Thursday, February 13, 2014

A Simple TurboGrafx-16 RCA Mod

I love my TurboGrafx-16 system but the lack of any built-in output aside from the RF brings it down. Both the Turbo Booster and CD add-on are quite expensive (not that they aren't worth it) so I wanted something cheap that could get the job done for me but didn't want to tear the system apart to do anything internal. Here's a quick mod that just about anyone can do with minimal skill and some salvaged parts.

Go to almost any Goodwill and you can find at least one A/V switchbox like this one:
Just take that baby apart and you'll have the main piece for the mod and it should look something like this:
After that, it's just a matter of soldering hookup wire to the ground pegs and each of the outputs and putting some pin connectors on the ends of the wires. The pin connectors look something like this and can be purchased in a package from Radio Shack:
Just strip some of the end of the wires and crimp these on the ends. Once that is done, you're pretty much set and will have something that resembles this:
All you have to do now is connect the proper wires to the corresponding pins on the expansion port of your TurboGrafx. The pinout looks like this (courtesy of Classic Gaming Quarterly at
Your ground wire hooks up to any "G". The Yellow video wire goes to the "V" and the Red and White stereo audio wires go to the "R" and "L" respectively. Now, if you want to get fancy, you can drill holes into the expansion cover and install the piece that way, but I just leave the cover off since I don't move my system at all. Plus it keeps the system in original condition. Hopefully you learned something from this short tutorial as the increase in quality of composite over RF, plus the stereo sound, is a vast improvement.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

NES Games With Overlooked Music

There are numerous "best-of" lists of NES music out there that are comprised of all the usual-suspects; Mega Man, Zelda, Castlevania, etc. I wanted to make a list that paid tribute to some of the more underrated pieces of NES music. All of these are based on personal preference, so if something you like isn't listed, well, tough shit. In no particular order...

Jungle Theme - Snake's Revenge
Whether you like this game or not (I certainly do) you have to admit that this particular piece is damn catchy. It fits perfectly with the scenario; you've just been dropped off by chopper and split up from your team, the flares exploding overhead illuminating the night sky as you make your way through the dense jungle. It definitely pumps you up for the long mission ahead.

History - Destiny of an Emperor
Another excellent tune in a Capcom game, big surprise. Like the previous entry, this one gets you prepared for the upcoming adventure, although in a different way. Simple and melodic, it's one of my favorites.

Entryway - Shadowgate 
The best video game music should bring out certain feelings, and this one certainly accomplishes that. It has an uneasiness about it that sets the tone for the entire game. This one has haunted me on numerous occasions and just bring with it feelings of dread.

Character Select - Friday the 13th
I'm not sure why this particular piece doesn't get more respect. Sure it's simple and repetitive, but I don't know many other songs that create a creepy atmosphere like this one does. Like the Shadowgate entry, it sets the tone for the whole game. Listening to this one late at night still makes my hair stand on end.

Mantra - Faxanadu
Another somber piece, I can't think of Faxanadu without thinking of this song. The game itself has quite a few memorable tunes, but this one definitely stands out as the best.

Dave's Theme - Maniac Mansion
Even though Dave spent most of my playthroughs of Maniac Mansion sitting in the basement waiting to push a brick, his theme encompassed the entire Maniac Mansion experience for me. I consider this the official theme to the game and no one will convince me otherwise.

Intro - Wizards & Warriors
Even though this one is criminally short, it really strikes a chord (no pun intended). It would sound great as a classical piano arrangement, but is excellent as-is. It conjures images of, well, Wizards & Warriors I suppose. I can leave this one on repeat forever.

Elm Street - A Nightmare on Elm Street
Another underrated game with another great piece of music. At times uplifting, at times ominous, it plays well into the game's narrative. The interlude with the ticking clock fits the theme perfectly and reminds you that it's only a matter of time before Freddy catches up with you...

Password - The Goonies II
It reminds me of summer time in years' past. Like the source material, there's a bit of childish wonderment involved here. Now that I'm older, it also makes me think of my son, and that's never a bad thing.

Paris - Golgo 13: The Mafat Conspiracy
While I am not a fan of the "redone" version of Golgo 13's theme in this game, the music for the Paris stage definitely has a hook to it. There's not a whole lot there, but what they did with it definitely sticks with you. I've caught myself humming this one on several occasions.

Title Theme - Rambo
This game gets a lot of hate. It's definitely far from perfect, but not as bad as some people say. Unfortunately, this theme is probably the best thing the game has going for it. That being said, this piece seems to fit the Rambo mythology very well and has been on all of my video game music playlists.

And finally...

Area Clear - Bionic Commando
OK, so it only spans a few seconds, but it accomplishes a lot in that time. You've just blasted your way through an enemy base and unlocked a piece of equipment. I can't think of a better quick-hit theme to accompany that feeling. While it's a miniscule part of one of the most revered NES games, I think it plays an integral part in the narrative.

I couldn't possibly put any of these in a preferential order. They all played a part in the musical background of my childhood and I love them all. If some of these happen to be your favorites as well, great minds think alike. If you weren't previously familiar with some of these, hopefully you found something new that you enjoy.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode

One of the first games I remember really developing an attachment to that wasn't centered around Mario or Zelda was Golgo 13: Top Secret Episode. Scour the web for reviews on this game and you'll find that most either love it or despise it. Put me in the former category because this one will always be one of my favorites.
"Only you can help him save the world!" That's all it took to convince me that this game was going to be awesome. At the time, I hadn't played a game that had the mature feel that this offered. From late night hotel rendezvous' to sudden informant murders, it was like a James Bond movie in video game form (and better than the actual James Bond games we got on the Atari). Were the controls a little off? Yes. Was the story a bit ridiculous? Sure. Were the graphics a little sub-par? Affirmative. And none of that mattered because this game had everything. Even the names of the different chapters were based off of famous classic movies.
The game never got stale because of the variety. You'd spend some time in the main side-scrolling areas then get thrown into a 1st-person rail shooter. You'd get to fly a helicopter, traverse underwater areas, and run around in 1st-person labyrinths looking for items and exits. Nothing else I had played at the time could match the various challenges this game threw at you.
I'm proud to say that I have, in fact, gone through the entire game (without the use of the Stage Select code) and it was definitely a rewarding experience and something I plan on doing again soon. If you've been contemplating giving this game a try, but have been hesitant due to the criticism it sometimes receives, do yourself a favor and go for it. It's not for everyone, but if you're lucky it'll click with you and take you on a completely original ride. Oh, and if you're an anime fan, be sure to check out Golgo 13 in "The Professional". You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

A Case for Zelda II

As a kid I was a huge fan of the original Legend of Zelda, like many of us were. When I think of how many hours I spent exploring the forests, shorelines, graveyards and dungeons in that first adventure it brings a smile to my face. I was such a fan that I went so far as to construct my own sword and shield out of wood, cut gravestones out of cardboard and stick them in our yard, and go on quests of my own. When I heard that a new Zelda game was coming out, my excitement peaked.

I first saw screenshots of the sequel in Nintendo Power and was immediately intrigued. It looked so different, but similar at the same time. I knew I had to have it and eventually convinced my parents to buy it for me. As I inspected the contents of the box on the way home from the store, my anticipation grew. I read the instruction manual cover-to-cover. Finally we got home and I raced up to my bedroom to start this new chapter.

I was immediately enthralled with the new configuration. Link seemed so huge! I exited Zelda's chamber and began the quest...

Some people aren't fans of Link's second adventure. They knock the changes from the first game, including the experience system, spells, side-scrolling controls, etc. Those are all valid gripes, but to me, those changes make it one of the best Zelda games ever released. It's ambitious. There's an atmosphere to it that hasn't been matched since. The music composition is some of the best on the NES. There are many different emotions that it brings out, even today. It took everything that made the original great and expanded on it. If I had to choose just one Zelda game to have with me for the rest of my days, no doubt this would be it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hello, and welcome to Vincent's Vault. If you're a fan of classic video games from the '70's, '80's and '90's then you may find some things here that strike your fancy. My modest collection is constantly growing and I have thoughts on virtually every piece I own. From game reviews to hardware mods, there will be something for everyone. Check back periodically to see what I've got on my mind.