Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Unlikely Return of the Playstation TV

Bronco bustin' banana boats! The Playstation TV has once again been resurrected by hackers, who have ended its dependence on Sony's stupidly expensive Vita memory cards. Now, games can be stored and accessed from an ordinary flash drive, giving you a hell of a lot more bang for your buck. 

To give you an idea of just how good this news really is, a 32GB Vita card costs about $70 online. A flash drive of the same size will set you back ten dollars, or even less if you're a savvy shopper. Past that, a Vita card will only work with Vita products, but a flash drive will fit in any PC you've got lying around the house. This makes adding files to your PSTV a lot easier than it's been in the past.

You'll find more about the hack on this page. There are some conditions, mind you... your PSTV must be on firmware 3.60, and it has to be a PSTV, not a handheld Vita. The hackers don't have a solution for that yet, and aren't confident that they'll find one. Still, if you've got a PSTV that's been gathering dust and a large library of digital games, this is very, very good news. Thanks to Wololo and Hack Informer for the scoop.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Now Brought to You in Giganto-Vision!

You remember that faulty television set I bought at a thrift store about a month ago? I worked up the nerve to order the replacement part last week and installed it today. I didn't have much faith that I would get it working again, but here it is, running like a champ! Hold on, let me show you a picture of this mammoth set in action...


This doesn't give you an idea of just how large this Vizio is, so let me put it next to my 3DS for the sake of scale...


That's a 3DS XL, by the way. It's big for a handheld, but compared to this 42 inch television, it's practically shrimp-tastic. It's like pitting the Geico lizard against Godzilla.

I'll admit this set I brought back from the dead isn't perfect... there's a small blemish near the top left of the screen, and it runs a little hot, which I desperately hope isn't a sign of a larger problem. For the moment, though, I'm happy. It's not only huge, but the resolution is a no-longer-cutting-edge-but-still-quite-comfortable 1080p, really bringing out the details in visual powerhouses like Mortal Kombat XL.

On the downside, the TV is so large that I can see jaggies up close, making me understand why the industry is pushing to make 4K the new standard. Eh, first world problems. If this set keeps me from going blind while trying to read all the text in Final Fantasy XV, that's good enough.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Internal Dialogue

"Oh, hey! Far Cry 4 is on sale for the Xbox 360! I bought that months ago for the Playstation 3... I could be playing it right now!"
"Do you really want to?"
"Well, uh, kinda..."
"Do you really want to, though? You fumbled with the controls the last time. That and all the mountains in that so-called open world game prevented you from making any progress."
"Mph. Yeah, I guess you're right. Well, I could always play that racing game I just got!"
"You already have it on the Vita. You didn't like it there, either."
"But this is on Playstation 3! It'll have better graphics!"
"Do you really think it'll make that much of a difference?"
"All right, all right, fine. What do you suggest I play instead?"
"Actually, I was thinking you could crawl in bed and sleep for a while. That always works. No commitment required."
"But I already did that this afternoon!"
"And you enjoyed it, right?"
"Can I at least screw around with my tablet, or maybe scribble something in Miiverse while I'm there?"
"Yes, that would be acceptable."
"Joy."

Friday, March 10, 2017

It's-a me, March 10th!

Hm, that doesn't work so well when you spell it out. 

Anyway... there's plenty of good news for gamers today, including a sequel to Blaster Master, five Neo-Geo titles for the Switch including deep cuts like Waku Waku 7, and an update to the Playstation 4 which offers compatibility with external drives and improves overall performance on the Playstation 4 Pro. I'm not sure why we even needed a Pro version of a three year old console, but if you've got the deep pockets for this mega-machine, firmware 4.50 ought to justify the investment.

Friday, March 3, 2017

You'll Never Guess What I Just Got!

It's March 3rd... the perfect time to show you the system I just bought!


What, you were expecting a Switch?

There's a fun story behind this acquisition. While on a trip to Sierra Vista, I stopped by a thrift shop in neighboring Huachuca City. Next to the stacks of music CDs and outdated computer programs, I spotted a ColecoVision with two stock controllers and two Super Action joysticks... Coleco's rough equivalent of the Xbox Elite pad or the Switch Pro controller.

I was a little shocked, because this store usually reserves such treasures for its online auctions. Apparently, the ColecoVision was supposed to end up on eBay too, but the owner of the shop had a momentary lapse of sanity and left it in the middle of the shop, to be snatched up by the first lucky bastard who recognized its value.

The manager sold it to me out of a grim sense of obligation... after all, it was right there with the rest of the merchandise, so it was fair game to customers. The assistant manager didn't seem too happy about it, though, bitterly reminding me that I'd gotten a steal as I carried the ColecoVision back to the car. No arguments there... at $20, it cost as much as the Flashback machines in Wal-Mart, but this is the real deal, manufactured by Coleco itself in the early 1980s!

The only problem is that the system didn't come with any games or the power supply. I'm not worried about the games- they'll look better in an emulator anyway- but the power supply might be an issue. Unlike most consoles of the time, the ColecoVision uses three voltages, so you can't just plug in a universal AC adapter and call it a day. Either you've got to buy an official power supply (bulky, heavy, and in short supply) or hack the internal hardware to make it play nice with modern equipment. I don't have the deep pockets for the former or the stomach for the latter, so emulation it is!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Talk is Cheap (and annoying)

Is February almost over already? And I haven't posted anything for over a week? Sheesh!


Freezerburn.
(image from Wikipedia)
Okay, let's try this. I recently purchased the Playstation 4 version of Mortal Kombat XL during last week's PSN sale, and while I'm not the biggest fan of the gore or the ridiculously hard to perform brutalities, I certainly appreciate the effort that went into the game. Most of the characters were given talented voice actors and loads of personality, with the two Cages and newcomer Takeda being highlights. The graphics are even more gorgeous than in the last Mortal Kombat, with beautifully illustrated backgrounds and startlingly human kombatants. If that weren't enough, there's plenty of content, with dozens of fighters and three different play styles for each. It's a standout fighting game on a system with no shortage of competitors. Better than Street Fighter V? Yup. Better than King of Fighters XIV? Well... it certainly looks better, at least. If you're new to the Playstation 4 and are in the market for a versus fighter, Mortal Kombat XL should be on the top of your shopping list.

All of my PS4 fighting games have been getting a lot of love lately, while the system pack-in, Uncharted 4, remains sealed in shrinkwrap. Frankly, I'm not looking forward to the mountains of exposition that I'll have to sit through just to get to the action. It's a big problem with today's video games... there's too much story and not nearly enough, you know, video game. One of the reasons I enjoy versus fighters so much is that they remind me of the arcade scene from the 1990s, where you were playing as soon as you dropped in a coin. The game industry of the 21st century could use a lot more of that instant gratification, and a lot less of the chatter.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Glutton for Punishment

How do I get myself into these messes, anyway?

I picked up a copy of Bloodborne during PSN's Flash Sale, despite knowing full well what happened when I played Demon's Souls seven years ago on the Playstation 3. Much hair was lost, many teeth were gnashed, and a full wardrobe of garments were rent, until I came to the bitter realization that this style of game just wasn't for me. 

But because I was convinced I needed something meatier in my Playstation 4 library than fighting games, I'm back at square one with Bloodborne... and have barely progressed beyond it. The latest title from, er, From Software brings the punishing gameplay of the Souls series into 19th century England. This time, crowds of torch-wielding lunatics and grotesque monsters are hoping to get medieval Victorian on your ass, and your only hope for survival is a "trick" weapon that can be shortened for quick strikes, or lengthened to keep enemies at a safe distance. (Well, in theory at least... they usually end up slaughtering you anyway.)

Burn up the old... bring in the new...
(image from game.co.uk)
I don't know if it's the extra horsepower of the PS4 or seven years of refinements to the core gameplay, but Bloodborne feels tighter than the old Souls games. Your character dodges more quickly and swings his weapon without leaving himself wide open to counterattack. However, the number of enemies has increased to compensate, sometimes drastically. An early scene has a throng of foes gathered around a burning stake, with a dozen sentries standing nearby. Taking them out is a time-consuming progress of luring individuals from the crowd with gunfire (so laughably weak that it offers little more than a distraction) or sneaking behind stragglers for a stealth kill. Make a mistake and you're thrown back to a checkpoint set agonizingly far from where you were slain.

You'll spend as much time in Bloodborne recovering the ground you've lost as you will making concrete progress, and the grim knowledge that you'll have to repeat everything you've already done (perhaps for the fourth time) is maddening. Like, "pound the walls, stomp the floor, scream every expletive in the book and a few you just made up" maddening. Shortcuts make the trip to the end of a level less painful, but you've got to find them first, and they don't take you straight to the boss... you'll need to fight a half-dozen formidable enemies to reach his front door. At best, it's a waste of time, and at worst, it's senselessly cruel.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. Or who
turn around and go in the opposite direction.
Doesn't matter, really.
(image from GameFAQs)
Bloodborne can be entertaining when it takes the boot off your throat. After hours of fruitless struggling, I found an detour through Yharnum... a sewer with less dangerous enemies and plenty of hidden items. It was fun to explore for a while without worrying that I'd be pounded into lunch meat by an eight foot tall ogre. But then I stumbled across the merciless Father Gascoigne, and I was once again wondering if the brief moments of joy were worth the blood, sweat, and tears. I'll probably be asking myself that question a lot, considering that I spent eighty hours with Demon's Souls before I finally had the sense to give up on it.