August 28, 2011

ROMs Are An Eye Opening Experience

For the better part of my long fascination with video games and entertainment, very few monumental changes have occurred in that time-frame.

The first time I booted up Super Mario Bros. (actually, I wanted to shoot ducks first with my plastic light-gun) and the first time I saw the shitty Super Mario Bros. movie with John Leguizamo (sp?), all of these instances changed my gaming lifestyle forever.

Each gamer has had his or her own set path of these game-changing events.  For me, it was the first time I was engrossed in a game of Left 4 Dead that I started to fear and care for my buddies playing the survivor characters, it was the first frantic chainsaw duel in the Gears series, and it was my first paradigm shift in Final Fantasy XIII (also the first time I played a Final Fantasy game).  You could also throw in the purchase of my brand new, bigger, 1080p high definition TV (after living with a 32 inch TV from 9 years ago), but that only really counts as seeing the games in a new and better way.

After all of these great moments in my gaming life, and I think I'm on the verge of another one of those game changing events.

Recently on G4's Attack of the Show, they featured a few new iPhone and iPad RPG’s to hit the App marketplace. 

Now while I’m all for mobile gaming on a phone, something like this had never even crossed my mind.  That these app games were able to give a deep engaging story and non-crazy haired Japanese characters on a mobile device.  It wasn’t a one-sided waiting-room time waster or a five-minute gaming experience, this was a fully fleshed out video game;  that was unheard of to me.  An RPG without the crazy spiked hair? Holy shit that's awesome.  Throw in the fact that it’s a game that I actually want to play and that’s even more rare.

Most of the mobile games that I had heard of consisted of 5-minute time wasters like I mentioned for gaming on the toilet.  For that we‘re content with our Angry Birds and our Jelly Car games.  But these mobile RPG games feature loads of gameplay, hours of entertainment, leveling up, collecting, and trading weapons and potions at a store for new weapons.

I did a little research on the title I had my eye on - which happened to be Battleheart from Miko Mobile - a title that had just come out and was sweeping across iPhones everywhere.  I immediately went to the company website and got some bad news.  Apparently the only version available at the time was the iPhone and iPad versions.

I have an Android device.

Miko Mobile was supposedly working on an Android version, but there was no telling when that will happen (when I wrote this article it wasn’t out yet, but you can get Battleheart now in the Android Marketplace for your Google-based phones).  I turned to a few helpful websites (mostly just by searching in Google) and came up with a few lists of other great RPG games and one weird solution I’d never heard of:  PSX4Droid.

Now what is PSX4Droid you might ask?  It’s basically a Playstation 1 emulator for your Android phone.

Holy shit are you kidding me?  This means I can download real video games and play them on my phone!  It also means that smartphones today are incredibly faster and better equipped with RAM and space than your old grey PlayStation 1 console.  This doesn't really mean much to you, but that’s awesome and dating myself all at the same time.  I can’t wait until we will have Bluetooth headsets that can compete with the processing power of a PS3 or Xbox 360.

So to use PSX4Droid (which costs $5.99 on the Android Market) you’ll download a BIOS file and a ROM (or read-only memory file of the game) online, put it all on your phone’s SD card and go to town on it.  PSX4Droid and some games even have a setting to allow you to play using a Nintendo Wiimote if you don’t like the on-board touch screen controls.

Having said all of that awesome knowledge and news, this is where things start to get even better.

The list of ROMs out there online is immense.  Hundreds of sites (both free and membership-only sites) list everything from Final Fantasy 1 through 8, Chrono Trigger, Clock Tower, Colin McRae Rally 2.0, Persona 2 and Dragon Quest 1 through 7.  These are just the games I am interested in and are downloading.  There are hundreds more.  If it was a popular Playstation 1 title, it’s probably in a torrent file or .iso somewhere out there on the internet.

Here’s my disclaimer though:  the correct way to use ROMs is to only download the games that you already own or have owned in the past.  ROMs are just a file format copy of a disc-based game you have already owned (like you're CD/MP3 library).  That’s the legal jargon that you need to know.

The other reason is to download games that you don’t have and play them for free.  My reasoning to do this is:  Where are you going to find these games in a playable format anyway?  Do you really want to go out and buy a PS1 on eBay for $40 bucks, controllers and a video cable to hook it up and get your Resident Evil fix?  How long is it going to take you to find a disc copy of Shin Bakusou Dekotora Densetsu on the PS2 without paying mega bucks on it?  Yeah, that's not gonna happen.  Too much time buying stupid shit and not playing video games, that's how I look at it.

Sony has made their money on these older titles.  The games in question are two hardware generations behind us right now, and they don’t care about these older games like this.  They probably won't ever put all of them on the PSN store.

But don’t think that you can also just go out and snatch up every single ROM known to mankind.  The trick is to get what you want and leave it at that;  don’t go crazy; use moderation.  You’ll probably hear of some douchebag out there that will do just that and fuck it up for everyone else.  I see it all the time.

Some people in this world don’t know how to handle free shit.  It's something I've learned over the years.

Take my job for example:  we get free sodas, energy drinks and snacks in our break room.  The first time it was offered (I shit you not) some dickhead decided it was a great idea to take home thirty Red Bull energy drinks in a backpack.

Needless to say, the company had to send out a fucking e-mail to everyone in the company - vice presidents, CEO's, managers, everyone - (not just to this doucher) to let us know that the drinks can’t leave the premises anymore.  Wow.  Thanks a lot dude!  Way to fuck up a great thing for everyone else because of your greedy little ass.  Now I can’t enjoy an energy drink on my commute home when I do the TGR podcast because your dumbass wanted to have a shit-ton of free Red Bull at home.  That dude is nothing but a cheap piece of shit. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

So anyway, back to games.  The type of incredible experiences you got long ago on your original Playstation are now coming to an Android device.  For me, all it took to open my eyes was this small segment on one of my favorite TV shows I watch almost every night, as well as a little internet Googling.

This I feel is my next gaming milestone, right up there with John Leguizamo’s awesome portrayal of Luigi in that shitty 90's movie.  I can download games that I didn’t get to play before and enjoy them finally because I skipped a generation (PS1), and this way I can help a few fellow gamers out in the process by writing a blog about it.

I know ROMs aren’t this new fantastical thing that’s better than sliced bread, and I know that I might get flamed by readers who say, "Jesus Justin, a little behind the curve now are we?"  But to them I say "Fuck you."  I don't actively search shit like this, and I only will get into it if it benefits me.  I know when I see a good thing.  It’s almost like you hear this awesome track on the radio from a band, and you look into their music catalog and you see they’ve been around for years and have about 15 albums.  What do you do?  Just buy your favorite new song, or do you buy the album and go back and check out the 50 other tracks?  I'm the guy that will dig deeper into their musical history and buy everything.  All it takes is one person to introduce it to me (not tell me how awesome it is) and I'll get into it if I feel it warrants a new fan.

It’s fun to experience something like this.  I’m sure you guys feel the same way or know what I’m talking about.   To have a “project” that you’re so engulfed in that you want to see it work.  Searching, investigating, finding ROMs;  it’s one of those things that completely engulfs your entire day and all you can do is patiently wait for the download to finish so you can play all the games you want to on your phone (i.e. all of them).

I didn’t think I had anymore video gaming milestones left in this old gamer body.  I thought maybe 3D gaming would be the next one for me with the 3DS?  You just never know when you'll get smacked over the head with a good idea.  For me, it took a few years for the whole ROM thing to catch on.

Who knows though.  Sometimes things like this can’t be explained;  they just happen.  I don’t mind it in the least bit, it just means more video gaming for me.