Blog Archives

Pete Plays: Big Ol’ Bass 2 (PlayStation)

Post-production notes:

Sometimes you come across a game that winds up being a bit of a surprise. That’s what Big Ol’ Bass 2 was for me. Sure, it can be looked at as just another fishing game– and who plays those, anyway?– but the World Monster Fishing mode in this game makes it stand out, based on cranking the Crazy Quotient (CQ) to 11.

Never mind the made-up fish that Big Ol’ Bass 2 has you catching. Bass that look like American Flags? Perch with peace signs emblazoned on their scales? A Tyrannosaurus Rex? I’m not kidding. All of these– and more– await virtual anglers in this gameplay mode. Then you’ve got this crazy editor/boss that you collect these fish for (and yes, why wouldn’t her name be Jennifer Clam?) and a nutty play-by-play commentary team that sounds like its lines were lifted from other games or completely improvised, and you’ve got yourself a winner.

This episode runs a little long– more than 30 minutes– but it gives you just a glimpse into the Big Ol’ Bass 2 experience.

It’s a pretty cheap game to add to your library; it runs less than $6 on average for a complete copy.

Episode 26: Had To Be There

Post-production notes:

This episode came about largely because of a reaction that I had to a video on Retroware posted by Shane (Rerez). Shane didn’t like Tomcat Alley (SEGA CD) very much, and I countered that it was because it’s a “had to be there” kind of game. It’s a game that doesn’t necessarily hold up well against today’s gaming standards, but it was impressive for its time.

In this video, I touch on Tomcat Alley, as well as other games that fit this description. Reviewing games of yesteryear without having seen or experienced them when they were new sometimes leads to an unsatisfactory outcome. Of course I’ll admit that Tomcat Alley is a flawed experience. Some of the gameplay elements are kind of abstract (unless players read the manual), and there’s not a whole lot of interaction– which is definitely an issue for today’s video game players, who expect a lot more than what’s seen here. At the same time, though, the full-motion video was still pretty new to video game console owners… and Tomcat Alley was a lot closer to Top Gun than any other flight game we’d experienced up to that point in time. We felt like we were really in the cockpit– and, honestly, we kind of were.

Shane does some great work, by the way. You can check him out on Retroware or on his YouTube channel.

As always, thanks so much for watching!

Episode 25: Saluting Sandy

Post-production notes:

This was my birthday video, and I decided to dedicate it to my mom. After all, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here.

I talk a bit here about the change between my youth and my adult life, and how my mom’s stance on and support of my video game hobby evolved. For my mom to buy gaming-related gifts for special occasions now, it’s a big turnaround from having her basically keep her distance from them. I completely understand the reasons why she felt the way she did; money used to be a problem, then it was an issue of balancing social life and real-world responsibilities with gaming, and then there was an acceptance that came with my 40th birthday and my desire to build a library of older games and systems.

She understands my motivations now, and I’m a bit wiser now than I was in my younger years. These older games represent events in my life, signposts of years gone by. She not only understands, but she supports what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. That’s perhaps one of the greatest gifts that I could ask for.

As always, thanks so much for watching.

Episode 24: Beginning of the End (2001-present)

Post-production notes:

This is the last in my Birthday Month miniseries of episodes that basically chronicled my life, as it pertained to video games. These recollections and what was basically 40 years of life condensed into a couple of hours were important for me to film. It’s a video legacy of my life. As I age and my memory gradually erodes, it’s going to be nice to replay these videos and just remember. They’ll provide me with moments of clarity as they evoke other memories within me.

I realize that, especially without scripts, sometimes these video tend to run on and on… but I’ve been very fortunate and grateful that many viewers gave them a chance and reacted so positively to them.

So… what does “Beginning of the End” mean? Well, it’s a nod to my decision to part ways with modern console gaming after all these years, and the video highlights some of the things that led to this decision. Admittedly, it’s a bit odd when I respond to the “PS4 or Xbox One?” question with “Neither”, but it’s the truth. Older games and systems are where my happy place is. I haven’t felt this good about gaming in a long time. The beginning of a new generation allowed me the chance to break away cleanly, without spending any money on hardware or games and then regretting it later because the things I disliked so much for the generation prior continue to repeat themselves. I’m having a lot more fun now, buying games is a lot cheaper now, and the cynicism that I developed over the last five years is starting to melt away.

Of course, this isn’t the End. It’s a rebirth of sorts. I’ve found a new community, a new comfort zone, and new opportunities. I’m not done with console gaming–  not by a long shot.

As always, thanks for watching!

Pete Plays: Galaga (Coin-op, via PlayStation 2)

Post-production notes:

As I continue to catch up and quickly update the blog with April’s videos, post-production notes will be on the brief side.

As of today, the International Classic Video Game Tournament at FunSpot is 24 days away. This means that time is running short to get my practice in for the event… so I spent some time here practicing Galaga. It’s definitely a challenge to play and offer commentary at the same time; I find myself making silly mistakes because my attention is divided. It will be different at the tournament, of course, but Galaga does present challenges that I still struggle with to this day.

Being aware of enemy entrance and attack patterns is only half the battle. Firing accuracy and avoiding the propensity to drift into the left or right corners– and thus limit incoming fire evasion– are also big keys to success.

I’m nowhere near as good as the elite players at Galaga, but it’s nice that I can consistently rack up six-figure scores. In fact, I’m a much better player now than I was at any earlier point in my life… and that includes when my reflexes were arguably sharper. I attribute that to being better at recognizing enemy patterns and basic memorization skills that come with playing the game as many times as I have over the years. The experience definitely comes in handy.

As always, thanks for watching!

Pete Plays: Ridge Racer (PlayStation)

Post-production notes:

I’m still catching up on cross-posting my videos from April here on the blog, so post-production notes will be brief here.

Ridge Racer was the game that started it all for me, when it came to my love of the PlayStation. It was fast, colorful, and tight. It took me a few weeks to learn to clear all of the Galaxian enemies during the loading screen, and I was still inconsistent in doing so for years after… so it’s pretty neat that I was able to do that on video here.

Honestly, it never bothered me that the game was a pretty short experience. After all, it’s an arcade game. Beating record times and unlocking what’s there to unlock was enough to keep me coming back… plus it’s perfect for limited game time. If I have a few extra minutes, I can pop this in and run a few races before doing whatever else I need to do. It might be a tougher sell if it was new these days, given our expectations of new games and how long they should last… but I don’t hold brevity against this game.

I would go on to buy future Ridge Racer games for years. Ridge Racer Revolution, Rage Racer, R4, Ridge Racer V, and more found their way into my library. Each new game meant new challenges, new rides, and lots of fun. It’s a shame that the series is pretty much on life support now, but it had a great run.

As always, thanks for watching!

Pete Plays: High Speed (NES)

Post-production notes:

I’m in the midst of catching up on cross-posting the videos here on the blog after a very busy April, so these notes will be pretty short. Look for a return to more detailed notes starting with Episode 27.

I shot this video in honor of the the release of High Speed on the Pinball Arcade app for iOS. After years of waiting for a straight port, it’s nice to have another option to get my red light running on. The NES version was never bad– but some of RARE’s design decisions kind of bothered me, like that (expletive withheld) tumbleweed/dust storm/tornado that captured so many of my pinballs over the years. I still HATE that thing; it completely wrecks any “zone” that I get into and disturbs pacing.

That said, it was the only way to play High Speed— other than finding the actual pinball machine– for years, and I have and will always appreciate it.

As always, thanks for watching!

Episode 22: My Console Journey Begins (1990-95)

Post-production notes:

I’m a bit late in getting the videos posted here on the blog. College classes were a bit crazy in April, so my time was pretty limited and I devoted it to getting the videos up on YouTube. More detailed post-production notes will resume with Episode 27.

If you had missed out on this episode, though, it’s a very brief walkthrough of my 8-bit and 16-bit era experiences as they happened in my life. Both eras were kind of compressed together– I got a late start on the NES era (Christmas 1990) and wound up getting a Super NES nine months later. I think that abbreviated experience with the NES was a reason I keep finding reasons to go back to it; there are so many games that I missed out on playing back then, and I’m happy that I can catch up a bit now.

As always, thanks for watching!

Pete Plays: Axelay (SNES)

Post-production notes:

Shooting a gameplay video of Axelay is something that I’ve wanted to do since I got it as a gift from my mom for Christmas last year. It truly is one of my favorite SNES games of all time, and it’s great to have it in my library once again.

I bought Axelay originally back in 1992, after reading about the game in an issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly. I knew that Konami had a history with shoot-’em-ups… I played the heck out of the Life Force coin-op in 1988 in the arcade at my local convenience store, and I knew about the Gradius series thanks to the NES and SNES ports of the first and third games. I was excited about getting Axelay based on what I’d read, though my friends were always quick to ask, “What the heck is that game, anyway?” So, rather than try to tell them about, I simply fired up the game and showed them– much like I’ve done in this video.

Axelay has a lot of memorable things. The soundtrack, first and foremost, is amazing and each stage BGM sets the mood so well. The sound quality, from its deep and bass-enhanced explosions to the reverb effects heard in the cavern for the 4th stage, shows off the power of the SNES sound chip. The bosses are all huge… especially the lava boss at the end of the 5th stage, which takes up a ton of the screen and dwarfs your ship. There are cool Mode 7 effects, and there’s some really cool parallax scrolling that is seen in the 2nd stage.

Perhaps what impresses me the most about Axelay is that it’s aged pretty well. Sure, there are some technical limitations (slowdown, occasionally poor draw distance), but these don’t really hold the game back. Axelay is great to pick up and play if you have a small window of time for gaming on a particular day. It can be played through in 30-45 minutes, and the ride is intense from start to finish. Unfortunately, there isn’t a battery backup inside of the cartridge, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t take a picture of the screen to show off your highest scores to friends. It’s certainly easier to do that now, with smartphones and their cameras, than it was back in 1992 with more cumbersome cameras. (Believe me.)

Axelay gets a strong recommendation from me as an addition to your own gaming library. The game’s value has spiked since last Christmas, according to PriceCharting, and now stands at just over $30 for a loose cartridge. If you still have a Wii, Axelay is also available as a download from the Wii Shop for 800 Wii Points ($8).

It looks like the Pete Plays series is doing pretty well on the YouTube channel, so I’ll be trying to put more of these together in the coming weeks. They’re hard to do given the lighting situation, figuring out where to set up the laptop for the best angle, and trying to work out a place to put the microphone for the best sound pickup. What I’m doing seems to be working for now, and I hope that you’re enjoying the videos.

As always, thanks for checking out my work. Look for Retro Unscripted Episode 22 soon!

Episode 21: Childhood (1972-1990)

Post-production notes:

Yup. 18 years in a little over 10 minutes.

Admittedly, some things were probably a bit more vague than I wanted them to be, but I really wanted to do my personal BC– Before my own Console– stuff in one video. I don’t have access to an Atari 2600, VIC-20, or Commodore 64, so it also made sense from a presentation standpoint to combine those experiences into one video… setting the stage for the 20+ years and multiple console generations to come.

Some other specific memories from this period:

Hanging around arcades as much as I did gave me safe places to hang out. I didn’t get into trouble as a kid; I guess I was a panhandler of sorts, looking for loose change and hoping to stumble upon extra credits or free games, but that was all I could do as a poor kid. Arcade regulars knew me, looked out for me, and protected me. I also learned a lot of things in arcades… game strategies, etiquette, even a bit of social interaction skill. Asking someone twice your age if you can join his/her game or play against them wasn’t an easy thing for me. In fact, it scared the heck out of me… but I learned how to do it, and it helped me with social awkwardness so I could make talk to people I didn’t know as I aged.

Here’s a fun story: I shut down a bully, thanks to an arcade game. This kid used to pick on me incessantly at recess in 7th grade, because I was a poor kid in a private school. After enough teasing, I’d had enough. I knew that I couldn’t fight this kid, but I had an idea of how to match up with him on an even playing field: I challenged him to an arcade game battle. Classmates showed up that Friday night, and I was there, waiting by The Empire Strikes Back machine… but the bully never showed. The following Monday, the bully got teased by other classmates. “You chickened out?” The kid stopped picking on me after that; we never became friends or anything, but the rest of my time at that school was a bit more tolerable with his teasing subsided.

I talked a bit in the video about being a “bad winner” when it came to playing games versus my brother. I never let up off of the accelerator when I played against him, and it’s understandable that he got upset sometimes. Hardball!, International Hockey, Indoor Sports, and more games were cycled in and out of my 1541 disc drive… and I won every game, every time. I used to gloat a lot, but as we both got older, we learned mutual respect for each other. He enjoyed spending time with me, playing games… and I’m sorry that I took that time for granted. I miss those days, and it’s not because I always won. It’s because that time eventually ended, and we went in our separate directions. I miss having that young 12-13 year-old kid looking up to me, wanting to hang out with me, and making me feel really good about myself when not a lot of other things did.

Episode 22 will go up next week (April 8th or 9th) and cover 1990-1995, which will touch on my experiences with the NES, SNES, Genesis, and more. It’s the period of time when I got my first real job, had my first serious relationship, lived on my own for the first time, and bought my first console(s) with my own money. Episode 23 will come the following week (April 15th or 16th) and span 1995-2001. That was the PlayStation Era for me, along with gaming on the N64, the rise and fall of the Dreamcast, and personal loss and gain. Finally, Episode 24 will come on my birthday, April 22, and wrap up the series by covering 2001 through the present day. Expect to hear about the PlayStation 2, Gamecube, Xbox, and how the PS3/360 generation adversely affected my gaming life.

As always, thanks to all of you for watching this video, along with any others that you’ve taken the time to see.

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