcasts you actually listen to. But now, at least, you know where it's from!

Listen here.

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LEGO

By now it's generational trope, told year after year by those pining for their youth, or at least the dollars that their toys/ comic books/ baseball cards/ pogs/ video games could now be generating on Ebay.  It goes like this, "I left my X collection at home when I went away to college, and my parents threw out/sold at garage sale all my favourite stuff.  It'd be worth a fortune these days".

And for over 20 years, that is what I thought had happened with my 1980's collection of Legoland Space sets.  A few months ago, my mother revealed that in fact all the LEGO I had carefuly saved for during my childhood, were in fact intact.

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As a kid, I played with these a lot, but I was always careful to keep the boxes, instructions, even the small plastic bags that held the legos.  I don't know why, I just did.  And for the last couple of decades, I figured they had been thrown out, sold or given away to neighbours.  Mostly becase the first time I went home after about 10 years, they were nowhere to be found.  I never said anything to my Mom as I did not want her to feel bad.

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I've been very busy since, so I've only slowly started to put them back together.  There is still a third more to go.  I was happy to see that all the catalogs and ephemera I picked up from the toystore was also still together, along with the hand drawn plans and inventories I put together as a 11 year old.

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I'll finish up this story in the next episode of the Game Under Podcast.

Phil Fogg