What I’ve been up to lately

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Alucard needs a cup of coffee…

Hello, I figured I’d write an update about what I’ve been up to lately.  In between writing about books for this site and working on my own novel for Camp NaNoWriMo,  I am a frequent writer and contributor for the excellent site, Nerdvana. Below are links to several articles I’ve written for that site, with more to come soon. I hope anyone who reads this blog will check them out, (hopefully) like them and share as much as possible. I’m always interested in feedback as well, so let me know what you think.

Here we go:

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild features:

Last Breath of a Console

The DLC has Landed

A Review of the Castlevania Netflix series

My Castlevania Retrospective
Part 1 – Dracula Rises
Part 2 – Dark Symphony
Part 3 – Circle, Lament and Harmony
Part 4 – Portraits of Sorrow
Part 5 – Dracula Rises no More
Part 6 – Resurrection

Check them out and let me know what you think!

Coming soon, I’ll have my thoughts on Jack L. Chalker’s Midnight at the Well of Souls, Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter’s The Long Earth and another NaNoWriMo Progress Report and look for more Nerdvana articles in the future (sign up for the site; it’s pretty awesome). Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

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The Economics of Nostalgia

Yesterday, I passed up the opportunity to buy a Nintendo Switch console. I stopped at Target for a few sundry items and decided, on a whim, to check out the electronics section. As I approached the aisle, I caught a glimpse of red in the corner display case. Upon investigating, I confirmed my suspicion: I found a Nintendo Switch in the wild!

These days, that’s like finding a needle in a hay stack, considering Nintendo’s well-known inventory problems.

The sticker price, at $299.99 (plus tax), is a bit steep. The decision didn’t take long. I already own The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, for the Wii U. Now, Zelda is the only game I’m truly interested in playing on the system. Because the system doesn’t come with a pack-in title, I’d be shelling out an additional $59.99 (plus tax) for the game.

Should I decide upon acquiring additional games, it would cost even more. Let’s say I want a to procure a copy of the new Mario Kart 8, another title I already own on Wii U; it would cost upward of $60, depending on where I try to buy it.

Ultimately, I decided not to go through with buying the Switch. I returned today and, sure enough, it’s gone. You snooze, you lose, as they say. Of course, the proverbial, “they” ( who may or may not be giants) don’t have to think about paying bills and eating.  I’ve heard Nintendo Switch carts taste terrible, anyway, so I’ll have to go buy some groceries instead. I did buy some of those delicious coffee nut M & Ms, though, so it wasn’t a complete bust.

We’ve already discussed the debacle of the NES Classic Mini. However, inventory problems and shortsighted marketing aside, the Nintendo Switch could potentially become one of the greatest Nintendo systems since the SNES. It’s difficult to say, really.

What drives our interest toward these systems? Is it simple nostalgia for “the good old days” of gaming? Is it a desire to experience our favorites in HD? I wonder sometimes. I’m planning to bide my time and get the Switch when Super Mario Odyssey comes out, though. It looks like fun and will make me feel nostalgic for the older Mario games, but at what cost? About $400.

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Retro Retrospective – Nintendo Nostalgia

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Over the past few days I’ve learned that >The Legend of ZeldaKid Icarus and Double Dragon – among others – are now at least 30 years old. Playing these games as a youth, while certainly fun, was never something I saw myself thinking about as an adult.

Nowadays, when I have the time for it, I still love to play Zelda. Lately, I’ve been enjoying the heck out of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m still a huge Castlevania fan, which should not surprise anyone at all.

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The first scene of a classic!

Following the release of the Nintendo 64 in 1996, none of my peers thought about those older games. Whenever I would mention my Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo or Game Boy to my friends or
others in my age group, they would mock me and scoff at my lack of a modern gaming system.

“When are you going to join the 20th Century, man?” my old buddy, Joe, would say, “I can’t believe you still like those stupid, old games, anyway.” He was acting goofy, providing some levity to the afternoon. His joke was funny, in context. Others, who said similar things, however, were much more serious.

This response – the insolence of youth – narrows down to only one thing: the foolish belief that anything old has no value. To truly believe there is no value in older technology, games, content, books or otherwise is not only a foolish notion, but an ignorant one. It’s the same reason that for centuries, works of art and literature have been destroyed or lost: ignorance and impudence. But, that’s a conversation for another time.

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Watch out for the eyeball creatures!

Today, we’re here to talk about Nintendo! Not reflect upon the downfall of society past, present and future. Let’s have some levity! Keep things bright! Nostalgia is overrated! As Alex Lifeson of the band, RUSH would say, “Blah, Blah, Blah, Blah-dee Blah!”

Something interesting happened around the year 2006-2007. Suddenly, I began seeing so-called retro consoles all over the place: at flea markets, electronics aisles in big box stores and even at our local gaming shops. It was interesting. Then, so many websites popped up, extolling the virtue of ‘classic’ and “retro.” I began talking to some of my former peers and learned many of them not only had entire collections of Nintendo and Super Nintendo games, but were now avid fans and collectors.

Nintendo unveiled its Wii Virtual Console and that brought retro gaming back into the public eye. The popularity of this service has led to its presence on every Nintendo console since. Even Sony and Microsoft are getting in on the nostalgia game, with releases of arcade ports and retro game collections. While the Rare Retrospective was certainly nice, however, I would much rather prefer a way to play Battletoads again on a Nintendo Console.

2219621-nes_battletoadsI was quite the pro at Battletoads. I beat it fourteen times. I’ve been meaning to play it again. I’ve been saying that for five years, though, so we’ll see what 2017 brings into my gaming queue. At the moment, I have more games than time to play them.

Battletoads seemed unique for its time, an apt parody of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which themselves were a parody of Daredevil comics. I’ve always found anthropomorphic characters interesting: Bucky O’Hare, the four Ninja Turtles and Fox McCloud all seemed great when first I heard of them.

Then again, viewing those same characters through a different perspective shows that Star Fox the TMNT have become a bizarre, convoluted mess that is geared toward younger kids and I don’t want to talk about Bucky O’Hare. It is unreasonable to be upset by these realizations. The truth of the matter is simply that they are products of their time and any new iteration of them is not being made for me or my generation. I accept and embrace that and believe others should, too.

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We all knew this was coming

Nostalgia is weird. I think we’ve all heard the phrase, “through rose colored glasses” referencing something we enjoyed from our past. Time and perspective certainly make fools of us all, I suppose. Some things hold up well for me: take Star Trek: The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager, for instance. I can go back to those episodes and re-watch them over and over. The acting is (mostly) good, the effects are practical and the stories are usually compelling. Babylon 5, however, is a different story. While I loved the plot, characters and themes, the visual effects make it very much a product of its time, due to the use of nascent CGI FX. I can see myself re-watching it at some point, but it is highly unlikely.I cannot honestly say I would watch it again for any reason other than nostalgia. So, when I sat down to play some of my older Nintendo games, imagine my surprise when I ended up enjoying most of them just as much today as I did as a kid.

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SMB 3 – a Classic

A few did not stand up to my self-described ‘time test,’ but many of them did, to my surprise. The original Super Mario Bros. and its three sequels, are certainly great fun. Games like Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Run wouldn’t exist if people weren’t interested in those older Super Mario Bros. games.

Dwelling in the past, being nostalgic, or simply just enjoying older/retro things is perfectly fine, so long as it isn’t taken to an extreme. Collecting has its value. Enjoying the games for what they are has its value. Retro gaming is – to me at least – a hobby more than anything and can be picked up and put away as I deem fit.

No longer is there a stigma attached to the hobby, thanks to my generation’s love of everything retro. I find that fascinating. To be part of the hobby for the fun of it, rather than for the nostalgia is a nice touch.

The games I always enjoyed have returned to the spotlight. Now, some of them are

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This thing is more elusive than Bigfoot!

prohibitively expensive. Then, in late 2016, Nintendo released the NES Classic Mini, a miniaturized version of the original system, pre-loaded with 30 classic games. Eventually, I may find and play one, but it is unlikely because the system is officially dead now. My original NES broke in 2010 and I’ve never found the time or funds to replace it, unfortunately.

That isn’t a problem, though. Several other options are available: there do seem to be a few other prospects. Retron has several different multi-cartridge units available, Yobo makes the FC Twin and the Raspberry Pi seems to be coming into prominence in the Do It Yourself gaming scene these days.

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The AVS, available from Retro USB

Another option is the AVS from Retro USB, which appears to be the most promising NES Clone on the market these days. The system has full HD capability, does away with the ancient NES power brick and plays most original cartridges (what, according to Nintendo Power Magazine, Nintendo once called ‘Game Paks,’ in an attempt to give them a separate identity from other gaming cartridges of the time).

Per the product page at Retro USB, the AVS also features firm ware updates and an online scoreboard. Why don’t I already own one of these? Perhaps I will pick one up soon, along with a handful of cartridges (Game Paks).

A Super Nintendo Mini is also on the horizon, for a 2017 holiday release, including the unreleased Star Fox 2, which I’m looking forward to playing…if I can find one.