2019 Gaming Year In Review

While discussing with my friend Doom the prospect of playing and finishing one game a week for the year 2020, I thought I would take a look at my data from 2019 to see if I did indeed clear 52 games for the year.

Not only that, but as I skimmed through the titles that I had finished within the 2019 calendar year, I decided that a brief look back at my gaming history for 2019 might be a somewhat interesting blog post. And since I have been completely negligent of this WordPress since 2017, here goes.

Please keep in mind that my library of physical games comprises more than 1400 titles and I am not above cheating through most of them if I am to have any hope of playing them all within my lifetime.

January – 2019 started, as every good year should, with some Pokemon. I had filled out my gen3 collection by receiving a copy of Sapphire for Christmas 2018, which was my first completed game in 2019 on January 2. Attention shifted to Let’s Go Pikachu, another Christmas gift, that I played and finished the storyline within the month. January rounded out by finishing Hot Wheels Stunt Track Driver 2, a PC game I bought bundled with the first Stunt Track Driver many years ago. Neither of those games are particularly great by today’s standards, but I’m terribly nostalgic about the first, which I played a lot at a cousin’s house in my youth.

February – Continuing through my Christmas gifts, I knocked out Xbox One’s Quantum Break, Super Mario Odyssey, and Skyrim VR in pretty quick succession. I plan on replaying Odyssey someday since it was a lot of fun and I’d like to spend more time collecting moons. Skyrim I had actually played often through January, spending most of my time completing sidequests and leveling up several skills. Once February hit I decided to power through and complete the main quest, for which I was massively over-leveled. After those three I tackled two more PC games that have been sitting in my library far too long: Quake (actually a shareware disk that only has the first mission, but for whatever reason, I count it in my collection) and Transport Tycoon, one of my earliest and favorite sim games.

March – During March I was still chugging through Christmas gifts, which this month included Let’s Go Eevee and Pokemon Diamond and Pearl (Christmas 2018 helped fill out my main series Pokemon collection, until Sword and Shield were released anyway). I spent some quality time with a Game Boy, playing the monochromatic Defender/Joust and Final Fantasy Legend plus Tony Hawk’s American Sk8land (GBA – not a great game, play the DS version instead). While on a Tony Hawk kick, I also played TH Motion, one of the DS’ most gimmicky games. As a huge fan of the THPS series, I do not recommend Motion to anyone, although the pack-in title Hue Pixel Painter was decent. In March I continued the trend of trying to knock out my PC collection by finishing Myst 3: Exile and thus the Myst 10th anniversary collection.

A note on compilations: Although I tend to play through individual games in a compilation separately, I treat the compilation as a singular entity when considering it played/beaten in my library. For instance, I may have played through Myst and Riven in February, but not marked the compilation as played until I wrapped up Exile in March.

April – I’m not sure what happened in April. The only game I have marked as played during this month is Pokemon Heart Gold, which I bought alongside Soul Silver and XD: Gale of Darkness in a buy 2 get 1 free sale.

May – Another fairly quiet month as I played through Soul Silver and the first Uncharted game. This was not part of the Nathan Drake Collection. Rather, I bought the PS3 games separately after my PS4 came bundled with the fourth game.

June – June provided me with more Nintendo Switch titles in the form of Crayola Scoot (vaguely THPS-esque) and Sonic Mania, which I completed prior to month’s end. I also played through the PSVR title Farpoint, which was a holdout from Christmas 2017. In June I also went hard and heavy at my PSP collection, playing through a Disney Cars race game, SOCOM Fireteam Bravo 2, and Madden 07, 08, and 10.

July – Mario Maker 2 releases and when I saw that Walmart was selling it for $10 less than other retailers, I couldn’t pass up. Played through every single story mode level quite early in the month, then spent some more time playing hundreds of levels in endless mode. Continued the Uncharted saga with the second game in the series; played Robinson, another PSVR title; and enjoyed Thatgamecompany’s compilation of Journey, Flow, and Flower. Each game in the compliation was quite short, but quite enjoyable.

August – This is another very quiet month. Not because I wasn’t playing anything, but I only finished one game: Job Simulator on PSVR. This is a very quirky game whose novelty wears off fairly quickly. It’s still pretty fun and funny. The reason I didn’t finish any more in August is because I was slowly going through the games that I would finish in September.

September – I remember the games from September being slow and tedious. First was Driveclub VR. Although VR racing is a lot of fun, the headset drift is worse in this game than any other VR game I’ve played so far. It got so bad at times I’d practically be sitting sideways on the couch just so I would be facing forward in the game. Next was the Japanese exclusive DS title Slide Adventure: Magkid. This is a fun game where you use an optical mouse attachment on the bottom of the DS to move your character around on-screen. This game was tedious due to the language barrier and lack of help guides on the internet. Also finished in September: God of War II and the PS3 version of Dance Dance Revolution.

October – My birthday month, and what a month! In late September I discovered how easy it is to play PS1 games on a modified PSP. The quick pick-up/put-down gameplay that the PSP’s sleep mode enables combined with dirty rotten cheats enabled me to play through these games quickly: Dance Dance Revolution (PS1), 007 Tomorrow Never Dies, Gran Turismo, Azure Dreams, Dave Mirra (RIP) Freestyle BMX, Chrono Cross, Crash Team Racing, Andretti Racing, Battle Arena Toshinden, D, and Darklight Conflict. During this month I also started focusing on my Sega Saturn collection, realizing that I could easily play some of the PS1 ports on my PSP. I also played the post-apocalyptic racer Scorcher, another of my Saturn games that I don’t think received a PS1 port. The game D is notable because it’s the first of my 3DO games I’ve ever played, albeit not on the actual console.

November – Nintendo comes in with a HUGE list of games played, many Atari 2600 and SNES games. Since most 2600 games don’t have any form of endgame, I played these until a game over.
Air-Sea Battle, Armor Ambush, Berzerk, Bowling, Combat, Venture, Donkey Kong (Colecovision), Adventure, Demon Attack, Centipede (2600 & 7800), Street Fighter II, SF II Turbo, Revolution X, Super Bomberman, DBZ Super Butoden, Super Butoden 3, Mickey’s Magical Adventure, Wheel of Fortune Deluxe Edition.
Additionally this month, I played the Switch remake of Link’s Awakening, PS2’s Alfa Romeo Racing Italiano, Call of Duty: Big Red One, Uncharted 3 (time to finally play chapter 4), and The Last of Us. It should be noted that in November I toyed around with the finer points of softmodding PS2 and PS3, enabling easier cheating on both consoles. Without which, I would easily still be playing The Last of Us and Racing Italiano well into December.

December – In December I completed Torna, which is the Xenoblade Chronices 2 expansion/prequel. Short, but I really enjoyed it. Also played Yoshi’s Crafted World, which rounded out the remainder of my birthday games. It was fun, but I gave up on trying to 100% complete the game as the scavenger hunt objectives grew tiresome. Continuing with PS1 ports of other console games but played on PSP, we have Hexen, which I’m fairly sure I softlocked my self toward the end of the game and had to restart; the N64/PS1 Spider-Man; Return Fire, my 2nd 3DO game; and Star Fighter, a pretty fun space shooter that did some interesting things but I will never play again due to the monotony.

There you have it: my year in gaming. I received some Switch and PS4 games for Christmas 2019 which I’m really excited for. In 2020 I would really like to knock out the remainder of my Saturn library, perhaps pick up some stragglers from my Game Boy library, and continue to blast through PS1 games on my PSP. I hope you enjoyed this retrospective as much as I’ve had looking back.

Current Status of Life

Seeing as I’m far overdue for a post and I’ve probably got far more to discuss than a single post warrants, I figure it’s best to get updated with a single post of multiple happenings while I just let my mind ramble as I’ve done already with this run-on sentence.

Whew.

Project-wise, I’ve been here and there without seeming to get much done. I started working on a home console dedicated to plug-n-play video games (much more on that in a later post), but stalled on that for one reason or another. I then got caught up purchasing a handful of cheap 3.5″ LCD screens. These are actually a godsend because cheap as they are, they look great for their size and they are not plagued with the scrolling image issue that other cheap ebay screens of late have been experiencing with older game systems.

Because of that, I decided to rebuild my Luma 64 from the ground up. In its finished state, the Luma housed a 5″ widescreen that I had set to display in 4:3 ratio and hid the black bars on the side behind the front of the Luma’s case. Also, there were some unresolved heating issues with the Luma that caused the controller to stop functioning after about 30 minutes of gameplay. Yes, it definitely needed overhauled. Besides, I didn’t much care for the enclosure.

My portable Nintendo 64 rebuild got put on hold when I entered the BitBuild.net Secret Santa. Someone on the boards suggested gifting something modded. I am a man who is well aware of my limits and know that I could not possibly scrap something modded together within the short timeframe. Still, I wanted to go down that road, going the route of straight-up crafty and avoiding electronics altogether.

Yoshi

I have made a couple of crochet Yoshi’s in the past, and with this one opted to go with blue yarn and of course, wings. Everyone who has played Super Mario World knows that blue flying Yoshi is the best.

Oh, I also bought a PlayStation VR. I really love it although aside from the free demos in the PS Store, the only VR game I have currently is Gran Turismo Sport. In that game, VR mode is restricted to arcade races, but I’ve been focusing mainly on the campaign mode.

An open letter to GameStop

Dear GameStop,

I am very dissatisfied with the fact that some of your stores sell used copies of video games mislabeled as “New”.

That was me being civil, because if intended to actually send this letter to GameStop, I would probably lead with something like that. Fact is, point blank, I am pretty downright pissed off at you, GameStop. I wrote an editorial on a separate blog three years ago (January 2, 2014) criticizing you for selling secondhand goods as new and vice versa, so long as it suited your financial profitability. Unfortunately, three years apparently is not enough time for you to make any kind of change in your policies.

Take my recent experience at a GameStop store, for example. I received a GS gift card as a Christmas gift. I checked online for potential prizes to enjoy on my new Playstation 4 and discovered that while used copies of Fallout 4 were $18.99, new copies were a mere dollar more. I could have purchased my copy online and may have been rewarded with a sealed copy of the Bethesda blockbuster, but the $6 handling fee deterred me. Instead, I visited my local brick and mortar store where I did indeed find the same deal.

Now, I don’t typically buy games new. One reason is because I like to think of my games as an investment. I look for games on the cheap and hope that one day demand for them might increase their value. Buying a new game at full price doesn’t seem wise especially when its value plummets as soon as the shrink wrap comes off. You think I’m mincing perceived value with actual value? Compare any two games on eBay; the game still in its wrapper and proof that it has never been marred through contact with human skin will always sell for more than a used copy, whether it comes packaged with all artwork and reading material or not.

Back to my recent GS visit; I found a used $5 Playstation 3 game – a purchase which I am not dissatisfied with – and took it to the counter. As mentioned, I rarely ever buy games new, but a recent conversation with a friend informed me that every “New” game she bought at GameStop was indeed shrink-wrapped and new. I decided to take a chance.

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I carried my used PS3 game to the counter and informed the clerk that I would also like a new copy of Fallout 4. He gave me a spiel about buy 2 get one 1 free used merchandise. Granted, this was a good deal, but I didn’t want to scour the store for another $5 game worth my time because I wanted to get home. He shrugged and went about getting my games from behind the counter. I was shocked when he did not present me with my truly new copy of Fallout, but actually walked out from behind the counter, stepped over to the PS4 section, and took the Fallout 4 display box off the rack to put my disk in!

A quick glance at the case and you might suspect that it has actually been through a nuclear war (hyperbole). Remnants of peeled off sale stickers can be seen on the right of the case, damage is apparent to the clear plastic, the artwork is partially worn particularly on the bottom, and the collective stack of “New” stickers is as thick as a silver dollar.

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I love collecting games. My collection has recently passed the 1000-game mark. I mention that specifically to inform you that when I search for used games, I can’t always be picky. Many of my older cartridge-based games do not come with any packaging save for the label adhered to the front. I try to buy more modern games in as complete of packaging as possible, but if the price is right and the game good enough, I’ll make exceptions. But one thing I believe is that when buying new, no exceptions should need to be made. My “new” copy of Fallout 4 did not come shrink-wrapped. Instead, a clear sticker was placed over the case’s opening. Instead of getting the Vault-Tek perk poster that the back of the case promised, I received buyer’s remorse.

My Portable Playstation, NOT a PSP

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If you could choose between owning a handheld Playstation 1 or handheld Playstation 2, which would you pick? PS2 is the obvious choice; it has better graphics, doubles as a DVD player, and it plays the entire library of PS1 games with (from what I hear) only one or two exceptions.

I’m surprised I haven’t gotten a lot of criticism for this so far, but I opted to build a portable gaming device using a PSone, the smaller, revised Playstation 1 model.

The build began in the summer of 2014 during a build competition and I had to delay this project because my carelessness caused me to burn out the first system board I was working with. An additional fried PSone and two overhauls on the case’s body later and I can call this portable finally complete.

The portable contains two 7.4V camcorder batteries, wired together for approximately 4400 mAh of juice. A standard-sized PS1 memory card is permanently wired up to slot 1, so I never have to worry about forgetting a memory card at home. I’ve also included a mem card slot to accept additional cards, so I can transfer saves if I decide I want to continue my game on an unmodified console.

Child-sized picnic table

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I went to visit my parents one evening and saw a small child-sized picnic table in their back yard. This was the perfect size for my son so I decided to try making one for myself. It’s built entirely out of 2×4 pretreated lumber and took about 2 and a half hours to complete. This isn’t my usual type of build, but a nice afternoon project the helps break up the tedium of a months-long project which is my norm.

Luma 64 – a portable Nintendo 64

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Without a doubt this post is long overdue. After roughly five years of off-and-on work, I completed my Nintendo 64 portable gaming device, dubbed Luma 64. I built the shell out of two Tupperware-style containers; one comprised the bulk of the handheld while the other was chopped apart and used as an extension to house the cartridge slot. I doubt I’ll ever use a case like this for any future projects because it ends up being rather thick for a portable and as polished as I tried making the end result, it’s still not very professional. As a friend of mine put it, “you can be the best case-maker in the world, but at the end of the day it’s still Tupperware.”

One feature I made sure to include in this handheld is a LOB64 jack. This multiplayer/AV out jack isn’t built into very many Nintendo 64 portables, but the idea upon its inception was to create a standard connection throughout the modding world. The more portables that incorporate the standard, the more likely you are to encounter another LOB64 portable at a convention or expo.

In the Pages of Guitar World

I don’t claim to be a good guitar player. I can strum my way through most songs on barre and power chords and I have a fairly decent sense of rhythm. But a guy like me isn’t going to make it into the pages of a major guitar magazine without doing something that will turn a few heads. And apparently I managed to pull that off.

If you happen to find a copy of the Holiday 2015 issue of Guitar World magazine, flip to the inside of the back cover, where I’m proud to announce that my Guitar Boy has been featured in the regular “It Might Get Weird” column. I know that my guitar received some attention when it made the rounds on Facebook (pretty impressive for a guy without an account!) as well as a few other news sites, but making it into the pages of a printed publication sold nationwide quite honestly has me flying on cloud nine.

With my work now in print, I keep thinking of the Dr. Hook song “Cover of the Rolling Stone” where they sing, “Wanna buy five copies for my mother.” Sorry, Mom. I’ll buy you one copy.

Guitar Boy – Completed Project

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I put in a LOT of work and am happy to finally present the Guitar Boy. This fully functioning electric guitar has a Raspberry Pi built in which runs retro video games on a 5″ LCD screen. All of the controls on the front of the guitar perform as regular Game Boy controls, with the A and B buttons pulling double duty as volume and tone knobs.

I built this as an exhibition piece for the BitFix Gaming 2015 Game Boy Classic build-off and finished working on it September 13, just before the competition’s deadline. Check out this video of the Guitar Boy in action:

Guitar Boy – Game Boy Guitar WIP

With my Game Boy-themed competition already half over, I thought it would be a good time to share my current project.

Although I am exempt from the competition itself (for the same reason any company restricts its employees from winning its own promotions), I wanted to create something in the spirit of the competition in order to draw some attention toward the BitFix community. As can be guessed, what I’m building is a Game Boy guitar. Rather than sacrificing any model of Game Boy, the brains of the Guitar Boy will be a Raspberry Pi running RetroPie. With the A/B/Start/Select button layout, NES, Master System, and Game Gear games will also be fully playable, as well as a few others.

Amazing Game Boy Projects Underway!

The Game Boy-themed build-off competition is underway and there are currently three participants working on their projects. I wanted to share what’s being built in order to hopefully draw up a bit more excitement for the competition. In no particular order, we have…

ModPurist’s Game Boy Color Advance. If you’re calling this photo out as a fake, it is. ModPurist whipped up this image in a few minutes using MS Paint in order to show what he plans to accomplish – essentially take a Game Boy Color and literally turn it on its side. ModPurist is already making great progress on his case, so go over to BitFix Gaming to check it out!

Next is a laptop project being built by wesley762. Wesley is currently gutting an old laptop and plans to cram both an NES and a Super NES inside! After getting a start on the laptop shell, Wesley switched to prepping the NES board.

Last but not least is a 3D-printed case mod by portablesofdoom. As you can see from the project proposal image that Doom drafted, his Companion (Game)Cube will be a rehoused Gamecube designed to resemble the companion cube of Portal fame. At the moment, Doom hasn’t shared much information on his build aside from the above picture. However, the competition ends on September 14, so expect to see a lot more before then.

Be sure to check out the competition entries in further detail on the BitFix page!