Tuesday, March 28, 2017

We Are the (Sports) Champions

It's been (counts on fingers) ten days since the last update. I better post something here before I run out of fingers...

Anyway! There was a pretty good PSN sale last week, with Sports Champions 2 being offered for just ninety-nine cents. It's hard to resist any game at that price, and it gives me an opportunity to get some use out of that Sailor Moon wand Sony calls a motion controller.

Seriously... bocce ball?
(image from The Average Gamer)
I bought the previous Sports Champions on disc about a month ago, and while I enjoyed it, I couldn't shake the feeling that the designers had tried too hard to distance it from Wii Sports, offering some really out of left field challenges instead of the usual golf, bowling, tennis, and boxing. The quirky selection of events was a little off-putting... I doubt anyone was clamoring to play virtual bocce ball, outside of a few arthritic Italians.

Sports Champions 2 abandons all pretense of originality and offers many of the same games as Wii Sports. The thing is, Sports Champions 2 does them all better. Bowling is just more fun when you feel like you're actually throwing a ball, and when your onscreen character looks like a real person instead of something from the Toys 'R Us clearance bin. The same thing goes for golf... the more life-like courses, complete with spectators gathered near each hole, makes the game feel less sterile than it had on the Wii. Take a look at the image below and compare it to the gameplay from Wii Sports... you'll see what I mean.

See, that's more like it.
(image from Playstation)
There's no baseball in Sports Champions 2, but you get two events that weren't in Wii Sports... archery and skiing. Skiing is a little awkward, with players pulling the controller inward to simulate "pumping" with the ski poles, but it's fairly entertaining once you get used to the control. Archery, one of the events from the first Sports Champions, comes more naturally... you just hold the Move controller behind your back, then aim it at the screen and fire. It's fast-paced and fun, and frankly, it's more welcome here than baseball would have been.

So yeah, I think I got my dollar's worth out of Sports Champions 2. It's more approachable than the first game, and leaves Wii Sports looking really dated by comparison. I never really got a feel for boxing (I suspect you need two Move controllers to get the most out of this one) and some of the settings are a little weird (who puts a bowling alley in a ski resort?), but past that, I'm happy.

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."

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!