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GPD Win :(

Very sad news about a console I actually never have blogged about is my GPD Win. For those that don't know about it, it is a pocketable windows 10 capable microcomputer with built-in gaming controls. It has a loud fan and pretty bad battery life but has been one of my favourite portable gaming solutions. Wikipedia knows all about it. Anyhow it is now crashing to a black screen on or not long after startup and repeatedly bringing up an auto repair screen and I have not been able to fix it and went as far as reinstalling windows 10. Anyone else have this issue? The wonderful thing about dedicated game consoles is that they tend not to have these sorts of issues. Since I have this Blog thought I'd put out a call for help here.

(EDIT: I managed to get windows reinstalled with a full wipe of the system but it was a total pain.)


BittBoy

Got a neat little nintenclone a while back and it is one of the best looking ones I've ever owned. It is called the BittBoy and it is ridiculously inexpensive at $40. The software is somewhat half baked but for the price, it is a really amazing piece of hardware. It runs NES GB and GBC games off a micro SD. The picture is of the original Gameboy, an original Tetris game cartridge and a BittBoy running Tetris.

Nintendo Switch

Hey friends, long time no updates! Parenthood is expensive, time consuming and, my time for hobbies is curtailed so, I've been concentrating on music and playing games, rather than bolstering the rather hefty collection of vintage and modern handhelds. I did manage to go to a midnight release for the Switch (my first midnight release ever) and after some fuss I had a Switch in hand at 7:00 AM Friday morning. The Nintendo Switch is an awesome piece of hardware. I personally have not experienced any of the issues that have been reported and am very impressed with the build quality. It feels like a premium piece of hardware. The niggles that I had about the Vita and New 3DS, such as never being able to hold the Vita without touching the rear touch pad on accident, the terrible resolution and ridiculous right analog on the New 3DS,  and the inevitable hand cramps while playing more demanding titles on either unit are gone. Best if all, Zelda Breath of the Wild truly is an compromised console game that just happens to be able to be played in portable form. Amazing! When the Vita first came out it promised console quality gaming in a portable form and although it succeeded with a few games (Little Big Planet, Gravity Rush, Killzone Mercenary) it failed more often (Borderlands 2, Call of Duty Black Ops Declassified, Resistance:Burning Skys). Adding injury to insult Sony quickly dubbed the Vita a legacy console and pulled all AAA first party support. It is still a phenomenal piece of hardware and an excellent place to play some awesome indi-game it just never fulfilled it's original promise. So now we have the Switch a true portable/home console hybrid that has a chance to succeed where the Vita failed. Here is hoping that Nintendo doubles down on the Switch and can make it a success like the DS line has done and can avoid the problems the Wii U has struggled with. Only time will tell however, I'm heartened after seeing what the Switch is capable of with the masterpiece that is Zelda Breath of the Wild, I'm hyped to eventually play Skyrim for a fourth time and, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that some big 3rd party developers decide to support the Switch. Now is a fantastic time to be a portable gaming enthusiast and that is pretty cool!

JXD S7300 Willgoo and JXD Fail to Deliver


I just preordered a piece of gear, the JXD S7300. It is a low priced dual core gaming tablet that advertises true dual analog, android 4.1, magic rainbow ponycorns and, HDMI 1080P out. It was 2AM, I had just fed the baby and read a couple of so so reviews of the Archos Gamepad on my Nexus 7. Man oh man, I really want buttons on my Nexus 7, and a SD card slot, and a ponycorn. The Nexus 7 can kind of do one of the three which isn't bad considering that one of the things I desire is a mythical forest creature. With a sixaxis controller and Onlive the Nexus 7 can almost become a pretty impressive gaming rig... Except that the sixaxis app kills wi-fi which Onlive needs, and you have to prop the Nexus somewhere to use the controller with it, and it is more convenient to just grab a laptop and plug in a 360 controller...

Had a very negative experience with Willgoo which I edited out of this post since it has been years since that happened

here is what I thought about the actual unit

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:
Ok, I can at least give some first impressions. The machine is really light and cheap feeling, it feels about half the weight of my Nexus 7 (I thought it felt light but this was due to my Nexus 7 being in a leather case). The buttons are nice with the right amount of stiff and springiness. The analog pads are circle pads much like the 3DS or PSP rather than joysticks. They are actually analog but the software seems to be set up so that they sometimes read as digital. Also I have read several reports of the circle pads being defective on arrival and needing re-soldering. I didn't have this issue but in light of my issue I am VERY concerned about build quality. I couldn't really explore the system much because of the defect but, it seemed like it might be somewhat functional if it was working correctly.

Currently I cannot recommend either the JXD S7300 or Willgoo and would encourage a buyer to look elsewhere when ordering one. Getting a defective device from Willgoo will result in a long wait and shipping fees that will quickly make this bargain priced device no longer a bargain. Based upon other reports and my experience the JXD S7300 seems to questionable software and a very poor build quality that is resulting in many defective units.  

Are iOS and Android Killing Premium Portable Gaming?

Rant starting.

I have noticed on some of the blogs I frequent that there has been a recent vocal assertion, among many gamers, that iOS and Android phones and tablets are the best portable gaming devices. Market saturation certainly would indicate that they are the most popular. It would be absurd for the gaming press not to hop on the app train. Apps are were gaming is exploding at the moment and, yes there are new, interesting things happening in the app space. I expect the top gaming press to report on iOS/Android games, and believe that good games can be made for a tablet or smart phone, so no surprise that apps are getting more press. It is in the comments where there is a surprising change in perception. Until recently there were many core/hardcore gamers who pretty vocally derided iOS games as poor quality products with little defense from the iOS/Android camp. Now, finally, it seems that the app gamers are speaking up and it is not just trolls speaking up, in both camps. The comments are often along the lines of "The Vita is doomed to failure because nobody will pay $40 for a game when they can get just as good games for $5 on iOS." Whenever I read comments along these lines I get really frustrated about the current state of gaming, particularly how app gaming is effecting premium portable gaming.

Let's look at the Playstation Vita for a second. It is a fantastic piece of gear capable of some great games. I am loving Persona 4 Golden and Need for Speed Most Wanted. These are great games and I honestly have never played an iOS game that touches the quality and depth of these titles! However, Persona 4 Golden, much like Metal Gear HD Collection, is a port of a several years old PS2 game. Need for Speed Most Wanted is a, only slightly watered down, version of a console game. Not really the exclusive AAA gaming Sony was promising before the Vita was released. Things get a bit more grim if you start looking at the Vita offerings that should be AAA flagship titles. Uncharted on Vita is a very enjoyable game but the story and cinematicness fall somewhat short of it's console brethren. Resistance on the Vita is mediocre. Nihilistic/Sony/Activision should have canned Call of Duty Black Ops Declassified, the worst rated game on the Vita to date (32/100 on Metacritic), before it was released. Going one portable generation back, there were some stinkers but, many of the AAA games on the PSP would have been AAA on the PS2. Daxter is a lovingly made high quality outing that would be a standout PS2 title. Syphon Filter was phenomenal. Metal Gear Peacewalker, God of War Chains of Olympus, Jeanne d'Arc... The list goes on and on of AAA quality games some that even made their way to the PS3. Therein lies the problem. Unit 13 will never be ported off the Vita. It is not AAA, nearly nobody seems to be willing to invest to bring new AAA to the Vita, and the Vita needs a AAA killer app. Ubisoft at least seems to be making an effort, but it does not seem to be quite enough. Their Assassin's Creed game is really quite nice despite some mixed reviews. It was obviously made by some very talented artists, programmers, and designers, if not perhaps Ubisoft's absolute best. Not having the absolute best working on the game unfortunately shows when compared to Assassin's Creed III and this is problematic. The Vita sits in a strange place between the PS3 where enough people will pay $60 for AAA and the iPhone where many more people will pay $.99 for a piece of casual fare to make it profitable (Perhaps a rant about freemium ruining games is in order?).
...Put another way a mediocre FPS like Modern Warfare is just as much a waste of my time as a mediocre FPS like Call of Duty Declassified regardless of price...
Somehow this leads to the perception that "The Vita is doomed to failure because nobody will pay $40 for a game when they can get just as good games for $5 on iOS." A high quality iOS game eclipses a middling portable console game that a consumer expect to be AAA when price is factored in. I personally will never finish a Gameloft FPS on iOS until I can play with buttons and a joystick and do not have a wealth of other better games to play on other platforms. Put another way a mediocre FPS like Modern Warfare is just as much a waste of my time as a mediocre FPS like Call of Duty Declassified regardless of price. For other gamers this is not the case. Modern Warfare is good value for the money and therefor good while Declassified is a bad value for the money and therefore bad. I'll be interested to see how Nihilistic, who made Declassified fares now that they are focusing on iOS. If their next iOS game is heralded as excellent I will not hesitate to wave flags in depressing celebration.Without clearly superior AAA console quality games Vita simply can't compete and I blame Sony.

It is not surprising that 3rd party publishers, outside of Ubisoft, seem to have written off the Vita but why has Sony, up to this point dropped the ball? I can't answer that except perhaps to guess that Sony wants to keep it's best people and invest the most where the money is, their home console market. I'd like to suggest to Sony is a few things that might make the Vita a success and just pose some questions to find out Sony's reasoning. I have always been a big fan of Sony and find it puzzling that a company I equate with quality seems to be making some big missteps with it's latest member of the Playstation line.

Sony, the most important thing is to give a team the budget and staff to make a AAA game. Why haven't you done this? This is really simple. AAA takes time, money, and talent. I don't know what elements were missing on the games that have been released so far but I strongly suspect that at least one element was missing for all of them. Really, seriously, Sony, all your Vita games feel skimpy. One of my favorite Vita games, Gravity Rush sings about not having enough talented people working on it for long enough, it was almost a game that would make my favorite games list but felt oh so rushed, pun intended.

Why did you abandon remote play? Seriously, with proper remote play support I could play hella AAA on my Vita! Remote play is a complete failure. I can't imagine that the Vita would not have sold like gangbusters if you pushed this feature. Then once people owned a Vita for remote play they would want to use it on the go and buy games just for the Vita. I bought God of War Collection and Ico/Shadow of the Colossus HD for the PS3 just to take advantage of this feature even though I have perfectly useable copies for my PS2. Did anybody else do this? Okay, this is a tangent but when is Tokyo Jungle getting remote play support?! I want to play this game so bad while the wife is watching Cooks Country on PBS. Something about cooking shows make me want to play a game where killing and feasting on the flesh of other animals is a central theme. My point is remote play is very compelling and I am not sure you can undo the damage from not pushing this but, I'd like to see you try.

...I am no programmer but, I was a producer at a game company so I know a few things about asking programmers to accomplish completely unreasonable tasks...
If you won't invest in new AAA for the Vita figure out how to bring the PS2 Classics to the Vita. I am no programmer but, I was a producer at a game company so I know a few things about asking programmers to accomplish completely unreasonable tasks. The PS2 Classics selection is quite nice, I haven't bought any of them because I have nearly all of them for the PS2 but I would re-buy them in a heartbeat for the Vita, then tada, more AAA on the Vita. AAA that may be older but is not already available on other portables. Remastering games of one or two console generations past seems to be popular now presumably because of the lower development cost, I can't imagine that getting the PS2 Classic collection running on the Vita wouldn't be quite cost effective. If it is too great a challenge here is a freebie, remote play PS2 collection. It's like free money and I am sure it would help hardware adoption more than a Declassified bundle.

Ok, Sony, I am done talking to you. This last bit is for gamers, look I very much like some iOS/Android games, I am a big fan of Popcap and will gladly support them, bought world of Goo on iOS even though I had it on PC and, am pretty sure all the electronics I own and regularly use have GTA III installed on them now. Unless all we want is cheap or "free"mium, low budget time wasters we must stop supporting bad iOS/Android games and pony up the cash for good mobile games. As a cash strapped person myself that last part is tricky but, for most under-employed first worlders a premium priced game should only be part of a single day's work. With a little research, you will most likely will enjoy a premium game more intensely for much longer than a cheap cheaply made budget game. I am not knocking apps in fact I wholeheartedly encourage you to buy all of Square Enix's premium, for iOS, priced apps. Haven't played them but am sure they are all great. We as consumers need to speak with our wallet, buy good games, and stop supporting low grade "crapps". Don't even download them, don't ask your Facebook friends for coins, don't make an in app purchase, don't even look at the advertising banners. The mere act of playing a bad game on iOS or Android is unfortunately providing metrics that are telling companies that you want more. Gone are the days when you could secretly play a second hand copy of Willow for the NES under the cover of darkness and nobody would know.

Rant over... 

Archos Gamepad, Android gaming done right.



I have a Nexus 7 and cannot recommend it enough, it works great as a game machine paired with a PS3 controller or a classic SNES styled USB controller. This does not make me any less hyped about the upcoming Archos Gamepad which should be released this month. It seems like it could dethrone the reasonably priced GP2X line and overpriced Pandora as the best devices for a person that wants ultimate flexibility in how they use their portable gaming system. You don't have to take my word on it, just check out the video above.

Update: The Archos Gamepad was released December 6th in the UK. I have reached out to Archos to see if I can get access to a review unit in advance of the US release which is expected early next year. 

Obscure Handhelds


I'll tell you what, being a new full time stay at home parent can be a life changer. It doesn't mean I'm not still interested in portable gaming just that between taking care of the family, job searching, and some volunteer and hobby activities I have not spent very much time on this old blog. There are some pretty cool things on the horizon for the dedicated handheld gamer including some excellent upcoming Vita releases which are covered by the mainstream gaming press, a exciting new android gaming tablet the Archos Gamepad, and a wealth of other obscure systems. It's to this last point I'd like to speak. I recently discovered a great place to get your obscure portable news and information. I am a particular fan of Pocketgamer for news and information but feel like the closest analogous website has to be Obscure Handhelds. A site with a no nonsense attitude that covers a wide range of lesser known hardware with a fevor that is admirable. Check them out at http://obscurehandhelds.wordpress.com/




IGN History of Portable Consoles

Normally I don't re-post major publisher articles but IGN has written up a nice article about portables that is worth a read. Check it out.

http://www.1up.com/features/hysterical-history-portable-consoles