Monday, August 31, 2015

Theme for a Day

So, you probably already know by now that Nintendo is releasing the standard sized New 3DS in the United States. (Imaging my lack of surprise!) I'm not sure I'd be so quick to call it "the best 3DS" as Parish has, but it does have the advantage of removable front plates, letting you customize it at your whim without having to run out and buy an entirely new system. As an owner of the slightly less new New 3DS XL, I don't have that option, so I've had to customize my system from the inside. Allow me to explain...

About a month ago, someone found a backdoor in the 3DS hardware that didn't require the costly Cubic Ninja cartridge; just Ironfall, a freebie on the Nintendo eShop. That game is no longer available, but I managed to snag a copy before it was purged, along with an exploit that lets you run homebrew software. Most of it is really early and nowhere near as impressive as the dozens of apps available for the PSP. There's a promising but buggy Super NES emulator here, a program that lets you earn more than ten walk coins a day there... that kind of thing. 

However, there's one program called CHMM that lets you install your own custom themes, after you design them on your computer with another program called YATA+. It's a time consuming and occasionally frustrating process, but it yields fantastic results if you know what you're doing. I decided to take a crack at theme design myself, using some Mr. Driller fan art from a friend who calls herself Momodriller. Here's how it turned out...

Momo's use of perspective, with the young hero plunging to the center of the Earth to do battle with a gigantic mining machine, makes this picture look great on the 3DS's twin screens. 

But that ain't all, folks! I whipped up several other themes, which I'll share with you now. I put this one together shortly after making the Mr. Driller theme...

All right, it's nothing particularly exciting, but what can I say? I'm a fan of the show. Wilmore's takedown of the jerky Minnesota dentist who shot that lion bordered on glorious. Okay, here's something more relevant...

It's Capcom vs SNK 2, one of the best fighting games ever made! I cobbled this together from images I found online, along with a screenshot I took in the NullDC emulator. I have mixed thoughts about using yellow on the bottom screen... it tends to distract you from the icons, even with the saturation turned down. Okay, just one more!

Like the Wilmore theme posted earlier, this was rather self-indulgent. However, that shot of the cast works pretty well in 3D. You almost feel like they're looking straight at you... somewhat accusingly, I might add. Hold on a sec, I've got to hide my smuggled dilithium crystals...

Anyway! If you'd like to make your own 3DS themes, this tutorial will help you get in on the fun. Just keep in mind that you'll need a way to hack your system, be it with a copy of Cubic Ninja, Ironfall, or the YouTube app.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Quick Bytes: Battle Fantasia

Pretty sure you already did.
(image from Killa B)
Sorry I haven't been posting much, folks. I've been caught in the swirling vortex of addiction that is Disgaea. Can you believe I've already spent sixty hours with it? Probably, if you own it too. The game has almost infinite replay value thanks to the Item Worlds, which contain a hundred randomly generated stages. Each item has dozens of other items in it, which contain their own Item Worlds, which means you could potentially play it forever. And from the way things look right now, I could!

But forever is a long, long time. I have to take a break from Disgaea every once in a while, and one of the games that's helping me do that is Battle Fantasia. Designed by Arc System Works (of Guilty Gear fame) and released in the United States by Aksys Games, Battle Fantasia is a pretty ordinary versus fighter in most respects. Instead of the array of confusing buttons usually offered in ASW fighters, you get just two punches and two kicks. Each character has a handful of special moves, two super attacks, and a "heat up" move which temporarily boosts their abilities. If this reminds you of Vampire Savior's Dark Force feature, you're not far off base.

Watch me turn this rabbit into cold cuts!
So there really isn't much that separates Battle Fantasia from other fighting games, apart from the window dressing. It's presented in the style of an action RPG, with a medieval fantasy setting and hit points flying out of your opponents as you smack them around. Like Sunsoft's Waku Waku 7, the character selection is modest but memorable, with a bunny wizard, a toddler swordsman, and a teen armed with the world's most versatile weapon. It's a cannon! It's a chainsaw! It's a jetpack! It slices, dices, and makes julienne fries out of your opponents! The only thing it's missing is an infomercial starring Ron Popeil.

What else? Oh yeah. You may not notice this at first glance, but Battle Fantasia is a polygonal fighter, in the same vein as Street Fighter IV. All the characters are 3D models, which isn't a big deal NOW but must have been surprising when it was first released for the Xbox 360 in 2008. You can catch a hard edge or two on the fighters if you look carefully, but if you're not a stickler for detail you'll swear they were hand drawn. It's not even readily apparent from the gameplay that the game is polygonal... combos don't chain as smoothly as they do in Street Fighter or King of Fighters, but the pace is just as brisk.

I've played a lot of fighters over the past quarter of a century, and I wouldn't call Battle Fantasia one of my favorites. However, it only cost me two dollars in last week's PSN sale, and I can honestly say it was worth the price. I just wish I could pay $19.99 for that crazy all-purpose weapon Urs carries around with him...

Friday, August 21, 2015

Last Resort: Polishing a Scratched Screen

Before I begin, I must stress that if you try this trick, you do it at your own risk. I cannot be held responsible for any damage done to your system, and it is a possibility. That's why it's called a last resort.

All right, now to the post! I picked up a cheap PSP Go on eBay a couple of months ago. I was overjoyed that it worked at all, but the screen was a mess... evidently the previous owner had left it in their pocket along with their car keys, because there were two long gouges on the right hand side. As you might imagine, these huge scratches proved rather distracting when playing games.

I tried every 21st century folk remedy in the book to remove them, from toothpaste to baking soda, without success. Apparently, the factory puts an anti-glare coating on the front of the screen that's just soft enough to get scratched by sharp objects, but just hard enough to resist most attempts at buffing the scratches out.

Cerium Oxide: Available at a fine
mad scientist near you!
Luckily, there's a solution for getting rid of that blasted coating! This is a budget-friendly twist on a tip I found on Instructables. I'm sure the original trick works just fine, but it requires cerium oxide or jeweller's rouge, and I can tell you from personal experience that neither are household items. You're also going to have trouble finding those very specific grades of sandpaper, unless you're willing to order them online or pay big bucks to a specialty shop.

Here's what I used. All of these materials can be found in the hardware and auto care section of Wal-Mart for a reasonable price. If you're not a fan of Wal-Mart, you should be able to dig them up at other retailers, like Meijer or Target. The total cost of the materials should be around twenty bucks.

1000 grit wet/dry sandpaper ($3)
2000 grit wet/dry sandpaper ($3)
Meguiar's Scratch X 2.0, 7 oz. ($8)
Roll of car polishing cloths ($3)
Small cup of water (just grab one from around the house)
Scissors (same deal)
Glass cleaner spray (ditto)

Take a sheet of each type of sandpaper and cut a square inch off each. Label them by grit on the opposite side with a ballpoint pen if you think it's necessary... they look and feel very similar. Now clean the front of your system with a cloth and a bit of the glass cleaner, removing all bits of dust and grime from the screen.

Sure it's long and tedious, but Cobra-Kai
will never get through your iron defense!
Next, dip the piece of 1000 grit sandpaper into the cup of water. Grab it by the corner and scrub the screen with it, working in small clockwise circles. Cover the entire screen, including the edges... these are the hardest to get. You'll start noticing a whitish paste... that's the anti-glare coating breaking apart. Wipe it off occasionally, and dip the sandpaper again when it starts to dry. Keep scrubbing thoroughly for two or three minutes, then put the sandpaper down and wipe off the screen.

"Oh lord, it's a mess! It's too blurry to see anything now!" Don't sweat it, man, you're not finished. Now grab the 2000 grit sandpaper, dip it in water, and repeat the process. The finer grit will further break down the coating and make the scratches finer. You'll start noticing that some parts of the screen are shiny and reflective, while others are dull and cloudy. Concentrate on the cloudy portions of the screen... that's where the coating remains, stubbornly holding on for dear life. Keep scrubbing until it's gone... show no mercy!

Not just for cars!
Now comes the coup de grace. Grab that bottle of Maguiar's ScratchX 2.0 and squeeze a pea-sized drop of it onto one of the car polishing cloths. Apply it to the screen and rub it in with firm circular strokes. Be thorough... buff the entire screen, including the edges. Wipe off the residue with a moistened cloth and repeat the process a couple of times. Now clean the screen with the wet cloth and survey your work.

The scratches from the sandpaper should be gone, and most of the anti-glare coating should be too. You'll probably have to repeat the process a couple of times before it's satisfactory... expect to invest thirty minutes in a single screen. Once you're done, though, you'll be amazed by the results. The screen will be gorgeous, without scratches or discolorations. The screen will also be shiny, so you might want to invest in a plastic screen cover to cut down on the glare and keep the bare glass protected.

I've tried this with two systems so far, my PSP Go and my early model Vita, and have had positive results with both. Again, I stress that you do this at your own risk, so if you're not absolutely sure, give it a test run on a handheld you don't use much, or like much.

So by now, you're probably asking, "Jess, homeskillet, why would you spend that much money and put that much effort in cleaning a screen when you could just buy a new one?" One, because I can clean multiple screens with this, and two... well, have you seen how hard it is to replace the display on a PSP Go? Nooooo thank you!

Special thanks to Instructables' Hazard Labs for providing the inspiration for this tip.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Good, The Bad, and the 3D

Me, in 2014: "What? ANOTHER 3DS?! I'm not buying this crap!"
Me, in 2015: "Great, I just bought this crap."

In my defense, it was irresistibly cheap thanks to that K-Mart sale mentioned in my last post. At $200, I never would have considered a New 3DS, but at half the price... well, I had to give it a shot. So I went to the Wal-Mart in Nogales yesterday, and managed to wrangle one out of the electronics clerk and his manager. It didn't take much persuasion, really; just a screencap of the deal on K-Mart's web site. Fifteen minutes later, I had the system in my shopping cart and a hundred less dollars in my bank account. Did I need another 3DS eight months after buying a 3DS XL from Target? No, but nobody's ever accused me of making wise fiscal decisions.

So hey, let's share a few pictures! First, here's the receipt just to prove it was a fair and honest catch, and not one of those illegal hunts where I lured the 3DS out of a wildlife sanctuary in Africa.

I probably blacked out too much of this receipt. Better than not blacking out enough when you're posting it on the internet, I say.

With that out of the way, here's the box.

You may notice a tiny disclaimer hidden under all that big promotional text... "AC Adapter Sold Separately." We'll get back to that in a moment.

And here's the system itself, in all its overly shiny glory. Honestly, I liked the shell of my old 3DS XL better, but it's what's on the inside that counts. And let's examine that in detail...


"You cannot hide from me, Dave."
(image from Abelmon007 on Flickr)
 One of the headlining features of the New 3DS is "super stable 3D." An eerie red light at the top of the system tracks your head's movement, and adjusts the 3D effect accordingly. As a result, the 3D that was practically useless in the 3DS XL is uncannily reliable here. You can break the effect with extreme movement, but the moment you stop, it snaps back into focus. This pays huge dividends in 3D-dependent games like Kirby Triple Deluxe and Mario Kart 7. Kirby's game is great no matter how you play it, but the airtight 3D breathes new life into the otherwise lackluster Mario Kart 7, adding a much-needed level of immersion to the experience.

Faster. Relatively.
(image from Imadhis
on Blogspot)
 Nintendo stuck a jalapeno in the tailpipe of the 3DS processor, doubling both its speed and the number of available cores. There's also twice the RAM, with 256MB for the processor and 10MB for the video chip. It doesn't add up to much when you compare it to the average smartphone or its competitor the Playstation Vita, but it does appreciably boost the system's performance. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Super Smash Bros. 3DS. Basic functions of the 3DS had to be erased and reloaded to make the game fit in the tight confines of previous 3DS systems, resulting in a lengthy wait before the game starts and after it ends. On the New 3DS, exiting to the main menu takes all of three seconds, because the operating system stays put, rather than being temporarily deleted to make room for the game. You can even post directly to Miiverse as you play, rather than the clumsy process of taking snapshots and uploading them from an album later.

 Native support for Amiibos. Yay, I guess? Look, I only have one of these things, and I have no intention of removing it from its package. (Yes, I'm one of those nerds.) But hey, if you've got Amiibos and appreciate what they bring to the gaming experience, the New 3DS can use them without the need for extra hardware. Me, I'm just gonna wait a few years, until people start dumping them in garage sales for a couple of bucks each.


 The auto brightness feature is horrible. In Nintendo's defense, it's horrible everywhere. This feature has been nothing but obnoxious in every tech device I've ever owned, turning down the backlight at seemingly random intervals. I thought my system was defective until I poked around in the options screen and found the accursed auto brightness setting hidden there. Stop trying to make this a thing, tech companies. It just doesn't work.

 There's a plate on the back of the system that houses not only the battery, but a micro SD card as well. If you want access to either (and you probably will want to replace the modest 4GB card inserted by default), you'll have to remove it, and believe me when I say that it's not as convenient as the trap door in previous DS systems. There are two screws instead of just one, along with clips that make the plate frustratingly tough to pry loose. Oh, but it gets better!

 The stylus doubles as a plastic crowbar for the plate, but it's not particularly good at either function. Using it for more than five minutes with Miiverse is bound to cause hand cramps thanks to its smaller size, and trying to pry open the plate with the tool on the other end is an exercise in futility. More than likely, you'll give up and just use your fingernail instead. Poor ergonomics seem to be a running theme with the New 3DS XL, and it doesn't end there!

 Buttons have been moved to new, less convenient locations. For instance, the power switch has been shrunken down and moved to the front of the clamshell case, where it's a total bitch to press. Start and select have been moved to the right, under the rosette of action keys and an awkwardly placed C-stick (more on this later). The home button retains its place at the bottom of the touch screen, but it's become a tiny, difficult to press oval. There are about a dozen ways that Nintendo could have planned the New 3DS XL button layout that would have been better than this.

 Oh, about that C-stick! It... functions, I guess, but it's stiff and not nearly as comfortable to use as the circle pad. It's not even as good as the analog nub on the PSP, and it doesn't come anywhere near the quality of the right analog stick on the Vita. Nintendo, you had years to get this right, and plenty of past examples from which to take inspiration. After we waited all this time for a second analog stick, THIS is what you give us? The stubby eraser from an old IBM laptop? Maybe they'll get it right with the New New 3DS. You know it's coming.

 There's no AC adapter in the package, as if this was optional equipment. Nintendo's got plenty of excuses for this ("Don't you have one from your last 3DS? Oh wait, you sold it to get this one..."), but they're selling withered technology for two hundred dollars. The cheapskates can cough up a charger. Hell, I got one with the smartphone I bought for forty dollars last year.


It's clear from the design of the New 3DS XL that Nintendo doesn't put much stock in the adage "measure twice, cut once." It's got all kinds of puzzling ergonomic issues that could have been avoided with a small amount of forethought and common sense. It's actually less comfortable to use than the old 3DS XL thanks to the scrambled button layout and that dreadful stylus. The cartridge slot has been moved to the bottom corner of the system. The SD card slot is buried under a removable plate which serves no logical purpose but to irritate the player. It's like a 3DS from Bizarro World.

New and marginally improved!
(Image from, well, Nintendo)
Having said all that (and there's a lot of "all that" to say), the New 3DS XL does gently nudge Nintendo toward the future, feeling less sluggish and dated than its predecessors. It's doubtful there will be many exclusive titles to take advantage of the new hardware, but unlike the largely pointless DSi, that extra horsepower does improve the games and features that currently exist. The internet browser has improved (although there was no place for that to go but up...) and you'll spend less time on the Miiverse boot screen and more time actually drawing.

All that's gravy, but the sole deciding factor in your purchase of the New 3DS XL should be the 3D. Is this feature important to you? If it is, run out and get one yesterday, because it's never been better. It makes a big difference in games like Yu Suzuki's arcade hits Space Harrier and Galaxy Force II, which throw hundreds of monsters and explosions in the player's face. However, if the illusion of depth doesn't matter much to you, skip this minor upgrade and wait for the true successor to the 3DS, which will probably arrive in a couple of years. There are too few improvements and too many annoyances to make the New 3DS XL worth your time.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Quickly, Now!

My brain's been baking in the horrible Arizona heat so I'll make this quick. First, K-Mart (yes, that K-Mart) is selling a handful of games and systems for roughly half their retail price. You'll find more information about that at CheapAssGamer. Why K-Mart is selling these relatively new products when they no longer officially carry games in their stores is a mystery, but even if you can't find them there, you may be able to get a price match at participating stores. Problem is, some stores are less eager to participate than others. I've heard people have had the most luck getting their half-priced 3DS XLs and Playstation 4s from Target, although some Wal-Marts and Best Buys are willing to bend with some persuasion. Get 'em while you can... word on the street is that many stores are pulling their stock to keep from having to honor K-Mart's price.

Also, I've been terribly addicted to Disgaea over the past week. I'm playing the first game for the PSP/Vita right now and the only time I put it down is to give the system time to recharge. This strategy RPG set in the underworld is weird, loopy fun... you can not only throw your fellow fighters to help them cover more distance, but toss monsters into OTHER monsters to combine them, making the resulting creature more powerful but also shrinking the size of the opposing army. One neat feature is the Item World, which offers randomly generated battlefields lit with a rainbow of colors. Special "geo symbols" are scattered across the terrain, giving each of these colors a different attribute. Oh, but that ain't all, folks! Destroying a geo symbol when it's active destroys all squares of its color, and possibly the monsters that happen to be standing on them. Plan carefully and you could create a domino effect that clears the entire screen of squares, earning you bonus prizes. (Plus, it's just plain cool to watch the hot trail of death race across the playfield!)

Okay, that's it. Carry on with whatever you were doing.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015


So hey, now that I've got an easy way to play GameCube games, let's take a look at a few of them! Don't be surprised if I go back to this well a few times... although it wasn't as popular as the Playstation 2 or the classic Xbox, there are still plenty of titles on the Cube, including some compelling exclusives.

Acclaim (Iguana)

Grr! Grr, I tell you!
(image courtesy of Romulation)
I wasn't expecting much from this one, but Vexx succeeds where Shadow the Hedgehog failed, giving the 3D mascot platformer a darker edge without looking completely ridiculous in the process. As the feral dwarf Vexx, it's up to you to rescue your people from oppressive shadow wraiths with the aid of a pair of enchanted metal claws. Iguana tears more than a few pages from the Super Mario 64 playbook, but Vexx offers more exciting combat and surreal stages with an astonishing sense of scale. When your hairy hero clings to the underside of platforms hanging hundreds of feet above the ground, you might catch yourself holding the controller just a little more tightly than usual. Responsive control and a polished cinematic atmosphere add punch to this easily missed, yet surprisingly enjoyable action game.


Poor Weegee just can't catch a break.
Whoohoo, indeed! Double Dash is over a decade old, yet it still looks fantastic, overflowing with vibrant colors and featuring some of the series' most clever stage designs. One course has you swerving through city traffic as you struggle to stay ahead of the other racers, while another sets you on a snowy trail littered with skating Shyguys and massive, glittering ice crystals. The great graphics are a testament to the power packed inside that purple lunchbox. 

Nintendo didn't skimp on the gameplay, either. Once you get used to the tag team play mechanics, you'll find some of the best moments in the series right here. Just be sure to pick the right combination of characters! Pairing Mario with his archenemy Wario is about as smart as tying a boat anchor to the back of your kart.

Electronic Arts (AKI)

Well, THAT'S sure to end the match in a hurry.
(Image courtesy of GameCrate)
There's a lot I like about Fight for New York, but the funky life bar system, an apparent holdover from when Def Jam was a wrestling game, can get stuffed. Simply draining your opponent's health isn't good enough to score a KO... you've got to perform a specific, sometimes complicated attack to end the match, and do it before your enemy's life bar starts to refill. Did I mention the other player will be actively resisting your attempts to land that fatal blow? By the time you've got the attack lined up, their health will have recovered, forcing you to repeat the whole obnoxious process. This results in lengthy tug of war battles which the CPU often wins... even on the easy difficulty setting, and even when your opponent is a rapper named Bless. Tell me I did not just get my ass kicked by some chump named Bless!

Arrgh. I'll grudgingly admit that Fight for New York is a pretty impressive brawler, with lots of characters to unlock (Xzibit! Ice-T! That girl from MTV who can jiggle her butt really fast!) and an authentic recreation of the underground fighting scene. You just have to be willing to put up with the stupidly process-oriented KOs... and that could be too much of a challenge for easily aggravated players.

Activision (Hudson, Eighting)
Oh no, I'm not getting beaten up by some
freakin' rabbit. Bless was bad enough.
Fans of 3D fighting games probably felt a little shortchanged by the GameCube. After all, the system didn't have Tekken, it didn't have Dead or Alive, and it didn't have Virtua Fighter (no, Virtua Quest most certainly does NOT count). However, the one game it did have was Bloody Roar: Primal Fury, a much-needed retooling of the third game in the series. All the color that Bloody Roar 3 drained from the series is back, along with eye-catching stages like an aquarium and a makeshift ring outside a Japanese temple. 

Like the previous two games, Primal Fury is similar to Sega's Fighting Vipers, with lengthy combos taking a backseat to crushing blows that send you opponent into (and through!) the walls surrounding each arena. However, you can also bring out the tiger (or leopard, or chameleon...) in you by tapping a button, boosting your strength and giving you a new set of vicious attacks. The game's beast mode is a little busted- and there's now a hyper beast mode that turns an already lopsided battle into a slaughter- but even with the balancing issues, Bloody Roar is the best game in a genre that's an endangered species on the GameCube.


Not that super, man.
(image courtesy of Spong)
Swing and a miss, Atari. I appreciate that you guys took another shot at a game based on the Superman animated series, because the show deserves better than to be anchored to that debacle on the Nintendo 64. Shadow of Apokalips is better, but not by enough. It's tremendously awkward to play, and the scripted action feels downright suffocating next to competing superhero games like Spiderman 2 and The Incredible Hulk. Those titles gave you free reign of an entire city... this just pushes you through a contrived storyline that's below the standards set by the animated series. Sure, you get most of the original voice cast, but again, it's just not enough.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Power Tools: PS2 to Xbox 360 Controller Adapter

This isn't going to make me too popular with my fellow nerds, but confession time... the Xbox 360 was my favorite of the last generation of game consoles. Maybe it was because it was my first, or maybe it's because its history mirrors an older favorite of mine, the Sega Genesis. The Xbox 360 was vastly more popular in the United States than it was in Japan, and it launched well before the Playstation 3, forcing that system to spend years playing catch-up. And like the Genesis, the Xbox 360 tends to be cheaper on the second-hand market than its competitor. The Playstation 3 still commands a three figure price on auction sites, but the Xbox 360 can be had for about the cost of a game for one of the latest consoles... and I can tell you with little hesitation that it's a smarter investment.

I've got just one gripe with the Xbox 360... the controller. It's perfectly fine for your first-person shooters and your sprawling sandbox adventures, but for the kinds of games you might have played on the Sega Genesis twenty years ago, it comes up mighty short. The mushy, imprecise D-pad feels like an afterthought, and it took many years before Microsoft addressed the issue with a new model of the controller that's almost as tough to find as it is to look at without eye protection. 
Augh, so much silver! I'm pretty sure there was an episode of Spongebob Squarepants that looked like this.

But hey, there are USB ports on the front of the Xbox 360! You could just plug in your favorite controller from another system, right? 

Uh, not right. Xbox 360 controllers have to be licensed by Microsoft in order to work. If it doesn't have a special security chip inside, the system won't recognize it, which means that you're stuck with either a stock Xbox 360 joypad or an even crappier third party model. Wait, it gets better! Microsoft is pushing to make these controllers the standard for home computers as well. More and more games on Steam require them, and although there's a workaround, it's a royal pain to install. (Well, it's certainly less convenient than just plugging in the controller you want to use, anyway.)

There have been past attempts to beat Microsoft's vexing security chip and give players the freedom to use their favorite controllers with the Xbox 360. However, these adapters typically require daisy chaining, an awkward solution that still requires an official controller and results in a tangle of wires. Sure it works, but couldn't there be something more convenient?

There could be now! Enter the PS2 to Xbox 360 controller adapter.
These have been available for at least a year now, but I wasn't aware of their existence until I found one a couple of weeks ago in an eBay search. I still don't know who manufactures these adapters or how they're made, but I know from personal experience that they work as advertised. You plug a Playstation controller in one end and the other into a free USB port on your Xbox 360, and your headaches with the stock controller instantly vanish. There's a guide button on the adapter, but you can use the analog key on a Dual Shock pad instead if you'd rather not get off the couch.

I like the Dual Shock slightly more than the Xbox 360's stock pad, but that's not the reason I bought this adapter. It's compatible with over ten years of Playstation joysticks and steering wheels, including this guy right here:

Image courtesy of RetroCollect
Yep, it's a Saturn controller, released for the Playstation 2 near the end of that system's life. As expected, it works beautifully with the mountain of fighting games I have for the Xbox 360, and the face buttons align perfectly with the ones on the system's stock pad. I could play Radiant Silvergun or Guardian Heroes with this, and it would feel exactly the same as it did on an actual Saturn. It just doesn't get any better than this!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Grab Bag

It's already the fourth and I still haven't updated?! Ugh. Let's do something about that.

First things first... I just got Splatoon for my Wii U. Some observations about the experience:

* The game is set to use the gyroscope of the Wii U gamepad by default, which means a lot of sweeping the controller to look around and target enemies. Thankfully, this can be turned off, but you DON'T have the option to use other controllers for most of the game's modes. 

* The graphics are impressive, full of glistening, gooey ink. There's a colorful plasticky sheen throughout that's a refreshing change of pace from the grit and grime of other shooters. When your character is launched to other platforms, you'll see a bird's eye view of the surrounding area that's breathtaking in its scope.

Leader of the pack.
(image courtesy of Niche Gamer)
* There are two different character models, but the boy's design is pretty lackluster, without the flowing tentacle-locks of his female counterpart. Like Mass Effect 3, you'll probably be a lot happier playing as the girl.

* Although there's a story mode, you pretty much have to play online to get the most out of this game. The shopkeepers that sell stat-boosting accessories won't even give you the time of day until you've leveled up a few times in online battles.

* The puns. Oh lord, the PUNS! They're a whole new level of bad, from television announcers Callie and Marie's appetite for octo-pie to locations like the Booyah Base. Some of the puns are even layered, like Crusty Sean, a shrimp salesman who wears a crispy tempura jacket. I don't think even Spongebob Squarepants has this much marine wordplay.

* Speaking of that, I'm stunned that there hasn't been an official crossover with Nickelodeon. It's got all the goop of Double Dare, along with a diverse cast of sea life and an overall vibe that it was made especially for twelve year olds... or just the twelve at heart. Don't take that as a slam, by the way... after the endless despair of Gears of War and Killzone we could use a lot more games like this.

"Hi, I'm the douchebag who
ruined your favorite game
company! Guess where
this thumb has been?"
Okay, second order of business. Remember that post about Konami losing much of its late '80s luster? An article on Japan's Nikkei business newspaper, conveniently translated by Thomas James, offers some insight as to why this is the case. Evidently the company's co-founder, Kagemasa Kozuki, has lost a few screws in the last thirty years. He won't talk to the press, and anyone at Konami who gets on his bad side is reassigned to assembly work or clean-up detail at one of his fitness clubs. It doesn't matter who, which probably explains why prominent game designers like Koji Igarashi and Hideo Kojima have been so eager to leave Konami. I mean, would YOU want to spend the rest of your career putting together pachinko machines or cleaning the sweat off treadmills?

Word has it that Konami is family-owned, so there's no way to replace Kagemasa Kozuki or repair the damage he's done to the company. So unless you really, really like smartphone games or have a membership to one of Konami's gyms, the company is effectively dead. Well, it was fun while it lasted...

There was one other thing! Oh yes, I just got Xevious 3D Classics for the 3DS. I was concerned that it would be a straight port of the unsatisfying NES version of the game, but nope, it's based on the arcade game, with some modifications to take advantage of the hardware. First, it's widescreen, so you have a little more room to move, even if the borders of the playfield are bracketed by clouds. Second, it's in 3D, which is great news if you have one of the new models of the 3DS. As an owner of the 3DS XL, it doesn't really help me much, since that system has to be held absolutely still for the effect to work. The last thing is that the control is more comfortable with the circle pad and buttons that can be set to rapid fire. I've been able to beat Andor Genesis in this version of the game, because my hands don't give out before it does!

Okay, that's it. Thanks for reading!