Thursday, February 16, 2017

Making Connections and Persistence Pays Off!

All the way back in the year 2010, yes when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I started my hardcore video game collecting. I had always collected video games on the odd occasion, but it was that year that I decided to make it a full on pastime. Along the journey I made friends at most of the thrift stores, as well as a handful of enemies, all of whom were employees of those stores.

From assistant managers who helped me find games from stock that had just come in, to managers who hated me because they didn't understand why I wanted them to change the price of common NES games from $20 to a more reasonable $3. Many fights were had, but mostly the visits to thrift stores were filled with either overjoyed scores or empty handed defeats, both of which were all part of the hobby.

One such occasion of being nice to store employees paying dividends I walked in on an assistant manager, whom I often spoke with, trying to get a Nintendo Gamecube to work because the lid wouldn't shut. Fearing the console was doomed to be trashed, I threw out the an offered of $5 (to my recollection), which he accepted. For a product he thought was trash his store was now $5 richer, and for about 15 minutes of work I gained a perfectly good Nintendo Gamecube, complete with power and video connectors.

I was also given steep discounts on items that just sat in the store, or display case, for extended periods of time. Eight NES controllers for 80 cents (total for all 8), SNES games at 25 cents each, a shoe box full of Atari 2600 games for $3, the list goes on and on. Sometimes the employees would even try to hold things back for me, and the manager would always put things out behind their backs. Although their efforts were appreciated I wouldn't want to score things this was, I prefer the thrill of finding the items on the shelves myself.

Salvation Army used to have a bric-a-brac section atop all of their clothes racks, which often yielded goodies such as a Gameboy Color for 59 cents, countless N64 games for 39 cents, among many other things. The perk of frequently going to the same places, regardless of finding anything or not, was that the employees saw me and knew I was in there quite often; even if we didn't build up a personal report they knew who I was. This meant when one Salvation Army store was given someone's nearly entire NES collection, I had a bargaining chip to get the games even cheaper.

The year was 2011 and the selection was vast! Someone had taken very good care of their NES games and I would say nearly all of them had their manuals and were kept exceedingly clean inside black Nintendo game sleeves. I knew I couldn't afford all the games I wanted at the price they were asking, which was only $3, so I went to the manager and asked him for a discount. He recognized me, although we had never spoken before, and after explaining that I usually find games for anywhere from 39 cents to $1 he told me that if I bought more than 10 I could get them for $1 each. SCORE!!

I quickly shoveled about 20 NES games off the shelves and into a cart. Back then I didn't have the ability to quickly and easily verify what games were worth what, nor did I have the ability to readily remember which ones I already had, so I had to go on instinct. Along some enjoyable filler titles like Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye, I picked up Ninja Gaiden 3 with its manual as well as Chip n Dale's Rescue Rangers 2, also with its manual. All for $1 each, in mint condition and with a pristine Nintendo game sleeve.

Another case was at another Salvation Army store, where I saw a box with an N64 and PSone console and various video game things inside without any prices on anything within the box. After asking an employee, she quickly called over the manager, and after a short haggle I ended up getting the box full of video game goodness for $10. This would turn out to be my modded PSone, that I had no clue was modded at the time, as well as give me my copy of Mario Kart 64, which I played the hell out of for the following few months,

However, further interactions with that same manager didn't go as smoothly as this occasion. There was a time I asked him about a bare bones SNES console sitting in the electronics section of the store the was priced at $30, which I thought the price of the week made it 50% off. Without even looking at the price tag he wanted to charge me $50! Needless to say I walked out empty handed, laughing that he had raised the price $20 without even looking at the price right on the item itself.

The moral of the story here is to be friendly and build those connections. Of course you're not going to be the only one using this tactic, but stay persistent and eventually you'll have the edge. Nothing is more important than being kind, courteous, persistent and frequenting those places, being seen buying the things you're after and maybe even without your input employees will start to help you find those things as well.

Monday, February 6, 2017

When Two Become One, and the Leftovers Become Something Else.

Recently I found a rather beaten and worn Nintendo DS. The poor thing looks like it's been through a war, and it may have, but the strange thing is that the hinge is still completely intact. Once I got it home I plugged it in and let it sit for a good, long charge. After it was all good to go I immediately noticed that a few things weren't quite right.

The first thing that was wrong was the touch screen; there was a deep gouge running nearly the complete height of the touch screen, which caused the touch screen to not work properly, nor could I calibrate it. Luckily the only thing affected was the touch screen, the actual display screen was in perfect condition. The top screen looked great, until I noticed 2 black lines that only appeared when the back light was on. I turned the back light off and applied light from the front and the lines simply aren't there. I'm going to assume this is repairable as I'm pretty certain this isn't a fault with the screen itself, rather something between the back light and the screen.


So what am I going to do with this poor thing? I'm going to take the best parts from it and another original DS that I bought years ago (which had a broken hinge) and make a decent, working original DS. After taking them both apart and putting the best of the best within the housing with the good hinge, I finally have a working original DS with a working hinge. By the way, the plastic on the original DS has not aged well. On both consoles I found it to be quite brittle, which is sad and makes me not want to use it out of fear of it breaking, but oh well!


Once everything was said and done I had a pile of leftover parts. What am I going to do with them? Well, years ago an article circulated the internet about someone who converted an original DS into a back lit GBA. That's it! That's what I'll do with the spare parts.

The only real issue here is fitting a resistor beside the Start and Select pads, and making sure there is enough clearance for the whole shell to close up again. The resistor is needed so that the system will allow itself to turn on without the top screen being attached. I was too excited to really take any inner photos or do a tutorial on this, but I may in the future as modding the original DS to be a GBA isn't as well documented as the DS Lite mod. I prefer the original because the GBA games fit flush, unlike the DS Lite where the games hang out slightly.

Mine currently doesn't have speakers, but headphones are just as good. I'll figure out where to mount the speakers and get them all wired up sometime, but for now having a working GBA with a decent, but not great, back lit screen is pretty neat.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Finding the Right Disc for the Right Case!

The summer of 1999 was spent almost entirely in my small bedroom with Warrant's Dog Eat Dog album blaring, while playing Resident Evil Director's Cut on my Playstation. I can't remember exactly where, but I had been playing a demo copy of Resident Evil and I really wanted to play the full version, so that desire spurred on the need to liquidate my Sega Genesis and NES collections, which is a horror story in and of itself. I traded in roughly $40 worth of stuff (1999 value) to the local FunCo Land for $7 and change and still needed to pay another $8 (plus tax) to buy Resident Evil, but at that time it felt all too worth it.

The only copy the store had in was a Greatest Hits copy, but that didn't bother me at all, at least I got the game I was after. As soon as I got home I knew the disc wasn't the right one, yet this was a decade before I learned that the manual, case and disc should all have the same SLUS code. Regardless of it not being in the right case I still played the hell out of the game. Through all the zombie slaughter, puzzle solving and jump scare goodness, I loved every minute of it.

Years went by and the same game is still in my collection; I learned not to give a video game store $40 worth of stuff for $7 in-store credit ever again. It always kind of nagged at my subconscious that the disc wasn't in the right case. Along came the Goodwill outlet store, where I could find loose PS1 games almost on the daily. Without much thought I would pick them up and throw them into a pile of I want or I already have. The I wants were packed away and logged in my video game collection spreadsheet, while the I already haves were placed in a bag, hoping to use as trade fodder for something I wanted.

Recently I happened to be checking through my collection of video games I could trade off, when I noticed one of them was a black and silver Resident Evil Director's Cut, much like I would expect to find in the Greatest Hits case I bought all those years ago. And you know what? I was right! After checking the disc's SLUS code it matched the case perfectly.

It's taken nearly 20 years to get the right disc, but at least I have it. Now I'll need to track down the original case and manual for the game FunCo Land put inside the case. Either way, I'm keep them both now!

Left: Correct Disc, Right: Disc FunCo gave me

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Skullcandy Ink'd 2 Earbud Review.

Ever since I can remember I've heavily preferred to use over-ear headphones for my music listening pleasure. With the exception of my absolute favorite TSC (The Speaker Company) NC3, noise cancelling over-ears, it's been hard for me to find a decent set of headphones that fill my ears with the right frequencies while not sounding washed out by background noise.

I've owned many different styles of over-ear headphones and always loved their delivery, the frequency response and the comfort factor. What always ends up happening is that I use them too much and over time they break at the headband. The last few pairs of over-ears I've had I tried to repair, in vain. The fewer parts, the less can go wrong, right?

I've never been a fan of earbuds, they never deliver the music quite the same as over-ears, they make my ears itch inside and are just overall a menace to use. When mowing I need something that will block out the sound of the mower, this is why I heavily prefer over-ears with noise-cancellation, and all the earbuds I've used up to this point were just not going to cut it, but that was about to change.

For home use I went with a simple pair of Roku earbuds, because they're purple and they aren't broken like my over-ears. The music didn't sound as great, but at least I was still getting music pumped into both ears, plus they didn't need to cancel any noise because it's just home use. They're not the best, but for moderate home use they'll do the job.

My eyes started to scour the outlet store for earbuds. Maybe there was a new set that someone hadn't used yet, besides you can always clean them, can't you? Yeah, I'm sure it would be fine to wash a pair of earbuds thoroughly and be safe. After seeing a massive amount of even lower quality earbuds than the Roku ones pass through, it finally happened. A pair of earbuds I was willing to buy used and risk getting some stranger's inner-ear, fungal infection. Skullcandy!

I've heard of the brand, but never tried their products. I'm not one who will jump on a brand as soon as they come out, pay a high price for a product and then sing their praises. I'll wait for everyone else to have their fun with said products and pick them up used, at drastically reduced prices. In the case of the Ink'd 2 earbuds, I would say they're well worth what I paid for them. Three cents at the outlet store.

After a thorough cleansing in alcohol and soaking the rubber parts in soap and water, I finally gave these suckers a test. Everything sounded amazing. I'd never heard earbuds this good before, not to say I've tried too many to begin with, but I've never heard earbuds that sounds slightly less dynamic than over-ears. Almost everything I wanted from over-ear headphones are offered in these earbuds, again, almost.

I can't verify whether or not they'll drown out any background noise, but once they're in place they stay, which is also new to me, and they do seem to block out more noise than any other earbuds I've ever used.

I'm not an earbud expert, nor am I a headphones expert, but I know what I expect from them and the Skullcandy Ink'd 2 earbuds offer almost (I can't stress that enough) exactly what I'm looking for from over-ear headphones. They are still a little lacking, obviously due to size limitations, but they are amazing for what they are. Would I pay retail for them? Considering they're only about $13-15 retail, I would possibly consider it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Games the need a Sequel: Apex

In the heydays of the original Xbox the console seemed flooded with racing games, or games that included racing in some form or another. As a fan of racing games I tried my best to acquire as many of them as possible, as even then they were cheap and abundant. One game, however, stood out from the crowd, yet it's name was only spoken in almost unintelligible murmurs. That game's name is Apex.

What set Apex apart was that you took the reigns of a car company and built it from the ground up. What's not to love about finally being able to get your hands in on building the race cars you were going to be racing anyway? To answer that question simply, much of this game. Apex, in theory, is an amazing idea, but what was given to us really fell short of anything spectacular or mind-blowing, which I'm sure many racing game fans had hoped.

From the corner cutting tactics of car sales being strictly based on the results of your finishing position in races to the exceedingly limited and drab choices you have in car designs, Apex really missed the mark by quite a few miles. What fans really wanted to see was more inspired car designs, have more options on how to customize them and I'm sure have more control over the power plants placed within said cars. I'm also pretty certain fans wished the sales were based on some kind of constantly flowing sales system, like a stock market, rather than only when you race and only where you place style system.

The idea was an amazing one, although Apex wasn't the first to do this. Sega GT for the Dreamcast allowed the player to earn different ways to build their own race car, which offered far more options in customization as well as far better car designs and engine choices. Perhaps if Apex was the first game to have offered this style of gameplay it may have had a sequel already, so that we could see just how much better it could be.

Apex may have been a victim of being stuck between a rock and a better game, but I think Apex still deserves a sequel. Given the current generation of consoles, and the fact that racing game continue to be strong sellers, if done correctly Apex 2 could be a smashing success. Imagine having the option to mash together similarly styled cars of from the real world, such as cars we already see in GTA or the likes. Then you're allowed to decide whether it's front, mid or rear engine, front, rear or all wheel drive, and finish that off with a few miscellaneous details about the power of the engine and presto, a recipe for success!

Apex isn't overly horrible, but it's not as great as it truly could have been. Watching your business grow appeals to people, as is apparent by the popularity of business sims these days. In my honest opinion I think it just makes sense to make an Apex 2, the current gaming climate just feels right. I just hope if they do decide to, they take their time to make the game as good as it could have been, then polish the shit out of that thing and make it the masterpiece it should have been in the first place.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Nyko Redemption?

Could it be true? Could it have finally happened? Did Nyko create a product that I could happily enjoy? Well, maybe.

A few weeks ago I was at, where else, the outlet store, when I found an Xbox 360 controller. I quickly chucked it into my bag and kept on hunting through the bins. Upon later inspection the thumb sticks were absolutely fucked, someone had carved their name into the side and the controller was no longer white, but a deep nicotine yellow. Needless to say I decided against buying it.

Immediately after I tossed the controller back into a bin I noticed that it had a rechargeable battery pack on the back. On closer inspection it turned out to be a Nyko battery pack, which sent chills down my spine. Even so, this time I was quite confident because I had a secret weapon on my side, the official Microsoft battery pack charging base!


A few months prior I had bought an official battery pack charger because it was at the outlet store and I already owned an official Microsoft Xbox 360 rechargeable controller pack. The controller pack had been nothing but fussy when trying to recharge it through the cable that connects to the console, so I decided maybe this would help the battery pack.

Much to my surprise the battery pack seemed to take a long charge, lasted much longer than it ever had before, and seemed to hold a charge for weeks without even being used, where it would previously discharge rather quickly without being used. Could this charger help me revive a Nyko brand Xbox 360 battery pack? Well, maybe.

At first the battery pack didn't seem to have any life left it in; all signs of life were gone. I plugged it into the charging base and got nothing. I plugged it into the console with the recharging cable and also got nothing. It soon dawned on me that Nyko put their own special charging ports on the back of the battery pack, which was the key to a successful revival.

After working out the polarity I simply put some electricity through the positive and negative terminals on the back of the battery pack and once it was outputting roughly 1 volt I slapped it back into the Microsoft charging base. Would this work? Well, yes! Yes it did.

The official charging base turned red, meaning it was charging, and charged the battery for quite some time before turning green. I quickly put the Nyko battery back into my controller to test for life, and there it was... the green lights lit up, the controller synced and everything was right with the world.

So far the Nyko battery pack seems to work quite well with the official 360 charging base. The battery also seems to have quite a good life span. It's odd that Nyko made a product I'm actually half way proud to own, even if I had to bring it back to life by myself.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Sometimes risk equals reward.

Every time I walk through the doors of a thrift store I never know what I'm going to find, or if I'll find anything at all. This is a calculated risk that I take; to spend time waltzing through the aisles, searching high and low for things that pique my interest. Sometimes I find absolutely nothing, while other times the risk, although very minor, pays off in huge scores.

Same goes for the outlet store, which is more of an impulse driven risk. Digging through the bins gives me a euphoric feeling of treasure hunting, as well as finding treasure from under other people's noses. The risks taken at the outlet store are more "Should I buy this seemingly broken item?". Sometimes I buy things that seemingly don't work and once I get them home, clean them up and fix anything that may be wrong with them, they work just fine. In other cases I've wasted a few cents on complete and utter junk that I instantly regret, but such is the system of risk being a reward.

Over the years I've learned to draw the line of how far I am willing to go to pick up an item at the outlet store. It's a fine line, knowing to what degree of disrepair of said item will I accept or just toss back into the bin and pass up. Just a few weeks ago I passed up an iPod touch with a shattered screen. Sure, I could have bought it for less than ten cents, paid a small fortune to get the screen repaired and had myself an iPod Touch, but that wasn't a risk I was willing to take.

A few months back I purchased the face panel of a Nintendo Wii, with no Nintendo Wii anywhere in sight. Hunting high and low produced no console whatsoever, but the face panel had to belong to some poor Wii, now without it's face. The reward in this is picking up a completely odd item that I may someday need. I may never find another Wii without it's face, but if a Nintendo Wii without it's face shows up at the outlet store, no one will buy it because they will perceive it as broken, at which time I will swoop in, because I have the parts to make it whole again.

It all may sound silly, perhaps even stupid, but calculated risks in the hobby of thrift hunting are an everyday occurrence. Knowing how far you're willing to go to own an item, or part of an item, is something you need to figure out for yourself. My views on picking up items, parts and even completely useless junk are fairly liberal, but I do have my limits. Eventually you'll see that sometimes risk equals reward.