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Thursday, June 30, 2011


So I've been playing tons of Zenonia the last few days. I bought it through the Nintendo eShop (DSiWare), downloaded it onto my 3DS.

It was $7.99 + tax, coming to $8.95 total. What's annoying about Nintendo's new eShop is that money can only be put into your virtual wallet in $5.00 increments. So there will probably always be some leftover amount that you can't spend.

I actually have Zenonia (free) on my HTC Legend, but I wanted to play it on a device with physical controls. It's available for both DSiWare and PSP download, but I've heard that it was badly ported to PSP-- that it's horribly laggy (search "Zenonia PSP" on YouTube for more info) but I've also heard that they might have put a fixed copy on the PS Store... still I thought the DSiWare version might be a safer bet, and ironically, using the 3DS allows the analogue nub to be used because I think movement controls are mapped only to the D-pad on the PSP. Since the 3DS automatically allows the analogue nub to do the same thing as the D-pad, Zenonia can be played using it. But it feels made for a D-pad (even though it was originally made for a virtual D-pad) so playing with the nub doesn't always feel right.

And I do think movement is slower even on the DS version of Zenonia, so maybe because it's a port, it will never be as good as the original?

Anyway, the gameplay is an action RPG with a charming Game Boy Advance artstyle. There's a lot of content, but I've had to do a whole bunch of grinding just trying to level up my character so I can progress to the next mission. Also, there's a lot of item management; it's easy to exceed weight carrying ability, and you just start slogging when you're overweight. Then there's weapons/armour losing durability points & breaking (so you need to repair them) and combining items... but there are little/no tutorials on a lot of this stuff so you either have to be really experienced with RPGs (that's not me) or you're just guessing....

I've already sunk a lot of hours into this game, though like I said, a lot of that comes from grinding. But the look & style of Zenonia make it stand out in the lower price-point range, even though the story seems pretty nonsensical.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Xbox still not interested in handhelds

Sigh... this story from Engadget is just another reconfirmation that Microsoft's gaming division-- namely Xbox-- is not anywhere near close to being interested in developing a handheld gaming console.

He calls the market a "red ocean", which means there's lots of blood in the water due to the heavy competition, and presumably not enough financial rewards to make it worth swimming in that "ocean"....

The Xbox was a huge drain on Microsoft's resources... I've heard that they lost money on every original Xbox console they sold. I know that they pumped over $1 billion into Xbox during the first generation to get the name/console out there, companies developing games for it, etc. But with Sony & Nintendo already far better positioned at that time in 2000 when they were just entering the market, they knew they had to pour dumptrucks of money into it to have a chance... and I guess it paid off because they are undoubtedly a major player in the video game industry.

The thinking is that after all that work, they would have to do it ALL OVER AGAIN if they wanted a chance at similar success in the handheld gaming venue. There's no question that it is a very complex & quickly-changing market. Sony had to basically do with the PSP what Microsoft did with Xbox. But right now, the market is very different than what it was back in 2005. I'm not even sure the big boys, Sony & Nintendo, have a very good grasp of what's going on with it. Portable gaming is being done more and more on iPhone & smartphones, and they are all downloadable, have tiny price points (free-to-like $7.99 or something) compared to the huge MSRP of retail handheld games.

I know everyone's expecting the Playstation Vita will revolutionize handheld gaming, and will blow everyone else out of the water. Ahem... the same thing was said of the PSP during its first year of sales.... but with the price points of gaming being you can choose a PS Vita game for $50.00 or download a game on your phone for $5.00..... hard to argue which is the better value. Some gamers throw out the common retort that "$5.00 iPhone games are crap, I'd rather have [big Sony franchise game]" but that's beside the point.

I wish that Xbox would develop a handheld.... there was a long standing rumour that they would make one that played 1st gen Xbox games.... but Microsoft has made it clear that's not in the cards.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Lusting for Tetris

Even though I'm playing the hell out of Steel Diver, I can barely contain my desire for Tetris Party Deluxe (DS).... I've been thinking about getting that game for awhile, and recently for some reason, I'm *really* wanting it. I know my local Best Buy has some copies for $24.99, which I believe is about $5.00 below the original MSRP. Not much of a price drop, I know, but it's Tetris, so I guess it doesn't really drop in price. I was reading about it online, apparently the original Tetris DS cartridge goes for high prices because it had a low print run.

Like I said, I really want Tetris Party Deluxe DS..... but I'm holding out for Canada Day, because Future Shop/Best Buy usually have sales on stat holidays where they'll have games for 10% off. Though lately, they've been pretty chinzy about it; offering just a select type of games for sale & all that. At the time of this writing, Canada Day is about 1 week away.... but man, I could really use some Tetris Party Deluxe DS right now, know what I'm sayin'.... I'm trying to appease my Tetris hunger with a GBA Tetris Worlds rom on my HTC Legend phone, but with the touchscreen D-pad, it just does not suffice.

And I know that a 3DS Tetris is on the way, maybe by late 2011... it's stupid for me to buy a DS version when there will be a 3D version coming. But I *really want* to play some proper Tetris right now.... can't explain it, just need it.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Steel Diver

I've been playing Steel Diver for the 3DS the last few days.... bought it awhile back, but only got into it recently.

It's weird, when I first heard about it, I thought, "enh... this doesn't sound very good..." and the more I heard about it (2D design all stylus controls) the more convinced I was that this was not a game for me.

But then I saw some gameplay footage and read some reviews-- both positive and negative-- and even the negative reviews made me interested! the same thing happened with Super Monkey Ball 3D, the negative reviews actually made it sound better to me & helped convince me to buy that game.

Right now I have 4 3DS games: Pilot Wings Resort, Ridge Racer 3D, Super Monkey Ball 3D & Steel Diver. And aside from Ridge Racer 3D, the 3 other games are really fun, but light in gameplay content.

Steel Diver is one of the worst for content amount. There are only 7 levels in the main campaign mode, and each level imposes a time limit, meaning that *by design* it's meant to be raced through. Levels have to be completed in either 10 or 15 minutes, with the final level 20 minutes. Add it all up and by design, the game MUST be completed in 2 hours 20 minutes. That's horrendous gameplay value. Now, it also forces replays-- you have to complete the first 6 levels using all 3 subs (so play each level at least 3 times) to unlock level 7. But forcing replaying the same levels over & over (while in this case it is fun) is still a poor way of extending gameplay.

There are a couple of other modes: periscope mode, which is pretty fun but not very deep, a racing mode where you have to get through a course by a set time limit, and Steel Commander which is like the boardgame Battleship mixed with the periscope mode. It's a turn based game where you use a sub to hunt the opponents' supply fleet, while they try the same with yours. You each have fleets of ships which are mostly sitting ducks for the enemy sub, but they can drop depth charges which can damage the enemy sub (you have to guess the subs depth between 50m, 100m, 150m and hope it's right) Steel Commander is a fun mode, but a lot of it is watching unskippable cut scenes of your ships being cut to pieces, and you can't do anything about it.

The overall game pacing is slow... it's (intentionally) clunky to control the sub, and the movement is slow & sluggish. Which is ok if you go in knowing that. In stark contrast, the periscope mode at the end of each level is over way too quickly-- less than 30 seconds to take down as many ships as you can-- and while each mode is good on their own, put together like this, it's awkward to go from such a slow-pace to such a frantic one.

Some reviewers call this a sub sim... control-wise that's sorta true, but there are a lot of goofy arcadey elements that make it fun to me. With the 3-D effect, it looks like you're playing in an aquarium. While I'd like to see just a bit more in the graphics, it does look cool... like you're playing with a little toy submarine. And the voiceover work takes it all very serious, which also makes me chuckle. There's even a boss battle where you fight a giant sea creature, having to torpedo it until it's health bar depletes-- but it doesn't die at the end of the battle, it practically taps you on the back going, "Good game, catch you next time!" before swimming off. It's a very Japanese game, which I find to be quite amusing. Maybe it's just me.

So the various modes do add to the gameplay value of Steel Diver. I'm surprised how much this game which didn't look very interesting, has won me over. I wish there was at least 2x as many levels-- there should have been 15 or more (30?) levels.

Pilot Wings Resort, Super Monkey Ball 3D, & Steel Diver are well-crafted, solid games but they seem like they were rushed to make the 3DS release date. The big question is, is it better to have a solid game that's short, or an OK game that's long? I always pick quality over quantity, but I have to say I think that full retail games should have at least 5-6 hours of gameplay value.

I wouldn't say it's worth the full retail price, but I have to admit Steel Diver is different & fun. Watch some gameplay videos, especially make sure you can see the stylus in action, so you get a proper idea of what it's like to play.


Monday, June 20, 2011

3DS top screen gets scratched when closed

[Above pic found on the web]

I've noticed that my 3DS gets a little line mark on the top screen, and it's obvious that it comes from the raised edge of the bottom screen, it lines up perfectly with it.

Clearly Nintendo didn't give enough space between the 2 panels, and when the 3DS is closed, if there's any slight pressure on the 3DS (like if it's in a form-fitting case) the panels press together leaving that mark.

So far I've been able to wipe it away mostly, and it is very faint. I don't think I can even notice it when the screen is lit. But this is one of those unnecessary annoyances that's a major design flaw yet Nintendo refuses to acknowledge it. This the 3DS version of the PSP dead pixel problem, PSP-2000/3000 UMD drive problem or the DS Lite hinge problem.

[3DS forum thread on the problem]


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nintendo 3DS update fixes Ridge Racer FW glitch

I guess Nintendo wasn't kidding when they said a new 3DS system update that fixes the previous update would be available by "mid-June", as they released it June 15, 2011. I waited for the fix to update because I love Ridge Racer (though I have to admit my 3DS has been totally dominated by my playing Mario Kart DS on it for the last couple weeks)

I tried out the new browser, and it's... meh.... not that different from the Wii browser, as far as I can tell. Kinda clunky, I can't see myself using it much-- but I did check out this site on it...

The big goody is the free version of Excite Bike which is really fun. And there are a few game trailers available for download, not to mention the Green Lantern movie trailer. Haven't watched the movie trailer yet, I'm just glad that the game trailers are in 3D. Mario Kart (3D?) looks pretty good, I could see myself buying that and Luigi's Mansion 2, as well as the upcoming new Kirby DS game.

One of the things they mention about the new update is that it allows automatic firmware updates(???)..... hmmm. Sounds a bit scary, but I hope that there's at least some kind of OK button that needs to be pressed before applying it. Just look at how the last update screwed Ridge Racer 3DS... how can they credibly offer auto-updates if they messed up last time?

[Nintendo's info page on 3DS updates]


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Engadget Huaqiangbei article

Engadget posted a nice look into the gadget market Huaqiangbei, located in Shenzhen China. (check it out) It's a pretty amazing place for electronics & handheld addicts like me. I visited there 1.5 years ago, back in Dec 2009... and the Engadget article covers a lot of what my impression was of that place.

I think I mentioned in a previous post seeing a stack of memory stick pro duo cases on a desk with someone stuffing them with (presumably) fake flash memory chips. I always warn against buying memory stick pro duos off of eBay or anything that even looks like China; but seeing that in person seared an unforgettable visual image of my fears of fake memory sticks into my brain.

I didn't know anything about cellphones back when I was there, but I'm not sure if my knowledge now would be an advantage or just get me into more trouble....

One thing that is missing from the article is that Huaqiang bei is more than just that huge cellphone "mall"... there's lots of big areas with computers & of course gaming systems. And there are street-level storefronts that are totally legitimate, bright & upscale electronic affairs where you won't likely see killer deals but you'll be more assured that the product is genuine. And of course the Meizu store is very trendy cool.

Ohhhh... Stanley Cup Game 7 is starting. Go Canucks!


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Playstation Vita memory cards

Engadget's posted a pic of the Playstation Vita memory cards.... apparently they come in various flavours from 4GB up to 32GB....

As expected, they are proprietary and not even a previous version of memory stick. How can they be sure you'll be forced to buy a new one if there was a chance you'd have one already? And it's not like they could use some other format--let's say SD-- that is fairly inexpensive & very common... oh wait. They could. they just choose NOT to.

Actually, I suspect this is more than just making us buy a new chip. Maybe there's some sort of hard-wired security measures in the memory cards to allow for purchased downloaded games, but more important to Sony-- anti-firmware modding measures? I may be way off on this, though. Just my guess.

The question for me is whether it's worth it to buy a big memory card. Does Sony expect it to be filled mostly with PSN purchased content? Or will PS Vita have robust media (video) support?


Monday, June 13, 2011

Borrowing games from the library

What a great source for Wii games... my local library branches have at least a few Wii gems that I've always been curious about. I can get up to 2 games for 7 days.

A few weeks ago I borrowed Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces. All I knew about it was that it's a flying game, and I love flying games. So I was a bit surprised to read on the back of the box that not only is it a flying game but a flying game developed by Project Aces, the dev studio that does the Ace Combat series of games-- including my 2 fave PSP ones, Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception & Ace Combat: Joint Assault. A definite borrow!

Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces is based on the Sky Crawlers anime, and the game is pretty much Ace Combat gameplay mechanics with the Sky Crawlers skin overlaid onto it. Should be an instant-win right? The problem is that in the anime universe of Sky Crawlers, it appears there are only propeller-based aircraft, no jet engines. The aircraft in this game move pretty slowly. The mission structure, from the mission briefings to the aircraft selection to the combat & even mission types is very much like what I've played in the PSP Ace Combat games.... I was actually amazed there was no "fly through the tunnel" mission like there usually is with those games... However, the missions in Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces are very short and become an awkward blend of Ace Combat style with story elements from the anime, which I hadn't seen before playing the game (I found the DVD at the library after, and borrowed it... it's meh...) and the default motion controls, while actually a not bad idea, don't work very well in actual use. The game overall is fairly short; I think I finished it in like 5 hours.

Right now I'm borrowing Donkey Kong Country Returns and GoldenEye 007. Donkey Kong Country Returns is a good-looking platformer that is very unforgiving. Normally I'm not a fan of stingy gameplay where you have to do everything exactly right or you get nothing, but I think developer Retro expects gamers to replay it over & over, memorizing the game in an attempt to get good replay value from it, extending playing time.

GoldenEye 007 was one I was very curious about. One of the annoying things about it is that there's a glitch where if you have a GameCube controller plugged in to your Wii, or like me, a Wavebird controller dongle... the Wii remote inexplicably stops working right at the save file page. I first played the game on someone elses' Wii and it worked fine. When I took it home & booted it up that's when I noticed. I had to look it up on the internet that you have to remove any GC controller (even though my Wavebird wasn't turned on) and GC memory cards to use the Wii remote + nunchuck. While it's nice that using a GC controller is an option, there are other Wii games that also have that option yet you can still use the Wii remote without unplugging the GC stuff. So it's clearly bad programming by developer Eurocom.

Other than that it's an ok first-person shooter but I'm finding it way too dark on the screen like House of the Dead: Overkill. Maybe it's my TV? I dunno, but I mowed through like a dozen guys that I had NO IDEA where I was or what environment I was in, all I could see was a sea of black.

Oh yeah, I also borrowed Tom Clancy's HAWX 2, because I'd seen very little info about the Wii version and it's a flying game. The controls are ok, but the game is very meh. Glad I discovered that, otherwise I might've risked $5.00-$10.00 if I came across it on sale. Same with Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces... just not worth owning in my opinion.

Yup... I'm really loving the library.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

3DS firmware update freezes Ridge Racer 3D

Nobody seems to be reporting this except a few aussie blogs, but Nintendo has warned that the latest 3DS update could cause issues with playing Ridge Racer 3D.

Here is the page from the Nintendo site:

Important Notice Concerning Ridge Racer 3D

Accompanying the system update available on June 6, it has been confirmed that under certain circumstances when making a selection before the race starts in "Grand Prix" in "Single Play" mode of the Ridge Racer 3D game, the screen sometimes freezes. If you do not install the system update at this time, the symptom will not occur.

We apologize for any inconvenience. We will have a system update in mid-June that should take care of this matter.

In Ridge Racer 3D, pressing the B Button to return from Race Selection or Machine Selection may cause the screen to freeze. If the screen does freeze, please press and hold the Power button and turn the system off then retry. There should be no impact to the save data.


Man... I really want the 3DS update... it adds the web browser but more important, there's a free game, Excite Bike! But I love playing Ridge Racer 3D so I have to wait. I hope they get this stupid update patched soon since Excite Bike is only free until July 7.


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