Sunday, May 31, 2009

Weekly Special - NHL 2K9 for Xbox 360

Another weekly discount for Xbox 360 owners and three days earlier than usual! I'm not sure why, but who's complaining? Maybe the last weekly special sold out too quickly. Anyway, sports game fans have something of a bargain this week with NHL 2K9 on Xbox 360 for the super duper low price of just $14.90, that's around 70% off the marked price of $49.90! I'm not joking, check it out right now. No need to purchase any extra stuff, such as hockey sticks, pucks, protective gear or an ice rink, just the game will do. You can play the latest and greatest NHL game for under $15, so get buying! I'm assuming that the extra three days and five copies per person limit change means there's plenty available, but as always with a bargain like this, the copies fly off the shelves and you'll need to get in early to secure a copy or three. Makes a great gift no?

As with the previous NBA 2K9 game special, NHL 2K9 is also region free and will work on any Xbox 360 worldwide. The game also contains a wealth of language options, which includes: English, Spanish, French, Dutch and Italian. NHL 2K9 features many new improvements and additions over the previous versions. Apart from the usual things such as updated stats and new commentary, 2K9 also features new crowd and play animations and a new control scheme which is meant to put the fun back in hockey games. It also looks like 12 different consoles can join up online to play one match, that sounds pretty cool and another reason to buy some extra copies!

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Friday, May 29, 2009

Marvel Vs Capcom 2 Demo - WTF?

If anyone else downloaded the Marvel Vs Capcom 2 demo for PS3, you might (like me) not have been able to play it and been very annoyed with Capcom. In the description on PSN, there is no word that it only includes local multiplayer and nothing else at all. That's right, no single player. If you don't have two controllers, you cannot even get into the character select screen, let alone the fights, to see how good the port is. PSN multiplayer is disabled in the menu and so is any form of single player, but options are left intact. Very useful...NOT.

Was it really so hard to include one single player level? What is the point of this demo anyway? How many PS3 users will have two controllers and two people ready just to try a demo? And a port of an old Dreamcast game at that! Maybe I'm being unfair here, or maybe I'm not. Capcom, you fail, plain and simple. The Marvel Vs Capcom 2 demo is the stingiest and worst demo I have ever downloaded and I've downloaded teaser trailers with no ingame footage and been less frustrated. At least they have a purpose, this demo I can't get past the menu screen and it just makes me angry. Anything would have been better than this, even just being able to do training mode or something.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Weekly Special - Wheelman for Xbox 360

Lucky you, Xbox 360 gamers! This week you're treated to another tasty bargain. You can grab yourself some Vin Diesel action this week, with the gruff voiced action man starring in his own videogame (well, his second one) as the Wheelman. Join Vin Diesel, no, I mean Milo Burik (that's his name in the game, I kid you not!) in an open world adventure full of high speed chases and fast women for the 50% off low price of just $24.90! That's right, you can play as Vin Diesel in your very own home for half the regular price. Grab it now before someone else drives off with your copy! Only one per customer and stocks are limited.

Note: "Fast women" not guaranteed.

You'll be happy to know that the game on sale is region free and will work on any Xbox 360 worldwide. If you're worrying about languages, fret not! Even though it's the asian version, the game still contains English, Spanish, French, German and Italian. That should cater for most buyers I hope!

Wanting to know what I think of the game? Tough, I don't own it, but I'm sure it's worth the bargain price and I'll have to get it myself. The game is also available on PSN and Xbox Live as a playable demo, so you can try it out for yourself. Don't take to long, you might miss out!

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Games to Own #7 - Folklore on PS3

Like the #3 of Games to own before it, Folklore is an excellent game which didn't take the world by storm, probably due to it being released early in the PS3's lifespan and being held back by some factors and some of them being flaws. But make no mistake, it is a game you should own in your collection and the reason I have the Korean cover of the game I will reveal to you shortly.

Let's start with the basics. Folklore is a third person RPG, you'll play the game with two characters with a different perspective as they attempt to unravel just what the hell is going on in the village where they find themselves in. You'll spend time talking to the locals as well as entering a fantasy world in which you capture and use Folk "creatures" to attack other Folk as well as defending yourself. This is done by weakening the enemy Folk until it's soul pops out and then you latch onto it and use the sixaxis to yank out the soul and absorb it for yourself. I guess you could say it's kind of like Pokemon meets Ghostbusters and boy is it fun, especially the boss battles.

On some of the more complex Folk, you'll need to capture a few of the same kind to be able to summon them to fight or defend for you. Capturing as many different Folk as possible is helpful in the boss battles and against some of the bigger Folk. That's because each Folk belongs to a certain element (fire, water, electriciy) or style of attack (slashing, piercing, spiky). Each Folk is immune and weak to certain types of other Folk and using the right combination leads to massive damage. Also, exploring the map will help you find pages from a book showing you which Folk you need to beat the boss without struggling.

I could go on and on about how cool it is to yank out souls with the sixaxis, but I won't, I'll just mention some of the other features. If you have a Dual Shock 3 (if not, why?), then you'll be happy to know that Folklore recieved a patch which enables rumble and makes it even more awesome. The graphics are fantastic and this was one of the early games that wowed me. The orchestral music is great too.

The story is told in bits and pieces in a cool comic book style fashion but lacks voice acting which is a bummer, the FMV on the other hand does contain voice acting. It's hard to understand what's going on until near the last chapter and then there are still many questions, it's all a bit convoluted and hard to follow really, but it is enjoyable nonetheless!

While you play the same levels with each charater, the paths are different and so are the Folk, so it doesn't get boring at all. I don't know what else to say, this game brings me some great memories and was the first game I played on the PS3 when I got mine. Oh yeah, the reason I have included the Korean version, is because the game is also in english, but is much cheaper than the US version. At $24.99, it's a bargain. The more people buy it, the better chance of a sequel and I want a sequel dammit!

9 out of 10

Thursday, May 21, 2009

E3 Predictions

It looks like this year, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) is going to be quite interesting and hopefully better than the one last year! There's usually unvieling of cool new hardware and software and I'll let you know some things that have been confirmed and also throw in some predictions of my own into the mix.

I'll start in alphebetical order from the big three (Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony) and add a section for any other bits I think are worth noting. Okay, here we go!


Rumors speculate Microsoft will unveil a handheld gaming system known as the ZuneX. Sorry to dissapoint, but I think there's a very small chance of this happening. Apart from the "leaked" specs being suspicious, I think Microsoft is still focusing everything on the Xbox 360 at the moment.

It's highly likely Microsoft will show off a new exclusive game for the Xbox 360 which will likely be a response to Killzone 2 on PS3. Apart from that, there will be plent of multiplatform games and like last year, nothing really special in the Microsoft presentation. Expect some Gears of War 3 information and a possible announcement of Forza 3.


The winners of most people's "worst presentation" award last year, Nintendo are unlikely to set the gaming world fire this year either. But unlike last year, we will see some quality new titles from Nintendo unveiled and also even more uses for the Wii remote.

A new handheld? Think again! Nintendo is known for milking it's handhelds for all their worth and the DS isn't going to be taken over anytime soon. Maybe if sales would slow down, but that's not going to happen for a while and the DSi was released recently. You can expect a Mario game of some sort and a Zelda sequel to be shown.


Sony's won't unveil the PSP2 like everybody thinks. It's too early, sorry! While the PSP is steadily losing pace in the western market, it still has plenty of life left in Japan and will still be around for another couple of years at least. I predict however, Sony will release a new PS3 hardware revision. You may have seen pictures of a "leaked" PS3 slim. I have a feeling it's the real deal. The PS3 is big and very heavy, making shipping more expensive. Making it smaller and weigh less will bring down the cost of production and the savings will be passed onto you, the consumer. Yes, I predict a price cut for the PS3 as well of $100USD, which will be for the new slim unit as well as the old stock, which may be discounted another $50USD on top of that. Expect some information about GT5, Jak and Daxter, Sly Raccoon and Trico.

Misc Predictions

There will be some news about Duke Nukem Forever. A new developer or publisher will handle the IP.

Gran Turismo Mobile for PSP will still be missing in action.

Hardly any new PC games will be featured.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

GP2X Wiz Bubble Train (like Puzz Loop, Zuma, or Luxor)

Bubble Train was the winner of the GBAX 2006 Coding Competition. It's a great puzzle arcade game along the lines of Puzz Loop, Zuma, or Luxor. When released for the GP2X, the menu input was hacked to account for the lack of mouse input. Now, the Wiz version uses the stylus to control the menus. Check it out. If it looks like your type of game, I think you'll enjoy it.
Download here!

Weekly Special - NBA 2K9 for Xbox 360

Are you a sports fan? Do you love your NBA games? Do you enjoy the 2K9 series of sports games? Do you have an Xbox 360? If you answered yes to any two of those questions, then you should head over to Play-Asia and purchase NBA 2K9 at the incredibly low price of just $19.90! That's right, the latest NBA game at $30 off the regular price. Grab it now before someone else takes your copy! Only one per customer and stocks are limited.

And for all those needing confirmation, the game is region free (will work on any 360 console) and game is in english, so no excuses. Need one more reason? Oh, okay. Did you know NBA 2K8 was the best selling basketball game on the 360 last year? Not to mention that the 2K series has been the #1 rated NBA simulation seven years running. EA needs to lift their game (hah!) with the NBA Live series if they want to ever take back the NBA crown.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tomy's QFO UFO

The QFO, made by Tomy, is a surprisingly fun R/C toy. You control the Cute Flying Object (which, I guess, shortens to QFO) via an infra-red remote. On it, you have only one control which adjusts the speed of the QFO's propeller. It's one of those things that you just have to try before you realize its appeal. Everyone that I've shown it to has had a good time playing with it, and I keep it close at hand so that I can have some quick fun whenever I notice it.

I took a few videos of it in action with different people flying the QFO. Funny enough, it's great for at the office. Everyone wants to see what's going on and try it out for themselves. It's a quick distraction for when you need to take a 5-min break. Check the full post for more pictures and videos.

The QFO comes boxed with its controller and a nice little UFO-shaped carrying/storage case. At first, I thought that the case (the silver thing pictured) was part of the QFO, but I realized that since the QFO is made out of a fair bit of styrofoam, it needs protection when transporting it. Of course, it also comes with some manuals that I was unable to read (do to my limited language education). Oh, and that's a US quarter sitting next to the QFO in case you want some size/scale comparison.

One thing that you need to know (so that you aren't too surprised/frustrated) is that the QFO is meant for indoor use. The first thing that I did when I got it was to take it outside and try to fly it. It's not going to work (unless maybe it's dark out). It seems that, because the remote uses IR, the sunlight will mess with it and the controls won't work well. I took it into my garage (as seen in the above video), and it worked great there.

I would really recommend that you start your flight training on a soft surface (like a carpet). The QFO won't launch from a shag carpet, but you can always make a launch pad out of a book or the QFO's box. Since it is made out of styrofoam, it is breakable. It's funny how you can be so bad at flying something that only has one control, but it takes some getting used to (which is fun, so don't worry about it). It's also curious how you can get good at flying it even though there doesn't seem to be all that much to control. After a while, I got to the point where I could launch it from my hand, it would do a loop around the room, and I could catch it again. I don't recommend that little kids launch it from their hands, though! That propeller spins quickly.

This really is a fun diversion, and it's cheap, too. If you want something to impress your co-workers, kids, cats, parents, etc. (yes, I honestly impressed all of those people), this is a great way to do it. I'll leave you with a video from YouTube that was taken during the Tokyo Toy Show 2008. From the video's notes, "Takara TOMY unveiled a mysterious unidentified flying object it calls the 'QFO', a new item in the popular 'Q-series' of toys that includes the Choro Q (Penny Racer) and Heli Q."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Games to Own #6 - Gitaroo Man Lives! for PSP

With all the music games out these days and the success of the Guitar Hero franchise, I found that one game which had been released earlier on the PSP was a classic that recieved little fanfare. I am of course talking about Gitaroo Man Lives! for PSP, which I happened to play again recently after having a blast with it when it was released.

Apart from the obvious difference from Guitar Hero in the way the interface works, Gitaroo Man Lives! also contains a light-hearted story delivered with some pretty funny voice acting. The main bad guy in the game speaks really quickly, probably due to the Japanese translation differences. Anyway, the cutscenes between levels telling the story are amusing and worth watching.

The game features a duel system, where you attack and defend against your enemy by hitting the right buttons to play the melody in time with the music. To win the level, you need to deplete your opponents life bar. When on the attack, a line is drawn towards your cursor and you must follow this line with your analog stick and also press the circle button everytime a circle shows up in the line. These circles are of varying lengths, corresponding to the length of the note and how long you should hold the button. So basically, you only need to worry about one button and the analog stick in the attack mode, it's where you'll gain health and cause damage to your opponent. In the defense mode, the four face buttons of the PSP move from each respective direction into your cursor and you need to press the right face button as the note hits your cursor. Defense is used to defend against your opponents attack, everytime you miss a note, you lose health.

The music is pretty cool and covers a lot of genres. The fast paced ones are of course, much tougher. Gitaroo Man Lives! also features two difficulty modes, with me unable to beat the game on normal, but managing on easy. I always get beaten by the shark in the space level on the second defense phase...Anyway, the game also features multiplayer and collectibles to encourage replayability. My only gripe is that it's a little short, but considering you can easily play it many times, it's still a great game and good value.

8.5 out of 10

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

GP2X Wiz Review: Ready To Rock

Here it is, kids. The GP2X Wiz. My sources tell me that the final production units have left Korea and are ready to be shipped to you. UPDATE: While writing this article, I was notified that the Wiz shipment has already arrived at Play-Asia.

The GP2X Wiz is a hand-held game console, personal digital assistant, handheld organizer, and portable media player all rolled into one. It's like a light-weight pocket-sized open-source PSP with a touch screen. Or maybe it is a single-screen Linux-based DS. Actually, if you've been following this scene for a while you'd know that it's a sleeker, lighter, smaller, and faster GP2X with a better screen.

Additionally, if you've been following my posts leading up to this GP2X Wiz review (or maybe the GP32 and GP2X scenes), you may know that I have a slant toward homebrew development. I am interested in writing and porting games, emulators, and applications to handheld game consoles. That's why I've been drawn to the Gamepark Holdings systems in the past, and the Wiz is no exception.

The GP2X Wiz is the latest and greatest in a line of open handheld consoles. It runs Linux, which should tell you, right off, that it's open for hacking. Unlike traditional console manufacturers like Sony or Nintendo, Gamepark Holdings (aka GPH) encourages consumer creativity by making development tools available to anyone that would like to try their hand at writing software for their system. They make it easy to write and port games by basing much of their programming interface on SDL.

Many of the people reading this are already familiar with systems from "Gamepark Holdings" (and "Gamepark" before them) like the GP32 and the GP2X. When the GP32 came out, it was an awesome device. The best hackers and developers came together to create a great community and library of homebrew games, applications, and emulators. This community carried the GP32 through several hardware iterations and ultimately to it's successor, the GP2X. The GP2X was based on a new CPU, ran Linux, and (in later iterations) supported stylus input. The growing community remained largely intact through the transition from GP32 to GP2X even though the system architectures were very different and source code was largely incompatible.

Ultimately, the GP2X scene flourished while systems like the Tapwave Zodiac came and went. Even against giants like the PSP and DS around, the GP2X scene proved that there was a place for truly open game consoles. Now the scene is ready for its next rightful successor, the GP2X Wiz. This time around though, the successor won't have to displace developer's prior work. This time, the source code is almost entirely portable from the GP2X to the Wiz, so we get the vast library of the GP2X with the extra speed, portability, and sharpness of the new Wiz.

Let's go over some details. The Wiz is based around a 533MHz ARM9 CPU (which seems to be overclockable maybe even past 700MHz, but don't hold me to that) and 3D video hardware thanks to MagicEyes' Pollux. It uses SDHC for storage in addition to it's 1Gb of built-in flash memory. The screen is a beautiful 2.8 inch AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) display. All this stuff weighs in at just under 140g which, combined with it being just 121mm wide, 61mm tall, and 18mm deep) makes the Wiz a perfect addition to your pocket or backpack.

Developing (writing code) for the GP2X Wiz has been a breeze. I'm actually fairly impressed that GPH was able to use the same binary format on the Wiz that the GP2X used. That allowed me to use the same compiler, toolchain, and libraries that I had for developing on the GP2X (which was from the Open2X project). The only real change that I made was specifying the use of shared libraries instead of statically linking libraries as I had done with the GP2X.

To be honest, I really like the little thing. It seems to be put together way better than the GP32 or the GP2X. It seems really solid like a commercial game console should. I say this because there were things about the previous GP32 and GP2X that seemed cheaply made. The screen looks great. Heck, the whole machine looks great.

I must say that the system is small! To me, overall, this is a positive. Though, there are some drawbacks of having a small machine. Obviously, with a smaller handheld comes a smaller screen. Whatever this screen lacks in size, it makes up in clarity, though. The AMOLED is pretty. I don't know if it's the best machine for watching portable movies. Your laptop or portable DVD player should be better, but really if you want to have some anime ready for whenever you find yourself sitting around waiting for something, this is great for that. Another thing the miniturization brings is the potential for cramped hands. I noticed this a bit during some of my sessions with the Wiz. I don't know if this is a real concern, though. To me, it's just another side-effect of size reduction.

Now, let me address a couple things that seem to be of concern to people. First of all, "What's with the two dpads?" Well, I think that's a legitimate question. I say, though, that the jury is still out on this one. My take on it is that the "second dpad" (which is actually the four completely INDIVIDUAL A/B/X/Y buttons configured to look like a dpad) is a novel idea. When the DS came out, I thought it was gimicky, and I didn't understand why people would want an extra screen and a stylus. The same could be said for the Wii. Neither followed convention. The Wiz's controls are a step in an unknown direction. I think people will easily get used to using them as 4 individual buttons (just like a conventional controller). What I hope to see, though, are some interesting new games that use this "second dpad" in new novel ways.

Next on the list, interestingly enough, is the first (actual) dpad. There has been some (unwarranted as far as I can tell) concern in the community that there are problems with this controller. I actually wonder if these concerns were planted as an attempt to knock the Wiz down a notch or two. To me, there is no concern here, so let's just move on.

The final concern that I want to mention is the "diagonal tearing" issue that seems to be bothering some people. If you have watched any YouTube videos of the Wiz running games or emulators and have not noticed a diagonal going through the screen, then please don't concern yourself with this. I understand, though, that some people are bothered by things like this. I have noticed the diagonals, and, to be honest, it doesn't bother me. They do catch my eye sometimes, and I think the problem itself (from a technical point of view) is an odd and interesting issue.

It seems that the OLED screen that GPH uses is actually a 240x320 screen that is laid on its side to be viewed at 320x240. This is the same thing that was done with the GP32. I guess it's easier to find manufacturers of small portrait displays than landscape ones. Perhaps that is due to PDA's and cell phones driving much of the market. From what I can tell, using the 240x320 screen should not be a problem at all, but there is something diagonal that is noticable at times. I've been working with handheld systems for a long time, and I've seen what guys in these scenes are capable of. I really feel like this is an issue that will either be solved with a firmware update or in software (like either in the SDL libraries or the individual games). To me, this is more of a challenge than a problem.

As I was writing this, I just found out that there have been some changes in the GP2X Wiz production units that are now in stock at (as compared to the pre-release test unit that I have in my hands). The game Snake On Dope is no longer a built-in game presumably due to some copyright issues with the music. The Flash games, which are completely in Korean on the test unit, are now available in English. The list of built-in native games includes Animatch, Boomshine2x, Myriad, Square Tower Defense, Tail Tale, and Wiztern, while the list of flash games includes IQ games like "Addition and Minus", "Crisis Ladder", "Look For the Coin in the Saving Pocket", "Look For the Missing Number From the Order", and "Look For the Same Pictures". The "IQ" games are brain training games something along the lines of "Brain Age."

The GP2X Wiz is great. If you liked the GP32 or the GP2X, it's a no-brainer. If you had a GP32 or a GP2X and didn't like it, then you need to evaluate why and decide if the Wiz addresses any of your past problems (like maybe you disliked the joystick on your GP2X or the screen on your GP32). If you haven't had the chance to play with a GP32 or a GP2X, then I highly recommend leapfrogging those systems and give the Wiz a chance. It's obviously the latest and greatest in the line. Obviously everyone has their own opinions about what they like and dislike, but I don't see anything here that would be a negative surprise. I think that what you see is what you get. If you want a small, lightweight, open-source, home-brew, gaming-console/media-player, look no further. The Wiz is in stock and ready to ship. I hope you liked the Ready To Rock GP2X Wiz Review.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Weekly Special: The Club PS3

It's weekly special time! And what a bargain we have this week, The Club on PlayStation 3 for just $9.90! That's $40 or just over 80% off the listing price. Remember, only one per customer and it's only while stocks last.

Still here? Okay, well it's Region Free of course, like every PS3 game and will work on any PS3 system. It's also the Korean version, but the game is in English, so it's no big deal unless you're a collector and have to have the English version and if you are, you would have bought the game already. Am I right?

The Club is a third person shooter which requires you to run through a level shooting enemies as quickly as possible to boost your score. The faster the kill and the more head shots you pull off accurately, the bigger the score.

It's similar to an arcade light gun shooter, except you control the movement of your character and you don't have a controller and aren't required to keep putting in coins get the point.

So don't delay, grab The Club today!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Duke Nukem Forever Gameplay Footage

Following up on my previous post about 3D Realms going bust after being unable to finish a game in 12 years time, it seems a disgruntled 3D Realms employee posted some gameplay footage on his site that has never been seen before. The video has been quick to spread around and here it is, check it out!

Looks like it had great potential if you ask me. The graphics are better than I though, I assumed they'd be behind on graphics tech due to the long development time, but it looks like it would be right at home on PS3 and Xbox 360. You might also notice that animation is pretty good on the enemies and when Duke picks himself up off the ground. The game also seems to feel and play similarly to Duke Nukem 3D and the weapons and boss battles both looked cool.

As cool as this gameplay video was and it proves the game was no joke, it still feels embarassingly little for 12 years of development. I don't think anyone is going to hire the employees from 3D realms with such a bad track record.

Hopefully, publisher Take 2 will reconsider and put some new funding into the game and maybe hand it to a new developer or something. Wouldn't it be nice to finally play the damn game?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Retro Handheld Gaming - Sega Mega Drive Portable

It's not often I find an interesting product that I hadn't read about somewhere, so it was a pleasent surprise to find one of my favorite consoles having been made into a handheld product. May I present, the Sega Mega Drive Portable Video Game Player!

Oh sure, there was a certain Sega Nomad handheld which shares similarities to this little system, but the Nomad was a giant brick and should have been classed under "luggable" instead. Jokes aside, the Nomad was too big and ate batteries too quickly to be of much use. It played actual Mega Drive cartridges, so it was pretty darn big compared to today's handhelds. However, both allowed you to connect the respective system to your TV and the SMD Portable video game player allows you to do just that.

Anyway, the Mega Drive or Sega Genesis for North Americans (due to name copyright issues), was a 16 bit console released back in '88 (in Japan) and was quite the powerhouse of a games console for its time. Things didn't pick up steam until the release of a game starring a certain blue hedgehog in '91. And the rest as they say, is history. The Mega Drive contained a big library of great games (many of them developed by Sega) and many are classics that are just as enjoyable today, as they were back then.

With this gadget containing 20 officially licenced Mega Drive games, you'll be able to relive or live for the first time (hah) some of the classics of the 16 bit era. E-Swat, Sonic & Knuckles and The Revenge of Shinobi III are the absolute best games in this collection, with many other great games such as Shadow Dancer, Ristar, Golden Axe and Ecco the Dolphin. For the $39.90 asking price, it's a great deal.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

GP2X Wiz NGPC Emulator

This is going to have to be a quick post. "Real Life" has taken over recently, and I've been fairly busy. In fact, I really have to go now so that I can help set up a for big birthday party for 2 of my daughters.

So, here's the deal. Someone asked me if I was going to port RACE (a Neo Geo Pocket Color emulator) to the Wiz. See the above video for the answer. The video shows the GP2X Wiz running the English version of "SNK Vs. Capcom Card Fighters' Clash 2 Expand Edition". There were a couple hurdles to get it running. The main one was that it needed to be set to a different sound sample rate than the original GP2X version was using. I had some code for this from the PSP port, though. I now need to get together with TJ Hooka and see about adding some new features to the code. That's all for now. I'm sorry this one is so short.

Friday, May 8, 2009

3D Realms Goes Bust

Some sad news has come out lately in the gaming industry. Famous developer 3D Realms has been shut down on May 6 due to lack of funding, just like that. You may recall them as the creators of Duke Nukem 3D, one of the most iconic first person shooters in recent history. It was a great game too. Be sure to buy it on Xbox Live, it even includes four player co-op.

You may recall they were working on a certain game known as Duke Nukem Forever (AKA Duke Nukem 4), the proper sequel to Duke Nukem 3D (not those crappy third person imitations on PSone). It's been a popular game to joke about, due to the game being in development for the last 12 years! In that time, only a few screenshots have been released. Makes you wonder what they were doing all those years...

I remember seeing posters advertising the game in stores years ago, only to disappear soon thereafter. Yet through it all, I still naively believed the game would be released and I thought 2009 would be the year. Instead, it turned out to be the death of the game, with publisher Take 2 stating they still hold the publishing rights for Duke Nukem Forever, but are not funding the game.

A victim of the Global Financial Crisis? Possibly, although I think the lack of any progress in 12 years was the real corporate. A massive shame. Goodbye Duke, I'll miss your cheesy lines and cool weapons.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Weekly Special: Tales of Hearts (CG Movie Edition) for DS

Welcome back to another weekly special. This week it's a DS game, sorry PSP fans, maybe next time! Prepare yourselves for Tales of Hearts (CG Movie Edition), sounds sexy, no? Available at a fantastically low price of $19.90. That's $43 off!

Although please be aware that this is a Japanese RPG game and I'd assume there is no English language option. DS games are region free and work on any DS, so if you can read Japanese, wanting to learn or just play the game and ignore the text, this game is for you!.

By CG edition, I'm guessing CG videos have been added into the game like many DS games lately. I've played a few of the "Tales" games and they are solid RPG's and fun to play. Here's more info taken from the description:

"Under the twin moons and the rule of the great empire, people have been leading peaceful lives albeit unsettling legends about a sleeping princess, dream eating monsters and the falling moons continue to pass around.

No matter how unsettling, people have been seeing these legends as mere stories to scare children, until the day a mysterious plague started spreading and the culprit of the illness seems to be the dream eating monsters. Under the onslaught of these evil forces, a special substance in people's hearts, spiria gets contaminated.

The only thing to counter the monsters is Soma, hidden within the Spire Maze.

All these strives of the land are unknown to the hero, Shing until he rescues a mysterious girl Kohaku from the monsters. Together, the two set off to find the mysterious substance Soma, save the land and find out the truth about the legends."

Sounds good, enjoy!

Monday, May 4, 2009

GP2X Wiz Development (Bubble Train)

As you may have noticed, I'm a bit excited about the GP2X Wiz. I'm pretty into handheld homebrew development, so the Wiz is of particular interest to me. Judging by posts I've been reading (here and elsewhere) it is of interest to a lot of people.

Many of the people that will be getting a GP2X Wiz are, like me, excited about developing and porting games and applications to the Wiz. In previous posts, I've talked about the official commercial titles that are coming for the Wiz, and I've also discussed some of the homebrew/freeware titles (like games, emulators, etc.). I'm sure there are people that will buy a Wiz because they are interested in the commercial titles or the freeware titles. Today's post, though, is more aimed at those people that want a Wiz so they can develop their own games and applications to run on the Wiz.

Bubble Train (as seen in the video above) is a game developed by a couple of guys named Adam and Craig. Here is their Bubble Train website. It's a very fun puzzle game that is comparable to Zuma or Luxor, but the great part is that it's free (and open-source).

Bubble Train was written using SDL for all the input, graphics, audio, etc., so the code is very portable. In 2006, I put in the effort to make the game playable on the GP2X. To do this, I had to change a lot of the game to be viewable on the GP2X's small screen (which was a different resolution than the original game was intended to be played on). I also had to change the input method to use the joystick instead of a mouse (this was before there was stylus input on the GP2X). I redid all of the graphics, added lots of music tracks, and added/changed some gameplay features. The outcome was good enough to win 1st place in the GBAX 2006 Coding Competition. I must re-iterate that the original game was not mine, and without the appeal of a fun game like the original PC version of Bubble Train, there would have been no chance of the GP2X version winning.

Fast-forward back to the present. The GP2X Wiz test unit has just arrived, and the official release is hot on its tail. I want to see if I can get Bubble Train to work on the Wiz. I could go into gory detail about how many sleepless nights it spend, or I could tell you the truth.

The truth is that taking GP2X code and porting it to the Wiz is almost a no-brainer. In fact, I don't think it would even be called porting. I am actually hesitant to describe how straight-forward it is, because then it'll seem like I didn't do anything.

First, I copied my GP2X Makefile to Makefile.wiz. Then I took out the static linking option. I had to change a few other things because I was now working on a different machine that had the Open2X toolchain (as opposed to DevKitGP2X that I originally used). After that, most of my time was spent debugging. Now that I am using shared objects that live on the actual Wiz (instead of static linking like I would do on the GP2X), I was at the mercy of what was already on the Wiz.

On many of my GP2X games, I use a script to start the game and then exit back to the gmenu2x when the game finishes (or crashes). To do some really simple debugging, I added "> out.txt 2> err.txt" to the end of the script line that runs Bubble Train. That made all the output go to files on the SD card. What I found was that was a shared object that wasn't getting loaded properly (and it would cause the game not to run). To remedy this, I copied from my Open2X development toolchain directory to my SD card (where my Bubble Train binary lives).

After that, everything worked. To my (ecstatic) surprise, even all the mouse input now used the stylus. That was the worst problem with the original GP2X version of Bubble Train. I emulated the mouse using the joystick, and moving around the menus was very clunky. Now, you can just tap away with the stylus, and it's awesome.

So, that was that. You can see by the YouTube video that it's all running rather nicely. There is one other thing that I wanted to touch on while I'm discussing developing for the Wiz. From what I can gather, GPH is going to set up a GP2X Wiz app store something like the Apple app store for the iPhone. This will give people a central place to download games/emulators/applications/etc. and also give developers a place to showcase their creations. I think this is a great step toward creating a community where people can easily share and find amateur creations.

The ideal home town - Cape No. 7

A miracle of a Taiwanese film, Cape No. 7 is a romantic comedy that revitalize local film making industry and brought immense income to the southern parts of the island through tourism. One of the praises for the film is its accurate portrayal of life in southern Taiwan, with a multitude of Chinese dialects and Japanese dialogue interweaving in between, the film does give a glimpse of the island's colorful history.

What capture the audience's hearts, aside from the accurate portrayal, is a close knit community in a little town where everybody knows and cares about everybody else. And although this is a close knitted group, they are by no means exclusive, newcomers are welcomed with opened arms after a few (comical) frustrating episodes.

In a fast food world where everyday life is hectic, the little town with its leisurely pace could drive people crazy. However, like Tomoko (Tanaka Chie), as soon as you get used to it, you'd find that you are surrounded by family.

The movie starts with a scene in 1945 when the Japanese occupation forces left the island, bringing with them the soldiers as well as common people such as teachers. One of the teachers have written a series of letters to the girl he loves but left behind. The camera then pans to the present time where the audience meets the other protagonists, Aga, an angry band vocalist turned postman and Tomoko, a disillusioned model turned translator.

Aga and Tomoko are representations of young people with lost dreams, while Aga displays his anger in a nihilistic way (mucking up with his job, opening the recipient's letters etc), Tomoko's pent up frustrations are threatening to explode (and eventually did, in the middle of the film in an extremely touching, but comical way). This warm little town proves to be a perfect sanctuary for them, gave them a common goal to achieve, a chance to connect with the other town's folk and some rest before they have to embark upon another adventure.

The growing romance between Aga and Tomoko forms one of the main branches, the story of all the others in the make shift warm-up band serves not as a foil, but the different facets of positive human relationships. The other branch, focused on the seven letters written by the Japanese teacher illustrates the guilt and hardship that tore people apart, however, with effort, people could mend the gap and overcome wounds, as shown by Tomoko's search for the recipient of the letters and Aga's mad dash at delivering them.

With a closing shot of the now old lady reading letters written by her first love under a sky of fireworks after decades turbulent change, what else could be more poignant and touching?

The search, or going back to a home town have become recurring themes in East Asian popular culture in the last two decades, with a sharp rise since the last financial crisis. During these hard times, people are longing for a place that offers warmth and stability, somewhere they could recuperate in peace and think about their next move or explore their strengths, or simply, some place to hide.

The town in Cape No.7 provides exactly this, together with fun, laughs, and the eternally true principal of team building: nothing pulls people together closer than providing them with an unlimited amount of strong spirits.

With trends of globalization sweeping through, your home town might not be in your nation, it could be somwhere else entirely (e.g. Taiwan). But before you embark on your journey, come get the film from Play-Asia.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Portable X-Com In Your Pocket: More Gamepark Wiz Goodness

Back in February, I made this post about some of the games already running on the Wiz. When I was in college, I played X-Com UFO Defense (aka Enemy Unknown) a whole lot. I played several of the sequels also, but I will always remember the first very fondly. Since then, I've often desired to have a portable version of X-Com to play on the go. Rebelstar: Tactical Command for the GameBoy Advance was made by some of the old X-Com guys. It was a good turn-based strategy title, but it lacked the geoscape, research, and squad-building of its great grandfather.

I wanted to revisit this wonder of X-Com running on a handheld now that I got my hands on the GP2X Wiz. Here's a fairly poorly shot video of me starting a new game.

I recently had a question on one of my previous posts about whether or not the Gamepark Wiz could run 16-bit games like Mortal Kombat. Here's a video showing it running a Sega Genesis (aka Sega Mega Drive) emulator and playing MKIII.

If you're really curious to see what the Wiz looks like and you need some outdoor relaxation, the following video will be great for you. There's no great reason for this video to be here. I just thought it looked cool, so maybe you will too.

As you can see, the Wiz hasn't even launched yet, and things are moving along nicely. There are some impressive and interesting looking official games in the works. People are, obviously, already writing and porting homebrew games and emulators to the Wiz. Giana is returning. I'd say this Wiz is getting off to a fast start, and it's not even out of the gates, yet. Stay tuned for more articles about the Gamepark Wiz.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Final Fantasy Advent Childern Blu-Ray Big Seller at Play-Asia

After having seen the Advent Children Blu-Ray movie with Final Fantasy XIII demo as the best seller in the PlayStation 3 category for a while now, I've decided to follow up on the previous article about the demo. It's now obvious to me that the sales aren't a fluke and that the idea of bundling the FFXIII demo is likely why the movie has sold so well.

Let's face it, Advent Children is no Hollywood blockbuster and will definitely only appeal to Final Fantasy VII fans. Case in point, I showed the movie to someone who hadn't played the game before and the reaction after 20 minutes was "What is this crap?". Anyway, I'm sure that just as Zone of Enders sold well because of the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo, Advent Children did the same because of the FFXIII demo.

I thought the movie was great fan service and enjoyed it, but there was some terrible dialogue and English voice acting in spots ("Shilly, Shally" anyone?). A friend of mine received his copy of the movie yesterday from Play-Asia, along with Soldner-X, get your copy now!

Anyway, I discussed the release with him and I trust his opinion, but I should have you know this is third hand information and unverified. There's a lot of extra footage which makes the movie better and explains more of the polt, about 10 mins or more. This new footage is in native 1080p. Apparently, the movie is upscaled to 1080p and not native, so it doesn't look as good as the new footage. I don't know if it was just for the action scenes or the whole movie. There's extra footage from the Crisis Core PSP game and since it was low resolution to begin with, it looks the worst. Finally, some of the bad voice acting bits have been redone (yay), but not the cringe worthy "Shilly, Shally" bit. Overall he's happy with it.

Now for the demo. It's apparently
very good  and the graphics rival Killzone 2 in overall amount of impressiveness. The demo is a lot of fun and that's all I know, sorry. That's all for now.