Blast-16 (the almost front end for Sega's forthcoming Genesis/Mega Drive Mini)

Ever since Sega announced their plans for a Genesis/Mega Drive Mini, fans have been eagerly anticipating its arrival. I posted about what games I would have included here. The unit was originally to be developed by notorious retro-butcherers At Games, a decision that received universal derision. Hearing how the fans reacted, Sega immediately reversed course and fired At Games. To our immense joy, it was later confirmed that renowned retro masterminds M2 would handle the port duties. With that great news, we just have to wait to see how it all comes together on September 19th.

The final list of all 42 games to be included was released, and naturally, you can't please everybody, myself included. I am particularly disappointed in the exclusion of MUSHA, Thunder Force IV,  and Revenge of Shinobi on the North American version. There are also some questionable inclusions, like Virtua Fighter 2, Space Harrier 2, and Alex Kidd in the Enchanted Castle. We normally assume these mini consoles will be hacked in time, and the ability to add more games is inevitable. This was the case with all of the mini consoles that came before. Something about this one feels different, as I have very high regard for the skill set of the programmers at M2, and I'm not so sure their work will be as simple to crack open. Maybe I'm wrong, time will tell.

32X and Sega CD games are playable

Recently is was discovered that an independent developer has created a frontend for the Raspberry Pi in the spirit of the Genesis mini, called "Blast 16". Rumor has it that it was submitted to Sega, and they really loved it, however due to time constraints they had to turn it down as their own production was was nearing completion. Whatever the case may be, it's presentation, menu, and simplicity channel Nintendo's interfaces on their recent classic consoles, which is a good thing. The average user is not a hardened emulation expert, so a simple, intuitive interface is welcome.

This image allows for playing games for Genesis/Mega Drive, Sega CD, 32X, Master System, and Game Gear. This is clearly a Sega-centric concept, as Nintendo already has a stellar Mini-lineup.

For those who want to try their hand at creating their own Genesis mini, this is perhaps the simplest Raspberry Pi install that I have ever seen. The website had the image available for download, as well as other extras like a thorough instruction manual, boxart and downloads. Really, its an easy install, just follow the instructions.

To help make the experience match the spirit of a Sega Genesis, the Retroflag MegaPi case is a perfect match to house your Raspberry Pi, so much so that the author of the program included their script for the safe shutdown and reset buttons on the case. Other accoutrements are the officially branded Retrobit USB Sega Genesis controllers. These are identical in build quality to Sega's original controllers, and updated with extra buttons for increased compatibility.

I have an original model-1 Sega Genesis, with RGB scart cable through an OSSC, Mega Everdrive X7, as well as Analogue's Mega SG. Even with having those superior options, there is a one primary reason why this Blast-16 build appeals to me: Visual save states. I absolutely love the ability to save a game at any point, and return to the game later and see a snapshot of where I was in the game. To me, it is the supreme convenience.

Four save slots are available per game 

Other features of note include customizable emulation settings, regions settings, the ability to delete games from the menu, and much more. I know that Retropie offers options by the truck load, but they can be somewhat nonintuitive to access for most. I find Blast-16 to have the perfect balance of options and simplicity.

The gameplay is emulation standard, with the option of Genesis Plus GX or Picodrive as provided cores. These of course allow for 32X and Sega CD gameplay, further adding to the appeal. The 32X ports of After Burner II and Space Harrier are arcade perfect, in my opinion, and must adds.

As far as emulation settings go, I recommend the integer scaling turned on, as it will prevent the "shimmering" of graphics when the screen scrolls, providing cleaner visuals. This is more noticeable is some games compared to others, but it generally looks better with the integer scale turned on. Autoload will have you pick up right where you left off when you select a game. The TV filter softens the picture to represent an old CRT. I personally am a fan of scanlines, so I have mine turned on.

This build is so aesthetically appealing, designed with the Genesis grid pattern, black and white color base, and snappy music to boot. I would be perfectly happy to have this as the official Genesis mini front end, but it wasn't meant to be I guess. Now it can be your unofficial front end for your Raspberry Pi. I highly recommend giving it a try, and building your own customized Genesis mini.

Complete Rom Sets? Or Hand-Picked Favorites?

When it comes to emulation, there are a multitude of platforms to choose from. You can emulate on PCs, broad band devices like the Nvidia shield, single board computers like the Raspberry Pi and Odroid, min-consoles like the NES Classic...the list goes on. One of the first thing someone does once they decide to emulate is to seek out the roms for games. These have been made available online for years for every platform. Not only can you find almost any game you are looking for, you can download complete sets of roms. It is crazy to think of how far gaming has come in the past 30 years. If you told 10-year old me that I could play every single NES game ever made, I would have flipped out. This would be anyone's reaction who grew up in an era where video games only came at birthdays and holidays.

As a kid I remember spending summer days on end, mapping out Brinstar in Metroid (only to find that I messed up my map and had to start over), replaying Punch-Out!! to learn the nuances and tells of each boxer, and replaying Contra over and over again, to the point where I no longer needed the Konami code. With few games and seemingly infinite time, we were up to the NES challenge.
Fast forward to today, and now we are adults with responsibilities and families. For people like you and me, who still have interest in retro games, finding time for a hobby among life activities is a challenge. When time does present itself, it comes is swaths of 45 minutes to an hour. There is not enough time to take on the challenge of longwinded games like RPGs or simlar adventure games.
As a result, I find myself exploring newer games less and less frequently. My instinct is to gravitate to the old classics. They are like comfort food: enjoyable and satisfying, if not flashy.

With retrogaming at peak popularity, there are vendors looking to cash in, selling pre-made emulation solutions on eBay, Etsy, and so on. They will advertise how their setup contains complete sets of every platform, containing thousands of games. This sounds good, because isn't more better? I understand that these will sell because most people are not interested in investing lots of time in learning how to do this; it is worth paying the money to have it readymade.

When I built my first RetroPie image, I loaded it with just the games that I physically owned. As I tinkered more, I started to embellish with more and more roms, eventually using entire romsets. It sounded like a good idea at the time. What happened was I found myself spending more time skipping through pages of games just to get to my same old favorites. There were just too many games to wade through. I knew I wasn't going to play all of them, so what was the point in having them clutter up the game lists? I decided that less was more, and I learned to value quality over quantity, as I did with collecting physical games. Even though it doesn't cost any less to fill an SD card with fewer games, I find it to be a more appealing approach. Its the same idea as a greatest hits list for a certain band. When you want to listen to a band, you have a few songs in mind, you don't want to scroll through their entire catalog. Here's another crude analogy: imagine going to a buffet where there were only 50 items, but you loved every single one. Wouldn't that be a better experience than a buffet with thousands of items?

When I have a longer period of time to play, I prefer to do so on original hardware. Often I will use an Everdrive cartridge if I don't feel like plugging carts in and out. Similar to emulation, entire romsets are the norm with these as well, since they fit on standard SD cards. I decided to make a few extra folders in my root of the Everdrive SD card, that contained only my favorite games, organized by genre. I still have the entire set of roms on the card, they are pushed back in a different folder and I can call them up when I need to try something new, but for 90% of my Everdrive usage, I like to have short lists.
curated genre folders take the frustration out of game finding

It is easy to forget how much shovel-ware there is for each system. Licensed games have a reputation for being terrible, and rightly so. Publishers looking to cash in on a recent movie or toy trend will put out anything, hoping to dupe kids out of their money. These games plague every console. I'd just rather leave them off, and reduce the amount of scrolling and searching when I want to call up a game. Perhaps the worst offender is the Wii. There was a point in time where I'd swear that there were more food item related games on the Wii than there were total games on the N64. This may be hyperbole but you catch my drift.

When Nintendo released their classics line of min consoles, there were people who felt like more games should have been included. After all, 20 or 30 games preloaded doesn't sound like much considering there were hundreds of games released. I think they got it right. A product that contains 30 games, and at least 25 of which are universally admired presents better than a product with hundreds of games, where the average person only knows about 50 or so.

So what do you think? Do you prefer full romsets? Do they bother you like they bother me? Let me know your opinion, and I hope you enjoyed reading this.

Review: Psikyo Shooting Collection Volumes 1 & 2

Developer Psikyo is not a household name to gamers, even retro gamers. They mainly produce 2D shoot'em up games like Strikers 1945, Gunbird, Cannon Spike, and Zero Gunner, to name a few. These games are some of my favorites. The company's previous incarnation was Video System Inc., and they produced the Aerofighters series. If you play an Aerofighters game and then play Strikers 1945 you will immediately see the resemblance.

While hard core shoot'em up fans may deride the Psikyo games as too simple, I find them to be perfect. My appreciation for shoot'em ups is a bit different than that of the hardcore shmup fan. I find many modern shoot'em ups to emphasize the sheer number of bullets, resulting in a tapping strategy that is claustrophobic. Old school shooters rely on waves of popcorn enemies, environmental hazards, and lack of weapon power. Psikyo strikes a balance right in the middle. I like the Psikyo games because they are a blend of old school aesthetics with lots of action, minus the blinding clouds of bullets for the sake of having clouds of bullets. 

A common trait that Psikyo shooters have is the charge shot, bomb/defense attack, and power up system. Once you pick up a power up, you increases your firepower and gain an option that has its own unique attack. Some fire missiles, some fire lasers, some drop bombs, some home in on enemies, etc. When you hold the shot button, you charge a shot. Every plane/character in these games has a unique charge shot and vary in power. Some are more powerful but take longer to charge, for instance. The bomb attacks all have some defensive aspect, like ascending up into the sky briefly to drop an enormous bomb, or calling in a calvary of support craft that create a defensive barrier for you.  The replay value increases tenfold due to trying out all of the characters and their attack patterns.

Monkey level difficulty is a thing
Another feature that is in all of their home ports is the ability to customize the game settings, such as number of lives, difficulty, etc. This makes the games far more approachable to newcomers (try the monkey setting!) while still offering insane difficulty on the higher settings.

In recent years there has been a resurgence of retro collections for modern consoles. Psikyo decided to get in on the action and release two collections for the Nintendo Switch. Each collection has four games.
Collection 1 features Strikers 1945, Sol Divide, Samurai Aces, and Gunbird.

Collection 2 features: Strikers 1945 II, Tengai (Sengoku Blade), Dragon Blaze, and Gunbird 2.

Each collection is about $35 USD. To be honest I think all eight of these could have been in one collection, but the developers have to eat, right? I would have paid the price of a modern game to get all of the games in one package, and I think everyone in the target audience would do the same.

This is all great, but there's a snag: the games are not released domestically. They can be purchased from It's a reputable online company, I've ordered from them in the past and had no problems, but you are subject to lengthy international shipping times.

The gameplay is pretty faithful to the ports on the Saturn and Playstation. I haven't played the original arcades so I can't comment on those. The accuracy is inherent in the simple gameplay design. The games are simple enough, that there's not too much to screw up. I don't mean simple in a derogatory sense, I'm just commenting on the complexity of the programming. I think this is a shining example of simple is better.

The Flipgrip is a must for those who enjoy shoot'em ups on the Switch

Currently the collection is a Switch exclusive. I would have preferred it on the PS4. There is one fantastic feature that the Switch takes advantage of: Tate mode. Since these were all originally arcade games, they were designed with a tall vertical orientation in mind. This can be experienced to its potential by using a Flipgrip adapter. This fantastic accessory allows you to rotate your Switch screen 90 degrees, and reattach your joycons so that you are in Tate mode, and fully utilizing all of the screen. I don't know if Psikyo knew this was a thing, and kept that in mind when porting the games, but it is a game changer. I have never been much of a fan of hand-held systems, but this is changing my mind.

The only real extras in the standard editions are the gallery modes, which contain cover art, adds, and arcade instruction stickers.

So these collections are intended for shoot'em up fans that own a switch, and are willing to import. Many of these games have been ported to the Saturn, Playstation, and PS2, but primarily in Japan. Some have never been ported to anything at all.

If I have one complaint, its that the Switch had only analog sticks and no directional pad. For 2D games like these, I prefer the precision of digital input over the unnecessary analog input. I looked into the d-pad joycons on the market, but they need to be connected to the Switch directly, as they do not support Bluetooth connectivity. This means I can't use them with the Flipgrip or while hooked up to a TV. Bummer.

Playasia has announced a Shooting Collection Volume 3 to be released this summer, which will contain Strikers 1945 III, Gunbarich, Sengoku Cannon, and Zero Gunner 2. I think this will be the final collection, as that's about the extent of their meaningful catalog (unless you want to delve into mahjong games). I preordered this as soon as I heard about it.

Right as this post is published, I see that Psikyo is reshuffling all 12 (4 from each shooting collection volume) games into two "shooting libraries" that contain 6 games each. This is odd and annoying. Good news for people that did not take the plunge yet, but bad news for people like me who already purchased volumes 1 and 2. That's beside the point, I guess.

All in all, I love the Psikyo Shooting Collections, they're a great way to experience the shooters from this under-the-radar developer. Highly recommended!

My Console Setup 2019

This past year saw a flurry of tweaks and replacing of consoles and switches. Since I had posted about my console setup at the start of 2018 and 2016, I figured I should continue to note the changes. Notable is the increasing presence of optical drive emulators (ODE) and field programmable gate array (FPGA) consoles. Here goes.

Core Grafx II with Super SD System 3 (SSD3)
The Core Grafx was a revised PC-Engine, which included composite video out, which was an upgrade over the original PC-Engine's RF-video output. This is a moot point, as the attached SSD3 unit outputs RGB video. For those of you who don't know what the SSD3 is, here is an overview. The gist of it is that it allows for playing CD-ROM games and Hu-card games from an SD card. This is different from an Everdrive as it allows for the playback of CD-ROMS where Everdrives only play cartridge games.

Playstation 2 with HDD and Free McBoot
The Playstation 2 generation represents one of the largest leaps in technological power that I can remember. The original Playstation, while revolutionary with its 3D rendering, left a lot to be desired in hindsight. The PS2 exceed my expectations, and made 3D games fun. The FreeMcBoot mod allows for playing games that have been downloaded onto the internal hard disk drive. Getting the games onto the hard drive is a tremendous pain, but once they are there, things run smoothly.

Sega Saturn model 1 with Rhea and Japanese "This is Cool" model 2
I have two Sega Saturns hooded up simultaneously (actually, I have 3 as one is connected via HD Retrovision cables to a Sony Trinitron elsewhere). The Rhea is an optical disc drive emulator that replaces the laser, and gets game information from an SD card. Not willing to ignore my genuine Saturn game collection, I have my translucent "This is Cool" model 2 hooked up alongside it. 95% of my Saturn library are Japanese imports, so I felt a Japanese console was fitting. This seem a bit irrational, but what can you do. I have an action replay cart to bypass region locking, but Japanese startup screen is so much cooler.

Analogue Mega SG
Made by Analogue, known for its near-flawless implementation of FPGA technology to simulate retro hardware, the Mega SG is a dream come true for hardcore Sega Genesis fans. There have been droves of Genesis clones to date, but this is the right way to do it. The crystal clear pixel generation makes the Genesis pop off the screen, and the sound emulation is the closest that ever been produced. Since there is no emulation layer, flashcarts like the Everdrive are compatible.  It is even compatible with the Sega CD via the expansion slot. Unfortunately, the 32X is not compatible as it requires mixing of the analog graphics from the Genesis, and this being an all digital unit does not allow for it. I wasn't a huge fan of the 32X library, so I'm not as irked as others. I do have a Sega CD model 2, but I don't have it hooked up as I don't think it is worth the space, and the when attached, the overall appearance is wonky and misshapen. Recently there was an unofficial jailbreak firmware released, which allows for playing games directly from an SD card, forgoing the need for an Everdrive.

CBox Consolized Neo Geo MVS
The CBox is one of several methods to play actual Neo Geo hardware at home. It contains an actual Mulit Video System (MVS) board that is found in the Neo Geo arcade cabinets. Since the arcade cabinets played MVS cartridges, so can I. Some added features are multiple video options (RGB, S-video, and component), the Universe Bios preinstalled, and Sega Saturn controller compatibility. Collecting Neo Geo carts is not something to take lightly, but the 161 game multicart eases that need.

Sega Dreamcast with GDEMU
Like the Rhea for Saturn, the GDEMU is an optical disc drive emulator that plays games from an SD card. Even though the Dreamcast can play burned game discs with no fuss, the disc laser assembly and motor are prone to breaking down. A solid state option like GDEMU forgoes moving parts, and extends the life of the console in addition to the providing the convenience of SD card rom loading.

Playstation with PSIO
The PSIO is another rom loading solution, but this one communicates through the rear parallel port, and does not replace the optical drive. This means original disc games can be still be played. This is a fantastic mod in that regard.

This gamecube doesn't have anything too special going on, other than the attached Gameboy Player adapter and genuine Nintendo component cables. I am considering selling the cables (which are fairly rare and valuable) and switching to one of the newer HDMI solutions. I don't play it all that much to be honest.

PC-Engine Duo component modded
The PC-Engine Duo was the combined unit of the Super CD Rom drive and PC-Engine. Originally, these units would have to be purchased separately, and joined by an interface unit (shaped like a briefcase), and required various system cards. The Duo unit foregoes the need for those extras, and plays everything (except the arcade card games) without a fuss. I went with the Japanese Duo over the American Turbo Duo since the Japanese library had more games released. The component mod was very necessary as the video output was composite by default. In hindsight, I should have opted for RGB as that would reduce the number of types of video connections I have goin on under my TV.

The Advanced Video System is named as an homage to the original proposed name of the Nintendo Entertainment System prior to its American launch back in the 80's. It is an FPGA clone console, outputting 720p visuals with stunning clarity. There are slots for both American carts and Japanese Famicom carts, so a 60 to 72 pin converter cart is not necessary to play imports. Everdrives are compatible as well, which is no surprise given that it is FPGA. It has four controller ports, for immediate four-player parties with compatible games. It is compatible with the the Famicom Disk System through an expansion port, for those who are interested.

Analogue Super NT
This is the FPGA Super Nintendo clone console. Just as Analogue's Mega SG nailed the Genesis nuances, the Super NT conquered the Super Nintendo's quirks: compatibility with special chip carts, to be specific. Everdrives are compatible, to no surprise. An unofficial firmware jailbreaks was released for this console as well, allowing for SD card game loading.

Playstation 3
It's probably my least played console that is hooked up. Its Ok, but the game library doesn't do much for me. Most of my games are collections of PS2 games remastered in HD. I do like that it is region free.

Playstation 4
I like the PS4 library better than that of the PS3, due to the increased number of indie and retro-aesthetics.

Like the PS4, retro game collections are the bulk of my small collection. I take it on trips to play in hotels and whatnot, but otherwise it is docked at home.

Raspberry Pi
Mine is housed in a RetroFlag Sega Genesis case, with safe shutdown mod. It is a little redundant I know, but currently it is the only way I can play arcade games on my TV.

My consoles are connected in the following manner:

Core Grafx w/ SSD3 --> GScartsw --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Sega Saturn w/ Rhea --> GScartsw --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Sega Saturn (Japanese) --> GScartsw --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Playstation 2 --> GScartsw --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Playstation w/PSIO --> GScartsw --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Gamecube --> component switch --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
PC Engine Duo --> component switch --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
CBox Consolized MVS --> component switch --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Dreamcast w/ GDEMU --> VGA cord --> OSSC --> HDMI switch --> TV
Mega SG --> HDMI switch --> TV
Super NT --> HDMI switch --> TV
AVS --> HDMI switch --> TV
PS4 --> HDMI switch --> TV
PS3 --> HDMI switch --> TV
Switch --> HDMI switch --> TV
Raspberry Pi --> HDMI switch --> TV

Means of connectivity:
GScartsw automatic 8 port RGB scart switcher

Impact Acoustics powered component switcher

Open Source Scan Converter

Monoprice 8port enhanced HDMI switcher

Even with all of these updated consoles, I still have my originals stowed away, not ready to abandon them. There may be a day when I want to hook up the originals again. From a game collection standpoint, I have started to focus the collection on only quality games that I truly want and/or know I will play. I kept a few stinkers if there was strong nostalgia for them, but for the most part the filler has been moving out, sold on eBay to finance the hardware changes. I have had an easier time letting go of the extra games since Everdrives and ODE devices have been acquired.

So that's what I currently have hooked up. How about you? Do you opt to have multiples of the same system connected? Are there consoles that you don't feel that you need to have connected? I'm always interested in seeing what other peoples' setups look like.

The CBOX Neo Geo Consolized MVS

The Neo Geo MVS (Multi Video System) was an arcade system developed by SNK. It was dubbed a 24-bit system, although the exact categorization of its architecture is not that simple. Regardless, its games were on par with or better than current arcade offerings at the time, and most definitely more advanced than any home console offering.
The Neo Geo MVS arcade system was hard to miss, due to its bright red cabinet

It had multiple games to choose from, thanks to its multiple internal cartridge slots. A single arcade cabinet could house up to six games for a player to chose from. When games were no longer making money, newer games could be easily swapped out at a fraction of the cost when compared to replacing an entire arcade cabinet. This versatility made it popular with arcade owners, and so arcades everywhere had the big red MVS cabinets.

An MVS 4-slot motherboard photo credit:

SNK eventually released a home console version, called the Advanced Entertainment System (AES), which was essentially the same hardware as the MVS, with a single cartridge slot. The system cost around $700 at the time and games were about $200 each!
The Neo Geo AES home console
photo credit:

Even though the console and arcade hardware were the same, the game cartridges for the home system and the arcade system were not directly compatible due to different pinouts. The MVS arcade cartridges are cheaper, as there were more of them produced than the AES home versions.

Growing up, I only knew one kid with a Neo Geo. Its price point limited the audience, which was a business decision. SNK gambled on their premier home console being so advanced and captivating, that it would attract the attention of hardcore gamers. They were mostly right, as the home console had games released until 1997, and the arcade had games being released for it up until 2004.

The Neo Geo games library was focused on 2D action games, and not capable of 3D graphics. Still, it occupied a niche market with a love of 2D sprites, and had a cult following to this day.

It never occurred to me that owning a Neo Geo system was possible. It was just as absurd as wishing for a Lamborghini; there was just no way it was going to happen. Even years after its heyday, Neo Geo systems with hookups and a controller command upwards of $400 on the secondary market. That's not even taking into account the cost of the actual games. I resigned to accept the fact that only way I would play Neo Geo games was through emulation. Metal Slug is one of my favorite games, and it is a staple of game night when friends come over. Playing on it on RetroPie is fine, I guess.

My favorite Neo Geo game

One day I was watching a YouTube channel called RetroCore. Its a fantastic channel with deep dives into hardware and game reviews. The CBox MVS system was reviewed, and I was captivated. Apparently, there was a company in China that was harvesting the motherboards from old MVS arcade cabinets, and making home consoles from them. The production was fairly well designed, with a decent attention to quality. Mark Smith from RetroCore gave it a favorable review, and my interest was piqued. The price point is spot on, with these units costing roughly $175, not including shipping. This may not seem cheap, but this is a Neo Geo we are talking about.

See the Sega Saturn controller ports?

What really attracted me to this specific console was the controller compatibility. These units are compatible with the almighty Sega Saturn controller! I am a huge fan of the Saturn pad, and this is a revelation. I don't have issues with the original Neo Geo arcade stick, but when given a choice, there's no contest. This was shaping up to be an awesome console.

There is a multicart that is widely available for the MVS, and it can even be ordered along with it in the same order, which is the route I went. It contains 161 games, but many of those are hacked versions of the games, so in reality there are about 94 games on it. That's not bad, considering it costs about $75 for the multi cart, and it sure beats taking out a second mortgage to start collecting actual games.

The console has the Neo Geo universe bios installed, meaning extra game playing options, settings, and cheats are preinstalled. Installing this yourself would require some precision soldering, which not everyone is comfortable doing.

So I decided to liquidate a bunch or unneeded peripherals, controllers, and unwanted games through eBay. I made enough to more than cover the cost of the consolized MVS and multicart. I ordered it from aliexpress. Shipping from China is a bummer, as expected. There was a $2 difference between their standard shipping and premium shipping, so I figured why not? The estimated time for delivery was 10-15 days. I got mine in 6 days! They sent it via DHL, which is odd, since I didn't pay for the DHL delivery, so maybe they messed up?

There are three video output options: S-video, RGBs, and component. I hooked it up via component, as I don't have an MVS RGB cable at the moment. It is run through a switcher, and into the OSSC line doubler. The picture quality is everything that I hoped it would be. I applied scanlines, and playing these games on original hardware with no lag using Saturn controllers is absolute bliss.

Now, I'm totally new to the Neo Geo, and I'm sure there are hardcore fans of the system that my not be fans of this console, and that's fine. For people like me who are just happy to be able to finally have a cost effective solution and be able to play original hardware, using a Saturn controller, this is a perfect solution. Maybe more people would like to know that this exists. I highly recommend it!

Scaling Down the Collection, Again

Just because the shelves hold that many games doesn't mean it has to be full
A couple of years ago I decided to weed out some of the games that I just didn't want anymore. A lot of these were duplicates of games that I had several ports of, across several systems. I had too many versions of Mortal Kombats, Street Fighters, Sonic Collections, and so on. After doing so, the numbers crept back up eventually over the years. Hidden gems videos and posts were dangerous, as they would be the impetus for seeking out more games. After playing a lot of these "hidden gems", most of the time I didn't have the same shiny opinion of the game as various Youtubers. I'd say one out of five hidden gems were worth seeking out.

I am really starting to favor quality over quantity recently. I have decided to take a hard look at all of my collection, and finally play all the games that I own to make sure they are what I want to keep. I'm not playing through the entire game, but just enough to sense if I would come back to it, if there is some redeeming characteristic, or if its total trash. I discovered that there was a significant percentage of the games that I haven't played until now, that I don't need to have. For example, I just can't get into Decap Attack. It is generally heralded as a fun, kooky game, but it didn't do anything for me. Likewise with Kid Chameleon. Comix Zone is also well regarded for its graphical style and unique presentation, but I found it so-so. These are games that I didn't play growing up, and picked them up as an adult based on popular opinion, but I guess my taste goes against the grain. I am finding examples of these across all platforms.

Then there are the games that have lots of nostalgic value, but are terrible. Take Super Thunder Blade for instance. As a child of the 80's, I remember the Blue Thunder TV show and movie. This game was a directly inspired from those, so much so that the opening title screen is stolen straight from the movie! I wanted this game so much when I saw it in stores. When I actually got it, I was underwhelmed. The gameplay is unforgiving and simplistic. Its utter garbage, and I would have gotten rid of it sooner had it not been for nostalgia. I'm not going to play it again, so there's no need to hang on to it.

My plan is to put these up for sale. This is a huge undertaking, as it is effectively up to a third of my total collection. It's possible I may regret this decision, but I'm still keeping my favorites, so I don't think it will sting too much. I feel that if a game is just going to sit on my shelf, it should be owned by someone who wants to play it.

I have flash carts for all of my cartridge-based systems, and that allows me to play the games that I'm curious enough to try, but not serious enough to own. This allows me to thin the collection, and keep the games that I truly love or need to have for sentimental reasons. Any of my top ten games in the Shoot'em Up or Beat'em Up genres are locks to keep.

Optical Drive Emulators for disc-based consoles are just as effective and helpful as flash carts, although these don't quite exist for every disc-based system yet. For Sega Saturn, the Rhea is the best possible accessory to own, especially given the ludicrous game prices these days. The Playstation has the PSIO, which is equally as awesome. The Dreamcast has GDEMU. The Playstation 2 has FreeMcBoot in tandem with a hard disc drive adapter, although I find that not all PS2 games are able to be installed (mine won't read PS2 games that are in CD format, as opposed to DVD format).

I never had any intention of collecting entire sets for a system. I think that's foolhardy and unpractical for several reasons. I did have sub-collection goals, like all of the Shoot'em Ups for Saturn, Genesis, Super Nintendo, original Playstation, Playstation 2, Dreamcast, and PC-Engine. I actually came decently close to completing a lot of those. Eventually I got the the point where the last couple of games that I was missing were outrageously expensive because of low print runs (they were released near the end of the console's life, or they were not good enough to warrant reprints). So I decided what I had was the best there was.

Years ago I moved my dad into a retirement home, and I had to deal with clearing out his house. My dad was a librarian, and he was a bookworm. He literally had THOUSANDS of books. He was not capable of telling me which were his favorites, or which had value, or anything that would have been helpful. So my family and I sorted through everything, guessing about value and using eBay listings as a reference. We took loads to the nearby Half Price Books, and I'm sure we took a bath on the value, but we had no other choice. We had to clear out the house to be rented to help pay for caregiver bills. That experience has made me reevaluate physical possessions, and question the need to have so much. When I go, no one is going to know the good games from the bad games. It's a huge burden to put on your dependents.

So, this has led me to where I am now. When I have time to play, there's a shorter list of games that I WANT to play compared to the list of games I own. It's time to slim down, and concentrate the collection into the essentials. If I want to play Goof Troop or Grind Stormer ever again, I can do so using the Everdrive.

What do you all think? Would you ever thin out your collection? What would make you do it?

8Bitdo Bluetooth Controllers

Bluetooth controllers have been a staple since the seventh generation of video game consoles. The PS3, XBox 360, and Wii all embraced bluetooth functionality as the industry standard. We may now take this technology for granted, but prior to this, wireless controllers were hit or miss. The Nintendo Gamecube had the excellent Wavebird controller, which is considered one of the best pre-bluetooth controllers. That was the exception, not the rule. Most wireless controllers were line-of-sight infrared, so you had to have the controller pointed at the receiver constantly, or the signal would not transmit. Sega had produced some wireless controllers for the Genesis and Saturn, which are fairly rare.

OEM Sega infrared controllers. Photo credit:
Fast forward to today, and there are all kinds of new accessories produced for retro consoles. Enter 8Bitdo, a company that makes bluetooth controllers for a variety of systems. Obviously the older systems did not have onboard bluetooth capabilities, which is why they also produce bluetooth receivers, which you can plug into the controller ports.

Bluetooth receivers for original hardware

I have a couple of these controllers and receivers, and I am impressed with the overall product. The build quality is solid, the controllers feel nearly indistinguishable from originals. Third party controllers often feel too light and flimsy. One test that I use to judge the build of a controller is if you can twist it even a little bit. If so, that's not up to par. I am happy to say that these pass the twist test.
The directional pad can make or break a clone controller. It is the part of the controller that is most essential to the control. The resistance, texture, and wobble are all spot on. The button presses are nearly as similar, yet maybe with a little more "click" than the originals. Simply put, these are the best recreations of the tactility and feel that I have ever come across.

Their bluetooth controllers can also be used for modern devices, like Android, PC, Raspberry Pi, and in some cases, Nintendo Switch. This versatility is a strong selling point.

Now that TV screens are larger than they ever have been, people are sitting and gaming on their couches, instead of kneeling on the floor, tethered by a controller cord. Sitting on the floor for extended periods of time may conjure memories of being ten playing Super Mario Bros., but my body doesn't cope as well as it used to. The cords are not long enough to reach the couch, so Bluetooth is a welcome addition.

Some games are good standards to test for how impactful the lag is

Hardcore gamers may notice a tiny amount of input lag, only noticeable on games that require twitch reflexes, like some shoot'em ups or precision platformers, or Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! I am fairly sensitive to input lag, and I will say that it is pretty negligible. This issue can be confused with lag caused by TVs. To mitigate this, make sure that the TV input that the console in plugged into is set to "game" mode, so that not picture processing is occurring. I had a hard time fighting Mike Tyson, but then again, I'm not sure if I'm as good as I remember.

Different models have different features. The earlier models were fairly basic, with the button configurations to match a SNES controller. The SN30 Pro has dual analog sticks,  L2 and R2 triggers, star and home buttons for the Nintendo Switch. Analogue sticks on a SNES controller feels odd to me, but I can see how it has its appeal for use with emulation.

8Bitdo has even released modification kits that allow you to convert original controllers into bluetooth controllers. The internal guts can be easily replaced with this reversible process. It even ships with an anti-static bag for storage of the original pcb. I suppose this is for those who absolutely must have original buttons, dpad, etc. They work exactly like all of the other controllers in their lineup.
Original controllers turned bluetooth
They continue to release new models like the M30 for the Sega Genesis, yet also compatible with . Every model seems to have a selection of colors available. I'm hoping for Sega Saturn iterations and, this is a long shot, PC-Engine versions. The company has been gaining a deserving reputation, and hopefully they will be able to address all legacy consoles. Time will tell.