All posts by Chris Valdez

Starting with video games, Chris' interests have led him to write game reviews, study Japanese and move to Japan to continue his studies. Of course, he has other interests, like cooking and baking, travel, and occasionally updating his blog.

Scuba dooby do

Suppose I should keep up with the now yearly update. It’s already Oct. 1 as I write this in Japan, but still Sept. 30 back in my home of Texas, so I count this as making the cutoff.

Earlier this year I took a trip to Okinawa and received a PADI Open Water scuba certification. Means I’ve been trained to safely dive down to a depth of 18 meters, or 60 feet, as long as nothing is above me. That is, no going into caves or wreckage where there is no way to swim straight up to the surface.

I first did a scuba dive in Maui, Hawaii, in February 2022 just as the covid-19 pandemic was beginning to spread. The experience was wonderful and decided to get the certification. But the aforementioned pandemic took off and I put the plans on hold.

So in March of this year I made the trip to the island prefecture of Okinawa and spent three days getting a certification.

There was quite a bit to remember, and it was physically exhausting, but a good time.

Just a few minutes from Odawara by local train. This is where I did my diving. Well, in the nearby ocean, not at the station.

Yesterday, Friday, Sept. 30, I did my first dives since then down in Kanagawa in the area of 小田原 (Odawara). Woke up at 6 a.m., got on the train at 7:15, arrived around 8:50. Got home around 4:30 p.m. It was a long day.

The dives themselves were all right. The water was a bit choppy, so visibility was pretty low (2 – 4 meters) most of the time, but it was nice to be able to just enjoy the dive and not have to do various exercises and practice maneuvers needed for a certification.

I didn’t take any pictures of the water, but I promise it’s there behind the buildings.

Review: Tales of Arise

Note: This game has more typos and misspellings than it should, and I have included quite a few in this post. Some include characters you meet throughout the game, so those could be spoiler-ish. Also, the game allows you to customize the look of characters, hence why some have bunny ears, strange outfits, etc. They don’t normally look like that.

It’s been years since I’ve had as much fun with a role-playing game as I did with Tales of Arise. The game is not perfect, but it’s almost there.

This was my first experience with the Tales series, other than the anime adaptation of Tales of the Abyss. A friend of mine has recommended the series off and on over the years, but the desire to play it was never there.

The beginning hours of the story feels rather generic. Guy with amnesia meets angry girl who wants to topple some powerful rulers of the land who come from a different planet, Rena, and enslave the people of Dhana. But it does pick up, and it just keeps better and better and leads to things unexpected. When you get to the end and look back at the beginning, it feels almost like a completely different game.

Continue reading Review: Tales of Arise

What Extron can do for you

Why matrix switchers are awesome… after the trouble of setting them up

In this post we’ll take a look at the two Extron matrix switches I purchase this year, the Crosspoint 450 Plus Series and Extron SMX Series Switcher, and why you may or may not want to add one to your setup.

Let’s say you’re like me and you have quite a few game systems you’d like to have all connected to your TV (or some other display device). The simplest option, but perhaps bothersome depending on your setup, is to swap out the A/V cables as needed.

Your NES is plugged in but you want to play SNES? Disconnect the NES and plug in the SNES. Want to now play your PlayStation 1? Same thing—disconnect the SNES and plug in the PS1.

If you only have a small selection of consoles, this might not be so much of a hassle. But if you have your display wall-mounted or in some other location where you can’t easily get to the inputs, you may find this challenging.

If you’re only working with composite video with RCA plugs (typically with yellow, white and red plugs), a basic RCA selector could work. Plug everything into that, and then that plugs into your display. Almost all of these are going to require you to get up and physically push a button the switch, but that’s not terrible.

My setup is a bit overkill. Click the picture for the full-size version.

But let’s say you have a lot of consoles. Five? Eight? Ten? Twelve? More??? You’re going to need to connect several switchers to each other, and that can get a little confusing.

What if you’re using a higher quality video signal, such as S-video, component or RGB? HDMI? How about a mix of any of those cables? Are you splitting the video to two or more displays at once? You’ll be hard-pressed to find a consumer option that fits your needs.

Enter the Extron line of video switchers.

Continue reading What Extron can do for you

Let’s make Rockman 4 Minus Infinity

Rockman 4 Minus Infinity repro guide

The past few years I’ve picked up the hobby of repairing old game consoles, modding them for things like region-free gameplay or RGB output options for the best possible video quality.

One of the things I heard about along the way was a romhack called Rockman 4 Minus Infinity, an amazing hack that redoes the entirety of Rockman 4/Mega Man 4. Most people will probably play this on an emulator because the de facto flash cart, the Everdrive N8, doesn’t support ROM files of this size. The creator has said though he plans to release a new version of the N8 that supports larger games like this.

So, enter the 8-bitter from Voultar. Assuming you have experience with a soldering iron, it’s an easy solution to use to apply translation patches and romhacks to real NES and Famicom cartridges.

But I specifically wanted to make my own copy of R4MI. The only problem is most of the information online is using old methods of wiring messes before a solution like this existed. Not that they’re bad, they just haven’t been updated for modern methods.

And while Voultar’s video covers just about everything you need, he didn’t go over the process of replacing CHR ROM with CHR RAM.

So I spent several hours hitting various forums and sites to gather information on how to make my own. This guide serves as a way to demonstrate a fairly modern way (though there are probably a few things that could be cleaned up) to do this in 2019.

What you’ll need: (the below is image heavy)

Continue reading Let’s make Rockman 4 Minus Infinity

Golden Week doth approach

Golden Week has come, and I am off to Taipei, Taiwan, from April 29 – May 4. It’s the first time I’m taking a vacation by myself… ever!

I asked people what I should do, and the only suggestions people had were “GO TO NIGHT MARKETS! EAT FOOD!”  -_-

I’m sure I’ll find things to do though. ^^

ゴールデンウイークがきた!台湾の台北市へ4月29日から5月4日まで行ってくる!これは僕の初めて一人旅だ。

僕は皆に「台湾のオススメは何」と聞いた時、返信は「夜市へ行って全部食べて!」。-_-

楽しくて面白いことを見つける!