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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Planned Obsolescence

Unfortunately, today's gaming consoles are not built to last quite as long as those of yesteryear.  I've replaced my SNES because I accidentally broke the pins with a repair cartridge (there's your warning if you ever consider buying one), but it was about 15 years old.  But if I wanted to swap the pin set, it was and is possible (I didn't know that at the time).

Modern consoles, starting with the PS3, are not like that due to "security methods" hard coded into the motherboard and drives, which is absolutely ridiculous.  The better to sell more consoles, or charge exorbitant repair costs.

Unfortunately, mine had a system board failure (most likely due to a botched repair on my part coming back to bite me a year later).

Luckily, if it's a chip failure, that can usually be fixed by someone in the know.  I found a great little business here in my area (Simcoe County).

It's called Revamp Repairs, run by Rob Weller.  He does it all on the side, and he does a hell of a lot more work than a lot of the brick-and-mortar places do.  You can reach him by phone at 705-716-8007 or by e-mail at barries.consoles.repairs@gmail.com.

He stands very firmly by his work; he'll guarantee his repairs for a full year.  If he can't fix it, there's no charge to you.

That said, if any of you would like to post your favoured repair business, please do.  I think they'd greatly appreciate the recommendation and exposure!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Gadgets, Oh My!

Long time no write, I know.  What can I say, I've been catching up on my back log.  At any rate, I found and acquired a very neat little handheld, the Retro Duo Portable.  Made by Retro-Bit, it's a hand-held emulation console.

That's essentially it below:
Sort of.  It also comes with an adapter cartridge to play NES games, and it will accept Retro-Bit's Retro-Gen adapter to play Sega Genesis games.

As it is an emulation console, 100% compatibility is not guaranteed.  Of my NES games, only Strider doesn't work so far, and Snake's Revenge and The Guardian Legend have buggered-up music.  Shame; The Guardian Legend has some of the best music on the SNES.

My few Genesis carts that I have tried all work (Aladdin, Zero Tolerance, X-Men, X-Men 2 and Jungle Strike).

All of the SNES carts that I have tried have worked (I have lots of those).

Battery life is okay, and I actually like the ergonomics.  The speakers suck, though.

What's really cool about it is that it's not just a handheld (no, it's three!  Actually, that isn't it, either), you can also connect it to a TV, connect the controller adapter and a pair of SNES controllers, and get your game on.  That's definitely pretty slick.

Battery life is okay; I get around 5 - 6 hours, and it only takes about 2 1/2 hours to charge.

Recently, I've been bringing it to work to catch up on games I just haven't finished, but I really don't have enough break time for that; either way, I do like it quite a lot.

Ergonomically, it's also not so bad to play; the D-Pad isn't particularly uncomfortable, so marathon sessions are possible (battery life permitting).

Hopefully, someone will make a mass-produced hand-held N64 with the expanded memory pack (and a save game pack!) built-in.  I'd buy that for a dollar (or 5)!!

On the topic of handheld game systems, there are quite a lot of skunkworked ones where people have gutted the actual systems to make battery-operated handhelds running off of the native hardware.

If you have a knack for soldering and know a thing or three about electronics, it would certainly make a neat project.

Otherwise, there are a few hand-held emulation systems kicking around.  Hyperkin has one, the Supaboy, and I think YoBo (FC Twin) does as well.  I've puttered around with the FC Twin, and due to a bad battery (sorry, it shouldn't take over 6 hours to charge a lithium ion battery!), I traded up for the Retro Duo Portable after that.

Unfortunately, none of the emulation systems are currently a 100% compatible solution, but possibly with time and technological advances, they well.  After all, Top Gear 3000 can be played through an emulator when at one time, it couldn't due to the graphics mode that it used.

But damn, they are fun nonetheless - and it's kind of its own reward to see which games do work.

Keep up the good gaming, and I'll see you all next time!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Long Awaited Update (One Can Be Hopeful)?

Geez it's been awhile, eh?!

Work and a lot of gaming will do that to you.

I recently (about two or three months ago) got an older gaming PC up and running, and started catching up on PC gaming that I've been missing.

I've played Far Cry (IMO, the XBox re-do was better), Chaser and Dai Katana (it really does suck) so far, and I've touched on Torchlight (interesting, but I like Sacred and Sacred 2 more). 

I have also been playing the Dead Island series on my PS3, and I have to say, I'm really liking them.  I'm actually trying to figure our why Riptide was raked through the coals.  Only time will tell, I suppose.

What really has my attention right now, though, is this older shooter called Boiling Point, released back in 2005.

Boiling Point was made by a studio based in the Ukraine called Deep Shadows, and, unfortunately, might have been released a little hastily.  I remember it also getting raked through the calls.  But, one patch later, and the game was not only playable, but awesome.

Boiling Point is pretty much the inspiration for the latter Far Cry games, and it shows.  You have a massive open world to explore, a lot of vehicles, and a lot to do.  However, unlike the newer Far Cry games, you have skill-based stats, vehicles require training and licenses to use, and other than the local wildlife (which is incredibly dangerous, by the way) no one is an enemy until you engage them as such; you start the game off on a neutral slate with all involved factions.

So far, I haven't even touched the main story, I've been too busy running side missions, earning money and playing with the weapon upgrade system (which is simple but practical).  I really like the inclusion of multiple ammunition types, as it definitely adds a tactical level that's been missing since System Shock.

The game, ultimately, is kind of like a cross between Far Cry, Deus Ex and hint of Grand Theft Auto (but only a a tiny bit).

Despite the aging graphics (and they are quite aged), the gameplay is extremely refreshing after some of the drivel I've played lately.  Unfortunately, it was a bitch to find.  Yes, I swore, but I can't emphasize this enough.  It's pretty easy to get if you live in the U.S., though - us Canucks will have to use and abuse EBay or Amazon, though.  For you lucky enough to live south of the 49th, though, Atari will gladly sell you the digital download for $9.99 (plus taxes, I assume).  I'm not sure which version it is, though.  If it's 2.0 or higher, you're good.

I've also finished Grand Theft Auto 5.  Excellent game, but...I think Rockstar needs to make GTA V their grand finale.  The online was fun for awhile, but...I'm starting to not care about the series anymore.  Which is a shame, the heists were great.  Being Neil, Michael and Chris (Heat fans will get the reference, I hope) was a lot of fun.  Unfortunately, this is still not part of the online, and I have more games to play than GTA V.

Speaking of which, for those of you who have not played Lego Marvel Superheroes, you are seriously missing out.  It is an incredible amount of fun.  And it's fun that casual gamers can get into, too.  K (aka The Girlfriend) absolutely loves it.  Well, when we're in a mission, anyway.  She's not too keen about the free-roaming.

The skinny on that is that it is the latest Lego free-roamer (Lego Lord of the Rings - also excellent - and Lego Batman 2 being the precursors, if you will).  Aside from going on missions, you also solve puzzles and run side-quests in the free-roam world to get gold blocks to do even more missions, which are a lot of fun.  Like previous Lego games, you not only get to play as the good guys, but the bad guys, too.  Sadly, Magneto wasn't really all that impressive.

Going back to Dead Island and it's sequel, Dead Island: Riptide, I've also been playing those, and they're a lot of fun.  Not true sandbox, play, though; they're like Borderlands in terms of flow and progression, so there are separate "levels", as it were.

For those who aren't familiar, Dead Island is a first-person Action-RPG where you're basically trying to survive an isolated zombie apocalypse that's trying to break loose.  You pick one of four (or five in the sequel) heroes that are immune to the zombie virus, and you beat, hack, slash and occasionally shoot your way to victory in a paradise lost. 

Each character levels up and earns skills, and aside from a plethora of weapons that you can pick up, you can also combine them with other mundane items to craft even better gear - and upgrade them, too.

And zombies aren't your only enemy, either.  Aside from the different classes of the walking dead, you also fight humans, too, and you can use the same weapons against them as you can the zombies, although humans seem more resistant to melee weapons and weaker to guns; the zombies are the exact opposite, barring the shotgun.

Like Borderlands, the game also has online co-op for up to four players, too, so you can slaughter zombies alongside your friends or strangers, whichever you prefer.

My goal at this time is probably to finish Boiling Point, then maybe Far Cry, and then go back to Dead Island.  In the middle of that, I'll hopefully also finish Lego Lord of the Rings, which is, by far, the least disappointing Lord of the Rings game that I've played.  And yes, I have played Return of the King and War in the North, but not Third Age.

Hopefully (fingers crossed), I'll start seeing weapon repair kits in Boiling Point.  The wear feature is interesting and while I am allegedly supposed to see repair kits, I can't buy the, anywhere.  I guess I'll just have to trudge onward. 

And to you, I say happy playing, and a good morning, afternoon or evening.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Notiquette

I stopped online multiplayer gaming for awhile back in 1999, I think, and I didn't really start back up until about 2003 or 2004 (shortly after XBox Live launched, actually).

One of the biggest reasons why I stopped was because my first few encounters with the "next generation" of elite online gamers was left me feeling like they only cared about number one. 

And today, I ran into that yet again.  Earlier this week, I declined someone from joining an open game of Dead Rising that I didn't even know was open - and it doesn't help that this is the default setting (so, anyone just downloading Dead Rising 2 for free by way of XBL's Games With Gold program, remember that).  His reaction was to cuss me out for it.

This is unacceptable behaviour to begin with.  If someone does something stupid, sure, it's okay to call them out.  But not with an F-Bomb.  Second, who are we to judge?

One of my favourite things about my gamer friends is that we only act like jerkbags with each other, we don't drop it on others. 

This is something to consider, especially since you never know who you're going to offend in a monitored community.  If you get enough proven complaints against you, you're no longer welcome - and this is definitely true of XBox Live.

The internet, has unfortunately, shown just how deep our yellow stripes can run, and it's more important than ever that gamers remember their "netiquette".  As games get bigger and the number of players increases, tensions are going to rise, sure. 

But if you don't pick your battles, you'll undoubtedly find yourself ostracised.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Going Retro

Well, a little.  Despite my currently healing ankle ( I rolled it back in June), I bring my laptop to work every once in awhile to play games.  I decided I'd give Shadow Warrior a go again, as it's been a few years.

Man what a great game!

For those of you who aren't familiar with it, Shadow Warrior puts you in the shoes of Lo Wang, a ninja assassin who works for the shady Zilla corporation.  Zilla, however, made a deal with some demons and decided to have you killed off.  As you can imagine, that doesn't exactly fly with Lo Wang. 

Shadow Warrior uses a much enhanced version of Ken Silverman's Build Engine (in fact, I think he helped in the development of Shadow Warrior as well), and features climbing ladders, weapons with multiple functions, and even vehicles.  Unlike most Build games, Shadow Warrior also has a large focus on melee combat.

The original game sports 14 levels and there were two finished but unreleased expansions, Twin Dragons and Wanton Destruction.  Both expansions are available for free around the internet if you already have the game.  If not, you can get it from Steam or Good Old Games for a decent price (the GOG version also has both expansions).

While it's a build game, E-Duke currently doesn't support it, and most of the source ports for it aren't that great.  JFSW runs slow, and the other that I've found, Proasm's Shadow Warrior Port, has a problem with corrupting save files.  Not good.

However, it runs great in DOSBox and that's all that matters to me.  The original game, while short, is pretty stellar.  Of the expansions, I've only played Wanton Destruction so far, and while it's not quite as fun (mind you, that may be biased because I was using the Proasm port), the level design was fantastic.

I also just picked up Scurge: Hive for my DS, and I have to say, it's pretty decent.  I've only put a few minutes into it so far, but it's kind of like Alien Syndrome meets Secret of Mana. 

Other than that, I'm still playing a lot of Dynasty Warriors 8 and Defiance.  My goal with Dynasty Warriors 8 at this point is to clear the hypothetical story branches.  Once I have everything unlocked, I think I might go on a co-op spree.  With Defiance, I'm still whittling away at the missions.  There are a lot of them!

Also, the current XBox 360 Games With Gold title is Dead Rising 2.  So far, it's okay.  It's not blowing my skirt up, I'm getting flashbacks of Majora's mask with the time limit thing.  Hopefully it gets better as things go along or it'll be leaving my hard drive.  For those who know me well, you'll know I have little nice to say about Majora's Mask.

The last title, by the way, was Crackdown.  Hopefully you Gold account holders grabbed that if you don't have it.  It's a stellar game.

Speaking of games (when aren't I?!), time to get back to killing AI critters and taking names.  Keep your thumbs on your sticks and your fingers on the triggers!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

New Acquisitions And Still Slogging Away At Dynasty Warriors 8

Hey guys, how are you this unseasonably cool evening?

So, believe it or not, yesterday afternoon was the first time that I played Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Batman: Arkham Asylum.  Both solid games, as many who came before me already know, and probably feel the same way about the sequels that I haven't played, either.

K. and I headed down to Alliston to see what was what.  We went into a neat little bookstore where the owner kept her pet dog with her.  I think it was the first chihuahua I didn't want to kick.  Actually, a really sweet, not-yappy chihuahua; strange, I know.

Anyway, so, we hit the local Hock Shop (which is actually the company's name) to see the bargoons on games.  I picked up Arkham Asylum, Uncharted and Lego Rock Band, all with manuals for $10 plus taxes, and I grabbed Demolition Man for the SNES for $5.00.

It's one of my favourite movies, and for $5.00, I thought, sure, why the hell not.  It's not an easy game to find, either.  Well, I'm not going to lie, there are far better movie-based action games from that era.  True Lies, for instance, kicks the crap out of it.  So, I'm glad $5.00 is all I paid for it.


So, on to my progress with Dynasty Warriors 8, which, as you can tell by now, is a massive game.  I finally finished the entire Wei campaign in Dynasty Warriors 8; I'm now working on unlocking the alternate history campaigns, which is actually a good bit of work.

To do this, you have to complete the special objectives in the main history chapters.  These will sometimes unlock new side-chapters or "save" characters from their pseudo-historical fates for use later on, which also alters the historical campaigns as well.  They'll also open up side-missions.  Once everything has been unlocked, you'll be able to change the campaign flow at the designated chapter because you'll get two options as to whose battle plan you're going to follow.

It certainly makes things pretty interesting, to say the least.

I also have the Ambition mode nearly finished, but I'm going to start playing with weapon fusions soon.  Plus, Ambition mode is so damned addictive, probably because each mission is generally a short loot-fest.  In, out, done, and then you get more rewards back at camp.  It's very fun, and the higher the difficulty, the better.

I have to admit, I really like what Koei did with the A.I.; it hasn't been this aggressive since Dynasty Warriors 5.  It sucks that only the west got the tweak.  I can assure you, Koei, hardcore gamers want more than an interactive storybook.

I've also been playing a good bit of Defiance, and I have to admit...I'm getting kind of bored with it.  Progress, admittedly, isn't stagnating, but I'm barred from buying totally 1337 gear because my "reputation" stat isn't high enough. 

WTF is it, and how do I raise it?  Yeah, yeah, look to teh interwebz, I know. 

But it would have been nice if the manual the game came with outlined this instead of it showing me the controller buttons and then several blank pages for writing notes.  I mean, I'm not keen on buying it - which is clearly what Trion really had in mind (Bits, the game's currency, which you buy with real money to fast-track progress).

I also started playing a bit more of Starsiege.  So far, I'm on the fence.  The game definitely does not suck, even though it hasn't necessarily aged well.  I like that it's a bit more arcady than Mechwarrior, but you still have to grasp a thing or two about trajectory, and you need to understand the relationship to the energy needs of your equipment versus what the reactor in your HERC (The mechs in Earth- and Starsiege) can do.  At any rate, I'm at the 3rd mission, and I'm not hating it.

Now, K.'s asleep, which means it's prime-time for gaming.  So, keep your paddles in hand and have fun!

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Heat Beat Me

Actually, it beat my PS3.  Yes, my PS3 is in the shop because of the wonderful YLOD (Yellow Light of Death).  I'm hoping it can be fixed so I don't lose my data. 

Now, beforeit went into the shop, I went under the hood to put new thermal paste on the heatsink.  And boy was I in for a surprise.  This is why there's an "if" over the head of my PS3.

You see, I bought my PS3 used.  However, I was not aware that it was actually refurbished.  I actually don't have a problem with refurbished, because it generally means that problems existed and were fixed.  Cool. 

What I have problem with is finding out what I bought was refurbished after the fact and before I need repairs, because suddenly I get an-in-your face version of: "Your device has repair history!  SURPRISE!!!"

Being that this is not my political blog, I'll refrain from colourful language, but I can assure you, I'm bloody tempted.

Am I saying "buyer beware"?  Not necessarily.  What I am saying for sure is, "Buyer ask questions!", because you never know when your game system has far too much Arctic Silver schmeered all over a heat sink.

Anyway, the good news is, bring your PS3 into someone who repairs them costs less than half of Sony's "knee-pad special".  Yes, you get a refurb, but you also lose all of your save data.  Yes, I could always back it up, but seriously?  That's a royal pain in the tuches.  I'd rather just migrate my drive.

I suppose with an XBox, MS may as well do that - they don't, at least not the last time I had to send my unit in.  But I did have to redownload ALL of my DLC.  Rock Band is not forgiving in that respect.

That said, maybe your license should be based on your online account?  I mean, you have to have one to use all of the features of these systems, why not base drive encryption, for instance on something that would allow you to transfer your data to another system. 

After all, the sensitive data is kept online.  Although I suppose with Sony and recently Microsoft (again!), that may not be such a good thing?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

And this is why I don't let others speak for me:

I was trolling the Dynasty Warriors 8 forums because I heard that there were a few issues with the 360 version (seriously, Koei?  First the install option is hidden away in the game menus on the PS3 and now the 360 version has framerate problems?), and I came across this post from a genius by the name of charlesgibson88:

I always liked in the old DW games how the game felt more real, even though it was a little outlandish. But now everything just feels ridiculous and fake; I just roll my eyes every time when they have Zhang Jiao floating in videos with magic like it is real, or when Zhao Yun flings himself 600 feet in the air in a cut scene. I think they should reboot the series in a grittier and realistic series that focuses on the individual stories of characters. Like what happened to individualized Musou modes and people having unique weapons. I feel like I speak for everyone when I say it feels lousy when you can use Xu Zhu with a sword. A giant mace. That is his weapon. Stop trying to make everything "awesome." I think that Koei needs to take away the magical looking boosty stuff and make it feel real. I don't want my character to glow with power when I get speed up for exactly 30 seconds, and I certainly don't want to shoot electricity everywhere at the end of my combo. I want to pick up a power up and not know how long it will last and how powerfully it will affect me like a real herbal remedy. I want to not know how many hits will kill me. I want to feel like I could get fatally wounded at any moment. I mean all of this can only be taken so far: we still need meat buns to get health, but it should still feel like I am on a battle field in ancient China. I want to pull arrows out of my arm and have to bandage my leaking wounds before I bleed out. I want my character to get focused with rage in scenarios and get exhausted when they are about to die. I also think that you should be able to hold a trigger and enter a focused fighting mode where you can mix up your combos, where you can create more varied combos by making 6 or 7 buttons available to attack. That way you can feel skilled with individual characters and it feels fresh when you are playing with them. Maybe have events where you train the characters skill sets. What do you all think?

Yeah, I know, wall of illegible text due to poor white-spacing.  Basically, the guy is pissed with the game not being gritty and realistic enough, and then has the chutzpah to say that he speaks for the fanbase.

A little advice to you who frequent forums:  One, that's either blatant trolling, or blatant stupidity - or both. 

Yes, charlesgibson88 on Gamespot, I'm calling you out as a fool.  Actually, an example of one.  You're a sort of "this is what to avoid" lesson for people who actually want to discuss games in general.

Gamers do not like being told that you represent them when you neither ask nor are asked to do so, especially when you do not represent the fan base very well.

So, to avoid the social faux-pas of being an ass after playing a game, find out why the fans like it before you claim you represent them.

It's like saying you represent Nintendo fans but then say Mario should be rail-skinny, have a goatee, wear leathers and dual-wield .50 handguns.

Pretty friggin' ridiculous.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Beat The Heat

Well, the heat wave seems to be over.  For now.  I hope that many of you have taken this opportunity to log some gaming hours.  I know I did.

I've pretty much been alternating between Dynasty Warriors 8 and Defiance, although I did find my old Total Overdose savefile - Providence!  I've also put a little time into Mass Effect 3.

I saw that BioWare was talking about moving the Mass Effect story forward; good for them I guess. Hopefully they won't steal anymore from Alistair Reynolds.  It's pretty bad when it's blatantly obvious.  But, at least they used a writer who probably doesn't have nearly as much popularity in North America as, Dick, Heinlein or Asimov.

That would have been priceless.  And costly.  I'm pretty sure their estates have a lot more money to sue EA and BioWare than Alistair Reynolds does.  Plus I'm pretty sure that when you're dead and have people with PoA running the show, they certainly have more time, too.

On to more positive things, I've given Dynasty Warriors 8's Ambition mode a go, and it doesn't totally suck.  Far better than Dynasty Warriors 7's Conquest Mode, which did. 

I'm also still plugging away at Defiance (and probably will for quite some time).  I just recently got smacked down by a giant robot while trying to cross what's left of the Golden Gate bridge, so I figure I'm going to have to do some more of the campaign to get down there.  We shall see.

I'm going to try to play some more Defiance tonight if I can get away with it, but due to this heat, I haven't had the energy to stay up past midnight, so here's hoping.

Electrolytes to all, and to all a good day!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I Caved

I did it.  I bought Dynasty Warriors 8.  Not sure why, but I got caught up in hype.  Well, sort of.   I didn't watch the videos, didn't read reviews, didn't shtup a cos-player, I just saw an ad and thought "O. M. G!!!"

I hadn't been excited about a Dynasty Warriors game like that since 7, and I was only excited about 7 because of the old new combat system.

And yet, there I was.

So, my buddy J. and I cracked it open, skipped a few cutscenes, and started playing.

And went "whoa!".

I hadn't done that with a Dynasty Warriors game since 4.  Kid you not.  And I actually already knew about the features. 

So, for those of you who have missed my many posts about the Warriors series by Koei, Dynasty Warriors takes place during the late 2nd and early 3rd centuries, called the Three Kingdoms Era.  It's largely based on a (wicked) 15th century novel (or pair of volumes here in the West) called Romance of the Three Kingdoms, although I think Koei is also starting to add in a more historically authentic flair to the games, as it now seems to be favoring Wei instead of Shu.  Romance of the Three Kingdoms favors Shu.

The gameplay is a combination of tactical action and mob-slaughter combat (no gore, though), where you take your chosen combatant and kick the crap our of thousands of peons and jumping from objective to objective to finish the battle.

The battles themselves are based on historic encounters, although Dynasty Warriors 8 has also thrown alternate scenarios into the mix based on how a battle might have gone if certain individuals hadn't died before their time, which certainly adds a nice layer of storytelling depth.

The 77 (yes, 77) characters all progress as well, with a level system that unlocks more attacks in their combo strings as well as special abilities and improved weapon skills.  Each character also has their own weapon which the specialise in (although while you carry two into battle, neither has to be the one your character favours), and the weapons have an affinity that corresponds to an opposing element in a triad; Heaven, Earth and Man. 

If you have a weapon that has an affinity weaker than your enemy's, you can do a special counter attack, and if your weapon affinity is superior, you'll perform a special finisher after x amount of hits.  It's simple, but that's also what creates those "whoa" moments.

The game also has modes up the tuches, so there's lots of replay. I'm certainly looking forward to the Free Mode, so that I can play battles from multiple perspectives.

Koei has done an absolutely stellar job in bringing all of the elements in the series together that people really like, and so far, I have to say, it definitely doesn't suck.