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 uncompromised 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!
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?).
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.
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.
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.
Here are the specs as best as can be gleaned:
170 x 72 x 15mm
2GB of internal memory
SD card slot,
four face buttons
four shoulder buttons
Console style control stick
2200mAh rechargeable battery
Here's the list of games rumored to come with the device:
Top Player's Golf
King of Monsters
Fatal Fury Special
Art of Fighting
Baseball Stars Professional
King of Fighters '94
I'll update when I find out more.
“I can count them on two hands and they are all remakes!”, I sorrowfully spoke. After carefully and scientifically tallying the titles worth playing using the objective ‘my opinion’ method I had to concede that just over half of the games so far are remakes. Still, I concluded, this has to be worse than the first year for the DS. The answer may surprise you. Although only three of the worthwhile games for the 3DS so far could be called new it was not far behind the original DS’s four offerings. Once you consider the totals including remakes the situation begins to look much nicer.
3DS games worth playing since launch: 8
DS games worth playing year one: 5
So why the initially poor perception of this first year?
A few things come to mind. First off it is hard to think of the system as having anything new to offer when more than half of the great games are remakes. This is compounded by the fact that Super Mario 3D Land and Mario Kart 7 were only recently released and that once you look outside of a small must play games the 3DS has almost nothing game wise to offer.
So why haven’t we gotten more awesome games that are closer to the console experience like Nintendo promised?
There are a few likely factors here. The hardware doesn’t support easy ports of console games. This is an issue spec wise as well as the nature of the hardware. With only a single analog stick many console game types do not work on the 3DS. Perhaps the new thumb stick accessory will address this but I for one am not holding my breath. The other major factor is that development budgets for portable games are shrinking with the new expected low price point of the mobile market. I’d argue that the depth and playablity offered by the likes of Super Mario 3D Land justifies the price difference of $39.99 compared to the best iPhone platformer which likely has the price point of .99-2.99. This is becoming a hard pill for many consumers to swallow. The end result seems to be that we are getting mobile quality games on the 3DS at the 39.99 price point. This theory would explain the markedly large quality gap between the top tier 3DS games and the rest of the pack. Ugh!
So what does this have to do with the Vita?
The Vita has a hard road ahead. They have to do what Nintendo has so far failed to do and that is to create a software lineup that really offers a console experience on the go. The full priced Vita games must be full experiences even is this means relegating some decent size releases to the status of download only PS Vita Minis. Also first party support has to be stronger than Nintendo’s support for the 3DS to lure gamers away from both the 3DS and their cell phones. This means releasing handheld games made with a console budget at console quality. Can this be done? I sure hope so, and based on what I have seen so far I think the Vita is enough of a powerhouse and well designed machine to pull a console experience on a portable off. Even if they don’t I’ll still be happy with a pretty excellent first year of games on the 3DS.
Must play 3DS remakes so far
Legend of Zelda :Ocarina of Time
Dead or Alive Dimensions
Star Fox 64 3D
3DS New fun titles so far
Super Mario 3D Land
Mario Kart 7
Ghost Recon Shadow Wars
Must play DS remakes worth playing Year One
Super Mario 64
DS New Fun titles Year One
Wario Ware Touched
Advance Wars: Dual Strike
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Mario Kart DS
Hyperkin, makers of all manner of retro hardware will apparently be releasing a portable SNES called the Supaboy. If they maintain their current track record I expect it will be a quite serviceable unit, if a bit rough around the edges.
Here are the details from their website/press release:
The SupaBoy will play original SNES cartridges on a built-in 3.5” LCD screen and is designed to emulate an original SNES controller including a D-pad and buttons on the front as well as right and left shoulder buttons. Hyperkin has even included two front loading ports that are compatible with full-size SNES controllers and video/audio out, allowing up to two players to play the SupaBoy on a regular TV screen. How supa’ cool is that!
SupaBoy will be compatible with multiple SNES titles including: Super Mario™ RPG, Starfox™, Super Mario™ World, Donkey Kong™ Country, Zelda™, Noah’s Ark 3D™, Aerobiz™ and others.
“The SupaBoy is by far one of the coolest products we’ve developed,” stated Steven Mar, Hyperkin’s Business Director. “Not only does it look similar to an original SNES controller, it’s also compatible with original SNES cartridges. You can even run it through your TV to play it with a friend!” Mar continued: “The SupaBoy is going to blow people away.”Normal details:
- Screen size (diagonal): 3.5 inches
- 5.5 Hours battery life (tested only once without sound)
- Measures: 8.5 x 4 x 1.5 inches
- Weight: 11.5 ounces
- Stereo sound
- AV Out
- Headphone jack
- Adjustable volume control
- Innovative cartridge lock feature
- Two seven-pin controller ports
- Tested compatible original hardware:
- Nintendo SNES controller
- Nintendo Super Scope
- Super Multitap
- Nintendo Mario Paint Mouse
- In short – everything we’ve plugged into the controller ports has worked
- Cartridge Compatibility
- Compatible with Japanese Super Famicom Cartridges
- Tested, Confirmed as Working
- Super Mario RPG
- Super Mario World
- Donkey Kong Country
- Noah’s Ark 3D
* 45+45 Challenging levels based on authentic American cities maps.
* Incredibly easy to play. But surprisingly challenging.
* Retina display graphics and HD version exclusively for iPad
* 9 Different cars with different behaviour.
* Unique achievements with game center integration.
* Exclusive music theme by Edu Quindós, available to purchase via the game in iTunes.
* Unique puzzle gameplay.
* Game Center, Facebook and Twitter integration.
* US English and Spanish
* iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad
* iOS 3.0 or later
* 54 MB
Pricing and Availability:
Push-Cars is only $0.99 USD (equivalent amounts in other currencies)
Push-Cars HD is only $1.99 USD (equivalent amounts in other currencies)
and they are available worldwide exclusively through the App Store in the Games
Push-Cars was made available on June the 28th, and now its first 45 levels are free for
a limited period of time.
I've spent a bit of time with the game and it is an entertaining little action puzzler. Action because the object of the game is both to cause and avoid causing crashes. Check out their launch trailer below.
To answer Technabob's question, yes this does classify as a portable handheld
I recently dropped by my local Sony store to check out the Sony Xperia Play. It is a really nice piece of gear that, if I didn’t already have an iPhone and Viewsonic G-Tablet would undoubtedly be adopting. The screen looks great and it seems just a bit more sluggish than my G-Tab which is running Vegan, a better version of the Android OS than comes installed on the G-Tabs.
Going off on a bit of a tangent, Android, the operating system which the Xperia Play uses, has a very open market which is much less curated than the Apple App Store. This results in a lot of junk but also a lot more options for someone that likes to tinker. For example, I picked up a Zeemote and was able to get it to function with my G-tab which greatly improves some gaming experiences with the device. This is positively impossible on my iPhone because of the tight reigns Apple keeps on the device. That said much less on Android just works, a problem that I expect that Sony is trying to address with the Play. I didn’t spend much time in the App store on the Play but did verify that it is accessible. Additionally Sony appears to have a curated list of games that are optimized for the Play available on the device which is very cool. If the device is supported in this way with both an open market and a curated experience available this could be very cool for consumers.
I spent most of my time with the Xperia Play checking out the hardware and installed games and must say that the addition of real controls makes a huge difference for traditional console style games. The buttons and plus pad are small and springy but feel up to Sony quality. The plus pad appears to be 4 separate buttons which seems a bit chintzy to me but feels high quality and useable enough that I did not care during my time with the device. The analog pads, I am not sure exactly what to call them, worked but felt like they would take a bit of getting used to. They were far preferable to on screen control pads used in many iOS and Android games which is what counts. Sure any old Android or iPhone can rock Angry Birds but I have not been able to play more than a few minutes of most console type titles, such as Dead Space or Battlefield, on my iPhone. A couple exceptions are a couple of Gameloft titles specifically Nova and Backstab both of which I enjoyed but have not finished. I believe that the Play can offer a superior console experience on a cell-phone to any previous cell.
My main concern is potential lack of support for the Play’s control scheme and the upcoming release of the Playstation Vita which could leave the Play in the lurch if it is not widely adopted. All in all I wish it the best of luck and would easily pick up a low priced non cell-phone version of the Play if it was available.
It has been quite a while since I’ve posted largely because of being a very busy bee at work and home for quite a while. Also my NDA at work has prohibited sharing any information about upcoming or currently released systems. They are all announced or on shelves so I am totally free to type about the 3DS and Vita to my heart’s content.
3DS would be a pretty big letdown but, man oh man, does Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time look and play nice. Seriously, I have no regrets paying over $300 just to play LoZ:OoT. The 3D effect is kind of obnoxious and makes objects in the far distance look really jaggy since the pixels per inch are not on the level of OLED or Retina.
Quick explanation: The 3DS has 133.28 PPI while the iPhone 4 has 326 PPI that means that the pixels on the 3DS are nearly three times as large and thus easier to see at the correct viewing distance. I believe that this is more important and contributes more to the jaggedness of the graphics than the resolution. If someone has a better explanation I’d love to hear it. Also I would love to hear what a band called “Parallax Barrier” would sound like. I bet they would be totally metal.
Turn off the 3D and LoZ:OoT is delicious! In 2D the graphic overhaul looks several steps up from the Nintendo 64 version and is graphically on the level with some PSP games. The controls sometimes feel a bit outdated, this is because, gameplay wise, LoZ:OoT is over a decade old. The controls are as true to the original as they can be with a single exception and have held up very well. The exception is a nice idea, motion controls. In first person perspective you can use the 3DS as more or less a viewfinder into Hyrule. I quickly turned off the new motion controls because I refuse to blow into microphones or wave my 3DS around while riding the bus additionally it is near impossible for me to maintain the 3D effect and move the 3DS. Yes as much as I just badmouthed the 3D effect I play with it on a bit less than half the time. I’ll also note that the 3D effect makes games like Pilot Wings (which is way too short) and Ridge Racer (which is way too Ridge Racer). They are not system sellers but are totally worthwhile because of the 3D effect that enhances solid gameplay.
The only other improvement is having the inventory always available on the bottom screen and this is totally key. I’m currently on the water temple which was notoriously tedious but can quickly swap my Iron Boots right on the touch screen. Awesome!
There is no reason for me to go on at additional length about LoZ:OoT since the critics are all correct. It is an excellent game that has stood the test of time. It is not the only N64 rerelease, the underrated Rayman 3D also was a launch window game that I very much enjoyed and thought looked great. I’d really love to see more N64 rereleases although with the panning from the critics that Rayman and Splinter Cell 3D received I doubt we will see many more full retro rereleases in the near future unless Star Fox 3D is a big success. That said here is my top 5 N64 3DS rerelease wish list.
Golden Eye 007 – Not some lame-o update but the original Rare game with some updated graphics, audio, animations, single cart 4 player MP, and Wi-Fi MP. I know the AI is dumber than a box of rocks but the level design is perfect, please oh please rerelease this. The reason this edges out Perfect Dark is because Perfect Dark recently was rereleased on XBLA and the inclusion of Odd Job, this single best character in all of competitive multiplayer.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day – This game is beautiful and foully hilarious with very solid platforming, excellent level design, and a bizarreness that only a few Rare games achieved. I would also accept a sequel titled “Command and Conker” but only if it was released by Doublefine and delivered the gameplay promised on the box art of Conker Live & Reloaded.
Super Smash Bros – Every review of Punchtime Explosion mentions Smash Brothers. This is because everyone wants Smash Brothers on the 3DS. This is also the first, and one of only three games not developed by Rare on my list. A sequel is also somewhat likely to actually be released on the 3DS which is just fine with me since the gist of the game has not changed too much since it’s inception.
Space Station Silicon Valley – This game is difficult to explain but is at it’s heart a puzzle game about possessing robots. It was published by DMA designs, who would later become Rockstar North. The most similar portable game would be The 3rd Birthday, a happy tale about the destruction of NYC and horrible monsters spouting gouts of blood and gore. The main character Aya can jump into allies bodies just like Evo, the main character in Space Station Silicon Valley. On second thought Space Station Silicon Valley is nothing like The Third Birthday, except for the ally possession, and more like Portal, a puzzle game about a psychotic robot… Erm no… ignore everything except the first sentence.
Pokemon Snap – Ok in 3D with motion controls this game would be awesome! I could totally snap the hell outta some Pokemons! No seriously I love me some Pokemon Snap! I worked as a freelance photographer many many years ago and if it was more like Pokemon Snap and less like photographing community college graduations I would still be doing it today. The mere addition of Pester Balls to a graduation ceremony might have been enough to keep me going.
And my honorable mentions
Diddy Kong Racing – This was knocked off the list because I just found out that it was rereleased on the DS. I may need to pick this up. Sure Mario Kart 3D will have parasailing but Diddy Kong Racing had airplanes, hovercrafts and go-carts. Sure it will never be as famous as Mario Kart but Diddy Kong Racing 64 is arguably a better game than Mario Kart 64. In all seriousness I play Diddy Kong Racing just as often as I play Mario Kart Wii because it is just that good.
Banjo Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini , and all the other Rare games released on the N64 – I have been playing thru Banjo Tooie HD on my 360 from XBLA and Banjo Kazooie on my N64 and along with Jet Force Gemini, I’d buy these games again for the 3DS. This lists almost all the Rare released N64 games. Although I have no fond memories of them I suspect that a Double Pak of Mickey’s Speedway USA and Killer Instinct Gold would sell like hotcakes.
This raises the question, when is a manufacturer in China or Korea going to start selling a portable N64? Please somebody hear my prayer and mass manufacture something this wonderful!
If the price drops and software compatibility increases I will totally snag one of these things until then I am predicting a 3DS or PSP2 will be my next major portable gaming purchase.
Check out the review here.