Category Archives: Hells Yeah!

One of the Best

I can’t tell you if it happens the moment I finish certain games.  When the game I’m playing becomes one of my most beloved.  But without a doubt, after time, there are some games I’ve played that stand out far above the rest.  Guild Wars, GoldenEye 007, Super Mario Bros. 3… all of these are games that the memories stick with me.  And Final Fantasy X is very much in their company.

This game first came out in 2001, the year I graduated.  I spent part of the Christmas holiday with a friend, James, in San Antonio.  He had recently gotten the game and was in the middle of playing it while I was there.  The graphics were amazing.  That was my immediate draw to the game.  But as I watched him play, so much of the game felt larger than most.  The soundtrack, the world, the story.  It was grim, sad, and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen next.

ffx

I left San Antonio long before James beat the game.  I myself didn’t own a PlayStation 2, so I had no means to play it for myself.  Months went by and I didn’t think about it much.  I was very much a Nintendo fanboy so I spent my time playing Gamecube.  Around my birthday in 2002 (I think) I took some of my birthday money and bought a PS2 bundled with Gran Turismo 3.  One thing Nintendo didn’t have was a realistic driving game that was anything like GT3.  So without much thought about Final Fantasy X, I snatched up the console.

I don’t remember when I finally bought Final Fantasy X.  It was long enough that the game had dropped in price.  I remember seeing it on display at a music and game store in the Manhattan Town Center Mall.  It was $20 off or so and it really wasn’t until that moment that I thought about all those great experiences again.  The more I thought about it, the more I figured it was a no-brainier to pick up.

I played it, several of my friends played it with me, and after several weeks, I beat it.  Like I said in the beginning, I don’t know if at the moment I saw the ending that I was hooked on Final Fantasy or not.  But sometime between now and then I’ve become quite a fan.

Let’s move ahead about 10 years.  The PS3 is out and the PS2 is quickly becoming “retro”.  Ouch.  Very quietly it’s announced that Final Fantasy X is getting an HD remake.  WOW!  I’m excited!  All of a sudden, I have the urge to re-live the story all over again.  But if this game is coming out soon I didn’t want to dilute the experience by replaying it now.  So I hold off.

ffx hd logo

Weeks go by and there’s no news.  Months go by… maybe it was cancelled.  There were never even any screenshots shown.  But Sony press conferences come and go, and not even an acknowledgement of the game.  Then about 6 months ago, some news that not only will it be Final Fantasy X, but it will also include X-2 and many of the international features that never made it to the US game!  Then the soundtrack starts showing up on news sites and Youtube.  Finally it’s a real thing.

This weekend, the game finally materialized.  I relish these experiences as an adult, because it makes me feel like a kid again.  I was always anticipating some game back when I was younger and it always felt like forever before it released.  I probably haven’t felt like this about a new game since Skyward Sword.  And this isn’t even really a new game!

I’ve been playing it pretty hardcore since Thursday night.  It’s as much fun as it ever was.  Between X and X-2, I could play them both, then just immediately start back at the beginning of X and have just as much fun as the first time though.  Partly because the games are so lenghty, but mostly because they’re just so good.

I would love to watch Andrea play the game through.  It’s such a great game that the only part that sucks is the lack of people to share your thoughts and feelings about it with.  I know she respects that it’s one of my favorites, because she pre-ordered this remake for me before I did!  I suppose that is enough for me.

Best of Intentions

I had every intention of accomplishing something productive this weekend.  Seems like it was the first one in a while that we weren’t traveling, or working.  I had 48 solid hours here at the homestead.  Now it’s Sunday night and I look back on it and accomplished pretty much zilch.  I mean, I guess I did scrape the one inch of snow off the driveway… so that’s productive.

I have very little regrets though.  From the looks of it, we’re going to be hanging around here more often this year.  We looked at our budget and we are going to go hardcore into saving mode in order to meet our goals for our house.  Hopefully this time next year we’ll be talking about home shopping.  But one thing is for sure, you absolutely never know what life will bring you.  All we can do is prepare as best we can, and see what tests God has in store for us this year.

Andrea’s 49ers won their playoff game tonight, so that always makes for a happy house!  I’m excited for her.  She is as invested in that team as I am in my own geeky stuff.  So I’m always glad to see her passion able to be rewarded with a win.  She even has Luke all on board and cheering on the team.  Here’s hoping they win the Super Bowl!

It’s back to the grind tomorrow.  Actually kind of looking forward to having a whole week to get everything done.  This cramming it all in to make time for the holidays makes for fewer days, but definitely longer ones.  So I’m setting a goal of getting out by 5PM each day this week.  We’ll see how that turns out.

As for the rest of the weekend, I think I’m going to spend it playing some retro games and a cold beverage or two.  A toast to a good weekend.

Getting the Car

For those out of the loop, this ’79 Caprice is my first car.  Not a lot like my first car… this IS my first car that my Dad is letting me keep for a while… I say that because I still say it’s his that he can have back whenever he says the word.  Until then… Hells Yeah.

I have a lot of respect for those who can proudly proclaim they bought and paid for their first car.  I’m not one of those people.  My parents 100% bought and paid for my first car.  I remember seeing the car sitting with a For Sale sign on the west edge of Cimarron, KS.  At the time I thought it was a Monte Carlo.  It had the same curved back glass I’d seen on many Monte Carlos before, and it just looked too darn sporty to be a regular old Caprice.  Cruising through town in the back seat as Mom karted us around, I remember thinking that would be a cool first car.  But I never really thought it would happen.

A week or two later, Dad said we were going to go look at a car for me.  We pulled up next to that exact car.  I remember thinking “THIS might be MY car!  Hells Yeah!” Dad was busy talking to the owner, a guy we had actually met before as he ran a limo service that we had used a couple time for birthday parties or whatnot.  They were negotiating, but I was circling the car and daydreaming.  Eventually the deal was done.  For $1,000 I had my first car.

So I didn’t buy it.  I STILL have never paid for that car!  My responsibilities were everything that came after that.  Gas, insurance, parts, you name it.  It was my job to keep it running.  The first couple weeks, the car was literally on blocks in our driveway.  Dad took me too the parts store, he told the guy everything we needed and I paid for it.  Not knowing what the heck to do with brake cylinders, spring kits or calipers, I spent a lot of time holding flash lights and just trying to figure out what the heck Dad was doing, why he was doing it, and wondering, how the hell he knew how to do all this stuff!

Once the brakes were fixed, we could finally actually drive it.  I remember taking the car out south of Ingalls and going around some of the curves on the county roads.  The shocks were so bad it felt like you were on water more than you were on solid ground.  So that was obviously the next task.  That was one of those nights I remember Dad staying up probably much later than he wanted to.  I remember he ran into some problem replacing, I think the rear shocks and it took a lot longer than he expected it to.  But he got it done.

The exhaust was shot on it, but instead of taking it to a shop to get it all re-done, Dad and I took it to the shop at the feedyard and took some old fence pipe and welded up some pipes with some “cherry bomb” mufflers.  It definitely had a unique sound, and you could see the bright red mufflers sitting under the floorboards from a distance.

The radio either didn’t work at all, or barely worked.  It was the original cassette deck and I know the tape deck didn’t work at all.  For either Christmas or my Birthday I got a Pioneer CD player and some Pioneer 6×9 speakers to go with it.  One thing I did understand fairly well was how to hook up a stereo, I’d been playing with that stuff for years already in my room in the basement.  So we got that hooked up and from that point forward, it was the car I really remember.

I seem to remember some confusion early on about whether it was an Impala, or a Caprice.  Despite saying Caprice Classic on the dashboard, the insurance and a lot of the other documentation said Impala.  But it certainly was a Caprice.  I’m sure the confusion was mine alone.

As I look at it now, there’s a lot of stuff that’s broken, missing, or not working… I don’t really ever even remember giving it a second thought back then.  It was a cool ride, that was loud, and got me where I wanted to go.  That’s all I ever really wanted.  And I suppose it shouldn’t bug me now.  There’s a lot of things I want to do, like replace the carpet and put bucket seats in there.  Stuff that I’m sure I talked about at some point when I was younger too.  And now that I have the means, I’m sure I’ll get around to it.  But for now… I’m going to keep enjoying it, and driving the heck out of it just like I did back then… only this time with some bite to back up the bark!

A Day For the Toronado

It’s been over a year since the one and only time the Toronado broke down on the side of the road.  I’ve had it back together for a while, but I haven’t really given it any love until today.

Here it sits, like it has for months.

I tried to start it up and move it before Luke’s birthday party back in August, but the battery was dead.  I charged up the battery and the old thing fired right up once the fuel got pumped back up into the carburetor.

I pulled it into the garage for an oil change.  Our 3rd oil change in 24 hours in this garage.  Haha.

This is what dirty and neglected looks like.  Leaves, dirt, bird poo.  Time was starting to pass it by.  Sad to see it like this after all the work I put into painting it.

I washed out the engine bay.  Halfway because it was just nasty.  And the other half was because there were spiderwebs everywhere and I didn’t want any spiders hanging around!

I went for a short cruise and came back home.  I don’t have current tags on it right now, so I didn’t want to drive it too far.  And I need new ball joints before I really feel safe on the highway.  So it was just an Albert tour for today.  But I did make the point to BACK it into the driveway so the neighbors can tell it DOES run!  Haha.

So there we go.  The ball joints should be around $100 all together.  Then I plan on driving this thing!  Part of me wants to fix the hail dents, re-do the vinyl, get new bumper fillers and paint it.  The other part of me want to just drive it as a “beater” during the winter and nasty days so we can keep the Cutlass clean.  I’m really torn which way to go.  I just like this car so darn much!

A new generation, and rebuilding of the Retro Room.

Jake Me N64

My little brother Jake came up this past weekend.  For the past two weeks, he’s been calling me every couple of days asking about GoldenEye.  What we can do, what levels we can play, and most importantly, what cheats we can use.  Haha.  I don’t think he typically plays a lot of games, but for whatever reason he’s really latched on to GoldenEye.  In fact, I haven’t seen anyone this excited about GoldenEye since… me.

So we spent a large amount of time playing that.  I was content to spectate.  As I’ve said before, I almost like watching people play games, more than actually playing them.  Which is why I still nag Andrea once in a while to play through Final Fantasy X.  It’s just so fun watching people discover the game as they play.  It’s as close as I can get to playing it again for the first time.

More than anything, I found it remarkable that an 8 year old kid in 2013 is at all interested in a game that is literally twice as old as he is.  Compared to games today GoldenEye must some mundane to some extent.  But I appreciated and enjoyed our shared enthusiasm.

Jake GoldenEye

If you’ll notice the TV on the floor in the picture above.  Luke has since moved into the old Retro Room.  So we moved that TV upstairs.  It is a heavy bastard.  Much more than one person can handle alone.  So in a time crunch, I had to set everything up like that, because I knew I’d be at work, and Jake would NOT want to wait until I got home to play GoldenEye.

Later this weekend, Andrea was able to help me get the TV up on the stand, and I started rebuilding the Retro Room.

Seems like a nice spread to me.  =)  One thing to note, is that little of that has been actual collecting, for collecting’s sake.  A vast majority is just accumulation over time.  Most people garage sale old games and systems once they are bored with them, I just never did and now I have a ton of this stuff.  This is all pretty much everything before HD consoles.  The only things missing are the Wii games which we still keep downstairs to play on the Wii U, and the ridiculous amount of controllers.  Everything else from 1987 – 2012 is pretty much right here.  Kinda weird to see all that history and all the memories in one place.

Gameboys

I like this arrangement better than what I had in the old room.  Rather than a straight line from left to right.  Looks pretty good I think for some free cards from Club Nintendo, and $1 frames from Dollar Tree.

Andrea Gameboy

You can’t be around all these classic games and NOT pick one up!  Andrea found Super Mario Land 2 and decided to give it a go.

Andrea Luke SMB3

And there’s pretty much the current setup.  I like it better than the previous arrangement.  I still have to swap some cables out to get some of the systems playable, but for the most part, it’s all within 60 seconds of being ready to play.  I have an idea for controller storage I’m excited to try and I want to try to find a few more things for the walls.  But the Retro Room is back!  That’s the important thing.

It’s Not Dead Yet

Toronado Resurrection

Hells yeah.  The Toronado is BACK!  If you missed it, the Toro has been out of service since September 2012.  A bracket that secures the output shaft busted so there was no way to hold the passenger side axle in place.  Thus, the car wouldn’t go.  After spending a few months hunting around for parts, I finally took the broken part to Dad to have him weld back together.  A couple weeks ago I got the part back (a long with a bunch of old work shirts to securely pack it) but I haven’t had time to put it all back together until today.

Toronado Cut My Thumb

In the process of getting  everything lined up, I sliced open my thumb pretty good.  Not enough to need stitches or anything, but I could have helped out the Red Cross with all the blood that came out.  The above is the best I could do bandaging it up with one good hand.  Andrea was able to help me later get a better wrap.  After this I almost considered calling it a day.  But I wasn’t going to let it beat me.  I figured if I gave in, it would see my fear and know it could get away with muscling me around.  I wasn’t going to let that happen.

There’s not much to report as far as the work that went into it.  It’s all been documented here before in more detail than anyone besides me cares about.  The only part that matters is when I got it all put back together, it works!  HUGE thanks to Dad who was able to do what I wasn’t in welding up the old part.

It took quite a while to start up.  The carb was dry from sitting so long so it took a while for the fuel to get all the way up from the tank.  But once it started, it was as smooth as always.  I put the car in gear, just waiting for a gruesome noise and for all my work to be for naught.  But it firmly grabbed.  I lightly gave it some gas, and it moved!  Like a grand ocean liner sliding from its ways.  It was a good feeling!  So quiet, so comfortable, so smooth.  Ever since I got that car, it always had this feeling about it that it could almost drive itself.  Everything about driving it feels so effortless.  I drove it around town for a bit and really wanted to take it out on the hiway, but the thing hasn’t been tagged or insured since its been out of service.  So I reluctantly drove it back and parked it, right where it’s been for the past 8 months.

So now that it’s running, here’s where I’m at with the car….

We don’t need it.  We’ve got two cars and a pleasure car already.  What we really need is an old work truck.  But I can’t really justify getting one of those when we’ve got so many things with an engine already.  If it weren’t around, that might make room for something like that.

It’s not worth anything.  Realistically I figure I might get $500 for it.  It has 260,000 miles, hail damage, rips in the seat, and the vinyl is really starting to show its age.  It’s just an old car.  So considering it’s worth so little, I just as well keep it around.  I DO really like the car.  It’s comfortable, until the axle busted it was remarkably reliable.  So right now the sentimental value outweighs its intrinsic value.  I wasn’t motivated to get rid of it when it WASN’T running.  So I’m even less now.

So… what the Toronado might do, is help preserve the Cutlass.  I figure, especially during the winter, when the weather is nasty, the roads are all salty and idiots are sliding around, I’ll take the Toronado.  It will keep the salt from eating up the Cutlass and if some doofus slides into the Toronado, so be it.

In the mean time.  There’s a few things it really NEEDS done before I can confidently drive it out of town.  1.) Ball joints.  The lowers are SUPER worn out.  Might as well do the uppers at the same time.  They’ve probably been like that for a while, but now that I’m aware of it, it really bothers me.  2) I need some thread lock on some of the fasteners I used.  I have deduced that the reason the bracket broke in the first place is that one or both of the bolts came loose.  Then as the torsion caused the axle to wobble, eventually the bracket broke from the vibration.

Then there’s the long list of little stuff that needed done before all this.

At any rate, it feels supremely good to have it mobile again.  If we want to play basketball in the driveway, all we have to do is move it.  It’s not just a broke down old car any more, it’s an OLD CAR again!  I love old cars!  And I really love that old car.  It’s been the best car I’ve ever had.  And having it going again is like being back home after a long vacation.  It’s… comforting.

It got there under its own power!

It got there under its own power!

Hockey? Yes.

Bruins Sweep

More than any other sport this season (including football) I have watched and thoroughly enjoyed hockey.  I guess it helps when your team you’re cheering for keeps winning!

How did I get so into hockey?  And why the Bruins?  Well first off, the main thing that got me into hockey… the fights.  Most other sports, if two guys start laying into each other, they stop the game and break up the fight.  In hockey, they stop the game, so they can finish the fight!  It’s awesome!

So I made up my mind, I wanted to get more into the sport.  But I didn’t know who to cheer for.  There’s certainly no local teams to cheer for.  And I didn’t want to arbitrarily just pick a team.  So in 2010, I made a statement that before the season even began; before the first game was ever played.  That the team that went all the way that year, not only wins the Stanley Cup, but more importantly: me, as a fan for life.  That turned out to be the Bruins. Now they’re heading back to the Stanley Cup.  Just swept the Penguins 4 games in a row and have as much momentum now as they’ve had all season.  I really like the way we’re playing.

There have been some completely AMAZING moments in this season.  The likes of which I haven’t ever experienced in ANY sport.

Like a comeback from 3 goals down in the 3rd period to win game 7.

Or watching somebody get a broken leg blocking a shot for his team… then getting back up to finish the job.

I don’t know if I’ve seen anything like those two videos in any other sport in all the years I’ve watched.  Hockey is a hardcore, no excuses, lay it all on the line contest.  After this season, I think I’m hooked for good.

Reunited

No one else can possibly see what I see when I look at that car.  That right there is my first car.  Not a car like my first car.  That IS my first car.  It’s a 1979 Caprice Classic.  To most people, you look at it, and you see a pretty cool car.  But to me it represents so many things.  And now it’s mine again, thanks to Dad.

I see history first of all.  My history.  A “flash before your eyes” kind of moment when I stop and really look at that car.  The places I went as a teenager, the stuff we did, the friends I hung out with, my job, school.  All of it comes rushing in too quickly to take it all in at once.  It’s like a focal point where so many chronological paths cross.

I see freedom.  I was never really guarded as a youth.  For the most part I stayed out of trouble… my parents trusted me because of it… and because of that, I got to do what I wanted.  So that car for the first time in my life could take me where I want, whenever I want.  But suddenly my borders were expanded.  I wasn’t bound by the city limits, or having to ride my bike home before the streetlights come on.

I see independence.  No longer did I have to rely on my parents to take me places.  I didn’t have to wait until Mom had to go to the store to see what new games were on the shelf.  I could get a job, I could make money.  And if I wanted to go to a movie, as long as I had gas and the money to do it, I could go.

I see people.  A lot of people that bluntly aren’t a part of my life anymore.  Nothing personal, we’ve just all lost touch over the years, which makes it all the more surreal to see this car again.  After a while you gain a sort of acceptance that relationships aren’t what they used to be and you accept it.  But this is just like an old friend that you haven’t seen for years, but you can instantly strike up a conversation with the moment you are reunited.

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Unboxing the Vectrex

Happy Vectrex Day!

I hereby dub February 7th as Vectrex Day hence forth on B.G. Willers.com!  I wasn’t too sure if it would even show up today, because the the tracking information never updated once the package left Wichita.  So in an effort to not get my hopes up, I just figured it would come in tomorrow.  Then the mailman comes lugging a box up the stairs at the office around 10:00AM today and with “FRAGILE” written all over it, I knew it HAD to be the Vectrex.

Of course each and every passer by had to make the “Frajeelee” joke from A Christmas Story, and plenty of “What’s in the box?” questions.  I had no problem sharing with my co-workers what hopefully sat inside that box, a hopefully functioning Vectrex.  But I wanted to wait until I got home to open it up.  I’ve been dying to make some videos, and this was the perfect opportunity.  So with great restraint I let the box sit on my desk behind the monitors.  It did help that I had a ton of work to do today which served as a useful distraction.

After work I really just wanted to go straight home and tear into the package, but I had to stop off and do some computer work.  The good news was that by the time I got there, their computer was magically working just fine.  Sometimes just threatening computers with my presence is enough to fix them I guess.  So at long last I was heading home.

Got the package in the house, cleared off the poker table and set it down.  I’d feel a little guilty though if I didn’t spend a little time with my family that I hadn’t seen all day first, so we all ate supper first.  Afterwards, the three of us headed down to the basement.  Luke was in a super good mood and all he wanted to do was play.  I didn’t really want to record a video with his squawks and squeals in the background, so I figured I’d just hold off a little bit longer until he went to bed.  So instead we watched Andrea hilariously play some Gran Tourismo 5.  I say hilariously because it took her some time to get used to the controls, so there was a lot of time where all four wheels weren’t on the ground.

I bet you’re tired of looking at a cardboard box… so was I!

At long last, Luke was going to bed, and Andrea was on her PC, so I could fire up the camera.  I have the video uploading now, but thanks to my awful service provider, it’s going to take 15 hours to upload.  So you’ll just have to enjoy some still images for now.

For the most part it still works very well.  If there are any flaws they are minor.  The images are slightly off center, but I believe there are some Horiz & Vert adjustments you can make inside the case.  There is a bit of a hum in the sound, but I think most Vectrexes had that when they were brand new.  And I found some guides that you can use to help reduce the hum.  In the video I shot, I thought there was a bit of a problem with some re-tracing going on in the middle of the screen, but turns out I just had the brightness turned up too high.

The case is a little scuffed but no cracks.  And the controller could use a good reconditioning as the joystick is a bit loose, and some of the buttons take a little extra effort to push.

All in all, I’m very happy with the purchase.  Now I just need to find a permanent place for it.