Sunday, May 21, 2017

IP Not-So-Freely

Heads up, folks! If you've got a 3DS (Old or New; it doesn't matter), there's a new hack called Boot9Strap that will let you install and run homebrew apps straight from the main menu. It'll take you about an hour to go through all the steps and the results aren't guaranteed, but I put the hack on my Old 3DS this afternoon, and it worked like a charm for me. You'll find the instructions here if you're interested.

It's a good day to be a 3DS owner, but alas, ColecoVision fans aren't so lucky. The current holder of the Coleco brand, one Chris Cardillo, is making life miserable for hobbyist game designers, threatening them with cease and desist notices while publicly claiming that he supports their work. You can read more about this mess on AtariAge, but the impression I'm getting is that Mr. Cardillo wants to sell licenses to produce software for a console that's been dead for (looks at watch) uh, thirty two years. It's like trying to put the genie back in the bottle, after it's been cremated and the ashes have been scattered to the sea.

Cardillo probably has no legal way to force ColecoVision game designers to accept a licensing agreement with his company, Coleco Holdings LLC. Sure, the ColecoVision brand is his, but the system is another story... if the glut of NES clones on the market are any indication, the patents on the hardware have long expired. Most likely, fans of the ColecoVision will continue to design games for the long-dead console independently, albeit with legal disclaimers on their title screens... and no shortage of contempt for the man who made them necessary.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Sticky Situation

First, I wanted to mention this just before I jump into the peripheral talk. Sony's got a sale going on right now, with a lot of games by their Santa Monica studio at sharp discounts. This is good. The fact that Carnival Island is one of these games is not. In addition to being one of the most coma-inducingly dull games for the Move, it's also hands down the most patronizing. Successfully toss a skeeball or a ring at a target and a nearby carny responds with "WAY TO GO, KID!," or "THAT WAS AWESOME!," or some other phony platitude that would insult even a member of the game's young target audience. Am I a member of that audience? No. Am I a guy desperate to find some use for his Move, who saw Carnival Island for a decent price and thought virtual skeeball would offer some fleeting entertainment? Yes. Was I entertained? HELL NO. Avoid this awful thing.

Okay, now onto the blood and guts of this post. I wasn't entirely satisfied with the Hori Fighting Stick 3 I purchased last month, so I've decided to build my own arcade-style joystick, using a heavy wooden box and authentic parts from vendors like GroovyGameGear (note: not a handheld system Shaggy plays between mysteries). I've gotten some fantastic advice from YouTube and AtariAge, along with some examples of what not to do when building a stick. Observe some of these horrors culled from a Google Image Search, and try not to scream.


This DIY disaster comes from Imgur. Lord, I hope this is just a prototype. I appreciate trying to save money on a case, but there are limits. If you don't have a drill, swallow your pride and borrow one from a friend. Don't break out the steak knife and improvise.


From the web site Walyou and possibly your nightmares: an arcade fightstick forcibly married to a typewriter. Hey, it's not like you're going to find any other use for them these days.


Here's one from Kotaku (sorry in advance). Did you know that Nintendo of America president Reginald Fils-Aime used to be a marketing specialist at Pizza Hut, spearheading the launch of the Bigfoot and Big New Yorker? Even he wouldn't approve of this.


This gem came from Imgur, and possibly the estate of Salvador Dali. I learned this the hard way with my spinner... don't make a peripheral with Tupperware. Just don't do it. It ends in tears.


So I guess you weren't too attached to that Nintendo Entertainment System, huh? Special, uh, thanks to Pinterest for this one.


From the "conceptual nightmare" department comes the Michael McDonald fight stick. It's a real conversation starter, if you want every one of your conversations to start with "what the hell were you thinking?" This came from Imgur and Gouki, who'd clobber McDonald in a street fight but wouldn't stand much of a chance against him in a karaoke competition.


Go ahead, get a nice tight grip on this shaft. Ron's waiting for your... input. Another joystick unwittingly endorsed by a celebrity, brought to you by the fine folks at Imgur.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Cats and Dogs, Living Together: The Mayflash Universal Adapter

I know, I know... peripherals are all I ever talk about these days. But I swear, this is important! That Mayflash Universal Adapter I bought last week is finally functional. It took a lot of soldering and even more swearing, but I installed a USB cable to replace the one that had shorted out. It was a Mickey Mouse job, and I don't know how long it'll last even with hot glue keeping the wires secure, but at least it works. For now. (Why yes, the death of my spinner has taken a wrecking ball to my confidence as a craftsman! Thanks for noticing!)


Frustratingly elusive, but practically
necessary for Playstation TV owners
running HENkaku.
Anyway, let's talk about this adapter's performance. As was reported on Reddit, it does indeed work with the Playstation TV. However, it requires a bit of effort to get going, especially if you've got your system hacked. There's only one USB port on that system, so you'll have to plug in a hub to use both the adapter and a flash drive (not technically necessary, but a lot more cost-effective than Sony's Vita memory cards). After that, you'll need to enter the home menu and assign the adapter to port one. It's more work (and wires) than I'd prefer, but it's hard to argue with the results. Emulators like PFBA and official games like the PSP port of Street Fighter Alpha 3 work marvelously with the Mayflash adapter. If you've got a compatible arcade stick, or the Saturn controller Sega released for the Playstation 2 twelve years ago, you'll be quite happy.


Beats buying the Xbox 360 version
of the game and starting from
the beginning, I guess.

(image from YouTube)
As handy as that feature may be, it's just a fortunate coincidence that the Mayflash Universal Adapter works with the Playstation TV. It was actually designed to let you use Xbox 360 controllers on a Playstation 3 and vice versa, and it works quite well for that purpose. It's extremely handy for racing games on the PS3, because I've never found the slippery right shoulder button on the Dual Shock 3 to work all that well as a gas pedal. The Xbox 360 pad's curved triggers keep your finger on the accelerator, letting you concentrate on drifting around corners and nailing opponents with shunts in Blur. The game is perfectly playable with the PS3's stock pad, but why not use a better controller if you've got that option?

Just in way of warning, the Mayflash Universal Adapter won't work with every controller in your collection. The Hori Fighting Stick 3 is a prime example... the adapter makes a valiant effort to recognize input from this notoriously picky stick, but it's slow to respond to button presses, if it notices them at all. This was the case on every console I tested it with, including the PSTV, Xbox 360, and PC. The two ports on the Mayflash- one for USB and the other for the Playstation 2- give you some room to experiment with unusual controllers, but don't expect everything you throw at the adapter to work.

There are better controller converters than the Mayflash Universal Adapter, and certainly cheaper ones. However, there aren't many that are this versatile, and almost none that function with the Playstation TV in particular. If you're still using yours and need a better controller for its wealth of fighting games, you may not have any other options.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

On the Right Track

So hey, that trackball arrived! That's him on the right, next to the joystick with a kazillion buttons.


It's a lot smaller than I was hoping, and clearly designed for the less strenuous task of home office work. However, the Kensington Orbit works reasonably well as an arcade controller, pinch hitting for my broken spinner in games like Block Block and performing well beyond expectations in Atari's Star Wars. Intercepting those pesky fireballs is a breeze when you can just roll your crosshairs over them.

Some games that didn't work well with the Orbit include SegaSonic the Hedgehog, Major Havoc, and Space Harrier. SegaSonic is no big loss; it kind of sucks anyway, as nice as it looks. Major Havoc tends to be a little finicky with any controller you throw at it, and I never cared for the floaty, auto-centering movement in the arcade and later console versions of Space Harrier. Say what you will about the Game Boy Advance version of this game in Sega Arcade Gallery, but at least you're not constantly being dragged to the middle of the screen!

Trust me, it's better
than it looks.
So it's a net plus for the Orbit so far, but what really makes the trackball shine is the Atari release Quantum. This game typically gets ignored in favor of that other arcade title with trackball controls and a subatomic theme, Reactor, but don't believe the hype! Quantum is way better, challenging players to draw circles around floating particles to destroy them. It feels like an ancestor of the touchscreen-based games of today, and it's honestly perplexing that Atari hasn't capitalized on this with a remake. I'll be reviewing Quantum in the future, but in the meantime, get yourself a trackball and give it a spin. (The trackball and the game, I mean.) I think you'll be impressed.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Rise of the Machines

The robot revolution predicted in the Terminator films and Futurama has arrived. And I've become the target of its first assault on humanity.

First, I ordered a Mayflash adapter online, only to receive a baby stroller cover instead. Then, the spinner that I spent hours building craps out on me. Now, the second Mayflash adapter I ordered to replace the one I never received won't work. Evidently a kinked cable is to blame... I can force it to turn on by bending it in just the right place, but only briefly. A closer examination with a multimeter suggests that ALL the wires in the cable are shorted out, but if I attempt a repair, I obviously can't send it back to the eBay seller. If I DON'T attempt a repair, I'll have to spend five dollars to send it back, and I'll have to order another one, which will take another week to arrive and oh god I hate my life.

I recently ordered a trackball, but I've got an uncomfortable feeling that it's somehow going to spite me as well. Maybe the damned thing will leap out of the box and strangle me to death with its USB cable. That's the way this month has been going for me, and we're just two days into it.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Out with the New, in with the New

I hope you're holding onto something! Despite some initial reluctance, demand from gamers around the world has persuaded Nintendo to make... a new model of the 2DS.


What?!
...
What?!

No, seriously. There's going to be a New 2DS XL which straddles the fence between the child-friendly original and the more advanced model of the 3DS currently in stores. It's got the clamshell design and all the hardware perks of the New 3DS... the faster processor, the increased memory, that sad excuse for a second analog joystick, yadda yadda yadda. 

However, Nintendo has given the New 2DS XL a more damage-resistant design, and removed the 3D display that had once defined the hardware. Even adults don't use that feature much, so the kids this system was designed for probably won't miss it at all. The New 2DS XL will make its American debut in late July for around $150. You can check it out in all its rubberized glory below.

image from Go Nintendo
It seems the rumored (and frankly, more appealing) Switch Mini will have to wait for another couple of years. Pity.

Off that subject, I picked up the Playstation 3 version of Blur at a pawn shop a few weeks ago. You might remember that one from the commercials, which mocked the beloved Mario Kart series and paid dearly for it in sales when it was finally released. Those ads left a bad taste in my mouth, but the game itself is pretty amazing, a flashy hybrid of the aforementioned Mario Kart and Need for Speed Underground. It's easily the best of the arcade-style racers released in the early 2010s, with the active combat Split/Second and Ridge Racer Unbounded were sorely lacking. I lucked out and got my copy for two dollars, but it's easily worth ten, maybe more if you really like your kart combat.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Misfire

You'll forgive me if I'm a little saltier (even saltier?) than usual today. I ordered this from a retailer on Amazon, hoping to use my Saturn pad with my Playstation TV, and my recently acquired Hori Fighting Stick on anything but the Playstation 3.


What I purchased was a Mayflash controller adapter. What I got in the mail a week later was, uh, this.



It was an easy mistake to make, right? I mean, it's not like you can tell the difference between a baby stroller cover and a video game peripheral at a glance! Ugh.

To their credit, Bleech- er, Blinq- refunded my purchase and let me keep the thing I never asked for and didn't want in the first place. Maybe in a few years I'll be able to look back at this cruel cosmic joke and laugh. Right now, though, it's hard for me to appreciate the humor in this situation.

It's not just that it's a stone cold bitch to find one of these Mayflash adapters at a reasonable price. It's that the Playstation TV refuses to work with practically everything else. There was a list of wired controllers and adapters on Reddit which work properly with the PSTV... you could count them all on one hand, with one finger left to express your frustration with the micro console's extreme pickiness.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that while there are dozens of hacks available for both the Vita and PSTV, nobody's tried to broaden the latter system's compatibility with wired controllers. Sure, you can wirelessly connect a Wiimote, but that's not going to be much help in a game like Street Fighter Alpha 3 MAX. What I need is a controller designed especially for the dozens of fighting games on the Playstation TV. Considering all that's happened in the past couple of weeks, I'm not confident I'll ever find one.