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The Ill Communication

Overview for games

A 32-bit periodical

March 19, 2017 | 11:15 | Written by: snake911

About a year and a half ago after I knew my roommate (my brother) and I were splitting up to do our own things and living separately, I went on a bit of a spending spree.  You see, I was planning to continue living in our 2 bed, 2 bath apartment unit solo because I was lazy and didn't want to move.  So knowing in about two months I was going to be broke as heck by forking out the cash for rent without any other income to split it with, I knew my budget was going to be tighter than ever, so like the irresponsible adult that I am, I decided to blow the loose money I had on impractical things like video games.  Hooray!

Although to be specific, I didn't actually buy any games.  Rather, I bought volumes of CD magazines.

Back during the PS1 era I was subscribed to the PlayStation Underground CD Magazine.  I wanna say I learned about it from one of the many documents inside the PlayStation's box that the console came in.  It was a flyer advertising the annual subscription for the CD mag.  Back then magazines were a primary source for getting news about the gaming industry along with reviews for new games, so it was common to regularly buy magazines from a grocery store or get a subscription.  Most of my friends had magazines for me to borrow and read, but with the ushering in of the 32-bit consoles and PlayStation leading the pack in terms of mainstream popularity, it was a big leap forward for games, and Sony made a similar big change in how you stay up to date on their console.  Rather than a passive form by reading words on pages, their own self-published magazine was in a multimedia format, allowing for an interactive experience for consuming information, something definitely new and refreshing at the time.

The CD mag itself was really cool because every 3 months I would get a package in the mail with two CDs inside: one for the magazine with videos on upcoming games, interviews, and other related content, while the second CD was packet with game demos.  And if you were a fan of PlayStation, this was the inside scoop for all things Sony.  Something on par with Nintendo's magazine, Nintendo Power.

I loved it and was a subscriber for two years starting with Volume 1 Issue 4 all the way through Vol. 3 Issue 3 (Dec ‘97 – Sept ‘99).  The only reason why I stopped my subscription was because I was trying to save up all of my money to get a PS2 at launch, so one of the sacrifices I made for getting that next gen console on launch was to unsubscribe to the Underground CD mag.

A while ago around 2010/2011 I attempted to get the issues missing from my own personal Underground collection so I can have the full set from eBay, but at that time people thought those CDs were gold and sold them for high prices.  So high that I didn't even bother to buy or bid on any of the listed magazine issues and decided to just pass on the idea of collecting them.  But would ya believe that a few years later the sellers would have some sense knocked into them that these were fool's gold and dropped the price for these CDs considerably?  So for a solid month before my roommate left, I was searching and snatching up all of the issues I could find.  I believe I got the majority of these from three sellers across the US.

My timing couldn't have been any more perfect as when I was finishing collecting all the issues I could get, Giant Bomb's Demo Derby started showcasing the Underground CD mag.  Shortly after is when I saw the eBay market for the CD mag shrink a bit with other curious viewers of the Demo Derby snatching up copies for themselves.  At least that's my best guess.

I missed out on some good volumes, so I'm glad I got the ones I missed.  For example, Vol. 1 Issue 2 (June ‘97) includes the Square exclusive demo disc that packs in it nothing but Squaresoft games, and a unique JRPG styled interface to boot.  The list includes Final Fantasy VII, Bushido Blade, SaGa Frontier, Bushido Blade, and Final Fantasy Tactics.  I'm also digging all of the Tech Q&A and R&D interviews.  The most interesting issue I took a glance at is Vol. 4 Issue 4 (Dec. 2000) where disc 1 is a disc for PS1 while disc 2 is for the PS2.  This one was, obviously, to celebrate the US launch of the PS2, so this issue needed to deal with the now split user base.

I still have to go through all of the issues in detail in Vol. 4 (year 2000), and yes, I still need to get a copy of the elusive Volume 5 Issue 1 (March '01) PS2 exclusive version to have all the issues in my collection for it to be complete.  If I can get that last one, then I'll die a happy man as I'm a stickler for complete sets.

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Play'em if you got them

March 6, 2017 | 20:30 | Written by: snake911

Went to a car wash this weekend while running some errands and came across a small collection of cabinets in the waiting area.  And making use of retail space, they have not one but TWO multi game cabinets: an MVS and an iCade.  The MVS had Puzzle Bobble, Super Sidekicks 2, Aero Fighters 2, and Metal Slug X.  I played Puzzle Bobble.

As for the iCade, it had a wide range of classics sort of acting like an arcade within itself.  Also, I didn’t know the iCade system could be connected to a full blown cabinet?  Pretty rad though, because I normally like to get the premo wash so it takes a while until my car is ready, so I’ll just kill some time here.

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A migration to safe pastures

March 1, 2017 | 20:01 | Written by: snake911

So the big project I teased about a few posts back has been accomplished.  Yea!

For a while now I've been wanting to swap out the hard drive in my PS3 for a new one because, up until a few days ago, it still had the original drive that came with it!  I have the rare and sought after 60GB model that has the guts of the PS2 in it, allowing you to play not only PS3 games, but backwards compatible with PS2 and PS1 games too.

It was around a year ago when I realized I had a lot of games, videos, and other junk on my PS3 and I didn't want to lose it because of a hard drive failure, so I wanted to swap out the old 60GB HDD with a shiny new SSD for long term preservation.  The only problem was the price for SSDs, so because of that the project was always a low priority.  But all of that changed a few weeks ago when I saw one during a sale and it was one that wasn't very large in size, making the price even lower.  And by size I mean it was a 120GB SSD; tiny compared to modern standards that are creeping around the 1TB range.  But for me 120GB is good because it doubles what I already have.  Remember that it took nearly a decade for me to get close to filling 60GBs worth of space.

While it started off easy performing the swap, it quickly turned into a nightmare when one of the screws holding the HDD in the HDD cage wouldn't budge.  And while in the process of trying to get it out I accidently stripped the head of the screw.  It was pretty frustrating for about an hour not knowing what to do, but then I checked YouTube for a solution and saw a video showing someone with the same scenario I was in as that person demonstrated how they stripped a screw's head for the PS3 HDD and used a needle-nose plier to get the screw out.  So while not having needle-nose pliers at my place, I substituted by using a wrench, which got the job done with little effort.  After removing that screw, the rest was pretty much a cake walk.

In fact it was easier than what most people show online as I didn't have to do the weird part of updating the PS3 by downloading the firmware file from my PC to a thumb drive.  For whatever reason my PS3 kept the current version, my user account, and all of the settings like the screen resolution and Wi-Fi credentials.  All that was missing were the games, videos, saved data, etc.  For the backup, I saved it all to a 64GB flash drive I also bought during the online sale.  I've been needing a new one since my previous flash drive was only a 2GB, so using it as a way to back up my PS3 data to was a good excuse to buy a new one.

Another advantage for the SSD, since this PS3 is a backwards compatible model, I wanted to use it as a backup for my saved game data for both my PS1 and PS2 games, so over the last few days I've been copying all of my PS1 saves to the PS3.  It's a tedious task (having 8 cards to transfer), but an easy one to do.  Unfortunately my PS1 card is an unofficial one (a 32-in-1 memory card from Performance), so my PS3 can't see it.  This means I need to first use my PS2 to copy saves from the unofficial card to an official one and then copy the content from that to the PS3.  I'm almost finished with the PS1 saves and will soon work on copying a few PS2 memory cards too.

When it's all done, my PS3 should be an all-in-one for the first three generations of PlayStation consoles.  And thanks to the new SSD, I don't have to worry about moving parts like the platter and read/write head motors dying over time.  Hopefully this new SSD will last at least another 10 years.  In fact, I'm surprised that my PS1 memory card is still good, considering I bought that thing back in 1998!

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Diaries from the Tower of Barbs -- Entry 02

February 9, 2017 | 19:32 | Written by: snake911

Seriously? It's already been a month and a half since I wrote the previous entry for this!  Man, time is flying way too fast.  Would someone please slow it down before I reach retirement age as I still got a lot of saving I need to do before I leave the workforce.

Any who, last I left off I was at the front door of the first boss and thanks to some serious grinding I was able to defeat him with little effort.  It was a relief to know all of that work paid off in the end, otherwise the difficulty might have spooked me from continuing.  Another benefit for pressing forward is the change of scenery.

I'm outside!  No more of those underground areas as I can now see the Tower of Barbs from where I stand, which oddly glistens like a jewel at night.  I like having the ability to see where I'm at on the tower, giving a barometer or sorts showing my progress for how much further I need to climb.  No more of those claustrophobic areas that mash together sewer tunnels, water channels, and maintenance corridors.  Now that I'm on the surface, I've been running around the streets, collecting new raw materials for new weapons and armor.

I've been finding a lot of projectile type weapons like auto rifles, shotguns, and the such.  And just like before, grinding has taken up a huge chunk of time over the past month, trying to master some weapons and increase the durability for my clothes as armor.  A lot of what I need requires going out and seeking a rare material that pops up randomly, so it's never guaranteed I'll find some during a raid for resources.  That's too bad because I think I lost two weeks just trying to find this material alone.

For Tokyo Death Metro, I decided to chill on building up fighters to my current star ranking, which is three.  Unlike the one star army I built up over the course of two days, now just maxing out one three-star fighter takes a week of playing!  I'm not going to upgrade all my fighters just to tear them down after a new star ranking occurs after I've climbed a few extra floors.  I think I'll take the time in building up all my fighters once I get to the highest star ranking in the game, which I believe is five, but we'll see.  In the meantime, I'll improve on my defenses by giving my fighters better armor and weapons and increasing my bank defenses.

Lately I've been buying a lot of mushroom stew to get permanent decals for my fighters.  I got tired of losing some really good ones whenever I died during a TDM match.  So far my mandatory decals of choice are the stamina and defense ones along with another that will increase the durability for whatever type of weapon I need to use the most.  The two decals I'm hoping to get are (1) the one that increases HP by 40% and (2) the one that cuts the time in half for maxing out a fighter's skills.  If I get that last one, I may consider investing time in ranking up more fighters.

I wasn't planning to, but on a whim I went forward with fighting the second boss late last week.  Even with all the grinding I did, mastering, and upgrading weapons, that dude took forever to beat!  If I'm remembering correctly, I think the timer was at 45 minutes for me to finish it.  Zoiks!

But now with a new change in scenery again, I'm now freaked the heck out because of the change.  Get me back to the streets!  On top pf that, I feel vulnerable because my fighter is severely weaker than the screamers on these floors, so I hope a new star ranking is unlocked soon because I need it.

That's all to report for now from the Tower of Barbs.  Until next time, happy climbing!

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Diaries from the Tower of Barbs -- Entry 01

December 27, 2016 | 20:45 | Written by: snake911

So Let it Die has been a real time suck for me over the past month.  While it's not the only thing I do, it has taken the free time of my free time away; meaning, time dedicated to working on this site, so that explains the reasoning why entries have recently stopped.  But man I'm having a good time with this game.  So much that I decided to showcase my activates in the game with a series of blog entries titled Diaries from the Tower of Barbs.  I figured I might as well benefit from it by having some sort of documentation of what the heck I'm doing in the game.

In the beginning I was running up the tower, getting to the first mini boss pretty quickly, but getting to that point in the game unlocked the online component called Tokyo Death Metro, a sort of multiplayer aspect of the game, and since then my progress of climbing the tower has come to a sudden halt.  It bothers me a lot when I log back into the game to find out that other players have raided my base, so since week 2 of playing, I've been very slowly building up my base's defenses in hopes of slowing down jerks from stealing my kill coins, but more importantly, my precious SPLithium.

While raiding, I notice other players will focus more attention on strengthening their banks, making it more difficult to break one of them by beating it mercilessly with weapons or old fashion fists.  For me I went the other route that involves ordering your fighters to defend the base, but that is the long and arduous route that involves a lot of time and patience of building up your bank with enough currency to buy more space in your fighter freezer and then leveling up your new fighters so they are a strong enough of a defense when people raid my base.  And for a while it was working, as many people were dying and leaving chalk outlines of their bodies in my base, but things started to change and it wasn't as effective as it once was.

Purposely, I've been staying at a lower rank so I wouldn't be clobbered by higher ranking foes, so I haven't gone beyond what I believe is the room where the first boss encounter is at.  Instead, I've been exploring the floors below, seeing every room that I unlock by defeating the mini bosses.  With eight fighters currently guarding my base, it's more of a quantity than a quality defense, but all of that is going to change now that I've recently discovered that you can upgrade your weapons at the store.  Silly me, I thought it was a one-and-done purchase where the only thing you need to do afterwards is level up the weapons by using them while running through the tower, but now that I know I can add plus X (+1, +2, +3, etc.) to weapons and clothing, I'm now on the hunt by collecting as much raw materials I can find to upgrade everything so the number of raids begin to decrease again as I dress my fighters with better clothes for armor and weapons for slaughtering.  Can you tell I don't play very many RPGs to figure out the basic item leveling system most games have? ;-)

Now my mallets are more effective than they were before (was wondering why they started to suck as of late) and I'm looking for as much iron, wood, oil, and cotton I can get to upgrade what I need before moving on to the first boss as I feel the battle is going to be rough.  I'm hoping to be done grinding by next week so I can be strong enough to progress further up the Tower of Barbs.  Oh and by the way -- those Jackals are very intimidating!

And that does it for the first entry!  Not much to report but grinding, but it's all gearing up for some grand battles coming up, so the payoff should be happening soon.  As for this feature, don't expect it to be a frequent one.  I'll probably do one every three weeks or when I feel enough has happened to warrant an update.

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Death is not the end

December 7, 2016 | 22:51 | Written by: snake911

For me, Let it Die was a total surprise.  I know it's been mentioned before and was originally announced way back in 2013, but I didn't become aware of its existence again until last weekend when I was at the keynote for PSX.  For me, the trailer for Let it Die was the top game I was most interested in out of the dozens they talked about, and it was a totally great to hear it was going to be free, and launched on the very same day!

While it was a bummer I couldn't play it while at PSX to get some of the cool giveaways they had if you played it there due to the line being about a mile long, I settled on waiting until I got home to download the game on my home console.  And when I launched it, I was taken aback by the sheer amount of style it has.

Out of the gate, Uncle Death has to be one of the raddest character designs out there.  Just look at him!  He's the Grim Reaper who's a skeleton with traditional black robe and a scythe.  But on top of that he's wearing xray looking sunglasses with red and white swirls, rides a skateboard, and calls you senpai.  As for the setting, having an island compacted densely with urban structures stacked high into the sky in a world gone mad is pretty neat.  And wrapping it all in an arcade based on a classic cabinet is the icing on the cake.

I never thought I'd ever play a free-to-play game, but Let it Die has to be the only exception that I'll probably ever make because for the most part it seems like it's pretty fair with them not shaking me down by paying for in-game items with real cash.  However, I haven't gotten very far, so it might bite me in the booty later on after I've leveled up my character.  But in the meantime, I have yet to spend any real money.

And if you're curious, Uncle Death perfectly described the game as being a cross between a hack and slash and a roguelike.  Two genres I don't necessarily care for, but with this game I'm giving them a pass.

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