Tag Archives: PlayStation

Remembering Hollywood Video

Remember video rental stores? The days before Netflix and Hulu and any piece of entertainment at your fingertips. Video rentals were a visceral experience. I remember it like it was only twenty years ago….hollywoodvideoWhen I was in middle and high school, there was a Hollywood Video at the intersection of Dallas Highway and the new Barrett Parkway extension where we used to grab a movie or two on weekends. It was like this video wonderland (actually, I think Video Wonderland was down by the Kroger) with shelves upon shelves of not just new releases, but a lot of forgotten 1970s and 1980s B comedies—which might explain my sensibilities today.

“Ugh! Why would you get that? That looks weird!” my mother would protest. Fortunately, I managed to recover and repair our old VHR and a Sears CRT monitor from the trash years before, so I had the luxury of my own private setup in my closet of a bedroom. The fact that my rentals were cheaper than new releases may have further swayed the odds in my favor.

hollywoodvideo2I was a bit like Harry Potter in those years–forced to live in a cupboard after my baby sister was born–as my parents wanted her nursery to be closer to them. Our house was an ancient 2BR/1BA craftsman-style that formerly featured a sun-porch opposite the bedrooms. When it was moved to the country (Yes, it was moved from Marietta to its current location; there’s a story in that for another day), my grandparents converted the sun-porch into an extra bedroom for my cousins who lived there previously. The room is approximately 6×15, barely large enough for a twin bed and a desk. It didn’t help that my desk was a large, hand-built, office desk that was once the property of the Norfolk Southern Railway Company (we got it for cheap from a collector because it was in pretty rough shape), but I learned to respect vertical space (and craftsmanship) in that tiny room.

In the mid-1990s, Pokémon fever was ravaging the country. Anime in the US was just starting to evolve from a fringe interest to mainstream entertainment medium, thanks in no small part to Cartoon Network. I remember watching Robotech and Samurai Pizza Cats on Saturday mornings (Channel 69—when you could pick it up—was the epitome of old-school UHF as lampooned in Weird Al Yankovic’s eponymous 1989 film, showing a literal grab-bag of content that often rotated from week to week), but that appreciation became a near obsession when I discovered a copy of Macross in the animation section of Hollywood Video accompanying the same shelf as Mickey Mouse and—oddly—Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

“Oh, those damned ‘killer cartoons’ that your uncle Tracey watches! Why the hell would you want to watch those?” my father would gripe. My uncle and I are a lot alike, and we’ve both got an oddball streak a-klick-and-a-half long. Anyway, something happens to you when you watch Akira as a 12-year-old, then follow it with Kubrick’s 2001. Something, but I’m not sure what. While the other nerdy kids were trying to catch ‘em all, I was dreaming about giant, transformable mecha and the heroes who piloted them.Pictured: Killer Cartoons

In high school, I finally found more people who shared my affinity for “Japanimation” (“anime” was just now becoming the preferred nomenclature thanks to the Suncoast Motion Picture Company), and we began to coalesce into a regular group of mates. We wanted to watch more, and to enjoy with our friends, but we either didn’t have the money to buy new tapes from Suncoast and Media Play or the resources to borrow from other fans two counties over (Gwinnett County and its sizable Japanese and Korean communities was a hotbed for anime fandom). So, we did the next best thing: we raided the Hollywood Video.

It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon, the gang had all arrived at the house noonish—Gilmore, CJ, Little J, Reed, Danny, Wes, and Chris all came out for the inaugural Angst Haben Anime Party. It was an extremely informal affair, as was the case with any Angst Haben get-together: “Converge, then plan” was our M.O. I figured the best way to get started was to pile everyone into the “Shaggin’ Wagon” (a 1996 Ford Windstar that I had the privilege to drive) and hit the store. After a pit stop at the Publix for snacks and the obligatory case of Citrus Drop soda, we stormed into the Hollywood Video like a Walmart on Black Friday. Armed with caffeine, razor-sharp snark, and a bucket-o-change, we set about determining the agenda.

I’m not even sure what films we ended up renting, two or three titles—Dirty Pair, Area 88, and Macross Plus seem likely candidates—but what does stand out in my mind is a certain Playstation title with particularly appealing cover art:

“Hey, this looks kinda interesting. Maybe a fighting game between different teenage stereotypes? The girl’s kinda cute, too.”


Imagine for a moment that you’re the store clerk: three VHS tapes, a Playstation game, and a plastic pail full of change have just dropped onto the counter and now you’re starting at what might be the cast of a new Nickelodeon series about the “outsider” kids—the punk rocker, the trenchcoat, the raver, the Polo shirt, the jock, the darkly poetic kid, the awkward goof, we were all there—waiting for you to accept their hard-earned US, Grade-A, legal tender in exchange for the opportunity to rent a selection of what might have been considered questionable material (“tits and explosions” were how most people described anime at the time). What do you do?

You reach into the bucket, pull out the two dollar bills floating on top, set the stack of media on the pickup counter by the door, laugh hysterically and mutter “Just…Just go.”

Spoils of war in hand, windows down, stereo up, and bouncing to a classic Sublime track, we set off for The Yella House.

And that, children, is how you get free video rentals.

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Summer of 100 Photos, Day 34: Your currently most-played CD

IMG_20160525_211936022CD?! Oh, child, bless your heart!

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1996 Video game ads

1996 was an interesting year in the history of gaming. DOS was still the king of PC gaming while Microsoft was pushing Windows 95 compatibility (anyone remember the “Game Reboot to MS-DOS” shortcut?). Cartridges were singing their swan song with the N64, Sony was yelling that we were “not ready” for their (technically inferior) Playstation, and Sega…. Poor, poor Sega.

Sony Playstation was starting to rule but Sega and Nintendo would not go down without a fight… well one of them did…

Source: 1996 Video game ads

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How to play PS2 backup games using OPL

The PlayStation 2 is the best-selling video game console in history, but being an optical media-based machine, it often suffered physical faults rendering the drive inoperable and the machine useless. Fortunately, though, the PS2 has one of the strongest home-brew communities around, and some clever code monkeys figured out a way to play PS2 backup games without the need for an optical drive using OPL: Open PS2 Loader. Unfortunately, there isn’t much documentation on how to get this plan up and running. Hopefully, I can rectify this.

The easiest way to get this system up and running is “soft modding” your PlayStation. This is a software modification that runs an alternative OS version stored on a memory card. Without said memory card in place, the PlayStation boots as it normally would, preserving the integrity of the hardware and firmware. There are a myriad of ways to install the alternative OS (called Free McBoot) that are detailed elsewhere on the Interwebs, and even some volunteers who will install it for free on a memory card you provide; but I will be purchasing a memory card with FMcB installed. I do this for several reasons:

  1. It’s faster than waiting to mail a memory card to someone, wait for them to install the exploit, then mail it back.
  2. Not that I don’t trust people, but I only have one memory card right now, so I can’t part with that for an indeterminate timeframe.
  3. An official Sony memory card costs between US$5-9 on Ebay, and I can buy one with the system installed for $10.
  4. All of the DIY methods for installing FMcB require PS2 software that is even more expensive (Codebreakers, et al.) than purchasing the exploited memory card.

Now, once receiving the memory card, I can pop it into slot 1 on the PS2 and toggle the power button. You may have to jigger the reset button a few times before Free McBoot loads. This is because the purchased memory card has the “multi-version” installation and takes longer to load. Don’t worry, it’ll load. Just keep resetting until you see this screen:


Fantastic, Free McBoot is running on your PlayStation! Now, from the FMcB menu, we have several applications to choose from:

  • uLaunchELF launches applications from memory card, hard drive, or USB.
  • ESR launches backup physical (burned) copies of games.
  • Simple Media System plays MP3 and video files.
  • Open PS2 Loader launches games and apps from a unified menu system. This is the application we will be using to set up our system.
Before we go any further, I have to make a serious note:

These instructions are intended to allow fans of the PlayStation 2 and its software to continue to enjoy playing past the possible point of physical failure of the PlayStation 2. Backup copies are exactly that: backups of software already purchased. Games can be legally purchased from a variety of outlets; do not pirate games.

For reliability, you may want to install a fresh copy of Free McBoot on a blank memory card. Download the latest version from psx-scene.com to a USB thumb drive and launch the installer using uLaunchELF. Choose the normal install option and make sure you swap memory cards before formatting if you don’t want to lose your multi-installer version (if you want to install to other systems as well or keep a backup!)

Open PS2 Loader is a great, customisable application that allows disc image files to be loaded directly from either an attached hard drive or network-attached storage. This tutorial assumes you have either a slim PS2 or network adapter on a fat PS2. Download the latest “full” (VMC+GSM+PS2RD) version from the link above and unzip it to a dedicated USB thumb drive that you will keep in the PS2. Place the thumb drive into one of the USB slots on the PS2 and boot into Free McBoot. Use uLaunchELF to run OPL from the USB drive (DO NOT use the version listed in the Free McBoot menu!). Once in OPL, you can easily configure your settings following the onscreen prompts. If you have your games on a USB or internal hard drive, there should be no more configuration necessary. If you are using an NAS, you can copy the addresses of your router, NAS, and PS2 into their respective places.

OPL requires a specific folder structure on its disk (or share) in order to work. You will need the following folders (case-sensitive):

  • ART, for artwork file storage
  • CD, to store CD-based games (blue discs)
  • CFG, for configuration files
  • CHT, for cheat files
  • DVD, to store DVD-based games
  • THM, for themes
  • VMC, to store “virtual memory cards”

Once your folders are set up and the disc images are properly filed, OPL should automagically find the games, list them by file name, and have them available to play!

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