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The Budget Gamer:
Hardware Edition

Written By: J. Michael Neal

Hello and welcome to our new monthly feature The Budget Gamer: Things That Will Improve a Gamerís Life For Cheap. From this pulpit I will help all you flat-broke gamers get everything you need to continue playing without spending all your dough.

As a hardcore gamer and a college student, I know how hard it is to juggle everyday living expenses with a game-a-week habit. I know that most of the time in situations like these things like new releases, hardware upgrades, and massively multiplayer monthly bills take precedence over things like textbooks, food, and soap. But, I also know a thing or two about keeping a nice, even balance between necessities like Dark Cloud 2 and luxuries like sleeping and social interaction. If you havenít developed those skills yet, donít worry; they will come with time and a little help from meÖ

This month weíll look some little hardware extras that will make your PS2 kick even more ass than it already does, without costing you a fortune!

 

Interact DSS-900 5.1 Digital Speaker System

$69.87 + Tax and S&H

While you canít upgrade the guts of a console whenever you wish like you can in the PC world, you are able to go nuts when it comes to sound systems; but do you really have to go all out with one of those $200 to $500 set-ups in order to enjoy surround sound? The answer is a resounding "hell no", at least as long as these babies are still on the market! This is easily the best set of 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound speakers with digital optical input (a must-have for 5.1 systems) you can find for under $200. Well, at least they were, until the price dropped to $70 bucks, now they are just insanely well worth the price. Absolutely the best deal on surround sound speakers you can find this side of a five-fingered discount! They are made for gaming, which means they are super easy to assemble and guaranteed to work with everything from a PS2 to a PC to a standard DVD player, and they sound really good for speakers that cost less than most audio cables go for. Sure, they are no where near as good as something high-end, for example, the subwoofer is a little distorted on higher settings and the rare speakers are so clear, but they still sound a hell of a lot better than whatís attached to your cheap little TV. If youíre a cheap-ass whoíd still like to enjoy Saving Private Ryan or Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty in all their 5.1 glory, pick yourself up a pair!

Be sure to pick yourself up a pair of digital optical cables on sale while youíre at it. You donít want to settle for something that is normally inexpensive because that usually means poor quality. Look for cables with a suggested retail price of $35 or more that are 50% off for some reason. I managed to find a pair of 6-ft opticals by RCA at my local FYE for $14, marked down from $30, because they have been discontinued.

Speaking of "discontinued", Iím not too sure how long these things will be on the market. So far the only place on earth that still carries them is the EBgames.com website, and seeing how Interact seems to have gotten lost in the Bermuda Triangle or something, my guess is there is a very finite supply of these things that will only stick around for a short time, so if you want to get some, get them ASAP.

 

PS2 DVD Remote Controller Kit

$11.99 + Tax and S&H

Ok, you have your speakers all set up and youíre ready to pop in a DVD and test them out, but now that means you have to be permanently attached to your Dual Shock 2 controller the whole time. Who wants to bother? It sounds like you need a remote control buddy! The Sony one is a little more expensive than some of the other ones out there, but the $3 extra bucks are worth it. You get some new abilities, like time display and section looping, and an updated set of DVD drivers to boot! Not to mention the official Sony peripherals are far more reliable and stylish than the various pretenders.

 

Belkin Enhanced Keyboard

$15.95 + Tax and S&H

So you have a Network Adaptor (you do have a Network Adaptor, donít you?) and you love throwing down with some Tony Hawkís Pro Skater 4, Madden 2003, SOCOM, or Everquest Online Adventures, but you hate using those stupid onscreen keyboards? Why not just get a keyboard! This one is absolutely perfect for the PS2. Itís nice and big with a wide base and plenty of surface area and can sit comfortably on your lap while playing in front of the TV, with a detachable wrist rest that does a nice job of giving you some leverage while typing in that sort of position, and the all black design goes with the PS2 motif. Itís also 100% compatible with the PS2 and pretty damn cheap compared to those flimsy, gaming console-targeted keyboards youíll find in most gaming stores.

 

Mad Catz Playstation Memory Card Twin Pack

$9.99 + Tax and S&H

Although we are in the age of textured bump mapping and particle effects and all that jazz, nothing beats catching up with an old friend like Final Fantasy Tactics, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, or Civilization II. Sooner or later, though, youíre going to need to dig out your old Playstation memory card. If you are one of the poor shlubs who lost/misplaced/gave away/pawned for rent your cards you may hesitate to replace it, but donít worry. You can get two cards, guaranteed not to lose data or mess up your precious PS2, for $10 bucks through this memory card "Twin Pack". Now you can finally go back and finish Xenogears!

Posted: 4-4-03 


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