Saturday, September 3, 2011

My humble Transformers collection - Updated pictures of "The Robot Shelf"

I remember a lot of my friends having piles of Transformers toys during my childhood. I on the other hand only had one Transformer growing up. It wasn't that I wasn't a fan of the Transformers, it was more that i was into so many different toys at the time. I had a decent collection of He-Man when I was very young, and then it was all about The Real Ghostbusters. Since I was born in 1982 I noticed most of the older kids were really into The Transformers toys and had a ton of the playsets and bigger figures.  Luckily I had friends who had tons of these awesome guys, so I didn't miss out on the excellent series of Generation one toys.
Here he is. Dated 1987 Takara/Hasbro. For my only Transformers toy, Landfiill was great fun. He was a Target Master and came with two robot blasters (Silencer and Flintlock). I have since lost the guns and don't feel like forking over the $20-$30 it would cost to get them on Ebay. I'm happy with the condition I kept him in over the years. I cherished this guy and he had many battles with my Ghostbusters, Batman, and TMNT figures. 
In later years I still found myself really wanting to get Some Transformers figures to have in my collection. Not so much to play with, but more so to display and appreciate. Thanks to the 2001 release of the "Robots in Disguise' line, I was able to get some awesome Transformers at a nice price. My favorite of all was Prowl. I loved that the white car mode featured Japanese writing on the door and other intricate details. This was a proper reboot of the Transformers line. A few years later I found a G1 Hun-Gurr (two headed dino in pic) for a good price at a collector/antique show. One of my favorite harder to find G1 characters. 
Over the years I've still purchased a Transformer toy here and there. I really enjoyed the Myclone line of G1 characters (short Optimus Prime pictured). I would always get them used if they were in good shape at thrift stores. That G1 TopSpin (blue and grey) only cost me about $3. If you're looking to get started collecting Transformers, now is a great time. If you like the G1 line, There have been a number of re-issues through the years, and some can be had for next to nothing if sold loose.
The great thing about displaying Transformers, is they blend perfectly with other brightly colored robot toys, or any action figures for that matter. Anything from Robotech, Sectaurs, Voltron, or even Ultraman make a good match. Checking out will come in handy if you're trying to identify some of your Transformers toys. It's a great resource, as it's identified a lot of my classic and modern figures.
Everyone loves the 2003 Armada Unicron. Excuse this blurry picture, but it was the best I could get with his eyes and hand lights flashing. This guy won toy of the year in Toy Fair magazine, and basically made every old school Transformers fan stop what they were doing to go buy it. I didn't buy it initially thinking it was way too much money at the time ($50!). I luckily found this incomplete one for dirt cheap at a thrift store in 2006.Unicron has been reproduced a few times since then, and last year he got a great re-color for his most current release. He's more orange and features a brighter color scheme in relation to the original "Transformers: The Movie".  He now goes for over $200 in package.
     I may get a few more Transformers figures, but still, I have so many other figures from different lines. A G1 Jetfire would be a welcome addition. I recently uncovered my TMNT collection that I may share it on here in the near future. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My first shot at Pixel Art

It's been a while since I've done a post on here and thought this would be the perfect opportunity. Being a fan of classic video games I've always been intrigued by the art and design of the the old sprites that make the games so memorable. Pixel Art of all forms has been growing in popularity and I've wanted to take a stab at it for some time. 
 I am not a painter by any means but thought I'd have fun with what I could pull off. Love or hate it, E.T. for the 2600 has one of the most memorable sprites of all time. This is an awesome rendition of E.T. in 4-bit mode. For this I just used a posterboard hand cut stencil to get E.T.'s shape onto canvas. 
This one was my first and came out decent. Something I can still hang on the wall and be proud of. The edges are a bit blurred but that's okay. At least I had fun and didn't destroy my first canvas.
Probably my favorite of the bunch. A mix between Tron Deadly Discs for both Atari 2600 and Intellivision. It's a bit rough but all sprites were hand drawn, cut, and stenciled by me. I used masking tape for this one to get the smaller details. 
Here's a nice perspective shot. They do look perfect if you blur your eyes a bit.
Overall I'm proud of myself for making somewhat recognizable character paintings on my first attempt. I want to move up to multi-color 8-bit sprites but I'm having too much fun with Atari 2600 characters for the time being. It's really easy to approach and I feel that anyone can do it.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Odds and ends - The last of my 70's/80's board game collection.

It's all just a lot of plastic, wood, and cardboard but I have had so much fun lately revisiting the classic board games of my youth. Pictured above is the Wuzzles board game. Can't say I'm a fan now but I used to love these guys as a kid. I found this recently and couldn't pass it up for some strange reason.

After I set it up it all came back to me. I played the heck out of this in Kindergarten. It was always a quick setup and fun to play. I think I'll keep it around just for the sake of being a piece of my childhood.

The board was the best part. This one is in great shape and has all of it's plastic feet to hold it in place. The game is so painstakingly easy that I don't think I could really have a fun time playing this now as an adult. It was fun enough to just put it together and take some pictures.

Ah, Mastermind. Many hours on this one. Originally popularized in the 70's, this strategy game has endured through the decades.  Easy to learn but a lot of strategy is needed to "crack the code". I remember instead of using the names Code Maker and Code Breaker as given by the game, my friend and I would be the Gate Keeper and the Key Master to give it a Ghostbusters Spin.

If you don't feel like a full game of Scrabble but still want a fun word game, Scrabble Sentence Cube is good fun. This one came out in 1971 and is still holding up just fine. They don't make 'em like they used to.

As the winter ends I'm sure my fascination with board games will dwindle again, but until then, game on! The most recent purchase is a newer game called Forbidden Island (pictured above). A really well done variable adventure game. It also helps that it sounds like a game of the 80's. It really is like a blend of Forbidden Bridge and Fireball Island without all the plastic.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The mid 90's - When playing PC games was a full time job

We all remember the days of going to your favorite software store and picking up the newest game to play on PC. There was nothing like it. Back in the 80s-90s computer software was a market all its own. Consoles were completely separate and even pailed in comparison to some of the newest PC games. Playing games Like X-Wing and Rebel Assault 1 and 2 made you really appreciate the beige box.
There was also a nerdy underbelly to the whole scene. To get certain games running on the newest version of Windows (We're talking Windows 95 here) you had to adjust settings on your system to create a virtual DOS environment for the game to play in. This old print out is actually from my X-Wing floppy box from when I had to adjust my expanded memory and sound card settings. I actually enjoyed doing stuff like this as I would learn more and more about computers through the years.
After wrangling CONFIG.SYS, and taking AUTOEXEC.BAT to the batting cage, I always had more fun knowing that I worked at getting the game to play. Even my first CD rips were moving files in DOS to the hard drive to play Rebel Assault and Wing Commander II. Today I work with computers every day and have to help people with the most basic tasks. I enjoy tech support very much because I have to be creative in the way I present a solution. A simpler way without all the tech lingo.  It reminds me of the old days before I knew about port settings and couldn't even dream of wireless networking in my home.
It really amazes me how much I got into computers just from playing games. It was a major interest for years. I was building PC's for family members and friends on a regular basis. I got into Linux and had a great time using a different platform for quite a while. I'm on Mac now and couldn't be happier, but I still have a special place in my heart for the old Windows based PC.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Underdog Classic Strategy Games of 1984

What is it about Input that made me love it right from the start. Is it the similarity to a capture game like chess? The fact that it looks like a Nintendo/Star Trek TNG hybrid game console prototype? Or is it the ties to computer hacking, password cracking, etc? Well, all of the above of course. Such good memories playing this one as a kid.
The game is somewhat easy to find and Almost always comes in decent shape.  They regularly don't go over anything in the five to ten dollar range.  The game play is so much fun though. I think this game was ahead of its time (as the box reads prominently). Very similar to Chess, but a much easier learning curve. Basically it's a turn based game where the point of the game is to capture all of your players pieces. The little caption on the front of the box is gold! "Each piece is preprogrammed, yet you control every play". It's really easy to learn but tough to build strategy.

Now we move to a lesser known one that I never played as a kid. Actually I've only had enough time to play a quick round just to test the play style. It's a very basic, yet hard to master, turn based game.
I could explain all the rules, or I could just say it's chess, meets chinese checkers, meets a maze. I like that better. Very fun overall and I really like the play style. One thing I have to mention is the levels are movable on a turn to make the maze more of an obstacle for your opponent. You can't go wrong with the Font they used; Star Wars meets Battlestar Galactica.
Such a lovely array of red, blue, white and gray. Between these two I can't choose which one I like the best. Both have much different qualities. I highly recommend both of them.  Hope you enjoyed this episode of... The Robot Shelf.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


There's always that certain feeling you get when you get to purchase a re-issue of a toy you remember from your childhood. Initially it makes you feel like a kid again as you wait to open it up and check it out. I always love to examine the box and and really take it all in. Recently I picked up the new Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots and I was not disappointed. They're smaller than the old ones from the 60's and 70's but still just as fun.

There's something about clunky, mechanical robot fighters that make me very happy. I think it's the fact that they are generally an analog version of my favorite old arcade games. This new version will probably stay up on my arcade as a display piece more than it will actually be used.  I never owned the robotic battlers as a kid but always would play a few rounds with my buddies if they had it. I remember my good friend wouldn't let kids play on it if they were too rough. He wanted to keep them in good shape and I don't blame him.
It's impressive that these actually came out in the 60's. Such a cool toy to grow up with. Even my Dad remembers them.
I think my favorite flavor is the more obscure Clash of the Cosmic Robots that came out in 1977. These were produced by Marx and the black ring was a very nice touch.
At some point I hope they re-release the full size version of these guys. For the time being though these aren't bad at all. The materials are very similar to the old Marx sets and function nearly the same in every way. If you remember these from your childhood, or have a soft spot for robot toys, go for 'em. They're only going for about fifteen to twenty dollars currently.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Remembering and revisiting "Battle Chess"

Battle Chess for the NES was the only cool way to play the game back in the early 90's. I remember  a friend getting this for his birthday and at first he wasn't too excited. After a few friends and I convinced him it would be fun, he then had a bit of curiosity about it. It was kind of slow and clunky but it had a special appeal. The coolest part was the battle sequences when you'd capture a piece.

 The box art is great and when I first saw it I was instantly excited to play the the game. As a young kid Chess was always intriguing and I desperately wanted to learn how to play the game well. After reading the manual we played for hours and mastered how to haphazardly play a game.
      The characters were well drawn for an 8-bit game and once we got into it the fun would last hours on end. I really liked the movement of the characters and how they would interact during a capture/battle. Each capture was different depending on the piece in power and the captured piece. For instance, if the Queen captured a Pawn, it would be different than if the Queen captured a Bishop, etc.
Revisiting the game now it's still a little slow, but if I have the patience for it, it's always a fun way to play a round of Chess.

The battle sequences always take place outside or inside a castle and they never ceased to impress. Going through it now it reminds me a bit of Mortal Kombat. Capture sequences include dismembering and morphing into a dragon right before a kill.

 I think the Queen was the most ruthless because when she would knock the Knight down after battling she would turn into a dragon and torch him to a burnt up pile of dust.

A very useful option built into the game was to just make the game run like the traditional board game with nicely drawn pieces. This is much faster and adds to the replay value. This part reminds me of The Chessmaster for NES.
If you ever find Battle Chess for for a fair price I would say it's a worthy add to any NES collection. Even when complete in box, this favorite of nerds and chess geeks alike goes for under twenty dollars. Loose you're only looking at about three to five bucks.
If anything it's a worthy chess trainer if you want to hone your skills (or lose 6 times out of 10 like I do).

This one hasn't made it to Virtual Console  on Wii yet so you have to have an NES hooked up to enjoy this one in all it's glory.  Not as nice as The Chessmaster for SNES, but still a great addition into any classic game collection. There's also tons of versions for other computers and consoles. Anything from the Commodore 64 to the 3DO. As a last point for any serious Chess players out there, this cart can handle Castling just fine, but doesn't like the classic "En Passant" Pawn move.