Posts from April, May, and June 2005.

June 27, 2005...  Fun with PSP Emulators

Sorry about the lack of updates, folks.  My time has been evenly split between finding a new job and playing emulators on my PSP.  I just tried a NeoGeo CD emulator last week which blew me away... it doesn't run at full speed just yet, and there's no sound, but man, you would not believe just how good NeoGeo games look on the system.  They're bursting with the bright colors that have long been missing from today's video games, and the screen, while not wide enough to fill the PSP's spacious screen completely, covers more real estate than other emulators on the system, without the need for ugly stretching.

I plan to have the PSP's most notable emulators reviewed by the end of the week in a special Blitz-exclusive feature, but right now, I need to prepare for an interview.  I'll see you guys in a couple of days!

June 23, 2005...  If You Love Your PSP, Set It Free

Fed up with the drought of new software on the PSP?  Are recent releases like Smart Bomb and Rengoku just not keeping you entertained?  Wondering why you spent all that money on an undersupported handheld game system with a few extraneous features?

Well, don't put that system on Ebay just yet, my friend.  The wait for killer apps like Burnout Legends and Pursuit Force may be almost unbearable, but there's one thing that will help you get through it, and make you feel confident about your purchase.  That thing, of course, is the recent system exploit offered by this site.

Emulators and hobbyist-designed games on the PSP have been around for months, but they were a luxury many of the system's owners simply could not afford... until now, that is.  The new exploit allows any PSP console with the 1.50 firmware revision to run unlicensed software directly from their systems, without the awkward memory card swapping made necessary by the previous system hack.

The software is a cinch to use.  Just download the exploit file, then whatever emulators and games you'd like to try (this site offers a good variety of both).  Unzip the PSP software into seperate folders, then install the program inside the exploit file.  After your computer has restarted, plug your PSP into an available USB port, set it into USB mode, and run the program "KXPloit Tool".  You'll see a screen like this one:

In the first text window, enter the name of the emulator or other software you wish to install on your system.  Then click the ellipse to find where the software you've chosen resides.  The file should be named EBOOT.PBP.  Double click it to move to the next step.  Now, you'll need to choose the letter assigned to your PSP.  For instance, if you have a hard drive and two CD-ROM drives, your PSP would probably be given the letter F:.  Click the arrow in the drop down box next to the words "PSP Unit", then select the appropriate letter.  Finally, press the "Generate files" button to transfer the data to your PSP.

Here comes the fun part.  Now take your PSP out of USB mode, and select the option "Memory Stick", then "Games".  The software you've installed on your PSP will appear.  You'll also see some corrupted files, but don't worry about those... they only exist to fool the PSP into playing the software you've installed.  Select the emulator or game of your choice, then press the X button and you're off to the races!

That should keep you occupied for a while... it sure kept me busy!  In the next update, I'll offer my opinion of a handful of different emulators for the system.  Which ones are worth the limited space on the system's included 32M memory card, and which ones are so good you'll think about buying a higher capacity card to replace it?  Stay tuned to find out!

June 20, 2005...  High Concept Homebrew

The year 1996 brought with it the first homebrew video games for classic systems.  Pioneers like John Dondzila designed their own software for long dead consoles ranging from the once popular (the ColecoVision and Atari 2600) to the eternally obscure (the Vectrex and Odyssey2).  Little did they know that their brave experiments would start a trend that would remain en vogue nearly a decade later... now, veterans like Dondzila have been joined by equally talented programmers like Andrew Davies, Alex Herbert, and Eduardo Mello, all making some of the best games ever released for antique game systems.

There's only one thing missing from these new games... new ideas.  Almost invariably, hobbyist developers will fill the gaps in the ColecoVision, 2600, and Vectrex libraries by designing conversions of arcade titles that were not previously available for those systems.  It's a noble goal, but not a particularly original one.  It would be a refreshing change of pace if these programmers designed truly new games, with inventive play mechanics but the same addictive quality as the beloved arcade titles they mimic so often.

I'll help get them started with an idea I had this afternoon... it's Emminent Domination, the game where you're in control of the world's most frightening chain of retail stores.  The goal in each stage is to chain together a series of homes, ultimately connecting them to a dynamite plunger at the bottom of the screen.  

It won't be easy to demolish these properties and build your one-stop shopping center, however... some homes are protected by rotating resistance barriers, while mobs of furious residents (represented as shimmering, multi-pointed stars) bounce around the screen, hoping to catch you as you move from one territory to the next.  Each acquired house acts as a temporary safe haven for your arrow, but eventually, you'll be forced to fire it at another property, risking life and limb in the hopes of establishing a retail store monopoly.

That's just one of a handful of ideas I've had for a video game that's unique, yet simple enough to be translated to a game console from the early 1980's.  If you like it, feel free to use it (as long as you credit me for my contribution, of course!).  If you think you can do better, by all means give it a shot!  Whatever you decide, please, PLEASE make your next project something other than a Space Invaders or Tetris clone.  Personally, I've had enough Tetris to last me four lifetimes.

June 17, 2005...  Even Better Than the Real Thing (Saturn replica pad review)

There are two new reviews for your reading pleasure.  The first is by a new contributor to the Blitz, Shawn Struck.  He's offered his opinion of Toon Disney's latest animated series, Jake Long: American Dragon.  His review is more optimistic than mine would have been, but what the heck... it never hurts to have a fresh point of view.

The second review is of the recently released Kirby Canvas Curse.  I have a bad habit of waiting a long time to review the games I've purchased, but I wasn't going to let this one go stale on me, no sir!  You can read more about the game here, but suffice it to say that it deserves most of the praise that's been lavished upon it by the professional gaming sites.

Now, I'd like to take a break from games and talk about the peripherals used to interact with them.  I just received this dandy little number from the fine folks at NCS...

[Sega Saturn replica controller]

It's a replica of the Sega Saturn controller, designed for the Playstation 2 and colored purple to commemorate the release of the latest Darkstalkers game.  I can't think of a single product better tailored to my personal tastes... it's like Sega and Capcom made it just for me!

When I received the controller, I quickly tore open the box, put away the deck of collectable cards (nice touch!), and plugged the pad into my system to test it out.  After spending some quality time with The King of Fighters 2003, and some, uh, substandard quality time with Street Fighter EX 3, I've got to say that it feels as much like a real Saturn controller as it looks, and as you can tell from the picture, it looks pretty damned close.  I've been hasty about recommending controllers in the past, so I'll take another week to break in this joypad before I pass judgment on it.  However, I'm confident that I'll be using it a lot more than the Pelican Real Arcade Stick I bought last Christmas.  You remember the Real Arcade Stick, don't you?  Oh, how I wish I could forget...

[Xbox controller adapter]

Here's the other item I purchased.  No, I haven't grown fifty feet tall... that's actually an XBox controller converter.  I purchased this along with the aforementioned Saturn joypad in the hope of getting the most possible enjoyment out of both my Playstation 2 and XBox fighting games.  Things didn't work out quite as well as I'd hoped, however.  While the convertor and the controller work fine when used seperately, they're not two great tastes that taste great together.  I actually tried the Saturn pad with my XBox first, using the converter as a conduit.  The combination crippled Dan in Capcom vs. SNK 2, making it impossible for him to throw fireballs.  Granted, that was never his greatest strength, but I might want to use this skill if I ever decided to play as one of the OTHER characters.  

This left me worried that the controller was faulty or just poorly made, but a little experimentation revealed that it works fine, at least in its natural habitat.  It's downright uncooperative on my other two systems, although to be fair, my GameCube controller converter was never much good for anything anyway.

So the bottom line is this... I'm really happy with the replica Saturn pad so far, but the converter? Well, that leaves something to be desired.  Looks like I'll be shopping for yet another one in the near future...

June 13, 2005...  You Don't, but I Would

We've got more cartoon reviews, courtesy of contributor John Roche.  I'm expecting even more from a new writer later this week, so stay tuned!

Well, you don't have to sit at the computer for the entire week.  You can take a break to go to the bathroom, or even better, pick up the new Kirby game for the Nintendo DS.  Word on the street is that Canvas Curse is like Yoshi's Touch and Go, squared.  I loved that game, so I can only imagine how great Canvas Curse must be!

June 7, 2005...  Back Online

The folks at Charter finally came through for me, so I'm back online again.  To celebrate, here's a new batch of cartoon reviews!

Now if you don't mind, I think I'll step out, grab myself a bite to eat, then resume work on the NES book.  So many pages, so little time!

June 1, 2005...  Get Charter, Get Screwed (also, big Texas gaming)

Charter's still holding my Internet access hostage, so regrettably, updates are going to be less frequent than they could, and should be.  Take, for instance, the previous post.  It was written on the 24th, and it was intended to be PUBLISHED on that date, but it drowned in a choppy sea ocean of bureaucracy, littered with the tattered sails of lost ships full of incompetant contractors and uncaring service representatives.

If you learn only one thing from this site, let it be this... don't trust your cable company.  When the representative who handles your call tells you that your cable will be installed on a given date, don't count on it happening until sometime in the next century.  When you're told that your apartment can't get cable service, don't believe it, because chances are high that your neighbors in the same building are watching television even as you're being lied to by the contractor.  When they tell you they can't work on your apartment without the management's permission, don't believe it, because they tore big, ugly holes in your walls just two weeks ago.  The only thing you SHOULD believe is that there are valid alternatives to cable internet service, and that you don't have to put up with the abuse you're taking from your cable provider (or more accurately, your cable withholder).

On to more pleasant news.  I had a fun time in Texas last weekend, attending the wedding of a friend.  While there, I hung out with a few of his buddies, drinking wine coolers and playing video games.  One of these games just happened to be Gradius V, the latest installment of the once popular, but still excellent, line of Konami shooters.  Everyone was impressed (and humiliated!) by this superb sequel, which demanded the same high level of skill from its players as it had come to expect from its talented designers.  Anyone who failed to live up to those lofty expectations was scolded with  unflattering comments like "Come on!  We're just getting started!"  Easy for you to say, announcer guy!  YOU'RE not the one frantically dodging thick sprays of bullets and beams!

I also grabbed a copy of Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door from Electronics Boutique.  The first thing you should know:  they're selling the game for twenty bucks, which is the best damn deal I've seen since Burnout 3: Takedown's price dropped faster than a explosive-filled semi trailer off a partially constructed bridge, into a crowded intersection.  The second thing you should know:  despite the recent merger, GameStop isn't honoring this deal.  As far as they're concerned, ElBo is still a competitor, and will remain one until all of its stores are flying the GameStop banner.  Oh yes, there's one more thing you should know... although the GameCube sequel to Paper Mario isn't as fantastic as its predecessor on the N64, it's still worth buying, especially for its current price.

I guess that's all I've got to say for now.  Enjoy the new review... I'm just sorry you had to wait this long to see it!

May 24, 2005...  The Cable Guy

I'm hoping Charter will come through for me and that my cable internet service will be installed by tomorrow, giving me just enough time to publish this update before I head out to Texas to attend a friend's wedding.  If so, you'll have a new review to read while I'm on vacation.  If not, you're probably not going to see this until June.  Considering how Charter has acted for the past two weeks, I'm leaning toward the latter possibility.

May 20, 2005...  An Hour with Game Informer (plus, Wii/Revolution news)

(I know, this update is miserably outdated.  You can thank Charter for that)

Well, I'm settled into my new apartment, and I've gotta say that I'm pretty fond of the place.  It's four times larger and ten times better than my old digs.  To top it all off, I'm within walking distance of a variety of video game and computer stores.  When I first discovered there was a GameStop in the area, I had an urge to splurge like you wouldn't believe!  I've picked up a dozen games since my arrival last week, with titles ranging from essentials such as Burnout 3 to silly impulse buys, like Stretch Panic and the XBox version of Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2.  Why would I need this when I've already got the exceptional Dreamcast game?  Well, I don't, really.  I just wanted to try all the XBox exclusive stages, along with the rounds from the first Tony Hawk release.  I suspect they'll be a lot more fun in the sequel, which tightened up the clumsy control in the original and gave players far more combo opportunities.

So let's see... what's happened since I've been gone?  Well, I was suckered into a twelve month subscription to Game Informer while I was browsing the wares at GameStop.  Now I know what you're thinking, but the magazine has greatly improved since its early days, when it was an underachieving propaganda rag published by the dreaded FuncoLand.  Now, the magazine is much thicker, and its articles and reviews are both informative and intelligently written.  There's a few too many office in-jokes (aka GameFan syndrome), and the editors are a bit too eager to chase the latest industry trends, but on the whole, the magazine is still worth reading. 

Game Informer is certainly a lot less grating than Electronic Gaming Monthly, a publication which has lost a lot of its credibility thanks to the desperate posturing of its writers.  Yes, yes, guys, we know you're extreme.  You've got Seanbaby, and sketchy underground comics (which are almost as fun to read as the back of a milk carton), and a review crew that labels anything with a color palette that extends beyond brown and grey as a "baby game".  You think maybe you could take a break from convincing us of your total awesomeness and just do your jobs?  I swear, if EGM became any more obnoxious and self-absorbed, Ziff-Davis would be required by law to sell it back to Steve Harris.

Well, enough of that.  I've been looking at some preliminary E3 coverage and was intrigued by Sony's promotional banners, both inside and outside the convention center where the expo is taking place.  The banners show the familiar triangle, square, circle, and X on the buttons of the Playstation controller slowly fading away.  Beneath the dissolving icons is a slogan which encourages players to embrace change.  Does this mean that Sony will finally abandon these confounding heiroglyphics and use more sensible designations for the controller buttons on the upcoming Playstation 3?  Or will the controller itself be such a radical departure from the Dual Shock pads that there will no longer be a place for button labels of any kind?  Your guess is as good as mine.

The Nintendo Revolution is an even more shocking departure from the norm... rumor has it that it will use a DS-style touchscreen in place of a standard controller.  The good news is that this opens up endless possibilities for game developers, who are no longer confined to a single controller design... they can create an infinite number of their own.  The bad news?  Well, there's a lot of it.  This arrangement will also put more work on the shoulders of game companies, which were already pretty unenthused about publishing software for Nintendo's game systems.  The LCD screen in the controller will make it  twice as expensive and as fragile as the more traditional joypads included with the XBox 360 and Playstation 3.  On top of all that, we all know from playing Super Mario 64 DS how well a touchscreen works as a substitute for a real analog stick.  I hope Nintendo rethinks this... it's an innovative concept, but not an especially practical one.

Finally, there's Gunstar Super Heroes on the Game Boy Advance.  I never thought I'd see an honest-to-goodness sequel to one of my favorite Genesis games, but here it is, and judging from the footage I've seen on 1UP, it looks like it'll be even more incredible than the original.  The only downside I can see is the retirement of Gunstar Heroes' mix and match weapons... they're being replaced with a triple weapon system similar to what was used in the last two Contra games.  This means that you'll have access to every weapon right out of the starting gate, but you won't be able to experiment with them like you could in the original.  It seems like a big deal at first, but really stop and think about how you played Gunstar Heroes for a minute... once you picked up two Force orbs, or combined Force with Lightning, did you ever want to use anything else?  The new design may actually encourage players to frequently switch weapons even after they've boosted them to full power.

May 7, 2005...  Difficulty 101 (or, what not to do when making a game)

I just finished playing Def Jam: Fight For New York... and screaming death threats at my XBox.  Since the programmers at Electronic Arts and Aki Corporation obviously fell asleep during this part of their game design class, I'm going to give them a refresher course on the subject of logical difficulty progression in video games.

First, you'll need to understand the definitions of two words, and the differences between the two of them.  Here is the first word, one you apparently have yet to grasp.

Easy (adj., 'E-zE):  The description of a task or goal which requires little effort to complete.  For instance, "It was easy to clean the head of this pin."

Now, here's the second word... a word which is likely to be far more familiar to you.

Hard (adj., härd):  The description of a task or goal which requires a great deal of skill, determination, and effort to complete.  For example, "It was hard to plant the flag on the spire of the Empire State Building without using the stairs or elevators."

Now, when you create a game with multiple difficulty settings, it's important to keep the definitions of these two terms in mind.  When a game is set to Hard, it's acceptable for the computer opponents to beat players into cottage cheese in a matter of seconds.  When a game is set on Easy, however, the difficulty level of that game should be adjusted accordingly, and the computer should NOT be able to pound your face through the back of your head by the time you reach the second fight.

If you're still not grasping the concept, allow me to provide you with a series of pictures which better illustrate the difference between "easy" and "hard".  Ready?









That ends our lesson for today.

May 5, 2005...  Thinking Inside the Box

After receiving the latest check for my freelance work, I went out and celebrated Cinco de Mayo by purchasing an obscene number of games.  I also took $150 out of Bill Gates' deep pockets by picking up an XBox.  I was always on the fence about purchasing a 'box, but since I had the money to do it, I figured I might as well take the plunge.  Besides, where else am I gonna do to get my Psychonauts fix, without filling up my computer's limited hard drive space?

I also snapped up Def Jam: Fight For New York and a couple of less-than-stellar XBox games, mostly out of curiousity.  Some reviewers seemed to really enjoy Quantum Redshift, but there were others that complained about its lack of depth.  I haven't tried it yet, but I suspect I'll give it the benefit of the doubt, since I'm such a big WipeOut fan.  Tao Feng, on the other hand, will receive far less mercy when it's reviewed on The Gameroom Blitz (probably in the Fighter's Misery section).  There's the skeletal frame of an excellent fighting game here, but the action is stiff and counterintuitive, reminding me of an even less entertaining Mortal Kombat: Deception.  Characters reluctantly respond to controller input, particularly jumps, and the forty-seven different combo moves each fighter is given don't flow as well as they should.  Worst of all, you're only given a single special move... an attack that must be charged but doesn't reward the player with the high damage ratio or the stylish impact of a real super move.

It's really a shame, because the game looks great... at least as impressive as Ed Boon's latest Mortal Kombat titles.  The characters (however uninteresting they may be) are beautifully detailed and shaded, and even begin to show signs of abuse as they're struck with punches and kicks.  You can even demolish playfield objects by sending your opponent crashing through them, a feature sorely missed in Mortal Kombat: Deadly Alliance.  However, a game's got to have more on its plate than extensive property damage to convince players to come back for a second helping, and Tao Feng's plate is pretty empty when you get past the blood sprays and splintered boxes.

Still, I'm impressed with what I've seen of the XBox so far.  Its graphics are a step up from either of its competitors... in Def Jam: Fight For New York, the rappers are more detailed and their clothes even baggier than they were in the original on the GameCube.  Plus, the XBox is better supported than the second most powerful console, the GameCube... if it gives you any idea, there was only one title released for that system last month.  Granted, there's only a handful of games on the XBox that really interest me, but now that I've got one, I can experience the full range of software the industry has to offer!

Er, at least until the next batch of systems is released.  Oh well... it'll be fun while it lasts!

April 30, 2005...  You've Got the Touch (also, Def Jam Vendetta and Keio 2)

There's finally a fresh new article on The Gameroom Blitz.  I hope it was worth the wait!  I just bought a Nintendo DS to go along with the PSP, so I may wind up reviewing that system as well in the future. 

I've only had the system for a day, so I can't say much about it yet.  I've got the Metroid Prime demo and Yoshi's Touch and Go so far... I don't think much of Metroid Prime: Hunters (no big surprise... I didn't like the GameCube game either), but I'm having lots 'o fun with Yoshi's Touch and Go.  I was a little worried that the game would never evolve past the prototype shown at last year's Electronic Entertainment Expo.  Fortunately, Nintendo saw as much promise in the tech demo as I did and transformed it into a full-fledged DS release... and a rather enjoyable one at that.

What else?  Well, I recently found Def Jam Vendetta and the English version of Keio Yuugekitai ("What are two games you never hear in the same sentence, Alex?").  I've played Def Jam before, but never on the GameCube, which is the version I found at a local pawn shop.  It took a while for me to readjust to the gameplay, but after a few rounds of getting my face punched to custard by living and fictional rappers, I finally got the hang of grappling my foes, and was able to win a few battles myself.  You've  got to love the holds and throws in that game... they're just so brutal!

Then there's Keio Yuugekitai.  One of my readers clued me in on a BitTorrent file that was recently made available on a Saturn fan site.  Even though I already have a copy of the game (heck, I even owned the official release way back in the late 1990's!), I decided to give this a shot, just to see what Keio would be like in English.  Some of the game's intensely Japanese personality is lost due to the dopey new voice overs and poorly chosen fonts, but on the other hand, it is nice to be able to read the captions in the omake section and understand the kooky conversations in the full-motion video scenes.  It makes me wish someone would have given Radiant Silvergun an English dub of its own... sure, there are spoilers on GameFAQs, but I'd much rather watch the characters act out the dialogue, rather than putting down the controller to read lines of text.

April 26, 2005...  Indecision Clouds My Vision

You remember that story about the fox and the squirrel being chased by a vicious dog?  Without thinking, the squirrel hightails it up a tree, while the fox just sits there, thinking of all the clever ways it could outsmart its pursuer.  In the end, only the squirrel lives to see another day, because the fox just couldn't decide how it wanted to make its escape.

I'm feeling kind of like the fox right now.  I've got all kinds of ideas for articles and reviews, but I can't decide which one I should start first.  Should I update Fighter's Misery with a review of Vicious Circle, the most blatant Killer Instinct clone this side of Shinoken?  Should I add content to the increasingly outdated cartoon review column?  Maybe it's time to update the fabulous game console-rating Jessboard in Systematix, or perhaps I should finally write some reviews of the PSP games I've accumulated over the past three weeks... or heck, even the PSP itself!  While I'm pondering my options, my readers are getting bored and finding other things to do with their time.

Maybe it's time I follow the lead of Chris Larson, the editor of Stage Select, and put the site on a strict schedule.  Bringing in new readers isn't as important to me as it once was, but it would be nice to give the few people who DO still come here something new to read every week.

April 18, 2005...  Good Things Come to Those Who Wait (and wait, and wait...)

For all its shortcomings, the Nintendo DS has one definite advantage over Sony's PSP... instant gratification.  I was hanging out with my friend Chris Larson last weekend, and he'd purchased a Nintendo DS at a game store in the Lansing area.  After doing some shopping, we took a break, spending some quality time with our respective portables.  The only thing is, Chris was getting in a lot more quality time than I was.  While I was sitting through the obscenely long load times in Tony Hawk's Underground 2 Remix, he was frantically scribbling away on his DS, having a ball with Wario Ware Touched!.  I found myself getting just a little envious as I watched his screens, alive with fast-paced mini-games and wacky characters.  Meanwhile, all my PSP could offer me was the promise of a game, sometime... eventually... in just a minute.  Bah!  This is the 21st century!  Aren't we supposed to be past lengthy access times by now?  Why should I have to wait for my fun?

Needless to say, I'm taking the DS a lot more seriously than I did a week ago.  It's not just that it offers a faster gaming fix than the PSP, with its annoying load times and overly complicated interface.  There's also the matter of the touchscreen, which can be a lot of fun when it's put to good use with games like Wario Ware Touched!.  Not every game for the system makes the most of the touchscreen, but the few that do (particularly Yoshi's Touch and Go, which had piqued my interest from the moment it was shown at E3 as a tech demo) make me feel like I'm not getting the full handheld experience from owning just a PSP.  Despite all that the system has to offer, it would seem that you can't have the best of both worlds if you don't actually have the two worlds.

April 12, 2005...  Now I See the Light

While registering my copy of Lumines, I found this incredible deal on Advance Guardian Heroes at the Ubi Soft web site.  Yes, buy the most disappointing sequel in years directly from Ubi Soft, and you can get it for $19.99, a penny off the regular retail price!  You can't beat that... unless you save the money for a copy of something good, like Fire Pro Wrestling, or Konami Arcade Classics, or The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap.

Enough snarky sarcasm... you're probably more interested in my opinion of Lumines.  I was convinced that it would be like Tetsuya Mizuguchi's last game Rez, with stylish audiovisuals dressing up an otherwise ordinary experience.  After five minutes, I was more convinced than ever that it was just another puzzle game.  It took five MORE before the pieces started to fall into place (mentally, I mean) and I understood what made the game work.  It's all about racing to build as many blocks of uniform color as possible before the timeline at the top of the screen sweeps through and erases your work.  The more blocks you can make during a single sweep of the timeline, the more points you'll earn, and the further you can progress through the game, eventually unlocking new backgrounds and tunes.  This gives the player an incentive to work quickly even in the less intense early rounds, making Lumines exciting from the moment you press the start button.
I was skeptical about Lumines, I'll admit, but the timeline makes what could have been an ordinary puzzle game into something much more memorable (and oh yeah, the intensity the thumping techno music brings to the game doesn't hurt the experience, either).  My hat's off to you, Mizuguchi.  You didn't hook me with Rez, but you've reeled me in with Lumines.

April 10, 2005...  I Sell Out Easy, Don't I?

All you aspiring Michael Moores out there can stop hounding me... I admit that I'm a hypocrite.  After complaining about the PSP for the last few months, I went out and bought one anyway.  I don't relish the thought of Sony dominating yet another segment of the industry, but I'm a consumer first and a consumer advocate second, and they currently have the most appealing handheld on the market.  I don't like Microsoft, but I still have Windows installed on my computer.  I don't like Paramount, but I still watch Viacom-owned networks like Comedy Central and VH1.  I don't like fossil fuel, but I still take the bus uptown when I'm too tired to walk.  If I boycotted every product from corporate entities I don't like, I'd be sitting in a cave, banging rocks together for fun.

April 7, 2005...  Hands-On with the PSP

Good news, folks.  Now that I've been paid for some of my freelance work, I can afford to have the Internet at home... and not just ANY Internet, either!  I'm surfing in style with a cable modem, a huge improvement over the wimpy dial-up my parents have at their house.  After enjoying cable, then DSL at the computer repair store that was my former place of employment, I can tell you that broadband is the only way to fly.

I also took some of the money I'd earned and invested it in a PSP.  Yeah, I went with the forces of evil this time, but in my defense, I did buy three iterations of the Game Boy Advance, and even woefully undersupported accessories like the e-reader.  I felt like indulging myself with a new game system after receiving my paycheck, but I just couldn't bring myself to buy a Nintendo DS.  It goes well beyond the territory of "decadent purchase", landing deep within that barren land known as "wasted money".  It's not that I don't like the touchscreen... heck, I even found the concept intriguing when it was first introduced by the game.com in 1997!  It's just that I don't feel the games are doing enough with it.  Moreover, the system's not well supported, an issue which will only worsen when Nintendo releases the successor to the Game Boy Advance later this year.

I'm not sure I'd categorize the PSP as a smart purchase either, especially when you consider its steep price.  However, I do feel more confident about the investment... it's a powerful, versatile system, and the option to upload files from outside sources leaves the door to homebrew development wide open.  Although my first game for the system, Wipeout Pure, is both extremely impressive and a lot of fun to play, I'm sure I'll enjoy my system a lot more when I'm running NES and Genesis emulators on it.

One thing's for sure... the PSP raises the bar for portable gaming hardware.  It'll be interesting to see if Nintendo will meet Sony's challenge with a similarly powerful handheld.  They probably could, as the Dreamcast hardware was recently shrunken down into a single chip, and the GameCube has only gotten cheaper and cheaper over the past four years.  If they were to incorporate either of these technologies into a portable without the PSP's extraneous features or its internal disc drive, they could probably get it out the door by the end of the year for $150, or possibly even less.  This would definitely give them an edge in the handheld gaming wars.  Ultimately, though, it's up to Nintendo to decide whether they'll take their Game Boy line to the next level, or expect customers to settle for less than the best.

April 4, 2005...  Awesome NES Progress Report

With the licensed game reviews out of the way, I can take the next step in making Awesome NES a reality.  I've started work on a preliminary page design, which combines the reviews with screenshots, box artwork, a rarity index, and general information about each title.

There are a few snags, however.  Since I misplaced my Office 2000 product ID key (I've got the official discs, honest!), I'm forced to slum with OpenOffice for the moment.  As anyone who's spent time making print publications will tell you, using a word processor to create a desktop publishing document is akin to a rabbi bringing a chainsaw to a bris.  It might get the job done, but the process is messy, and above all else, painful.  I've spent as much time swearing at OpenOffice's many frustrating quirks as I did getting anything productive accomplished.

Fortunately, all those hours of struggling were not in vain... in the end, I did manage to create a working layout for the book.  Although it's a bit rough, this early preview should still give you an idea of how Awesome NES will look when it's finished.


Despite all my complaining, I have to admit that OpenOffice's ability to convert documents into the compact and widely used PDF format really does come in handy.  Anyway, here are some notes about the design...

*  The book will be in full color.  This will not only make it more attractive, but more practical as well... the sections of the book will be arranged in a color spectrum, making it easier to search for games by letter.  Tabs on each page will indicate the letter and number of each page, making the book even more convenient to use.

*  Games are rated in two seperate categories.  The "Q-Dex" (not to be confused with cotton swabs or feminine hygeine products) is a bar on the right hand side of the review box, which rates the game's overall quality.  The Rarity value speaks for itself, rating the game's value as a collectable with a number between zero and nine.

*  A circle on the top right hand corner of each review (not shown in the PDF) lets users know from a glance which peripherals they'll need to play the game.  Generally, this circle will contain an NES joypad, but sometimes, a Zapper or the Power Pad will appear inside it instead.

*  Speech bubbles in the center of each page offer Fast Facts, or additional information, about the games reviewed.  Up to two Fast Facts can appear on a single page... on the pages with only one Fast Fact, amusing artwork of the characters in the reviewed games will appear in the leftover space.

If you've got any comments, suggestions, or advice about the current page layout, now's the time to speak up, while it can still be modified.  After all, bitching after the book is published isn't going to do anybody any good!

April 2, 2005...  Mental Notes

I thought about skipping the April Fool's Day celebration entirely this year, but at the very last minute, I was hit with a flash of inspiration... an idea that was clever enough to be worth using on the site, but not SO clever that it would take an abundance of my time and effort to finish.  In case you missed it, this is what people saw when they visited the site yesterday (and every day of their childhoods if they grew up with a Nintendo Entertainment System).

I can't think of too much else to say, so let me just take this opportunity to...

1) Thank Tony Bueno for his latest contribution to The Gameroom Blitz.  Thanks, Tony!
2) Remind everyone that yes, Tommy Tallarico and Kevin Periera are still douchebags
3) Giggle with glee at the reports on G4 that PSP sales were "solid, but unspectacular"
4) Wonder why updates of this site have been so uncharacteristically frequent

April 1, 2005...  Gone in a Flash

Click here for the April Fool's joke.