Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I will warn everyone ahead of time, this is going to be an exceedingly geeky, so just as a preface now, get ready to find out my levels of geekery, should you not have been aware before. 

Yes, I am one of those people.  Back on the 26th October of 2000, I got a call from my friend.  She needed me to hurry up, because a line was already forming.  It was only 5:30 and I had cleaned out my bank account the day before.  As much as working at Wendy's had sucked that summer, it was all worth it now.  By the end of the night, I would be one of the few, the proud, the owners of a PS2.  So we waited 6 hours in line, for two of 8.  (It should be noted that my PS2 still works, and never had to be sent in for repairs, once.) 

I am clearly a Playstation fanboy, and am deeply in love with most Sony gaming systems.  Fortunately, my partner shares my addiction, and have passed many a happy afternoon, geeking it up.  As a result we have a whole slew of video games.  When packing, we seriously ditched clothes to make sure we could take our games.  I even had the honor of having the PS3 and 360 in my carry on.  (It could hardly be called a carry on at that point, as it could have easily crushed several small villages.)  But everything made it just fine, now for the hard part.  The power situation.

I say the hard part because for anyone familiar with traveling overseas, you can't plug in any electronics.  The plugs change, usually based on continent, but well, England's proving that not to be the case thank you very much.  So first you have to search around the place for converter plugs.  I had an old one from a previous trip, so we were set with one.  However, we needed about...well.....forty-six thousand.

Of course, there were options for the plugs, as just getting the adapter is relatively simple in France.  The most expensive option, of course, was Fnac, which is pretty much the same thing as Virgin Megastore, for those of you who remember it.  They rang in at about 15 bucks after everything was said and done.  The next option was Monoprix.  That handy dandy little number cost about 5 bucks, which as they say, kicked ass.  So they run the gamut, but I'd say get the cheapest one, if all you need is an adapter. 

This might be another time to recall some other fun memories of the United States.  For those of you unfamiliar with the other differences between the US and Europe, you have to convert power as well.  Now, as luck would have it, I ran to a Radio Shack and got exactly what I needed to make the power conversion in the US in about 20 seconds, lock, stock, and barrel. Mathieu's French playstation was ready for a rest run in two days.

Now in France, well, the situation became more complicated.  Mathieu paid about 45 dollars for a converter, and we thought everything was fine.  We took it home, and what to our wandering eyes should appear, but a new roadblock we had never thought about in the US.  Certain stepup and stepdown converters are only rated for a certain number of watts.  The one we had bought was rated for 8 watts.  The PS3 was said to pull as much as 380.  So welcome back to square one.  All was not lost though as we could use the charger for the DS, which could not convert.  That made life easier on one count.

We eventually found an industrial strength model, rated for up to 700 watts.  That meant that we could plug in both the PS3 and the 360 if we really wanted to.  It was insanely heavy for it's size, and actually has a fuse for additional security.  Of course we had the usual rules.  No one was allowed to turn it on if my partner or I was not there to make sure that the setup was right.  If you are done using it, turn off said giant stepdown converter and unplug the device.  Of course there were a few snafus such as the ever famous "Did you unplug it before you turned it off because what if it doesn't restrict power flow once it's off?" controversy.  Generally though, it all worked out pretty well though.  That was not all that our friends had in store for us.

You might of noticed when I was talking about our time in the US, and getting a French PS2 working, I did mention ready to be tried, because I never got it working until 5 months before we were moving back to France.  The last hurdle we couldn't overcome with our first TV was the difference in signals.  The television, being American, ran in NTSC and the PS2, as it was French, ran in PAL.  The first television we had was one of those 27 inch Sharps that everyone had about 15 years ago that only had a coax/antenna input.  (It's shocking to think that this was 15 years ago.  That sounds so, old.  I feel old now.)  So we got it all working, except that the screen kept rolling.  After doing some research, this is called "PAL rolling screen" and is next to impossible to take care of, short of a priest or a $700 VCR.  Neither of us being religious men, we said fuck it for about 4 years, and let it sit in our closet.

Coming back to the part where I got it working, my partner and I were trying to see if it would even be worth it to take them with us.  We stumbled upon an interesting post that apparently said you can bypass the standard difference should you have a digital input.  Of course, since we were now part of the well to do crowd, we had bought a TV with HDMI to take full advantage of our recently purchased PS3 and 360.  So we tested it first on the TV.  Since a PS2 is old tech, there was no HDMI out for it. There was, however Component, which is sort of this bizarre lovechild of digital and analog.  Well, it said there was an input, but it couldn't recognize it, which was well, quite honestly worse off than when we started.  But what about the little TV in the other room?  The $200 TV that we had bought to play games and watch TV/DVDs in bed!  Low and behold, after 5 years of dithering, there we go.  It was grainy at best through the  TV, but by god I could finally fight Penance!

So of course reading the above, it's fairly obvious that our TV got sent across to France.  All the necessary components were together, and well, SUCCESS!!!!!  It all works, and we can play all our systems.  I know it makes us evil, but well, everything's here, and it works, and it's gorgeous.  Of course, our room is a shrine to various forms of technology.  Computers, systems, cords, and shit running everywhere.  Seriously, furniture position was actually determined by outlet proximity. 

So in the process of getting our consoles and handhelds Europificated, I should mention about some high points.  Did you know that the Playstation Portable's charger automatically switches for you?  So you don't have to mess with anything except a nice, cheap converter plug.  I would really like to say that was a genius move on Sony's part there.  I should also warn you that this is on a first generation PSP so check your charger brick before you go and plug it into a wall willy nilly. 

Another thing that may be of use to know is how the consoles match up with game compatibility, which is spotty at best.  Always make sure to find out about localization before trying to play something that shouldn't be played in another system.  You can do some serious damage. 

For the Playstation platform, you can pretty much be safe with anything working, and working internationally.  The first attempt was at a game store here in town where we weren't sure if it would work.  So I took my PSP with me and we tried it out.  It loaded a few French games without a hitch.  Not only did it load the games no problem, but it ran them in, shock of shocks, English.  The screen to quit one game did come up in French, but a small glitch, to say the least.  The game played great, and without any errors.  So after that, we decided to be crazy, and try a PS3 game.  I was convinced because of localization it would never fly.  But low and behold, we put it in, and started up in English!  So good news is that pretty much all the information was already on the disc, which made life, much simpler.  Now it should be known this is just for the PSP and PS3.  This trick does not, and will not ever work for a non hacked PS2.  Just know that now. 

I have not tried anything with any of the Nintendo systems, so anyone with word on that, let me know.   Unfortunately, the 360 is region locked so no games shared between foreign cultures.  Microsoft is cold like that.  So what can you do really.  Sorry. 

And well, that was our odyssey with game systems.  I will write more when something else piques my interest.  Until then!

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