I Miss the Sega GT Series! Part 1

I’m not sure I could ever put into words just how much of a game changer Gran Turismo truly was in the world of auto racing video games. Sure there were the Ridge Racers, the Need for Speeds and the Test Drives, but it was Gran Turismo’s influence that echoed throughout the industry. Many games changed their formula to try and emulate it, while other games where just outright clones. In 1999 Sony released Gran Turismo 2 to assert their dominance and assure their games stayed on top of the imitations.

In February of 2000 Sega released their attempt to overthrow the juggernaut and named it Sega GT. With the Dreamcast floundering, the racing simulator market wasn’t completely wide open, but Sega GT came as close to replicated the Gran Turismo formula as it got for the console. Well, I guess you could use BLEEM!, but that’s a completely different discussion for another day. Sega GT was an ambitious game that takes a lot of cues from Gran Turismo, but adds a lot of Sega’s personality as well.

Sega GT starts off feeling very similar to Gran Turismo, as the player is required to undertake license tests. Yes, the old license tests are here, but I feel Sega made this aspect of the game far less of a headache than Gran Turismo. To even buy a car you are required to acquire licenses, meaning cars themselves are locked by different licenses. The great thing is you really only need to complete one license test to acquire the license. Not only that but the license tests in Sega GT are nothing like Gran Turismo, as they are simply a single time trial lap around a track with a certain car. Hit a wall, or gone off track? No problem! It will only slow you down, not kill the whole run. So far we’re off to an amazing start, if you ask me.

From there it’s pretty much the Gran Turismo formula. The player can race within the requirements for each given series of races, upgrade their cars and buy new ones with the prize money they’ve won. However, Sega GT has one aspect that really blew me away when I read about it. Right on the back of the case it says: “Build original cars from scratch — over 2 million combinations are possible!” Yes, you can build your own car(s) from scratch. On my original play through, some 18 years ago, I never delved too deeply into this aspect as things needed to be unlocked, if I remember correctly. What I do remember for sure was having an absolute blast building my own cars from what options I did have unlocked. Nostalgia may be failing me here and making it seem far better than it actually was, but regardless just the fact this option was included is amazing.

In many ways I think Sega GT was a great game, but I also feel it could have been better. The graphics are still pretty good and I would dare say they feel more like an Xbox era game. The car models were smooth but some of the textures were dull and lifeless. Handling was pretty good and upgrading the cars actually did make a noticeable difference. That might seem silly to say but there are some Gran Turismo clones out there where upgrades seem merely cosmetic, or just to give the player a reason to spend money. For me personally Sega GT was among the most adequate Gran Turismo clones, and I must not have been alone as Sega would renew the series for the Microsoft Xbox in Sega GT 2002 and Sega GT Online.

Posted September 27th, 2021

Peripheral Vision: EMiO Turbo Controller for the SNES Classic

From time to time Scott (You know, the guy who pays for the domain and webspace here) will bring a gaming related item to my attention that instantly becomes a must have. Even though I don’t currently own a Super Nintendo Classic Edition, I instantly wanted EMiO’s The Edge Super Gamepad. Having a bit of an engineer’s mind made me wonder if there was any way to convert this to use on the original Super Nintendo. If not I figured worst case I could use the controller for SNES emulation on my modded Wii. The Edge Super Gamepad also included a Wii to USB adapter, which is extremely useful, and a fairly cursory cheat book. Even though the cheat book isn’t very good and doesn’t offer anything new it was still a pretty neat little bonus.

The EMiO Super Gamepad looks like something straight out of the 90s with all the individual flick switches to enable or disable turbo to all the action buttons as well as the shoulder buttons. It also includes the colorful action buttons, which is always a nice touch. In fact, it really does resemble the Super Famicom controller in almost every way, with the exception of the font used.

When it comes to functionality the Super Gamepad worked just fine out of the box. Notice how I used past tense there? Yeah, because it worked for maybe an hour before the D-pad started displaying the infamous third-party D-pad issue I’ve always had. Sometimes I find that pressing right will activate right and up, or right and down. Sometimes pressing right will activate strictly up or down, without including right at all. Not only that but the B button became slightly more difficult to use within that hour as well. But the Wii to USB adapter is AWESOME! I spent that hour playing SNES emulators on my laptop. It’s plug and play, ready to go and even works with the Wii Classic and Classic Pro controllers, so if the EMiO Super Gamepad takes a dirt nap, at least you can still use the adapter. Until it dies too, which I’m sure it will eventually.

Maybe the carbon pad set needs to be changed out for something more reliable, and I might just do that if the problems I mentioned previously persist or get worse. I really do like the controller, especially while it was functioning perfectly. It feels like an original SNES controller, it offers customizable turbo and the flip of a switch and it can be used on an SNES Classic Edition, a soft-modded Wii with emulators or even on a PC with emulators. The possibilities are endless, as long as the controller holds up. Even if the controller craps out and the Wii to USB adapter holds up, I think that alone is worth the price. Worst case scenario the controller gets on my nerves to the point I don’t feel guilty hacking it up to see if I can convert it to real SNES hardware without tearing apart one I enjoy using.

Posted September 20th, 2021

Gran Turismo 2

When it comes to racing simulators Gran Turismo was in a class all its own, until Forza came along but we’ll discuss that later. Racing games were fine before Gran Turismo came along, but they were lacking a depth that only Gran Turismo could show us we were missing out on. Formula One: Built to Win for the NES comes to my mind when I think of a game that tried its hardest to give the player a racing simulator experience, but was severely limited by the hardware. Gran Turismo seemed to come out at the perfect time when technology was expanding in both hardware capability and allowance of game size. With Gran Turismo being such a hit, there was no other option than to create a sequel.

I have to admit that I was so hooked on Gran Turismo that I didn’t acquire a copy of Gran Turismo 2 until it was in clearance bins to make room for PS2 games. GT2 was so action packed that this time it actually warranted the use of a bigger case, as simulation and arcade were each on a disc of their own. While Gran Turismo boasted 140 authentic sports cars, GT2 boasted over 500 cars from world-class manufacturers. More cars had to mean this game was better, right? Let’s see what GT2 had to offer and find out.

What would any entry in the Gran Turismo series be without cars? With the aforementioned boast of over 500 cars Gran Turismo 2’s roster of vehicles ranges from cars some people can only dream about driving outside of GT2, all the way down to cars in some people’s nightmares because they are so boring. But let’s not forget the insane vehicles such as two drag cars, two Pike’s Peak edition cars and an unsuspecting Dodge Intrepid ES, that can be turned into a full-on dragster once fully upgraded. I believe GT2 originally was slated to offer drag racing, but somewhere along the way that was scrapped, however the cars remain. None of these insane cars are really all that useful in a race that includes a lot of twists and turns, but get these cars out on the test oval and you’ll be flying.

Even though drag racing was scrapped rally racing made it all the way into the finished product, and although I would have loved to see them both, I feel rally racing is a better feature. Rally driving requires a different set of tires, and license, to participate, but there are a lot of cars that can pull double duty and race on the dirt courses as well as tarmac. Along with the new tires and license requirements rally racing brought in a whole new set of really fun tracks. For me there is something truly satisfying about sliding around on dirt tracks.

Outside of the rally tracks GT2 added some more tracks for general races as well. They kept some of the original tracks for familiarity but also added a few new tracks to the mix. Most of the tracks are really nice, and quite fun, however I found Laguna Seca to be a bit of a pain. This being Gran Turismo 2 I’m not unfamiliar with windy, twisty, turny courses, but it’s the way Laguna Seca is setup that threw me off, and I’ve hated it in every video game I’ve encountered it in ever since. The only redeeming part about Laguna Seca in GT2 is the fact you can glitch through the wall at a certain point and escape into the wide open world.

What GT2 did right, by which I mean the addition of rally racing and more cars, still couldn’t tame the frustration of those stupid license tests. My main issue with the license tests is there is absolutely no margin of error. Under normal racing conditions a player can sometimes find themselves slight off the racing circuit, which is usually a disadvantage, but if you get even a fraction of a millimeter off the track during a license test it’s all over. I understand completely cutting corners to get gold should be penalized, but to have a run disqualified because the grass 2 inches away waved in the breeze of your passing tires is just ludicrous. Not to mention the addition of rally races only increases the amount of licenses you now have to earn.

Gran Turismo 2 is pretty much the same experience you’ll find in Gran Turismo 1, with the exception of the aforementioned additions, slightly better graphics and the ability to change wheels. Earn licenses, earn money, upgrade cars, buy better cars and upgrade them and claw your way to the top. Or you can just play around in arcade mode and have fun racing all the cars around the various tracks at a slightly more leisurely pace. With as simple as the premise can sound this game is still incredibly fun, and that’s why Gran Turismo has become a long-standing series and a staple on the Playstation consoles for many generations.

Posted September 13th, 2021

Simple Way to Play Super Famicom Games on the SNES? Maybe.

Recently I’ve been looking for a more reliable way to play Super Famicom games on my NTSC Super Nintendo without modifying the console or my Game Genie. Sure, removing the tabs is fairly simple, but I feel there has to be a better way to get the job done without mutilating the console, or my Game Genie. I could use my Super 8, or buy a converter, but I think I may have hit on a fairly reasonable, and cheap method to get the job done.

What I had been doing was swapping Super Famicom PCBs into an SNES cartridge and playing the game that way. This led me to search online for reproduction cartridges, so that I didn’t need to evict a game from its home, rather I would simply be rehousing the Super Famicom PCB into an empty cartridge. During this research I found Super Famicom shaped cartridges with proper cutouts on the back allowing it to fit into the NTSC Super Nintendo. Not only do these reproduction cartridges have the cutouts, they’re also snap together, making the swapping process much quicker and easier. Even though these cartridges are snap together they do have screw holes, if you would prefer a more permanent situation, but for myself I would rather be able to swap the game PCB out as often as I would need.

After almost a month of waiting the single cartridge I ordered finally arrived. As I stated previously my idea is to use the one cartridge multiple times and as my desired Super Famicom game changes, I will swap out the PCB from this and back to their original homes. I hope this is a viable option because the plastic feels slightly cheaper than the original cartridge, but as long as the reproduction is carefully pried open it seems this should suit my needs just fine. This reproduction cartridge fits into the Super Nintendo console, albeit a bit snug. And everything seems to work just fine. The overall casting of this is fairly nice, until you see the bottom, which is completely and totally messy, but it holds game PCBs just fine, with no wiggles or rattles.

I paid about $3 for this reproduction cartridge and waited almost a month for it to arrive and it seems to suit my needs just fine, for now. If you’re looking for a more permanent solution to replacing a cracked cartridge I would say these would be a good option. There is a spot for a label and everything, to make it look official. The one problem you might have is these are cast in a darker color than genuine Super Famicom cartridges, and they might not match the rest of your collection perfectly. The reproduction halves are not compatible with genuine cartridge halves either. Say you just want to replace the back of your beloved Super Famicom cartridge, this is not your salvation.

For my needs, which are simply swapping out PCBs from their original homes into a cartridge that holds them safely and allows them to be played in my NTSC Super Nintendo, I’m happy. Will the snap tabs on the inside of the cartridge hold up to all the use they may potentially see? That’s something only time can tell. Again, I am fully aware I could purchase a converter, use my Super 8 or even modify my console or Game Genie to get the same results, but for my needs a few bucks for this reproduction cartridge and a little time putting the PCB into it is all I need.

Posted September 6th, 2021