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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Swype update sucks

This latest build of Swype really is terrible.

It made me update the last time I posted about Swype. I don't know what they did, but it doesn't work with my HTC Legend running Android 2.1 as good as it used to. When I go to reply to a text, whatever I type will disappear right as soon as I type it. I have to exit the messaging program & re-enter it to get it to start working normally.

This bug also affects other text-input programs on my phone as well.

I may just have to dump Swype & go back to the stock keyboard.... why do they have to keep forcing updates on us & breaking the functionality of the keyboard in the process???

I get that Android is "constantly" coming out with updates & Swype wants to take advantage of the "improvements". But they don't have to screw over users with older Android builds... why not just leave the older versions of Swype on our phones & do the updates for newer phones, if there are so many issues with older Android compatibility?

Sigh. Swype can be so frustrating.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Super Mario 3D Land

Bought Super Mario 3D Land early December, and while I played it a lot the first 2 weeks or so it's kinda gotten buried under the onslaught of 3DS games this month.

Super Mario 3D Land addresses some of my major complaints with the recent direction Nintendo has taken with their Mario games: particularly the "Play Guide" where they would give an option for a developer speedrun to completely take over the game if you let them. How can that possibly be fun? You fail a bunch of times and the only alternative to playing it until you pass is to let a programmer from the dev team play it for you. That really frustrated me because it seemed like Nintendo was going to put it in ALL their Mario games. I'm happy to say they tweaked this idea-- in Super Mario 3D Land if you fail a level 6 times they offer the white tanooki suit which gives the player invincibility except from falling off a level. So the player still gets to play the game. That's what they SHOULD have introduced 2 Mario games back.This feels like a direct response to my rants on their survey questionnaires... believe me, I filled out those text boxes pretty well with my thoughts on this subject.....

But Super Mario 3D Land is not a super hard game like previous... it seems easier to me, compared to the last DS game. The first 8 worlds are relatively easy to get through but there's more content than that.... and the challenge level can ramp up in some of them too.

But the game still plays VERY conservatively; not taking risks and minimizing innovative ideas. The levels are very short, again they seem scared to make them too long because they want short burt gameplay because it's a handheld title. I'd rather they just improve the save system rather than shorten the level design.

As nice as Super Mario 3D Land is at times, I think Nintendo should have made it a Super Mario Galaxy game-- it would have had more interesting level design, and imagine walking all the way around planetoids like in the Wii games... only in 3D.... nice....


Sunday, December 25, 2011

StarFox 64 3D

One of the many 3DS games I binged-bought in December.... there are still a few that I haven't even played yet: Street Fighter 3D, Ace Combat: Assault Horizon Legacy (I'm so psyched for it that I want to save it for last), and Kirby Mass Attack (DS game, but I will probably rack up most of my playtime on the 3DS)

Anyway.. StarFox 64 3D. Like most of the others (except Ace Combat) I got it with a bit of a discount. In some ways it reminds me a lot of the Ace Combat games. There are a relatively small number of missions, but the gameplay comes from replaying missions to open up different paths. But unlike Ace Combat, StarFox 64 3D is more on-rails. True, Ace Combat games are free roaming but limited to within a "sandbox area" and you are almost on rails in what you need to do within the time limit. StarFox 64 3D is mostly on rails with enemies coming at you or from behind you, then sometimes it opens up to a more free-roaming-within-a-sandbox style.

I was a bit wary of the graphics because even though things have been "remastered" the game designs are still really old. But they do hold up well, and it looks cool. I've never played this particular Star Fox game before, so it was all new to me. Basically the story/settings of the game feel like a generic Star Wars ripoff... but I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way. They do it well; I love the little touches like fighting mechs in space... that seems very anime to me.

But the game really requires the player to be spamming the A button like kaa-raaazzy. Man, if any game is going to wear out the A button, it will be this one. It's honestly a bit tiring. Also tiring are some of the boss fights... a few of them go on just way too long.

I like the how the characters are animals... it's weird but at least it isn't a Star Wars ripoff... exactly.... but what is with them shaking their heads up & down really really fast to simulate talking? What is good is that there's full voice acting in the game. Nintendo should do this a lot more in their games.

StarFox 64 3D is a fun on rails space shooter, worth it for a discounted sale price. There's a certain line that is always used--over used-- when talking about this game. So I'll just leave it out. You know what it is anyway.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

HP TouchPad brightness issues

I did miss my HP TouchPad while I was in China.... 5-6 weeks away from it-- I did charge it before I left but I thought the battery would be dead by the time I got back. But the charge held, was almost full power when I turned it on again.

But one thing I have noticed since that little hiatus away from it... there are some brightness issues with it. There is a light sensor that can auto-dim the brightness, I used to use it but the case I got for it covers it up so I had to turn off the sensor. But even with the sensor off, for some reason the screen will dim on its own. I loaded the HP TouchPad up with a bunch of my pics from China, and swiping through them, the brightness changes quite a bit and I can't figure out why.

It could be the latest WebOS update (I think 4.0.7) but I'm pretty sure I had this issue before the update. It even affects the videos I watch, and I don't think there was a problem with the screen going bright & dim, fluctuating so much..... I watched lots of video in the same format before I left.

My guess is that the corner of the TouchPad where the sensor is is a bit wonky. I know when I had it turned on, sometimes I'd accidentally cover it and that caused weird problems. Maybe because my case pressed down on that light sensor it's affecting it? I don't know. But now I don't keep my TouchPad fully in the case-- I make sure the corner anchor/straps aren't keeping it in place. the problem with that is I gotta be careful the TouchPad doesn't fall out....


Thursday, December 22, 2011

PS Vita launch games list

Sony's PlayStation Blog posted the North America launch games list:

SCEA Launch Day Titles
Escape Plan (PSN Only)
Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
Hustle Kings (PSN Only)
Little Deviants
ModNation Racers: Road Trip
Super StarDust Delta (PSN only)
UNCHARTED: Golden Abyss
wipEout 2048

Launch Window Titles
Gravity Rush
MLB 12 The Show
Reality Fighters
Unit 13

Third Party Publisher Launch Day Titles

Army Corps of Hell Square Enix, Inc.
Asphalt Injection Ubisoft, Inc.
BEN10 GALACTIC RACING D3 Publisher of America
Blazblue: Continuum Shift EXTEND Aksys Games Localization, Inc.
Dungeon Hunter Alliance Ubisoft, Inc.
Dynasty Warriors Next Tecmo Koei America Corporation
F1 2011 Codemasters
EA SPORTS FIFA Soccer Electronic Arts, Inc.
Lumines Electronic Symphony Ubisoft, Inc.
Michael Jackson The Experience Ubisoft, Inc.
Plants vs. Zombies (PSN Only) Sony Online Entertainment LLC
Rayman Origins Ubisoft, Inc.
Shinobido 2: Revenge of Zen Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
Tales of Space: Mutant Blobs (PSN Only) Drinkbox Studios
Touch My Katamari Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 Capcom Entertainment, Inc.
Virtua Tennis 4: World Tour Edition Sega of America

Launch Window Titles

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 Warner Bros. Interactive Ent. Inc.
Disgaea 3: Absence of Detention NIS America, Inc.
NINJA GAIDEN ∑ PLUS Tecmo Koei America Corporation
Ridge Racer Namco Bandai Games America Inc.
Silent Hill Book of Memories Konami Digital Ent. America, Inc.
Supremacy MMA: Unrestricted 505 Games

There are not a lot of titles in that list that I'm super excited about... don't get me wrong, a few of those games I am interested in and will probably pick up at launch. The one I'm most excited for is that Katamari one, I'm getting Little Deviants as part of the PS Vita bundle, and Super Stardust Delta may be worth the nearly-inevitable PSN download hassles I'm almost sure to encounter.

I'm a bit loathe to post those so-called "launch window" games lists, because I think it's another one of those "lies" where some of them MIGHT come out in the next few months after launch, but if it's like the 3DS, I'm thinking, "sheyeah right". So I don't even consider them as even scheduled, personally.

The blog also posted a comprehensive list of accessories pricing... I may spring for the 32GB. Depends on how my initial PSN download attempts go (Super Stardust Delta may be a guinea pig for that)... one of the things that annoys me about the Vita is the cartridge door: It's a flimsy memory stick style door with plastic cords that hold it to the console.

see here

and here

Looks easy to get loose or break. If download pricing is more reasonable it may be better to download titles... I dunno. It is definitely more convenient to have your games on the console instead of dragging around a bunch of carts like I do with the 3DS.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

PS Vita size comparison

Kotaku posted up a gallery of the PS Vita next to a variety of stuff, notably a PSPgo and a 3DS.

*sigh* but seriously... of all the irreverent junk they took a picture of the Vita next to, it didn't enter their mind AT ALL to take a picture of the Vita beside, say... a PSP??????

Holy crap Kotaku, your site sucks in general because it somehow manages to crash my Firefox browser & suck up all my memory, but man... idiotic oversights like that are simply pathetic.

Anyway. It is still nice to see more of the Vita & get a general idea of its size, so here's the link to the gallery.


PS Vita user guide now online

Cool. We're about 2 months away from the North American Playstation Vita launch, and Sony has posted the user manual online!

I've been very curious about the media format, particularly video formats-- that the Vita will play. From the looks of it, I think it will play the old PSP-formatted videos.

One annoying aspect of media transfer to Vita is that it appears we need to use software to transfer videos or music, etc. to the handheld. I can understand Sony wanting to lock it down, but one of the key reasons I chose a PSP over an iPod back in 2006 was that the PSP didn't need software to "manage" media on it. 6 years later, and the iPod still needs iTunes, and now Sony will require their own (no doubt inferior version) of "iTunes" to use this device. It even says that one of the first things you need to do with your Vita is register your PSN ID on it, and that you need a wi-fi connection.

I've already pre-ordered a Vita, the "early bundle" that comes with a 4GB card & Little Deviants... and also comes out 1 week before the core console.... I'm not super-excited about the launch, I think it will suffer a games drought like the 3DS did. But 2 months away is a long time, so who knows what will change between now & Feb 2012...


Friday, December 16, 2011

10 free GBA titles for 3DS Ambassadors available now

Crazy morning today, not only did I get the Super Mario shoelaces, but the 10 GBA titles became available in North America! They are:

  • F-Zero: Maximum Velocity
  • Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi’s Island
  • Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap
  • Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
  • Kirby & The Amazing Mirror
  • Mario Kart: Super Circuit
  • Mario vs. Donkey Kong
  • Metroid Fusion
  • Wario Land 4
  • WarioWare, Inc.: Mega Microgames

Downloading them is a bit of a non-intuitive process to say the least. I had to remember how I did it with the NES titles. You go into the Nintendo eShop, then to Settings/Other, then Your Downloads. Then scroll down-- what screwed me up was that I had to go to the next page to find the 10 GBA games on my list. Once you find the above titles, tap Redownload, then Download, then it gives you a choice to either Download Now or Download Later. If you pick Download Later, then Continue shopping, you can go through all 10 titles, then close the eShop, close the 3DS (put it into sleep mode) and it will download all the titles while it's closed. if you choose Download Now, you'll have to repeat the process for each game.

Also something to note: You can get the original GBA screen resolution using the same method as for DS games-- hold down either the START or SELECT button (you don't need to use both) while loading the game-- make sure to hold down the button until graphics pop up onscreen. Some games just look much better in their native resolution like Yoshi's Island. Though Kirby looks good using the full 3DS screen, I bet GBA games made later in the GBA lifespan look better in general.....

All these free games, man... there's so much to play and so little time....


Club Nintendo Super Mario shoelaces

[UPDATE 1/02/2012] - I've noticed that the designs on the laces are NOT WATERPROOF. So if you're thinking of ordering these, be aware of that important fact.

So I ordered the Super Mario shoelaces from Club Nintendo earlier this week. As usual with Club Nintendo Canada, shipping was fast, I got them today.... I was hoping that they'd come this week, but you never know.

They came with the Thank You card that typically accompanies these coin purchases, but I expected the packaging to be just a simple plastic bag. Instead, there's a little light cardboard design decorated with Mario characters. A somewhat more fancy presentation than past Club Nintendo rewards, in line with the Platinum Reward I got last week. Maybe Club Nintendo is trying to dress up their stuff a bit, maybe they're getting the hang of Club Nintendo better now that they've gone through some growing pains.... on one hand, I like the little touches... I don't want to throw away this stuff... but on the other hand, flourishes like this are not much use to me and only serve to clutter up my space. I'm sure I'll lose it or it'll end up in the recycling bin.

2 sets of laces: 2x white, 2x yellow. Ok, I'm really stupid-- until I looked at this picture, I had no idea that each set of laces has DIFFERENT characters on them. The yellow has "bad guys" while the white ones have "good things" (power ups)... I thought both sets of laces had the same characters on them.

I went for the yellow ones right away because I figure they go better with my shoes. But now that I'm aware that the white ones have different characters... in fact, probably more recognizable Super Mario characters to the general public.... maybe I will try the white ones out next week.

The yellow laces on my shoes. Not sure how good this actually looks... I don't wear anything yellow though I do wear a purple hoodie so maybe they do complement that....

These last 2 weeks have been pretty darn awesome for Club Nintendo and 3DS Ambassador early adopters. Having those games be bought using coins, the 10 free GBA games, and even these laces rewards, now is a good time to be a Nintendo fan. Thanks Nintendo!

I'd like to save up for the T-shirt, but right now all my coins are going towards the downloadable games.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Mario Kart 7 - same old shit

Let's face it, Mario Kart 7 is just another minor update of a tired conservative franchise that's too lazy or timid to not only evolve gameplay, but remove significant game-breaking flaws inherent in the past versions.


It may seem trivial at first, but the menu & loading. Geez, what is with how long it takes to load the game?? The white screen stays up way too long. And the menu system itself is the exact same one from the previous Mario Karts, still clunky as hell where it kicks you out to the title page rather than makes it easier to navigate & re-enter races. It becomes a real pain to play this game over & over when the interface is so crap.

And for some unknown reason, it takes at least TWICE as long to actually close the game & exit out to the 3DS menu as it does every other 3DS game. What the hell... it's like this is a shoddy port, even though it's a 3DS exclusive game! How lazy/rushed were the developers that they couldn't make any of this smoother?

The game itself is the exact same format as the Mario Kart DS & Wii: same cups, 32 tracks, etc. Most courses are re-hashed from previous games, with a few new ones. Apparently Retro Studios was called in to create a couple of courses.

Maybe that's what this franchise needs: to be taken away from Nintendo's in-house studio & given to a 2nd or 3rd party to inject some new ideas & more important: improve gameplay. The same old shit still happens: blue shells trump anything, you can do everything humanely possible, stay in first place and still finish in 7th or 8th no matter what you do. This game is the very definition of cheap.

Mario Kart 7 does look really good. There are some interesting additions that on the surface look great but in reality somehow don't affect gameplay at all. You can tweak your kart; changing out wheels, body, etc. but it doesn't make any difference. If anything, the "enhancements" make it harder rather than gives an advantage.

Nintendo is so incredibly timid & afraid to step up their franchises in a major way. Years ago, they created a hit formula with the Mario Kart franchise. At the time it was an attractive blend of multiplayer gameplay mechanics & challenge. But they haven't done anything since to improve or evolve the experience, leaving in all the same bugs that have always been there.

Nintendo should be ashamed.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Club Nintendo Elite Status Reward 2011

Cool... my Club Nintendo Elite Status Reward came in the mail yesterday.

Doesn't seem as good as the previous years Elite reward, that Mario statue, which I didn't get-- however I *DID* see it for sale at a night market in Hong Kong... though I'm pretty sure it was fake. It was somewhat cool-looking, but not worth the effort of trying to drag it home with me so I didn't buy it.

So back to the 2011 reward... these are a series of pins. Hanh??? Pins? Doesn't seem all that "elite" to me. But this reward is all in the presentation.



As you can see, the packaging is very prim and a lot of care went into the design.

On one side there's even a classic Mario image.

Opening it up, the pins are fitted on top of the thin cardboard packaging.

The bottom:

The pins themselves are thick & bubbly... somewhat resembling, dare I say... a mushroom top??

The overall package has a minimalist elegant design, and the pins are nice. But I can't really see myself wearing them. I'm not sure what to do with it. This whole package feels like it was meant to be unopened & kept on a shelf to be admired from afar. But when I think about it, had I gotten a statue, that's pretty much what I'd be doing with THAT as well. And can't beat the price (free)

Thanks Nintendo.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Asphalt 3D

While I was in China, a ton of 3DS games came out... I really missed my 3DS a lot. In Hong Kong I saw this guy playing a flame red 3DS on a bus, and I really wanted my 3DS then. But even if the AC adapter was universal (120-240V)-- which, I must re-state that it is NOT-- with the poor 3DS battery life, it just wouldn't be worth it. Plus honestly, I didn't have THAT much time for gaming.

But yeah, I missed my 3DS. So when I got back I bought up a bunch of games for it:

Super Mario 3D Land
Mario Kart 7
Starfox 64 3D
Street Fighter 3D
Kirby Mass Attack (DS)
Ace Combat Assault Horizon Legacy

And now, Asphalt 3D. EB Games is selling it new for $9.99. At that price, I think it's worth it. It's cheesy, clunky but fun. There's this hyperspeed mode where the screen goes all Tron-like... it doesn't look as good as the Youtube videos make it look, but it still is cool. And it throws in a bit of Burnout: Takedown with being able to knock other racers off the road. Of course Asphalt 3D is a very derivative racer that takes from other racing games. And the graphics are not great... especially if you've seen the Asphalt games on iPhone/Android.

Asphalt 3D won't go down in history as one of the best 3DS games to ever come out, but it probably won't be listed as the absolute worst, either. It is fun for what it is. The PSP had a glut of racing games, and maybe the 3DS is heading that way too, especially with Mario Kart 7 out for it. Ridge Racer 3D looks much better than Asphalt 3D, Mario Kart 7 looks better & plays more smoothly, but it is a very different kind of racing game even though both are arcadey.

If you want a fun cheap racer for the 3DS, paying $10.00 for Asphalt 3D isn't too bad a deal. The first 3DS game I know of to drop to that price.


Monday, December 5, 2011

Swype - a total pain... but worth it

So a couple months or so, I downloaded Swype for my HTC Legend. Swype is an onscreen keyboard where you slide your thumb around the screen to connect letters to form words. Check out the videos on Youtube to see how it works... it looks awkward, but after using it these past 2 months.... I have to say I'm officially converted. The Swype method is AWESOME. My stock keyboard on my HTC Legend is pretty poor. What makes Swype so incredible is its word prediction, I don't know how it does it-- it has a very good sense of the word I'm looking for; even if sliding my thumb around the keyboard is sloppy, it seems to get it most of the time. The big problem with this method is that my thumb covers up the letters, so sometimes I have to stop & move my phone screen around to see where the next letter I need is. The good thing about this method is it's possible to type with one hand-- one thumb, really.

Swype is currently a free beta. Free is also awesome. But... there has to be a bad side somewhere, right? Where Swype really falls down is the "license expiring"... when it decides to, you have to uninstall the Swype installer, and re-install it, because the keyboard stops working, basically.

So I encountered this dark side of Swype the other day (luckily I was back from China, I actually was worried that it would expire while I was still there) and it was a total pain for me to reinstall. I had to try it a few times before it actually worked, as well as delete a large app (Pac-Man Championship Edition demo) to free up space... and I freely concede that that's an issue with my phone not having much internal space. But I think that each update of Swype gets re-jigged, and like all updates, some are good while some are not. There are some small issues with my latest version of Swype not playing well with my contacts editing. I don't know why that is other than they tweaked stuff.

Even with all this hassle, Swype is really good. I am envious of Samsung phones that have Swype included with it. Swype impressed me so much that I'm actually rethinking my main want in a new phone: that it has a physical keyboard. If I can get an onscreen keyboard comparable to Swype in usefulness, then a physical keyboard might not be needed. The key word being "might".

Oh Swype, why do you put me through such hell?


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