Saturday, February 28, 2015

One Step Forward, One Step Back

I'm gonna close out February with a compelling tidbit of information I found on Talking Time, a forum I regularly visit. During a discussion about the Super NES, I mentioned a rumor about the system:

I've heard that the Super NES was potentially compatible with the NES, in the same way the Genesis was backward compatible with the Master System. All it was missing was the cartridge slot. Sega offered one for the Genesis, but for whatever reason, Nintendo wasn't interested in following suit.

It turns out that the rumor isn't entirely accurate, but not as far off the mark as you might think. Here's what TT member RT-55J had to say on the subject:

The 6502 processor, powering the NES,
the Apple IIe, and surly robot laborers.
From a hardware design perspective, the NES and SNES have a lot of similarities, but there are a number of differences. They probably intended for some form of backwards compatibility, but as the hardware design evolved its likely that they realized the how impractical it would be to implement. 

They might have been able to make it play Donkey Kong, but having it play all the games on this page (not an exhaustive list), or any game using more advanced mappers like the MMC3 (quite common) or MMC5 (Castlevania 3) would have required keeping far too much detritus from the NES's quirky design, which would have likely hamstrung the SNES's capabilities as well.

At the very least, NES -> SNES sourceports are relatively trivial from a programmer's perspective, as the 65816 was a successor to the 6502. Code relating to audio and raster effects would have to be heavily refactored, but that's to be expected.

There were a small handful of NES games ported to the Super Nintendo by hackers, but they're less demanding launch titles like the three Donkey Kongs and 10 Yard Fight, which had to be recoded for the format. You can test drive one of these hacks here, if you don't mind using your keyboard.

On a related note, there was a title for the Turbografx-16 (PC Engine in other territories) called 15-in-1 Mega Collection, which was actually a handful of games originally written for the VIC-20 home computer! They play pretty much the way you remember them... if anyone remembers the VIC-20 in the far-flung year of 2015. Which they don't, so forget I mentioned it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It Came from Miiverse II: The Verse-ening

Bad news, folks! My laptop took a header off my bed, breaking the hard drive and making it tougher to update this blog. Since I'm not going to be able to get a replacement until March, I'll have to get creative with this installment of Kiblitzing. How about some of the images I've uploaded to Miiverse over the past couple of months?


Sorry, you're getting them anyway!

I don't think I ever went into the full details of how I acquired my new 3DS XL, so let's start there. I'd heard on CheapAssGamer that Target was liquidating their stock of older game consoles for half their usual price, so I watched the nearest location like a hawk, using an online Lego toy tracker to keep tabs on their inventory. After careful planning and no small amount of luck, I rushed to Sierra Vista on New Year's Eve to claim my prize. I... may have been overly enthusiastic about my acquisition.

I don't think it would be an overreaction to claim that the larger 3DS makes using Miiverse a lot more fun, though.

Speaking of New Year's, something disturbing happened to me a day later at a local restaurant. Radio personality and cartoon stoner Casey Kasem was doing his usual Top Forty broadcast, which wouldn't be so odd if he hadn't died six months earlier.

Zoinks, indeed. Evidently it wasn't black magic that brought Kasem back from the dead, but the even more sinister force of broadcast syndication. Chances are, he'll be ringing in the new year even after the rest of us have shuffled off this mortal coil.

Off that subject, did you know there are archer fish in Natsume's platformer Yumi's Odd Odyssey? Because they introduced themselves to me pretty quickly.

At any rate, a magnificent aim.

People were pretty upset when they discovered that the smaller of the two New 3DS systems, with its stylish interchangeable face plates, wasn't coming to America. I imagine Nintendo president Satoru Iwata was lovin' every minute of their anguish.

I wouldn't get too worried, though. I mean, when has Nintendo NOT released a superfluous upgrade to one of their handhelds in the United States?

Worry not for Nikki, as her fate wasn't as dire as this sketch would suggest. According to Tiny Cartridge, she still makes cameo appearances in Japanese 3DS games. Hey, it's better than nothing!

As a general rule, I don't like YouTube celebrities. Mostly because I wasn't able to become one, but also because they get a little too full of themselves and put their considerable influence behind unsavory causes. Witness Boogie, aka "Francis," who bet on the wrong horse with that whole GamerGate mess. (Then ate it immediately afterward.)

(Bad Jess! No fat jokes!)
(Ow, ow! Sorry! Geez!)

Hey, I just figured out what that Bandai-Namco logo is supposed to be!

Look, I love A Link Between Worlds to pieces, but why would the aesthetically obsessed Yuga willingly choose to merge himself with a blue warthog? Are you familiar with the robot term "does not compute?" Geez, at least step up to the ruggedly handsome Ganondorf!

I probably posted this one before. I don't care; it's good enough to use again. It's the only upgrade you'll ever need!

I was feeling nostalgic when I posted this one. Remember the later seasons of The Super Mario Super Show when they replaced Captain Lou and Danny Wells with two cheesy 1990s stereotypes? Boy do I wish I could forget.

There are kids using Miiverse who weren't around to experience a Mario who doesn't sound like the Pillsbury Dough Boy sprinkled with oregano. Pity them.

One more reason to be glad that Nintendo isn't Microsoft.

This was posted on the Resident Evil: Revelations page, shortly after Rand Paul was making an eel of himself claiming that vaccines should be optional for parents. Because as we all know, libertarians think it's their right to do things that are both obnoxious and socially damaging as long as they're not personally affected.

There's no game alive that Tekken won't cross over with. Coming soon: Sanrio Surprises presents Hello Heihachi!

As you may already know, Nintendo is shutting down its Club Nintendo promotion after six years. The official Club Nintendo web site can't keep up with the flood of customers hoping to cash in their coins, resulting in error messages which assure them that the infamously greedy Wario will look after their virtual currency for them. Uh, maybe you should choose some other Nintendo star to handle their money. (Don't say Tingle.)

Okay, that's enough silliness for today. However, you can rest assured that this is not the last you'll see of my Miiverse drawings!

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Future is Sixteen Years Ago: King of Fighters '99 for the Playstation

Uh, sorry. Anyway, here's some tidings of great gaming joy for those interested! There's a love/hate Flash Sale going on over at PSN to celebrate both Friday the 13th (which it is) and Valentine's Day (which it soon will be). Games up for grabs include everything from hentai titles like Idea Factory's game-consoles-as-girls adventure Hyperdimension Neptunia (which is a fantastic idea in theory, at least) to a whooooole lot of versus fighters. Stack that on top of an SNK sale already in progress and you've got pure paradise for penny-pinching pretend pugilists. Special thanks to the always handy CheapAssGamer for the scoop.

This sale gives me a convenient opportunity to talk about one of my favorite Neo-Geo releases. You can pick up a copy of King of Fighters '99 for the PSOne and play it on a variety of Sony-branded systems, even that silly Playstation TV thing that the company can't seem to give away. Now I know you're thinking, "Ew, a PSOne fighting game!," and I thought that too at first. Trust me, though, it's worth the obscenely low price. I mean, come on, $1.20? It costs almost that much to snap into a Slim Jim. 

Milk, it does a battle good.
Beyond that, this is a surprisingly good port of a King of Fighters game that took the series in a bold new direction. Yes, some animation has been skimmed off the top, and no, you don't get the cool 3D backgrounds from the Dreamcast version. However, the gameplay is still brilliant after all these years, and the graphics just drip with color on the Vita's OLED screen. If you're an SNK fan, you want this. You really, really want this.

Just a few notes for anyone who plans to play this on a Vita. First, be sure to turn on fast loading, because otherwise, you'll go batty waiting for each round to start. You could probably further limit the access time by using a single character rather than a team, but then it wouldn't really be The King of Fighters, would it? Second, resist the temptation to reach for the Home button when Kryzalid appears, because he's been dramatically watered down in the PSOne port. Instead of spamming the screen with Old Navies, he'll let you get close enough to smack him around, making the fight mercifully short and painless. I thank you, SNK, and my blood pressure thanks you.

Okay, enough outta me! Get yourself a copy before the sale ends this Monday!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sure, why not? Hyper Fighting for the Virtual Boy

Homebrew game designers never let a silly thing like common sense get in the way of a project, and in that tradition comes Hyper Fighting, a loose conversion of Street Fighter II Turbo for the Virtual Boy. Some liberties were taken with the artwork, and the physics aren't as airtight as they were in Capcom's official games, but it's nevertheless an impressive effort. I don't think a Virtual Boy port of Street Fighter II was on anyone's wish list, but here it is anyway! Special thanks to VectrexRoli from the AtariAge forums for the (somewhat bewildering) news.

 On another note, Radio Shack has declared bankruptcy after decades of supplying the world's nerds with soldering irons and three-way switches. It's a bittersweet occasion... I haven't shopped much at the Shack lately, but when I was a child, the store was a wonderland of fascinating consumer electronics. I still own two of their pocket computers, which were laughably low-tech even for the time but still hold a place in my heart as my first all-purpose, all-access electronic devices, decades before the smartphones and tablets of today. Thanks for the memories, Radio Shack.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Peevish Player Picks A Pocketful of Portable Ponderings

I'm grateful to Jeremy Parish for the years I was a freelance contributor to the late, great 1UP, but nevertheless, I worry a little that it's made my writing style a bit too... formal. Back in the day, I was better known for stream of consciousness pieces that reflected my mood without any greater purpose... so let's revisit that golden age, shall we? Here now are some random thoughts that have been bouncing around my head as of late.

"Golden Sun! Golden Sun!" Er, sorry.
 Around this time last year I was bitten by the Game Boy Advance collecting bug, and hard. I must have tripled my collection until the obsession burned itself out after I bought a Vita in May. Guess what's come back with a vengeance? I recently purchased a handful of GBA games from a seller on Cheap Ass Gamer, who was eager to unload his stock. By the end of the week F-Zero GP, Golden Sun, Final Fantasy: Dawn of Souls, Advance Wars 2, and Sim City 2000 will be taking up residence inside my already bulging Tupperware case full of Advance cartridges. I also have the first Super Mario Advance coming from a seller on eBay, which will finish my collection of that series. Hooray for the hoarding instinct!

 By the way, I've grown somewhat disillusioned with the Final Fantasy series after playing the sixth one on my Vita. You know, Final Fantasy VI, the crown jewel in the long-running series and the last game before the switch to polygonal characters and constant cut scenes? The game as it's presented on PSN suffers from insane load times before and after battles (five freaking seconds. Believe me, I've counted), but what I find most hard to swallow is the stiff, primitive combat. Tiny characters shuffle to the middle of the screen, swing their weapons, and shuffle back in a laughably 8-bit show of force. Cast "confuse" on a pack of wolves and their sprites awkwardly shift back and forth until settling on the opposite direction. Yes, the artwork for all the enemies is gorgeous, and the magic spells can only be described as psychedelic (cast Bio, turn on a black light, and fire up a doob), but I still can't help but get the feeling that I'm locked in a battle to the death with cardboard standees. Even Sega managed better with the fights in Shining Force and its sequel... they're still primitive by today's standards, but at least it looks like they TRIED.

The PSP-3000 is indeed sweet, but
I still want to punch this annoying
SOB in the jewels.
 I've been so happy with my own PSP-3000 that I've been meaning to spread the love to other gamers. I finally got that chance, picking up a cheap unit on eBay for The Gay Gamer's Bryan Ochalla. By the way, it's not just because I was feeling generous, or because it seems like he's the only guy who reads this blog. I was hoping to diversify the content on his own page, which leans a little too hard on Nintendo's systems for my taste. Man cannot live on Mario alone, after all! It probably would have been cheaper for me to read more than the same three blogs day after day, but feh, whatever.

Right now, I'm sweating bullets wondering (and worrying) if the system will reach its destination in one piece. The seller was an eBay newcomer, and his communication has been quick but distressingly terse. The fact that he was unwilling to insure the package or even offer tracking makes me even more nervous. On the plus side, he left his phone number in the auction listing, so I can always give him a friendly reminder (and another reminder, and another...) if there are any delays. Cross your fingers and toes for Bryan and me, folks.

This almost makes up for the hours of zero progress I
made in Falcom's other game Legacy of the Wizard.
 If you missed The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky in a recent PSN sale, well, sucks to be you! I'm already eight hours into this one and it's proved more entertaining than the dozen other RPGs I bought in the past month. (When the hell am I gonna spend any serious time with these? Oh well, to the backlog you go!) It feels more like Grandia III than the official sequel by Square-Enix,with whimsical characters and a similar (although not entirely identical) combat system. The members of your party actually battle their opponents face to face! Now THAT'S entertainment! It takes time to wrap your head around the magic system, and the rendered sprites drain some of the personality out of the experience, but Trails in the Sky is nevertheless the most fun I've had with an adventure game since December's love affair with Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth. It's a pity American gamers never got the last two chapters of the trilogy.

Well, it's true.
  I wasn't on board with Miiverse at first, but now I recognize the brilliance of this social network designed exclusively for Nintendo customers. Gamers can not only post their thoughts on the games they're playing and offer screenshots of their accomplishments, but draw monochrome pictures as well, which often prove more expressive than you might expect. To my relief, Nintendo has been surprisingly lax on content... out of the 125 comments and images I've posted, including several critical of Nintendo and the upcoming New 3DS XL, the Miiverse admins have flagged just one. (Evidently posting Triumph the Insult Comic Dog on the page for Natsume's unfortunately titled S.C.A.T. is a no-no. Hey, I didn't name it!) I'm not sure if Miiverse will be an option in the next generation of Nintendo consoles, but if the feature is dropped in the future, it will be sorely missed.

A small fraction of what's available
to Club Nintendo members during
the promotion's final hours.
 Ooh, ooh! This one's important! Club Nintendo is going out with a bang, offering a hundred different downloadable games that can be purchased with Nintendo coins. These include everything from Super NES and Game Boy Advance classics to retail releases for both the 3DS and Wii U, everyone's favorite quasi-portable game console. You'll need a lot of coins to purchase Star Fox 3D or Paper Mario Sticker Star, but the option is nevertheless available. (Don't waste your coins on Sticker Star, by the way... you deserve better.) You've got until June to cash in your chips... after that, the Club Nintendo promotion goes kaput, and your coins will vanish along with it. By the way, there's still a special prize in store for players who've reached Gold or Platinum status. Nobody knows what that will be yet, but if anyone from Nintendo is reading this, I'd be quite happy with Super Mario 3D Land as a parting gift...

(images culled from various online sources, unless I took the pictures myself.)