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Have cart? Will play physical Sega CD games without add-on

SegaCD

The Sega CD has always been an interesting Sega Genesis add-on. First introduced in North America in 1992, it quickly became a curiosity to many as it was the first major add-on for the Genesis. The unit upped the quality of the 16-bit Sega Genesis by offering CD audio, enhanced graphics (in the form of improved scaling and rotation) and bigger games thanks to the format.

However, the add-on was also out of reach for many as it carried a $299 price point and required a Sega Genesis. Even today, functioning Sega CD hardware can be hard to come by, and expensive. But thanks to flash carts like Krikzz’s Mega EverDrive Pro and Terraonion’s MegaSD, it has never been a more interesting time for the Sega CD/Mega CD.

Both carts use FPGA technology to replicate the Sega CD and its optical drive thus negating the need for original hardware. Once you have the cart, all you’ll need is a Sega Genesis (or compatible hardware such as the Analogue Mega SG) and disk images of your favourite Sega CD titles.

And for video game collectors, these carts can be the gateway to buying and playing Sega CD titles without actually owning Sega CD hardware. Of course, you’ll need a way to extract the data from those original CDs to get them in a format that is accessible to the flash cart. Since both carts support the BIN/CUE format, I will be outlining how I’ve created my images using the format for my Mega EverDrive Pro.

To create images of my Sega CD titles, I use Alcohol 52% by Alcohol Soft. At its core, Alcohol 52% is CD and DVD emulation software that allows you to create disc images that can be mounted on virtual drives on a Windows-based machine. The software was created to allow users to rip a disc image and mount it in a virtual drive so it can be used without the need for a physical optical drive.

One of the interesting things about Alcohol 52% is that it includes various presets in its “Image-making wizard” to ensure more accurate media rips. The software features a preset for the Mega CD (also known as the Sega CD), Neo Geo CD, PC Engine CD, PlayStation and Saturn, among others. All you need to do to get an extracted image is choose the datatype that is in your optical drive, select the location where you would like your image to appear in and voila, one step closer to using your disc image in your flash cart of choice.

On my computer setup, a 2018 MacBook Air running Windows 10 with a Samsung SH-B083L optical drive, it took approximately 120 seconds to generate a 523 MB image of the “Puggsy” for the Sega CD (with all 22 tracks from the original disc). Then grab both the BIN and CUE files from PC and move them to an SD card for flash cart use.

Alcohol 52% is shareware and can be downloaded from www.alcohol-soft.com. You can purchase a lifetime license for $27 USD or download a free ad-supported version from their site.

Here are a few affordable Sega CD titles that are worth owning and experiencing:
• Sonic CD
• Final Fight CD
• Mortal Kombat
• Road Rash
• Sega Classics Arcade 5-in-1
• Sol-Feace
• Silpheed

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How to get Xbox Game Pass for free

XBGP

Over the last 12 months, Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass has grown to become one of the integral pieces of the Xbox experience. The service gives subscribers access to exclusive games, perks and has become the home to “Triple A” launch day releases such as “Outriders” and the Sony-developed “MLB the Show 21” (which comes out later this month). For many, the barrier to entry is the monthly service fee, which is either $9.99 for Xbox Game Pass for Consoles or $14.99 for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (includes Xbox Live, Game Pass for PC, Game Pass for Android mobile and EA Play).

You can choose to reduce subscription costs by waiting for retailers to offer deals on prepaid vouchers, or you can earn your way at no cost by participating in the Microsoft Rewards program. As of writing this piece, 12,000 reward points (at the tier 2 rewards level) grants you access to 30 days of Game Pass Ultimate.

Once enrolled in the Microsoft Rewards program, you can earn points by using Bing search, purchasing content in the Microsoft store or by completing daily quizzes and Xbox-related challenges. One can earn enough points within 30 days to continuously stay subscribed to Game Pass at no cost. Let’s break down how this can be done.

Off the bat, you can earn 162 daily points through Bing searches – 60 points when searching on mobile, 90 points for desktop searches and 12 additional points by using Microsoft’s Edge browser. You can then gain extra points (between 30 to 70 points daily) by heading to the “Earn” section in your MS profile and completing various challenges. Within less than 5 minutes, you can easily get approximately 232 daily points (which amounts to around 6,960 points per month).

You can also get rewarded for completing daily, weekly and monthly Game Pass Quests. The first 10 of those points can be earned daily (5 points for accessing the Game Pass mobile app, and another 5 points for playing a Game Pass title). For the weekly quests, which are worth between 10 and 50 points each, you obtain points by launching a specific game, completing a task within a chosen title, earning an achievement, etc. These weekly quests can net you around 200 points per week. Things get a little more interesting with the monthly offerings, as one of those quests can nab you 1,000 points (you’ll unlock the reward by completing 45 daily quests and 15 weekly quests). Generally, a total of 11 monthly quests are available with incentive totals stemming from 10 to 200 points each (excluding that 1,000-point completionist reward).

Points can also be earned using an Xbox One or Xbox Series X/S console through its dedicated rewards app. Like the Game Pass Quests, the rewards app also provides daily, weekly and monthly opportunities to earn points. Achievement hunters can earn 50 points a day by simply triggering an Xbox achievement. Once every several months or so, the app offers gamers the ability to earn a reward point for each 1 achievement point unlocked which is capped at a certain number of points (generally 10,000 points).

And finally, you can also earn 20 points for every dollar spent in the Microsoft store (200 points for every $10 spent).

If you’ve been hesitant to join Game Pass Ultimate due to the cost, start by grabbing 3 months for $1, then continue to earn additional months through the MS Rewards program. In the end, a little time and dedication can give you access to what many have called “the best deal in gaming” at little to no cost.

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The Xbox Series X – One week later

XboxSX

As you’ve probably gathered from the title, I’ve had the opportunity to use the Xbox Series X for a full week and my impressions are honestly kind of mixed, but I was expecting this. Let’s get this out of the way, in its current state, the Xbox Series X feels more like an iterative update than a generational leap, and that’s not a bad thing. This feeling is likely tied to the fact that I’ve been playing the same games I was enjoying a week earlier on my Xbox One S. It’s no secret, it is missing the jaw dropping, system selling launch title the other guys have.

Knowing this, why the Series X? Simple, access to four generations of Xbox. Being able to grab a game from the backwards compatibility library and replaying it with a higher framerate and expanded resolution is pure bliss. Re-experiencing older titles in a modern technical context has always been a passion of mine. I’m subscribed to the notion that titles from previous generations must continue to adapt and move forward (or in better terms, evolve) with the platform, and currently Xbox allows this, albeit in a limited capacity.

Since the arrival of disc-based consoles, we’ve all grown accustomed to things like increased load times and the occasional in-game framerate drop. But what I’ve enjoyed the most with my Xbox Series X experience thus far are the massive load time reductions and framerate stabilization brought forth by the new system architecture. With reduced load times, you can now transition between levels instantaneously, or restart events in mere seconds.

I also like that I can now quick resume up to three titles on the console. In simple terms, it’s an easy way to cycle through the last three games that are stored in memory. This means I can be playing Ultra Street Fighter IV and immediately change things up by quick resuming my previous Tetris Effect: Connect session. It’s a welcomed quality of life improvement in this fast-paced world.

Currently, the Xbox Series X allows you to experience 40+ games from the original Xbox library, 500+ titles from the Xbox 360 lineup as well as all Xbox One releases. Even without the killer launch lineup, gamers have plenty of enhanced titles to choose from.

The promise of an improved gaming experience got me into the ninth generation of console gaming with an Xbox Series X. I am happy Microsoft chose to continue to embrace its past while looking ahead into the future. So yes, this may feel like an iterative update, but it’s the experience I was looking forward to.

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Monkey Island 2 and Blacklight: Tango Down Now Available

This week’s Xbox Live Arcade titles are “Monkey Island 2” and “Blacklight: Tango Down”. Log into your Xbox Live account to download the titles as of today.

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Engineer to be Updated in Team Fortress 2

Valve recently announced an update to the Engineer class in its popular “Team Fortress 2” (TF2) title. Valve noted that this is the largest single-class update it has made for the game. The download will introduce new maps, items and achievements among other things.

The update is scheduled to be deployed between now and Thursday. Visit teamfortress.com/ for additional information.

Valve also revealed that they will be issuing “Golden Wrenches” to TF2 players. Here’s a clipping from the press release:

“Every time Engineers “craft” (build) something in the game, they have a chance of getting a Golden Wrench. Every 25th Wrench awarded unlocks more info about the update.”

Visit teamfortress.com/engineerupdate/wrenchlog/ to track the Wrenches found.

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