Site Updates

I’m currently undertaking the task of trying to make the site a bit more uniform. The next week or two will be slow as I am pouring through the archive of posts and making formatting corrections, etc.

Many of the original posts on this site were migrated from my old blog and there were still some nagging layout problems that I’ve always wanting to correct. I’m finally taking the time to do it.

Once this is complete, I have a several reviews to post. The GameCube/PS2 era is just around the corner!

Project: PC Upgrade – Final Results

The day has arrived! After almost a decade I’ve finally built a new PC. In my last post on the subject, I discussed my options; would I stick with an Intel processor or would I venture off and try one of AMD’s new Ryzen CPUs? Would I stay a loyal Nvidia user or jump ship to ATI? Well, the time to reveal my decision is here….

After doing a lot of research, I decided to ultimately stick with Intel. Despite the whole Spectre/Meltdown debacle, the latest generation of Intel chips still seemed to be the way to go. Despite having a larger core and thread count, the Ryzen 7 still comes up short in terms of most performance benchmarks. The only exception to that seems to be with workstation-style tasks. But for day-to-day use and gaming, Intel is still the king.

Following my personal rule of “build for longevity”, I did decide to go with Intel’s new Coffee Lake chip. In fact, I ultimately decided on the i7  8700k. At the time of this writing, this is currently the fastest Intel CPU on the market. Despite being the “latest and greatest”, this wasn’t an easy choice. The 8700k is famous for running pretty hot. So if I decided to experiment with overclocking (something I don’t usually do), heat issues could potentially be a factor. With this in mind, I decided to spend a little extra and go with a high quality cooling tower from Noctua instead of sticking with a stock Intel fan.

Noctua fans are world renown for their quality and durability. Plus, they are quiet as a mouse. I know many people would have considered going with a liquid cooling solution. But again, I don’t typically overclock. I build my PCs for longevity and I’d rather get my power by purchasing top of line products rather than pushing more performance out of a chip than is expected. Of course, that being said, I built my entire system with cooling and airflow in mind, so I may experiment with some very mild overclocking in the future. By my calculations, I should easily be able to get about 20% better performance with just some minor tweaks that shouldn’t result in that much more heat.  We will see.

For a mainboard, I went with the ASUS Prime Z370-A. Unlike their “ROG” boards, the “Prime” line from ASUS are geared towards middle of the road users. It features all of the customizability options without some of the extra flashiness. Option-wise, it contains all the slots and ports that I needed for my purposes, and still offered enough options for future upgrades.

For storage, I did end up finally going SSD. I purchased a small Western Digital Blue 500GB SSD for a boot drive.  I stuck with a hybrid SSD/HD for a secondary drive instead of going full SSD for storage. I tend to keep a large music library and I also like to have a lot of room for gaming, so going full SSD is just not cost effective for me at this time.

I ended up keeping my existing Sound Blaster Z card in this rig. Since I actually do a lot with audio production from time to time, I prefer to use a real soundcard to on-board sound. But I couldn’t see enough in Creative’s new Sound BlasterX AE-5 card to make me consider an upgrade. The Sound Blaster Z is still plenty for me.

I also ended up retaining my old Corsair CX750 Power supply. This thing is a medusa of cables, however. So I seriously considered going with a new modular PSU. But in the end, I was able to route and tuck away any excess, so cable mess wasn’t an issue. This is an important part of system building that people then to overlook. Proper airflow in a gaming PC cannot be dismissed. When building a PC, I always make sure to route wires and cables behind the back panel and secure them with cable ties.  Any unused wires are also secured and kept out of the way.

To ensure optimum airflow in a PC, you also have to make sure you have the right case. For me, I decided to go with the Corsair Carbide Alpha. This chassis had plenty of room for my needs, it also features two front intake fans and one rear exhaust fan. The intake fans feature a three-way speed switch on the front of the case. – Now, I know some would admonish me for this set-up considering I dropped a big honking CPU cooling tower right in the middle of airflow lane. But surprisingly, this does not interfere with the case’s ability to “breathe”. The Carbide Alpha features venting on the back card panels as well as the ceiling of the case. The air circulation is not impeded by the large heatsink/fan in any way.

The new case design did mean having to finally let go of my internal DVD drive habit. This is something I’ve been reluctant to do. But I managed to pick up an inexpensive USB DVD Burner and so far it’s worked out better than expected.

For a GPU, I did decide to upgrade my old GTX 960 to a GTX 1060. I know that is only a modest step up, but right now with the ongoing crytpo-currency craze, GPU prices are just too unreasonable. There was no way I could afford a 1080 or one of the AMD Vega 64s at this time. For the curious, my card of choice was the MSI GeForce GTX 1060 6G OCV1.

I also took the opportunity to upgrade some of my peripherals. I ditched my aging Logitech Surround speakers and went with a newer 2.1 speaker system. I chose the Soundblaster Kratos S5. These speakers are a popular for their 24bit USB connectivity. But, considering I use a good quality sound card, I actually connect them directly with an audio cable instead. Soundwise, they are amazing. The volume range and clarity is exceptional. My only complaint lies in the volume knob that’s hard-tied to the speakers. It seems a bit finicky… At its lowest setting, sound can still be heard through the tweeters. It doesn’t seem to have a “true-zero” position.  I often listen to music at low volume when I work, so being able to turn the volume down to nearly nothing is important to me. For now, I’ve had to rely on a combination of using the OS volume controls in conjunction with the speaker knob… not an ideal solution. But it allows me to have a sound-neutral setting on the knob.

Finally, I also decided to take the plunge and jump on the hype-train that is Razer. For years I’ve heard people tout the benefits of Razer mice and keyboards. But, I never really believed they were that different. While shopping for components, I found an old holiday bundle on sale and decided to bite the bullet and give at go. It included a Cynosa Pro keyboard and a Deathadder mouse. I have to admit, that I was shocked at just what a difference these products make. Until now, I was using a cheap Logitech Mouse and Keyboard combo. It switch has been night and day. That being said, the Cynosa pro isn’t a mechanical keyboard like many of Razer’s products, but quality difference is still undenyable. I can’t recommend this simply upgrade enough.

The cherry on top to the whole project was the purchase of a quality office chair with lumbar and neck support. I use my home chair for work and play and I’m often in it 10 hours a day or more. Truth be told, this was probably the most important purchase of the lot.

In the coming weeks I’ll be doing a full “My Tech Picks” post that will elaborate a little further on some other changes to my overall gear and rig. Stay tuned!

New Feature: “It Came From Netflix…”

Today, I’m proud to announce a new feature on Retrosensei.com:  “It Came From Netflix…”  – This is the silly name for my long planned review of strange and wonderful things that can be found deep in the dark depths of the Netflix streaming library. Of course, there are other streaming services like Hulu that also carry some obscure and interesting content, and I’m sure at some point I’ll touch on that too, so perhaps the name “It Came From Netflix” is a little too specific… but let’s not worry too much about that right now.

So where did this idea come from? Well, anyone who spends more than a few minutes digging through the Netflix menus will undoubtedly find some pretty interesting suggestions. Sure, you have blockbuster movies, popular TV shows, and even a good selection of Netflix original content. All of that is fair game for this feature. But, Netflix also gives us some real obscurities as well. Cheesy foreign films, low budget horror flicks, indie comedies… it is like an endless vault of pop culture potential.

I remember the day I was browsing and accidentally discovered the film Thankskilling. This movie was hosted by Netflix for several years before finally being cleared off to make room for something else. It was a cheap horror film about a phantom turkey that would rise from the grave to seek revenge against modern American teens for the atrocities suffered by the Indians during the early colonial days. The turkey could talk (and cuss), the characters were shallow, the whole film was obviously a parody of the genre – but it was wonderful! But that’s not all. Over the years other strange and mind-bending horror films have been given the spotlight thanks to Netflix. I’ve seen movies about consciously aware killer tires, ginger bread men, zombie beavers, the list goes on and on.

These days, Netflix has recently ramped up the introduction of foreign films and television. Bollywood films from India, Chinese action flicks, Japanese anime and dramas – it’s a virtual smorgasbord of entertainment. And I’m going to share with you some of the nerdiest, strangest and most interesting things Netflix has to offer. I hope you enjoy these new articles.

Site Update!

Quick update! I’ve recently added a few new tabs to the front page: Twitter, Backlog, Streams, Radio, Record Shelf, and Pantry. Here’s a quick rundown on what these new areas are for:

TWITTER: An embedded link to my twitter feed.

BACKLOG:  I’ve finally done the unspeakable and posted my complete game backlog. This is an exhaustive list of every game that potentially interests me. Please understand that this list not necessarily represent every game I intend to play or review for this site. But it’s instead more of a personal list of title I find significant for one reason or another. As usual, if you have a favorite game that does not appear on this list and you think it should. Leave a comment.

STREAMS:  Yes. 2018 is the year that I intend to finally start streaming some gameplay. I’m not sure to what extent, but I do have plans to give this a try. I want to be clear, I’m a fan of the printed word. I think games are best reviewed in print. But, a few live streams here and there might be fun. We shall see.

RADIO: The RetroSensei podcast is dead. I really enjoyed making it and Short and I really had some good discussions on the show. But, to be completely honest, it required a lot of time and work. Time is something that is in very short supply for me these days. So instead of podcasting, I’m currently cooking up an alternative that will not require such a strict schedule.  More on this and what it entails later. Stay tuned.

RECORD SHELF: This is simply a repository for all of my album reviews.

PANTRY: This is simply a repository for all of my “Nerd Fuel” coffee reviews.

New Year 2018 – Update

Well, 2018 is finally here. My last full “update” post was in Spring of 2017. Prior to that, I posted one in Fall of 2016 where I outlined my plans for the next year. I’m happy to say that I pretty much managed to keep my promises as far as progress on my backlog. I had hoped to be finished with the PS1/N64 era by the end of 2017.  I fell short of this goal by just two games, Parasite Eve 2 and Xenogears.  I’m playing Parasite Eve 2 now and I expect to be finished within a week or two. Hopefully, Xeno will be complete by the end of February and I can start the next gen in time for Spring! (But knowing my track record, that probably won’t be the case…)

So where does that put us? Well, allow me a moment to explain how exactly I choose which games to play. First of all, I make a list of popular or important titles by system. Then, I break them down by year. Games that I want to play or games that tie-in to other reviews on this blog take priority. After that, I finish up the remaining titles on my list. Before moving on to the next generation, I check to see if there is anything that I may have overlooked. If a certain title catches my eye, I’ll play it

To date, I’ve covered, NES, SNES, Gameboy, N64, PS1 and 80’s-90’s PC titles. Of course, I occasionally throw in new game review or go off on tangents that take me to more modern systems (my Final Fantasy and Castlevania reviews for example).

Occasionally, I get emails from people to the effect of “How can you not play [your favorite game here]?? It was only one of the best games for the [your favorite system here]!!!” – Well, as much as I’d like to, it’s simply impossible to play EVERY game for every system. So, I pick the ones that I feel are important and go from there. Once I’m all caught up, I do plan to go back and fill in some gaps. Heck, I might even do so before I conquer the backlog. It’s my blog after all… But I have to set some type of limitation. If not, I’d be stuck on the PS1 era forever. There were SO MANY truly fantastic games released for that system alone.  Plus, skipping a few titles has actually worked out very well for me. For example, one classic SNES game that I did not review was Street Fighter II. A game loved by many gamers my age. I too have very fond memories of sitting on the living room floor with friends, playing that game until all hours of the night. But I just didn’t have time to fit it in with all my other reviews. Well, in a few months we will be treated to a special Street Fighter Collection by Capcom. This release is the perfect time to revisit that game, as well as other titles in the series!

So what lies ahead. Well, for the immediate future I do plan to post my reviews for Parasite Eve 2 and Xenogears. These will be my final Sony PlayStation reviews from the backlog list.  I’ll end the era with a look at Tomb Raider 4 and 5 for PC. Then it’s on to a very brief catch-up on some Game Boy Color games (Pokemon Silver/Gold/Crystal, and The Legend of Zelda Oracle of Ages/Seasons).  Once those are out of the way, we move on to the next generational phase, which consists of: Nintendo GameCube, Playstation 2, Xbox, Game Boy Advance, and various PC titles from 2000-2005. I expect this phase to take me into late 2019 to mid 2020. Some of these systems have very few games worthy of mention (looking at you, GameCube and Xbox), plus the time gap between eras is getting much shorter and some of the key titles from that era have already been covered.

I do have a couple of planned side-treks. First, at the end of this month a new game in the Final Fantasy series is being released, Final Fantasy Dissidia NT – a brawler that features Final Fantasy characters. I want to dive into this this game as soon as it comes out. But before doing so, I want to catch up on the Dissidia series. So I’ll be reviewing the first two Dissidia titles in the next few weeks.

Second, I have a VERY strong suspicion that 2018 will see a remastered version of Shenmue. This is a rare and beloved Dreamcast title that I never had the pleasure of experiencing. I fully intend to check that out at release as well, assuming of course that the rumors of it’s release are actually true.

Finally, I want to play and review a few classic PC titles from the Ultima and Elder Scrolls series that I neglected to play through. Not to mention, I have a brand new Nintendo Switch to explore…

I may try to fit many of these side-treks into the space between my generational playthroughs.

Oh! And let’s not forget the seasonal reviews! Something flirty and cute for Valentines Day and something spooky for October.

So yeah, welcome to the confusing world that is my mind.

Blah… backlog. May I live to see the end.

Games aside, my blog will continue to host reviews and discussions on other subjects of interest. D&D, music, Star Wars, coffee, and film. Yes! 2018 will see the debut of television/film reviews. Again, these will most be nostalgia trips. But most of my traffic comes from retro-related reviews and discussions.

So there we are. If all goes according to plan, we will be ready to start Wii, PS3, and Xbox 360 sometime around 2020! How’s that for long-term goals?

Update: Dungeons & Dragons Plans

As the new year quickly approaches, I wanted to share my plans regarding D&D. If you read my D&D posts, you’ll know that my son and I spent a large portion of this year attending D&D games at a local hobby store. However, a change in my work schedule put an end to those outings. So, instead, I’ve been in the planning stages of starting a home-based campaign. My current goal in regards to D&D is catch up on my book reviews before the end of the year. Then, when we start our home campaign in 2018, I’ll make regular posts and updates on our progress.

Despite have a little 5E experience under my belt at this point, I’m still very much a greenhorn. My decades away from the game really took their toll on me, so it’s like learning all over again. I’ll start making some D&D related posts next week. So if you’re a follower with an interest in this subject, stay tuned!

Brief Update

I would like to apologize for the lack of updates in the last month. In a nutshell, I’ve been away dealing with some real life issues. Some things came up that required my full attention. For the last thirty days or so I’ve been focused solely on dealing with these issues that I’ve not spent a moment thinking about games or other subjects that I frequently cover on this site.  Things are slowly starting to normalize, and I expect that within a month’s time I should be posting regularly again. I appreciate some of the kind words I’ve received and your support.

Spring Cleaning 2017

So, I feel it’s time for a little update.

My game playthroughs are still on track. I actually hope to have the N64/PS1 era finished with the end of this year, we’ll see. Next up in my queue are Planescape Torment for the PC,  Resident Evil 3 and Final Fantasy Tactics for PS1, and Majora’s Mask for N64.  These are my current “Must Plays”. Once these are out of the way, I’ll be taking a look over my library to see if there are any other iconic games from the era before moving on.  Next up will be a handful of portable games (ie: The Zelda Oracle titles, 2nd Generation Pokemon, etc). When this blog first went live, I talked about the history of video games as experienced through my eyes. I discussed coin-op games like Centipede and Asteroids. This carried over to the Atari 2600, then the NES. I’ve covered a lot of ground in the years that I’ve been writing here. At this point, we’ve reached the half-way mark to catching up to the present day of gaming. Once this occurs, I’ll be playing and reviewing games as they are released, with the occasional retro-review thrown in.

Since the inception of this blog, I’ve slowly expanded the content from being just about video games to other forms of Nerdery.  Sometimes I write about comic books, Dungeons & Dragons, and of course Star Wars. Last year saw the introduction of my “Nerd Fuel” coffee reviews. During my New Year’s update, I also teased that I’d be expanding the subject matter even further. RetroSensei has always been a site about things that interest me. Nerd Culture, Video Games, etc. So, in keeping with that tradition, this year will see the introduction of a few other of my passions: Film and Music.

Film has always been a centerpiece of nerd culture. From B-Movies to blockbuster Super Hero flicks, nerds have taken over the world. In the coming weeks, I’m going to start discussing and reviewing some of my favorite nerd-friendly films. Sci Fi, Fantasy, Horror, etc. If you’re reading this site, you likely share my interests in a number of these subjects. So perhaps you’ll enjoy seeing my perspective, or better yet, maybe you’ll be introduced to a movie or show that you never knew about.

The same applies to my love for music. I don’t write about this often, but during my teenage and early adult years, I played in a punk rock band. My love for music knows no bounds. I enjoy everything from jazz to folk, r&b to metal. You name it. – But, rock music in particular is a passion of mine. It’s a passion that many nerds over the years have shared. If you conjure a mental image in your mind of nerdy grognards from the 80’s huddled over a table, rolling dice in a D&D game – what are they wearing? Most people will answer “rock t-shirts”. Grateful Dead, Metallica, Jimi Hendrix, the list goes on and on.  Starting soon, I’m going to begin sharing my passion for rock music. I’m going to be diving into my archive and discussing albums that have inspired and touched me over the years. Again, I hope some of you enjoy revisiting these with me, or better yet, if you’re a young reader – perhaps I can introduce you to a new world that you’ll love as much as I do.

So, there’s a lot of good stuff coming soon. I also have a few other plans for the site that I’m not ready to reveal yet. So stay tuned.

Happy New Year! (2017)

With 2016 behind us, let me take a moment to share my plans for the new year.

In terms of this site, I got a lot done last year. For RetroSensei, 2016 was the year of Final Fantasy.  That being said, 2017 is going to be the year of the backlog. It is my intention to make great headway in playing-through many of the more iconic games of yesteryear. So far on this site, I’ve touched on the 8-bit and 16-bit eras. Currently, I’m mixing things up between the N64, PS1 and late-90’s PC games. This will continue.

On the agenda for the comings months are classics like; Ocarina of Time & Majora’s Mask, Final Fantasy Tactics, Resident Evil 2 &3, Baldur’s Gate 2, etc.

I’ll continue to provide updates for FFXIV as well as occasionally touching on some other modern titles. Also, this year I plan to post more general articles, something I have not done in a while.

I have a few other ideas for 2017 that I’m not really ready to announce yet… but rest assured – I have some plans that will lay the groundwork for some big changes to the site.

Retrosensei.net has always been a very personal project of mine.  I write here mostly for my own amusement, it is a journal of my own interests. But, since the inception of this site I’ve watched the daily pageviews grow. In the age of YouTube and drive-by content delivery, I’ve been proud to present a site that focuses largely on the written word. I’ll continue to do that, but I may also open myself up to other mediums of content as well.

As always, follow me on Twitter for the most up-to-date gaming news. Twitter is my live playground.