Handheld Addict

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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Summer of Handheld Gaming Discontent

Wow. No doubt about it now-- we are in the handheld gaming dark ages.

I ranted about a handheld gaming drought of early 2012 back in April... better revise that to drought of mid 2012 now.

The 3DS has been out for a year and a half now, and even though I have a bunch of games, I only play ONE  game on it regularly, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries.

The Playstation Vita has only been out since February, and I have a few games for it, only ONE of which I play on it regularly, Unit 13.

One game for each system is not enough, as much as I played the hell out of them, they are starting to wear out their welcome.

What's worse, there's practically nothing coming for these systems in the future. I haven't heard about ANY upcoming titles for PS Vita, and 3DS only has a VERY FEW games of note. The most anticipated title, hell I think it may be my most anticipated title of this year, Heroes of Ruin will finally drop in North America in mid-July. Other than that there's Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon, and maybe the Castlevania game. That's all I see on the horizon at this point. Don't get me started on New Super Mario Bro 2. At this point, I've given up on Mario. I'm done with that franchise.

The PS Vita looks completely abandoned. Did Sony or anybody announce *ANY* new Vita games at E3 2012?

This does feel like the dying days of dedicated handheld gaming consoles. If I was being optimistic, I might equate the dedicated handheld gaming market to the blockbuster movie: big established studios pour a lot of $$$ and resources into making a few big-budget event movies, while smaller independent studios use little money & resources to put out much smaller movies. It's not a great analogy, but it's about as close a comparison as I can get to Sony & Nintendo handheld games that cost $40.00+, compared to a slew of iOS & Android games that cost 1/10th that price.

Before the iPhone, handheld gamers could only expect maybe 6-12 big game titles a year. Even though the vast majority of iOS games are derivative rip-offs of not only bigger console games but mostly each other(!), most handheld gaming is done on smart phones. So are we seeing the death of even the 6-12 blockbuster titles per year? I am really pissed about this. It feels like third-party studios and even Sony itself has abandoned the PS Vita, not even 6 months after its release! Why did Sony even release the Vita? It feels like they don't care much about handheld gaming other than to say, "hey, we do it". Like it looks good on their resume or something.

As nice as a larger 3D screen would be with the 3DS XL, why buy one if there are no games to play on it? What would be the point?

Maybe I'm expecting too much, handheld games should only come out once every few months? But it has been 6 months since I bought any newly released games, and there isn't much left in the 3DS & Vita back catalogue to pick up.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

PS Vita video pause function broken

The PS Vita firmware is unfinished. It shipped incomplete, and hopefully Sony has been patching improvements in each new version.

But the HUGE BLIND SPOT in the PS Vita firmware is the video pause function. In every other use of the PS Vita, if you don't touch anything for a certain amount of time, the screen brightness fades, then turns off.

Except for if a video is paused on screen. if you leave it, it stays on. FOREVER. (at least until the battery dies I assume)

I've tested this by leaving a video paused on my PS Vita for like, 5 minutes.... but I was never sure it would stay on forever until, to my dismay, now.

This morning, I must've turned on my Vita & paused a video, then fallen back asleep. I awoke to my horror to find Cop Out still paused on my Vita... it could have been there for an hour? Maybe longer?

The Vita has been out for months now, has gone through a few firmware updates, yet no one at Sony has actually noticed that the screen doesn't shut off when a video is paused on it. It shows how Sony regards the PS Vita that no one who works on the firmware has actually paused a video on it.

Dear Sony Computer Entertainment:
Please update the PS Vita firmware so that when a video is paused on screen, after a certain amount of time the PS Vita turns off.  This is a staple feature of almost every portable media player, including the PS Vita predecessor, the PSP.
From Don, a PS Vita owner.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blogger sucks now

Wow does Blogger ever suck or what? What is Google's problem? Why do they have to BREAK Blogger?

The new posting page is AWFUL. As can be seen by my Driver Renegade sucks post, it arbitrarily adds bizarre page elements that can't be removed, like that final paragraph being highlighted or whatever the hell that glitch is. I had another similar problem with a previous post also.

And don't even get me started on trying to use a mobile browser to compose posts. I try to use the default Android browser-- HELLO, Android is made by Google. Blogger is OWNED and made by Google-- and you can't make these two products that YOU, GOOGLE develop and own, POSSIBLY COMPATIBLE? I bet the old Blogger posting page was, but this current HTML5 trainwreck certainly isn't. I'm currently trying Firefox mobile, and have tried Overskreen, all equally unable to make it work properly.

Why must you constantly break your own products, Google? How is that not being evil?


Driver Renegade sucks

Ohh man... I knew I would wring the fun out of Driver Renegade sooner rather than later, and like whatever car I use in the game, I've basically slammed into a brick wall of frustration.

I just can't get over how badly the cars handle and the game plays. I am SO ANGRY at the developers, I personally want to go up to whoever programmed this game and KICK THEM IN THE NUTS. It's *that bad*.

Everyone involved in the gameplay of this title should NEVER be allowed to work in the video game industry ever again. This was made from pure apathy and cutting corners. It's a complete travesty & an embarrassment.

There is no sense of speed. You have this turbo boost-- apparently it is a Rage Meter-- that's supposed to give you a nitro-like burst of speed. It does NOTHING. I've literally been neck & neck with the last place AI car and holding down the nitro doesn't vault me forward one bit. It makes no difference.

If you clip something, you WILL spin out. There's no way not to, no matter what you do. Because players LOVE having NO CONTROL over their gameplay. That alone should have had everyone involved with this game fired and their work scrapped well before it hit the shelf.

I remember when I finished Driver '76, I wanted to thank the developers for the game. It was published by Ubisoft but developed by Sumo Digital. Sure it was a blatant rip-off of Grand Theft Auto, but it was still fun despite its' flaws. But the developers of Driver Renegade should be fired, and whatever ins-house studio disbanded. As far as I can tell Driver Renegade was developed in-house by Ubisoft. Does Ubisoft have NO pride, they just skate by on the bare minimum when they develop games themselves? They've published some awesome handheld games, Lumines for PSP being a notable example. But I think that most, if not all,  of the best ones were developed by outside companies.

I hate you whoever programmed Driver Renegade, put together this shit game. I hate myself for buying it and supporting this kind of shovelware.


Saturday, June 23, 2012

3DS XL coming August 19

Nintendo has announced the 3DS XL will launch in the U.S. on August 19, 2012, with a MSRP of $199.99.

Some brief specs:

top screen - 4.88 inches
bottom screen - 4.18 inches

battery life:

3DS XL - 3.5 to 6 hours

3DS - 3 to 5 hours

3DS XL will come with a 4GB SD card.

Hmmm. We can't say too that a 3DS "refresh" comes as too much of a surprise, can we? This is pretty much in line with Nintendo's business practice with the DS, and Gameboy handheld consoles. But it is a bit, I dunno, disappointing that they didn't add a 2nd analogue nub? This is the exact same rabbit hole/slippery slope that Sony fell into with the PSP. Maybe they are as stubbornly going to stick to their course with the 3DS as Sony did with the PSP, refusing to add a 2nd nub. And unless Nintendo makes a Circle Pad Pro XL, so much for using that accessory with it....

I know that there are very few games that are even Circle Pad Pro compatible. But if Nintendo had built a 2nd analogue nub into this 3DS "hardware refresh", they would be telling developers to port or make new 3DS games that are truly 2nd analogue stick compatible. If you wanted to play those games on an old 3DS, get the Circle Pad Pro. It's not an ideal solution but it's better than this: doing NOTHING.

At this point, I'm most concerned about the top screen line scratch issue. There appear to be only 2 *small* bumps at the top of the top panel that are supposed to keep the top screen from touching the bottom screen border. Small being the key word. I *pray* that Nintendo actually REAL WORLD TESTED the bump height to confirm that it's enough to keep the screens from touching. I don't have that much faith in Nintendo's designers.

I'm surprised the analogue nub & buttons placement looks exactly the same distance from the middle hinge as the smaller 3DS. I'm worried that reaching the analogue nub might be harder with the larger size of the console. The bottom left corner of my regular 3DS jams into my palm while I hold it, but with a larger size console, I don't know how my reach would be, or if during real-world use, it will be an issue at all. It just seems like they should have moved the nub, D pad & face buttons down a little bit, since there is all that extra space there.

Looks like the headphone jack has been moved to the bottom left corner, like the original PSP placement.

The 3 bottom screen buttons look better, we'll have to see.

Ok, I'm going to call out the BIG LIE right here and now: Nintendo has said that the 3DS XL will have "slightly better" battery life. People are going to run with this throwaway statement and assume the battery life will be significantly better. I'm going to just call that out as a LIE. I'm betting the difference will be either minimal or NONE. This is one of those gaming industry lies that are so obvious even the company saying it doesn't really believe it, yet it gets passed along as truth. There, I said it.

When Nintendo announced the DSiXL, I was pretty much baffled. hell, at first I literally thought it was a joke. But I have changed my tune somewhat since then... I can understand why people would want it-- not just really old people either, as I originally surmised, hehe-- but gamers who want a bigger console to grip as well as the larger screens. Some people are huge fans of the DSiXL size.

And one of my issues with the 3DS is the screen size, it should have been larger. It looks so small compared to even my PSPgo screen which is larger! It doesn't help that the 3DS black bezel is so huge around the screen. So the 3DS XL is a big improvement on that front.

I don't love the rounded top panel, but it's not a dealbreaker. Another thing people get wrong is assuming these white background pictures are how the console looks like in real life. These are NOT actual photos.... they are so touched-up that they're more like illustration than an actual real life picture. That includes colour tints, the actual colours will look quite different than what's seen on these illustrations.

So the screen size is the biggest draw for me, I will have to see it on display before I can make up my mind about it. Even with the original resolution, that screen could be gorgeous.

At this point, I kinda want one, but I think I'll wait for a price drop?


Friday, June 22, 2012

Grand Theft Auto III

I bought Grand Theft Auto III on Android during their sale a few days ago.... it sounded familiar, I thought, "Don't I have this for my (original) Xbox?"... checking my collection, indeed-- I did buy it years ago, as part of the Grand Theft Auto III/Grand Theft Auto:Vice City Xbox 2-pack. But I don't think I ever even played it! It still looked pristine when I popped it into my Xbox.

Playing the Android version, at first it's really fun, the touchscreen controls seem fairly smooth... until you actually have to do anything at all that requires the slightest bit of finesse.

But the Xbox version, well that uses a physical dual stick controller, so that HAS to be better, right? Nope. The Xbox version is pretty much UNPLAYABLE. I have NO IDEA how Rockstar Games messed this game up. I assume it's a port from a PS2 version, but  this version should never have been pressed to disc, let alone sold to the public. It just looks so muddy and blurry. But the worst, the absolute worst thing is there's no right analogue stick control. The right stick is only used for this crappy first-person camera look around that only works when the player is standing completely still. It's utter unusable garbage. It's bizarre that the Android touchscreen-only version has better camera control than a version on a dual stick console.... not that the Android version has great camera either. It's also unplayable when having to do anything on-foot, like combat.

Why was Rockstar so clueless about 2nd analogue stick camera control? I thnk this game was released in 2002, so Xbox & PS 2 were out for a little while before the game was released.... but I'm wondering if it wasn't developed for the previous generation of consoles? I don't know... either that or developers like Rockstar Games were truly clueless as to how to make games during that time.

Also adding to the brokenness of the GTA III Xbox version is that there's NO fullscreen map. Why in their right mind did they not assign a button to display a fullscreen map? Especially considering how big the play area is. Thankfully the Android version has a fullscreen map.

Another great little thing about the Android version is that some of the controls work with my SGH-i927r Samsung Galaxy S Glide's slide-out hardware keyboard! I didn't expect there to be support for it, and it's only really directional controls wasd & the direction keys on the right. Still not sure if it's better than the onscreen touch controls, but it's nice to have the options.

I paid 0.99¢ for Grand Theft Auto III: 10th Anniversary mobile Android version and I'm sure I paid waaaay more than that for the Xbox bundle back in 2004-2005? Hopefully not 50 times more..... but I can't remember, so.... oh well.

I was griping about how Driver Renegade isn't enough like Driver '76, but instead of playing a GTA knock-off like Driver '76, I guess I'm going to the source material with GTA III on my phone, so I'm getting that fix I was denied with the 3DS version of Driver.


Club Nintendo coin values changes

Oh man... I just finished registering a bunch of Wii & DS Lite games on Club Nintendo because I read that starting July 1, 2012, most of the coin values for those games are going down. Qualifying (first party) Wii games are worth 50 coins right now, but starting July 1, they seem to drop to between 40/30 & 20 coins! What a rip. And many DS games are dropping from 30 to 20.

But here is the weird part... some first-party games coin values are going UP-- the Pokemon series all seem to be increasing as are the main Mario games-- excluding Super Mario Galaxy (1), the Selects version that is MSRP $19.99 is worth less coins that the original Super Mario Galaxy 1 sold at full price. But don't be fooled, there are far fewer games going up compared to the number going down.

Also incredibly annoying, many of the download games like classic Gameboy titles get cut from 10 coins to 5.

I was squirreling away a bunch of Nintendo game codes from games I'd bought awhile back.... but Nintendo has forced me to register them now if I want the full coin values. I'm now at Platinum status for the second year in a row, but I've almost spent my wad..... I'm holding onto a couple of Mario codes that will inexplicably go UP in coin value after July 1.....

I think it's really douchey of Nintendo to decrease coin values like this. Bad enough they have expiry dates-- some countries have made such practices ILLEGAL as in gift cards, and points slip through the cracks on the technicality that they aren't real money... but still. Expiry dates for gift points is an immoral practice.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Driver Renegade 3DS

I was waiting for Driver Renegade to hit my price-point sweet spot of $10.00, and I picked it up yesterday from Futureshop for $9.99.

I was pleasantly surprised by Driver '76 on PSP, and I've been anxiously awaiting a Driver game since the 3DS was launched. But when the game finally launched and the reviews trickled in... they were pretty bad. Driver games haven't really gotten great reviews except the latest console one, and like I said, I found  Driver '76 to be better than the reviews give it credit for-- it's not a great game but it is fun. So I tended to take the reviews with a grain of salt. But the reviews for Driver Renegade are *really* bad. And they are not wrong.

At first I was very disappointed playing this game... I'm actually kind of angry. It feels completely obligatory; an afterthought tacked on to the multi-console release of Driver: San Francisco. I haven't played that game but from what I gather, Driver Renegade is not a port, it's a handheld game unto its own. But it feels like such a phoned-in effort went into making it. The cars look terrible, the sound is very lame and repetitive. The graphics are so basic they look like off-the-shelf models... and the cars handle like crap.

The game is broken up into 2 sections, the Story Mode which is a very short campaign (can probably be beaten in one sitting) and a Career Mode that has most of the game challenges. There are 7 modes, each with 12 levels. But some of the modes repeat themselves, like "Rampage" and "Afterburner" are pretty much the exact same game play: destroy the other cars. But I have to say, this is the most fun game mode, and once I started playing this I felt less jypped of my 10 bones + HST. There is a shunting action in the game using the shoulder buttons you can slam into other cars, it's pretty cool. I really like just blowing up the enemies, the best part of the game by far.

To try and sell Driver Renegade for full price has to be close to committing fraud, seriously. It feels like the developers did the least possible effort to make it functional and shipped it. One of the few exceptions is the artwork, the story is told through still comic book style drawings which look really good. They remind me a lot of the cut scenes from Twisted Metal: Head On (PSP).

Unlike Driver '76, instead of having a free-roaming map, Driver Renegade is very linear, it's mostly just  race or "destroy" events. You can't wander around. You can't get out of the car. I was disappointed that the gameplay seems so different from that title. But at least I have Driver '76 on my PS Vita.

Maybe I bought Driver Renegade so you don't have to. Unless you're a hardcore fan of the franchise, this game is probably not worth your $$$. I admit there are some fun moments, sometimes fun can be had within the brokenness of the game. But I wonder how long the fun will ultimately last... not long I reckon.


Monday, June 4, 2012

I dropped my phone!

A four word action a Handheld Addict *NEVER* wants to have happen.

Grrrrrr...... I was walking down the street today and I pulled my phone out of my pocket to use the camera, when suddenly it just flung out of my hand & I tried to catch it, I must've clipped it when I tried-- which of course made it fling away even faster-- and it hit the hard sidewalk and bounced.

Caused a few scratches on the corner, luckily it didn't break... but still.

I know it's a minor thing but it's really upsetting to drop a device. I've had this phone for about a month, and I'm not totally in love with it even though it is very good with video playback. The problem with Samsung is their materials feel very cheap compared to my HTC Legend, which has a aluminum unibody and glass screen.

But in the 1.5 years that I've owned my HTC Legend, I don't think I've ever dropped it... at least not on pavement. Which is a bit surprising because the anodized aluminum unibody is actually very slippery. I think maybe the smaller form factor makes it easier to hold than this, my current phone the Samsung Galaxy S Glide SGH-i927r. The Galaxy S Glide has a textured back which looks like it should be great for grip... but in reality, the texture is so fine that it doesn't help much, as I just learned to my great regret.

I wanted to keep my Galaxy S Glide in pristine condition; I didn't even remove the plastic over the screen yet.... so much for that idea. I'd like to get a new phone but I can't find any that are truly BETTER than this... the latest don't offer any REAL improvement. I was actually very happy with my HTC Legend, but it's low memory was giving me major problems during day-to-day use-- I simply needed something more powerful.

I've been thinking about the handhelds I've dropped... I think I've dropped my PSP-1001 & 2001 a couple times on carpet. I don't recall dropping my DS Lite or 3DS, nor my PS Vita.

I suppose I should use a case for my phone. I don't like cases in general because the phone is already big for my pocket.

I just can't believe I actually dropped my phone. I am usually so careful about these things.

It's such a minor thing but it's very upsetting. If you're into gadgets, you know what I'm talking about.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Unit 13 & Resident Evil: The Mercenaries

During this wicked handheld gaming drought, Unit 13 & Resident Evil: The Mercenaries are the games I'm playing the most-- by far. I've been playing both of them every day for the last several weeks.

 Resident Evil: Mercenaries online co-op play-- while limited-- is still incredibly fun. I wish it was more robust, and that players could say more than the pre-programmed "Wait!", "Come on", "Thanks" & taunt. It's scary how many hours I've put into this game, by far my favourite for the 3DS thus far.

 Unit 13 is flawed, there are a lot of broken elements to the gameplay... but I must admit I find myself diving back into it on a daily basis. It's frustrating at times; I can chain together a series of perfect stealth kills or whatever only to die and have to start it all over again. Kinda like a house of cards, one slip-up, and... But it's really pretty looking, and so far in the PS Vita's short lifespan, the only half-decent shooter on the handheld.

One thing that's funny is the collision detection, sometimes enemy guns get thrown into walls and boxes, it's hilarious...

Both of these games are probably considered commercial failures, so maybe my tastes don't represent what is considered hot in gaming... but these are simply my most-played games on each system.

There are some gameplay balance issues in both games, and I'd love to see sequels for both of them. I think of the two, Resident Evil: The Mercenaries might have a better chance of seeing a sequel but considering the un-erasable game save uproar and the overall tepid reviews, it seems like a slim chance that they will make another one for the 3DS. Man, what a shame. I'd LOVE to have more maps & a few more characters....