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Friday, February 27, 2009

iPhone: The Killer Handheld? Or Handheld Killer?

I've been thinking about this subject for a long time... originally I was going to title this post Did the iPhone Kill the PSP? Hence the picture... but it's a bigger issue than that: Are download-only games the future of handheld gaming?

There've been rumourangs bouncing back & forth for the last year or so about a new PSP... one of the most persistent details is "no UMD drive-- using only downloaded games".

Looking at all these rumours & gossip, the way they describe this supposed-new-PSP:

  • No UMD drive
  • hard drive or built in (flash) memory
  • touch screen

Geez... what does that sound like.....

It's bizarre that these "fanboys" don't even realize they're describing a device that's already been out on the market for the last year now... okay, I understand that if you're a single console owner --let's say you only own a PSP-- you might not pay much attention to what's going on with the DS or iPod or whatever. That's natural.

But handheld tech has changed so much since 2004-2009... really, 2005-2007 showed the most flux I'd say. When the PSP first came out in 2005 (in North America) it was bundled with a 32 MB memory stick. Shortly after, the largest memory stick available was 1 GB... and it was considered an expensive luxury. Nobody would have been predicted that flash memory would drop in price and rise in capacity as quickly as it has.

Because nobody could have predicted that, obviously Sony & Nintendo didn't either. in 2004/2005, handheld gaming looked like console gaming did, that it was cartridge/disc based. Sony's gambit was to expand their handheld to other media stored on memory stick.

Then Apple moved in with the iPhone.

Apple already has the lions share of the mp3 player market with the iPod. Last I heard, Apple was #1, with Sandisk being a *DISTANT* #2. I think that Apple has 90% share of the market. So when they moved into apps... and GAMES... they've got a solid foundation from their iTunes market to fall back on should their apps/games market fail.

But I don't think it has failed. I'm not as knowledable about iPhone/iPod Touch apps/games as I should be, but I think there are TONS of them available, with more on the way. Third parties seem to be tripping over themselves trying to get in on the "goldrush" that is iTunes Apps Store.

iPhone/iPod Touch has proven that people are willing to buy download-only games/moveis/apps. And now Sony & Nintendo are playing catch-up to that idea.

There's all this talk about a "PSP 2 that doesn't take UMDs" surfacing again, and it's starting to sound more & more likely....

People Fanboys are saying, "Well, what about stores being cut out of video games sales??? They'll never support a device that does that." Yeah, because I wonder how many of those stores that sell iPhones/iPod Touch see a SINGLE CENT from music/games/apps bought through iTunes. Yet they're still selling the hardware, aren't they? Again with the coke-bottle Fanboy glasses. Sometimes you have to look beyond just your product to see if ideas are working or not.

I'm thinking that a downloaded-games-only PSP 2 would have a touchscreen, 2 analogue nubs & face button/D-pad configuration in "classic Playstation style". It should have built in memory as well as a memory stick slot. Call it the PSPN-- as in "Network"... basically, it sounds/looks like an iPhone/iPod Touch.... but what Sony would count on is that they're Sony, and that gamers want God of War, Ratchet & Clank, etc... Sony exclusive titles.

I could easily see Sony putting their press spin control into overdrive, saying junk like, "You can still play your UMD games on your old PSPs, and use PSPN for downloaded games you buy from our PS Store!" and they could even throw a few crumbs to old PSP owners by releasing a game or 2 every year for the next couple years. it would be nasty, but it's better than the way Microsoft screwed over treated us Xbox owners when they said, "We're not developing for Xbox, we're only doing 360 stuff. But if you third party devs still want to, it's your funer--err, we mean, go right ahead."

The DS isn't immune to the "download threat" either.

Sure, it has the cameras & music playback, but I'm pretty convinced that the DSi is Nintendo's way of covering their ass in case downloaded games does take off in a big way. That's the main reason for it I think.

But I'm not sure the DSi is equipped to stand the test of time if the handheld market does shift to download-only. I'm not sure what the limits are for its SD card capacity..... again, I'm sure Nintendo is relying on them being Nintendo to combat Apple/anyone else.: "Where else you gonna get the next Mario game??"

The biggest problem with DSi's download capability as far as I can see is that you need not just an internet connection, but Wi-Fi to use it. I don't think you can download DSiWare games to an SD card plugged in your PC's card reader. That's frustrating.

But if you want the big first-party Sony & Nintendo franchises, you have to buy their systems. I think we're seeing iPhone/iPod Touch games as knockoffs of some of those big franchise games. They coould be amusing knockoffs, but they are not the "real" thing. Another factor to consider is the price for these iPhone/iPod Touch games. Seems like a lot of the games are really cheap, like $5.00 & under. Does anyone expect a Mario game to ever be that cheap? or a big Sony game? Doubtful.

I think Apple is ahead of the game in the handheld market because they have the download service (iTunes) and the hardware (iPhone/iPod Touch) while Nintendo & Sony are playing catch-up... both are going at a snails pace with their online stores.

I'm no advocate for download-only content... I've talked about my probs with PS Store, and I'm a big hater of DRM. I just find that in real-world use, it's more about breaking your legally-bought content than protecting against piracy. So this possible shift to download-only makes me nervous.

I've been thinking about getting an iPod Touch for awhile... sure glad I didn't get one last gen, since they added the volume rocker this gen... that would've pissed me off, it's something I really demand in a media player. But the main reason I'm hesitant about iPod is the same reason I chose a PSP over one in 2006: iTunes dependence, and DRM. DRM may be disappearing from iTunes, but it's the overall "you have to do everything through our software" policy that really bothers me. I like PSP's drag & drop. Plus I'm not sure that all my PSP Video 9 encoded video files would play on an iPod Touch. I have all this video that's PSP-format, and I need something that would play all that.

Still, if those things are compatible, I might just go for it. Is iPod Touch the handheld for the future?


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Invisible Shield: Not as good as it used to be?

Gahh... I just cleaned off one of my white PSP Slims, I use a damp micro-fibre cloth. And it's caused some micro-scratches to show up on the Invisible Shield screen protector.

My 2 PSP Slims have newer Invisible Shield (post-ZAGG takeover) screen-only protectors and my PSP-1001 has an older Invisible Shield protector that covers the front faceplate (pre-ZAGG takeover) since the old PSP-1000's have an unbroken surface between screen and faceplate, that's why I went with the full Shield.

A few things I've noticed about the newer Invisible Shields-- they don't seem as good as my first one bought in 2006. That one did have a problem with the analogue nub butting against the cutout; I had to actually peel away some of it so it looks kinda rough around that area.

But other than that, the PSP-1001 Invisible Shield is just a smoother, flatter protector than these new ones.

My other PSP Slim also has the annoying micro-scratches on the Invisible Shield. I didn't clean this one for a long time... maybe not even ever.... and there were no scratch problems. I wasn't sure it was because of the wiping that caused the scratches, but now I know. Which is damn odd, because I'm using a MICRO-FIBRE cloth, specifically made *not* to cause scratches on ultra smooth surfaces (these are for glasses) I've used the same kind of cloths to clean my PSP-1001 Invisible Shield screen protector, and no scratches on that. At least not noticible ones.

The micro-scratches on my Slims screen protectors are really noticible when the PSP screen is showing light things like an outdoor afternoon scene or brightly coloured games like LocoRoco 2. The scratches sort of reflect the light, which is bad.

So I have to conclude that Invisible Shield, a brand of screen protector that I really championed, has lowered its quality somehow. I suspect it's a manufacturing thing; they changed the Invisible Shield "formula" to something cheaper for them to make. That's annoying, they charge a premium for their protectors. Part of the cost goes towards their lifetime replacement guarantee (I wonder how much longer that's going to last...) It's great that I could get a replacement, but it's such a bother to install the things that I don't want to do it unless I HAVE to, y'know?

It's still not a bad screen protector; once it dries and sets for 3 days, there should be no bubbles-- they look like they were applied when the PSP was manufactured. Most of the time, they really are invisible. But they're just not as good as they used to be.

When it comes to the PSP, almost any screen protection is better than NO screen protection....

I'm wondering if I should just try out Best Skins Ever next time or what.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Why I hate Sony part 2: PlayStation Store

Like every other PSP owner, I was pretty excited when Sony opened up the PlayStation Store to PC access, meaning that we didn't have to own a PS3 to download content from it.

It was PC-only (not Mac compatible) and you needed to install the Network Downloader program to use it. But the program seems fairly small, and it worked alright for me .

My biggest problem getting started was it wouldn't accept my credit card. It's a major brand, but it would not take it for some reason. I had to use a relative's CC which for some reason DID work (also the same brand)

Once that hurdle was cleared, the PS Store worked well enough.... I was downloading demos like Patapon & God of War: Chains of Olympus, and I bought Beats.

Everything was lovey-dovey... until one day when I tried to download a demo, it would get 2% into the download, then say: Communication with the server failed (80048516) ... every time I kept trying the same thing would happen. Nothing's changed on my computer--I was baffled. I looked up the problem on the web, tried to do as much research as I could (I always do with gadgets) and people were saying deactivating & re-activating their PSP was solving the problem.

So I tried that. You go to the activate PSP page, and (at the time-- it's been months since I've looked at the PS Store) all there is is a blank page with a check mark of either Activate or Deactivate. No other details. If you click Deactivate, it asks "Are you Sure?" but no other details.

Once I deactivated my PSP, it wouldn't reactivate, and so it was completely cut off from the PS Store. What the hell???

I phoned up Sony Customer Support, and told them my problem. Their "solution": the PS Store suddenly stops working for you? Then you can't use it. That's LITERALLY what the support drone said. He also told me that a PSP can't be reactivated to the same account once it's deactivated. WHY DON'T THEY SAY THAT ON THE ACTUAL WEBSITE PAGE?!?! Maybe... fill up some of that NEARLY COMPLETELY BLANK space that is on the activation page with some of this info?

For that matter, there was *NO* help or customer service link ANYWHERE on the PS Store site.

So I was left with my deactivated PSP Slim, which had demos of Patapon & God of War: Chains of Olympus... and more importantly Beats which I PAID MONEY FOR.... *all* of it suddenly became DEAD, USELESS DATA on my memory stick, completely inaccessible.

Another issue with the PS Store was how you paid for product: You have to transfer funds to your Playstation wallet, only in $5.00 or $10.00 amounts. Something like Beats cost me, I think $7.00 with tax? Because of the price structure, you'll ALWAYS have money left over that you can't spend. Stupidly I even put in another $10.00 I think because I was going to buy another game.

Imagine going into a store wanting to buy a stick of gum that costs, let's say, $1.50. You fish out your wallet to find only a $10.00 bill. Well that's more than enough to cover the costs, right? Now imagine instead of getting change back, the store automatically KEEPS your ENTIRE $10.00, and the shopkeeper telling you that the extra $8.50 will go towards your next purchase. Does that seem like a place you want to shop at? Welcome to the PlayStation Store.

There might be ways around the activation problem, like creating a new account. The thing is, you need another CC to be able to create a new account.... it's all such as hassle.

So to sum it up, the problems with the PlayStation Store:

  • -randomly won't take some credit cards
  • -network downloader randomly stops working (80048516 error)
  • -no customer service/no HELP link or info
  • -have to pay more money than what you want to buy

This experience sent me over the edge with Sony, coupled by my PSP Slim problems, but the Store is what really turned me from miffed to a hater. It's been months since I've even checked on the Store. I believe there's a new Network Downloader program, and the Store interface might be improved. But this whole thing has largely soured me on downloadable content, which I was wary of to beging with. It's one of the reasons I chose to buy a PSP over an iPod back in 2006.

If I sit on my UMD and it cracks, I don't blame Sony. Sure, UMDs are fragile & flimsily-designed, but if I sit on one, that's MY fault. If I scratch a CD, I know what's wrong with it, I don't blame the record companies. I bought the product, it's mine.

But if I wake up one morning and my downloaded content/network that I bought stops working for no reason, who's fault is that? That's what I hate about DRM. All this talk about moving completely to downloaded games really has me worried. I don't think Sony is competent enough to handle it. It's a real shame, because I'd like to buy Super Stardust Portable or Flow. But I can't see how I can trust Sony again.

related: *Why I hate Sony part 1*


Hannah Montana PSP bundle

Ugh.. I never thought I'd ever start off a post with that title... but it's not as bad as it sounds.

There's been a lot of PSP news lately, clearly Sony has been waiting to drop this stuff on us like an A-bomb... showing us they still support the system. Losta game announcements, and 2 PSP bundles.

From IGN:

LittleBigPlanet Portable

* Developed by Sony Cambridge in conjunction with MediaMolecule
* New SackBoy adventures with the same play, create, share experience for gamers on-the-go
* Brand new levels and environments specifically created for the platform
* Set for this year

MotorStorm: Arctic Edge

* Developed by Bigbig Studios (the folks behind the Pursuit Force series)
* Set in Alaska
* Also expected to hit the PlayStation 2 platform in Fall of 2009

Assassin's Creed Portable

* Ubisoft's exclusive installment of the franchise
* Set for release later this year

Rock Band Unplugged

* Exclusive to PSP MTV Games and Harmonix
* The first PSP game to include a fully-featured in-game store for DLC
* Coming in 2009


* Ubisoft's bringing the Petz series to the PSP in 2009
* Expect dogs, cats, horses, hamsters, dolphins, tigers and bunnies
* Yay

New $199.99 PSP Bundles

* Hannah Montana PSP Entertainment Pack
o Will launch in July
o Includes new "Lilac" PSP system
o Packs Disney Interactive's Hannah Montana PSP game, an exclusive dancing and rhythm action game
o Packs a selection episodes from the Hannah Montana TV series on UMD, Includes a 2GB Memory Stick PRO Duo and stickers to customize the PSP

* Assassin's Creed PSP Entertainment Pack
o Contains the game and a Piano Black PSP
o Other details to come later

About the Hannah Montana PSP... it's a Lilac PSP-3001, which so far looks pretty nice in the stylized pic. I'm not dying to pick one up, but if I had that colour, I'd probably be happy with it. I wouldn't be so happy with the rest it's bundled with.... among all the Hannah Montana junk "girl-friendly" stuff, apparently there's stickers included to apply to the PSP???? *shudder* I'm not sure I even WANT to know what those will be....

Between the Hannah Montana (ok I've typed that name JUST TOO MANY TIMES NOW) stuff and the Petz brand of games... it kinda smacks of *desperation* from Sony to get females to notice the PSP.... though there's no doubt that the female demographic should not be ignored by game companies. It's not for me, but maybe girls will flock to it in droves? We'll see... but I wouldn't put money on it....

Maybe I still need time to soak it all in... but I'm not super excited about these game announcements. I'm glad to see that Sony is rounding up some third-party developers to get them back on PSP, but... these games.... I dunno. I know that a lot of these franchises are from the PS3/360 consoles, so I haven't played many of them.

I hate to sound all negative when the PSP needs good news right now. LittleBigPlanet looks great on PS3, I hope it translates well to PSP. Same with Assassin's Creed. When I think of UbiSoft developing for PSP, I can't help but think of their recent comments about the PSP's lack of direction and how "Ubisoft has no games planned for the PSP this year" (this article was posted June 2008, so I'm guessing that 2008 had no Ubisoft PSP games) From my personal experience with the Ubisoft-developed Star Wars:Lethal Alliance, I'm a bit concerned that Ubisoft will phone it in; making a functional game, but maybe not an outstanding one. But it's way too early to judge.

Overall, new games is good news, right? I guess......


Monday, February 23, 2009

DSi: Do I want?

Nintendo DSi is going to be released in North America on April 5, 2009.

Overall, it's a small upgrade from the DS Lite. A few nice additions like camera(s), SD card slot, slightly bigger screens and AAC music playback.

I've read that so far only the black and (lavender?) blue colours are set for North America release. No white??? Odd.

For me, it's a fairly safe bet that I will be passing on this update. From what I can see, the biggest draw of the DSi is the "i"... even though Nintendo hasn't said what that stands for, I take it to mean "internet"-- specifically, downloadable content through Wi-Fi.

Yes, there's the 2 cameras that could open up possibilities for future games to use them. But if you were a games developer, knowing that only a relatively small portion (even if the DSi will sell like hotcakes which it probably will) can possibly use the camera support... would you make a game that cuts off a large portion of your possible sales? We already know that answer from the Wii-- specifically the Wii Balance Board. It's been out for a year, and there are (very) few games that offer Balance Board support.... and of those few that support the Balance Board, how many of them are *good* games? Leaving a very slim selection. As nice as the feature is, the DSi's camera isn't a huge draw for me.

Awwww, how can you not love it??

AAC music playback: I don't have iTunes, I can count the AAC music files I have on one hand. It pisses me off that Nintendo has chosen to support AAC *over* MP3. I know that AAC is a technically better codec than MP3, but my PSP can play *both*. I don't want one over the other (unless it's mp3) So that DSi feature sucks for me.

DSiWare/SD card support: The SD card is used for music/photos in the DSi (the DSi has onboard 256MB storage too) but the main use will be for games downloaded from the Nintendo Store, DSiWare. Personally, I don't have Wi-Fi, so I can't make use of this feature.

Downloaded games look like the future of handheld gaming (ugh?).... the iPhone seems to be leading the way with Sony and Nintendo playing catch-up.... I'm sure Nintendo's relying on it's past history and brand to keep their edge while they try & figure out how to deal with the changing landscape of the handheld market.... and the DSi is their stopgap measure.

I do really like the idea of slightly bigger screens, though the resolution is the same. So I don't know how much better things will *really* look, but I figure it will still be a *bit* better.

Comparison shot between the DSi & DS Lite.

The big thing for me is, you know how when a new PSP game comes out everyone posts on forums, "I've got to dust off my PSP..." or "My PSP's gathering dust..." well, that's pretty much how it is with my DS Lite. I really like the DS Lite, but honestly, I haven't played it since early January when I bought those 2 games for it (Custom Robo & Sonic... haven't even tried Sonic yet) It's fun, but....... I use my PSP way more because it does more than just games. Today I'm going to be playing some Force Unleashed, then watch an episode of EP Daily, and listen to music on it. The DSi goes a bit of a step towards being able to do all that but it doesn't (natively) play video, and like I said about the AAC-only support....

I'd consider the DSi if my DS Lite broke.

*slightly related: PSP-3000: Do I want?*


Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Art of Save Points

Playing enough video games nowadays, you notice little things... like how important loading & save points are. I don't know if enough game developers think about how much if affects the overall game. Good games can be wrecked by lousy/not enough save points.

And loading is another big problem. I'm playing Star Wars: The Force Unleashed on my PSP this morning, going through the Duel modes. The problem with this mode is that if you're defeated, even if you want to retry the SAME duel with the EXACT SAME settings, you still have to wait the full time for it to reload... about 20 seconds. I hate that.

It's like racing games: There are some racing games where if you restart/fail and want to retry it, there's a small amount of loading where it just resets the map. Terrible racing games are ones where it reloads the entire map as if you're turning on the game for the very first time. Drives me nuts! All the assets & stuff have been loaded, so why does all this stuff have to be loaded again?? It's just poor game programming or design.

When people complain that a game is too tough, I suspect that a big part of that feeling is just the poor design; where retrying it is almost equal to pulling the disc out of the machine and putting it back in again. Come on game devs, start thinking about this stuff.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Star Wars 3.75" action figs

Last few days I've been suffering from a different kind of hand-held addiction.

I don't know why, I guess it was all that re-playing of Force Unleashed on both my Wii and PSP-- but I just got into the action figures big time! While I was looking for the battle-damaged Darth Vader fig from the game, I came across a few other really nifty ones.

There was a 2 pack with Darth Talon (pictured left) and Cade Skywalker. They are from the comicbook series Star Wars: Legacy, which I'm enjoying. It's set about 100 years after Return of the Jedi, and focuses on Cade Skywalker, Luke's grandson.

Darth Talon is an *awesome* figure. She's got all those Darth Maul-like tattoos, and is a Twi'Lek, which I really like. the Cade Skywalker figure's ok, but I bought the 2 pack just for her. She's my favourite fig of these recent aquisitions.

I also got an Obi-Wan dressed in clone trooper outfit with removable helmet. I like having him hold it rather than wear it. He's really posable, moreso than Darth Talon. Looks pretty cool.

I bought a Darth Vader today, I wasn't all that happy with him at first because he lacks articulation-- I want ball joints at the shoulders, elbows and ankles-- but I've been posing him tonight and I'm liking him more. His lightsaber's not as thick as the other figs though, and his hands don't hold it very well at all.... which kinda bugs me....

I keep picking these toys up and fiddling with them... the joints are bound to get loose.... guess this is my vestigal form of playing with toys..... haven't gotten to the point where I'm re-enacting scenes + dialogue with them yet, but give it time.... sigh.....


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Why I hate Sony part 1: PlayStation G.A.P.

If you click on my blog's Sony tag, I bet most of the articles have me making some kind of snarky comment towards them.

Until recently I never really thought about Sony one way or the other. To me, Sony is a big electronics corporation, a household name I've always known. I think almost everybody has had a Sony product at one time or another, I can think of at least 3 that I have in my home right now. (counting my PSPs... well I guess that would be 6.)

When I bought my PSP in 2006, I wasn't very familiar with the PlayStation brand, other than occasionally having played a PS1 & PS2 at friends places. I knew that PS2 was the best-selling console, and that implied a level of quality that is consistent with Sony's overall rep.

I think my optimism turned to cautious hope, then turned to misgivings, then turned to disgust... for the PlayStation brand. I love love *LOOOOOVE* the PSP... but I cannot fathom the motivation behind the people who run the PlayStation brand. They've literally turned me against them.

Awhile back I got an invite to join the PlayStation Gamer's Advisory Panel (G.A.P.)

The first rule of G.A.P. is you don't talk about G.A.P. The second rule of G.A.P. is....

But whatever.

G.A.P. is a (Sony-sponsored) invite-only closed community, where basically people can blog about whatever they want. It should be gaming, but it doesn't have to be, and it doesn't have to be exclusively PlayStation gaming either (though it mostly is because its members were invited from the old PlayStation Underground forums)

G.A.P. members can get in on beta testing, and maybe get some free demos to try out. I made sure I had all my info filled out, I filled out their surveys when I could, I blogged, I did what I could to be a good member.

UMD demo giveaways did happen, and for months I signed up for all of the ones I knew about. They gave me confirmations:

But I never did get any of them. My address was correct. I thought it might be because I was in Canada (though the terms never excluded Canada) but other Canadian G.A.P. members, who filled out the forms later than me, *were* getting the demos.

I eventually realized that I must be on some "do not send freebies" list at PlayStation.... and there's no way to actually bring this up at G.A.P. or PlayStation. There is no contact at G.A.P.... who actually runs it? I have no idea, it's moderated but that's more a forum control than actually having to do with Sony business. And if you try to contact PlayStation support, they only want to hear if your PSP's broken.

Maybe this is just me whining. I'm not saying that Sony/PlayStation owes me free stuff. Despite my support, they are not obliged to send me freebies. Fair enough. But if I'm excluded from this stuff, why not just tell me? Why waste my time? Assholes.

But all this isn't why my ambivalence turned to hate. This is only part 1 of what I think is a 3-4 part topic. It's just indicative of the mess of a brand that PlayStation has become(? I'm not sure what it was like in the PS2 days)

It gets worse when I tried to deal with the PlayStation Store.

Oh, and you know all that kerfuffle facebook is getting about its terms of service that it had to change? Well, you pretty much have to agree to those EXACT SAME T.O.S. to join G.A.P.


DSi & music playback

The DSi is set to launch in North America on April 5, 2009.

Among it's few added features is music playback in AAC format. I keep reading about people all excited and touting it's features as an .mp3 player. Let's make this crystal clear: THE DSI DOES NOT PLAY MP3. THE DSI PLAYS .M4A (AAC format)

It sounds like nitpicking, and maybe it is... but .mp3 and AAC files are *NOT* the same thing. I know that people use "mp3" as a general definition of digital music files. I do it myself. But it's a BIG DEAL if you're thinking that the DSi will be awesome because it can play your mp3 files that you have on your computer, but when you find out that you have to convert those .mp3 files to .m4a (maybe .mp4 which is what they REALLY are)... then the distinction becomes pretty damn important.

Basically, you'd only have .m4a AAC files if you used iTunes, and you'd probably only be using iTunes if you have an iPod. And if you already have an iPod, I doubt the DSi music playback features will really compare.... though it's more like the DSi treats music as a toy rather than music.

All these idiots out there saying "the DSi is an mp3 player"... it's like saying something that plays only these:

is a CD player. In other words, don't be idiots spreading misinformation.


Godzilla Unleashed

Man.... I have to admit it.... today, just before heading to the grocery store, I stopped in to Rogers Video Rogers Plus on impulse.... just to see what they had.

I didn't expect they'd have a (used) copy of Godzilla Unleashed (for Wii) on sale... $14.99, which is a pretty good price. I've hardly seen the game anywhere around here, and when I have, it's been upwards of $40.00-$50.00 (new) ... so I had to grab it! I've been buying a ton of games the last couple weeks.... but huge Godzilla fan that I am, Godzilla Unleashed is one of the games that was on my must-buy Wii games list, just like Star Trek: Conquest and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. It's a fanboy obsession I know.... haven't tried it yet... but I have an idea what I'm in for with the game, since I have Godzilla: Save the Earth on Xbox. These games are flawed, but they are still fun if you're a fan. I hope the controls work. The reviews are pretty harsh, but there's a lot of sentiment out there that Godzilla Unleashed is a "misunderstood" game (at least the Wii version)

Guess I'll find out soon.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

CapDase Alumor metal PSP case review (w./pics)

:::Note: originally posted on the Playstation Underground PSP forum 01-04-2007:::

CapDase Alumor metal PSP (PSP-1000) case:

I got this awhile ago. There's a bunch of pictures of it *here*

The CapDase Alumor metal PSP case comes in 4 parts: a inner silicone/rubber case, an "unbreakable" clear screen protector, and anodized aluminum front & back plates.

The clear screen protector... Capdase claims that it's "unbreakable", and it does look fairly sturdy, but I won't put that claim to the test.

I've heard that it's prone to scratches. Mine looks great, but I haven't subjected the case to rough & tumble use yet.

There are 2 white strips that run across the top & bottom of the protector, they're cushions so that the protector is slightly raised over the PSP screen & not touching it. Nice, it prevents it from pushing dust against the screen & scratching it.

The silicone inner cover - I'm not a fan of silicone covers, they pick up hairs & lint like kaaaa-raaazy.... it's kinda gross. But as part of this case, the inner cover provides some soft support for the outer metal cover.

You slip it on inserting the PSP through the screen or UMD hole, even though it's smaller I find it easier to use the UMD hole, but I took an X-acto knife & cut part of the back of the cover to make it easier to put on/take off. I found it pretty hard to do that without cutting it.

Once it's on, you lay the screen protector over it, the white strips will be hidden by the metal plates.

The metal plates go over everything, leaving a few bits of the silicone exposed: a strip around the sides (makes a nice contrast) and most ports can be accessed: power, wi-fi switch, USB, mem stick door, and there are holes for the speakers (both the "fake" speaker holes at the bottom of the front, & the REAL ones on the side)

The only port that is covered is the IR port, I guess CapDase got tired of waiting for an official use for this feature & gave up on it. But a note to homebrewers who use the IR port, it is covered by the silicone, if that's a concern. If you really wanted to, I suppose you could probably cut a hole out for it.

The buttons along the bottom of the PSP are covered by the silicone, but they are still easy to push.

The anodized aluminum looks & feels really good. Like the new 2nd gen iPod Nanos, only better. But because it's metal, it gets really cold. Picking up the PSP in the morning feels like walking across a cold tile... *brrrrrr*.... at least until it gets warmed by your hands.

The back plate has a stand, which is removable. I tried to remove it but I couldn't do it, I didn't want to force it too much. Note that there aren't any rubber "feet" on the bottom when the PSP is laying on a table, the metal back plate is smooth, so there might be some slippage, but it shouldn't go sliding around.

The stands angle can't be changed too much, but it sits at a nice angle.


+Don't have to open or take PSP out of case to use it.

+anodized aluminum offers good protection & is stylish looking.

+not too bulky compared to other cases.

+silicone inner case offers a bit of padding (but I wouldn't want to drop it on the floor)

+screen protector is really nice looking


-have to remove the entire back plate just to access the UMD.

-can't see the mem stick or power light, which is bad if your battery is low & it's flashing.

-because it's metal, it does add a bit of weight to the PSP.


Monday, February 16, 2009

PSP Griffin Road Dock + iTrip

I updated 2 of my 3 PSPs to firmware 5.03 so I can play LocoRoco 2.

The new background wave is pretty cool, it feels like a major change because the look of the main screen has been the same since the PSP first came out. It's weird how even though the colours are basically the same, because of the colour combos they look different. Red with the old wave background was just too strong to use, but now it's one of the best themes.

The other notable addition is the sleep timer when playing music. It can be set to turn the PSP into sleep mode from 30 mins-2 hours. I've been trying it out the last couple days... not the most useful feature ever, but it does have its uses.

My original PSP-1001 (PSP fat) sits in its Griffin Roaddock beside my bed. I got it awhile ago when it was on sale. The Roaddock has a strap that strings around shelf supports as in my pic... and I have another strapped to one of the lamps on my drawing table, so I can have easy access to my PSP tunes.

Because of the new sleep timer feature in fw 5.03, I clipped on my PSP iTrip FM transmitter, and have my PSP music play through my clock radio.... I set both the PSP & radio sleep timers... it's kinda cool.

I have a lot more accessories for my PSP-1001 than the PSP-2001s. Sony really screwed over third-party accessory makers when they launched the PSP-2000 without any notice, and then when they came out with the PSP-3000, they screwed all of us, but now the third parties know not to support anything PSP because who knows how long the base product will last before being replaced. (Apple teaches the same lesson to third parties with the iPod, but iPod is still so popular that third parties will risk getting burned)


Thursday, February 12, 2009

The PSP Show - podcast

Alrighty, I was looking over my G.A.P. blog, and I came across an old post I made about this podcast show: http://psp.thepodcastnetwork.com/

It's a bi-weekly(?) audio show, about 10 minutes long in .mp3 format, file sizes are about 10 MB. Host Ewan Spence talks about PSP games.... it's not bad. Even if you find it's not your cuppa tea, 10 minutes is a nice bite-size segment to give it a shot.

For some reason I kinda forgot about it... now I gotta catch up & download some episodes to my PSP....



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Kicking Ass with The Force... Handheld style

No new comics came in this week for me.... even though I'm still waiting for LocoRoco 2 to come out here in Canada... I spotted a couple of PSP games on sale I couldn't pass up.

Yesterday I bought Wipeout Pulse for $9.96 (score!) and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for $19.96 clearance-priced from The Source. Since they are owned by/somehow affilated with/ Circuit City I have a bad feeling that this could be nearly end for them.... unless the Canadian stores are bought up by someone else. In any case, I know these deals won't last long so may as well grab 'em while I can.

I told myself I wasn't going to buy games that I already have on other systems, but let's face it... I'm a Star Wars freak, and owning 2 PSP-2000's with Darth Vader on the back and not having *every* Star Wars PSP game... that's just wrong. So I had to complete my collection..... yeah.....

haven't played Wipeout Pulse yet, but Wipeout: Pure is one of the best looking PSP games for the system. It's amazing that this was a launch title, it still stands up.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed for PSP is very similar to the Wii version. Both were developed by Krome Studios; I'm sure that all their versions are almost the same.

It's actually quite impressive that the PSP version has pretty much the same content as the Wii version, a home console. One could look at it as "geez, the Wii got ripped off if the PSP version looks just as good" but I think the Wii version is great. The motion controls are really fun, and the standard controls of the PSP version are a little more awkward to use. The biggest problem with both versions is the camera, but in the Wii version you can control the camera a bit using the D-pad. The PSP D-pad will center the camera behind you *a bit* but it's not nearly as good as the Wii camera control, and that's not exactly great either.

But as to the actual gameplay content, wow. The PSP version is the Wii version squeezed into a handheld console. Some people might only have a PSP for their sole console... for those concerned the PSP version might not be as good as the Wii one... rest assured. From what I've played so far, the story campaign is virtually the same.

As cool as it is to have a PSP port that's equal to the (Wii) console version, there are some problems that come with that: The loading times are relatively long. Sometimes there's some game freezing.. it doesn't lock up, but in mid-battle things will stop for a second or 3. And the save points are the same: between quits, the game resumes at the start of the level, so if you quit out mid-level, next time you play you have to re-do that entire level. It's tolerable for the home version, but when you're talking about a portable game... the levels are pretty long and have to be completed in one sitting unless you put the PSP in sleep mode while playing, but then you can't use it for music/video/whatever. Home console games aren't paced in a way that makes them portable-console-friendly.

There is a historical dual mode in the PSP version; basically boss fights. The Wii version has multiplayer, but it's multiplayer ONLY while I assume these historical duals can be played single-player. haven't tried it yet, as I complete the story campaign I unlock more characters & settings to use in the dual mode.

So a pretty good beat-em-up for the PSP.

*my thoughts on the Wii version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed*


Tekzilla - podcast

I heard about this site from anythingbutipod.com.... Tekzilla.

It's obviously about tech stuff, but what's interesting is that the content is based on viewer questions. There's some pretty good tips & info about all sorts of computer things & gadgets... over the last week I've been catching up on their episodes about gadgets from CES.

They have daily bits, and weekly episodes-- which are about 20-30 mins long-- and offer some good sizes & formats of their podcasts, I find that their quicktime small one is perfect for PSP, even plays in the widescreen format. .MP4 file sizes are around 90-100 MB.

The only problem I have with the site is that to get to the download links, you have to go to the page where it automatically streams the episode in your browser. It may be less clunky if you're using RSS feed programs though.



Tuesday, February 10, 2009

This or That - podcast

I stumbled across an interesting site on one of my random searches for porn ummm.... I mean.... stuff....

I'm not entirely sure what it is exactly, but basically it's a Burlesque show. What's interesting is that the video is in .mp4 format, 320 x 240, which is compatible with PSP's video playback.

It's easy to download the videos, they seem to be about 40 MB on average, around 5 minutes long.

Be warned: while there's usually no outright nudity in burlesque shows, there is a lot of "tease"... this content is NOT FOR MINORS. ADULTS ONLY. (or mature-minded people)


Now I'm going to be doing some more investigating...


Monday, February 9, 2009

PSP music - Metric

Let's face it: it's always nice to get free music.

I still listen to music on my PSP quite a bit, it's really handy to have my fave shows, pics, and music all in one small(ish) package.

One of my fave bands is the group Metric, and right now they have the acoustic version of their latest song Help I'm Alive, available on their site as a free download. Cool! The site also has a great little video of lead singer Emily Haines talking about what she's been up to. I actually converted that vid and put it on my PSP awhile back. I'll be adding this acoustic mp3 to my PSP's music section.

I can't wait for the new Metric album, April 14, 2009.

*see ilovemetric.com for more info*


games wishlist

There are a lot of (mostly Wii) games coming out this week that really interest me:

Deadly Creatures (Wii) --got it June 2009
House of the Dead: Overkill (Wii) --got it May 20 2010 ($14.99)
Onechanbara: Bikini Zombie Slayers (Wii)

LocoRoco 2 (PSP) --got it Feb. 10, 2009 ($24.99)

Out of that list, the only definite pick-up this week is LocoRoco 2. With the budget-price of $24.99 CAN, it's a reasonable price-point. Both Deadly Creatures & House of the Dead: Overkill are like $60.00 CAN each! That's just way too much for me to spend at once. I'll probably be waiting around for a long time for a price drop..... although Onechanbara is also budget-priced.... but I want to know more about what the gameplay is like before I rush out & pick it up....


Saturday, February 7, 2009

console icons

Found this really awesome work on Flickr by artist Axel Pfaender...

He has icons for all the major systems, and they look really cute & great! Very cool.


Thursday, February 5, 2009

device map

Ugh... I've been trying to re-configure my device hookup to my tv... it's one of those things that isn't that hard, yet it's just hard enough that it's not easy to do without really thinking about it.

My setup is that my Wii & Xbox are wired to my VCR through a signal switch, (my VCR's line 2 is set up for my PSP) then my VCR goes through my Neuros Recorder II+, which then goes to my tv's line in.

The problem with this setup is that I can't tape any tv shows on my VCR or Neuros if I'm using my Wii or Xbox.

So this morning I decided to just draw my signal chain out, and it was definitely more confusing than I'd thought. Luckily, seeing it on paper rather than having to imagine it all in my head helped.

Really, all I needed to do was change the output from the Neuros to the switchbox, then have the switchbox output to the tv. But you can see the erased mistakes & dotted lines to nowhere when I was first trying to decipher my signal chain.

I thought I'd tried this before, but for some reason the Neuros would shut off when I switched the signals. I'm not sure if I just didn't have it wired properly that last time or if the connections to/from the Neuros was loose, which is a bit of a problem with the device. Still, it seems to work now. So hopefully I won't be missing some of my shows, like Battlestar Galactica, when my nephew comes over wanting to play my consoles. I needs my stories!


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