Emerald City

Posted July 5, 2014

This may go down as my most gamingest summer on record. A couple weeks ago a bundle from Yahoo Japan Auctions arrived after surprisingly winning some bids. I’m finally the proud father of a PC Engine Duo-R, which came bundled with an Avenue Pad 6 controller and 10 random, not-so-good games. Fortunately I also won Castlevania: Rondo of Blood and a PC Engine adapter for an HRAP stick a friend picked up from Japan. I was hoping to send the Duo-R right back out to be RGB modded, but my preferred modding dude is booked until fall. As much as I’d like to play Castlevania now, I think I’d rather wait until its full glory is on display.

Last weekend we went to the Seattle Retro Gaming Expo, what could be thought of as the little sister to the Portland Retro Gaming Expo in October. It was small enough that I think I saw every game over a two-hour span but still managed to find a few goodies (that Mushihimesama import seals my fate for needing to find a Japanese PS2). There were also rows of consoles and candy cabs setup with casual and tournament play. Being there almost reminded me of attending “Hamfests” in Illinois, expos for ham radio and computer enthusiasts — it smells funny and people are pushy, but it’s a community nonetheless.

While in Seattle we also checked out GameWorks and Seattle Pinball Museum, which couldn’t be more different from each other. While GameWorks largely offers shooting and driving games for clusters of bloodthirsty teens (and a few drug dealers), the pinball arcade is a place to play beautiful, well maintained pins from the ’60s up to Lord of the Rings. Seattle has plenty of barcades too, like John John’s Gameroom in Capitol Hill, where we played a tiny Neo Geo, a few rounds of 1943, and then a fierce, half-hour round of Jenga.

I brought along a 3DS, a great little travel companion, and played painful stabs at Recca and long stretches of Shovel Knight, which I think deserves the praise it’s getting.

Once back in SF I continued the previous week’s research of Xbox 360 games, trying to decide whether the North American or Japanese version of the console made more sense for me. In the end nearly every game I wanted (mostly Cave shmups) either had a NA release or was a region-free import, so I picked up the NA Slim edition from Amazon (as it’s the same price, I’d avoid the more recent budget E). This would also be a console I could share with Justin who was interested in a handful of RPGs exclusive to the 360.

To kick off the Cave-fest I picked up Deathsmiles, Espgaluda 2 and Mushihimesama Futari, and trying to be patient about the other 14 I want. Overall the 360 experience is better than I expected, and it certainly has enough power for accurate arcade ports. A few hours of Deathsmiles is enough to bum anyone out that Cave has nothing new in the works. With the arcade scene drying out even in Japan, and shmup’s better days likely in the past, it’s an uncertain future for the developers I’ve become fond of.

Like Psikyo and Raizing, whose Saturn ports I can’t stop playing. After weeks of Gunbird/Gunbird 2 love, I picked up Strikers 1945 II and, more recently, Soukyugurentai Otokuyo which fixes the first release’s bugs, like garbled Japanese characters covering the screen when played on a NA Saturn. Maybe I was born in the wrong country.

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