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Double Dracula 03-22-2016 06:46 AM

High Fidelity Classic Gaming
 
I posted these thoughts originally in the Revive Retronauts thread, but it occurs to me that this could be an interesting thread in its own right, so let's start the discussion...

***

High Fidelity Classic Gaming was probably my favourite episode of Retronauts ever, and I've been listening since back in the 1up days. I'm by no means a stickler for perfect reproductions of classic games, but the episode got me thinking about why I revisit games from older generations, and what I want out of that experience.

I don't have a whole lot of nostalgia for the 8 and 16 bit eras, despite living and playing through them. Those games were fun in the past, and I'm okay with leaving them there (for the most part). I do, however, increasingly enjoy experiencing old games for the first time, to explore their mechanics and ideas. There are so many amazing, one-of-a-kind experiences that have just become trapped in amber. A recent example would be Mole Mania (on the 3DS virtual console). I barely even knew that game existed back in 1996. I was too blinded by Pokemania! Though crystal clear graphics and sound would be nice, it doesn't seem key to the experience for me.

The discussion about disc drives breaking down and CD-based games becoming useless artifacts, however... That struck a nerve... There are a few Dreamcast games that are near and dear to my heart, but only a few. 20 years from now, will I want to pay money to reconstruct a functioning Dreamcast from aftermarket parts, just to perfectly experience those games? How do we predict the future of our own nostalgia? Can we?

Bunk Moreland 03-22-2016 07:23 AM

Before I came to Japan, my viewpoint was "emulation's good enough." In some cases, it still is, but... having pretty easy access to original versions of the games, and cheap "clone" systems that can run them makes owning actual SFC cartridges a better proposition. Can't really say for sure that they're as authentic as if I were playing on an actual SFC system, but at least mentally, it feels more authentic because I'm actually slapping a cartridge in and turning on a power switch and all that.

The Keith 03-22-2016 07:26 AM

I've been going through an interesting bit of nostalgia/bucket list type motivation and replaying old games lately.

I have never, ever been the person who cared to much for perfectly realizing the exact conditions that I enjoyed my old games in.
I recently embarked on a quest to beat old NES games that I loved as a kid but never beat then. So far this year I've beaten Ninja Gaiden 1 and 2 and Zelda 2. I played both of those on my Wii U VC. I only cared about the gameplay. Learning, as you said, how to play a game in ways that perhaps escaped me as a kid. This became apparent in Zelda 2 in particular because it's pretty clear to me that I just didn't GET experience points and levels back then.

I've never cared too much for the perfect high fidelity experience that I might get from say, an Analogue NT. Or hooking up my old systems to a CRT TV. I was perfectly happy with various VC and PSN related ways to replay.

Till I bought Megaman Legacy Collection on PS4. The gameplay in MM games is so tight, so twitch, that I finally personally discovered HDMI input lag. It made MM2, an easy game I've played a zillion times almost unplayable. I couldn't believe it. To the point I almost regret buying it on PS4 when I could have gotten it on 3DS and experienced no lag. I researched and found ways to reduce that lag to make the games playable again, but it got me thinking about the same thing you've talked about here.

I don't know how far we need to go in perfectly reproducing the graphics and sound of the era, but we do need to pay closer attention to the gameplay being recreated.

four-so 03-22-2016 07:54 AM

A lot of video game nostalgia is really just childhood nostalgia. I have a soft spot for 8-bit and 16-bit gaming, I do occasionally return to games I last played many moons ago, I still have all of my old Nintendo Power magazines and I even sometimes glance through them wistfully, and so on and so forth.

But I'm 36. I really can't extricate my childhood from video games, particularly the NES and SNES. I grew as they grew.

And that's part of where the nostalgia comes from, the magic of childhood ( which seems overly poetic and isn't magical for a lot of people, but the word fits.) I have incredible nostalgia for things like Mega Man, Ninja Gaiden (NES), Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Soul Blazer, and Earthbound. Or do I simply have nostalgia for the childhood that surrounds those games? Mega Man reminds me renting Mega Man games when I would go to my dad's house every other weekend - my parents divorced very early in my life - and, since dad passed away a few years ago at the ripe old age of 52, I've grown more inclined to revisit the NES Mega Man titles. But that's not really for the sake of Mega Man, is it? Ninja Gaiden was introduced to me by my younger stepbrother. I remember wasting countless hours watching him attempt to finish Ninja Gaiden 2 without dying until, one lazy Sunday morning, I watched him finally do it. I made fun of that same stepbrother for coveting Secret of Mana before it was released - "Dude, that game looks lame. It's certainly no Final Fantasy! - and then eating crow when it ended up being pretty fantastic. Soul Blazer? I remember seeing it for the first time in the pages of Nintendo Power, renting it (and easily because no one knew what the fuck it was), and being amazed. Earthbound? My stepbrother had come from out of state for a visit - we had moved by this point - and we spent a week of summer vacation going through the game, reading the instruction-booklet-manual that was packaged with it, commenting about how weird it was.

Again, none of this really has much to do with video games, does it?

On the flip side, I have friends who are younger than me who feel the same way about, say, Kingdom Hearts. I was already too old, though, the magic had long since vanished. I enjoyed Kingdom Hearts; I have zero nostalgia for it. I thought FFX was a lot better than people gave it credit for being, but I don't get the warm and fuzzies like I do whenever I play FF4 or FF6. (Part of the reason FF14 has become my "go to" title is because SE hit the nostalgia strings hard. The first time I got my Magitek Armor mount, saw it was based on the original Amano design, and then heard the FF6 overworld music? Pure bliss.)

As far as preservation goes, I'd like to see more companies pay attention to it. I appreciate what Digital Eclipse did with MMLC and would love to see more companies go that route. It doesn't need to be perfect - memories are not perfect anyway - but good enough for the light bulb to go off - "Oh, yeah. This looks/sounds/plays just like I remember." Of course, the devil is in the memory itself.

In a way, I'm jealous of my children because a lot of the things they hold dear - Minecraft, Terraria, Undertale, FNAF, etc. - were created in a digital, online world, where it (appears to be) easier to preserve media. Of course, I never received regular patches, fixing bugs, adding features, etc. on my NES and SNES. What does it even mean to preserve something that doesn't seem to ever be a completely finished item? If something is in flux, can it really be preserved? I suppose, at best, you can "snapshot" the media to preserve what it was like in different states but that feels unsatisfactory, somehow. And what does it mean for nostalgia? When my 10 year old is a 30 year old, and he wants to go back and play the "original" Minecraft.... I mean, what does original even mean now?

¡HarlequinPanic! 03-22-2016 08:24 AM

I bought a GDEMU for my dreamcast, which is sort of like those flashcarts on the DS, but fancier since it spoofs all the calls to a disc drive that a dreamcast would make. I've had a VGA box forever for it too, so I'm pretty well outfitted on the DC.

It's a neat idea but in all honesty I got it in january and only have backed up my copies of Sonic Adventure 2 and SF3 onto it, and haven't touched it much since :$. It's a tough call for the dreamcast library, which a lot of has been moved to the digital space in the time since it first arrived on the scene. There's a lot of titles still out there, but there's more money to spend to get the most out of it: namely, a CRT to take advantage of light gun titles.

So, yeah, it's tough to predict your own habits and what you'll want to do, but hey at the end of the day it's your money, spend it how you want~

(btw the GDEMU guy has made something similar for the Sega Saturn but that sounds way more involved to install and figure out if your model will work with it).

madhair60 03-22-2016 08:44 AM

I think preservation and playability are more important than accuracy; for me, I might be off topic 'cos I'm talking emulation here, but with stuff like MAME games that used to work are being rendered unplayable in the name of being "more accurate", and we have SNES emulators like Higan which require increasingly beefy computers to be more "cycle accurate" when, to people like me, the difference is indistinguishable.

I'm honestly baffled sometimes by the reception certain re-release efforts get, like the Mega Man Legacy Collection getting reamed for the most trifling inaccuracies.

Parish 03-22-2016 08:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Double Dracula (Post 2107040)
The discussion about disc drives breaking down and CD-based games becoming useless artifacts, however... That struck a nerve...

I still own my original first-generation PlayStation purchased in 1997, but its drive wore out long ago. It was super-frustrating toward the latter days to have to come up with a new angle to hold the machine at to get it to load....

I've had reason to dust it off and take it out of storage, though — I'm getting one of those PSIO mods that allows you to load ISOs from SD cards. I realize that's a grey-market device trending on black, but between PS1 coming out in my "single and alone and working my first full-time job era" and owning nearly every PS1 classic on PSN, I don't think I'll be depriving anyone of a living with this. But I will be able to use a defective piece of hardware to capture upscaled video... yeaaah.

Mr. Sensible 03-22-2016 09:07 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BrianB (Post 2107083)
It's a neat idea but in all honesty I got it in january and only have backed up my copies of Sonic Adventure 2 and SF3 onto it, and haven't touched it much since :$. It's a tough call for the dreamcast library, which a lot of has been moved to the digital space in the time since it first arrived on the scene.

I only occasionally regret selling my DC, and the last five-ish years of Sega re-releasing their old catalog on Steam has really helped soothe those pangs.

However, those same years were also filled with sub-optimal officially-emulated Nintendo 8- and 16-bit re-releases, and it's those Nintendo systems I'm going to be fervently clinging to until I'm on my deathbed. My nostalgia knows on which side its bread is buttered.

Moon Orbit 03-22-2016 09:27 AM

Since we're talking about SNES emulators, I figure I'll mention something I was reminded of earlier today.

Somebody managed to exploit ZSNES and turn it into a security hole. :D https://www.reddit.com/r/emulation/c..._vulnerability

four-so 03-22-2016 09:29 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by madhair60 (Post 2107093)
I think preservation and playability are more important than accuracy; for me, I might be off topic 'cos I'm talking emulation here, but with stuff like MAME games that used to work are being rendered unplayable in the name of being "more accurate", and we have SNES emulators like Higan which require increasingly beefy computers to be more "cycle accurate" when, to people like me, the difference is indistinguishable.

I've used higan for the past few months and I'll occasionally have some really weird audio issues with certain games. Bass distortion, certain sound effects being left out entirely, and so on. I've gone back to ZSNES because it just works.

My SNES only works about half the time and I no longer have a CRT. I wonder if the Hyperkin Retros are any good. I do have some SNES carts I'd like to play again, like Earthbound and a Super Famicom copy of Chrono Trigger. Of course I have Earthbound on Wii U VC and I still have my DS copy of Trigger so, once again, how "accurate" do I really need the experience to be?

Moon Orbit 03-22-2016 09:41 AM

I'm guessing the sound issues are due to the weird configuration set upo it has. byuu's never been good at UIs and as such bending his program to your will is exceedingly harder than it is for any other emulator I've used aside from Project 64(Which is one of the biggest clusterfucks in emulation).

Also, seriously, do not use zsnes. See my link a moment ago.

John 03-22-2016 09:53 AM

The NES is my jam, and I've been toying with going all in on some type of upgrade. My current setup's just composite video going to a 19" old CRT TV, which has its charms but good picture/sound isn't one of them. I've been wavering between going the NESRGB + Framemeister + Monitor, or waiting for the new NES HDMI mod to be released. I haven't found a good deal on an RGB monitor, and I think the sweet spot for buying PVM's has passed, so I will probably stick with some type of upscaler to HDMI. Then again, my HDTV's best input lag setting is 22ms, which isn't super great. Also, if I go the NES HDMI route, it only affects that one system, and if I go for RGB+upscaler then all my systems can potentially look great. So many trade-offs!

I read somewhere that there was an open-source competitor to the Framemeister coming out, but it's going to have some issues of its own (no audio through HDMI for one).

I dunno, I've got a spare top-loader NES that I don't use because I need to re-solder the composite out mod I put in a decade ago. I think I'll keep tabs on when the NES HDMI kits are released to the general public, and turn that into a project. If I ever decide to go down the RGB route, I've got a couple front loader NES's that I've acquired over the years.

Sarge 03-22-2016 10:23 AM

I just got through recapping a Genesis to try to fix an audio issue, and it didn't work. Gonna check some other stuff now. I'm also about to S-Video mod one of my Model 1s. Technically not the best video quality (that'd be me using that SCART-component converter I've got), but it's darn close. Certainly better than the awful composite on that system.

I've also thought about getting one of those NESRGB boards. Seems like it'd be pretty awesome to bump up the visuals for the NES, although it's not nearly as putrid on composite as the Genesis.

I'm a big fan of original hardware, but there's no question that emulation is a godsend. Keeping these titles alive is huge.

I will also say don't use ZSNES. It was okay back in the day, but it's just way too out of date now. If you don't like higan/bsnes, use SNES9x. It's very solid for almost everything I've thrown at it.

Moon Orbit 03-22-2016 10:32 AM

SNESGT or really anything THAT DOES NOT HAVE A SECURITY HOLE THAT HASN'T BEEN FIXED IN THE FOUR MONTHS SINCE IT'S BEEN REVEALED will do.

Mr. Sensible 03-22-2016 12:38 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Sarge (Post 2107163)
I've also thought about getting one of those NESRGB boards. Seems like it'd be pretty awesome to bump up the visuals for the NES, although it's not nearly as putrid on composite as the Genesis.

Currently waiting on my NESRGB-modded AV Famicom to arrive in the mail. The person who did the mod work goes by Yurkie on AtariAge; he seems to be pretty respected in the retro community and is also listed as a recommended installer on NESRGB's official page.

Very excited to see the results.

balder the brave 03-22-2016 01:10 PM

I'm a big Retronauts fan but I haven't been able to listen to the new episode yet.

I hope that someone eventually makes a less expensive Framemeister with build in Genesis and SNES connections so you don't have to buy a special Scart cable.

Or even just a component video connection for SNES and Genesis, like that Kickstarter company aims to do. The prototype they demonstrated looks pretty good to me.

Sarge 03-22-2016 01:30 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr. Sensible (Post 2107238)
Currently waiting on my NESRGB-modded AV Famicom to arrive in the mail. The person who did the mod work goes by Yurkie on AtariAge; he seems to be pretty respected in the retro community and is also listed as a recommended installer on NESRGB's official page.

Very excited to see the results.

I've been tempted to just let someone do the job for me. While my Genesis console survived the experience, some other systems I wouldn't want to lose. For example, I'm looking at eventually owning a Turbo Duo, and I plan on buying that already recapped, because they're notorious for having cheap caps that were often leaking from the factory!

I have no doubt the results are gonna be mind-blowing. Be sure to show us pics! :D

Mr. Sensible 03-22-2016 01:41 PM

I was doing dumb cellphone repair work about eight years ago and currently own a quality soldering iron, so I went back and forth for a couple months trying to decide whether or not I wanted to attempt the NESRGB mod myself. Unfortunately, I don't have extensive soldering experience (or a de-soldering iron, a decent work table or a lit magnifier) and installing this thing requires de-soldering 40 PPU socket pins and a bunch of other delicate work that I don't feel confident about performing myself, especially without any real experience doing nuts-and-bolts PCB hackery.

Add to that the fact that Yurkie charges $150 to do the mod on an AV Famicom, which includes the cost of the NESRGB kit (and the kit runs $80 just by itself), having him do the work just seemed like the best solution with the least amount of risk.

It should be here Thursday, and of course I'll be posting an embarrassment of pictures (no video capture unfortunately).

Yimothy 03-22-2016 07:38 PM

A while back I wanted a handheld mega drive, because I wanted to use my old carts and I pretty much only play handhelds nowadays, so I got a clone system online. It's not bad, and mimics the hardware so it's not an emulator, but it has four major problems for me that I'll list from least to most surprising:

1. It has a switch to go between Japan/not Japan region, but was permanantly set to NTSC, no switch for PAL, so a lot of my games wouldn't run on it.
2. It can't be switched to Master System mode, so a lot more of my games won't run on it.
3. The screen is slightly lower resolution than the MD runs at.
4. It's lacking some connection needed for accessing most save games (Shining in the Darkness works, but none of the other games I have that use saves).

The last two I found particularly incredible. If you're making reproduction hardware, at least get the basic functionality right. Also it's got a reset button close enough to the d-pad that I've hit it accidentally a few times. I was able to open it up and switch it to PAL mode, so it's useable for games that don't need saves, but doing it broke the TV out since the system is now out of sync with the oscillator that controls the colours. Fortunately the built in screen still has colour, but it also has distortions from running at the wrong resolution.

Shortly after this I came across a Nomad and bought it. It had had the screen replaced before I got it, and I've done mods myself for SMS mode and region switching, so now it does what I want (though I've had to jam a bit of plastic into the power socket to make it run reliably on the cable). In a way it's not very hi-fi at all, a heavily modified system that never came out in my region that I'm using to play handheld games that were always on a TV (except when I used a friend's Game Gear and SMS adapter) back in the day, and I think the screen runs off the composite out so it's not a perfect picture. On the other hand it's authentic old hardware running these things just like the TV-bound systems used to, and being able to see all the pixels, however nice it might be, would not actually be faithful to what it was like at the time, so in a sense the fidelity is higher this way.

A lot of effort involved though, and the whole thing is pretty dicky. Currently the region mod isn't working properly, but I don't wanna go back in and fiddle with it until I've played Ys on it in case I break the SMS mod while I'm in there.

Mr. Sensible 03-24-2016 07:15 PM

Behold!



And here's some pixel porn:









Needless to say, I'm very satisfied with my investment.

Red Hedgehog 03-25-2016 11:55 AM

OMG that image quality. I'm dying.

Looks soooo good.

John 03-27-2016 03:20 PM

Is that RGB out to an upscaler, or one of the pilot units of the Hi-Def NES?

Edit: saw your previous post about NESRGB mod. Looks great!

I've done a ton of research on NES video quality, and found there are three main options to get straight HDMI coming in the near future, though none of the options are available right now:

1. The Hi-Def NES mod adds in an HDMI board to most versions of NES and Famicom. It's currently unreleased for mass orders, as they're still working through the kinks and the ordering process.

2. Analogue NT, if they release a new batch or some old stock like they just did, can be fitted with a Hi-Def NES Mod instead of the standard RGB out.

3. bunnyboy over at RetroUSB is designing his own console called the AVS, designed to resemble the original AVS prototype.

Out of the three, the Hi-Def NES mod appears to be the one that will most likely be available first. The designer "kevtris" is working on getting a couple games working, and re-enabling composite out when HDMI is not turned on. I'll be getting one of their kits to install as soon as they're available.

Mr. Sensible 04-12-2016 02:36 PM

Now I have a new problem: my modded Famicom looks SO sharp that it's comparatively making my stock SNES look like doo-doo over RGB! And now I discover that the best SNES RGB signals come from either 1) a modded SNES Mini or 2) a special variant of the original SNES with a consolidated architecture called the "1CHIP" on the board.

this mad venture has no end

balder the brave 04-12-2016 02:48 PM

What does RGB mean in that context? Is it the same as Component?

Mr. Sensible 04-12-2016 02:53 PM

Confusingly, no! Well, actually, RGB is an earlier form of analog component video. "Modern" component usually refers to the analog "YPbPr" standard (the cables with separate red, green and blue male RCA connectors on at least one end).

The way I understand it is that an RGB signal is split into three separate "color intensity" signals for Red, Green and Blue. YPbPr, on the other hand, uses its Green cable only for brightness (black/white), the Red cable for red signal and the Blue cable for blue signal. YPbPr video calculates green signal by subtracting the Red and Blue values from the total video signal.

The upshot is that the quality is roughly similar between the two standards, but different enough that some folks have a preference over the other (assuming that the console in question can output both).

Double Dracula 05-14-2016 08:34 AM

Well, this is driving me nuts.

I live in Japan, but my parents, who live in Canada, have a very late model 36-inch Sony Trinitron CRT that they are desperate to be rid of.

I am actually considering shipping it across the darn planet. Is this crazy?

Mr. Sensible 05-14-2016 10:45 AM

...Yes? But do it anyway?

How many hundreds/thousands of dollars/yen are we talking here for shipping

Double Dracula 05-14-2016 10:48 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr. Sensible (Post 2139738)
...Yes? But do it anyway?

How many thousands of dollars/yen are we talking here for shipping

I don't know yet. And I'm almost afraid to find out.

Parish 05-14-2016 01:47 PM

If they take the slow boat approach, it could be perhaps manageable. What's ocean freight cost for 220 lbs?

Realistically, I don't know if you want to deal with a 36" CRT. A 27" is as much as single person can likely handle due weight and bulk... anything more than that is a huge use of space and actually slightly dangerous if you don't hire professionals to move it.

muteKi 05-14-2016 02:16 PM

I am so glad I have a very recent 10" CRT. Not too big to carry, and even has a component input. Great for games.


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